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colors: in monochrome September 13, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in farcical review bullshit.


Did you know the DS has a pressure-sensitive screen? 

Look, Colors.

This kind of freeform gaming is exactly what we need; a step towards the future, a symbol of our own personal quests towards a brighter and better future. With more colours. Which is exactly why this review should be in monochrome, lest we forget what colours do for us.

So the thing about the world’s current hypnotised obsession with 3D graphics is that it’s losing a lot of the spark that existed in the day of the 2D world, when polygons were just a novelty that looked mostly like concentrated ass (surely you remember how asstastic Alone in the Dark looked). Now we’ve reached the depressing stage where 2D’s just a novelty.

You know, a good dose of 2D is exactly what we need from time to time, even if only to remind ourselves that we live in a world that’s largely three-dimensional; do you think that maybe, just maybe, we don’t need this emulated in every single game we pick up?

The funniest thing is; my income relates directly to our current sickly obsession with 3D art. Or should I say — my erstwhile income?

I certainly don’t mind when 3D’s done well (let me introduce you to a close personal friend of mine; the King of All Cosmos; his sense of style is ineffable and effortless; his world is the perfect incarnation of a 3D world that’s so perfectly conceived it’s almost 2D), but lately it seems we’re getting to the point where all we’re doing is going through the motions of a technical exercise; more polygons! more normal maps! more textures! And bigger! Quite frankly, I could care less if the characters I’m playing with look like real people. I could care even less if the characters I’m making look like real people.

My next point: the DS isn’t the best system in the world for 3D graphics, and I like that about it. Forget the hyperpoly (it’s like hyperbole, really) bull, how about that?

That this game-that-is-not-a-game gives us more opportunity for interactivity than most games do says a lot about the medium. Really.

Let’s just look at the touchscreen; the gimmick that’s making me pick up my DS (which I paid for) more than my PSP (which I didn’t).

Prodding at the DS, you might say the touchscreen is the fundamental mechanic that makes this machine a new beast. Not the dual screens, no. Those are just resolution extensions. But the touchscreen, which I was too reserved to embrace, wormed its way into my ratings; I think it has a lot of potential. We’re just not using it that way. Yet. It’s still young, it may grow.

The one thing I’ve seen the pressure sensitivity used for is a Japanese calligraphy teaching game; at least, I think it’s pressure sensitive. 

Were you one of the lucky people who had the glorious goodfortune to play in monochrome, before the world was wowed by 4 colour CGA, before the world was wowed by WoW?

I had an Apple II; it had two colours, green and a murky brown that passed muster for black in the night. It had games like Space Invaders and Wavy Navy that had ships that were ten, twenty pixels or so, but I could tell those ships were ships, and everyone along with me. And the games were pretty damn fun to play.

What exactly has colour given us? At first we had the pure remarkability of having 4 colours onscreen, then 16, then 256, then millions, the sharpness and crispness of our images expanding exponentially with each iteration of monitor divinity. I don’t think the same sense exists with HD; it’s very pretty, but it hasn’t blown people away quite the same way.

But what has it done for gaming?

Years after the Apple II+, I played Tetris on a beastly 386; it was in VGA, wonderful. Not so long after that, I played it on one of those monochrome Tetris monoclone machines that were flooding Asia and quite possibly the entire world, and — it didn’t make a difference.

We’re not doing enough with the potential of colour, just like how we’re not really doing anything with the pressure-sensitive screen of the DS, a miniature Cintiq if ever there were one (my 400 dollar PDA doesn’t have a pressure-sensitive screen for god’s sake).

I draw a grid on my DS screen. I put a cross in it, then a circle, another cross, until I’m at an impasse. Then it hits me; I’m free to do whatever I want in this game, and the lack of limitations is killing me.

What to do, where to go, how to do it? I don’t know. I plot out a little chart on the screen tracking my potential career progression. It bisects the screen neatly. Bottom-left, meet upper-right. At least we’re optimistic.

I start planning tomorrow’s schedule; finish my resume, polish my portfolio, do something productive. Suddenly it hits me; I don’t have that much left to do.

I trace a line around my DS’s insensitive screen. It takes a while before I realise I’m re-enacting a scene from Tron: Light Cycles. I close my DS.

Today’s over. Turn out the lights.

Colors! It could be the best game you’ll play all year.



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