Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top Ten Platformers rerevisited, again. Some more

at 1:20 PM
Let's knock this one out early, huh? Continuing from yesterday's post.

4.) Bionic Commando Rearmed 2
A sequel to a requel? And an unpopular one at that? Unfathomable. Believe it or not, I don't particularly care for the original Bionic Commando or its 2008 enhanced remake. The swing-only movement is too mechanical and rigid; too often an attempt at a minor hop ends with Rad flung hopelessly off a ledge into the will of the winds. Rearmed 2 finally addressed this issue by adding a jump button and direction controls for the grappling arm. The masses were infuriated and the game was shockingly condemned by a gaming press which had been enamored with its predecessor.

Why? How many times do I have to tell you that relying on the mainstream gaming media is the equivalent of going to MTV for advice about music? Rearmed 2 is all about finesse and precision. It's about rewarding the player through controls, giving them the opportunity to do just a little bit more than even they thought possible. This is mobility you never have to think about - it's like that Spider-Man moment where you simply jump off a building and let your instinct do the rest. Rad Spencer is everything you want a platforming protagonist to be, and his versatility doesn't come at the cost of obscene complexity. It's all two-button control.

The game is in the most literal sense a shooter, but it gives plenty of options for when to sneak, run, or open fire. Most of your time will be spent trying to swing into new paths, although the occasional boss will provide the equivalent of an electrified jungle gym.

5.) Demon's Crest
This one might be off your radar. Here, check it out.
If the aesthetic of Demon's Crest doesn't seem familiar, the protagonist may. That's because the game is part of a spin-off series of Gs n' Gs. As Gargoyle's Quest II united the overworld of Dragon Warrior with the stages of Ghosts n' Goblins, Demon's Crest brings together the Mode 7 world map of Final Fantasy VI with Arthur's antics from Super Ghouls n' Ghosts. Thankfully, Crest takes the edge off the unforgiving GnG platforming and gives the player more leeway to experiment and explore. That's not to say this is an easy one to complete; fearsome fiends, labyrinthine caverns, and even a brain-scratcher or two await.

In some sense, Demon's Crest takes the very opposite approach to these obstacles from what is seen in GnG. While Sir Lonely may as well be in a wheelchair for all his adaptability, Firebrand, our protagonist this time around, rivals RPG heroes in his customizability. Not only does he have five (six?) different transformations, each form also has a unique set of powers that can be swapped in and out at will. If you thought Ufouria was a delight because of its starring foursome (it's not and you didn't), boy are you in for a treat here.

Of course, in the fashion of all great adventures, Firebrand has to fight to win these skills, and taking a page from Super Metroid, they aren't all obviously located on the beaten path. The order of powering up is in the hands of the player, leading to a lot of potential for repeated runs.

6.) Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil
Klonoa 2. Hey, have all the games I've listed been sequels? I feel kind of ashamed all of a sudden. That's kinda bullshit though. Video game sequels can't be blindly equated to cash-in film franchises. While certainly your God of War 5s and your Pokemon Magentas don't rise high above the yearly Bourne Anemone and Terminator rehashes, many "series" in the world of gaming better parallel the ongoing works of filmic auteurs or the catalog of a band's albums.

Klonoa 2 is perhaps the best example of a 2D game taking place in 3-space. Its environments wind, weave, and fold over themselves, never creating a plausible image of the real world. Instead they stand as gorgeous expressionist sculptures, masking unexpected twists and turns. Klonoa is a puzzle game at heart, demanding thought before action, but doesn't deny the satisfaction of execution. One needs not only be smart enough to solve a puzzle, but quick enough as well.

An excellently paced game, Klonoa 2 always has an action segment on hand when the mazes become dizzying and knows how to light a fire under your pants and get you thinking fast. The health bar and floaty jump give just enough leeway that mastery isn't necessary - only the right intentions.

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