Once upon a time I made a blog about video games. And this is what's left of it (mostly tweets).

1 July 2006

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PS2)

I’m still unsure as to which grade to give it, because the game’s flaws are so annoying that I’d never have gone so far by myself (or without a walkthrough), but on the other hand I feel much more immersed in it than I ever did in Tomb Raider: the levels and puzzles are far less artificial, and character moves and control feel more real (maybe also because I’m less troubled by a prince with magical powers running up the walls than a modern-day adventurer doing flawless somersaults by the sole power of her boobs). The repetitive and ultimately claustrophobic aspect of the settings, the chase scenes (much more interesting, though much harder, than Legend’s pathetic “interactive” scenes — it’s quite a compliment to the Prince’s control scheme that you can make its equivalent chase scenes really, completely interactive… even though some poorly placed cameras occasionally make things harder than they need to be), the fake ending, it’s all very realistic and coherent… but a bit boring, too. So we didn’t finish it, but I have no regrets about playing it.

I hope to get an opportunity to play The Sands of Time someday, as it must have all the same qualities as this one, without the flaws. (I’m a casual gamer, so I really don’t mind that the game is shorter and less hard.)

3 July

God of War (PS2)

In one word: Wooooooooooooooo.

In two words: Ultimate badass.

While we’re at it, anyone anywhere having a Shadow of the Colossus copy I could borrow? (Preferably someone on Paris. And someone I already know, because I’m not gonna meet an unknown person just to borrow a game, I’m not that cheap.) Because my comrade in arms (too bad it doesn’t sound as naughty as the French camarade de jeux) is very much set on hating it, and it would be a pity spending sixty euros if he’s going to stick to that.

And when’s the last time a review scored five stars here, you ask? Well, actually, I wondered, and opened up phpMyAdmin to check, so I might as well write it here: it was for Veronica Mars, episodes 1.11 to 1.19 — just before the finale that discouraged me a bit from trying to catch season 2.

Before that, it was the end of Six Feet Under’s season 3, which makes me think that maybe I should get started with season 4 after all.

15 July

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PS2)

Playing that one after you’ve played the more recent Warrior Within is a big mistake: while they both mostly sport the same qualities and flaws, the combat system has dramatically changed in the meantime, and Sands of Time fighting is so tedious we ended up giving up around 30% or 40% completion (whereas we had stuck to Warrior Within much longer, despite the damn Dahaka scenes).

Even dismissing the fights, though, doesn’t quite save the game — at least not for 2006. There’s a bit more of a story, but not by much; the character accompanying you is a nice touch, but her AI and combat skills are way too limited (and I can’t believe game developers don’t notice how irritating it is to hear a character cycle though the same three lines of dialogue every five minutes — even in God of War there was some of that); level design is quite monotonous (and I understand it makes sense with the story and the Prince of Persia legacy, and not every game can be as varied as Tomb Raider, but that’s still boring).

Plus, a personal pet peeve of mine: artificial puzzles. There’s a point in the game when you’re going through the menagerie, and one door is closed, and you have to move a block in an animal’s cage to reveal a crack in the wall, through which a sufficiently svelte character can get into the second, door-less cage that houses the switch to open that door you have to go through. Let me repeat: the switch to open a door is inside an animal’s cage that has no doors and that you can only get into through a crack in another cage’s wall. (And, by the way: switches? Glow-in-the-dark, 3x3-foot switches on the floors to open doors in old Persia?) It makes it really, really hard for me to feel any kind of immersion when the level design feels as natural as a sudoku grid. (Tomb Raider makes me feel a bit of the same way, too, with ledges and poles too obviously spaced from one another by the exact jump distance; while God of War twists the issue by having the puzzles explicitly designed by a deus ex machina as a test of valor — Indiana Jones-like.)

19 July

  • God of War 2 Boss Revealed (spoilers!). But, since I read the previous article, explaining why the original game’s creator doesn’t want to have almost anything to do with the sequel, I’m less optimistic.

  • I’ve been listening to podcasts for a week (most notably the complete 4cr and CAGcast archives, but the Engadget one isn’t bad either), and wondering whether I really want to inflict yet another podcast / vidcast on the world: it’s true that crap eats up time so easily.

  • If my fridge is already at the point where it causes short power outages and makes weird noises when back online, is it too late, or can I still buy some time by pulling it a bit farther from the wall and opening the adjacent cupboard to make some air? (And what’s that stupid idea of embedding fridges? That’s against all laws of physics!) Considering how hard it normally is to reach my landlord, I’m afraid I might have to wait two months for a replacement fridge if it croaks in the middle of summer.

20 July

  • After a week spent catching up with the best podcasts I could find (in a nutshell: if you’re gonna make a podcast, you’ve got to have a nice voice, you’ve got to know how to speak rather than read your text, and you’ve got to bring something that a blog post can’t, which usually means having several people conversing, rather than you being alone in front of the microphone) I’ve moved to video podcasts, and I’m amazed by how many of them just imitate the mainstream media’s flaws rather than dissociate from them.

  • Although it might be a bit contradictory with what I just wrote (because the new host comes straight from MTV), I like Rocketboom much better without Amanda Congdon, but still not to the point of watching it. And I’m still hooked to ze’s show.

  • By the way, Molly’s voice, from the Buzz Out Loud podcast, furiously reminds me of someone, and I wonder who that could be. Her voice, the way she speaks, her laughter, it’s like she reminds me of someone I’ve known forever, yet there’s no English-speaking person I’ve known forever.

  • This is all in preparation of the great GarooTV launch, someday pretty soon or not so soon at all. And I’m actually getting more and more used to the concept of starting out with a simple podcast instead (it’s so much simpler: less hardware, less software, less work), so if you feel like participating in weekly roundtables about the web, movies, games, TV or all things technological, you may want to… uh, read the French version of this post, because this is reserved to francophones. (Not that I would mind doing a podcast in English, but that’s not where my audience is, and I’m not going to produce one podcast for each language.)

  • Wasn’t it Pet1te 4nglaise who posted, a while back (at the time when I was reading her), some creepy stuff about her boss, bordering on sexual harassment? (Her termination letter apparently refers to material she posted then removed, acknowledging it was professionally risky.)

  • Diet Sprite tastes like something’s missing. But I’m unsure whether it’s my memory playing tricks on me, or it’s just the taste of sugar I’m missing.

21 July

Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

It must have been more than a week since I finished the game, and I’ve kept rewriting this post’s draft over and over again while listening to the original soundtrack (between two podcasts).

So I’ll just try to make it short and summarize it thus: if I worked at Sony, I’d offer this game’s developers a couple billions to make a PlayStation 3 edition, with improved graphics (minus the dropping framerate) and a few bonuses, such as a slightly more animated world, maybe, and the possibility to play the game as each colossus (considering one of the final sequences, I’m really surprised they didn’t think to include that). But I don’t think they’d want to do it, and that’s quite fortunate as I won’t be able to afford a PS3 anytime soon.

Still, a unique, entrancing game, whose qualities aren’t limited to artistic direction (character control, though initially unsettling, quickly becomes so natural you really feel you’re up there, clinging for your life to the hairy head of a colossus, a hundred meters above the ground) and that you want to play again once a month from beginning to end, preferably on a big screen and with big speakers.

24 July

Hitman: Blood Money (PS2)

I don’t know if there’s somethig missing regarding the atmosphere, or it’s just me, so I won’t write about that (I never really enjoyed the Sopranos, for instance, and mafia flicks bore me to death, but I’m still interested in playing a hired assassin, in theory); what I can say, though, is that gameplay is not natural enough for me to get into it. When you’ve watched Alias for years, you’ve got some expectations when it comes to infiltrating and eliminating.

Why is it so hard to “aim” when trying to strangle someone with the fiber wire, and why does it become impossible as soon as the victim spots you? Why can’t you just smoothly jab a syringe intoyour target passing by a corridor, or swiftly plant a bomb under everyone’s noses? Why can’t you somehow block a door to hide a corpse? Why isn’t that fucking silencer more silent? Oh, I know why: because it would be too easy, and then it would be so much more work designing the missions.

That’s a pity, because they are interesting and varied, and the settings are beautiful — but, once again, the design is so artificial I feel as involved with the story and characters as if I were playing Tetris. The main thing I’d blame this game for, in the end, is pretending to be realistic and open-ended when it’s just a puzzle game where each puzzle has two or three scripted solutions rather than one. I think I’d rather have the unabashed linearity of a Tomb Raider game.

(The Alias universe and story, for all its flaws, could make for a terrific video game series, by the way. But that’s not how things go.)

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