Saturday, June 9, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

Hello dear reader. Now, I know you’ve since repressed everything that happened before you read MMwMM (or as we call it: ‘The Event’) in order to keep your mind from splintering into tiny, unctuous fragments of what was once sanity. But for those of you who weren’t smart enough to hunker down in your six foot deep, lead covered safety cubes designed for whenever Mike publishes an article (your McGee zones); I had written last week about how I played Silent Hill for the Playstation and how much I enjoyed it. So, for this week I wanted to go out and get Silent Hill 2 because I hear that as good as the first one was the second is even better.  However, when I got to Gamestop and asked to dude at the counter if they had a copy they told me that that particular store didn’t sell PS2 games anymore. That’s bullshit, right? So I went to my (not so) local Disk Replay to see if they might have a copy and, after sifting through the piles of non-Silent Hill sh*t, they didn’t. So no Silent Hill 2 for me this week, but it did give me a chance to go through my backlog of un-played games that I own and crack into the Humble Bundle 5 (but more on that later).
Cover art for  Alice: Madness Returns published by Electronic Arts
                I spent the majority of my week playing through Alice: Madness Returns that I got for six bucks on steam. All in all, after the 12 hours it took me to beat the campaign, I liked it. You don’t see a lot of 3D platformers anymore (hell, even Nintendo has switched to 2.5D with Mario and Donkey Kong) and that’s a shame because I grew up with 3D platformers and I always thought they were good for a fun time. Alice manages to give the genre some merit in this generation. A lot of the game is what you would expect (running, jumping, etc.) but it does those things very well I thought. There’s a good arc to the jumps, you have a fair amount of control in midair, and the movement is tight and responsive. Traversing the world feels pretty good.

There is some collecting but it’s pretty dumb. Most games make it a challenge for the player to collect stuff. You’ll see a coin or some sh*t off in the distance and you have to do like, 3 mega jumps on moving platforms to get to it. In Alice what they’ll do is they’ll either hide their secrets (memories as it were) on the other side of little hidden keyholes that you merely walk through to get, or you’ll have to jump on invisible platforms to reach a secret way off in the distance, or you can find a flying pig snout and shoot pepper at it until it sneezes and reveals a secret. None of these methods are hard to perform and none of the secrets are hard to find so it never really feels worth the hassle to gather all the secrets.

What I thought really worked well was the combat system. As is typical with platformers, in between jumping there’ll be a few random dudes that you have to merely jump on or kick out of the way to progress. In Alice the combat encounters are much more engaging. You’re given four different weapons throughout the game and each one is useful for different types of enemies. One guy blocks your normal knife attacks so you have to break out your giant hammer to get through his block, and another guy is flying so you have to shoot him down. I found myself switching to different weapons multiple times in most of the fights to deal with all the enemies so I was engaged in that regard, but then I started having to consider the encounter and manage the scenario in different ways than simply killing all enemies on screen. I would think to myself “ok, I have to kill the flying guys first because they shoot mines on the ground and I need a lot of space to dodge this other guy’s attacks and I don’t want to be running into the mines. Then I have to take out these little guys so they don’t attack me while I’m locked on to this big guy.” Stuff like that made the combat encounters engaging and fun and I really appreciate how it was handled.

Beyond that there isn’t too much to say. The art/graphics are clean, stylized, and beautiful while the story bits are sparse, pandering, but still kind of fun in a whimsical sort of way. Now, I don’t know if this is just the PC version because I didn’t play the others, but I encountered quite a few bugs that were particularly annoying. For a while I would switch to my pepper grinder shooty gun and I wouldn’t be able to switch back to my knife until I exited out of my game and came back. Also there was many a time when I would be going for a really long jump and as I was trying to steer in midair the game would lock up for half a second and would throw off my momentum. I would completely miss the platform I was aiming for and fell to my doom. These glitches were irritating but I feel that the good things of this game outweigh the bad things and it’s probably worth a look at if you’re in to that sort of thing.

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While I was looking for Silent Hill 2 at Disk Replay I saw another PS2 game that I hear so much good stuff about but never had a chance to play. That game is Hitman: Blood Money. I’m four missions in and having a blast with it. If you haven’t played the setup is you’re some kind of amazing hit man for some kind of mystery corporation and for each scenario you’re given a target(s) in a big open space and you have to take them out in whatever way you can. I am just really amused at how many different ways there is to off your targets in any given scenario. I just got through with one level where you have to take down this guy who’s living in the suburbs under the witness relocation program. His house is guarded by FBI agents so you can’t just walk into his house, but he is setting up a birthday party for his youngest kid, thus giving you many ways in. You can dress up as a caterer and sneak in a gun inside a tray of food, you can knock out the clown and take his get up in order to sneak in, or I found that one of the neighbors has some tranquilizer darts in their garage, and another neighbor has a airsoft gun in a tree house overlooking your targets back yard. You can then tranquilize the guard dog and sneak in through the side, then once you’re in there’s whole other shitload of ways to actually kill the guy.


I went for the clown route (which I find is often the best route). I waited for the birthday clown to come out to his car and when he did I shot him full of poison, threw on the uniform, and stashed the body in the trunk of his own car. Then I went into the house I stepped over to the grill and rigged the f*cker to blow with some well-placed lighter fluid. A short while later the target’s wife started to light the grill and she was engulfed in a fire ball (No, I’m not a psychopath, she was carrying something on her that I needed to collect). Then, I found a spare FBI suit in the target’s sauna (yea, that f*cker has a sauna in his house!). When you wear the FBI suit, all the FBI guys think you’re one of them so you can just waltz right past all the security up to the target’s office and introduce him to Mr. Fiber Wire. A non-descript walk down the street later and you’re off scot free!

That’s only one of the god-knows-how-many different ways to complete that mission. The game doesn’t even tell you how to complete the mission, so you feel like a sadistic badass when you figure out that you can dress up as a clown and blow up the grill. As I’ve said, I’m only a few missions in so I don’t have too much more to say about the game at this point, but I will say that I’m having a wonderful time and Hitman: Absolution just became much more interesting.
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If you recall a whole 1234 words ago, I mentioned that I bought the Humble Bundle 5 and have been getting into that. If you don’t know the humble bundle is a charity drive that asks you to pay what you want for a set of indie games (this set offers eight amazing games. Here’s the link: You can divvy up you’re payment in any way you want between the game’s developers, the charity, or the humble bundle guys themselves. This is a really great offer and I would strongly encourage anyone who’s into games to check it out. One of the games you get with the bundle is a little time bending puzzler known as Braid (maybe you’ve heard of it). Throughout this game you platform your way through six worlds collecting puzzle pieces to complete that world’s main puzzle. Ironically getting to that puzzle piece is a puzzle onto itself. You’re given the ability to turn back time at will; so, let’s say you’ve just read MMwMM, you can rewind time to go back to the time before you’ve read the article in order to stop the bleeding. I’m three hours in and (with a few glances at a walkthrough) I’ve completed five worlds. It’s a pretty short game, but the puzzles are hard as sh*t, so if you aren’t a cheater like me it will probably take you a good bit longer to get through. The time stuff is cool to experiment with and makes for a pretty fun experience to watch yourself play an entire level in reverse. Braid is very smart, and I don’t really have anything bad to say about it. If you like puzzles and you like games, this is a nice little puzzle game.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Now, you’d better kiss your loved ones and climb into you’re McGee zones because MMwMM is coming in three more days. NO REGRETS! (Just kidding Mike, you know I loves ya.) 

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