Well, we're less than two weeks away from our baby girl's due date and I couldn't be more excited (read: stressed and petrified). Preparing for her arrival hasn't left a lot of, if any time to work on Game Forward, but I decided to share some quick thoughts about what I've been playing over the last little while since I won't have the chance to write full reviews in the near future.
The PlayStation Vita launched last month and I've mostly enjoyed the time that I've had to spend with it. It's a fantastic piece of hardware with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a device released in 2012, though it unfortunately lacks the ability to pair a PS3 controller to it like the PSPGo, which was a great feature for gamers with limited dexterity. Read More...
The unit itself is quite large and would likely be awkward for a one-handed gamer for example. Considering it has both a touch screen and rear touch pad, it's not surprising to see many early software titles cram touch functionality in and so far it's not too gimmicky, but it could cause an accessibility barrier. Even the OS is entirely touch-based with no option to use traditional control inputs at all.
On the software side, I've had the chance to try Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, which doesn't bring much new to the series, but does allow players to aim their shot using the touch screen and view projected trajectory with the rear touch pad.
Lumines: Electric Symphony also fits the "more of the same" bill, but is arguably the best iteration of the psychedelic puzzler yet. Blocks are now rendered in 3D, the effects are splashier, your chosen avatar now carries a special ability with it and the game has a great licenced soundtrack featuring iconic electronic artists such as Orbital, The Chemical Brothers, Underworld and 808 State.
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! is a downloadable title that I've really enjoyed thus far. This platforming game has a great art style inspired by classic science fiction movies, a simple control scheme that feels great and minimally invasive touch screen controls that lets you interact with the environment. It also employs a mechanic similar to the Katamari Damacy games in which you must absorb stuff to get bigger and move on to the next area. At $8, I highly recommend this game.
Something I don't recommend however are the free augmented reality titles available from the PlayStation Store that make use of the six AR cards included with the Vita hardware; they aren't worth your time or memory card space. All three titles (Table Soccer, Cliff Diver and Fireworks) suffer from sketchy touch-based controls, slow and inaccurate AR card detection and are generally pointless and shallow.
Console gameplay in our house has still been dominated by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, though we're nearing the end of our time with the excellent-but-flawed RPG as we've accomplished most of what we set out to do. We'll likely shelve this game for a while and revisit it when the expansions come around.
I started into a somewhat lighter RPG experience recently with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and like what I've had the chance to try of it. The bright, cartoony and colourful art style is a stark contrast from Skyrim and I like the combat system enough to keep playing. It also scratches my loot and crafting itches and will likely be the game I sink into during the summer months.
By then, I should be done with Mass Effect 3. I put four hours into the game on launch day and so far have a love/hate relationship with it. I've always loved the atmosphere of the series as well as the conversation mechanic, especially now that you can use voice commands through your Kinect sensor, but I absolutely abhor the direction and simplification that the gameplay itself has taken.
The game has become a rather mediocre cover-based shooter that employs tired mechanics and frankly doesn't control very well. The inventory system may be easier to navigate, but it has also become extremely shallow. At this point it feels like I'm just going through the motions to see the fate of "my" Shepard and Earth. I say "my", because the game was unable to import my character's appearance settings.
Also filed under the disappointing category is the SSX reboot, which is a shadow of the series' former awesomeness in my opinion. The serene, free-flowing nature of SSX 3 and SSX On Tour has been replaced with gimmicky survival mechanics and frustrating level design that includes far too many "death pits". It's still a fun racing and ludicrous trick experience at times, but is SSX in name only and would have been better served with a different title.
Finally, I have dug into the batter's box in MLB 12: The Show for PS3. The presentation has been upped a notch and there's a host of control options for any play style or skill level, including full PlayStation Move controls for batting, pitching and fielding. I will be spending most of my time with this game playing the Diamond Dynasty mode, which is similar to the card-based modes found in recent iterations of the Madden, NHL and FIFA games from EA.
Looking ahead, the only retail games I have in my sights are the Xbox 360 version of The Witcher 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii, which may end up being the last retail games I buy this year; you know, tight budget with a baby coming and all.
It looks like I'll have to wait to upgrade and rebuild the site until after we have the baby home but it's still in the cards, along with some feature articles I should have finished months ago.