Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2014 Play Log - Memorial Day Weekend

Long weekends mean one thing - getting things done around the house! Welcome to my new Home Improvement Blog! (Just kidding, but I'll bet I had you going there for a bit.)

No, long weekends are great opportunities for gaming and I got time in on three titles (plus I really did get some stuff done around the house.)

Stick it to the Man! Image Stick It To The Man - Chalk this one up on my list of Games I Finished in 2014. (Ok, it's a short list, I admit.) This was a very fun game that kept my interest and never got progressively harder. I did get stuck once and had to consult the forum pages on Steam for it. (Little side note - indie games don't seem to inspire people to write walkthroughs for GameFAQs.) There I found a post from someone who had the exact same problem I did! (Made me feel a little better about getting stuck, even though I probably should have figured it out myself.) Not sure if this has much replayability unless I want to collect cards on Steam, but it certainly put a smile on my face.

Tearaway Image Tearaway - I finally got a chance to sit down with my Vita and give this one a try. It's been called a critical success, but a commercial failure, partly because the Vita has such a small install base, but also because it's so hard for a new IP to make it in today's video game market. What I heard about Tearaway was that it was charming, inventive, and unique. Yup, that pretty much sums it up! Everything in the game looks and works like paper. I think there were times that I forgot I was playing a game on a screen and thought I was moving around a diorama. The developers used almost every feature of the Vita from the back touch panel, to the motion sensor, to the cameras. I'll try to stay the course with this one (HLTB rates it around 7 hours) and see if I can deliver my message to The Sun (which is me!).

Wolfenstein: The New Order Image Wolfenstein: The New Order - Ok, this is going to probably get lengthy and, in case you need warning, spoilery. On a whim, I decided to pickup the new Wolfenstein game in time for the long weekend. My time with Wolf goes all the way back to Wolfenstein 3D, the first FPS (even though the term wasn't even coined back then). I do remember the 2D, real original version of Wolfenstein, but if I played it, it was for a very short time. It reminded me of an Epyx D&D style game, Temple of Apshai and had more in common with our present day stealth games than shooters. Since those no-Y-axis days, I've played the newer Wolf's, even if only briefly. (I remember being amused by the effect of shooting flags in Return to Castle Wolfenstein and watching them break apart like glass!) I played some of the game that was released a few years ago, but not very much. (Not sure why I stopped. I thought the blue lightning effects were pretty cool and reminded me of the opening scene from Hellboy.)  This new one is a whole new level of stunning visuals and, surprisingly, dramatic themes. You can't just make a FPS anymore that doesn't have cut scenes, I guess. If I have anything to complain about, it gets tangled up in this aspect. A game like Wolfenstein is primarily a shooter, of course. While there are sections of story, when the talking stops, it's back to the same thing - in this case shooting lots and lots of techno-Nazi's.

Case in point (and here be spoilers): The game starts with you in a plane headed on a mission to kill the top general for the Nazis's war planning. Everything at this point screams, "This is the prologue, look for tutorials, and there's a good chance you'll die/get captured, but that's ok because THE GAME HASN'T REALLY STARTED YET!" I don't have a big problem with this, but it should have been a shorter segment. You spend a lot of time shooting Nazis after Nazis as they run out from doorways, appear at the end of halls, etc. After you've been captured and then brain damaged during a daring escape, there's a rather well done cut scene where you see time pass (14 years in this case) while you "recover" in a mental hospital in Poland. You even begin to develop an attraction to a very kind nurse, the daughter of the doctor running the facility. However, the bad guys show up with a "your services are no longer required" notice attached to a magazine of bullets and you have to "wake up" and get back to your Nazis killing ways in a hurry. Granted, the developers give you a moment or two of blurry vision, but it passes pretty fast for someone who's been in a 14 year coma. Then, you end up shooting Nazis again while they do the same dance - doorway, hallway, end of hallway, repeat. Now don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying this so far, but I've turned the difficulty down to "Can I Play Too, Daddy?" since I don't want to die a lot. I appreciate the amount of story that has been injected into what could have been a simple shooting gallery exercise and I'd like to see it develop without restarting a couple thousand times.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

2014 Play Log - Getting Back on Track

I'm still not back to where I was, but I think I will be changing the format of this a little. Trying to write something for each day gets to be a bit much (for writer and reader), so I think I'll switch to a Monday summary of what I did the week before.

Diablo III Image Diablo 3 - This is becoming my bite-size gaming experience (jump in, run around to the next objective, teleport back to town, save and quit). I'm beginning to (sort of) regret being a Hunter class. Since I do nothing but shoot bows and throw knives, it makes the game feel more like a run-and-gun game and less like a "dungeon crawler". However, being able to attack from a distance is an advantage. I'm going to try a warrior character before I get too much farther in it.

Child of Light Image Child of Light Demo - One of the more talked about games recently. Very pretty to look at, but I didn't really like the combat system which is a lot like those found in Japanese RPG's.  I would have been interested if it had been more like a platformer and/or if it had more voice work. Trying to read rhyming verse that's being spoken in turn by two characters takes much of the charm out of the game.

Mario Golf: World Tour Image Mario Golf World Tour - Proof that Nintendo may be the least relevant gaming platform today, but that doesn't keep it from selling me specifically. True, I knew this purchase had a dual purpose - after I play some of it, it goes to Sarah. She really seems to enjoy the Mario golf games. I've seen her play the old N64 one for hours. Is the autism or does she just enjoy it? As for me, I do think they made the game a little too easy. If you play on Easy, it lines up shots for you and you only need to press the button twice to swing. While you can switch to a harder "Manual" setting, I don't think I'd enjoy it anymore, especially since I'd know I could do better just by going back to Easy. Part of me would love if this had come to the Wii (or Wii U even). Playing golf in the Wii Sports game was a lot of fun! Too bad it only had the one course in it.

Vanquish Image Vanquish - I only played this a little, but WOW! I'd heard about this game from my podcasts - the guys on it saying how great and overlooked it was. No kidding! I have to go back and play the tutorial again because there are so many options for your character in this run-and-gun game that I couldn't remember all of them. It's sort of like Robo-Cop meets Halo with a healthy dose of Michael Bay-style explosions. The action is frenetic, the shooting is visceral, and the cut-scenes leave your jaw on the floor!

WildStar Image WildStar Beta - A new MMO from NCsoft (makers of Guild Wars) set in a cartoonish, space environment. The beta took hours to download and install, but my initial playtime didn't go very well. It was very hard to figure out how to "activate" something. I stood in front of a console for several minutes, clicking on it, pushing buttons and not getting anywhere. When something did work, I wasn't sure if it was me hitting the right key or if there was a huge amount of lag. Might have to try it a bit more.

Finding Teddy Image Finding Teddy - I've had to start playing this game with the guide open in Steam (thankfully someone on the forums wrote one up since there wasn't one on GameFAQs). There have been several instances where this "simple" point-and-click game assumes too much of your creativity. I want to complete the game, but I don't want to spend 10 hours on a 3 hour game.

(Insert about one week's gap in here. I'm a bad blogger.)

First some updates to games I've already mentioned.

No more Diablo 3 yet. Not buying Child of Light (maybe yet). Gave up on Mario Golf World Tour and passed it along to my daughter. Haven't played anymore Vanquish. Never did get back to Wild Star Beta before the trial period ended. Haven't gotten back to Finding Teddy...yet.

So, what have I been playing? Well,...

LEGO The Hobbit Image Lego The Hobbit - I'm playing this on the 3DS and so far it's been more entertaining than the movies. (Good Lord and Butter, Mr. Jackson! You are the Geek Messiah for bringing us The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but The Hobbit movies are as bad as the first Star Trek movie. Except for the dragon. Smaug is cool looking, I will admit. Back to the game...) I'm not too far into it yet, but I really like the way dialog from the movies is integrated into the gameplay - something I never got used to in the LotR Lego game. There are different abilities for each dwarf and the levels are nice bite-size lengths. It will be interesting to see where this game ends since I know the console versions will be getting DLC (which you may have to pay for) to cover the third movie. (Why? Why is there a THIRD MOVIE?) While there is DLC for some 3DS games, it's not a common occurrence.

Stick it to the Man! Image Stick It To The Man - I got this as a PS+ freebie and have been playing it for nearly a week now. Yes, I know it's a short indie game, but I guess I play slowly. It reminds A LOT of Psychonauts and in some ways I feel it's more like a Tim Schafer game than Broken Age does. The art style is 2D paper characters and backgrounds but in a 3D world. It's a point-and-click (or "stick") adventure with some platform elements. It also has a demented sense of humor, like an underground comic from the 70's. I played a level last night where my character was trapped in an insane asylum and it was more than a little unsettling - which means the game designers did a very good job! It can be a little frustrating (like many adventure games) when I feel like I've done or tried everything and still can't finish a level, but I'm determined to get to the end credits of this one.

I also checked off two more Steam games from my A-to-Z playthrough - Adventure Park and AI War. Both were games that would have required considerable time investments, being a sim builder and large scale strategy game, respectively, and I didn't feel the desire to dig that deeply into them.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

2014 Play Log - Playing Catch-up

Yeah, I sort of dropped off the blogsphere for a bit there, didn't I. It was a combination of needing a break and having a bit of a vacation. But now that I'm back, I realize that I miss this, so here's what I've been playing lately:

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Image Hearthstone - This is a free-to-play, encourage-to-pay game for the iPad that bears more than a passing similarity to Magic:The Gathering, a game I dearly loved, but never had many people to play it with. It's more entertaining than Solitaire, but not much deeper. The one thing I like about it over previous versions of M:tG computer games is that you have to build up your card collection. The Magic computer games I played gave you any cards you wanted at the beginning and then there wasn't a sense of collecting - and that was due to the fact that back then, they didn't have micro-transactions! Progress has it's disadvantages.

Jelly Splash Image Jelly Splash - Oh dear, how did this get here? Well, never let it be said that I hide my shame! Yes, it's a match 3+ smart-phone game. Yes, it's free, but you will probably need to spend money to get very far. Yes, it's a silly, "casual" game. But I like it! Ok, not "like" it so much that I'm spending money on it (yet?), but enough that it's a quick go-to app when I'm between things. Nuff said.

Diablo III Image Diablo 3 - While my brother was here for our vacation, we tried playing this local co-op or as it's also known, "couch co-op". This would have probably worked better if the couch weren't 12 feet from the screen. Later, I decided to play some on my own's Diablo. Basically, things try to kill you while you are looking for "loot" (weapons, armor, gold, etc). It's very linear, the dialog, especially what your character has to say, is awful,  and I'm not sure I'm enjoying it. I'm still early on, so I'll give it some more play time before deciding whether to abandon it or not.

I have a lot of Steam games. How many you ask? Well, my latest count is 690! Now, in my defense, I have played some of those already and the way Steam arrives at that admittedly large number is a little deceptive. Steam counts things like individual episodes of Sam & Max and Back to the Future as single titles, as well as things like single and multi player versions of some games. But, yes, not many. So, there's a HUGE virtual pile of games that I haven't played. To try to get some value out of the many real world dollars I've spent on Steam, I'm starting to go through my list which is conveniently organized in alphabetical order. One of my goals for these play throughs is to collect as many of the free card drops as I can from each game that has them.

 3D Ultra Mini Golf Adventures - Personally, I think there aren't enough mini-golf games. One of my all-time favorite Atari ST games was a mini-golf game and I'd play more if there were good ones. Unfortunately, I guess there's not much market for them. When this one came on sale, I felt I had to give it a go. While it shows it's age and is pretty lacking in features (no online multi-player, sigh), the courses do their best to be as fantastical as possible. I mean, why just make a mini-golf game with courses that you could play in real-life? The ball and putting physics aren't great but I'd say it's the best mini-golf game I've played since those Atari days. No cards on this one.

 688(I) Hunter Killer - They should have probably renamed this 688(Z) Cure for Insomnia. It did remind me of an old game I used to play on the Atari 800, Submarine Commander. Both of these games required lots of patience in return for very little action. But, back in the 80's, I had the time to sit there and watch blocky graphics for hours and imagine I was inside a real sub sneaking up on ships and diving to the ocean floor to hide from depth charges. Thirty years later, not so much. And no cards, which wasn't surprising.

 9th Company: Roots of Terror - Like 688(I), this was a game I got as part of a cheap bundle, but it was more up to date and looked like an interesting squad level strategy game. If only I could have figured out how it worked! After frustrated by "orders" I was given to carry out that I had no idea how to do during the tutorial, I chucked it aside for something better. No cards, which is good - I'd never have been able to get them.

 Afterfall Insanity - People in the reviews section called this an "indie Dead Space" and I guess that isn't too far off. You play as a psychiatrist in an underground sanctuary after an apocalyptic event. (I'm not sure if it was intentional, but your character looks a lot like Niko from GTA IV.) The game looked pretty good for an indie - character models were fairly realistic and the interiors of the complex looked very nice. I also liked the story; you don't realize it until about 15 minutes in, but the game starts you in a dream, complete with subtle graphical "glitches" that caused some user on the forum to suspect his video cards was having problems! Then, like poor Clarke, you get tasked with other people's jobs. I only played this for a couple of nights since I had a few crashes and got to a "puzzle" that everyone had written was very difficult - and the game after that wasn't worth the effort. I did get my 3 cards though.