IN MEMORANDUM

 Simplicity is key in this current day and age. We live our lives between screens, counting down the seconds to each new console, phone or any of the other numerous distractions we can get our hands on. And why not? We live in a convenience culture, carefully crafted to supplement all the needs of the modern man: why sing when you can be auto-tuned; walk when you can drive; read a book when you can watch a film? But, it’s not our fault, God forbid – this world has just been much too generous for us to refuse. Sadly, that leaves humanity in a bit of a predicament, rotting away mentally while technology continues to grow and flourish.

Although that introduction may seem a little bit dire and exaggerated in comparison to the current state of gaming, it does still hold very true. With every new mainstream release the bar is being lowered and lowered in terms of true involvement from the player, requiring less effort and application on their behalf until all you’re left with is essentially a digital colouring by numbers, £45 RRP. Where has all the challenge and achievement of old gone? Do the new generations of gamer only want quick reward and satisfaction for their virtual actions; a shiny badge for every minute wasted online, smashing pixels together? Having grown up with the emergence of popular consoles and titles, such as Tomb Raider, or Marathon (now continued in the Halo franchise), the thrill of playing lay in the completion of a particularly hard level, or solving that frustrating puzzle that had kept you clueless for days. It is a shame to see now that only the independent developers have risen to defend the intellectual and punishing genres of the past; the Roguelikes, Strategy and Logic titles that essentially created gaming as we know it today.

The problem, I think, lies in the creation of the Casual genre. People just don’t have the time or motivation to really work for success in their virtual fantasies, ironically defeating the point of their own escapism. A good example of this would be in the vast popularity of Rovio Entertainment’s mobile time-waster, Angry Birds, which has been downloaded over a billion times since its initial release in 2009 – a staggeringly high figure for any developer to boast. However, the pulling power of this game does not lie in its complexity, storyline or challenge, but rather its repetition and quick reward system that gives instant gratification with no fault for mistake: just another 3 stars to show off to your friends. Comparing this system to the current setup of modern, ‘advanced’ titles – such as Call Of Duty – the concept of even having difficulty settings anymore is quickly called into question. I don’t mean to condemn Casual games as the instigators of our current situation, but they are very much to blame for the effect it has had across all platforms, mimicking the evolution of our society into the Short and Simple – i.e. far from the Nightmare Mode we used to relish so fervently.

So, can we still restore gaming to its original state and help save ourselves from mental decay? Yes, of course – you just have to make yourself heard and show the support to those who really need it. Portals such as Indievania, or even Steam Greenlight, have all worked hard in bringing the spotlight back to the community and allowing for independent developers to showcase their art to a mainstream audience, gaining the recognition and opportunity that is normally only found in the wallets of established publishers. This is not so much a whimpering cry of ‘support the Indies’, but rather a backlash to what appears to be a massive decline in front line content and production. I may be jaded, but I honestly urge all those who still believe in the integrity of gaming as outlets of logic and true art to please consider these humble words before you purchase that next spin-off sequel the minute it touches the shelves.

MERCENARY KINGS: NEW PROJECT FROM TRIBUTE GAMES THAT NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT!

Earlier today, Jonathan Lavigne’s blog, Pixeltao, revealed the future of Mercenary Kings – the upcoming installment from newly-fledged developer Tribute Games (Wizorb). Since its demo showcase at Dream.Build.Play, a lot of people – myself included – have been very excited about this game, which combines the arcade style and fun of Metal Slug with RPG elements of crafting and character customisation. What they need, however, is your support.

With a project just launched on Kickstarter, Tribute Games are looking for $75,000 to fund and create Mercenary Kings, which will include the art of Paul Robertson (best known for his work on 2010’s Scott Pilgrim game, alongside the founders of Tribute Games), as well as local cooperative play (online tba). With hopes for releasing on both PC and console, any donations and backing will all be extremely helpful in bringing this title to our screens and up to its full potential. Credits and rewards are offered for generosity.

LINKS

Tribute Games website

Mercenary Kings Kickstarter page

Pixeltao blog

Paul Robertson’s Tumblr

MARIO TENNIS OPEN

Back in 1995, Nintendo released a game featuring the characters from the Mushroom Kingdom: Mario Tennis. It has been an important landmark for Nintendo, especially since Mario Tennis 64 introduced the infamous Waluigi. Now, in 2012, Nintendo have decided to expand their 3DS’s game library by adding a new version called Mario Tennis Open.

The developers made sure that the lone player does not miss out on the fun by adding three types of games: Tournament, Exhibition and Special Games (minigames). These tournaments are pretty entertaining, and when you’re playing a 5 set match against the computer, a point away from winning the championship, the game gets pretty exciting. Exhibition features Singles and Doubles matches, which are always fun to play. And the minigames, although they’re hard, will surely deliver many hours of gameplay.

Also, there is a store which sells tons of items to dress up your Mii with, which is certainly a nice touch.

The game includes a fantastic multiplayer experience. Although the online multiplayer against random people is limited to 1 vs 1 matches, playing with a friend lets you have custom matches which have proven to be very fun. Also, you can play local multiplayer, which lets up to 4 players join the fun. However, if there are more than two people, you can only play Minigames, which honestly sucks. No doubles locally, people.

Mario Tennis Open has 16 playable characters, with different specialties such as Power (Bowser, Wario), Defense (Waluigi), Tricky (Boo, Bowser Jr.), Speed (Diddy Kong & Yoshi), Technique (Peach and Daisy) and All-around (Mario and Luigi). 12 of them are playable as soon as you start the game, but the others require you to play the minigames. Nintendo included a great innovation in this title; QR Code Scan Characters. Using the 3DS’ camera, you scan codes and unlock up to seven characters. The only downside? They’re all Yoshi. Yep, Nintendo decided to go the cheap route and give players 8 different colors of Yoshi. I mean, come on! Yoshi’s cool and all, but what about Dry Bones, Koopas, Shy Guys and other fantastic characters? Hopefully they’ll release more codes in the near future.

Let’s be honest: It’s a game for the 3DS and that means it has to have 3D. That’s one of the few problems this game has, the lack of it. Even though there’s a little, tiny bit of it, you can’t really see it. And, when you activate the gyroscope camera control (where you move the console itself to point where you want the ball to go at) there is none at all.

Now, what many people (including me) loved so much about Mario Tennis games was the powers that each character had. Open clearly lacks this, and tries to make up by adding some shots that will activate once you step on a small circle. This gives the game a new twist, as you’re trying to run towards these spots. Yet, the powers that each characters had were all representative of the franchise, and as a fan of this series, I think that the game just doesn’t feel right without them.

Another big thing that this game has missed was the Story Mode. The GameCube version has a pretty entertaining story, but apparently the developer (Camelot) decided it wasn’t necessary. Perhaps it’s because this is a handheld version, and they’re trying to be more like Mario Kart (which has no story at all).

If you’re a fan of the Mario Bros. Universe, this is a definite must buy. And if you’re not, and you don’t have many good games for your 3DS, this is a game to consider as well.