|Eric and I hitting the sticks in the NanerCade during his recent visit
As game collectors, one of the things that crosses our minds on an almost daily basis is "value." Often, when out hunting for games, systems, toys, etc., we have to weight out the estimated monetary value of a game with amount the seller is asking for it and the amount we are willing to pay for said item. This is always quite the juggling act, and one in which we are always working toward being the primary beneficiary of the "good deal." However, when it comes to value, it doesn't mean that we maintain a spreadsheet of what we spent on games, determine what they are currently worth, and adjust monthly as the prices go up.....well....maybe some of you do. For most of us, games aren't merely a monetary investment, but an investment in something on a grander scale.
Continue reading So What's Your Highest Valued Item?
Publisher: U.S. Games
Developer: Western Technologies, Inc.
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 4 = Scarce+
Number of Players: 1 player (against computer) & 2 player (head-to-head)
Average Cost: approx. $2 - $5 loose
Also Available On: Only available on the Atari 2600
Tagline/Description: "Defend your future civilization's energy supply against waves of devious attack missiles. Your energy stations stand vulnerable...use your ground based Photon cannon and pit yourself against computer controlled missiles; or, let another player guide the missiles, and do battle head to head. Each wave of missiles becomes more aggressive and intense. Grab your controller and prepare for a furious battle."
Continue reading Banana's Rotten Reviews: M.A.D.
It has been compared favorably and otherwise to everything from Braid to Ico. In truth, Limbo is a sum of several familiar gameplay components, wrapped in a dark, morbid, and mysteriously surreal narrative. What it is not, is for the faint of heart. Or wallet.
Gameplay consists of platforming, with only a jump and a contextual interaction button adding to the standard left and right movement. The sensitivity of the left analog stick determines walking, running, or creeping along, and that's it. No ducking, looking around, or direct combat. This streamline approach, rather than confining the experience, focuses the player on the two biggest features of Limbo: the environmental puzzles and the atmosphere. Oh, the atmosphere.
Limbo's palette is black, white, and grays, and nothing else. Instead of using this refined spectrum to construct high resolution and detail, the designers use the opposite extreme to grand effect. The visual filters and muted shades paint a dreamlike visual experience that is unique and immersing. Background and foregrounds are at a constant haze. Environments feature sparse lines and sharp angles that just barely convey a sense of open woods, labyrinthian underground tunnels, and complex industrial areas. Indeed, the world of Limbo only roughly sketches its home, then hands the pencil to the player's mind to draw the rest of the details. Where this could be easily viewed as pretentious or even lazy on the developer's part, the design is definitely purposeful, as the rest of the tools are clearly in the iron grasp of talent.
The animation is top notch, with subtle particle effects and little details emphasizing every action. Many clues are given for gameplay as well as narrative in the smallest of touches. The audio wisely follows the consistency of the visual design; sparse, light overtones occasionally punctuated by dramatic flair, and effects that will make the player much more squeamish than the persistent visual violence. I began playing with two friends watching, but before the hour mark I was alone. This brings me to an important point:
Limbo's content is not for everyone.
There is implied murder, torture, gore, drowning, dismemberment, and very dark themes. Without giving away spoilers, some actions will likely stun you in their graphic nature. This is not Mario. It is not Braid. It is a game designed around a certain theme, and that theme is played out fully. In the same manner that South Park may appear to target a young audience but is designed for adults, the same could be said for Limbo.
Though I personally feel games should always be based on their own merit, and there are flavorful and unique elements to the experience that is Limbo, everyone will compare titles. As mentioned before, Limbo imbues a desolate and lonely aura likened to the PS2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, comparative indie vibes to Braid (also an 'artsy' title criticized as derivative and overpriced), along with gameplay similarities to PC/PSX's Heart of Darkness.
And if the biggest sell for Limbo is the original atmosphere (and it most certainly is), the other is gameplay. Physics based puzzles and platforming challenges make up the bulk of the experience, with exploration and attentive observation yielding literal eggs for completion and achievements. A chapter select allows for easy access, and the game respawns the character only moments before each mistake, again putting the emphasis on puzzle solving and atmosphere. Some of the timing elements of the game are, true to the genre, mostly trial and error, and the designers were wise to avoid any life count or continuing limitations, allowing the player to simply keep at it until done.
Which brings out Limbo's only real 'fault' making the rounds of the critic circles at large. At fifteen bucks, is a game that can be completed in only a few hours worth such a premium? Limbo would certainly not survive the current expectations of boxed retail, and as a Live arcade download only title it is expected to compete with cheaper games containing more longevity. The almighty Castle Crashers, Braid, and even Ikaruga have fielded the same complaints, and review scores are bashed in light of perceived value.
I intend to write an article on the perception of entertainment value later. As for now, it comes down to this:
Limbo is original. Limbo is exceptionally well made. Limbo is, for a certain audience, wonderful. Limbo is fairly short, even abrupt by today's gaming standards. If you are interested, play the demo. It will tell you all you want to know: do I want more of this? Will the experience be worth the money to me, individually? Will I feel at a loss for paying this much for a few hours?
I know I, personally, have no regrets about purchasing Limbo. Indeed, I consider it a gaming experience to rival my top ten. But if you play the demo and are still not sure, Limbo probably is not for you, fifteen bucks or otherwise.
As an end note, I feel that the narrative played out in Limbo is terrifically realized, despite forum debates passed to and fro over the subjective nature of the story and its details. I thought it was rather clear in its intentions, and if it is not painfully obvious by now, I also feel it was a masterfully well done experience. If you are curious about my thoughts on the particulars of the story, feel free to PM me: I don't want to ruin or cheapen the experience for the curious by posting said thoughts in a forum.
After reading a very interesting article in a Dutch games magazine I would like to know what you guys think that should be done in the future concerning the lenght of videogames.
At the Games Education Summit (Dallas) in July, Warren Spector (known for games like Wing Commander, Thief and Deux Ex; see picture) stated that 100-hours singleplayer games are a thing of the past. He also said that only 2% of the people who have played GTA4 actually finished it. If he means by "finished it" getting 100% complete, I'm sure it's even less.
RPGs are probably the "worst" kind of games when it comes to being overly lengthy. Recent games like The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion or Final Fantasy 12 come to mind. They often take up 60 hours to finish the main storyline alone and go well over 100 hours if you want to finish all sidequests, defeat all monsters and get that strongest weapon. (Don't get me wrong, I love RPGs)
As you all know, making videogames is no longer cheap. Especially with the next generation consoles and their fabulous physics and visuals, production times get longer and the costs are getting higher. Spending $40.000.000 to develop a videogame isn't anything spectacular anymore and companies are strugling to make a profit like they used to do 5-10 years ago. Especially when your game stands in the shadow of a Triple A title, sales can't always make up for the costs.
If most gamers stop playing GTA4 at 40%; that basically means 60% of the game's content is money down the drain.
Would you like to see shorter games, knowing that most (read: the not-so-hardcore) gamers don't finish these games? Wouldn't it be great if companies could make games for less money and therefor take some more risks? It would mean more diverse games for us for sure.
Do you really want the Full HD graphics and 7.1 surround? Maybe some gamers do, but the rest of us are forced to walk the same path. I wonder why nobody seems to have the guts to make an HD 16-bit style 2D RPG for Xbox360 or PS3. If the story was good and the gameplay rock-solid, wouldn't that make for an amazing game?
Note: I've reposted this on the forums because I wanted to make a poll about it. You can find the poll here.