Trent Polack's site for cats, games, game development, and undeniably powerful sociological insight all with a healthy dose of narcissism.
mittens's Articles In Console Games
November 10, 2008 by mittens

Ruff, ruff!

This quote comes from one of the only, if not the only (aside from Half-Life 2's Alyx Vance), video game companion that never becomes annoying or troublesome to gamers. One of the most recurring problems in any video game is that of trying to create a companion in a video game that can tag along with a player character's exploits throughout a game in a fashion that is not only realistic but, more to the point, doesn't require constant babysitting to avoid the common video game companion pitfalls of getting stuck, going the wrong way, or committing suicide in one of any number of possible ways depending on the hazards that fill a game world. It's an understandably difficult game mechanic to have in that, especially in an intimate single-player game experience, to have an AI intelligent enough to act predictably "human" in the same way that the person controlling the main character would act.

Ruff, ruff!

This quote is arguably the most memorable thing that players will experience in all of Lionhead's recently-released Fable 2. It doesn't come from farting to impress women to the point of marrying you. It doesn't come from the manual or various cinematics. It certainly doesn't come from the wooden and awkwardly-presented narrative cutscenes. No, the above quote comes from -- and I'm sure this is a surprise -- the only dog known to the world of Fable 2: the player's dog that can change names as often as it changes collars (no, really). The little furry fella attaches himself to the player's character from an early point in the game and, from then on out, is by his side throughout a majority of the rest of the game. The dog is not the interface but, instead, a helper to the main character; he will point out treasure chests, dig spots, and he will help in combat from time-to-time.

October 19, 2008 by mittens

On paper, Dead Space is a game where a voiceless protagonist fights aliens aboard a gigantic space ship whose crew has been ruthlessly slaughtered. In practice, though, Dead Space's existence is a fresh entry in the action/horror genre that justifies its existence from the introductory sequence to its movie-caliber conclusion. Every chapter is more violent and horrific than its predecessor while, at the same time, it demonstrates a more comfortable new franchise that excels when its vacuum, zero-gravity, limb-severing gameplay mechanics feel comfortable enough to all combine into a single antechamber. It may start off a bit slow, but once it gets going, the team at EA Redwood demonstrates their deep understanding of their own game.

Dead Space has a very deliberate pacing that helps deliver its consistent feeling of impending doom that makes the action within the game have a fairly prescient meaning. It's a horror game whose scares don't rely on cheap startling tactics (or if it attempted them, they don't work), but rather its ability to make players approach every corridor and room as if they were bombs that could explode at any moment. At no point in the twelve hours it took me to play through Dead Space did the laundry list of objectives given to my voiceless character feel like chores.

Dead Space tells its story through a series of audio and text logs and a handful of interactions. It makes its narrative seem as a pretext for violence early on while it grows slowly through each chapter until, suddenly, it becomes a legitimately entertaining and interesting tale that doesn't rely on cheap plot devices or a tangled web of twists until it feels it's earned the right to drop a bombshell or two.

Most importantly, Dead Space carves a niche that only it can fill. It's neither Resident Evil 4, DOOM 3, nor System Shock 2; it takes its influences and makes them its own.

June 23, 2008 by mittens

I know Grid isn't the greatest arcade racing game ever but, goddamn, I love it so much. It has the perfect blend of a career mode where I can make money, buy cars, hire teammates and then merges that with a with a more arcade-like set of racing mechanics. The game has a great sense of speed and an absurdly good damage model that makes events like the Demolition Derby -- an event I haven't played since Destruction Derby for the Playstation -- an absolute blast to play. One of the game's bullet points is an instant replay system which allows players a number of attempts to go back in time in the game (a la Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) and undo whatever mistake was made the first try; this is a mechanic that, at first, I was annoyed by due to the unnecessary menu-work that was required to use the feature but, after some time with the game, it's a fantastic addition to avoid the video game racing gamer's urge to restart a rice a few dozen times to perfect a given event.

June 20, 2008 by mittens

Over the course of the last week I was able to play the final chapter in a franchise which I first played as a rental on my NES way back when I was a munchkin; Metal Gear was a thoroughly confusing game for the four-year-old me. I very much doubt that I made it much past the first few areas as I was not a patient child. I may or may not have played Metal Gear 2. I did, however, play the hell out of Metal Gear Solid for myPlaystation back in 1998. I played it through about four or five times, got Snake's tuxedo on New Year's Eve 1998, and have very fond memories of Psycho Mantis and Meryl and the boss fight with Revolver Ocelot. I would be hard-pressed to think of a franchise which, to this day, I remain so positively nostalgic about aside from Metal Gear Solid (and Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil). So, now that I've completed my first play-through of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, I want to write about the two halves of this game: the gameplay and the story.


May 18, 2008 by mittens
878,598 dollars earned (of which $376,945 was spent), 860 killed by one of my 161 cars stolen or ventilated by a number of my 16,367 bullets fired, 94 missions completed, and 28 hours and 34 minutes later I have completed Grand Theft Auto 4, a game sitting at a solid 98% overall score on Metacritic three weeks after its release. It's a game that cost $100 million to make and a game which grossed $500 million in its first week. The question that no one is asking at this point in time since it's b...
January 6, 2006 by mittens
I should've realized that when I started this list that it would mean about an hour or two of my time every day for roughly twenty straight days. The likelihood of a second top-ten list following this one is decreasing exponentially every day. We're now down in numbers so teeny-tiny that they require the use of scientific notation of a magnitude that even a millipede would be frightened of in order to properly be represented. Now, on to the rank seven game of this spectacular array of them vidyo...
March 10, 2004 by mittens
Having just received Ninja Gaiden (I'll post an in-depth review in a couple days) yesterday, I was quite ecstatic to be playing it all night (I played the game for about 7 to 8 hours straight, and enjoyed each and every nanosecond of it) on my good 'ol Xbox. I bought my Xbox the month it come out a few years ago, and have gotten quite a lot of play out of it. However, this morning when I booted it up to play some more Ninja Gaiden before heading off to math, I discovered, much to my dismay, tha...