Well, I've been a busy boy this past month! I've fully embraced modern gaming, it would seem. Either that or I've been lucky enough to pop my head in at a time when a bunch of great games have turned up.
I finished Mass Effect, which pleasingly lived up to all my expectations and hopes. The climactic few hours are just stunning. I've left off getting stuck into a clear game playthrough for the moment, because I've got enough else on my plate - and I don't want to overdose on one game. Completely unexpectedly I've become engrossed in Tomb Raider Anniversary on the 360. I've never liked the Tomb Raider games before, mainly due to the awful control scheme. I tried the first one on the Playstation and just couldn't get on with it at all. As each successive one came out and I heard that they hadn't altered the controls I never bothered. With Legend a couple of years ago they finally entered the modern age and gave Lara Croft a control scheme to fit a 3D action game, but I was too prejudiced against the series by then to care.
Fast forward to my current love-in with the 360 and I off-handedly decided to try Anniversary (essentially a remake/remix of the original game). It's excellent! Very much focused on large-scale puzzle solving rather than combat, and it has a great sense of exploration and ancient mystery. I'm quite fascinated by archaeology and ancient cultures to start with, so it's especially a treat to play a game immersed in that ideal. It's also very satisfying to be presented with puzzles, think them through a bit then solve them without either getting hopelessly stuck or frustrated. There's a nice natural progression to the solutions.
Anniversary is really just an upscaled last-gen game though. It's nice looking, but I find myself genuinely excited about the next Tomb Raider game - the first made specifically for the new generation of machines. It took a while, Ms. Croft, but you've won me over.
On a somewhat similar note, I picked up a PS3 and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. I suppose it could be put in the same broad category as Tomb Raider... exploration, ancient treasure hunting, combat... but it's much more focused towards the combat. In fact, what little puzzling there has been so far is so rudimentary as to not really count. This is not a bad thing though, as the action is incredibly fun. It takes the now standard over-the-shoulder perspective for the action, complete with matching cover system. It's utterly gorgeous, and even the acting and characterizations are spot-on. It really is like playing an action adventure film.
To round off this entry there's the Wii and Super Mario Galaxy. This is the only game I wanted for the Wii, and it's easily worth the price of the machine. It's absolutely stunning in every way. Within moments the controls are second nature and you're completely immersed in this beautiful, imaginative world. The game throws an amazing amount of good stuff at you, but it doesn't linger on anything. Another developer would take some of the ideas present in Galaxy and string them out over a whole game. Not here - and it works to ensure that you're constantly delighted and surprised. Visually it's leaps and bounds over anything else I've seen on the system, and that's down to a particularly vibrant and appealing style that plays to the strengths of the machine perfectly. This is without a doubt the finest platform game since Super Mario 64, over 10 years ago.