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 ?

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