The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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This weeks entry is The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) for the Xbox. Despite hearing glowing things and being a huge Tolkien fan, I somehow never played this game or its sequel when they were released. Thankfully, these two have become incredibly cheap (I paid $3 for my copy) and since they sold like crazy, very easy to find.

The game starts with no menu – just the opening sequence of The Fellowship of the Ring (there was no game for that movie made). Then, when the elves and men charge the orc army, you are instantly placed into the game. This opening sequence acts as the tutorial, and the transition is seamless. I was surprised by this in a good way. Sure the graphics are a bit dated compared to today’s standards – but at the time of this writing they are 14 years old so it’s understandable.

 

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The gameplay is a fairly standard hack and slash brawler. You have 2 attack moves (quick and strong respectively) as well as a parry to deflect enemy attacks. I will say my main gripe with the game is that every attack has a set duration – if you press the button for a strong swing you have to wait the 2 seconds or so for it to finish. There is no canceling out of an attack that I saw. Ranged attacks suffer worse for this as they are multi step (trigger to prepare attack, then quick attack to throw the weapon).

Once you pass the tutorial and intro mission, a map opens up for you to select your next mission. This screen allows you to select your hero as well – Aragorn, Gimli, or Legolas. I used Gimli for the second mission in the mines of Moria and he played quite a bit differently than Aragorn. Each character gains experience and can use it on perks and each have their own unique attacks. This adds a lot more depth than I expected, since you can replay past missions. Speaking of missions, there are 12 in the game. They don’t take too long to finish so I imagine this game would take well under 10 hours to finish.

The music is taken right from the movie, so it is of course excellent.

Overall, I enjoyed my time and can see going back again.

Verdict: Revisit – this is great fun and the tie-in to the movie works very well.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb

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X-Men: Legends

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X-Men: Legends (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is the next game up for evaluation. I played the Playstation 2 version.

I should start this by saying that I’m an X-Men fan. I loved the kid’s cartoon series in the 90s, I loved the comics that I read in the late 90s/early 2000s, and I love the movie (even though some entries are admittedly flawed). That being said, and my biases being aired, I really liked this game. It takes a lot of what I love from the X-Men franchise – mainly, interesting characters – and adds a lot of fan service to it. Then, it mixes that with hack and slash RPG mechanics and loot that I love from series like¬†Diablo. There are 15 playable X-Men in this game, which is way more than I expected. You start with Wolverine and after a short tutorial mission get a team of 4 characters that you can swap at the beginning or mid mission. Each character levels up individually and allows you to assign stat points and skill points – or you can just hit auto assign and have the game do it for you.

I imagine this is a fantastic co-op game as it supports up to 4 players with the multitap.

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The graphics are cel shaded in style, which I feel works great. The menus are shockingly crisp and clear considering I’m playing this on a 1080p TV. The music is good, and it doesn’t get in the way of the action. I have two minor complaints with the game. One, the voice acting can be hit and miss and during the tutorial some lines from Wolverine that were right next to each other were either recorded by a different actor or he phoned in some of them (literally, there is a lot of static). Number two is that the stat point/skill point menu takes some time to load.

Overall, I had a great time playing this game – I can’t believe I never touched it when it was new. I actually ended up playing for close to two hours, well over my stated 1 hour evaluation period.

Verdict: Play again! This is a great game, and plays really well on the PS2.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb.

 

 

American Gladiators

American Gladiators (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a licensed game based on the popular TV show of the same name. American Gladiators was published on several platforms including the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, NES, and Amiga – I played the NES version which is missing the ‘Atlasphere’ level that is in the other versions according to the Giant Bomb wiki.

American Gladiators consists of 5 events and then a final level. The 5 events are: Assault, Human Cannonball, The Wall, Powerball, and Joust. I was able to finish all events except The Wall, where you are forced to mash the A and B button as well as the D-Pad to climb as fast as possible. It was just too difficult for me to get used to the controls. As for the other events, they were decent enough (my favorite being Assault), but none of them would keep anyone entertained for more than a few minutes.

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The graphics were fine for the era (this released in 1991), but the music and sound were quite bad. There were some acceptable music tracks, but the main theme is dreadful.

Verdict: Back on the shelf. Since I played this game almost to its entirety in just 30 minutes, I doubt I’ll go back to it.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb

Phantom Dust

The first game I’m playing is the Xbox exclusive Phantom Dust (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia).

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Phantom Dust is a game where you run around an arena and use magic abilities that you pick up to defeat your opponents. These abilities appear as floating orbs and when you pick them up you need to select a face button to map them to – and this is one of the big things that stood out to me. The controls in this, while relatively easy to get used to, are completely different than any other game I’ve played. The analog sticks control movement and the camera as you would expect, but the triggers handle engaging a lock on to your opponents as well as switching between them. The face buttons, as mentioned above, work as abilities that get mapped as you pick them up. Like I said, strange to get used to but I was starting to get a feel for it after an hour so I’m sure that with time it becomes intuitive.

Another thing that really stuck out to me is how good this game looks – it’s an original Xbox game and it looks incredible for that system. I guess I’m just used to my Playstation 2, but wow these graphics are nice for their time period.

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The story in this game is much too long for this summary, but there was a good long cinematic in the intro that explained the world, and all the characters I ran across were voiced competently. The game has a very cyber distopian future about it and was clearly influenced by The Matrix.

Phantom Dust according to various sites, also has some sort of card collecting mechanic, but I did not run across it during my brief time with the game.

There is a multiplayer aspect to this game, but with Microsoft’s shut down of the original Xbox Live service, it is sadly not usable.

Verdict: Revisit – this game was pretty fun once I got used to the controls, I’ll be sure to pick it up again.

First Post

 

The purpose of this blog is to give me a reason to play¬† at least 52 games in my backlog. I have a moderately sized gaming collection, and have limited time to play said games. My goal is to play each game for an hour or two and write a brief summary of what I thought – first impressions really. I’ll also make a note of what games are worthy of going back to and what games will go back on the shelf permanently.

I may also do some other entries as time and interest allow, including reviews of games that I finish throughout the course of the year.