Tuesday, 16 February 2010

I'll write some original content soon....

But in the meantime, here's some stuff that I wrote for this issue of the Thames Valley Student mag.

As a little aside, I actually quite like the idea of collecting all my writings from other sources to go here. As well as padding out the blog for the one or two visitors that might want to read something by me, it also becomes a nice one stop shope for me to look back over in years to come.

Anyway, it's for the game portal column, so is about videogames. Download videogames... Because I'm poor.

As a student, managing your money can be tough. As a result it can be hard to keep up to date with the latest releases, each vying for fifty of your hard borrowed pounds. So what’s the best way to keep up? It’s not (as the introductory language of this column might suggest) a personal loan or new bank account. No, it’s the highly affordable world of downloadable games. This issue here are a couple of releases that are more than affordable and still offer hours in front of your favourite pile of PCB’s.

Super Stardust HD (PS3, £6.49)
It’s asteroids, it’s in 3D, damn it’s even in HD. What more is there to say?
Well actually quite a bit because I have a column to fill. Super Stardust HD is a delight in every way. It looks every bit as incredible as you would expect from a PS3 exclusive, with the colours so intense and the screen so busy it feels like your eyes may explode from the delight. As with every game though, what’s important is how it plays.
Piloting a tiny space ship in orbit around a planet, your job is to stay alive in amongst the reams of asteroids indifferent to your existence and a wealth of enemies biased against it. On the fifth phase of each planet a ‘boss’ will appear to take a more determined attempt at your extinction. It’s a fiendishly simple mechanism, and the competition that a well integrated online score table provides begs you to come back and play ‘just once more,’ until dawn is breaking outside the window and the attending the morning’s lecture becomes an impossible fantasy.
Also included in the full version are a number of diversionary single player modes and a lacking, but still enjoyable multiplayer death-match mode. While neat extras, they do feel like an appetiser to the main course, but that main course is a very tasty dish indeed.

Bit. Trip Beat (Wii, 600 points)
Remember that I suggested that SSHD would make your eyes explode with delight? Bit. Trip Beat will just make your eyes explode. A initially confusion juxtaposition of the paddle batting old-schoolism of Pong and the rhythmic and absorbing Rez, BTB requires a focus and determination unseen since the bygone days of Space Invaders and it’s ilk. As such it hurts.
            It’s worth persevering though. BTB serves up a dizzying array of little pixels for your arkanoid style bat to return to the ether, but each play seems to introduce a little more order to their initial apparent randomness. With each play you realise the disarming (but wonderful) old school chip-tune style music actually offers a timing window in the style of a rhythm action game.
            As you perform to a more and more accomplished level, the game rewards you with more intense visuals and a heavier soundtrack. This turns out to be a double edged sword as the busier the screen gets the harder it is to work out what needs batting back. In the same way, the game gets pared down as you perform badly, eventually leaving just the black-and-white shell of the game, which makes multiplayer confusing!
            Yes, there is a multiplayer co-operative mode which enables you to team up to take on the swarms. With more than two players, though, you are penalised with a shorter paddle each, making it harder to play as a large team than solo. Were the scope broader, and the control something other than the Wiimote this game would be perfect. Instead it has to settle for being just shy of that.

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