Say what you will about the PSN service but when it comes to original online games there is no denying that its offerings represent some of the most engrossing titles that gaming has to offer. Since its launch it has become home to an assortment of unconventional but quirky titles such as PixelJunk Eden and Flow and has cultivated an environment where developers such as Q-Games and ThatGameCompany can realise their most ‘out their’ concepts and indulge their pretentious and esoteric artistic whims, in some cases, with the backing and encouragement of big name companies such as Sony.
Flower is the latest title from outside-the-box-gaming developers ‘ThatGameCompany’; it retains the same simple and approachable gameplay style previously featured in their first PSN contribution Flow. The player takes control of an ethereal breeze on a predestined mission of rejuvenation, following in the footsteps of Amaterasu of Okami fame and the Prince of Persia the resolute gust of air must soar through six gardens in an effort to reinvigorate them by carrying the petals of other flowers throughout the gardens and in passing injecting life back into the withering life-forms.
Although the objective and gameplay are very simple playing Flower initially can feel like a bit of a struggle, this is because the game is played using the Six-Axis motion control system, although it isn’t the most robust motion control system out there it is well suited to the game, once acclimated with the manoeuvring and acceleration based mechanics of movement controlling the stream of petals becomes second nature, you’ll soon find yourself flying through the gardens with ease.
Flowers greatest accomplishment is how well it sets the mood and atmosphere of each garden, the various facets of the game work symbiotically and meld together to create and maintain immersion, the painstakingly rendered grass and foliage is dripping with vivid colours, the lighting effects compliment the colourful art style by giving the environments the tranquil feel of an idyllic Eden and the music perfectly communicates and enhances the theme and mood of the gardens. Complimenting the music is a humble rhythm game element, each flower makes a sound and together they essentially act as a supplementary botanical orchestra contributing to the overall symphony.
Although it is possible to get a sense of how the game looks from screenshots, in order to truly experience the sense of euphoria the game creates you have to play it, especially since the screenshots aren’t indicative of all the different environments Flower has to offer.
Flower is a unique game, not only in terms of concept and gameplay but also because it is the kind of game where despite how many people write reviews or impressions on it you can never truly get a grasp of what it has to offer or the what the experience is like (way to invalidate everything said so far), it’s a game which everyone should play if only to form a personal opinion on it, in my case I can safely say that the three hours I spent playing Flower were three solid hours of breathtaking gaming.
Close your eyes, go to your happy place, imagine a soothing breeze, grass calmly swaying in the wind, air whistling as it passes through the thousands of delicate blades of grass – now open your eyes, and fly.
Exams are done and I've finally cut down the amount of hours I work per week, so guess what -- I'm back! C'mere....come give me a group hug....no? Nothings changed then I guess.......here's a rant:
Resident Evil 4 was phenomenal; few games have an impact on the industry as profound as what was felt after RE4, its legacy can still be in games released today with the likes of Dead Space, Gears of War and even Metal Gear Solid clearly drawing inspiration from it. With such grandiose achievements and the uniformly positive critical response in mind it's pretty hard to temper expectations into something realistic and attainable, it would be unfair to expect Resident Evil 5 be as innovative as Resident Evil 4 but it isn’t unreasonable to expect the game to evolve. The demo for RE5 is now available on Live and PSN and for some it serves to further suggest the differences between RE4 and RE5 will be few, sure it's good to see the series taking a step in a different direction with the inclusion of online Co-op but other than that RE5 seems to be fundamentally the same, and honestly -- I'm not complaining.
Resident Evil 4 was born from desperation, with Resident Evil 1,2 and 3 Capcom had taken their particular brand of survival horror as far as it could go on the PlayStation and then even further with the various Gamecube remakes, everything from the tank like character controls, the awkward and unaccommodating camera positioning and the predictable enemy AI had been pushed to its usage limits, they created a new and innovative formula, established genre conventions and then bled them dry to the point that it could be argued that the development team had fallen into a one track mind in relation to game design, they seemed to have turned game design and development for Resident Evil into a standardized routine, this is supported by reports stating that the first Devil May Cry game, another Capcom title that bore unmistakable resemblance to the Resident Evil games and their various quirks , originally started life as Resident Evil 4, Capcom seemed to have backed themselves into a corner, their reliance on what had been established in previous titles in the series made them complacent and to be fair they had the right to be , the formula was more than satisfactory, it was successful enough to firmly position Capcom as the king of the survival horror genre in the eyes of many a game enthusiast, but when it came to Resident Evil 4 I think it was clear they needed something beyond the stagnant formula used in its predecessors, I'm sure that everyone will agree that what it became was nothing short of revolutionary.
This practice of incrementally updating titles for sequels is certainly not something new to the video game industry and I'm not suggesting that Capcom should be condemned for adopting the practice, I am merely drawing attention to the fact that this sort of exercise is something Capcom has used in the past and suggesting that while it is fair to expect new and innovative changes to each new installment in a Capcom series this isn't something that they have a history of doing, past practices suggest that innovations and evolutions such as those seen in Resident Evil 4 are pushed to their absolute limits in terms of usage before being scrapped, with Resident Evil 5 serving as only the second incarnation of the Resident Evil 4 formula the likelihood is that Resident Evil 6 will also stay close to the formula and conventions established in Resident Evil 4 and then recycled in Resident Evil 5.
The recent confusion as to whether Chris will have the ability to shoot while moving in RE 5 has caused some controversy, while some (including myself) are happy to play the game as it has always been, clunky shooting and all, and reason that the restrictive controls contribute to the feeling of pressure and are arguably an essential element to the Resident Evil formula others haven’t taken too kindly to the realisation that former S.T.A.R.S Special Agent and current Bio-terror Assessment Group Agent Chris Redfield doesn't seemed to be trained in the art of firing a weapon while in motion. If my Red Bull fueled, wildly outrageous speculations are used to judge when Resident Evil will makes the jump into the next set of 'series innovations' it may be that the Resident Evil protagonists won't fully overcome the aforementioned inadequacies until Resident Evil 7, only time will tell, but until then we can rest safe in the knowledge that the current formula is still one of the most thrilling and enjoyable experiences video gaming has to offer.
When it comes to downloadable games the PixelJunk series is comprised of arguably the most unique and captivating titles on the market. The striking but cordial visuals are unassuming enough to entice the casual player into picking up the controller and the simple but addictive gameplay has the depth to keep both the casual and the hardcore gamer hooked.
Eden is the third game in the PixelJunk series and serves as the first foray in to platform games; however, this isnâ€™t the run-of-the-mill platforming experience weâ€™ve all become begrudgingly accustomed to. For better or for worse the classic genre has been injected with the unmistakable PixelJunk style along with a number of gameplay twists and what results is both a euphoric and frustrating gaming experience.
The game is comprised of 10 gardens that are accessed from within Eden which serves as the hub world. Players are given control of a creature called â€˜Grimpâ€™, a name attributed to it because of its ability to grip and jump. Grimp is also able to shoot out a line of silk which it can then use to swing from one part of the garden to another as well as to collect pollen.
Armed with these functions the player is tasked with transforming the serene but barren gardens into gardens thriving with plant-life. The ultimate goal of the game is to collect each of the 5 Spectra (a large flower like item) within the 10 gardens; these Spectra in turn develop the hub world into an idyllic Eden. In order to collect the Spectra that are hidden deeper within the garden the player must gather pollen from the floating pods which burst upon contact with the Grimp or its silk, once the pollen is gathered up using the silk it is drawn into nearby seeds which are fertilised and grow upon contact with the Grimp, the player must then traverse the newly developed terrain to access previously unreachable areas and collect the Spectra.
It's at this point when the first hurdle must be overcome â€“ the controls. In order to jump the analogue stick is used to define a trajectory and then a double tap of the â€˜Xâ€™ button will launch Grimp into a jump. Pressing â€˜Xâ€™ once produces a line of silk which is used to swing in a small circle around the original launch point, the distance of the swing can be altered using the trigger buttons which reel Grimp in. While airborne holding the button down will send Grimp into a spin, this allows it to pass through plants the player wishes to bypass, which is useful since Grimp automatically sticks to surfaces it comes into contact with.
While the controls arenâ€™t exactly unwieldy or unusable they do require some getting used to, especially since navigation requires precise and calculated jumps, which can easily go awry if you arenâ€™t comfortable with the controls and are being set upon by one of the patrolling enemies aiming to impede your progression - falling to the bottom of the garden after fifteen minutes of climbing is devastating.
Itâ€™s hard to describe the visual style of PixelJunk Eden without resorting to drawing from the lexicon of a stoned frat boy since it is arguably the best fit for the art style â€“ but Iâ€™ll refrain.
The appeal of the visual style of Eden lies in the simplicity of the art; the gardens are comprised of psychedelic backgrounds complimented by plants and various pollen pods peppered around each of the gardens, in comparison to the hypnotic backgrounds these are usually simple solid colours but serve as a visually pleasing contrast to the insanity behind it. The delicate use of colour and the subtle changes in lighting make the gardens extremely atmospheric.
Gameplay and the visual style in PixelJunk Eden seem to have a symbiotic relationship, the persistently changing environment and swaying plant-life along with the music perfectly compliment the jumping and swinging mechanic and together manage to create a flow to the gameplay which you can easily lose yourself in, itâ€™s an undeniably stunning game.
The biggest problem in PixelJunk Eden is a problem that stifles the experience to the point that it can become extremely frustrating playing the game; this problem is the time mechanic. While working through the garden there is a timer counting down, once the time runs out you are kicked out of the garden and back to Eden, although the time can be extended through collecting pickups this has a severe impact on the flow of the game since it shifts the focus from exploration and collecting Spectra to a frantic dash to find pickups and prevent expulsion from the garden, and usually ends in a misjudged jump followed by a long and painful fall to the bottom of the garden. The time mechanic breaks the sense of progression and forces the player to abandon any sort of flow or rhythm in order to backtrack.
As well as the time mechanic the progression through the gardens can become increasingly exasperating since the game will only allow the collection of 1 new Spectra at a time, after each new Spectra is collected the game kicks the player out and back to Eden thus forcing the player to constantly replay the same sections numerous times. Coupled with the time mechanic this can become infuriating to the point that some players may feel it just isnâ€™t worth playing through the same areas again.
PixelJunk Eden is delightfully simple in both gameplay and aesthetics but despite the simplicity the visuals are vibrant and engaging and the gameplay is fluid and deep, itâ€™s a unique botanical adventure that needs to be experienced first-hand in order to be appreciated. However it isnâ€™t without flaws, artificially extending the game through forced repetition and time constraints that betray the very nature of the game results in an extremely trying and at times an uneven gameplay experience.
Did a little doodle whilst enjoying the Wimbledon Tennis final, Nadal is playing flawlessly, I'm supporting Federer though. Play is about to get going again after an hour long break caused due to rain.
Hey guys, whilst at Uni yesterday I decided to pop into the local game stores before heading home and found something London based readers may be interested in, the Zavvi on Tottenham Court Road is having a warehouse sale and there are bunch of cheap games there, all xbox 360 titles are Â£12, PS3 titles are Â£15, DS titles are Â£2, PC titles for Â£1 and PS2 games range from Â£3-12.
So if you're interested in picking up some cheap games head on over, I didn't spend to much time in the other sections but in the 360 section they had Gears of War, Viva Pinata, Forza 2, PGR4, Splinter Cell Double Agent, Halo 3, Sonic, Crackdown, Smackdown vs Raw and a bunch of others.
They're selling music cd's and books too but I didn't look there, anyway thats it.... just thought I'd spread the love.
After reading the 'Get Your Character Into Little Big Planet Before Anyone Else' post by Conrad Zimmerman I decided I'd take a shot at it and create a few of my own Little Big Planet sackboy characters, the first one i came up with is Rhonny Stiggz, the shockstar. What do you guys think?