Saturday, July 01, 2017

Chessasaur's June 2017 Gaming Log

June 2017 Gaming - Day by day

6/01 - RiME finally got here! Started tonight and I'm already wishing I'd played it before Zelda. Nintendo has really spoiled everyone with the ability to climb every surface. It makes you look differently at any open-world-ish environment. The puzzles are very reminiscent of Zelda games - line up blocks, trigger things in order to open other areas, etc - but having to find a particular route through an area where you can't just climb up rocks feels old fashioned. There also appears to be, like so many other games lately, no discernible story to it. Your character, a native looking child, wakes up on a deserted beach on an island that has mysterious ruins. I didn't even get any indication as to what I was supposed to do - I just figured I'd go to these beacons scattered around and see what happened. As in, try pressing buttons on my controller. Turns out I can "shout", which activates the statues or fire braziers. Wow. It's pretty, it works well, it's not too hard, the day changes to night (for some reason), but I have no idea "Why?".

6/02 - RiME. Okay, moving the gold ball and changing the time of day was sort of cool.

6/03 - RiME. Avoiding the bird thing is giving the game a bit more "meat", but it still is pretty much an anonymous 3D puzzle platformer.

6/04 - RiME. I'll admit the underwater section, where you have to swim from air bubble to air bubble, is kind of cool. Think I'm getting to the last section since the environment changed from a Greek Las Hadas to a jungle temple. Still no clue on the story.

6/05 - RiME. I guess I wasn't as close to the end as I thought. Still going. More underwater sections and machines that remind me of the ones from H. G. Wells "War of the Worlds" story (except his had 3 legs, I think).

6/06 - RiME. Yup, still here. But I have to admit the sections I did with the 2-legged, walking, ball creature/robot/things At one point, several of them "sacrifice" themselves to open doors so I can proceed. When the last one goes to open the a door, the kid gets all emotional and doesn't want it to "die". While I was touched at the time by the imminent, but necessary loss of my "new friend" (I did just give him life a few minutes ago), when I look back on it, it makes little sense - mostly because I still don't have any idea how the mechanical giants figure into the lore of the game. Just for the fun of it, I was streaming and even had someone stop by to look. No chat though. Have to be near the end.

6/08 - RiME. It took a week (minus one day) and the credits rolled. **Spoilers ahead, as usual.** It took me awhile to figure it out, but RiME is the video game equivalent of a Hallmark condolence card - well made, but ultimately not truly heartfelt. The "story" is finally "explained" at the end of game where you realize the boy was lost at sea and the father is still grieving. Things you deal with in the game, like the fox or the robots, are toys and decorations in his room. His journey through the world is supposed to represent the stages of dealing with death - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, eventually, acceptance. But when you're jumping and climbing on rocks, "yelling" at statues and fires, avoiding giant birds, guiding robots, swimming from air bubble to air bubble, and solving puzzles, it doesn't really accomplish its goal. Mind you, the game itself is good - responsive controls, impressive graphics, emotionally charged music - I just don't think it needed to be tied to a tale of loss. If there's a deeper meaning to the adventure, I must have missed it. Submerged did the wordless story-telling platformer much better than RiME did.

6/09 - First night of WipEout Omega Collection. Man, this is one otaku-level racer! I'm struggling with just the first few courses. After I turned on the Pilot Assist, I was able to do some decent laps, but I still missed the first time-trial by .43 of a second because I should have hit one or two more boost pads. Interesting note, the arcade game that Dade plays in Hackers, is a SGI rendered prototype of WipEout. Needless to say, 22 years later, the home console PS4 version looks much better.

6/10 - After punting around a couple Xbox One games (SpeedRunners and Killer Instinct), neither of which I liked, I booted up The Cave...and I think I really like it! I've been a bit lukewarm on "funny" video games lately, having not enjoyed Thimbleweed Park or Tales From The Borderlands, but this one strikes a nice balance between comedy and good gameplay, at least in the part I've played so far. It plays like an old-school point-and-click adventure morphed into a controller driven platformer. Puzzles feel like old Lucas Arts ones, but you have to move people around to do things. It's all in 2D so you always know the pieces you need are at hand - you just have to figure out where they all go. It's also not a hand-holding game - you get to discover for yourself what to do at certain points without blatant prompts. I like that.

6/11 - No night gaming due to all the E3 stuff going on, but I did register all my new Zelda amiibo NFC cards (boy, did Nintendo drop the ball on this one!) and used about half of them to get those 3 minute demos of Virtual Console games. I never played Balloon Fight before this (I didn't own a NES back in the day) and I was surprised to see that it was the inspiration for Joust. Who knew?

6/12 - The Cave. What started as a lark is turning into an extended project. Playing more, I got stuck for awhile but was able to figure out the solution (albeit not quite the way it was supposed to be done) and it was very satisfying. This game has a lot of charm and doesn't really demand much from the player (ie, controls are solid, you can't die from a lack of skill, puzzle areas are fairly limited). With all the E3 stuff going one, I feel like I should be playing one of my backlog high-end games...instead I'm playing an old 360 game that has fairly simple graphics. But, a game's a game, right?

6/13 - The Cave. It's sad when a game goes from pleasantly challenging to annoyingly challenging in one sitting. As I'm getting "diminishing returns" on my gaming time "investment", I'm kicking The Cave to The Curb. It was fun while it lasted, but the puzzles got too involved to want to continue. Plus, I felt like I was spending too much time watching my characters run or climb - the levels should have been smaller. Ladders and ropes were getting "sticky" too; it was getting harder to jump off of them cleanly.

6/15 - Booted up Yooka-Laylee for a little bit. They've tweaked it lately and it does feel better than before, but it's still a Banjo-Kazooie clone and I'm not sure that's the kind of game I want to play in this day and age. Speaking of "old games", I thought I should at least give Beyond Good & Evil a try before the sequel is (possibly) released. Even though I'm playing the Xbox 360 HD version, you can still feel the years on this one. Character movements have come a long ways since they started mo-capping everything.Even such basic things as "look" axis inversion needed time for developers to standardize their designs. This game allows you to invert the "look", but only if you change BOTH the X and Y! I actually had to switch back to normal (ie, reversed for me) Y-axis because I had too much trouble with the X-axis being backwards. As for the gameplay, gods-bless the 2000's! Publishing houses had imagination and balls back then. Nothing in BG&E makes any fucking sense and that's what makes it so amazing. Publishers are such pussies now. They won't put a game out unless it's tied to a known franchise - the new God of War, both of the Shadow of Mordor games, and Assassin's Creed 4 should have been new IP's. Don't just try to dress a new system or setting in an old set of clothes.

6/16 - BG&E. Did this during the early evening since SDG&E is (possibly) turning the power off tonight at 11pm. How dare they?! Don't they know we need electricity to pursue our gaming hobby? Don't they know I'm a master gamer and can't afford to miss a single evening of my precious pastime?? In a Anyway, BG&E is shaping up to be a great game stuck in a previous, previous generation's shell. I'm trying to decide if I should restart and stream it. Wouldn't take much since I'm less than 2 hours in. It's a consideration. Still wonderfully weird! **Late Update**: With the power outage looming, I started up the 3DS and first played Metroid II (why can I not get the jump and shoot buttons right??), then went into Fire Emblem Awakening. And I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying it! I've know about it for a long time, but never gave it my full attention. I think I need to restart it with perma-death - feels like I'm cheating playing without it.

6/17 - Fire Emblem Awakening. Restarted in Classic mode, so I have to be reeeal careful not to let anyone die!

6/18 - Started to play a little Wolfenstein: The Old Blood but got too sleepy. It's been a long weekend. One thing I did start doing: teaching myself to play in un-inverted mode. If I want to be able to play older games (like BG&E, for example) I need to switch back. I know that my preference for inverted Y-axis stems from my early days with flight sims on the Atari joysticks. But these days, I hardly ever play flying games, so I should re-train my brain to handle the standard layouts. I've heard that it doesn't take too much time. We'll see how it goes, or in other words, how painful the transition is.

6/19 - I didn't actually get any gaming in because I was trying to figure out why the fan in my PS4 was running and the box was hot while it was in "rest" mode. I checked and it didn't look like anything was downloading, so I figured it needed to be dusted out. Yes, there are numerous YouTube videos about dismantling and cleaning out a PS4, but I settled for just dusting out the back with a can of air. This produced more dust than I expected, to be honest. Dust, in general, is something I wonder how much the console makers consider. I'm particularly worried about the new Xbox One X. That system has a ton of heat producing hardware packed into a surprisingly small box. Once a year or so of dust builds up inside the case, is the cooling system still going to be able to keep the system from overheating? You can tell that Microsoft over compensated in cooling when they made the original Xbox One so that they wouldn't have to deal with a RRoD issue again. While this meant the system was made overly large and heavy, it has the advantage of being graveyard quiet. By comparison, the PS4 is annoyingly loud. It's funny that during the previous console generation, the PS3 was always touted as being so much quieter than the jet-engine sounding Xbox 360. The more things change...

6/20 - Some nights, things don't work out the way you expect. Started by unwrapping a few new games because if there's one thing I learned from all those DLC cards lurking in my unopened game boxes: don't hesitate! One of them, the Bulletstorm game, still used the QR code for the Kinect. I wish they all still did that, but since they figure hardly anyone has those anymore, why bother? Since I had the Xbox One on for entering the codes, I decided to play more BG&E. And that's where things went sour. For an old-school, semi-open world game, you can get lost very easily - or at least not know where you're supposed to go next. Gotta say, this game is trying my patience. It may be a classic, but I think it might be more retro than I want to deal with. I'm going to try an FAQ to see what I was missing or a YouTube. Did use Beam Mixer to see what the archived streams look like.

6/21 - As a change of pace, I decided to give Lego Worlds another go. I'd tried it back when my bro was in town and we quickly found the multiplayer unplayable - neither of us could figure out what we were doing. But, before I gave up on it entirely, I wanted to try it single player. Lego Worlds was one of a few games that had a significant presence at last years Twitch Con. Guess they were expecting it to be a good game to stream. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for me. Maybe it's because I'm not a Minecraft player. This game has a lot more in common with that ultra-popular game than building things with Lego's or even the other Lego movie tie-in games. It's hard to control the 3-dimensional nature of placing blocks while moving your character and camera around. It always felt like I was fighting it. I'd have much preferred something that would have given me unlimited Lego pieces to build with. Well, at least I tried it again.

6/23 - With the PS4 in "limbo mode" (ie, I'm waiting for tools to open it up so I can clean it out), I looked at my installed Xbox One games and picked Unravel to play. Ah, the adventures of Yarny! I remember one of my podcast people being really excited for Unravel to be released...until he actually played it. Now I see why. I don't know how I can be so stuck so early by something as simple as a teeter-totter and a rock. The nighttime cold pills I took probably didn't help and I started to fall asleep in my chair. I'll have to try it again tomorrow.

6/25 - Unravel Not content with being stuck on that rock (so to speak), I went back for more adventures with Yarny. There are some games that are very hand-holding at the beginning and then decide, at some point, that they've said enough and the rest is up to you. Never mind that they leave out crucial mechanics for solving puzzles - you'll be fine, it assumes. In this case, it was that the yarn bridges you could create were not just for making little trampolines; you can also use them as ramps! So, I made it through the first two chapters and my feelings about the game are mixed. First off, the game looks amazing! Everything (grass, thistles, wood, rocks, crabs, etc.) is photo-realistic and the physics of the yarn make you quickly forget you are playing a computer game. Yarny is cute, but doesn't give off any particular personality. The platforming challenges can get frustrating, but it feels real good when you figure out what needs to be done. The "story", however...well, I know they are going for something very sentimental regarding loss and the relentless passage of time, but the pictures you "recover" during the game look like bad stock photos for generic greeting cards. I feel less than no connection to the people in them or what they represent. I would guess that the designers intentionally picked images which were nonspecific so they could be relevant to anyone, but it seems they've drifted toward a relation to no one. If I continue playing, it will be for the platforming challenge, not the overall story.

6/26 - Unravel. Ugh! I'm done with Unravel. The swinging, yarn throwing, drowning in water thing is getting old fast. Pretty to look at, frustrating to play. I guess it didn't help that I was playing very late to try to forget about the awful John Wick 2 movie we watched, but I still think I'd have thrown in the knitting needles at this point anyway.

6/28 - It's always weird when I boot up a game I think I've never tried, only to find a save file showing I had played it before. This was the case when I started Dead Space Extraction on the PS3 (it was included with the Dead Space 2 Limited Edition). This was a ported Wii title and the switch from motion controls to thumbstick targeting is both good and bad. One the one hand, head shots are easier on multiple targets because you can just leave the cursor at head level and fire. However, you are supposed to pickup items during the game's on-rails movement sections which would be easy with the point-and-shoot Wii controller, but not so much with the DualShock 3. My biggest surprise (since I hadn't gotten this far before) is that your character DIES at the end of Chapter 1! (Ooops, spoilers, my bad.) It does make me want to keep playing, but I'm really wondering if I should go back to a Wii platform.

6/29 - Just a little Limbo, my play anytime game. Should I switch to Inside?

6/30 - My poor PS4 Pro. It gets so little love. Figured I should take pity on it and at least update the firmware (since it isn't my primary PS4 anymore, it doesn't get auto updates). First thing I did was to try (and delete) a couple PS+ free games that were downloaded to it - Killing Floor 2 and Spy Chameleon. The former was impossible to read at the distance I sit from the TV (about 15') but the latter was playable, if a bit simple. Then I started up Rez Infinite...and was happy! What an incredible experience that is - light, sound, vibration! I've loved it since the PS2 days when it was the most expensive used game I'd ever bought (it was hard to get back then). If I were ever to want to use a VR headset, it would be to immerse myself in that cyber space.

Media Highlights...and Lowlights

June's screen shots, all of RiME, are HERE.

WipEout from Hackers (1995)

WipEout Omega Collection from PS4 (2017)

RiME is a gorgeous game. Here is it in action:

While I ran out of steam for Beyond Good & Evil, it's worth putting in a little video to show how wonderfully weird the game is:

And finally, a couple of videos for Unravel. You can tell by these just how remarkable the graphics are...I just wish it was as fun to play!

Miscellaneous Musings

Hmmm...nothing here this month. Have to muse more in July. Ack! Just remembered it's Comic-Con month coming up! It would be nice to find a developer or two to meet/get autographs from. Still very fond of the Suda 51 auto I have on my PS3 copy of Shadows of the Damned.