Ten Minute Trials is a weekly column, appearing every Sunday, in which I take four games I’ve never played and spend ten minutes with each one. Even a lengthy RPG should do something interesting within that time — if a videogame squanders its precious first impression, then I can’t trust the developers to deliver a satisfying product. With literally thousands of games at my disposal, I have to set some standard to determine which games deserve my time. Ten minutes is that standard.
I remember seeing magazine ads for The Red Star and getting excited, but then the game never came out. Apparently other people also remembered those ads, because XS Games eventually bought the rights and made our dreams come true — and then I didn’t ever play the game after buying it.
Now, after so many years, I have finally played it! But first, a quick tip for HDTV owners: before starting the game, hit the options menu and dial up that Progressive Scan setting, yo.
The Red Star appears to have three playable characters: a man, a girl, and some unlockable chick. I picked the girl, of course, to appease my secret desire to be female. After a loading screen and a mission briefing, my Russian warrior woman was dropped into the tutorial stage. The game did a nice job of training me without boring me; there’s a nice mix of melee and gunnery across multi-directional scrolling stages, reminiscent of Gunstar Heroes. In the first level, I got to gun down several different types of grunts, as well as two multi-segmented bosses.
I’m eager to blast through some more stages. The Red Star hits the A-list.
Okay, so this one is a bit of cheating, since I’ve played the PC version (excellent game, by the way). But! It should be noted that mouse control was critical to the PC game, so I’m at a loss for how this port will handle. To push out a playable product, the developers would have to dramatically overhaul the dice-rolling concept.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find out how this port handles, because the introductory sequence — comprised of gorgeous painted scenes and charming music — lasted longer than ten minutes. But that intro was pretty enough to pique my interest (unlike Xenosaga’s ugly faux-film introduction), so I’ll put this on the C-list.
“I am a super mom.”
“I am a beautiful wife.”
These are the first words of your feisty mother in Okage, as she prepares a secret dinner. But she needs bread! Whether you offer to fetch the bread or try to pawn the errand off on your little sister, it’s off to town. But not before you stop by the table to inspect the weird, smelly bottle that your father brought in. This bottle shall surely be important later.
Fetching a loaf of bread may not sound like an exciting way to spend ten minutes — and maybe it’s not — but I was enthralled. Okage’s wit charmed me (there was a joke of some sort every few seconds), the perky music intrigued me, and the bright, stylized graphics really impressed me. Okage also did a nice job of spicing up the conversations with dialogue choices, so that this really feels like more than “a soundtrack where you tap X”. Where has this game been all my life?
Oh, that’s right . . . it’s been sitting on my shelf for ten years.
Another A-list experience here. I’m going to be busy in the days ahead.
Glorious readers, you may be shocked that I’ve never played Metal Slug, but I’m willing to bet neither have you (unless you’re ECM), since I’m writing about the not-so-glorious 3D version.
Four characters are advertised, but only Marco is available at the start. Tarma, Eri, and Fio can presumably be unlocked, and I’m hoping they vary in ways other than artwork. Marco and his enemies look nice; they’re fluidly animated and feature that “caricature” appearance that Metal Slug’s known for.
The game gives you three blocks of life; lose them all and you’re restarting from a checkpoint. When you continue, the game remembers how much life you had when you reached that checkpoint . . . so if you hit a mid-stage break by the skin of your teeth, then you’ll have to play it safe to survive to the end. That kind of challenge is a good thing, and it’s all too rare nowadays. On the downside, enemies are bullet sponges; I’m cool with knife-fighting, but the guns feel weak in comparison to their 2D counterparts. Worse: twice in ten minutes, the game simply stopped accepting my control input, which was especially irritating while fighting a golden tank.
I hear the game runs fine on a slim PS2; I was playing on a fattie. Consider yourself warned.
Death came quickly, but things got easier once I figured out the “target” button. I made it to the first checkpoint right as ten minutes were expiring. I’m putting this on the C-list. Metal Slug 3D seems promising, but the control issues were annoying and, well, it’s not The Red Star.