Wednesday, May 12, 2010

3D Dot Game Heroes: early impressions.

Reviews suggest it gets much better toward the latter half of the game, but it's already cut straight through my cynicism and tapped into the sweet nostalgia of gaming past.

It doesn't manage this through any narrative techniques employed by the franchise that serves at its blatant inspiration - and this is perhaps a misstep. Instead of even attempting to construct a halfway meaningful story, it essentially says "yeah, you know the deal. Descendant of an ancient hero, return of an ancient enemy. You are the chosen one - get to work."

It's the work itself that manages to fan the flame of my affection, because while 3D Dot Game Heroes suffers from most all the ills of the gaming history it parodies, it also captures much of what has been lost since. The simplistic combat is always dangerous, but pleasantly binary. If you do things right you will obliterate everything, and if you muck it up you'll find yourself in a much worse position for your error.

Block-pushing puzzles, likewise, are satisfying returns to my adventuring childhood, but for some reason what really strikes me is the sense of exploration and near-total lack of hand-holding.

When there is a new temple to conquer on the agenda, its location is marked on your map. Any modern game would tell the player, "first, walk two screens to your right. When you get there, I'll let you know what to do next."

3DDGH marks the destination on your map and walks away.

"How do I get there?" you call after it. It just shrugs, turns the corner, and is gone.

And then it's just you and a big, unexplored world with secrets to find, new enemies to terrify you, and a path you must discover for yourself.

I like it.

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