Welcome to the new home of my Game Diary. No need for much explanation. You all know how I got here, don’t you?
I spent the past weekend beginning my week-long vacation tackle of leftover games. Some Diary readers said that the list wasn’t pretty. But so far I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
On Saturday, I tried “Excitebots.” The game hadn’t been on my vacation-game list, but I’d wanted to play it most of last week. I had been tickled by it at GDC — an odd choice of verbs, I know, but how else to describe the effect of a game that seems designed purely to keep you laughing? The review takeaway is true in that the game feels a lot like “ExciteTruck,” for good or ill. It’s a racing game with huge jumps that, if made in the wrong angle, send you into close invisible walls. It’s a racing game with Wii-standard graphics, which is a disappointment in and of itself. But it is fun: a constant goof of a game that charges players to use a transforming frog-car-robot to race, air-spin, kick soccer balls into track-side goals and other silliness.
The maddest “Excitebots” mode might be the Poker Race side challenge, which requires the player to do much of the above while also driving through their choice of a cards in several track-blocking rows of cards. Imagine holding a hand that is one card shourt of a flush. Spot that row of cards in the middle of the road? See that eight of hearts that would complete the flush? Drive into it to finish the hand. Press a button to call the hand. Win your points and — oh yeah — keep racing as you play more poker.
I enjoy nuttiness, but I don’t need a lot of it. So “Excitebots” didn’t hold my interest for long. I’m not much of a racing game fan anyway, which made it easy to bail.
My racing game tastes have changed since I imported the Japan-only Game Boy Advance game “Dotstream” a few years ago. The game stripped most of the visual complexity of racing games, making “Pole Position” seem over-developed. The game just has dots racing in lines from left to right, allowing for a little bit of steering. That’s it. And, since I played it, I’ve felt like no new racing games added anything that could make me prefer them to the distillation that is “Dotstream.”
(My enjoyment of “Burnout Paradise” doesn’t violate my post-”Dotstream” dismissal of the racing genre. I still see it as a crashing game, an exploration game and as an asynchronous competitive game than I see it as yet another car-vs-car-on-the-same-track racing experience.)
On Sunday, I finished “Mushroom Men,” which like a who lot of Wii games I’ve played lately isn’t bad at all. It’s a solid little platform/adventure game with superb fungal character design, an interesting world and mediocre controls. There are many bizarre and interesting moments in it and a great weapon system that has the lead character collecting small household objects like tweezers and paperclips to craft them into weapons. Some of this game is so bizarre, though, that I can’t share the details for free. I think I found material for one of my first Kotaku posts in this game.
The third Wii game I played and put aside is “Order Up!,” the cooking and restaurant management game I’ve praised a few times before in this diary. It’s got the basic gesture cooking mechanics you expect from the genre, the time pressure of preparing multiple recipes while customers wait, and the strategy of improving one’s restaurant menu, equipment and support staff in the interest of earning a four-star rating. Once that rating is achieved, a food critic arrives. The player has to cook well for him. Success produces a five-star rating. I like the game, but, unlike “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band,” it suffers from not having a very fun core mechanic. Casual, streamlined game design is cool, but a whole lot of repetition of some repetitious chopping, grilling and frying motions wears thin.
Next: I’m off to play more “F.E.A.R. 2” and wondering … should I still put these game titles in quotes? Or is that another part of MTV to leave behind?