by Matthew Thompson
It has been a while since I’ve done any gaming mini-reviews, but I’m back with a new pair. One for a popular 2014 Game of the Year choice and another for the newest entry in one of Nintendo’s long-running franchises.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Since Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, a lot of games have tried to copy the mechanics of its melee combat. While there have been some decent systems created in this mold, Mordor is the first I’ve played that I really think nailed it. In fact, I actually prefer it to the Batman games. I’m not sure it’s objectively better, but the special moves (particularly turning enemies to your side mid-fight), the finishers and ranged bow attacks are enough to make me like Mordor’s more.
Alongside this core combat, there are some other aspects that shine here. Once I got the hang of the much-hyped Nemesis system, I could definitely see the appeal. You can do some interesting things with it. Pinning one enemy against another, taking out one man to promote someone else and so on. I’m not sure I love playing around with it myself, but it does add a cool layer working behind the standard encounters and it deserves some kudos for doing something new. I also enjoyed the general stealth gameplay, tearing shit up on the backs of Caragors and Graugs, and the side missions designed around your three weapons.
Elsewhere it definitely stumbles. The movement system is merely serviceable. The story is completely forgettable. The general mission design leaves a lot to be desired. And the first map is one of the most boring I can recall in an open-world title (luckily the second is much more interesting from both a visual and layout standpoint). It’s a testament to the strength and quality of the core combat that despite some of these shortcomings, this game is still so much fun overall. I don’t feel as strongly about it as some of its biggest champions last year who heralded it as a Game of the Year candidate, but I can see why someone would. Grade: B
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
I can’t say enough good things about the visuals in this newest Kirby. The claymation style is both unique and executed perfectly. It is a sight to behold in motion. It is a shame that the game sort of works against you enjoying the graphics to their fullest. You’ll be seeing them almost exclusively on the Gamepad with your hand constantly getting in the way due to the controls. It kind of makes me wish they’d have used this artstyle for a more traditional Kirby game, so I could enjoy them in their full splendor.
As for the core gameplay which has you controlling Kirby by drawing paths for him with the stylus, I felt pretty indifferent about it. There were some really cool ideas at work. Moments that featured multitasking were my favorites. Guiding two Kirbys at once, drawing his path while also using your rainbows to block hazards… things like that. It is a interesting method of play for sure and there are some fairly challenging sequences by the series’ standards. I think the worst thing I could say about it is that I just don’t like this style of gameplay a whole lot. There were some more objective issues too. Worlds 4-6 reuse 1-3’s boss fights which is disappointing. Transformations make for a decent change of pace, but pale in comparison to Kirby’s usual array of copy-abilities. The controls could be a bit finicky at times.
And yet it feels like more than anything else, it just might not be my thing. I prefer having direct control over Kirby and typically prefer the pink fluffball’s more traditional outings. While there is some who will feel the same, there are plenty who will appreciate Kirby and the Rainbow Curse’s unique gameplay. Given that I just got a Kirby game in the more classic mold last year (the 3DS entry Triple Deluxe), it is hard to complain about getting a more off-kilter release like this one now. And despite my issues, I am still glad I played it for its original take on the platforming genre and the absolutely gorgeous graphics. Grade: B-
These are both good games. While I enjoyed my time with each, I can certainly see them appealing even more to right audience. That will do it for my latest pair of mini-reviews. Thanks for reading!