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Some of the latest and greatest games to come out every year are often touted as the biggest and longest. Is that always the case? For more and more casual gamers entering the market, perhaps less is more is proving just as effective when dealing with small titles for gamers' pleasures.
As a gamer, I love the most riveting, engaging experiences I can find and when I do finally find one, I want it to last as long as it can go. At the same time, well, I often just don't have the time. With every year of releases my backlogs seem to grow bigger and bigger with more new titles. Much more of the time I'm finding myself enjoying shorter experiences that meet with my schedule and perhaps degrading attention span as I stubbornly keep raising the bar for constant thrills and chills that a long game can drag down. It makes me consider a relevant question to video-games: Are we always counting the quantity of our hours over the quality of them?
It wasn't long ago that Game Informer's editors unveiled their longest game experiences. Merely out of sake of contrast and personal thoughts, I compile my own list of some of the shortest and best games to come out of just a few sittings. I don't number them out of respect for all of their nearly equal achievements in my mind, and maybe partly because I'm honestly scrapped for time today. All the same, enjoy a few short thoughts I have on a few short games:
It's easy to compare a lot of games to a roller-coaster ride, and games like Mirror's Edge seem to reflect that in the best ways possible. Most rides' adrenaline rush is best served in small slices, enough to knock you off your feet with amazement without having the empty space of down-time to get bored. Mirror's Edge does much of that to the best of its abilities with its adrenaline junkie thrills. Leaping your way across your city's bottom-less chasms and charging head-first through a pack of guards is that same kind of rush that's hard to beat and kept me interested through the whole time I played it. The action likens itself to a roller-coaster best through its very nature of suspense. The game's puzzle-ish elements of thinking your way up to that one ledge you need effectively serves to ease you out of the action right before it throws you back in it with a surprise ambush or a sudden fall. It's a crying shame that the ride ends so soon after only 5-6 hrs., but you always want to get back on again for that same piece of action.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Fighting games, short of this year's Injustice, are notoriously short on plot or character development, but that's probably why their so invitingly accessible to players. I only play a few fighters like Soul Calibur or Super Smash Bros., yet games like Tekken take the cake for their easy pick-up-and-play attitude. Aside from the short-lived melodrama of that person has a grudge against that person, or that person is only fat in an alternate universe, Tekken does a great job of being a game you don't have to dedicate much time towards in simply enjoying smashing the crap out of some ogre. Most of my play sessions only last a half-hour, yet the amusing burst of comedy and action I get from twirling a sumo wrestler in a Wario costume over my head is a low-committment hobby that keeps my living the Tekken life.
Many games go out of their way to over-explain their universes or boggle down players with confusing factoids; Portal 2 just plops you in and tells you to get to work. It's that unapologetically blunt overtone that carries the series's dark wit and sarcasm so well just as much as it's episodic level design carries your attention perfectly. The formula of getting carried room to room in most other games would seem mundane if not for the immense quality of Portal 2's brain teasing. Each chamber you enter varies both in its aesthetics and how you can traverse it. The fact that the game's a short 4-5 hr. [6-7 if you really have trouble] adventure keeps the challenge of finding each solution fair and engaging along with the game's own humor. Jokes from either Glados's outlandish criticisms or Wheatley's adorable banter with you are kept fresh through lack of repetition, though I'd be glad to relive Cave Johnson's stories again and again. I may not have played the first Portal, but what multi-dimension mayhem I walked away from equalled any of the immense praise given for the original and certainly left me hungry for more of Valve's puzzle-laiden goodness.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II
Star Wars is easily my most cherished childhood sci-fi love as much as Mario may be players' first video game love, and as such, it's hard to forget how Rogue Squadron II touched all of the best notes I could ask for. Reliving the best rendered space-battles from the original trilogy was only made better by doing it with top-notch controls and well-designed and often intense dog-fights that captured the Star Wars pilot's best skills, whether from 3rd-person or from the cockpit itself. It knows its fans well and besides going the extra mile to fill in the gaps between movie plot-lines, it keeps your time with it a mere few hours just to keep the worlds and battles fresh and memorable. Though the campaign's about 3-4 hrs. for the skilled Rogue, I must've beaten it ten times over just to say I earned an admiral's rank. Looking back on it, it's exactly the game what I want from EA's future with the franchise and I eagerly await what another Rogue game could bring.
Star Fox Command
While space-shooters like the Rogues brought the best rendition of cinematic plot-lines to life, Star Fox Command brought its own with does of choice-making and strategy that Nintendo games rarely see. Like Star Fox 64, Command puts you through a shockingly short campaign of only an hr., hr. and a half max, yet its intricate web-weaving of alternate paths kept me on my DS at late hrs. of the night. Even after finishing what I thought was my true, true ending, I immediately thought of another thanks to choosing a different ally or changing course to a different galactic corner. Its quick fights are easily the Rogue Squadrons of Nintendo, putting you in fast and hectic firefights that could easily alter your story's course in an instance if you're not careful. Star Fox Command is a deceptively short-game, but its short story routes are a breeze to pick back up anytime. I'm still waiting on Nintendo for a sequel, much less the game's canon ending, and I hope Fox's still got his furry fingers crossed for another leap back to consoles soon.
All Mario Platformers
If anything, Mario series have had replayability in their favor and its an addictive experience that I honestly still wonder how it's held its magical influence over me. I've easily finished any of the recent Mario platformers's main story levels in 4-5 hrs. flat, a bit longer for the Galaxy games, yet I keep coming back for more. Is it those glittering, gorgeous Star Coins that beg me to collect them out of obsession or challenge? Is it just seeing how fast I can beat a level in x seconds flat? Is it just because I enjoy just watching a chubby plumber throw my brother's character into the abyss and laugh maniacally? Maybe it's all those things. Maybe it's more. I am no psychologist, but it's true that a Mario game is never short for long. Players like me make them long only as the series continues the addictiveness.
Journey's is both the shortest and most peculiar game I believe I've ever played. I easily beat it within one 2-hr. sitting with no specific plot or character to follow. I simply pursued the only real goal set out to me: reaching the top of a mountain. There's something outside of just that linear premise that speaks to you. Like many would say, it entirely relies upon its artstyle to convey the sad, sweet emotion of the haunting landscape before your eyes. Does it over-rely on that? Many might say so, and maybe it's true, but it nonetheless was what brought me my most immersive experiences I've had in a game of its size. The painfully short time you have with it is what the game seems to treasure in rapidly changing the sights and sounds you hear along the way. The ruins and creatures you meet are consistently strange and diverse and the Grammy-nominated soundtrack never ceased to enthrall me. Perhaps it'd have been rewarding to have the game longer, but I would still say the short-length does the game justice in preserving your attention. Though I list it last, it's certainly not least of this short-game batch and one of the best short game times I've put myself through for the better.
Well, I guess I utterly failed in my endeavors to write a truly short blog, but I hope you enjoyed my not-so short talk all the same. More questions, more presumably helpful answers is the name of the game here in me blog series, so comment and send your thoughts right on over. What're some of your favorite short games? Blogging suggestions? They'll all covered. Thanks for reading and come on back!
Next on the Inquisitive Blogger: Down on Your Luck?