The news was met with little fanfare, but I couldn't help but feel a flutter of anticipation. Thing is, I adore games packed with variety. I love the idea of being able to play around with different mechanics, jumping from one mini-game to another. Even though compilation packages are widely shunned by the hardcore gaming community, I think there's a place for them.
I think my adoration for mini-game compilations stems from the likes of Shenmue. One of my favourite aspects of Yu Suzuki's epic adventure was the freedom to walk around its game world and interact with the things I wanted. I was free to make choices about how I spent time in the game. I distinctly remember loading up the title just to spend an hour or so on the QTE boxing cabinet. Other times I would simply explore, examining the characters in the environment and their day-to-day activities.
The ability to do anything removed the linear boundaries so common in other games, and shaped my tastes in the future. SEGA's spiritual Shenmue successor, Yakuza, appeals to me in a similar regard. There are arcades, bowling alleys, slot-machines, golf courses, baseball ranges and table-tennis mini-games to participate in. There are also side-quests, management simulations and much more. Once again, I enjoy not being fixed into one specific activity.
Unfortunately, very few games released these days attempt to create such variety. I imagine for a game designer it's a simple decision — perfectly polish one mechanic or adequately polish ten. Hence you see games focus heavily on singular concepts. For Call Of Duty its all about the satisfaction of the shooting. For God Of War it's all about the strength of Kratos. That's not to say it would necessarily make sense if Kratos suddenly went bowling with Ares and Zeus, but the change of pace would be appreciated. And as an unlockable Easter egg, who wouldn't want to uncover it?
It might sound like I'm championing open-world games in favour of linear ones, but that's also not true. Just Cause 2 had the biggest open-world I've ever messed around in, but even though there were planes to fly, parachuting to do and cars to drive, it ultimately felt life-less. While it created a good illusion, there wasn't really that much to do outside of move around and get chased by the resistance.
LittleBigPlanet is pretty much a dream for me then, especially its sequel which has opened up the potential for more mini-games than anything before it. I can literally spend hours jumping between mini-games and revelling in the variety each has to offer. Earlier in the month I was playing a user created level that put me in control of a chef cooking steaks on a barbecue. Brilliant.
It's the same mentality that helps me to appreciate PlayStation Home too. I love the idea of a giant open-world packed with changing activities that I can jump between at my own pace on my own terms.
But I do understand the criticisms. By their very definition, mini-games are shallow. And in reality, most of them aren't very good. It takes a special kind of designer to pack a game with a range of unassociated mechanics and maintain a level of quality.
And yet I ache for more games like Shenmue and Yakuza. Games that include a traditional campaign in addition to a variety of sub-activities, and the freedom to explore both elements at the same time.
Saints Row: The Third is starting to look like that game. While it's clearly very different in tone to Shenmue, the variety seems to be there. I can only hope that the final product is laced with silly side-activities to occupy my time while I work through the main campaign.
I understand that the more variety, the less potential a developer has to polish the ones it has. But I'm greedy like that. The more icons on the map, the more unique activities, the happier I am. I can't be the only one.
Its rumoured that Twiggy has spent the past several months touring with avant-garde dance troupe Cirque Du Soleil. The anonymous PushSquare columnist is still on the run from the British monarchy on account of treason. Twiggy was last sighted eating an Asda branded ham and cheese sandwich in Grimsby.