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    Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 26th, 2023 at 18:56:30)

    I picked this game up in Italy many years ago only because I knew it was famous/critically well-received but I had no real knowledge of it before I plopped in a few days ago.

    And wow, I'm glad I did buy it - I don't think I'll play it all because it seems really long - and I'm really enjoying how it does things differently. And, it reminds me of other Vanillaware games I've played (something Crown on PSVita?). The game seems to be an action RPG where the RPG part is all about levelling up and unlocking new powers and things, and the action part is a fast-paced combat with different moves and jumps and things - all taking place on a 2D screen/environment.

    The overall premise is neat as well - you start as a little girl in a library, there's a cute cat, and a book on the floor. The book is "Valkyrie" and is basically the first section of the game - the story of a character who's a valkyrie and the stuff she goes through and does. This book as (so far) 5 chapters - each taking place in a different part of the world and, from another book on the library it looks like there will be a few more books to play and that their storylines will overlap/intersect in what I presume are interesting ways.

    Here are a few things I've found interesting:

    (a) Vanillaware's games famously (often?) have character designs that are hypersexualized - with female characters with huge bosoms and male characters with hypermuscled bodies. I have not seen the former in this game, though the latter does appear. I'm kind of thankful for that tbh.

    (b) It seems like most of the levelling up in the game happens not through combat. Rather, it happens in the context of eating stuff! (and there's whole systems for planting seeds, eating fruits, finding recipes, buying meals, and more). A lot of the healing items (potions) will also increase your base HP a few points, which is interesting as it means that somtimes it's worth "wasting" items even when you're not wounded...

    (c) Each chapter has a map of connected areas - some areas with multiple exit points and such - but each area is "circular"- they're all 2D mostly wider than tall (some areas are taller than wide, but none of the areas are that large - at least so far) - and if you continue moving, say, left, you eventually come back to where you began. This is even represented with a little circle in the bottom right of the screen - and the UI does a pretty good job and helping you know where you are. It's a simple system that seems really counter-intuitive or confusing, but I was surprised by how quickly it made sense.

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    The Procession to Calvary (PC)    by   jp       (Nov 26th, 2023 at 18:41:37)

    (didn't take that long, tbh - I think I logged two hours on steam all told?)

    I just wanted to comment that I only just realized that all of the game's (Steam) achievements are quotes from the bible! And... they're quite something I must say. I think my favorite is the one you get when you slap a bishop on the butt (the bishop faces away from the screen as the pray):

    Spank the Bishop

    But --- I say to you, not to resist the evil, but whoever shall slap thee on thy right cheek, tur to him also the other. - Matthew 5:39

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    Skulls of the Shogun (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 26th, 2023 at 18:35:49)


    I sort of wish I had seen this earlier - since I might have had more time (will?) to spend playing it. But, it's interesting...I mean - it's a turn-based tactical game with different kinds of units and some neat ideas. Weirdly (or interestingly) it eschews a grid in favor of continuous movement, BUT it also has a nice graphical rendering of range and stuff - so you're never (so far at least) in a position where you moved thinking you'd be in range to attack but were not.

    The game's action economy is also interested - you have set number of orders you can issue regardless of the number of units you have (I think you can't issue more than one order per unit though, even if you have very few units). So, you have to be careful and what to do/whom to move etc. Furthermore one of (IMO) the game's key features is that skull-eating system. When you kill an enemy their skull is left behind on the battle field. If one of your units eats it, then you gain some health back. If you eat three skulls the "morph" (upgrade) into a much stronger unit with two actions. It's a big boost - but, it costs an action/order to eat a skull - so, it's not always a good idea in that sense. And, while the healing is useful, it might not save the day especially if you're exposed to an enemy attack...

    I only got 4 missions in (I think, it might have been fewer?) and it was fun, especially once I got to the missions where you can start summoning new units as well!

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    Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)    by   dkirschner       (Nov 24th, 2023 at 21:44:24)

    This one was outstanding! You don't need to know much about Spider-Man to enjoy. It drops you in the middle of some action and gives a great first impression, letting you swing through Manhattan and offering a seriously impressive initial mission, culminating in a boss fight. My first thought was, "Holy shit, the movement is incredible." And swinging through Manhattan somehow never got old. It's functional enough, varied enough, challenging enough, and just looks cool.

    My second thought was, "Holy shit, the combat is slick." Of course it reminded me of Batman, the Arkham games, with its dodging and stealth sections (or "hunter" mode, as Batman called them). I think the Arkham combat is more nuanced, but Spider-Man's is certainly fun and stylish. My go-to thing, which worked for 90% of the game, was just to pop enemies into the air and beat on them mid-air, then yank another enemy into the air, beat on them, yank another enemy, etc. I could usually knock out about four enemies like this before touching the ground, and it consistently worked (adding some mid-air dodges in the mix to avoid bullets and rockets, adding some web throws in there once I unlocked the ability to grab rockets and weapons, and eventually learning to swing kick to keep those combos going). Toward the end of the game, there is an enemy type who will yank you out of the air, and at the very end, some flying jetpack guys who are difficult to fight in the air, but besides those very few situations, air combat is the way to go. Plus it builds focus faster than on the ground.

    Spider-Man has access to a lot of gadgets, most of which I never used. The web shot and the impact web did come in handy when fighting tougher enemies, but like the spider bot, the concussive blast, the...I don't even know what they all are! Most of them were totally ignorable. He also gets a bunch of suits (I mean a BUNCH, like 30 or something), each of which has a unique suit power. It's cool that you can equip any unlocked power on any unlocked suit, so you can look how you want and have the suit power you want. Suit powers were also ignorable, but they were useful. I just forgot they were there. The ones I always had equipped were just area of effect powers that knocked enemies down in a radius, useful for crowd control.

    How do you unlock all this stuff, you ask? Well, this is an open-world game packed with all sorts of shit to do and collect. Manhattan itself isn't big, and Spider-Man's fast movement through the city makes it feel even smaller. But like real Manhattan, it's densely populated. You can collect like 50 backpacks, take a bunch of photos, stop literally hundreds of crimes, complete research tasks for Dr. Octavius and for Harry, clear enemy bases, complete challenges, and on and on and on. Each type of activity gives you a specific type of badge, and you use the badges to unlock and upgrade suits and gadgets. Some unlock just by level or story progression, but if you want to unlock everything, you'll really need to devote time to these side activities.

    I actually spent a long time, especially early on, playing with side activities. I collected every backpack, took every photo, completed every research task, stopped every "thug crime," cleaned out Fisk's and Li's men, and so on. But as the game kept...on...introducing more and more of these things, I started feeling like I was wasting my time. I fell into the open world trap of being distracted by shiny side nonsense. So, I eventually got to focusing on the main story, which was really good! Luckily, the side stuff, while open world fluff to large extent, was well integrated into the gameplay and narrative, and it really was varied and, I think, well designed. It was legitimately fun, if time consuming.

    The story was long and complex, thanks to the thousand characters and timelines or whatever in the Spidey-verse. I kept thinking I was approaching the end of the game, and then another bad guy would appear, another revelation would be had, another plan put in motion. I definitely thought the game was about Li, but then there's...well, not so much a twist, but something that I thought was going to happen, but not in the way it happened. There are actually so many antagonists, from the relatively minor bad guys like Rhino and Electro, to the mid-level ones like Fisk, to the high-level ones like Li and Dr. Octavius. But through it all, you are treated to some great story-telling. For example, you are right there with Dr. Octavius, working with him in his lab, as y'all develop his robotic arms. You see why he turns bad. A similar thing with Li, who goes from (as Spider-Man would perceive) good to bad, but was actually bad for a long time, but you learn about his motivation and connection to Dr. Octavius and Norman Oswald. Yeah, I really enjoyed all the twists and turns of the story.

    The story twists provided some AWESOME action sequences, such as the prison break one and all the unique boss fights after that. The game, if it hasn't come across in my writing so far, is gorgeous. Sometimes it feels like you're playing a cut scene, explosions popping off everywhere, Spider-Man swinging around, Electro flying around zapping everything with lightning, and you actually controlling Spider-Man throughout.

    Other times though, the story removes you from the action, and this is probably the only real gripe I have about the game (aside from too much genre-standard open world side junk to do). You're busy being a badass Spider-Man, and then you get forced into stealth sequences with Miles Morales or MJ. Sometimes, these were neat when Spider-Man contributed, like when MJ is stealing the Devil's Breath and she directs Spider-Man to web enemies, and control bounces back and forth between them. Or when Miles was trying to steal medicine and had to stealth past Rhino. But usually, it's like, "Ugh." These took me out of the action, slowed the game down, and felt unnecessary. Between all the open-world tasks and the Miles and MJ stealth missions, I do think the game was a little bloated. The story twists that kept on coming also contributed to this, though not in a bad way.

    I understand there is a game specifically about Miles Morales, and that Spider-Man 2 just came out. Both are really well reviewed, like this one was. I'll skip Miles Morales and swing straight to Spider-Man 2...whenever I obtain a PS5.

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    The Procession to Calvary (PC)    by   jp       (Nov 22nd, 2023 at 23:06:04)

    There's definitely quite a lot going on in this game. Already a fan of the previous one - whose name escapes me as I type this (Four last things?) - but the game is definitely full of the wacky nonsense of the earlier one. Perhaps there's more this time?

    I think it's a shame to just think of this game as "the game that uses old paintings" - because, there's more to it than that (it also uses old music!). What I mean is that there's a fair amount of engaging with the symbolism and meaning in lots of the art being used. So, the character you play as in this one isn't just a "random" person from a painting - and if you dig around little bit you realize there's more going on that the mere "lets tell some jokes and get a laugh from fart noises" (though there is that).

    I was surprised by how short the game is - or can be - you can just straight up kill a bunch of characters and get to the end. You don't get the "good" ending, but it did crack me up (and it makes sense for the character as well). But, also, in a funny way it pokes fun at how arbitrary many adventure games are in their puzzles when you can see there is a solution (in this game, plain old violence) and the game doesn't let you proceed (here it does, you just get a short, not so fun, and unfulfilling play experience, but it's your own fault!).

    I even killed myself (by mistake) - which made it harder to solve a later puzzle because I was worried I'd kill myself again. (you can die by falling off a cliff, and later you have to jump out a window...)

    Weirdly I'm surprised by how little attention this game seems to get for poking fun at religion in so many ways... has it flown under the radar? Or is it simply "well, Monty Python already did this, what's new here?"

    Also, I love so much of the art - especially when I know it's wild and crazy in the original!

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    Team Fortress 2 (PC)    by   ESchmitt89

    Very fun, lives up to the original
    most recent entry:   Wednesday 5 March, 2008
    In my second game session I decided to focus more on the different playable classes in TF2. The nine different classes are broken into three different categories that include offense, defense, and support. The offense classes include the fast but weak Scout, the good all-around Soldier, and the high damage dealer the Pyro. Defense includes the Demoman, Heavy, and Engineer. Finally, the support classes include the Medic, the Sniper, and the Spy.
    Each class is very unique in many aspects such as health, damage, and abilities. For instance, the Heavy class has the most health, making it the best class to be healed by a medic. This is why players often see a heavy being fallowed around by a medic healing them. Each class plays very different from the next, which keeps the game play very interesting and fresh. It is also a nice feature that players can change their class whenever they feel, so it doesn’t feel like you get stuck with something you don’t like playing.
    The medic class is arguably the most important class in the game, which is funny because I find it the most boring to play. Injured players can call for a “MEDIC!!!” in hopes that someone playing a medic is close enough (and nice enough) to come heal them. Most FPS’s out today do not have a healing class, which is one reason why TF2 is so much fun to play.
    The Engineer class is another very unique class for a FPS. Engineers are very weak when it comes to weapon based combat, but they can build very powerful machines to help out themselves and their team. They can build teleporters, health vendors, and stationary turrets to help out their team. On top of being able to build cool gadgets, engineers can upgrade these gadgets through multiple ranks. This means that the longer an engineer can stay alive, the more powerful they become.

    Having played the original Team Fortress years ago, the first thing I noticed when I started playing TF2 was how drastically different it is from its predecessor. Team Fortress was a mod on the original Half-Life engine, and was a very different game than TF2. One of the first things I noticed upon playing TF2 was that there were no alien weapons, alien maps, or any aliens at all! In fact, TF2 decided to completely overhaul the TF series while leaving the core game play almost untouched.
    The game play consists of squad based first person shooter mayhem, 9 distinct classes, and lots of action. Just like the original, the games consist of very large team battles with lots of carnage. Unlike the original, TF2 decided to go with a new look. The new graphics are very stylized and have a cel-shaded look. Players in the game look like exaggerated caricatures with very large arms and hands, and very small legs and feet. This new look works well with the unrealistic style of the game and makes the game stand out from other on the market.

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