WIPTW / E3 2011

So I more or less did everything I said I was going to do on Friday.

  • Played the Duke Nukem Forever demo.  I sincerely hope it’s the same demo that was released at PAX, which would explain how… unfinished it looks.  That said, it is what it is.  And in a strange way, I kinda like how dated it is – it’s almost refreshing.
  • Played the Infamous 2 demo, which also is what it is.  In related news, I got my “Welcome Back to PSN” freebies, one of which was the original Infamous.  Infamous 2 certainly looks better than the first one, which is no mean feat; the original looked great.  The new game has been getting generally positive reviews, although nobody thinks it’s better than the original; I suppose I can live with that.
  • Almost finished The Witcher 2 prologue; I’m done with the flashbacks and am now trying to escape from prison.  I am wondering if I should bother staying with it, now that a 360 version has been officially announced; I know it won’t look any better than it currently does on my PC (and it looks phenomenal there, to be sure), but I’m hoping it’ll at least have a better tutorial system.
  • Finished L.A. Noire – did both DLC missions, cleaned up a bunch of side missions, and also went back and 5-starred “The Golden Butterfly”, a Homicide case that I kept screwing up.  Still not happy with how that mission works.  ****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***** For one thing, I didn’t like either of the 2 suspects for the murder, but I had to choose one of them, and I’d kept choosing the husband (which kept resulting in a 2-star result).  Cole Phelps is too much of a golden boy to deliberately choose the pedophile, especially since the pedophile clearly didn’t do it.  There are way too many unanswered questions, also – certainly Cole should check out the pedophile’s workplace to see about the rope and the overalls?  And considering what happens at the conclusion of the Homicide story arc, the whole thing just feels pointless.
  • Inched my way forward in Dirt 3.  Did a little bit more of the Outbreak multiplayer mode; goddamn, that’s fun.

Microsoft’s press conference is in less than an hour from the time of this writing, and major news is breaking on Twitter – Halo 4 and an HD remake of Halo CE being the biggest.  I’m more or less done with the Halo franchise, but I suppose this is pretty big news all the same; I just hope it’s not the only big surprise.

Will post later today with impressions of the day’s keynotes.

L.A. Noire and what comes next

For a 3-day weekend, I didn’t get a tremendous amount of gaming happening.  I did finish Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, which is to say that I finished all the stages and unlocked a fair amount of extras.  And I did a bit more Dirt 3, including some of the amazingly fun multiplayer – the Zombie mode, or whatever it’s called, is incredibly fun.  But I ultimately spent the most time getting back into L.A. Noire.

I was emailing back and forth with a friend about it.  He had been asking when I was going to be online in Dirt 3, and I’d told him I was almost done with L.A. Noire and that I’d be all over Dirt 3 once I’d finished the last few cases.  And so then he asked:

So now that you are most of the way through [the game] and well into the development of the over-arching story, are you loving it?

And I responded:

I don’t know that I’m loving it.  I’m enjoying it, certainly, and I am appreciative of what it is and what it took to make it.  But for all it does to immerse you in the world, it does a thousand other small, subtle things that totally throw you out and reminds you that it is a game.  The interrogations, in particular, are so beholden to a particular, specific formula that you almost wonder why they bothered with the facial animation tech in the first place.  And there’s been lots of times where my own brain is ahead of Cole Phelps’ brain, and so he never asks the questions that I want to ask.  Part of this is because of those newspapers – I don’t know if you’ve been diligent in picking them up, but they’ve been telegraphing where the overall story is headed – so much so that it almost broke the game for me at several points.

I should also confess that I’ve been using a walkthrough for the last few missions, because I hate getting questions wrong.  Does that take all the challenge out of the game?  Yes, pretty much; I’d been doing great in terms of clue gathering, and I’ve been having my partner do all the driving since it’s impossible for me to not crash into a thousand cars and lampposts and pedestrians just going around the corner.  The sandbox element feels totally unnecessary and not particularly interesting, either – certainly not in the way that it worked for RDR and GTA.

Now, look – I’ll be the first person to acknowledge that using walkthroughs, especially in a game like L.A. Noire, essentially defeats the purpose of playing the game in the first place, even if the walkthrough in question doesn’t actually spoil the story, but rather simply gives you all the right answers to the interrogations.  I’ve been saying ever since the beginning that the interrogations are the most problematic part of L.A. Noire, and judging from all the podcasts I’ve listened to, I know I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Like I said above, the essential problem with the interrogations is that once you get past the astoundingly good facial animation, you are left with a very basic template that never, ever changes or deviates, and so whatever immersion you might have had in the animation is ripped out from under you as soon as it’s time to react.  Let’s say that you ask the Person of Interest a question.  The POI will say something in response to your question, and then immediately start acting, usually betraying everything that they just saidThey’ll forcefully say “There’s absolutely no goddamned way that I could’ve murdered that person,” and then as soon as they stop talking they’ll immediately start twitching and grinding their teeth, and if you think they’re lying they’ll suddenly get brazen and say “Well why don’t you prove it, flatfoot!”   Let’s leave aside the obvious observation that real conversations never work like this, and let’s also leave side the weird disconnect in the player character’s attitudes when confronting a lie (gently) and being doubtful (flying off the handle).  The main problem that I’ve been having is that I never seem to be able to ask the questions that I want to ask.  Either my own personal brain is ahead of the game, or else I’m on a path that’s utterly disconnected from the correct line of questioning.  And when I’m actually asking the right questions, I’m still generally 50/50 when it comes to confronting a lie with what I believe is the right piece of corroborating evidence.

That’s mostly my problem, I suppose.  But the fact that lots of other people are having problems with it leads me to believe that maybe it isn’t just my fault.

The last thing in my email, though, is part of the larger problem I have with the game – that the sandbox element feels unnecessary.  I totally get that having a real post-war L.A. is an incredible achievement, and I really truly wish that I could spend more time exploring it.  Problem is, there’s really no incentive to do so; the side missions feel obligatory (most of them are 20 second shoot-outs) and the hidden collectibles are so well hidden that I wouldn’t even know about them if I hadn’t been told they were there.  The one side thing that I’ve been diligent about collecting is the newspapers, and even then, they’ve revealed so much of the backstory that I almost feel like I know too much – for example, the events that mark the transition from Ad Vice to Arson were more or less telegraphed in one particular newspaper that was almost impossible to ignore, which more or less ruined the surprise.

But there’s a solution to this problem.  In fact, there’s a solution to most of the problems I have with L.A. Noire, and it’s a solution that would make L.A. Noire 2 better for everybody.  And it’s a solution that seems kinda obvious, so much so that I have to wonder if the developers knew it also, but had spent so long working on what they’d already come up with that to switch gears would cause more problems than it would solve.

The solution:  your player character in L.A. Noire 2 is a private detective.  Here’s 4 quick reasons why that works:

1.  Suddenly, the sandbox makes sense.  A private detective can run around L.A. and do things – he can go to the fights, he can gamble at the tracks, he can explore – he’s not beholden to the law in the same way a police officer is, especially a golden boy like Cole Phelps.

2.  Similarly, the side missions could be more varied.  The photography missions alone would be more interesting than the shoot-outs we’re currently working with.

3.  A private eye fits the noir mold a thousand times more than a police officer.  He can be darker, he can be mysterious, he can be drunk, he can wear his regret on his sleeves.  Cole Phelps is more of an automaton than a living, breathing person – and while there might be a good, as yet unrevealed reason why that is, a private eye is more interesting right from the get-go.

4.  I’m guessing that a private eye’s interrogations wouldn’t be as formalized as a police officer’s interrogations, but that would certainly make them a hell of a lot more interesting and varied.

I appreciate that L.A. Noire’s current set-up works, in a certain way – the progression of Cole’s career is broken into desks, which also vary up the cases and put him in different situations.  It’s just that it never feels as gritty or as dirty as it could.  I’m not saying that a future L.A. Noire game has to be like GTA – it’s just that it has the potential to be so much more than it already is.

WIPTW: anniversary edition

This past weekend was my 7-year anniversary with the wife, so you can probably surmise that there wasn’t a tremendous amount of videogame time to be had.  Still, I managed to finish the Homicide desk in L.A. Noire, and the wife and I knocked out the first level of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean in co-op.

Let me get the Lego game out of the way – it’s quite good, as far as Lego games go, and it doesn’t seem to radically change the tried-and-true formula.  Certainly it’s very good looking.  My main problem with it, after about 20 minutes of gameplay, is the co-op camera.  I’ve not really done much co-op in other Lego games, so I’m not sure how the camera compares, but the co-op camera in Pirates is fucking ridiculous.  I appreciate what it’s trying to do, but it’s incredibly distracting and ultra-sensitive when it doesn’t need to be, and if anything it causes more harm than good.

My wife isn’t a gamer, as she’ll readily admit.  But she knows I am, obviously, and I try my darnedest to either (a) keep my gaming time from intruding on her TV time, or (b) keep her engaged with what I’m doing.  We’ve played Rock Band together, which is fun, and we recently completed the Portal 2 co-op campaign together, which was wonderful.  (She wrote about her experience here.)  I’d very much like to keep playing Lego Pirates with her, but that camera will need to be dealt with.

As to L.A. Noire… well, as I said before, I finished the Homicide desk very late on Saturday, and the wife helped me a bit with the interrogations.  It’s hard to talk about what I want to talk about without getting into spoiler territory, but I’m going to work under the presumption that if you’re reading this, you probably don’t care.  In any event, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

**********SPOILERS BELOW************

Let me say, firstly, that I’m enjoying L.A. Noire immensely.  I’m not totally 100% in love with it, but it should be noted that it’s a fantastic technical achievement, and I must salute Rockstar, Take Two and Team Bondi for taking such a bold, experimental risk.

I’ve read a bunch of complaints from players and reviewers (this Kotaku piece in particular) about how the game isn’t open enough; you don’t really have much to do in this meticulously-designed city when you’re not in the mood to crack a case.  I guess I understand that, but I think that’s their own fault for expecting the game to be something it never claimed to be.  If anything, I think that the open-world element feels a bit shoe-horned in; it’s not really all that necessary, and considering that you can fast-travel from location to location anyway, it can be downright irrelevant.  I generally ignore radio dispatches when I’m working a case, and I haven’t really done any exploring beyond figuring out the map system and simply trying to get from point A to point B.  Considering how much collateral damage I incur when I drive, I prefer fast-travelling, frankly.

If I have any real complaints at this stage in the game, it’s that, well, for all of its valiant attempts at immersion and cinematic presentation, it can still feel very game-y in spots, especially in the interrogation sequences.  I’ve gotten a little bit better at them since my first write-up, but I’ve still never gotten all of them right in a case.  The irony, of course, is that the conclusion of the Homicide desk story arc pretty much renders all the previous interrogations irrelevant anyway.  I suppose it’s a neat twist if you didn’t see it coming, but I knew something was off, and as soon as I’d heard mention of a temp bartender in one of the later cases (after already meeting one towards the beginning of the arc – and a “temp bartender” is somewhat eye-catching to begin with), I started getting ideas that would soon be confirmed.

That story arc has some other significant plot holes, too, that don’t really hold up under scrutiny, the main one being that it just seems a bit too contrived that the serial killer could find that many women to murder with husbands that easy to frame.

More to the point, though, it makes me less inclined to replay those missions in an effort to 5-star all the cases since I know I’m going to be putting the wrong people away every time.

**********END SPOILERS**************

Tomorrow comes the arrival of Dirt 3, which I’m tremendously excited about.  It’s been too long since I’ve played a good driving game.

Weekend recap: so much blood

My stated intentions last week were, to be sure, a bit vague; with Tiger 12 out of the house and out of my life I had nothing solid to commit to besides finally sinking my teeth into Sword & Sworcery for the iPhone.  Steam had nothing I wanted for sale.  I had a bizarre urge to play GTA4 on the PC, but somewhere between last summer and now they installed some SecuROM bullshit and I couldn’t get my perfectly valid and paid-for copy to open correctly.

I did spend some time – not a lot, but enough – with Mortal Kombat, which arrived via Gamefly on Saturday.  I’m no fighting game enthusiast – it’s the genre I suck at the most, besides real-time strategy – but even I must concede that this is the most complete package ever put on disc.  And it genuinely seems to want me to get better at it.  I dove right in to the Story mode, which is completely insane but very well done, I must admit.  After a few chapters, though, I realized that the enemies were getting tougher and I wasn’t getting any better, and I probably needed to try some tutorials and dive into the Challenge Tower.  I can’t say that my game has improved at all, but I think I understand it a bit easier.  It’s certainly very accessible, in a way that Street Fighter 4 wasn’t.  I’ve been debating whether or not to keep it; I don’t know if I’ll ever be any good at it, but I can’t deny that it’s pretty goddamned fun.

But ultimately the weekend belonged to Sword & Sworcery, which is, on the one hand, a very slow action/adventure game, but on the other hand is an incredibly immersive and atmospheric experience with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.  (Seriously – I even bought the soundtrack.)  The game doesn’t really have a lot of depth, but I’m not sure that’s really the point; it’s just a remarkable experience.

WAYPTW: April 29

In this week’s edition of What Are You Playing This Weekend, I find I don’t have a solid answer.

1.  I gave up on Tiger Woods 12.  I kinda feel stupid and sheepish about admitting it – it’s just a game, it’s not a big deal, I don’t know why I’m taking it so personally that (a) I gave up on it and (b) I hated it so much.  But, I mean, look – I’m a grown man.  I don’t have to play anything I don’t want to play, and if the putting game feels less of a reflection of my actual skill and more like a rubber-band AI cheat, and it’s going to cause me to throw my controller through a window, then I have every right to send the game back to Gamefly and not think about it ever again.  It’s just a shame because the rest of it was really quite enjoyable, and I was kinda looking forward to spending some more quality time with it.  Truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself renting it again.  I’m so goddamned weak.

2.  I had been looking forward to the impending release of Duke Nukem Forever – Amazon still had my pre-order listed as arriving on Tuesday, May 3rd.  Alas, I’d forgotten that Gearbox had delayed it until June.  In any event, I still might play a bit more Duke 3D on XBLA.

3.  I’m also going to try and get the one last single-player achievement in Portal 2 that I haven’t gotten yet – Smash TV.

4.  Maybe Steam has something on sale?  I bought Metro 2033 last weekend and played the first 10 minutes or so.  Very atmospheric; very Russian.  I’m kinda itching to try Fallout New Vegas on the PC, also; I can’t explain where that particular itch is coming from.

5.  I’ve got a TON of new-ish iPhone games to play:  Sword & Sworcery, Gears, Zenonia 3.

And so:  what are you playing this weekend?

>WIPTW: Confessions of a Crack Addict

>Me and my level 36 Soldier finished Borderlands early Sunday morning, and after selling off my excess loot and giving my skills a re-spec, I decided to screw around with the Playthrough 2 mode and see if it would really be worth playing through a second time, and about two hours later I forced myself to turn off the 360. That shit is dangerous; I was getting ridiculously awesome loot drops just outside the very first town.

I remain totally amazed at how much I enjoyed Borderlands, especially considering that I have absolutely no idea what the story was about, or who anybody was, or what I was ultimately supposed to be doing. I’m even more amazed that I never really cared about any of that stuff. My main focus was leveling up and getting better gear, and that remained constant even as I began my 2nd playthrough. The story is ultimately irrelevant. It would be nice if a sequel addressed this specific flaw, but the mechanics of the game itself are so well-designed that I’m not entirely sure I’d notice, one way or the other.

***SLIGHT SPOILERS***
The only time I was bummed out by the lack of story was at the game’s ending, which can’t even be called “ambiguous”, as that would imply that something actually happened. And it’s really only a bummer because it was the first time since I’d started the game where I wasn’t engaged in some sort of forward motion, towards something. The game’s promise of the Vault was just vague enough to keep me somewhat interested, even though I couldn’t really tell you what of the game’s missions were actually about, besides going to point A and killing a bunch of people, or going around the map to collect certain items. I never really questioned why I was doing any of that stuff, as long as it meant that I was getting XP and new guns. If the game had even touched upon that element, in a sort of meta/Portal/Bioshock way, that would’ve been nice. Instead, the game’s ending just felt obligatory, as in: the game is over now.

If Modern Warfare 2 weren’t arriving tomorrow, I could easily see myself spending another 10-12 hours playing through again, and even more than that if I somehow didn’t hit level 50.

Also spent a little time with the 360 version of Dragon Age: Origins, which is… a little disappointing, although to be fair I haven’t really sat down with it and allowed myself to get sucked in. I will say, though, that it feels awfully weird; I keep expecting it to have real-time combat, and it most certainly does not, and I suppose I’d be more into it if I were playing it on the PC.

>WIPTW: World Series edition

>I am incredibly superstitious when it comes to the Yankees in the postseason, and the incredibly annoying feature is that the superstitions are always changing from year to year. During the 2004 meltdown against the Red Sox, I feel like I let us down; the first three games I’d listened to on the radio, and because I was traveling on the 4th game I ended up watching it on TV, which is where everything fell apart. This year’s winning formula is apparently that I cannot watch any of the game on television, or even be in the same room if the game happens to be on. I’m serious. Within 5 seconds of me turning the game on, something bad happens to the Yankees; I turn the game off; they end up winning.

As a result, I’ve been able to get a bit more quality time on the 360. This weekend was all about Forza 3 and Borderlands, with a tiny bit of GTA4: BOGT on the side.

Forza 3 is definitely the best in the series. All the pre-release hype made special mention of Turn Ten’s desire to make the game as accessible as possible for all kinds of gamers, not just driving sim enthusiasts, and to that end they have succeeded. The single-player campaign is long, robust, endlessly customizable, and thoroughly rewarding; just about every single race ends up giving you something new. And since I know nothing about cars, I feel much freer to simply buy cars that I’m somewhat interested in, since I can always auto-tune them up before a race if they’re underperforming. The franchise is really only guilty of two things; recycling content and less-than-spectacular graphics. I suppose I can forgive the graphics; they’re certainly not bad, they’re just underwhelming compared to, say, DiRT 2. The recycling of tracks, though, does get a bit annoying; I feel like I’ve been driving the same tracks for years.

Ultimately, Forza reminds me a bit of the Tiger Woods franchise, in that they’re both great time-sucks and, simultaneously, great for just a quick dip. If only Tiger Woods could make the same sort of advances in terms of keeping the game fresh.

Borderlands continues to be the game that keeps on giving. My soldier is now up to level 28, I think, and I feel like I just can’t put the damned thing down. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the story, and I couldn’t care less; I pick up a bunch of missions in a particular area, I clear ’em all out, I score tons of loot, I cash them in, I level up, lather, rinse, repeat. That the game does a pretty terrible (i.e., nonexistent) job of letting you know which of your 10-15 missions is actually essential to moving the story along ends up freeing you to explore more of the world because, well, why not – there’s loot in them thar hills, and sticking to the main questline would render a lot of it unexplored.

One can’t help but be reminded of Fallout 3 when playing Borderlands, as post-apocalyptic first-person RPGs aren’t really a dime a dozen. And yet the two games could not feel more different. Leaving aside from the drastically different art styles – which I don’t really want to do, as Borderlands looks absolutely incredible and utterly unique – they move at completely different paces. Fallout 3 was slow, ponderous, and dark – and it absolutely worked in that particular context. Borderlands might as well be a first-person shooter, on the other hand, as it plays fast and furious. It’s dark as well, but it’s also zany. I think I enjoyed the overall experience a bit more in Fallout 3, and yet I’m probably having a bit more fun playing Borderlands.

Ultimately, Borderlands is clear-cut proof that a game – specifically an RPG – doesn’t need a great story in order to be fun. That kinda sucks to admit, because I wouldn’t at all mind being a bit more emotionally invested in what’s going on in Borderlands, and it flies in the face of what Tim Schafer and Valve and GTA represent. We’d all like to see better writing and storytelling in games. And yet even without a clear motivation to get from one side of the game to the other in terms of story, here I am, compulsively doing missions and killing dudes and exploring and wanting to turn the game off after just finishing up this last thing and then holy shit, another hour has gone by, and look at all the cool stuff I have now.

I almost feel bad that I barely gave The Ballad of Gay Tony any time this weekend; I did a few missions, got a feel for the story and the characters, remembered how to get in and out of cover, and more or less left it at that. It’s still good old GTA4, even though the game is starting to look a little rough around the edges.

Which reminds me – there’s a lot of driving in both GTA4 and Borderlands (and Forza), and the controls are totally different for each game, and it takes more than a few minutes to remember which is which. I do wish there was some sort of control scheme that all game developers could agree on when it comes to driving in 3rd-person action games.

Jeez, I almost forgot – I also tried out the first hour or so of the new Ratchet & Clank game. It’s good, fun, solid, and I just don’t have the time for it right now.

>What I Played This Weekend: ALCS edition

>It always seems like whenever there are a ton of great games coming out all at once, I’m usually really busy doing lots of other things, and yet I feel compelled to own them all anyway. In any event – the little gaming time I had this past weekend was divided up pretty evenly between trying my hardest to enjoy Brutal Legend, and being very pleasantly surprised by Borderlands, with a little bit of Uncharted 2 online co-op, and a tiny taste of Demon’s Souls for the hell of it.

I don’t quite know how to express how bummed out I am about Brutal Legend. The art direction is stupendous, and the world itself is just fantastic. I love driving around and exploring the world and seeing all the incredible stuff there is to see, and my compulsive need to seek out hidden collectibles is very well satisfied. The dialogue and cutscenes are fantastic, and even though the sidemissions are incredibly repetitive, they almost never last more than a few minutes, and the rewards generally result in neat stuff in Ozzy’s Garage.

But goddamn, the stage battles completely suck all my enthusiasm out of the game. It eventually got to the point where I had completed every side mission and found every hidden thing I could possibly find, just because I wanted to play the game as much as possible without having to go through the stage battles. And, of course, the story can’t progress unless you do those stage battles, and therein lay the tragedy.

I don’t necessarily hate real time strategy games, I’m just not very good at them, and Brutal Legend’s brief tutorials don’t really help me in terms of figuring out what the hell is going on, and the game does such a terrible job of providing adequate feedback, especially when I’m on the ground trying to kill people because my army refuses to move. Once you start getting wounded, and the screen starts turning red and the heartbeat starts pounding louder, you’re almost always dead, and I’ve yet to figure out why. Even when I try to fly away, I die. And even though I’ve eventually won every stage battle I’ve participated in, I really don’t understand why, and the whole thing just feels shoddy and poorly implemented.

I have all the respect in the world for Tim Schafer; I’ll play anything the man works on. But I’m starting to feel that there’s more to a game than art direction and funny dialogue; ultimately, a game either succeeds or fails based on how much fun it is to play, and Brutal Legend is not very much fun at all.

Meanwhile, Borderlands is fun as hell. It starts a little slow, but once you finish the first round of missions and get a vehicle, it really starts to open up. I dinged up to level 15 pretty quickly, and have been itching to get back to it ever since. Haven’t tried online co-op yet, though, since none of my real-life friends have been able to find a copy in stores.

Speaking of online co-op, I did a few levels with Gred in Uncharted 2, and while they’re pretty much taken wholesale from the game, they’re still a lot of fun. It really shows just how improved the combat is; the mechanics are rock-solid and it’s arguably even more fun when you’re shouting out positions and scrambling for cover and ammo and trying to heal each other.

Finally, more out of morbid curiousity than anything else, I tried Demon’s Souls for 20 minutes yesterday. I can see why the game gets good reviews; the game is hard but it’s fair, and I eventually died because I was being impatient, not because the game cheated. And then, of course, I saw where I respawned from, and saw how far I’d have to go to reclaim my lost souls, and I said “fuck this.” I don’t have the time or the masochistic tendencies to really put it through its paces.

Tonight: Forza 3.

And coming soon, we’re going to be doing a big GAMES OF THE DECADE feature, featuring a special guest or two. Stay tuned.

>What I Played This Weekend: “Oh right, I own a Wii” edition

>I’ve said this before, but in the context of this particular post it bears repeating – there once was a time when my hunger for a Wii was all-consuming. My heart and wallet may have belonged to Microsoft, but I yearned for something more; I ached to waggle. And, most importantly, I wanted to get my wife interested in gaming – or, at least, gaming with me. She was never going to get into Halo or Portal, but at least we could play tennis or bowling for a little while.

The irony, of course, is that once the novelty of the Wii’s control scheme wore off, the crushing disappointment started to sink in. There were no games to look forward to, at least to someone in my demographic; Nintendo saw their revenue streams coming in from non-gamers and you can hardly fault them for trying to make money, especially in this shitty economy. That said, my enthusiasm for the Wii didn’t drop off as much as it entirely evaporated, and I know I’m not the only one – when people came over to my apartment for birthday parties and other such gatherings, we would always pull out Rock Band instead of Wii Sports. It is true that my wife and I had started to use the Wii again in recent months, but only as a goddamned exercise machine. This was not my beautiful game console.

So why the hell did I buy Wii Sports Resort yesterday? Why did I succumb to Nintendo’s charms, again? Why did I enable Nintendo to continue to ignore me?

I can’t really answer that without offering at least one rationalization: I didn’t actually spend any cash in order to get it. I traded in my PSP and all 7 PSP games I owned specifically so that it could be a cashless transaction. Because as disappointed as I’d been in the Wii, I was even more disappointed in the PSP, and there was even less to look forward to on that platform.

Anyway. Wii Sports Resort is what Wii Sports should’ve been. It’s yet another collection of mini-games, in both single- and multi-player configurations, and the big difference in this collection is that the Wii Remote’s new add-on makes the Remote… more sensitive? It’s hard to explain what’s different about the Motion Plus controller add-on thing until you try the frisbee mini-game. Suffice it to say, it is as close to throwing an actual frisbee as one can get. Similarly, the ping-pong mini-game is remarkable, especially in terms of how you can throw different kinds of spin on your returns. I was as big a fan of Rockstar’s Table Tennis as anyone, but I must admit that the ping-pong game in WSR is arguably more engaging.

The rest of the mini-games are pretty hit or miss. Archery is certainly interesting; the sword-fighting game is fun but not particularly deep; bowling feels pretty much identical to the previous iteration, and golf is actually much harder now that the remote is more sensitive to wrist positioning. I suspect that I’ll play this just as long as my wife remains interested, and then that’ll probably be it.

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As long as the Wii was powered up, though, I figured it would maybe be a good time to get back into Super Mario Galaxy. I had been enjoying it thoroughly at first, but got hung up after getting my 15th star or so; then I tried to go back to the earlier levels to stock up on some easy 1-ups, and found that the game (smartly?) makes that prospect a bit trickier than I’d anticipated. In any event, I got past whatever it was that had gotten me stuck before, and now I guess I’m back in it. I’m up to 21 stars now, and I’m continually impressed with each new world’s mechanics. I suppose it could be argued that if the Wii produced nothing of value except SMG, it would still be worth a purchase. It could also be argued that the first half of the previous sentence is actually, literally true.

>What I Played This Weekend: "Oh right, I own a Wii" edition

>I’ve said this before, but in the context of this particular post it bears repeating – there once was a time when my hunger for a Wii was all-consuming. My heart and wallet may have belonged to Microsoft, but I yearned for something more; I ached to waggle. And, most importantly, I wanted to get my wife interested in gaming – or, at least, gaming with me. She was never going to get into Halo or Portal, but at least we could play tennis or bowling for a little while.

The irony, of course, is that once the novelty of the Wii’s control scheme wore off, the crushing disappointment started to sink in. There were no games to look forward to, at least to someone in my demographic; Nintendo saw their revenue streams coming in from non-gamers and you can hardly fault them for trying to make money, especially in this shitty economy. That said, my enthusiasm for the Wii didn’t drop off as much as it entirely evaporated, and I know I’m not the only one – when people came over to my apartment for birthday parties and other such gatherings, we would always pull out Rock Band instead of Wii Sports. It is true that my wife and I had started to use the Wii again in recent months, but only as a goddamned exercise machine. This was not my beautiful game console.

So why the hell did I buy Wii Sports Resort yesterday? Why did I succumb to Nintendo’s charms, again? Why did I enable Nintendo to continue to ignore me?

I can’t really answer that without offering at least one rationalization: I didn’t actually spend any cash in order to get it. I traded in my PSP and all 7 PSP games I owned specifically so that it could be a cashless transaction. Because as disappointed as I’d been in the Wii, I was even more disappointed in the PSP, and there was even less to look forward to on that platform.

Anyway. Wii Sports Resort is what Wii Sports should’ve been. It’s yet another collection of mini-games, in both single- and multi-player configurations, and the big difference in this collection is that the Wii Remote’s new add-on makes the Remote… more sensitive? It’s hard to explain what’s different about the Motion Plus controller add-on thing until you try the frisbee mini-game. Suffice it to say, it is as close to throwing an actual frisbee as one can get. Similarly, the ping-pong mini-game is remarkable, especially in terms of how you can throw different kinds of spin on your returns. I was as big a fan of Rockstar’s Table Tennis as anyone, but I must admit that the ping-pong game in WSR is arguably more engaging.

The rest of the mini-games are pretty hit or miss. Archery is certainly interesting; the sword-fighting game is fun but not particularly deep; bowling feels pretty much identical to the previous iteration, and golf is actually much harder now that the remote is more sensitive to wrist positioning. I suspect that I’ll play this just as long as my wife remains interested, and then that’ll probably be it.

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As long as the Wii was powered up, though, I figured it would maybe be a good time to get back into Super Mario Galaxy. I had been enjoying it thoroughly at first, but got hung up after getting my 15th star or so; then I tried to go back to the earlier levels to stock up on some easy 1-ups, and found that the game (smartly?) makes that prospect a bit trickier than I’d anticipated. In any event, I got past whatever it was that had gotten me stuck before, and now I guess I’m back in it. I’m up to 21 stars now, and I’m continually impressed with each new world’s mechanics. I suppose it could be argued that if the Wii produced nothing of value except SMG, it would still be worth a purchase. It could also be argued that the first half of the previous sentence is actually, literally true.