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    Feb 21st, 2017 at 01:08:43     -    Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PC)

    Played through the first hour or so of the game today. A real charming piece of storytelling, and quite different mechanics from what I'm used to. Looks like it's going to be a real winner, in my opinion.

    I enjoy the creator's distinct decision to not provide comprehensible dialogue for the characters, and the measures they've taken in their place. You learn the most about the world and the characters, particularly the two sons, by interacting. Seeing how the older son might nudge a rabbit gently to encourage it while the younger son would grab the same rabbit by the ears. I spent a lot of time just wandering around skipping rocks, playing ball with a girl, and dipping rabbits in soot so they can make friends. Felt a little guilty about all that when I realized I was supposed to be going on a quest to save my deathly ill father, but it's a charming world.

    Game mechanics took a bit of getting used to. The controls are simplified so it helps (a joystick for movement and a button for interaction for each brother), but controlling two characters simultaneously was a bit uncomfortable. Feels like I have to relearn how to cooperate with myself. Not that I'm saying it's a bad thing, I think it really adds to the story, just something I'm not familiar with. I can only imagine that playing this game on a keyboard would be a nightmare. Glad I got a controller for my computer.

    Haven't advanced too far into the story, but I'm hoping the writer does good things with the nice base they set up.

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    Jan 18th, 2017 at 21:40:09     -    Thomas Was Alone (PC)

    A day later than I planned, but there we go. Turns out I was mistaken and there are two fewer scenarios than I anticipated, so there was only Scenario 9 left. It was nice. I'm not sure I felt 100% fulfilled by the ending though. Just seemed kinda...vague and non-satisfying. Didn't really tie everything together (maybe I just didn't understand the ending) Maybe part of the whole dissatisfaction was because all the new characters in the last few chapters are gray, and I liked the ones with colors more. But don't get me wrong, still was fun right to the end. Just feel like it should have been more than it was.

    Again, gameplay stayed solid the whole time. Never felt like a level repeated an idea for interaction with characters, always kept it fresh. Each one was less like mario and more like a Rubik's cube waiting to be unturned. Is puzzle-platformer a genre? Google says yes. This is that sort of game. Less frantic sonic dashing and more...Braid or Portal-like problem solving. Beat the game with 100% completion in about three hours. I think 3-5 hours is a nice sweet spot for a game to tell a contained story. Long enough for some substance, short enough for the player to remember the beginning when they pass the finish line.

    As for themes this time, I suppose the theme with the new characters and the levels influenced by the old characters was a legacy, perhaps? That whole innate human desire to 'make your mark' on the world. The original characters may not have been able to save themselves, but they opened the road for others to eventually do the same. If you can't win yourself, the next best thing is helping someone else do so.

    In other words, modern society (Or AI-puzzle-land) is built on the backs of the previous generation. The previous generation didn't necessarily fail because they didn't make it to the end like their descendants. They did the best they could with what they had. Something something human progress.

    As for how I feel about the game overall, solid 8.5-9/10. I'd probably play again for the gameplay, The story's the kind of thing you feel like you get a handle on after you experience it once. And again, I guess the overarching theme (I think I mentioned it before) is it takes two (or more) to tango. There's a limit to what one can accomplish by themselves. The gameplay and the story both emphasized and encouraged cooperation, and I think that's something admirable, especially considering it's a single-player game. If you've got $10 and a few hours, consider giving it a whirl.

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    Jan 16th, 2017 at 23:09:02     -    Thomas Was Alone (PC)

    Played through scenarios 4-8 today. Yup, the cloud was bad news. It was a real roller coaster over these five scenarios. The creator's pretty good at adding the human dimension to his characters, funny considering they're all artificial intelligences. I suppose that's one of the questions that these sorts of games dredge up. Is artificial intelligence entitled to the same rights as humans? If you say it depends on how smart they are, where is that line, anyways?

    But yeah, if the first few chapters were questioning what kinds of interactions bring human beings together, I suppose themes explored in scenarios 4 and 5 were what brings friends apart. When does someone decide to split from another person? It was pretty fun to play through. Plus, with the characters fluctuating more the puzzles got more challenging. The levels change up enough that it never gets repetitive.

    Favorite character so far showed up in Chapter 7. James. His gravity's inversed. I thought I was so clever when I figured out that if you jump just right you can have two characters walk on one anothers' feet (I know they don't have feet. Whatever.) and effectively fly. Felt clever until it was necessary the very next level.

    There were some pretty memorable quotes. "James liked being alone. No one to insult him, or question his unique disregard for Newtonian laws..." Pretty fun. I'm having a lot of fun with this game in general, which I guess is what's most important. (is it?) Well, it's fun, and it's making me think a lot. Big plot twists in Chapters 7 and 8, so get excited for that if you play the game. Plus the party gets their mojo back together. And then of course everything shifts again.

    Looking forward to the last three chapters, probably'll do them tomorrow some time.

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    Jan 16th, 2017 at 00:50:13     -    Thomas Was Alone (PC)

    Played through the first three scenarios (Think worlds, about 10 levels each) of the game Thomas Was Alone today. In all took me an hour and some change. With about 11 scenarios total, it appears that it's a short game. I estimate completion of the whole title in under four hours.

    The game began in traditional fashion for platformers, with the hero (a red brick named Thomas) on the left and the goal on the right. The soothingly British-accented narrator tells us that Thomas' first thought is thus: that he is alone.

    And indeed for the first few levels you are alone, completing some simple jump puzzle. By the way Thomas has one of the best jumps in any platformer I've played so far. Slowly you amass a group of friendly AI (the game informs you quickly that they are AI) of varied personality and ability. One to squeeze through smaller gaps, one to jump high and run fast, one to float on water, one that others can bounce on for a higher jump. The titular Thomas is the Mario of the group, possessed of no special powers but reasonably capable of running, jumping, and lending himself as a footstool to boost his amassed friends to new heights. And boost he does. No level can be completed without the cooperation of every little AI brick present. In all, from a gameplay standpoint Thomas Was Alone is a well crafted little platformer.

    But more interesting to me than the gameplay alone is the story that is told alongside and through it. There are several themes that stuck out over the course of gameplay. One is differences between people. Thomas cannot jump as high as John, who cannot get to some tight places Christopher can, who is as useful as a bag of kittens in the face of bodies of water that Claire can easily cross. Is one character better than another? Perhaps if you measure them from one standard. And sometimes you do indeed get frustrated and wish that Christopher could jump up just this one staircase on his own rather than rely on vaulting off the top of Thomas. But it teaches you something. What is the inherent worth of a person? Is there something makes one 'better' than another? Certainly it's easy to get ahead and achieve financial and professional success in the world by being smarter, working faster, or yes, jumping higher than others. But what happens to our sense of worth when we (or others) shift focus to something we're not so good at? Perhaps some of the most important qualities aren't measurable at all. A little food for thought.

    Another concept brought up in the wonderfully narrated interaction between characters is perspective. What someone intends in their action versus how their gesture is accepted by other people. I won't go into too much detail as said dialogue between characters is one of the little joys of this game.

    One more for this entry. As is common in platformers, the name of the game is PvE, player versus environment. The AIs are quick to anthropomorphize the world around them, pretty much unanimously assigning it a malevolent will. Now as this is the realm of the game I won't deem it impossible, but we do the exact same thing. Call a day bad, feel like the world is out to get us, or yell at the terrible weather. But hey, at least Thomas isn't alone in facing the scary world any more.

    Towards the end a spooky pixel cloud showed up. I wonder what's going to happen.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 16th, 2017 at 00:50:39.

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    1Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PC)Finished playing
    2Life is Strange (PC)Playing
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