Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So You Want To Be A Casual Gamer

The good Sir Juffles has recently directed me to a post by LiveJournal user CricketK, which was apparently made after CricketK was shown the Guitar Hero 2 videos in my last post.

Last night I found out that a game called 'Guitar Hero' exists. It looks like something I would actually enjoy playing! In fact - I even want to have a go. I don't really mind how crap this makes me look in the world of games. I've spent pretty much my entire life thinking that games were all first-person shooters or RPGs, or really, really long (like the Sims), none of which I am the least bit interested in. Are there other games out there like this? Non-violent, ranging in difficulty levels, short and kind of self-mocking? The only other thing I've tried that looked like this much fun is the one where you dance around in front of the camera waving your arms to burst the little balloons.

[See original post here]
I know that a lot of people who read my blog aren't gamers, and occasionally feel a little left out by all the games talk. I also know that a disturbing amount of non-gamers who've played Guitar Hero love it to bits. So if you're the sort of person who's looking for games which are short, non-violent, and don't have an off-putting difficulty level, I thought I'd do a post just for you.

Here's the good news: you're living at the dawn of a new era for this type of game. You are squarely in the target market for Nintendo's new generation console (the Wii) and handheld (the DS). You're also a demographic being massively catered to by developers of mobile phone games and web based applet games. There's a lot of choices out there for you.

So I've made a short list of games below, for a range of different systems, that you might enjoy. Every game on this list is (a) easy to learn, (b) can be played in sessions of ten minutes or less, (c) is non-violent, (d) is easily available for purchase in Australia, and (e) comes highly recommended by myself. Here we go.

Guitar Hero & Guitar Hero 2 (PlayStation 2)
These are doing great business in Australia and internationally. These rhythmn-based games let you play air guitar to a variety of classic songs. They come with a custom guitar controller. They're challenging, but their easiest difficulties are perfect for non-gamers, and playing them is incredibly satisfying. You can play two-player if you have two guitars. Check out what I've had to say, what game review site Gamespot has to say, or watch some gameplay on Youtube.

We Love Katamari (PlayStation 2) and Me and My Katamari (PlayStation Portable)
The off-beat Katamari games see you playing a tiny space alien on a mission to roll up a variety of Katamari. Katamari are giant balls of... stuff. Katamari get bigger as you roll stuff up in them, and if your Katamari is big enough you can roll up pretty much anything. You might start off mouse-sized on a carpet, rolling up paperclips and pencil sharpeners, and move on to tennis balls, books, pot plants, chairs, tables, bushes, people, trees, houses and finally national monuments, continents, and planets. Crazy fun and ideal for any level of skill. Read my thoughts, Gamespot's review, or some gameplay.

Animal Crossing (GameCube) & Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo DS)
The world of Animal Crossing sees you as a human child arriving in a town populated by (mostly) friendly anthropomorphic animals. You wander around the town harvesting fruit, catching fish and bugs, digging up fossils, socialising with animals, buying and collecting furniture and clothes, redecorating your house, and gardening like there's no tomorrow. It's totally laid back with no time limits, dangers, or particularly difficult challenges, and it's a surprisingly large amount of fun. It responds to real-world time signals to show night and day, and celebrates your birthday, New Year's, and other occasions. The Nintendo DS version lets you visit the towns of other people who own a copy of the game, and hang out with their characters. I've never got round to posting my thoughts, but suffice to say I love it, as does Gamespot. Check out some gameplay, too.

Nintendogs (Nintendo DS)
Basically a puppy simulator, Nintendogs lets you get your hands on up to three virtual puppies, of a large variety of possible breeds, and care for them, train them, and play with them. It makes use of the DS microphone and touchpad - you can call your dogs by name to make them walk over to the screen, rub the touchscreen to scratch and pet them, provide them with food and toys, and take them for walks. They can be trained to do tricks on voice command, entered in competitions, and when you have more than one puppy they'll play with each other and compete over toys. It's ultimately a little shallow on the "game" side of things but if you've ever enjoyed a Tamagotchi or just like dogs it's probably right up your alley. Don't worry - your dogs never get sick or die! You can also check out a Gamespot review or some hilarious gameplay footage.

Puzzle Pirates (PC)
Okay, I actually haven't played this one myself, but I hear good things. It's an online game where you play a pirate, in a world filled with other pirates (who are all played by other players). Pretty much every task in the world, from repairing a ship to cooking up food, is represented by a classic puzzle game in the tradition of Tetris, Bejeweled, Atomica or suchlike. It's apparently a load of swashbuckling fun. Check out the official website, the Gamespot review, or some (silent) footage.

There's a bunch more but this post is getting kind of long. What, you say, no XBox or XBox 360 games? Sorry, you're kind of not their target market. Plus, I don't own those systems and tend to ignore a lot of what comes out for them. In final recommendations I'd just add that Dance Dance Revolution is of course excellent but nearly impossible to get hold of in Australia; your options are pretty much just the inferior Dancing Stage series, which feature significantly less interesting song lists. If you don't mind a game based largely around surgery then Trauma Center for the Nintendo DS might be worth a look, which sees you as a surgeon. Brain Training is another DS title which combines a "mental fitness" regimine of puzzles and tests with an impressively large library of sudoku problems. And Nintendo's new console the strangely named Wii will ship with a title called Wii Sports which sees you playing tennis, ten-pin bowling, golf and other games using a motion sensitive controller, where you make the physical actions of bowling or golfing with your hands to cause the appropriate action on screen.

Hope some of these tickle your interest, and keep reading The Dust Forms Words for more news about interesting titles for all gaming systems!


Sim said...

The ball of stuff game is SOOOO much fun!
It is also great to watch... you get a bunch of people sitting around talking and all of a sudden someone starts frantically waving at TV screen blustering on about picking up card now... and all of a sudden everyone in the room is teling the poor person playing what to run over next!

Another good casual game I found was Bomberman on the N64. I manages to get total game nay-sayers playing that for hours on end...

And Sing-Star, for all it's girlish appeal seems to be mentioned a bit in blogs talking about social gatherings and gaming.

GregT said...

I haven't tried Singstar yet. I had largely assumed it was fairly light on the "game" aspect and was mostly just karaoke dressed up in a funny hat. If someone has it I'd like to see it played so I know whether it's something I should try.

Plus I'm not sure encouraging the average person to sing in public is something I want happening in my house.

cricketk said...

Thanks for this list Greg.

I'm planning to rent a PS2 on the weekend and have a crack at Guitar Hero and Katamari Damacy.

Juffles looked at me very oddly in the car last night as I said "...and then you put the Wii remote on your head like a mohawk and..."

Here's hoping the initial excitement lasts.

GregT said...

Lol. Good stuff.

(Wait, did I just say "lol" in a blog comment? Damn you, World of Warcraft, get out of my head!)

Grant said...

The original PSX had some great titles for the casual gamer, mainly rhythm action stuff like Parappa the Rapper, Un Jammer Lammy, Vib Ribbon, Bust a Groove/Move. They'd be probably quite hard to track down now, though (hey, Vib Ribbon was hard to track down at the time).

GregT said...

Bust-A-Move has been ported to I think the DS and PSP (could be wrong) and Parapper the Rapper is getting a new PSP incarnation in the new near future.