Thursday, January 31, 2008

These Canadian developed games kick ass

Talented Canadians always make me proud. Feist is a breakout pop success. Sidney Crosby is a phenomenon and an ambassador for the game of hockey. Sarah Polley and David Cronenberg are the toast of moviedom. And in the realm of video games, too, Canadians are being heralded for their creative works.

The developers at Vancouver’s Next Level Games brought Mario’s soccer franchise to the Nintendo Wii, and with Mario Strikers Charged (rated everyone 10+), they’ve ratcheted up the intensity. At its core is soccer, so you dribble, pass, and shoot the ball in your attempts to score in your opponents’ goal.

But this is a Mario game, too, so there are supercharged moves and powerups that give your matches some added excitement. You get to create your own team of four—a captain and three sidekicks—and you can play against a friend or the Wii itself. You use the position-sensing Wii Remote, but not nearly as much as you might think. For the most part, you rely on the buttons and the thumbstick.

SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike (rated teen) was created by Vancouver’s Slant Six Games. This edition of Sony Computer Entertainment’s SOCOM series is a fresh take on playing as a Navy SEAL. To begin with, you don’t control your squad; as the commander, you direct the actions of your three squad members, telling them where to go and what to do, but you don’t actually move them or pull the trigger.

While demonstrating the game for the Georgia Straight, Slant Six’s design director, David Seymour, explained that “The reason this is a great game is that this is not twitch gameplay. You get all the good stuff, but with a refined interface.” He’s right. Because the game was created for the PSP and not ported from a different system, the control scheme is innovative and quick to pick up.

Created by Torontonian Jonathan Mak, Everyday Shooter (rated everyone) is a delightful twist on the Asteroids-inspired games in which you use one joystick to control a ship and another to control firing. What Mak did was create a game where not only are no two levels alike, but playing it is—get this—soothing. This is largely because of the game’s true genius: its soundtrack. Instead of using sound effects of explosions and firing lasers, Mak uses guitar riffs, so as you move your ship from one location to another on the screen, you hear notes being played on an electric guitar. And when you destroy a fleet of enemy ships, you hear complementary guitar sounds. Put it all together, and you get a smooth, harmonizing solo-guitar soundtrack that you create by playing the game. Which begs the question: do guitars make a sound in outer space? Everyday Shooter is available from Sony Computer Entertainment for the PS3, through the PlayStation Network.

All of this Canadian video-game talent will be officially recognized at the second annual Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts—the Elans—at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on February 15. Last year’s emcee was William Shatner; this year, organizers have confirmed Seth MacFarlane—creator, writer, and star of Family Guy—as host. If you want to go, a limited number of tickets are available to the public through

[originally published in the Georgia Straight]

No comments: