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Posted: Sat May 06, 2017 7:22 pm
27. The Turing Test (5/6) (PC)
The Talos Principle and the Zero Escape series have shown that games can be excellent platforms for exploring philosophy when those ideas are integrated into the gameplay and story. Bulkhead clearly wanted to follow in their footsteps with The Turing Test, but they didn't have the subtlety or focus to pull it off. Where Talos let you have debates with Satan and Zero Escape used lofty ideas as foreshadowing for plot twists that were 6 actual years away, this game pretty much says what it means. The puzzles in the game are intended as a literal Turing test, as it almost immediately informs you. It attempts to get into all sorts of ideas surrounding AI, and it even has a computer sequence a la Talos, but its love of repeating itself and failure to expand on any of the concepts it presents make it come off more like an excited Philosophy 101 student than the game that clearly inspired it. The story, for its part, is almost entirely predictable from the title, but it does have an interesting moment at the end.
The puzzles are very clearly inspired by Portal, but they lack the scale or inventiveness of either that game or Talos. I was only even a little stuck a handful of times over the course of 4 hours, and most of those were down to the physics not cooperating. Bizarrely, Bulkhead also seems to have forgotten why they even had puzzles halfway through the game: although we are clearly and repeatedly told they were created to be a lock only a human could solve, the last three chapters consist entirely of puzzles that are impossible to solve without the aid of the station AI.
That said, if you pretend that it's the first game to be philosophical and that Portal never happened, it's a decent enough light puzzler. Just don't expect anything memorable from it.
...Also, the decision the include a review from Brash Games highlighted on the Steam page was unfortunate. >_<
Posted: Sun May 07, 2017 11:33 am
Going to have an insane total for the year at this rate:
28. Toren (5/7) (PC)
I completely understand how Toren came to have a less-than-stellar 57/100 from Metacritic displayed on its store page. I had to restart it three times in less than two hours - once when I became stuck moving left, another time when my attack button stopped working, and once more when my controller stopped responding at all. It's filled with graphical bugs. Two poorly thought out puzzles revolve around not being able to see anything useful. Any challenge usually comes from not knowing where to go.
...And yet I actually liked it quite a lot. It consists almost entirely of rough edges and is so short that I'd still qualify for a refund, yes, but if you can look past all of that, there's an impressively surrealist game in the vein of Ico hiding underneath. Even though I'm not sure I understood everything that happened in the story, it had plenty of cool moments I'm going to remember. Games try to imitate mythology all the time, but Toren is one of the few that actually gets it right.
Swordtales have a lot of potential if they can just get some technical help on their next game.
Posted: Tue May 09, 2017 6:27 pm
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Shovel Knight is already a 10/10 platformer, and this DLC somehow made the game better. Not only is it brand new content, mechanics, and level design, but I got to play it for FREE because Yacht Club are bros.
The dash slash mechanic makes this game. It's so fun and inventive, and they design around it so incredibly well. And perhaps most surprising to me, the story for this game was surprisingly compelling. Shovel Knight knows not to take itself too seriously, as a game entitled Shovel Knight should really know; yet the story for Specter of Torment was really a fantastic prequel tale that had some unexpected poignancy.
Awesome stuff. I 100%'d it, and I'll probably play through the NG+ as well.
Posted: Sat May 13, 2017 5:55 am
29. Persona 5 (5/12) (PS4)
A lot of people had been calling Atlus complacent after they spent seven years repeatedly releasing new versions and spinoffs of Persona 3 and 4. With Persona Q defying time to bring characters together,Dancing All Night having **** all to do with anything, and Falcom seriously threatening Atlus' JRPG crown with the Cold Steel series, I was about ready to join them. I stand by my belief that those shark-jumping spinoffs were mostly not great, but now that I've seen the result of their seven year hiatus, it's clear that the core Persona team is still in their prime.
Where 3 and 4 were basically the same game in all but tone, this is actually a pretty significant departure in many ways. Usually that means there are going to be many half-baked ideas that don't quite work out, but I personally felt almost every change they made was for the better. Non-random dungeons allowed them to build characters outside of boss encounters and create some genuinely interesting scenarios. Adding abilities to all social links limits your options somewhat at the start, but also solves Golden's problem with party links objectively being the best and adds that much more satisfaction to every tick on the way to 10. Taking a middle road between the gloom of P3's campaign and the sunshine and rainbows of P4 made everyone feel more human and increased the impact of both the highs and the lows. Adding two new elements increases your options, and you really can't go wrong with a skill called "Nuke Amp." Even the RNG-heavy shadow negotiation ends up benefiting the game by making Persona acquisition more tense. I could go on for several paragraphs.
The story is at times predictable, but never dull, and it deserves praise for not pulling any punches in depicting Japan's social issues. The game benefits immensely from its real-world setting and the decision to fully commit to the theme of unfair perceptions. None of the social links I saw (and I only saw about half) quite reached the high's of P3's Sun Arcana, but there also weren't any duds like P3's Priestess or P4's Temperance. I found this to be the most relatable cast yet, and they managed to nail some character types they'd previously struggled with - especially the Priestess and Hermit. In Morgana, they even made a mascot who consistently adds to the game rather than just being an annoying bear.
That said, it's not a flawless game. The costume DLC is exploitative. The presence of jiggle physics is sad, if subtle enough that it's hard to care too much. The introduction of a security level for being detected by shadows can make avoiding combat almost impossible, which in turn can force you to keep fighting when you're ready to just be done with a dungeon. Combat against regular shadows can sometimes feel like it's nothing but finding elemental weaknesses. None of these are much of a mark against the game, but they did annoy me at various times throughout the campaign.
Really, the highest praise I can give it is that I'm sad to see it go after just over 79 hours. I've never wanted that long of a game to continue before, let alone felt ready to immediately jump into NG+. There's no doubt for me that it's the best Persona game by a longshot - the real question is where it belongs in my top 10.
I had high expectations for P5, but with regards to it being this good, you might say that...
Posted: Sun May 21, 2017 8:54 pm
30. Old Man's Journey (5/21) (PC)
Last Thursday, I challenged the Earth to an elbowing contest. The Earth won, and I fractured my left radius. Now I get to pick between keyboard or mouse and get to experience 20 wpm hunt and peck typing again.
That's to say that this mouse-only game came along at a convenient time. The gameplay consists of fairly basic movement puzzles that usually revolve around dragging terrain up or down to make a path for the old man. It's simple, but effective, which is also how I'd describe the story - it communicated a good variety of emotions without any text, and even if it's no Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, it's got it's moments. The instrumental OST is phenomenal.
I'd say more, but typing with one hand sucks. The game is pretty good.
Posted: Sun May 28, 2017 8:27 pm
#31 was Endless Space 2 (5/27) (PC). You can't really review a 4X after one playthrough, though, and I had some major stability issues, so I'll limit my review to saying it wasn't ready to come out of Early Access.
In other news, I apparently didn't fracture my elbow after review from an orthopedic surgeon - they neglected to say what I did beyond that it'll take over a month to be back to 100%, but I'm back to having at least some use of both hands. No more point and click!
32. Prey (2017) (5/28 ) (PC)
I absolutely love Prey, but I hate the Prey that was intended to exist. As you're meant to play the game, awful attrition-based combat against a handful of (mostly mimic) enemy types ruins everything. I didn't want to explore because it'd most likely be a net loss of resources, and you can only do that for so long before you're reduced to hopeless wrench fighting. It's certainly possible to balance that kind of gameplay to be fun - Resident Evil 2 comes to mind - but Prey's Typhon are too bullet-spongey and its stealth too unreliable for that to work. There are enemies you just have to fight, and a few of those in a row will empty your inventory. It isn't fun, and it made me quit the game.
...and if Arkane had invested more in QA, that would've been it. But they didn't, and so a bug that allows infinite resource creation made it into the game. Using that exploit the next day fixed everything. I didn't need to be afraid of exploring when I could fall back to an endless supply of bullets and health packs, and once I acquired mobility and offensive mods, combat even started to become fun. It's honestly incredible how much of a difference the exploit makes.
The game takes obvious inspiration from the Shock (Bio, System, etc) games, and while the narrative doesn't have anything on the level of the final confrontation with Andrew Ryan, it does some interesting things with identity and nails the ending. It's also notable that this is a game in which you can kill any character you can see (and even some you can't) at any moment, and it does an impressive job of reacting to your decisions.
But in the end, this is a game about the setting. The overarching story may not stand on the same level as BioShock, but the Talos I space station is possibly the most believable setting I've ever seen in a game, with inhabitants to match. It's clear that Arkane put real thought into what living on this kind of station would be like, right down to inventing a clever waste disposal system and littering the walls with maintenance shafts that actually make sense. That alone would've made for a brilliant setting, but they went further and built out social networks and backstories for dozens of NPCs, nearly all of whom are merely corpses on the floor by the time the player arrives. Office pranks, tabletop campaigns, struggles with addiction, smuggling rings, whistleblowers, and more are fleshed out through audio logs (of course), emails, and environmental storytelling. There may not be any moments to rival Ryan's speeches, but I can confidently say that I'll take Talos I over Rapture any day as a place to explore. It's a masterwork of world building.
As long as that glitch isn't patched, I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone that can appreciate a great game world - I think you'll really struggle to find anything that does it better.
If, for some reason, they eventually go back and fix it, there's still a fantastic game hiding underneath. You just won't be able to get to it without fighting through many hours of a thoroughly mediocre game first.
Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 8:25 am
33. SUPERHOT (6/3) (PC)
I've been interested in this one since it launched, but not interested enough to drop $15 on sale on a less than two hour game. Humble Monthly doubly justified that decision by giving me the game this month and, unfortunately, showing me that I don't actually like it very much.
Some of that isn't surprising - SUPERHOT is a metagame along the lines of Pony Island, which means there's a lot of glitch effects that serve no purpose except hurting my eyes, forced attempts to look like an unstable computer with corrupted text or (of course) plaintext binary, and repeated usage of that annoying "fake chat room" thing where you respond to the game by mashing keys and having text typed for you. As old as the chat room thing is, SUPERHOT easily has the worst implementation of it. Where The Talos Principle and Event attempted to let you have actual conversations and Pony Island at least let you be obtuse and uncooperative if you wanted, SUPERHOT never gives you any semblance of control. When your character is supposedly in control, mashing "asdjk" will create coherent sentences, and when your character supposedly loses control, mashing "asdjk" will still create coherent sentences. The game gives you instructions and mocks you for following them, but none of it is effective because you never get a choice about any of it. When the game says stop playing, every other option ceases to function. When the game says die, the level will never end unless you do. When the game says shoot, you can't even throw away your gun. And on and on.
Which is a shame, because I still like the idea of the game. Time only moves when you do could be a fantastic platform for a shooter (and the webgame Superhotline Miami already proved that), but SUPERHOT wastes too much time telling an awful story and giving the player a headache with strobe effects. The handful of levels that really show what the game could've been come too late and too far between. The game does unlock challenge and endless modes after finishing the campaign that may or may not live up to its potential, but I'd lost interest by that point.
Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 9:18 am
34. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (PS4 Remaster)
Played through and got the safe ending. It was a pretty decent puzzle game, if easy. The only puzzle I got stuck on was, funnily enough, the very first one. The characters were pretty nice and the story itself never got too boring. It was short, too, but I guess considering it has a load of endings that that's understandable. I may play again sometime, but this game is a little draining to play. Not sure that second playthrough will be for a while.
Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 9:19 am
^^It's the most innovative shooter I've played in years!
Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 9:39 am
[QUOTE="SKELETOR, post: 1632087, member: 35827"]34. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (PS4 Remaster)
Played through and got the safe ending. It was a pretty decent puzzle game, if easy. The only puzzle I got stuck on was, funnily enough, the very first one. The characters were pretty nice and the story itself never got too boring. It was short, too, but I guess considering it has a load of endings that that's understandable. I may play again sometime, but this game is a little draining to play. Not sure that second playthrough will be for a while.[/QUOTE]
999 didn't do a great job of signposting this (VLR and ZTD are much more clear), but the safe, etc, "endings" aren't actually endings - none of them really answer anything and quite a few are actively lying to you. They're more like failed runs in a roguelike or bad endings in Persona in that you'll understand a little more about what's going on after getting them, but you're a still a long way from where the main threads of the story actually end.
Not trying to drag you back if you're done with it or anything; just wanted to make sure you knew how it's meant to work.
Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 5:14 pm
Yeah I went for the safe ending since it was required for the true end or something. I plan on going back to it later on, just not right this minute.
Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 5:52 pm
Speaking of things 999 didn't quite get right, the sequels gate their true endings behind all (or nearly all) of the other endings. Like you say, 999 only requires the safe ending, which means you can accidentally (or intentionally, I guess) get to it without seeing a lot of the game's best content.
Although I'm saying all this based on the original release. Haven't gotten around to the remaster yet ($45 for two games I own was a little steep), so it's possible they went back and fixed some of the communication issues.
Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:45 pm
34. Mages of Mystralia
A game that promised to solve the problem of boring, awful magic in gaming by building itself entirely around spellcrafting. Alas, despite initial impressions to the contrary, it built itself around boring, awful spellcrafting.
The elephant in the room is that there are only four base spells in the game, and only a handful of modifications actually change them in a meaningful way. The best modifiers of the remainder multiply spells or trigger simulcasts, which is a little interesting, but all there's also loads of garbage like "right" which makes your spell go right. There were exactly two times that was useful in my playthrough, and they were both contrived puzzles. Some, like duplicate causing your shield to create a statute clone, don't even make sense. Everything I saw of the spellcrafting system honestly felt like what any reasonably creative group would have by the end of their first brainstorming session - nothing ever came close to wowing me.
Unfortunately, that's true of everything else in the game. Enemies? There are about 5 of them, and each gets reskinned repeatedly. Wands? There are 10, but they're all boring % modifiers. Environments? You bet there's a lava cave.
This even applies to the story, despite them making a big deal about it being written by Ed Greenwood. I don't know if he's actually a terrible author or if he just put no effort into this, but regardless, the entire story from the dialogue to the plot structure could easily be created by grabbing random articles from TV Tropes. We're talking a narrator literally saying "But at what cost? Only time will tell." It's middle school level.
The game as a whole ends up just being mediocre because the combat and puzzles are serviceable enough, but it's hard not to be disappointed in the missed potential. I won't call Mystralia lazy, but it's certainly creatively dead.
Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:01 pm
5. or something) Bayonetta
Too many cut-scenes. Gameplay mechanics are rock-solid, though I'm not a fan of most of the boss battles. Platinum's ranking system is at its worst here though, it's just way too reliant on not getting hit which just leads to checkpoint-scumming. Also **** that QTE at the end of Chapter 2.
6. or something) Vanquish
Short but sweet. I love bullet-time knee-slides. Plot is pretty disposable.
Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 7:32 pm
35. What Remains of Edith Finch (6/24) (PC)
I don't think I've ever played a game that comes so strongly out of the gate that, after a 5 minute play session intended only to confirm that the game ran, I was already wondering how high it'd end up placing on my yearly list. I've certainly never played one that could maintain that astounding quality for the entire experience.
Edith Finch is essentially to interactive fiction/walking simulators what Inside was to 2.5D platformers: A short, yet consistently surprising experience that takes full advantage of every moment of its runtime. It's a series of vignettes detailing one extended family's dream of being something greater, but where most games would have developed a single presentation system and filled the gaps with text, Edith Finch relays each story through graphics and mechanics unique to its subject and uses its voiceover to enhance what is already being shown. Any one of these scenes would be enough to make it a memorable game, but taken in sequence over the course of two hours, they're enough to make it something truly special. If you have any appreciation for narratives or "games as art" whatsoever, then this is absolutely a must-play.
2017 is going to be a ridiculous year for games if it keeps up at this rate. It's only June and it'd already be a great one even if nothing else came out.
Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:44 pm
Super Mario Bros. 2
I've always enjoyed this game as a "Black Sheep" title, but I went into it with a bit more of a critical eye this time. I gotta say, it really is a great game and completely deserving of a true spot in the Mario canon.
The thing that surprised me this time around is that this game is surprisingly difficult. By no means unfair or impossible, but it's not the cakewalk I somewhat remembered it being. I specifically did it without warps to get the whole feel of the game, using each character for 5 levels.
I had forgotten how good this game is.
Posted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 5:46 pm
7.) Hollow Knight is a kickstarted, hand-drawn Metroidvania that takes place in the Kingdom of Hallownest, a desolate place where insects live. One of the central mechanics is the Soul meter; as you damage enemies, your Soul meter fills up, and you can use that meter to heal or cast spells. The healing takes a few seconds to pull off, which is reminiscent of the way Estus Flasks work in the Dark Souls series. The Charm System allows you to equip a multitude of different charms that enhance your abilities. For instance, one charm reduces the cost of spells while another may increase the length of your attacks. Each charm takes up a certain amount of notches and you have only a limited amount of notches to work with, so you'll have to build accordingly. The bosses make full use of your abilities, resulting in several decent fast-paced fights. The game is quite large and content-filled for a Metroidvania, with a multitude of hidden bosses, areas and upgrades to find. It took me roughly 25 hours to get 100% completion, though obviously a knowledgeable player can do that in much less.
Some major complaints, however:
-The opening of the game is slow and boring. You don't receive your first movement-related ability until the second boss, and it's only after you get the second movement-related ability that the game begins to open up and you start finding the usual Metroidvania pickups.
-Most of the pickups end up leading to Geo, the main currency of the game. This is fine for the beginning of the game, but past a certain point vendors run out of things to sell you and Geo becomes worthless.
-I think the map is too large for its own good. While it's impressive that the game has so much to see, it feels like there was a lot of fat that could have been trimmed.
All-in-all, if you're looking for a good Metroidvania to play, this one's a good bet. It's on sale on Steam and GOG too, and is well worth the price.
Posted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:15 pm
Dead Rising 2 - PS3
Went back to Virginia and this was the game my friend and I marathoned to the end over a couple of days. Overall I had a fun time with it. I played it once when I was a lot younger and had a lot of trouble, but this time around the game felt a bit more fair and less stressful. Particularly once you get the banana hammock, the game's true potential unlocks. That, along with the knife gloves and casino girl crown AND dweeby-ass sports shades. Every cutscene was a cinematic masterpiece. Chuck Greene's entire personality was looking perpetually annoyed and delivering bad one-liners, which honestly just complimented the look.
Gameplay-wise, the zombies were a bit threatening at first, but quickly became something of a nuisance to deal with by the time you're mid-way through the game. I don't typically enjoy zombie games, and this is one of the larger reasons for it. The swarming enemies I thought would make the constant escort missions a complete drag, but thankfully it wasn't too bad. By the time the super-powered zombies came around, the horde became a lot more threatening, and they didn't overstay their welcome since the endgame was so close afterwards.
Story-wise? Who cares, this game was hilarious. The story is there to serve the gameplay, and I think that's important. The small twist is enough to be a bit surprising, even if it was getting obviously hinted at, and the true ending is also satisfying. There was one instance, however, where a surprise extra objective was slapped onto a mission when we were already really close to its time limit. We almost screwed our save because of this, which bothered me. Why tack on an extra, surprise objective? It punished us for not managing time we didn't know we'd need. Otherwise everything else was great. The timed objectives worked as they were supposed to.
Might try the first game some time. I had a lot of fun with this one.
Posted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 7:45 pm
36. Valley (6/29) (PC)
Despite the fact that I'd seen the first 20 minutes or so of gameplay going in, I was convinced that Valley was a walking simulator. It's actually Sonic by way of BioShock and Singularity. Alas, it's much more akin to the latter in terms of quality.
The entire story can be conveyed in one sentence: The military chooses a mysterious valley populated by clearly unrelated sprites to build a superweapon that steals life itself using a mysterious ancient race's technology. No part of it will surprise you in the slightest if you've ever so much as overheard the title of a sci-fi story, but some of the voicework is at least well-done. It also tries to be fancy and explain away respawns with "quantum death." From a gameplay perspective, this enables the rather cool mechanic of each respawn causing the area around you, and eventually the valley itself, to die. From a narrative perspective however, it creates gaping plotholes both in terms of how anyone would ever learn about it and in how it would benefit anyone except the user.
They also tried to bring in combat, but it's stupidly easy. Click on giant enemies that never make any more serious attempt at doding than running straight at you three times to win. You have such an absurd amount of health relative to the threat that death in combat seems practically impossible unless this is your first game or you get distracted and forget to pause.
The only thing the game does particularly well is running and jumping at high speeds. Much like Sonic, you usually get one of those segments as a reward for finishing a level. They're generally fun and are all a little different from the others, but some go on for longer than they need to.
Overall, meh. I'm not upset about what I got for the $5 sale price, but the $20 MSRP is pretty egregious for a two hour game that's this mediocre.
Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 8:35 am
37. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (6/30) (Switch)
I'm going to complain a lot about this game for the rest of this post, so I want to be clear right off the bat: MK8D is still a good game in single-player and a great game for local multiplayer. I just wish it had picked an identity and stuck with it.
I changed my definition of "beating" MK8D four times in the course of playing it. First, I went from "see the end credits" to "three star every cup" because it dropped the credits on me after a 50cc cup. Then I changed to "three star everything up to 150cc", because it was getting frustrating. Then I changed to, "**** it, there was a Rainbow Road in that last cup and the last 150cc cup is bull****" because the last 150cc cup is bull****.
My big problem with MK8 (not just Deluxe) is those stars. Getting three requires placing first in all four races of a cup, two means placing exactly second exactly once, and one means any other cup win, and your star ratings for a cup are proudly displayed on both the course and cc selection menus. This would be fine in a pure racing game where failing to get three stars was always your fault, but MK8 is not a pure racing game. It's a game where sometimes the AI will decide "**** you, I'm winning this race" and hit you with a blue shell, two red shells, and a lightning all in a row, which I have actually had happen. One of the big reasons I don't care for MK64 is that the AI is blatantly benefiting from rubber-banding - you can get ahead of it, but get too far ahead and it'll magically speed up to stay competitive. MK8 takes that several steps further with item rubberbanding - you can get ahead, but sometimes the AI will decide it doesn't want you there and hit you with an unending barrage of items until it's satisfied that the race is competitive. There also seems to be a bias towards the AI in terms of item quality. Sound boxes are the only reliable way of defending against blue shell attacks, and although I haven't received one in my last 90 minutes of gameplay, I've had two of my last three cups ruined by the first place AI knocking me off the track with one at remarkably convenient times. I'd have been largely okay with this kind of behavior in most past MK games, since it's never enough to cost you the entire cup and that's all those games cared about, but the combination of a constantly cheating AI and the demand to win everything is just infuriating.
Of course, that's less of an issue in multiplayer, where you're probably not expecting to win every race every time regardless. Local MP in this game is still great. Online MP, however, is an unplayable mess. I've tried six times in the course of a month and so far succeeded in completing a single lap without losing my connection and being dropped. I'm not sure if this is an issue with MK8 or my Switch, but either way, the router is 15 feet away and no other game or device has any connectivity issues whatsoever.
My other big identity issue is that all of this sudden insistence on making a game that is fundamentally not competitive competitive comes at the same time as Nintendo introduced accessibility options. Smart steering (although it should not be on by default) and auto-accelerate are great options for people who need them, but the rest of the game seems determined to make playing at a low skill level miserable. In my experience, both from the rare times I get knocked back to 7th or lower and from playing with friends who got stuck there are lot, being at the back of the pack means being caught in a cluster**** of auto-targeting items that it's very difficult to escape. When said friends were able to keep up at the beginning of the race, they generally stayed there and everyone had a good experience. When they blew their launch or otherwise got stuck at the back early on, they spent the entire time getting hit by shells and chain chomps, lost by up to a minute, and were miserable. I've also noticed that, even as someone who is ranked very low because I get disconnected in every race, online mode is insistent on putting me in groups with players with more than double my skill rating. That seems pointless for all involved.
tl;dr: Single player MK8 needs to be either a silly party game or a competitive racing game. It can't be both. Nearly all of my problems with this game can be solved by either making it a silly party game again by turning off the star display or making the ratings more forgiving (three stars just for winning) or by making it a competitive game by nerfing the items and AI cheating.