Save Point

Money can buy everything except “love”, “friendship” and “exp points”.

MillionHeir: I See What You Did There September 30, 2008

After some poking around, I think I understand better what’s wrong with Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir. This article and its comments clued me in: it’s made, of course, by a PC games company that’s already released similar games for the PC. I should have expected that given its American origins. Of course.

The problem is, PC games of this type don’t, and probably never will, port well to consoles. I can think of two reasons: expectations and demographics.

On the expectations side, we get reactions like mine and those of the review I linked: the idea that DS games are generally more full and rich and varied than MillionHeir, which presents mostly one set of identical puzzles to wade through, a very scanty framework as an excuse for playing, and (insofar as there is a plot) no attempt at making anything endearing. This is fairly normal for PC puzzle games, the market that brought you Minesweeper, free MSN download games, the addictive but basically ugly Snood, and games where the goal is to swat flies and make them splat. Generally, when I think of pretty PC games, I think of MMORPGs, not puzzle games. Japanese puzzle games often have a nice aesthetic or at least simple cuteness, but American puzzle games often don’t try to be endearing; they’re more often humour-centric rather than focusing on genuine appeal. And the console gaming market is used to getting a full story replete with mini-games, serious variety in the challenges, and an emotionally satisfying conclusion even for the simplest of stories. Compared to the average console game, most PC puzzle games fall flat on their face for an audience that expects all of that to round out a decent game as a matter of course.

As a further barrier to sales of these games, as a commentor pointed out, the demographic for this type of game is basically your mom. I can think of no demographic less likely to own a console, unless they’ve been hooked by either curiosity or younger family members. While there are obviously plenty of exceptions, the demographic on the whole tends to think of computer games as an occasional way to pass time rather than a serious hobby, so not only are they less likely to own a console, they’re less likely to buy new games on a regular basis. I don’t think there are enough middle-aged-or-older women who buy console games to justify a port of this type of game, whereas many of them do own PCs and understand how to put in a game disc to start up a game. Even people who do take gaming seriously and know their stuff but gravitate towards this type of game are less likely to even think of looking for their type of game on a console, since they mostly find these games in the PC aisle.

As a result, most PC games aren’t going to get rave reviews from the console gaming audience, who are by and large used to routinely paying high prices for excellent games and tend to feel gypped on purchasing an inexpensive game that doesn’t have much to it. I have to wonder how PC gamers feel when faced with ports of especially complex console games, such as Final Fantasy VII. Do they react with delight at the smorgasbord of features, or is it too complex for their tastes?

 

MillionHeir: None of These Things Actually Belong Here September 28, 2008

I recently had Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir loaned to me. I’d never heard of this game before, and it seems to be American-made, so I was a little dubious about it; it turns out that it was just new, but also that it wasn’t as great as the lender claimed it was.

It’s the kind of game that can provide some mindless fun, but is hardly anything spectacular. The idea is that you are a detective hunting for clues about each suspect on a case. You find clues by going to various locations and finding a list of arbitrary objects in a background cluttered with many more arbitrary objects. The list seems to be randomly generated, and it is never explained what bearing it has on the mystery for you to find a fish, a tire axle, a fork, and three instances of the letter E. None of the characters have any noticeable personality, and it feels very much like playing a kids’ magazine game, but just a bit more difficult.

I wouldn’t particularly recommend it unless you’re bored and you can borrow someone else’s copy. I did have it recommended to me by a GameStop employee who heard that I liked Phoenix Wright. He introduced it with the phrase, “It’s not an attorney game, but…” As if “attorney game” were a whole genre now. I would say, though, that “crime game” is becoming a big genre, particularly on the DS. I think the stylus lends itself well to searching for clues and examining evidence, so perhaps that’s why we’re seeing such a proliferation of them. I do like the genre. I’ve ordered the first Touch Detective game on the internet, so we’ll see how that goes.

In other news: this article on SNES RPGs filled me with nostalgic happiness. I think the author’s rankings seem rather biased towards personal preferences, but overall he’s done a good job, in my opinion, of identifying an amazing lineup of games. Any RPG fan who missed out on that era should go down that list and play every game on it.

 

I Say, Old Chap, That Reminds Me Of Some Gameplay September 16, 2008

Filed under: Retro games,Specific games — haounomiko @ 5:37 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve been playing Professor Layton and the Curious Village, which is nicely easy to pick up and put down, to leave alone and come back to much later. The plot is kid-simple and the game recaps it every time you turn it on, as well as giving you journal entries and reminders of everything that’s happened and every objective you want to accomplish, so there’s no danger of forgetting where you were; but even so, the fun of it isn’t in the plot.

Most of the game consists of searching for puzzles and solving them, in order to talk to townspeople to solve a bigger mystery and lots of sub-mysteries. There seem to be about 130 puzzles, give or take, so the gameplay is much like working your way through a puzzle book of mixed types. You can also find hint coins which you can use to get hints on puzzles– sparingly, because to get anything useful out of them you usually have to buy all three hints for the puzzle. There’s no dearth of coins, though, and getting through the game isn’t too hard. It’s fun, and if I do get tired of puzzling, I don’t feel obligated to finish it now before I forget what I’m doing– I know I can play something else for a while and come back to it and pick up right where I left off. There’s no big investment in the progress I’ve already made.

In other news, I’ve been playing Myst:Exile, which has some stunningly beautiful locations. If I ever become a powerful person with research labs and journals that need to be kept safe from the mentally unbalanced and sadistic villains who tend to chase after me, then I will not secure my study with elaborate locks that require me to tediously walk up and down steep cliffs every time I want to unlock them, but can be opened by solving a puzzle. I also will not engrave the lock combination into a plaque. And when I am in dire need of someone’s help, instead of giving them a journal filled with backstory, I will give them a journal full of puzzle solutions for wherever they’re going.

 

Do Not Convert the Tower of Ar Tonelico Into MP3 Format September 3, 2008

Filed under: Specific games — haounomiko @ 1:42 pm
Tags: ,

Ar tonelico is a surprisingly long game. I didn’t expect it to be a particularly long RPG; it’s not overly convoluted, it doesn’t throw new plot arcs at you all the time, and it’s a dating sim, for goodness’ sake. However, it’s easily a 60-hour game, most of which is taken up by excessively long random battles, and very little of which is taken up by loading screens or aimless walking.

The downside: the gameplay is too easy, despite how long it takes to finish random battles. Only one boss requires any actual strategy, and everything else can be beat as easily– or moreso– by the obvious standard way of fighting normal enemies. However, this default battle strategy is quite different from most RPGs, and I had at least the chance to try something new and unique; just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it isn’t innovative, and it was still a joy to explore because it was new to me.

On the other hand, though, the story and character development far surpassed my expectations. It started out with your typical group of heroes and heroines, just as I’d expected, acting predictable. However, the characters mature quite well, and the game becomes startlingly insightful about two-thirds of the way through. I had not expected any depth or maturity from the plot– as I said, dating sim whose best marketing point is its audiovisual (if not overly technical) prettiness– but I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Overall, I think I enjoyed this game much more than I was expecting to, and despite the long play-time and the lack of challenge, I would recommend it without the reservations I hesitated over previously. The catch is that it takes the characters time to come to mature and thoughtful conclusions; the player has to be patient with their early foolishness, and willing to stick with it.