Sunday, February 16, 2014

Diary Entry #9: Rail Shooter Suckage and Inside Colorized Turok

                Lots of interesting stuff going on right now. I've been trying to catch up with my gaming wishlist, so I picked up Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, a rail shooter that retells the story of several Resident Evil games. After playing through the entire Resident Evil 0 section, I'm intent on returning the game. There's no challenge, no diversity, and no real skill required.

Screenshot courtesy of Wesker
gets ready to spin kick a zombie in the face.

                I was hoping it would be as well made as Dead Space: Extraction, but it's not. The success of that game is how it seamlessly blends story and action sequences together, a slick approach that the Umbrella Chronicles does not attempt. Instead, you occasionally fight some slow moving zombies. Even when faster enemies are introduced, you already have mastered the art of critical shots, so instantly killing everything is a non-issue. The worst part is that if a zombie grabs you, the game gives you the option to wiggle the Wii-mote to perform a counter-attack. This allows you to throw a grenade or spin kick a zombie without any damage to yourself. I'm trading this in for Resident Evil 5, although I really want to try Resident Evil: Survivor and Resident Evil: Dead Aim.

                I'm excited to try Dino Crisis 1 and 2. According to my friend Will, 1 isn't a great game, but 2 has an economy system in which killing more dinosaurs allows you to buy weapons from computer shops. Totally sounds like a Blue Stinger ripoff. I have the PC version which gets dreadful reviews, but I'm sure that's just because it's one of those sloppy PS1 to PC ports. As long as I'm playing PC survival horror games, I should get around to playing Curse: The Eye of Isis and Martian Gothic: Unification.

                I started Final Fantasy IX, which probably will take me a while. Compared to the ridiculously nuanced gameplay of Final Fantasy VIII, IX takes a very no frills approach to battles and storytelling. It feels like a welcome return to form after equipping magical abilities as items and waiting through two minute summon spell animations in VIII. Honestly, I probably should be playing Dragon Quest VIII for a really old-school JRPG experience, but to hell with it.
Stepping on a bunch of broken pink glass
in the ladies room alerts everyone.

                The Drake and Josh Game Boy Advance game is absolutely fabulous. It's a stealth game where you wander around a school with only one tangible goal: reach the end of each stage. While it certainly is interesting, I wouldn't recommend anyone play it. The stealth system is basic beyond belief, with enemies facing random directions while you casually walk around them. If you're lucky, an enemy might actually spot you and you'll have the pleasure of losing ten seconds of progress as you start the room over.

                Turok 2: Seeds of Evil for the Game Boy Color kicks off in a very, very strange way. As I mentioned in a previous post, the game starts in a bizarre level in which I'm totally unarmed. I avoid enemies that slowly move back and forth on the city streets until I reach an item that transforms me into Turok, Dinosaur Hunter. I then must kill all of the zombie-like entities until a mohawked dinosaur guy tells me what to do.

                 After this gonzo level, the game initially feels like a retread of Turok: Battle of the Bionosaurs, but it quickly shows off it's many improvements. The most obvious change is the improved level design. Levels feature a lot more exploration, switches that trigger teleports, secret areas, and a greater variety of enemies.

                 A notable addition are actual boss fights, with a triceratops and giant bionosaur entering the rogue's gallery. There are random forced scrolling challenges that find Turok alternately riding a raptor and pterodactyl as well. My personal favorite are some vertically scrolling levels where Turok is either running forward or paddling a canoe, blasting or dodging foes in the process.

                 The only downside is that the hub system is eschewed for a traditional level progression approach. I liked having to repeat some levels to recover special items, giving it an underdeveloped Metroidvania tinge. Despite this one qualm, Turok 2 elaborates and expands on Turok 1's formula just enough to make it a genuine hidden gem. Buy it!

                 I also began Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, which features a more traditional beat-em-up style. Although it's probably a better action game, it strips all of the cool platforming away and replaces it with mindlessly stabbing stuff. I fully intend to play through it, but I'm going to keep playing Final Fantasy 9 for awhile. I'll trade in Umbrella Chronicles for Resident Evil 5 after work tomorrow.

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