Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2014 Play Log - Getting Back to It

Regular posts here were interrupted as I was taking a little break from gaming to catch up on some regular sleep and deal with new pet needs (as in meds for old pets, not new family members). But I find that I need some gaming in my life - it keeps me "centered", whatever that means. To sort of ease back into things, I got back to my alphabetical play through of my Steam library.

Air Conflicts: Secret Wars Image Air Conflicts: Secret Missions & Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers Image Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers - I spent much of my video gaming "youth" (and I'm stretching the term to include my 30's) playing many, many hours of flight simulators. In the Atari 800 days, I chased little objects made of 3 or 4 pixels across endless screens of sky (light blue) and ground/sea (brown/dark blue). These were the early Microprose games, one of which actually came in a baggie! My favorite controller had a tall stick with a single button (for firing, of course) and I'm amazed I didn't break it with all the time I played with it. As flight sims fell from favor, my gaming turned more to adventure/action games and I just didn't play them anymore. I think Blazing Angels on the 360 was one of the first ones to bring me back to the genre. The two Air Conflicts games in my Steam library reminded me of Angels...but not for very long. Secret Missions started out interesting (you play as a pilot-for-hire working for, but not allied with, the Allies as they fight off the Germans in North Africa) but the second mission was some sort of stealth flying affair that I quickly got frustrated with. Pacific Carriers had less "story" (it starts during the Pearl Harbor attack like most WWII Pacific theater games), but the action came at a better pace. However, I lost interest after a little while due to, I guess, too much realism. Sounds weird, right? Well, it turns out that if you are firing machine gun bullets from a plane at another plane in the air, you will need to "lead" the target. This means you don't aim "at" the plane but "in front of" the plane. To make it easier in this game, they put a floating target in front of each plane that you need to shoot at in order for the bullets to hit. It's accurate, but very unsatisfying. So, these two flew away.

Alan Wake Image Alan Wake - Ok, as the saying goes, "Shit just got real!" I have a lot of games in my Steam library (over 700). Some are real simplistic or out-dated, usually picked up on a bundle deal. Some are solid titles, but either indie games or ones that just weren't headliners. Then there are some that are full on AAA titles. Alan Wake is one of those games and one that I should have played a long time ago. It was a major release on the Xbox 360 and a frequently referenced title in discussions of survival horror and narratives in games. I have a copy for the 360, but I'm playing it on the PC (with a controller) because the graphics are significantly better. (This isn't surprising - I imagine that if it gets ported to the Xbox One that it will look this good on that platform.) I just finished "Episode One" and I'm completely enthralled! The game plays more like a movie than any other game I've played. I love how character interactions are triggered by proximity, not button presses. And the mood of the game is like a creepy thriller by Stephen King. I do hope that the combat doesn't get too repetitive, but I'm going to stick with this game for the story...and the really weird TV shows!

Unit 13 Image Unit 13 - A PS+ freebie. It's a 3rd person action game, pretty good controls, with amusing comments from the NPC's. I played the tutorial and will probably come back to it as some point, but for now...

Persona 4 Golden Image Persona 4 Golden - I stand at the edge of a very, very, VERY deep rabbit hole. I know this is a monster of a game even on the Very Easy difficulty I'm playing it on. It clocks in over 100 hours to finish! And I'm playing it on a handheld system, my Vita. Why, you may ask? Because it's one of the very best titles on the Vita and a fascinating game! I've only just started (I think I'm on the 3rd or 4th day of a one year stay in this new town) and I can already see why it's so highly regarded. This is an upscaled game from the PS2 and it looks amazing on the Vita's bright, crisp OLED screen. There's also a lot of voice work in it, something that doesn't always happen in a JRPG. The story is already catching my interest - a dead body has been found hanging in town and...well, I guess I shouldn't say too much. How long will I last playing P4G? Will I make it all the way to the bitter end? We'll just have to wait and see. (Note: This is one of the Shin Megami Tensei games that I have collected most of, but played very few of. In fact, only one - SMT: Nocturne - and I didn't last very long playing that. I've always been drawn to the horror aspect of the games, but I have to admit to not being able to handle most JRPG tropes. For me, getting very far in P4G is going to be a major accomplishment if I make it.)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

2014 Play Log - Tearaway and other Vita works

Not that I'm trying to set a trend or anything, but I finished another game over the weekend, Tearaway.
Tearaway Image I think Tearaway is one of those games that some people wanted to elevate to a modern classic. It certainly is a game that generated outrage for anything other than loving admiration, as witnessed by Joystiq's review. For me, I will say it was a unique experience, but one that was not without its faults. What this game did well, it knocked out of the park! I mentioned in a previous blog that it felt like playing in a diorama, but I think rather it was like playing a stop-motion animation movie. Media Molecule has perfected the art of making graphics that look like real world objects but move like game characters. No one else has come close to this level of controllable reality. However, the game falls short of being a Limbo, Journey, or Brothers level kind of experience. Those games made you feel you were playing something special - Tearaway keeps reminding you that you are on a "great quest to delivery your message". More subtlety would have been good. There were also some game mechanics that didn't work very well. The combat was pretty simple and the sections where you had to "make" things was particularly frustrating because you had to draw a closed figure with your finger on the touch screen. If you left just one little bit uncut, it wouldn't separate. Also, it didn't matter what you made as you were highly praised whether you made something that looked like what you were asked for or not. (The same unconditional acceptance extended to pictures taken or sounds recorded.) Oddly, the one time I tried to be creative was when an NPC asked for a tie. I thought that the cactus would clever, but no, that wouldn't work. Then I gave him a bow tie. That was also rejected. I had to pick the tie sticker at the bottom of the items list before it would let me move on. Still, I have to say it was an amazing game - the variety of platform mechanics that used Vita features was incredible. I doubt anyone will be able to make another game that makes as much use of the hardware as Tearaway did.

Tearaway was also the first complete game I've played on my Vita. It's a compelling system to sit down with at night and just kick back with on the sofa. I decided to follow up with some other titles...with varying results.

The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series - The Complete First Season Image The Walking Dead Season 1 - I got this through PS+ and although I've played it on the PC, I wondered how it would play on the Vita. In a word, not-good. For a game with simple mechanics and an excellent story, it plays poorly with traditional stick controls. Aiming is almost impossible and you can't invert the Y-axis. Also, the game pauses a lot during scenes which is very annoying. Well, it was a freebie, so no harm done.

LIMBO Image Limbo - Also a PS+ freebie. I started to really get into playing this on the Vita. Limbo's atmosphere is perfect for a dark living room at midnight. And everything was going great until I missed a rope, fell on a box, and died...but the game wouldn't reset. My little white-dot eyes were blinking, but I couldn't move. Maybe I had just broken my neck and I had to just lie there and die from starvation. It would fit the mood of the game! Anyway, that little glitch got me moving to another title.

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut Image Lone Survivor - This survival horror game plays well on the Vita, but I don't think I really enjoy it. It's a little too retro for my tastes, considering there's so much more out there to play.

Thomas Was Alone Image Thomas Was Alone - Now this I think I can stay with. It's amazing how easily a human mind can accept that a little cursor has a name and a destiny you have to fulfill. The narration in the game is great and as long as it doesn't get frustratingly hard, I think I'll be able to finish it. *Update*: After another evening of Thomas, I think I'll move on. Underneath the mask of a platformer, there lies a puzzle game. Not bad, just not my cup of tea.