Thursday, November 11, 2010

MGS: Peace Walker, XBLA's UnderGarden & Faery, and the new Sherlock  


Games: Been spending some more time with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on PSP. Like I said in the last post, it got off to a slow start but it's really been picking up. After putting a few more hours into it and getting past the fifth boss, I think what I like most is that it's both stripped down (the tactical stealth action) and complex (the Outer Heaven sections) at the same time.

Sneaking through the various levels has kind of a “classic MGS” feeling to it, and reminds me of playing the earlier games on PS2. I really didn't care for MGS4 at all (you can see my Second Opinion, if you haven't already) so this comes off to me like a smart and very welcome return to form.

(…Oh, and before some of you try to call me on liking PS2-style MGS in Peace Walker and disliking it in MGS4, the difference is that I expect a hell of a lot more done with a game when it's running on a powerful piece of hardware like the PS3.)

Anyway, on top of the enjoyably stealthy action, what’s really fascinating is that Peace Walker strikes me as a combination of MGS and Capcom’s Monster Hunter. Totally apart from the crossover guest appearances (which are themselves extremely telling) the design of the peripheral content in both games have tons of similarities. Grinding for experience, harvesting resources, developing better equipment… very, very similar stuff.

It makes a brilliant kind of sense when you consider that the MH franchise is one of the most popular in Japan, and in my view, trying to capitalize on it can be seen as a smart move, though I may be a bit biased since I already enjoy both Monster Hunter and MGS. Either way, Peace Walker is hitting all the right notes for me, and rekindling a love for the series that I felt sure MGS4 had killed forever.


Games: A very interesting pair of demos hit Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service today: The UnderGarden and Faery.

The UnderGarden seems as though it's definitely going for the esoteric art-house vibe, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The UnderGarden

The player controls a creature that looks a bit like a miniature TeleTubby and flies around through 2D levels solving environmental puzzles as flowers sprout and lights glow. To tell the truth, it's all a bit surreal and hallucinogenic... but in a good way.

Faery is another game with heavy emphasis on visual style. After getting past the welcome screen, the player customizes a winged character that can be altered to a surprising degree for an Arcade title.


After creation, players are free to fly around an island environment complete with villagers to talk to and places to check out. Combat seems like fairly straightforward turn-based RPG fare, but the setting is certainly unique and I was very intrigued by options in the menu to further change up the player’s appearance and abilities.

Slightly eccentric projects like these are right up my alley, so they've both been earmarked for further investigation. If you've got some feedback on either one, post a comment and let me know.


TV: British programming has been dominating my family’s viewing time lately. In addition to plowing through the new Dr. Who on a regular basis, the wife and I recently watched the new Sherlock reboot (downloaded for free from PBS here) and we loved it.

This modern-day take on the classic detective has Sherlock as a hyperactive sociopathic detective who only lives for mental challenge, while Watson is an Afghanistan war vet who craves the adrenaline rush of living on the edge. The two seem to clash more often than they get along, but it's a terrific match-up and an invigorating vision – Sherlock’s pipe has been traded in for nicotine patches, and he sports an iPhone in lieu of the iconic Deerstalker cap.

The first episode (of three, they’re about 90 minutes each) was utterly fantastic, and did a great job of setting the stage and introducing the characters. The mystery of the episode was also quite interesting, and kept us engaged from start to finish.

The second episode wasn't terrible, but it wasn't up to the standard of the first. Including a lot of Asian/Eastern cliché elements that were utter crap, I felt like certain parts of it were bordering on stereotypical farce. The actors did a fine enough job, but the writers should be a bit embarrassed.

The last episode regained its stride, and was nearly as enjoyable as the first. It's in this segment that we finally meet Sherlock’s re-imagined nemesis, Moriarty, and see how such an evil genius was reinterpreted for today's audience. (And please, don't tell me that mentioning Moriarty is a spoiler -- these characters have been around for over a hundred years!)

I can't say that I've ever been a huge fan of the detective, but in this new take using forensic science, text messaging and some interesting visual information presented onscreen was time well-spent on the couch to be sure. Very much looking forward to the next installments of the series.


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1 comments: to “ MGS: Peace Walker, XBLA's UnderGarden & Faery, and the new Sherlock


    I'll be interested to hear how you feel about the MH/RPG elements of Peace Walker over time. It's not bad at first, but in my opinion the grinding eventually gets a bit ridiculous, not necessarily in how long it takes, but in how meaningless it makes actual strategic decision-making that used to be one of the hallmarks of the series. After a point it becomes about how many missiles/rations you have and virtually nothing else.