To introduce you to the team we've put together here at Push Square, we asked each team member for two PS3 games they considered absolutely essential. Here, Patrick Elliot from our US review team waxes lyrical about minimalistic platformers and enormous spectacles.
While the release of the PlayStation 3 promised players true online gaming communities and free acces to said services, there are still many of us that held classic couch co-op in a very deep, special place in our hearts. While it is certainly a blast to jump into a game housing umpteen players, tackling challenges with a friend literally by your side offers a social experience all its own.
Maybe that’s what makes PixelJunk Eden so appealing. It allows up to three players to team up on simple quests of collection using very basic controls in a minimalistic 2D world. The low bar of entry means that even you non-gamer friends can pop in for a level or two, following your lead as you guide them across the beautiful growing words of Eden.
Using only one button to jump and swing, gameplay revolves around spinning lines of silk to swing about levels popping pollen carriers. Players guide their adorable “grimp” about different “gardens,” collecting bits of pollen to plant seeds and grow the world, allowing them to travel ever-upward. The goal is to capture “Spectra,” large shining emblems that emit a discernible glow which appears on-screen, guiding players in the correct direction. You have only a set amount of time to reach it, though, so move quick.
As you progress in each level, the garden grows higher, meaning one fall can send you all the way back to the start. The co-op gameplay allows players to “save” each other by swinging into action and grabbing their plummeting grimp buddy, pulling them back to safety. This makes for some pretty slick-looking momemts, and you’ll likely share a few jeers and cheers in the game’s more difficult levels.
Platforming isn't the only challenge, as enemies eventually show up. These baddies may look like normal pollen carriers, but can attack players and send them flying back to the beginning. To defeat them, you have to time swings or send you grimp kamikaze-style into them. Using the sixaxis controls, it takes just one downward gesture to send your grimp into a lethal dive bomb.
Most impressive is the correlation between music and graphics. Crafted by Kyoto’s Baiyon, each level employs a unique sound linked closely to the graphical design of the garden. Dreary beats are paired with washed out colors while trippy worlds feature equally mesmerizing melodies. If for some reason the tunes aren’t to your liking however, you can always implement the custom soundtrack feature, allowing you to create your own feel to the game.
For just ten bucks, PixelJunk Eden offers quite a lot of content, and even after you’ve hunted down your final Spectra, you can expand the game with the six dollar “Encore” add-on. It makes for a great way to enjoy multiplayer gaming offline, an accolade increasingly hard to find in the modern gaming landscape.
The series' first foray into the hi-definition era, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was a massive undertaking, clocking in at just over 30 GB of data on Blu-ray and infamously housing about nine hours of cut scenes. Set in a war-torn world run by Private Military Corporations, the plot is as crazy as ever: characters return form the dead, nano-machines pump through Snake's veins and soldiers are augmented with collective consciousness. Snake's demise is central to the plot, with his age deteriorating rapidly as you progress. Kojima’s uninhibited, heavy-handed style is saturated throughout, with even the intro screen showing Snake raising a pistol to his head in a graveyard.
Borrowing the over-the-shoulder gun play introduced in the Subsistence release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the game offers a more fast-paced, action-oriented adventure this time around. The series’ trademark stealth approach still remains though, aided by the addition of Otocon’s newest gadget, Metal Gear Mk. II, an emotive mini metal gear that can scout out locations for Snake via remote reconnaissance.
Graphically the game shines, serving as an early showcase of the PS3's power, with gorgeous locales, cinema quality cut scenes and impressive character models. It is truly astounding to see how much the series has evolved, which you experience first-hand via a flashback scene to Shadow Moses later in the game. Here, you are sent back in time — both as Snake and as the player — playing through the first mission of the original Metal Gear Solid on PSone, dated game engine and all.
There is, expectedly, a wide range of dynamic and strange battles, namely against bosses. You'll face off against a team of female soldiers suffering from PTSD, laugh though a comically self-aware Psycho Mantis fight (he knows whether you're using a DualShock controller or not) and a frenetic split-screen knife dual against Vamp. Then there's the game's final encounters, which are so bombastic and over the top that even Michael Bay would blush.
Another facet evolved from Snake Eater's Subsistence release is Metal Gear Online, an ambitious multiplayer mode that aimed to take the game's innovative mix of action and stealth into a new generation of online gaming. Unlike the twitchy fast-paced battles found in games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Metal Gear Online goes for a much more nuanced approach, heavily rewarding players for expert stealth. Waiting in a box for half a game certainly is not for everyone, but the satisfaction of pouncing from the shadows and knifing your opponent isn't really replicated anywhere else in the online world.