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Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:12 pm
by Artemis008
Tales of Phantasia's dungeons were worse imo, it also didn't have as good a battle system as Symphonia which didn't help things much. They're all absolutely massive and hard to navigate, with plenty of obnoxious puzzles and really long boss fights. Maybe if the battle system wasn't as clunky it would be a little more forgivable, idk.

Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:49 pm
by I am nobody
Squidlit is better than I make it sound. Unfortunately, I left Squidlit to have this ridiculously unfair review pairing and, well, let's just say I didn't spend all day thinking about what I wanted to say about Squidlit.

16. Squidlit (4/8) (PC)

Squidlit is very dedicated to being a GameBoy game about squids. Everything is green, you only get two buttons, and even the level and enemy design are straight from that era. If not for the sense of humor (squid puns!), friendly checkpoints, and flavor dialogue choices, you could understandably mistake it for a port of a 25 year old game. Or the first level of one, anyway, because it's 45 minutes long. It's fun and funny, and maybe that's as long as it needs to be given the price ($3) and mechanical simplicity, but I was hoping for a little more.

17. Virtue's Last Reward (4/9) (PC, Vita, 3DS, PS4)

They changed the controls and some of the help text for the PC port, so it's totally a new game.

Spoilers because, despite my best efforts, I wrote an essay again. No actual spoilers. The tl;dr is exactly what you'd expect if you've ever read anything I've said about this series.
As I've mentioned many times before, 999 blew me away like no other game had. VLR came along a few years later bearing the full weight of those expectations and, if anything, surpassed the reaction I had going into 999 blind. A few temporary blips where I overreacted right after finishing games aside, it occupied my #1 slot unchallenged until its sequel, ZTD, game out two years ago. But also like 999, that ranking was entirely based off an increasingly distant first experience, because I never actually got around to playing it again.

...Anyway, I was right the first time. VLR is an unqualified masterpiece that nothing except its sister games have come close to approaching. Which is not to say that it's flawless. Although its system for navigating the plot results in far less repetition than the original version of 999 and you're never made to repeat a puzzle, there are a handful of nearly or actually identical story sequences in different branches where the skip function inexplicably doesn't work. It's a port of a Vita/3DS game that didn't look great on its original systems, and it is *very* apparent than some of those textures and animations weren't meant to be seen at PC/console resolutions or screen sizes. It also continues the series' bizarre tradition of having one or two female characters, in this case Alice and Clover, who are wearing far too little clothing even as everyone else is dressed normally. The other character designs are great, which just makes how ridiculous they look stand out even more.

All of which is unfortunate, but also just about the sum total of my criticism.

The puzzle gameplay is basically 999's on steroids. There are seven more rooms than in the first game, and they're just about universally more complex and imaginative. Each one centers around unlocking a safe that contains both the key to exit the room and a varying number of plot-relevant items, but those safes all also have a second password obtained from finding a more involved or less obvious solution. These unlock secret archives that are a mix of developer commentary and extra explanations. There's a lot of variation in terms of puzzle difficulty, especially for the alternate solutions, but they're all enjoyable and satisfying to complete. They also tie into the main plot much better than their 999 equivalents, with the unlocked rooms and the items you find in them often becoming driving forces rather than just obstacles in the way of escape.

And that story is, of course, where the game truly shines. 999 had six branches you could do in any order, but you were guaranteed to run into more or less the same handful of core mysteries in the same order, and you didn't really get any answers from three of them. VLR has nine core branches, along with eleven shorter bad ends, that each have their own version of events. Some things happen the same way from different perspectives, some are basically unmodified, and many don't happen at all in other paths. The end result is that you're always getting both answers to old mysteries and entirely new questions with each path. Most interestingly to me, it further means that any two players will likely see things in a very different order, and thus come up with much different theories along the way. And that's important, because unlike a lot of mystery games, you absolutely can figure out every twist before its revealed here. It's constantly dropping hints or even explicitly stating the answer in seemingly innocuous ways, so everything feels fair even when it blindsides you.

The plot is, in turn, carried by the cast and the AB game. The former is much more fleshed out than in 999, thanks in no small part to the game being over twice as long once you cut out repeated content, and play off each other fantastically. Many seem to have an obvious role at first, but trusting in those expectations can be quite dangerous. That's most important in the aforementioned AB game, which pits you against said characters in a mini-game along the lines of the prisoner's dilemma and drives most of the plot. Misreading someone or making assumptions about what the game won't do can dump you into a bad end, which can often be quite a gut punch despite not having any real gameplay consequences. They also managed to write characters that feel like they have agency and intelligence in a mystery game without diminishing the player's opportunities to demonstrate either, which helps tremendously in becoming invested.

It's something of a miracle that this game and (especially) ZTD exist considering how reluctant ChunSoft were to continue the series, but I'm so glad they took the chance. They're still incomparably ahead of almost everything else I've played even years later, and I wholeheartedly recommend them (with 999 first, of course) to anyone who appreciates a good mystery. Just don't ask me which of VLR or ZTD takes my all-time #1 spot.
Fun easter egg for the Steam version: the framerate is capped at 63 FPS, which has a digital root of 9.

Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:30 pm
by I am nobody
R-5. Bioshock Infinite (4/15) (PC, all the recent Sony/MS consoles, not Vita)

Infinite came along about 4 months after the English release of VLR and was bizarrely similar to it in some very specific ways. And also my reaction to it: It was my game of the year in 2013 and bounced around my top 5 for a few years after that until I forgot why I liked it and (the otherwise fantastic) Burial at Sea opened a giant plot hole that rendered the entire exercise pointless.

The first you'll notice about Infinite is that it's visually stunning. And it's not that there's one environment or a few setpieces that stand out - practically every part of every level from beginning to end is absolutely beautiful. Dishonored and its sequel are the only games I can think of that come even close to this quality of world design, and they're both going for a very different aesthetic. You really can't get some of the things this game shows anywhere else, which makes it all the more fortunate that the technical side of the graphics also holds up just about perfectly.

And then the shooting happens. It's pretty dire at first, both because it gets in the way of exploring the world and because you've only got a dinky pistol that barely does damage and is boring to use. It gets progressively better over the course of the game without ever having a specific moment when you realize you're okay with it or ultimately becoming more than decent. I initially thought I was going to agree with the widespread complaints about "ludonarative dissonance" between the violent gameplay and story, but it very quickly becomes apparent that this is a violent story about violent people doing violent things. It's maybe a little silly that Booker kills so many people basically single-handedly, but I don't think there's anything thematically inconsistent about the body count. It's quite likely that some of it was shoved in there by 2K because shooters sell copies, but the deaths nonetheless serve the plot.

So far so good, but that's where the story kicks in. And, well, it's not actually very good. The characters, their abilities, and the events they experience are all basically what the plot needs from them at that moment. There's often no obvious logic for why someone could do what they just did or why something happened just then beyond that it'd be awfully convenient if it did. Some conversations are clearly in the game only to provide audio for trailers and don't fit with the surrounding context at all. It's entertaining enough, and there are some legitimately great scenes in the last couple hours, but it starts to fall apart if you think about it too much.

This is where I'd normally say that the game didn't hold up and is no long particularly essential, but, well, those environments are really pretty. The gameplay and story probably could've used another pass, but they're both fine and have their moments of inspiration. They wouldn't be enough to make Infinite a classic on their own, but they're enough to keep up with the visuals. It's a bit like a world class art gallery that you can only experience through a pretty good tour. Maybe the tour wasn't the best part, but it's still a world class gallery.


Going to do Burial at Sea separately when I get back at the end of the month. Wouldn't usually handle DLCs that way, but part 2 in particular plays almost completely differently from the base game.

Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:11 pm
by X-3
7.) Blaster Master Zero

This was basically a travel game and it fulfilled that purpose. Pretty unremarkable Metroidvania overall to be honest. I didn't really like the top-down sections.

8.) Devil May Cry 3

After the wet fart known as DMC2, Hideaki Itsuno and Capcom went back to the drawing board. Using feedback (from GameFAQs IIRC) and dark demonic energies they made this game. DMC3 is an excellent action game and probably one of my favorite games. Combat is fast and satisfying, with a wide variety of weapons and techniques to unleash in the heat of battle. The loadout system lets players learn how Dante's weapons and styles work on an incremental basis, rather than become overloaded with information like in DMC4. Over the course of its 20 missions, DMC3 gives the player something new in every mission, be it a new weapon, enemy or boss. On that subject, there are a large number of unique, tough bosses to face, including a final encounter that is one of the best boss fights of all time. Additional content includes Vergil as a playable character and the Bloody Palace, an area where you can fights hundreds of enemies back-to-back.

Of course, DMC3 is not perfect. Some bosses aren't great fights, with the penultimate boss being a particularly poor fight. While the story is good for its genre, I feel like some of the cutscenes can be a bit long-winded. I'm also not a fan of most of the soundtrack. Overall though, DMC3 is a wonderful action game to check out if you want satisfying combat and tough challenges to overcome.
I don't think I'm good enough to beat DMD :(

Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 6:33 am
by I am nobody
Built up a big backlog of reviews because of travel. Don't have much to say about any of them, thankfully.

19. Marie's Room (4/15) (PC)

It's a free room exploration game that takes about 30 minutes and features an art style that makes absolutely no effort to hide the title's Life is Strange inspirations. The story is actually pretty decent considering the time they have to work with and has some legitimately surprising moments at the end. But it can be a pain to find some of the memory triggers in the room and the voice acting is better left unmentioned. It's worthwhile if you need to kill a half hour and don't want to spend money, but you're not missing a ton if you pass on it.

20. Kamiko (4/21?) (Switch)

I wouldn't have bothered with this game except that it was the cheapest way of testing out a dumb way of buying yen on the eShop and that, at 45 minutes long, it was just the right length for the gimmick of not being sure which side of the date line I was on when I finished it. The game itself is mostly mindlessly beating up weak mobs to complete what could very generously be called puzzles over the course of four levels. The boss fights can be fun, but they're not enough to make the game worth playing.

21. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (4/24) (Switch)

I used a guide for almost the entirety of the game because I had no patience for the illogical backtracking the game uses at every turn to pad its length. Almost every new level is locked behind having to travel back to a much earlier screen with often no obvious relation to the barrier you're encountering. The story is wholly unremarkable except for the absurd lengths it will go to provide cheap fan service that adds nothing to the plot. The platforming and combat are decent, but nothing special, and the soundtrack is pretty good.

22. Muramasa Rebirth: Genroku Legends - Fishy Tales of the Nekomata (4/25) (Vita)

Muramasa is one of the best looking games ever made, especially on the Vita's still-phenomenal screen. It also features some good music and consistently entertaining stories. Which would normally be enough to recommend it pretty much unqualified.

Alas, it has combat. And it's really, really bad. I gave up on the main story, which expects you to finish both 5-6 hour campaigns three times each to see the full tale, after about an hour of mashing square and randomly spinning the control stick. Combat never gets any deeper than that, and while the boss fights can be entertaining, almost all of the time you'll spend fighting (which is almost all of the game) will be in random battles against mobs of the same handful of enemies that always go the same way and never provide any challenge or depth whatsoever. Unfortunately, said fights are the only way to get experience and the only decent way of getting souls for upgrades, so you *have* to finish most of them or you'll be too underleveled for boss fights. Not that it really matters since most of them force you to stay and fight, anyway.

I finished one of the three hour side campaigns that at least presented a significantly different playstyle and story from the main game, but all of the good and bad points are still the same. This is a game I'd love to see the entirety of if I could just have a OHKO cheat for the mob fights, but I can't, and without that it started literally putting me to sleep halfway through my second campaign. A real shame.

23. Metal Slug XX (4/27) (Vita)

I had it from PS+ and it's Metal Slug. I'm not very good at it and used a ridiculous number of continues to finish, but it's a fun way to spend an hour or two.

Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:00 am
by Marilink
1. SteamWorld Dig 2

2. Celeste

Just realized I never actually gave my thoughts on this game. I suppose it might suffice to say that I loved this game enough to learn how to speedrun it, and got my time under an hour (55:39).

I can't see how Celeste won't be my game of the year. Barring another complete surprise or Metroid Prime 4 being absolutely stellar, it will be hard to dethrone. The design of this game was impeccable--obviously made to be very challenging, but compensating with a quick respawn time, continuous music through deaths, and rooms that are never too long to be manageable (until the final, final challenge levels). I found every strawberry and Crystal Heart, I beat the B sides and the C sides. I couldn't get enough of this game.

One thing I want to bring out about this game is its tone and story. I don't come into platformers for the story, because that's just not what that genre is about for me. However, Celeste's story added so much to the game, as you control Madeline, a girl who wants to overcome her anxiety by climbing her own personal, literal and figurative Mountain. I came into Celeste hoping for a good "splatformer," and I left with some very real emotional reactions to what I played. I do not struggle with anxiety or depression, and I thank God for that, but I know many people who do and I will be counseling many more down the road. This may sound silly, but no article or study I've ever done has helped me get into the mind and heart of someone fighting depression than playing Celeste has. Not only does it navigate those tempestuous storytelling waters carefully, but it uses the medium of interactive gameplay to envelope you in what it is trying to say.

10/10. Music was dope, too.

3. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Unlike Ian, I loved Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. I thought the backtracking and Metroidvania ("pathfinder" is a term I'm liking a lot) tenets of the game were enjoyable, especially with the discrete upgrades you receive in the form of Risky's Pirate Gear. The world wasn't large and interconnected like a typical Pathfinder, but the exploration was certainly there. I think Pirate's Curse and Risky's Revenge both do a good job with the Pathfinder design.

...Well, Half-Genie Hero walks that back quite a bit.

Now I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it's not something I personally would have done with Shantae's first jump into HD. I would have preferred a game that goes even deeper into Pathfinder philosophy, with a large, inter-connected world to explore and dive into. Instead, Half-Genie Hero goes back to Shantae's Gameboy Color roots and focuses more on linear platforming and unavoidable enemy waves. Which is...fine. Except I don't really think the GBC Shantae aged well, and I kind of with WayForward hadn't gone back to that formula.

I wish the whole game had been a lot more like the last level (barring the final escape). The last level had you using each of Shantae's transformation abilities to navigate very specific near-puzzle platforming sections. You needed to use Harpy to get up to that ledge, but that narrow corridor required Bat, but then to get up there you need to use Spider...that kind of challenge was a lot of fun for me. While the entire game was structured around these transformations and using them to explore/reach new areas, the linearity and small size of each world held the game back in terms of what it could have done with those ideas.

This game didn't hit the same notes as Pirate's Curse or Risky's Revenge for me, and that's fine. It's still a fun and enjoyable game, except for the final escape sequence which was hot garbage. And while I understand that Shantae games aren't exactly plot-driven, I think the plot actively hindered my enjoyment of the game this time around, because each successive zone opened up absolutely arbitrarily. The game seemed directionless and disjointed.

That said, the bosses in this game were probably my favorite of the series so far. The game also looks quite nice. Overall I'd give it a 6/10--above average platformer with flaws that held it back from being really good.

Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Fri May 04, 2018 9:19 pm
by I am nobody
Reviews 2: "Does that count as a game?" Edition:

24. HQ Trivia (4/30) (Android)

Everyone already knows what this is. I finally won a tiny amount of money from it. It's fun in the way you'd expect from a trivia game show you can play on your phone.

25. Frostpunk (5/2) (PC)

This is the This War of Mine devs taking their philosophy to a city builder. Like TWM, it isn't so much a game about winning than about failing to die. You're still guiding a (much larger) group of survivors, but this time the danger comes from the world having suddenly gone snowball Earth rather than a war. You've settled around a massive coal-powered generator than can keep your immediate area habitable, but only just, and which will relentlessly consume resources as the temperature continues to drop. It's thus a race to mine enough coal to keep the lights on, gather enough wood and steel to build houses to put the lights in, and gather enough food to do it all again.

Which would be hard enough on its own, but you've got health and politics to worry about as well. The former becomes a concern when you are inevitably unable to keep every part of your city warm enough and people start to get sick. That'll take them out of commission unless you can treat them in a medical hut, which needs to be staffed by precious engineers, has far too few beds, and consumes yet more coal. Some will become gravely ill, meaning they can't be cured without the late-game infirmary. Until then, you either have to keep them in palliative care indefinitely, let them die, or perform risky operations that might leave them as an amputee who can't work without expensive (and equally late game) prosthetics.

That decision is part of the politics system, which allows you to pass laws every few days to adapt to the circumstances. That could mean putting the food-snarfing children to work, adopting ceremonial burials of the dead, or opening fighting pits. All of those in turn tie into the hope and discontent meters, which need to be kept under control to prevent your people from abandoning the city. Naturally, they're also affected by your ability to keep up the resource cycles I mentioned before.

And it's all made worse by the weather. You start out at -4 Fahrenheit and will progress in stages to absurdly low temperatures that make resource gathering ever more perilous even as they demand more coal and better housing to keep even your city core livable. It's an absolutely brutal cycle that's constantly pushing (and often exceeding) your limits. Even after dropping the weather difficulty down to easy, I "won" my third campaign with at most a day to spare, and the two earlier games on normal barely made it halfway.

It's the kind of game you probably know immediately whether you'll like or not. I love it and absolutely intend to go back and do the two additional (harder) campaigns at some point, but I haven't got that in me right now.

26. Lara Croft GO (5/4) (PC)

I got it from Humble and used it as a podcast game. It's a decent one-button puzzle game under those circumstances, but it's quite short and very rarely does anything particularly interesting or challenging. I definitely wouldn't have been happy if I'd paid the $10 MSRP or playing it without something else to focus on. It also has two bonus campaigns, but I probably won't play those.

27. Hearthstone: The Witchwood (5/4) (PC)

I've never played a game of regular Hearthstone and probably never will, but their deck building roguelite single player campaigns are pretty great. Like the earlier Kobolds and Catacombs, it's a boss rush against stupidly broken enemies that you can only beat because the cards and treasures you'll choose from along the way will make your deck equally stupidly broken. It's a ton of fun even without any knowledge of the base game, although you will have to play through the obnoxiously long tutorial and deal with loads of pestering to play the main game in order to get to it.

I still haven't finished Kobolds after a dozen or so tries, but I got this one on my first run. I think that's primarily down to the ridiculous luck I had with prizes this time rather than it being that much easier or me suddenly being that much better. You're technically supposed to beat it with all four new heroes and then do a bonus campaign, but I may just say I'm not going to top the silliness of that run and leave it at that.

Re: Review the last game you finished

Posted: Tue May 08, 2018 4:00 pm
by X-3
9.) A Very Goofy Game

The game has a pretty tough start which made me salty, but afterwards it picked up and became very good. Once you reach The Lake of the Nine the game opens up and becomes a lot of fun as you spend hours exploring for treasure and favors. The story told through the main quest is compelling, but towards the end it noticeably loses steam and becomes a lot less interesting. It feels like 1 or 2 late sections could have been cut entirely. Combat is good but it gets repetitive and buttonmashy in endgame and I don't think the enemies in this game are that much fun to fight. The camera is too close to Goofy's back which is kind of annoying even late into the game. Overall it was a enjoyable adventure that could have ended a few hours earlier.