Strange Brouhaha

Friday, January 05, 2007

Whatcha been up to?

I've been a little bit light on the posting lately, because I've been distracted by The Holidays and such. Well...also, because I've had a lot of video games to play. I thought I'd talk about them a little bit over the next few days. It'll make it look like I'm writing stuff.

I played a lot of Trauma Center: Under the Knife on the Nintendo DS just before Christmas. It's a fun game, as long as you like surgery. You're a young doctor learning the ropes, performing minor surgery, until Something Bad Happens and suddenly you're in the middle of a life-and-death struggle against an evil bioterrorist organization.

The interface is great, and really uses the DS touchscreen well. You select your surgical tools with a touch, drag your stylus across the screen to simulate using a scalpel or medical laser or massaging a stopped heart. As the stakes rise along with your operating skills, it actually gets pretty harrowing.

In fact...too harrowing! This is one of those rare games where I "hit the wall," so to speak: I'm just not fast enough anymore or something. At a certain point in the game, you have to complete five operations in ten minutes, but the first two together take me more than half the time, no matter how many times I do it. So I have no idea how it ends. But the parts that I could actually do were very engaging, and like I said, it deserves kudos for its use of the touchscreen.

Since Someone Else got a DS Lite from Her Grandparents, we've been playing a lot of Mario Kart DS. Gotta love the built-in wireless networking; if I was willing to punch a big security hole in my wireless setup here at the mansion, we'd actually be able to play on the Internet. As it is, it's great fun racing, and I don't actually have to hold back because She can kick my butt about a third of the time.

So that this doesn't come across as an ad for Nintendo games, I'll also mention Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, for the PS2. This is a jet fighter combat game that, surprisingly, features very little actual dogfighting. Given the title, I was kind of shocked--it seemed to me that the vast majority of missions involved strikes against ground targets.

As is usual with video games (especially ones translated from the Japanese), the story is a fairly simple core wrapped in impenetrable, incomprehensibly insane gobbledygook. I'm sure it makes sense in Japanese, in Japan, to Japanese people. It made no sense to me. About all I got out of it was that there's a war going on and you and your flying ace squadron have to bomb the shit out of the other guys. That is, until your own guys turn on you too, and it's your squadron against everyone else. Like most Japanese games that deal with war, it's pretty obvious that they're still working Fat Man and Little Boy out of their systems, and understandably so, but at the same time this requires the voice actors to try to render lines like " that you?" as if they're doing Shakespeare at the Old Vic.

That's not to say that the game is bad, by any stretch. It actually isn't. I was engaged enough in it to finish it, and then to go back through about half of it--you can restart the game with all of your planes and money intact, so you can see what it's like to play some of the earlier missions with the (relatively) unstoppable juggernauts of the late game. It's just that you can skip the story and just blow the hell out of a bunch of ground targets and you haven't really lost anything.

That's all for now...but those aren't the only games I've played. Ohhhhhh no. More on those later.


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