What a wonderful past couple of weeks it's been for gaming. I got my hands on copies of the latest and greatest to hit us this holiday season, The Orange Box
and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
. I have been enjoying both of these titles enormously and I thought that I'd share with Dtoid my ramblings on these games.
First, Zelda. I have to admit, for purposes of full disclosure, that I'm a Zelda whore. For all my hardcore PC-ness, there is just something about this little series from Nintendo that gets me all giddy and frothing on myself. The Legend of Zelda series has always been a great example of what makes console gaming great - the well designed levels, the colorful characters, the distinct art direction and sublime gameplay. So how does Phantom Hourglass stand up to the rest of the series?
For better or worse, it falls right in line with the rest of the Zelda games that have come out since Link to the Past. All the trappings of the series are here in full effects, including the items, dungeons, heart containers, Rupees in bushes and a Navi yelling "hey!" whenever you tap on something. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Depends who you ask. But for me, I have enjoyed this refined formula since I first played a Zelda game and I don't see anything wrong with it. Despite the similarities to past Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass is still a wonderfully designed game with a multitude of fun moments packed in.
The biggest addition to Phantom Hourglass is the stylus control. None of the buttons on the face on the DS can be used to control Link directly, and as such the control scheme takes some getting used to. I found that right off the bat, holding my stylus by anything but the very end resulted in my hand obscuring the screen when moving from right-to-left. People with large hands may have some difficulties, but I managed just fine holding the stylus more like a baton than a pen (Wind Waker anyone?). Because you can directly interact with elements on the screen, it becomes very easy to attack enemies with precision and execute some of the more advanced moves like the spin attack. Aiming the boomerang and bombs are a matter of drawing a path or tapping where u want them to go. Overall, I found controlling Link in Phantom Hourglass easier than I have found it in any other Zelda game.
The touchscreen also opens up some opportunities for unique game play, which the developers took full advantage off. I have never seen all the facets of the DS used in such an extensive way. The most often seen example of this in Phantom Hourglass is the use of the touchscreen to draw points on a map to create a shape or image that are used in some way. Itís difficult to describe without giving away some of the more interesting puzzles in the game. Overall, Iíd recommend Phantom Hourglass to anyone with DS. The game isnít necessarily revolutionary, but it is necessarily fun, which is what itís all about.
Now for the Orange box, and in particular Half-Life 2: Episode 2
. The original Half-Life is the game that got me into PC gaming, so it was with great anticipation that I waited for Episode 2 to unlock on Steam. As a long-time fan of the series, this Episode hit all the right notes - the most refined Half-Life gameplay seen to date, the most lush and varied environments, great story and character development and the most shocking ending to a Half-Life game ever. Iíll tell you right now, if you are at all a fan of the series or of great PC shooters, this game will knock your socks off.
My favorite thing about Episode 2 was the number of set-piece moments. There is no filler in this game - you are never running down an unremarkable hall blasting away with abandon. Every engagement with the Combine and antlions has been carefully calculated to advance the story or introduce new gameplay not yet exploited in the game. A fun example of this early on is fight against an antlion swarm with resistance fighters Griggs and Sheckley. As the humorous duo simultaneously tore up antilions and poked fun at each other (and Gordon), you have the responsibility of setting up gun turrets and covering angles they canít. Like I said, saying too much more would simply ruin it. Best to just go out and buy the game, because five games in one box makes for one of the best values in gaming today. Team Fortress 2 is a blast and a half and I look forward to playing sometime with the Destructoid Steam group.
That does it for this edition of My Recently Played. If you stuck with me to this point, you are probably either really bored or insane. If you truly enjoyed this post, then Iím flattered. Either way, thatís not going to stop me from doing this again in the next couple of weeks. And what a next couple of weeks it is: Assassins Creed
, Gears of War on PC
, Guitar Hero III
. . . I just donít know where Iíll find the money (or time). To all my fellow Dtoidíers, enjoy!