Another week, another "talk about video games a bit"-session. By now I've managed to spend a lot more time with my birthday games from last week. In particular, I've beaten Contrast, The Stanley Parable (at least as far as you can "beat" that game) and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I've also spent some more time with the other games, but not quite enough yet that I can really talk about them.
Contrast is a bit of an interesting case, and not necessarily in all the right ways. The game has a lot of faults to be sure, but I still liked my time with it. In Contrast, you play as a lean acrobat-girl who can merge into the shadows at will. If anyone played Lost in Shadow (A Shadow's Tale in Europe), which honestly I doubt anyone has, it's kind of like that. The game is pretty stylish and has an interesting story ripped right out of the gangster-era (which is what, 20's and 30's or so?). You escort a little girl named Didi through some family troubles, as her father that always gets in deep with the bad people tries to make things right but fails miserably.
The platforming is wonky at best and the game has a tendency to boot you out of your shadow-form for seemingly no good reason, making level-progession more of a pain than it needs to be. Overall it's a decent game, but most people will be better off watching it on Youtube or something. It's not that long anyway.
- The game also channels some LIMBO sometimes.
In fact, the game couldn't contrast more with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which is just joyful in every way, shape and form. It feels a little shorter than Returns did, but it's soooooo good. The level design in particular is quite something this time around; you can tell Retro poured all their creativity into this thing. I don't want to spoil anything, but just know that there's a lot of cool stuff this time around, including some nice throwbacks to Returns. In fact, as much as I liked Super Mario 3D World (I did. A lot.) there are some levels in DK that I think may very well top what Nintendo EAD pulled off. If nothing else Tropical Freeze's levels get a lot more epic than anything Mario has done this side of 3D World's ridiculously awesome final boss. And even when it's not "epic" as such the levels still look gorgeous, especially in World 5. Long story short, if you're a fan of 2D platformers you have no excuse not to pick this game up.
Apart from the design of the normal levels, the bosses stand out as well. In fact, I would put most of Tropical Freeze's bosses up there with Rayman Legends as some of the best in a 2D platformer. Much like in Returns, at the end of each world you are confronted with some kind of animal that wants you dead. I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed that two of them don't really fit the "Snowmad" theme (both of those are also gameplay-wise the weakest in the game, funny how that works), but for the most part you're fighting thematically-appropriate seals, polar bears and the like. Each of the bosses as a fair number of tricks up its sleeve, which makes what looks at first to be a really straight-forward fight (dodge, jump on head, repeat) much more interesting as it goes on. And then, of course, there's the kick-ass music that accompanies each boss. All of them have a different theme and all but one of those are really good.
On that note, the soundtrack to Tropical Freeze is still fucking brilliant. Last week I had only had a taste of what was to come, but I can assure you that it does not let up. Most levels have a unique song, and almost all of them are memorable and fun. The boss themes are a special treat and can get unexpectedly metal, but several level themes also stand out in my mind. Last week I mentioned that David Wise's latest was in terrible danger of becoming one of my favorite soundtracks ever, up there with NieR, Xenoblade, Trine (2) and some others, but by now I can pretty much confirm that. And even if it doesn't enter the Top 3 (it might), it's already Top 5 material for sure.
- This is the last one I'll post, promise.
The moral of this story is that you must get Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze right fucking now, or at the very least go listen to dat OST.
No matter what the experience was or which game or genre left that strong first impression, such experiences have the potential to open our eyes to the rich history of a series or genre. With any luck, we might find even more to love or something better. A great first experience with RPGs could lead to an undying love affair.
Sometimes a first kiss can be so impactful that the game gets placed on a pedestal and enshrined as a gold standard, which has its own pros and cons. I mean, it is nice to have a basis for comparison, but some folks take it too far. There are people who loved Half-Life, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or Final Fantasy VII so much that nothing after them really got a fair shake.
So first impressions matter -- they can shape and inform our gaming habits. I grew up on arcades, Nintendo, handhelds, and eventually into RPGs, so much of what I play will be influenced by how I acquired my tastes. I probably like Overwatch a ton because it has a passion for RPG roles, but contextualizes them closer to older shooters focused on objectives more than gear builds and grinding out perks for better killstreaks.
So for this month's Bloggers Wanted, we'd like you head over to the community blogs write about your first kiss, the games that positively influenced you or maybe biased you a little too much for a time. What turned you on to a series or genre? Was it love at first sight? Did it set any expectations in stone or possibly lead you to something better?
Whatever the case might be, remember to use the title "First kiss" and place "Bloggers Wanted" in the tags!
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