Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time is the second 3D action game I've played, after Okami. I have yet to finish either, but I want to write a little about my Zelda experience before I forget it entirely. Action games tend to stress me out, but at the same time, my victories seem more connected to my button-pushing than any other game. It's enjoyable to play, but not all that relaxing (with our new puppy I need all the relaxing I can get).

OoT strikes me very much as the classic action game that follows the traditional journey myth. There's even a dungeon that is the belly of a whale, for crying out loud. Dungeons are clearly part of the magical realm. There's a clear distinction between the overworld and the dungeon (indicated with texture changes, different music, etc.). Each dungeon has some sort of boon which makes Link closer to being a magical god-like hero.

One part I'm wondering about is if OoT has some sort of false mother or temptress figure. I think I would classify Navi as a false mother, and maybe Zelda as the goddess we're always trying to meet with. Side-quests like fishing might be the type of temptress, sidetracking us from our main quests. Apotheosis is probably somewhere at the end of the game.

Some things might be a bit of a stretch, but the dungeons in particular, with their clear thresholds, boons, and dragon-battles, seem well described by the journey myth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tiny Wings Clones

My husband has an iphone; I have an Android phone. My phone can run Google's Navigate app, which could take the place of a GPS if it didn't take so much battery life, but he gets the shiny games. Most games get an Android port, like Angry Birds or GameDevStory. But Tiny Wings is still only for iphone.

I've looked at four imitators, and while they do recreate that wonderful tension-and-release feeling of setting to flight a weighty object, they just aren't Tiny Wings. I'll do a quick rundown of my initial reactions.

Dillo Hills made me install Adobe Air, and has a lot of visual distractions (birds, sunset background, and textured hills). I have no idea why the armadillo makes dog noises, but I'm interested in the gliding mechanic they've added.

Moon Chaser is pretty well-made, but it makes this annoying sound whenever you crash--something that is bound to happen. After a crash, it feels bulkier, maybe since you're a ninja walking up a hill instead of gliding. It's free though, so you don't have much to lose by trying it. Here's a video showing some of the play:

Tiny Bee looked promising, but it uses Feint for objectives, which slows startup down. Stupid objectives. It gets the flying-thrill thing right, except for when it has to slow down for some reason mid-game (maybe it's because I recently updated my Android OS?). Any slowing down during play basically ruins the experience.

Dragon, Fly has an excellent tutorial, and manages the thrilling thing, but has very minimal graphics. Still, it's  probably my favorite of the three, as it doesn't have the weird bells-and-whistles of Tiny Bee and Dillo Hills, yet gives the thrilling flying sensation that Moon Chaser doesn't do as well.

Finally, none of the imitators had anywhere near as good of music as the original Tiny Wings. For a game about flying, I think it's essential to have music that feels like flying.

In other news, I can now call myself a published journalist with this article about gaming trends. Other trends I think might be in the gaming future: ways to find cooler mobile games.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Developmental Stages of Video-game playing

I brought along DDR and Super Smash Bros Brawl to my family reunion and I was surprised by how interested my young cousins were. I also noticed that some of them really wanted to play, but they didn't do very well. So, here are the developmental stages of video-game playing, as defined by me and based on my observations of children playing SSBB. They occur in adults rapidly when learning a new game, but in kids it gets pretty obvious. Before the exploration stage, you can give a child a dummy controller and they will be perfectly content to watch and pretend to play. They honestly don't know the difference.

1. Exploration (ages 3-5ish): The player recognizes that he/she controls an avatar on the screen, can distinguish this avatar from others. Concept of the game may be limited to "cool I can move around." In SSBB, girls in this stage placed utmost importance on who their character was (i.e., Princess Peach or Zelda) and how it was colored.

2. Competition (6-12ish): The player knows when she is winning or losing, and wants to win. In SSBB, this manifests itself as directed attack behavior,  revenge on winning players, and a desire to know the rules and how to get better. Most gameplay happens at this level until the player has some expertise.

3. Challenge (12 and up-ish): The players still wants to win, but wants a challenge--simply winning isn't fun enough. My older brother gave himself a 125% handicap to make it fun to play with younger children. My sister-in-law likes playing against three computers on their hardest mode. It's the potential for challenge that can keep people playing (like the 3-heart-no-sword Ocarina of Time challenge). I'm fascinated by the ways people make games harder for themselves to make them more entertaining. I'm also impressed with how good SSBB was with kids who were in different stages of gaming.

I don't tend to get to the challenge stage in many games. I think I've feebly attempted to collect all the pokemon (back with blue when it was feasible), and I've tried for 100% completion in some Little Big Planet levels. Have you done any crazy things to make games more challenging?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Steam Summer Sale!

Steam has some good games on sale! I picked up a copy of Oblivion for $8, and a game called The Longest Journey for $2.50. The Longest Journey is an adventure game where you're an art student living for cheap in the hovercraft future with nightmares about a fantasy realm. I've only played it for about half an hour, and I like it! I hope to review it after I finish a playthrough, but the sale only lasts until the 10th. It is rated M, so... not for kids.