Alas, high Olympus! Would that we had known thee better.
I have a suspicion that Olympus would fail for all the reasons existing arcades have failed, plus the unique and compelling failures we ourselves would introduce. The original plan called for hot, cold, and "barbecue" spigots to be installed in each washroom. This is a profound expense, even before one takes into account the cost of a large bore barbecue pump. Luxury condiments aside, it was conceived as a social venue for gamers, replete with the tools to enjoy the pastime and invested with a sense of its history. Where Olympus diverged from its LAN center contemporaries was its emphasis on class, recognition of gaming as a culture, and its high-end customizable activity rooms. I guess you could say that we grew up, and arcades steadfastly refused to, and that is unfortunate.
It may be that the idea of a social space for gamers is somewhat outmoded, as more and more often we meet and play digitally. I maintain that both modes of interaction hold unique benefits, and that optimally these realspace scenarios should take place in ultramodern Greek temples of my own design.
Sonic and the Secret Rings is the best "big" outing for the series in a very long time, but (as previously discussed) recent entries have been so toxic that this is a feat easily achieved. It has many, many true Sonic moments, moments which are placed in close proximity to puzzling choices which serve to dilute joy. They aren’t completely off the mark - I think they get as much right as they do wrong - but the things that make a game "Sonic" in nature simply create unique challenges.
I mean, let’s look at it. Sonic is, at its heart, a game where you move very quickly through content that you can barely see. It’s like a scene plucked from some budgetary nightmare. Designing a Sonic game must be like wrestling yourself, back arched and twisted on the mat - you’re burning through tremendous amounts of work every second, and something needs to be done to staunch the flow. Similar to Ridge Racer’s "One City, Many Routes" track structure, so far in Secret Rings we’ve gotten a couple unique "set-piece" levels, a Boss level, and several gameplay-altered "challenge" versions for each world. It’s not as bad in practice as it sounds on paper, and each level has its own rhythm and flow.
I have to say that the "homing attack" mechanism feels exactly right - leaping in the air and then thrusting the controller forward to bop foes is an activity I endorse. Almost everything to do with forward momentum in this game is great and heralds an honorable return. Stopping occasionally I’m not crazy about, but when the alternative is being struck by a gigantic depth charge I’m willing to tolerate it. Tilting the controller backward to move in a direction the camera isn’t showing me? I like this less. Not being able to see where your character is going because the camera is pointed behind you? No. Frustrating and glitchy boss battles? Now you are starting to injure the tender green shoot of affection that you just now nurtured.
I really do believe that they’re on the right track, and I think you’d probably agree, but the game is frustrating and fun in almost equal measure. As such, it’s hard to recommend straight across.
Joystiq delivered unto us an interview with Big Huge designer Brian Reynolds concerning Catan Live. I’ll take any opportunity to force boardgames down into your esophagus, to be sure, but in this specific case I had another motive: Big Huge Games also announced that they had begun work on an RPG. Specifically, an RPG whose hook was baited so richly that it hauled Ken Rolston - yes, that Ken Rolston - out of retirement bliss and back into the din of game development.
My anticipation cortex is practically engorged.