The Xbox 360 is a fickle machine. The day after I finished setting up my father's Playstation 3 (which he bought mainly for the blu-ray, but enjoys a good game of Super Stardust), my white box of HD gaming suffered a visual seizure and died. When I waited for Best Buy to get more in stock so I could swap it for a fresh one at the beginning of January, I had no idea Microsoft would think it a brilliant idea to ignore the post-holiday market, and stop making systems for a full month. As a result, I had to settle for... ugh, lesser systems.
Actually, my PC is a beast, making a functional 360 seem like a Tandy. It was so very overpowered to play Curse of Monkey Island, but with the help of friendly SCUMM I had a jolly, "tongue in scurvy worn cheek" adventure; a treat for the eyes and a weight to the noggin', as some puzzles were more than a bit obtuse. It was all fun and games until a rather weak ending, though all and all sadly far superior to the first season of the recent Sam & Max episodic release, which just seems to lack a certain something not so easily defined. Another game praised to the heavens but brought me hard to earth was Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. As interesting as the ideas and well crafted the visuals were, the first person melee just didn't work. It was too easy to lose sight of enemies or misjudge distances, sometimes hitting enemies while striking the air before them and other times having my sword pass right through them harmlessly. Also, for an essentially linear game, I was too often lost and confused over what I was supposed to do next, with the log always being too vague for any assistance.
There are only two experiences in first person melee that have worked well for me. The first was the dizzying puncher Breakdown, whose inclusion of firearms broke the game to the point I gave up on it. The other was the likely very underappreciated Maken X for the Dreamcast. Here you have various weapon styles and a lock-on system that allows you to keep up the fancy footwork around your enemy, while not losing sight of the fatty about to bazooka you in the back. Tough as hell in some places and visuals that can't help feeling dated, it's still an amazing game that's only real minus is the lack of mid-level checkpoints, forcing you to repeat potentially long stretches of gameplay should you happen to misjudge a tough enemy that can swallow half your life bar.
With this new month came a brand new 360 for me, complete with HDMI output and that new molded plastic smell. So I've dug back into my most neglected of games, .skate. I bought it fairly close to release, played a little past the tutorial, and ended up setting it back on the shelf in favor of the flood of holiday titles,. I was apprehensive about starting where I left off, thinking I would have forgotten all about it's new fangled control scheme, but everything is so natural and just right that it only took a few minutes before I was up to speed. I only wish I could control the camera somehow.
I did something the other day that I don't do anywhere near often enough- I picked up a game I'd stopped playing and gave it a second chance. Sure, Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland may have its fair share of problems, such as the endless guessing games it makes you play regarding the value of just about everything, but it's so bizarre and wrong that I felt bad about leaving it behind.
I like to complete games, I really do. Playing is nice, of course, but there's an undeniable sense of satisfaction to be had from knowing that I haven't left something undone. I don't need to collect one of everything to earn the Ultimate Widget of Obsessive Compulsiveness, but seeing the final scene pass by, maybe with a bit of post-completion cleanup for good measure, means that I can shelve the game with a clear conscience.
One of the big problems is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to experience the sheer volume of quality out there. I've played a fair bit of Pixeljunk Monsters, but am nowhere even close to completion. Then Rez came out on XBLA, and I got to play the first two levels one night and never touched it again. Admitted, I'm waiting for the upgrade to an HDTV that I've got planned for this spring to play more Rez, but I don't have that excuse for Burnout Paradise or Endless Ocean. No More Heroes has been put on hold for Devil May Cry 4, and Patapon (which, by the way, must be played with headphones) is almost out at the time of this writing. Isn't the post-Christmas season supposed to be dead?
I feel like I'm always complaining about the lack of gaming time, but that's a side effect of actually liking and enjoying games. Even during the annual mid-summer shortage of new and amazing content, there's such a backlog that you'd need eight hands and four heads to see it all. I don't have a problem with this, but I do have a problem with wanting to play everything that catches my interest. I'm getting the 360 version of Bully in March, but do I have time to play it? I didn't a year and a half ago, why do I think I can now? It's probably optimism or just wishful thinking making me believe I can graduate Bullworth Academy but I want to know how the story ends. On the plus side, the original deluxe edition with dodgeball didn't have the PS2 logo on the oversized box, so I can just sell the PS2 version and dump the 360 one in its place. With a rationale like that, how can I resist?
I'm glad I gave Tingle a second chance and am looking forward to doing the same to Bully. I buy every game with the intention of seeing it through and the hope that it'll be worth the effort, but the lure of shiny and new (not to mention review responsibilities) means that some are going to be left behind. All I can do is complete what holds my attention and look forward to the next new experience, even if it comes a little earlier than I'd want it scheduled.