Wow, I didn't realize that #5 was way back in January! Where did 9 months go??
(I'll tell you, after soaking my eyeballs in HD graphics for that long, PS2 games take a little getting used to again. They look muddy and dull at first, but after awhile you get back into appreciating the older graphics.)
Checking my PS2 collection and where I left off, my next games on the shelf were
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (KCET\Konami\2003) and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (Konami\Konami\2005) - I know I played a little of one of these games, but I'm not sure which one. However, it really doesn't matter - I have something against Castlevania games in general. I've never been able to explain it or understand why, but they've never really caught my interest. (So why did I buy these? Probably to have a more complete collection is my only defense.)
Champions of Norrath (Snowblind\SOE\2004) and Champions: Return to Arms (Snowblind\SOE\2005) - Back in the day, my brother and I turned to these games as a suitable sequel to Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance. They were, in fact, made by the same designers (while BG:DA2 was done by a less capable developer). I'm not sure how far we got, but I know we never finished them. They are great co-op games, however the lack of a "jump" button makes for some needless frustration when you can't get over a small obstacle. I suspect that I will dig deeply into Champions of Norrath one day and finish it. But not this day...
Clock Tower 3 (Sunsoft\Capcom\2003) - This one proved to be an interesting blast from the past. You play as Alyssa Hamilton, a teenage girl who was sent away to boarding school, but returns home to find her mother missing and a strange (and scary) man in her house. She shortly finds herself in the position of being a Buffy-esque fighter against evil, dealing with infamous killers from various historical times. These hulking brutes are possessed by evil forces that feed off the souls of the killer's victims. She also has to put spirits (ie, ghosts) to rest by returning sentimental objects to their rightful place. The gameplay is very reminiscent of Resident Evil (not a big surprise being a Capcom game) with fixed camera angles, but better overall character control - even stairs are handled much better. You don't have guns or other weapons, but use Holy Water to ward off enemies and open sealed doors. A Panic Meter acts as a health bar - get it too full and Alyssa freaks out, making her susceptible to being killed. Other than that, it's a matter of finding objects to open areas or things and solving simple puzzles. But the stories are what caught my attention. The designers of the this game did not shy away from brutality. The first entity you have to defeat is a huge man who killed a child with a giant sledge hammer and the second one throws people (including an old blind woman) into vats of acid - oh, and pours more acid on them! The graphics aren't very detailed (this is an early PS2 game) so you don't see any gore, but the nature of the crimes is more than a little disturbing. Unfortunately, I only got to the second "boss" before I got stuck - this is one of those Japanese games that shows no mercy. After 4 or 5 attempts at a fight that lasted over 10 minutes each time, I called it quits.
Cold Fear (Darkworks\Ubisoft\2005) - The easiest way to describe Cold Fear is as a lost Resident Evil game set on a ship instead of in an old mansion. But while the setting is unique and presents its own flavor to the game play (the screen is constantly rocking back and forth), playing the game is not as entertaining as even the tankiest portions of RE. The worst part is that for some reason, the developers either chose not to have in-game maps or were unable to implement them due to budget or time constraints. Instead, the three maps of the ship you are stumbling around on are reproduced on one-page of the manual. Without any other sort of guidance (ie, waypoints), it's often frustrating to figure out which direction you should be heading in, especially when the camera angle keeps changing when you move around. A promising survival horror game done in by unfortunate design decisions.
Cold Winter (Swordfish Studios\Sierra(VU)\2005) - I don't know why, but this was one of those PS2 titles that I always an aversion to. I didn't really know anything about it, but for some reason I thought it was an espionage-style game - something with little action and dull interactions with spies and embassies. It never occurred to me that it was more like Goldeneye and Time Splitters. And I'd never have known this without going through my collection alphabetically. (It's lucky it wasn't called Winter Cold!) The game is set in China first, where you rather undiplomaticaly dispatch a whole bunch of Chinese soldiers escaping from their prison. Honestly, I thought they would have picked a slightly more contentious location like North Korea. As FPS's on the PS2 go, this one handles very well. Character models aren't perfect, but they do react to head shots. I'm playing on Amateur (ie, easy) and I manged not to die during the whole first chapter. Starting the second chapter in the Middle East, I can start to see a lot of duplicated assets like the gun emplacements, but it still holds up. Another plus is that Tom Baker is doing some of the voice work. I'll play any game where he's talking!
Now, I'm going to stop playing Cold Winter and my other PS2 games for the time being while I get my Elgato capture device hooked up. I want to start capturing my gameplay in order to show it here and also be able to watch it later. Do I need to? No, but since I can, I feel that I should at least try. The world of gaming is changing (again) and it almost feels like its written word is incomplete without a video record to go with it.