Reviews of three games that don’t deserve a full post:

Beautiful Katamari

If you’ve played its predecessors, you know what to expect, and you’ll probably be disappointed. More of the same; the music is still good, but no track was nearly as good as, say, Everlasting Love from the second game. They continued to ratchet up the scale of the later levels, to bad effect: you lose the detail when you get to rolling up islands, which this game goes far beyond. The good news is that there was only one level with a significant non-size-based goal. (Which was by far the most annoying level in the game!)

The main bad news is that there are too few levels, especially since it’s getting priced at close to a full game price (the original launched at 20 bucks); to make things worse, a quick scan through the game’s downloadable content suggests that Namco is trying to get greedy and nickel-and-dime fans to death. A thin enough experience to switch the series from “default buy” to “default don’t buy”, which makes me sad.

Hexic HD

An XBLA game that came for free with the system. It’s a puzzle game, and an awful one: I tried it once, and lasted for 20-30 minutes, not because of my l33t puzzle skills but because there’s no way to lose. Or win. Actually, there is apparently a way to win (but it’s really hard without interesting intermediate goals), and there are ways to lose if you play for long enough, but the basic tension that this style of puzzle game should provide is completely absent: reducing the feedback to how many points you’re getting meant that I never felt that I was doing well or badly, and after five minutes or so I was just waiting for me to die somehow, anyhow.

Reading other reviews of the game, it would seem that the other gameplay modes have a bit more potential for tension. (I did “marathon mode”, because it was first on the list and sounded like a sensible default puzzle game mode.) I have no desire to give them a try.

Gradius III

A shooter. I enjoyed playing Life Force, which is one of its predecessors on the NES, so I thought I’d give this one a try. I remember that game being a fair amount of fun, though its power-up mechanism was a bit off: when you died, you lost all (or all but one) of your powerups, and the game structure was such that, after that happened, you were basically screwed, but it was a pleasant way to spend time if you didn’t mind that.

Either my skills have atrophied, or Gradius III isn’t as good: I had a harder time making it through the earlier levels (though, oddly, the level 1 boss is actually noticeably harder than the level 2 one, so if I made it through level 1 I had a good chance of reaching level 3), to the extent that I wasn’t really enjoying the game. Some of that was due to my not wanting to invest the time in memorizing where every enemy entered the screen, which I recall doing in Life Force. (Also, playing while either Miranda or Zippy was acting antsy made it quite difficult to concentrate enough to avoid swarms of enemies.) Though the good news is that, even when I died, losing powerups didn’t hurt me so much, so I didn’t always have to start over from scratch.

I think it’s probably an okay game in the right context, but right now I have other ways that I’d rather spend my time, so rather than banging my head against it to improve my abilities, I decided to move on. Hmm, that seems to be a theme for me with Virtual Console games

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