Weekend Recap: the plunge

When the wife is out of town, there’s lots of gaming to be done – this is a given.  This only really becomes a problem when there’s nothing in the rotation that’s really grabbing me.  I spent a great deal of time on my MacBook, almost downloading Season 1 of Back To the Future just for the sake of having something new to play, conveniently ignoring that I also own – and have not played, or even installed – Seasons 2 and 3 of Sam & Max, Season 1 of Strong Bad, and Season 1 of Tales of Monkey Island (or is it “Tales From Monkey Island”?).  I did end up playing a few levels of Puzzle Agent, now that I think of it…

Anyway – the time I spent not being a Steam whore was spent playing lots and lots of DoubleFine’s new XBLA title Trenched, both singleplayer and co-op (in both 2-, 3- and 4-player sessions), and then, for some strange reason, lots and lots of XBLA’s Full House Poker, and then, when I was utterly grasping at straws, I filled in some backlog, most notably finally finishing Torchlight‘s main quest.  I also made a few half-hearted attempts at trying to get into Dungeon Siege 3, which didn’t go so well.

I am a bigger fan of DoubleFine and their creativity than I am of their games.  It’s entirely possible that my undying love for the characters, setting, art design, dialogue, and general concept of Psychonauts obscured some of that game’s problems; not that it had many, but the Meat Circus occupies a special place in my cold, dead heart devoted to rage-quitting and controller-throwing.  That being said, no amount of favorable pre-release bias could help me get into Brutal Legend – specifically, the RTS bits.  The world was incredible, the driving-around stuff was great fun, the melee combat was satisfying, the characters were memorable and well-acted – but those stage battles drove me fucking crazy, and I never ended up finishing it, to my great regret.  Costume Quest was adorable, but the RPG combat was bland; Stacking was conceptually incredible, but eventually grew tedious.  The sad truth is that for all the great qualities that every DoubleFine title has, the actual game parts are usually the weakest.

Not so with Trenched, and I say that as a gamer with a generally weak tolerance for the tower defense genre.  Trenched might actually be the most fun I’ve ever had with a DoubleFine game.  Now, it’s entirely possible that my recent addiction to Plants v. Zombies might have helped pave the way for me in terms of understanding the tower defense concept, but the game does a swell job of telling you what you need and how to get it done, and when push comes to shove, there’s an awful lot of shooting that you end up doing – you can’t just sit back and be passive.  (Well, I suppose you can, if you have enough of the right emplacements – and if you have teammates that do all the shooting for you.)  The game is great fun in singleplayer but it absolutely shines in co-op – I spent a lot of time in both 2, 3 and 4-player configurations and the madness that ensued was incredibly satisfying.

I can’t explain why I got sucked into Full House Poker, though.  My days of Texas Hold’em obsession were long-gone, or so I thought.  FHP does a fantastic job keeping you at the tables, though, with a perk system very reminiscent of the COD titles.  You earn XP on almost every hand, and your rewards for leveling are substantial enough that they’re not a total waste of time.  It’s also a great use of the 360’s Avatars – the game’s got a surprising amount of personality to it, and it’s fun to see my little guy doing chip tricks and such.  I could see myself sinking a lot of time in this one over the summer.

There’s not much to say about Torchlight, other than to say that if the sequel doesn’t have some sort of online co-op option, I’m probably not going to bother.  I love hack-and-slashes, don’t get me wrong, but I’d much rather play it with friends.  That being said, I finished the main story – that final boss was a BITCH.  I may do some of the infinite dungeon, but then again, probably not.

There’s not much to say about Dungeon Siege 3, either, which is a shame.  I didn’t even get any Achievements out of it.  At least Torchlight had some personality and verve; DS3 was bland, bland, bland.  My affection towards the franchise is really only for the first title, which (if I remember correctly) was notable for being gorgeous in its day.  Nothing about DS3 stood out for me, which is why it’s going right back to Gamefly.

In other, STFC-related news, I’m hoping to start up a regular column devoted to iPhone games – look for that soon.

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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