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Games Worth a Second Look

A couple weeks back I discussed two games from 2011 that didn’t get nearly the amount of attention that they deserved. Both had a few things in common. Namely, how each were high octane, militaristic simulations. Well, here we have a pair of adventures dealing with the undead, that many have missed, and it’s a damn crying shame.


So the sad truth of the matter is, iOS has won the handheld gaming war. The 3DS is still struggling, and will continue to do so for the rest of its life span.

Unfortunately, people have become spoiled by the fact that they can download games for their iPhones for just a few bucks, even free, making the idea of coughing up $20-30 on a title hard to swallow. And guess what; a lot of those iPhone and iPad games are pretty damn awesome and a great bargain.

Still you get what you pay for. And what exactly does one get when they track down a copy of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective? Which, btw, has to be like $20 or less at this point. Well, you’re getting, hands down, one of the finest adventure games produced on any platform in the past five or so years.

A truly thought provoking story, captivating characters, some of the finest animation ANYWHERE, and gameplay that’s truly head spinning.

First and foremost, the game is absolutely beautiful. Those who are still advocates of the power of the pixel, look no further. Though I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of all the chunky, 8bit blocks, that largely at this point are resting on the laurels of nostalgia. Well, not Ghost Trick, with its silky smooth animation putting it easily on par with old Disney flicks.

So that’s the first thing you’ll notice before getting into the meat of the game. But let’s talk about the premise; you start off dead. Your name is (or was) Sissel, and it’s your job to find out who killed you, and possibly why, though the main goal is to protect a very cute redheaded girl that’s still barley alive.

Because you’re dead, not much can be done with your cadaver of a body, but your sprit is able to mingle about to a certain degree. Gameplay basically consists of being able to leap into various objects and even other bodies. From there, one can interact with elements in a scenario, though it’s entirely contingent upon what the new vessel is capable of.

Essentially, Ghost Trick, is a Rube Goldberg-driven puzzle. One that drives a murder mystery that is genuinely engaging. The writing is insanely sharp and smart, and doesn’t treat the player like a child.

So often you play a game that tries to be a mystery, but you see every twist and turn coming a mile away. Not hear. It gets a bit too convoluted near the end, but no more so than a goofy pulp novel from the early half of the 20th century, which all by itself is a rarity of the world of video games. It’s a real shame that Ghost Trick didn’t take off, but it’s hardly a shocker; adventure games don’t quite light the cash registers like Modern Warfare 3, plus it’s for the original DS, a platform that most could care less about these days.

If you have access to later, don’t be a fool and pass up what is, arguably, the last truly great game for the platform. DS

Okay, whereas it “sorta” made sense that Ghost Trick was not the biggest hit in the world, I’m still trying to figure out why Shadows of the Damned was a bomb. On paper, it’s utterly brilliant. In fact, let me prove that point. Just stop reading when things start sounding pale and boring, okay?

You play a dude who fights demons. Okay, right from the get-go, that’s sorta generic sounding, but trust me, that’s pretty much the only generic part. Your name is Garcia Hotspur, or “Garcia F*cking Hotspur” as he’s prefers to call himself. Note the last name: he’s from south of the border, or at least has linage from those parts.

Shadows of the Damned takes the Mexican wrestling / Dia de los muertos theme that is becoming increasingly clichéd and gives it a bit of a twist. Instead of pointing and going “ohh, that’s so cool!”, Shadows of the Damned does its best to genuinely interface with ancient traditions and its motifs in a meaningful, and contemporary fashion. Besides, the whole Lucha Libra thing is old news for one of the game’s creators, Suda 51. Dude has been inserting Lucha Libre in his games for years.

Enough with the name talent behind the scenes; every compelling lead needs an amusing sidekick, and Garcia has Johnson, a former demon that is the ultimate Swiss Army knife. He can be used as a weapon primarily by turning into a host of firearms, but he also acts as a torch for hard to see areas (and the underworld is indeed a dark place), a melee weapon, and provides all sorts of exposition when necessary.

Every guy needs a girl and Shadows of the Damnedhas, without a doubt, Paula is the hottest heroine in recent memory. And she better be hot, because you have to travel through the depths of hell to save your gal pal from the clutches of Fleming, a demon that wants revenge for all his associates you’ve offed in your career. And thus we have the basic plot of the game.

Whereas No More Heroes was essentially Grand Theft Auto turned upside down with just the right amount of satire and new ideas on the table, one could equate Shadows of the Damned as a reworking of various third person shooters. Especially since it’s also built on the Unreal Engine, though it does feels a lot like Resident Evil 4, due to the somewhat similar control scheme.

The controls are spot on and natural, which is essential for the tough as nails and fairly unforgiving difficulty level. Shadows of the Damned is something that will always keep you on your toes, as you deal with hostiles in a no man’s land, where logic isn’t necessarily turned upside down. Xbox 360, PS3

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