We completed UnderGarden last night, and in the 100% all achievements way. The last level proved to have some frustrating sections, made frustrating by the one screen co-op during the current sections where strong currents hurtle you along at great speed leading the the secondary player to be constantly disappearing and re-spawning. However it wasn’t so frustrating as to spoil our fun of the game and we immediatly plunged into the DLC levels which cost a stupidly low 140 MSP. These additional levels are frankly, HUGE. Massive areas with special flowers and musicians. However for some reason these collectables were not required to get the achievement. You just had to get to the end which seemed a little odd. Still we need to unlock the last two crystals in each level and we are yet to work out how to do so for teh final achievement, so we’ll be puzzling away on those tonight.
The Lego games could really learn from UnderGarden when it comes to Achievements, we were able to unlock them all whilst playing co-op and never had to return in single player to pick any up. That’s one of the worst thing in all the Lego games, they need to fully embrace the co-op aspect. Conversely UnderGarden could do with taking up Legos handling of co-op screens. Single screen when possible then split screen when you separate. I know why they’ve done it, being able to separate would make a few of the puzzles far easier to solve removing timing elements, but reworking these would be far more satisfying than the constant re-spawning of the second player, often at really bad times that knock the main player off at a critical moment.
But as I said, overall we still really enjoy UnderGarden, and anyone who enjoys some light puzzling with charming game play really should pick up a copy from the Live Arcade or PSN.
We’ve always been big fans of the modern Lego games, ever since the original Star Wars adaptations that we played on the Wii, back before we considered ourselves console gamers. In many ways they are the perfect couples games, as I have written in the past such as this article available on The Digital Cowboys website.
The games took a good step forward in playability with the relatively recent Indy Jones 2 introducing some key aspects to improve the co-op game play such at the attach/detach split screen. And now the Harry Potter (Years 1-4) game has gone even further keeping the fun level high and being faithful to the source material, whilst still injecting the essential Lego charm that keeps the games feeling fresh. It is perhaps the perfect example of the power of restrictions on developers. They have their story given to them, their characters can’t articulate past the odd grunt, laugh or mumbled “I don’t know”, and yet they feel more alive than most of the characters the Unreal Engine powered games have had to inspire us with over the years.
These days we play on the 360, and this has the added fun of earning achievements as we go, as well as having some fun ones to drop back into a completed game save to pick up. Almost always fun, and with some excellent naming such as this titles ‘Solid Snape’ which you get to sneaking around in a barrel as Professor Snape. However there is a two edges sword aspect to the achievements when it comes to playing as a couple. There is a large proportion on the achievements tagged as “(Single Player Only)” which basically means whoevers save game it is gets all the achievements, whilst the second player only gets achievements that occur during any given gaming session. This is a real drawback, and requires the other person to then have to play through the whole game again on their own save file to obtain the missing ones. And as fun as we find the Lego games, playing them through once on Story mode and once in Free Play is enough for us. We really could do with an option to start a co-op only save, which can only be loaded when both players are signed into the XBOX but would allow both players to obtain all achievements.
With more Lego games on the way, Pirates of the Caribbean sounding like another good source for a Lego game, we’ll definitely be ploughing more hours into these titles, so with any luck things will become slightly more co-op friendly for the series which is probably at the forefront of co-op couples gameplay.