Category Archives: Reviews

Super Mario Kart

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Back in the Super Nintendo days graphics weren’t what we expect them to be these days, and yet we were so easily impressed with anything beyond the ordinary it’s not even funny. It was such a gap going from 16-bit days to machines like the Nintendo 64 which were quite capable of reproducing 3D environments. By today’s standards Super Mario 64 still looks incredible. Maybe we will never see such a revolution is gaming as those days.

Super Mario Kart was a change of direction because we were used to platformers or top-down adventure games, but a racing game? How would that even work beyond the fair but still embryonic attempts, some child might have thought in the early 90’s. There has been games with the kind of realism expected from such endeavor but console gamers, especially Nintendo gamers weren’t too keen on grasping the whole concept of a cartoonish game-maker like Nintendo in such a competitive environment.

Nintendo broke a few unsaid rules with Super Mario Kart, not only it cemented the very idea of a Mario spin-off but it also gave new grounds of possibilities from which they could be implemented and used to craft some new, imaginative racing style that would encompass all Nintendo elements and still seem something so completely different, so out of the ordinary for a company like Nintendo.

One can easily say that this burst of enthusiastic has its rots on the famous Mode 7, a graphical capability of the Super Nintendo which allowed for a transitional rotating effect on the background, creating an apparent 3D style though it all was simply ingenious use of height/depth texture management in two dimensions. Whatever it may be, Super Mario Kart offered an amazing control scheme full of depth and handing over to the player complete controle of his kart.

In fact, that so Nintendo, while others might choose muscle cars to emulate the idealization of what you can’t have, they simply put you in control of animated characters driving karts in ever crazier tracks. Some had pits which required Lakity to go over and pull you back into the track.

What made this so far apart from any kind of competitor on its day was the addition of items. Basically you could run over some yellow “?” button and receive a random items that could be used in your favor to thwart the plans of someone ahead of you or simply wreak havoc making the course always more dangerous. The worst you had been doing in the race the better items you’d get. Rays that transformed everyone in tiny racers allowing you to pass over them and stomp them, stars to make you invincible for a little while.

Super Mario Kart, and the series in general was never meant to be a core racer game, the best skilled racer might not always win and whoever’s last place might get a couple of incredibly good items and reach first place in one final lap. It’s the definition of a party game where playing with friends in the same room without any spirit of stark competitiveness is the ideal scenario.

Some other modes like the battle mode were glorious from the start, refined in later installments of the series, yes, but even Super Mario Kart seemed to have it down pretty well by the time it was released. Basically everyone starts with three balloons attached to their karts and every time the person got hit by an item one of the balloons would go away. Whoever survived in the end with whichever number of balloons was the winner. Simple multiplayer fun that allowed so much enjoyment.

You could also try you best in time attack sessions for a more hardcore type of challenge without the need of opponents or items. To this day communities of hardcore karters race to get the best times in each of the many courses. They became so iconic that every new Mario Kart released recently almost needs to have classic tracks for nostalgia purposes; and I should say that in most cases you realize that the courses from former games are the better ones anyway.

The fact you can race with some of the most beloved characters in the Mario universe, even villains, is enough to make this an incredible selling point. Each of them functions slightly different and should respond in distinct ways on the field. Characters like Donkey Kong Jr. and Bowser are heavy, bulky and have the best top speed. It’s easy to say that whenever a lighter kart in in front of them and they collide, the lighter car will be pushed aside.

The lighter karts like Yoshi and Peach have better acceleration and can recover much easier from any items that completely stops them. Their aerial time is also slightly better for some shortcuts. Everything is divided in four championships at three different motor speeds — also known as difficulty levels — and overall it offers a pretty good challenge for players especially in later difficulties and the last cup.

Super Mario Kart is one of the most legendary video-games in existence. Its legacy goes beyond racing games, it goes beyond Mario spin-offs; it’s a testament of genial game design and freshness reigning over established saturated formulas. It taught a thing or two to basically anyone in the industry on how to make a game memorable, absolutely essential.

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Luigi’s Mansion

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Launch line-ups are a curious sort of deal. You’re far too early in development lifetime to demand any kind of expertise from creators and yet the jump provided by the gap invokes a certain level of amazement from the slightest visual improvement to the seemingly natural experience of a new controller. Newer gamers might not grasp this weird feeling as starkly as generations past have but one can always count on the next best thing to be exciting.

Mario sure had its moment when the Nintendo 64 was released when the red-clothed brother was rightfully chosen to be the face of a new generation, the one pixelated gaming individual to suddenly appear out of a pipe in all three-dimensional glory. If any one character was bound to have this honor no better choice could have been made.

When the GameCube was released Super Smash Bros was the cool kid on the block, everyone wanted to see what the hype was all about, and much like Super Mario 64 did for 3D movements when it unleashed it sheer power and gave full control to the player, Melee had done basically the same, perhaps in a whole different approach. To this day it’s regarded as having one of the most advanced, deep controls mechanics for a Nintendo game.

Luigi’s Mansion wasn’t Mario, it wasn’t a full-fledged adventure, it wasn’t meant to be memorable or shake up the game’s industry. It came to life mainly because Mario wasn’t ready to run the show yet and Melee was too big of a hit to compete with heavy-hitters like a Super Mario 64 sequel. Luigi’s Mansion was a B-video-game at heart from a B- character in the Mario universe. Who knows, maybe Luigi would cut the cord and shine a light on his own terms.

A light-hearted adventure was crafted, well-established and managed to set the kick off to a career for the green-clothed plumber. By now a worthy sequel has made it onto the Nintendo 3DS and Luigi even received a DLC-kind of treatment for a Super Mario Bros. Wii U. Hes featured as a main playable character in both Super Mario 3D Land/World. It’s pretty clear at this point that Luigi has enough charisma to endure titles on his own, and Luigi’s Mansion started it all.

Armed with only a lantern and a vacuum cleaner he’s out to clear a haunted mansion he inherited from ghosts. To aid in his quest there’s the Professor Elvin Gadd, who investigates the strange occurrences in the vicinity and is always more than ready to make the poor frail Luigi face the dangers of the house while he stays comfortably in his laboratory just studying whatever the main character founds.

Luigi’s fearful nature comes into play, opposed to the bravely Mario, and adds a certain comedic charm to the whole thing. The battle system is quite intriguing, you need to shed light onto the ghost to freeze him for a couple of seconds and then use the vacuum to capture it. The ghost won’t go easy in and will struggle around the room to avoid being captured so you need to press the C-stick to the opposed direction the ghost is trying to escape otherwise he will escape indeed.

The game is brief, divided into four chapters and each chapter has a boss that require different strategies than from regular ghosts. Capturing ghosts and using the vacuum cleaner around the mansion also hands out treasure which is used to rank how well the player has done in the end. If you get a lot of money you’ll get a fancy makeover on the property and the end result will be a painting of a colossal abode, if now, you’ll get a simple residence. in a nutshell, money only works as a final game ranking system.

Capturing different types of ghosts, however, can complete a gallery that Professor Gadd once had before the main antagonist came up and freed them to haunt the house. Capturing the ghosts in one go can earn golden frames while having more than one try might hand out silver or bronze. Aside from that there’s not much to do when it comes to collectibles or side-quests.

The adventure is short but sweet, full of funny moments in most of the many conversations between Luigi and the professor using some kind of modified Game Boy communicator. It features a memorable location — the Mansion — because of the intense back-tracking from finding keys and side-routes around the residence. You’ll get to know it pretty deeply.

Of course the GameCube would show its true colors shortly after with the amazing titles that succeeded the launch line-up clearly focused on Super Smash Bros Melee, but this gem should never be overlooked or forgotten by those who, like me, acknowledge the incredible library of game the GameCube has got. Luigis Mansion might now be the shiniest of them all, but it’s certainly a jewel on its own.

 

Resident Evil 6

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On the third main title after rebooting the series into a more action-oriented third person shooter with horror  elements Resident Evil seems to have forgotten lessons learned with the fourth and fifth iterations as well as the minimal necessary to make a Resident Evil. While Resident Evil 4 was still the series we all learned to love, Resident Evil 5 was more of a “great game, mediocre RE”. This time there’s absolutely no excuse, Resident Evil 6 isn’t a good game by any sort of standard.

Capcom chose Resident Evil to be their larger-than-life franchise, somehow that happened. A game that started minimalistic in nature, boasting large focus on exploration and puzzle-solving became a Michael Bay movie. Actually, Michael Bay could learn a thing or two about silliness after playing Resident Evil 6.

Basically every trick in the book of cringy action was used, sometimes in a matter of moments apart. Car chases, jumps over helicopters using motorcycles, avalanche run-aways, bullets flying, explosions everywhere. Lara Croft got it easy with her falls and constant moaning, these guys take a beat and won’t even shed a drop of blood.

Everything is blown way out of proportion, like it was a matter of life and death to make the most unrealistic, action-packed piece of incoherent gimmicks, mashed together just for the sake of showing off. The dialog didn’t help either, from the egotistical jibber-jabber so often uttered by Jake (the new character), to Leon’s usual cocky style. The writing takes lesson with the rest of the team, every single overused catchphrase in existence made it way into the final product. It’s so silly that it’s funny.

Another major annoyance is the omnipresence of Quick-time-events. QTE are special moments, generally in cutscenes but not always, that require the player to press one of more buttons at the right moment or move the analog stick in some distinct manner. Resident Evil 4 had those but they were somewhat rare, like escaping a boulder that otherwise would kill you or the famous Krauser fight. Resident Evil 5 brought that back and was a bit more bothersome. Resident Evil 6 on the other hand makes it almost unbearable.

What I can’t still wrap my head around is how they managed to take a step back gameplay-wise. Resident Evil 5 had taken all the right choices at least when it came to controls. You might not like the third-person control scheme but there’s no denying that if the series is bound to follow that path, the fifth installment was the best Capcom had to offer. This time the field of view is minimal, the camera is somehow stuck right behind the character model which blocks half of the screen.

The problems was so serious that Capcom had to release a free update to cater to that, so much the player-base was complaining. I had the unpleasant experience of playing through two of the main campaigns before the update and I must say that the game nauseated me in a few moments, the screen wiggled way too much and the movements felt absolutely unnatural, even for someone who played a whole bunch of the previous two installments. Something was off and while the update made things much better, widening the field of view, it’s still a step back.

There are three different campaigns you can play, somewhat similar to what the scenarios were in the first games. It’s actually superior because, at least the first three chapter are pretty unique in each. In the last two chapters the plots start to intertwine and so much that seemed to have happened out of sheer luck in previous campaigns finally get a reason behind it all.

Though the way they handled the stories is pretty satisfying, they managed to take another step back. The chapters are amazingly big, some of them might take up to two hours in the first play-through and highers difficulties.. Resident Evil 5 had broken the chapters in smaller sections and it was fine the way it was. They ranged from 5 to 45 minutes depending on whether it was your first time or not. It worked, why mess up something that worked? After huge community backlash, the free update added the option to start a chapter during different moments, like it was in Resident Evil 5 (1-1, 1-2, 1-3…).

Now they added a whole bunch of checkpoints that don’t actually save the game, instead, they just reload you in case you die. This is a much worse issue than it sounds. If you decide to stop playing at any time you need to get to the next save point, not checkpoint. I lost a few good improvements early in the game because I just couldn’t understand it. Sometimes, after you died, it would appear a typewriter (classic Resident Evil save mechanism) saying it had been saved, but it just wasn’t the case, I had to reach probably another cutscene for, who knows, get to stop playing without having to redo the last 20 minutes of gameplay.

In a chapter you might get like three or four save points while having like 20-25 checkpoints. The saving system is absolutely abysmal. At least the game doesn’t require any sort of exploration from your part, you simply walk straight and you’ll bump into the right path. Which reminds me of another issue. Capcom added a GPS system that tells you exactly where you need to go and where exactly is the item you need to get or lever you need to pull. I didn’t really want them to have this leash in me in such a linear endeavor so I disabled it, it turns out that when you disable the GPS you also disable the HUD. Really, Capcom?

One thing I thought was pretty cool in Resident Evil — or any game that features it for that matter — is how well you have your statistics laid out for you. Everything, from shots fired with each weapon to how many of each enemy you’ve killed is displayed in the record menu. You can even find how long you’ve traveled running, dashing or walking, or aboard any of the vehicles included in the game. Can’t get any better than stats.

It doesn’t feature any sort of competitive multiplayer — thank God — but it does feature one of Resident Evil 5’s best selling points, the co-op. Every one of the three campaigns is played by two characters which can be played with another person instead of the AI. The AI will pretty much hold its own and not get much in the way of what you need to do so it’s a problem at all to play this alone. It’s better than having Sheeva/Chris as partner in the fifth one, at least.

There’s also a fourth bonus campaign that was made for solo playing, after the big free update it could be played in co-op as well. I can’t stress how much of a must have this update is. It also added another difficulty setting called “No Hope”, to meet fans’ demands for a true difficult experience. It basically disables the add-ons you’re able to purchase and equip for your character while ramping up a few features like not recovering your health after dying.

Several techniques can be bought from collecting bonus points in the game, like damage reduction, better scope for the sniper rifle or superior odds of an enemy dropping items. Only three of them can be equipped at a time and some even have different levels within them, like three levels of damage reduction, each level costs much more but yields more favorable results.

In Resident Evil 4 the series started a trend of slowly losing its survival-horror soul. Though this game might have some creepy locations and a few moments which the atmosphere reminds the good old days, as a whole this is an action game, A Gears of War with a worse cover and evade system.

To cover you need to press a whole bunch of buttons and keep the shoulder pressed. To go off cover and shoot is weird since having only the laser sight you only get to know where you’re aiming when you’re unprotected. The added aiming system might halp if you haven’t disabled it like me, but it’s still to wide to be of any use other than finding the enemy’s general direction.

Evading is another pain. Why they chose to make reloading a single press of a button while using the evasive jump it’s required to ready-up the battle stance. Again, both situations in Gears of War are much more intuitive, the cover slide is awesome, you can’t simply stay in cover without having to hold any button and the evasive maneuver is performed by simply pressing a button and the direction you’re willing to go. If you want make a Gears of War at least make it right.

Two other modes aside from the main one are available. One of them is the now recurrent Mercenaries which hasn’t changed much. You still have to fight your way through hordes of enemies trying to score high and get more time to do so. The other one is actually interesting, it’s called Agent Hunt and you get to join random people’s games as the enemy. It seems that even first timers can have people joining their game if they chose to enable it in the mane before the game starts, which can cause trouble.

Resident Evil is one gigantic mess of a game, not entirely bad because it’s not completely broken, just a hassle to play while having the two previous games in mind. The level os silliness is unbearable, the controls have taken a major hit and while Capcom moved fast to offer a free update that solved at least a few of its more technical problems, the problems regarding the game itself are beyond fixing. A sad moment for one of the best series video-games has to offer.

Gears of War: Judgement

Right from the get-go you realize why this is called “Judgment”. Somehow, Damon Baird, one of the original four in the group since the first Gears, is being judged in a rather trumped-up trial. The form in which the charges are presented and how the seemingly superior ranked official storms on them makes everything seem conspicuously biased. Still, all of them are given the chance to speak and give his version of what had happened.

They take turns unfolding the story and each time you control a different character rebuilding their narrative in real time. Apparently they weren’t supposed to had done something that they did, why? Because they disobeyed direct orders. Not unlike what Marcus Fenix had been doing throughout the series up to that point, but still, let the tribunal hear and the official would give his final and unquestionable verdict.

The first few minutes might have more meaningful storytelling than all the other 3 Gears of War games combined. Not that it ultimately matters, you basically go from action sequence to action sequence shooting down gruesome enemies that seem much enraged as you are, in a battle that it’s never really clear when or why it began in the first place.

The fact the narrative works better this time around might have to do with the fact that Damon Baird is a better developed character than Marcus Fenix. Gears of War dropped a lot of the raucous macho attitude in favor of a more harmonious relationship between the four characters.

There’s also the addition of a woman character, Sofia Hendrik, who surprisingly doesn’t look like a masculinized modern day feminist. She stands as the the voice of reason in a group of air-heads. She still fights though, and is quite good at that. Along with Damon Baird, the other member of the secondary group in the original trilogy is also present, Augustus Cole. The fourth member is another friend of Damon, a guy named Garron Paduk, who is much more aligned with Gears’s type of taciturn, scarred manly men who prefers to shoot first and never ask any question.

This is typical Gears, episodic, full of action and explosions. They actually took down a notch in the noble task of introducing newer enemy variants at every few seconds. Gears of War 3 was basically one gigantic puzzle on how each enemy behaved and could be beaten.

The most important new feature are the Declassified Missions. Picture it this way, during the re-telling of the events in the game there will be a strange foggy Gears symbol attached to a wall right before some action sequences, if you inspect it you’re given the option to change the occurrences to a more extreme version. Of course you’re going to have to play that more extreme version so it’s up to you to accept or not this new “path”.

Some of them simply state that at that moment a fog had come down on them and the visibility was weakened. You’re going to have to deal with the fog during the whole sequence. Some of them state that a poisonous gas was released so they had a limited time to reach their destination, if you missed the time, you were dead.

Some extras are tougher than others so you can try to beat it and change your mind if you somehow are having trouble with it. The bonus for enduring this higher challenge is that you get more stars at the end of each episode. Depending on how well you did you might receive up to three stars which can unlock new stuff for both single and multiplayer.

The most important thing you can unlock by getting stars is the Aftermath chapter, which is not exactly related to the events of Judgement and in fact sheds a light on some of the events that took place in Gears of War 3 but wasn’t part of the Marcus/Dominic storyline. It features the length of pretty much a regular chapter and the very presence of it might be due to the fact that Judgement might leave the impression of being a DLC thrown in together in full package for revenue.

Another important change was made to how controls work, and the changes are excellent! You no longer need to count on the unresponsive digital pad of the Xbox 360 controller to change weapons. You simply press Y to change to your secondary. To throw grenades you no longer need to equip them, they used the left bumper to throw nades. By tapping it you’ll do a quick throw, if you hold then the trajectory will be shown. The left bumper used to be used for telling the objective and no one really needed that, Gears of War has always been a corridor and what you needed to do was to shoot anything that moved.

My take on this is that Judgement is solid as a stand-alone full-length release, it just doesn’t follow the main storyline, but it’s certainly within the reaches of Gears. The fact that it features nothing new in terms of gameplay wasn’t an argument not to release both sequels to the first installment. Let’s be fair here, Gears didn’t try to redefine gaming, action, or third-person shooters in any way; not in the beginning, not now.

The multiplayer might as well be the best you can play in all four games. The usual deathmatch to see who scores big and kills the most is still the main meal. The latest addition is a mode called OverRun. This is pretty much a take on Gears if it were a team-based shooter. It works so well that it would be a shame if this mode doesn’t become a constant recurrent in later iterations.

In OverRun you get to play as both the COG (good guys) and the Locust (bad guys). Your objective as the COG is to prevent the Locust to completely damage the entrance to the Emergency Hole, denying them the advance in the course. If somehow you fail twice they will reach the last of a three-part round in which their task will be to destroy the generator.

If the COG successfully defends the advance of the Locust they immediately win the round. The roles are then changed and whoever was defending now has to attack. Whichever team gets farther wins the game. If both teams manages to reach the generator and destroy it then the team that did it fastest will be the winner.

To do that you assume the role of four classes in the COG and 8 different types of Locust. As the COG you simply change your role. You can be the engineer and repair the defenses, a soldier who inflicts damage and restores ammunition, a medic who deals damage and can revive downed team-mates or the scout who snipes from afar and can reach higher places in the maps for better vision.

As the Locust you need to start with one of the four regular, weaker grubs, while gaining score points. If you earn enough points you can become a much stronger enemy, like the Serapede (a giant centipede imune to front attacks) or a Corpser (the big shielded guys). Controlling the opposition — not only in multiplayer with human-like controls — and getting to control monsters like the Corpser is an amazing feeling. Some might be overpowered, but still, whoever manages to do better will win the round and some always have to win anyway.

The co-op is solid as well. The four characters are always together so it doesn’t feature different paths like it did in previous Gears. Playing with 3 other people online, especially if you know them, is pretty satisfying and the whole game was build from ground up for this very purpose.

So Gears of War: Judgement might be the black sheep of the family in Gears, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. The OverRun multiplayer by itself is one of the best multiplayer mode I’ve played in a while and the campaign is good old Gears. There’s not much not to like except the fact that the main team of protagonists aren’t featured. I actually thought it was a plus, but to each his own opinions.

Toki Tori

Some games can easily fool you into thinking they’re something else. Take Terraria for example, one might think it’s just a stylish platformer about going from point A to point B when it’s so much more than that. Toki Tori might be a cutesy, simplistic feat at first glance, but in fact it’s a pretty brutal puzzle experience.

The levels are basic and the movements aren’t that fancy either. Most monsters just go right and left endlessly until something happens that chances their direction. You have to take them in consideration as much as any other aspect of the stage. Something stands there just for the sake of being there? Chances are it’s got some important role in which you haven’t gotten the grasp of yet.

The movements are precise but they’re profoundly limited. You occupy one square unit of existence, per say, and when you move any direction you notice you moved half the distance away from this initial territory, by repressing the same direction you had pressed before you’ll be in the adjacent block. This helps the developer create very specific puzzles that need to be absolute the only way to pass the level. It’s easy to replicate because you don’t have much room for imprecision.

To succeed in this game you just have to go around a levels and collect all the eggs for Toki Tori. After reaching the last one of them you get warped and finish the level. If it sounds simple it’s because it really is. The problem is, getting these eggs might become impossible in just simply by getting one of the eggs too early for example. A chain of events happen and you won’t notice the level has become impossible until you reach the end.

If you had to restart each time you screw up in something it could become tedious, so they implemented a system of backtracking in time. It may sound cheap at first but when later levels are reached you finally understand why this is such a big deal. Made a move you regret? just hit backspace to rewind the game and redo whatever you did wrong. Want to rewind until the movement you spawn right in the beginning? No problem. You just can’t redo time that was overwritten, whatever you did after agreeing on time-travelling back will be lost. It shouldn’t be a problem because if you’re back-tracking it basically means something went terribly wrong and you need to redo, no questions asked.

To help the player out during the quest you have stuff like platforms, blocks or freezing guns at disposal. Depending on the world you’re in some special ability might be available, like in the water levels which you can become a bubble and float around, while in the sewer you might have a slimy-sucking weapon to get rid of some nasty snails that roam these waste-filled depths.

At first whatever ability that is presented to the player might be used at will, but right next to this demo level you will instantly face what this game does best. It severely limits the usage of whatever skill you have. I’m not talking a magazine of bullets to dispose of 3 enemies; I’m talking three bullets expecting three headshots. Some levels are ingeniously crafted to trick you into making the hasty decision, the easy move. Always doubt what’s too clear, it probably isn’t, this game has taught me that.

You’re basically trying to find all the places you absolutely need to spend resources in to proceed, if you reached a dead end and there’s still 2 eggs to go, you might need to rethink your last couple of moves, you might have to rethink a move you made in the beginning, you might need to completely rethink your route. It makes some later stages absolutely hell compared to the easy “just walk and beat the level” of the first few stages.

Toki Tori is also a lovable character, always doing funny stuff in-game when you suddenly feel the need to stop and start using your brain to crack that nut, weaving at you, taking off his underwater goggles while still underwater to clean them up and putting them back on like nothing happened. Toki Tori is awesome and it invokes the attention of kids. Though Toki Tori might please easily, the very nature of this game is absolutely brutal. Breeze through the first world and face the real danger of later stages so you get a real impression of how hard this seemingly lighthearted adventure can become.

Yes, it’s a hard game, everyone should have gotten that by now, but is it the kind of challenge we can get something out of? Absolutely. There’s a certain joy in finishing a harder level by realizing what you were doing wrong all along. There’s also a certain dose of frustration when you give in and notice you wouldn’t have noticed that even if you played for 300 years straight. Some challenges just have an overwhelming number of possibilities.

Hidden inside this cute cover, easy bulky controls and incredibly charismatic main character lies a morbid core indeed, and is it hard! Toki Tori is a puzzle game made possible with 2-dimensional platforming, but this is not platforming, at least not in general terms. When you think about it, it’s made of two very distinct characteristics that could easily become a problem for the uninitiated. It’s a cute game with a harsh gameplay. Generally you have stuff like cute/fun or core/challenging. The only difference here is that the cover hides what you’re actually getting completely, be aware.

NBA Hang Time

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NBA Hang Time isn’t your run-of-the-mill basketball game trying to constantly remind you of how well it simulates a real match. This is in fact a pristine example of the 90’s extravaganza when it came to sports games and how simulation wasn’t our thing back then.

This one is fast paced and slightly too silly for today’s standards, boasting physics-defying movements, impossible alley oops and dunks that would require the moon’s gravity to work out. Everything looks so flashy that sometimes it’s not enough to make the point, you have to make it with style, doing stuff like front flips or spins in the air.

The character models aren’t life-like at all which teams up well with the incredibly fast movements. After a few points without your adversary making any you’ll be “on-fire”. Of course Midway doesn’t take things figuratively since the ball actually gets aflame and your points completely burn out the net. Insane stuff, but incredibly addictive.

You play on teams of 2 against 2 and have 4 players playing at once if you have the hardware and the personnel available. Or you can go single player against the CPU which works surprisingly well, it will most of the time try you alley oops and be an actual asset to your team. The player roster is the main one from mid to late 1990’s, in a time when developers didn’t really feel the need to release another game every years because of newer players with basically the same gameplay.

The actual basketball game is pretty solid, the players all have differing stats which demand different strategies. Like stronger players tend to be harder to get back the ball from while faster players are much more nimble but will lose the ball frequently. The best team in here is the Chicago Bulls who ruled the game in the 90’s, even though it lacks Michael Jordan because of when it was released.

Another great feature is the character customization which is as silly if not sillier than the actual game. You’re given the change to create werewolves and aliens to play, meddle with their stats and overall characteristics. Something else that might have been taken directly from Mortal Kombat series is the number input before the match unlocking new players and some cool stuff. You have a few moments to input the codes and become a happier person.

The graphics are reminiscent from the arcades and the music is incredible, especially the half-time break which sports a rap about being a god-like basketball player and enjoy a game made by Midway, stuff like that. Something unthinkable these days. The whole adrenaline fueled soundtrack is simply amazing.

There’s not much else to say than this game is pure fun. Especially playing with a group of friends. It’s full of memes yo might actually catch on before memes even existed. Stuff like “there’s no stopping him!”, “he goes to the hoop” and “boom Shakalaka” are some of the gems spoken by the narrator. Definitely a forgotten jewel that only the 90’s would have the guts to produce.

Deus Ex

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At the time Deus Ex was released I used to play few games on PC, not many but the eventual ones I got from specialized magazines. I rarely got games from stores to play on a PC, mainly because at the time I considered the PC a strange gaming device. It had its moments but I was so used to playing with a joystick and the fact that not everything was plug-and-play at the time always kept me at a distance. Some games might function right, some games might not, some games might run on my weak system, some games might not. The PC has always (still is) less user-friendly than any console, and for a kid of my age along with my lack of understanding toward PCs, it never really caught me.

Still, the few games I played at that time still have a place in my heart, some are still amongst my favorite games of all time, even though I never considered a great fan of PCs and most games I played came from CDs attached to PC magazines. Deus Ex on the other hand never reached my hands, and having heard a lot of talking about how good this game is I decided to give it a go. Of course Steam and their weekly discounts on games gave me a little push on that and was actually one of the first games I ever bought from them.

Quite a while after having bought it I decided to try it out — isn’t that how Steam’s supposed to work anyway? You buy dozens of games hoping to live long enough to have the will and the time to play them all. First thing I always notice on these older games are how the resolution works, most older games don’t support the high resolutions possible now, if not all of them. And bear in mind that Deus Ex is no exception to that rule, the game has problems with resolution but it has much bigger problems when it comes to wide screen monitors. Getting a chopped off image is the price we all should be willing to pay to play this great game.

What I didn’t know back then (when I started playing the game) and what I know now is that there are user-created mods that should give you a hand on those problems. Actually, there are mods that completely redesign the games to look sharper and much better. I don’t feel bad about only knowing about this mod after I had beaten the game, I probably would have played it with chopped image and uglier scenery since I’m such a purist. Every time I play a game I like to enjoy the game the developers intended me to play, if it’s a game made in 1990, then let’s party like it’s 1990, as crude and archaic as it might look.

That’s exactly what I experienced, Deus Ex in all its glory, no graphical mods, no gameplay mods. I must admit I tried mods after and they’ve certainly done a hell of a job. I hope someday I’ll have the guts to play through it all over again. It wasn’t just graphical problems thwarting my fun, like the game strangely not accepting 32 bits as it kept switching back to 16 bits. I also had sound problems, but fortunately every problem I had was manageable after a quick search on the world wide web.

The first thing you should know about it is that it has one of the best opening theme songs on all video-games, it’s simply that amazing. As a game it is a perfect mix of first person shooter and RPG. The RPG elements show themselves in the form of stat upgrades and augmentations. As you advance your character gathers experience which can be exchanged to upgrade stats you choose. Though some stats are incredibly useful, after a while playing you’ll realize that, some of them are clearly not worth taking into account, especially in exchange for those costly points.

It is possible that many types of character might emerge from that freedom in building, most people will first get the job done for the more emergency stats, and most of them are the same for everyone. You might want to get better at using sniper rifles, but won’t you be using your handgun a lot more often? That’s a question everyone should consider. Maybe for advanced players who know what to expect, not so much. Hacking computers can always be useful, unless you’re quite the trooper and will go writing down every code there is in the game, but won’t one single upgrade suffice? After all, it will only require more skill and swiftness, and that’s never a bad thing.

As for augmentations, now we actually have something more differential all around. During the game you’ll come across upgrades known as augmentations, they give the character some corporeal boost, each one you find will have to be applied to a specific body part but you’ll have to permanently choose an effect. To clear that up with an example, picture this: eventually you’ll come across a leg augmentation (actually one of the first augmentations you’ll find if my memory doesn’t fail me) that will leave you with a dilemma. You either choose to be more stealthy or faster. If you choose the speed enhancement you’ll make a lot of noise while running through enemies, but you’ll be quicker and more susceptible to take less bullets. If you choose to be more stealthy you’ll be able to go unnoticed through enemies and avoid gunfire altogether.

When you choose an augmentation it’s a one way thing, and with the huge disparity between the two choices it’s recommendable that the player think it through before making any rushed decision that will affect the entire playthrough. The augmentations can also be upgraded by finding small canisters. Every augmentation you attach to your body starts at level 1 and can be upgraded up to level 4 if enough small canisters are used. The evolution is pretty clear, let’s say you used the Aqualung augmentation in your torso which upgrades your lungs letting you stay longer underwater, at level 1 you’ll be able to stay underwater for a few seconds more, as you upgrade the amount of time increases, and if it ever reaches level 4 JC Denton will have the ability to stay underwater indefinitely.

Now that I mentioned our playable character let’s know a little bit more about him. JC Denton is a nanotechnology augmented soldier who works for an anti-terrorist organization called UNATCO. He’s in his first day at work when you start the game. He has a brother called Paul who also works for the same organization. Deus Ex story stands as one of the deepest, most complex and engaging to ever grace video-games. In truth, let’s just say that Deus Ex story revolves around JC Denton’s struggle to uncover a web of corruption and lies spread around several levels of power. The story unfolds in such a deliberately methodical manner, everything evolves as the events happen, everything changes suddenly. New twists happen all around, one time you’re operating near an UNATCO base, then right after you find yourself at the other side of the world pursuing information, which might prove useless as facts develop.

The story is complex, there’s no point in describing an abridged version since it feels like many plots mashed into one big story. One can’t exist without the other, and the amount of information you get in each of them is so crucial that you better not miss a single conversation at all. Everything changed abruptly, and the changes are mostly steep. There’s certainly great skill in writing such diversity and still make sense. Most games today only dream of achieving this level of depth, the lack of attention in graphical detail certainly contrasts with the absurd level of quality the plot showcases.

It’s strange really. The huge variety of locations used in the game strangely gives the player a weird sense of immersion, even though most of them look too crude, and it did even at the time of launch. The good job must be done mainly by immersion caused by plot. I believe most of the familiarity you’ll find in levels come from the fact that JC Denton is a relatable character, even if taken in consideration the blandness of the voice-overs or the general lack of empathy. JC Denton is a very strict man, a man of logical thinking and “by the book” actions. Of course, the player’s actions will determine how Denton deals with the world around him, but the general feeling dies hard. And as JC Denton tries to understand the strange occurrences surrounding him, the player will do the same, creating an interesting bond character-player. Levels become much more important when you actually care about what you’re doing as a mean of understanding the situation.

Deus Ex is quite an achievement. I can understand the cult popularity. As any game that tries something huge, it comes off making mistakes along the way, more because playing safe wasn’t gonna cut it. I respect that a lot. Even a decade after launch this game impresses for its story depth, its excellent blend of RPG elements with stealth/action FPS, and general concept. In a time when developers simply try to emulate what’s successful, release new installments to established franchises with little to nothing new, or when it’s hard to remember (or care) about a game’s plot 20 minutes after you turn off the video-game console (or PC), playing a game like this certainly puts a smile on anyone’s face.