In these trying economic times, it’s hard to be a gamer. The big PS3 title “Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Gunfight 2” is tantalizingly out of financial reach, but you still want to play great games.
That’s what I’m here for. Join me today as I take a look at two great titles, Pikmin for the Nintendo consoles, and Silent Hill 2, a multi-console release.
With all these savings, you can probably conserve your cash for the really important things in life. Like aglets and silly bands, or whatever crazy things kids buy these days.
Game: Pikmin ***** Platform: Nintendo Wii/Gamecube ***** Price: $10-$30
To be honest, last week I had no prior interest or desire to have anything to do with Pikmin. I had always regarded it as a childish game far beyond my level of adult video game needs. Thankfully, a reader sent me a small e-mail, telling me to check out Chuggaconroy’s Let’s Play of the game [which I had honestly been ignoring, despite my usual enjoyment of his LP’s], and said it might be a good title for the article.
So I braved the Arkansas traffic and rented the game for the Wii. The next day I returned the game. Not because I’d beaten it, and not because I didn’t like it, but because I wanted this game in my video game library for years to come.
This game is none other than Pikmin! The game follows the story of Captain Olimar, as he seeks out his broken ship parts in order to return home. Along this journey, he meets interesting tiny creatures known as Pikmin, which have the survival instincts of a morbidly obese cat with 3 legs cut off. So it’s up to you to help cultivate the Pikmin population, keep them safe, as well as using them for free slave labor in order to schlep your heavy ship parts back and forth.
The gameplay was actually really interesting and intuitive. Chuck the little carrots at things you want carried, dead, or “bum rushed”, and they’ll blindly obey your orders, oblivious to the fact that it may or may not be the brightest thing in the world to do. The controller works as a “point and click” styled PC-esque system on the Wii, which was actually very comfortable, and actually felt really atmospheric and not gimmicky like the usual Wii shovelware. Upon research [not actually tested], the Gamecube version works similarly, just as a different perspective level.
The whole meat of the game is getting all missing 30 ship parts in the span of 30 days. It’s really easy enough to claim one ship part a day, so the difficulty is easy enough for kids, but adults and teens can probably snag 2-3 parts on certain days, or totally dominate the game in the first 16 or so. So while it lacks long-term difficulty, it can be hard [even for me] to wrap your head around what exactly needs to be done in each area to unlock new areas to get out of reach parts. I signifigantly remember one part where there was a part teetering on a cliff, without any real way to get to it. I then remembered [while in the middle of beign slaughtered by a nearby mushroom, naturally] that certain Pikmin can be tossed much higher than others. After gathering the mushroom corspses, I attempted my hypothesis, and low and behold if it didn’t work. Like another great Wii title, Zack and Wiki, it’s fun to solve the problems and finding the ship parts yourself, without resorting to gluing your eyes to GAMEFAQS every ten seconds.
Yet, I had a real problem with the game. It’s too dang short! 30 days may, at first, seem like a lot, but it goes by far too quickly. Had I really been trying [or checking youtube/GAMEFAQS repeatedly], I could probably conquer the game in a day. The game also doesn’t offer replay appeal. Yes, there’s a “Challenge Mode”, where you can try to grow as many Pikmin in a shortened time frame, but it doesn’t offer the puzzle solving madness like the real game offers. I want more of that, but with more restrictions, or a new game plus where I can have an army of 2000 Pikmin to go on a mushroom rampage.
Without any argument, I found this game to be FUN. It was cute, it was adorable, it had appeal, and I genuinely had a good time with it. I’m very happy to our anonymous tipper for introducing me to this great title, and to be able to share it with everyone else! Since a used Wii port of the game is only 20 bucks, and the used copy of the Gamecube version is only $10, there’s no reason in the world why you shouldn’t check out this great game!
Game: Silent Hill 2 ****** Platform: PS2 ***** Rating: M
[Author’s Note: This game is rated M for mature. I do not condone nor recommend that anybody under the appropriate age limitations purchase or play this game without parental consent, nor does TSG advocate it. Thank you.]
Ok, now with the service annoucement out of the way, let’s talk about the single most terrifying game experience of my life. Silent Hill 2.
This game is, by far, the most depressing, terrifying and artistically emotional experience I’ve ever had in a video game. I play this game time and again because it makes me remember that games really can be considered works of art, despite what moronic and completely stupid movie reviews will tell you.
Silent Hill 2 follows the adventure of a somewhat dimwitted man named James. He gets a letter from his dead wife [hmm… odd?], telling him to come and pick her up in the town of Silent Hill. So like any perfectly rational person, he arrives in town, discovers it to be a completely lifeless and dark town filled with creatures that wish to kill him and drag him to the deepest dephts of you know where, and gladly decides to explore it in his entirety. James is a lot like the Pikmin, having zero survival instincts, and in need of a tiny space man to direct him with a whistle.
So congratulations. You have a long game experience awaiting you. It’s just you, James, some pitiful excuses for weapons, James’ underwhelming strength, and things which have cleavers that would make Cloud’s Buster Sword look tiny by comparison.
But that’s what makes the game so great!
Silent Hill 2 isn’t like all the recent horror films and games, with teenagers having AK-47’s, flamethrowers and extreme martial arts training. Silent Hill 2 is a lot like an experience you’d have if you were in Silent Hill, rather than James. In other words, very frail and lacking a health bar. The game is truly terrifying in this aspect.
Silent Hill 2 also does one other thing right. The town is utterly devoid of life [barring a few annoying minor characters, who pop up now and again], and you can spend an hour without a single human or enemy encounter, but the music and atmosphere is screaming “THEY ARE COMING TO KILL YOU, SO PREPARE TO DIE”.
Speaking of defending yourself, the combat in this game is a little wonky. Imagine yourself using the hammer from Super Smash Brothers Brawl. That’s the attack animation. Swing up, then down. Repeat. Eh… It could use some polish.
Then again, most of the game reflects about finding hidden items to unlock doors or finding notes/memos/documents telling you where to go next. Combat is the least of your worries! Finding the long stand of hair, a fish-hook and some melted wax is your real priority! Did I mention all of that is to open a basement door? You’ll repeat this for nearly EVERY area and building you explore.
Monsters are few and far in between, but when they do show up, I suggest taking them out quickly and not letting them swarm/gather. Because you will die, and quickly.
Boss fights are actually somewhat interesting, and extremely creepy. The monsters take the form of whatever James’ surroundings are, and this can usually result in some rather… Interesting results…. Such as the inappropriately dressed zombie mutant nurses, symboling James’s commitment issues with temptation.
I know I’ve talked about how terrifying the town is, and how uttery useless James is, and how you’ll spend hours searching for arbritrary items. So why play this game?
Simply put, it’s the gaming experience similar to reading “The Raven” from Edgar Allen Poe. It’s something that I think anybody that enjoys the horror genre should definitely enjoy, and something I think gamers need to experience in order to understand what “horror” really is. It’s not L4D2 zombie slaying or Gears of War Chainsaw murdering. It’s the feeling of being absolutely alone, having your hopes dashed left and right, with monstrous creatures of your own mental creation waiting to destroy you.
At the right game stores, I’ve seen the title range from $4 to $7 at some retailers, while other stores have it for $15 and up. It’s really all about luck, but your online searches might be more consistent.
[Author’s Note: If you have a great game for a cheap gamer, send me a pm or an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org! If I think it’s something our readers might enjoy, your game can be featured in next week’s column! Also, if it wasn’t already obvious, you don’t have to have your identity revealed if you don’t want it to be!]