Posts Tagged ‘video games

09
Nov
18

Game Review: Call of Cthulhu (2018)

It’s been a while since we had a proper cosmic evil video game. Call of Cthulhu has been making the rounds for a few years now, often whispered about like the rumors of what the neighbors are doing in the basement or what’s really in the meat you’re eating, occasionally bobbing to the surface in a brief and oh-so-tantalizing-yet-maddening bit of exposure before being submerged once more.

The call was finally answered this Halloween, and I was powerless against it. The question is, though, if it was worth it.

Short answer? No. At least, not right now.

I had some videos up of my playthrough, going over some of my issues and demonstrating some of them, but had to take them down due to potential copyright issues (apparently some of the music flags it), but I’ll try to speedrap some of the problems. My screencaps are likewise AWOL due to a faulty flash drive, but some of them made it onto my Twitter, at least.

One, the graphics. Now, the environments are great, though they were a little too in love with the color green – I mean, seriously, why do all the oil lamps glow green? I get it, in some instances, since what the whalers have been hauling up of late may not precisely be whales, but ALL the lighting? – but still well done, very detailed, and appropriately moody and atmospheric.

The denizens of Blackwater, on the other hand, are tripe. Their faces look wrong – and not in an Innsmouth Look way, but in a “poorly designed” way – and the generic NPCs have maybe 3-5 possible face/clothes combos, yet have as many as 10-15 in a small area, making you wonder if somehow the influence of Cthulhu has led to an upswing of twin and triplet births. The primary characters are a little better, but they’re still poorly animated, weirdly proportioned, and consist almost entirely of stock characters. (The drunk/drug addicted cop, the shady financier, Old Willie the Groundskeeper, etc etc etc.)

Of Mythos horrors, you won’t see much. A couple of mutant freaks, the suggestion of a squid-monster, and, if you get the bad ending, a pretty badass Cthulhu design for about 3 seconds. To be fair, for a Mythos story, it’s not what you see, but what you don’t, and knowing that what you see could be far worse, not having them front and center is almost okay. What isn’t is that you never really feel like they’re close. They don’t provide the looming intensity of knowing that insanity lies just around the bend, and the couple you DO see are almost cartoonish and not really that intimidating.

Sound-wise, again, the background noise is great. The subtle sloshing of waves when you’re on the beach, the groans and echoes of the mental asylum, the ominous chanting when infiltrating a cult’s secret lair… all good stuff. Music is minimal – except for the lovely copyright strike-inducing radios in a couple of areas – and not intrusive. The voice acting, though… ugh.

Our hero is the best of the lot, which isn’t saying much, but at least he reads the lines like a normal human being. The problem with him is that he’s also the voice of Jonathan from Vampyr, with a similar overall design and attitude. I spent half the game mocking him for being in the wrong game and wondering why he was lamenting his sanity instead of eating rats.

The others are varying degrees of bad, from Groundskeeper Willie feeling lifted out of the Simpsons, your cop buddy sounding like the worst combo JFK/Joker impression ever, and the Mysterious Woman trying to sound threatening and seductive but coming off like a bad Neptunia NPC. The generic NPCs all seem to have the same voice actor, and they sound like they’re trying to portray someone who’s performing a bad Russian accent who in turn is attempting to mock a Boston accent. While channeling their inner Wishmaster djinn on top of it.

Controls are… okay. There’s not really anything to be said, there; given that the game is essentially a glorified walking simulator, it just needs to be competent, which it is. A button to run, one to duck, one to search, and one to flick your light on and off. It’s all you need, really.

Story wise is where the game shines – even if it does have a few plot holes that are never explained, or even lampshaded with “Because you’re crazy, yo” – with a properly Lovecraftian slow burn building up to final madness. (Especially fun is, if you’re been poking at the things you shouldn’t, you’ll start getting dialogue options on R’leyhan) There isn’t much one can say about it without spoilers, but anyone reasonably well versed in Lovecraft or the Mythos can probably guess the broad strokes not too far in, and find the joy in watching it play out and seeing their guesses proven right or wrong.

All in all, the story redeems the poor character graphics and voices to a great degree. The backgrounds are great, and the controls are serviceable. So why say it’s not worth it?

Length vs. cost. At $60 you’re looking at 6-7 hours if you poke every corner on your way to the end. 4 or so if you’re speedrunning. About 12 hours, give or take, for a Platinum on a game that costs $60 and is half broken isn’t exactly good value in my mind. If the game was $40? Oh hell yes. At $30 it’d be considered freaking amazing. But $60 is just too high. Wait for a sale, or Redbox it.

The Call of Cthulhu is worth answering, yes.. but wait for the collect cost to come down a bit, first.

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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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21
Sep
18

Game Review: Spider-Man (PS4)

As a former fan of Marvel comics in general and Spider-Man in particular, and an avid gamer, the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4 was something I was looking forward to with a great amount of optimism and trepidation. Pete hasn’t had it easy over the years, with some winning titles (Ultimate Spider-Man and Web of Shadows come to mind) jarring pretty badly against some pretty crappy entires (Friend or Foe comes to mind, here.) That’s just recent memory; it only gets worse if you go back further. Remember Amazing Spider-Man for GameBoy? No? Good. Probably better for you.

Having 100% completed the new game, pre-ordered the DLC, and not having brought the disc back to GameStop, I’d say it says something about it; it’s good. Maybe not as good as Web of Shadows, which remains my favorite Spider-Man game (yes, I really do think it’s better than Spider-Man 2. Fight me.) but certainly on par with Shattered Dimensions, or Ultimate Spider-Man. That doesn’t make it perfect – there’s a few flaws, here, some of them serious – but it’s still a damn good game and well worth the time and money spent playing.

First, the good stuff: Graphics look great, and never mind all that Puddlegate crap. The lighting’s amazing – especially when you’re flipping around New York in the early evening – and the detail level is possibly the most intricate I’ve seen in a game with the possible exception of Prey or Bioshock. All the heroes and villains are instantly recognizable but with a unique spin that makes sure Marvel fans know who they’re dealing with but also aren’t going to be bored.

Sound-wise, the sound effects are decent, covering the bases and not getting in the way. Nothing particularly standout, but nothing actively bad either. The voice acting is amazing – especially Spider-Man’s, which has several of the open world conversations recorded multiple times that play back in different states. You may take a call from MJ in one play through while chilling on a rooftop playing with the camera, and Peter sounds relaxed. That same call may play on a different run through the game while you’re swinging through Central Park in pursuit of a mugger, and while the dialogue doesn’t change much, the inflection used and Peter sounding out of breath and hoarse really adds to the immersion.

Gameplay-wise, it hits all the right notes with a varied combat system that relies on agility and inventive web usage over brute strength, as befits the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Boss fights introduce new mechanics in appropriate ways, and dealing with the Sinister Six during their tag-team matches (especially on the Spectacular difficulty setting) can become appropriately hectic.

Now, the downsides. First, the music. What music? No, seriously. It’s rare that it’s present, and when it is, it mostly consists of a single twenty-second long generic superhero “rousing sound” on loop. It gets louder when you’re doing a lot of swinging, diving and web tricks, which only makes it more annoying and apparent.

Second, the combat. This may just be my own gripe – I was just coming off of Yakuza going into this – but combat frequently feels floaty and difficult to control. Especially using the quick-fire gadget/web button, it would often arbitrarily target someone other than the guy about to punch me in the face, or shoot the random thug who was no threat over the guy with the rocket launcher who really needed to eat an Impact Web, like, yesterday. I got used to it, eventually, but was still annoying.

Black Cat brings up my third gripe; I was excited as all hell to see trophies relating to her, as I have always been more of a Felicia boy than an MJ one. (Yet another reason Web of Shadows holds pride of place, I think. That symbiote Black Cat costume… mmm.) You get some entertainingly flirty and frustrating messages from her while you play an elaborate game of hide and seek, only to find… nothing. She’s gone. You never actually get to meet her, and after finding her collectibles and infiltrating her lair, you never hear about her again. Now, this is supposed to be resolved with the DLC – she’s a prominent factor, from what I hear, and may even be playable (Yes, please!) – and not everyone is going to care so much about her, so this may not be much of a negative for some.

Last complaint: It’s kinda short. Total playtime once I had 100% and the Platinum was about 22 hours. This is made more obvious by how repetitive the side-missions get (after you’ve pulled over your fifth speeding car, beaten up the thugs that came out of it, then beaten up the backup, you”re over it… and you’ll be doing that at least 10 more times, if not more); it feels a little content starved at times. The story missions are varied and great, though, and it’s a fun ride, regardless of length.

Bottom line; is Marvel’s Spider-Man worth playing? Hell yes. At least if you have any interest in superhero action games. It’s not the best Spider-Man game ever (please see Web of Shadows), nor the best super-hero game ever (Batman: Arkham Asylum or X-Men Legends II holds that title, depending on my mood) but it is still a goddamn amazing game and well worth your time.

No review copy was provided, and no company sponsored or endorsed this review. All opinions are my own. If you’d like me to review a particular game, drop me an e-mail or use the contact page.

What were your opinions on Spider-Man? Good, bad, ugly? Am I crazy for complaining about the things I did, or liking the parts I did? Want to argue Spider-Man 2 vs. Web of Shadows? Use the box below!KA Spiral no signature

 

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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.

23
Apr
18

Game Review: Far Cry 5

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My time in Hope Country has come to an end. Last month’s Far Cry 5 was an interesting diversion, but is it really worth $60 right now?

My short answer? No.

That’s probably going to be a somewhat unpopular opinion. I want to clarify that by noting that the game itself is gorgeous, the characters are amazing and interesting, and the weapons, vehicles, and pet bears are fun to play around with. The problem is that it ultimately just feels like more of the same. If you’ve played “the Ubisoft open world game,” you know how it works. Removing signal towers and a scattering of icons does not make things any more fresh and new; it frequently just makes it more annoying to find the next objective.

The story – crazy cult takes over a remote location and proceeds to kill or enslave everyone – is basic. It’s reasonably well executed for what it is – and as long as you’re willing to completely ignore logic – but its not really anything groundbreaking. A lot of people seem to think it’s commentary on the current sociopolitical situation, but I think that’s giving Far Cry 5 too much credit. The ultimate blandness of the plot doesn’t seem to have any legitimate things to say. As interesting as Joseph Seed may potentially be, he and his kin ultimately seem wasted in the story here, and end up being both less charasmatic than Vass from Far Cry 3 or as shades of gray (and potentially right) as Pagan Min in the series’ fourth installment.

The problem is there’s only really one mission type. Go here, blow that up, kill those people. There’s never a mission that deviates from that in any meaningful way. When combined with the significantly less helpful HUD/mapping system and the near-constant assaults from trash mobs and dealing with broken companion AI, it just becomes kind of a tedious slog. Once you can get ahold of attack helicopters, it becomes “fast travel to helipad, spawn helicopter, fly to location, get out, blow up, fly to next” which speeds up the process, but still bores me to tears.

I suspect my problems may be due to my dislike of the whole “emergent gameplay” thing, which in a lot of cases seems to be secret code for “the developers couldn’t be bothered to come up with an actual plot or some interesting set pieces, so we’ll just make the player try to find the amusement and claim it’s artsy.”

Beyond that, Far Cry 5 is also completely illogical from an in-world perspective. You can jack helicopters, jets, big rigs, and heavily armored and armed SUVs. There’s no realistic lockdown in effect. The Deputy plows through thousands of mooks in the game without much effort. Please explain why I can’t just hop into a helicopter, fly south straight out of Hope County and come back with the National Guard and FBI? Previous games had beliveable reasons as to why the protagonists are stuck dealing with the problem, but the Deputy is not trapped in a culturally and technologically backwards remote area that has no law and order other than the enemy. Also, I kept wondering why nobody seems to have a cell phone, a satellite phone or a damned CB. Yes, there is a mission discussing how the cult has scrambler towers messing up signals, but very early on you tear them down and start a pirate radio station, so… yeah.

It may be kind of silly to hate on the game so much for story logic flaws, but they kept breaking the immersion for me. Sure, there’s moments where I was laughing and having fun – the “Disco Inferno” mission comes to mind, as well as anything to do with Hurk or Larry – but for the most part I was bored, leaving me plenty of time to contemplate the story flaws and in the end that ruined the experience for me.

Your milage may vary here, but my honest opinion is that you’ll have more fun with Far Cry 3 or 4, and I would recommend waiting for a steep sale to pick this one up.

What about you out there? Have an opinion on Hope County and its crazy inhabitants? Let us know down below!

 

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