Year in Review 2008: Q2

During the lull of spring I went back to another of the many 2007 releases that I had yet to have time for, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. I'm surprised at how little hype and attention this game has gotten, and although I got stuck about a third of the way in, it is one that surely deserves to be given a chance by any hardcore Wii-owner. The controls are for the most part excellent (only issues involve the legacy Metroid feature of having to keep hitting the fire button for every shot which is extremely tiring in drawn-out boss battles, and the difficulty in reaching the lower buttons on the Wiimote in stressful situations). This game has proven that FPS:es are not only possible but can also reach new heights on the system and I'm amazed that we haven't seen more of them, if not new ones then why not at least give us some of the ones from last generation that never saw a GameCube release? Where for instance is Half-Life 2 and Black? And why not give us Portal? For now our hopes lye with The Conduit.

After what just might have been the gaming worlds most appreciated delay, Grand Theft Auto IV was released in last week of April and outside it was almost as earlily quite as during the Super Bowl in America or walking down Sveavägen in Stockholm on Midsummer's Eve, the gaming world collectively closed their blinds and went quite for the next few days. For my part I came home to Kiruna after a May Day visit to Stockholm and promptly played GTA IV for the better part of 48-hours and peripherally noticed how the sun just barely set, bright daylight around the clock as the period of midnight sun grew nigh.

GTAIV, much like last years Orange Box is one of those games that you almost feel bad "only" paying full price for, when it gives you so much more than even the greatest AAA-titles normally do. I'm amazed the the sheer magnitude of content; the size of Liberty City, the amount of radio stations and music, the excellent voice-acting and mocap work, the story and characters, and the fact that it is actually enjoyable to just sit in the back of a taxi and just take in the sights and sounds of the city as you leave the navigation to the game and just look around, something I don't recall experiencing since the opening sequence of Half-Life ten years ago.

A month later, as I put back GTAIV in it's case it felt like waking up from a wonderful dream, realizing that it was time to move on, that trying to prolong the experience would just lessen it, simply hoping that it could be re-invigorated later with the promised DLC. With a sigh I let my fingers run along the spines of the cases on myself and landed on Assassin's Creed which was given a couple of days, but didn't grab me. Another loaner that I'll have to pick up at some point before Djingis wants it back.

After months of silence my Wii finally lit up again with that magically pulsating blue light and WiiWare was released to great fanfare and spectacle... at least that's what I thought would happen, instead there was silence. No blinking light, no email or commercials or banners touting the fact, and if I didn't happen to know that is should be there I would never have found it, hidden away like a bastard child in the deep recesses of the Wii Shop Channel. Not until weeks later was it lift to the front of the channel and a descreet message sent by Nintendo to casually note it's arrival.

Despite the poorly managed release, the launch title LostWinds is a shining example of how this service can be utilized. A bite-sized game that uses the Wiimote to great effect, looks beautiful - one of the best looking games on the system in fact - and at a very affordable price. Why almost everything else on WiiWare is garbage or re-tooled GameBoy games is beyond me! C'mon Nintendo put some effort into it and this service could become a gold mine. With the immanent release of Braid on PC it struck me that this should be highly doable as a WiiWare title, I'd definitely buy it again! But more on Braid later.

Having initially skipped Boom Blox on release, a month later it was already hard to find due to the very limited release run that EA gave it. Fortunately I was able to snatch a used copy at a game store on a visit to Stockholm along with Mario Kart Wii which it quickly outshone. Boom Blox is one of the best Wii titles to date and it really is a shame that EA didn't give it a bigger marketing push. This could easily have been a huge success with the Wii Sports/Play/Fit cowd if only it was waved in their faces some more. With a friend this game is a lot of fun, and very easy to grasp, anyone who's ever played Jenga or simply built with blox, sorry blocks, as a kid will understand the concept and how to play.

The poor sales of Boom Blox brings up another point, the new EA. The return of CEO John Riccitiello really started to show this year with less emphasis on churning out the annual sequels of sports and racing games and a greater focus on diversification and new IP. More on these titles later, but I find it very encouraging that they are investing in sequels to Boom Blox, Dead Space and Mirror's Edge despite the poor sales of all three.

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