Among my friends and intimates I have a reputation for, well, not liking anything — media things, I mean. It’s mostly deserved. Ask me about the movies I’ve seen recently, or the games I’ve played and my usual response is, “Hated it” or “Man, that could have been better if only they’d done X, Y and Z.”
I like to think this is a reflection of a well-honed critical sensibility combined with really high standards.
Or maybe I’m just a curmedgeonly old coot.
Whichever it is, imagine my amazement when I find myself compelled to report that I’m playing some really fun games these days and, wonder of wonders, I’ve seen three movies this week that I can honestly say I loved.
I’ll come back to the movies in another post some time soon. But let’s look at the games I’m playing — Rock Band and Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. No big surprises there, I guess. Both are getting the kinds of kudos they deserve. They’re exceptionally well-executed, nicely balanced, graphically appealing, fun and challenging.
Rock Band has enchanted my wife, who loves the singing bit, and some friends, including a guy who plays drums in my band and finds the Rock Band drumming more difficult than the real thing! — for the record, I ascribe the latter phenomenon to the fact that he’s played the drums most of his life and he’s played Rock Band drums for a couple of hours — but whatever it is, it hasn’t stopped the playing, not a bit. And Rock Band has certainly enchanted me (though I wish I could wrench the microphone away from the lovely wife, and the drumkit away from the drummer — I’ve been relegated to the guitar, the instrument I actually play in my semi-real life, which is annoying).
Even more than my Guitar Hero experience, I feel like playing Rock Band, as fun as it is, is more than just fun. It might actually make me a better musician, which kinda freaks me out. I can hear things in the remixed tracks that aren’t apparent in the real thing (at least not to my ears) and I’ve certainly been exposed to some music I never would have listened to if I weren’t obsessing about beating a game! I know I’m going to end up a better singer. And I really want to learn to drum now. Go Harmonix! You’re changing my world.
And, man, does my avatar rock. The character customization features are terrific. (I won’t go into how much time my wife spends fiddling with her character to get it JUST right…) When the crowd starts singing along and my guy’s up on the stage, gyrating around the way I’d like to (if I lacked anything resembling shame!), I’m the rock star I’ve always wanted to be. Can’t ask for much more from a game.
As far as Phantom Hourglass goes, well, y’all know how I feel about the Zelda games. Love ’em! I’m not getting as strong a sense of story, or of doing something truly heroic, the way I usually do in Zeldas, but the puzzles are exceptionally well crafted. And I love the way I’m being introduced to new game elements in isolation and then offered the opportunity to use them in combination to achieve new effects.
It’s also cool to feel like I have some control over something in a Zelda game — the ship customization stuff, I mean. It’s nowhere near as amazing as the Rock Band avatar stuff, but it’s something.
To be frank, I hate having to go back through the main dungeon over and over, and having it timed and all. But other than that, I’m loving Phantom Hourglass.
Incredibly, these two games have actually prevented me from loading up Mario Galaxy (the game I was most looking forward to playing this holiday season), Call of Duty 4 and Metroid for the Wii (yeah, I know I’m way behind…). But with Rock Band and Phantom Hourglass, who has time for anything else?
I’ll talk about the movies I’m loving soon. Gotta jet now. Later.