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    Ratropolis (PC)    by   jp       (Feb 19th, 2024 at 10:44:17)

    I'm 12 hours in, have played 11 or games games, and I'm ready to hang my hat. Not bad!

    I'm playing this one as part of the critical game design seminar (deckbuilding games!) And...this game is pretty interesting!

    First, it's made by a small team in Korea. AND, I think it was originally a group of students? This might have even been a student game originally?

    As a game, it's pretty interesting for:

    a. It's a mashup of tower defense with deckbuilding. You run Ratropolis and get attacked by enemies in waves from either the left or the right (or both). To defend yourself you need to buy cards and play them. BUT, you need money to pay for cards! Building cards get placed in your city (and disappear from the deck), while other cards either result in troops or "jobs" (tasks on a timer that result in some benefit) and there are some other direct action cards. Anyways, your troop count is limited by your ratizen limit, and you get money from tax (or killing enemies) and there's lots of randomness - ala Slay the Spire. BUT...

    b. Your ability to redraw your hand is on a timer! But you can pay ever-increasing amounts of gold to redraw sooner. I though this was pretty interesting for deckbuilding, since the game does want you to cycle through your cards quickly, but you're also often running up against the citizen limit...and gold accrues rather slowly as well.

    c. Buying cards seems pretty frequent and common. Perhaps I'm not playing most effectively? There are 30 waves and you "win" at the end of that, BUT you can also continue for 60 waves - and I've been unable to clear those. I did get decently close...but I was in an unrecoverable deathspiral at that point (which new/later waves running into older waves...so it was just me trying to hold off until the end, barely hanging on on one side of my city while things collapsed on the other side).

    d. There are different leaders (at least 6!) which determine what kinds of troop cards you'll see, and they each have different abilities and stuff. So, there's quite a lot to learn here and, if I'm being honest it's all a bit overwhelming!

    e. Also, you can get advisors - which are sort of like artifacts. But you see them walking around your city. Ha!

    The game feels like it collapses a bit under it's own complexity in terms of being able to play it. It becomes tedious to scroll back and forth both ends of the city (a quick tab to the end of each would be nice, perhaps via minimap?) and you often have buildings that "produce" something you need to click on...and again, the longer you play the larger the city and the more annoying it is to scroll around. There is a hotkey (tab) that goes to the last event - these scroll up on the right side of the screen, but it still felt a bit inefficient..

    All this being said, I did have fun playing! And, I think the deckbuilding is interesting enough in the game that I'm glad we played it.

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    Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)    by   jp       (Feb 18th, 2024 at 15:34:06)

    My first Yakuza game!

    I have no idea where this one fits in the general series (other than it not being a "main" numbered entry) and so far, having just finished chapter 5, I can say that it really takes a while before it opens up.

    In my mind this game was GTA but in Japan, and I was quite wrong about this. It's similar in being (sort of?) open world - unless it really opens up later, this feels much more constrained - and there's no driving/vehicles and lots of brawling combat. It's perhaps more fair to say it's an open world brawler? It sort of makes me want to play Shenmue again, because I'm sort of reminded of it, though I might be nostalgic of Shenmue in a strange way? (I think it had some fairly robust fighting, but was it brawling or 1v1 sideview fighting? I don't recall).

    Anyways, so far I'm sort of kind of understanding the story - lots of different names and Yakuza families, and the story seems to cover lots - from protagonist Kiryu being young, spends years in prison, and is now (finally!) out and free...and has a reputation from back then, but now he's weak.

    It's been fun so far, though I'm struggling with the combat - in the sense that I feel I don't understand the timing well and end up getting hurt a lot and having to blow through lots of health items just to make progress (for boss/important fights, random fights are fine). I've also heard there are lots of interesting side things to do, though I haven't run into any of them yet! Perhaps this is where the map should open up later? I chatted with some kids to race RC cars, and I know that's a thing I can do - but I don't know where yet.... things to look forward to though?

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    3 Tiles (iPd)    by   jp       (Feb 18th, 2024 at 15:27:20)

    I started playing this because of the class on mobile game design I'm teaching, and I wanted to have an example of a game for which I would do (some) of the assignments for to serve as a model for the students.

    I wanted a hypercasual game, and this seemed to fit the bill. It's basically a "pick three" mahjong tile game, but you have a "buffer" into which tiles go when you pick them - so you need to look ahead to make some matches by (hopefully for a limited time) having unmatchable tiles in your buffer. If your buffer fills up, it's game over.

    The game is partly ad-based (I was getting lots of external ads until I paid $5 or $6) but also booster-based - boosters let you "try again", extend your buffer, and so on. You can also (sometimes!) watch an ad to get the booster for free.

    I thought it was interesting that you can't always count on being able to watch an ad to keep on playing...and I wonder why? Possibly they want to push towards buying boosters since they monetize better than watching a single ad? (but they allow ads for those players who will never spend any money).

    The game's basic progression is collecting stars (one per level completed) you then spend on getting items for a scene, and there are many scenes...I'm at level 105 and I'm still on chapter 3 (scene = chapter), and each chapter has different art on the tiles, which is nice and gives variety - but the gameplay is essentially the same.

    I kind of want to keep on playing because it is kind of relaxing, and I do think I'm getting better at the game, but there are lots of internal ads (popups) and stuff that are quite annoying. There's even one - which is like a doughnut - that partly covers the playfield! Another one interrupts gameplay and you have to tap to get rid of it. There's also lots of short-term (no longer than a week?) events - they start of fine but then get super hard. I wonder if some of the levels are impossible without boosters? It does feel like that some times.

    Thankfully, each time you lose and start over you get a new random(?) shuffle of tiles?

    I really am curious if each shuffle has a guaranteed solution without boosters...

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    Ghostrunner (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Feb 16th, 2024 at 14:08:43)

    Completed! I powered through my nausea and played this in like 30-60-minute chunks for the past month-and-a-half. I was usually good for a level or two at a time. I'm definitely feeling a little barfy right now, but I had to finish. I would power through the nausea again to play the sequel if it's an improved version of this one.

    Ghostrunner was really novel for me. It's a first-person melee parkour game (Mirror's Edge-ish). You are basically a cyberpunk ninja, the titular Ghostrunner, who awakens at the bottom of a dystopian cyberpunk city, having fallen from a great height. A voice in your ear, called The Architect, guides you along and feeds you story. The story was whatever (big bad overlords of shitty cyberpunk city repress the people, resistance movement, fight fight fight, overlords go wild with power to further repress the people and realize their insane version of humanity, etc.). It didn't matter what I was doing anything for, really. I was content with wall-running and slicing enemies with my sword and feeling like a badass. The set pieces of levels in this game are where it's at.

    And that's what the game was for me, a "badass simulator." Especially while feeling nauseous, it was nice to play as a badass. The melee parkour action took some getting used to, especially the slo-mo stuff, but once I got the hang of it, it was great. The game is sort of Hotline Miami-ish or Superhot-ish whereby death is not penalized. You'll restart immediately where you were and try whatever combat and/or parkour sequence over again. I'd finish levels with 75 deaths or more. No problem! As you play, you do unlock some special abilities, but I didn't use them often because your running, slicing, and dicing is efficient enough. After you get the best/last one, the mind control ability, the game is basically over anyway.

    There were a few boss fights that were a bit lackluster. In the first one, you basically just memorize a samurai's sequence of sword attacks, execute what you memorized a few times, and you're good. The second one was a platforming puzzle and probably the most interesting, climbing a death tower. The third and final one was kind of like the first one, but more complex. Learn a few patterned enemy attacks, avoid those attacks enough times, and win. It was kind of weird that the final boss stands in one place and does some easily avoidable repetitive attacks. You'd think she'd be more adept in combat, more creative, more powerful. But she died, just like the samurai first boss and the death tower second boss, easily enough.

    So yeah, definitely neat and worth checking out. I'll play the next one in 30-60-minute chunks too, and hopefully won't blow chunks while doing so.

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    The Last Campfire (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Feb 9th, 2024 at 09:11:58)

    I would describe this game as "pleasant." I read someone describe it as "soothing," to which I would also agree. It's a little puzzle and adventure-lite game with cute art direction, a colorful world, a positive, hopeful story, and a narrator whose voice was certainly soothing.

    You play as an "ember" trying to find its way home. You get thrown off course and have to find your way back. In so doing, you meet a variety of other embers who are lost and wandering, many of whom have given up hope of ever finding their way back. When you encounter one of these "forlorn," you must solve an environmental puzzle to inspire them. The puzzles were generally easy, yet thoughtful. Occasionally the difficulty would shoot up or down. Most puzzles took probably 5 minutes. One time, I was stumped on a puzzle. I'd spent 20 or 30 minutes poring over it. Finally figured it out (and felt very smart!). Got to the next puzzle and solved it in about 10 seconds.

    Another thing that made the game difficult for me is that there is no map. There is a world that you're (using the term loosely) exploring. It's not that big, and the game begins linearly. Then it opens up and you'll be doing all sorts of backtracking, looking for forlorn, bringing items here and there for characters. Since I was generally playing this like once a week, I wasn't constructing a very solid map of the world in my mind. I'd get turned around, forget which paths led where, where characters were, and so on. It led to a fair amount of extra time spent wandering around (which I guess gels with the theme). But I would have rather had a basic map. By the time you get to the last chapter though, the game is linear again. It was strange having it be linear, then more open, then linear.

    To the point about it being open in the middle, the amount of time you spend in each area varies based on how many forlorn you care to save. Each area has a campfire, with a ghost, and the forlorn whom you rescue go sit around the campfire. The ghost will give you hints as to where the forlorn in the area are located. When you get enough (I think it was four), then you can request that the ghost open the path to the next area. Or, you can continue asking for hints to find all the forlorn (usually around eight). I liked this option to spend more time searching for forlorn and solving additional puzzles. In a couple areas, I found most of the forlorn, and in a couple I went straight to the next area once I had my required amount.

    Overall, yes, cute, cozy, soothing. If you like this kind of thing, you'll probably enjoy this. It is nothing I needed to play, but it was nice.

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    Recent GameLogs
    1 : jp's Ratropolis (PC)
    2 : jp's Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)
    3 : jp's 3 Tiles (iPd)
    4 : dkirschner's Iconoclasts (PC)
    5 : Epicmonster5601's Persona 3 Reload (PS5)
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    1 : dkirschner at 2022-10-12 08:51:09
    2 : root beer float at 2021-11-21 13:15:48
    3 : hdpcgames at 2021-10-23 07:42:58
    4 : jp at 2021-04-08 11:25:29
    5 : Oliverqinhao at 2020-01-23 05:11:59
    6 : dkirschner at 2019-10-15 06:47:26
    7 : jp at 2019-04-02 18:53:34
    8 : dkirschner at 2019-02-28 19:14:00
    9 : jp at 2019-02-17 22:48:06
    10 : pring99 at 2018-11-15 20:17:00
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    Random

    Nights: Journey of Dreams (Wii)    by   zontan

    An odd game, and rather unique. The control scheme is rather difficult to master, however.
    most recent entry:   Thursday 6 March, 2008
    GAMEPLAY:
    Alright, so it turns out NiGHTS is a guy. They called him 'he'. Who knew? I swear his voice is female. But whatever. Probably not important.

    On a different note, I beat not only that mission but that entire world, and got the White Ideya- which represents Purity, I think. I could be wrong. But yay. Go me.

    NiGHTS is actually considerably more versatile than I originally thought he was. Turns out he can become a boat, and a dolphin. And probably other stuff later. It's kinda random, but I like it. Makes the gameplay interesting. When you enter a level, you never really have any idea at all what you'll be asked to do. And besides, every game needs some measure of randomness in it, just because.

    Honestly, I seriously think I haven't played enough of this game to really talk about its gameplay. Every other level something new is thrown at you, and sometimes that completely changes things. Other times it just modifies what you were doing before. But it manages to keep it interesting. I approve.

    DESIGN:
    Just by looking at it, you can tell that a lot of NiGHT's design was put into how it looked. The worlds look awesome. Their art budget is way bigger than mine. Mainly because my game doesn't have an art budget. It sucks. Anyway, the game looks incredible. And that's only a small part of the level design. Making 3D worlds, even with only 2D cardinality, is no easy task. Especially when that 2D path changes every time you accomplish an objective.

    Also, it has characters! Most games, you hear about how they have an awesome story. Well, so far I'm not too interested in the story of this game. I'm interested in the characters. They're awesome and they have backgrounds and personalities and I love it. I want to know who NiGHTS is, why he's helping, what his relation is with the bad guy (who looks like a male version of NiGHTS. Yes, I know NiGHTS is a guy. He looks female, we already went over this). And the voice acting is excellent, and there are cutscenes before every single mission. Not just each world, but each mission. It's awesome. I likes.

    In short, this game intrigues me. It is quite possibly the first game I've played where I didn't play it just to beat it, or to do everything in it (Yes, I'm a completionist. So sue me). I find I want to play this game because I want to learn more about it. It intrigues me. And the fact that it intrigues me intrigues me more. Savvy?

    [read this GameLog]

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