Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mega Man 9 DLC Thoughts

The (presumably) last bit of Mega Man 9 DLC was released this week. Here's everything you should know before making a purchase:

Proto Man ($2): Proto Man can charge his shots, block shots with his shield, and slide. Sounds good, right? Well, maybe. There's a lot more to him than that. For instance, he can't visit the store and he takes double damage. Before spending the points on him, you should definitely consider his pros and cons, because for some gamers, the weaknesses may outweigh the strengths. For the sake of keeping this brief, here's a list of details about Proto Man I wrote for The Tanooki when he was released a few weeks ago.

Endless Attack Mode ($3): In Endless Attack Mode, you basically play until you die. To keep things interesting, the stage you play is brand new and randomized. That means you won't be playing in any of the stages you've already played in the main mode, and every time you play it's a different experience. This mode is definitely worth the money.

Special Stage ($1): The Special Stage is a new level for Time Attack mode, complete with a new boss. The stage is pretty challenging, and it reuses some of the bosses from the main game. It's about as tough as one of the Dr. Wily stages. The new boss is nice, but he's not particularly tough if you know your weapons and figure out his pattern. Still, the level itself is great and it's a steal at one dollar.

Hero Mode ($1): Hero Mode is a new difficulty setting, harder than the standard mode. The difficulty increase comes from new enemy placement and obstacles. This mode is a bit disappointing. If you've finished Mega Man 9 and are looking for more of a challenge, this may not be enough. I still managed to breeze through the Robot Masters stages. Of course, that's not to say it's not challenging. Mega Man 9 is pretty tough on its own, and Hero mode is even tougher. (I "breezed" through it because I've been playing the game since it was released and I had a pretty good idea of what to do.) It's just not much tougher than the standard mode. I guess that's why there's:

Super Hero Mode ($1): Argh. Alright, this isn't really fun any more. See, the challenge of Mega Man 9 is the fun kind of challenge, because as difficult as it is, it's never cheap. Well, Super Hero Mode is cheap. For example, there's one part in Galaxy Man's stage that WILL kill you if you're not insanely lucky or psychic. Right before the boss door there's an enemy that will grab you (because you won't know he's there). Your choices then are to either sit there and let him do his thing, ending up smashed against a wall of spikes, or jump over the wall of spikes and land in a pit. That's it. Those are your options. Death or death. Things like that will likely annoy a whole lot of people, but if you don't mind the frustration (and if you're a fan of Mega Man, you're probably ok with frustration), it might be worth a look. It's too bad there's no middle ground between Hero and Superhero modes, though.

Well, that about covers it. There doesn't seem to be any more DLC planned. All together, the game and DLC costs $18. I bought it all, so you don't have to!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Review: World of Goo

A week ago, World of Goo was released for PC and WiiWare. I will admit that I was just a little bit late to the party. I didn't have any Wii Points handy and I'm not much of a PC gamer. It wasn't until a few days later when a generously-sized demo was released that I paid any attention. 

World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game by indie developers 2D Boy. 2D Boy is basically a two-man team, which makes this game all the more interesting. They have proved that you don't need the budget and manpower of a small country's military to make an amazing game.

I can probably let you stop reading here with this statement. The PC has Portal, the Xbox 360 has Braid, and now the Wii has World of Goo. 

It's a very simple concept that's executed perfectly and constantly expanded upon so that it never gets stale. You can not be bored while playing World of Goo. Every level introduces some new twist or gameplay element. By the end of the game, it still feels like you've just started playing. When simplified, the basic premise of the game is to build a path from your party of goo balls to a pipe for them to escape through. You must get a specific number of balls from the beginning of the level to the pipe in order to clear it. That description doesn't do the game much justice, though. While that basic mechanic is addictive on its own, what really shines is the unique design of each level. There's always some previously-unseen trick or nuance, such as an explosive goo ball that can demolish walls, or a giant head you need to grind down into a pile of smaller balls to fit into the pipe.

The genius level design is complemented by a very unique atmosphere. The whole game feels like it could have been designed by Tim Burton, with its stylized 2D graphics and truly epic musical score. Every world is ended with a story-advancing cutscene that leaves the player with the feeling that the game is on a much, much larger scale than it actually is. While a sense of humour is certainly prevalent from beginning to end, I couldn't help but get chills whenever I watched certain scenes. 

That's not to say the the game is completely flawless, of course. For instance, there's one level where you have to navigate a giant goo head (like the one pictured above) across a line of goo being supported by balloons. I underestimated the weight of the head and it went plummeting into a pit. When I undid my last move, I saw the head flying across the pit, straight into its destination. I suppose little things like that are to be expected when so many gameplay mechanics are present in a game developed by two people.

I know some people will be put off by the $15 price tag (just like Braid) but I hope this game gets the attention and sales it deserves. 2D Boy has set a very high standard for indie developers on major platforms, including themselves. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what else this studio has coming, because their first effort is one of the best games I've ever played.