Moving house has forced me to choose a new broadband provider, which in turn has lead to having three whole weeks without internet due to various cock-ups. This hasn’t been an entirely bad thing though – I’ve managed to whittle down my “unplayed games pile” and also rediscovered Teletext’s GameCentral.
I used to read GameCentral after it took over the reigns from Digitiser, but for the last two years or so I’d pretty much forgotten about it. Teletext could have easily instructed the writers to aim for the casual market, keeping videogame jargon and nerdy videogame in-jokes to a bare minimum but no – GameCentral is pleasingly hardcore and surprisingly honest. The news is up to date and reviews appear no later than they do on the internet. It’s a shame, then, that it’s probably going to go down the pan when Teletext switches off in January 2010. There’s a petition that you can sign here. Will it work? Who knows.
So, those previously unplayed games. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the first in my 360, and just six hours later it was out of the console and back in the case. Not the most pleasure able six hours I’ve spent with a game, but not the worst either. Plus my Gamerscore was 410 points healthier.
I then moved onto Sonic Unleashed. It’s a real “love it / hate it” thing – Sonic’s sections are great; that ruddy warehog’s levels are rubbish. Since when has Sonic been about pushing crates, flicking switches and shimming along ledges? Since never. Three hours is all I could take and my Gamescore was only 35 points better off.
Next: Golden Axe: Beast Rider. I like hack and slashers and have a soft spot for Golden Axe so I picked this one up cheap (£9.99 in Game, if I recall) a few months ago. First impressions were favourable, but after just an hour or so of play I realised something – I wasn’t having fun. The levels are way too long, the combat system doesn’t really work when up against more than one enemy and there aren’t enough set-pieces or cut-scenes. Sometimes you need a beast or magic to progress but if your beast has snuffed it or are all out of potions then you have to backtrack to a recharge spot. I stuck with it for three hours, but with Achievements neigh on impossible to get playing it was almost joyless.
Eventually though I found solace by playing a couple of games that I’m possibly too old to be seen owning – Kung Fu Panda and Thrillville. Even though it’s aimed at the younger 360 gamers Kung Fu Panda doesn’t undermine the player and the levels are nicely designed and significantly different from one another. I’d even say that the combat system is better than the one found in Golden Axe.
Thrillville on the other hand is just fun and rewarding to play. Unlike Rollercoaster Tycoon – from the same developers – you have direct control over the park manager from a third person perspective and the parks are already built. Simply step into an empty space and you can place a ride or stall. You can make mini-golf courses and then play them and – amazingly – the mini-games that occur when trying some of the rides are actually very good. I’m talking good enough to be released on XBLA for 400, possibly 800, points a pop. There’s a platform game a bit like Flicky on the Mega Drive, a scrolling beat’em up with a hint of Castle Crashers about it, a shoot’em up not unlike Cannon Fodder and a physics based motorbike game that’s stupidly addictive. The only real problem with Thrillville is that it doesn’t look much nicer that the Wii or PS2 versions. That’s not going to stop me from trying to finish it though.
Just think, instead of playing that little lot I could have got quarter of the way through my still sealed copy of Fallout 3…