Monday, September 26, 2016

Later That Year...

I can't say I was overly surprised to see that my last posted blog entry here was from April. Honestly, I was happy to see it was from this year!

I actually finished a game this weekend (it was a quick one that I'll talk about here shortly), and it got me thinking about other games I've finished recently. I realized that I had trouble remembering them which I found a little disturbing. None were really big games, but I'm always proud of the ones I've completed (mostly because it's a rare occurrence for me) and have almost always made some sort of note here. This post will try to catch up on games I've played and/or finished. I'll start with the ones I finished first.

 Inside (Xbox One) - I got this Day One because it was the next game from the makers of Limbo, one of my all-time favorite games...even if the ending does suck. Briefly, Inside is a graphically enhanced Limbo-esque game with more intricate but overall easier puzzles. Critics have been heaping praise on this one that I don't think is entirely deserved. It's a good game, to be sure, but it's no "10". A good solid "8" or "8.5". Like Limbo (and in a way, more so) this game tells you NOTHING about the world you are in or why you are running from people. The ending, which I won't spoil, just multiplies the confusion by a factor of 1000.

 Firewatch (PC) - This was the first game of three that I played recently (and finished) that lacked one specific game mechanic - my character couldn't die. That's something you have to learn as you play a new game and it leaves you hanging until you figure it out one way or the other. I guess you'd call this game a hiking simulator/semi-interactive story experience. You play a new park ranger and have extended conversations with another ranger while trying to unravel something that may or may not be a mystery. It was an interesting thing to play (and the voice acting was great) but I think the best part was that the designers didn't push the length too long. One of the advantages of indie games is that developers aren't bound to produce something that fits the standard 10-20 hours of gameplay that most gamers feel they are owed by spending money.

 Abzu (PS4) - First a Limbo sequel, then a Journey sequel...well, sort of. (One of the Journey developers left That Game Company and made Abzu.) As much as this would like to be as moving as Journey, I'm afraid it missed the mark. Most of this game is a swimming-with-fish simulator which while "nice" - tagging along with an giant sea turtle is pretty cool - just isn't the same as the other-worldly feel Journey had. It also didn't help that the game only gave you a vague idea of what you were supposed to do. (Journey was magnificent in it's simplistic and immediate method of conveying to the player what they were there for - the first thing you see is the star on top of that mountain. Go.) As the game progressed, there was an element of purpose that seemed to imply that I was saving whatever environment I was swimming in, but overall it felt a little hollow.

 Submerged (PS4) - I don't know when this one came out as I never heard or read much about it. I got it on a sale and was intrigued by the idea of moving around a half-sunken city. You play a girl who is trying to save her brother (although at first, you aren't sure - it could be her son?) She has to motorboat around to buildings and retrieve supply drop boxes by moving around the crumbling exteriors - climbing drainpipes, shuffling and jumping along ledges, or dangling from broken ledges. The designers could have made the game much harder if there was a limited amount of time you could hang from a ledge or if you could actually fall, but they decided to focus more on the story than the challenge. I'm glad they did since it gives you more time to appreciate the scale of the city which is very impressive, especially landmarks the giant construction crane in the middle of the map. The story unfolds in little primitive drawings that, I have to admit, I didn't at first understand. When I did "get it", I was really sucked into the world and this girl's struggle. I can't say that the ending was as satisfying as the journey there, but this is a game that I'm glad I finished and even wanted to explore the map more after I had completed it.

 Bound (PS4) - Sometimes visually impressive just isn't enough. Yes, this game looks stunning with all of it's fluid, voxel environments and motion captured dance moves, but I just didn't get hooked enough to do more than a half an hour's worth.

 Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One) - I'd heard lots of good things about this one and for the most part I can see why. It's a frantic, over the top, colorful, wild, funny, shooter unlike another game. You can customize your character in any number of ways, and even the respawn animations are unique and entertaining. much as I was enjoying playing it, and as much as I wanted to dig deeper into it even though it was really testing my degraded "old man" reflexes, I couldn't handle the broken missions. Twice in the short time I was playing, the mission objectives wouldn't trigger - once it was the game not recognizing that I cleared an area, and the other was the game not recognizing that I'd caught up with the NPC I was chasing. It was a shame, but I don't need that kind of headache when trying to play a game.

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