You can play Four Swords with four people, three people, two, or one - but, unlike the GBA version that comes with Link To The Past, the experience doesn't change depending on the number of players you have. So, if you're playing with two people, each person gets two Links that can move in different formations. It's pretty fun, I doubt that you'll become incontinent with joy while playing it but it's better than a kick in the dick. It also uses the GBA connectivity in some new ways - any time you fall in a hole or enter a building, basically any time you are not on the overworld adventure map, you enter (or in some cases "fall into") the Gameboy. If you do decide to play it, though, you might as well familiarize yourself with the archetypes.
While I was detailing the wonders of tradeshows past, I haven't said a lick about what I'm actually playing now. I'm playing all kinds of stuff.
Bontago: I have expressed from time to time a fondness for German boardgames. I can say without reservation that Bontago would be a boardgame inside a computer simulation of Germany. Imagine what would happen if depraved game scientists sought to make an adversarial version of Jenga, where the height of a given tower was equivalent to its "influence" on the space around it, and various powerups for destroying enemy towers were littered about the field of play. It won the Independent Games Festival's "Innovation In Game Design" award, and was (I believe) developed by a student team over at our local DigiPen academy. You can see games from this and past classes right here, if you'd like.
Ground Control II: I'm pretty much in love with this game. I said just a couple days ago, RTS is not my genre of choice - but this was not always the case. There was an equilibrium point years ago where the ability of processors to render a certain number of units and my own ability to command those units in meaningful ways intersected. Also, outside of aesthetic considerations, I don't particularly enjoy building bases, and as much as I like lumber or whatever collecting it isn't exactly my favorite thing. Oh, and here's something else - units with tons of individual special abilities that must be initiated in real time for them to be useful don't really turn my crank. These aren't problems with the "progress" of the RTS genre so much as they are me trying to make real-time games turn-based. Manipulating hordes of units and their respective payloads is just as much a part of the game as the tactical elements.
Ground Control 2 is, in a word, fresh. I don't mean to imply that the experience is new, rather, I mean to evoke the character of old school hip-hop. The first Ground Control had you moving squads of units and capturing resource collection points, much as in Relic's Dawn of War, but it also had kind of an odd feature - the ability to "drop in," or join dynamically, a live RTS game. It also had some of the coolest graphics of the time. You no longer move as squads in the sequel, which is fine actually, but the other two things are still in there... For the love of God, if you like RTS or are - like myself - something of an apostate as regards the genre, download it. No base building whatsoever. No insane hotkeys to remember, every unit simply has two states which offer different functionality and counters to other units. Excellent graphics, and huge battles you can feel in your gut. And, like Soldiers: Heroes Of World War II, it offers full cooperative play through the game's main campaign. I mean, that's it. Don't gild the lily, guys. I'm sold.
I have been playing skirmishes with a friend against the A.I., also known as The Poor Man's Co-Op, and it has a vice-like grip on my scrotum.
I completed Thief: Deadly Shadows last weekend, which is a pretty long game even on Normal difficulty. That's good, because it changes the difficulty to normal for you every time to save or move between levels! Before I heard about the bug, I'd come to think of myself as the paragon of subterfuge. Thief deserves its own post, and it will get one on Monday.
say the word