The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 28, 2007

Highlights from PAX ’07 – The games

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 4:57 pm

For some of the people who attend PAX, the main attraction of the place is the huge crowd to hang around with and play stuff.  For others, it’s the concerts and the panels.  I suspect that for most people there though, it’s the chance to play upcoming games that’s the big draw.  Here are some impressions of a few of the games I tried out.  Unfortunately, my camera doesn’t do a very good job of picture taking in the low light conditions of the exhibition hall, so I don’t have a lot of good pictures.  I did post some of the ones that did come out though:Project Gotham Racing 4

Project Gotham Racing 4 (360):  At first, this game doesn’t look like a huge improvement over its predecessors.  Then again, they did a pretty good job with the graphics with PGR3, so there isn’t a whole lot of room to do much there (at least on the current hardware.)  Where they did improve, however, was in the sense of speed conveyed.  In a brief play session, PGR4 just seems to be faster than PGR3.  It is apparent that they are continuing to mess with the Kudos system though, and I’m not sure whether the result is going to improve or diminish the experience over previous games.  I also didn’t get a chance to try out motorcycles (even though they were present on the track I wasracing on.)  Given the relative lack of competition in the niche that the PGR games fill in between the hardcore sims (Forza 2) and the pure arcade stuff (the Burnout series,) I suspect that this will do pretty well.

More after the jump.

 Castle Crashers (XBLA):  This game was a hit last year at PAX, although at time time it was expected to be released by now.  I didn’t get a chance to play it last year because of the long line, but I did get some time to try it out this year.  What we have here is a pretty typical example of the beat-em-up genre, although the fact that such games have largely fallen by the wayside as of late makes it a welcome addition to XBLA.  The 4-player support doesn’t hurt either.  Still, I do have some concerns that there might be some game balance issues similar to those encountered by Alien Hominid.  Even if that is the case, this looks like the type of game to break out at a party when people get sick of whatever Halo game you happen to be playing.

 N+ (XBLA)

N+ (XBLA, DS, PSP):  Based off of a flash platformer which has been around for a while, N+ is mostly a moderate graphical overhaul of the original to bring it more in line with the current generation of consoles.  If you have played the Flash game (which can be downloaded above) you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.  The physics and unusual play mechanics are still intact though, making for a challenge that should keep people busy for a while.  You might consider sticking up on extra controllers and spackle before you buy this one though.  It can be a bit unforgiving, and more than a bit frustrating at times.

Geometry Wars Galaxies 

Geometry Wars Galaxies (Wii, DS):  This game is not so much a new game as it is an evolution of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.  In addition to the original game, there are also a number of new permutations on the formula found in the Galaxies mode.  Among the ones I tried were levels reminiscent of Asteroids (with large enemies splitting into smaller ones,) levels intended primarily to test dodging abilities within a small confined space, and a number of others.  In Galaxies Mode, you also have a drone which accompanies your ship, and can be used to perform a number of offensive and defensive functions (one at a time, selected at the beginning of a round.)  Unfortunately, the control scheme using the Wiimote doesn’t work quite as well as I would have liked (you use the nunchuck control to pilot the ship, and the Wiimote pointer to aim and fire, with the A button for bombs.)  Hopefully we’ll be able to use the Classic Controller as well .

 The Eye of Judgment(PS3)

The Eye of Judgment (PS3): Buried within the trainwreck of Sony’s 2006 E3 press conference was the introduction of The Eye of Judgment, the first game to use Sony’s new Playstation Eye.  The idea of combining card and video games is nothing new (see also: Pokemon) but this is the first time anyone has tried to make a literal combination of the two.  Surprisingly, the combination works pretty well, with the camera “reading” the cards that are placed on the board, as well as cards placed over monster cards to represent actions.  It’s an interesting concept, but I never have been ableto get into card games, and it’s going to take a lot more than what’s currently out there to convince me to pick up a PS3.  Still, it’s nice to see new ideas being tried out and actually working.

Homie Rollerz

Homie Rollerz (DS):  Sure, there were a lot of good games being shown at PAX, but it seems that some not-so-great stuff slipped in as well.  Granted, the DS (and the GBA before it) have something of a reputation as a haven for half-baked licensed crud, and this game isn’t doing much to help that image.  The graphics look like something out of a PS1 game, everything runs at about 5 frames per second, and the animations are even choppier than that.  The excuse that I’ve read elsewhere is that this was a pre-alpha build, but given the fact that this game is supposed to be hitting the shelves in November, I seriously doubt there’s going to be a whole lot of improvement between now and then.  I think I’m going to put the over/under on average review scores for this one somewhere in the 3.5 range.

Rock Band 

There were a number of other notable games there that I didn’t get a chance to try (Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Metroid Prime 3 at the Nintendo booth, and Rock Band over at the EA/Harmonix booth.)  Each of these attracted a significant line to try to them out, which I didn’t particularly have the patience for.  In addition to these, Mass Effect also made a brief appearance at Microsoft’s booth, but I didn’t get to see that either.  All in all, PAX seems to be a decent snapshot of what is on the way in the next few months leading to the Holiday season, and it looks like there might be more stuff that I was expecting originally.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to be any less finicky about what I end up buying though… 

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