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    Stray (PS5)    by   jp       (Jun 23rd, 2024 at 14:09:57)

    Ok finished the game!

    The "down a corridor" linearity definitely let up once I got to the first "city" area...and while there are other sections that are tightly restricted, I would say that while the game is linear (it's a narratively-led adventure game where you collect clues and complete tasks for NPCs in order to progress), the experience of playing it does not feel quite as constrained as I had initially thought it was.

    It's weird to me how I had a strong idea that this was a "cyberpunk" game set in a city - but it's just robots instead of people, and the game doesn't feel like that at all to me now. Yes, there's neon and such - but the major cyberpunk (as genre) themes aren't there. It does tell its own story, and it's really quite sad. It's post-apocalyptic in the sense that humans are extinct (or other wise gone as far as we know), but there's also the idea that this is a world that has recovered (in the nature regrowing sense) from whatever it was the apocalypse was about - it's not clear to me why humans holed up in the underground cities in the first place (and they then all died in a plague, oh, and then they unleashed something intended to solve problems but it mutated and has since run amuck - thus trapping all the robots inside the city). And through all this - you - a cat - have not only survived but made it through.

    Overall, yes - I did enjoy it, and I appreciated the brevity. But also, in terms of it's game design, it's pretty "light" (by this I mean it doesn't stray far from expectations and it does everything right). So, no special highlights in my mind here - but the navigation and UI work as they should. I guess I could say that I thought I'd get lost a lot easier (there's lots of vertical navigation in addition to horizontal) but it helped that the game's spaces are small even if they are well "dressed" with objects and details.

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    Tetris Effect (PS4)    by   jp       (Jun 17th, 2024 at 12:49:38)

    I think it's now super fair to say that I'm not very good at playing Tetris. Mostly because I make lots of mistakes pressing the "drop now" button instead of rotating a piece or something like that. I've also never been particularly drawn to playing Tetris, even if I've dabbled for years now...almost since it came out.

    But, I was curious to play Tetris Effect - in VR - because it was described as such a different experience. And it is. I'd describe it as the Rez version of Tetris. So, it's still Tetris, but it's Rez-like in how the music is a much more integrated part of the experience, in a good way. So, I enjoyed playing the campaign - with different areas with art, sound effects and so on...and the experience really is much more immersive - in a good way - than "vanilla tetris". For me at least!

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    Detroit: Become Human (PS4)    by   dkirschner       (Jun 14th, 2024 at 09:24:44)

    Detroit: Become Human was a really interesting game. I’m not sure how I overlooked it when it came out, since I’ve played every other Quantic Dream game and even worked on a research project with someone using Beyond: Two Souls. Anyway, thanks to this summer’s Playstation Plus subscription, I have access to it and other PS4 games I never bought! It’s set in near-future Detroit, where the city has repurposed its manufacturing infrastructure to produce androids. The androids are designed to look identical to humans, minus some clothing markers and the only external physical thing that differentiates them, a little processor indicator on their temple, which was a brilliant touch. As the player, the processor conveyed information about an android’s cognition and emotional state: blue (normal), yellow (moderate stress), and red (extreme stress), as well as “spinning” animations to indicate thinking about something (their eye movements aligned with this to indicate thinking; incredible animation work all around!). So, by making androids basically indistinguishable from humans (and they pass the Turing Test), Detroit doesn’t dip into the uncanny valley. This makes sense in terms of the story, where the androids (and the game beats you over the head with this) become human and fight for their rights. It touches on all sorts of philosophical questions: What is consciousness, and can non-humans attain it? What does it mean to be human (in terms of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, morality, agency, etc.; i.e., where’s the line between human and machine)? Are struggles necessary for self-determination?

    The most ridiculously impressive thing about Detroit is that you get to shape the lives of three androids, determine their fates, the fate of all androids (and therefore of humanity too), and in doing so, offer your perspective on the game’s philosophical questions. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game with such an intricately branching storyline…or three storylines that intersect, one for each android. To say it’s complex is an understatement. I read that there are technically 85 endings. I got…one; replayability is a feature! Another cool thing about Detroit is that it’s transparent about the branching storyline. After each scene, you can see the narrative flowchart, as well as the percentage of players who made the decisions you made. This is something like what Telltale games did, where you’d see what % of players aligned with you, except here you see how different choices lead to subsequent events. For most of the game, after any given scene, I saw I’d unlocked most of the storyline. Towards the end of the game though, as major events happen (and your characters can die!), I was unlocking single-digit percentages of scenes. And who knows how many scenes I never saw at all. It felt exponential how complex the story became. The more decisions you make that have different outcomes, the more considerations the writers had to make for how following scenes could begin and progress. Often, I would see that there were like 10 potential beginning states for a scene.

    The three androids are Kara, Markus, and Connor. Each has numerous paths they can follow, but general character arcs where they “become human.” Kara is a domestic android, meant to cook, clean, and take care of children. She has a sad life with an abusive man, and after a really scary interactive domestic violence scene, runs away with his daughter. She (is programed to have? develops?) a maternal bond with the child (I have some seriously unresolved questions about their relationship though). Markus, on the other hand, has a happy life, android and son-figure to an old, ill, wheelchair-bound artist. The artist encourages Markus to express himself through art, and in another violent scene with the artist’s actual son, Markus realizes he isn’t actually free. These two become what the game calls “deviant” (they deviate from their programming). In the game world, more and more androids are becoming deviant, inflicting violence on humans (often in self-defense, but the Detroit news agencies are biased!), and it becomes quite the problem for law and order and the general functioning of a society that has incorporated androids into its basic functions. The third android, Connor, is an advanced police android created for the purpose of hunting deviants. It was thrilling the first time I realized that the androids’ storylines intersect. The other two are deviants, and Connor is meant to hunt deviants, so of course they would, right?

    As I learned about the characters, I started trying to shape their trajectories. For Kara, I wanted her to protect the little girl—I liked their bond—, and by the end of the game, regardless and perhaps in spite of what happened, I was fully invested in having Kara stop and nothing to get her and the girl to safety, even if this meant doing unethical things. Markus’s storyline was my least favorite because it was so over-the-top. Detroit attempts to fit a full-scale android revolution into the game, with Markus at the helm. It seemed really implausible. Markus also goes from servant android to revolutionary leader in the span of like five minutes, and leads all these complex “operations” with a handful of random other deviants. I would buy it if they were military androids or something, but a servant to an old man and a sex robot creating an elaborate scheme to hack the city’s news network from the top floor of a corporate tower, including rappelling up a skyscraper, delivering a televised “we have a dream” speech (the game loves to draw parallels between the androids’ fight for self-determination and the Civil Rights Movement), dramatically escaping with parachutes, etc., was eye-rolling. Anyway, my Markus was shot while peacefully protesting, and I didn’t really mind.

    I was more upset the first time my Connor died (he comes back), destroyed by some sort of industrial rototiller while chasing a deviant. Connor is tasked to partner up with a grizzled, alcoholic cop named Hank who hates androids. I tried and tried to build a relationship with Hank. It was easy to say something to make Hank fly off the handle. Eventually, though, I decided that I wanted Connor to counter the other two characters and stay true to his programming, never becoming deviant, insisting to the end that androids are just machines. This was partly because I found Markus and his revolutionary android story annoying, and also because Hank does a 180 on his feelings toward androids. He said he changed his mind because Connor took a bullet for him, which proved that Connor had empathy. That’s not why I jumped in front of him though; I did it because (a) I knew that Connor would come back if he died and (b) I figure, given that, a police android would be programmed to save its human partner, not out of empathy but out of directive. So to me, Hank’s premise was wrong. Why didn’t he consider this? Why would someone who hated androids with such passion make the leap to “he saved me because he has empathy; ergo, he is human” instead of “he saved me because he is a machine and programmed to do so; ergo, I resent him even more.” The latter is what racists do, reducing behavior to biology and then framing the characteristic negatively. So, I ended up playing a cold, machine Connor who (like how I did with Kara) stopped at nothing to achieve his objective. According to the flowcharts, a tiny minority of players did this!

    Admittedly, I enjoyed the earlier game and the final segments more than the mid- and late-game. The longer it goes on, the more holes there are. Some holes were relatively nonsensical storylines (a lot of what Markus’s ended up becoming), questionable plot twists (e.g., Kara and the little girl), and disconnected events. I am sure that some disconnected events can be chalked up to making this or that decision and therefore missing this or that piece of information. But there were a handful of times where a scene would start and it would be like, “We have arrived at this place to see this person!”, and I’m like, “Who?!”, as if I should have known who this person was already. These disconnects were filled in easily enough though, but it was weird.

    Anyway, the overall experience of playing the game was excellent. I found it thoroughly engrossing and thought-provoking, even if its weaker plot lines could have been better written. It doesn’t ask all the questions you might think about and it hits you over the head with Civil Rights comparisons. But there’s plenty here to prompt you to think, like 85 endings’ worth of impressive, interconnected, branching storylines. And I didn’t even touch on the utility of the game for developing moral reasoning or social-emotional learning. As you play, you’ll unlock extras. The videos are totally worth watching. There are teasers, features of the characters (including Chloe, the “menu screen android,” who brings novel elements to the game), and mini-documentaries about the “making of,” the soundtrack, and more. Probably 30-45 minutes of video content all told that provide great insight. Definitely recommend this.

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    Stray (PS5)    by   jp       (Jun 13th, 2024 at 00:18:12)

    I'm surprised by how linear the game is in the beginning. I think I only just got to the part where it opens up a bit? It is fun to explore as the cat - but the beginning was just following along (and enjoying how pretty everything looks and wondering -ooh, what happened in this world?).

    I wonder if I'll ever reunite with all the cats I was handing out at the beginning of the game before I fell "into" the "city"?

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    Gungrave VR (PS4)    by   jp       (Jun 13th, 2024 at 00:16:27)

    This is an odd game, but I did have fun! (despite stuff)

    First, the game includes the game and what they call "episode 2" - the first is called "Gungrave VR" and the second is "Gungrave VR U.N". I did not pay attention to the back of the box, and played the "U.N" one first (for no reason other than perhaps it was on the left side of the PS menu bar?...and it's really short (only three missions! not too hard, which is fine, and it looks pretty bad - even for a VR game.

    I was about to move on, when I though, huh..I wonder if the other game was the main game and this one was the "DLC"? (because it was so short!) So, I booted up the main game - and I was forced into doing the tutorial again - it's the exact same tutorial! - and the main menu is also exactly the same! But, when you go into the mission select area, things are different (new missions). AND, the missions in the main game look a lot better! By this I mean there are better character models and textures. It's almost like the DLC was the "prototype art version" with the main game the "final" art. I'm not saying the art was great (though I did like some of the enemy designs), it's just that the difference in quality of the art assets was really noticeable. Wierdly a lot of the geometry in the DLC was destructible, but there was no point/benefit/drawback to destroying stuff...

    As for the game - I can lump both together, mostly...

    It's wonky, the controls have a weird delayed response, aiming is pretty inexact and imprecise..but, the game is still fun enough (and yes, I was grateful for the brevity - the main game only had 5 areas) despite getting repetitive in terms of goals and enemies.

    BUT...and this is where it's a weird game, there are some pretty cool ideas I thought were interesting (and good design choices).

    a. The game has a lot of variety in perspective. Sometimes it's first-person, othertimes it's 3rd person, the DLC even has side-scrolling areas, sometimes you're "locked in place", other times your not. This variety kept things fresh AND also reduced the physical strain of playing in VR - mostly because at times I had to do certain movements with the head, and others had different head movements.

    b. I thought the sidescrolling levels would be dumb and not work - after all you could only fire left/right (but up/down on the left right if that makes sense). Aiming is with the head (where you look you aim) and if you the character was facing right - it was placed on the left side of the screen which meant you were kind oflooking to the right, so I had to remember to look left a lot because enemies would creep up behind the character (and when looking right you could not see what was on the left too well). So, there was lots of looking left/right (like a tennis match!)...and, this was enjoyable! Here, the looking really gave me more to see (rather than just looking to aim)

    c. Some levels I you have to really look up (almost behind as you look up) which I thought was interesting - there's gameplay on the edges of your motion capabilities - which is risky (camera loses sight of headset - this is PSVR!), but interesting as an experience - straining to look up and almost behind felt interesting!

    d. I kept on losing the final boss fight - mostly because one of its attacks was to slam you with a giant hand/arm. The game locks you into place - you can't move or dodge...and I didn't see a way to avoid the damage and kept on dying (after getting hit a few times). So, I looked online for a guide - perhaps there's some secret to the dodge and my timing was off? or there's something else I missed? Could not find a find. But, did watch a video - and the person playing in the video lost a few times but eventually barely made it. So, I tried again - maybe I was just too inefficient with my shooting and I needed to do more damage before getting hit? Well, that didn't work - so I went back to the "lets try new things". When the arms swing down they have reticules/targets on them (several) and I had tried shooting one to no effect. So, I decided to try shooting them all - and, IT WORKED! (it was hard to hit them all because there's no feedback of a hit AND the last target is on the hand which is above/behind you when you start shooting (from the shoulder up the arm, elbow, forearm, hand). I don't know if the order matters - it might be easier to start on the hand and strafe to the shoulder? - BUT, I felt really clever/smart to do something better than in the video!

    To be clear, the game is quite mediocre in terms of quality, polish, gameplay, etc. BUT - it was still fun enough that I enjoyed it (and here the brevity might be a benefit, since I didn't get tired/bored of it).

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    Uno (Other)    by   klc340

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Thursday 4 March, 2010
    Session #1
    This weekend instead of going to the movies or going out to eat I convinced my boyfriend to stay in for the night and play a game of Uno with me. Uno is one of my favorite card games that entertains people of all ages. In the game of Uno each player is dealt seven cards with the remaining ones placed face down to form a draw pile. The top card of the draw pile is turned over to begin a discard pile. The each player has to match the card in the discard pile either by number, color, or word. The numbers are one through nine with the colors red, yellow, green and blue. There are also wild cards that change the color of the discard file. A skip that allows you to skip a person. A draw two that allows the next player to draw two cards. Finally there is a draw four card that allows you to change the color of the discard pile and makes the next player draw four cards. The gameplay with just two people started out fun at first but after twenty minutes it kind of got boring and repeative. I got tired of him always skipping me and and He got tired of me always making him draw 2. The game with two people goes by fairly quickly, we played four Uno games in just twenty minutes. The game is not very complex unless you are the person who has twenty cards in your hand. There are rules you can add to Uno to make it a little harder to get rid of all your cards. My boyfriend and I tired a few ways such as not being able to put down multiple cards of the same number. For example if a red 3 was played and I had multiple 3 in my hand i could only lay down one of them. Another rule is if I played a draw 2 card my boyfriend would could not lay down another draw 2 card and make me draw four, he would have to draw 2 and just deal with it. Another rule is if you don't have a card to play, instead of pulling just one card, you have to continue to pull until you find a card that you can play! It is sometimes more fun to play with these rules until someone gets upset because they don't have a lucky hand and has managed to obtain thirty cards in their hand! The design elements that make this game fun is that it is a card game that anyone of any age can play and multiple people can join in. This game also allows you to change some of the rules about the game to increase its complexity. There wasn't much social interaction when just me and my boyfriend were playing and if there were bystanders I'm sure they would have been bored!

    Session #2
    This time I decided to play the game with six girls from my cheerleading squad in the sanderson right before practice. The gameplay was definintly different from when my boyfriend and I played. It was a lot more fun and activite and quite noisey. The game was more intent and involved while everyone anticipated what card was going to be played next and praying that it wasn't a draw two or draw four. It is harder to win the game with six people, one game lasted almost and hour and at one point I had 30 cards in my hand. When there was finally a winner the reward was great and also a sign of relief. The game became more difficult to win as you increase the number of players. More cards are drawn and it is harder to get rid of them. One thing that made the game fun was ganging up on one person. Everyone would put down a skip to always skip that specific person or we would always lay down a draw two pile so that they would continue to pull cards. It was fun for the people doing the ganging but the person who was ganged up opon was not very happy and soon go frustrated. Flow of the game is pretty fluid and fast because you have only three choices of what to play. Which is either a card of the same color, number, or one of the wild cards. I have played this game on the computer before and though it is entertaining I missed the interaction of the other players. The game does attract a lot of attention because of the amount of noise that the players make, but the bystanders do not hang around long, I guess they are jealous that they can't join in on the game. There is nothing I would change about this game. Though another version of this game has been released called Uno Attacked, which is the same as the original game except there is a small machine that holds the cards and when you don't have a card to play instead of drawing from the draw pile you hit a button on the top of the machine and cards are thrown out at you. The drama is that you don't know how many cards the maching will give you, it could be one or ten cards. In not a fan of this game old school Uno is just fine the way it is and will always be the best!

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