(blogs let others gawk)

April 30, 2016

Reviews: Freedom Wars (Vita)

Filed under: General,Reviews,Video Games — Tags: , , , , , — Bryan @ 8:24 pm

Freedom Wars was a game I had specifically ignored for a long time when it was launched because everything I saw about it in promotional materials led me to believe it was primary an online, multi-player experience.

I don’t do MMOs.

But then a couple of months back I found myself suddenly reading some retrospectives about the title and also learned that it had an achievable by mere mortals Platinum trophy status. Both of these bits of info peeked my interest and shortly after that I ended up with the game so I decided I’d give it a shot.

I am so glad I did. I’ve been looking for a Phantasy Star fix since playing Conception II and many times had almost broken down and picked up my PSP to get the job done. Freedom Wars totally did the trick. Imagine my surprise when I booted the game and discovered that it was actually a single-player story. Short of a couple of really bad grind points the game progressed nicely. Play control was tight and NPC AI satisfying. The graphics where console grade.

Granted the story was a little confusing at points and when you get to the credits you’re left feeling like something more is coming in the story… and that’s when the final stages become available. Unfortunately those final stages don’t resolve the story and it is unlikely there will be a sequel since the creative mind behind the game left the studio to move onto other projects.

Online multi-player is certainly a part of the experience of this game though and some co-op gaming is required to get your last couple of trophies, but it’s never required to actually complete the game. On the note of online, I’m glad I checked it out. I found a pretty friendly community who are happy show you the ropes and take turns on grind missions “For the Greater Good!”

Percy Propa

April 8, 2016

Reviews: Steins;Gate (Vita)

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward gave me a strong introduction to the world of Japanese visual novel adventure games. While I had long been aware of visual novels like this, none of them really grabbed my attention. Finding that I simply can’t wait for Zero Time Dilemma (the conclusion of the trilogy) to get my next fix I decided to take a shot at Steins;Gate since almost every conversation swings back to it being the defining title for the genre. While originally released on the XBox 360 in Japan, it has gone on to be released on other platforms and spun off anime, manga and a sequel that I hope to be able to play some time. For this review I played the Vita release.

If you’re looking for a great read, Steins;Gate has you covered. Unlike most of the games in the genre which are more akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure story, Steins;Gate doesn’t have bad endings. Just different endings…

The story is riveting and very hard-core science fiction on the topic of time-travel. It also deals with topics of identity and relationships. No puzzles. Just branching story elements that lead you to one ending or another. Also the story may seem slow to start but as you get into it you realize you’ve been getting critical plot elements right from the beginning. Then throw in a smörgåsbord of hacking and Otaku cultural references along with a dose of heavy innuendo to keep you snickering. Did I mention the story is really great?

I know that purist are going to hate me for this but I enjoy games like this with a good spoiler free branching guide at my side while I play in order to experience all of the story arcs and endings without having to take away from the experience by thrashing around, wasting hours on repeating things I’ve already read. These guides take the form of “At this prompt, Save and pick X for ending #3 or Y for ending #5, reload from here to resume to the ending you didn’t watch” with no context so you really need to be reading the story and paying attention, but this saves you time at guessing where the critical forks are. I know for some people that’s part of the experience, but I’ve got a life and I’m just here to read the full story. Yes, I could simply watch a video but that’s really just not the same.

The bottom line is if you like this genre and you haven’t played this game yet then YOU GO, YOU GO NOW.

Next up… the Corpse Party series (PSP/Vita)… we’ll see how that goes unless Zero Time Dilemma comes out first… or I break down and watch the Steins;Gate anime. Much dilemma.

April 1, 2016

Reviews: Volume (PS4), SOMA (PS4)

Filed under: General,Reviews,Video Games — Tags: , , , , , , — Bryan @ 6:00 am

If you’re looking for some weekend gaming where you can knock out 100% solves over a couple of days and collect a set of trophies for your trouble, Volume and SOMA should be on your list.

Volume is a pretty basic 3/4 perspective stealth action game, and is very mindful of Escapee Go! (DSiWare) which you might have seen if you did much Nintendo DSi/3DS gaming. I’ve also seen it compared to the Metal Gear VR Missions… but with the bonus of not dumping all the crappy Metal Gear baggage on you. The story is pretty bland, you’re a kid/rebel/hacker using a stolen security A.I. to puzzle out home security of the rich people in town. You’re apparently live streaming this to the world so that others can do the break-ins like some strange modern Robin Hood? Hmm. IDK. Needless to say, don’t worry much about the story.

The game itself can be played by simply brute force, slamming through all of the stages in a few hours, or if you’re really up to the challenge you can go for high-speed stealth solves to see how you rank on the public leader-boards. Either way is fun.

Next lets tackle SOMA. SOMA is a first-person, survival horror game by the same author who created Amnesia. While it is a first-person platform game, I personally identify it as more of an interactive novel with light puzzles. One of the key selling points is the graphically detailed, fully fleshed out world you traverse. Frankly I think they did the creepy undersea base full of monsters way better than BioShock managed (and I love me some BioShock). There’s also no run-and-gun, just run and hide. There’s even some zomg running in a panic to get away from chasing monsters though, including the “I don’t know what was chasing me and I hope it doesn’t get through this door I’ve just locked shut but I sure wish it would stop banging and shrieking at me while I go change my underwear” moments. Yeah, it really has some good moments of scaring the crap out of you.

The story was excellent as well and constantly kept you on your toes, so be sure to dig into it. Everything adds to the mood starting right out the gate with the Total Recall hat tip to Philip K. Dick that leaves you wondering what’s real and adds extra weight to some of the narrative exploration around just what it means to be human. An excellent game for a weekend escape.

March 30, 2016

Reviews: Project Diva F2 (Vita), Persona 4DAN (Vita)

Over the last many months I’ve bounced between StreetPass mini games on my 3DS and playing Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F2, followed by Persona 4: Dancing All Night on my Vita.

As far as rhythm gaming goes on the PlayStation Vita, these two are the top choice. They both are fun to play on Easy difficulty, nicely challenging on Normal and time to move on to something else on anything harder (lol). Both of them have excellent music with a soundtracks that will stick in your head and make you want to jump back into the game at the first chance you have. They both also have nice clean interfaces and in the case of Project Diva you have a tuning option in the config to help with tuning your button reaction time to the beats.

Project Diva was so much fun that I tracked down copies of the original PSP import games as well (which you can get translation patches for) to play through. They’re pretty much the same game mechanic minus the touch screen. Great stuff. Also, if you don’t have a Vita and you’re not looking to import (or download) Japanese PSP games you can get pretty much all of the best songs and then some on the two U.S. PS3 releases. Although I think F2 is probably the definitive version right now (I haven’t played the 3DS release though, so I can’t compare) until Diva X comes out.

P4DAN was an odd one. I really enjoyed playing Persona 4 Golden and simply couldn’t imaging how the hell that could be translated into a rhythm game but wow, once I played it I was instantly sold. They actually tie the whole thing together with a sequel story of sorts that follows after Persona 4. While I would say it’s a very strange story, it’s pretty much in line with the Persona series. They brought back all of the original voice actors as well, so it was fun hearing all of familiar characters working through the story.

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 🙁

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