One of my favorite parts of the old 1UP Yours shows (and subsequently my favorite part of any other shows I end up guesting on) are the “Whatcha been playing?” segments. Belaboring under the false impression that any of you actually give a crap about what I’m playing at the moment, I thought I would occasionally revive the concept here. This is hopelessly self-serving in several ways. 1) It makes me feel important and somehow entitled to tell you what I think is worth checking out or not, and 2) it gives me a templated approach to this blog that lets me get super-lazy and just default to something without having to give it too much thought when I can’t think of anything else to write.
I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it to quite the extent that I have, but I am totally and utterly hooked. For $2.99 you get a wonderful game with tons of replay value that’s optimized for both the iPad and Retina display on iPhone 4. If you’ve not had the chance to check it out, you really should. Imagine the fundamentals of MMO-style combat, with a touch-interface, and visuals as cute and kooky as Castle Crashers. Each battle is a single-screen affair, and you control four characters (from a much larger selection) that fall into the basic categories that you find in RPGs. There are magic users, healers, tanks, etc. The whole thing is just the best parts of grinding in short, digestible battles with cute graphics. There’s no story, and no dialogue, but it has tons and tons of charm.
Yes, still. I really, really didn’t think I was going to like it. And for the first few hours I’d sort of already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to enjoy it, but it won me over. Yes, the dialogue is utterly, utterly stupid (“I will kill your dicks!” Really? What does that even mean?) and it’s rather more violent than I typically like, but it just has a special something that shows the people behind it were really thinking about making it fun. It’s really well paced, the set pieces are spectacular, but not too showy, and the attention to player-motivation through emergent challenges is really admirable. Whether you’re riding a train while trying to avoid a giant rolling wheel of death, or destroying bad guys with a life-size radio-controlled T-Rex, it keeps things imaginative and interesting all the way through.
Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4
While we wait for Lego Star Wars III The Clone Wars in a couple of weeks, the boys and I have been working our way through Lego Harry Potter, and I have to say it’s absolutely the best game from TT yet. They’ve taken all the best gameplay mechanics and co-op optimized stuff from the Star Wars and Indy games, and put them to great use here. Because my kids refuse to play co-op games together and instead insist that I play with each of them, I’ve now played through all four “years” of this twice, and it wasn’t nearly the chore that some of the other games in the series were. The combat is fun, the puzzles are imaginative, and it manages to blend elements from both the books and movies very effectively. It’s testament to the game’s design that both boys still want to play, even after they’re done with the bulk of the story. I’m sure they’ll move on once Clone Wars hits though.