Since the last time I've been blogging, I've finished an awful lot of games. For those who care, here are some quick summaries.
Final Fantasy XII (PS2): A fantastically addictive experience that will consume 100+ hours of your life - but if you like depth of gameplay, compelling plot, or interesting characterisation you're better off playing an earlier installment of the series. The later dungeon designs are downright idiotic, becoming repetetive, tedious slogs wherein you'll be forced to search for invisible paths and illusionary walls on a scale not seen since the original Might and Magic. Sadly better than most traditional computer RPGs but still not up to scratch for Square-Enix's mascot franchise.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS): Fun open-ended 2D platforming in the tradition of the Castlevania titles for the Gameboy Advance. This one acts as a direct sequel to the GBA Aria of Sorrow, and sees you once again leading white-haired pretty boy Soma Cruz in a quest against vague and unspecified evil. If anything, Dawn of Sorrow is even easier than its already undemanding predecessor, and you'll breeze through in a couple of days of gameplay. It's a decent ride though, and this time around Soma's ability to capture the souls of defeated enemies and gain their powers is put to better use in crafting puzzles to block your progress. Worth your purchase for the DS if game longevity isn't a major concern to you.
Gitaroo Man (PS2): Everyone who told me this game was good was full of filthy, filthy lies. A pox on their houses. Gitaroo Man comes from Koei, the makers of Dynasty Warriors, and features a similar hardcore guitar metal soundtrack, but that's where the similarities end. You're tasked with fighting the challenge, or challenging the fight, by using the analog stick to follow a rapidly moving line across the screen while simultaneously jamming out using the face buttons, in time to each level's music. In practice, this is eye-wateringly hard, deeply unsatisfying, and will likely just leave you wanting to go back to playing Guitar Hero. Avoid as though it had rabies.
Elite Beat Agents (DS): Every bit as good as Ossu! Tatake! Ouendan!, this extravagant tale of male cheerleading captures most of what made the Japanese original good, while at the same time turning down the difficulty to more realistic levels. Not all the new Western soundtrack will win gold medals, but the excellence of busting your moves to the likes of YMCA and Jumping Jack Flash more than compensates. Must-have for all DS owners.
Cooking Mama (DS): Real cooking, taught through the use of minigames. What's there is definitely strong, but it only took me about ten minutes to start asking, "But then what?" Certainly original; possibly a good buy for non-gamers and the very young. Hard to justify at full price for connoisseurs, though.
Another Code (DS): Aka Trace Memory in the US. Developer CING's first attempt at a DS point-and-click puzzler falls flat due to an uninspiring story and a largely sterile game world. While some obstacles make inspired use of the DS's unique features, on the whole this is likely to leave most consumers cold. Stay away unless you're a die-hard adventure fan and you see it on sale.
Hotel Dusk (DS): Where Another Code bit down hard on the suck pill, CING's second effort in the adventure genre is significantly more impressive. Hotel Dusk combines strong plotting, dialogue, and a unique art style to create a memorable and enjoyable romp through a 70s noir-esque mystery novel. The game sometimes moves on rails and makes you feel more audience than player, but this won't diminish your enjoyment of an all-round class act. Should be seen.
Excite Truck (Wii): Sweet Goat of Moses, this game is fun! Everything you liked best about the Burnout franchise, combined with motion sensitive controls and the sensibilities of the old-school PC classic Stunts. Never have monster trucks spent so much time flying through the air. For people I've shown this to, it seems to sell the Wii in both concept and execution better than anything except perhaps Wii Sports - and Excite Truck has a hell of a lot more staying power. Must-buy for Wii owners.
Well, that's all the things I'm done with since last we spoke. While I'm here, I'll mention that Wii owners who haven't yet obtained and played ActRaiser for their virtual console are uneducated philistines who deserve to be shot in the street. Right in the street, shot.