Sunday, May 8, 2011

Monday Musings - 9th May 2011

Today's musings will be short as not much game playing was done. Well not many games were played. Friday night was swallowed from me by a game, but we shall get to that.

Portal 2

Solving a puzzle in Portal 2 usually has one of two effects on me. Sometimes i marvel at how clever the puzzle i just solved was. This is what usually happens. Most of the puzzles don't require huge leaps of logic, but rather a multitude of small steps that include some fun use of portals and gel. The second effect is how stupid i can feel when the solution to a room that has me stumped finally reveals itself.

So far this has only happened twice. First was the room with the turrets and the bridge (it took me forever to realise how to use the bridge), and the second time this has happened was this week. The room involved both the acceleration and repulsion gels (both were flowing freely from a spigot), a box and a button... and launching oneself across a gigantic chasm to the exit elevator. I believe i wasted about 20 mins wracking my brain on how to finish this when suddenly an idea clicked. I actually exclaimed, "Oh man... is it really that easy?", completed the level, and felt like an idiot.

So there you have it. One thing i love about Portal is how smart it can make you feel. The sequel has taught me how stupid it can make you feel. The weird thing though is it's not really a bad stupid because you're still progressing. It's like the difference between good challenge and bad challenge. Good challenge makes you rise to the occasion and persevere through any obstacle a game presents. Bad challenge makes you want to quit playing or look up cheats and walkthroughs. It's definitely a fine balancing act.

Civilization 5

So those who recognize the image on this post and then chuckled when i mentioned my Friday night disappeared earlier will have seen this title coming. Civilization (the first game) would be in my 10 top games of all time (i really need to write that list down sooner or later. It would make for an interesting post). The 'one more turn' meme is quite famous within gaming circles but even with the latest edition of the franchise, man is it still true. I started the game up at about 11pm, and when i decided to save and quit in the middle of my game (it was just after 1000 AD and i was pretty much mopping the floor with everyone), the clock read 2:45am. Almost 4 hours gone, just like that!

So what is different with Civ this time round? Let me do a quick round up of what i've noticed in my half-game thus far. The game looks beautiful, your cities can destroy hostile units with a ranged attack (in case you haven't garrisoned a unit), there's these experience trees that give you bonuses (they seem to have replaced government and religion), you can't stack units, oh and there's the hex grid. The city states are neat too. They're not full fledged civilizations, but you can form alliances, and gain bonuses for helping them. They also make politics more interesting...

... an example in my game was i was aligned with a city state that asked me to dispose of another city state. That state was aligned with India, who was my greatest ally at the time. What oh what was i to do?! My solution was that i ignored the request and continued with my game. Not making the tough choices! That's me!

Honestly though, i know i haven't scratched the surface with the game i played and didn't finish. I have all these ideas of how i'm going to plan my next game. I'll set aside an evening sometime this week and put my plans into action.

Final Thoughts

I've always felt that videogames and their sequels had a special difference to sequels in other media (primarily film). In film, rarely is a sequel better than the original. In videogames, sequels can often be better than the original games as they can address gameplay issues from previous titles, or try new things and invigorate the series. I'm starting to wonder about the first sequel though.

I've noticed a trend developing with my playing habits over the last year where i find myself enjoying the original game over its sequel. I stopped playing Mass Effect 2 about 20 hours in, and started another game of Mass Effect. No More Heroes 2 is vastly improved gameplay-wise, but it seems to be missing a lot of the charm that made No More Heroes so great. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was one of my top games last year, but i haven't completed it yet while in Super Mario Galaxy, i kept collecting stars long after the credits rolled. This week while playing Portal 2, i thought to myself, "This is an excellent game... but i think i prefer the first one".

Now to be fair, i have not finished any of these sequels yet and i have played through the originals multiple times. That more than likely has something to do with it. It's the same reason i thought Final Fantasy 2 was a pale comparison to Final Fantasy 1 (although comparing games in the FF series is a minefield as most titles are vastly different on purpose).

Perhaps it's becoming an extension of my erratic playing habits. I've enjoyed the original experience and even though the sequel might be excellent, in some ways, it's just more of the same. It might be why even though i've tried new Pokemon titles over the years, i've never gotten as close to finishing one as i did with the original Blue.

Heh, actually there are exceptions to this rule. There is a sequel that i feel is greatly superior to it's predecessor. It's my favourite videogame. It's Megaman 2.

I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on sequels and their comparisons to the original games.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

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