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Xbox Video Games

Posted by joeabbott on June 6, 2010

image OK, I would have agreed that I play a lot of Xbox but I would have denied it was “too much”. I get out hiking and climbing in the summer, I have a lot of home projects that keep me busy around the house, I have a demanding job, and Suzy and I get out and enjoy Seattle a bunch. So, when I thought, “it’s time I get rid of that old original Xbox I haven’t touched in ages”, I was shocked when I looked at all the games I had for it.

Before I catalog the hours and hours of wasted time in terms of the games I’ve owned and played, I will proclaim the good news to this is that I’ve donated the machine and games to YouthCare … a temporary housing and life coaching facility for youths. Now, it might be fair but a bit Wesleyan to ask whether an agency with a mission to help kids build self-sufficiency should be bothering with video consoles, but I can appreciate wanting to unwind and kick back.

So here’s, alphabetically by game, how I’ve unwound and kicked back on my original Xbox.

Azurik – Rise of Perathia

imageI think Azurik was my first game and defined how I play video games: as a complete-ist.

I hunt down all the treasures, visit every place on the map, and poke through all the secrets.

Sure I spend too much time that way, but I do tend to get my money’s worth. And, Azurik was just that sort of game for me.

Azurik – Rise of Perathia got terrible reviews in the press, or at least was much-maligned, but I didn’t find any problem with it. I mean, you’re playing a video game in which the main character is saving the world with a stick he can beat people/creatures/”the enemy” with … and gamers are looking for more than a simple button-masher with that premise?

Just seems a bit unfair.

Oh, and “button masher” is usually a person who flails at the controls, but in this context, it’s a game whose chief appeal lies in mindlessly hammering on your opponent through the offensive moves … such as Azurik’s “hit with stick” command.

Again, for what it was, I had no problem here.

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Baldur’s Gate – Dark Alliance

imageWhile this is the sort of game I like (“band of D&D-style characters exploring a dungeon and manage to save the world in the process”), I can’t profess any great love for this title. It just “was”.

I spent a lot of time on it and even tried a second play-through with Suzanne (the game supported 2-character mode … the main reason I got it), it just wasn’t really all that satisfying.

Let me clarify. I played the first time through because, well, it’s a dungeon-crawling RPG (role playing game) … how can I not? Playing with Suzanne as the second character was the main reason I got that game … so we could play together. But she’s not really a gamer and was just participating because I’d asked her to. Not great.

Both in terms of joint play and the overall forgettable story. Which, it appears, I’ve forgotten …

 

 

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Brute Force

image I nearly kept this title.

Again, another game that I spent too much time on/with and also one that I enjoyed a lot.

In the game you start by controlling the big “military-style” guy and end up recruiting a small squad of four characters, each with special abilities. Once you have more than one party member, you can change which character you’re controlling whenever you like throughout the game.

I tend to like the sniper characters in this sort of game. I’m a terrible shot, miserable at “running and gunning” and the sniper character allows me to stay back, take time, and rain death from the skies!!!i

But, this game hit the pile of give-aways, too.

Once you’ve played modern “army” games … games that have crouch behind cover, roll, peek-out, etc. … this one feels a bit dated, with it’s tactical capabilities relying completely on “kneel down”. It just didn’t seem to still have any zing.

Oh, yeah … I absolutely put a bunch of these games into the console and played a bit. It was great fun revisiting some old friends. This was one of them.

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Celebrity Deathmatch

image This game was given to me as a gift.

A gift from someone who either didn’t know me very well or didn’t take time to think about what I’d like, as opposed to what they could get for cheap in the bargain bin.

As a gift, I dutifully stuck it into the machine. Twice! And I tried to play it, tried to have fun.

But it just didn’t happen.

Not sure what the appeal is for people who may have liked it but it did nothing for me.

Gone now.

 

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Fable

image Now this was a game I wanted to love more. It got great reviews, people raved about it. And I played it a bunch.

Just never got to I love this game level with it.

Clever and inventive, you’re (gasp!) a young boy orphaned by brigands under the sway of a greater evil and, as you grow up, you much rise to greatness, banish the evil, and take your place as ruler! Pretty much a standard plot.

There’s a bit more to the tale, but not much, however, the story-telling is first rate. You can also choose if you wish to be a benevolent ruler, or a dictator with a mean streak (and I mean mean!). It was enjoyable and I ran all over the map and discovered everything there was to discover … but, it just wasn’t the greatest game I’d ever played.

I wasn’t even really waiting on the sequel. But I got it. 🙂

 

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Halo

image The big daddy of the Xbox world. The game that made the Xbox a must-have console.

And not my cup of tea.

Again, I played through all the campaign levels and had this disc in my console a lot, but mostly because that’s how I am with games, not because it was a great game (for me).

I just don’t do the first-person shooters (FPS) very well. I die a lot, don’t love the thrill. There are too few puzzles and FPS don’t seem to rely on “clever”, which is what I like.

But, in this first version, it was a good story.

 

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Halo 2

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Lookie here … the sequel.

I should be embarrassed but I don’t embarrass easily … I don’t believe I did more than spend 5 minutes with this title.

I work for Microsoft so I get games for reasonably inexpensive. I think in the days Halo 2 was out you could get them for ridiculously inexpensive. Maybe not. But, even than I probably paid $15 for this title. Maybe $20.

Still, seems out of character for me to waste money on a game that I would never play but, like with Fable, I wanted to like this game. I wanted to be good at FPS. I wanted to join all the other nerds playing this game and run around the map shooting things up.

Unlike Fable, I just couldn’t get into it at all and, I just stink at this sort of game.

As one of my friends put it after I played with them after work one day: you’re worse than my roommate’s girlfriend.

Ouch. And yet so true.

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Jade Empire

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What’s this … a young student survives an attack by mysterious invaders, goes on a quest where he learns he has a destiny to greatness, and ultimately triumphs over the original evil?! Yes, another.

This was a nicely done title and another that had me at the controller long hours when I could afford the time. The story was driven by conversation choices you made when interacting with non-player characters (NPCs) … a term used to differential play characters from computer-controlled characters. You could also play as either a “good” guy or as an “evil” guy.

The first time through, I played through as “the good” character, always choosing the righteous path.

And then I played the game as the evil character, making choices that would ultimately develop my “dark spirit” and enslave the “water dragon”.

This was the first game I’d played where I could make good/evil choices and it taught me that I’m just not comfortable being “the bad guy”.

I liked this one but mostly because there were lots of “quests” (small activities for the character that help earn experience and open greater skills) and because there were a few clever puzzles and tricks to defeating the bad guy … not just mashing buttons.

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Kingdom Under Fire – The Crusaders

image Another title I got for cheap that I just didn’t play much.

I liked the concept and it seemed like the sort of game I’d like: strategy-driven, history-based, and integrated “magic” into the story.

You had a character who had to build an army, you recruited “specialists” who would help you in battle, and if you approached the fights in a head-on manner, you’d likely lose. Sounds a bit like Brute Force … but this was/is a much more polished title.

The keys to wining were finesse, learning how to draw an opponent into exposing weaknesses (or playing to your strengths), and using the end-around to flank the enemy when you could.

But, it came off … to me … as too fiddly, too much micromanagement, too many things to do in a real time environment.

Or, perhaps, this is just another style of game (like FPS) that I just suck at. The only hard part about surrendering this game was wanting to be better at it.

It was easy to put into the “donate” pile.

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Midway Arcade Treasures

image So, you create a collection that has Joust, Gauntlet, and Defender in it and expect me not to buy it? Come on!

These games were part of my misspent youth! Part of the reason you couldn’t find a quarter in the house! The reason the Moundsview Square Arcade stayed in business as long as it did!

Yes, I played these games too much when I was plunking quarter after quarter, feeding my addiction and fueling the early video game business and all the more reason to grab this title and ram it into the Xbox.

But, either times change or I did … it just wasn’t the same.

I probably played this game a half-dozen times, trying to have fun … but even with the “infinite quarters” mode, where you could just keep coming back, I wasn’t really interested in coming back.

Perhaps that’s the point.

But, I think not. I think I’m just older and have seen better in terms of video games and this no longer is my thing. I way under-played this title.

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Myst IV Revelation

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I loved the Myst trilogy.

On my Mac I played the original Myst and, long before GameFaqs or IGN, I learned to tease the secrets of the game out, look at the subtle clues for solving the puzzles, and played Myst late into the evenings with Suz. It was great fun.

The original Myst formed another sort of way I play video games: with Suzanne watching and helping to solve puzzles. She has a quick wit and catches lots of things I don’t, so she helps to short circuit a lot of the “now how do I … “ sort of situations.

But, Myst IV – Revelation just wasn’t a hit. Not for me, at least.

In one of the puzzles we were underground (or on an asteroid or something) and had to flip switches in 4 different areas and light up some crystals and set a machine to run power in a certain way … or something like that. And I couldn’t figure it out.

We even went to the Internet and pulled down a walk-thru to no avail. The situation was exacerbated by the places (in the story) you had to be were all over. It was probably the single most disappointing puzzles I’ve had to solve. Nothing clever … just “make sure you line everything up like this and do it in just this way” and you can get on with the game.

Bleh. Didn’t even want to move past that puzzle.

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Namco Museum

imageThis was another game collection very similar to Midway Arcade Treasures: a title that spoke to long-held passion for classic games and side-scrollers.

And it just wasn’t really all that fun.

So, as with it’s brethren, the aforementioned Midway title, I played this less than half a dozen times and discarded it. Keeping it close “just in case” I needed a shot of Galaga, but I never really had those urges.

Just didn’t arise.

To be fair, Galaga was really the only game from this collection I’d regularly played in my video arcade days.

And so, when “donation time” came, out this went.

 

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NightCaster

imageI got this game bundled with the Xbox when I originally got the Xbox. I think it came with Azurik.

I played this one through and through, but mostly because “that’s me” and not because I loved the title.

In the game, you start as a young boy who is told his destiny is to save the world. And so he does.

You progress through the game as a “good guy” and learn new spells, older spells you’ve learned grow in power, and you become, if not an all-powerful mage, pretty darned close.

The final battle, as I recall, got a bit stiff, but I wasn’t much of a “video game guy” when I took this up and managed to do OK.

This game earned a “meh” … not terrible, but not great. I may have played a second time, but only because I (originally) was averse to buying more games.

Not sure when that changed but it clearly did.

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Oddworld – Munch’s Oddysee

image Guess what … it’s a Microsoft title that I bought and just didn’t play much.

A bit of a theme to my game-purchasing, perhaps, but this game didn’t really capture my interest.

Oddworld has a bit of a “rude” aspect as you can burp your way through puzzles and bad guys, and, in spite of that (or is it “because of that”?), I just never had fun with it.

I stopped playing probably way too early and would have seen more game merit had I stuck with it, but I couldn’t see the point. This one was never in the “play this” pile or at least not for long.

Not my cup of tea.

 

 

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Prince of Persia – Sands of Time

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This game should have been in my “play this all the time” pile but wasn’t. I think I just got it too late in my game-playing career and couldn’t find the passion in working through the puzzles.

I played the Mac version of Prince of Persia back when it first came out.

Loved it. Absolutely loved it.

I spent a lot of time playing that and so, when I saw this title in some bargain bin, I grabbed it, looking to rekindle an old flame.

But, I couldn’t find the time to work through the spike-pits, the sheer drops, and the timing to defeat the armed guards. It became a time-sink at a time I was either climbing a lot or going to school or something else.

I just set it aside and never got back to it. Pity that. I still remember the original fondly.

 

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Sneak King

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As I recall it, I picked this game up from a Burger King!

Yeah, I don’t usually frequent BK restaurants so I remember making a special trip. I think mostly because I could get an Xbox game for something like $4!

And, I got a surprising amount of game play from it!

I don’t think I ever solved all the problems or completed all the areas, but I do recall playing a lot of this game

As the Burger King king/mascot, you would have your character walk through environments and surprise the NPC denizens with one of several treats: perhaps that’s a Whopper, maybe fries, or a breakfast sandwich? Surprising hungry characters would garner “the king” additional points.

Again, I was surprised by how satisfying the game was considered it was a blatant promotion for a product I don’t “use”, but it was mindless fun to deliver food with a big flourish and hear: the King … he’s so sneaky!

Don’t ask why … I don’t get it now. 🙂

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Splinter Cell

image

Another game I got as a gift.

Another game I tried hard to like but just didn’t.

I played this a bit and enjoyed the different moves, the “puzzles” (which usually involved “how can I get through this environment without being spotted”), and the novelty of this sort of title, but I couldn’t get into it.

Just not my genre.

No ogres, no magic, no whatever it is that attracts me to a game.

So, I played a few times, revisited the tutorial a few more, and tried to get through the first level. Then I’d put it aside, do other things, and when I came back would go through the tutorial again, think it was neat, and get bored before finishing the first level.

For a game that won a lot of praise, I just couldn’t get with it. Not hard to part with.

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Syberia

image

The flippant side of my nature was initially going to write “See Celebrity Deathmatch above” but what I said about that game is patently untrue of this one: Syberia is the sort of game you’d think I’d like.

But, I probably played with this one twice and just couldn’t get into it.

It may have been that I was playing other more interesting games (to me) at the time, I think I got this late in my Xbox playing live so I may have been gamed-out, or some other reason. It was a gift so I usually try to honor the giver by putting in a strong effort to recognize their generosity.

This is exactly the sort of game Suzy and I would carve time out of the evening to play and figure out.

But, we didn’t.

That either falls into the “opportunity lost” bucket or “time saved” bucket. Not sure which, but I didn’t play much of this one and I was a little disappointed by that.

Again, the potential for this to be “my sorta game” was all there … it just didn’t happen.

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The Bard’s Tale

image

I enjoyed this game a lot.

Not as much as Morrowind (see the next entry) but both Suzy and I sat down to play this. That is, I’d play and she’d help me figure out the puzzles. I’m not sure what she gets out of it … maybe spending a little time with me … but it sure helps me a lot.

The story is a lot like others: your character starts out of modest means but ultimately grows to be powerful enough to defeat the main bad guy.

The twist here is that your character, the Bard, has a wicked sense of humor and a biting wit.

Much like other games in which your interaction with NPCs can be determined by the player, but with The Bard’s Tale, instead of playing “good” or “evil”, you get to be “polite” or “snarky”!

The difference here is how NPCs respond to you. Snarky to the bereaved widow? You won’t be getting the powerful health talisman that her husband left behind! Snarky to the comely barmaid? You get to share in puerile innuendo.

Overall, just a lot of fun in a tongue-in-cheek way. Of all my collection, this is the one game I kept. It’s not as long and consuming as Morrowind, but a game that lets you tip over a cow is nothing but good fun.

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The Elder Scrolls III : Morrowind / The Elder Scrolls III : Morrowind (GotY Edition)

image image

This is where you say, “now Joe, you have pretty much the same game listed twice.

Yes, yes I do. The second copy contained additional game content.

This is my sorta game.

Up until now I’d just been playing games. But, with Morrowind, I became a gamer.

I spent a hella lotta hours with this title and now with its successors.

I picked up Morrowind from a discount bin when I thought, “hmm … seems like I’d like this”, and boy did I. I nearly kept this title and finally put it into the “donate” pile because I knew I just wouldn’t have time to play this like I had. And would like to again.

The story starts like many others: you are a prisoner of unknown origin released for an unknown reason and would ultimately wander the world, gaining in power and material possessions until you defeated an age-old evil and gained god stature!

OK, maybe there aren’t many other games that start like this but Morrowind did and I sure got a kick out of it. This was my first “sandbox” game … a game in which your character can go anywhere, do anything, and had few limits. Want to storm an army of bad guys when you’re fresh off the prison boat? Go for it. That dragon look easy to slay while you’re wearing a loin cloth and holding a dagger? Go for it. Want to attain the pinnacle of power and still walk a backwater village and kill the wash woman? Hey, it’s your world, go for it.

I really enjoyed this game. Perhaps too much. But this was a lotta fun and hard to give up.

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The Hobbit

image The next five games are sentimental favorites, but I never completed more than this one, The Hobbit.

I’m Lord of the Rings fan from waaay back and have read the trilogy numerous times. And the Silmarillion. And I have the HoME series … and if you don’t know what that is, well, sorry, you’re not in the “fan club”. 🙂

But, back to the video games.

The Hobbit roughly followed the book of the same name and the titular protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, had to deal with dwarves, trolls, goblins, spiders, wood elves, and finally a dragon. With you at the controls.

There’s a bit of embellishment to the story but it’s hard to hold people’s interest by saying: here, play out the events of the book exactly. And so I played without tremendous joy but interest and liked solving the simple puzzles.

Never a strong contender for “keep this one” besides having it for my “collection”.

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The LotR – Fellowship of the Ring

image This game came out before the huge Peter Jackson movies arrived and was a bit different from the subsequent games.

In this one, you can be either Frodo, Aragorn, or Gandalf as you progress through the story, again, loosely based on the book. Or, perhaps better described as “you progress through a story guided by the book in general but specific details are left to you to recreate.”

Your character has one or more qualities (heath, “purity”, spirit) that you must manage or you will lose the game.

Not a lot of new ground for me and I don’t think I made it through the game. If I did, I sure don’t recall it.

 

 

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The LotR – The Two Towers

image This title was the first to be based on the Peter Jackson movies and ultimately did a very interesting (to me) job of mapping the movie character faces onto the video game players. It was odd but strangely satisfying.

But, for the most part, I thought this series had devolved from puzzle solving to button mashing.

Just not great, at least for me.

I didn’t play much of this but, as a guy who had collected a lot of Tolkien memorabilia, I was happy to have this in my collection.

When it was time to make donations, I thought long and hard about giving it up. I have a ton of Tolkien stuff … should I save this just to have it? I popped that game into my new Xbox 360, saw that it wouldn’t play, and tossed it into the “donate this” pile.

  

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The LotR – The Return of the King

imageThis game is nearly a duplicate of The Two Towers story … I like puzzles and craft, and this game was about mashing buttons, getting your “power meter” into the “exceptional” zone, and executing the perfect hits.

Yay … timed hits and your game play is constantly “graded”.

No thanks.

While this title did play on my Xbox 360, I couldn’t just see keeping one of the titles and pitching the others. And, as it gave me no great (or minor) joy, it went with the donated Xbox.

 

 

 

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The LotR – The Third Age

image Of all the titles, I enjoyed this one the most.

And I have no idea why.

In this game you can play one of three characters (I think) who are not part of the Tolkien trilogy, advance them to powerful characters, and ultimately appear at the top of the Dark Tower, Barad-dur, where you go mano-a-mano against Sauron himself!

Over the top? Well, sure … but it is a video game with elves and dwarves and magic and … well, I think you get the picture.

There was nothing really elegant or Tolkien-y about this story/game. But, I enjoyed playing it, exploring the areas, finding the magic herbs and whatnot.

And, ultimately kicking the tar out of Sauron in his house!

Yeah, baby! That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!

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Thief – Deadly Shadows

image This was yet another game that I got late in my game-playing days, thought I would love, and just didn’t.

Or maybe that’s unfair.

I liked it plenty but couldn’t get into it.

The idea is to play the sort of character I like: a stealthy puzzle solver, rather than a guns blazin’ sorta chap. And, it was fun a bit but I ultimately lost interest and this was in the “play sometime” pile before giving it up.

To be honest, I almost kept this one. But, I have too many video games now and just can’t see playing something that’s old and dated, that I didn’t get into, when I have many other choices.

 

 

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Voodoo Vince

imageSee Oddworld – Munch’s Oddysee, above.

A Microsoft title that I thought I’d have fun with and didn’t have much fun at all.

The title character is a voodoo doll who you manipulate by bringing trouble to him in order to eliminate the bad guys.

So, if you want to burn the monster attacking you, have Vince stick his head in a torch!

It’s ever so slightly more complex than that and yet, not much.

Never got into it. Never felt bad about not getting into it. Gave it up without a pang or flinch.

See ya, Vince.

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