Troma Night CLXI – Tonight

CHANGE OF PLANS: All of the tickets for Pan’s Labyrinth are sold out. For those that didn’t get a ticket in time and for those that weren’t coming to Pan’s Labyrinth anyway, Troma Night now starts as usual at The Cottage at 8pm. Tell anybody who might not know.

Tonight is the 161st Troma Night (based on liberal estimation and basic guesswork), and it’s a somewhat unusual one. The plan is as follows:

  • 8:00 pm – start at the Arts Centre for the stunning-looking Pan’s Labyrinth. Yes, this means that we won’t be ordering pizza at 8pm: instead, I suggest that people either (A) eat beforehand or (B) have a snack beforehand to keep them going, and we’ll order pizza later. I suspect I’ll be doing option B.
  • 10:20 pm – return to The Cottage, order pizza for anybody who’s hungry, and watch something else. I propose an MST3K, or perhaps one of the B-movies Jimmy provided some weeks back, because I anticipate that something silly, bad, and/or funny will be quite welcome after the psychological thriller than Pan’s Labyrinth is likely to be, but I’m open to suggestions and I’m happy to do things democratically.

If there’s anybody who doesn’t want to come along to Pan’s Labyrinth but does want to come for the rest, let me know and I can give you a bell when we leave the cinema, so you can meet us in a timely fashion. But really, you should come.

The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Well, that’s Twilight Princess for the Wii finished. And quite a spectacular game it was too. Highlights [warning: spoilers] include:

  • Predictably Zelda: many of the best elements of Zelda games gone by made it into Twilight Princess, so much so that the predictability of some of the plot elements will make accomplished players groan, such as the "you must collect 3 parts of this, scattered throughout the land," "you must restore power to the Master Sword," and the "if you’ve just got a new weapon, you’ll need it to escape the room you found it in and to beat the boss of the dungeon you’re in right now" cliches.

  • Replay value: having finished it, there are still several things I’d like to go back and do again, do better, or actually do. Disappointingly, by comparison to Wind Waker, there is no option to save progress having defeated the final boss and carry on playing: instead, I’ll have to use my just-pre-boss save game as a springboard to explore the things I didn’t get a chance to do earlier, which feels somehow incomplete, but nonetheless I’m looking forward to trying out a few extra things.

  • Music: yes, it’s a Zelda game. There’s not so much emphasis on musical puzzles as there was in, say, Ocarina, but there’s still some (mostly related to transforming into a wolf and howling at stones, which gets to be just about challenging enough to keep you amused, by the end of the game). As usual, the soundtrack is stunning.

  • Imaginatively-designed bosses: some of the monsters you’ll fight are particularly interesting. A whole selection of varied fight scenes litter the game: jousting against a monster on a boar’s back across a flaming bridge; tripping over a balrog-like beast by strategically grabbing the chains around it’s ankles so that you can reach it’s face; and swinging around – Spiderman-style – from towers in order to gain altitude on a dragon are three of my favourites, but there are plenty more great fight scenes.

  • Controls: the Wii release of the game makes great use of the unusual Wii controllers: typically, the nunchuck "stick", in the player’s left hand, is used to move around (or look around, in some modes), and the right-hand "Wiimote"  is swung in order to move Link’s sword, or aimed at the screen either as a cursor (for choosing weapons and items from the inventory, options in the menu, etc.) or as a crosshair (for firing the bow and arrow, for instance). There’s a great variety of clever special moves to be learned, and while the swordfighting can be a little cumbersome at first, the learning curve is shallow enough. Later on, you’ll be flicking the Wiimote and the nunchuck in unison to perform advanced moves – rolling around your enemy to strike them from behind, knocking them off balance with your shield, and Link’s signature "spin attack," for example. The bait fishing puzzle is a little simplistic, but the lure fishing (which you’ll discover far later in the game), which makes use of both controllers – one as the rod, and one as the reel – is a satisfying example of the kinds of things that Wii developers will be giving us plenty of in the near future.

Stuff that wasn’t so great:

  • Fighting one particular boss involves swimming around in 3D space while avoiding the tentacles of a huge aquatic beast. Now that’s all fine and a great idea for a boss, but it feels somewhat clunky in implementation: it’s hard to see where the tentacles are and if you’re in range of them, as they seem to suddenly "jump" around without fluid animation.

  • Like all the recent Zelda games, Twilight Princess has an extended "tutorial" period, which gradually opens up into the full game, but Twilight’s feels longer than it needs to be, and it feels a little like it’s holding your hand for a bit too long. This could simply be because it’s been released on a new console which Nintendo are hoping will attract new players to videogaming, and they wanted to reduce the initial complexity of the game, of course, but nonetheless: by adding more small mini-quests in the early part of the game – things that experienced players could to in order to feel like they’re in control of their own destiny, and not just following instructions from the other characters – would have been nice. I remember playing a little Morrowind on the PC, and being pleased to find that on my way to the first destination of my quest, I was able to wander off course and help (or hurt) numerous other characters in the game world, getting back "on track" whenever it suited me. I know that’s not what Zelda’s aiming for, but even Wind Waker felt more like it was open-ended and free, even early on (although having a boat and an entire ocean of islands ahead of you will have been a major factor in that). Just a minor rant, of course.

Total playtime for me was about 43 hours, but I’ve left a few stones unturned. In any case, a highly satisfying game and very recommendable. If you own a Wii but don’t own Twilight Princess, get it. If you don’t own a Wii, consider getting one to play Twilight Princess.