Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Glory Days 2

Developer: Odenis
Publisher: Eidos
Release Date: 8/6/2007
Systems: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Two parts action, one part tactical.

0:01 Tiny pixelated troops scoot by on the bottom screen to some dramatic, snare-heavy battlefield music. The title comes up with some Advance Wars-style art on the top screen.

0:02 The story is told through slowly scrolling text. "Dear Mom and Dad, During this morning's roll call we raised our fists and shouted our battle cries one last time before heading off to battle." The writing is pretty maudlin. Our hero prays because, "I myself want to be at peace with god in case something happens." Gag.

I have to rescue 20 civilians from a battle zone, loading up to eight at a time. The civilians I rescue increase the power of my army. How does that work? Are they conscripted or something?

0:05 Controls are shown via a confusing diagram. It seems that the touch screen is used for movement and the buttons/control pad are used for shooting and loading up troops and civilians.

0:07 In actual practice the controls and concept are pretty slick. The touch screen guides the chopper almost effortlessly while the top screen actually shows where it is on the scrolling 2D battlefield (my base on the right, the enemy's on the left). The bottom screen also show my advancing front line, which I can aid by gunning and bombing the opposing forces. Nice concept.

0:10 I keep accidentally crashing into the enemy tanks when I try to stop and bomb them, leading to a quick loss (three crashes and you're gone). I guess the controls do require a little practice, at least. Also, firing bullets at ground infantry is insanely hard. Whenever you angle down to attack you end up darting forward at full speed. I guess that's realistic, but it's also TOUGH!

0:13 Some oddities: the civilians are indestructible, wandering around among enemy troops with nary a scratch. My bullets don't seem to faze them either. Also, the opposing infantry just ignore my chopper, even when I land to pick up civilians (the tanks aren't so nice). Also, save some cursory anti aircraft-fire early, I am practically invincible in the air so far.

0:15 OK, victory. I'm starting to get the hang of the mechanics. The ground war seems almost incidental at this point -- I barely have any control over my troops. Also, I finally figured out that returning to base recharges the chopper's health and refills the bombs. The stats show that our army sucks without me: they produced 20 fewer units than the enemy, but together we destroyed 19 more than they did, mostly thanks to my bombs. Oh yeah. Who da man.

0:16 More scrolling text. We were attacked! "Every day this war becomes more terrible. If war can be avoided, it should be at all costs." Wow, that's... not deep exactly. Common knowledge, maybe?

0:18 This time around the chopper is replaced with a plane. It has a turbo boost and a loop the loop function. Sounds fun.

0:21 The plane is significantly harder to control than my good ol' chopper -- changing direction and speed is an immense challenge. Again, this is realistic but not exactly serving the gamep lay. Also, right-handed players (like me) might have trouble lifting up the stylus and hitting the X button to boost. Even landing is a chore. I want my chopper back!

0:23 Finally, some enemy air power. The dogfight with the opposing helicopter is over too quickly, though -- he goes down in a few loops. Shows some promise for heavier mid-air action down the road, though.

0:27 No wonder I'm doing so badly -- the enemy chopper came back and is taking down my barracks just as quickly as I take down his. Also, apparently the problem with the landing was that I was trying to do it. If I stop touching the touch screen it lands itself. Duh!

0:30 Oddly enough, kamikaze attacking within an inch of my plane's life seems to be an effective strategy. I'm mowing down tanks then heading back to recharge. Whee!

0:34 Victory! Apparently focusing on the bunkers was a losing strategy, since the enemy infantry just replenishes them. Blowing up the tanks, however, lets my units move through and overwhelm. The interface does a good job of showing the flow of the battle, once you figure out how to read the simplified radar.

0:35 "Watching the sunset seems to make all the violence disappear." A true poet-warrior.

0:36 Oh boy, now things are getting complicated. I can pick up soldiers and drop them off downfield or deploy them from my base through a menu. Nice to have more direct control of the troops, I guess, but are pilots usually in charge of deploying troops in battle? Oh well, at least I'm in the helicopter again.

0:40 Despite all the fancy new stuff, victory still comes mainly thanks to the "bomb the enemy tanks" strategy. Once the tide has turned decisively, I deploy 27 infantry at once just for fun. Lookit 'em go!

0:41 Oddly, I can't just drop bombs on the enemy base. Even though I've cleared the enemy units out, I have to wait for my slow-ass troops to get there and take over.

0:42 "I'd give everything just to be able to hug you both right now." Awww. Also, um, apparently he's writing to his fiance who's carrying his child and should deliver this letter to his parents if he dies. What? "Do what you have to to make sure he has my surname, a name which you will be proud of from now on." WHAT?

0:50 The last battle started with a lot of good old fashioned dogfighting. Still pretty easy to fly in full speed, guns blazing and take down the enemy choppers. Once we controlled the skies it was only a matter of time. Also, now I can call in air strikes with the L button. I like how the game is slowly introducing more and more complexity. It would be easy to get overwhelmed if this was all just available from the start.

0:51 So apparently John was killed? Am I supposed to be John? I've gotta say, it's hard to feel emotional resonance in a game with small, pixelated characters and planes that immediately reappear when they crash (up to three times per battle). Anyway, now it's 25 years later. They're teaching the new pilots how to brush. "If we do end up landing in enemy territory, at least we'll have nice teeth." Heh. The writing finally shows some spark.

0:58 Damn, those new helicopters are tough. Supposedly I can take them on with my new anti-aircraft missiles, but I can't figure out how to use them consistently. Their definitely a learning curve to these plane controls.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? While the controls aren't perfect and the action can be a tad hard to follow, I like the concept and the attempt to meld action and strategy. I'd like to see what else they do with it, at the very least.

This review based on a retail copy rented from GameFly


Pablito said...

I am loving this game.
It's very old school ... and very nice to play.
Ok, I am 31 years old ..

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard heard anything about this game... I'm intrigued now.