Quick Dismissals, I Mean Looks: HAWX and Onechanbara: Samurai Bikini Squad

I really like the word stymie. I think I first came across it while playing an old tabletop role-playing game called TORG, where it was a game mechanic that happened to your characters, setting them back from beating the bad guys. Games, especially video games, are of course all about putting up challenges and having the players overcome them. But stymieing someone is more than just challenging them: it's making things so difficult that they want or are forced to give up. Last week I played two games that just totally stymied me – neither because the game play involved was challenging, but rather because the lack of fun totally stymied me, forcing me to quit playing them.

First off, there's Tom Clancy's HAWX, an air-combat simulation game that seems solid and typical of the genre, reminding me a lot of Ace Combat 6, another game I couldn't get into. It's this weird sub-genre of fighter plane sims where you're flying carefully modeled real world fighter jets in realistically modeled worlds, except to make it a fun game instead of a real simulation of modern air combat, your jets carry 260 missiles instead of like, 6 or 8 as they might in the real world. That's absolutely necessary I think for making a fun game, because only getting a half-dozen shots before heading home would suck. But the core game play of HAWX is just so strangely dull. You're in a carefully digitally modeled jet attacking what I presume are other carefully modeled jets and tanks and helicopters, but you're engaging them from such distances that all you really do is wait for your yellow radar diamond to turn red, indicating lock on. Then you hit the fire button once, maybe twice to be sure, and th missile homes in on your target, which usually explodes. So the game comes down mostly to watching yellow diamonds creep across the screen and turn red. I. Just. Don't. Care.

There's more to this game, and I'm not giving it a fair shake here, I admit that. And it's not just because Tom Clancy was once a total asshole to a friend of mine (although he totally was). I just was bored from moment one, and a couple hours later was still bored. The near future, private military contractors storyline is uninspired and uninteresting. The pacing is a weird mix of seeming to slowly creep across the giant levels until you get right up on the enemies and find you're going super fast, which is an issue inherent in the scale at which these kinds of encounters take place. Also, it didn't help that it crashed my X-Box every other time I tried to load it. Other people say the co-op multi-player is a lot of fun. It's been getting decent reviews. If you love you some jets, give it a shot. I was stymied.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Oncechanbara: Samurai Bikini Squad, which has a totally awesome premise (women in bikini's with samurai swords fighting zombies) and is yet just a totally shitty game. First off, my big personal annoyance – for whatever reason this game never awarded my the X-Box Live Achievements I was supposed to be accruing for my bloody victories. What the hell? Achievements were the only reason to keep playing once the novelty of the bikini-clad ponderous breasts jiggling physics had worn off. I suggest you spend your time and save your money by just perusing Deviant Art instead (NSFW).

To sum up: you and your sister are bikini-clad heroines with some magic blood that makes you kick extra ass. Zombies are overrunning the city. You need to chop them up by hitting the A button over and over again. Occasionally you'll have to stop chopping long enough to flick the blood off your sword, otherwise it'll get stuck in the bodies of your foes. You can unlock new skimpy out fits to play dress up with. Later in the game you also get to play a third hot woman who wields an Uzi in one hand and a Shotgun in the other and does this weird shimmy/ass shake thing when she reloads. You'll pass through the same levels going different directions, you'll suffer through inscrutable storytelling. The novelty will wear of pretty quick, to the point where not even riding a motorcycle while chopping zombie dogs seems exciting anymore. Your frustration and disgust with the sloppy design and repetitive game play will make you want to quit, and then you will. You will be stymied, just like me.

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