Second Impressions — PoP (2008) Additional Thoughts

I’ve already slammed the two major mechanics of this game — the combat and the parkour. What’s left? Here’s a list of stuff that’s crossed my mind as I’ve played, a list both good and bad.

  • Every once in a while I get enough cotton balls to necessitate a return to the temple so Elika can get a new power. But her new power, apparently, is unlocking new game areas. She can also use new magic plates, but this only lets us… access new game areas. Hm. :\ I was hoping for something more fun.
  • I have to say, again, that the game looks great. Beautiful. Cartoon-like. Incredible. Amazing. Such smooth animations. Brilliant colors. Great view distance. Perfect view distance, to be honest. If I could make 100 different games, I would want them all to look like this one.
  • And I also have to say the camera is great. Not perfect. No camera is perfect. I had a moment where my view of the fight I was in was obstructed by the ceiling. But those moments are rare. In a game where you’re running around and changing direction and moving quickly, and you can not only see the beauty of the levels but also see your character and exactly what you’re character is doing and where he needs to go — that’s a good camera.
  • Speaking of, the controls are pretty good, too. I don’t have too much problem managing my character. This is kind of surprising to me because it seems like they are contextually based. And what I mean by that is that if my character is running left-to-right but then the camera shifts so I’m running right-to-left, the game, I should have to change the direction I’m pointing. Or, if I do change, and the game was expecting me to hold the direction, that might lead to a problem too. But both are accommodated for. The only problem I had was when I was in a vertical chute trying to climb upward. Every time I tried to jump up, because of the angle, my character would jump off the ledge to the left. Again, those are rare moments.
  • I do have a slight problem with some of the art clues. I was hanging from a ledge and noticed a platform below me. I stuck my clawed hand to the wall and slid down to — and through — the platform, and died. Woops. Bad artist. Another time, there were some withered vines on the wall and they looked like lo-res textures so I figured that meant to stay away from them. But no, they were where I needed to go. And then there are the times where I drop down and stand on a ledge, only to throw my arm up and have Elika whisk me back to the start.
  • I knew I had to go there, by the way, because of Elika’s compass power. Dumb name for an ability, but super useful. I really appreciate it and use it very frequently. I wish the past Persia’s had that one!
  • Dialogue strikes me as Harrison Ford out of Indiana Jones or Star Wars. He’s full of quips and never takes anything seriously. For example, the Prince makes the comment, after fighting the Princess’ angry father, “Next time you want to win your daughter back, try a pony. The apocalypse isn’t cutting it.” Or “I’ve lost my donkey, I fell down a cliff, and had a rock drop on my head. I’m not in a good mood.” That’s fine and dandy. Very Disney. But when the Prince doesn’t let his guard down or show any sincerity, I do wonder why the Princess is falling for him.
  • Speaking of the dialogue, have I mentioned what an awful idea their dialogue system is? No? Then let’s mention it! As critical story hubs, like just after beating an opponent, there’s a little pop-up that says, “Press [LT] or [LB] to talk to Elika.” You do, and she says a line or two. Then you do it again and there’s another line or two. The end result is that you spam [LT] and/or [LB] until they start repeating themselves or making comments about the grassy fields. I’d much rather have a scene that I would watch (or skip) instead of having this faux-interactive exposition.
  • Speaking of the dialogue, again, every line or two that you evoke is its own stand-alone bit. So sometimes, we get incongruities like the Prince saying “I’m not going to die” and the Princess starting the next bit with “You’re not going to die.”
  • The worst bug I’ve found so far was completely random and I don’t think I could repeat it. I jumped down from a ledge and hit [LT] to fire a dialogue. I think that must have frozen Elika in place, back up where I had jumped from. I spun around a few times to see if she would pop to my location, and she finally did — but she was frozen in a pose and stuck to the wall. From there, I tried to jump across a ledge and used [Y] to double my jump. It’s supposed to make her appear, catch me, and then fling me farther. I played the animations as if she was there, but I saw nothing. It was strange but corrected itself a moment later.
  • Another bug, I had a combat fall out of sync in regard to the animations. I threw my gloved-arm up in the air, and then brought it down fast. A moment later, the opponent flew up into the air and then was slammed down. Again, it corrected itself after a few moments. Still strange. Or there was the time I had to turn two separate cranks to get through a puzzle. The Prince isn’t strong enough to turn the crank on his own, so he gets the Princess to help. Except — every time I ran over to the crank on the right, the Princess would stay by the crank on the left for a few seconds, then pop over to the other crank. I can only guess she could not figure out how to pathfind over to my location — but this happened every time I used that crank.

After these last three posts about PoP, some might wonder why I’m still playing. As sad as it sounds, I like how it looks. I feel invested into the story and want to see how it plays out. Predictable ending or not, it’s still fun to see the details along the way. And I like collecting the white fuzzies while unrealistically, QTE parkour-ing my way around the levels. The fighting is frustrating, but now that I’ve looked up some online strategies, I am curious to see if they will make a difference. Plus, PoP isn’t supposed to be a very long game so I can’t imagine that there’s much left to it. Or maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment. Hey, I’ve written more words about this game than the past few I’ve played, so maybe that along was worth the purchase price.

2 thoughts on “Second Impressions — PoP (2008) Additional Thoughts

  1. You should post screenshots from your gameplay when you can (obviously difficult for xbox) to help break up the big blocks of text.

    Did you read the review of PoP on Twenty-Sided? Shamus came away with a much better opinion of the game, though his review was based on an analysis of ease of entry for casual gamers versus hardcore gamers.

  2. I love breaking up posts with pictures but I rarely do it because, like you said, it’s hard with the 360. If I was hooked up via the PC I could do it but not so in my current set up. But I’ll see what I can do in the future. Maybe I can use stock photos. Or maybe I can even try for breaking up a post into multiple, smaller posts.

    I dodged Shamus’ review of PoP because I didn’t want to spoil myself, but I do remember reading one bit where he said how much he enjoyed the lack of punishment for failure.

    I can strongly agree with that point. I hate being punished for failure. Now, I *do* believe failure should exist in games *and* have consequences, but “you failed, go back to the last save point and re-play all that old content” is not a good consequence. That’s boring.

    So in that sense, I like the approach PoP took. I just don’t like the largely QTE-derivative gameplay. I should clarify, there, that I think QTEs can work and have worked, and I’m excited to play Heavy Rain. I just think it fails in PoP.

    But now that you remind me, I’ll make a note to head over to twenty sided and give it a read.

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