We’ve had our Gamecube for just over two weeks now. The games we have for it are Super Mario Sunshine, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Metroid Prime. Mario is currently seeing the most use, partly because Alex loves it, and partly because it’s just a great game. The puzzles are better signposted than in Mario 64, and the game leads you through the plot a bit more linearly. It also seems to have a better “reward” structure than Mario 64. You have to collect fewer shines (stars) before you get to a plot-advancing cut-scene, or a new area opens up. We like.
Metroid Prime is pretty damn good, too. Once I’d got used to the controls (no strafing! Well, there is, but you can’t strafe and run forward at the same time) the game opened up, and showed just how grand it is. The scenery is beautiful and atmospheric, the action is well paced, and–just as with Mario–the reward structure is exceedingly well judged. It keeps you hooked with the tantalising possibilities afforded by new power-ups, which open up more areas for you to explore, which in turn lead to more power-ups…. Very addictive.
The only one of the three that has been a bit of a disappointment is Super Monkey Ball 2. It’s got the “easy to learn, but hard to master” thing down pat, and it’s very easy to pick up for a quick game just before bedtime, but at times it’s just that little bit too frustrating. Also, the party games aren’t very entertaining if you’re playing it on your own. And the time I did have other people to play with, they didn’t turn out to be all that entertaining, either. (On the other hand, they were competing for our attention against 8-way Halo on 2 projector screens.) I suspect that this one may be up for the chop when Zelda comes around in May.
And a final note (for now) on controllers. The original Nintendo GameCube controller is a marvellous piece of functional and tactile design. Even more than the PS2’s DualShock controller, it feels like it is sculpted to your hands. And the octagonal bevels surrounding the joysticks, which allow you to easily lock on to a particular direction, and a stroke of genius. So if you have a choice between buying an original Ninendo controller and a MadCatz MicroCon, go with the Nintendo. Please. The MicroCon is horrid. The joysticks don’t have a decent rubberised surface, so your fingers keep slipping off them, and the buttons feel all clicky and loose–not at all like the finely judged springy resistance of the Nintendo pad. I’m note even sure if its shrunk-down size makes it better suited for smaller hands, because Alex (who is 2) can wrap his hands around the plain Nintendo controller just fine.