Sunday, February 28, 2010

Video game number sixty: Yo Ho Kablamo

Video game review number sixty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Yo Ho Kablamo".

This game is one of the first efforts to cross-over to the Xbox Live Marketplace from the indie-developer program for Xbox. It was submitted as part of a contest a few years back, and won top honors along with "The Dishwasher" (which I should also try one of these days). I really admire the fact that someone without a publishing contract created this one by themselves.

The concept is classic enough. You have a pirate ship, as do three other players on the screen...and your job is to destroy them. It's an overhead combat game, the likes of which you'll remember from the last 30 years of console gaming. I played this one late on a Friday night with my buddy John, who I have invited to be a guest reviewer for this one. Here was his sound bite:

Not easy to just pick up and play, but it's got potential. I'd like to put a little more time into it, but if that were just a demo for me, as it pretty much was, I probably wouldn't buy it.

When I asked him for his opinion on the game yesterday, at first, we got into an interesting discussion about gaming in general. John mentioned that he spends a lot of time playing his games, and thought he would have to spend a lot more time playing this one before he could review it. I pointed out that we played for awhile the other night, and neither one of us liked it. We were both saying "What the fuck?" a lot, as we were conquered by even the easiest computer opponents. The controls left a lot to be desired. For me, that was enough to write it off and move on. John wanted more time with this game to form a full opinion on it.

I don't find either viewpoint flawed, I just have a shorter attention span for games I don't like. Not just because of this challenge, but because I believe that if you don't like a game when you first play it, there's no need to force yourself to keep playing. There are exceptions to this, of course. Mass Effect comes to mind. It's a game I tried, didn't like at first and embraced two years later after being urged by friends to give it a second chance. Some games have reviews that are so good that even if you don't want to play them, you might want to try to make sure you aren't missing out. The first time I played Guitar Hero, it was really hard...but I got the hang of it, and now Rock Band is among my favorite games of all time.

On the other hand, bad video games are like cigarettes for me. The first one I smoked, I knew almost instantly that I hated it. It made me cough, it stunk, and I couldn't see any reason to continue to try to learn to smoke them after that. Especially given all the reviews from doctors, who said that it would kill you. Luckily, no one in my life was pressuring me to smoke (like they urged me to play Mass Effect), because I never really gave it a second try. These days, I might light up at a party once a year for fun (mostly to get a double take from all my friends who know I don't smoke), but it'll never be a regular thing for me. I'm not saying Yo-Ho Kablamo is bad for your health, but I didn't like it enough to keep playing until I learned what the hell was fun about it.

John on the other hand, did want to keep playing. He said: Well, we're two very different types of gamers, too. You like immediate, instantaneous pick-up-and-playability. I like to take my time and get invested in a game, digging into it a bit before really playing.We didn't take the time to do that. Initial impressions. 5 or 6/10 I guess. But I didn't spend enough time with it to score it fairly. Didn't play any single player, didn't play any other multiplayer variations besides Deathmatch.

I have to say, he does have a point. On the one hand, this challenge has been great, because I've discovered a lot of new games. On the other hand, if I was trying to give the game a "real" review, instead of my snap judgment before moving on, I probably should have played more than 40 minutes or so. I have to say, if I'm going to regret one thing when this challenge is's probably not going to be missing out on games I didn't initially like (like Yo-Ho Kablamo). Instead, I'm probably going to regret all that extra time I've had to keep playing to get one achievement in the games I didn't like, just to meet my own rules. If there wasn't a tutorial for Yo-Ho Kablamo, I would have been disappointed that I had to keep playing it. There are so many great games out there, there's no sense in wasting exra time on one like this.

Overall impression for me? 3/10. I feel that if you can't have fun with a combat video game on a Friday night with your buddy, it's time to switch to another game. That's exactly what we did.

Here's the one lame achievement I earned. Not sure if I'll ever play this again, but I suppose after getting John's impressions on the game, I might feel guilty if I don't. :-)

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