My only problem with profanity is that after repeated use it is no longer suitable for its original function. You run around in life dropping f-bombs left and right to friends and colleagues, and then when you find a situation that really calls for a wholehearted “Fuck your moms, mutherfucker!”, the desired effect has been diluted. Even a “No, seriously, fuck your moms, mutherfucker!” isn't going to cut it, though it's a step in the right direction.
We face a similar difficulty with praise. The widespread abuse of the word “awesome” has deprived me of the one word meet to describe Castle Crashers. Here's the deal: Castle Crashers is awesome. Not “this icecream is really tasty” awesome, awesome awesome. Hitler's-head-exploding-into-pieces-at-the-end-of-Bionic-Commando-awesome. Ninja-Turtles-when-you're-nine awesome. I could go on and on about all the small details the game gets right, how viciously splendid the animation is, etc., but this game just obviates the need for critical analysis. Go buy it. Buy the trial version if you must, but you're lying to yourself if you think you're going to be able to restrain your desire for this game after a level.
One thing I've been noticing a lot recently is the steady infiltration of RPG elements into nearly every game genre. When I first played Symphony of the Night two years ago (I know, I know, I'm late to the party), I remember this distinct shock when I attacked my first enemy and saw a colored number pop up over their head. Here was a franchise built on the solid rock of whipping medusa heads, and now math was thrown into the equation. It works. Konami had done something pretty revolutionary by grafting leveling up and inventory management onto its side-scrolling action.
What Konami realized, I think, is that people don't love the gameplay of classic console RPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest because they love constant random enemy encounters. The basic problem with these games is that the grind is so stultifying that you end up looking for anything else-- the out-of date issues of Survey Quarterly, Anna Karenina, a cereal box, anything-- to keep your attention during the combat. We submit to the grind because RPGs provide a distinct sense of ownership over your character, because you are given all these tools to selectively shape the character's progress and abilities over the course of the game. This aspect of the genre's gameplay is detachable and can be transposed into genres with entirely different game-play structures.
Over the past few years we've been seeing a double-movement towards the convergence of action and role-playing mechanics inspired by this approach. From one side, you have (primarily American-designed) RPGs-- Mass Effect, Too Human, and so on-- that have incorporated more action elements into their design in place of random turn-based combat
And from the other side we have all these sorts of new action games that build persistent developmental elements into traditional action gameplay. There's nary a character action game franchise anymore-- God of War, Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden-- that does not incorporate some element of progress into its combat mechanics. Bioshock and Call of Duty 4's multiplayer have successfully blended leveling into the first-person shooter genre. Even twin-stick shooters, fighting games, word-search games, and Bejeweled have evolved in the last few years by assimilating persistent elements of collection and enhancement into their basic short-form game formula.
Everything's an RPG now, and the clever and selective use of the genre's conventions has breathed a lot of new life into well-worn styles of gameplay-- the constant presence of new meta-goals just out of reach (the next unlockable, the next level, the next item at the shop) keeps you committed to the gameplay beyond the immediate goals of the genre (beating the next boss, winning the next deathmatch, clearing the next screen of gems). The potent compulsion to progress itself, independent of the tangible gameplay rewards, should not be overlooked; show us gamers a mountain and we will climb it. Why else would we want achievement points? Because they are there. We would labor for them even if a dubious sort of social prestige weren't involved.
The conductors of that ramshackle outfit known as the Playstation network have caught on to this and have built “levels” into their gamerscore-aping “trophy” system. It's too late for me, but I can only imagine the fiendish allure of a gaming habit RPG to those not already committed to a competing system of ersatz distinction.