Saturday, March 27, 2010

AA / 360 Game Room look - Shao-Lin's Road

Despite my issues with the Xbox 360 Game Room service I find myself drawn to giving it monetary support which is really all that matters. Rather than discuss my hypocrisy I'd like to talk about this obscure little number by Konami.

Shao-Lin's Road or Kicker is considered a sequel of sorts to Yie-ar-Kung-Fu. While that game was a 1 on 1 combat game(I hesitate to call it a fighting game) this one is more along the lines of platformers like Bubble Bobble. The goal is very simple as all the player must do is perform kicks(standing or jumping) on all of the thugs. These baddies are your garden-variety karate dudes and they'll attack in kind with jump-kicks, thrown-weapons, and a few other attacks. Every other stage the player contends with a boss of sorts though usually all this means is that he/she has a couple more attacks and takes several hits instead of just one.

One thing I've noticed about a lot of older arcade games is that at times it feels like the gamer should have at one time played the game in the past in order to immediately get any enjoyment out of it today. It's not a matter of nostalgia so much as it's about accessibility and appeal. Shao-Lin's Road does not fall under this classification as despite my never playing it before I discovered that's fun and features just the right mix of challenge.

Challenge in an arcade game should be a balanced mix of the difficulty it takes to beat a game as well as the skill and knowledge required to master it and attain a high-score. Some games force all of the challenge into simply being able to complete the game and for me at least that just isn't good game design. If you fail to beat an arcade game and have to start over you should be able to put the things you learned in later stages to make earlier stages go by faster and collect more points. This constant feeling of progress will only lead to more enjoyment as it gives incentive for gamers to work for more than just an ending.

Shao-Lin's road is a perfect example of this thanks to its scoring system. Kicking a bad guy while standing only gets the player 200 points. However if they perform a jump-kick, kick multiple enemies in a row, kick thrown objects or enemies in the middle of an attack the player will gain more points. In the early levels the player can focus on situations where they can put the more advanced moves to work while on harder stages they can play it safer until they get a better understanding of when to go for score without threatening their chances of survival. Shao-Lin's road is a fairly easy game if the player ignores the scoring system and it's still entertaining as the player isn't forced to score well if they're expecting to have any fun.

If you haven't already I highly recommend giving this game a look. At the most it's ten minutes of your time and while it won't knock you over with incredible game design it's comfortable with what works and it's fun on any level.

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