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Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:14 pm
Next up on "Stop it, 2017. How am I supposed to limit this to 10 at the end?"
38. Little Nightmares (7/1) (PC)
If Tim Burton and Roald Dahl teamed up to remake Inside, I think they'd end up with something pretty close to Little Nightmares. Like Inside, LN is a 2.5D surreal-horror game about a little kid trying to escape from a perverted version of reality and probably dying horribly more than a few times along the way. Also like Inside, it's a game that very much thrives on a sense of surprise, so beyond saying that LN is more reliant on stealth and orders of magnitude more tense, I'm not going to ruin anything about the world. I will say that, although there's nothing in LN that's quite as shocking as parts of Inside, (and you know exactly which parts I'm talking about if you've played it), it's the clear winner for me in terms of moment-to-moment gameplay. It's only three hours long, but there's almost nothing about the design of those three hours that I'd criticize.
Unfortunately, I have to specifically say "design" because there are serious issues with the controls: Jumping, running, and grabbing are all mapped to your right hand on a DS4 and frequently have to be done in quick succession, which makes transitions between any two of them awkward. Some objects are grabbable but not climbable or movable, and the logic behind which is which is often unclear beyond "this one is necessary for progress." Grabbing or throwing objects while near a wall can be frustratingly inconsistent. Most critically, the game sometimes does fancy camera angles without remapping the analog axes while the character is walking along narrow ledges. Predictably, this leads to accidentally walking off said platform and dying.
The control issues are probably enough to prevent it from joining the GotY race with Persona 5 and Edith Finch, but everything else about it is absolutely on that level. Highly recommended.
Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:15 am
#39 was A Normal Lost Phone (7/1). I really don't have much to say about it. If you've played Replica or any of the other "found phone" games, you know exactly what you're getting from the gameplay. Once you realize what the game is about, you know exactly what you're getting from the story. It does exactly what you expect it to do with reasonable competence, and it's hard to feel much about that.
Which, aside from the part about being competent, is basically the polar opposite of the next game:
#40. Night in the Woods (7/4) (PC)
This is a game about papercut animals jumping on cars and writing bad poetry. It's also about being trapped by life in the middle of nowhere, bleak futures, and living with an untreated serious mental illness. That easily could've turned into a collection of one-note characters preaching to the player, but it manages to stay (mostly) grounded and believable (mostly) throughout. I never found myself thinking about the fact it was all a bunch of cartoon animals when the game wanted to be serious, nor referring to the characters by their flaws. The named characters are all fleshed out and flawed enough to stand on their own. It's not the kind of perspective or story we often get in games, and speaking as someone who has almost nothing in common with these character's lives, it's one I'm glad to have experienced.
Surprisingly for this kind of game, it's also got a ton of replay value. There are two sets of four vignettes with two different characters that, as far as I know, you can pick any four from and have the game reference your picks. In terms of missable content, two other characters have sets of minor scenes and there a bunch of sidequests in the game. I'm unable to comment on those beyond confirming that they are very missable. Even though you're playing an established character and can't change her self-destructive tendencies, you have a fair amount of impact on the flow.
Having said that, it's far from perfect. Although the story does eventually find its footing and finishes strong, it stumbles along the way. The first few hours of the game are seemingly about nothing, and the plot is constantly swinging between some bizarre supernatural stuff, a murder mystery, and grounded vignettes of the characters. This does ultimately serve a narrative purpose, but I think it could've been presented in a more focused way without detracting from that. Once you start falling into a routine of "talk to everyone and then get a scene", the game starts feeling like Stardew Valley. That's a great game in its own right, but it isn't what this one should be, and it started to lose me when that was happening. This only really happens in the middle third, thankfully.
The other big issue is the loading times because, again, it's about papercut animals. The backgrounds are 2D and largely static. There shouldn't be much to load, and yet every transition - of which there a lot - takes several seconds on a standard HDD. There's also a lot of wasted space on the map, so everything takes noticeably longer to get to than it should. Considering that you have to walk almost all the way across town every day to progress the story, those little annoyances add up over the course of a playthrough.
As long as I'm being nitpicky, the game showed Xbox button prompts the entire way through the game even though I was using a DS4, the game has a PS4 version, and Steam supports showing DS4 prompts. It made a rhythm mini-game that was already poorly designed for controllers (which is weird for a game with a PS4 release) unnecessarily confusing.
Also, at one point you have a dream about what are clearly space bedbugs. It's way scarier than any of that murder stuff.
Posted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 12:32 am
8-10.) Crash Bandicam: The N. Sane Trilogy
Crash 1 is ok but ultimately flawed. Crash 2 is great. Crash 3 sucks. My work here is done.
Posted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 6:10 am
I'd been stockpiling to avoid posting 6 times in a row:
#41. Monster Slayers (7/6)
A roguelite deckbuilder that I mostly used as a podcast game. It's reasonably fun, but battles pretty much come down to who can whack the other guy harder. Enemy cards are played too quickly for you to know what most of them do, there aren't many defensive options beyond putting up generic counters or blocks, and you only get the one deck for all battles, so there's little point in trying to have any deeper specialization even if you wanted to. Despite having the appearance of a strategic game, you don't really need to think except when you're figuring out your optimal route through the dungeon or choosing whether spend money on upgrading a card or discarding one. That makes it perfect for podcasts, but not particularly memorable.
#42. Armello (7/9)
It's a digital board game that I'd had my eye on for ages and finally got through Humble Monthly. Unfortunately, it's actually not great. The goal is to make sure your anthropomorphic animal becomes ruler after the Lion King Lion who is king. In theory, you can do this by having the most influence, collecting four crystals, having more corruption than the king, or killing the king yourself. In practice, you win by killing the king. Since the king gets weaker with every turn it gets really easy to kill him on the last turn if you have any fight whatsoever. By contrast, you can only win by collecting crystals if the RNG doesn't completely screw you, which it always did for me, can only win by influence if the kill player blows it, and can only win by corruption if you get more of it every turn and can deal with the severe penalties. This makes all the stats except fight worthless, because fight lets you win the game and kill other players, and the other stats just make traps and quests a little easier. Every game I played ended with either someone killing the king or someone dying in the process and giving the game to the influence leader.
#43. The Sexy Brutale (7/14)
One of the worst names for a game in recent memory. If you can guess that this is actually And Then There were None by way of Groundhog Day, you either already knew that or are clairvoyant. It has the name of a porno.
Name aside, it's alright, I guess. Some of the music is fantastic and the concept is certainly cool, but in practice most of the murders you prevent are stunningly simple. You rarely ever have to think about what you're doing - if you can interact with something other than a wardrobe, there's about a 75% chance that it's a necessary action. It could've been a great game if it gave the player the tools to feel like they were actually solving a mystery, but as it stands you've pretty much solved it as soon as you discover your action set. The overall plot isn't much better - I saw no reasonable way of figuring out the mystery/twist until the game basically gave it away.
#44. Shu (7/15)
Another podcast game, but this time it's a platformer in the vein of Rayman Origins. Most levels involve finding two companions who'll give you powers on the shoulder buttons that give you new ways of traversing the rest of the level. There's nothing here you haven't seen before, but it looks great and the powers are generally used well. I had a pretty good time with it.
Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:39 am
Alrighty, folks. I just whipped out Super Paper Mario for the first time since back when it first came out, on a whim after remembering a twitter argument with ML in which we were screaming about which Paper Mario installments are better. The correct answer, as we all know, is "all of them are fantastic to varying extents," but because that's obvious we resorted to screaming about whether or not SPM is better than TTYD, which it objectively is.
Is SO good.
Talking purely stylistically for a moment, this game has a wonderful and very distinct aesthetic. I remember being very drawn to it when I first played it. I peeked back at my old DeviantArt and sure enough I even posted some fanart of Luvbi from the Overthere; distinctly remember also filling notebooks with doodles of pixls. The fact that characters are made up of shapes made them easy and fun to draw and it was still a challenge to get the proportions right to capture the characters even though their designs are so simple. This game has a visual personality, dude. A really appealing one.
The levels are also all really interesting looking. The first level is of course just a reskin of 1-1, but considering all of the re-designing that went into making it fun and interesting in 3D it's a new level in its own right. But the colors in the outskirts of Merlee's Mansion are very appealing, the way the Mansion itself uses the 2D-3D to feature lots of fun optical illusions, the high definition take on a pixellated style featured in Fort Francis, THE COLORS AGAIN in Sammer's Kingdom, THE UNDERWHERE -- I LOVE THE UNDERWHERE SO MUCH -- and THE FRICKEN AESTHETIC of Count Bleck's castle.... visually and conceptually, this game has some absolutely incredible level design.
The music of this game is goddamn incredible too. Floro Sapien Caverns, Sammer's Kingdom, and Castle Bleck all have fan-****-tastic tracks, and The Ultimate Show is such a bangin' final boss theme. King Croacus's battle theme is good too. Absolutely top-notch soundtrack.
The villains are also great. Literally the cast of villains in this game is godtier. Their dialogue is 10/10 and all of their bossfights are really fun, too. Made me love to hate them and then just love them period... there's not much to say here other than EVERYTHING about ALL of the villains is perfect.
I think this game overall has a very good mix of gameplay and story. Since it plays primarily like a platformer, it's important for the platforming to be fun and interesting, which it definitely is -- but it also does a good job of telling a story in each level over the course of 4 chapters. Some are better than others obviously but all of them are funny, some tug at the heartstrings, and each has its own personality and charm. I particularly love Fort Francis (LITERALLY the most quotable segment from any video game), the Underwhere/Overthere (absolutely love all the references to mythology and how it establishes its own afterlife lore for this game, plus the story was very sweet), SPACE ((THE LEVEL DESIGN IN THE WHOA ZONE IS TOP-NOTCH and also I love shooting lasers in space)), the Floro Sapien caverns, and Castle Bleck... but there isn't a single level I don't enjoy. I also thought it was a fantastic artistic decision to have Sammer's Kingdom disintigrate halfway through the "chapter" to remind us of the overarching plot. It was a really interesting way to break the world-by-world progression of a platformer in favor of the storytelling of an RPG; that whole segment of the game is so clever and I absolutely love it.
I've griped about this in another topic, but my biggest complaint about this game is that my enjoyment of some levels that would otherwise be really fun and great is somewhat dampened by forced backtracking and fetch quests. I have nothing against backtracking if it's of my own volition, but in a Mario platformer I really don't want to have to re-do platforming I have already done for some contrived reason that feels like it exists solely to make the level feel longer. The Overthere is particularly bad about this, which is a shame because I love that chapter in every other respect.
Have neglected so far to talk about what really makes this one of the best Paper Mario games, which is the fact that HEYYYYY PEACH AND BOWSER AND LUIGI are not only PLAYABLE but ARE PARTY MEMBERS. Paper Mario 64 had really fun segments where you snoop around as Peach, and TTYD had those godly Bowser levels, but SPM actually programs the game around letting you play as all of them. And it's so much fun. (I highly recommend always playing as Bowser before triggering a cutscene because his dialogue is the best hands down.) I especially appreciate that the first level you enter after Bowser joins your party is an underwater one, and yes, Bowser can still breathe fire underwater. Bless the developers of this game. All 4 members have different mechanics but none of them are annoying to handle; platforming with all of them is fun.
As is standard in Mario RPGs, there's also just some 10/10 gags in this game. Smooch.exe is my favorite dating sim, Underchomp is my favorite pokemon, etc. God this game is fantastic. The writing is great, the gameplay is great, the story is great, the visuals are great, the music is great. This game just feels polished and charming from start to finish. I'm more in love than I was before when it was just the nostalgia talking without anything to back it up.
9/10, had to subtract 1 point due to egregious backtracking at points but literally everything else is flawless.
Spent about 10 minutes deciding which bomb-ass track from this game to post as a closing statement and decided on this one. Ultimate Show is a close runner up.:
Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:34 pm
#45. Children of the Zodiarcs (7/26) (PC)
I really love the core premise of this game. Take a tactics-JRPG like Final Fantasy Tactics, replace constant movesets with cards and deckbuilding, and swap RNG chance-to-hit with literal dicerolls for damage. It's a great idea, and it initially seems like it's going to live up to all of its promise.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't really go anywhere. Yes, you unlock more cards, and yes, you can swap out/improve the dice you have equipped, but there's almost always something that's just objectively best. At the least offensive level, this meant that I never really had to think about which card to play. Sometimes that was because I only had one card that could hit anything and sometimes it was because they all did basically the same thing. Most often, though, it was the biggest problem the game has: nothing remotely compares to free turns and card draws. I think the game tried to balance this by making it so that only the protagonist and a side mission character can viably build a deck entirely around those two statuses, but it didn't work. Once you're in a position where you're almost always triggering a free turn and drawing more cards that trigger more free turns, that character's turn length is really only limited by when they run out of enemies to kill. Every battle devolves into charging ahead with that character, buffing them as necessary, and occasionally taking out armor with a mage.
It doesn't help that, although the game technically features three enemy factions, you can fight all of them in basically the same way. Besides the aforementioned armor, I never found any enemies or maps for which there was a better counter than spamming free turn/draw. Maybe this could have been alleviated if there were at least a wide variety of attacks or friendly units, but character's moves aren't distinguished by much more than their range their star effects (and you pretty much just use the obvious best one or two, anyway), and although there are 7 playable characters in the game, you'll never use more than 3 in a battle, and they're really two separate parties of 3 with a one-time guest.
There's not much to say about the rest of the game. It's competent without being memorable in terms of graphics and music, and the story is the same. It's got one surprising moment near the end and occasionally has some interesting ideas, but I never felt invested.
I do still think it's worth playing just because of how unique the core mechanics are, but I wouldn't call it essential by any means.
Posted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 8:12 am
#R1. Metal Arms: Glitch in the System (7/30) (GCN)
I don't replay games much anymore on account of there being such an unmanageable tide of new and old ones I haven't played at all, but that's led to there being a significant stack of titles I used to love that I haven't touched in five or more years. So, because I like having things in neat orders and don't trust myself from five or more years ago to have good taste, I'm going to try to go back to a lot of these.
Metal Arms was my overall #1 around the time I joined VGF, back when I hadn't played nearly enough games for that to mean anything. I was also 12 at the time, which meant that it was really only in that spot because it had bigger explosions than anything else I owned at the time. I don't think I ever would've admitted that at the time, but it's pretty apparent to older me after discovering what I remember being my favorite level isn't so much a shining beacon of design as it is 5 minutes of things blowing up.
My first attempt to go back to it, on the same TV, controller, and GameCube Wii that I used to play it on, ended very badly. I don't know how I ever put up with 480i resolution on that big of a TV, let alone the sound quality or ridiculously low brightness, but I can't do it now.
So I tried again on a Definitely Real GameCube™ that was magically capable of running it at 1080p on a real screen and had headphone support. How convenient! So how does it hold up?
Graphics are a mixed back. The environments are, frankly, god-awful. Textures can mostly be described as "brown splotches" except when the game decides to shake it up and go with "solid grey iron." Ruins frequently have antennae and cables sticking out of them that are clearly just 2D sprites, which is bad enough, but they're also at such a low resolution that you can see where the pixels are connected at diagonals. The explosions I used to love don't remotely succeed at hiding the fact that they're just spawning generic debris and deleting objects in the background. That said, the moving parts of the levels still look pretty good. Characters, enemies, and vehicles all have detailed models with decent texture work, and they're mostly animated quite well.
The story is raving nonsense. Characters act to set up the next level, not according to any kind of logic, and the levels connections are so disjointed that you could rearrange a lot of the sequence without a new player noticing anything was wrong. It tries very hard to be funny, but almost all of the jokes are some variation on replacing words for human body parts with hardware terms, often in ways that don't make any sense whatsoever. The rest basically try to get away with not having anything funny to say by saying it very loudly and in an obnoxious voice. I did laugh once, but that was during the credit sequence when I saw that Dan Castellaneta - Homer Simpson - was in the game. I feel like that doesn't count.
For all that, it actually mostly holds up. The gameplay is generally fast and chaotic, enemy limb damage is still extremely impressive, and no shooter I'm aware of has ever gone as far with enemy control and recruitment. Despite some issues with more open levels and only a handful of weapons ever being useful, the shooting and soundtrack are enough to carry the game. It isn't a great game by modern standards, and I don't think it was ever as good as I once believed, but it's still fun and surprisingly unique.
As a side note, the multiplayer could've been fantastic if it wasn't limited to four player local. The maps are extremely well designed to take advantage of all the different vehicles, turrets, and enemy types from the campaign, but most were clearly made for bigger games with teams of 3-4 players each. As it is, most of them only give you a hint of what they might've been.
Posted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 6:49 pm
#46 Pyre (7/31) (PC)
I love Bastion and Transistor, so Pyre was kind of an obligatory buy in spite of the fact I'm not much into basketball and that basketball is a really weird place to go from those games. Against all odds, it's also their best game yet.
The two parts of this game you would expect from Supergiant's previous work are the art and music. They're both phenomenal. I don't think the vocal tracks quite reach the level of Bastion's "Setting Sail, Coming Home" or Transistor's "Paper Boats", but several of the instrumental tracks had me bouncing to the beat every time they came on. The moment to moment visuals are on par with the previous games, but the backgrounds for the various arenas are some of the best art I've ever seen in any game. There's nothing else out there that's using such a colorful mix of hand-drawn and digital effects, let alone using them at such an impressive level. As with their previous games, these two aspects are definitely the highlight of the game and would probably have left me satisfied even if the rest of the game was merely mediocre.
It isn't, thankfully. The core loop consists of exploring an overworld in choose-your-own-adventure style and then competing in ritual 3v3 quasi-basketball which, in true Supergiant style, has a play-by-play narrator. If you have any experience with sports games whatsoever, I don't think this will be particularly challenging on the standard difficulty, (I went 26-0 with almost all complete blowouts) but it's fast and pretty enough to stay engaging throughout. Your basketball results also tie in with overworld choices to result in a story with an extremely impressive amount of branching considering the game is only about 10 hours long. There are even multiple endings that each have a colossal number of minor permutations. You're also playing as "you" this time, and the game does a great job of giving you enough options and reactions to feel like you have real agency within the narrative.
Unless you're deathly allergic to ritual sports or text, it's an easy recommendation.
Posted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 11:15 am
Banked up a few again:
#47. Milkmaid of the Milky Way (8/5) (PC)
I can't earnestly call Milkmaid of the Milky Way the worst game I've ever played, but I wish I could. The content of the game isn't particularly noteworthy - it's a retro point-and-click with the expected amount of nonsense logic and a bizarre insistence of forcing every pair of lines to rhyme. The problems start when you introduce a second monitor, because not only does this game not capture your mouse pointer, even in fullscreen mode, it doesn't actually take up the entire screen. As a result, the game minimizes itself every few clicks when you touch the seemingly random parts of the screen that, despite being covered by the game, are apparently really your desktop. Despite this, it does manage to mark itself as on top on your other monitor, so you can't even have a walkthrough or something open there to make the experience shorter. To top it all off, the game has two extremely poorly thought out action sequences that are maddening to control (especially considering it doesn't adjust your mouse sensitivity for it's tiny retro resolution) even without considering that it keeps minimizing itself. I don't remember ever finishing a game because I hated it before, but I guess I've done that now.
#48. Slime Rancher (8/6) (PC)
Take Stardew Valley, remove the crops, and make the animal game entirely about slimes and their poo. It starts off strong, but even though it's a fraction of Stardew's length at 10 hours, it starts to drag by the end because that's really it. At the start of the game, you're capturing slimes, feeding them fruit/vegetables/chickens, and exploring environments for new slimes. At the end of the game, you're capturing different slimes and exploring new areas, but you're still feeding them the same fruit. None of the upgrades make any meaningful change to the gameplay, and only the very last overworld area has any unique mechanics. It's still a largely enjoyable experience, but one that feels like it could've been a lot more.
#49. Duelyst (8/8 ) (PC)
Take Hearthstone and make it a SRPG on a 5x6 grid. It's a fantastic mix that consistently gives you tons of options in deckbuilding and in matches with strong enough matchmaking that, even when you lose badly, you can almost always see what you did wrong and how it could've gone differently. It's free-to-play, and there are some P2W elements in that you can buy card packs, but I never felt pressured to spend money in 82 hours of play. Meta isn't as much of an issue as it seems to be in other games, so you're usually going up against reasonably varied decks, and communication is limited to emotes and a few generic preset phrases, so I never had any issues with player toxicity. I'm sure this doesn't come as any surprise given my playtime, but it's a really great game.
That said, it isn't perfect. Even though it doesn't have the meta problem that other games do, it does go through phases were large segments of the community all play the same faction, which can get repetitive. It also has issues with power creep. It's a fairly consistent creep in the sense that all of the factions usually get similarly absurd cards at similar times, but that doesn't do much to lessen the blow the first time you lose a game despite starting the turn with half your maximum health and no obvious enemy advantage. Most of these feel like they should require more skill to pull off even if you do learn to mange most of them as you keep playing.
#50. Kingdom: New Lands (8/12) (PC)
It's a 2D-but-really-1D roguelike about recruiting peasants to build walls, farm, and shoot monsters for you. There's a lot of monsters, so it's really hard and most of my games have gone quite badly. But then, lo and behold, I drew a really easy map today and won without even realizing I'd reached the endgame. I mean, I technically haven't - you're supposed to continue on for up to five more islands, but the game directly said I'd won and then crashed without saving, so I'm going to count it.
Probably not the sort of thing I'd have enjoyed playing it without anything in the background, but it was pretty good fare for podcasts and whatnot.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:45 pm
I didn't have much to say about any of these and just lost my post to accidentally hitting the back button on my mouse, so here are four micro reviews:
It's alright, but if you have any familiarity with Team ICO or what happens to cute animal companions in games, then you already know everything about it from those comparisons. It's a decent enough interpretation of those ideas, but it doesn't add to them in any way.
#52. Offworld Trading Company (8/13)
An RTS that should've been brilliant. Competing as space corporations to buy eachother out is great at first, but every game devolves into all players mashing sell for the same small set of resources by the end. Maybe it's better against humans, but my 8 game campaign against the AI never forced me to meaningfully change my strategy.
#53. Subsurface Circular (8/19)
A mystery VN about AI ethics set entirely in a single subway car. There's nothing in the plot or mechanics that'll surprise you much if you're familiar with those genres, but it does the moment-to-moment dialogue and aesthetics well enough to still be worth your time. It doesn't waste any of its 90 minute runtime and is easily worth the $5 asking price.
#54. Streets of Rage 2 (8/20)
I hit S a lot to punch people. Sometimes I hit D to jump and then got bosses trapped in a jumpkick loop. Eventually the game said I won. It had good music, but was otherwise completely mediocre.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:56 pm
Since we don't have blogs anymore, I guess I can pretend this is a blog that other people sometimes post in and that, like the old blogs, may or may not ever be read. :/
#R2 Mass Effect
The first thing you notice when replaying Mass Effect in 2017 is that this game is ugly. Especially in the early levels and cutscenes, (a problem not helped by exceptionally poorly textured starting armor) the game absolutely loves closeups of characters and environments with such low-res textures that you can often see the squares they're made of. Skyboxes are often so poorly disguised that the seams are clearly visible, and they're of no better resolution than the armor textures. You learn to live with all of this as you keep going, but it's extremely jarring in the opening hours.
That's the only truly glaring problem, though. Although the animation hasn't aged much better than the textures, BioWare was good about obscuring most of the worst stuff, so it never becomes too great of a distraction. There aren't as many different voice actors as you'd get in a modern game, but repeats are spaced better than in something like Oblivion, and while not all of the actors are up to snuff, the worst are relegated to one-off minor characters.
The gameplay certainly isn't anything astounding by modern standards, but I'd have said the same playing it for the first time in 2009, and about almost every game BioWare has ever made. The important part enough is that it's enjoyable enough to avoid detracting from the story it's delivering, and it still accomplishes that task. The only real criticism I have of it that hasn't been repeated a million times already (repeated levels, bouncy Mako, etc), is that it's far too easy to get the objectively best equipment early on. I had my equipment permanently locked in at about a third of the way through the game and maxed out my credits at 9,999,999 at about 50%. The inventory was just a waste of time after that.
As for the story, it's actually better than I remember it being. It isn't perfect - some of the parts with the beacons and indoctrination blow past science fiction into the realm of complete nonsense - but most of the main beats are still impressive even after seeing them for the fifth time. Although it certainly isn't deep and meaningful, it's more or less in a league of its own in terms of rule of cool, and sometimes that's enough.
Unfortunately, the moment-to-moment writing isn't as great. This game was a landmark for dialogue trees in the mainstream, but it's been left far behind in the intervening decade. It's clear that most of the dialogue was written and acted in isolation, because characters almost always refer to everything by its full name even when it would've been long replaced by pronouns in natural speak, and entire phrases being repeated verbatim are not uncommon. There also seems to be an ironclad rule of debate in this universe that you are either persuaded in one sentence or not at all. Also, the Benezia confrontation scene is terrible.
All in all, it's still the classic I remembered it being. Hopefully that's true of the sequels.
#55. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
The subtitle should've been the full title, some of the "find this symbol in the environment" puzzles go on for too long in the early sections, sometimes it's hard to hear the cutscenes, and one specific room is confusingly designed near the end. That is the sum total of negative things I have to say about this game.
Those issues aside, this is an absolute masterwork. I had serious doubts when I heard it would be about psychosis - games don't exactly have a history of sensitive portrayals in that realm - but Ninja Theory consulted with sufferers and psychologists instead of using cartoon stereotypes, and it's my understanding from people far more able to judge such things that the result is an effective portrayal.
As you can probably guess given the subject matter, this isn't a "fun" game. It doesn't pull any punches in portraying the psychological impact of either psychosis itself or physical and social abuse that came with it in the dark ages, nor in displaying the horrific violence of the period. It's a game about surviving great hardship and loss, and while that's inspirational in a sense, it's often an incredibly draining and stressful experience. It produced feelings I've never had from any other piece of media, and I can still feel it in my gut a week later. It isn't for everyone, and I can completely understand why many people wouldn't want to go through it, but I don't think there's anything else like it.
All of that is made even stronger by what is possibly the best facial animation I've ever seen and some impeccable voicework throughout. Ninja Theory self-published and thus had comparatively limited resources, but they focused their efforts where it really mattered almost without failed. I'm out of ways to say I love this game.
That's probably the most surprised I've been by a game since 999. I expected it to be good, but I think an hour of Enslaved was the most I'd played of any of Ninja Theory's games up to now. Either they've had a remarkable sudden flash of inspiration or publishers had really been holding them back.
Either way, I'm not going to be confusing them with the Dead or Alive people anymore. >_>
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 9:17 am
Sonic Mania was very, very good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's the best "Genesis" Sonic game. Its level design is still reminiscent of old Sonic, but it's not as haphazard-feeling as old Sonic levels were. The music is really fantastic, mixing in a blend of new and classic Sonic tunes. The bosses were all very inventive, involving more than just "Hit them x number of times." I'd like to go back eventually and play the game through as Knuckles.
I will say, though, my biggest complaint: Too many Blue Sphere special stages. Just too many.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 1:13 am
"Finished" the Curse of Strahd D&D 5E campaign. By which I mean we got really far after trying really hard and got party wiped in the Amber Temple.
Storytelling and world building wise this campaign is fantastic. The sandbox setting feels so developed and alive and the narrative is solid and the threat of death feels very real. That said, it's stupid hard and the balance is unfairly difficult, we had like 3 character deaths before we finally ALL got wiped toward the end of the campaign. This makes it tense to play through and heightens the stakes, but dang, **** is unforgiving.
Was a lot of fun though. 8/10, all points elected for the story and setting and everything, 2 points deducted for really unreasonable difficulty. It didn't seem like there was a way to get through it alive without cheesing some things or grinding mooks for 20 sessions before doing anything of note. That said our deaths were 100% because of a series of bad calls on our part, so I'm not salty. Got to do something fun and creative with a cantrip just before going out for the last time, so I have some satisfaction.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:55 pm
11.) Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the L1 Button:
Meh. This game wasn't a disaster or even necessarily bad but it feels like it's less than the sum of its parts. The gameplay is neat but it doesn't quite hold over hours, and the story's potential is brought down by characters that are written to be as bland and inoffensive as possible. There were many days where I just couldn't get motivated to play... but the days I did play were pretty fun. So yeah, it took me a long time to get around to finishing the game, which probably impacted my overall enjoyment of it. There's a bunch of bonus content I could do like the last 4 or so Espers and a bunch of Hunts but I kind of just want to move on.
Also the pacing is all sorts of **** in terms of gameplay and story. Pharos is like sixteen times longer than the actual final dungeon, and you spend so much time fighting random monsters over fighting the antagonistic Empire.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 10:42 pm
I spent an hour on the first version of this post and then the forums ate it. Hopefully attempt 2 will go better.
#58. Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder
It's exactly what it says on the tin. The same historical bowling and Monty Python-esque cutscenes you got in the first game, but more of it. I don't think it'll change anyone's opinion of the idea, for better or for worse.
There's not much to praise or criticize that's unique to it beyond the loadout system. I don't think limiting the player's choice of boulders or units adds anything to the game, especially when the (incredibly stupid) AI is exempt from such restraints. A fun game overall, but certainly not a must-play.
#R3 Mass Effect 2
I don't think I've ever had such a roller coaster of opinions of a game during one playthrough. I started off riding high from ME1 and confident that the sequel would hold its top 10 spot. Then I got trapped in thoroughly mediocre content and started thinking that maybe I was unfair to Andromeda after all. It recovered well in the final hours, but in the end I've got to admit it isn't the game I thought it was.
The most glaring problem is pacing. Neither ME1 nor ME2 have astounding moment-to-moment gameplay, but the first game makes up for that by making sure you're never doing the same thing for too long and by scattering interesting (if often simplistic) choices throughout even the side missions. As for the main missions, you're interacting with Saren, the Reapers, or a clear proxy for the two in almost every one of them, and since all party characters join within the first quarter of the game, they can be developed evenly in the remaining runtime.
ME2 doesn't do any of that. The sidequests are among the worst I've seen in an RPG, with essentially none allowing for any role-playing whatsoever and many even lacking more than a blurb of dialogue. The massive party is spread so widely over the campaign that early characters, as demonstrated by Garrus' infamous 'calibrations', will run out of dialogue halfway through the game, while others, like Legion, are almost impossible to fully explore unless you specifically aim to do so. The main missions are short, and while they do at least have choices to make, at least 60% of them are against mercenary groups that were never mentioned in ME1. The dialogue takes every opportunity to remind the player that you're out to stop the Collectors from kidnapping human colonies, but between The Blue Suns and Eclipse, you probably kill more humans than anything else. Once you stop to think about the amount and variety of crimes these two groups are apparently responsible for, it just gets silly.
Unfortunately, doing silly things because someone thought they were cool is something of a trend with this game. Some of the worst examples are pretty well-known - Miranda, Jack, and Samara were apparently designed by fourteen year-olds, and the repeated butt shots of the former have never been anything but cringey. Others, like Shepard cracking his/her knuckles through armor, aren't talked about much, but are nonetheless painful. What bothered me the most, however, is how everyone in the galaxy recognizes exactly as much as the plot requires them to at that moment. The game establishes literally within the first minute that Shepard is an 'icon' and goes out of its way to remind the player that *everyone* knows who Shepard is, and yet you're still capable of signing up for a mercenary group or talking to enemies in bars as just some guy despite doing nothing to hide your face and wearing ****ing N7 armor. Cerberus is, as the game loves to remind you, recognized as a terrorist organization by basically everyone, yet everyone walks around wearing their logo and they even paint it on the goddamn Normandy. For all of that, the Normandy is recognized as Cerberus exactly twice in the entire game, and no one makes much of a deal abut it either time.
Other parts just haven't aged well. The textures do a better job of hiding how bad they are compared with the first game, but they're still awful, and the facial animation is better but worse at hiding how last-gen it is. Save file import is no longer particularly impressive, so all those moments of seeing minor characters from ME1 remember what you did to them just aren't impressive anymore. Perhaps most critically, it's extremely apparent that your choices don't actually change much after six years of advancement in branching RPGs.
For all that, though, it's still a great game when it works. As bad as some of the characters are, more than half the cast is still very well-written, and the loyalty missions are generally a blast. The plot itself is pretty basic, but it sets up some of the bigger moments in ME3 by fleshing out the genophage and Geth to make them more interesting dilemmas, particularly in the latter case. The combat can even be pretty fun when you're actually fighting Collectors or Geth instead of crappy mercs.
And then there's the setpieces. It doesn't have as many as ME1 or 3, but it still has some of the best in a series that I don't think has ever really been rivaled for big scenes. The intro with the Illusive Man and Shepard's death are as cool as they've ever been, and the final attack on the Collectors is possibly the single best mission in gaming. I've seen it four times now and know exactly how it works behind the scenes, and yet it's still intense every time I see it.
All of which is basically to say that while everything I thought was great about it four years ago is great today, there's a ton of mediocre to actively bad content I overlooked back then. It doesn't sink the game by any means - I wouldn't have any qualms about recommending this or ME1 to someone who'd never heard of either today - but I can't pretend a game with this many flaws deserves to be top 10. It's got to drop a bit.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:14 pm
12.) Hyper Light Drifter
Funny story, I actually started this as a filler game back in July just before SGDQ. When I was thinking of what to play before Samus Returns I decided to start over and finish this game. Overall it's a pretty good game. Combat has a nice rhythm to it between shooting, slashing and dashing. Sound design worked to create a sort of creepy, unsettling ambiance that fits in well with the general violence/gorn and weird visions. I have some complaints, however. For one, the sound gets really loud whenever a cutscene plays. My second complaint is that there's a lot of pick-ups but no map to keep track of them all. Additionally, a lot of the secrets end up being found the same way, be it hugging a wall or dashing to an invisible platform.
DIAGNOSIS: Good but not great
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:05 pm
#1.) Dracula X; Nocturne In The Moonlight for Sega Saturn. An un localized port of Symphony of the night to Sega Saturn, which is quite sad because it's got a butt load of extra content you won't find in any other version. The biggest additions being 4 new areas to explore (Underground Garden, Cursed Prison, Hell Garden, and the Haunted Prison) and Maria as a playable character. While they aren't quite the same level of quality you'll find in other areas, I honestly really enjoyed them. The prison is a nice shortcut between the catacombs and marble gallery, and the garden is a cool side quest with some very strange but charming enemies.
This weird tree being my favorite of the bunch. Some of them don't look good at all, like the sheet ghost. Honestly, it just makes them all the more memorable. My only real complaints are that the prison is kinda bland, and because you have to go back to a spot you wouldn't otherwise, people playing with out prior knowledge of the garden would most likely be super over powered by the time they find it if at all. I also don't understand exactly what activates it. The game has two new boss fights, one with Maria which plays my favorite musical score in the entire series. Listen here; https://youtu.be/nFFBKi-kddQ
The other is the skeleton leader who appears at the end of the garden area. It was a cool fight, even if his laser beam looked like crap. The first hit was also really cheap, it's impossible to avoid if you haven't seen it before.
The haunted prison and hell garden are the same deal, except the hell garden doesn't have a boss for some reason, which makes it pointless to travel the entire garden. The game has a bunch of new weapons, but my icons are bugged out and it's all in Japanese. So I have no clue what's new and what isn't. Despite that, the game is very playable without being able to read Japanese. This is assuming you've played the psx or dxc version first so you know what the cutscenes say. The intro is still in English for some reason, so there's that. Lots of things are still in English for some reason, like the name cards that tell you where you are or the game over screen.
The game does not look or play as good as the psx version. That being said, I don't think it's bad enough to deny the games existence. The loading times aren't detrimental as much as they are a minor annoyance. Same goes for the slow down. Some effects aren't as nice either, like the skeleton leaders laser beam or Richter's item crash's. On its own though, it looks fine. The biggest draw back in terms of graphics are how everything is stretched. It's makes slopes look very unnatural. You get used to it after playing for a while, but it's still weird looking.
Maria is a fun character, but like Richter she isn't really designed for this kind of game and it feels lifeless as a result. I don't like that the other 2 characters are unlocked from the start because the characters don't feel like they belong. They work as extras and nothing more.
Over all, I give Dracula X; Nocturne in the Moon Light an 8/10. It could have been better, but as it stands it's not a bad game at all. I also wouldn't suggest purchasing it, since it's a collectors item nowadays. Plus, if you emulate you can use SSF to fix the transparencies and smoother out the frame rate.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Sat Sep 23, 2017 4:11 pm
#59. Crazy Taxi (9/8)
I paid something like $2 for this and got everything that was fun about the arcade game. Everything they added is either inferior or completely terrible, but I can't complain too much since I definitely got more out of it than I would've from putting $2 into one of the arcade machines. It's worth picking up on sale, at least.
#60. Typing of the Dead: Overkill
Someone noticed that the original House of the Dead games were remembered mostly for being camp and decided to make a new game that's deliberately camp and sleazy. But, as per usual, camp doesn't work when the story is in on the joke, and the character's insistence on pointing out how sleazy they are just makes you wonder why they bothered with it.
The tedious narrative would've been forgivable if the gameplay was better, but it isn't. Where something like Epistory took the typing game and covered it in ARPG exploration and powers to keep the gameplay interesting, Overkill make exactly one attempt at changing things up in its entire runtime. It's all the way at the end, and it's stunningly bad - the game removes all prompts and instead forces you to play word association with random nouns from the game. At best, it gives you a protagonist's name and the whole thing is merely stupid. At worst, it gives you ****ing "grindhouse" as a prompt and you die because you lost the most literal round of "guess what the developers were thinking" in gaming history.
Also, pickups and collectibles work by pressing tab while they're on screen. They add nothing to the game except encouraging you to just mash tab constantly - there's no punishment at all for pressing it at the wrong time.
#61. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Once you take out my time in Early Access and the time I left it on while building a chair, I finished this game in something like 40 hours over the course of 9 days. Relative to the amount of time I had to play it, I don't think I've ever finished that long of a game so quickly. Despite that, I'm not sure I actually like it that much. It kept me playing because this style of game - semi-open world with a constant stream of quests and few loading screens - can generally do that, but it has so many problems of varying severity that the overall product, while impressively large, isn't much more than acceptable.
The biggest issue is that this game is loaded with "Guide dang it!" moments. Some of these are down to glitches - I resorted to a guide for one pipe puzzle near the end when the liquid starting ignoring my pipes and for another puzzle earlier on when I just wasn't given several critical clues - but others are just obtuse. I ended up leaving far, far more quests incomplete they I normally would in a game like this because they'd devolved into pixel hunting, had bugged out and denied me important hints, or were completely unresponsive to any logical course of action. I get that it wants you to explore instead of just following prompts, but there's a middle ground between giving the player the answer and forcing them to move every box in the entire world because you've hidden important switches beneath completely random ones.
Another big issue is the conversation system. NPCs will sometimes just arbitrarily pick a party member you're not playing to start talking to, and if there's a persuasion or trait check in that conversation that your ally isn't prepared for, you're just screwed. There's nothing for it except reloading (which could cost you a ton of time since the autosaves only happen at specific moments) and forcing your party into a shape that changes who they talk to or accepting the result and potentially missing out on content. The game is fully voiced (except when it cuts out for no reason mid-sentence), which is usually a good thing, but it becomes extremely annoying when you're shopping in town and two NPCs next to you keep repeating the same conversation once every 10 seconds.
The last major problem is combat. I played on Explorer Mode because, even though DOS is better at it than most CRPGs, I've never found the genre's obsession with equipment to make for compelling fights. The mode lived up to its title for 95% of the game, with me steam-rolling anything within two levels of me and never having to worry about how shiny my pants were. And then, suddenly, it stopped. There's one boss very near the end that is technically optional (but isn't if you're playing primarily for narrative, like everyone in Explorer Mode is) but represents a truly absurd difficult spike and will wipe your party before you can move even if nothing around it presents a challenge. I'm sure it's more manageable if you've cared about your pants up until that moment, but I hadn't needed to, and killing the boss ultimately required digging through every shop for pants I didn't care about and then cheesing the boss in a completely unsatisfying way. The other boss - the final - was much worse.
There's a quirk throughout the game were, despite being an RPG, it's almost always better to play it like an FPS and just stab first, ask questions later. Talking to potentially hostile characters might give you more characterization and flavor, but it also almost always lets them act first, and shooting them with a fireball from offscreen doesn't even cost an action. If you're finding a fight difficult, the best solution is almost always to just reload and blow everyone up instead of talking. The only time this doesn't work is in the final fight - everyone will just regenerate whatever damage you did to them. Instead, approaching the fight logically and refusing to be complicit in the villain's plans results in a tough, but theoretically winnable battle that abruptly ends when you deal enough damage to one of two characters. This triggers a new fight against a set of characters that would be by far the hardest boss in the game on their own, but with everyone from the last fight still alive and hostile and no health recovery whatsoever. I was at what I believe to be the maximum level, and I don't see how the fight is winnable.
At least, not if you approach it the satisfying way. If you do agree to the villain's plan, you the first phase of the fight immediately ends and you get to fight that second boss at full health and with all of the original "villains" as allies. There are no narrative or gameplay consequences whatsoever for doing this. Like the other boss, I technically wasn't forced to play this way and it might've been easier if I had the Fingerless Gloves of Awesome on all of my characters, but it forced a choice between suffering through a fight I'd probably never win or taking the easy way out and winning a hollow victory. It's easily one of the worst final fights I've ever seen.
Also, one last shout-out for the fights were NPCs are tied up and enemies will ignore you in favor of killing them. Since it isn't consistent and makes some quests basically impossible to complete, I'm pretty sure it's an AI bug, but that doesn't make it any less aggravating when you'd had to replay a fight for the 10th time because the boss is suicidally determined to kill a non-threat.
Having said all that, during the 50-60% of the game when you're not dealing with any of those issues, it's great. There's an almost unrivaled amount of player freedom, a ton of opportunities for roleplaying, and basically everything else you'd want from this kind of game. It's those moments that kept me going and playing as much as I did. There's some really cool stuff in this game, and it probably would've been a content for game of the year if the other half of the game wasn't so frustrating and self-defeating. As it stands, it's good enough that I'm content with my purchase, but no more than that.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:12 am
You can see a more in-depth review here
, but I beat Metroid: Samus Returns
and I absolutely loved it. It's the 2D Metroid I've been wishing for for the last 13 years.
Re: Review the last game you finished
Posted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:08 pm
13.) Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: I actually replayed this a few months ago and didn't review it. Somehow it ended up being more fun than I expected or remembered. Still bummed about the Pegasus Boots though.
14.) Metroid: Samus Comes Back: Not the best in the series but still pretty great.
15.) Wario Land 2: Great game, though probably not in my top favorites ever. Playing as a boss character is a cool idea that doesn't get visited enough. There's also plenty of replay value beyond just running through the game once due to branching paths and treasure. Sound effects are atrocious though, and boss battles end up being "don't get hit or you'll float up and have to start over!"
16.) Doki Doki Literature Club: wtf i love literature now