GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay Muppets Movie Adventures (VITA) - 22 Jun 2017 - by jp was sort of a "palate cleanser" - I was looking for something that wasn't about military dudes shooting things in a dark sci-fi future. As a palate cleanser it really worked! I appreciated the brevity of the game as well as it's variety (within a theme). The Muppets are making movies and the game has 5 levels, each featuring a different character, each making a different movie (theme/setting/etc.). The game is short enough that I finished it in 4 hours (or so?) over two days and, while I really didn't like the first level (Kermit and pirates), the remaining four where much better. And, curiously, demonstrated some nuance in character control and mechanics for platform games. I felt that each of the 5 characters (well, Kermit twice) controlled a little differently - both in their movement as well as jumping and the variation in these controls led to different play experiences. Such that I hated the first level, really enjoyed the 2nd and 5th, and felt the 3rd and 4th were ok. It got me thinking of a design/analysis exercise game that could showcase these sorts of things? (ala Steve Swink's game feel which I think are no longer available?) Anyways...the main variations (in terms of gameplay) were: single/double-jump, with/without shooting, and...nothing else really! The game is also an interesting example of the little things that make a big difference in the overall experience. Little things...but they all go to that design polish..for example: a. When you die you get a black screen with a message (a movie "director" making a comment and then asking to go back to "action"). There's three messages, and they're cute and fun. But, you get tired of them really quickly, can't skip them and it makes the re-start process annoying. I have no idea if they're being used to hide the loading, but still... b. The end credits trigger when you defeat the last boss on the 5th level. You can't skip them and they're REALLY , REALLY, long. (btw, the game was developed by a Spanish team, yay! using Unity...) c. The loading bar progresses very un-uniformly, so you feel like it gets stuck on some parts. Once it's done, the screen goes to black for a few seconds and you wonder if the whole game crashed... d. When you turn, the character often takes a step forward - I died a lot from this, and the controls felt imprecise as a result e. Some dangerous objects were really hard to see (rakes on the floor in the cowboy level (3)) f. There was an area in level 4 (vampire castle) where there are steps going down...but you can't go down because you die (drop off). Who puts steps going down when you're not supposed to go down? g. You're supposed to collect stars and objects in the game, but the game deliberately forces you to play each level twice to get them all. They're not hidden away, really. They're just not available until you're on the 2nd play through (they might be faded out, or behind a locked door). The idea is fine, it's just the execution felt a bit cheap. To be fair there's also quite a few examples of neat little good design that I appreciated (including a few uses of touch controls). Overall, glad I played it - helped me think about good game design - glad it was short. And on to the next game!jpThu, 22 Jun 2017 10:17:10 UTC Mercenary (VITA) - 21 Jun 2017 - by jp this yesterday. The ending is basically working with the Helghast to prevent ISA from getting their hands on a terrible bio weapon. In a nutshell, both sides want to use it (to "end the problem once and for all")... so, you go ahead. Weirdly, the character you play is silent on the whole issue and it isn't until a rogue mercenary bursts into your comms to tell you that mercs need the war to go much money in it for everyone, that the bio weapon is destroyed (well, half. It's a serum and a boy who had something injected. Thankfully you don't kill the boy). It all feels kind of dirty, actually. Your character is essentially a bad person who doesn't care and has surprisingly little agency. Ugh. I guess you get a feeling from this from the "interrogation". Each mission has a certain amount of "intel" to find. Sometimes you get it from terminals you can connect to, other times you have to sneak up on an officer and then, via screen swipes, slap them around, beat them up, threaten them with a knife and, once they've coughed up the intel, you kill them by snapping their necks. It's quite brutal and...uncomfortable. But in a not so good way, because there's no sense that it's been designed that way for any purpose other than... showing some on-screen violence? There's no real reflection for the player and the rest of the game's context doesn't really support your actions or behavior. I guess I'm glad I played it?jpWed, 21 Jun 2017 13:16:27 UTC (PS4) - 20 Jun 2017 - by jp's battles get harder. Much harder. New enemies appear and all the rest, and although my weapons are better and I've increased some stats, the pace is slower than the enemies. I'm worried I won't be able to make it to the end (before frustration sets in). I'm not playing on "easy", which I guess I could...but...oh well, one mission at a time. I've just finished the first(?) hell-dimension mission. Really cool (and creepy) stuff. I wonder what's next...jpTue, 20 Jun 2017 13:54:30 UTC Mercenary (VITA) - 20 Jun 2017 - by jp It's taken me a bit to get used to the rhythm of combat in this game (as well as my perceived slowness for aiming - I mostly fire from the hip now and aim via strafing)...but it's been a surprisingly compelling experience so far. I'm a little confused as to where in the timeline the game is - I think it's supposed to run parallel to Killzone 3? (which I did play, so maybe I'm just going to whatever is/was familiar). I haven't played the latest console one (4?) so maybe I'm wrong. In terms of the storyline, it's surprising how much trust and responsibility the ISA is putting on a mercenary to carry out super-critical missions...but I guess it wouldn't be clever to have you "guarding a remote outpost" or doing random non-central missions in backwater places. In any case, the ISA have just betrayed me (left me to die) and I've been picked up by the Helghan! So, who knows how the rest of the game will go on... In terms of gameplay, it's interesting that the mercenary-side is "enforced". You get paid for kills and little objectives, as well as from picking up ammo drops. You have to buy all your equipment from these mercenary chests (that are surprisingly common and available for warzone). You even have to buy your ammo re-supply (unless you can scavenge enough, I've had to buy re-ups a few times).jpTue, 20 Jun 2017 13:44:51 UTC it to the Man (PS4) - 20 Jun 2017 - by jp, what a pleasant surprise. I bought this game blind while I was in the UK. I think it was cheap. Actually, I'm pretty sure it was cheap because otherwise I wouldn't have bought it blind. :-) It's super short (4 hours?) but tight, and enjoyable. In a nutshell it's an old-school-style adventure game where you pick up objects/things and deliver them to where they need to go (that's the core nature of the puzzles). The conceit however is that you can read other people's minds (because there's an alien) and, because the world is sort of a 2D-cardboard cut-out (think Little Big Planet), the objects you can pick up are stickers! And you can place them (in pre-determined locations) to solve puzzles. It works REALLY well. It also helps that the devs clearly did their homework with the UI and it is, for the most part, really easy to figure out where you can go (there's a great map with key people/things marked out) and try things out. It's not really a game about solving puzzles, but rather about interacting with the characters, learning about them, and the crazy world they're in. There's some platforming, but again, it's not really the point - even though there are sections where you need to avoid guards that can be pretty annoying. One of the coolest things (I wish more games used/did): when you read characters minds, you hear their thoughts through the speaker in the PS4 controller! You have to do this a lot, and it really sets the tone - hearing them think is louder and closer to the player, kind of like hearing the thoughts in your head? I'm surprised by how little attention the game got? At least I don't think it got all that much attention. It's genuinely funny, the art style is wonderfully realized, and the gameplay is also resonant with the aesthetic and all the rest. I'm really glad I played this little gem.jpTue, 20 Jun 2017 09:09:58 UTC the 13th: The Game (PC) - 18 Jun 2017 - by dkirschner this at launch and was reminded of why I don't buy games at launch. A bunch of friends and I played the beta and, although it was buggy as hell, we thought it could be excellent. It's still buggy as hell. Sometimes it's brilliant and sometimes it sucks. A very mixed bag. Friday the 13th is an asymmetrical multiplayer game like Evolve. One player is Jason and the others are camp counselors. Jason's job is to stalk and kill counselors; the counselors' job is to survive the 20-minute round, preferably by escaping in some way, but if you manage to hide for that long, good on you. Jason gains new abilities over time. I cannot for the life of me remember one of them. I was only Jason twice in the beta and haven't gotten to be Jason yet in the full release (which sucks), so I'm not well-versed in how to play him. He can sense counselors by their movements and sounds, including breathing. He's got like a super sense ability that heightens detection, he can phase walk, which is going invisible and super fast, he can teleport, and it's the last one I can never remember. Jason becomes really, really powerful, which makes sense. You'll have different experiences (and chances of survival) depending on how good the Jason is. If the Jason knows what he's doing, you're probably all going to die. If the Jason sucks, the match might be boring. A decent Jason is best because he remains unpredictable. As a counselor, you basically run through cabins looking for useful supplies. You have various ways of escaping: cars (requires a battery, gasoline, and keys), a boat (propeller, gasoline...keys? I was a passenger on an escape boat one time), you can call the police (must find fuse and repair fusebox, then find telephone), who arrive in 5 minutes and save you if you can reach them, and you can wait it out hiding. Ideally, the counselors work together to acquire necessary items to escape, but it's predictably difficult because not all players are alike. Also not all players have mics to talk, and no one types (if you even can). Also, in a brilliant move, you can only talk to counselors nearby (i.e., no one else can hear you) unless you find a walkie talkie, in which case anyone with a walkie talkie can communicate. You also have no map (just a local minimap) unless you find one. You also can carry weapons to stun and injure Jason, some first aid spray, and some other things. Counselors also have to manage stamina (how long they can run). Even your standard, regular running depletes stamina, let alone sprinting. So you will have to slow down and walk or sneak or hide sometimes, which can be terrifying. And you have to manage your fear level. If you're in the dark too long, if you see Jason, or if you see a dead body, your character starts to lose it. I'm not exactly sure what the consequences of this are other than your character screaming (Jason can hear you) and being difficult to control for a little bit. If you turn on your flashlight or go hide, you will calm down though. When Jason catches you, he has a ton of different kills he can do, including context kills (shoving you into a fireplace, tossing you through a window, etc.). You might be able to escape if you're lucky and/or quick and/or have a pocketknife. Watching Jason chase people around can be really entertaining. It's not uncommon that my favorite parts of the game are after I die and I'm spectating. Spectating is like watching a horror movie. I love it. So that's how the game goes down. Unfortunately it's buggy as hell. I played two games tonight before the game froze and I couldn't make it close so I had to restart the computer. It doesn't play audio through my TV for some unknown reason. Sometimes it sticks on a black screen when you launch the game. People who play more report server and matchmaking issues. There are a thousand issues with counselor death animations and collision detection and all sorts of stuff. I was playing a couple days ago and a counselor was using the phone to call the police when he just like...fell into the wall and looked like he died (I think he disconnected), but he was in the wall. And the phone he was using was floating in midair. The person disconnected, or whatever happened, right when Jason smashed through the door, and Jason was pacing around trying to get to the body, but couldn't. We Instagrammed the floating phone. It's a really simple game. When it's good, it's awesome. I've had some amazing matches and moments, like the time I learned I could re-start a crashed car. As I sped off in excitement, three other counselors came running out of the bushes yelling for me to stop. This one guy says "We can escape together!" So I stopped to let them all in as Jason materialized behind the car and grabbed one and killed her. The rest of us sped off. Jason teleported in front of us. I drove the car backward to an intersection and tore ass toward the exit. As I was almost there, Jason teleported in front of me again, but I lost control trying to go around him (he stops cars) and ran into a fence. He killed one of my passengers and the other two of us scattered. We were all laughing. It was great. But when it's mediocre, which unfortunately is at least half the time, it's pretty boring. You can wait in lobbies and get in a game and poke through drawers for 5 minutes, get killed, and then either sit there spectating for 15 more minutes (or until everyone escapes or is killed), or you can forfeit your XP (which you use to purchase new counselors and Jasons with different stats, equipment, and special kills) and go ahead to another game. Like, sometimes absolutely nothing of interest happens for half an hour at a time. Oh, also the majority of people with mics are annoying as shit, which makes it really hard to overcome the dull times unless you just mute everyone. I'll keep playing here and there probably, and they've released a couple patches, but there's a long way to go.dkirschnerSun, 18 Jun 2017 21:16:35 UTC (PS4) - 16 Jun 2017 - by jp this out from the library to play (co-op) with the kids. It's fun, and a bit crazy, but I'm not sure how much depth there really will be. We've already cleared the first 2 worlds and it's starting to feel a bit "samey" even though the environments change and there are environmental differences (parts of the level shift around or you have slightly different recipes). I'm curious to see how much longer they're excited to play, I would say we had fun, but it wasn't raucous fun.jpFri, 16 Jun 2017 16:25:22 UTC Island (PC) - 15 Jun 2017 - by dkirschner Island is crazy. Remember how Eternal Darkness messed with your TV? And how Metal Gear (I forget which one[s]) messed with your Playstation? Pony Island messes with your computer. This meta game has so many surprises. Every 15 minutes I felt like I was laughing at something or going "Whoa, cool!" or even freaking out about something the game did. There's one trick in particular that it pulled that had me a bit frantic, but I can't say it because it'll be a huge spoiler. Gameplay-wise, it's a little bit of sidescroller and a little bit of puzzling, and I guess a bit of text adventure. Some of it has a nice challenge (coordinating your mouse clicking on the sidescroller part, and some of the puzzles are tricky). Thematically it is wild. I'll just say that Pony Island is more than a game and leave it there. Play it, but don't read about it!dkirschnerThu, 15 Jun 2017 20:28:11 UTC Story (PC) - 15 Jun 2017 - by dkirschner game that earns its praise. What do you do in Her Story? You watch video clips of interviews with Hannah Smith, whose husband Simon was murdered. You're a police detective, and you navigate clips in a database and just...piece together the story. You search through the clips using terms that might be important. So like "murder" and "Simon" and "Hannah" are probably some of the first. I have no clue how many videos there are (a hundred?) or how many search terms produce results (a hundred?). It's absolutely fascinating to watch the interviews. The acting is pretty good. I have no idea how the story pieces itself together given that you can search anything, but it worked for me. Do some players have the ending given sort of prematurely? I guess you wouldn't really understand clips from the last interview until you'd watch a lot though. I found over 75% of the videos on my own. Several times I watched a video that divulged crucial information, and I would be like OH MY GOD! Like videos about Hannah's bruise. There are a lot of little reveals and even subtle things that you pick up on. I think I figured out what happened and could re-tell the story. I'm going to go read up on it to see what other people say. Really worth playing for something different, and really cool way to present a narrative.dkirschnerThu, 15 Jun 2017 17:28:27 UTC Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (PC) - 15 Jun 2017 - by dkirschner is not what I expected! I thought I was getting the third game this week about heists. Well, it's sort of about a heist, but it's more Stanley Parable than Monaco or Payday. A confused narrator guides you through video game production. It had me laughing pretty good by the end. Play through twice to get a cassette tape player and listen to the tapes scattered around, especially if you like Rick and Morty. Whoever is doing the voices on the tapes is clearly a fan. Absolutely worth 30 minutes of your life, and it's free on Steam and probably from Crows Crows Crows's website. Wonder what else these people have made?dkirschnerThu, 15 Jun 2017 14:08:07 UTC