Summer gaming is here. Yes, it's that wonderful time of the year when it's too damn hot to do anything outside, (although I've got an excuse like that for each of the four seasons) and yet there are no videogames in sight. It's a time in which we ostensibly finish old games or make resolutions like finally "catching them all." Or at least it should be. The reality of summer gaming is more akin to catching fireflies and shoving them in a jar with a tuft of grass for food: The enthusiasm only lasts about three days before everything dies. And so it goes that the halcyon days of late spring quickly devolve into the dog days of summer.
The boredom of those summer months, firefly captivity aside, can be excruciating from a gaming perspective. It's during these months that my standards lower and I end up buying or renting a game I wouldn't touch otherwise, games like Metal Warriors, Prey and Rock and Roll Racing. Not that any of these games were awful, in fact Metal Warriors is almost an overlooked classic, but they just weren't on the Christmas wish list.
The Games of Summer, as I'll call them, are usually a disparate bunch of titles that weren't necessarily released during the summer but somehow end up flying way under my radar until then. They all share some common features. For instance, one or more of them will likely attempt the achievements of a far more ambitious game and present middling results at best. Prey is a great example of this. It's a decent FPS with some great ideas that never really come to fruition. The portal system is far from Portal and the variable gravity of the game feels like a rotating camera more than the Super Mario Galaxy feats that would eventually set the standard for the mechanic.
An extension of the same idea is that many of The Games of Summer will cover off on the latest innovations and trendy gameplay ideas. When Spider-man 2 came out, open world gaming was the catch phrase of the moment and the game didn't disappoint, assuming all you wanted was something approximating a city with boring missions and empty streets. It did, however, have one great strength -it finally nailed the web slinging mechanic. That's typical of The Games of Summer; they are all fun in some really shallow way. They're also generally incomplete experiences, but confident in their stature as a mid-level product.
Another trait The Games of Summer share is unfortunate artistic direction. They will likely have some ridiculous looking protagonist on the cover. Take the NES game Power Blade. Clearly no one was going to spend their hard earned pennies on a game featuring a guy who wears Oakley M Frame sunglasses and throws a cybernetic boomerang, although I'll grant you that in 1991 this premise was far less of a stretch. So naturally, I waited until the video store got it in that summer. Again, not a bad game. Crackdown, features similarly ridiculous protagonists that look like they walked out of a cartoon adaptation of Demolition Man or Time Cop.