By all accounts this is a game I should probably detest, and in a lot of ways I definitely do, but there's something to this trainwreck that I can't help but admire.
Following in the painful trend of disregarding unique elements of the original in favor of later game's features and throwing in what's "hip" at the time, Twin Snakes opts to sand down any potential challenge the original had by making it play similar to Sons of Liberty, featuring first person aiming, hanging on ledges, lockers, and the dreaded M9 tranquillizer gun. All of this adds up to an experience that not only fails to add to the original in any meaningful way, but also runs the risk of ruining the perception of the original for future generations.
Having said that, at some point these changes boiled over in my mind and morphed the game into something completely new. Something funny?
I'm sure we're all aware of the "so bad it's good" label that gets thrown around for the consumption of art. People of all cultures and tastes are able to spin great enjoyment from the worst of the worst. Something like The Room immediately springs to mind as art that fails in almost every meaningful way the author was trying to accomplish, but has garnered a cult following that enjoys it dearly, presumably either to make fun of it or display adoration for the confidence and passion that went into it. I think games are harder to attain this status, as a level of interaction is required that isn't present in other mediums (from a distance a game like Devil May Cry 2 might be astonishing, but you couldn't pay me to play that game again) and as a result the "worst games ever made" usually just transform into a lesson for future designers to learn from and little else.
As you could probably imagine, I don't feel comfortable staking the claim that Twin Snakes is "so bad it's good" or nearly any other game in existence for that matter. Instead I've found a way to justify the game in my mind different from the one I've just described: I'd like to make the bold assertion that Twin Snakes shines not in spite of it's flanderization of the original, but because of it. Twin Snakes, with all the asinine gameplay additions and tacky Matrix-adjacent cutscene direction, doubles back on itself and becomes a parody of the original in a way I've never seen before.
It might sound hypocritical of me to hold up this disaster as a shining beacon of joy while talking down on other remakes that, for all intents and purposes, adjust the game in more "tasteful" ways (I'm not the biggest fan of the Shadow of the Colossus remake, but the only thing that actually changed in the process was the graphical overhaul, the game design itself remains near untouched) but hear me out on this. How many games do you know of, whether it be a remake or original title, can actually claim to be a genuine parody of something? I don't fully know why this game checks all the right boxes in my mind, but when I see Snake backflip to avoid a sniper shot only to flip his own rifle into the air like a skateboard and spin around before making a shot at his target, it feels like fireworks go off in my brain.
Given this admittedly-nebulous write up and my overall rating of the game, it's very possible this all comes across as the ramblings of an insane person, but that's what it feels like to sit down and experience the game.
Despite my best efforts I can't succinctly pin down my thoughts on this game. I expected to come in here and quickly describe it as a parody and little else, but as it tends to do, Twin Snakes managed to tangle itself in my mind and I can't get it out. In one moment I loathe all the additions to gameplay, but in the next I recall the quote on the back of the box stating that this was "the way it was always meant to be played" and I can't help but laugh.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is a nut that I can't seem to break open, but this new way of thinking about it has certainly made it crack. Split between two ends of the remake spectrum, it lands with the eloquence of a plane crash as a game I simultaneously can't stand but also adore. We may never see another game like it if in being honest. I don't have a final mic dropping statement on Twin Snakes as it's a piece of art that I constantly shuffle between two states of mind on, but hopefully if you've played the game yourself you understand the origin of my meandering around the point. I'd never in a million years want this game to replace the original in the public consciousness, but I think I'd hate just as much for this car crash to fade from our memory.
stop me if you've heard this one before
>fans clamor for old thing to be ported to new system for accessibility
>old thing gets remade as a new thing for new system with "enhanced gameplay, story, and visuals"
>old thing perishes on outdated hardware and is slowly lost to time
every. single. time.
Super Mario Galaxy was always one of my favorite games growing up, but over the years I've drifted apart from that notion for reasons outside my understanding. Any time I would attempt to revisit the game, it never quite stuck the landing like it did during my magical first playthrough. Recently however, I think I realized what made this game stick out at the time, while falling short under my current standards for 3D Mario games.
It's honestly really simple, the game loves to show you impressive things, while never letting the player do anything interesting on their own.
Now I understand to a point why this may not bother a lot of people. Nintendo themselves have described 3D Mario games as falling under two categories: linear course clear games like Galaxy and 3D World, and sandbox games like 64 and Sunshine. The former dropping the player into one-off level concepts that railroad the player, with the latter letting the player find the fun for themselves within smaller playground-like levels. While these are both going for vastly different approaches in design, it's hard for me to look at them in a vacuum when one thing ties all of his games together regardless of dimension, and that's the joy of moving Mario around an environment.
Simply put, Super Mario Galaxy just does not control as well as other 3D Mario games, or many other 3D platformers for that matter. When talking about what Galaxy does well, people often lean on the level design, which is true to a point. While these levels take the planetoid concept and do really interesting things with them, the player doesn't have many options to make their own fun while completing these samey linear objectives. At least in a game with movement as simple as 3D World, the developers crafted an identity for every single stage, while Galaxy tends to send you down paths that only slightly differ in structure.
Now, an argument can be made that the levels are built around what Mario is capable of so it's foolish to complain about the controls, but to me, the levels can only be so fun when the playable character feels so sluggish. After all, a game is only as interesting as the characters that inhabit it, regardless of the genre. Even a game with levels as barren as Devil May Cry 4 houses some of the most interesting combat in the entire action genre. Developers should ideally strive to find a good middle ground between interesting movement and interesting level design, but I'll always personally prefer games that allow the player to make many interesting choices during gameplay.
I do not hate Super Mario Galaxy, the universe exploring concept still holds so much potential Nintendo has yet to tap into, but if they were to make a Galaxy 3, it may be in their best interest to rethink some of the fundamental design choices they made during the first two games. For now though, I'll just stick to 64 and Sunshine.
You know, I can almost envision a reality where this game received the notoriety it so clearly deserved, and it wouldn't take much strain to imagine. Given the time period in which the game launched, it had everything it needed to click with anyone who laid eyes on it: a bright and colorful cast of characters that felt ripped right out of the system they were made for, a story of super heroes fighting off an alien invasion during an era where The Avengers were exploding in popularity, quirky gameplay mechanics you'd come to expect from a company like Platinum Games, an all star team of action game designers who had the experience and passion needed to bring this crazy concept to life and flourish, the works. With Hideki Kamiya at the helm, there was no chance this game could possibly fail, regardless of the system it was launching on.
So what went wrong?
Clearly something didn’t click with people despite Platinum’s best efforts. There are many reasons this could be the case (unorthodox control scheme, confused marketing, niche appeal of the action genre, etc.) but it would be difficult to pin down one specific thing that turned people away.
In my eyes however, what matters most is not that the game lacked something to wrangle in the highest number of potential customers, but that the game did not restrain itself in what it sought out to do.
Let me set the scene for you: June 2020, one of the worst years in recent history and it refuses to let up. Due to the recent shutdown of my job given the status of the world at that time, I had devoted a lot of my free time to playing games, as many others in my position likely do as well. Everything in my life is starting to drag, and I can tell nothing will get better any time soon. However, there is a momentary glimmer of joy coming my way. The Wonderful 101 recently had an incredibly successful kickstarter, and having heard many positive things about the game, I decided to give it a blind shot. Many of my favorite games were action games, so while Platinum didn’t have a perfect track record in my experience, I was interested in trying something I knew so little about. Even if it was disappointing, it probably had some interesting elements to dig into.
I didn’t expect my expectations to be shattered like they were after finishing the game.
I’ve never played a game before that appealed to all my sensibilities like The Wonderful 101 does, and even after nearly 200 hours of play, I’m still picking up on new things to love that I never noticed before. I won’t bore you with the semantics, but every element of the game is emblematic of everything I love about the medium. The story felt cartoonish and stupid in all the best ways, the gameplay presented incredibly distinct systems to set it apart from other action games while tackling problems about the genre in interesting ways I had never considered before, and the whole experience was uncompromising in it’s vision in a truly inspiring way.
In many ways, The Wonderful 101 made me feel like a kid again and ignited a passion for life in my heart at a point where everything felt so aimless and dark. As this global pandemic slows down and eventually fades into nothingness, I’ll be sure to leave a lot of things from this era in the past, but this game is sure to stick with me for years to come.
Regardless of how you may feel about the final product, what can’t be denied is that The Wonderful 101 is everything it wanted to be and didn’t settle for less. And for the time period when it came into my life, that’s all I needed it to be.
Bayonetta 2 leaps off the screen in an explosive display of pride for the action genre. The colors pop and the visual design is off the charts. No longer does the game force cheap instant death QTEs on the player, but instead the occasional laid back mashing sequence that provides no immediate danger to the player, providing a power fantasy that isn’t anything new to the genre. On the whole the game is snapper, more vibrant, and is in contention for the best audio visual experience Platinum games has ever made. On the surface this game is a straight upgrade from Bayonetta 1, but that’s just the problem, it’s all just surface level. The more I played the game the more little things jumped out to me. The heavier enemies mean juggle combos aren’t as easy to attain, and occasionally your combo will be broken out of due to no fault of your own. To get around this the player has a new mechanic known as Umbran Climax, but to say it turns the game into a button masher would be an understatement. A thing I loved about the first game was how it was all balanced. One might assume that witch time was the defining central mechanic to skillful play, but in a shocking twist, the game removes this mechanic entirely on the highest difficulty, revealing that it was never essential to begin with. This was teased at certain points by enemies that couldn’t trigger witch time like gracious and glorious, but this revelatory moment is something that surely made people stick with the game even past the highest threshold of difficulty. In general, Platinum Games are really good about introducing a unique mechanic to the player, and then removing the training wheels by the end of the experience. They respect the player’s skill and let them go wild with newfound mastery of the game. But in Bayonetta 2, the use of Umbran Climax is essential for the sake of getting the best rank. More pressingly, this addition seeps into other facets of the game in a negative way. Most obvious is the major nerf to Bayonetta’s damage output. Possibly in an attempt to make Umbran Climax more enticing, Platinum opted to reduce the damage output of standard attacks dramatically from their power in the first game. This isn’t a terrible change on paper, but Bayo is so crippled here that fights end up dragging on for what feels like an eternity. In general there’s just not enough wiggle room for player expression in the game to warrant a 2nd playthrough. I’ve seen many players call Bayonetta 2 a better casual experience than the first game and I definitely agree. It's easier, less punishing, more flashy, and makes the player feel like a god from the start compared to the brutal challenge of Bayonetta 1. As a result, however, it loses all the thrill, tension, and escalation of the first game. I’m not sure what's in store for our favorite angel slayer, but with the impending release of Bayonetta 3 looming over our heads, one can only hope they don’t make the same mistakes they did with this game.
This review contains spoilers
instilling hope in the students with the final truth bullet was kino, it's just a shame that up to that point, i didn't care for most of the characters. that's probably my biggest issue with the game, it's hard to stay interested in what happens to these characters when most of them are unlikable. maybe that's more a personal issue, but it stuck out nonetheless. it also felt like a lot of time was wasted in and out of trials, information would be withheld or characters would dance around the solution to a problem when the answer is right in front of their faces. the thing that holds this game together is the aesthetic and feel of it all. it's undeniable that regardless of what goes on in the world of these games, it's interesting to take part in it all. despite my problems with this first game, i'm glad i went out of my comfort zone and tried something i may not have pursued otherwise. i'm interested to see how the future games turn out as they seem way more appealing to me.
hina is best girl by the way
downwell is the best mobile game that should probably never be played on a mobile device. while the pick up and play nature of the game suits the mobile format quite nicely, the necessity for massive digital buttons on-screen could easily be a hinderance to play. the last thing you'd want would be for a run to fail due to not seeing what's down below or fumbling with the controls. that's not to say the game requires high dexterity, it only has 3 inputs after all, but in my experience it's better to use any controller you can get your hands on. in some ways, downwell feels even closer to an arcade game than a mobile game. the vertical screen space reminds me of overhead shoot-em-ups and in general the pace of the game is comparable to old arcade games that held about 30 minutes of content. for how tightly designed the game is, it's a marvel that the game is only $1, even on pc. while it may not be the most content rich game in the world, it's commendable for making the most out of the platform it's built for and managing to avoid any preconceived notions around the soulless void of the mobile market.
reviewing any piece of art often requires some amount of subjectivity from the writer. our interactions with art are often influenced by our personal experiences in life, and especially in a medium as variable as video games, many people will walk out of a game with something different to say. as an example, someone with an appreciation for deep character studies may find the plot in the last of us to be it's most engaging element, while someone who enjoys stealth games may like the combat more than anything else. i don't believe there's anything inherently wrong with this approach to criticism, it's just how we're wired as human beings. as we consume media we pull from our past experiences and our immediate impressions come naturally. so when a game like journey comes along with such a singular focus, it's no surprise that people feel strongly one way or another when talking about it. as the name suggests, it's more about the journey than the destination. in fact, that's really all there is to it. there's no immediate conflict, there's nothing to move a plot along, and there's barely anything resembling a story. there's subtle bits of world building sprinkled throughout, but nothing to pull you away from your objective. the game has often been heralded as a flawless work of game design mastery, while also frequently being described as boring or just another walking simulator. after hearing the discourse take fold for years, i knew i had to try it out for myself. having finally played it in one straight shot and feeling a wide range of emotions while i played, i can comfortably say i'm at least happy i played it. while it wasn't quite the thought provoking game i led myself to believe, i don't think it necessarily needed to be. the level of comfort i felt on the way to the end trounced any other questionable feelings i may have felt from the offset. i don't believe i have the authoritative right to call journey a perfect video game, but i can say with confidence that it's a game that everyone should play.