Yo, welcome back to GenreQuest, the only thing that things in the thing. This week we’ll be covering a game with a surprisingly famous voice actor and a couple of games about a man who can shoot lightning, because video games. Let’s begin!
I-Ninja is a game that starts with one of my gaming pet peeves: unskippable cut-scenes. Truly this is a bad omen for an entirely unheard of PS2 era platformer about a racially insensitive comedy ninja character. Well, I can actually say that I have been pleasantly surprised, which is pretty good considering this genre’s track record for unknown titles.
The game stars a ninja named…Ninja (seriously) who goes on a journey to rescue his Sensei, a journey which accidentally results in his Sensei being decapitated (and it’s only slightly his fault). Then, you must go on a journey to rebuild a giant robot, defeat the evil Ranx, and get good grades.
The gameplay is completely top-notch, everything works together and makes the gameplay flow better than the world’s biggest river. You have your basic platforming controls like jumping, attacking, and gliding, but you can also do wall-to-wall jumps, wall runs, and swing across gaps with your ninja chain. You can combine all of these abilities together at the same time to pull off some pretty insane manoeuvres, like wall running up a wall then using the chain to turn 180 degrees to the left and continue the wall run in an entirely different direction.
There is also a nice amount of variety on display here. There are moments where the game basically becomes Super Monkey Ball (but you know, with ninjas), and at other times it turns into a turret shooter. The bosses are where the gameplay really shines, each one has you piloting some machine that you’ve been rebuilding so that you can fight some super powerful enemy. In the case of the first boss, you awaken a giant boxing robot to fight a similarly proportioned boxing robot.
The graphics of the game are pretty standard for the time, but everything has a nice design to it from the main character and his Sensei to the enemies you encounter in each area. There’s a mash-up of the traditional Japanese style and the more modern techno visuals used in a lot of kids sci-fi.
The music is pretty generic techno style music loops, but the voice work shines brighter than the sun here. At first, I couldn’t figure out why the ninja sounded so familiar, but then it hit me mid cut-scene: it’s Billy West, famous for voicing Phillip J. Fry in Futurama. I’m not sure how they got someone that talented, but it really pays off, a lot of the dialogue would have been annoying coming from the wrong voice actor, but it’s actually funny to hear the Ninja cut of his old ghostly teacher whenever I skip his dialogue.
Overall: Much more meat than I am used to from my unknown PS2 era games. There’s a lot to enjoy here and a large part of that is the enjoyably silly Ninja character voiced by the famous Billy West, as well as the stunningly smooth gameplay and variety. Worth checking out if you’re into ninjas or just want something great and funny to play.
It’s weird to be playing a comic book game based on literally no existing comic book, it almost gives it a feeling of being a tad generic. It’s a little like playing those old ‘city of heroes/city of villains’ games, everything is supposed to be unique to that game, bit it ended up with a lot of pre-existing characters being built by every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), there is no character creation in Infamous, so the chances of coming across a rip-off character is slim to none, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a constant feeling of similarity surrounding this game.
The story follows Cole MacGrath, a courier who accidentally gets caught up in the middle of an explosion which destroys 6 blocks and quarantines the city from the rest of the world. Cole wakes up to discover he has electricity powers (for some reason) and that he is no longer able to leave the city, and so he goes on an adventure with his best friend Zeke to…save the city? I suppose.
Gameplay-wise, Infamous seems to owe a lot to Spider-Man 2 in that it’s a superhero sandbox game where the method of getting around is actually most of the fun. The actual missions mainly consist of beating people up, although you do get to do it with lightning instead of sticky white stuff…so that’s nice.
You get a variety of powers that tend to come in two distinct flavours, either blue for good or red for evil, because binary morality is the best! You have a fair few different techniques at your disposal, including the ability to either capture enemies or steal their freaking souls, as well as eventually unlocking a huge column of lightning. Thor ain’t got shit on Cole MacGrath.
The only real issue with the gameplay is that you can sometimes feel held back by the traversal controls. Unlike with Spider-man, you can’t clear a few blocks with a single bound from the street, instead you have to make your way up a building, usually quite slowly, then glide your way across the rooftops looking for grindable wires to ride along. This is fine in practise, but it does keep things from ever really taking off in the way that other superhero games have done.
Visually, the game is what you’d call pretty standard for the PS3, but the style of the cut-scenes and other visual extras are all done in ‘comic book’ style. Basically, instead of cut-scenes, a vaguely animated slideshow of some comic book pages is shown to demonstrate what is going on with the plot. This works quite well at making the universe feel more comic book focused, although the story’s insane logic and twists help in that area a fair bit as well. The music is bland but fits the style, it’s the sort of thing that you can see being played in an animated comic book movie and fits the action of the game quite well up to a point.
Some of the biggest issues for this game actually come from the ‘moral choices’ that you have to make during the story. At first they’re actually okay, with things like ‘share all the food or keep it for yourself and your friends’, which makes sense as a moral question. It’s difficult to make that decision based on the fact that you obviously want your friends and family to stay alive, but you don’t really want to let everyone else starve to do it. At least, it would be a difficult decision if there weren’t a binary morality system built into the game, meaning that you just pick the answer that suits the playthrough that you’re currently doing and say ‘screw off’ to any sense of tension or complexity this moral dilemma would normally have created.
Overall: Infamous isn’t a bad game, but its few imperfections drive it away from the perfection it was so tantalisingly close to approaching. The game is worth playing only as a stepping stone to move onto the second game and beyond.
Infamous 2 is a much, much more enjoyable game than its predecessor, in fact I can say without a doubt that it is what more sequels need to be aiming at. It builds on the good stuff made present in the first game and then irons out the wrinkles that plagued the previous game, mostly.
The story of Infamous 2 follows on directly from where the previous game left off. You’re Cole MacGrath, human lightning rod and winner of most grizzled, white protagonist since default Commander Shepard. Instead of trudging your way through New York stand-in Empire City, you’re thrust straight into New Orleans stand-in New Marais, and so the adventure beings again.
This time around you’re attempting to prepare yourself for the coming of ‘The Beast’, a prophesied conduit (super-human) who will ravage the world. You’re helped with this by your chubby best friend Zeke from the last game and newcomer NSA agent Lucy Kuo as you try and defend your new home and get strong enough to beat back the world threatening monster.
The gameplay is much, much smoother in this game than it is in the last, as least as far as traversing the world goes at any rate. You also get more variety with the powers you unlock, mainly because at a certain point in the game you ‘borrow’ some powers from other Conduits, meaning you can end up with either napalm or ice powers depending on your tastes. The ice powers are the most useful if you plan on spending a lot of time exploring the sandbox because it makes vertical traversal (jumping really high!) much, much easier.
The combat has also had a bit of an update, with Cole getting his own signature weapon. This weapon is basically just a few pipes that he charges with electricity, but it adds fun to the melee combat that was missing from the previous game. This time you still mash square to attack, but once you’ve built enough of a combo, you can tap triangle and pull off a finisher on a nearby enemy, which really looks quite cool and makes Cole seem more like a badass than the cut-scenes of the game do.
The graphics are pretty similar in quality to the last game, but the actual design of the characters is a bit nicer than before. The game’s different factions are easily distinguished by more than just colour scheme this time around, not to mention the changes made to Cole’s own outfit and equipment. The new supporting cast also seems to have been carefully crafted this time and stands out infinitely better than pretty much anyone from the previous title ever managed to do (excluding Zeke, obviously, I love that chubby git).
The music in this game is also much improved, although I’m not sure how much of that is because of the influences of New Orleans on the musicians and designers. The music is much jazzier and jam band-y, it gives the game’s music more of an identity and distances the score from wallowing in generic comic-book-ness.
Overall: The follow up to an already pretty good game that does everything right to improve on the formula it started with. From the music to the visual design everything has been tweaked a little to look and sound better than before. Unless you really need the story of the first game (you don’t), then skip it and go straight for this.