December 2008

2008 has been a great year for us here at Snackbar Games. We’ve added a ton of new faces to our staff. These new faces have allowed us to produce more content than we ever have before.

I want to take a second to publicly thank everyone on our staff for all of their hardwork this year and to thank you, the readers, for continuing to visit this site. Without the readers, there would be no reason for this site and without the staff, there would be no site.

Jan 1, 2009 marks the beginning of our 7th year online and I have a feeling it’s going to surpass all previous years. We have a lot of great stuff planned for the year and we look forward to growing with you at our side.

This will be my last post for the year, so have a safe and wonderful holiday. See you guys in the new year.

Game of the Year awards are almost never consensus picks. Different gamers like different types of games. Here at Snackbar Games, we have a diverse staff of writers and editors, and between now and the end of the year, they’ll each be telling you, however they choose, about their top ten of ’08. We finish on Christmas Eve with our other new Canadian writer, Chris Lavigne.

In no particular order:

Order Up – With its plethora of terrible minigame collections and abysmal casual games, choosing a Wii game to play sometimes seems like a game of Russian roulette where the bullets-to-blanks ratio has been reversed. Taking a chance with Order Up was rewarded with a very addictive restaurant simulator that restored my faith in Wii kind.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People
– The humour on stimulates my funny glands like nothing else, so it’s no wonder Strong Bad’s episodic adventures provided some of my favourite gaming moments this year. I could have created my own Teen Girl Squad cartoons for hours. Oh wait, I did. READ MORE

Game of the Year awards are almost never consensus picks. Different gamers like different types of games. Here at Snackbar Games, we have a diverse staff of writers and editors, and between now and the end of the year, they’ll each be telling you, however they choose, about their top ten of ’08. Staff writer Paul Bishop’s short list might make Sony fanboys smile a bit.

Fortunately this year, I finally got an Xbox 360, so a lot of the games I loved this year were from previous years as I got caught up. Of the releases this year, I could only give this honor to 7 games. In no particular order, my top 7 are:

God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP) – A perfect game for the PSP, which carries all of the action of the previous titles in a portable format.

Final Fantasy: Crisis Core (PSP) – Another beautiful game from beginning to end that is particularly more poignant for FFVII fans. Hours and hours of extra missions make this an ideal game for the RPG enthusiast on the go. Now they need to re-release FFVII on the PSP.

Metal Gear Solid IV (PS3) – Epic storytelling, with stunning graphics. This game sets the bar high for production and polish. READ MORE

I volunteered to review Tomb Raider: Underworld knowing full well I’d have to explain to my wife why exactly I was playing a game that does little but show digital booty. Within 5 minutes the TV was full of swimsuit and legs. “Why isn’t she wearing pants?” my wife asks.

“She’s Lara Croft,” I tell her. “She’s like, the female version of Indiana Jones, with all the hotness that brings.”

“She’s not wearing pants though.”

“She’s been swimming. That’s a swimsuit.”

This, gentlemen, is the next generation of Lara Croft. Now, with great advances in technology, we can aid the lack of imagination of those whose mothers do not allow them to see M-rated games. There is realistic dirt on her arms and shoulders and legs and butt and when she goes in the water or has the dirt wiped off, the glean of muscle and fat reflects perfectly; you can almost see the pores! Her face, on the other hand, still doesn’t look realistic, and even the breasts are kind of strange in a way that’s not attractive.

Of course, that’s not the point. Because if you embark on this exploration that requires you to visit Thailand and Mexico in order to get all the ingredients in the summoning of a Norse God, you will be traveling the world every step of the way behind her, and if one embarks on such journeys, one wants to have a nice view.

Seriously, it took me half an hour to realize that much of the scenery was very well-decorated as well. That water is some of the best I’ve seen. But Lara, she takes up all the space of the game! You can see her flex, jump, grope, hug, hang, push, squat, grapple, balance, flip, pull…she’s got a lot of flexibility and range. You forget what you’re even doing, or why you’re doing it. That may also have something to do with the obscure, absurd plot, wherein Lara investigates her parents’ disappearance but spends most of her time fighting the supernatural or talking into a recorder, and it may have to do with the fact that there is little fighting in the game though she has over half a dozen guns to choose from.

There’s supposed to be a game in here, but it’s hard to find. You can’t do anything without Lara getting in the way, and the times when you have to look away are not enjoyable. Mostly, it is a game consisting of how to get from point A to point B; occasionally there are sorry excuses for “puzzles”, but they are so simple they feel just like the journey; instead of looking where to go, it’s looking for the next object Lara can pick up or move. It’s not even that long a game, but twice within the first two and a half hours I had puzzles that involved putting a heavy object onto a pressure plate; twice also I had to kill sharks as my first act in the level; twice I had to run from a burning vessel, and twice I had to run back through an area that I’d just come through.

Worst of all, sometimes you might fall, and you will survive these falls instead of dying, and it will take you one to three minutes of concentrated effort of going through difficult jumps just to try the jump again. Also, it will save the game when you fail in progress. Let’s be clear about this: take a crude line, shown in the sentence to the right. A————B————C————–D.  Let’s say from C to D, you jump and fall in some water. You must go from A to C again. If you accidentally die at B, that is where you’ll restart–not C.

The bosses and fights hardly feel like fights either. Early on, there is an enormous octopus, (kraken, excuse me, this is mythology after all) that takes up more than half the volume in a little pool. It’s stuck there, with nothing to eat, and nothing to do but get angry if you get close to it. But it’s not a fight, it’s an obstacle. It could have been an awesome fight; the set up got my hopes up. Instead, I was required to simply figure out where the buttons are to set up a spiky chandelier, then make it fall on the kraken’s head. Again, the visual spectacle is the only worthy element of this “battle”; the kraken’s death, like Lara’s ass, was magnificent.

Then there are Lara’s abilities, which become even stranger when she boards a ship and guns down every man on it. She has a swimsuit; they have body armor. Both Lara and goon can take multiple bullets, but only Lara (who is not a female Indiana Jones, we’ve since discovered, but a superhero) can throw multiples jumpkicks and spinning kicks that do more damage than pistol bullets. There is no way to dodge. Instead, you trade free hits. You can avoid getting hit simply by running out from a wall, shooting, then going back behind; there is no official cover system but the one you invent. Forward, wait, left, right, RT, left, right, RT, wait, forward, right, RT, left, right, RT, and BAM! that’s a free thirty guys not in reserve. It’s an easier code to remember than it looks. Also, Lara looks hot while she holds a big harpoon, shotgun, rifle, or pair of pistols, which add to the large catalog of positions in which you can pose her.

The saddest part is how transparent the game design is to those who are capable of satisifying their sexual urges elsewhere. Tomb Raider: Underworld only seems truly intent on doing two things: finishing the story from the previous Tomb Raider games and making sure you have a nice view. The view is indeed nice, but viewing is all you’ll be doing.


Metal Slug 7

December 22, 2008

The vast majority of people interested in Metal Slug 7 have already played a Metal Slug title and are wondering if it technically transitions well to the DS. It does, especially in the audio department. The characters, animations, screams and tunes are so close to the typical Metal Slug experience that anyone playing it will immediately feel they have been given a legitimate Metal Slug experience. The hokey horde of goblin-nosed soldiers and their nose-picking, donkey-laughing, “oh-my-God-a-chick-in-cargo-pants-with-a-pistol-run-billy-run” antics have been copied and pasted into the DS in full essence. The look and sound of Metal Slug is here.

The Metal Slug standard is followed and it does try to be a sequel—there are new slugs (vehicles), and new quirky challenges oblige us again; examples include pumping a pump so you can outrun an orange ball of flame in Indiana-Jones-style, and a level where you float down a long passage in a parachute. A couple of bosses are unoriginal, but most of them retain the distinct Metal Slug challenge. The enemies are mostly pasted from other slug games, especially the soldiers and vehicles. The DS’s small screen may be the reason why the creativity and difference factor is not as high as it could be, but it’s still solid and true-to-form as you play it.

An important thing to note is that somewhere in the development process, Metal Slug 7 lost its soul. Unlike the rest of the family, this Metal Slug is a tricky fellow who shows up at a family reunion and has convinced everyone he is a relative when he is in fact merely showing up for the free food and alcohol. The exact moment that 7 lost its birthright is when it was determined that it would have no multiplayer capabilities at all, which is one of the stupidest decisions I’ve ever witnessed. For why do people play Metal Slug? Do they play it so they can get the highest score? Is there pure joy in its action? Is it like Donkey Kong, Pac Man, or Geometry Wars? 

If you’re not convinced Metal Slug 7 could possibly go the Geometry Wars route by trying to pass itself off for its sheer joy of unsocialized, brainwashing play, check out this list of features:

—You can start the game at any level that you reach. If you make it to level 3 and die, you will be able to start a new game at level 3. It is not actually challenging to get to the end of this game. It will take you not hours of mastery, but 90 minutes of perseverance; fewer if you’re highly-skilled.

—It asks for your initials to keep track of scores, just like in an arcade game. Only Metal Slug 7 has no online or multiplayer capabilities, so the score stays inside just the cartridge. It can’t even get the score system part of Geometry Wars right!

—There is a training mode comprised of two parts; one involves tons of dialogue where a cute (by anime conventions) officer pretends to have a conversation with you and then tells you to train. The training involves playing points of the levels, made available as you beat them; they have different objectives, sometimes. If you beat them all, she’ll open up more to your implied come ons! I did not beat every single challenge, so no word on what she actually does if you fully impress her. The master and servant or leader and soldier ways in which she talks are covertly sexual. Maybe you find interaction with cute anime characters interesting, and you’ll buy Metal Slug 7 just to see this, which would ironically be a more justifiable reason since it’s the kind of feature you will most definitely want to work toward alone, unlike the rest of the actual game.

So there it is: Metal Slug 7 is supposed to make the player think “sure it takes an hour to beat it, but I’ll play it a lot, again and again.” But this is not why people play Metal Slug!

It pains me to spell this out: Metal Slug is played for the challenging uphill climb on the way to the thrill of victory, especially when it is the thrill of victory with a friend who didn’t use up all the continues. But hey, if you want to play the same Metal Slug over and over again just to best your own score without showing it off to the world, or if you want to win over some drill sergeant by beating timed challenges, you can be pleased with the drastic differences all you want, by your lonesome self.