My last university exam was two weeks ago today, and I don't start my full-time job until June. In between, there's been plenty of time for gaming, like I've never quite known before. I usually manage 10 hours of game time a week, if I'm lucky. But these last two weeks, I've averaged about 3 hours a day, with three 6+ hour days, at my last count. I was afraid that this overdose of gaming would cause me to get sick of the whole thing, but luckily that hasn't been the case at all. Instead, I'm in absolute gaming heaven. :)
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is the game I've been spending the most time with. After thoroughly enjoying the last one, I knew I had to get this one too, and it doesn't disappoint. It's one of the funniest games around, and everything, from the characters to the plot to the selection of zany weapons, feels like it comes straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. The weapons themselves are as original and comical as ever. There's the Suck Cannon, which vacuums up small enemies and spits them back out with explosive force, complete with a satisfying "thwoom" cork-popping noise. You can summon forth four Agents of Doom, pint sized robots with oversized laser guns and a healthy appetite for destruction. And, in fine R&C tradition, there's a weapon to turn nasty villains into friendly animals - this time, it's cute waddling ducks that flap around and lay exploding eggs. It's a total blast to experiment with all of the weapons and come up with new ways to fry your robotic assailants. Definitely check this one out if you've ever been a fan of cartoons, 3-D platformers, or just blowing stuff up good. I'll put up a full review once I'm finished.
Next on the list is Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, something I've wanted to get my hands on ever since the first one came out for the GameCube in 2001. The multiplayer is an absolute hoot, and while it's not quite on the level of a Mario Party, a bunch of the minigames are quite addictive. Monkey Billiards, in particular, is a nice slower-paced affair, as is Monkey Bowling. But nothing causes more ruckus than a heated round of Monkey Fight or Monkey Boat (which, by the way, is impossible). There's a ton of variety to be had in each of the twelve party games and their variations, and I know I've finally found the game I can bring out at gatherings when things start getting slow. By comparison, the single-player mode is alright, and maybe I just haven't gotten far enough yet, but it's not very compelling. Some of the stages require a lot more finesse than I'm used to in my gaming, so it's been slow going. I think this is why I've avoided stealth games almost completely - I hate having a game build up too much tension without any good cathartic release. I need to put more time in the single player here before I can make a real verdict, but it definitely won't be stealing any precious minutes away from Ratchet.
The next two weren't really on my radar, until my ex suggested that we have some games that we can play together. We still see each other, and it's a bit of an awkward situation right now, but that's probably best left to talk about another day. Anyways, I've had a PS2 since 2002 and somehow managed never to touch a Dynasty Warriors game before, but I'd read they were good, mindless hack-n-slashes, so I gave Dynasty Warriors 5 a try. It was exactly what I was expecting - instantly accessible combat, lots of mashing the same button, and the feeling that you're an invincible god on the combat field. I can now see why these games are so popular - being able to swipe your sword and clear the 20 bad guys around you gives you an awesome feeling of power. The over-the-top costumes and weapons add to the flair, and the fact that there always seems to be fifty guys on screen at once is enough to pump you up. It's a ton of fun, and is made better by having a friend to help with beating down the enemy army. Although, again, I don't think it's something I would play through extensively on my own.
Last is Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. The ex saw an ad for Playboy: The Mansion in one of my old EGMs and wanted to try that out, but she finds the Sims boring, so I suggested this instead. I wasn't expecting this to be very good, but I've been pleasantly surprised. The gameplay is pretty shallow - instead of following the tried and true PC adventure game formula, complete with item hunting and puzzle solving, every encounter with a member of the more attractive sex becomes a minigame. A chat turns into a sperm-navigating minigame; a drink at the bar turns into a press-the-button-as-it-comes-up minigame; and Quarters turns into, well, Quarters. But at least they're all decent fun. The real highlight of the game is the goofy dialogue between Larry and the people he comes across. It's nothing short of hilarious, and we started to go around finding more people to bug just so we could hear him get rejected in one of dozens of different ways. When he actually wins a girl over and gets her back into his room, something inevitably goes wrong, and these twists are both totally ridiculous and totally funny. The downer on the whole thing, though, is the atrocious loading times. Each area in the game is generally pretty small, but somehow it gets the PS2 chugging away for 20 seconds before the poor machine can cough it up. When you need to navigate through three of these areas, and endure more than a minute of waiting, to meet a character and play a 30-second minigame - it kills the buzz. So, as laugh-out-loud funny as this one is, I'm pretty sure we'll eventually get sick of staring at the not-quite-enticing character models displayed on the loading screens for the fiftieth time.
So that's about it. I'm thinking of taking the plunge and starting World of Warcraft, too, and now is probably as good a time as any. I won't get to sleep in till 12 everyday and then spend all afternoon playing games forever! 8)