>The Calm Before The Ridiculousness

>It’s 9/8/09, which means that in a little over 24 hours I’m going to be in some sort of Beatles-induced catatonic stupor, and then the wheels totally fly off shortly after that in terms of the fall release calendar. This is probably a good place, then, for me to check in before I check out.

So, then, first things first – please accept my humble apologies for the lack of regular updating. Blame it on the crappy summer release schedule, which coincided perfectly with an absurd uptick in my own personal music-related endeavors.

The last few weeks, though, have yielded both some free time and some really, really good games to be played. Here’s some quick impressions:

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum

Without question, a Game of the Year candidate – notwithstanding the fact that 2009 has been a pretty shitty year in terms of quality. But the real question is why. There’s a number of things to appreciate about developer Rocksteady’s latest effort; they took the hottest comic book/movie license out there and avoided the easy cash-in opportunity. They used the animated series – which is better source material for an interactive experience, anyway – and crafted a remarkable playground in which to explore. I always felt that Sam Fisher would kick the shit out of Solid Snake – and without endless cutscenes to muck it up – but I’m pretty sure that Batman could kick the shit out of both of them, at the same time. The game features fantastic combat mechanics, but doesn’t rely on combat to pad the game’s length, to the game’s tremendous credit. The Riddler’s puzzles offer tremendous incentive to explore every nook and cranny of Arkham Island, and the 40 Achievement Points I got for solving every riddle and finding every hidden message were among the most satisfying I’ve ever accumulated.

  • Shadow Complex

I spent my free time this weekend on my 2nd playthrough, with the objective of finding every hidden item. There were only 2 or 3 that really tried my patience; I’m still not entirely sure how I was able to nab them. (They involved breaking blue boxes, in case you’re already familiar with the game and what that means.) I found myself comparing Shadow Complex with Batman:AA more than once; it’s true that I played them more or less at the same time, but the two games complement each other in pretty interesting ways, I think – mostly in terms of encouraging exploration and offering incentives for backtracking. I’ll put it up there in GOTY territory as well; certainly it’s the XBLA’s best offering this year.

  • Trials HD

I love Trials HD; I just wish I was better at it. I’ve managed to finish all the hard levels, but I’ll never get beyond a bronze medal in any of them, and my ineptitude at the ultra-hard levels is discouraging. Difficulty aside, though, the game is an absolute blast; it’s beautiful, accessible and addictive, which is really all you could ask for in a downloadable title. The game features some of the best leaderboard integration I’ve ever seen, in any game; it also features the quickest restart of any game I’ve ever played, which is a big deal since failure is constant in the higher difficulties.

  • Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

I was a big fan of the first Layton game and very much looked forward to this latest iteration. I’m a bit torn on it, though, to be quite honest, and it’s puzzling (ha!) to figure out why. The game’s puzzles are much more varied than in the first game; the puzzles even have a bit of context, which makes them feel important (unlike the first game); there’s a wonderfully-integrated scratch pad which lets you scribble notes, trace paths and quickly add up sums. So, really, the game ought to be a better experience; and yet, for some reason, I quickly found myself racing through it – sometimes using a walkthrough, which totally defeats the purpose – and the game’s ending was utterly preposterous. I’m curious as to why I had such an unfortunate experience with it, but I will say this – as quick as Trials HD is when it comes to restarting a level, Layton 2 is tediously slow when it comes to retrying a puzzle, so much so that I probably resorted to a walkthrough because I didn’t feel like waiting 10 seconds if I got something wrong. If nothing else, though, the game did offer up my favorite game-related quote in quite some time:

“As a gentleman, I feel that it is my duty to take one of these balloons.”

  • Wolfenstein

I’d forgotten this was on my Gamefly queue. And, well, what do you know – here we are a few weeks later and I’d nearly forgotten I played it for about an hour.

————

Here’s my to-do list for the rest of 2009.

*All titles 360 unless otherwise noted*

MUST PLAY:
Beatles Rock Band
Dirt 2
Scribblenauts (DS)
Mario & Luigi 2 (DS)
Brutal Legend
Uncharted 2 (PS3)
Borderlands
Modern Warfare 2
Dragon Age
L4D2

INTERESTED IN:
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Katamari Forever (PS3)
Dead Space Extraction (Wii)
Alpha Protocol
Ratchet & Clank (PS3)
Forza 3
Blur
Assassin’s Creed 2
Saboteur

DO NOT CARE
Halo ODST

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