Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BossFight GOTY 2008 - PSP Game of The Year

The PSP had a patchy year, with games that really pushed the envelope in terms of the console's processing power, but rather slim pickings overall. The PSP-slim and 3000 series added performance boosts, and developers were keen to show off what they could do. This resulted in prettier, heavier games that got even closer to console quality, and promised much for the future.

The runners-up


This crazy, laugh-out-loud percussion-rhythm game was a surprise hit on the PSP, featuring superb visuals, deceptively deep strategic elements, great music, and addictive, innovative gameplay. Oh, man, that craaaazy beat! Pata-pata-pata-pon! It took weeks to get it out of my head.

Crisis Core : Final Fantasy VII

The long-awaited debut of the Final Fantasy franchise (nope, Advent Children doesn't count. Games only, sorry.) on the PSP was a mixed bag. It was one of the most visually impressive games on the PSP, ad featured an engrossing story, great characters and fun combat. Not everyone agreed with the leveling-up system, though.


The definitive football title on a handlheld system, FIFA 09 finally settled the argument by including phenomenal graphics, flawless and realistic gameplay, and the usual FIFA slew of official licenses and gameplay modes. PES 2009 wasn't bad either, but FIFA is now 'Campione del Mondo'.

BossFight PSP Game of The Year 2008

God of War : Chains of Olympus

What can we say about Chains of Olympus? That it was far and away the best looking PSP game? That it featured all the classic, furious God of War action in such a small package? That it successfully adapted the PSP's one-stick control scheme to God of War without sacrificing any of the gameplay? Focusing on any one aspect would be akin to standing in front of the Taj Mahal, and then proceeding to praise the qualities of some individual column. This, simply put, is the best PSP game. Period.

If Chains of Olympus is any indication, then it is definitely possible to have near-console quality action adventures on the PSP, and this should lead to a virtual parade of top-notch games for Sony's handheld. Well, we're waiting, developers. Hit us in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BossFight GOTY 2008 : XBOX Game of The Year

Microsoft's machine had a great year, overcoming the bad press from the RROD fiasco to continue to outsell the PS3, and seeing a whole slew of stellar titles. XBOX Live continued to be the leading online service, and the XBOX Live Arcade saw some great, affordable downloadable titles go toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters in terms of quality.

The runners-up

Braid [Winner : BossFight XBOX 360 platform-exclusive Game of The Year]

One of the surprise packets of 2008, Jonathan Blow's masterpiece featured ingenious time-manipulation mechanics, challenging puzzles, fantastic presentation, and possibly the greatest ending in any game ever. And paved the way for downloadable games on every platform holding their own against the big guns in terms of quality and gamer praise.

Castle Crashers

From the makers of the very wild 'Alien Hominid', Castle Crashers surprised everyone with it's impossible cute-yet-gory graphics, and frantic co-op beat-em up action. It featured some truly hilarious character and level designs that looked like a strange mix of ideas out of Bone and Ren & Stimpy. And some Br00tal and bloody battles against some of the most intimidating bosses seen this year. And we all know how much we love Boss Fights.

Gears of War 2

Gears of War 2 is the game that Gears of War should have been. Bigger, more hardcore and more polished than the original, Gears of War 2 is a deceptively top-notch product that stands out as one of the finest action gaming experiences in years. Look beyond the inevitable hype, beyond the idiot-fanboys online, beyond the gratuitous statements from Cliffy B, and you'll find a near-flawless implementation of the trademark run-cover-and-gun gameplay, amazing visuals, great set-pieces and a truly epic feeling of scale. Plus, Marcus and Delta are true badasses. Plus, this game features the bloodiest level of all time – it literally drowns you in blood! Best enjoyed coop with friends online.

Fallout 3

When Bethesda Softworks announced that they'd be taking over Interplay's legendary Fallout franchise, the true faithful weren't entirely convinced. They needn't have worried – Fallout 3 emerged as a stellar role-playing experience for the hardcore, featuring a post-nuclear wasteland that was amazing to explore and live in, an engaging storyline, great combat and all the trademark Fallout regulars – such as Radiation, Brahmin, and Bottle Caps, and Booze.

BossFight XBOX 360 Game of The Year

Grand Theft Auto IV

Any game that has a character like Brucie Kibbutz deserves to win GOTY on that alone – but GTA IV went beyond any game before it. Here was a title that featured the most believable, consistent and engaging gameworld we've seen so far. GTA IV takes the proven GTA formula and raises it to another level altogether – this is the future of gaming, and we like what we see. And did we mention it has Brucie Kibbutz?

We've heard the complaints – frustratingly difficult missions, relatively poor combat, uninteresting weapons. Yeah, whatever. That's missing the wood for the trees.

No other game we have played has succeeded in creating such a realistic, believable and interesting gameworld as GTA IV. You felt like you actually were a part of a living, breathing city that carried on with its existence regardless of your participation. You actually believed that you were Niko Bellic, making your way up the ladder in a city of hope, dreams, crime, and, naturally, stunt-driving. The brilliant writing, hollywood-class dialogues, great story and complex situations drew you in to Liberty City, until you obsessively played and played and played.

The sheer amount of content that was created by Rockstar in order to make the gameworld plausible and coherent is nothing short of mind-boggling. You'd see references to products, people and services scattered through the game – an ad on radio, and appearance on TV, a billboard while you were driving by, in conversations with other characters. A cabbie would pick up a random conversation with you. Random pedestrians carried on their own phone conversations. You could walk into a club and see Ricky Gervais perform a stand-up act. You could call a friend, go drinking at a bar, get drunk, crash your bike while trying to outrun cops, and put your buddy in hospital. You could just sit and surf the in-game Internet. And all of this is purely incidental to the plot and the main game – you don't have to pay attention to any of it if you don't want to.

Another of this year's major blockbusters, Metal Gear Solid IV, was roundly celebrated for taking storytelling in videogames to a higher emotional plane. But the important difference is that MGS IV is like starring in your own movie, while GTA IV is like living in another world. And, in our opinion, the former is a game with next-gen production values. The latter is a next-gen game, period.

Bossfight GOTY 2008 : Wii Game of the Year

Everybody's favourite little white box had an unusual year – featuring some big-name Nintendo licenses as well as a number of innovative third party titles. This is the year third-party developers really took to the Wii, rivalling Nintendo in the quality of games they delivered – no mean task. It continued to be the largest selling console, and shows no signs of slowing down.


Super Smash Bros. Brawl

This is the 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' of the Nintendo universe. Featuring every conceivable character, and then some, fighting out in an assortment of zany arenas using the usual Smash Bros arsenal of insane moves, Brawl was the top fighter of the year by some margin. Watching Wario fart on Solid Snake and then run over him with his bike counts as one of the greatest gaming moments ever.

World of Goo

World of Goo was another delightful example of an independent developer hitting the big-time with a top quality, original and imaginative game. 2D Boy delivered a mind-boggling physics-based puzzler featuring sticky goo-balls, balloons, spikes and all manner of challenges that are too bizarre to describe in a short paragraph. The first truly must-have WiiWare download that isn't a remake, World of Goo is a pointer to the kind of amazing games we can look forward to from smaller developers in the coming years.


Boom Blox

Whether he's creating terrifying monsters, telling touching stories, or showing us how the Wiimote can be used to create an intuitive and addictive puzzle-based game for the Wii, Steven Spielberg is, to put it mildly, teh_pWnzor. Boom Blox is the best, most natural-feeling use of the Wiimote yet. As you throw balls at towers of stacked blocks, making them tumble this way and that, and rack up combos to score points, you'll realize that this is what the Wiimote was invented for – games where the interface is so intuitive that it practically disappears, leaving just you and the game. Removing the layers of abstraction involved in controlling a game is a challenge that needs to be overcome if gaming is to move beyond niche into the true mainstream.

And Boom Blox is important for this reason more than any other. It's an eye-opening experiment into intuitive control schemes that can draw people into a game, as opposed to abstractions that need to be mastered before a game can be enjoyed. This was the great promise of the Wii, wasn't it? That we could perform actions in-game like how we would in real life? That's a promise that hasn't been fulfilled yet, but Boom Blox goes some way towards it. Here's hoping that more developers find ways to integrate Wiimote controls to give us natural-feeling game interactions that make us feel more like we're in the gameworld.

Plus, Boom Blox is not only about technology – it's addictive, charming and challenging, and great fun to play with friends and family. Hundreds of addictive puzzles will keep you entertained for the longest time. Just the sort of game that we like to play on the Wii, and without question BossFight's Wii game of the year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

BossFight GOTY 2008 : Nintendo DS Game of The Year

2008 for the DS was a little unusual. Instead of the usual top-rung Nintendo properties ruling the roost, it was the third-party titles that truly drove the platform's reputation for innovative games this year. Importantly, the DS finally made its way, albeit quietly, into Indian store shelves. Sadly, the available games library is yet to catch up, with most of us depending on assorted imported goods stores for quality titles. IN fact, we're ashamed to admit that it took us months to get a copy of Professor Layton and The Curious Village, and we still haven't played one of the year's best titles, The World Ends with You, because we couldn't get our hands on a copy.

But still, it was another year that made us happy to be DS owners, with great games and important technological advances that make us look ahead to 2009 with great anticipation.

The runners-up

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Beautiful cartoon graphics and some great puzzle design made this puzzler one of the standout DS games in 2008. A great handwriting recognition system, and completely stylus based controls made it a pleasure to play, and, with 135 challenging puzzles in all, and an oddly cute story involving murder and crime, Professor Layton is a must-play for DS owners

Chrono trigger

Yes, it was a pretty faithful remake of one of the greatest games ever made. Chrono trigger really didn't offer any exciting DS specific features, but hey, you don't fix what ain't broken, right? This admirable principle results in Chrono Trigger being one of the best DS games of the year, but then, it would have been on any platform it might have been released for. Youngsters who have no idea what Chrono Trigger is, play this game. That's an order.

BossFight DS Game of The Year 2008

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword

When Tecmo announced that they were bringing their popular Ninja Gaiden Franchise to the DS, eyebrows were raised. How could a series known for stunning graphics and fast, furious hardcore gameplay make the transition to a platform not known for such games. Turns out that there was no need to worry. Ninja Gaiden : Dragon Sword is a revelation on the DS, that somehow manages to keep the series' reputation intact in every way. Amazing graphics and fast, visceral combat make this an important game to show the way forward for hardcore action games on the DS. It demomstrates how stylus-only controls can be implemented without compromising the gameplay, and here's hoping that other developers take Tecmo's lead.

You could argue that Castlevania or Chrono Trigger were superior games to Dragon Sword, and you may even be right. But these games don't really make use of the DS control scheme and features in anything other than the most superficial way. Dragon Sword, on the other hand, showcases the DS touchscreen controls in the best possible way - by being a stellar game that wouldn't be possible to implement on any other platform. It was a pleasure to control Master Ryu Hayabusa, leaping, blocking, dodging and slashing with furious ease. The ninpo system was also fun to play with. And, importantly, the control scheme was not merely a novelty that wore off after a few levels - it soon became second nature, and very much an integral part of a wholly unique gaming experience. It also helped that Dragon Sword is easily the most visually impressive DS game to date, featuring production values that many wouldn't have thought possible on the system.

Ninja Gaiden : Dragon Sword does the DS a great service in demonstrating the platform's suitability for hardcore titles, as well as showing the way for control schemes that make use of the touch-screen to find newer, and I daresay better, ways to play. For that alone, it wins BossFight's DS Game of the Year ahead of some truly heavyweight competition.

The Zeitgeist GOTY part 2

Anand Ramachandran and Videep Vijay Kumar wrap-up the first ever GOTY in the mainstream press in India - for Zeitgeist in The New Indian Express. Of course, you'll see more details and other awards in a slightly different format on Bossfight in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Click on the image for a larger version.

Bossfight GOTY 2008 : Special award for delayed gratification - Braid

Few games, from any generation, on any platform, have ever appeared as simple yet worked on as many different levels as Braid does. For instance, my favourite Braid moment didn’t even happen when I was playing, or have anything to do with what was happening in the game itself. Watching someone else play for the first time, I found myself gently chuckling as he went through his repertoire of standard gaming responses - time that jump just a bit better, take a longer run, explore a different area of the screen, look for power ups – before it slowly dawned on him that maybe, just maybe, that rewind mechanic in the game was there as something more than a fancy replacement for a save/retry option. From there, it was a few short steps before he started to understand why the story was written as it was, the correlation between the intro screens and the game mechanic. As I watched, I was reflecting on how so many of our responses as we go about our lives are so conditioned, so predetermined.

That’s right, watching someone else play, I was thinking about how I go about my life. That’s the kind of experience that Braid is. Or isn’t. Take your pick. It’s a challenging puzzle-platformer, a ground breaking experiment in videogame mechanics, a beautiful work of art, a brilliantly written story of unrequited love, a commentary on the creation of the atomic bomb, and a thought provoking documentation of a young man’s journey through life. Braid can be any or all of the above, all delivered through lovingly crafted visuals set against haunting, melodic music, liberally sprinkled with subtle, reverent nods to classics of platforming like Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong. And all of this is capped off by probably the best ending level ever, with an honest to goodness twist ending – which in itself, tales a little time to really sink in. It really has something to reward anyone who has even an iota of the patience needed to absorb it. With no “tutorial”, and the largely respected plea from the developers not to put walkthroughs up on the net, you will need patience. And will be well rewarded for it.

Play through from start to finish before challenging yourself with the speed runs and maxing out your achievements, sit back and gaze upon the paintings you create by finishing each level, or trawl the internet figuring out what it all means. It doesn’t really matter how you experience Braid, but experience it, you must. In the twitch dependent, photorealism craving, mega budget marketing dominated world of videogames, Braid is a simple, purely movement and jump control driven, independently developed game that requires, no, demands, that you put down your controller every so often and think, reflect and contemplate. And in today’s world of instant gratification, that certainly deserves an award.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bossfight GOTY 2008 : Mobile Game of The Year

The mobile platform continues to grow in relevance as a true-blue option for great gaming, and 2008 saw some great leaps forward.

Earlier on Bossfight, we took a look at certain aspects of the mobile gaming scenario. Here's the post.


Assassin's Creed HD

Gameloft managed to drop our jaws with the mobile iteration of Assassin's Creed. Featuring the wall-scaling, rooftop-leaping, swashbuckling gameplay of its console cousin, Assassin's Creed HD is great news for gamers looking for a fuller, more hardcore experience on mobile phones.

Boom Blox

Steven Spielberg's Boom Blox was a surprise hit on the Wii in 2009, wowing everyone with it's accessible and devilishly addictive puzzle based gameplay. The mobile version was also great, with separate versions for Java and N-gage. You had to launch a ball to knock over different kinds of blocks (exploding blocks time-bombs, chemical blocks) to score points. This is way more fun than it sounds, trust me. The short, addictive puzzles made Boom Blox ideal for on-the-go gaming, and the level editing tools in the N-gage version were also a good step towards UGC on the mobile platform.

Metal Gear Solid Mobile (N-Gage)

The first truly heavyweight license (other than the disappointing FIFA 09) to make its way to the N-gage, Snake's first outing on NOKIA's platform was an exceptional game in every way. Featuring the best graphics on the N-Gage yet, the trademark MGS gameplay translated surprisingly well to the miniscule screen and controls of the mobile phone. It also featured some neat uses of the mobile phone camera – where you could point the camera at any real-world object to choose a texture for Snake's camo-suit. Let's hope the success of MGS mobile encourages other publishers to bring great franchises to N-gage. GTA mobile? We can hope.

Spore Origins (iPhone)

Basically just the cell stage from Will Wright's PC hit Spore, Spore Origins was an engaging mobile game that also added a feature where you could upload your creations from the mobile version and then download them for use in the PC game – a cool idea which shows how integration between platforms can be implemented in interesting and relevant ways. The iPhone version featured the best controls – you guided your creature by simply tilting your phone, and the coolest feature, where you could click any photo and use it as a texture for your creature's skin.


Reset Generation (N-Gage)

Reset Generation energized the N-Gage platform with its insane multiplayer gameplay, crazy power-ups and weaponry, and cast of colourful characters – perhaps the funniest and most challenging multiplayer strategy game since Worms. It was a lovingly crafted parody and homage to the cult of gaming, featuring caricatured versions of videogame superstars such as Mario, Master Chief, Lara Croft and Sonic spewing ridiculous lines such as “I plumber! I fix toilet, I save princess!”.

All this would be of no use if Reset Generation wasn't a good game – but it is just that, and much more – it's a genuinely great game. Featuring a host of game mechanics that were completely original, this is a strategy game that is challenging, fun and truly hardcore, belying its cutesy-pie graphics. Perhaps the greatest tribute to Reset Generation is that we can't quite say “It reminds us of X game or Y game”. In an age of me-too game designs, that's praise of the highest order.

Importantly, you could play on your mobile against a friend who was playing on a web browser – the cross-platform multiplayer gameplay making sure that the game wasn't limited to people who owned an N-Gage compatible phone – a farsighted and laudable move from NOKIA. Reset Generation released in August. We're still playing it. Word.

Here's our original review of Reset Generation – where we tell you in detail why it's so special.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bossfight GOTY 2008 : Best Indian Game That Was Never Made - Chili Con Carnage, Rajnikanth Edition

It's a match made in heaven - the insanely funny, over-the-top stunt action of Chili Con Carnage combined with da mean skillz of the greatest Indian action-hero of all time, Rajnikanth. The mere thought of controlling 'thalaivar' as he twirls through the air, defying physics and kicking villain-butt has us in a tizzy! 'Airilayae suththi suththi adippendaa!'

Imagine Rajnikanth doing this shite :

Runner Up : Mortal Kombat vs. Tamil Movie Universe.

Bossfight GOTY 2008: Most Tedious Installation Award - Grand Theft Auto IV (PC)

I don't remember the last time a PC game tortured me like this one did. Yes, I knew the game was buggy as hell, and yes, I knew that the damn thing would eat up more system resources than Crysis . For some reason, I didn't come across any bitching online about the game's preposterous installation process. The game takes about forty-five minutes to install, provided you dedicate that time to clicking on the million "next" and "I agree" buttons screen, and change the DVD (yes, it's a double-DVD game) promptly. So don't expect this game to install itself if you decide to "achieve other things" during said process.

During the installation, you are informed that GTA IV requires, not just GTA IV to be installed in order to work, but other things as well, as you can see (above) and (below). It saddens me to see that Rockstar is in cahoots with M$. It needs meaningful things like GFW, SP3, and er... IE. There's more fun to be had in setting up your GFW Live account and your Rockstar Games Social Club account. Yes, you need both of them if you want play online.

A few thousand clicks, a couple of registrations and a few updates later, you'll be good to go! Yay! Just two hours after inserting the first disc into your drive! Of course, you can choose to bypass the setting-up-of-accounts process if you're going to play offline. Of course, then you'd be a n00b.

So, there you have it, the prestigious "Most Tedious Installation" Award goes to GTA IV, not just for pwning the end-user, but also for making EA look like Mother Teresa.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bossfight GOTY 2008 : King of Swing Award - Steven Spielberg.

Who says the movie industry is full of pretentious, ignorant n00bs who will gladly faff about videogames without even playing a single one? We do, that's who. Like Roger Ebert and Rashid Irani.

But, unlike these morons, Steven Spielberg showed us that he's teh_2347 d34l. By creating the wonderfully refreshing and addictive Boom Blox, for the Wii and mobile platforms. Boom Blox proved to be one of the best uses of the Wiimote ever. It's intuitive, imaginative gameplay showed the way to attract more audiences to gaming - by creating accessible, original and fun games as opposed to lazy adaptations of board games or drab me-too clones of Bejewelled.

Boom Blox, besides being a great game in its own right, is more important than is immediately obvious. Its game mechanics and control scheme lend themselves to cloning in a very basic way, in that these can be used to vastly improve the way we interact with many different kinds of games. True, several games have attempted this in the past, but never before has using the Wiimote to interact with 3-D objects with plausible physics felt as absolutely natural as it does when grabbing, throwing, pushing and pulling the Blox in this marvellous game.

So take a bow, Mr.Spielberg. For showing us that when it comes to understanding how to entertain people in ANY medium, you're the man.

Here's a gameplay video :

The Bossfight Game of The Year Awards 2008

At-em, hearties! Listen up, Delta! Waaaaaaaaaaagh!

Whatever your battle-cry, there's no doubt that December is here. And you all know what that means! No, not Rajnikanth's birthday, you fanboys, it's time to celebrate the year's best in gaming! That's right, Bossfight kicks off our very first GOTY awards.

While we will be looking at the usual suspects with a keen, we'll also be giving a whole bunch of India specific awards.

And, since we're indisciplined assholes, we'll freewheel as long as the format is concerned. There will be platform specific awards, but apart from that we'll just hand out whatever we feel like. There, that's settled.

And, to get you warmed up for a taste of things to come, Bossfight's very own Anand Ramachandran and Videep Vijay Kumar are proud to present the very first GOTY in the Indian mainstream press - kudos to Aditya Sinha and his mates at the New Indian Express for supporting gaming like no other Indian daily newspaper. Hit the image for a larger screenie.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The genius of Popcap

This article first appeared on my weekly 'Game Invader' column for The New Indian Express.

Popcap games makes the world's most addictive, insanely fun games. Sorry Maxis. Sorry Blizzard. I'm afraid these guys are numero uno.

The cause of this rant is Peggle. A devilishly simple looking game, in which you drop a small ball into a playing board that consists of coloured pegs arranged in various patterns, sort of like a pachinko board. The aim of the game is to drop the ball in such a way that you clear all the pegs of a particular colour. It sounds simple. It is simple. But I challenge you to stop playing.

Within minutes, you'll be figuring out angles, using power ups, biting your nails, and fervently 'willing' the ball to drop in a favourable way. You'll be humming the tunes, ogling the cutesy-pie graphics, and cursing the evil geniuses who designed this mind-virus.

This isn't the first time popcap has done this to me. I've been, at various points in time, addicted to Zuma, Insaniquarium, and Bejewelled. I hate these people. It's all Popcap's fault.

Insaniquarium is actually a game where Popcap has managed to make fish-feeding a fun activity! The whole game revolves around the rather goofy and silly premise of keeping all the fish in your aquarium well-fed and happy. By clicking. That's it. Clicking, Like Diablo. Only crazier. You'll have to manage carnivorous fish that eat the herbivorous fish, you'll have to manage resources by allowing the fish themselves to generate pearls – which convert to cash to buy more food. And of course, you'll have to defend your fish from aliens that sudddenly appear in the tank. You heard me right. Aliens.

Many of you may have played a clone of Bejewelled – the classic match-3-gems-in-a-row puzzle. If so, you'll understand how Popcap games are – simple to learn, impossible to stop playing. It's a formula they seem to have mastered better than any other developer. In fact, in the midst of typing this article, I briefly went over to popcap's web site for 'just a few' rounds of Peggle! The masterly design, superb, pleasing production values, and finely-tuned gameplay makes their games unique, even in the highly competitive world of casual gaming. They're like the Pixar of casual gaming – showing repeated successes and spawning countless inferior imitators.

Popcap also makes these games available free to play on You'll need to install a small plug-in, and you're all set to play some of the finest games ever made. Just don't blame me for the loss in productivity!

In a world where the heavyweight and 'hardcore' games get all the fancy media coverage, the contribution of casual games is often overlooked. Tetris continues to be among the world's most played games. In fact, often people have said to me “Nah – I don't play games. Just Tetris.” Just Tetris? Think about that.

Companies like Popcap continue to draw millions of new users, and generate huge dollars for the industry. By making their games available on almost every available platform – Bejewelled and Zuma are available on PC, web browser, mobile, and even XBOX live arcade – they ensure that huge numbers of casual users become fans of gaming. A significant number of these will then experiment with hardcore titles, and who knows, they may even end up being chainsaw addicts on Gears of War.

But it would all have started with Peggle. Or Zuma. And it would all be Popcap's fault.

Why my gamerscore looks bad.

This article first appeared in my weekly Game Invader column for The New Indian Express.

Ok – this one's a rant against those of you who mock my puny XBOX live gamerscore. Don't laugh. You know who you are ;)

I admit, I myself often feel a bit, how do i put this, inadequate when I look at my rather modest points and achievements tally, when compared to the mighty achievements of those on my friends list. It isn't a happy feeling. It slowly, mockingly, goads me to play more XBOX games. It implores me to spend more time on Forza Motorsport 2. It pleads with me to explore every corner of GTA 4. It makes me want to complete every time trial in Braid. But even that isn't enough.

Because, you see, that is the sorry plight of the multi-platform gamer.

Thanks to my line of work, combined with personal inclinations, of course, I game on a wide variety of platforms. All the current gen (or is it still next-gen? I'm confused) consoles – XBOX 360, PS3 and Wii. The PC is also a regular – being so close to me throughout the day that games (namely, Peggle. Curses) is only a click away. Add to this a gaggle of handhelds – the PSP, DS, and my N-Gage compatible mobile phone that also plays Java games. And I haven't even begun on the emulated retro classics I dog from time to time.

While this no doubt makes it sound like I am a super-fortunate guy who spends every waking minute playing games on every conceivable platform, sadly it isn't true. I spend about the same amount of time (even less, I would hazard), as any mid-core gamer does. It's just that my time is divided across so many platforms. Leading, naturally, to a puny looking list of completed games on each individual one. Which is no doubt the cause of much merriment and amusement to my fellow gamers on XBOX live, or on N-Gage arena. But never mind them, I say.

So here I am, with gaming experience that is impressive in breadth but perhaps lacking in depth when compared to the guys who have played every single C and C game. Or every character in every instalment of Mortal Kombat. Or guys who have played Counter-Strike longer than some people have lived. Which means I get pwned more often than not when pitting my skills against them.

But I love this. And wouldn't have it any other way.

For me, the sheer wonder of discovering new gameplay ideas, characters and worlds is the draw. Sure, I enjoy the challenge of playing a testing, exciting game, but I'm not a completionist. When faced with an insurmountable difficulty spike in a game, I'll try once, twice, thrice. And then, I'll probably switch my attention to something else. In the past couple of years, the only games I've actually really finished are Bioshock, Halo 3, God of War (PSP) and Mass Effect. But I've played more than half the major releases on every platform in the same period.

Do I regret it? Actually, a bit. It would have been nice to have finished more games. But the truth is, given the kind of time on my hands, I'm glad I get to play and experience the joy of so many different kinds of games across platforms – which gives me a great bird's eye of where the industry is heading creatively.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Best WTF Film Scripts of All Time

You want teh_pWnage? You've got it.

The below are scans of an actual pitch that was circulated to buyers at a recent film market in India - where leading international film companies came to identify and buy Indian films to produce, market and distribute.

I won't demean the awesomeness of the pitches by dwelling on specific points or highlights. That would be disrespectful - like looking at the Taj Mahal and then dwelling on the merits of a specific dome or column.

I just so badly wish that one of these gets made into a film. That would be the most kvlt thing ever.

Click the images for a larger image - trust me, you don't want to miss a single detail.

[Note - I have deleted the name of the writer, which explains the odd white / black rectangles]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

N-gage review : FIFA 09

Pele : Ambitious. Lots of content for a mobile game. Decent presentation.

Denilson : Horrendous AI. Poor controls and responsiveness. Not fun to play.

Good from far, far from good. FIFA 09's player models look fine from a distance, but oddly blocky when zoomed in.

FIFA 09 is the new king of football games on consoles – the XBOX 360, PS3 and PSP versions have gained universal acclaim for great gameplay, amazing presentation, and the usual slew of great features found in the FIFA franchise. The gameplay has forced even hardcore PES loyalists like myself to admit that, in many ways, EA has finally wrested the crown from Konami.

However, I'm sorry to report that the N-Gage version is quite rubbish.

I wanted to like it. I'm a believer in N-gage, as is known to regular readers of this blog. I want the platform to succeed, I want it to have great games. Bu FIFA 09 does the platform a grave injustice – it's one of the high profile releases, and could have propelled the platform to greater levels of acceptance. But it sucks.

The essence of a footy game is fluid, responsive gameplay. By responsive, I mean that the players you control should do the things you want them to do. You press the pass button, they should pass to the player in the direction you point. You press 'switch player' the control should switch to the player logically nearest the action. FIFA 09 on N-Gage doesn't even get the basics right, making for frustrating, annoying gameplay that will make you want to throw down your phone in anger.

I picked Italy and played against China on the default difficulty level. My players kept passing to the wrong guy. The AI defenders would just stand still and let the opposing forwards waltz right through. I'd be frantically hitting the 'switch player' button and hope, ususally in vain, that I'd get control of the right player. China 2 , Italy 0.

FIFA 09 features a simplified control scheme that uses just the d-pad and the two gaming keys (I played on an N81 in landscape). Which is great in theory – but the problem is, it doesn't work. It's unresponsive and erratic, making the gameplay more of a blind, button-mashing lottery than a precise game of flowing football. I have nothing against simple control schemes – PES 2008 mobile uses a single-button scheme that works perfectly well. Even the PSP version of FIFA 09 offers a simplified control scheme that's fluid, and a pleasure to play for casual or new players. But this one's a total mess.

The AI is broken as well. Players run around aimlessly, or stand still. Defenders will stand by and let opposing forwards run past them. Players will run back and forth near the ball without picking it up. While it's possible to eventually gain some semblance of accuracy when attacking, defending is a complete nightmare. All in all, FIFA 09 is a chore to play.

Which is a great pity, since it otherwise packs so much content and so many ideas. There are several game modes – including the leagues, tournaments and scenario based challenges from its console counterparts. As usual, there's an excellent roster of teams and players to choose from, albeit not quite as expansive as the console versions. But it still features pretty much any team you'd want to play as.

It features a fairly decent range of strategies – formations, player attributes – but these are pointless when the basic gameplay isn't up to scratch, so there's no sense in dwelling on them.

The graphics are also spotty – while the presentation is great overall, the player models look strangely blocky when close-up. From the evidence from other titles like One and System Rush, it's probably fair to assume that the N-Gage is capable of handling better graphics, so I'll count this as a problem. They look fine when zoomed out, but if you zoom the camera too far away, the system struggles to keep up when drawing more polygons / sprites on screen, and slows the gameplay to below-acceptable levels.

Also - there's no muliplayer, which is understandable since the game barely manages to chug along on single-player, so online play may have reduced it to slideshow levels. There are some rankings and the like - but I honestly didn't pay much attention to these, annoyed as I was with the basic gameplay.

I've been playing football games as long as I can remember, beginning with Pele's Soccer and Realsports Soccer on the ATARI 2600, through Sensible Soccer on the SEGA genesis, to Kick-Off and early iterations of FIFA and Virtua Soccer on the PC. I've played every version of FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer for the past five years or so. I've even played the Java versions of PES and Real Football on the mobile phone. It's fair to say that I love my footy (haven't missed much since 1982), and I'm reasonably well qualified to comment on the quality of football games.

Hence, I'm sorry to say that I can't remember the last time a football game disappointed me as much as FIFA 09 on the N-Gage. Sorry EA, this one's a red card offense

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More than just Reset Generation.

Reset Generation is a fantastic title – great graphics, original and addictive gameplay, and a great sense of humour. Easily one of the freshest, must-play experiences on the N-Gage. You can try the free online version right here on this blog.

Part One : The Review!

At its heart, Reset Generation is a strategy game, but it's quite unlike any other I've played. It's as if someone took a gigantic blender, threw in the grid-based gameplay of Advance Wars, the crazy weaponry and humour of Worms, a slew of original ideas, and some hilarious videogame in-humour, and somehow, impossibly, managed to make a great game out of it.

A lot happens. You have to drop tetris-like blocks and create paths to walk around on the tiled map, and you're faster and stronger on large contiguous areas of your own coloured tiles. You'll run around gathering insanely funny power-ups, fighting your enemies, summoning monsters, throwing grenades, rescuing princesses, shooting things, and avoiding annoying chickens running around on the map. All with a clock ticking, so you can't wait forever to work out your plan – you'll be strategizing and executing your moves in a tearing hurry. This breathless pacing in what is basically a turn-based game means the action is rather frantic, especially for the genre. It's all quite mad, and deceptively deep. For a detailed review of the game mechanics, head over to pocketgamer. And then back here for the rest of the post ;)

Make no mistake – Reset Generation, despite its friendly, colourful appearance, is a pretty hardcore strategy game that will take you quite a while to master. Since the gameplay is so wholly original, there are no 'genre-staple' strategies to fall back on, and you'll lose a lot of games (especially online), before you come into your own as a player. But Reset Generation is never frustrating – I haven't enjoyed getting my ass whipped repeatedly this much in any other game.It makes you believe, and rightly so, that you'll win the next round, so you're raring to have another go. Outstanding stuff. Take a bow, Red Lynx, you've just topped Pathway to Glory. This is your best yet.

Also, Reset Generation is a loving, adoring homage / parody that will delight the original 'Reset Generation' - those of us who grew up loving Space Invaders, Mario, Pokemon and the rest of the gang on an assortment of retro platforms. But there's something for everyone – fans of Tomb Raider, MMORPG players and FPS deathmatchers will also find laugh-out-loud moments and references to their favourite genres. The graphics are consistently high-quality, and the writing really nails the humour.

While there's a single player 'Story Mode' that's essentially a long and entertaining tutorial that preps you for the meat of Reset Generation – the online Multiplayer. Playing human opponents, of course, is exponentially more interesting than playing AI, and Reset Generation comes alive in Multiplayer. There are always a lot of players of varying skill available, and you'll never want to stop.

And wait . . . this brings us to . . .

Part Two : The Key Thing. Cross-Platform multiplayer!

Sure, reset Generation is enjoyable, challenging and addictive. And funny. But there's something far more interesting about it.

Reset Generation offers cross-platform multiplayer. This means that people playing on their phones can play against opponents who are playing on a PC, through their browsers. Nice. And what's more, the online version of the game is completely free to play.

Being an N-gage owner, and having fallen in love with Reset Generation's gameplay, I was keen to get my friends to try it, and then take them on in multiplayer battles. Thanks to the cross-platform feature, I can play against my buddies, none of whom own N-gage compatible phones.

In an age where 'proprietary' is the mantra, and companies like Microsoft and SONY making it increasingly impossible for gamers on both platforms to play together, it's delightful to see NOKIA take a step like this. They're not always known to make great marketing decisions for their gaming properties, but this one's pure inspiration.

Preventing cross-platform online play is a short sighted, narrow brand of corporate thinking that helps nobody. Why can't I play a cross-platform game like COD 4 on my XBOX against someone else who's using a PS3? Imagine a situation where five friends who own different consoles all wanting to race each other online. Thanks to Microsoft and SONY's policies, this is impossible. Ridiculous, really.

It certainly isn't technically impossible, and it's even been done before (Phantasy Star had common servers for PC, Mac, Dreamcast and Gamecube users, for crying out loud ! ). Instead of having a broader perspective and expanding the market together, heavyweight gaming companies insist on fighting over the existing market, making things harder for us gamers.

Returning to the Reset Generation example, the end result is that NOKIA benefits greatly by this open approach. In fact, a couple of friends, including fellow Zeitgeist columnist Videep Vijay Kumar, are even considering getting a NOKIA phone to play Reset Generation, and other N-gage titles, on the go. Their experience with Reset Generation has helped them discover N-gage as a platform – something that would never have happened if NOKIA had forced them to buy a new phone just to try the experience. Brilliant. Everyone's happy.

If companies are to ever stop whining about piracy and how nobody buys enough of their brilliant games, they have to figure out ways to get gamers on their side. I'm not talking about idiot fanboys, but mature, educated gamers who will have a far greater influence over broader and potential markets. Their voices on online forums, blogs and communities are a very significant force in game marketing today – having the capability to seriously impace game sales, reputations and market worth.

Pro-gamer initiatives and attitudes, such as what NOKIA has done with Reset Generation, will go a long way in reassuring customers that the big corporations really do care about their customers, and not just about sticking it to the competition, collateral damage to customers be damned!

Of course, I have a selfish angle to this as well. I just want to play great games with more of my friends, without each of us shelling out for every possible platform. Is that too much to ask ?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Play Reset Generation for Free.

Yay! Bossfight's first playable game! And it's the excellent Reset Generation. An all-new strategy game with original, intense and addictive gameplay, and some laugh-out-loud humour. You have got to try this. My gamer ID on N-gage is bigfatphoenix - so add me and bring on some Reset Generation!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Game Invader : Great Java games for your phone

This article first appeared in my weekly 'Game Invader' column for the New Indian Express

Old technologies never die, they just make their way to mobile phones. That sly devil John Carmack is at it again, pushing technology where it hasn’t gone before.

This time, it’s on those Java games that make mobiles so much fun.

Using old school techniques that were used to crank out PC games in the late ’80s and early ’90s, he’s delivered games like DOOM RPG and Orcs & Elves on the mobile platform. And boy, are they fun to play.

Remember these guys? Now you can get your butt kicked by them on your phone as well.

These games resemble old RPG classics like Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master, which were early examples of first-person RPGs on the PC.

These pioneering games were very popular at the time and paved the way for the eventual success of games like Morrowind and Oblivion.

Now, the same gameplay that charmed people 20 years ago is weaving its magic on mobile phones appealing to new gamers and nostalgia buffs alike.

Orcs and Elves is a must-play for hardcore RPG fans who possess a "Mobile Phone of Gaming +1".

This just goes to prove an old chestnut Gameplay is Everything. Show someone on a PC a game like Orcs & Elves and they’d scoff at it. “Ugly graphics” and “simplistic gameplay” would be among the abuses hurled.

However, put it on a mobile phone, a platform on which expectations are considerably lower, and the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ return. So the emergence of mobile Java gaming as a growing platform has opened the floodgates for games with proven gameplay mechanics, but technology and techniques from a bygone age.

Since today’s mobile phones are roughly as powerful as PCs from an earlier era, this is an absolutely brilliant idea. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, deve-lopers have a ready-made reservoir of ideas and content to quickly deliver great gameplay to eager gamers. People get fantastic games at a low price, which will run on very average handsets. The old games get a new lease of life, and a new generation of gamers is introduced to their magic. Everyone wins.

I’ve seen almost every successful gameplay mechanic and engine repurposed with varying degrees of success on the Java platform. Classic arcades? Check. Eight and 16-bit console era? Check. Isometric PC RPG? Check. 2D adventure? Check.

My currently installed games list reads like a library of PC classics Pro Evolution Soccer. Doom, The Sims 2, Age of Empi-res, Civilization 3, Baldur’s Gate, Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty 2. These are all enjoyable adaptations of their more famous PC and console counterparts.

The price is sweet as well, with most of these titles costing anywhere between 5 to 10 dollars online. If you look around hard enough, you’ll also find a lot of free demos and giveaways.

What this means is that there are tons of great games to turn your mobile phone into a device that offers endless gaming pleasure. Whether you’re looking for simplistic, quick-hit gameplay or more involving experiences, there’s something on offer.

The thing is, you don’t even need a fancy high-end phone to play these titles. Any mid-range Java-enabled handset will do. So you actually have no excuse not to try these games.

And the future looks bright, too. Maybe, after 20 years or so, we’ll be rediscovering Bioshock and Fallout 3 on tiny mobile phones, which will by then have the power to run our current favourites as ‘retro’ classics. Isn’t that a delicious thought?

Monday, November 10, 2008

N-gage review : One

Chuck Norris : Great graphics. Great brawling system. Rewards skilful play.

Barry Horowitz : No variety in fighters, moves. May not appeal to hardcore fighting fans. No online play.

One is the sequel to the 3D fighter that appeared on the original N-gage. That game appeared too late to save Nokia's much-maligned platform, but was universally recognized as a great looking game that truly showed-off the N-gage's potential.

This one is better in every way.

The first thing that stands out about One is the 3D visuals. My friends, without exception, have marvelled at the outstanding graphics - without parallel on a mobile phone. The environments, player models, animations all combine beautifully towards making One a title that looks almost as good as early generation PSP games.

Which would be useless without great action, but thankfully One delivers that as well. It's a solid, if unspectacular, fighting system that rewards tactical, skilful fighting over frenzied button-mashing. And, in my book, that's the mark of a good fighting game.

At first look, One's fighting system looks bland and unexciting. Every fighter is exactly the same - except for cosmetic changes (you can customize your fighter with a variety of clothes, accessories, hairstyles etc.). There are only two 'styles', which give your fighter two sets of moves - so basically every fighter is an instance of one of these two templates. There are no special moves for each fighter, or super-combo systems, or any of the stuff found in more hardcore fighting games like Mortal Kombat or Soul Calibur. People who are looking for a large roster of varied fighters with unique moves, combos and specials, you won't find any of that in One.

But what you will find is a simple, yet challenging fighting system that, since it eliminates the differences granted by varied characters, boils it down to who is the more skilled fighter. Hardcore players who have gone through the practice of choosing the same fighter (Mitsurugi vs. Mitsurugi) to level the playing field will instantly recognize and appreciate this. And you will need to be skilful to master the fighting system of One - it may be simple, but it's not easy by any means.

There's a story mode that pits you against a variety of fighters from locations all over the world. Beating opponents in story mode unlocks them for play in the Versus mode. There's also a standard survival mode. In all, enough to keep you occupied endlessly if you enjoy fighting.

One also uses the oldest trick in the videogame book to keep you invested - the good old high-scores system. It does this by including a chess-like ELO rating system, which keeps track of all your victories and defeats - awarding and deducting ELO rating points from your score. You can then upload your scores to N-Gage Arena, and compare your standing against other fighters from your country, continent, or the world. However, this doesn't quite compensate for the lack of online play, which is a disappointment considering the N-Gage is being pushed as a community gaming experience.

One isn't a Street Fighter / Mortal Kombat / Virtua Fighter kind of traditional fighter with crazily overpowered fighters, insane moves, and grotesque violence. What is is, is a realistic, skill-based brawler that offers hours of fun for those willing to get into it and master the fighting system. And, it's a great way to show off your NSeries phone.

Mega Multi-platform Gaming Weekend : Fifa 09, Orcs and Elves, One

Whew. Epic weekend.

Many hours of GTA IV and Spore, which is clear to anyone reading these pages.

But quick takes on the other games I played this weekend :

Fifa 09 (PSP) :

I hated Fifa 08 on the PSP. PES 6 remained my footy game of choice on the go. With FIFA 09, that's changed. And any PES loyal knows how hard it is for a PES loyal to say this.

The basic footy gameplay is now really, really solid. It's not quite as frantic and fast paced as PES, but it's a lot more realistic. The gameplay is measured, forcing you to think about the game as you play, instead of depending on mean ball-playing skillz alone. I think this is actually better suited for portable gaming, and once you adjust to the fractionally slower-paced gameplay, FIFA 09 is a lot of fun, and very satisfying to the serious footy fan. And it looks miles better than PES, with the new collision animations so realistic that my Dad thought I was actually watching a game. Nice.

The Be A Pro mode is also brilliant, especially if you want to get the feeling of what it's like to play in an actual football match. I've actually played some footy in school, and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being just one player, as opposed to controlling the entire team. I picked Kaka of AC Milan, and had a blast making off the ball runs, supplying defense-splitting through balls for Sheva and Ronnie, and occasionally running past defenders to score myself. The sense of being part of a team with other great players is amazing, and this is a mode that offers a whole new take on playing videogame football. May not be for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to try.

There are some nice quizzes and a manager mode to round off the most complete football package on a handheld platform. Of course, PES 09 may just change that opinion, but for now, FIFA 09 is the game of choice for PSP Peles everywhere.

Orcs and Elves (Mobile)

When John Carmack makes a game, you fucking pay attention. This is a delightfully charming, deceptively complex and challenging RPG for hardcore fans. It's in the Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder school of first person dungeon crawlers from the old skool era. Loads of monsters, puzzles, quests, spells, potions and equipment. Kill monsters, rest, shop, kill more monsters. Perfect. And it's on a mobile phone. Double perfect.

Orcs and Elves is a stellar example of how companies are taking old school gaming ideas and technology and finding that it's just perfect for mobile phones. Which brings me back to that old chestnut - gameplay is everything. Don't miss this if you have a Java enabled handset and are looking for a great RPG on the go.

One (N-Gage)

One is the best looking game on a mobile phone. Period. And it plays great, too. A difficult, skill intensive beat em up. Complete review coming up.

Game Invader : Spore and GTA 4 usher in Next-Gen.

This article first appeared in my Game Invader column for the New Indian Express

Finally, after years of waiting, we have next-gen games.

Sure, we've had a whole bunch of games with Next-Gen production values. Bioshock, Halo 3, MotorStorm, Heavenly Sword and a bunch of others were eye-popping games that were great to play, but didn't really take gameplay forward in any significant way. Nintendo's Wii and DS systems ushered in control schemes that were unique and innovative – but we're still to see games that use these input methods in completely revolutionary ways.

But GTA 4 and Spore do just that. They're next-gen games, pure and simple. Both titles take the gameplay experience forward by leaps and bounds – delivering experiences that are quite unlike anything that has come before, and give us a glimpse of the future of gaming.

GTA 4 lets you chat on the phone with friends, surf the internet, watch TV and play darts. When you're not in car chases or gunfights. It's probably one of the greatest games of all time - and I don't make such pronouncements easily.

Playing GTA 4 is the closest thing you'll ever experience to actually living in an alternate, virtual reality. MMORPGs are either just stunning 3D chatrooms, or merely rat-races for loot and equipment. Adventure games restrict your actions and ultimately, the experience. Only role-playing games, notably Oblivion in the recent past, give you anything close to living out an alternate reality. But even Oblivion, for its massively detailed and intricate world, didn't quite give you a strong emotional connect to the characters you interacted with.

No such limitations for GTA 4's liberty city and its inhabitants. The game effortlessly draws you into the shoes of Niko Bellic, and within minutes,you're not merely controlling him, you become him – empathising with his joy, pain, hopes and ambitions. This is a game that you actually live. Between missions, you'll watch TV, surf the net, go out on dates, hang out with friends, go shopping, and generally cruise around. The sheer quality – graphics, writing, acting – that has gone into making Liberty City such a believable, plausible and immersive gameworld creates a gaming experience like no other. Not since Baldur's Gate 2 have I cared this much about people and places in a game.

Spore, on the other hand, is a genre-blending experiment in game design that could only come from the mind of Will Wright. This is an action-adventure-real-time-turn-based-strategy-space-simulation title that defies simple explanation, yet somehow manages to magically put these diverse elements together to create a charming, enjoyable and revolutionary game.

Seeing your creations evolve from a single cell (top) to a mighty civilization offers an unprecedented sense of scale and ownership. Sorry. Pwnership.

The joy of seeing your creation evolve from a single cell organism with just a mouth and some cilia, swimming around in a pond, into a mighty race of space-faring warriors develops a sense of ownership that I haven't experienced in any title since Wright's previous creation, The Sims. Since you design and guide your species and its tools and technologies with a degree of customisation absent from any other games that fall within any of its sub-genres, this is a game that gives you a better God-complex than Black and White or Populous.

The only criticism that SPore has received is that each stage isn't really very deep (The Tribe stage isn't quite Warcraft and The Civilization stage isn't quite, well, Civilization IV). I find that more than just a bit silly – Spore isn't about depth, it's about scope. And it boldly takes a step in a direction that can quite possibly spawn a whole new bunch of genres altogether.

If you're even remotely interested in the possibilities of videogames as an art and entertainment form, you owe it to yourself to play both these incredible games.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Game Invader : The Third Dimension.

This article first appeared in my weekly 'Game Invader' column for The New Indian Express.

While 3D is the de-facto standard for today's games, it wasn't always the case.

For a long, long time, videogames played out in a flat, 2-D world. You could run sideways, climb up ladders, slide down poles. You could duck under obstacles or jump over them. And everyone was happy.

After that came the Battlezones, the DOOMs and the racing games, and their simulated 3D action. Suddenly, you could go into a screen. Things came flying out of it, and straight at you. It was wonderful. And everyone was happy.

Then, the evil genius John Carmack created Quake. And you didn't have to cheat your way through 3D anymore. The object, and the world, were all true 3D objects, with depth. Gaming was never the same again. 3D meant that suddenly, artists didn't have to draw a creature or an object from every possible angle the gamer would see it from. They just created a model once, and then, with a simple rotation of the camera, could view it from any possible angle. This cut development costs down, and gave developers the power to cretae more believable, immersive environments. Everyone was delirious with joy.

Eventually, 3D became the only way to make games. And, mostly games were the better for it. FPS titles suddenly could create ramps, moving obstacles, enemies that could attack you from above and below. Level design went through a major renaissance, and FPS became the world's most popular type of game. RTS was another genre to benefit greatly – you could suddenly zoom in and out, and rotate the camera to get the best possible view of your raging battles. Role-playing games were better off for the revolution – huge worlds such as those of Morrowind and Oblivion were a delight for role-players to explore every inch of. And everyone knows what happened when GTA went 3D. Even traditional 2D stalwarts such as the Mario and Metroid series were brilliantly reinvented to take advantage of 3D enviroments, eventually resulting in all-time classics such as Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime.

Worms never quite made a successful transition to 3D

But was it all good and happy chocolate cake all around?


Worms is my favourite example. Team 17's beloved series never quite made the jump – Worms 3D being a failed attempt at taking the classic Worms gameplay and ruining it by needlessly adapting it to 3D and losing the plot altogether. Thankfully, the series returned to its tested formula for further iterations. Escape from Monkey Island, though a fairly good game taken at its own merits, was a come-down in terms of sheer quality from the impeccable Curse of Monkey Island, that most gorgeous and enjoyable of 2D adventures.

In both cases, the designers compromised several core values that made the originals great, simply to accommodate the third dimension. A case of introducing 3D, just for the sake of 3D. What's the old saying about not fixing things that ain't broke?

Thankfully, games like Braid and Bionic Commando Re-armed are showing us that people will buy and play great games, regardless of whether they're in 2D or 3D. Which just goes to prove that the medium must serve the message, and it's more about gameplay than about technology, whatever developers and publishers may like to believe.

I just hope no-one's working on a 3D remake of Tetris.