Retail Guide: Mega Man Rocks the PSP
Today’s guide delves into a little known piece of freeware, as well as Mega Man X’s 3D PSP remake, Maverick Hunter X (pictured).
(Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, PSP)
Monday, January 30th
Lyle in Cube Sector
This week is so slow, our game of the week was released a week ago. The reason I was unaware of it until now is that it’s a small, basically unpublicized freeware project created with a Game Creation System in the Klik ‘N Play family. What’s getting nice to see is that, after minor masterpieces like Seiklus, canned game creation utilities like this have lost much of their stigma – and have also become flexible enough to allow some pretty sophisticated expression.
As for what Cube Sector has to express, that is… perhaps open to debate. It’s an adventure platformer that borrows liberally from Metroid, Super Mario 2, and the cumulative NES sound library. Not unlike last year’s Cave Story by the mysterious author known as Pixel, Cube Sector is well-made, enjoyable, and is very much a modern game made in the template of something twenty years old. Cube Sector is less earnest. It’s less professional. The game’s website describes the premise as follows: "OHNO! LYLE’S KITTY HAS BEEN STOLENED AND NOW HE MUST JOURNEY THROUGH THE WONKED OUT LANDS OF THE CUBESECTOR TO RETRIEVE HIS MEOWMEOW COMPANION!" (sic) It’s just a neat little doodle, made with a loopy sense of humor and a rock-solid sensibility for what makes an engaging videogame. As with any game, it borrows heavily from what already exists in order to create its own silly little world. The important points are that the game is well-made; that despite its borrowings it’s about as original as any genre piece; and that it wasn’t made by a professional. The only reason it exists is that some guy wanted to make a videogame, and he was given a set of tools that allowed him to do it.
One of the criticisms often levied against videogames as an expressive medium is the supposed one-way exchange of ideas involved. To hear the cynics tell it, in today’s climate a decent videogame is difficult or impossible for any individual to create, let alone distribute to a wide audience. Videogames take time and money and manpower and experience to make. They’re a medium of big business and big sales outlets. As anyone who’s been around for a couple of decades can attest, this is all gibberish. Some of the most revered games in history were designed and programmed by teams of one to half a dozen people. Ever hear of a guy named Richard Garriott? He was just a guy, you know. And remember the shareware movement of the early ’90s? Where do you think Doom came from?
Beyond that, more and more these days, middleware solutions are coming along to ease the design process. There are whole powerful game engines available – from game creation suites to all the level and content editors available for any major PC game you want to pick out of the crowd – that require no more than some familiarity with the system and perhaps some light scripting. That, and something worthwhile to say.
It’s now becoming evident that, as with film or music or writing, the game design club is open to anyone with the vision and motivation to see a project through – making videogames that much more accessible as a means of expression, opening up that many more potential viewpoints. Now all we need is for the medium itself to grow up, and everything will be peachy.
Trainz Railroad Simulator 2006
I was unaware that the train sim genre had an audience outside of the massively train-centric Japan. Unlike, say, Densha de Go!, where the main point is to drive along existing well-known routes that everyone in Tokyo knows by heart, this Australian game – as with the previous iterations in its series – seems to involve creating your own routes then letting trains zoom around on them. You can trade routes online and even connect your routes with someone else’s, to allow exchange of trains. It’s all rather harmless.
I’m actually rather curious about the market for these games; who buys them, and why? Is it mostly train-spotters? Model train enthusiasts? Although this game’s getting ranked around 50% at GameRankings, if the series has been around for four years – as it has – it must be kind of successful for what it is.
I know by saying this I miss the point entirely. Still, given the success of Nintendogs and the interface and connectivity issues, I think I can actually see how a game like this could work well on the Nintendo DS. Especially if it were "puzzled up" a bit for its multiplayer modes.
Greg Hastings’ Tournament Paintball Max’d
Nintendo DS/Game Boy Advance
It invaded the Xbox, and now it’s hitting your Nintendo portable. Look out, America!
No one wants to talk about these releases. Of the Xbox release, GameSpot comments that it’s "as authentic and feature-laden as paintball games come, but that really isn’t saying much." And that’s on a home console. I guess there’s some potential for the DS version to capture some of that red-hot action, even if it’s not really what the system’s made for. Given that it’s coming out the same day as the GBA edition, though – well. Do the math.
Take 2 Interactive
It’s a racing game with a bunch of well-known old cars in it, like the Mini Cooper and the Corvette Stingray. It’s been received really well by the consumer press, with an average score of 86% and nothing below 80. Actually, it is rather snazzy to see a bunch of cars with distinct personality next to each other; that sets this release apart from just about every other racing game that exists.
The market seems mostly for "sim purists", as one review that complains about the lack of rain and puddles puts it. There’s some disagreement about when the game’s coming out. Some stores seem under the assumption it isn’t due for a few weeks yet; others think it comes out today; others don’t even carry it. This game goes to the obsessives, and maybe to a few more thanks to its snazzy idea and more "console-like" presentation than your typical sim game.