Combat in Final Fantasy XIII is pretty simplistic. Characters get many of the same abilities so there’s not a lot to differentiate them in terms of mechanics. Every class (or rather, Paradigm) learns the same moves in the same order, and the “auto battle” option during combat ensures that I never have to think too much about what I’m doing. Despite this focus on simplicity, after about 20 hours I encountered a sequence where characterization and these combat mechanics came together in a way rarely seen in games, let alone any RPG.
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When I was young, I was obsessed with what my parents called, “those chit games,” strategy games with hundreds, sometimes thousands of little quarter-inch cardboard squares that represented military units. Some of the more user-friendly games might have a picture of a knight or a tank in silhouette on them, but most of the ones that I was most intrigued by just had simple symbols used by real military types: an oval for armor units, an “x” for infantry. OR was that cavalry? The most complicated ones, like the massive World War 2 wargames from the Europa line had thousands of pieces with scores of arcane symbols on them.
The simplicity of these symbols conjured up immense battles in my imagination, with a single piece of cardboard signifying an entire armored division of Panzers ready to roll into Russia. And when you got two thousand of them all together on one eight foot long map, that looked like one helluva war. I should note here that it took my friends and I a whole day to set up Scorched Earth, a half day to play the first turn, and ten minutes to decide that we’d never finish. Oh, and another ten minutes to scoop all the pieces into the box. I did however successfully play some of the smaller Europa games (with only several hundred pieces per side) on multiple occasions and enjoyed them a great deal. The point was, whether recreating the invasion of Russia or Greece, those little chits really created the illusion that they had something to do with war.
“Do you have Angry Birds?” Within days of getting my new HTC Desire smartphone, this question had become a frequent irritation. My phone’s superficial resemblance to an iPhone gave that phone’s users a feeling of kinship with me, leading them to assume that the ornithological puzzler was available on my handset, too. Apparently Angry Birds is being ported to Google’s Android operating system as I type, but in the meantime, I’ve felt that I needed to investigate Android’s own gaming possibilities as they stand. Surely the platform has its own killer app?
Mafia II features a lot of nudes. 51 of them to be exact. I know this because the game features 50 collectible Playboy centerfolds that can be viewed (after collection in game) in the main menu. There is also one nude in the in game sequences themselves.
The inclusion of 1950s Playmates apparently is intended to add an air of authenticity to the period in which the game takes place and to the seaminess of the mob lifestyle of the game’s protagonist. While the Playmates presence in the game are actually anachronistic if the game were set in a historical United States (since the game’s main action takes place in 1943 and 1951, years prior to the release of Hefner’s magazine in actual history), assumedly the fictional city of Empire Bay resides in an equally fictional alternate timeline of United States history, in which Playboy emerged on the American scene about a decade early. The authenticity of these nudes is probably derived more from their more demure quality (something that most players would associate with pornography of a period perceived to be more prudish than the current one) than an adherence to real historicity.
In that regard, the nudes featured here are certainly more buttoned up than what one might expect to encounter when performing a Google image search with SafeSearch disabled in 2010. None of these images feature full frontal nudity (as no Playboy pictorial did prior to the 1970s). Many of them feature women merely in sheer clothing or often feature a bare bottom rather than bare breasts and are generally less raunchy than contemporary pornography. Nevertheless, the game makes it abundantly clear that these nudes are here to be viewed.
N+, like its free to play flash predecessor N, is a simple but elegant platformer. The purpose of the game is to get to the exit while collecting as much gold in the room as you like. Obstacles include mines, laser turrets, and heat seeking missiles which make escape more complicated. The ninja is a good abstract avatar that anyone can project on to, and all of your abilities will be familiar to anyone who has played a 2-D platformer. What’s impressive about the game is how much playtime it extracts, given that it is a game in which all you can really do is jump. It instead relies on only a handful of obstacles and shifting goals to make a game that you always want to play just one more time. For the purposes of this post, I played N+ on the DS, which unfortunately means I’m just discussing the levels included with the game in single player mode. They took the servers down a while back for DS owners.
The game is fast paced and you can easily die a dozen times per level. Difficulty is a uniquely layered system because the game challenges you in three ways. The first is the challenge that evry player must complete: get to the exit. The second is for OCD players who want to collect every gold piece on the level. The third is the clock, which keeps tabs on how quickly you can beat the level and will kill you if it runs out. Off the top of my head, I’d say the first 30 levels (there are 156 by my count) were easy in terms of completing all three goals. The next 30 made collecting all of the gold pieces a bit trickier. After 30 or so levels like that, getting to the exit is tougher. The final levels eventually introduce the clock itself as a barrier. These are levels in which you are hauling ass just to open a gate and get out. After extended play, you can usually spot which of the three challenges that a level is focusing on trying to engage you with. For example, maybe the exit will only require a little careful footwork and hiding behind cover, but the gold is right next to the laser turrets. Or the gold is generally all along your path to the exit, but there are dozens of robots blocking the exit. Or you just have one minute to win. The more challenging levels can take a lot of practice to beat because often you have to figure out the precise sequence of jumps and wall slides needed to win. It’s not unheard of to practice the tougher levels for an hour or two individually before beating them.
// Moving Pixels
"We continue our discussion of the early episodes of Kentucky Route Zero by focusing on its third act.READ the article