Friday, October 8, 2010

Toy Soldiers, Explosionade, Alice on DS, Enslaved, and why $60 does NOT fit all  


Games: My latest review just went live over at GameCritics. You can click HERE to see what I thought of XBLA’s Toy Soldiers. (Hint: it was really good.) While I'm on the subject, I actually interviewed Max Wagner from that studio a few months before the game actually came out. If you missed it, then click HERE and see what he had to say. I'm currently in the process of trying to arrange a follow-up interview, so if you have any questions or things you'd like me to ask, drop me a line.


Games: Although the release of Explosionade (XBLI) was delayed for a while thanks to some screwy activity on Microsoft's Indie service, the latest from Mommy's Best Games is now available for download at the incredibly reasonable price of one dollar. I purchased my copy on the spot and played through the entirety in one sitting. If you are a fan of old-school platform-shooty action, then you definitely need to check this out. I'll be doing a review of the game in the next couple days, but I'll save you the wait: it's great, and you need to buy it. Like, now.


Games: I've mentioned it before, but I do want to throw out another plug for Alice in Wonderland on the DS. I will probably have finished the game by the time you read this, and although it was a bit slow at times and had a few frustrating parts (mostly due to my own self-inflicted collection-oriented OCD) I really think it's a superior title.

While it essentially follows the same storyline as the Tim Burton film (which was atrocious) the art style is quite dark and moody, and the gameplay can best be described as Ico-lite -- the player controls one of the Wonderland residents and Alice tags along behind.

There's a bit of combat which never gets too interesting, but it's more than made up for by the puzzles. Each of the main characters (White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Caterpillar) has their own set of powers which can be used to navigate obstacles. For example, the Rabbit can alter the flow of time with his giant pocket watch. The Cat can make things appear and disappear, and the Hatter can see different dimensions of each level.

The developers clearly put a great deal of effort into this project, and it's not at all the movie cash-in that you'd expect. If you're in the market for something tastefully left of center for the DS, I'd say that Alice in Wonderland is certainly worth a look.


Games: On the console front, I'm about three quarters done with Enslaved. I went with the 360 version after playing both 360/PS3 demos because the graphics seemed cleaner and sharper (on my particular setup, anyway) and I'm happy with the choice.

In general, it's a pretty good game. I've mentioned a few times that I was not a fan at all of Heavenly Sword, but developer Ninja Theory has stepped it up and turned out a fast-moving adventure that I think most people would enjoy. The characters are likable and the adventure is well-written for the most part.

In terms of action, it's a bit on the shallow side but the pace moves along at a good clip, and there are plenty of showy setpieces to keep a player's attention.

I'll have more to say when I turn in my full review, but at this point I'm giving it a pretty solid thumbs-up. I don't know that I would necessarily recommend it at full retail price of $60, but it would make a pretty fantastic weekend rental -- which is a good segue to my next point.

Earlier in the week I sent out a tweet saying that retail games need more viable price points. I fully believe that the current industry business models in place are absolutely outdated, and a serious shakeup needs to happen in order for growth and sustenance to be able to happen in a healthy way.

The reason I bring this up while speaking about Enslaved is that (like I said above) it's certainly a good game and I'm enjoying it, but it doesn't feel as though it's worth $60. I mean no disrespect to the developers or the publishers because it's a fine product, but it is a product that I think most players will go through in two or three sittings, and likely never touch again. It's a thrill-ride with cinematic flair, but that type of experience doesn't seem to possess the kind of value that I mentally associate with that much money.

If different price points were available for different kinds of games, I’d feel much better about recommending good ones to my readership.

Staying with Enslaved as the example, it's certainly a fun game and if it was priced at $30, I’d have no problems telling everyone to run out and buy it. At $60, I'm just not comfortable suggesting that the quality-to-quantity ratio is justified. Although it's true that as a critic I do receive plenty of free software to review, I do actually buy plenty of games with my own cash and I work hard to earn the money that goes into my wallet. I haven't lost sight of what it feels like to be a retail consumer.

While I say again that I enjoy Enslaved, it's hard for me to accept that buying a brand-new copy costs the same as it did to buy something like Fallout 3. The one-size fits-all mentality of retail pricing doesn't make any sense, and I think everybody knows it.

I would personally love to see more publishers acknowledge this reality and start experimenting with different price points. To be quite honest, I think it would benefit everyone involved -- consumers would feel as though they got fair value for the money, publishers would sell more since more consumers would be willing to pay lower prices for titles that aren't AAA infinite-replay blockbusters, and all parties would come out ahead.

Can't we give it a try?

What next?

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1 comments: to “ Toy Soldiers, Explosionade, Alice on DS, Enslaved, and why $60 does NOT fit all


    I'm totally with you on pricing. We so seldom see a half decent game priced under $60 (or $50 for Wii). I guess there's Deadly Premonition, but that's an exception.

    I'm not sure Enslaved fits that model though. While I totally know what you mean about it being quite spendy for such a linear, single player only game, it's also got very high production value and I'd hate for the fine folks at Ninja Theory to profit less just because their game doesn't have multiplayer or some such nonsense. Then again, if your point is that it would sell vastly more copies and allow them to profit more overall at a lower price point, then I'd agree (if that's the case. I'm no analyst and don't know how profits get divied up).

    I definitely agree that the stigma we have to budget games is an issue. Namco wants people to think of Enslaved as a AAA title, and it is. Priced any lower and people would assume it was a bit naff. Luckily it came out at the beginning of the holiday season, so I expect to see it on sale for $40 by Black Friday (I know I'll be looking out for a copy since I had to send my review code back and eventually want to play it again on hard).

    The good news is that we are seeing a lot more price variation on the digital front. As you point out, Explosionade is $1 and there's some pretty impressive looking games like Lara Croft that are nearly as long as most retail games at a quarter the price. Now if only there was something in between those two models...