Since I spent the first half of 2010 doing my part to keep Bioware in business, I recently decided I could stand to play some smaller, but nonetheless worthwhile titles. I have a running list in my head of all the creative and fun downloadable games I would like to play, and finally set aside the time to follow through on a few of them.
NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits
Spanish developer Over The Top Games could teach a master class on developing with the strengths of the Wii in mind (they could not, however, teach any kind of class on the English language). NyxQuest is primarily a platformer with a few sections that combine light-gun-style-shooting or some other novel mechanic with the core jumping and navigating obstacles formula. After completing a section where you need to use the pointer to move obstacles out of your way and drag items behind you, shake the remote to rid yourself of hindrances, then shoot at charging enemies, the only reason you won’t wonder why larger developers can’t make a game that understands the Wii controls this well is because you will be too involved in the game.
Despite being a downloadable game on Nintendo’s notoriously constraining WiiWare service, the title is beautiful. Nyx’s small character is contrasted with the colossal columns and statues of the environments and the colors are vibrant and evocative.
Chris already gave Cave Story a fuller treatment than I will here, and since I agree with his assessment I recommend you give his writeup a read and pretend its me talking. I am more enthusiastic about the visuals and music than he is (the graphics and sound were updated for the WiiWare release; I played using original music and revamped graphics). The gameplay is clever, the plot is accessible and fun, and the characters are great. Many reviews have noted that the price tag of 1200 points is a bit steep, but the game is well worth it.
I leave you with the terrific main theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SWwydoygeo
Created by Ron Gilbert of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island fame, Deathspank is a loot-game/ARPG/lite-WRPG with a focus on humor. While I would have enjoyed more satire and fewer fewer poop and thong jokes, in general the writing acquits itself well, especially when the outcomes of quests confound genre stereotypes. Based on Gilbert’s background, I would have expected (and preferred) more quests involving getting an item, altering it in some way, combining it with something else, and then using it somewhere, but too many of them hew to killing a dozen monsters of a certain type and returning whatever they drop to the quest-giver (aggravating this is that the monster won’t drop whatever you are looking for until you have been given the quest and you have likely killed several of them by the time you begin the quest).
Hardcore Diablo fans may find the loot system shallow, but for the rest of us it is serviceable, and its always fun to replace your Fist of Bashing with a Fist of Mega Bashing that cuts a swath through hordes of formerly difficult enemies.
Balance, in both weapon strength and difficulty can be uneven; spinning swords are much stronger than any alternative, and certain level 15 (out of 20) enemies will be the hardest you face all game. On a few occasions it will likely be unclear to you where you have to go to progress, but the hint system will set you on your way if careful reading of signs and notes fails.
The ending of the game all but outright announces the sequel, which was released September 21, just seventy days after the release of the first.
If you are looking for recommendations on which to play, I would say all of them. If you are looking for a bit more detail than that, buy NyxQuest if you are a Wii developer that has been porting shitty games to WiiWare or jamming waggle controls where they don’t belong; play Cave Story if you are like me and enjoy uncommon games and feel compelled to support great indie projects; play Deathspank for a fun romp through an interesting world where you get almost a full sized game for your $15.
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