Game People Calling

Game People Calling: A Sequel Used to Mean Something

Game People | 18 Jul 2010 13:00
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Some years later, came the next game in the series. By now play had moved to consoles, but the encounter with a re-imagining of that Bubble Bobble seed was just the same. Parasol Stars took us from rainbows to umbrellas, and from vertical to side scrolling levels. It took some time to get my head around, but again the inheritance was clear.

It's interesting that I still go back to each of these games separately. They are distinct experiences that each offer something unique. The more recent knowledge that this year's franchise will be eclipsed by the sequel is kind of odd by comparison. As soon as the new game is out the previous version is often redundant, each overshadows the previous game almost entirely. These iterative sequels not only limit their imagination of new ideas, but also restrain themselves from cutting out extraneous elements. They are compelled to include everything that went before.

I really enjoy it when a new Bond film takes a different narrative path, or casts 007 in a more questionable light. I have favorites in the Bond franchise not because they encapsulate everything that went before, but because they are artistically and imaginatively unique.

Away from the iteratively cursed sequel, the same is true for some games. Timesplitters is a fascinating example, and perhaps not one you'd expect. Timesplitters 2 delivered an experience that continued the themes of the first game while innovating gameplay and story. Timesplitters 3 is where we see the real departure with the single player story introducing time traveling elements where the player helps themselves from the future.

Although not a sequel by name, Free Radical went on to develop another step into unusual first person shooter territory, Haze. And yes, I know it wasn't all that well received, but if nothing else it introduced genuine innovative ideas, as well as departing from some of the team's favorite stock in trade tricks - and I actually quite liked it. Even though the last two games disappointed in term of delivery, I'm still excited any time the mention of resurrecting Timesplitters 4 crops up because it promises to try and genuinely move things forward.

It is telling that people have a favorite Timesplitters game. Rather than these sequels eclipsing the previous version, they are much more distinct and each offer a different experience. Whether it's the craziness of the first game, the single player of the first sequel, the time traveling of Timesplitters 3 or even the heady ideology of Haze there are clear reasons to own each of them. And, as you may have heard me say before, Timesplitters 2 is still the classic version so far.

If I could change anything about videogame sequels it would be to inject a bit more courage of their convictions. When games grant themselves permission to do away with superfluous elements as well as space to move imaginatively into new surprising territory, we are all the richer for it. It used to happen a lot more than it does, but if you know where to look you can still find some great examples of a really ballsy next step.

Whether this is the new art style of Wind Waker, the ideology of Haze, or the radically slimmed down Advance Wars: Days of Ruin it takes a lot of courage to do something new. So perhaps we should think twice before dismissing these daring departures out of hand?

Game People is a rag tag bunch of artisans creating awesomely bizarre reviews from across the pond.

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