Why Being Hypnotized In New York Was Better Than Nintendo's Press Conference
New York City. Center of the universe. Times are shitty, but I'm pretty sure they can't get worse. Especially after Nintendo's lackluster press conference a few days ago. A couple of weeks ago, thanks to MundoRare, I was offered the chance to go to a Microsoft event hosted in New York, entitled the "Xbox Holiday Showcase".
Think of it as a Microsoft-exclusive E3. With the promise that Nuts & Bolts and Trouble in Paradise would be there, I would've been a fool not to take this chance. Not to mention that New York is a state away from me. Seeing that this is MundoRare's exclusive, you should check out their feature out first and then check this one to get the complete experience. This Feature I feel compliments MundoRare's Feature, and vice versa. Plus you can check out future interviews (that I somehow had the courage to do) with the folks that were kind enough to sit down with me to talk about the games that are and aren't DKU. Anyway.
The event began in a location called Silverlight Studios, which sported a very deceptive exterior with the impression that the inside was small. Inside the event was all the green you could naturally associate with the Xbox 360. Jellybeans were shades of green. All the lights were green. Blow-Pops and Now & Laters were all green. There was even a fish tank with green lights radiating from the bottom of said tank when we entered.
On the first floor was a room that you can see as such. Our group (myself, the newly initiated interviewer, Iker, my fellow co-writer from MundoRare and director, and his friend the cameraman) were shown a little presentation on what Microsoft is very keen on talking about calling "The Xbox Experience." Part of it seemed like I was being brainwashed, mostly because I saw most of the things through the glorious power of the internet. The other part of it was more interesting, because it was a little montage of what was offered. After a few questions, we were told that the demos we wanted to play (Nuts & Bolts and Trouble in Paradise at first, and then later being convinced/sold on Non-DKU games such as Lips and Fable II) were upstairs. Before going, we took more pictures, such as the one you see identifying a certain DKU game.
Upstairs was where all the fun apparently lied. After exiting the elevator, we entered the room. On the right greeting us was a bar, which I avoided as to not get IDed, the Lips booth on the left (which is tied with Fable II as my favorite Non-DKU game at the show), and some sports games on the right.
Farther ahead there was a lady responsible for manning (or womanning) the Trouble in Paradise booth, with Fable II next to it as the day went by, and Nuts & Bolts was waiting at the corner, with the man in charge of that driving Banjo around in a helicopter. After us telling him that we're from MundoRare, he let us play. One of the joys of this event was that there was no time limit. If I wanted to play Banjo for a half an hour, I could damn well do so. But I'm sure you want to hear about the impressions now, so without further ado...
Nuts & Bolts Impressions: The Campbells Soup Edition
The Good: The demo available had only one level for play: Banjo Land. The good with that? It's still feels and acts like a Banjo game. Mumbo Jumbo was there hosting a Jiggy Mission, as was Klungo (KLUNGO!), Bottles, and what looked like the drone from Click Clock Wood. The "Nyah-hah-hah" one. The controls of the default vehicles were smooth. The R button was used to drive, the L button was used to brake (or descend if you were in a helicopter), and the button map on the upper right changed depending on vehicle. Outside the vehicle, Y was to get in and out, the RB button was used to repair vehicles with Kazooie's wand (which can also be done in-vehicle as well). Some cars could do stunts, some cars could shoot explosives, there were enough variations for everything.
All the four missions available for demo-ing were nice little introductions. 2 of them consisted of carrying an item from one place to another (one was with George the Ice Cube, and the other one was carrying 4 soccer balls to the goal), one was racing against Klungo (KLUNGO!) and his minions around Banjo Land as noted by signs and rings you had to pass, and the last one was driving through rings in the air by using a car that can jump with a built-in spring. Some were more difficult than others, but as Scribes said before the vehicles were revealed, some Jiggies would be easier to get for some people than others, and vice versa. Your skill ultimately depends on how good your vehicle is.
The Bad: Banjo is bloody fucking slow. When I first played, not yet used to the controls, I was driving my car into the Freezezy Peak water. I jumped out before it happened, and the nearest vehicle took me five minutes at the least to find. I could see both old and new fans getting irritated if something happens like in my situation and you're stuck in the middle of this huge level with someone who walks even slower than Cooper. What I feel could fix this is the ability to summon vehicles somehow, through the likes of either the start menu or whatever, or giving us the ability to Talon Trot again. Considering the Talon Trot's speed in the previous games, it would make this possible future irritation seem less of a pain than it already is. The game itself is fun, but god forbid you leave whatever vehicle you're currently using with the feeling that it's 20 blocks away while you're stuck in an overpopulated city and you don't even know where you are. Don't let that happen to you!
The References: A lot of references. Banjo Land is solely not only made of references, but it was made for us. Besides the Ghoulies bin, Glitter Gulch Mine, Gobi's Valley, Freezezy Peak, Click Clock Wood, Mad Monster Mansion, Mayahem Temple, and Clanker's Cavern examples seen around the internet, it's a continuity fan's dream come true. One of the most hardcore references is the fact that the loading screen consists of a bunch of Jiggies covering the screen and then leaving to reveal the latest Jiggy challenge, obviously influenced by Banjo-Pilot.
From the first trailer we saw on May 13th, there was speculation that the Ice Key was there. After getting a chance to play after Iker and his friend before we headed off to Trouble in Paradise, I used the Helicopter to fly to it, and there it was. The Ice Key encased in a glass of ice like the original, but there was something no other site besides MR is mentioning, and that was that there's a CD on the ice with the words "Stop N' Swap" in red next to the Ice Key.
Verict? For those that are cautiously optimistic, I highly suggest you try it out before fully judging it. Those that had the faith that this'd be good from the start will be plenty rewarded when it comes out this holiday. While a short demo and not really replayable due to the restrictions, the demo was worth it for the references galore.
Next came Trouble in Paradise, which I rushed to after playing the Nuts & Bolts demo. An Xbox Vision Camera, cards, and a nice and cute lady waited for our group of three as we tackled Rare's latest sequel:
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise's Abridged Impressions
The Good: If you've played the first game and liked it, everything was good in this demo. More piñatas. More locations. More customization (for example, you can not only plant seeds for grass like in the first game, you can also customize your garden to have snow or sand). Finding out that a card package will come with the game, as well as future opportunities. Combine this along with the other ways of getting barcodes such as pictures, iPods/Zunes, printing them out, and there's a lot of stuff here to enjoy.
Piñatas now have icons above them all the time when they want something. A pink heart means they're ready to romance. A blue heart means that they wanted to romance, but they don't have the lovin' feeling anymore. If there are flower or fruit icons above them, then, you guessed it, they want those specific items. Extremely helpful, especially if you go to the Piñarctic or the Dessert Desert through the simple idea of highlighting appropriately placed signs to trap piñatas that you want.
The (Possibly) Bad: It's not really a bad thing, but one has to wonder about how long the replay value of the game will have if people are just going to be scanning cards instead of earning piñata the normal way. Manipulating weather and getting toys to a lesser extent is more understandable due to the customization and/or desire to get things looking the way you want, but in the end only time will tell if easy access may ruin the game's lifespan.
Also, adults and core gamers will probably want to stay away from Just For Fun. While it can create a fun diversion and was generally a good time, I can see players of the first game getting bored of the feature, preferring to mess around with their own gardens and getting things legitimately.
Despite this little section, don't get me wrong. The game is great, and I have utter faith that both old and new players will enjoy this even more than the original VP and Nuts & Bolts at this point in time. If the gardens weren't preset by the demo, I probably would've been at it all day and Wednesday night.
The References: Plenty of them, with a new one we haven't seen yet. All the items that were downloadable in the first game (such as the Big Jolly Lips, Grunty's Hat, and Mr. Pants' hat) were available as items, though I regrettably did not ask the lady on Wednesday night if they were available from either the start or could be acquired without paying 80 Microsoft Points each. All the items from the first VP like the B-K and Mumbo statues are still intact in the game. Roysten is still in the fishbowl in Paper Pets, doing his tapping on the bowl three times and his acquired jumping trick. The newest reference is an item called a little something Tooie fans may remember as the Saucer o' Peril, completely redesigned, and completely cool. Red and green lights surround its outer ship part, and now there's a cockpit inside as well as a dome on the outside. Possible reference placement for Nuts & Bolts? Let's hope so.
After some partying and underage drinking (*cough*) on Wednesday night, I did get some particularly interesting DKU information from a source who wishes to remain anonymous, with more coming soon as it breaks:
-All the hate that Rare has been getting for years? It's not a coincidence, and there are claims that this was before the Microsoft acquisition. Was it a pact that former site editor Slush theorized (and that I randomly remembered) years ago? Not that particularly far off. But apparently it was something that Rare did that set the particularly older critics to the point "where they want to see Rare fail," according to our source. Not something so life threateningly important, but if you ever wondered why some Rare games never got the scores they deserved, now you know. Somewhat.
Expect MundoRare in the upcoming days to go more into detail on future tidbits, as well as a few extra things that aren't DKU-related.
There you have it. DKU's own hands-on impressions, possibly making us more of a legitimate and professional fansite.
...Which is a fucking scary thought when you think about it. A special thanks goes out to everyone that helped make this happen: George Kelion, the friendly people at Silverlight Studios, Microsoft, everyone DKU and non-DKU related that I interviewed, and most importantly, MundoRare for an opportunity that I would love to happen again in this lifetime.
Stab those pins in your Mark voodoo dolls.