Thursday, September 30, 2010

End-of-September Roundup of Stuff I Like

I notice I've been quite negative here, lately, so in an effort to dispel the image of me as a grumpy old hag, waving my walking-stick at pigeons and talking about those "damn kids", I'm going to do a post of things I've found recently that I like.

See, the problem with things I like is that the critiques tend to be short.  Alan Wake is an exception, because there are a lot of layers to unfold.  So, unlike the things that make me angry (e.g. A History of Violence - no structure or story) or frustrated (StarCraft 2's characterisation), good things give me relatively little to say.

So here are some pictures.

iPhone : Jojo's Fashion Show 2

Luckily, I scored this via OpenFeint's Free App of the Day, but if I'd known how much I would enjoy it, I would gladly have paid the $3.99 pricetag.  I'm not at all fashion-conscious - I like what I like - but somehow this ticks all the right boxes, probably because it's like a formula for looking spectacular.  When I first started, I was a bit ashamed to be seen playing it, but soon I was actually looking forward to the bus ride home, so I could rack up points on beautiful Bollywood outfits, or make up crazy combinations for the Prom category.

There's a free version, which I highly recommend.  There are two 'map packs', as well, for $2.49 each, and I'm considering buying them, as I finished the game today.  There's actually a remarkably complex storyline, told in no more than two lines of dialogue between 'missions'.  I'm using quotes because I don't really know what to call them - there are catwalk shows, and there are photo shoots, but each mission advances the story.  I genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen with Jojo and Rosalind.  Great writing, to make me care with very little dialogue and no voice acting.  I could go into the mother-daughter dynamic, and the fact that I was winning my mother's approval by being who I was, rather than who I thought I should be, but to be honest, it's just a nice story, and I can appreciate it for that.

iPhone : Pocket Frogs

Oh dear.  All aboard the OCD train!  You can collect frogs, breed them, and - get this - make more frogs.  But there are different patterns, different colours, and you get different requests, to make a certain type of frog.  All of this would be fine on its own, but it also includes a 'feed me' mode, where you leap around a pond as the frog of your choice, eating dragonflies, finding presents and hunting down new frogs to 'make friends with'.  Strangely satisfying, though I imagine it would be more fun if I had other people to play and trade with.  

Anyone want to add me?  Oh, and did I mention it's free?

Advertised (to me, at least) by the same people who got me to grow imaginary flowers and send them via email in Flower Garden (Free version).

PC : Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

A super-cute indie Japanese title available on Steam, this has been a $19.99USD well-spent.  You play the role of Recette, a girl whose father ran away and left her with a debt to pay off.  You do this by selling items to adventurers in your shop, as well as paying adventurers to go into the dungeon to find items for you to sell. It's possible to play the game just from the economic standpoint, but it's infinitely more satisfying to get all that otherwise hard-earned stock for free.

I found it works best with an Xbox 360 PC controller, since the keyboard controls were too difficult for me to handle.  Nonetheless, I leave the fighting up to my boyfriend, then I rake in the cash on the days off.  It's a good system, and we both get to enjoy the aspect of the game that we find most interesting.

The dialogue is something to enjoy, too.  While they do talk a lot, much of it is entertaining, and with only short, non-situation-specific voice clips (in Japanese), you won't have too much trouble skipping ahead.  One to while away a Sunday afternoon.

PC : Aion

It's summer!  Well, at least until the 13th of October, it is.  Log in to earn a token of Scorching Heat every 20 minutes - many, many people camping and running macros, or just plain putting a rock on their spacebar, to stay logged in - and use them to buy a lottery box possibly containing a pretty item, or just some general, everyday kind of things that might be useful, but certainly aren't as pretty.

Anyone got a spare Beautiful/Cool Swimsuit they want to give me?  For free?  18,000,000 Kinah is just a bit too much.

And, of course, there's always this aspect of the game to enjoy.

Xbox 360 : Magna Carta 2

I've been watching the concept artist for Magna CartaHyung-tae Kim, for a good 3 or 4 years by now, never hoping that the games he worked on would make it to Australia.  Imagine my glee, then, when I saw Magna Carta 2 on the shelves.  His costume and character designs are really something else, in an excellent and unforgettable way.  I spent the majority of my time skipping dialogue, but the combat I was engaged in, the gathering I was able to do, and the different skills available to me, as well as the menu system, all make for an oddly engaging experience.  Two seconds in, I was hoping one of the characters died, and I got my wish, so at least it's keeping me happy in that regard.

Real-time squad fighting with autonomous squad mates (at least at this stage), and nice use of counter-attacks and combos.  I haven't really played a game like it before, so people more experienced in this genre may find it trite, but for me it's a breath of fresh air.

So that's it for the things I like that I can think of right now.  I tend to avoid these kind of reviews, because they're not particularly critical or useful, but hopefully I've recommended a few things to brighten your day.  Back to impotent rage tomorrow!

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