Apologies to regular followers of this item, but this week there will be no weather commentary or feeble anecdote to kick things off. Instead, I'd like to reallocate these precious opening words to discussion of the game I finished last night, Jak II. You can go out and buy it right now, and if you're a fan of platform games then you absolutely must.
According to my save game, it took 16 hours and 25 minutes to reach that magic 100 per cent figure, but, as my weary flatmate can attest, it felt like a lot more. In a mostly good way. Although Jak II suffers from occasional bouts of rock hard, pad-smashing frustration and thick-as-planks design (for example, a section where you're unreasonably stripped of familiar escape options like the hoverboard and hover cars to force you into laser-slinging congress with a mass of nasty, respawning Crimson Guards on every front), for the most part it's brimming with inspirational platform ideas and gorgeous "this is a PS2?" visuals, and the city/carjacking dynamic robbed somewhat appropriately from GTA fits like a glove. Although you won't find yourself exploring as much as you did in Rockstar's effort, it's still the perfect tonic after a section of solid platforming - and there are some solid platform levels locked away in here too, and of acid-tongued Daxter to keep even the most ardent angryman happy.
In short, then: it's the biggest platform game I've played, it's the hardest for a while but worth persevering with, it's got an entertaining script and feature quality cut sequences, and it's foolish to dismiss it just because it pinches ideas from the likes of GTA. You're only carjacking somebody else's lack of enthusiasm if you pass it over on that basis. Seriously, buy it.
Also on the PS2 this week, Pro Evolution Soccer 3 finally rears its shiny, well-animated and consistently dreamy footballing head and we're guessing it's about to barge Club Football aside on its way to scoring a top spot placement in next Tuesday's ChartTrack listing. Given the state of FIFA 2004 as I sit here prodding it with my Dual Shock this morning, there seems no need to qualify that recommendation. PES3 is and will remain the best footy game on the PS2 for a long time to come. Well, a year or so anyway. An expensive week for PS2 owners then - PES3 and Jak II are essential purchases.
Less essential perhaps at the price but still worth buying (and the finest game in the Mario series if you ask me) is Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3. Archetypal 2D platforming - it's just a shame it'll set you back a prohibitive 30 quid, really. Such is marketing.
Also on the platforming front, this week welcomes the release of Xbox exclusive pinch-yourself-em-up Voodoo Vince, in which you have to find continually amusing and grotesque ways to smash yourself up in the name of progress. It's an intriguing idea, but it's no Jak II. However if you're an 'Only On Xbox' sort of person and your copies of Blinx and Toe Jam & Earl III are lying long-since-discarded on the lounge floor, then Voodoo Vince might be a good target. It won't make your Jak II-playing friends jealous, but the graphics will look ace on your big screen TV and you'll have 'enough' fun.
Another high profile title finally appearing this week is Rebellion's much-maligned Judge Dredd vs. Judge Death, a game that the press has been less than enthusiastic about (and that was after Rebellion claimed all their reviews were based on unfinished code). We'll be bringing you our verdict on that one next week, and the truth is that unless you're a big Dredd fan, you're probably going to want to pass on it until you've read a few reviews or played it for yourself.
Propping up the heavy hitters this week is a ragtag band of former military personnel, who will have to overcome their differences and work together to rid the world of a maniacal despot. Starring Daniel Baldwin. Um. I, er, sorry, I was reading the back of a DVD case (Desert Thunder, baby!). Propping things up this week are Bionicle The Game (distinctly not-good platformer involving wordy, mythological Lego), Bomberman Kart (lamentable Mario Kart clone with original Bomberman included as sub-game), Splashdown 2 (like the first one, this aims to make waves), and a selection of lower profile titles. Including a couple we're interested in - namely Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward and Naval Ops: Warship Gunner.
The original Hunter game, as those of you with Xboxen may remember, was based on White Wolf Publishing's paper-and-dice role playing game, and received a warm welcome around here. It sneaked out on the Cube recently, too. The follow-up, Wayward, promises more multiplayer hackandslash fun in a similar setting, and we'll be trying to get our hands on that sometime next week. Naval Ops, meanwhile, is arcade-based World War II naval combat (surprisingly) with the ability to build and customise your own fleet. If we get a chance, we'll sneak out some thoughts on it.
What else can you expect on your jaunt down to the high street at lunchtime today? Well there's the exciting prospect of Casino, Inc: The Management facing off against Vegas: Make It Big (or not), and horse racing title Gallop Racer to, um, saddle up? If it's suddenly slipped by a week (could happen), I'll try and research some better horsy puns for next Friday. Nay, I will. [Oh God it's like watching a car crash -Ed].
So, PS2 owners begone, you have a mission to complete. The rest of you... Ah sod it, just buy PlayStations. You've been meaning to anyway. Adiosh.
- Bionicle The Game (Xbox)
- Bomberman Kart (PS2)
- Casino, Inc: The Management (PC)
- Disney's Party (Cube, GBA)
- Gallop Racer (PS2)
- Ghost Recon (Xbox Classics)
- Hunter: The Reckoning - Wayward (PS2)
- Jak II: Renegade (PS2)
- Judge Dredd vs Judge Death (PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Naval Ops: Warship Gunner (PS2)
- No Man's Land (PC)
- Pro Evolution Soccer 3 (PS2)
- Silent Storm (PC)
- Splashdown 2: Rides Gone Wild (PS2)
- Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 (GBA)
- Vegas: Make It Big (PC)
- Voodoo Vince (Xbox)