Did Bioshock need a sequel?

No, said the fans, who enjoyed Bioshock well enough.

No, said the critics, who thought it was self-contained.

Yes, said Take Two, because money is sexually arousing.

And that is why we’re here, at Bioshock 2, the Big Daddiest Bioshock of them all.  It’s not awful.  It might even be pretty good.  It’s competent, enjoyable at times, good graphics, they have the atmosphere of Bioshock nailed down and even improved the combat.

The problem, if this is a problem to you, is that it is literally Bioshock again.  Hell, within the first ten minutes, you go to a vending machine, pick up a plasmid, pass out, and get talked to by a Little Sister before she goes off with this game’s Big Family Member.  I wonder if this would all have more of an impact if it didn’t feel like you were retreading old ground, but how many people playing Bioshock 2 haven’t played the original?

The game has merit, though.  As evidenced by this video, probably the coolest part of the first hour, the game knows how to do atmosphere just as well as the original Bioshock team did.

The question is, why don’t they exercise this different and equally valid talent more?  Hopefully they will as the game continues.

Until then, Bioshock 2 feels like Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar – fine, probably pretty good if you really love the first one, but ultimately doesn’t have that same oomph of the original.

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Assassin’s Creed was not a good game.

It burned me in ways few games have.  I spent a lot of time thinking – and saying, loudly – that it was the first example of a real “next-gen” game.  Something that uses all that extra power for something beyond graphical fidelity.  And it kind of did!  It just sucked.

This is why I was incredibly surprised to try Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines for the PSP, expecting it to be a terrible version of the game I already didn’t like, but it turns out the terrible ideas that made up Assassin’s Creed works fine on the PSP.

The graphics are really mindblowing.  Outside of Square-Enix, I have not seen anyone get this kind of quality graphics out of the PSP.  Even Little Big Planet Portable (see yesterday’s post about it) doesn’t come as close to matching its console brother.

The things that drove me crazy about Assassin’s Creed – the mission structure, the simple combat, the unused and unnecessary space – work fine in a handheld structure.  City sections are broken up in sections, making finding mission objectives easy.  Combat is simple, which is good because you don’t want to spend a long time fighting, and the mission structure lends itself perfectly to simply putting the PSP in sleep mode when you get bored of it.

It’s not amazing, but they managed to make Assassin’s Creed work.  Maybe I’ll be delightfully surprised by Assassin’s Creed 2, as well?  Or it could turn out to be the disappointment the first one was and more?

We’ll see come next year.

Hey, kids!

Remember Little Big Planet?

Now you can play it  away from your PS3!

…yeah, I don’t get it either.  LBPP is pretty impressive for a handheld title, really.  It gets far closer to the PS3 game than it really has any right to, but it exposes the flaws the original had very clearly.  With the stellar graphics, personality, community, and (relatively better) controls stripped away, there’s little stitching holding the game together.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve been playing NSMB Wii a lot the last few days, but the fundamental controls for the LBP series just aren’t tight enough.  It’s a very deliberate decision, but it’s one that keeps LBP from being a good platformer.  This problem is exacerbated by the PSP’s analog nub being kind of a shitty control method.

If you liked LBP and want to play it away from home, LBP Portable won’t disappoint.  If you didn’t really dig LBP, its little brother won’t change your mind.

Have you ever been playing Mega Man 2 and thought to yourself, “This game is great, but what it really needs are little girls”?  If so, you’re probably going to get arrested.  Also you forgot Roll.

For those of you just curious to try a PC freeware platformer that is Mega Man 2’s skeleton wrapped in the skin of adorable little girls, there’s Mega Mari.  And it’s really tough.

Supposedly the characters are all from the Touhou license, of which I know nothing about.  But if you liked Mega Man 2 and want a cute little platformer to play in your free time, might as well give it a shot.

I don’t necessarily expect a lot from Ubisoft these days in the way of cute, inventive ideas, but Rabbids Go Home is definitely cute and inventive.  The basic concept is that you control two Rabbids in a shopping cart flying through various places and collecting things – clocks, clothes, toilet paper, things.

It’s fun.  The controls work, the game is consistently pretty funny, and there’s a surprising amount of 1950s jazz and the most inappropriate use of Louie, Louie ever to serenade you along your way.

It’s $40, so I’m not going to say you should run right out and get it.  But it’s not bad at all and has a nice style of humor that hearkens back to the days of games like Earthworm Jim.  Give it a shot when it enters your price range, you might like it.

As a general rule, you want to avoid games with “X” in the title.  Possible exceptions include X-Men and possibly some others.  X-Blades is not one of those exceptions.

The game follows a treasure hunter who is equipped with two swords, two guns, and no pants.  The entire first level involves awakening some God in an artifact and dooming the world.  If by now you’ve completely lost interest in the story, then you made it longer than the writers for this game.

It’s rare that action games have combat that is slower than turn-based RPGs, but X-Blades manages it.  You barely move while attacking, so you have to get right up to enemies before you can attack.  This makes enemies who move around – at a distance no less – really fucking terrible to fight.

That is the second level.  I quit because there is a light in my soul that has not yet been doused by the harshness of the world.  X-Blades was eying that fire while holding an extinguisher.

I don’t really get high fantasy.  Lord of the Rings never did a thing for me, books or movies, and I similarly have no attachment to Baldur’s Gate or games like it.  However, I did like Mass Effect, so I decided to give Dragon Age Origins a spin.  I’m not entirely sure what I think.

This is not really Mass Effect with a fantasy vibe.  It is a traditional RPG that I’m not really used to.  The conversation parts are instantly familiar – someone says something, I click a choice, and things happen.  Unlike ME, there’s no gray area for reactions.  I say “Hey, fuck off” and people fuck off.  This leads to a fun meta-game I have where I try to be as stand-offish as possible and then pull it back from the brink.

I’m still at the beginning of the game – nothing really grabs me enough to make me play in long sessions.  But nothing’s really stopping me and that’s a much better result than I thought.