Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Demo Thursday: Sonic, Lego SW II and NLP

Russ Pitts | 28 Sep 2006 11:29
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To continue my ongoing attempt to create a regularly-scheduled featurette in this space, I will now bring you this review of the few demos I played recently, and then forget all about doing it again next week. Ah yes, there is method in the madness, but you gotta dig for it, friends. Dig deep.

First up is a game I downloaded a while ago and about which I've been mercilessly hounded by Muskender Interactive ever since: Ninja Loves Pirate for the PC. It's a fairly standard side-scrolling platformer featuring a swappable character system by which you can either play as a ... wait for it ... ninja or pirate. Each has a fun sword with which to kill enemies and each has a slightly different movement and/or attack style. Swapping between them is great fun.

Other than that, though, the game doesn't offer much. It has a quirky sense of humor and a great visual style, but nevertheless failed to capture my interest. It reminded me of the heady days of Earthworm Jim, simultaneously making me nostalgic for the nineties and glad that we (and the industry) have come so far in the decade since.

And while we're talking about nostalgia, this would be a good place to insert a bit about Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox360. And this time by "nostalgia" I truly do mean that things were better in the past. Because they were. And so was this game.

I played the Sonic the Hedgehog demo for about 20 minutes last night and then deleted it from my machine in a violent fit of fury. It was, I poignantly note, the most emotional I've gotten over a game in some time, but it's not the kind of emotion I think Sonic Team was going for.

As an aside, I have to mention that I briefly shared office space with Sonic Team, when I worked in San Francisco right before the Dreamcast division imploded. They had the coolest suede letterman jackets. They were black, with "Sonic Team" printed on them. I really, really wanted one. I'm sure this mini-review will not help my cause.

I've been a Sonic fan since I played Sonic 1 on the Genesis, and I've played almost every iteration since. Some have been good, some have been bad, but most have had at least one redeeming virtue. (Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast was just insane silly fun, admit it.) But Sonic for 360 just feels like a waste of technology. I know I should be responsible and play the whole game before making such pronouncements, but I honestly have no desire to do so. Not even for money. Death is inevitable (and not fun) and the camera is nearly impossible to adjust, making it very hard to see just where you're "zooming" to. It makes the suggestion that Sonic games should (and always have been) "fast" laughable. Play this game fast and you will experience a feeling not unlike banging your head against a brick wall. The concept is awesome, the execution - not so much. I'll wait for Wildfire on the Wii, which I played at E3 and enjoyed immensely.

And speaking of immense enjoyment (I'm Mr. Segue today), Lego Star Wars II absolutely kicks ass. There will be money spent on this game in the near future. The demo level features Luke and Obi-Wan's trip into Mos Eisley (a wretched hive of scum and villainy), in which they must locate Han Solo and gain passage on his ship. Traveler's Tales take a number of liberties with the story (which is good) and the graphic, sound and "feel" of the game make it a ton of fun to just blow up everything in sight to collect the little Lego dots. Uncovering bins of Lego pieces to build things is also a hoot. (I built the AT-ST walker and stomped around shooting things for a half-hour.)

This game is family-friendly, nerd-friendly and offers a little something for almost every kind of gamer. I honestly can't see why anyone who plays games wouldn't enjoy this. Except for the two or three of you who don't like Star Wars.

And that's all the editorializing that's fit to print about my demo-madness this week. Visit again next week for our next installment (maybe) of Demo Thursday.

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