Those of you who like What's New but wish I was dead will be pleased to learn that I'm off next week, so the column will be left in the capable hands of whoever still has hands left next Friday.
Pity it couldn't have been this week really, as I've got stuff all idea what to write about half of this lot.
Diving straight in then (it's not like you want to hear lengthy tales about my holiday plans, after all, which will inevitably turn out to be hugely enjoyable despite my reservations about things like sunshine, foreign languages and Best Western hotels), most of this week's fun is to be found across the pond.
So, er, actually let's not dive straight in. Let's talk about what I'm doing next week.
First things first: I am not "going on holiday". With a new place to move to this weekend, I'm instead planning to spend some of my time designing and then implementing the lounge setup to end all lounge setups. Having established that the screen area thrust forth by my cherished projector will probably cover more feet than a hyperactive sock fetishist whose polarities have been inverted, I've also worked out that I can use my el-cheapo Joytech RGB/composite switcher box to flick between component - i.e. progressive scan - signals by using similarly el-cheapo composite and audio cables instead. Trust me, it works, and saves more money than insurance fraud (which reminds me, I should give Kristan the antidote sooner or later).
Having done that, I plan to visit Alton Towers, visit Ikea (both should take about the same amount of time and, assuming I strap myself into Oblivion upside down rinsing nails around my mouth, cause about the same amount of pain), finish off a few games, and annoy my jobbing friends who, bound by their desire not to turn up at work with a hangover the next day, will be forced to prop up my mid-week drinking excesses and direct my uncontrollable spirals away from gutters and toward cabs instead. Muaha.
I'm also going to have a wash, meet a girl and settle down, okay Mum?
Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call (PS2)
Before I do that, however, it's my duty to remark upon a few new releases. Probably the pick of the pile in these puddly climes this week is Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, renamed Lucifer's Call for Europe by somebody who clearly doesn't feel that loose association with a late-90s third-person PC horror game (featuring the best cloth physics of its generation) is all that important.
According to Rob, who's playing it at the moment, it's a hardcore-person's RPG which "strays totally from the usual 'spiky haired hero wakes up on a beach with no memory blah blah blah' theme". Tell us more. "It's pretty dark and nasty in places, very ambivalent about good and evil, and it's got Dante from Devil May Cry in it being suitably cool."
Sounds great. But, hang on, it looks to me like Rob has something on his other hand. "On the other hand [yes he does], it'd probably be frustrating and unforgiving for someone who isn't into the genre. Still, it's turn-based, with a bunch of weird stuff like being able to recruit demons you're fighting - hence the Dante connection; he wants to kill you."
Um. Ah. Motorbikes? "Not that I've seen. Might be though!" NO SALE.
GoldenEye: Rogue Agent vs. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (both DS)
Interestingly, this week also sees the Euro release of both GoldenEye: Rogue Agent and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on Nintendo DS. Someone suggested that it might be interesting to discuss them both together, since they have "a common theme".
I can only assume that "common theme" is "being crap" since neither has scored particularly highly thus far. Rogue Agent is apparently very much the same as the console version, which you may recall we didn't like. Apparently the touch-screen-specific control methods are "awkward", demanding use of the thumb-strap ala Metroid Prime Hunters but fudging things a bit. Wow. Imagine making Rogue Agent worse.
Chaos Theory's controls, meanwhile, are said to be a "mixed bag" [BAWOOOOOGA! - Cliché Police, Hatred Unit]. While the touch-screen gets a thumbs-up for switching weapons, vision modes and so forth (even letting you use the stylus as a virtual lockpick), apparently in-game actions are "clunky and imprecise".
Still, there's far more novelty in seeing a proper 3D Splinter Cell game on a handheld than there is in writing the words "Rogue Agent" without spitting on the floor and throwing rocks at the people who buy it, so I'm going to give that the nod over its "commonly themed" rival.
Not that I've played either of them yet, you understand. Let's be clear on that much. Perhaps I'll do that next week if EA or Ubisoft fancy sending them over? Guys?
Best Import Option: Meteos (DS)
Before we plunge into the depths of five-games-a-para-Tom-wants-lunch-style delivery, there's just room to pen some orgasmic prose about Meteos, which came out on the DS in the USA this week some months after it appeared in Japan.
Back when it turned up in Japan, and my gaming chum Leo's infectious enthusiasm saw me tearing across London in search of an importer, the Yanks were busy celebrating Lumines on the then-newly-launched PSP. Meteos was developed by the same bunch (Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment, although in this case it was originally designed by Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai) and actually struck us as a better game.
It still does. Lumines lived long in our PSPs, but Meteos usurped it and even Zoo Keeper - and as regular readers know the latter was responsible for one of the lengthiest handheld puzzle addictions I've known since Tetris.
There's some argument about whether its brilliance is undermined by the player's ability to "scrub" the screen to cheat in some circumstances, but then you can type "IDDQD" at any point in Doom to become invincible and that still did kinda well, so make of that what you will.
It works very simply but takes a little getting used to. Blocks fall from the top of the screen (rain, really) and you can move them up and down their little columns, even in mid-air. Then when you create a line of three or more, horizontally or vertically, they blast off toward the top - and depending on the weight of blocks, that level's gravity and so on, may get there and bank you some points or may come tumbling slowly back down requiring you to blast them harder. It's genius, the reward structure is extraordinarily genius-y, and there are tons of variations on the levels of gravity, the types of block, the visuals and of course the music. This isn't quite the concert style of Lumines, but audio is still a significant element that boosts your opinion of it.
If you need a new DS game, don't hang about for the European release, which will probably happen later this year - buy the US version as soon as you can.
And The Rest
All of which excessive eulogising leaves me scant space to discuss the rest of the week's releases, which include Bomberman Hardball (PS2), Cricket 2005 (PS2, Xbox, PC) and Formula One 05 (PS2). Bomberman Hardball is some sort of sports thing that's seen suspiciously few reviews. Apparently it does include an original Bomberman-type mode though. We've just taken delivery of EA's Cricket 2005, so hopefully we can tell you something about that - along with its major competitor, Codemasters' Brian Lara International Cricket - sometime soon. And Formula One Two Skip A Few Ninety Nine A Hundred is reviewed elsewhere on the site.
So that's your lot. Look after whoever it is doing What's New next week, and if you see a paralytically drunk twentysomething staggering around Soho in the middle of next week clutching a DS and wearing a videogame T-shirt, be sure to say hello. Or punch me. I like having sob-stories to tell.
P.S. The aforementioned Leo recently declined to socialise on the basis that Nippon Ichi's latest, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, was out this week in the States. So there. "And poof. Just like that, he's gone."
- PAL Releases
- Bomberman Hardball (PS2)
- Cricket 2005 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Formula One 05 (PS2)
- GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (DS)
- Madagascar (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC, GBA, DS)
- Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac (PS2)
- Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call (PS2)
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (DS)
- Key US Releases
- Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (PS2)
- Dead to Rights: Reckoning (PSP)
- Fantastic Four (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
- Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (PSP)
- Meteos (DS)
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