Podcasting, Gaming, and Whatever strikes me at the time.

Post Game Wrap up

Post Game Wrap Up! Alien Isolation!

Alien-Isolation

Occasionally, it’s hard to talk about something objectively. I am a huge fan of the Alien series. Have been for a long time. So I find it hard to be objective about something I enjoy by default. Even the worst this franchise has to offer can be enjoyable in some way to me. So after the disastrous release of last year’s Aliens: Colonial Marines, when this game was announced I had doubts. I knew it would find its way into my collection one way or the other, but I was worried, fearful another mediocre product was being rushed to shelves because fans of this franchise will stomach anything and everything. Fortunately, I’m here to tell you that Alien Isolation proves to surpass all my expectations, erases all my fears, and replaces them with entirely new ones.

Alien Isolation is a first person survival horror game, much like Amnesia, that puts you in the role of Amanda Ripley. It’s been 15 years since her mother Ellen and the crew of the Nostromo have gone missing. Amanda, who works for Weyland Yutani, is told by a friend of hers Samuel that a space station Sevastopol has recovered the flight recorder, and she goes with him to get some closure as to what actually happened to her mother. Of course, when she gets there, she finds the station in shambles and the locals less than friendly. See, for the last little while, they have been dealing with their androids acting up, the station falling apart and something sinister stalking in the air ducts…

Clearly a lot of love went into the world and the attention to detail around it. First, the story could actually fit into the series of films, which for a video game can be tough to do. Amanda was first mentioned in a deleted scene in Aliens, which can be seen in the director’s cut of the film, and while she’s long dead by the time Aliens takes place, but she is a character that exists in the extended lore of the franchise. There are some plot holes that don’t seem to be filled, but they are minor ones in the long run. Second, the visual design is breathtaking, with claustrophobic hallways, vast and scenic landscapes out in space, and a sort of haunting beauty to everything in between. This is a game that is worth playing on modern systems/PC, and I won’t say that often. The technology and design of all the ships is reminiscent of the 80’s Sci-Fi look that went into the original film, and everything in the game is reflective of that design. It’s a nice touch and again, a throwback to the original film. It’s charming in its own way. I really wish strangely that there was some kind of behind the scenes audio commentary that would let me just wander the ships like some kind of tour that is of course Alien and enemy free, but, there isn’t one, sadly.

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(In space, no one can hear you awe in wonder)

The clear star of the game though is the Alien himself. Like the film, the Alien is a fast-moving invincible menace, and thanks to a highly touted and complicated A.I system, the Alien actually hunts and pursues you in many of games environments, and almost never behaves the same way twice. Combine that with the fact the Alien cannot be killed makes for a tense experience. Sure, there are firearms in the game, but none will kill the Alien. The only weapons that even sort of work against him are the flamethrower, which has limited ammo, and Molotov’s, which require a great deal of components to put together, but all they do is scare the Alien away, and while I can’t confirm this, seems to make him mad. Every time I used an item to defend myself against the Alien, he seemed to grow more insistent that he kill me. The A.I is fantastic, and really lives up the hype it has, making the Alien feel alive, and all the more terrifying. Ripley is an engineer, so she’s able to cobble together tools to function as distractions out of items found strewn across the environment, but in a twist taken out of ROUGE-like games, item placement is randomized, and changes with each and every death. And thanks to the Alien, the androids AKA Working Joes, and the few human survivors with guns, you will die. In fact, you will die a lot in this game, on just about any difficultly. People have complained about the difficulty, and while I can admit the game can be hard at times, there is a real sense of accomplishment when you get past an area your stuck on, and the game, despite being hard, never feels unfair. There is a health bar, but the Alien just flat-out kills you if he catches you, which he’s certain to do if he sees you. In another unique design choice, the game does not auto save, forcing you to save as often as possible at saving stations, but when you do save, and any time you use a computer in fact, your wide open for attack. All this combines together to make a tense as hell experience that has you jumping at every light and sound you see and hear. Thankfully, the game does all it can to avoid jump scares, which is a valuable touch, as too many jump scares would just ruin any of the game’s tension. Jump scares are not scary, they are surprising, and there is a difference. That’s not to say the game doesn’t have any, mind you, but once the Alien comes out, there are no more, which is awesome.

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(Granted, this will still surprise and scare you. Then kill you.)

 

However, for all the good the game delivers and how good the game looks, at times there are some.. glitches and bugs. Creative Assembly is primarily known for strategy games, specifically the Total War franchise, so this is actually a huge diversion for them, and to their credit, they put together an amazing experience. But… there are some technical issues that bring the whole thing down. First, while the Alien looks awesome and the Working Joes look synthetic, like they should, human models look bland, have poor lip syncing to spoken dialog, and look really awkward in comparison to everything else. Second, there are glitches everywhere. I played this game for 2-3 hours spurts over the course of a week. Every time I played this game, I got a glitch of some kind, without fail. Some small things, like the alien peaking through vents in ways he shouldn’t, looking into a locker without opening it, and some other interesting visual oddities, like floating objects. I would have ignored those mundane ones if not for the more game breaking ones. I’ve had weapons that I could not raise to fire, making them useless, not able to use the motion tracker, the motion tracker not functioning, which is a different glitch where you can pull it up, but it does nothing, to being pulled into an alien fatality from across the room, like he were Scorpion. An entire chapter shook terribly, and resetting the game, which usually fixed these glitches, did not work, and I had to stumble through a fairly difficult chapter with the screen constantly shaking. And those are just the troubles I had while playing, there are many videos online of a teleporting Alien, DLC downloading issues for pre-orders, to the scary door, which is a personal favorite of mine. While on the subject of the negative, the game is also a little too long, but the extended levels do work and are very nice and tense. They didn’t feel too out-of-place in my 17 hours of playing, but some people have complained, though I feel it’s not as bad as I’ve seen people complain that it is. The ending is a little quick and disappointing as well, without spoiling it, but I suspect that’s either to set up a sequel, or promote the season pass sales for a future DLC release. Although, the DLC could only be challenge maps, so who knows?

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( I had these come out of a save point once, and I still have no idea what they are)

 

Isolation has been called the game Alien fans deserve, and I agree with that statement. The Alien series has unfortunately been more misses than hits when it comes to its video game releases, and while Isolation is a fantastic game, It’s glitches and bugs do sort of ruin the experience after a while. When the game shines though, it shines in a way I absolutely could not have expected it to. It’s the perfect game to play for Halloween, so it’s October release is also just perfect. So, with that in mind, I rate it 8/10. Maybe in a month or two, when/ if many of those glitches are ironed out, the game may be even better, if not perfect for what kind of game it is. It’s not going to be for everyone, admittedly, but the Alien franchise is a series divided into two styles, a slower paced Sci-fi slasher movie style, like this game, and a Sci-fi action movie, like Colonial Marines was trying to be. We just need a better game to support the latter half.

 


Post Game Wrap Up! Dead Rising 3!

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I’ve learned something about Capcom over the past little while. As I mentioned in my previous PGWU, I took a small break from Xenoblade to focus on getting some things out for review purposes, and if I’m honest, I don’t like to binge play a game, I rather like playing a game or two at a time. Plus, Destiny came out. I have no shame in admitting that is taking up time. But I also got hold of another Capcom release on PC during that time, and I wanted to talk about it for a bit, and why Dead Rising 3 made me angry.

Dead Rising 3 is the newest release in the Dead Rising series, that places players in a sandbox filled with zombies, allowing them to fight off the horde using whatever weapons and items you can find, and more recently custom making your own tools of destruction. It was originally announced as a Xbox One exclusive, but Capcom isn’t the most faithful of developers, as Nintendo will tell you. Hell Microsoft should have known better, as this very series has flip-flopped between exclusivity and on whatever system will have it.   Now, it’s come to the PC in the Apocalypse edition, which comes with all the DLC in tow, at a reduced price of $49.99. That’s pretty standard fare for PC ports of games, which is ultimately what this boils down to.

In Dead Rising 3, you play as Nick Ramos, a mechanic who finds himself trapped in the city of Los Perdidos as a zombie outbreak happens. The city is under quarantine, and the military is set to vaporize it with high powered weaponry in a week’s time. Nick makes it his mission to get out of the city with the few survivors he’s run into. Nick, as opposed to the other series protagonists Frank and Chuck, is more friendly to people he meets and is more interested in helping them than himself. It’s a nice change of pace, but the game never really does anything with it, he just happens to be nicer than the others. I suspect he’s written that way for a reason, but due to spoilers, I’m not really open to discussing it now. Outside of that, he’s not really an interesting character. The characters and the story are kind of the weak part of Dead Rising 3, while on the subject. Most characters are a cliché, falling in line with zombie movie tropes, and the story as a whole equally follows suit, right down to the DLC chapters. The only exception being the SUPER ULTRA ARCADE REMIX HYPER EDITION EX + alpha, which is the only fun and interesting DLC pack in the entire bundle, because it tugs on retro heart strings and turns the insanity of it all to 11. Honestly, that one DLC is kind of better than the entire game itself. And while I’m talking about story, I have issues with the villains. Like everything else Capcom writes, villains takes the large and grandiose idea of unleashing a zombie horde to do something evil, when a hit man or a mad scientist could usually get it done without anywhere near the same kind of mess, clean up, or chances of failure. It’s a silly trend in Capcom writing, at least in their horror genre. I’m waiting for them to do with Street Fighter.

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(Seriously though, this should have been a standalone. It’s awesome)

Dead Rising 3, as mentioned before is a sandbox game, and the developers have gone to great lengths to highlight the sheer size of the horde on screen at any given time. To give them credit, it is something of a technical wonder, highlighting what the new generation of consoles are capable of. The game only loads once when you first load it too, and never really seems to suffer from slowdown as you play, which in a sandbox of this size, is very cool from a technical perspective. However, it doesn’t stay impressive for long. They may as well not exist when you are far away, as short of random survivors you can save for experience, they do nothing but stand around looking dumbfounded. I know they are zombies, so I’m not expecting hyper intelligent A.I, but it would be nice for them do something while not trying to chase you down. The game itself is also bigger than DR 1 or 2, and as such gives a greater emphasis on vehicles. You can combine vehicles together, just like weapons, but they aren’t necessary at any given time. Vehicles are only good for transportation, and they handle poorly at the best of times, so I would never bother with them except to get from district to district. I had hoped the series would continue to employ shortcuts to teleport from area to area, but they took them out entirely, making vehicles the only option. And because you’re not able to take the direct routes because reasons, your left taking the scenic zombie covered bridges, and it won’t take long for driving through a horde of zombies to become tedious and boring.

While on the subject of questionable game play, Nick can fashion weapons on the fly as long as he is carrying them. You need the combo’s blueprint to do this, but every time you find a blueprint, your either given the item to use right away or the items needed are laying right beside the blueprint to let you make it on the spot. This isn’t bad in theory, as due to the game’s size, hunting for items to take them back to safe room to make them could get a little aggravating. What really irks me about this is the locker system. There is one for vehicles and for weapons, and every time to pick up, use an item, or make a combo item, a copy of it gets stored in the locker. You can go to any safe house and withdraw multiple copies of it, for free. Best part of all, it refills automatically with no input from you, so once you make an item, you can just wait a while, stockpile 4 awesome combo guns or weapons, and use them to decimate hordes of zombies and the bosses the game gives you. You can even get weapons that are combo’s of combos this way. It makes it insultingly easy to handle any real challenge, and I found myself breezing through this game with no problems.

Speaking of difficulty, that’s also changed too. Normally in a Dead Rising game, there is a day/ night system, and the game passively goes forward in time, even if you’re not ready for it. It’s possible to miss story important missions/ bosses/ civilians to save this way. It’s hard sure, but Dead Rising carries your characters progress forward in-between attempts, making it possible after a few tries. Dead Rising 3 changes this by offering two game modes. There is nightmare mode, which operates just like above, and you can only save in port a potties and safe houses, and enemies hit harder and are stronger. There is also the Story mode, which allows players to take their time. Days do not progress on their own anymore, mission timers are so long it’s virtually impossible to fail them, and enemies are weaker. They call it story mode for players who want to appreciate the story, but as mentioned, the story is so weak you can really just call it easy mode, as no one is playing it to enjoy the story. I can understand changing certain things to make the game easier to play in some small ways, but I’ve never liked adding a easy mode, especially when it takes away from the game’s driving concept. If there is no time limit, there is no pressure, and no tension. Fortunately, you can just choose to play on Nightmare mode right out of the gate, so I suppose at least its optional. I also found the game to be boring visually. Perhaps I was just spoiled by the Vegas setting of DR2, but Los Perdidos is just grey and bland. Some areas seem colorful, but compared to Vegas? Sorry, the game’s got nothing compared to DR2. If your playing the PC version, you absolutely need a controller of some kind, as the PC keyboard controls are horrendous and there is no way to change them.

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(Granted, dressing as a lucha and jumping into a horde of zombies to pile-drive one of them is still cool.)

After completing the game, I felt a little ripped off. To me, Dead Rising 3 is the worst kind of continuation to a popular franchise, as it doesn’t really do anything new or interesting with the concept. It really feels to me like the series peaked at Dead Rising 2, which is weird considering I only played it for a weekend when it first came out. When the 360 came out, the game I wanted to play, and the reason I bought a system, odd enough, was Dead Rising, and when I found out Dead Rising 3 was “exclusive” to Xbox One, I was a little tempted to pick up the system so I could play it. Thank god I didn’t, as I would have felt ripped off. It’s not that Dead Rising 3 is a bad game, it just doesn’t do anything of real note, with the exception of the SUPER ULTRA DLC. Had that been a standalone experience, like off the record was for DR2, that would be worth picking up. It kind of only really exists as a tech demo, and once the novelty of that wears off, your left with a game that didn’t really do much to update the formula. If you’re looking for a Dead Rising experience, I recommend 2, because you get everything you get in 3, on a smaller scale admittedly, but you get it for $19.99, on whatever platform you wish. Dead Rising 3 just isn’t worth it on its own, and at best might be a rental experience. I’m going back to Xenoblade now, or Destiny. I need to feel better.

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Seriously, this needs to be a stand alone. Capcom, make it happen


Post Game Wrap Up! Resident Evil 4!

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I had to take a break from Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s coming soon, I promise, but I realized with the free time I have to game these days, it would be another month at least before I got that out. I figured I need something else to play in-between sessions. So I decided to look for something on sale, something I didn’t own, and something I consider to be “retro” or at least old. So, thankfully, I discovered that over on the Xbox 360, some Resident Evil games were on sale. With the Resident Evil remake (or REmake, as I like to call it. ) due out on other consoles in the near future, I thought this was a great time to look back at Resident Evil 4, The game that changed it all.

 

Resident Evil is probably not a series that requires any real introduction, it’s been a Capcom staple since 1996. But by the series 4th release in the main series, Code Veronica on the Dreamcast, some people began to feel that the game play was getting stale. The fixed camera was a relic of older technology, and the tank controls were the best way to move with a fixed camera. As systems got more sophisticated, gamers wanted something more. In 2002, Capcom signed a deal with Nintendo of all people to bring may titles exclusively to the GameCube, with titles such as Killer 7, Okami, Viewtiful Joe and Resident Evil. In 2005, Capcom released this gem of a game that is considered to be one of the must-own GameCube titles. Now, times have changed, and looking back, does Resident Evil 4 still rise up as a must own, or like the series itself, has it soured on the its own idea?

 

First, right of the bat, I got to say I loved Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube. In fact, it was the last game I bought for the GameCube. The GameCube had some good titles, but not many, certainly not compared to the PS2. But I enjoyed it then, and put much time into it. Really, I picked this one because I was curious if it would have held up after all these years, especially given how the reception to the series has changed over the years.

 

Resident Evil 4 puts you in the role of Leon S. Kennedy, one of the few survivors from the Racoon City incident. It’s been a few years since then, and Umbrella is fully dissolved. Leon has been recruited by the US government, and when the President’s daughter, Ashley, is kidnapped while in Spain, it’s up to Leon to track down the kidnappers and save the president’s daughter. Of course, a creepy cult is involved, science fiction, and monsters.  The plot is standard fare, but compared to the twists and turns games like 5 and 6 would have, it’s actually kind of refreshing to be this simple. There are subplots involving other series regulars, such as big bad Wesker, but I don’t bring them up here because.. they don’t really add much to the main story. They more serve as questions to be answered in later games and are there mainly to be vague and mysterious, but the series vets who are involved here at least feel they are supposed to. It also helps that the characters, while stock, at least feel like characters, especially the villains. A big problem 5 and 6 had were the villains in those games felt a lot like placeholder characters, but were never replaced. Here, at least the main villain, Lord Saddler has a motivation, even if we learn little about him. Motivation may not sound like much, but it’s better than Simmons from RE6, who doesn’t really didn’t seem to have much in the way of motivation.

 

But, people don’t talk about RE4’s masterful and impactful story. No, they talk about two things. The first thing is that the game play is completely different from any RE game that came before it. Resident Evil got a big facelift here, and at the time it was jaw dropping. Capcom had made the switch from a more methodical pacing to a more action paced one. Sure, it’s light on puzzles and traps, but RE4 makes up for greatly by being one of the best in terms of game play, being very simple and direct. See, RE4 made the series jump into the 3rd person action game. It’s a style that has remained mostly unchanged from 4 to 5 to 6. The only real differences are in 6 you can aim and move, and in 5 and 6 you must handle your inventory in real time, due to them having co-op online .   RE4’s game play is all about tense action moments, and while it’s a little sad to see the series change, it was refreshing in 2005, and I’ll be damned if Capcom didn’t pull it off flawlessly. Sure, you still can’t move and shoot ( a grip the fans never grew out of) but the combat is perfect for what it’s trying to be, an 3rd person action shooter, minus cover. Aiming is simple and easy to do, the weapons feel different, and Leon actually actually moves quite well, even when heavily damaged. You can also see your health bar, so there is no guessing with phases and vague terms. But the game also knows exactly how to pace itself, and the game has many crowning moments in game play. One of the best and most effective is in the first village section, just before the end of the prologue. It’s a great section that truly leaves you tense and scared, just like the series should do, sure your mobile, but you lack the firepower and survivability to truly deal with a horde. The game has other great and memorable sections though, so even though the game shows it’s best hand early, it many more equally tense moments later. The game play improvement also makes the returning Mercenaries mode a BLAST to play, and is a great addition that continues to this day.

 

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(I cannot tell you how often this happened to me.)

 

The other interesting idea that was also new to the series was the fact that enemy’s are not zombies. Sure, for all intents and purposes they are just zombies, but they are not actually zombies. Sure, the series does still have spooky monsters, but the cannon fodder human-like creatures you face are not zombies. I’ll give the series credit, for the main plot of RE4, there is no connection to Umbrella or the T-Virus. It helps the series feel like its really evolving, putting us back in unknown territory. The enemy AI for the humans is also well put together, for the time. They can dodge and weave to throw your aim off, they can throw weapons at you, including grenades( which you can shoot out of the sky/ their hands, which is awesome!) The AI is a bit limited, but it still helps add to the feeling that these guys are smarter than a zombie would be. However, the series best and creepiest creature comes from RE4. It doesn’t show up until late in the game… but when it does… it’s just as creepy now as it was then.

 

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(still creepy after all this time)

 

 

However, the game isn’t without faults. I sort of mentioned earlier that unlike RE5 or 6, the game is not co-op. That means you’re not responsible for babysitting a brain-dead useless AI partner….. for at least a couple hours. Because sadly, after that point, your saddled with babysitting. Specifically, you actually save Ashley rather early in the game. But then it turns into a escort mission with a defense less partner. If she is killed or even carried to a different area, you die. Worse yet, you can hit her while she is being carried! Even worse than that, in order to increase her health, you have to give up increasing your own, and in order to heal her, it takes up healing items. It’s annoying, at least until a play through or two later, when you unlock Ashley’s armor costume, which makes her too heavy to carry and bullet proof. I’ll say this in regards to Ashley, at least they give you a mechanic to forget about taking care of her in a later play through. And she’s not around for boss fights, making it that much easier to focus on the boss as opposed to carrying a partner, either AI or Human. She’s also not that annoying, but it does sort of ruin this awesome feeling the game has by forcing you to babysit her through 75% of the game.

 

Another annoyance sadly is the games reliance on QTE’s. They are far too prevalent in the game. Every other cut scene seems to have one, and of course failure means instant death. The worst part though is even if you fail, you can fail a second time. The game only has 2 or 3 button combinations that work in QTE’s, but the game doesn’t set any in stone, rotating at random between all 3. The only one that is relatively the same every time is a boss fight later on. Yes, a boss fight starts out with QTE’s, and any failure starts the battle over. It’s cool looking sure, but I could do without it. Another issue is that sadly the game is also a little on the short side, and unless your aiming for a high score (as leader boards are now a thing thanks to the HD ports this game has) Your actually not going to have much reason to play through it all again. Sure, your character and all his inventory carry over, but after the second go around, your basically untouchable. That might be a reason itself though, as that’s why I played through this game so many times in my youth. There are also some gaps with how the science works in the game, mostly with how Saddler is actually able to control anyone is a bit of a plot hole, but to me, that’s a minor gripe. The series has more pressing plot holes than that, trust me.

 

 

On the whole, I’m really torn here. I should explain quickly that while I found them dull, I don’t hate RE5 or 6. In fact, I think 6 has a lot of good moments… it just has many, many other bad ones. But RE4 was the game to beat as far as this new breed of RE games goes. But in saying that, I do wish things were different. I wish RE4 didn’t become a escort mission. Hell, I kind of wish that we got the version of the game that was known as the hallucination version, which looked awesome. I wish the game was longer, and I wish some side characters got more fleshed out. But, RE4 is still a great time, considering it’s age. And while I would rather just play a RE game alone, if I have to choose between a babysitting gig and a useless AI partner, I’ll take the babysitting any day, at least she knows to stay out of the way and duck. RE4 does still hold up, no question. The HD port (at least on the 360) isn’t the greatest, but for under $20, you can’t go wrong. I actually do recommend this one, if only so Capcom knows this is what we prefer, not the CO-OP stuff they are doing now.

 

And on disc DLC. We don’t like that either, but they kind of know that by now.


Post Game Wrap Up! Pikmin 3!

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I was looking for a game to dust off my WiiU with, but it wasn’t until I actually looked at my selection of games that I discovered that there isn’t many on the WiiU that I own. A couple of digital titles, a few retro ones, but nothing I really wanted to play. It’s partly why my WiiU has gotten so dusty lately. But then I remembered Mario Kart 8. Specifically, that I got a free game with it when I purchased it. I choose Pikmin 3, despite not having any real experience with the series. From what I’ve seen and heard, it seems to be an excellent choice in the starved WiiU library. But I have no experience with this series at all, so it was a whole new experience for me.

 

Pikmin 3 tells the tale of 3 explorers, Alph, Brittany and Charlie, who, similar to the series normal protagonist Olimar, crash land on PNF-404, a alien planet in search of food for their starving home world. Upon crash landing, the 3 explorers get separated, but discover a race of friendly plant creatures, known as Pikmin, are willing to help them out by following orders. While exploring the planet to recover fruit, reunite with each other, and look for the cosmic drive key which can take them home, they battle monsters, solve puzzles, and interact with returning characters Olimar and Louie. It’s a little strange the story just doesn’t continue with Olimar and Louie, seeing as they are really the focus of the game after a while, and introducing a new crew who don’t really seem all that important. All 3 characters do have a personality to them, but there isn’t real growth with it. They get some humor out of it though, mostly through Brittany, who claims to be a kind, sharing person, but actually hogs more juice than she shares. There isn’t much to the story, but all it’s there for is to get us from point A to B, so in that notion it serves it purpose. It is however on the short side, coming up somewhere between 12-15 hours to complete.

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(Screenshots don’t really do this game justice, its really pretty)

Speaking visually for a second, this game is rather gorgeous. It’s also unique given the perspective while playing. Everything in the world is larger than you, giving the game a microscopic feel to it. It helps to make you feel like you truly are on a alien planet, and you are not the dominant species, your just lunch. But that perspective gives the game a certain charm. It helps that its beautiful for a WiiU game. Fruit looks good enough to eat, the stages have unique looks to them, and the flora and fauna of each stage are highly detailed. It’s actually kind of amazing that the game can handle all that, plus up to 100 Pikmin running around with little to no slowdown or lag. Truthfully, I can’t really find any faults with how the game looks, as it looks really good. It might be the trade-off for the short length of the game, as while it is short, what we are given is visually stunning and very impressive.

 

Game play wise there is a bit of a disadvantage to the game. It’s a RTS, through and through. It’s dumbed- down for consoles, but it’s still a RTS. your collecting resources for troops, managing troops, and fighting monsters. RTS games on home consoles have rarely been any good. Even genre giants tend to be lackluster in this market. But in fairness to Pikmin 3, I only really have one issue with Pikmin 3 in that regard, and it has to do with boss battles. Boss battles tend to resemble Zelda, in the sense that suddenly you need a more active and reactive game play. It kind of clashes with the rest of the game, especially that you and your Pikmin are not nearly nimble enough to make dodging easy. Outside of that though, the game is simple enough to pick up and play without the micromanaging aspects of other RTS. Simplifying the mechanics of an RTS has done wonders. To compensate, the game is more focused around puzzle solving, and that helps to keep it unique. You can separate and use the 3 captains and sub groups to reach items and areas that are otherwise inaccessible. 2 new Pikmin are added, a stone Pikmin, handy for breaking glass and are immune to being crushed, and a pink Pikmin, who can fly and take on aerial baddies, and the standard red, blue and yellow Pikmin, who are immune to fire, water and electricity, respectively. There are other returning Pikmin in multiplayer, such as purple, but they have been removed from single player. Speaking of, the game does have multiplayer, although sadly its only local multiplayer, either in co-op or VS. Co-op is actually rather fun, although you can only play that way in mission mode, which is basically a time limited scoring round. VS is interesting, but rather poorly put together. The player using the Tablet controller has an advantage over their opponent, as they are only ones with a map function. The only fair way to play VS is to not use it, but then you have to use one of the other controllers, which not everyone will have. I just find it funny that is the only time where people will want to use the tablet controller.

 

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(My greatest enemy….)

 

That is a big issue that I have with Pikmin 3, and a lot of WiiU games in general. The reliance on the tablet controller. Pikmin kind of lies to you about its controller options. You can play this game with one of 3 controllers, either the tablet, the WiiU pro controller, or a Wii mote and nun chuck deal. All 3 play fine, but the issue comes from the lack of a map function. Only the tablet controller is given a map option, even if you are playing with the other control schemes. So that means if you’re in need of a map, you better get up and get the tablet off its charging dock to see it. A lot of WiiU games also have that silly mechanic of forcing the player to look at the tablet, and here is no exception, as anytime you are contacted by radio, the game directs you to look at the tablet. Thankfully though, you don’t actually have to, as the game still displays what’s on the tablet on screen, within the characters tablet, or the Koppad. WiiU games also like to shoe horn that in as well, but that’s a minor nitpick. The problem is that it can be small to read and annoying. The WiiU tablet also has two ways to play now, one the standard way, and another that uses the stylus on screen to help you aim better. The downside is while playing with the stylus option, you either need to rest it on your knee or you gut as the controller itself is to large and heavy to hold in one hand while using it like a 3DS. It’s like the developers forgot that the controller they are using is much larger than the 3DS, but expect you to use it the same way. Thankfully, you can drop out of this mode easy. Another downside with the tablet is dodging. You are eventually able to find a dodge upgrade, but in order to dodge, you have to push the D-pad. In stylus mode, this is impossible to do without dropping the controller, and you’ll have to train yourself to push the d-pad with the stylus and not your left thumb, which is the reflex. You also can’t change your button layout, which is another annoyance I have, as I have two throw buttons, it would be nice to adjust one of them to be the dodge button. The other control schemes work fine, really they do, especially the WiiU pro controller, which is a really good controller. I just wish that the game didn’t railroad you into using the tablet by taking away a handy feature, especially given that the tablet does not have the longest battery life.

 

To sum it all up I don’t hate Pikmin 3. Really, I find it rather cute and charming in its own unique way, and I can see what people have seen in this series. It’s a fun game to play, it really is. It’s creative, the stages are well put together, and with the exception of being a little short and the controller being finicky, it’s really a great game. I’ve been harsh on the WiiU, it does have games, but their very niche. Pikmin 3 in particular, as I cannot think of any other RTS game that actually works on console. It’s not worth buying the console for, but it’s something that is worth owning all the same as time goes by. If you’re like I was and didn’t play this one, perhaps it’s time to dust off the WiiU and give it a go. Pikmin 3 gets a  7/10.


Post Game Wrap Up! Dust: An Elysian Tail

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Dust, an Elysium Tail is a game I ignored it when it was first released in 2012. You may notice a pattern in what I play these days, as it tends to be stuff I’ve ignored somehow. Truth be told, I probably never would have even played it if it hadn’t been the free game for Games with gold promotion during May. It’s not that I heard bad things, but I was probably playing Mass Effect 3 or something, and ignoring the Indie darling enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. But, seeing as it was free, I thought to check it out.

 

Dust: An Elysian Tail is the story of an amnesiac by the name of Dust, who awakens in a field with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He is approached by a floating sentient sword, known as the blade of Ahrah, and its guardian Fidget, a small flying cat like creature. Together the 3 make toward a nearby village in search of answers as to who Dust is. Eventually, we learn of a race of beings known as Moonblood’s who are victims of a genocide caused by General Gaius, and that Dust has played a role in that genocide. The story is simple, but effective. We get the sense that Dust is a nice guy, so the question of how or why he was involved in this genocide is actually rather intriguing, and it does make you want to press forward to find out more. It’s a tale of redemption, morality during a time of war, and the nature of the soul. Dust and Fidget also banter really well with each other, both in these serious moments and the lighter moments in the earlier segments of the game. It flows well, and given the length of the game, fits just right for it. However, one big issue I have with the story is the motivation of General Gaius. It’s never explained as to why he insists on wiping out the moonblood race. He’s just kind of there to be a big bad, but he never feels like a big bad, except you know he’s the bad guy because of genocide. He’s the final boss, but he’s a letdown. The bosses in general are a letdown, and I’ll get into detail why later, but Gaius is a bigger letdown because the story behind him is… too vague. at least the story surrounding the other bosses fit in nicely.

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(Also, they break the 4th wall. A lot. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes its not.)

 

Would you believe looking at this game that one man did most of the work? Believe it or not, a large majority of the game was created by Dean Dodrill, a self taught illustrator and animator. And for 99% of the game, that is outstanding. The visual details in this game are stunning, considering that fact. The various areas are all well detailed, giving each area a sense of identity and keeps the locations fresh. The animations for many of the characters are fluid, especially in the case of Dust himself, who has a clichéd, but awesome ronin style design to him. Really, the complaint I have is drawn to two animated sequences. Normally in this game when characters a talking to each other, the models used are very limited in frames, and look really good. However, two fully animated cutscenes happen, and they look really cheap. I don’t want to poke fun at the fact that one guy did it, because again, for the most part, it’s awesome, but these two cutscenes stand out like sore thumbs, and look like only one guy did it. It’s feels wrong to point it out, but, wow. That’s a minor hiccup visually though, as the game is very impressive. Audio, however is a bit more underwhelming. Dodrill did not do the sound himself, it was done by a separate company. But the music never hit home with me. It’s not ear wrenching, but it never really stood out to me. Sound effects are also decent, but at the same time never really stand out. Voice acting is a little on the hammy side too. It’s not horrible, mind you, but it’s not award winning. Maybe it’s because visually the game is so strong, that makes the audio portion feel lackluster by comparison.

 

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(Visually, the game is a wonder. One of the best looking Indie titles I’ve ever seen.)

 

Gameplay wise the game is a triangle of decadence, taking Metroid and mixing it with a 2d brawler, and adding a dash of RPG. As you run around the world finding monsters to slay, combat is broken down to either a basic slash, a magic attack fired by Fidget, and a move known as Dust storm, that manipulates magic and items in the environment. That’s it. There are combos, but the game teaches you them very quickly and never unlock or learn more. I had worried at first this would make for a ridiculously simple and altogether boring combat system, but surprisingly it’s more fun than I thought, and never feels repetitive. Battles are chaotic and fast paced, even to the point it gets hard to keep track of things. There are upgrades in the game, but the only 3 that are combat related are two magic upgrades for Fidget, and a slide. All the other upgrades tend to be movement based,  but means more towards world exploration than combat. It works though, and thankfully there is no one combo or strategy to deal with everything, as everything works fairly equally. Not everything is perfect though. The RPG elements are a little on the slim side though. They do affect your stats, but compared to your equipment, they feel insignificant, and a waste of time. Equipment is primarily made by finding items off monsters and using them with blueprints to make new powerful equipment, but finding certain items feels more time consuming then it should, and more often than not you’ll just buy the parts you need from the shop. Another letdown is the bosses. There are only a few of them, but they feel… really lackluster. The problem is combat is more frenetic and fun where there are a ton of monsters on screen. Bosses are a one on one affair, and offer little in the way of challenge because of it. There are only 3 of them, so I suppose it’s not like they take up a lot of play time, but they still stand out as sour notes. It should also be mentioned that game does run smoothly… for the most part. I did have it crash a couple of times transitioning from one area to another, and getting an achievement does seem to slow the game down, but other than that, the fast pace combat stays that way, which is impressive given how much can be going on at a time.

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(Just how I love combat. Numbers, flashy effects, and cupcakes)

 

I’m a little sad to admit that I probably would have never played this one if it hadn’t been free. It’s a excellent arcade title, giving you about 10-11 hours of playtime, more if you’re a completionist, and truthfully except in boss battles, it  never feels stale. That’s achievement, considering this game was mostly made by 1 dude. I missed the wagon on this one, and if for some reason you did as well, go check it out. Seriously, its worth the price of $15 easy.


Post Game Wrap Up! ICO

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ICO is a game with a huge cult following. Released in 2001, it might be the first real example people reach for when you make the argument that games can be art. I haven’t played this game since I played it once back in 2001. I never had much interest in it then, and by the time I had a PS2, it never crossed my mind to hunt it down. It’s a game many people tell me is a stand out title for the PS2. So a while back, I bought the HD collection of ICO and Shadow of Colossus, because I never really played either one. So, after many months of putting it off, I finally sat down to play ICO, mostly to see if the game lived up to its hype. After beating it, I couldn’t figure out how best to put my thoughts on this, so I mulled it over for a couple days. And I can only stand by my initial reaction.

 

ICO is many things, but ICO is a terrible game.

 

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Now, I should explain what I mean by that. I really hated my time with ICO, for a lot of reasons. But, in its defense, I also saw exactly what makes this game a cult classic. Never have I had a harder time deciding what makes a game good and what makes it bad. In that respect, ICO is brilliant. I’ll get into it deeper, but first I should probably explain myself.

 

ICO is the tale of Ico, a boy locked in a haunted castle, as he was born with horns, which in the village he’s from is a bad omen. After an earthquake frees Ico from his sarcophagus, he begins to explore the castle looking for a way out. Shortly after, he meets a girl by the name of Yorda locked in a cage, which beyond being deathly pale, also speaks a completely different language. Ico frees the girl, only to be set upon by shadows trying to recapture her. Ico takes it upon himself to escape the castle with Yorda in tow.  The story is a very simple one, like many things in the game, but that was done with purpose, in what the designers would call subtracting design. This comes more into play later, but keep this on your mind for ICO, as it was the driving force behind making it.

 

My problem with ICO can be summed up like this. I couldn’t decide in what way was fair to judge the game. Was it a game? Not really, as it was trying to be an immersive interactive experience. But at the same time, it wasn’t an interactive movie experience, as the player is not really able to shape the story the way they want to. Games like Beyond: Two souls and Heavy Rain are unique in that they truly are interactive movies, but are also terrible games from a game play perspective, being nothing but really quick time events. And yet your success or failure of those QTE’s change how the story progresses, making it uniquely your own. ICO isn’t like that either, because your character can die, the game can end in only one way, and there are many elements that are in the game solely to keep it a game. So I spent 3 days trying to figure out how best to judge the game, and frankly I never came up with a good way to do it. To be fair to ICO, it was one the first games that really wanted to be that interactive experience, and I highly doubt games like Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two souls would exist without it. So, I can only judge it as a game. Which is why as a game, ICO sucks.

 

The biggest reason behind that is based on controls. ICO is, to put it in a genre, a 3d puzzle platformer. By the time ICO came out, we already had some excellent platform games available, thanks to Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie, among many others. Those games did 3d platforming perfectly, while ICO feels stiff and awkward. That may have been the point, but it doesn’t excuse ICO, as unlike Shadow of Colossus, you’re not climbing a moving mountain, I’m trying to leap from platform A to platform B, something gamers have been doing for decades. The camera might also be at fault here, as the camera is hardly ideal for platforming, and you have little control over it and at times it can be placed awkwardly to keep you from gauging distances. It’s worse indoors than outdoors, though.

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(I hated this puzzle, because Ico can’t grab something in front of him)

But beyond even that, the other mechanics are shallow. Combat is really an afterthought. Again, I understand the concept, the player is supposed to be a child, devoid of any combat skills. You don’t even really kill the shadows, as at best they simply retreat to take you on other time. But it needs to be said, it’s shallow and void of any depth, mash square until the music stops. It’s also one long, nearly unbroken escort mission. Even the puzzles are shallow, while on the subject. While there are a couple of puzzles that stand out, mostly because they span multiple rooms, most won’t take long to figure out. It’s no surprise the game can be finished in less than two hours.

 

BUT… and I say this with as much capitalization as I can, ICO also has some shining moments. I’m hard on it for being a game, but I have to contend that there are a few things that make this the cult classic people say it is. As I mentioned earlier, this game was built with the idea to be as immersive as possible with the subtracting design approach. The first thing that really shines to me is the world itself, the castle, as it feels empty and hollow. Immersion plays a huge factor here in a lot of different ways. A lack of music is the first big step. There is sound in the stages, but it’s mostly ambient noises, like seagulls, wind and so on. The only time music is heard is when shadows attack you, and that music feels and sounds perfectly alien and creepy, and even still is very subdued. Of course, there is no HUD, which at the time was a big deal, as I can’t think of any games that didn’t have one in 2001 or at any time prior. While I complained about it earlier, the camera is used excellently to give you a sense of scope on the size of the castle, with big sweeping views of the larger, park like outdoors and the musty indoor settings, largely thanks to the bloom lighting techniques that were pioneered here.

 

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 (so pretty.)

I also have to give credit to the characters themselves in some way. The game was built off an idea of a boy meets girl story, and the game design reflects that. Ico and Yorda can’t even speak the same language, but despite that fact, through the game’s limited cut scenes and the way the two characters react to each other, you get the sense that they end up caring for each other despite the fact they know nothing of each other. It’s sweet, and feels organic. I’m also very happy the game doesn’t make Yorda speak Ico’s language at any point in the game, only translating for the player if they play the game a second time. There is also a child like wonder in the way the two characters physically interact, like when Ico takes Yorda’s hand and runs ahead of her, or when he calls out to her and waves his arm to get her to come to him. It’s a lot of little things that make not only the story sweet, but the characters themselves so endearing as well. Actions do speak louder than words after all.

 

So, as you can see, I was so torn on this game by the time I was finished with it, I had no idea what to make of it. How do you judge something like this? As I noted, I never did figure out a good way to do outside of it being a game, but in a lot of ways, ICO is more than that. Untraditional is one way to put it, and like a minimal art piece, it gives you just enough to allow you to see what you want to see, and it means something different for everyone. To me, it’s a game that despite having some standout moments, still sinks under the weight of its horrible gameplay. It’s harsh to be true, but in this case the good does not outweigh the bad. It makes it hard to recommend, yet somehow I still find myself doing so. ICO should be seen at the very least, perhaps through a let’s play of some kind. If nothing else, getting it and Shadow of Colossus for $30 bucks bundled together is a steal, and who knows? Maybe you’ll see it differently that I did. I can’t say it’s one of the must play games on the PS2, but if you’re curious, it’s worth checking out somehow. It was free for Playstation Plus subscribers a few months back, if you still have access to it, maybe you should check it out. Or a let’s play may be better. It’s a tough call either way.


Post game wrap up: Infamous Second Son!

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Well, as the title implies, I just finished Infamous: Second Son. It’s the must own game for the next gen right now, and is probably the one exclusive title everyone wants to play. And I can’t blame them. The first two games were stunning examples of a sandbox title with super powers, with lots of collectables, fun and varied powers, and a kick ass, if not a bit silly, story. If you haven’t checked out Infamous 1 or 2, I strongly recommend them. But we’re not here to talk about them, we are here to talk about second son, and how it does feel inferior to the older games.

 

Set 7 years after the events of the second game, you play as Delsin Rowe, a small town delinquent living in the shadow of his cop older brother Reggie. After a government vehicle crashes in his small town, freeing 3 conduit convicts with powers, Delsin discovers that he too is a conduit, the series version of a mutant, who can absorb other conduits powers by touching them.  However, the head of the DUP( Department of Unified Protection) Augustine, captures one of the escapees with her own Conduit powers of concrete, and to be sure no one is harboring any conduits, she tortures the town for information by lodging concrete inside people’s bodies. The only way to remove the shards is the same way they were put in, which gives Delsin the idea to head for Seattle with Reggie  to absorb her powers and save his village.

The story has its faults, much like any comic book does, but the story in broad strokes is not too bad… at first. We get a good sense of the way the world is now, terrified of the conduits living among them, even if they have done nothing wrong. It’s pulls a lot of its story out of the pages of any X-Men comic, but it starts strong. Delsin is a good lead, with a lot of room to grow as a person, as he either becomes a hero or a villain, depending on the choices you make. However, the game feels rushed. The story flows really well at first, by introducing new characters, and building the bond between brothers Reggie and Delsin. You get the sense that they have been at odds since they were kids, but they do love each other and trust each other, even if Reggie is a bit skeptical of this new gift his brother has. but then at about the halfway point,the story grinds to a halt, then jumps to its ending abruptly not long after, never really finishing its character building.  It feels like a 1/4 of the game is  missing. The morality of the game is also very black and white, almost to the point of being funny and feels disappointing compared to the last game. The morality system of the series has never been its strong suit, but this felt like an afterthought. It also doesn’t help that sadly Delsin never really changes, he starts out as a delinquent hipster bro, and finishes the game that way, more or less. You can only listen to him make fun of the gamer conduit so many times about D&D and being a virgin before you roll your eyes at the whole thing. The villain Augustine isn’t much better, who is cold bitch throughout the game, but by the games end shockingly has a good reason for why shes such a bitch. The say that the good villains are the ones that don’t believe they are the villain of their story, so while I give points for trying, the game falls way short in the story department by the time you finish it.  The only saving grace is the very unique (and free) DLC called the Paper Trail, which even has some interesting ARG stuff attached to it. I haven’t finished it all yet, as it’s episodic and not all released yet, but they have a interesting murder mystery story to it, that fits in well. Hopefully it ends better than the actually story did.

 

Game play is where the game is both interesting and bad. One of the hand, giving Delsin access to 4 different types of powers gives him access to 4 different ways to play the game. One power set is for sniping and long distance stuff, one is meant for a bull rushing and in your face style of play, while another is stealth, and the last is a tank power set. I give the game credit for this as it allows you to play your way, with a power set that fits best for you. But the sniping power, Neon, comes away as being the most all around useful, as the other powers only really work in certain situations, while Neon can be used in a variety of ways to make it fit the situation. 2 big problems stand out as well. The first being that you cannot switch between powers at will. you have to find a power source to drain, then you can use it. This makes switching up your powers when you need to annoying at best, especially if the game puts you in a situation where it wants you to use a specific power.  The second being that the tank power set, or concrete, doesn’t come until the end of the game, where they force you to use it in the final boss fight. By the time you get it, you may not even care to use it, as again, Neon is the most versatile power you have, and you can strangely only power concrete by draining baddies who use concrete powers, rather than the concrete your standing on. It’s weird, and despite the fact its plot important, feels like an afterthought, like this should not have been the final power you get.

 

It’s also disappointing in that there isn’t a lot of variety in either the enemies you face or the missions you do. There is only 4 different enemies types, and they never change. For the most part, any power can take them down, but one or two of them are more difficult unless you have a specific power, which you may not be able to easily find when you need to take these guys out. Every story mission is also the same, go here, kill enemies. Then go here, and kill enemies. The sub missions don’t fare much better, usually boiling down to finding stuff. Collecting stuff is also drastically reduced. There just doesn’t seem to be as much to find or see or do in Seattle as opposed New Marias or Empire City.  The city is very pretty, and very well detailed, and feels like Seattle, even though admittedly, I have never been there. The soundtrack is also wicked, but there isn’t much else to say on that front. It looks good, and sounds good, but plays wonky.

 

Overall I find myself very torn on the whole of Infamous, and Second son feels like a lame follow up to the first two games. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, but I certainly feel let down a bit by the time I finished that one. Hopefully some of the DLC that is bound to happen will make up for it. As far as a being a launch game, its a solid release, but hopefully there are better things to come in the future.