Op-Ed

Op-Ed
At Night, The Ice Weasels Come

Shannon "Vandemar" Drake | 11 May 2006 00:51
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

In the words of Nietzsche, E3 is a snowmobile racing across the tundra. Suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night the ice weasels come.

So I did my share of floor duty today. The greatest thing I saw today was something I've taken to calling "Grand Theft Auto: Great White Shark." When the booth babes--side note, despite the alleged "serious business" approach, I saw ample cleavage, dancing girls, and booth babes--handed me a little flier for Jaws, I added it to my stash with only a little bit of interest. Movie tie-in games have a tradition of being bad and like any other kid who stumbled into a video store circa 1986, I've played the previous Jaws, which may as well have been called, "Sailing Around Until You Get Eaten By A Shark" or "My god, my mom only lets me rent one video game a week and I'm stuck with this until next Thursday."

My opinion swiftly changed during my Majesco appointment.

Okay, so it's the greatest gaming concept of all time and I can't believe they're actually doing it. You play Jaws. 30 years after the movie (and nevermind how, considering the sequels), you rampage around the ocean doing story missions and/or free-roaming around, eating people and sinking boats and breaking things. And I believe they said it was the Ecco the Dolphin team doing it, so this is like Bizarro Ecco. But it's exactly what it sounds like: You are a REALLY big shark and you swim around eating people. You can do special moves to knock people off jetskis, hurry up and knock them into the air, then gobble on them as they scream. Yea, it's kinda horrifying, too, but I'm a fan of high concepts. Grand Shark Auto is high concept.

Majesco also has, and I'm calling it now, the next cutesy-kawaii Japanese game that will sell 8 billion copies. It's called Cooking Mama. It's a cooking game for the DS. You use the stylus as a cooking utensil. When you, say, need to make pizza, you use the stylus to knead the dough, to chop up the pepperonis, etc. It's basically a collection of cooking mini-games with stylus and mic input, probably the closest thing to the Iron Chef game I play in my dreams, all presided over by a cheerful, cutesy mascot "mama" whose moods change with the winds of precisely prepared cuisine.

Obviously, we saw Guitar Hero 2. I also had a brief talk with the team behind Spellborn at eFocus and that game is looking very cool. I'm very intrigued by a deck-building-CCG-style combat system put into an MMO framework. I had an unfortunately-brief peek at Mythic's Warhammer game and they are using buckets of polish on it. I saw it a few months ago and loved it when half the things they are putting in now were just cool concepts in design documents. Seeing it now, I'd be a little concerned launching against it when they have months and months and months of prep to make it work.

Speaking of Guitar Hero, the next iteration of the rhythm game is Piano Wizard. Imagine Guitar Hero, but on a piano keyboard, and it slowly transitions you from the top-down rhythm game to a side-scrolling rhythm game and subtly teaches you to actually play the instrument. I was playing along to Piano Man fairly decently after about 20 minutes of screwing around. And it segues into eventually teaching you to read sheet music and stuff. I mean, yea, it's educational and stuff, but haven't you ever been rocking along and gone "God, if only I could, say, actually play guitar when I'm done with this?"

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on