The holidays are over, the leftovers are long gone, and things are generally back to normal. One thing that isn't normal is the amount of video games waiting for me to complete them. The holiday season brought with it tons (and tons) of triple-A goodness. It's been overwhelming (in the best way possible), but I've slowly been progressing through several games. Let me tell you about them...
Prince of Persia (Xbox360/PS3):I'm starting on a bit of a sad note. Let me start by saying that I have NOT finished Prince of Persia, and refuse to cast (permanent) judgment. However, at the moment I'm far from a fan of the game. The controls thus far have been frustrating, the writing is painful ("Thank you for helping me reach here," really?) and the dialogue is nothing short of _horrible_ (why must every triple-A video game character be a badass Han-Solo-only-less-clever type). On a positive note, the graphics are wonderful and have kept me playing, and I'm hoping that better gameplay is around the corner (any moment now...)
We Love Katamari (PS2):
Although "We Love Katamari" was released in '05, I haven't gotten around to playing this sequel to "Katamari Damacy" until now. I loved the first Katamari game and was excited about playing the sequel, "We Love Katamari". My last Katamari experience was "Beautiful Katamari" which, although it was sharp, crisp and colorful on the next-gen Xbox360, showed almost no variety in its level design and gameplay. I can whole-heartedly declare that "We Love Katamari" is as good if not better than the original "Katamari Damacy", and far better than the last game in the series, "Beautiful Katamari". The game features wonderful level design and environments from snowy landscapes to beautiful garden levels. The soundtrack (like the first game's) is fantastic and among the best video game soundtracks have to offer. Overall, "We Love Katamari" is a joy to play.
Gears of War 2 (XBox360):
This sequel to the best-selling Xbox360 game "Gears of War" improves on almost every aspect of the original while maintaining the super-satisfying controls and game mechanics that made the first game such a home run. While the overall story has been improved through the use of 41 in-game collectibles that tell the stories of heartbreak and anguish in war, the dialog has not been improved; nothing takes you out of a game quite like picking up an opponent for use as a shield and hearing, "You're mine now, bi***." (I mean, seriously. Who the hell thought that was clever enough to use?).
Guitar Hero 4: World Tour (Xbox360/PS3):
Guitar Hero 4 is an improvement on every aspect of previous Guitar Hero games, but that's what we've come to expect. The drums feel great and are well built. I can't imagine breaking this kick pedal (though I did break the one packaged with RB1) and I enjoy playing open notes on the bass guitar. On the other hand, the setlist is garbage showing no variety and flooding the shows with at least 75% classic rock (I don't necessarily hate classic rock, but I like to discover some new music when I play a music game, I don't really want to hear "On The Road Again" again.)
Rock Band 2 (Xbox360/PS3):
There is no doubt in my mind that RB2 beats both Guitar Hero's built in setlist and download content. I'm also happy with my current setup of Guitar Hero hardware and Rock Band software. Though, if you're not looking to spend your life savings on video games, you might be better served by just picking up the RB2 Band Bundle and using both RB hardware and software.
Though not quite an independent-level game, Ninjatown is far from a triple-A budget game. While some might judge the game by its Flash game-like art style (the good part is that it's colorful and has a cute, though sometimes patronizing, story/dialogue). The gameplay is a variation on tower defense wherein you find yourself building "Ninja Huts" where two Ninjas will stay until an enemy walks by, in which case they spring into action and proceed to attack the passerby. The game is fun, simple (though never dumbed-down) and a great time waster (which I consider a plus in a handheld videogame.)