Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Jade Empire (Xbox), Psychonauts (Xbox): Update

I finished Jade Empire last weekend. It's a wonderful game, and while I don't think it's worthy of the 9.9 awarded in the IGN review, it's certainly a 9 out of 10 under almost any standard.

I had two additional comments to add to the initial impresssions I posted last week. One, I think the new real-time combat system, although not revolutionary in itself, does enhance the flow of the game, which was more important than I first realized. Not pausing in combat makes the world itself feel more dynamic and immersive. Second, I've seen quite a few people complain about the ending. They have a point--it's certainly not one of the strongest aspects of the game. The process leading up to the ending is quite satisfying, but this is a game heavy with cut scenes, some of them remarkable, and the cut scenes accompanying the ending are almost bare in comparison. However, the game was such a compelling experience that the ending in no way diminished my enjoyment.

As to Psychonauts, I settled on the Xbox version and I've put in almost ten hours of play time. Importantly, there's a "save anywhere" feature now, and it greatly reduced the frustration that accompanied jumping puzzles in the demo. Plus the world is so rich with humor that it's a very enjoyable place to explore. However, it's not making me play it for any length of time. I'll play for fifteen or twenty minutes, then go do something else, and return later for another short session. The levels are beautifully and cleverly constructed, but inside an environment there might be four stages based on the same theme, and so far, that's been too many for me. The last one or two stages begin to feel repetitive, and it interrupts the flow of the game. So it's very, very funny, and the world is jam-packed with personality, but at this point game flow seems to be a bit "sticky." I'm going to play for another 5-10 hours over the next few days and I'll have more for you then.

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