Okay, played a couple more games since the last post:
Rockstar’s Table Tennis is pretty much the best hitting-a-ball-backwards-and-forwards-over-a-net game I’ve played since Virtua Tennis. And given that, having played VT to the point of almost insanity whilst we were doing the PC version, I still rate VT as pretty much the best sports game ever, that’s saying something. It’s perhaps a little less accessible than VT – the controls are a little overwhelming at first – but it’s got the same surprising depth to it given the apparent simplicity of the game mechanic. Each opponent has a distinct play style with their own weakness to exploit – and in turn, they will exploit weaknesses in your own play style. Graphically, obviously, it’s lovely, and there’s some really lovely touches in the animation (like the movement of the players’ clothes, and their facial expressions – the Japanese girl is irritatingly smug and self-satisfied when she wins a point). But ultimately, it’s that punching-the-air sense of satisfaction you get when you win smash home the ball to win after a 45-shot rally that really makes the game. Brilliant.
I downloaded the demo of Prey and had a quick run through. Mini-rant: Games developers, there are colours other than black and dark red; please use them as it otherwise means your games are impossible to play during the hours of daylight. Prey opens with probably the best choreographed intro ever – after a minute or so of chit-chat and beating up hicks in a bar, the emergency broadcast system suddenly comes in on the TV talking about “lights in the sky”, the jukebox kicks in and starts playing “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and all hell breaks loose as a massive alien spacecraft appears overhead, rips the roof off and starts beaming all the contents of the bar on board. It’s a shame, therefore, that after this it turns into a fairly typical first-person shooter, albeit one with a couple of nice twists – the ability to leave your own body and solve puzzles in the “spirit world”, and the playful manipulation of the level geometry by use of portals and gravity operating in directions you wouldn’t normally expect. Probably worth picking up, but I don’t think it’s a full-pricer.
The demo of F.E.A.R., on the other hand, left me a bit cold. It just didn’t click. Apparently, it’s hugely terrifying and atmospheric and that, but the demo is pure FPS-in-a-warehouse by numbers: the only terrifying thing in the demo is just how spectacularly derivative it all is. Disappointing.
Another disappointing demo was – and I’m going to get crucified for this – Lego Star Wars II. I’m sure it’s just because the demo just dumps you in a level without explaining what’s going on or telling you what you should be doing, but… well, it looks nice, sure, but it didn’t really grab me particularly, and I seem to have missed what everyone else in the world loves so deeply about it.
On the other hand, the Kameo demo – which didn’t receive the best reviews in the world on release and was a game I was hugely sceptical about – turned out to be really rather good. First, it looks really, really good: yes, it’s all uber-bright primary colours and cartoony design and it’s a bit cheesy, bit I defy anyone to watch it for a few moments without going “Okay, alright, it does look really bloody nice.” Obviously, looks aren’t everything, so it also helps that it’s a decent, solid platform adventure – it’s not going to set the world on fire in terms of originality or anything, but it does what it sets out to do well, and looks very pretty whilst it does it, and that’s good enough for me, and it being £19.99 in the Game sale was enough to secure a purchase. Lovely.