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{TGE} Feature: Game Recommendations Part 2

The Gaming Experience

Feature: Game Recommendations Part 2

This is the time of year when people start postulating holiday wish lists, eager to take advantage of the opportunity for someone else to buy their junk for at least one month a year. While being the fan of tradition that I am, I certainly hope that there is more to it than that, I am well aware that you needn't necessarily be cynical to admit a little bit of selfish motivation during Christmastime. Because the usually bloated commercial industry becomes impossible to live with, it is sometimes helpful to look at a list of recommendations to help you decide which games are worth the trouble of begging your parents, bargain hunting, or spending your holiday money.

Therefore, The Gaming Experience would like to present a list of games for the PC and Wii that are sure to provide a rewarding experience. I'll outline the pros and cons of each game as well as what kind of tastes I believe they fit and why they are recommended. If I go through and review that game, I'll also link the review as well.


Today's theme focuses on deep, story-driven games. From start to finish, they provide an immersive thought-provoking experience that accompanies a well-executed gameplay experience.


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Portal

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Portal - Unsolvable Mission



At first glance, Portal appears to be a very creative use of physics puzzles with a story that is merely an excuse for you to find yourself in the midst of contrived challenges. As the game continues, however, the computer overseeing your performance shows a surprising amount of character development. Meanwhile, if you are willing to look for it, there are different threads of backstory, some of which connect the story to the Half-Life series, and others provide you with haunting clues as to what the computer is all about.

 

Recommendation: A deep, creative puzzle experience based around the physics of portals accompanied by an intriguing backstory.


Pros

  • Utilizes intuitive controls to sell the gameplay mechanics
  • Offers challenges and achievements to extend the replay value
  • The puzzles can get quite difficult but never truly feel cheap
  • The interface has the innovative charm of an indie game but the gritty depth of a retail first-person shooter
  • The details of the story and backstory is left to the player's imagination. The more story you look for, the more you'll find

 


Cons

  • Aside from the potential for modifications, the actual game itself is fairly short
  • There is some variety to the visual design, but it retains a definite claustrophobic feel which may be unpopular with some gamers
  • The cake is a lie

Similar games:

  • Trine (generic story with an outstanding presentation with physics-based tag-team gameplay)
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy (puzzle and exploration oriented first person shooter with plenty of optional backstory to dig up... see below)
  • Half-Life 2: Episode Two (Continues the Half-Life saga with more dramatic variety and emphasis on puzzles than the previous installments)


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Okami (Review)

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Okami - Sasa Sanctuary


From the tradition of the Legend of Zelda series comes an experience that offers a more dramatic, story-based experience in a far more unique setting. Based off of Japanese folklore, the story may be awkward at first for Western audiences, but the there is a certain familiarity to the style that recalls the theme of Legend of Zelda. (visual gags, silent protagonist with a talkative helper, blatant fetch quests) However, where it deviates is in the standard formula. Where Legend of Zelda contains a story around the overworld-dungeon-boss-overworld pattern, Okami works this system around its story. The gameplay is a full and rewarding experience, with enough extra content to keep you hunting long after you've finished the game. Central to the gameplay is a mechanic where you can draw on the screen to summon the powers of the gods. Cutting apart enemies, calling forth the sunrise, bending even the wind itself to your will. The Wii version makes this even more fluid, if a bit more finicky.


Recommendation:
Excellent action-adventure gameplay experience focused around an exotic culture and with innovative gameplay mechanics


Pros

  • There is plenty of replay value, including many treasures to find, animals to feed, fish to catch, weapons to earn, and more. On top of it all, the game offers a "New Game Plus" where you get to start over while retaining some of your items.
  • The art style is very distinctive. The entire game has the flavor of Asian art, from characters to landscapes to attacks. On top of all that, the music is consistently amazing. From Susano's rousing battle theme, to Issun's cute little theme, to the menacing theme of your arch-nemesis, Orochi.
  • The battle system functions like a jRPG. There is a very clear division between combat and exploration and best of all, it actually works.
  • The story is rooted in Japanese lore but projects it in a way that is charming rather than intimidating or repulsive.
  • If you're one of those gamers that has a heart somewhere under that gunmetal casing, then there is no way you won't find at least one of the moments in the game touching.
  • There are plenty of gags, from the player character (Amaterasu in the incarnation of a wolf) eating the helper NPC when he says something wrong, to both the NPC and the goddess ogling the priestess's *ahem* very noticeable physical features.
  • Unlike Zelda, the overworld takes precedence over the dungeons, to the point where the only areas that you can truly call dungeons only stand out because they are so intimidating.
  • Despite the game's supposedly marginal success on the PS2 and Wii, there is still a sequel coming out for the DS next year

 


Cons

  • The game is very dialogue heavy. Either the cute unintelligible chatter that accompanies the dialogue will make it all worthwhile or will become nothing short of grating.
  • The inventory makes the difficulty of the game trivial in its last stages.
  • The Wii port removes one of the extras found at the end of the game (just a design showing up on the screen that you painted before the final fight) and the Fleetfoot ability is completely broken... so don't even bother learning it.
  • The game isn't exactly kid-friendly. There are several innuendos, cartoony yet graphic gore, and the second act is awfully dark for a sheltered audience.
  • While the difficulty curve is fairly light, the exotic theme may be hard to get used to at first. If being called "O great Amaterasu, origin of all that is good and mother to us all" doesn't make you feel uncomfortable, you should be fine.

Similar games:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (A rennaissance of the classic gameplay concepts from "Ocarina of Time" with a story that revolves around shadow-like creatures and the twilit world)
  • -Virtual Console- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Almost an expansion of Ocarina of Time, but with a more thought-provoking premise, and the dungeons and overworld tasks are far more sophisticated despite the game's shorter length)
  • Lost Winds -1&2- (A short game with a vaguely Zelda-like story where you pilot the character using the wind spirit past some interesting challenges)
  • Muramosa (It is to fighting-based action games what "Okami" is to the Zelda gameplay. Endearing japanese art style coupled with excellent gameplay make it worth a look)

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Super Mario Galaxy

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Super Mario Galaxy - Melty Molten Galaxy


Mario remains proof positive that a gaming icon can continue to innovate even decades after its conception. Super Mario Galaxy is a very inventive 3D Platformer which takes place in microgalaxies and features relative gravity quite prominently. Running around planetoids from top to bottom can be one of the highlights of the game, though the puzzles, extra challenges, and creative level design helps to keep the game significant.
On a personal note, this was my first Wii game... aside from a couple party games with the family.


Recommendation:
Excellent for almost any fan of Mario or three-dimensional platforming.


Pros

  • Completing the game 100% will place you before many diverse and difficult challenges. Even when you've collected every star, you get the opportunity to do it all again with a slightly altered movement style.
  • The gravity gimmick is very well integrated, with a camera that almost always works with you and ample visual cues to let you know when you're going to fall to your doom instead of bend around the other side
  • Many sub-galaxies expand on the challenge of various themes, and some even introduce new themes.
  • The lumas are possibly the most endearing NPC to appear in one of Nintendo's games.
  • Not everyone may be able to identify with the backstory, but the finale of the ingame story is quite the eye-opener.
  • The game retains the classic humor of the Mario games, whether it is the innocence of some of the NPCs you run into or the humorous Toad Brigade.
  • The music is on a very grand scale. From the ambient, peaceful space melody to the rolicking reimagining of the overworld theme from Super Mario Bros, to the fan-favorite Gusty Garden theme.

Cons

  • Despite the difficulty of some of the challenges, the requirement for defeating the final boss are very easy.
  • The boss battles are usually very simplistic. While the Bowser fights do tend to be creative and epic, they are more cumulative than anything else.
  • The hub is both intuitive and interesting, but can sometimes get in the way when you just want to hop into a level
  • If you accidentily enter the library without wishing to hear the backstory, you're going to have to wait until the chapter is through.
  • Some of the purple coin challenges cross the line between challenging and frustrating

Similar games:

  • -Virtual Console- Super Mario 64 (More the spiritual predecessor to the game than "Super Mario Sunshine" had been.)
  • Wario Land: Shake It!! (A beautifully rendered 2d platformer with well executed game concepts and level design.)

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Starcraft

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Zerg vs Protoss (cropped)


Real-time Strategy may not be popular for everybody, but diehard fans back in the day would swear by either Westwood's Command and Conquer or Blizzard's Warcraft. The most influential real-time strategy game however, was Blizzard's foray into science fiction, called Starcraft. It has set many of the standards of modern real-time strategies, and remains to be the best multiplayer/skirmish experience to be offered. Three races that are so different that even the way they recruit units changes and yet remain perfectly balanced. On top of all of this, the story is a true epic, and while some of the scenarios in the original are dated, the game still offers one of the most compelling stories to appear in a game of its kind. (One which would later influence Warcraft's lore)
On a personal note, this game's level editor has influenced me to this day. I've still yet to find something that can compare.


Recommendation:
Ideal for Real-Time Strategy fans, science fiction fans, and hardcore competitive players.


Pros
  • This is the game that set the standard for the Zerg rush as a faction specific tactic with its own counters and advantages... kekeke
  • The game doesn't easily get old, thanks to the dramatically different playstyles between factions.
  • Everything is perfectly trimmed. There are no useless units, and no cheap strategies (except perhaps the zerg rush) that outbalance all others.
  • The difficulty curve of the campaign is very forgiving. It is not until the last few missions of the first episode that you will be expected to show some RTS savvy. In contrast, even the first few missions of the last episode and of each episode in the expansion pack can be quite dificult.
  • The characters are memorable, from Marshall Raynor, to Tassadar, Zeratul, Kerrigan, Arcturus Mengsk, Fenix, Gerard Dugall, Alexei Stukov, even Zasz plays an influential role in the few missions he's seen in.
  • Exploration, Economics, and Embattlement, are kept in delicate balance. Figuring out how use that balance and where to push it is almost as much about playstyle as it is about skill and experience.
  • There is a hugely robust editor that allows you almost total freedom within the limits of the games engine.
  • The game is only as complicated as you are skilled. Playing it as a novice and playing it as a veteran are very distinct experiences.

 


Cons

  • As previously mentioned, the story inspired Warcraft's lore, meaning that if you've played Warcraft 3, the events of the expansion will feel less significant.
  • The visuals are dated. The level graphics are fairly gloomy compared to the brighter or at least more detailed designs in modern real-time strategy games.
  • Most of the levels in the first game and a few in the expansion are also dated compared to today's standards. The gameplay is often considered "training" for multiplayer/skirmish. The story and the effectiveness of the system make up for it.
  • You can only select just over a dozen units at a time. This can be a nuisance for beginning players, though veterans will be so used to squads and grouping that its only really a problem for some Zerg strategies.
  • It's almost impossible to know anything about the series without spoiling the twist at the end of "New Gettysburg". Similarily, the promotions for Starcraft 2 probably assume you already know how Starcraft - Brood War ended.

 


Similar games:

  • TheTotal War series (Real-time Strategy meets Turn-based Strategy meets Historical themes and excellent tactical gameplay... not forgiving to beginners though)
  • Age of Empires 2 (A more economy/diplomacy focused RTS with some well-executed interpretations of Medieval history)
  • Command and Conquer: Red Alert ("Starcraft" innovated the genre, but Westwood practically created it. Whether it is GDI and NOD, or Allies and Soviets, its a classic experience not to be missed.)


Keep your eyes peeled for the next set of game recommendations by TGE. Until then, be sure to leave some comments and let us know what you think.

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