Friday, January 20, 2012

Ubisoft's Prince of Persia : Epilogue

RATING : [5/5]

So this is the DLC for Ubisoft's Prince of Persia game. It came out a long time ago, but I haven't gotten around to playing it in a while. My discovery of it was a mingling of joy and frustration. Joy at there being more Prince of Persia, frustrating cause my beautiful 1000/1000 achievements all of a sudden became 1000/1250.  I'm a pretty big fan of the whole Prince of Persia series, and I think this one was my favorite. I (obviously) played it to exhaustion.

I don't really want to go on - but I've now completed the DLC and have 100% of the achievements once again *flex*.

The story was an epilogue (whoda thought?) of the main story. It takes it a little bit further, and give you a nice cliffhanger. Didn't really answer any questions you had at the end of the main game, but definitely hinted stronger at the possibility of them making another game.

Gameplay and everything was just the same, was just one last chapter.
All Excellent, all reccomended.

Yada yada.

[TLDR] Me Gusta.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Uncharted : Drake's Fortune

RATING : [4/5]

KT has been playing wing-woman for this game for a few years now. Yes, I know, its exactly my type of game. It's a platformer, likes to adventure, charismatic personalities, lots of shooting things, likes long walks on the beach, and has a story somewhere between Indiana Jones and National Treasure. On paper, I could marry it.  And now that I've jumped into bed with it, I can say it wouldn't be the worst idea I've had.

I'm not 100% IN LOVE with the game. I mean, I like like it, but I dunno if I like like LIKE like it. I did rush it a little bit, and I have been going into mass overdrive with the games lately, so I feel like any hesitation I might have for it might be the worry that I'm pregnant from some other game.

Shit just got weird.

Anyway, the series might be on par with my love for the Prince of Persia series. Especially since there are some from that series that are just 'okay'. In any case, it can hang out in my 'preferred series' pile.

I'm obviously in an odd place to be writing right now (Whats that floating in my drink?) so I'll try my best to battle my pleonastic ways, and attempt a laconic entry. (Though I seem to be off to a bad start)

Well done, considering how long ago it came out. There were some obviously awkward bits, but that's to be expected. Environments are well done. People are a bit shiny though. I know, I know, 'welcome to early next-gen art'. Meh.

Platformer + 3rd person shooter.  Prince of Persia + Gears of War. 
I wish it was more platformer/puzzles, less shooter, but it was fun anyway.
They set up the achievements trophies pretty well; it was hard to ignore the clamour of my completionist side, attempting to coax me into a second playthrough on easy in order to obtain the missing ones... but since I'm trying to get as much PS3/Wii gaming in as I can before I leave, I'm going to continue on.

I was very pleased that among my very first trophies were: 10 Headshots, 30 Headshots, Kill 50 with Pistol, 100 Headshots.  *Gaston-ian Grin*

Anyway. Oh yes, of course, as with many/most platformers, I couldn't help but scoff at the utter convenience of it all. I realize that's something that's difficult to combat, don't get me wrong. It just makes me scrunch my nose a bit. I do my best to tell myself that there are billions of adventurers out there who DIDN'T have a convenient rope hanging down next to the convenient stone moulding that would be reachable but for a conveniently half-destroyed pillar... but obviously those poor suckers died of starvation, and no one wants to hear THAT story. So we're hearing the story about the guy who not only was a badass, but was SUPER lucky.
It helps a little.

Good level design. They did a good job circling the environments and reusing the same rooms without getting boring. Some games don't pull that off gracefully, or they don't try it at all and just spend a shit ton of money making a linear environment that never doubles onto itself.

Like the story. The main character is a little unbelievable, but if you just relax your brain and don't think about it too much, you can enjoy his delightful charisma. The 'partner in crime' reminds me of Bruce Campbell's character in Burn Notice, which isn't a bad thing.  The chick is spunky, but pretty generic.  
Plot is good. Follows your cookie-cutter tomb diving experience, but those are enjoyable, so no complaints.

Alright, I'm done. 

[TLDR] Good game. If you think you'd like a 3rd Person Shooter version of Prince of Persia with an Indiana Jones-esque story, go for it. Took me less than 8 hours to take down, so you're not betting much.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mass Effect


I'm pretty tired, so I'm going to make this kinda quick...

With the impending release of Mass Effect 3 just around the corner, I have made a vow to play through Mass Effect 1 and 2 (yet again) on the XBox 360. If you know me, you know that I am MUCH more of a Playstation 3 girl, and generally don't even turn on my XBox, unless I have people over, and want to play something silly like Dance Central. I don't like the controller, and I'm not particularly a fan of the user interface on the dashboard. But that's neither here, nor there.

I went into starting this game, fully aware that Bioware made significant changes in the second one, so I expected it to be a lot different. And I was NOT (but kind of a little bit) disappointed. I absolutely hate the sham of a cover system, and the combat in general feels very stiff. As far as I can tell, (because I've mostly had the volume turned down, and keep getting distracted by Amanda playing other games on a TV not six inches away from the one I'm playing on) the story and writing are still very well done.

I'm only about 4 hours into the game, and keep getting very frustrated, to the point of almost rage-quitting. BUT, I am determined to get through this game, just so I can move on to the delight that is Mass Effect 2.

We'll see how this goes, I suppose.

I'm going to bed now.


I finished the game.

Summary of my feelings towards it: eh. While I am happy with myself for playing through it, I can clearly see that Mass Effect 2 is the superior of the 2 (so far) installments. My rage concerning the combat and cover systems subsided as I continued playing. I had to stop myself from doing the side missions, and just focus on the story multiple times, but part of me wishes that I would have done a bit more. /shrug... maybe later.

OH YEAH! And (because I didn't think to ask before...) I now know what Joker's deal is. Finding this out definitely makes his little bit in ME2 WAY more epic. I <3 Joker.

On a fairly related note... After I finished ME1, I thought to myself "hmmm... I think I'll continue this Bioware/Mass Effect obsession, and play through ME2 on the XBox as well." So ventured forth into the Terminus systems yet again, on my way to saving the galaxy. I was well into the "Archangel" mission, when I was overwhelmed by too many mercs, and died. SOMETHING happened... whether it was a demon, the weather knew I was taking a snow-day from work, or the XBox became sentient and got hungry, and figured it was a good idea to eat my progress, preventing me from continuing. Regardless of WHAT it was, I'm mad at it. I HAVE the achievements for the bits that I played, but there is no longer a save file for ME2.

THIS is one reason for my continuous love for the Playstation. *knocks on wood* (hehe... wood...)

AHEM... I'm probably rambling now...

TLDR - ME1 is a great game with its flaws... Not as awesome and epic as ME2. I raged for a bit.


Heavy Rain

RATING : [4/5]

For those of you that know me, that's NOT a reference to my boyo, but reference to a point in the game where you're looking for your son, and the only thing you can do besides wander around is press 'X' which makes you yell 'JASON'. And you do it a lot.  
You had to be there.


There are a few qualms that I have with the game, but let's start with what's good about it: the story. And, rightly so. Its pretty  much what the entire game is about.  This isn't your average videogame, where the gameplay is the point. Its a different take on what a videogame should be; its more an interactive movie than anything. Its like when you were a kid, reading those choose-your-own-adventure goosebumps books. Throughout the story, there are many decisions you can make, and things you can screw up that effect things in ways you wouldn't even think of.

The story is about a serial killer : the Origami Killer. It kind of plays out like an interactive episode of Criminal Minds. The serial killer kidnaps kids and leaves them to drown in rain water. You've got 4 characters: an FBI Guy with cool Minority Report toys, A dorky and possibly crazy father whose kid has been kidnapped, a chubby but likable alcoholic of a Private Detective, and an sexy insomniac Journalist lady whose personal boundaries are questionable. You don't know who the killer is, and I honestly had no idea until the end. Most of the time, watching shows or movies of the same genre, I like to pick out who I think the killer is. I'm generally pretty good at it.  I guessed a lot in the game. And, looking back, I have that begrudging respect for the game, as I realize how obviously it led me to false conclusions. It's a great story, and if you like murder-mystery type stories with a hint of criminal psychology, you'll probably dig it.

Many games have branching storylines. Unfortunately, with most of them, you can tell exactly when they're going to branch and what will happen when you make the decision you make. Heavy Rain does so well at hiding those branching points that its nearly impossible to tell what will and won't effect the storyline. And even when you do spot them, you don't know what effect it will have in the long run. They've done such a good job, I spent the entire game convinced that every single button I pressed lead down different path. It's probably not true... probably... but the point is, I don't know. It gave me the distinct impression that there are thousands of different branches of storyline. Hell, KT spent most of the game telling me how she'd ended up doing a bunch of things different, and how there were areas I'd gone that she'd never seen, and vice versa. 

They also implemented a pretty good game feature : no game over.  No matter what happens, you can't just go back to the last save and try again. There is no save, its all autosave. Whatever happens, the story keeps on rolling. You fuck up and die, that's part of the story now. If you're quick on the draw you can restart the console, but its generally more fun to just ride it out and see what happens.

The game is one big quick time event. There isn't much gameplay to speak of, aside from that. You walk around and wait for prompts. Then you follow the prompts. Sometimes you have to be quick as hell to pull it off, sometimes its frustratingly misleading. But that's just about all there is for gameplay. While I generally like more gameplay than that, it was still pretty enjoyable. Some of those quick time events got INTENSE.

Some minor complaints:
A lot of it is fixed camera.  While it might be nostalgic to be brought back to the days where a camera-switch results in me walking in awkward circles because down just became up, its not a nostalgia I necessarily ENJOY. Walking is kind of like driving a boat, instead of pressing right to go right, you press right to FACE right, and then hold a trigger to walk. Its awkward. I understand WHY they did it (looking around triggers many event options, so they wanted the ability to look without walking) but that doesn't make it less awkward. And last but not least, there are a lot of times when you've got a bunch of options in front of you. Unfortunately, instead of these options being spelled out, they're represented by a plethora of optional buttons. Sometimes these are obvious. An arrow on a glovebox probably means that if you press that arrow, you'll check the glovebox. However, sometimes they're MUCH more ambiguous, and you end up doing exactly what you were trying to avoid doing. About the time that THAT happens is about the time you remember that awesome 'no save' feature and glare at the screen for a while.

Oh yeah, and replay value up the wazoo.

[TLDR] You like Criminal Minds? Or Bones? Also those choose-your-own-adventure Goosebumps books?  Give it a go. Doesn't take too long to beat.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mass Effect 2


After many of my friends telling me to play it, and being disappointed in me for NOT playing it, I sat myself down, and finally told myself that I was going to play through Mass Effect 2, whether I liked it or not. I say 2 because at the time, I may or may not have owned an XBox 360, and didn't care to attempt (for probably the 3rd time) to play through the first one. The PS3 version helped a ton with that, because they gave you an interactive comic that summarized the plot of the first game. So i made my choices in that, and went on with my first playthrough.

Playthrough 1 - Having little experience with shooters in general, (aside from my Uncharted 1 and 2 playthroughs) I went in being pretty terrible at the combat. Luckily I quickly got used to it, and started to greatly enjoy the game. Honestly, there wasn't a lot I DIDN'T like about it.

I decided that I was going to be nice-ish the first time I played the game, and while it made for some pretty good dialogue, I found that I usually wanted to make the "bad" decisions. I saved that for the next playthrough though. I definitely enjoyed some team members' story-lines than others, but I feel like that comes with any story-heavy game.

This was the playthrough that I obsessed over the most, even without my ass-hole conversation choices. I went to ALL of the planets to do my probing (hehehe), and did as many side-quests as I could find, minus the DLC (again, saved that for later).

I think the silliest part of the game, was when it came time to "romance" one of the team members. I love the shit out of Garrus, so clearly, that's who I chose, and it was the best. He was super awkward about it, saying things like "I'm going to do some research to figure out how this is going to work." I tested his reach, and he tested my... flexibility. I LOL'd.

In the end, I only lost one party member, and it was because I did her loyalty mission too close to another's, and she ended up hating me. But I thought "whatever, i'll just make sure everyone stays alive during my next playthrough."

Playthrough 2 - THIS was the fun one. I decided to be the jerk that everyone loves to be, and go full Renegade. Kicking people off super tall buildings, punching stupid reporters... Who DOESN'T love that?! I didn't get super obsessive this time, since I just wanted more. I DID, however, play the DLC, minus "The Arrival." (I'm still working on it... leave me alone.) While "Project Overlord" was fun, I was WAY more into "Lair of the Shadow Broker." The story was just more well done, and left you with something to work with when Mass Effect 3 comes out.

While I loved MOST things about this game, there was something that made me want to throw my controller every time. THE FUCKING HUSKS. I don't know what it was, but every time i came upon the buggers, I died multiple times. Whether it was just my lack of coordination, or the classes that I picked, the bastards killed me, over and over. Oh well. I still conquered them. :D

All in all, I loved this game, and will play it again, in preparation for the next one.


Zelda : Skyward Sword

RATING: [5/5]

Hooray! A new Zelda Adventure.
I'm a little bias, cause Zelda's my jam, but I'm gonna write about it anyway.

I got the distinct impression that this game was trying to find the middle ground between the Ocarina of Time/Majora's Mask/Twilight Princess art vein, and the Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks art vein. I was worried at first, because Zelda has always been a specific thing to me. I don't feel the want or need to play the Wind Waker art vein because the art style bothers me. For me, that's just not Zelda. I don't doubt its a great game, that's just me.   In any case, any worry I had pretty well evaporated. I like the art style for Twilight princess MORE, but I'm was pretty comfortable with the art style in this game. Except the birds, those things look dorky as hell.

There is something I'd like to mention about the art style that I appreciated was:
Every game has to deal with the fact that they can't make the entire visible environment high-res all the time. The stuff in your immediate vicinity has high resolution textures and models, but as things get further away, they become more and more vague. This is a wonderful feature that makes games run faster. however, not all games do it gracefully. Some use plane-clipping, which make the world look like it ends at a hard line not too far away. Some use a fog. Some make sure the environments are so twisty, you can't see too far in front of you, therefore they don't really have to deal with it. Some of these work better than others, but a common problem many of these methods have, is that its usually fairly obvious when something makes the transition from low-res to high-res models and textures. Zelda managed a technique that, in my opinion, elegantly took care of both these issues. They environments have a distinctly 'paint blotted' look to them. Most of them look like paintings. The further back the environment, the more 'blotted' it looks. I suspect that because of the nature of the textures, its less obvious when they 'pop' from low to high res, but maybe they also found some really efficient code to hide it. Either way, it looks great.  Also : I'm pretty near sighted, and the way stuff looked in the distance isn't too far off from how things look when I have my glasses off. I appreciated that.

Dear lord. Where to start.
So, the levels and the puzzles were pretty Zelda standard, so I won't go too deep into them (haHA. Multiple entendre) They were delightful as always, with the standard  items/weapons plus some new shiny ones. Long story short, delightful.

Okay, on to the new stuff: FIGHTING MECHANICS.
So, Twilight Princess started to capture the joys of sword fighting with the Wii mote (when done right). Skyward Sword perfected it! (Mostly).  The position of Link's sword is a direct translation of the Wiimote. The direction you slash is the exact direction he slashes. And, even more to the point: it MATTERS.  The enemies all have some sort of guard to them, and you can only hurt them if you slash in a certain direction. And wait, it gets better. Some of the enemies are intelligent enough to block in a relevant direction: so if you're holding you sword to the right side of your body, they'll block in that direction, making it more difficult for you to get an opening. Its such a delightful way to fight!  I also admire that you cant just hold up your shield, you have to time your shield to parry their attacks. If you trigger your shield at the wrong time (which you do with the nunchuck in your left hand, of course) then they damage your shield, which sucks cause they can break pretty easy. So you have to think about the fight legitimately.   

The ONLY complaint I had with the fighting mechanics, which is something I'm not sure they could prevent, is that it tends to pick up your 'pre-swing' movement (moving the wiimote to the left side of your body for a left-to-right swing) as an actual sword swing, and missing your actual swing completely. This is a pretty big deal when you're fighting something that's blocking you with an electrified weapon that zaps you whenever you touch it. In any case, it just took a little adapting on my part. You have to treat the wiimote LESS like a sword and flick instead of swing. 

In any case, the fighting mechanics are delightful, and for the last boss, I had to stand up and get into it cause the sword fighting was so fun.  Big thumbs up.

The story is very enjoyable, and even moreso if you've played the other Zelda games. (Especially OOT and Twilight Princess) It keeps dropping certain story pieces and names that make you think its going to tie a bunch of the games together.  I'm not going to give away whether it does or not.  However, aside from all that, the story itself is quite enjoyable =) Good immersion, not as many story pieces/game mechanics that are just convenient to advancing the story as you'd find in many games of this genre. 

Anyway, I'm done writing, though I feel like there's much more I could say.

[TLDR] Generic Zelda Wonderfulness + DELIGHTFUL new fighting mechanics = play it NOW, especially if you're a Zelda fan.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Zelda : Ocarina of Time

 STATUS : [COMPLETED] (??? Times)
RATING : [5/5]

Just played through this again on the N64 in an 'Ocarina of Time Race' vs a friend of mine. I won at 13 hours, though she put up a pretty great fight. =)

Ocarina is the first game that REALLY kick-started my love for videogames. I remember sitting on a friend's couch, watching her brother battle Queen Ghoma, and being scared and enthralled all at once. It was delightful. I'd dabbled in some games before that point, but OOT is the first time I distinctly remember thinking that videogames were going to be a significant part of my life.

The art is delightful, and even after all these years, it's aged gracefully. There are many old games that continuously bludgeon you with the broad side of their 'out of date graphics' stick.  They are the crazy cougars in leopard print tube tops and shiny tights to OOT's adorable and tastefully dressed grandmother who always feeds you cookies whenever you're around.

The charter design has always delighted me. I've heard many say that the Zelda series doesn't much get off on originality. They'd rather pick up an old character, dust it off, give it a different coat, and shove it in the new game as a new character instead of creating a new one.  They might be right, but regardless, I've always enjoyed every character in Ocarina of Time. From the overweight entrepreneur who really understands supply and demand: selling you his snacks for progressively disturbing amounts; to the bickering twins who are whatever age suits them best, and don't stop their squabbling for something as trivial as death. From the musically adventurous and conveniently helpful scarecrow family, to the over-sized Dodongo who wanted nothing more than to spend his life rolling around like a ball, but was dubbed 'King' because of his size and now has to deal with stupid kids invading his space... well, some of their stories are implied. Point being, there are plenty of rich characters running around the game.

The game design is delightful. Simple but elegant fighting engine. Simple but elegant puzzles. Levels are really well designed, with wonderful level progression (except for that stupid Shadow Temple that just HAD to have that stupid ship, making you walk a LONG way if you have to leave near the end to 'fairy up'... Yeah I get it, its awesome, but its a bitch of a walk) and puzzles just difficult enough to make it interesting.

The story is classic and worth experiencing. Very simple, straightforward, and still good to experience. A lot of games in this generation are centered around interactive storytelling. You make the choices and evolve the story. I'm a big fan of it, but at the same time there will always be a special place in my heart for linear games that read like a book. I know I'm not Link, I'm just experiencing Link's story. And I like his story.

I feel like I have so many things I'd like to say about it, but I'm going to stop there because I would really rather go play videogames than be writing right now.

[TLDR] Its a classic. Just play the damn game already.