The plumber must die!

Of late, Nintendo have become an entirely predictable and frankly lazy company. Like a home owner standing over their failed DIY as water spews mercilessly into the kitchen, I blame the plumber. It’s true that not all of it is Mario’s fault, Link and Pikachu, among others, could also be held accountable, but as Nintendo’s poster boy, Mario should really know better.

They’re all the same!

In the late ’90s I had a Playstation and after that a Playstation 2 so it was with wonder and excitement that I purchased a Wii having heard tales of the joys offered by the N64 and the Gamecube. But I was to be disappointed. While I enjoyed Twilight Princess and had fun with Mario Galaxy, the console never seemed to progress and in the end I gave up waiting for something special and went crawling back to Sony. I feel like I have missed out on Nintendo’s prime years but Nintendo seem to be doing little to change their current form. Go to the Nintendo category on any games website and I guarantee that the new instalment of an established franchise will be under discussion. People will be commenting on how exciting it is, how new innovations are being used and how the systems are being pushed to their limits, all the while ignoring (or perhaps embracing) the fact that nothing has really changed. So while Sony can discuss new exclusives and franchises, Nintendo relies on the old guard, a small group of franchises that it knows will make money. And we reward them for this behaviour. Every year we flock to the shops to see what the little Italian has been up to now, so every year Nintendo see no reason to branch out into something new; it’s a viscous cycle.

At this point I realise that perhaps I’m being a bit of a hypocrite. Sequels, prequels and remakes are a staple of gaming across all platforms and, unlike films, game sequels often improve on their predecessors. I buy, enjoy and get excited about such games, from Civilization to Hitman. So maybe I’m being harsh on Nintendo. The difference, however,  is that no other platforms rely entirely on such franchises for their success; Sony and Microsoft have franchises but they could survive without them and they continue to welcome new ones.

Getting rid of Mario and chums is probably not the answer; after all, they make money and we still love them. A focus shift is what needs to happen. Nintendo have decided to avoid competing with other platforms in terms of graphics and online content by offering what they see as fun and innovative gaming; that’s all well and good but these things have to be used to better effect. By making a bigger deal about new games and third party creations Nintendo will attract more current gamers to their platform and they can continue to sweeten the deal with old franchises. Adopt this strategy Nintendo and maybe, just maybe I’ll take Mario off the dart board and consider your next console (probably the one after the Wii U).

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Point and click: A love story

I know where I have to go, just down the ladder, but there’s a goat in the way and it’s mean. I surely have to find a distraction but I have scoured, and I mean scoured, the available locations and nothing have I found. I’ll check the online walkthrough, NO, be strong, you can do this. The bar, I only gave that a cursory scour, I’ll check there again. A towel; the game has let me pick up a towel; and I can use the towel to whip the goat, of course!

Point and click adventures make you stupid through desperation. They make you think that a toilet brush and a bouncy ball will go together to make something useful, they make you think that talking to the man a fifth time will make all the difference and they make you think that a towel can distract a goat. They are difficult, they are infuriating and I love them.

My love began with Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars, a game that I believe to be underrated. It is beautiful, it is well written and above all it completely engrossed me from start to finish. To this day it is one of the few games I have completed multiple times, not because the second or third play through was any different but just to experience the story again.

People, people! How do I beat the goat?

Nowadays games have moved on from the 2D majesty of Broken Swords 1 and 2 but something that still draws me to a game is a good storyline.

Heavy Rain is a fantastic game with some true innovation and an interesting and often complex story. If there is one criticism of the game, however, it’s that it trades gameplay for storytelling. Quick-time events are used a fair bit and often it feels like you’re reading one of those books with decision points, prompting you to “turn to page 39 to enter the cave”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and Heavy Rain still stands as one of the finest games ever made (a list that Broken Sword should be on), but it highlights that games seem to have a choice between story and gameplay, a choice that is likely to see story lose out. Games can be hugely successful with rubbish, little or no story as long as they are fun to play, this will always be true. On the other hand, a cracking storyline doth not a good game make; so if a choice has to be made, story will fall to gameplay. But maybe it’s time to buck this trend.

Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a modern point and click adventure and it’s success suggests that gamers are becoming more interested in story. You control the character of Lee as he tries to survive and protect his companions thorough the zombie apocalypse. Choice making and conversation dominate the gameplay and good scripting and voice acting play out the plot based on the popular comics. Suffice to say I think it’s excellent, a well made immersing experience; but in my play through of the first episode I never did anything stupid. This may be a modern point and click, but it’s not a modern Broken Sword. Like so many other game types it seems that the challenge has been lost, to a degree, in this generation. Good games with good story lines are, however, being made and this is wonderful. Telltale games and Quantic Dream are at the forefront of this and I’m very excited to see what they do next.

Today the best games often get by on good gameplay and good writing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I hope that story can start to become a bigger part of gaming and who knows, maybe soon I will once again be trying to move ill-tempered animals with hand drying equipment.