I played this for about an hour(?) in the context of a class I was teaching - normally I'd play a game before and then show it in class but, with the pandemic+teaching online, it just made more sense to do it this way.
Anyways, it was fun to learn and experience a game for the first time under the "eyes" of a few people. Weirdly, the game doesn't do a lot to help you figure things out BUT, it is the sort of game you can trial/error/experiment your way to at least a basic understanding of the mechanics.
For example, it took me a little while to realize the game has two main modes of play - one can be described as form of minesweeper while the other is a match-3. Each has its own challenges in figuring out what to do, how to do it, etc. They're not hard - but it was weird to have to context-switch when I entered each mode. The match-3 was perhaps the more interesting one for me - each time you make a match "stuff happens" and since there's an objective (detonate a spot on the board where an invisible enemy is hiding), you can't (shouldn't) just go in willy-nilly. So, experimenting while playing was neat - and I slowly started to realize what matches did (e.g. give you more time on the clock before the hidden enemy attacks you, improve bombs that have better/bigger blast radius, etc.). There's a nice amount of strategy and planning that allows flexibility for luck which I liked. So, it's not quite a puzzle where you really need to find the optimum. For example, I might have narrowed down the location of the hidden enemy to two locations one of which explodes. So, I have a 50/50 chance of clearing the level - why not try to see if I'm lucky? Other times you know where the enemy is, but don't have a way to explode their location - so you need to make matches to "fill the time", but also prevent them from attacking.
Perhaps one of the more interesting design choices is that the board state is preserved between matches. So, you can also choose to make matches to "set up" something for the future - have a large bomb ready to go, etc. while playing a match you've already "solved".
There's a story too, a cute retro OS aesthetic, and fun writing and characters...but for now I've mostly enjoyed the matching...though there is much more to the game than that.
Here's another one from my pile of shame. I made the mistake of buying a large number of DS games as a lot on ebay - very few of which I owned, for a few I was really interested in. And, well - I'm going to play them all! I genuinely think it's a good idea (if you're interested in game dev and games academic) to play widely and broadly - especially titles you might not be personally interested in.
So here's another one. :-)
You drive a monster truck and there are lots of different types of events: races, do tricks for points, etc.
I think what has surprised me most about the game is that the trucks - despite being massive - move really fast! They're quite "bouncy" and nimble. It definitely makes them more fun to drive around than what I think the real ones must feel like. The feel like what I'd imagine super-charged buggies would drive like. Not that I've ever driven either.
Also, strangely, the first time I played I flipped the truck over and, to my surprised, it didn't automatically flip over/reset. I had assumed that's a "default" thing that happens in driving games but apparently not. I was actually really disappointed because it didn't reset when pressing the "regular" buttons you use for play - so I hit select and quit. It turns out you can hit start to reset the car. Doh!
I'm also pretty surprised that there is (apparently?) no real explanation of the game's core mechanics. Mostly, there's a "turbo" system it took me too long to "discover" and, I have no real idea how you should try to execute combos/tricks. I've been randomly pressing buttons and sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. I even checked the manual - it says you should do tricks. Not how.
This might be the first time I've played a licensed baseball game!
I'm familiar enough with the sport - in terms of the basic rules and how it works - that I wasn't too worried about having to deal with that as a problem (would not be the case if I played a cricket or rugby game!), but I was surprised by how long it took me to understand the basic interface of the game (it didn't help that I took too long for me to realize that there was some help screens when you pause the game). Also, I lost horribly - which is ok considering how long it took me understand what was going on - but, perhaps I chose to play as a really bad team against a much better one? (I played with the 2012 Cubs - I know they won recently, but I'm pretty sure this was after 2012)
Anyways, I thought I'd describe the game's interface - if anything that I may refer to it in the future because I thought it was pretty interesting.
Well first, I was really surprised by how much the game runs on "automatic" (AI/NPCs). As a player there really isn't a lot you can do - which is fine! It makes the game move along much faster than it would otherwise!
Half the game is pitching. For pitching you need to do three things. First you can move a little cursor using the directional buttons inside the pitch box - I have no idea what good strategy here is, but I assume that being really close to outside the box is good in that the batter is less likely to swing ('cause it's a ball)? Second, you choose which type of pitch - there are 5 options and what button to press is indicated on the top screen. Pressing a button for the 2nd part immediately starts the 3 thing you need to do - here a circle gets bigger and you need to keep the button you chose pressed. Let go of the button before the circle gets too big (turns red) and then, as it shrinks press it again when the circle is as small as possible. If you do it right (I think), the circle flashes green and you get a sound. I think the first circle (don't let go of button too early) is for strength/speed and the 2nd press is for accuracy.
I was really confused by this because, early in the game I did the "correct" thing twice - and both times the batters hit homeruns. So, it looked like that was an easy pitch to hit? It felt like I couldn't have done anything better - other than perhaps choosing a different pitch? I wonder what sort of "insider" knowledge would have helped? (e.g. batter X is famous for hitting well against fast balls, don't pitch those!)
The other thing I never caught on to is that apparently I do control one player in the field - so I might have been extra-bad 'cause I had one player who just stood there and did nothing? I never noticed this, so who knows if the player runs on auto but you can interrupt?
You have three options of swinging - a power, normal or bunt. I'm not sure when/why I wouldn't choose power? Or normal? I think I understand bunt...
Also, when the pitch comes in you can move a little circle inside the strike box. I thought that was to determine where you wanted to aim your hit - but apparently you're trying to guess where the pitch will come in, if you get it right, then you hit with extra power. Never figured that!
You can also give instructions to your players to steal bases - but I never used this. It doesn't seem to happen all that often in real baseball games AFAIK? I could be wrong... I'm probably wrong.
As I played the game I realized that, due to my lack of knowledge of pro baseball, the game might be largely inaccessible to me. It's really hard to tell how interesting/good the game is when a lot of the interesting decisions or choices rely on external knowledge of the sport. For example, when should I swap out a pitcher, how should I pick pitches, is it better to alternate/mix things up? Pitch to the batters weaknesses? Does the pitcher have those as well? This pitcher might be famous/well known for his curveball?
So, the whole simulation under the hood really matters (how are players modeled, etc.) BUT that knowledge of what matters, how it matters, etc. is also super important! This all makes it seem like I will never make any progress or sense of Madden.
I've played this a few hours (ok, perhaps more than a few) over the last two evenings and I've really been enjoying it.
The beginning was a bit confusing, because it seemed like the game was a pretty narrow linear experience (ala Last of Us) when all of a sudden - it became an open world (ala Spiderman or Ubisoft games)! The transition was weird and confusing to me, but weirdly exhilarating once I realized what was happening. It basically happened as I was going through security (to enter Seattle) and all hell breaks loose - and I ended up going pretty far, not sure what to do, shooting things down and then slowly, as I realized I was not in "open world" mode - going back and picking up things I'd missed.
The progression seems weird/interesting. Not in a bad way. So you collect these shards (or something) and use them to upgrade your powers. And, I haven't been getting them ALL, but it looked like I was really going to max out super early. This seemed weird, but I thought - oh, maybe the final upgrades are super expensive?
So, last night I ran into another "conduit" (superhero) and then I learned HER powers...and now there's an entirely new tree with upgrades to buy! I wonder how long this will go on for. The new powers are cool - and I FINALLY feel like I'm powerful in combat, but I'm not sure I want to have to toggle back and forth between them, and if more are added to the mix?