I did something drastic this weekend, LusiHermits. I played video games. I made the decision on Friday night when I got home and followed through on it. I left my house a total of two times, I barely texted my girlfriend, I did not attend the podcast, I did not reply to the most simple of LFoPD-related e-mails, and I essentially lived in a pile of a combination of my own filth and Skittles for 3 days.
It was glorious.
I have a reputation – especially with my former MTV coworkers – of being that guy who never gets any sleep because he is always playing video games, but that is rarely actually the case. It is absolutely true that I have chronic insomnia, but – as is fairly well-documented on this site – I constantly struggle with the fact that I do not play nearly as many video games as both I would like and feel that I should. I love my new gaming hibernation tradition in December, but it is a little disheartening that one of the few times I play video games at length is when I have to remove myself from my home with a couple weeks off work.
LusiSlimeballs, let me just say that I feel great. That weekend was exactly what I needed. I was all energy and no guilt on Monday. Not only was the experience great for my soul, but I got a chance to play a few games that I have been itching to give a proper shake. Namely Okami and Darksiders 2.
I had played the opening hour or so of Okami a number of years ago and was extremely underwhelmed. It turns out that is because the story-telling is the worst part of the game and once the title strays from cutscenes and moves to gameplay, its charms start to come out of the woodwork. Ultimately, Okami is a delight. The world is so stunning that I am sure a gamer who had never heard of the game would not believe that it is a PS2 upscale. That is how good it looks in HD. The art style translates beautifully and the fictionalized version of Nippon is stuffed with style and magic.
Unfortunately, Okami is still a story-driven game, so the text constantly holds back the magic of the addicting Zelda-style gameplay and incredible art style. There are a few charming characters and moments but it is far more often the case that the tone becomes strangely slapstick and even perverted in ways that just do not work. Perhaps the script was written without the knowledge of the distinct mood the graphics, music, and setting would give, but whatever the reason, the dialogue unfortunately falls flat.
I played Okami the most, but I also got to sink some healthy time into my borrowed copy of Darksiders 2. I was a fairly significant fan of the first entry and so far my reactions are mixed on the sequel. Not just mixed, but mixed in a way that is hard to parse. That is because a lot of the things I like and do not like are the same things.
Let me try and start with the positives. I love that the series took the unlikely route of making a concurrent “sequel”. The game takes place pretty much at the same time that the first game does, but this time the player controls Death instead of War. This allowed the developer to make more stylistic and gameplay changes than I feel they would have been comfortable with if they had made a more traditional sequel.
I made these comments to Eeyore, but Darksiders 2 feels more like God of War meets Prince of Persia and Metroid than the God of War meets Zelda flavour of the original. I feel like the homage is meant to be just as not subtle as it was the first time around. Right up to the existence of a substance called “corruption” that looks and acts identical to the substance of the same name in Prince of Persia (2008). It is the unabashed use of these elements in a game that still ends up playing so differently than its inspirations that makes me appreciate the series.
That being said, Death is a far worse character than War was, and the wonderful mix of disdain and respect that enemies gave to War does not have the same punch with Death. If Death is the main character in a highly stylized series in a sequel that is designed to have few constraints in relation to the original, there is a great opportunity there and I feel like his direction missed it by being extremely safe and definitely not very interesting.
But to end these scattered impressions on a positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by the musical direction. Darksiders 2 does not seem to have fallen prey to the “generic strings and electric guitar” score that is ruining modern AAA video game music. It has personality and goes to a few unexpected places. It is not a masterpiece from what I can tell so far, but it is certainly a step in the right direction for a big-budget title.
So look at that, LusiColdSores, it turns out that I have a lot to say as long as I actually let myself play video games. What have you guys been playing recently? Chat it up in the comments below.