Back in the early 00’s, the AV Club used to have a somewhat regular feature called “Justify Your Existence” where they asked musicians one simple question: “Why should anybody buy your record?” I’m assuming they retired it because the vast majority of responses went something like this – “Oh, jeez, um… I’ve never had anybody ask me that. I have no idea.”
To that end, I’m officially taking back anything nice that I may have said in last week’s thing about Alice: The Madness Returns, the sequel that nobody asked for to a game that a lot of people didn’t like. Somewhere towards the end of Chapter 3 (out of 6!!!) I ran out of steam and patience. Endless combat sequences stacked within endless platforming sequences, no rhyme or reason to any of it, and anything that may have been fun in the first few hours quickly grew tiresome. To borrow a quote from Hannibal Lecter: “Tedious. Very tedious.” I forget what exactly it was that got me to give up; it was either one of the incredibly stupid music sequences (similar in every way to the lute playing in Fable 3, except with very poor timing controls), or yet another combat sequence featuring not one but two frustratingly difficult enemies. If someone were to ask the developers why anybody should play the game, they’d probably say “we’ve got a lot of great art!” That’s only somewhat true. There is a lot of great art, yes, but there’s even more dumb art that surrounds it, and it’s all too much.
It’s not that the game is bad; it’s just that it was never edited down, and as a result it’s hard to separate what’s necessary from what’s filler, and ultimately it all blends together. For every truly imaginative location – and there are a few – there are at least a dozen more that aren’t all that imaginative – or they’re simply repetitive. The player is continually bludgeoned with awe at every turn until the senses are dulled.
I got back into Red Dead Redemption, of all things. Rockstar was having a 4x XP weekend, and I needed something to cleanse the palate after sealing up my copy of Alice. I’m still terrible at competitive multiplayer, but I still love exploring that world, and it was very easy to level up 4 or 5 times simply running Pike’s Basin over and over again. I did a little bit of the Undead Horde mode, or whatever it’s called – it’s RDR’s answer to Gears’ Horde mode, and it’s a lot of fun (provided you have enough people – it’s very difficult with just 2). I’m still amazed that there’s no PC version – I would love to see it on my monster machine. Oh well. The summer release schedule is looking pretty slow right now, and I can see myself losing many hours to running the single-player campaign again.
I’ve managed to avoid doing too much damage in this year’s Steam Summer Sale. They run sales so often that I more or less already own everything I’d want to buy. I played a few minutes of Back To the Future Episode 1; it feels a little clunky, at least in terms of the controls. I like those movies but I don’t adore them, which may contribute to my general feeling of “meh”.