Week of Games: 4 & 3

Thursday 28 September (2006)

Half the week is over, and more than half of the games have been revealed. Am I still blowing your mind? Because, baby, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Here’s the list so far, and the third and fourth greatest games ever made:

5. Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)
6. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube)
7. Day of the Tentacle (PC)
8. Beyond Good & Evil (Gamecube)
9. Grim Fandango (PC)
10. Street Fighter 2 (SNES)

The 4th Best Game Eversuper smash bros. melee (gamecube)

This game does not have any discernable plot to speak of. It has no story to tell, and there’s nothing that really stands out as being excellent when you play it through. Sure, the weird 3D version of Super Mario Bros. playing as Bowser is fun, and fighting an enormous pair of hands that reach down and tickle you whilst playing as Pikachu is an entertaining way to pass the time, but it’s not what you’d call great. So why is this game on the list at all? Why is it the fourth greatest game ever made?

Because, quite simply, it is the best multiplayer game of all time.

Multiplayer games are a different kettle of fish to single player games – plot, storyline, these things are irrelevant. There’s no need for ‘boss battles’ because you’re playing a real person, sat next to you on the sofa – and when you destroy them, the taste of victory is all the more sweeter when you watch them punch the table in angry dismay. But because Smash Bros. isn’t like normal fighting games, where once a characters’ hit-points reach zero they’re dead, it’s not quite so cut and dry. In Smash Bros., characters begin with 0% damage, and then it is increased as they get attacked. The objective is to smash them off the edge of the screen, and this becomes easier to achieve the higher their percentage is – and it can go up far beyond 100% (my personal best is something like 504%.) As a result, it’s quite common to be in a four-player battle and blast someone away into the distance, but then as you turn your attention towards another player that person miraculously survives through a series of well-timed jumps and upward moving attacks.

This of course leads to an unlimited number of gameplay scenarios, where your skill as a player can extend your lifespan far beyond its obvious length. The lighter characters such as Kirby and Jigglypuff have about six jumps in them (the number of times you can ‘jump’ whilst remaining in the air; jumping saves you from death regularly) whereas the heavier ones like Donkey Kong and Bowser have one or two. This extends onto other characteristics, such as the amount of power to a punch or the speed and agility of a character. And again, battling requires your own skill too because the harder you push the analogue stick, the harder your attack will be. When you also throw pro-abilities in like shielding (shield for too long and you’ll explode,) throws and charge attacks (where you have to stand in a vulnerable pose for a few seconds before releasing the move) you have a fairly extensive range of options.

But it doesn’t stop there. Anyone who’s never played the game before will often find footage of it completely overwhelming, because they literally can’t keep track of what’s going on. There are weapons in the game – from Super Mario World mini and mega mushrooms to a SNES Super Scope gun, all of which randomly appear in crates throughout the game. There are sneaky weapons, like invisible landmines and barriers which bounce anything that’s thrown at them away. Then, there are Pokéballs.

The Pokémon add an entirely different dimension to the game. Like any other item, you can point them at someone and throw them at them, but when they hit the ground they open up and a Pokémon comes out. You never know which one it’s going to be, but I’m pretty sure that they’re all possible. There are small and annoying ones, like Weezing which releases small bursts of poison gas, but there are also rare pokemon which can decimate the entire arena.

And everything in the game is customisable – how long the match lasts, how many weapons there are, which weapons are available, what skill the match is based on (it can be set to hit points or ‘style’) – so you can always fine tune it and tweak it just to your specifications.

Three or four player games of Smash Bros. can last for hours on end, and you never get bored because no two games are the same. The stages are varied and interactive, and the music is a constant nostalgia-fest of updated classic Nintendo tunes. In all, there is no finer sit-down-and-have-a-game multiplayer in existence – until hopefully Super Smash Bros. Brawl is released on the Wii 🙂

I didn’t even mention the ridiculously difficult single-player event matches. God, this game is amazing.


The 3rd Best Game Everlechuck's revenge (pc)

For many people, the words ‘Monkey Island’ are synonymous with point-and-click adventure games. The reason for this is that, simply, they are genre-defining games – and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is the pinnacle of that genre.

Back in the early 90s, desktop computers (PCs, as they were called back then) weren’t really much for games. They couldn’t emulate the lightning fast game speeds and graphical flair of Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario World, so they were no good for action games. But then, PCs weren’t bound by the meagre amounts of space afforded to games cartridges – there was no room for complex code in a game that had to figure out at under a single megabyte of space, but on the PC that wasn’t a problem because you could just span a game across as many floppy disks as you wanted. Ah yes, in those halcyon days before graphics cards were really any good, the only way a game could stand out on the PC was to make it utilise the only features the PC had that consoles didn’t have – memory and a mouse. This is why adventure games went into decline once PCs started to be able to run games better than consoles, and why it is unlikely that there will ever be an adventure game as we know it that is better than Monkey Island 2.

Confident after the success of The Secret of Monkey Island, the design team knew that their lysergic mix of comedy and Pirates of the Caribbean would work again, and so were free to create a much vaster game. The improvements in technology over the two years between games also allowed for a much richer audio/visual spectrum, and the game was simply beautiful to play. Michael Land, the acid-dropping and at times maniacal musician who had crafted the soundtrack to the original game, created the ‘iMuse’ system which allowed the musical score to flow seamlessly between themes as you travelled from location to location. This was seriously innovative, and it gave the game a real feeling of being an actual place that you would go to for a few hours whenever you played. With the advent of pure audio in games and the demise of midi, iMuse died, which is kind of a shame.

The real meat of any adventure game is the story, and Monkey Island 2 has a great one. Like its predecessor, it begins quickly, and with a very obvious quest – to find a buried treasure. It’s a pirate game, and this is a pirate quest (a lesson the makers of Escape From Monkey Island should have learned) and it’s really good fun to go around the caribbean finding map pieces and heading for your goal. The puzzles are perfectly pitched; not too easy, but not too obscure, and the characters are memorable and funny.

More than perhaps any other game, Monkey Island 2 delivers a complete story that has you engrossed from start to finish, which you experience both objectively and subjectively. This is without a doubt the greatest adventure game ever made.


One Response to “Week of Games: 4 & 3”

  1. Huzbo Says:

    Number THREE?

    That’s it, I’m finished with this blog. FINISHED!

    Well, maybe. ;

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