Bargain Bin: Take Turns Edition

Browsing through Gamestop last weekend, I spent some time staring longingly at the new copies of Dragon Quest 4. Being a huge fan of old style RPGs and turn-based gameplay in general, I was tempted to purchase the game right there and then. I only make $100 every two weeks, and with bills and gas to pay for, that doesn’t leave a lot of leeway for overly priced, albeit cool, video games at the moment. That in mind, I’ve taken it upon myself to use this week’s Bargain Bin to point you toward some of the more affordable, yet still awesome turn-based games you can play on the go.

Metal Gear Acid 1 and 2

While not official entries into the Metal Gear Solid canon, the Metal Gear Acid games are to date two of the most creative entries in the franchise. Playing very much like a turn-based strategy game or even a tactical RPG, the games combine the stealth centered action of the main series with turn-based actions, and most oddly, playing cards. Every action the player makes requires the use of a playing card which is drawn from a virtual deck the player can customize. Cards can be earned in any variety of ways: by completing missions, throughout the various maps that make up both games, and most commonly by purchasing them with points earned by completing missions.

The game play is fun, addictive, and easy to pick up for veterans of most any turn-based game. What makes the Acid games interesting is that unlike most other games that rely on turn-based strategy, the goal is often not to kill your enemies but, in true Metal Gear form, to sneak past them undetected. This focus makes the game a far more versatile beast; while there are some standard search and destroy missions in which Snake must wipe out his foes, the sneaking missions challenge the player to eek out new strategies. Furthermore the ability to customize your deck allows you to shape Snake’s abilities to your personal style. It is perfectly possible, if not advisable, to make Snake into a tank, and have him plow through each mission heedless of any semblance of stealth.

The missions are in no short supply either. Ditching the relatively story-heavy tendencies of their kin, the Acid games revolve far more around the gameplay, and offer a lot of replayability.

Aesthetically, the game is also very nice, featuring some good character models and relatively detailed maps that do the generally high-quality visuals of the Metal Gear games justice. The music is a bit of a non-presence, but it’s a slight complaint against the countless things the games do well. In fact the most disappointing thing about these games is that there probably aren’t going to be anymore. Despite some good critical reception, the Metal Gear Acid games were met poorly by series fans hoping for a more traditional MGS experience. Having played Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops however, and acknowledging it as a good game, I must say the Acid games are better. They work around the limitations of the PSP in creative ways and use its strengths to fashion a fun, challenging and unique gaming experience. Above all else, the games are incredibly affordable for the package you’re getting. I suppose some good things can come from a series not catching on with people.

  • Metal Gear Acid
    • Amazon (Note: used Amazon prices are subject to change)
      • Used – $7.00
    • Gamestop
      • Used – $9.99
  • Metal Gear Acid 2
    • Amazon (Note: used Amazon prices are subject to change)
      • Used – $7.44
    • Gamestop
      • Used – $8.99

Orcs and Elves DS

Harkening back to the days of dungeon crawling, Orcs and Elves DS is a port of a cell phone game from the makers of Doom RPG. It’s one in an ever-increasing line of games using the DS to help reinvigorate styles of gaming that have long since been put out pasture. Orcs and Elves DS is far from the best of the new dungeon crawlers, but it is also far from the worst. It is essentially a role-playing game for someone who has never, and may never again, play an RPG. There are varying difficulties available in the game, but for the most part, veterans of the genre are not going to have a tough time on any level of challenge making it through this game.

Which isn’t to say the game isn’t enjoyable. This is the Bargain Bin remember, and even if a game is cheap, it’s still a waste of money if it isn’t fun. The amusement the player derives from Orcs and Elves is a product of a few factors. Even though the combat is relatively easy, it’s still fun. Killing the various monsters that you face never really gets old. More so, the game scores points as many dungeon crawlers have from the sheer thrill one gets via exploring. As you enter each new level, you simply want to go further. You want to solve the puzzles and mazes that make up the game. You want to find out what lies behind each new corner.

Finally, the story and writing of Orcs and Elves are a pure joy. The plot is about as clichéd as they come, but the game revels in its clichés. The Orcs are extra evil, the dwarves are extra dwarfish and you, like so many other RPG protagonists in the past, never speak a word. Indeed, rather than giving the player any dialog, the game gives most of the lines to Ellon, your talking magic wand. It’s a kooky choice that elicits more than a few chuckles throughout the game. Orcs and Elves is simply a game designed for people who want a nice, breezy adventure, built around simple yet fun play mechanics that just about anyone could master.

There are some problems of course. The visuals are very inconsistent and barely muster average. The environments are all in 3D that looks like it was ripped out of Doom. The dwarves you encounter throughout are also in 3D, but they all share the same character model and the enemies are all hand-drawn 2D that at times are downright ugly. The sound additionally is some of the worst I’ve heard in a modern game. The music and effects all could have been produced on the original Game Boy with little trouble. It isn’t for people who need there game’s to look and sound good.

Overall, I doubt you’ll play Orcs and Elves more than once. I loved the game but I haven’t touched since I first beat it. That being said, if you walk into your local Gamestop right now there is likely to be a brand new copy sitting there for $10. A fun to play game for $10; it seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • Amazon (Note: Used Amazon prices are subject to change)
    • New – $29.79
    • Used – $5.89
  • Gamestop
    • New – $9.99
    • Used – $8.99

Games to Avoid:

I heaped a lot of praise on Metal Gear Acid this edition. That said, if you own a PSP and you’re interested in some Metal Gear action, one game to avoid is most definitely Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus. Now don’t be mistaken, I loved Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. The Plus edition of the game, however, is a complete rip off that essentially removes the entire story mode of the original game, and leaves you with an experience based around the less than stellar online mode. I don’t know about you, but when I think "online shooter," I don’t think of my PSP. Accordingly, I would be hard pressed to recommend a game based primarily around that kind of play. It may be $20 and it might wear the Metal Gear Solid name, but Portable Ops Plus isn’t worth the cash.

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