I played two pretty awesome video games on PS2 this weekend.
I took a significant amount of Friday and played God of War. It’s a third-person game where you play a Spartan warrior out to kill Ares, the God of War.
The thing about this game is that it’s so visually cool. I mean, your character’s moves are cool, the enemies are cool… it’s like being part of a very slick interactive movie. It’s as fun to watch as it is to play.
I’m not the best game player in the world. I don’t have the mental capacity to remember the 47 button combo attack that you have to execute three perfect times in succession to kill this particular boss. I also will never figure out that you have to pick up the helmet from the dead guard three levels back and throw it into the reflecting pool in order to unlock a new weapon. If the battle system is too complex or the puzzles don’t make any logical sense, I’m screwed.
Luckily, none of that’s a problem here. The puzzles, thus far, are actually reasonably cool. You feel like you solved something neat when you figure out what you’re supposed to do. And the enemies? I’m playing on “normal” difficulty, and usually that means I’m hosed. Not so, here - I might have to give it a couple of tries, but I’m able to kill even the biggest bosses without having to know some crazy combo or memorize queued up maneuver sets. (Granted, there are some combos, and knowing those does help you defeat the enemies quicker. But if you want to brute-force your way through, you can, and they don’t penalize you for that like most games do.)
I think what I really like about the game is that after you solve a puzzle or defeat a large bad guy, you really do have a pretty decent sense of accomplishment. You come out happy that you won and ready to move on to the next challenge.
The only real issue I have is the lack of camera control. You sometimes can’t see where you’re going because of bad camera angles, and that’s kind of a bummer. That said, for a fixed camera, I’ve seen way worse, so I can’t dock it too much for that.
The save points are spread out quite a bit, too, which means you have to play for a long time in order to get from one save point to the next. That’s tough with a busy schedule, which means I may not be able to play as much as I’d like.
I like the Mortal Kombat series, though I’m not nearly as avid a fan as Stu is. Plus, they did get a lot into that “gotta remember the bajillion key combo” thing that I was mentioning I hate earlier, so I switched to the Soul Calibur series where the combos made more sense to me and you could still possibly win with a good run of button mashing.
Shaolin Monks adds a cooperative story mode where you and a friend can run around in Outworld, beat up bad guys, and solve puzzles together in an effort to defeat the evil Shang Tsung. As you do that, you gain experience that you can use to buy new combos and moves. (The excuse for the purchasing system is that you are slowly “stealing Shang Tsung’s power” and becoming better warriors by doing so. Um, okay.)
The puzzles on this one are a little less clear, but you get no less sense of accomplishment by solving them. The fact that you have to work together makes it even cooler - in some cases, there’s no way that one player alone could make their way through the puzzle.
The enemies are difficult, but the fighting is pretty simple to figure out and ends up looking cool quite a bit. Again, a good round of button mashing can get you through, but if you know the combos, you can defeat enemies in a much more efficient manner.
Three complaints on this one.
First, because it’s not split-screen, there are some weird camera issues. If you don’t stay in pretty close proximity to each other, the camera zooms waaaaaay out on you or you will “disappear” and reappear centered on the screen. The disappear/reappear thing makes it difficult sometimes to move to new areas together because you have to move in concert.
Second, when there are lots of enemies on the screen it becomes really hard to tell where you are. There are lots of times when I thought I was kicking serious ass only to find I was looking at the wrong side of the screen.
Finally, the save points are, again, pretty far apart. We ended up at one point having to just leave the game on pause for an hour while we went out to the store. Lame, people.
An interesting tip for folks playing Shaolin Monks: As mentioned, in order to buy new moves, you have to accumulate experience. The more combo hits you make, the more experience you get. Each new move costs between 1000 and 10,000 experience points to buy. Shaolin Monks adds a new “Ko-op Kombo” where if you and the other player are both hitting the same guy, you both get experience based on the total number of hits.
On the “Living Forest” level, you fight some clay soldiers. The soldiers have shields that make them impossible to hit unless you break them with your “powerful attack” - a “quick attack” has no effect… but it does count toward your combo. Push one of these clay soldiers into a corner and have both players wail on him - with no effect - using the “quick attack.” The Ko-op Kombo meter goes up, up, up, and for every, like, 10 total combo hits, you get more experience points. We got the Ko-op Kombo meter up to over 1000 hits (which gives you around 5000 experience every 10 hits) and ended a five-minute ridiculous beat-up session on one guy with over 275,000 experience points, at which point we both bought every single available move to us and still had over 200,000 points left over. Makes the game so you don’t have to worry about whether you get the fatality or not; you don’t need those piddly 500 experience points anymore.
I have a difficult time ponying up $50 for a new game without having played it before, and renting games costs like $7.50 each, after which, if you like it, you still have to come up with $50 to buy the thing.
For those in my boat, check out GameFly - it’s like NetFlix, but for games, and you can buy their used games for cheap, cheap, cheap. I bought my copy of God of War from them for $28 - with free shipping - and the cheapest I can find it used is $40 right now. And I’m not even a GameFly member! If you are a member, you can rent the game using your membership and they have a “Keep It” price which is significantly less than the cost of the game new (usually by about $10 at least). For the avid gamer, definitely something to look at.
That is, hands down, the best movie I’ve seen all year.
If you want to get cliche about it, Serenity is the story of a group of ragtag rebel smugglers who do their best to stick it to the man and barely scrape by on usually illegal jobs. The crew has a particular member on board, though, who is pursued by the government, so the crew has to always stay one step ahead of the law.
But that’s so cliche, and it doesn’t remotely do the film justice.
Serenity is the film continuation of the [very unfortunately] canceled television series Firefly. You don’t have to have watched the show in order to love this movie, though - the movie carries itself, and while it has a few special rewards for the watchers of the show, folks who haven’t seen it will still get it… and maybe even a desire to see the rest of the story by picking up the DVDs.
The style of the show (and the movie) is sort of a “Western in space.” When I say that, you’re going to think of something like Star Trek or what-have-you, and that’s not entirely accurate. Think more Western - like, with horses and such. Yeah, that sounds really weird, doesn’t it? It works perfectly, though - a lot better than you’d anticipate - and it fits in with the way the universe is laid out (where the interior planets in the system are highly populous and built up, but the planets in the outer rim are still being settled, so they don’t have as much technology and so forth).
The film has the perfect mix of action, humor, and emotion, making you totally care about the characters and their adventures, which is well more than I can say about most movies. There are happy moments, there are sad moments, there are funny moments, and there are moments where you just think, “Wow, that was so cool.” The funny stuff had the entire theater laughing out loud, which not only made it more fun (because the group was into it), but it also showed that humor can be successfully pulled off in a sci-fi or action film without having to resort to terrible one-liners. (Not to say that there aren’t some one-liners, just that they’re able to pull it off in this movie.)
I’m reluctant to give too much more than that lest I spoil the plot and the surprises. Suffice to say the cast did a fantastic job, the effects were spectacular, and Joss Whedon not only did his standard fantastic writing job but also proved he can direct. I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel, and rumor has it that if Serenity does well, we may even see that sequel.
It was second in the box office this weekend, which is unfortunate - I’d have liked to have seen it #1. But #2 isn’t bad, and hopefully this will send some sort of message to the powers that be that people do care about good story and characters, even if the ‘verse is a little eclectic. Go out and see this - it’s worth the big screen money - and when it comes out on DVD, get a copy for yourself and one for a friend. It’s that good.
After more toil and trouble than I care to recount, my Willy Wonka costume is complete. The last piece I had to finish making was the vest, and now that’s done the costume proper is done.
Let’s see the costume tally, shall we?
Hat: $14.99 Ribbon for hat band: $3.98 Cane supplies: $70.97 TV Goggles: $14.99 Shirt pattern (estimated): $8.00 Shirt material, findings, etc. (estimated): $30.00 Vest pattern (estimated): $8.00 Vest material, findings, etc. (estimated): $25.00 Chain and findings: $11.97 Pants: Free (had some) Shoes: Free (had some) Wig cap: $2.99 Wig: $7.99 Coat: $65.00 + $9.00 shipping TOTAL: $272.88
Wow. That’s a little more than I was planning on spending, but it looks awesome. Plus, it was fun to put together and kept me busy in a creative fashion, so that counts for something, doesn’t it?
I don’t want the final look getting out quite yet, so I’ll post pictures on or after Halloween. I think it looks pretty good, though, and Jenn says so, too.