Wednesday, November 14

Of clocks and cakes

Veteran  Australian games writer, David Wildgoose has told staff writers under his tutelage that games are not clocks. Presumably because:

a) Not all games employ the same systems and work the same way
b) "There's more to games than just how well they operate" (Henderson, 2011; p36)
c) When reviewing games, you shouldn't be checking features against a checklist 

Brendan Keogh - another prolific writer of Australian stock - recently tweeted the analogy that games are not like cakes. He said (and I am paraphrasing somewhat) he's more interested in how the cake makes you feel (how it tastes), as opposed to the quality of the ingredients.

Hybrid Theory

I agree with both theories to an extent, but my recent experience with Assassin's Creed: Liberation would have me ask Ubisoft Sofia and Montreal where they source some of their ingredients. Don't get me wrong, I like the game, but there are two elements of it that are driving me to madness. 

Firstly there's the control scheme, which needlessly shoehorns in some loathsome, Vita-specific input (read: touch controls) that have marred a game that I'd otherwise recommend without question. Firstly, there's pick-pocketing: an action that's effortlessly performed in the home console iterations by holding the X/A button around the citizenry of Renaissance Italy. In Liberation, you need to hold down the left shoulder and swipe down the rear touchpad. Doesn't sound like it involves too much effort, but when you've been playing a game a certain way for a matter of years, the change is unwelcome. Worse still, the implementation of gyroscopic controls for a specific puzzle sequence nearly had me hurling the expensive portable against the wall. Both these scenarios comprise a small part of the Liberation experience, but they've done enough to taint my opinion of it thus far. 

The visuals and soundtrack combine to make one dreary looking layer of sponge cake: like someone added blue and green food colouring to the mix to make grey batter. It's not that the game doesn't look good, rather the omnipresent brown of the ground and structures in New Orleans (where you'll spend the majority of your time) combined with a Creole spin on the Nolan Batman score had me wallowing in the pits of despair. Regardless of whether Aveline adopts her vibrant lady persona, assassin garb, or slave costume, you're treated to the same rotation of tracks that evoke little but dread and thoughts of violence. I'm not so naive or insensitive to think a rousing, light-hearted track would be appropriate fodder for our hero to sneak through a plantation, but surely high society has more pleasant notes to offer? 

In any case, Assassin's Creed: Liberation is shaping up to be one of the better games on the fledgling handheld; at the very least, it's proving more enjoyable than Revelations. I can only hope that there's less improvised motion and touch controls thrown into what's left of the game. 

Wildgoose, D (Editor), 2011. Hyper, Special Japan Issue, p65. 

No comments:

Post a Comment