Allow me, just for a minute, to leave the dog days of summer gaming—when the great releases are few and far between—to talk about a critic. Even though the Times ignored him in their piece, it was really Philadelphia Inquirer game writer Dennis McCauley (and his GAMEPOLITICS.COM) who broke the story to the media about the mod-unlockable sex scenes within the PC version of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Yeah, McCauley’s spent a little too much time reporting on GTASA‘s sex. But if you look further into the blog, you see the beauty of journalism beyond the boring tricks and tips ala gamespot.com. What’s present is real opinion about the politics of gaming, from Schumer ranting against the upcoming 25 to Life to the unending lawsuits claiming that video game violence makes kids kill people. It’s not just worth a look; it’s worth a bookmark.
The questions for KILLER 7 are these: Is it all style and no substance, and is the style good enough to keep you gunned up for 30 hours of gaming? The art is comic book meets animé, and that’s cool, especially when you add the noir-like script and admirable voice acting. The biggest twist here, however, is the fact that you can become any one of seven personalities that lie within a wheelchair-confined hit man. In that way, you can attempt to save the world from a killer virus. What doesn’t work well is the actual gameplay, which is the same and then the same again. It’s almost like having a pretty, Stepford Wife robotic shell with not that much underneath to keep you going. Yet there’s a shallowness that actually enhances the look of the thing—but not enough to make me play the whole game.
Publisher: Hot B
These are the dog days of summer for gamerheads. Until mid-August, the releases are serious woofs, woeful pieces of mongrel doo shoveled your way just in case you think a new game will divert your mind from the raging heat. And then there’s GRAFFITI KINGDOM, a quiet little child’s game with a twist. You can draw your own characters. Add wings, tails, legs, sexual organs, whatever you like via the left, analog stick. Even if you’re no Miyamoto (and who is?), the quirky function adds verve to a fairly common RPG with platformer elements. In the game, you’re young Pixel, who comes upon a magic wand/paint brush, but also lets loose a devil and his minions who want to take over the local kingdom. Everything here is cute, even the monsters. Yeah, it all makes you think about the real meanings of cute: From baby-Olsen-twin too-cute to Pokemon-animal-huggable cute to manufactured-Aaron-Carter cute. But there’s one important thing that wide-eyed kids and jaded adults will take from GK: the paint brush is mightier than the sword. That, in itself, is enough to buy it and play.
Publisher: Majesco Games
There’s no story to NANOSTRAY, just shooting. Yet I can’t put it down that easily. It’s not that the lurid graphics are equal to anything on the DS, even if they are. And it’s not that the techno music lulls me into a dance floor-like submission, but it does. The real point isn’t just shooting; it’s methodically arcing along, rhythmically and alertly avoiding bombs and rays from other flying vehicles. The weapons are varied and the DS’ touchscreen keeps me informed with weapons and radar and info on big boss ships. Shooting hordes as a single agile flying fighter is a game format that’s been around since the 80s. Yet these eight stages on planets set within some odd, foreboding solar system have me coming back for more. Is there such a thing as game pheromones?
Not since Psychonauts, has there been a game this crazy interesting. FLIPNIC makes pinball so wacky, so other-worldly, so jazzed up and caffeinated, that it’s like a trip to an amusement park designed without the constraints of money, safety . . . or gravity. The way these programming artists have imagined pinball is a source of constant surprise. Yeh, they’ve learned some from Sierra’s old 3D Ultra Pinball and from Nintendo’s Mario Pinball Land, but the stuff here, which can be like Pachinko meets Super Monkey Ball meets your favorite roller coaster ride, is simply genius. I know, the voiceover isn’t excited or funny enough. And the cut scene animations aren’t all that, but it’s the Steven-Hawking-inventiveness of the bumpers and shoots and UFO’s and butterflies on the playfield that keep you coming back. All this for $19.99. Aside from the free mod that lets you open sex scenes in San Andreas, this is the gaming deal of the summer. But FlipNic is the truer ass like that.
Developer: Frontier Developments
SOAKED!, Atari’s expansion disk for RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, lets you create the most twisting, turning, plumber’s nightmare of water parks with rides that are limited only by your gray matter. You don’t just mope nerdily and gaze longingly at the rides. You are the god-like designer who can make them as surreal or as scary as you want them to be. If you want to reconstruct something akin to Six Flags’ overly chlorinated Hurricane Harbor, you can do that, too—and make it better. One of the wonderfully vertigo-inducing features within Soaked! is the “Coaster Cam,” which offers you a first-person view on whichever kind of water ride you make.