Thursday, March 3, 2011

Surprisingly the best 3DS launch game came out 7 years ago

It turns out that the best 3DS launch game was also the best DS launch game and the best Nintendo 64 launch game. How can that be you ask? Remember back to the DS launch in 2004. One of the games to launch with the system was a port of Mario 64 with lots of extra goodies. Mario 64 for the N64 was an absolute master piece and is arguable the best 3D platformer ever made. The DS port was superior in many ways but its one big drawback was the lack of an analog stick. Moving Mario around with the d-pad didn’t really work and the packed in thumb pad was not that much better.

Luckily it turns out that the 3DS analog nub works with old DS games, which means that Mario 64 DS just turned in to the definitive version of Mario 64 and one of the greatest games ever. You just need a 3DS for this magical transformation to be possible.

If you skipped over the DS version of Mario 64 because of its awkward control here is a rundown of what makes it so great.

First of all there is 30 new Power Stars to collect, taking it to a total of 150.

Then there’s the improved graphics, they are not a huge improvement over the original but on a small DS screen (or 3DS screen in this case) they look fantastic.

More characters, unlike the original you can now play as Yoshi, Luigi and Wario in addition to Mario. You even start the game as Yoshi, it’s a real shocker or at least it was back in 2004.

A new multiplayer mode has been added and it works with download play. It is not a Monster hunter competitor but being able to play Mario 64 with your friends is kinda wild.

Lastly there are some real addictive mini games, but they are the same ones that later showed up in New Super Mario Bros. Nevertheless it’s a great little addition.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A traditional genre adopted for the modern gamer

As a kid I loved adventure games, as I am sure most early computer users did. But as I have grown older I no longer have the patience necessary for the genre. Puzzles that make no sense just make me angry and carefully moving the pointer over every pixel on the screen to discover clickable items is terribly frustrating.

Thankfully the guys over at Telltale have attempted to fix adventure games and have put out a series of games that are surprisingly playable, even for those with a shorter attention span. Especially with their latest Back to the Future game it feels like they have really nailed it. They have successfully adapted the genre for the modern gamer.

First of all they have divided up their games in episodes. By breaking them up in to smaller pieces, they have made a genre which gameplay by its very nature includes at the very least some hair pulling, a more manageable challenge.

Then in the back to the future games they have eliminated the uncertainty of what to do next by making the next goal very clear, not only using character dialog but by having the goal you are supposed to focus on next pop up on screen. This removes the part of all adventure games where you used to just wander around trying to figure out which puzzle the game wanted you to focus on next. This might seem like it would take some of the fun out of adventuring and maybe it does, but it also saves a lot of your valuable time. Sometimes adventure games can feel like a real time waster and then it helps to have a clear goal to focus on. You might not know how to achieve said goal, but you know where to direct your attention.

When playing these types of games you will eventually get stuck. It’s really unavoidable and it’s an experience maybe best likened to repeatedly banging ones head in to a rock wall. You will stare at the screen until your eyes start to bleed, at which point you turn to gamefaq for the solution, meanwhile hating yourself for being such a weakling. At least that's my experience. Here Telltale has a better solution. A five step hint system, where using the last step might be about as shameful as turning to gamefaq, but where the first few hint merely points you in the right direction. It will feel almost as you figured it out all by yourself.

Then there are small things, like drastically reducing the amount of interactive items in each area, cutting down the amount of items in your inventory at once and only allowing you to access a relatively limited part of the game world at a time. And maybe most importantly making sure that none of the solutions are too bizarre and that all the puzzles make sense.

Telltale might be accused of taking the difficulty out of the genre and making adventure games for sissies. But I do commend them for creating adventure games that I can enjoy as much today as I did as a kid, even with my limited free time and lack of patience. Characteristics I feel I have in common with most modern gamers.