Playing Nice With My Friends

I believe this is the very first time that I will be posting about video games, which is kind of silly considering how much I enjoy playing games. And how I’ve played games all of my life. And how I continue to play games on as many platforms as I can get my paws on. But enough about that.

I do the same thing with video games that I do with books – I start more than one at a time. I have started playing Castle Crashers and Lego Indiana Jones – The Original Adventures. Even though there are a plethora of video game related websites devoted to news, reviews, and previews, I’m going to write my first impressions below. Why? Because I can.

Let me start by saying that part of what I believe revolutionized gaming in recent years was the advent of online multiplayer for consoles, best exemplified by XBOX Live. Finally console lovers could experience some of the same thrill that PC gamers had loved for a lifetime. But what I find interesting is the demand for more games that focus on local co-op modes. When you think about it, it’s natural to want to play through a game with a few of your friends at home – and not just by one person playing one part, passing the controller, one person playing another part OR the one person plays and everyone else watches scheme – but actually all playing at the same time while advancing the story line (or simply playing against each other in Halo). I think a great example of this has been Rock Band. Finally, you and all of your no-musical-talent-whatsoever friends can all play in a “band” together at home and really rock out, the way you have wanted to since high school. And while the first game that comes to mind when talking about local co-op is The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GC), I realize this game isn’t the first of its kind or the best, it’s just what I associate with local co-op.

I have recently found myself having more fun that usual with games that utilize the local co-op mode (vs. single player story mode). As an only child growing up playing alone with an Atari and a Nintendo, I have always loved the single player story mode. Always. Especially since playing games with my cousins growing up meant that I only got to sit and watch my oldest cousin while I took notes and daydreamed of the time that I would finally get to rent that game from the video store and play myself. Now that I’m a bit older and a bit wiser, things are a little different. I can get games when I want and play when I want (or can I?). Anyway, here are a few first impressions on the two games I have been most excited about recently.

It really started with the Lego Indiana Jones demo. I really hadn’t played much of earlier Lego games so I really got hooked on this one. I know that a lot of reviewers rated it somewhere in the 8s, but I still love it – little bugs, frustrating puzzles, and all. As a gamer who loves to find every little itty bitty hidden item, I love that you can smash almost anything in the game AND you can go back after you have unlocked characters and explore new areas of previous levels to get hidden items (and Achievements!) I think the storyline is great – even though you have seen the movies and you know what’s coming – you can interact with it for the first time. The cutscenes are fantastic. I find them to be ever so hilarious. This game so far has been nothing but pure enjoyment. And not just because I’m playing as a little Indiana Jones made of Legos that wields a whip and is deathly afraid of snakes, but because I can play with someone (who plays another character) and we help each other fight our way through bad guys, caves, and different continents to find valuable treasures and artifacts. But, we’re not through yet! I’ll let you know of my final impressions when we play the game all the way through.

My other new favorite game that utilizes local co-op is Castle Crashers, a game brought to you from the guys (Behemoth) who made Alien Hominid, and is available for purchase and download on Xbox Live. Now, if this game wasn’t brought to my attention, I might have missed it completely. Even though the availability of downloadable content (DLC) has increased over the last few years with companies putting up songs, movies, trailers, and games available for purchase through your console, it’s not something that I have been overly excited about. Maybe I’m oldschool, but I have a hard time purchasing something online that I’m only going to use online or on my console – something frustratingly intangible in its own way. I’m a little stingy and I have a hard time coughing up money for that kind of thing.

Anyway. Back to Castle Crashers. I have to start by saying how much I love the art style. It’s really funky. Simple, colorful, and funky. I love it. What I also love about this game: the humor. Now, I’m sure a lot of you who have played it will disagree by saying it’s potty humor and therefore immature and not funny. Yes, it is potty humor but it is hilarious. Did you see the eyeballs on the bear while he was in the bushes? Please! If you didn’t laugh at that, I have to ask, what do you laugh at? The best way to describe Castle Crashers is to say that it’s an RPG multiplayer, sidescrolling, hack and slash adventure. Really. It is. You play through a map and advance from one area to the next as you whoop the asses of the bad guys that come after you. You gain experience by killing bad guys and as you level up you can choose to increase your abilities in four areas (strength, magic, defense, and agility) and choose new weapons. One of my favorite parts of the game are the Animal Orbs. Animal Orbs are little animals you pick up along your adventure. Each animal hangs out by your side and helps you by doing something different. The little black blob might eat the heads of enemies while the chicken helps you get special items.

My only complaint about Castle Crashers is more of a complaint about me – sometimes (since I’m not used to co-op) I get confused and can’t figure out where my character is amid the sea of baddies and therefore, I die on a regular basis. Then, my partner has to try and successfully revive me while not dying himself. This is really awful during boss battles and has resulted in my character being on a much lower level than my partner’s. For someone like myself, this is highly aggrivating. But other than that, Castle Crashers and I are off to a great start. I can’t wait to play more.

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