Smith, Party of Eight?

As often as I see the topic come up on forums and blogs, I think it’s safe to say that most – if not all – gamers have a list of games that they loved and that they think got the short end of the stick in the marketplace.

Sometimes, these are pretty individual opinions – I haven’t met too many other folks who absolutely loved Alisia Dragoon, for instance – but there are games whose market reception was legendarily apathetic in comparison to the efforts spent on promoting them.  These usually get even more credit if their production costs were so high, and their sales so low, that they heavily contributed to the failure-or-near-failure of a publisher or development house.  See: Majesco, Clover, etc.

The top two games that I see trotted out as “overlooked” are Psychonauts and Beyond Good and Evil.  Both expensive games, both heavily marketed, both marked down to twenty bucks in their first month of sales.

I can’t say that this is ALL bad.  Yeah, it’s sucked having to wait so long for a BG&E2, but I’m not sure that it would be better if it had sold by the truckload and spawned an endless stream of sequels and spin-offs.

Put another way:  Do you really want to see a BG&E-inspired Kart Racing game?

Anyway, after you get past the “big two” underappreciated games, you tend to see at least a mention of Killer 7.

Killer 7 is a game that’s at the end of the “accessibility” scale that’s furthest away from, oh, Pac-man.  The control scheme is obtuse – you don’t even use the joystick to move, for instance, your character moves forward when you press the A button and turns around if you press B – and it has the worst case of Ugly First Level Syndrome I’ve yet encountered, a bizarre mostly-white building that reminds me of the worst examples of mid-90s 3D and which is so devoid of distinguishing features that I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a hotel, an office building, or maybe an apartment block.

Your in-game advice is delivered by a gibbering nutjob in a bondage outfit, and when you die, you leave a take-out-baggie – seriously – full of your vital bits that you then have to use another character to retrieve and bring back to a save room before you can continue.

Is it any wonder that I was able to pick this up, a few months after release, for $9.98?  Or that the shelf I took it from was full of similarly-clearance-priced copies?

At its core, it’s awfully close to an adventure game.  You have a limited set of locations you can explore, there are puzzles to be solved to open up new locations, and the puzzle solving tends pretty heavily towards the “to open this door, you’re going to need to do two or three fetch quests, seemingly unrelated to the actual door opening, which will result in the key to the door falling out of its hiding place for no apparent reason.”

On the other hand, while you’re roaming around whatever building you’re in looking for the crank handle that will turn on the water pump in the basement and drain the flooded room, leaving the fish in the flooded room gasping on the floor so you can find the fish that swallowed the signet ring that you need to show to the butler so he will loan you a serving tray which you will use to reflect the moonlight on to the portrait of the princess which will open the secret compartment which…

I am, of course, kidding here.

I hope I’m kidding here, anyway.  Let’s start over.

…while you’re roaming around whatever building you’re in doing adventure game stuff, occasionally you will hear an evil laugh and something invisible will run at you and try to get close enough to explode.  That is your cue to switch to shooter mode, hit the “scan the area for invisible running exploding guys” button, target the newly-visible running exploding guy and try to shoot him before he blows up on you.

This bit is sort of cheap.  Often the invisible running exploding guys spawn so close to you that you don’t have a chance to protect yourself, and then you tend to wind up in the aforementioned take-out-baggie.  It’s not like you can pull out your gun and then back up, or anything.  While aiming, you’re rooted in place.

It’s a bit of a hybrid of the genres, and doesn’t necessarily take the best bits from either, is what I’m getting at.

Now, it does come with some payoffs, if you can make it past the first level.  It’s got an art style that looks dreadful in still images but really works in motion, what I’ve seen so far of the story looks pretty interesting, even if I’m having a little trouble following the different players and their motivations, and you switch between characters as diverse as a wheelchair-bound sniper, a curiously soft-spoken wrestler in a Lucha Libre mask and tuxedo, and a waifish psychic who can break barriers by, well, bleeding all over them.

Did I mention I’m a terrible hemophobe?  Between this game and Bullet Witch, It’s been a bad month for my particular neurosis.

Let’s put my squeamishness aside, though, and carry on.

Twenty minutes into playing Killer 7, I was wondering what the heck people saw in it.

An hour into playing Killer 7, I was wondering why I was still playing it instead of, say, minesweeper.

Two hours into playing Killer 7, I started wondering what the heck was going to happen next, and if the next – I don’t like to use terms like “mindfuck”, but it applies here – could possibly top the last.

That’s a pretty good progression, I think.

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