Archive for the 'Gaming Goodies' Category

13
Oct
18

13 Great Horror Games

Tis the season to be spooky; in that vein, I thought I’d share some of the games I love playing at this time of year, as well as some upcoming games I’m particularly excited about. 13 of them, to be exact; what better number could there be? If you’re a gamer who’s into the season, I think these are worth checking out… assuming you haven’t already.

Go on; try a few of ’em. What are you? Chicken?

Silent Hill 2

Of course this starts the list; the granddaddy of psychological horror, frequently touted as one of the best in the genre. While I’m not 100% certain of that claim, I do call it my second favorite game of all time (#1 is Metal Gear Solid 3), and think it still holds up today. As a bonus, unlike a lot of games on this list, it can be played on modern consoles (it’s available in HD Collection format for PS4 via PS Now, and the 360 version is backwards compatible with Xbox One) so there’s plenty of opportunity to check it out.

If you’re unaware of the basics, James Sunderland is a man grieving for his wife who died three years ago. Then one day he gets a letter from her, claiming she’s waiting for him in their “special place” – Silent Hill. With nothing better to do, James heads out to see what in the world is going on. If you’ve somehow gone this long without the twist being spoiled, do yourself a favor and play through the game without looking it up; the emotional punch when you find out is amazing.

Resident Evil 7

Resident Evil has had a few bad years, admittedly. While I don’t hate 5 and 6 as much as some folks – I think they’re decent action games, just not very good Resident Evil games – 7 serves as a properly terrifying title, switching out a lot of genre and series staples for a first-person view and a much more small-scale terror. The boss designs are properly disgusting, and the level of characterization behind the Baker family is amazing.

The DLC leaves a bit to be desired, but given the Gold edition with all of it included runs pretty cheap – and is frequently on sale on both the PSN Store and Xbox Marketplace – you might as well pick it up.

Alien: Isolation

Serving as a far better part of the Alien series than Prometheus or Covenant could hope to be, Isolation follows the troubles of Ellen Ripley’s daughter as she makes a trek to a soon-to-be-closed mining station that has picked up the flight recorder of the Nostromo. Looking to find out just what happened to her mother, Amanda soon finds that the flight recorder isn’t the only thing that’s made its way onto Sevastopol, and what follows is 20+ hours of hide-and-seek against possibly the best AI opponent ever seen in gaming. The game is truly tense and frightening, and one frequently is sympathetic to Amanda’s heavy breathing and desperate demeanor as you see the xenomorph’s tail dragging across the floor inches from your position, praying that it doesn’t notice you and move in for an appropriately cinematic and gruesome one-hit kill.

The other great thing about the game is that it absolutely nails the retro-futuristic look of the original trilogy, something the newer films can’t seem to handle. It’s available on damn near everything, last gen and next, and tends to run under $20, so there’s no real reason to miss out on it.

The Suffering

What happens when you take a bog-standard third person shooter, then inject it with heavy-duty horror elements and some of the best lore in horror gaming short of Silent Hill?

Magic, that’s what. The Suffering isn’t great on the mechanics scale, though it isn’t bad, either; its just average. What sells this title is the monster design – in the original, they’re all based off of methods of torture and execution used in the prison setting, while The Ties That Bind applies the concepts of inner-city death and strife – and the characters. Dr. Killjoy is both menacing and hilarious, and Horace manages to be horrific, threatening, and sympathetic all at once. The sequel falters a bit, but is still a decent game; still, if opportunity presents itself, check it out. One hindering factor is the game isn’t playable on any current systems; the PS2 version hasn’t made its way to PS Now, and at last check the Xbox copy doesn’t work on Xbox One, but if you’ve got a BC PS3 or an original Xbox lying around, check it out.

Fatal Frame III

The Fatal Frame series has fallen on hard times, it seems; the fourth installment was never released in the west, while the fifth is only available as a download on the ill-fated WiiU. Given the trend of WiiU games getting ported to Switch, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a compilation, but in the meantime I still have the original trilogy to keep me busy.

Fatal Frame‘s premise is simple enough: enter a haunted locale armed only with a camera (and maybe a flashlight. Sometimes.) Try not to die, figure out why it’s haunted, and try to complete whatever ritual went wrong to seal all the hellbound souls back where they belong. Fatal Frame games do a great job of emphasizing the helplessness and isolation that makes psychological horror work, the ghost designs are all unique and suitably disturbing, and the locales all give off the appropriate level of “Hell naw.” Of the three, Fatal Frame III does it best, while also offering multiple characters and giving you “breathing room” segments in the “normal” world. At least until that turns hostile, too… You can snag it (and the first two) from PSN on PS3 for pretty cheap; sadly, the PS2 and Xbox physical copies tend to be pretty pricey, though not terribly difficult to run down if you take that route.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares

Mary Skelter is a little difficult to explain. It’s primarily a first-person dungeon crawler, but it also incorporates some elements from dating sims, management sims, and visual novels. The basics are that you’re essentially trapped in a living dungeon – with moods and appetites that you can go against or attempt to sate, changing the layout and encounters – attempting to climb to the top and find a way out. Along the way you’ll recruit a band of twisted fairy tale princesses, who have a nasty tendency to go berserk, turning into ultra-powerful (but psychotic and just as liable to murder each other as the monsters) Skelter forms. That gives it an interesting risk/reward mechanic and requires a lot of planning to balance battles, giving it a more strategy vibe that doesn’t seem immediately apparent… at least until the first time one of your party members goes berserk, kills everyone else, depowers, and then gets one shot by the boss you were fighting.

The difficulty and style is very similar to early Persona or Shin Megami Tensei titles, so if you’re into those, check it out. The graphics and music/sound are beautiful dark fantasy fare, and each party member has a special skill used to deal with environmental puzzles. Only downside is it’s for Vita, so everyone may not have a chance to check this out, but a sequel just came out in Japan (and includes the original as a bonus) for PS4, so hopefully they’ll hop across the pond.

Dead Rising

Dead Rising isn’t an intellectual, scary, deep, or serious game. But it is a very entertaining one. The basic premise (of the first three entries, anyway) is “Here’s a big place full of zombies and random stuff. Grab the random stuff and bash zombies. Have fun.” The sheer number of outfits, items, weapons, food and potential combo weapons, along with the size of the environments mean there’s plenty of variety in the zombie-bashing, and if you feel like following the plot, helping the survivors and fighting the deranged psychopaths, there’s even more entertainment to be had.

That being said, try to stick to Dead Rising 1, 2, and Off the Record. 3 and 4 aren’t bad games, but they lack some of the charm of the first three, and are much more linear and pressing you to move forward instead of just having fun. With the exception of Dead Rising 3, you can get them on just about every system, both last and current gen, and except for Dead Rising 4, they generally are less than $10.

The Binding of Isaac

Just for clarification, I include Wrath of the Lamb, Afterbirth, Afterbirth+, Rebirth, Antibirth and all the other mods and DLCs under this heading. At the core, they’re all Isaac, and they’re all great. Take the mechanics of Zelda and Rogue, spray paint it in blood and poop jokes, and wrap it up in a story that deals with religious zealotry and child abuse, and you have Isaac. Very much a “just one more try” sort of game, the randomized items and runs – as well as the insane variety of modifiers and items, not all of which are beneficial to the player – provides an almost infinite amount of replay value. I’ve spent almost as much time on Isaac as I did in World of Warcraft or Diablo 3, and more than on my old PS2 Star Ocean 3 perfect save file on the quest to 100%, and I’m still playing it even after “completing” the game.

Isaac is fairly inexpensive, running under $20 in most cases, and is available for just about every platform, so there’s really no reason to miss out.

The Darkness

Jackie Estacado is a mafia enforcer possessed by (or possessing) The Darkness, a primal force of chaos, hunger, and evil. When his uncle makes the mistake of trying to kill him, it leads Jackie on a bloody rampage of revenge, putting his hell-granted powers to good use as he literally tears his way through the local Mafia.

What gets it on this list? The game captures the visual style of the comic book incarnation, drenching everything in a sense of nihilistic hopelessness and will to surrender to chaos. It also has some surprisingly well done emotional moments between Jackie and his girlfriend Jenny, which turn the dials to 11 when the inevitable happens. Jackie is a monster of a man, even without the Darkness, but it does an excellent job of humanizing him in some ways… and the moral quandary when a remorseless hitman begins questioning his own actions is fascinating.

The sequel is also worth playing – and the art style, voice acting and gameplay are better in many ways – but the story and presentation of the original – plus watching television with Jenny – push it a teensy notch higher in my opinion.

Deadly Premonition

Do you like Twin Peaks? Do you like murder mysteries, ghosts, insanity and delusions hiding beneath a goofy (and poorly executed, in many instances) exterior? Then you need Deadly Premonition.

It takes a lot of heat for the bad B-movie voice acting, the bizarre behavior of protagonist Agent Francis York Morgan, and absolutely atrocious controls, but if you can get past all that, you will find yourself embroiled in a surprisingly entertaining and engrossing tale of supernatural horror that’s frequently just as focused on day-to-day things like putting gas in the car and remembering to shower and change clothes so people will actually be willing to talk to you as it is on the zombie blasting.

Whether it’s a “so bad it’s good” game a “rough but good” game or just an oddity, Deadly Premonition is still something worth playing. Try to grab the Director’s Cut for PS3 or PC if possible, as control tweaks make it a lot more playable than the 360 original, but give it a look either way.

Honorable Mentions

Didn’t want to go into too much detail, here, but some other suggestions to put you in the mood: Alan Wake, BioShock, Prey (the 2016 one), Splatterhouse, Still Frame, Perception, Dementium: The Ward, and Alone in the Dark (1, New Nightmare or Inferno. Avoid the others.)

I also said I’d throw in some upcoming titles that I’m looking forward to, so here we go!

Death Mark

Billed as a psychological horror visual novel, everything I’ve seen so far looks intriguing. Plus it’s coming out on Halloween! I’m getting conflicting reports on whether this is going to be cross-platform or not, but its definitely on Vita and there may be a PS4 version floating about.

Call of Cthulhu

There was an old FPS on Xbox called Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth that was pretty decent, but from all reports this has little to do with that game outside of being based in the Mythos. Supposedly drawing more from the pen-and-paper game and focusing on semi-open world exploration and multiple solutions to problems at hand and with a sanity system that is supposed to finally top Eternal Darkness‘, Call of Cthulhu is looking good, and also lands on Halloween. That just leaves me the dilemma of if I’ll be huddled in the corner with the Vita or glued to the PS4 on that lovely day.

Ghost Theory

This is a lesser known title. A Kickstarted indie adventure title, Ghost Theory claims its going to be a more “authentic” ghost hunting game, based on allegedly real haunted locations and with “true to life” investigation methods and tools. It looks to be taking a less sensationalized and more grounded view, which could work against it – leading to an ultimately boring title – but I have high hopes that it will do well at instilling atmosphere and creeping dread.

Sadly, Ghost Theory isn’t going to make it in time for the holiday; current target release is December. But still, looks good and I can’t wait.

What about you folks out there? What spooky games do you think celebrate the reason for the season? What horror titles are coming up that you’re looking forward to? Let us know down below!

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10
Oct
18

Achievement Unlocked

Remember, once upon a time, when people played games for however long they wished, then stopped, put them away, sold them, or traded them in as the whim took them, and there was no pressure on the whole thing?

I do… and sometimes I miss it. But more often, I find it hard to get into games that aren’t somehow rewarding my obsessive completionist tendencies. When the Xbox 360 first launched, I stared at the Achievement system with narrowed eyes and open suspicion.

Years later, and I have trouble motivating myself beyond doing the bare minimum in my Switch and PSP games, because I don’t feel there’s any reward in it. There’s no little bar next to my name that says “100%,” “1000/1000,” or with an icon of a gem or a Platinum Trophy.

I end up playing games for longer than I enjoy them, or playing games for no reason other than to add to an arbitrary score or level. My Name Is Mayo is on my PSN ID for this reason, and Madden ’06 and NBA 2k6 lurk somewhere in my Xbox Gamertag as well. We don’t talk about Avatar: The Burning Earth.

But why? What is it about hearing that “Ping!” noise and seeing that I’ve just done something that only 3% of people playing the game bothered to do that makes me feel like its worth doing, even if I long ago stopped enjoying the game I was playing to do it? (I’m looking at you, Last Recode Platinum. Take your Books of Ryu and put them where the sun don’t shine.)

I think it’s a feeling of empowerment combined with the idea that I can point someone else at it and say “See! Look at my shinies! I did something!” When you’ve had most other avenues of accomplishment closed to you, temporarily or permanently, its important to point to something and say “I did this.”

But what’s different about earning the full score in Quantum Break vs 100% completion of Hyrule Warriors? I think it comes back to being able to share it, to contemplate that someone, somewhere, may be impressed with your pitiful accomplishment. No one can tell that I have wasted 300 hours of my life in Hyrule Warriors without having access to my Switch or without me doing obsessive screencaps. To be fair, I’m guilty of that, too. But on the other hand, everyone on PSN can potentially see that I am one of the 0.54% who have 100% finished The Binding of Isaac on PS4. (Yes, I am obsessively proud of that one.)

Speaking of which, if you want to see my PlayStation accomplishments, here they are. Sad, isn’t it?

What about you out there, fellow gamers? Are you for or against the accomplishment-tracking present in most modern games? Why? Do you feel like its enhanced or reduced your enjoyment of those titles with it? Let us know down below!

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17
Jul
18

Gaming Roundup of June

Haven’t done one of these in a bit, so figured I’d gather up the titles I’ve been playing and provide my thoughts on them.

In an earlier post, I mentioned I’ve been on a bit of a visual novel kick of late and my thoughts in general on the subject, so not much to add on those. Went through Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, Code: Realize ~ Guardian of Rebirth, Nonary Games:999, Bad Apple Wars, 7s’Carlet and Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk. Things common to all of them: deep plots, existential crises, tons of reading, and minimal interaction. Of the specific highlights of each, 7s’Carlet and Bad Apple Wars don’t really have anything different to add, though I’ll say that I really enjoyed 7’sCarlet‘s plot and presentation, while I found Bad Apple Wars to be rather boring and didn’t care much about any of the characters.

For the differences, Black Butterfly and Nonary Games have actual gameplay elements; Black Butterfly has a target-shooting minigame which isn’t particularly deep, but at least broke up the static reading, and 999 has what it calls “Escape Sequences” where you’ll be playing something more akin to a standard point and click adventure, looking for clues and solving inventory-based puzzles to move to the next story segment. Code: Realize doesn’t change up the basic choose your own adventure style, but the presentation and characterization, with a steampunk backdrop and bumping elbows with famous literary and mythological characters added a lot to the charm. Ashen Hawk stands out by giving a bit more freedom in the paths you choose, with an actual map that you’ll have to explore and scenes to pursue in an order other than “which male waifu do you want to bother today.” It also is a lot darker and even its happy moments are bittersweet at best. There’s about 12 endings, and only three or four are “happy,” but only on the surface; looking into the context or how the heroine is essentially rejecting reality and delusional makes them almost as depressing as the “real” endings. I liked that.

In more standard fare, I’ve been picking at Yakuza 6, which is certainly fun. If you haven’t played one before, the basic gist is that you play a former Yakuza member, Kazuma Kiryu, who is always getting involved in the actions of his former clan. It’s very much “everytime I think I’m out, they pull me back in.” This time his daughter has been involved in a near-fatal car crash that may be more than it appears, and he’s tasked with solving that mystery, preventing clan wars, and figuring out who the father of his grandson is and how it ties to the rest of the mess. Along the way you’ll find time to dress as a mascot, play a bunch of Sega arcade games – though the UFO catcher sadly seems to be missing – and hit the batting cages and hostess clubs.

I’m mixed on this one. I enjoy it. Just like I have with the seven other games in this series. Maybe I’m getting burned out, or my brain just isn’t in the right mode for this – which is sad, because Yakuza Kiwami 2, Shenmue 1 & 2 HD (which is in many ways Yakuza‘s parent series) and Yakuza 7 are all on the way – but I’m not as invested in Kiryu’s weird world as I have been in the past. I’m really hoping its just a phase, and I’ll get back into the right mindset soon – if only so I can check it off the list before Kiwami 2 hits – but I just don’t know.

I’m also picking at Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, which is another visual novel, but has a lot more gameplay than most; point and click adventure phases where you look for clues to murders, Phoenix Wright style interrogations, and an action shooter cross-examination and evidence presentation game? It’s a blast. I’m not very far, yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far. I just want to cross 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward off the list before I really dig into it.

Lastly, I finally picked up Neir: Automata. Damn, son. Every utterly batshit Platinum Games hack-and-slash mechanic wrapped up in a bizarre mindfuck plot and deep RPG and customization mechanics? Yes, please. More, please. Like Danganronpa, I haven’t gotten a lot of time to spend with 2B and her crew, but everything I’ve seen, I love. Again, just need to clear some room in my backlog so I can tear it apart in the quest for the Platinum.

What about you folks out there? What have you been playing? What do I need to add to my pile? Let us know down below!

09
Jul
18

Loving Horror

I’ve been on a new kick with my gaming habits of late. During my convalescence, I picked up a game for my sadly often-neglected Vita, thinking it was a survival horror game of some sort.

I was very wrong. But I found myself loving it anyway.

The game was Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly. It’s a format called a visual novel, or an otome game; to most that means “dating simulator,” with the “otome” portion indicating the main character is female and will be selecting from a series of anime-stereotype dudes who she must romance. Psychedelica ended up teaching me that there can be a lot more to the style than I first thought.

The premise – several teens find themselves waking up in a haunted mansion, lacking memories and gifted with strange guns, hunted by monsters that, when defeated, exude tendrils of darkness into their slayer and drop fragments of a device called the kaleidoscope that promises a means of escape – was much more enthralling than any of the romantic overtures Beniyrui and her male harem engage in. Honestly, the romantic aspects serve as a side plot to the mystery of the mansion, and feels less like the point of the game and more like something that occurred naturally given the revelations that were presented.

It’s probably a good thing this was my first in-depth exposure to this type of game; had it been a more straightforward “who do you think is the cutest,” I would have chucked it aside before it had time to get rolling.

Now, I’d had some experience with the genre before; I’d played both Hatoful Boyfriend and Doki Doki Literature Club, the former because the idea of a pigeon dating simulator was hilarious – and then made more worthwhile by the surprisingly deep and disturbing backstory that comes into play once the fowl shenanigans are dealt with – the latter because of MatPat’s explanations about what was really going on there. But before Psychedelica, I didn’t know that weird hooks and deep mysteries were as common as they are in the genre.

Since then, I’ve moved on to Bad Apple Wars (okay, but not as good as Psychedelica and more in line with “cute boy simulator,” though it does have a better story than expected once you get past the opening acts), Code: Realize: Guardian of Rebirth (an amazing steampunk adventure story with fictional and semi-fictional personages enacting a tale that includes immortality, vampires, airship battles, racism and a bionic dog), 7’sCarlet (A murder mystery set in a town that is much more than it appears, with a suitably twisted “true” ending path that gives some interesting concepts about destiny and has a touch of weird incest), Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk (In which a cross-dressing cursed witch tries to protect what’s most important to her), the Zero Escape series (Think Saw with a lot more reading and elements of old school point-and-click adventures) and the Danganronpa series (if Phoenix Wright had a lovechild with Riverdale and then drenched itself in hot-pink blood.)

Wow. There’s a lot more going on with this type of game than I thought. My hunger is not yet satisfied, but thankfully there seem to be a few hundred of these things on Vita and most of them are rotting on the shelf at my local GameStop, so I can work my way through them all. If anyone still has a Vita lying around and happens to be a PlayStation Plus member, Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma is free for the month of July, so might serve as a decent introduction if you haven’t tried one of these before.

But that’s not really the core of this post; it’s about loving horror, both in terms of enjoying it, and in terms of horror with a touch of other emotions. These games have it. They may not be the most involved in terms of gameplay (of the ones mentioned, only Zero Escape and Black Butterfly have any “real” gameplay that isn’t based solely on conversational choices or variants thereof, at least that I’ve found so far) but they’re surprisingly well done in provoking the feels, much more so than most video games seem to be. There was a lesson to be learned here; even if something seems outside of your wheelhouse, be it in consumption of entertainment or production of it, sometimes it’s worth giving it a try. You might find something new and interesting in it.

21
Apr
18

Identity Crisis

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Quite a few games lately seem to be suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. Whether it’s trying to change up a formula that has grown stale, making tweaks due to the changing tastes of gamers, or just because something in a previous iteration didn’t work out. Games – and times – change. That’s a fact.

But still, sometimes the changes are pretty weird. Several of the games I’ve been poking at recently seem to have undergone this sort of metamorphosis; I’m going to poke at three of them real quick.

First, (Totally-Not-Resident)Evil Within 2. While the first game tried to be Resident Evil 4, Mark II – and didn’t do so hot at it, I’ll add – EW2 at first presents itself as more of the same… but trying to play it that way will quickly reveal that’s not the best way to go about it. EW2 does its best work when it’s being played like a Splinter Cell or Metal Gear game. Carefully creeping about, studying the enemy patterns and looking for loopholes in their pathing to either shank them from behind or evade them entirely. Also like Metal Gear, it tends to fall apart in the obligatory boss fights, playing to none of the game’s strengths and all of its weaknesses. Still, it worked out better than expected, and EW2 is in many ways better than its predecessor.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is from the “we’re bored, let’s do something else” camp; while I will happily state that AC:O is the best AC in just about forever, it’s not really much of an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s more like Ancient Egyptian The Witcher. Which I’m totally okay with, but strikes me as a little odd. Cramming in a bunch of open world RPG elements was nice, though the fact that “assassination” doesn’t really work any more seems to defy the title a bit.

Last on the blotter is the newly-released God of War. The previous six games all had a bad case of the samesies; there’s very little to differentiate God of War from God of War: Ascension or Ghost of Sparta. It’s also a genre that doesn’t seem to have much of a following anymore; basic “stylish action” hack and slashers have sort of fallen by the wayside in recent years. With that in mind, God of War decided to do something decidedly different. First is embracing an epic story that tries to hit you in the feels (mainly by riffing on The Last of Us’s themes of parenthood), while second is retooling the game into something that seems to want to be more Zelda than anything else. Well, amendment. More Darksiders. But given that Darksiders is basically Zelda on steroids with a coat of black and red paint, that’s still kind of the same thing.

All that being said, all three games are great, and very enjoyable. They’re just different, and not likely what folks were expecting when walking in based on their sequel status.

What about you folks out there? Know of a great game that is completely different from its forebears? What about sequels who developed an identity crisis, switched things up, and flopped hard? Let us know down below!

KA Spiral no signature

 

28
Feb
18

Goodreads Review: Dolor

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DOLOR: Books I-VDOLOR: Books I-V by Rick Florino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rick Florino’s Dolor reminds me a lot of Silent Hill. A very terrible place that you’d never want to visit. But – again like Silent Hill – I find myself drawn to it, and insist on poking all the mysteries and unpleasant secrets that lie beneath the sleepy little town exterior; my sense of warped and morbid curiosity just won’t let these sorts of things lie still.

Dolor: Books I-V is a compendium of the first five books of Dolor (as if that wasn’t apparent enough from the title.) This is true in both the literal publishing sense, and the in-story sense, as each tale is presented as a journal of someone touched by the strangeness, madness and danger that lurks in the city. Each presents a different main character, a slightly different oogity-boogity causing the ruckus, and an appropriately grisly end (though often with a sunshine-and-rainbows “What just happened”) as the wraparound story – an FBI agent exploring the remains of a burned-out house and discovering the journals – grows steadily more bizzarre. It’s got an interesting framework and some good concepts going for it, I’ll say that much.

On the good side:
The wraparound story makes for good presentation – though what’s contained in this volume feels like only half the story, I’d certainly like to hear more – and there’s a certain dreamlike etherealness to the whole affair that seems to suit the mood well. Again, echoes of Silent Hill, with the multiple layers of objective/subjective reality and leaving you wondering just what the hell is going on and how much of it’s real. The feeling that, despite the varying nature of the supernatural threats (including possessed teddy bears, cthonic entities, demon babies and vampires), there’s some link between them and ultimately a singular explanation for the terrible things that happen there is omnipresent. The descriptions of the gore and violence are well done and vivid (a scene where a character is run over by a car left me wincing quite a bit) and the characters, when presented properly, are reasonably entertaining stereotypes of the folks you’d find in a small town that’s still big enough to have class divides and bureaucratic corruption.

On the downsides:
This may be a quibble rather than a genuine downside, but it feels unfinished. The wraparound story has no real resolution, and while the other tales seem to be building towards a final revelation and potential showdown (or at least an apocalypse) it never arrives. It’s possible there are more books of Dolor out there, but I’ve yet to find them, thus giving the impression that this is unfortunately as complete as it’s going to get. If I’m wrong on this count, feel free to point me at the others and I’ll remove this “grr” moment. 🙂

The characters I found to be interesting in concept, but lacking a little in execution. Most seemed to be a little wooden, their speech a little off and “too scripted,” if that makes sense. The recurring character of Caleb feels a little too “Knight in Shining Armor,” naturally immune to all forms of corruption or frustration (at least until the teddy bear starts talking). The “Satanic” characters feel just a little excessive in their stereotypical portrayals (one has pentagrams tattooed all over him, does tons of drugs, participates in orgies and sacrifices infants and children for seemingly no reason other than “just because.” Don’t get me wrong, I like a crazy villain, and crazy cultists are always go-to options, but he felt like a caricature of every parent’s nightmares during that whole “Satan’s Sacrifices” media blitz/scare from fifteen years ago or so.)

The language and technical aspects of the writing felt like they could use a little tuning up; too many run-on sentences, repeated phrasing and repetitive description for my tastes. It doesn’t hurt the overall feel too much, and I still found it enjoyable, but I think if a good editor reamed through this, it could easily have gotten up to four stars.

Lastly, the characters and the town suffer from what I call Sunnydale Syndrome. If the murder and violence rate is so high, and creepy/weird things keep happening, why are these people still here? Sure, the cultists/Satanists might enjoy it, but the normal folks stick around for… what? The rent-controlled housing?

Overall, if you like creepy reads and have an afternoon to spare, Dolor is a decent choice and worth poking at; it left me with more questions than answers and the desire to know more, which is always a positive. With some edits, some tweaked dialogue and a more believable villain, the score could be higher, but don’t take the 3 stars as an indication of “trash.” It’s still fun. Or as Stephen King might put it: “It can be set aside with a smile, and called trash. But not bad trash.”

View all my reviews

KA Spiral no signature

15
Feb
18

Flipping the Switch

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So, almost two weeks, and still enjoying the Switch. That’s a plus.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious issues with it, though. Allow me to don my cynical, pessimistic hat for a moment here, and list a few of the grievances.

One: 32 Gigs is not enough. Yes, I know, you can buy memory cards for it… but I thought we were past this point by now. Roll the cost into the machine for bigger internal memory or including a memory card; it’ll still be worth it. Or at least make it clear on the system’s box that a memory card is recommended, as the system itself will only handle 3-4 games at most (and won’t handle some games at all; I’m looking at you, WWE 2k18 and L.A. Noire) and that’s being generous and not including DLC.

Two: Get rid of the damned friend codes already.

Three: It would be nice to have some form of Achievement/Trophy analog. It wouldn’t mean a whole lot until Nintendo gets their game together for unified online and non-friend code friendships, but a satisfying “ding” when you do something awesome (or stupid…) would please me and quite a few others, I’m sure.

Four: Where’s Virtual Console? I don’t care if we’re waiting on GameCube or 3DS or something; can we at least get the NES, SNES, Master System, Genesis, C64 or TG-16 games up? Maybe? I would totally give you my money all over again to get Devil’s Crush, Dragon’s Trap (and yes, I know they’ve reissued it for everything in a “new and improved” version, but I still like the TG-16 one), Ninja Spirit or Super Metroid up in there.

Five: Give us the option to swap the buttons for Western confirm/cancel. I know the Japanese have used the bottom button for cancel and the right one for confirm forever (and I was quite used to it during the SNES era), but for those of us hopping back and forth between systems here in the West, it causes all kinds of mistaken “yes” selections and menu cancellations.

Six: Give us streaming options. I know Nintendo has historically been against using their footage, but they seem to be correcting their course in all kinds of other ways with the Switch, so why not this one? You’ve already got the screenshot/share function… would it be that much more threatening or difficult to add video streaming?

That’s it. Not such a long list – at least so far. But beyond those minor gripes, it’s a great system. It’s not going to dethrone my PS4, but it’ll certainly get plenty of use. Unlike my Wii and my utter disinterest in WiiU.

What about you out there? Tried the Switch yet? What are your thoughts? Let us know down below!

KA Spiral no signature




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