Wednesday, January 23, 2008

shmups make Fat insane: an introductory appendix

An oddity I ponder occasionally: the most worthwhile writing on gaming tends to come from the UK.(1) In recent times, the estimable Eurogamer grants its favored titles the label "moreish". This might be the most game-useful label I've yet encountered.

And the most moreish title since, probably, fucking Tetris would have to be my newly-acquired Geometry Wars: Galaxies (DS).

Now, what it means to be moreish in my mind is that when you fail, you still want to play more.(2) It's the arcade sensation par excellance: the game kills you, but you still feel you can beat it, and you shove another quarter down its maw to demonstrate same. I knew GW:G had this quality a couple hours after I bought it, a week ago: I was down the coffee shop, and I fired it up. Two hours later, I hadn't shifted, my thumb was killing me, and my eyes were absolutely fried, since I hadn't been blinking.(3)

GWG plays sorta like Robotron, in that you can shoot in any direction whilst you move in any direction. And it looks a lot like Asteroids, in that the backgrounds are mostly black, and the figures are mostly vectorish. (Single-color lines.) Aesthetically, then, this game is possessed of the rarest quality in the medium: beauty.

Game's simple: you pick a galaxy, then you pick a world, then you fly around. Some worlds are largeish, some tiny, some square, some ellipticalish, and so on. Critters show up, a wide variety, generally en masse, and you shoot at them, killing them afore they touchkill you. You kill them, they blow up. The fragments they leave, you can collect, which helps your score, and helps your gun shoot better. So, better you kill, better your killing-gun gets.

Also you have a little buddy--a "drone"--and before you enter any world, you get to pick what she's gonna do. She can gather up the fragments of felled enemies ("geoms", the currency of the game), shoot enemies, circle around yr craft in circles of varying speeds and sizes, shoot stuff, and so on.(4) Eight options in all.

The critters have a lot of different forms, and every form has a different behavior. Some chase you, some move in patterns unrelated to your craft, some wander toward you while avoiding your fire...some chase you fast and force you to fire on them from odd angles. All of them can kill your sorry ass, and at some point, you will grow to hate each and every one of them.(5)

The game's mostly a score game. Every world has a set of medals, attained at certain score thresholds. At the moment, I crave a gold on every world. I've played 14 worlds, and have 8 golds (6 silvers). I have 43 more worlds to unlock. And conquer!!(6)

And if I hated myself, I could connect my 'loved little grey brick to the 'nets and access some leaderboards to realize and reenforce how shoddy a videogame player I really am. But for the next coupla weeks, I'm just blasting baddies, hoovering geoms, and absolutely loving Geometry Wars.


(1) Favorite examples would be:
UK Resistance, the English Wizznutzz, somehow capable of moments of real beauty;
Eurogamer, the only review site whose workers actually like video games;
Affectionate Diary, which realizes many of my ambitions for this here site. (So far as this here site pertains to games.)

(2) I mean, it's not just "I like this and want to keep playing". Moreishness has to do with the response to failure, I think.

(3) My verdict: Instant Classic. This was confirmed later, when I began to explore its multiplayer with Canada. 4 times in the first 5 minutes of play, I heard him mutter "Oh, yeah. I could get obsessed with this."

(4) So far, I've only unlocked half of the drone behaviors. Each has seemed useful in varying worlds--one minor complaint about the high scores list is that no mention is made of the drone (behavior) you choose. This is likely deliberate, but it's still frustrating. If I've only had success on Sureis (my Waterloo) with a Collect drone, I'd like to know it! I don't want to keep using a Sweep drone!! Throw me a fucking drone bone, developers!!

(5) Couple nights ago, batt'ling for living-room supremacy with Canada, I mentioned the rather brilliant comic series. It's sorta a Battlestar Galactica, in which the blue-diamond beasties--Viagrons--are presented as peaceful explorers. They percieve the human crafts as a threat, and mobilize against them, as the humans send out ships that are heavily armed, very fast, and essentially without armor. It's a good series; well worth a look.

(6) If somebody gifted me the Wii game, there'd be another 7 worlds to unlock on my DS cart. This...seems unlikely.

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