The thing about 2D games like the Super Mario Bros. game we played in elementary school that separate’s them from 3D games like Grant Theft Auto is they’re kind of like beat boxing, or banging beats on a table while someone freestyles. Making simple beats is fun. The less sounds there are the easier it is for a person to learn what notes to bang. After that creating a freestyle beat is all about timing, the pause between the last note or the strength of the note played. A 2D game has, on average, 3 buttons. So the entire experience is based on the ease of mastering 3 buttons. Move left or right and jump. Everything you need to know is on the screen. No need to worry about something above, underneath or behind you. Your fingers move to three places. The experience quickly becomes seamless, easy and fun.
So, if games intimidate you but they look fun. Try one of these out.
There is an element in video games that is sorely missing: comedy. Most games cant get away with it and considering how much pressure studios are under to make money off of their product (your average retail game costs $40 million and up) no one wants to take any chances. But, a digitally downloaded product on PSN or XBLA is less expensive and wide open for a game that might make people laugh. That seems to be what company Hothead Games is thinking with their soon to be released Deathspank. Boasting a sort of Adventures of Baron Muncausen feel to it, it is about a clueless adventurer, named Deathspank, who has to discover the mystery of “the artifact” with the help of a “yellow bus special” wizard. The last comedic game I played was the H.P. Lovecraft spoof, Penny Arcade: On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness (also made by Hothead Games). It was a downloadable game. I bought it for $20.00 and I laughed out loud a few times. I still have fond memories of the Monty Python like comedy of 2003 classic Armed and Dangerous. I can’t wait for this one.
I don’t have a Wii. I’ve never played a Wii and I honestly don’t want one. But, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Now, this game is a little hard to explain but I’ll give it a shot. Kirby is a simple 2D game about a cute little blob made of string in a world made of string and fabric. These creates the opportunity for a lot of cool visual effects like unzipping the background or walking behind it as if it a fake movie set backdrop. It’s a simple game that will remind you of a better looking old school Super Mario Bros. The game is simple: move left or right, push a button to jump, push another button to shoot and when something gets hit something cute and cartoony will happen. In a word it looks: fun. It’s too bad I can’t play it. But, my 11 year old niece has a Wii so maybe I’ll buy it for her and, I don’t know, swing over there and hog the controller. If you want a better idea of what it’s like check out the trailer here.
Not a whole lot is know about this game but Rayman: Origins has a little bit of Deathspank, a little bit of Kirby’s Epic Yarn and a little of it’s own stuff going on. It’s appears to be going to for laughs which is great! It’s got it’s own cute thing going like Kirby. It moves like Kirby (left, right, jump and hit in 3 or 4 buttons: simple) but the production value has a more Dysney cartoon feel. The sweeping musical score in the announcement trailer sounds a lot like the Lion King. Also, there seems to be a slapstick buddy relationship between Rayman, and this other little guy. Publisher Ubisoft will release Rayman: Origins episodically on the PS3, Xbox 360 and possibly the iPad, Wii and PC so we all get to play it. The first one comes out this year.
C’mon, a game called Shank has to be violent. It’s another simple 2D downloadable title that looks like an Adult Swim cartoon. Say, Archer? It has a Kill Bill feel about it. The game is about a guy (name Shank, perhaps) who’s out for revenge. He has two guns, two knives, a chainsaw and a few grenades so expect lots of blood. Shank is like Rayman for adults. But, this is what stuck out for me. 1) the animations were done by a cat name Jeff Agala who directed Atomic Betty for the Cartoon Network which gives it this adult cartoon feel. 2) Company Klei Entertainment hired writer Marianne Krawzyck to work on the story. The British Academy of Film and Television, kinda like the Emmy’s in the U.S., gives awards out to video game talent. Krawzyck shared Best Story and Best Character for God of War. She’s considered to be one of the top 20 game writers in the business. And, 3) there are some really cool looking cut scenes in the trailer. Expect Shank to be an interactive adult cartoon. Sounds cool.
Stephen Totillo wrote a column recently for Kotaku called Revenge of 2D. In it he talks about how and why 2D gaming is making a come back. It’s a good read and you can check it out here. Totillo is definately on to something. Today’s 2D games are looking fantastic!
It was the 2D and top down games that stood out for me at E3. Amongst the endless shooters, sports titles, and influx of Kinect, Wii and Move casual titles they stood out the most. I expect these titles and more (Dean Nation, PixelJunk: Shooter 2 – shown above – as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns, Little Big Planet 2, Limbo, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World all look great but I was running out of room) to steal the spotlight over the next year. They look wildly creative, fun and easy to play – should be cool for most anyone.