Monday, January 30, 2006

Games you keep coming back to

By Keith Stuart / The Friday question 11:49am

Like airport novels and the movies of Adam Sandler, there are some games you only ever want to experience once. They may be littered with specious devices to add 'replay value' - the odd easter egg, a few hidden rooms, the chance to play again as the same character but in a goose outfit - but sometimes, you just can't go back. Even if you enjoyed it the first time round.

Then there are others that call at you from the shelf, that just won't let you go - they may not have been your favourites first time round, but they offer something that bears repeated viewing. It could be great characters, stunning sand box game design, enormous levels... whatever. You just know that on those big videogame clean out days, when all your old stuff ends up on eBay or the pre-owned shelves at Game, you just can't bear to part with this one.

Today's question - what is the game that just keeps giving to you? Let's stay away from mulitplayer-focused titles, which have replayability built-in thanks to the social element. I'm talking single player experiences. I'm talking:

Super Mario 64
The Bible, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, of open-ended game design. Frankly, I just like coming back to check out what a perfect 3D camera system and character control set-up should be like, when I've had to experience the exact opposite. The music is weirdly soothing, too.
Good game, I agree!

The dramatic build-up is so perfect with this game, so unapologetically cinematic, playing it again is like revisiting a really well-constrcuted blockbuster movie. Sometimes, I just like running through the first chapter, enjoying the opening sequence on the monorail, watching the scientists scampering around, worrying out loud about their jobs, their clothes... giving them a playful tap with the crowbar... Never played.

I don't know why, but I can't leave this masterpiece of 8bit coding alone. It is, perhaps, the sheer genius of the robot mind-control sub-challenges, or maybe it's the sparse figurative majesty of the level design, or the discordant computer noise of the soundtrack. Or perhaps it's because I never completed it. Never played.

Silent Hill 2
Multiple endings fiendishly hidden behind layers of incomprehensible spookiness. Plus, you don't need so many changes of underwear the second or third times you play. Never played.

Sim City 3000
Of all the supposed examples of 'sand box' game design this is the most pure. It really shares more similarities with Lego, or even with architectural planning software, than with other videogames. Every time you load up, it'll happily indulge any crazy planning scheme you concoct - well, until your city goes into economic meltdown because you put the nuclear power plant in the centre of town as a tourist attraction... Played SC2000 but not SC3000.

Civilization 2
Don't get me started. Own it, never played it.

It was either this or Sega Rally, but I opted for Yu Suzuki's 1986 legend. When it came out, it seemed to perfectly capture the Californian dream as imagined - in my case - from a scruffy arcade beneath a viaduct in Stockport. It still has a certain magic, I don't know if that's amazing game design or nostalgia. I'm sure I played this one, I remember it as OK.

House of the Dead
Another Sega title, this time on Dreamcast. I'm not sure actually, if I've played this more than another lightgun blaster of the period, Confidential Mission, but I expect I have as I can pretty much play out the whole game in my head. This ability is absolutely certainly going to come in handy one day. Never played.

C'mon folks, leave some comments!
Games you keep coming back to from Guardian Unlimited: Gamesblog

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