Forget Me Not

A funny thing occurred after I finished Remember Me recently; I didn’t like the game. I couldn’t come to terms with the sluggish combat and I was generally annoyed with how much exposition there was in the dialog. The game seemed to have it’s head thoroughly up it’s own ass (to quote Jim Sterling).

I was a little ticked off with seemingly having wasted my time. Even the conclusion to the game felt forced and out of left field, robbing me of a satisfactory closer. I took to the internet to see if people had any theories as to what happened and stumbled upon an interesting article.

On the website VenturedBeat, writer Leigh Harrison made the statement that, “Remember Me undermines it’s story to be a video game.” After skimming through his thoughts, I realized I felt the same way.

For starters, why is there a mad scientist type character that gets finished off half-way through the story? How come there are so many weird creatures that make no sense in a game that focuses on memory manipulation? Do people really mutate when they lose their minds?

I couldn’t get over these basic details. It didn’t help that most of the dialog was borderline satire, but delivered with such earnest feeling from the actors. To their credit, they aren’t bad, just the writing is. At one point, an enemy taunts you with some big bad wolf bullshit and your character responds with, “This red riding hood has a basket full of kickass.”

There isn’t a hint of irony with her yelling that, either. You’re just supposed to accept that she’s a woman who can kick ass in a man’s world. I don’t take an issue with Nilin being a woman, just that we still can’t have a game that doesn’t bring attention the character’s gender.

YOU GO GIRL!

Another villain, who is basically captain mcguffin, approaches a locker room and proclaims, “Hello beautiful ladies! Time for your cavity searches!” Why does he utter that? I know he’s supposed to be an utterly unlikable guy, but a line of dialog like that is basically written to make you hate him for disrespecting your character’s gender.

It doesn’t feel natural. It’s a cheap way to garner hatred without describing the guy further. That the game then shifts into a fight scenes makes less sense, too. Nilin proceeds to take out a locker room full of guards because you’re in a video game. We see her steal memories from a distance before, but I guess you just can’t now.

The ending boss is also something I take issue with. I figured finding your target and remixing his memory would be enough, but you are then shoved down a pathway to shut down the mega-computer that runs the game’s plot.

He asks you to shut him down and end his suffering. Upon reaching him, though, he suddenly wants to do battle. He then states, “If you do not kill me, I will destroy you.” You literally just asked me to kill you and now there is a battle? The hell?

Without me, this game is only 7 hours long! THAT CANNOT BE!

After seeing that article, I began to wonder about other games I’ve played that left me feeling empty. A lot of times, there seems to be basic plot structure getting thrown out the window to facilitate an action set-piece.

I noticed this a lot with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. I had never pieced it together as being contrived for the sake of gameplay, but that suddenly makes sense. The final mission has the Ghost Squad stating they can’t be seen and must take caution, only for them to miss a shot for no reason, slide down a mountain and brandish their pistols for a running duel.

There was even a section far earlier in the game where the Ghosts retrieve a hostage and during transit, take out their pistols and slow-motion action scene their way out of the armed facility. Why not stealth your way out? How about using those automatics you packed?!

We have cloaking devices, but his is way more efficient!

As video games become a more “serious business”, it seems developers are finding more ways to up the ante in regards to cinema. Since action movies basically have fight scenes every 15-20 minutes, a game must have that as well.

I truly believe Remember Me would have made a stellar movie. It has certain narrative choices that are beyond pointless, but it’s insistence on delivering an action game environment reverses a lot of the good will it’s story sets up.

Not only that, but the game basically never allows you any choice. You are compliant with the script and only change your understanding when the story says you can. It basically rips control from you when it should be empowering.

I also don’t like how many references they make to the word “Remember.” Then again, I did say I didn’t like the game.

Downloadables: Crazy Stairs and Stretching “Boys”

When I got my Xbox 360 in April of 2006, I hadn’t fully come to terms with downloadable content or games. I was almost going to buy some of it on Xbox, but then I figured I wouldn’t keep the console forever (it didn’t help that PGR 2 charged $6 for car packs).

After plowing through “GRAW” and tinkering around with “Burnout: Revenge” for some time, I figured I would finally browse through the Xbox Live Marketplace. I saw “Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved” and remembered how damn fun the little game was in “PGR 2.” $5 was unbeatable for me, so I downloaded it and had a blast.

Over the years, downloadable games have gotten much better in quality than Geometry Wars (which is saying a lot). When mainstream, retail games seem to be sticking to the same patterns, colors and game design, downloadable games are constantly giving gamers new ways to think about their gaming careers.

While I have no preference for XBLA, PSN or Wii Ware (though I only have 2 games on Wii Ware), today I’ll be talking about some PSN titles; namely, “Echochrome” and “Noby Noby Boy.” Both titles are wholly unique from each other and offer things I’ve never really ever played before.

“Echochrome” is one of the most original ideas for a puzzle game I’ve seen since Tetris. The game has a style similar to M.C. Escher and tasks the player with moving through a series of platform based puzzles to collect things called “echos”. The key trick to these puzzles is that the player can manipulate the game world to fill in holes, create jumps or make bridges.

If that description makes no sense, it’s because the game takes a long time to fully understand. The short tutorial that the player goes through does little to prepare you for the later challenges. Your little “echo” guy (who looks like a wooden artist mannequin) has to jump off of pads while the world rotates around him so that he can land on a ledge in the distance.

Some puzzles leave you stranded on a small piece of walkable terrain and require you to move the camera so the game thinks the level is one big bridge. It’s ingenious and mindbending, but when all the pieces come together, you feel like a damn god.


How the f*#@ do I get out of here?!

The music is also quite comforting. Fully orchestrated and using a lot of violins and cello’s, the aural experience is almost as engulfing as the logical one. The music swoons and thunders with smooth sound that hasn’t really been exploited in gaming (as far as I know). It’s wholly uncommon and I love it.

What makes the whole package better is that Sony incorporated an entire level editor into the package. Not only does the game ship with 54 levels, but there are endless amounts of user created challenges waiting at your fingertips.

While I can’t say that I delved much in making my own challenges, I’ve played through quite a few out there and some make the main challenges look tame. It’s awesome when players will come up with tasks more insidious than the developers could have ever dreamed of.

“Echochrome” really helped change my perception of downloadable games. Before this came out, I really only saw these services as ways to re-release old classics. After I finally opened up and let this title into my life, I started to notice how creative and fun such smaller titles could be.

I know that in Asia and Europe, “Echochrome” was released on UMD for PSP, but in North America, the only way to get the game is through the PSN store. The game exists on PSP and PS3 and goes for $6 and $10 respectively.

“Noby Noby Boy” is more of an experience than a game. Developed by the creator of “Katamari Damacy,” the whole goal of “Noby Noby Boy” is to experiment with this weird hotdog shaped creature called “Boy.”

You can bend and stretch him to different sizes and you can even devour the entire town around you (not unlike Katamari). The left control stick moves the front of your character and the right controls the back. It’s a bit awkward at first, but the lack of any overbearing goals means experimentation takes over and you never find yourself getting frustrated.

The scoring system is rather interesting for a downloadable title. Players submit their scores to a character called “SUN,” which is essentially a massive online leaderboard. The player totals were given to a database that unlocked extra levels in the game based on how high everyone’s cumulative total was getting.

As of now, the game is entirely finished, but the race to eat people and explore different worlds was something akin to an MMO, but without the grinding or isolation that often sets in during those titles.


And you thought you had it bad…

The graphics are a bit goofy, but they have a clever charm and are very bright. It’s not difficult to just stare at the game world around your “Boy”. The music was also very charming and the folk guitar track is easily one of my favorites from this generation.

To this day, I’ve wasted maybe 80 hours playing this game. I’ve never experienced anything with so little to do, yet so much to explore. It’s very therapeutic and relaxing. Booting this up just lets me forget about the day.

I suppose the major downside to this game is how little there really is to do. While I have no problem aimlessly roaming in games, some people may find that off putting or wasteful. I think it’s relaxing, especially when mixed with the character designs and music.

The PS3 version does have trophy support, but even those can be banged out in about an hour. The price, though, makes the title worth a shot. $5 is something you can’t beat for any type of experimental gameplay.

I know there are plenty of other downloadable games I’ve partaken of, but these two are just some of the examples of games that have really stuck with me. It’s a shame that we don’t get such originality in our $60 titles, but maybe those have a place in helping the indie devs get some great content out to us gamers?

If nothing else, I know that I can finally say I’ve pooped out a sheep while two mail men road on my character and I floated through the air. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that in another game.