April Showers Bring… a Season of Demos through Summer!

Hey, let’s keep this movin’! Here’s some scattershot impressions of demos and trials I played from April up through just this past week! I may yet follow this up with a little iPad game roundup, but no promises. Let’s go!

Way of the Samurai 3 (Xbox 360)
I was working my way through Deadly Premonition when Katy started this game on the other Xbox. Listening in and peeking on her progress it didn’t look promising, especially as I was already enduring an unrepentantly Japanese game of my own. So I was surprised at how much fun I was having when I finally started a game of my own: groveling to apologize for bumping into a superior, running bizarre errands for townsfolk, flipping my sword to blunt-beat half-naked fools. I’m all for Japanese developers rediscovering themselves in this age of Western-led gaming but there’s still a time and place for their classic style and inexplicable Japanese-y-ness. If games like Way of the Samurai 3 ever go extinct I’ll be a sad, sad gamer. I really want to get back to this one day.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
I was excited to finally dive into this game with Katy but after about an hour she’d resigned her Wii Remote and I was overwhelmed with this feeling of deja vu. As much as I begged for a new 2D Mario game my appetite is apparently still satiated from New Super Mario Bros. on the DS. I unceremoniously packed it up after about 90 minutes and shipped it back. I’m also sick of the Wii’s terrible visuals and tacked-on shake-shake-shake gimmicks. That probably didn’t help its cause either.

Ninety-Nine Nights II (Xbox 360)
Koei’s asian-persuasion brawlers have made me appreciate the finer points of big battlefields filled with stupid A.I. sword fodder but I’ve always wanted it to be a little flashier. The illogically acronym’d N3II fills that combo meal order nicely with more button commands than Dynasty Warriors, slicker visuals and big monsters. I couldn’t really figure out how to beat the big beastie in the demo but I enjoyed impaling a guy on my stupid-sized sword and swinging it at his compadres until everyone exploded in a fog of blood. That said, I probably won’t ever play this game until the industry crashes again and I have several years to work through all the other, better, games I never played.

Skate 3 (Xbox 360)
Wow, I thought Skate was the skateboarding series that looked good! This demo managed to make me care even less about Skate than I did before and it broke my heart a little when I hit a jump and remarked “I only go that high?”. I’m a Tony Hawk guy at heart and if I’m gonna skate around in a game I’d like it to be as fantastical as possible a la ESPN Extreme Games, Tony Hawk, Go!Go! Hypergrind or Yanya Caballista. Also, Jason Lee, what are you doing in this game!?

You really put THIS in your game on purpose?

Planet Minigolf (PlayStation Network)
Be it in reality or digital form, there’s just something I find soothing, nostalgic, and fun about navigating kitschy courses and it has me on a perpetual hunt for the next great minigolf game. This one is of the 3D persuasion and incorporates just about every play style you’ve seen in golf games of the past. The default scheme uses the right analog stick to control power of both the back and forward swing. It is not intuitive but I stuck with it and found it both reliable and challenging. The demo lets you play a handful of courses which all look fantastic and even mess with a few power-ups and trick shots. You can also decorate a single character with some unlocked accessories but my best efforts didn’t look much better than an avatar from PlayStation Home. The rest of the five-member cast is a little off-putting with a small asian child, a borderline offensive black muscle guy and the overly oversexed, epic-breasted cheerleader teen. It’s a cringe-inducing crew and it kind of ruined the game for me. I’d have preferred a bland phantom putter to this immature and unnecessary eye rot. Still, it seems a fun game of minigolf, offers loads of leaderboard challenges and even has a course editor on top of its built-in 144 holes. Definitely holding out for a sale though.

LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 (Xbox 360)
My excitement for Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO games lasted exactly one-and-a-half releases. By midway through LEGO Star Wars II I was burned out on excessive deaths and restarts and all the bajillion shiny, OCD-inducing collectibles. Studs, golden pieces, hidden characters, interchangeable parts; it just got too overwhelming and more than a little boring which makes this the first time I’ve played a LEGO game since 2007. That’s a good thing, too, because even after so much time it’s obvious the devs haven’t changed the formula and only found new ways to cram in even more meta-obsession collecting. I do appreciate the adaptive two-player split screen and remembering all the little Harry Potter details from the books that the overbearing movies trampled all over. I’m sure we’ll be playing through this one shortly after it’s release but I may have topped off my LEGO tank from this sampling alone.

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