With recent talk of gaming slumps reverberating across the blogosphere, I read them and can totally relate, having to effectively abstain from any meaningful amount of gaming for the past few months and feeling my self-worth as a gamer shrivel.
So I tried to rack my brains for the antonym of ‘slump’ and the best I could come up with, with the help good-old Google, was ‘rise’. To me this conjures up images of well, rising: a return, upping the ante, stepping up to the plate etc. I think you get what I’m trying to say! I trully believe that this summer I will in fact be stepping up to the plate, and seeing what I’m made of, gaming wise. After an abence of months from the gaming world, my appetitie for gaming has not diminished, but altogether increased, becoming positively insatiable.
Welcome to the final article in my series on PlayStation Home. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve looked at different aspects of Home, but I’ve dodged answering what exactly Home is, and where it might be heading.
I’d like to share with you some memories of gaming days gone by, when times were simpler, and true 3D gaming was a novelty…
In the mid 90s, I’ll always remember finishing school on a Friday, and spending it with my mate. First, I’d go out with him and help him do his paper round, munching on some sweets we’d got at the newsagents. Later on we’d fire up the PlayStation (original) and play Gran Turismo- with a difference.
We weren’t gamblers by any stretch of the imagination, but we’d place ‘penny bets’ on each race which made things interesting. Every so often we would up the stakes by placing all or nothing bets on one race. In times like those, it felt like the world was on my shoulders- if I lost, I could end up losing as much as 50 pence! But I digress…
Ready, steady, go
For a young lad then, Gran Turismo was a slice of gaming heaven. You had gorgeous 3D graphics, with hundreds of cars rendered beautifully. And they were fast. That’s what mattered. But the Gran Turismo series heralded more than just racing, it brought out the whole ‘driving experience’. The music was perfect; it varied between being fast and satisfying, to having some haunting melodies. Just thinking about it is sending shivers down my spine.
They say the car’s the star, but the racing tracks were equally impressive. Each track became a thing of legend; Trial Mountain, Grand Valley Speedway, and Deep Forest Raceway to name a few. Sure, the AI was a bit unforgiving as they never made mistakes, just following their own perfect racing line flawlessly. Quite a strong constrast to AI behaviour in the games of today such as Race Rriver: GRID in which yes, your competitors can and do make mistakes.
Everyone will remember saving up and buying their first car. The patience required to hold off on any rash purchases, holding out for the high-end model that you really wanted. I would be doing Gran Turismo a disservice if I didn’t mention the detailed customisations you could make to your car: fitting turbos, racing chips, choosing the right tires and tweaking the suspension. This was to many people, including myself, a level of detailed never seen before in a racing game. But Gran Turismo was never just another racing game, was it? It was the real driving simulator.
So, do I think that Gran Turismo has aged well? Of course it has. It is a classic game that showed everyone just what a driving game could be. The series has gone from strength to strength, gathering new fans with each successive game. Whilst I do admit to prefering to sample the delights of Collin McRae: DiRT, and Race Driver: GRID for my driving fix these days, I will always look back on my gaming memories with Gran Turismo fondly.
Do you have any retro gaming memories that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your stories!
This is a guest post by Elle, who you may remember from the old City In The Clouds blog. She now blogs at elle87.wordpress.com
Foreword by Los Havros: As Patapon 2 will shortly be upon us, Elle is looking back to the first Patapon game that we all know and love. Whilst I’ve covered bits and pieces of Patapon in such articles as Getting to grips with Patapon and Patapon Revisited, I have never done a full review of the game (although I gave a basic rating of 9/10).
Patapon is a fiercely addictive rhytmatic game released by Sony. The game consists of your army of Patapons, fighting against the Zigoton army, after they drove them away from their homeland. But during this, their God “Almighty” disappeared, along with the drums that commanded them. Hatapon (the flag/banner) carrier was the only person who believed Almighty would return, so he picks up their banner and leads his tribe to fight the Zigotons.
The interesting twist to this game is you become their “Almighty” and each time you successfully complete a mission (which I will later talk about) they worship you. You must lead them back to their homeland, with the use of the power through your magic drums, following rhythmatic beats. Different songs lead to different movements which you unlock as you progress through the game:
Pon Pon Pata Pon – makes your army attack
Pata Pata Pata Pon – marches your army forward
Chakka Chakka Pata Pon – retreats your army
Don DonDon DonDon – lets a miracle be performed
Pon Pata Pon Pata – retreats your army
But Sony doesn’t make this game easy to begin with; you don’t have the luxury of all the drums at the start of the game, as they are scattered all over the Patapon world. With each new drum you discover on the missions you are given a tutorial of how to complete the song, and from henceforth you have the ability to use that drum. From then on, the songs are imprinted on your brain, and at times I have found myself singing the songs out loud just randomly!
Again, this is where people encounter problems. To use the drums, you have to keep in beat with the Pulse of the Earth, which for us Earthlings means keeping to a rhythmatic four beat count. Each of the PSP buttons corresponds to a certain beat; so X is Don, Square is Pata, Triangle is Chakka and O is Pon. So you beat out the drumbeat for the songs, and your Patapon army will repeat the song you did and conduct that movement, again in the four count beat, then you do the next song. If you complete a succession of ten songs in a row (less if you hit each note perfectly) you hit something known as “fever” and this is where your little Patapon army goes into a frenzy, enabling them to and move much faster and attack with greater fury.
It is very tiring, and so frustrating at times, as if you even miss just one beat, you lose fever, and must start again building it back up. This can be increasing exhausting, when trying to constantly maintain it, you definitely need dexterity. It is more frustrating when you are trying to fight the bosses (which are basically creatures you must fight in order to move the game on to the next mission.) The bosses consist of either dragons at first, moving on to snakes, crabs.
As you are “Almighty” you should be able to perform miracles, and what do you know in this game you can. Whether you are in the desert and its burning your army, you should perform the rain miracle (get into fever, use the Don song and follow the on screen beats to perform the miracle) and it rains and saves your army.
Parapon in action
Within your army, over the course of all the missions you need to complete, you will collect six different kinds of Patapon. Tatepon are strong warriors, who are usually are at the front of your army, who use little axes. Next are Yaripons who attack with spears and Yumipons who attack with bows. Kibapons are fighters who are on horseback. Dekapon are large obese fighters that use hammers, and lastly is Megapons who are literally creatures that fire sound waves at their enemy to shock and cause them to sleep.
This is where one of my annoyance of the game comes in, your army can ONLY consist of three different types at any one time, limiting the strength of your army at times, but still forces you to use tactical thinking, especially in the latter part of the game. An example being when fighting one of the crab, it rears its pincers, which second later will attack your troops, while it hesitates, this is the time you take to retreat backwards; each boss has its own unique attack plans, and by memorizing this you can try and outsmart the boss and in doing so defeat it. As you get into the game, you will learn to understand what the different specialities each unit has, and therefore what units would be best on a certain mission.
During missions, you can acquire different items which your enemy/animals have dropped, either in the form of Ka-Ching (which is money in the Patapon world) which you can use at the Tree of Life to purchase Rareapons (these are Patapons but using different acquired items, can lead to more strengthened, better soldiers), or resurrect the soldiers which died during battle. The second, and more important one, are items which are dropped, from defeating your enemies. These can range from, wood, meat and metals.
A further annoying, very important problem is the fact this game doesn’t contain a pause feature, meaning you have to stay committed for the entire mission, and if fighting bosses can take up to 15 minutes. At home I always get called away to do errands when I fought the bosses, and then you come back and find your army is dead and you have to start the mission AGAIN from the beginning. My rage is uncontrollable at this point, as well as wanting to throw my PSP out of the window. Maybe I have rage problems?!
The next problem comes from your inability to buy items/equipment you may need to strengthen your troops, forcing you to then having to go on a hunting mission, wasting precious gaming time. You can trade, but in order to do that you need to play one of the mini games, but these don’t provide equipment.
After the first couple of missions, you will encounter the fourth problem of this game. Even though you have a scroll feature map, once a mission has been completed (except boss or hunting missions) become extinct from the map, meaning you can’t go back and do that mission. Which is a shame at times, as despite the odd couple of missions (Desert Crossing and Gong Fights Back), there are some missions I wouldn’t mind completing again.
You can go back and replay the boss missions, and every repeated level increases with difficulty every time you have a successful mission. This means as you reach more advanced levels of the boss, you will need to make changes to your army, by strengthening them with Ka-Ching and items which you have found. Hunting levels don’t increase in difficulty every time you complete them, which is one of the few good factors, when you need some quick Ka-Ching and items.
The mini games are unlocked when you complete certain missions successfully, and these are further ways to gain extra resources you may need for your army. The most important mini games I think are that of watering the flower, to get vegetables, which in turn can be used for the cooking pot mini game. The cooking pot mini game is very important in the latter stages, or fighting high levels of the bosses. This game, if you complete it successfully (involves you using the O button to chop the food in half) leads to you producing a stew. Depending on how good you are in the game, depends on the type of stew you get. These stews increase your Patapon strength, especially in fever.
Despite all the negatives I have pointed out, which I think could easily be corrected on the upcoming sequel Patapon 2, the Patapon game is a unique addictive game that is currently out on the market. Like LocoRoco, one of the games focus is that of using catching simple music, which changes according to what mission you are trying to complete. You simply can’t help either tapping your foot/head to the beat, to try and keep in time. Once you have put this game, you secretly look forward to the next time you pick the game back up, to see what might be in store for your Patapon journey.
I’ve finally completed the story of Assassin’s Creed, even though I’ve had the game since Christmas. However, I can tell you that it is not easy trying to complete a game when you only return home about once a month, and have studies to attend to. I only completed Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune itself about a week ago.
Yet what I want to explore is the issue of using walkthroughs, and to what degree. In recent memory, I have only used walkthroughs very rarely. Generally I’ll only turn to a walkthrough to get past a bit in a game which has actually stopped me progressing any further. After I get past a tricky bit, I’ll then discard the walkthrough and continue to enjoy the game at my own pace, and deal with the challenges ahead myself. I’m sure that most people would agree with me in this respect.
However, a much more controversial use of the walkthrough in my opinion is finding all certain extras in order to complete the game “100%”. In Uncharted, there’s 60 treasures to find and I admit that I have used a walkthrough to find a few after completing the main game the first time round. The way I view Uncharted is that the levels are linear, and that entails being able to enjoy the story and gameplay once more, whilst being able to grab the extra treasures. If you’ve missed a treasure in Uncharted you’ll have to start that particular chapter again. However Assassin’s Creed is more of an open, free-roaming world in which you can go back to any city and look around for flags or Templars for as long as you want. I am therefore more reluctant to use a walkthrough in this case. I find a particular thrill in finding a Templar, hidden in a remote place and adding him to my tally.
That brings me to the case in point, as I see it: such items, be they flags, treasures, coins etc- are put there by the developers for the skilled or explorative gamer. Not for a lazy gamer to simply collect by reading a walkthrough, else why bother? I’m intrigued to hear any other voices or viewpoints on this matter.