Friday, May 15, 2015

The Official Chessasaur 2015 Playlog #7 - Playstation Plus and Cats

Aaru's Awakening Image Aaru's Awakening (PS4) - Someday, when I decide to no longer pay a yearly fee to Sony for Playstation Plus and am unable to play all the "free" games I've gotten, this will be one of the ones I won't miss. Mind you, it's not a bad game at all. It's a very well made 2D side-scroller with simple mechanics, excellent art style, and innovated design. However, like soooo many games I'm playing this generation, it's too damn hard! I got stuck on basically the sixth "world" (let's call it 2-3, in Mario levels) because I wasn't fast enough to jump, jet (like double jump), shoot a teleport orb, and then keep myself out of lava while watching for the right moment to jump to the orb. A single platform, that's all I would have needed to make it through this level.

*** Insert Rant Here*** : What is it with games these days? Developers seem to relish punishing players and the gaming media fuels the fire by praising their efforts. Or is it an intrinsic machismo of gamers that they need a harder and harder challenge to show off "bigger thumbs" to their rivals? Whatever it is, I'm getting tired of running into games that look intriguing but require a level of skill (or long-term commitment) that I don't have. Please, give me a game that doesn't make me feel like a klutz with a controller!

MonsterBag Image Monster Bag (PS Vita) - A cute, if somewhat IRRITATING game where you play a little monster (shaped like a bag, I suppose) who is trying to get back to his owner, a little girl. You do this by jumping between people standing in a line, throwing them things they need, but you have to make sure they don't see you move. (Apparently they can't feel you land on them.) It's a unique concept, but I got stuck on the third level when they put in a person with really tiny eyes. Rage quit time. **Update**: I went back to this one and got a little further. It's not as hard as I thought at first, but it still is pretty challenging. I do love the cartoon like quality of the graphics!

Catlateral Damage Image Catlateral Damage - I not only backed this game on Kickstarter, I chipped in enough money to get a picture of Olivia, one of my kitties, into the game. It's a very simple 3D game where you play a kitty doing naughty things - knocking stuff off shelves and tables, biting plants, and generally making a mess of houses, museums and grocery stores. Items are low-res but the environments are fairly large and it runs smoothly. And, of course, there are the pictures of all the kitties (and a doggy or two) that people (like me) paid to have in the game. When you find a picture and knock it down, it gets added to the game's gallery that you can view from the menu. Needless to say, I'll be playing until I find Livy's pic.

Yesterday's Worlds #7 - Constantine

Constantine Image Constantine (Bits Studios\THQ\2005) - Once in awhile, the passage of time can be a good thing. In my case, it helped both the Constantine movie and the game....but in the case of the latter, only so much.

When I first saw the movie many years ago, I didn't know anything about the comic so I was more than a little lost. Since then, I've watched (and enjoyed!) the NBC TV-series which has helped me better understand Constantine's personality and the world around him. When I watched the flick the other night, I was amazed how much I enjoyed it, and also slightly horrified at how badly Keanu Reeves portrayed the character. It took another, more talented actor to show me what Constantine was really like. Reeves (or rather his direction) was so stunted that I didn't get a feeling for what Constantine was like.

Similarly, I had tried a demo of Constantine, the PS2 game, back when I used to get Official Playstation Magazine demo discs (those were good times). I remember being somewhat bewildered by the gameplay and actually thought it was intrinsically broken. What I think it was, after playing the full game some, was that my PS2 gaming skills at that time were so rudimentary that I was just overwhelmed. Well, that and they did sort of drop you into a fight in "Hell L.A." without much introduction.

Interestingly, the game starts out with a nearly shot-for-shot recreation of the opening of the movie (with an even passable KR sound alike). Then, unfortunately, the game shifts gears to its own story, one that seems like it might be going in the same thematic direction as the movie but with different characters and settings. It made me yearn for Batman Begins - say what you want about that "stealth-lite" game, but it kept to the original movie storyline and that was a plus. I was able to get through a few of the missions, but got bogged down in an endless trek around an underground basement (with, of course, sewers) and have decided to skip the rest of the game. I have nothing against older games, but I need to feel that there's a reason to play them instead of newer, more sophisticated titles.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Official Chessasaur 2015 Playlog #6 - At the end of Dead Space 3

Last night I finally got to the end of Isaac's story - or at least as much of it as currently exists.

A couple of years back, I played the first Dead Space game, and in atypical style (for me), I finished it. It was a great survival-horror/sci-fi adventure that was brought down a little by clunky movement, awkward zero-G action, and a story that had the lead character, Isaac Clark, basically bossed around the whole game doing everyone else's jobs. But it was still entertaining.

Earlier this year, I got the bug to go back and play the sequels. (At some point, I thought that playing all of a particular series of games would make for a good gaming goal this year.) Dead Space 2 fixed many of the movement and control issues of the first - objects were particularly difficult to position in #1. But, overall, I never really connected with the story. Isaac is "haunted" by the memory of his girlfriend who died on the Ishimura, and other than a final battle with her (sort of) she's not a threat at any time. Meanwhile, most of the exploration and combat takes place on a space station with generic hallways and room design. What I did like was the inclusion of more personality for Isaac and the addition of a new character, Ellie. She rescues Isaac at the end of Dead Space 2 and their relationship is a major part of Dead Space 3.

Dead Space 3 is a full-on, summer blockbuster, thrill ride! The design team at Visceral put a huge amount of effort into the game to make it as exciting as possible. You could tell that they wanted to surprise you with something new to do or overcome at every turn. Other than the combat sometimes, it never got repetitive. Add to that the ongoing situation between Isaac and Ellie (they threw in a love triangle as well), and it was a game I had to finish.

The DLC...well.... Ok, I had to play Awakened since it was basically an epilogue to the game, but at least I got it cheap. I sort of wish that it didn't exist though, because it's the last thing I'll remember most about playing Dead Space 3. It did little or nothing to extend the story other than to say that everything that Isaac did in the main game was worthless (ie, he didn't stop the Marker signal) and that the Earth, in the end, gets screwed anyway. Add in that a third of the gameplay takes place in reused sections of Dead Space 3, and you get a poor ending to a great series.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Official Chessasaur 2015 Playlog #5

Framed Image Framed - (iOS / ~2 hours / Status: Completed) - So, the fabled creator of Metal Gear, Hideo Kojima, called this his Game of 2014. That was one of the reasons I decided to pick it up. Also, I think I got it for free on some sort of one day giveaway deal. For the most part, I liked the puzzle mechanics - you move comic panels around in order to help spies elude police; very unique. It's like an interactive comic, but without any dialog. However, it could have used a bit more instruction as the game progressed. To up the difficulty, you get to levels where it's necessary to move the panels after you've started the action, but it does a very bad job of letting you know when you can move the panels. There were a couple of puzzles that I solved just by luck and shoving things around - probably not what the developers had in mind. I'd like to see a Framed 2 someday that actually had characters and told a story.

Hitman GO Image Hitman Go (iOS / ~30 mins / Status: Aborted) - I really seems a shame to use the Hitman license to market a chess-like puzzle game, but I will say the graphics were outstanding for a tablet title. Definitely not what I was expecting though in the way of gameplay.

Ori and the Blind Forest Image Ori and The Blind Forest (PC / ~3 hours / Status: Abandoned?)  - There should be a rule, nah, a law, that game developers shall be forbidden to create beautiful, whimsical games with cute characters that are hard as balls to play!! I bought this off Steam after hearing just glowing reviews for it's charm and graphical quality. And yes, it looks awesome, like an old fashioned hand-drawn Disney cartoon. And yes, I was moved to tears by the opening sequence. all came apart for me. Truth be told, I've always sucked at games like Super Metroid and Castlevania. I'm just not a really good side-scrolling platformer gamer. I've played a fair number over the years (mostly in the SNES days), but I guess I stayed toward the easier ones. This game gives no quarter. After about 3 hours of enemies that took half my hit-points at once, getting hurt by water, and having to use up power-ups to save, I gave up. A real loss as I'm sure the ending of this game would have been wonderful to see.

*** Update: Well, maybe I was a little too hasty on my verdict here. I was watching a stream yesterday of someone playing Ori and was somewhat heartened to see that they got stuck in exactly the same place I did! With some help from the other watchers, he got through it and I saw what I had missed. So, that evening I reinstalled it and decided to try some more. Mind you, it's still harder than I think it should be, but if I take it in small chunks I might be able to get through more of it.

I have over 900 games in my Steam catalog and last night decided to hit up a couple, just to see if I could find a diamond in the rough. No such luck this time.

Wrack Image Wrack (PC / ~ 1/2 hour / Status: Aborted) - It would be rude of me to say too much negative about this game because it's apparently supposed to be an "old school" FPS - like Doom, but cel-shaded. So, saying things like "the writing is juvenile", "the controls are primitive", and "it's not worth my time" would just be a slap in the face of the developers who slaved over this game. Moving on...

Super Toy Cars Image Super Toy Cars (PC / ~ 1/2 hour / Status: Aborted) - I'm always up for a racing game, no matter how cheesy, but I still wonder what the big draw is for toy cars driving around a kid's bedroom floor. Seems like I've seen it too many times before. Anyway, the controls on this one were not as tight as they needed to be and I found myself hitting the track walls much too often. Fortunately, I probably got it in a bundle deal. No major loss.

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Official Chessasaur 2015 Playlog #4 - The Order: 1886

When I first heard about The Order: 1886, I was intrigued but cautious - I'd heard that early builds of the game had real problems.But the idea of fighting werewolves in an alternate history/steampunk setting as King Arthur's knights was, to say the least, something different.

Then, when it was released, the prevailing comment was, "It's really short!" This got me thinking I should probably try a Gamestop rental and, as it turned out, that was enough to get through the whole game! Mind you, my gaming time isn't extensive - I play maybe 1 to 1 1/2 hours a night, so this took me no more than 8 or 9 hours.

Not that I'm complaining; I enjoy being able to actually finish a game. But aside from that, this game was an incredible visual experience that cannot be understated. As an example, here is a video I made while walking around the Round Table. Notice that each knight's shield is carved into their place:

Everything in this game screams DETAIL from the clothing to weapons to miscellaneous Victorian era room decor.

But how does the game play? Well, that could have used a little (or a lot of) help. Basically, this game is a third person shooting game and most of the time you are fighting people (rebels, ruffians, and employees of the treacherous United India corporation). There are few battles with werewolves and they come in only two flavors - rush attacks and QTE heavy boss battles. When you are actually shooting, the weapons "feel" very satisfying and the cover-based combat is entertaining, but it seems that there should have been something more meaningful to balance out the excellent art design, character voice acting, and musical score. There's also little explanation on why/how the knights of Camelot are still alive in the 19th Century or how some of them are knights now in the first place (like Lady Igraine or Marquis de Lafayette).

Some of the design choices were questionable, like the one where you have to position a cursor with your right thumbstick, then press a face button...with the same thumb! There were also places where your character, Sir Galahad, moves very slowly and can't run which can be very frustrating. The game is VERY linear - you are forced to follow a specific path the entire time and the only options you have is which enemy to shoot first. (I was really annoyed when, at one point, I entered a room and was made to drop a good weapon I was carrying in order to pickup a sniper rifle and do a specific mission before I could continue.) As such, there is virtually no replayability to The Order, which is sad considering how gorgeous it looks.

The story itself is somewhat easy to see how it's going to unfold. The only "shocking reveal" was something that I really didn't understand the significance of. The rest of the plot twists were only surprising to the main character.

However, all that being said, I liked playing The Order because it was very cinematic - the level of detail on the characters and world made you feel that this was more movie than game. (Maybe the couple of chapters that were nothing but cut-scenes helped that feeling.) The length of the game was actually a plus considering the game play wasn't very deep, but I do think that there are many gamers that would be put out to pay $60 for this short an experience with no replay value. If it does well enough, I think we can look forward to a much better The Order: 1887.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Official Chessasaur 2015 Playlog #3 - Let's Just Call This February

It's not that I haven't been writing entries this's just that I haven't finished any (yet).

In an effort to make sure that something gets out for the month, here's a rundown of February's gaming:

Apotheon Image Apotheon (PS4 / ~3 hours / Status: Abandoned) - Well, I tried. I really did. But as great as this game looks, I'm just not going to get any farther in it. I could have used an easier setting since I kept running out of health potions and decent weapons (they wear out!). There's also the usual (by now tedious) 2-D sidescroller level design trope that shows which direction you need to go, but, of course, you can't just get there directly. You have to go up or down (or both) before you find it. I will admit that the game wasn't too punishing (ie, when I died in an area, the things I'd destroyed and the enemies I killed didn't respawn) but overall it just felt too much like work. On the good side, it was "free" with my Playstation Plus membership and it will keep me from buying it from Steam.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Image The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64 emulated / ~2 hours / Status: Abandoned) - I spent some time getting a bunch of old N64 games to work along with a USB adapter to use an original controller, but the experience is just too dated. Majora's Mask requires a lot of coordination in your actions during a 3 day cycle. Could I do it? Sure. Do I want to put in that much time? Uh, no. (In a shocking case of gross hypocrisy, I have to admit to buying the 3DS remake this last week. This is what I get for buying that Best Buy Gamer Unlocked membership. 20% off new games is a strong motivator when it's a game you know won't come down in price anytime soon. Well, at least I've heard that if I was going to play LoZ:MM, this is the way to do it.)

Angry Birds Epic Image Angry Birds Epic (iPad Mini / ~6 hours / Status: Active) - I think this may be the first year I spend a large amount of time pad gaming. I've usually been against tablet games because of the lack of decent tactile feedback, but there's something to be said for the ease of play and the quality of the visuals (iPad screens look gorgeous!). ABE is an amusing, light-weight tactical RPG in the vein of a Final Fantasy game, but with no reading! It's F2P, but I've already broken that and thrown a few bucks their way in exchange for some coins. Ah, it's a slippery slope, I know.

Dying Light Image Dying Light (PS4 / ~2 hours / Status: Delayed Purchase) - When I heard about this game, my excitement dwindled rapidly at the prospect of an open-world zombie game (something I dearly wish Rockstar would make!) coupled with a Mirror's Edge kind of parkour movement style. So, in true Smart Consumer fashion...I "rented" it from Gamestop. I'll admit that it was not love at first play - this game breaks a fundamental gaming law, namely that you press-AND-HOLD the Jump button! I was also annoyed at the idea that I couldn't just fight the zombies. However, to my surprise, I really started to like the gameplay and realized that fighting the swarms of undead wasn't an option and that I was okay with it. Much like some of the scenes in The Walking Dead, hordes of zombies are not something you battle on the ground even if you have guns (they tend to run out of bullets). I played through a handful of the starting missions and then decided that I'd rather return it so I could play it from the beginning at a later time (when it's cheaper, for example). Plus, I'm still way into...

Dead Space 3 Image Dead Space 3 (PC Origin / ~8 hours / Status: Active) - I'm still having a good time with DS3, mostly because I'm hoping Isaac and Ellie will end up together at the end. Yeah, strange reason to want to keep playing a third-person, survival horror shooter, but at least the game's writers should be happy. What I could do with less of is some of the silly "puzzles" they've thrown at me. One involved moving cargo out of the way of a ship-board transport. I thought I'd just use my kinesis power and move stuff or attach rockets like I did in DS2. No. In this one, I find a control panel that allows me to rotate two pieces until they can connect together like Tetris blocks - and they forgot to put into the PC version what the activation was to get them to pair! (It was space-bar, by the way.) Most of the puzzles I've found were obviously designed for twin-stick controllers, but I'm managing. Other than that, I still wish the weapons had more of a punch (even on Casual they are wimpy) and the lack of active save points has led to some annoyingly long game sessions.

**Update**: In preparing this blog entry, I looked over the above paragraph and, while the "complaints" about the puzzles were justified, I think that, overall, it doesn't convey the feeling that I have been getting from playing DS3, especially last night's session...which would be HOLY FUCKING AMAZE-A-BALLS!!! I mean this game has been good, really good! The first hour was better, action and setting wise, that almost all of Dead Space 2 put together. It really feels like I'm playing in a blockbuster sci-fi movie. (An Amazon review I saw said it was the "Michael Bay" Dead Space game. Fine with me.) But last night I played (spoiler alert) the part of the game where you fly this barely operational shuttle down to the planet where you hope you can stop the Marker's effects. If games get more exciting that that sequence, I don't know if I could handle it! Dodging space junk, mines, and keeping the ship on course, worrying about every little bump and bang. Then it catches fire! Then it starts falling apart! Just before hitting the planet surface, Ellie gets sucked out of the side! CRASH! After this fiery reentry and "landing", I'm alone on a freezing planet and have to run between piles of burning wreckage to keep from dying of the cold. Plus there's monsters chasing me, other wrecked ships that are falling apart around me, I'm trying to find Ellie, not die, following flares she's left in the snow (she's alive!!), and then this giant necromorph pops up from over a cliff and grabs me!! (I don't mind fessing up to a full-on shriek about that time.) More monsters, more cold, hide in a shelter, run through a derelict structure, avoid another giant necromorph grab (smaller shriek this time), find another shelter, run around it looking for the way in, getting colder, shoot monsters, keep running, Find Door, OPEN DOOR, IN!! When I finally got to this stopping place for the night (well, early morning), I realized that I was still vibrating from the adrenaline in my blood stream! That is something I've NEVER had happen in a game before! Only February and I might be playing my Game of the Year.

Nintendo - Wii U 32GB Console Super Mario 3D World and Nintendo Land Bundle - Black - Larger FrontThe Wii U is here! - Well, I actually bought it back in 2014 and it's been sitting in a box for all that time, but it's setup now. It took awhile before I felt I needed to get a Wii U, in the first place. But, over the YEARS it's been out, there are now some games that I want to play. The first one that got my attention was ZombiU, then Mario Kart 8, then...well, it's hard to say, but cheap game prices helped. The initial setup of this system was shockingly difficult. I mean, the Wii U is only one generation removed from the Gamecube, a system that required nothing more than power and a TV hook-up. The amount of updating that was required to get the U up to speed was embarrassing. Anyone who is not very tech savy (or patient) might never get it working. I haven't done any gaming on it yet, but I'm looking forward to at least getting to play through Earthbound on Virtual Console.

Friday, February 06, 2015

First Impressions #1 - Apotheon & Dead Space 3

Introducing a new segment on the Chessasaur blognet, "First Impressions" where I put down some quick thoughts about games that I've just started.

Apotheon Image Apotheon (PC) - I was looking forward to this one since I first heard about it last year. It's like playing a game that was painted onto a Grecian urn. In a word, the art in this game is incredible! As 2-D side-scrolling action games go, it's good, but there are some annoying control quirks - like holding up a shield toward an enemy, trying to back away, and flipping around, which exposes your back! Some of the combat devolves into almost Super Smash Bros kind of aerial flights and weapon selection can get a little cumbersome. There's a fair amount of voice work in the game and to be honest, I wish there wasn't. It would have been more impressive, I think, if it had been more like the old Lego games. Hearing American or English voices coming out of people and gods from ancient Greece just seems wrong.

Dead Space 3 Image Dead Space 3 (PS3) - Having just finished #2 and wanting to see what happened with Ellie and Isaac, I jumped right into Dead Space 3. I started on the PC (ie, Origin) and was doing fine until it instructed me to "crouch" with the X key. Crouch? There's no crouching in Dead Space games!! So, I abandoned that until I could work out a good alternative for the Fangpad. The next night, I decided to play the PS3 version (I have the disc and free PS+ downloadable versions), figuring that the controller layout might be easier to deal with.

And here I'm going to put in a new Pet Peeve - game makers have got to STOP putting multiple operations on individual controller keys! This is something I'm feeling is unique to console games since I haven't encountered it on a PC game (yet?). One example in this game is the R3 button (which is hardly even a "button" at all!) - press it once and Isaac crouches; press and hold and it's the directional beacon signal! So, if you go to figure out your heading and you don't hold the R-stick down long enough, you crouch and start moving at about half speed!

Anyway, part of me wanted to try to play it this way since I sometimes feel I don't get enough "gamepad" exercise, but while the Dead Space series looks like a 3rd person action game, it's really a cleverly disguised first-person shooter. This means that aiming is crucial in staying alive and not wasting a ton of ammo. For me, I've always had issues aiming weapons using thumbsticks, with the exception of Halo - for some reason, they just got it right. So, I'm going to have to go back to playing it on the PC, and I also want to compare some of the weapons. It seemed like the low end guns didn't have as much "punch" in the PS3 version as they did on the PC. I was playing on the same difficulty level (yes, Casual), but either I was missing A LOT or the bullets weren't doing as much damage.

What I will say is that I'm super impressed with the game so far and am really looking forward to playing more! As I'd hoped, Ellie and Isaac stayed together after the events on Titan station and now she's gone missing which gives him something to fight for. With all he's been through, she's probably all he has left. (The text log that's on the bed gives a little nod to the line in DS2 where Ellie says he owes her an eye!) Ironically, the lunar city Isaac is in looks like Neuromancer's Sprawl - something that the space station never did even if that's what it had been called. The amount of action sequences in just the first hour are better and more impressive than almost anything in Dead Space 2. I don't know why this entry got such low review scores (with GameInformer being a notable exception), and I hope it doesn't slow down, but so I'm far thrilled!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Official Chessasaur 2015 Playlog #2 - Dead Spacing

Dead Space 2 Image Dead Space 2 (PC / 15-17 hours / Status: Completed) - Well, my first game finished in 2015 was actually started late in 2014, but I did take a little break in the middle. Other than being, in my opinion, about four hours longer than it should have been, this was a compelling shooter (as in I was compelled to keep playing until it was over). I liked the improvements to the movement, object manipulation, and zero-g navigation, but there was too much "filler". Lots of corridors to walk down, rooms to check out, and elevators to take, but none of them were very interesting. The original Dead Space did a much better job of being creepy and giving you a sense of purpose in your actions. I will say that DS2 was better as far as what it did with the limited number of characters. Isaac Clarke actually gets to express himself (ie, talk) and the "relationship" he builds with one of the space station's survivor's, Ellie, was a welcome addition to the storyline. However, the whole "haunted by the dead girlfriend" thing just didn't work for me. Maybe it was because I was already fighting for my life from the necromorphs and all she did was scream at me. I think that if her visions had been more menacing, I would have been more affected when she showed up. Toward the end I thought she was going to be an ally, but that was short lived.

Since I was broadcasting/recording, here are a few clips from the game:

(Note: These could be considered SPOILERS if you haven't played the game.)

This might have been the scariest moment in the game! More of this would definitely have helped.

There were many unpleasant ways to die. This was just one.

There's no shame in running away from explosions!

And this is how it all finished up...and why I want to play Dead Space 3 now!

I want to close out with a couple of items. First, one of my favorite websites, Joystiq, went away on February 3. Of all the game sites I've followed, this was my favorite for the last 10 years. I'm already missing them like crazy. :(

Second, I found that Twitch is good for more than just broadcasting gameplay. It can also be a medium to discover really talented people. When I first saw him, he was playing to 18,000 viewers on Twitch's front page! For your listening enjoyment, I give you the incredible, Kyle Landry.