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August 22, 2014

My thoughts on P.T. (Silent Hills, Playable Teaser)

Filed under: General,Reviews,Video Games,Videogaming Rant — Tags: , , , , — Bryan @ 6:00 pm

Well I succumbed to the hype and pulled down P.T. for the PS4. It’s a free download, so why not? I’ll admit up front that I have not played any of the Silent Hill games (not sure why though), but I have played all of the Resident Evil titles and other games in the genre. Having the crap scared out of you while playing a game, for me, dates back to playing Doom in a dark room at 1 am in surround sound, creeping down a dark corridor and some demon noise makes you jump out of your skin. Good fun.

As a demonstration on just how scary and how many times you can be made to jump while doing nothing more than walking down 200 ft of hallway over and over, this demo unquestionably set the bar. One scare elicited yelps from everyone in the room and startled all the pets! Impressive to say the least. But unfortunately, that’s where the nice things I have to say about this demo comes to an end.

We did have some problems and hope they aren’t representative of what will be expected of the player in the full game. For instance, the key element for progressing the demo was completely non-obvious to me and everyone in the room watching. It wasn’t until about a dozen laps in when I had a flash of something on the screen (that we figured out later, was triggered by zooming) that forced me to finally gave up and look online to see what was going on. That’s when I learned about the puzzle. Sigh.

Also, play mechanics… It was quickly obvious that I had the ability to zoom my view, but it was not obvious what the point was. It didn’t actually zoom my view down the hallway, and only seemed to be effective as a way to add some closer focus on a nearby object, but even then it wasn’t much of a zoom/focus. It was more like an “I’m staring here” button. I stared at the clock, I stared at the radio, I stared at every blurry picture on the walls… hmmm. Why could I stare at things? Granted after I learned about the puzzle I quickly put the zoom to use in solving it. There were a few other times after this where you needed to stare at something but those later times were a little more obvious.

Next was the action button. The action button that apparently is only good for one action, and doesn’t work as an action button anyplace else in the demo. Open doors? You chest bump them. By the time it came time to use the action button, I had already pressed it dozens of times (along with all of the other buttons) and received absolutely no response so I had naturally inferred none of the buttons did anything other than the zoom. When my son finally looked online after I had been stuck for a few more laps, he told me to push the action button at this one location. I replied “what action button”? We worked it out but I wasn’t pleased.

On the one hand, I’m happy that the game wasn’t full of in your face hand holding (eg, Splinter Cell: Conviction or just watch Sequelitis: Mega Man Classic vs Mega Man X). On the other hand you have to give the player some kind of clues, even something as simple as a controller map in the options screen that showed that “X” was the action button would have made the experience that much more effective.

All of that aside though, the real killer for this demo and why I might simply skip Silent Hills out of fear that there will be more of this, is the ending of the demo. The “ending” (say it with air quotes) that is apparently so random that even the people who’ve gotten to it can’t tell you what they did. We let the demo sit for three hours after getting every other trigger fired in the end sequence and we never received the final event. What started out as fun, engaging and novel quickly turned into tedium, boredom and then just flat out irritation. Ultimate we turned off the system and nobody really cared. I had already seen the trailer on YouTube and asked if anyone wanted to see it… Nope, no interest. They were back off to play Kerbal Space Program or whatever else. Pretty much anything but deal with this demo anymore.

I don’t know about you but I’m not sure that was the take away feeling they were looking to deliver. Then again, this is Hideo Kojima we’re talking about. The guy who likes to complicate his characters with incest themes and loads up his stories with irritating, personal political rants. Yeah. I’m not sold. So much promise though 🙁

February 6, 2014

Handheld gaming, mini reviews.

For the last few years, the majority of my gaming has been happening on handhelds. Between the Nintendo 3DS and Sony’s PSP and Vita systems, this really has been a phenomenal era for hand held gaming. Due to the length of this list though I’m going to break it into more than one post.

Highlights in no particular order:

Patapon 1 and 2 for the PSP/Vita (Patapon 3 was a real disappointment and the first of the series I didn’t bother solving)
I played this series so much that I regularly would joke that PSP actually stood for “Play Some Patapon”. It’s a brilliantly stylized game that combines the genres of Beat and Action Platform with RPG style elements. The music is catchy and the game play is intense to say the least.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss for Vita
A full blown, console quality Uncharted game for hand held. The story is fun, the graphics are top notch. Some of the mini-game elements were annoying but fortunately not required to progress the game. Play control was solid. The story is pretty stand alone and does not require you to have played the other games to follow, but it does add some extra dynamic between Drake and Sully. The game really sets the bar for hand held and I’m disappointed there have been so few games of this caliber for the platform.
Gravity Rush: for Vita
A visually stunning game to say the least. Even with it being free via the PS+ program for a good year, it’s still worth buying just to show some love to the developers. This is the first game in my opinion that truly pulls off frenetic 3-D air based hand-to-hand combat (don’t get me wrong, Zone of the Enders (PS2/PS3) and Omega Boost (PS1) still hold a fond place in my heart and certainly set the bar for their platforms… hmm… all Sony platform games… trend?). Play control took a little bit to wrap my head around but once I was into the game it became second nature. The manga/comic style approach to cinema/story segments was phenomenally executed. Seriously, it’s just an all around great game and a must have for any Vita owner.

(cont…)

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