Dec 6th, 2020 at 11:22:46 - Observation (PC)
Finished this yesterday evening. I was really looking forward to it for the clear 2001: A Space Odyssey vibes and the role reversal where you play as the AI instead of the crew. I thought I would be like HAL trying to kill my crew or following some secret orders, but it wasn't quite that exciting. This also reminded me of Carrion because of the role reversal (there you play as the monster escaping the facility instead of the typical human trying to fight the monster). |
Observation is a slow burn. Something has happened; the lone survivor, Emma, needs you to help her figure it out. Gameplay involves traversing Observation (the space station) and interacting with a lot of computers to help Emma do things. You'll also find tidbits of information on computers that clue you in to the relationships between the Observation crew, their problems, and their mission. There are twists and turns in the story that I won't spoil, and each one pulled me into the narrative. However, the end...I didn't like the end. And I'm someone who usually is fine with whatever ending! How to say...the end makes conclusive something that was best left ambiguous, or that I wish had been conclusive in an unexpected way.
So, overall, I enjoyed the story and the way that it was presented. I didn't mind how slow it was except that a lot of the slowness isn't the story but the ways in which you will be hampered by trying to figure out what the hell to do. Some of this is okay because it sets the mood. You're confused. The space station is busted up. People are dead. It's dark and hard to navigate. Fair enough. As SAM (the AI), you can look through cameras scattered throughout the space station and you can possess spheres and putter around yourself. Often, you are looking for some specific terminal. Moving the cameras around to look is very slow and I realized at some point that this aspect of the game is essentially a pixel hunting, like in those hidden object games. A couple times I missed scanning a document I needed that would be taped to a wall but didn't stand out as I looked around. Unless you look right at a thing, SAM doesn't see it. Another time, I had been stuck forever. I knew I needed some schematics and knew they were on a laptop somewhere, but couldn't find them. It was the only time I had to look something up. The answer? It's on one of the laptops displaying a low battery icon. I thought those were just unusable. Turns out you have to follow the power cable to the wall plug and MANUALLY TURN ON THE PLUG. Really? That's when I realized that this was part hidden object game and became a bit disappointed.
Another thing that I disliked was that you have to get Emma's explicit confirmation before being able to perform actions sometimes. So for example, there was one part where I had to find and enable three things, like pressure detectors or something. I had found them but couldn't figure out how to interact with them. It was driving me nuts. I knew exactly what to do but I couldn't do it. Finally, I realized that I had to report to Emma first that there was even a problem with the pressure. She already knew this so I have no idea why I had to report it. Anyway, once I reported it, she tells me to go look for the pressure detectors and then I could magically interact with them. This happens often. Emma has to "know" what you are doing before you can actually do it.
There's a third problem that's a technical one. This might indicate that development was rushed in the end (perhaps explaining the letdown ending too?). Toward the end of the game, objects (NPCs and SAM) seem to not have collision detection. During this very emotional scene, Emma sank through a wall (then stayed in a very weird position with her arm disappeared into the wall). She asked me to give her some light, but because her position was all wrong, I couldn't complete the objective correctly. Another time, SAM follows Emma and Emma was moving really jerkily, like the girl in The Ring, floating through the station. Unsettling. Then during the final sequences of the game, Emma is holding SAM and walking. She literally moves through objects and drags SAM through them too. It was so weird. For the final final part of the game, she put me (SAM) down and my view of the finale was blocked by an object! After a minute, SAM just teleported to the left a few feet (where he was obviously meant to be placed) with a clear view. Really glaring issues there!
Observation nails the atmosphere and tells a slow, engaging story, but one that doesn't have much to chew on and that disappoints in the end. Playing as SAM was novel. I look forward to playing No Code's previous game, Stories Untold, but I wouldn't really recommend Observation unless you are a huge fan of this kind of sci-fi or you really enjoy a good walking simulator. I think this will be memorable, but it's not a great as I'd hoped.
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Dec 6th, 2020 at 10:49:50 - Katana Zero (PC)
Done. Game isn't all that long (though the difficulty will give more length--game is HARD--and it's easily replayable). Ends on a serious incomplete note, which was disappointing. "...to be continued."|
Katana Zero is kind of like a 2D Hotline Miami mixed with some Mark of the Ninja (one-off stealth sections that I wish had been used more often). Combat is crazy fast and deadly. If you get hit, you die, period. You have to be perfect and there is no room for error. You can slow down time, you can swing your katana, you can dodge roll (to avoid damage), and you can pick up items and throw them. A couple items have some slightly different uses (e.g., dynamite). There are occasional laser traps and some drones (again, only used a couple times) that you can also use to your advantage.
Let me come back to the difficulty, specifically the boss fights. These aren't long (usually you only need to hit the boss like four times, but you must be perfect to do so). The last one I am sure I retried 75 times. This is the kind of game where every time you die, you learn something and can immediately implement new knowledge or refine timing. So the last boss will begin with one of three moves. Through dying over and over, you eventually realize this and learn how to avoid each one. She'll shoot a targeting laser, the laser disappears for a beat, then she fires a bigger laser. This is really about timing, learning not to dodge during the targeting laser, learning how long the beat is (dodge now!), and timing that dodge to avoid the giant laser. The second move she'll do at the outset is to toss remote explosives. These are easy to avoid. Dodge roll when she throws them. The third move is a fast forward dash, indicated by a red line around her. This is so fast it's hard to react, but dodge your best as soon as you see that. So, to even get past the very beginning, you have to be prepared for any of these three moves. The laser is the most difficult and most frequent, so the others, even though they are easier, will catch you off guard because you're really tense waiting for that laser.
When you dodge her first attack, your life only gets more difficult because she might do any of them again, or a couple others that you need to learn. You need to hit her. When you hit her, she disappears and two turrets emerge from the left wall. Destroy them before they begin firing because they will kill you 100% of the time. She re-emerges and does an easy-to-read laser pattern that you need to dodge. Hit her again when she drops to the ground. After the second hit, she tricks you! She teleports to the right side of the screen and shoots a targeting laser. You think she's going into a full laser animation, but she actually teleports away and does a mid-air spin-and-shoot move that you need to dodge ALONG WITH the laser. You can avoid the laser by running all the way to the right and essentially standing where she was. The laser won't hit you. You just have to avoid her spin-and-shoot move. If you hit her again, she drops some dynamite. Your last challenge is to get to it, pick it up, and throw it at her. Win. And this was actually the second phase of the fight against her. The first phase was a lot of memorization, also challenging.
I felt like a twitchy god after beating some of the levels and bosses in this game. It's the kind of feeling that when you die the first time, you're like, "There is no way. This is too fast, too hard." Then you get a little better and a little better. The game excels at instilling this feeling.
The story is cool too. It's dark and humorous (RIP Strong Terry) and sweet (the neighbor girl). It's told very unconventionally, back and forth through time, through nightmares, through drug trips. Once it twists on you the first time, it takes a little while to figure out what's going on, but it will clear up. I always like when these twisty turny stories are able to be figured out instead of just remaining dense and confusing.
I might buy this on Steam when it goes on sale just to own it. I liked it that much. Also there is bound to be a sequel, so it might be worth replaying later.
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Dec 3rd, 2020 at 18:44:52 - Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PC)
Wild ending on this one with a couple twists. I've always enjoyed these games for the weird stories, huge monsters, and intense always-almost-out-of-ammo-and-health panicky gameplay. This is the best one since RE 4, and I'm super excited to play the remake of RE 2 at some point.|
I spent much of the beginning of the game rolling my eyes. It seemed ripped straight out of Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Outlast 2, and every other gory horror movie that makes rural white Americans scary. You play (mostly) as Ethan, who goes to the bayou in search of his wife, Mia, who has been missing for three years. Their "relationship" is stilted; when they reunite, they don't hug or laugh or cry or anything. Also, Mia appears to be wearing the same clothes from three years ago and is well-fed, despite being locked in a cage by crazies. Some shit happens, and Ethan again is unbelievable. A police officer comes checking on the house and instead of being like, "Sir, this family is trying to kill me. Missing persons are here. Go get backup," he decides on being vague. Of course the family kills the officer too, but maybe they wouldn't have if Ethan had made sense!
Since this is Resident Evil, the "it's a crazy redneck murder family!" plot didn't last too long before going off the rails. I won't bother with spoiling story, but it gets weirder and worse and then better as it goes on.
There are a couple notable things I very much liked:
1. They make all the villains turn out to be sympathetic. It's hard to do that after seeing how vicious they are, but it makes sense and was surprising.
2. Each of the family members has a unique "style." The dad regenerates over and over and keeps popping up at you when you least expect it; the mom likes bugs; the son likes traps. This makes you play a little differently in each of their areas (e.g., strutting around like an exterminator with a flamethrower in the mom's old house or moving slowly and constantly checking for remote mines and boobytrapped boxes in the son's party area).
The family is a huge presence in the game, and I really liked the level design, which had exploration and boss fights quite intertwined. Usually there was a bigger fight at the end of each area, but the family members were omnipresent throughout the game.
Other little things:
1. I liked the simple crafting system, but inventory space is at a premium.
2. There are four or so scenes that you play in the past. That was really cool because those (usually) took place in the next area that you visit in the present, which means that you have some idea of the layout of the level, of where some items are, and so on. Really clever!
3. Speaking of inventory space, this is a game that has--I don't know how to call them--persistent storage. If you store things in a chest, they exist in every chest in the game. This is fine. I can ignore that it doesn't make any sense because it's convenient for gameplay. But there was one time that it stood out. You have to go into an escape room (Saw, yes) and are forced to leave all your things in the chest at the entrance. When you exit the escape room, all the things that--according to the story!--you left at the entrance are magically in the chest at the exit. Like, persistent storage makes sense if it's unexplained I guess. But when a character says, "leave your things in this chest," and then your things magically appear in a different chest, it actively doesn't make sense.
So, weird story as expected, and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Definitely would recommend.
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Dec 1st, 2020 at 10:04:32 - Carrion (PC)
Semester from hell is over.|
1 month of Xbox Game Pass for PC is beginning.
First game: Demon's Tilt, a satanic looking pinball game that I thought would be more of a spectacle than it was. Turns out I don't care about pinball PC games, no matter how neat they look. Lesson learned.
Second game: Carrion.
Verdict: Being the murderous alien lifeform escaping a science facility is awesome. You start out as a cute lil guy that can't do much besides fling a tentacle out to grab humans and bash them to death. Over the course of the game, you find bits of your DNA in containment, reabsorb them, grow, and gain new powers. I cannot stress how fun using powers is, especially when the levels become more puzzly later on.
Your powers are tied to your three sizes (small, medium, and large, like a pizza). When small, you can shoot a web and become invisible for a short time. When medium, you CANNOT do the small things; instead, you can smash through objects and create spikes all over you that shred enemies. When large, you can pull things (basically a beefed up "smash things" except pulling lets you navigate to new areas) and you can create a super shield, which was useful to turn on and just tear through a room.
So here's an example of how this might work. Enter a room and see a switch behind a permeable wall. You need to shoot a web at it. You're big, so you need to become small. Go find a pool and deposit some mass. Go back, shoot a web at the switch. A door opens. There are some humans with guns and flamethrowers. You have all these power options to either directly assault them, be more defensive in an assault, slink through some vents that are present and pick them off, and so on. One thing you can do later on is possess enemies. I often possessed enemies with guns and used them to kill everyone else in a room. You'll need to do this to access some switches and buttons too.
One thing I liked about Carrion is that you are not a total badass all the time. When you are small, you are closer to death and feel vulnerable. When you are large, you have more health but lack invisibility and some other useful abilities. The times when you can rampage through rooms are awesome, but so are the times when you have to stop and consider what you are doing. Enemies are not limited to scientists and grunt soldiers. Some have electric shields, there are big mechs, turrets, mines, drones, and some other things that each are easier with some finesse. This actually makes the idea of the creature far scarier because the creature is sentient, like the player. It stops, thinks, and learns. Indeed, by the end of the game, you realize just how dangerous it is.
There are two drawbacks to the game. One is the aiming control. As you get bigger, it becomes more difficult to aim your tentacles at small objects, to grab what you intend to grab. I'm not sure why it should become more difficult to do this (maybe that a big monster is supposed to be unwieldy, and if it's purposeful for this reason, then okay I guess). Moving while large can also become difficult when attempting to squeeze through small spaces. Somewhere in your writhing mass of flesh there is a "center" where the controller is mapped to, but when you get big, it is hard to tell where it is. So your body will slither to the right halfway through a vent, then you will push right on the analog stick, and you will actually go DOWN back out of the vent because the "center" of your body was still in the shaft not through the vent yet. This did get annoying.
The second drawback to the game is that it can be difficult to navigate. There is no map and the game is sprawling and interconnected. As long as you remember what barriers have opened and pay close attention, it's not bad. But, at the very end of the game, before the very last area, I got SO turned around! I had to go to the internet and find user-created maps to figure out how in the world to get back to where I was supposed to be. It was like a 30-minute detour. So, if you make it to the end, DO NOT wander without a map! You can easily get even more turned around than I did.
Overall, I loved Carrion. The concept is excellent and the execution nails it, with just a couple gripes. Visuals and music are phenomenal as well. Worth a play through for something different.
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