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    The Darkness II (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 17th, 2018 at 12:19:15)

    Really fun shooter with a cool story, well-voiced characters, and sometimes overly juvenile humor. Never overstayed its welcome, but much longer and its repetition would have become problematic. I was surprised at the comic book looking art style and how great it looks. The gore (and there's a lot of it) looks excellent as well.

    So The Darkness II's gimmick is that you not only have two human hands like every other FPS, but you have two additional demon appendages. Your hands hold one or two guns (left and right mouse buttons), and your two demon appendages are good murder weapons (Q to grab things, middle mouse and movement for slash combinations). Objects in the environment, like car doors or poles or injured enemies, will be highlighted in purple. You can grab and use these objects as shields, projectiles, explosives, and so on. The Darkness should stay in the darkness, obviously, and so light is something you have to deal with. Shoot out lights, and prioritize annoying enemies who run around with lanterns. All the firefights in the game are set in little hyperspeed playgrounds where you can deploy your abilities and use things in the environment to your advantage.

    For a game that looks unique based on screenshots, the move set and animations get repetitive before the game's short length is up. The demon arms are cool, but you're incentivized to use them to get points to upgrade skills even when you don't need to use them or when it is strategically inadvisable to do so. The only real frustration I encountered was enemies with shields, which you must damage, then grab with your demon arms. The window during which these can be grabbed is small, and for some reason inevitably occurred while reloading a gun. Then the enemy would charge and smash me. I died more to those enemies trying to pry their shields away than to anything else. And you will die from light sources some, but that didn't feel frustrating. It felt like part of the puzzle to be solved. Enter area, shoot out lights there, there, and there, a lantern enemy will come from over there halfway through, etc.

    The game sets itself up for a sequel, which I would certainly be interested in. Now, back to getting freaked out by Alien...

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    2064: Read Only Memories (PS4)    by   jp       (Dec 17th, 2018 at 10:18:09)

    I'm probably about halfway through the 2nd chapter and I'm surprised by how retro the game is - both visually as well as in its game design. I guess there are a few quality of life improvements, but this isn't really a game that benefits all that much from being played with a controlled rather than a mouse.

    With the controller - due to how they've set it up - you cycle through different objects of interest in a scene, but you have to know which direction to cycle (press left or down to get to an object that's down/left of the one currently selected?). They didn't implement a mouse cursor - which would make it easier. I've missed a few things in a scene because I didn't notice they were objects of interest. On the other hand, at least I don't have to "scan" the mouse cursor around to see what's clickable and what isn't.

    The game's narrative is, at this point, marginally engaging for me. A super-scientist/engineer has gone missing and you, a lowly reporter, have been tasked by his clearly state-of-the-art AI/robot to find him. So far nothing special. It's supposed to be very cyberpunk but so far it's like the Disney version of cyberpunk with no grittiness and jsut a bit of 80's newwave flash at best. We'll see how it goes...

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    Alien: Isolation (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 13th, 2018 at 21:20:38)

    Holy moly I am terrified of the xenomorph. I hide in lockers. It rips the door off and eats me. I hide under tables. It eventually spots me and eats me. I creep around a corner. It also creeps around the corner and it eats me. I open a door. It is casually walking by and oh hey it eats me. I turn the difficulty down from hard to medium and learn how to use the scanner, which detects movement. It eats me less. I startle a human in the med bay. He shoots at me. The alien eats him. An NPC has spent more than three minutes with me. The alien eats them. I'm fiddling with re-wiring. The alien eats me. I'm reading a computer screen. The alien eats me. I'm saving my game...the alien eats me.

    The alien does not care what you want or what you do. All it wants to do is kill you, and it will succeed because it is a perfect life form. I cannot play this for more than a couple hours at a time because my nerves can't handle it. I haven't used any items yet except melee weapons and medkits, but I've been crafting them as I become full of supplies--flashbangs, smoke bombs, pipe bombs. I'm sure these will come in handy in the future. But for now, I'm just trying to find a trauma kit to patch up my crew mate who, let's face it, is going to die one way or another. The alien will probably eat her...as I'm applying the medkit.

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    Thomas Was Alone (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 11th, 2018 at 16:31:55)

    Short game, clocked just about 3 hours. It had potential to be longer and more complex. As is, I enjoyed this oddly calming puzzle platformer, never felt too challenged, and at the same time as some tricks were getting old and tedious to perform (stacking characters to reach higher), new ideas were being introduced that felt only partially explored (e.g., the color fields). It has a clever little story about Thomas and other AIs in a mainframe liberating the AIs. It's well voiced, and I was surprised how much personality could be given to featureless colored cubes. One was curmudgeonly, one was a liar, another wanted to be a superhero, two were falling in love, and Thomas was proud of his jumping abilities. The chuckle-worthy script and cheeky British narrator reminded me of Portal 2 and The Stanley Parable.

    As for the gameplay, you guide colored blocks to where they need to go. The blocks have different abilities. Thomas is a good jumper, and you later meet a yellow block that is even taller and a better jumper. The purple block can double-jump. The red-orange one can bounce other blocks. The blue one can float in water. The little orange block just seems like a liability, and it's no wonder he's curmudgeonly. Later on, there are "color fields" that change the color of the gray blocks that pass through them. All these different abilities and block sizes are manipulated to get each block to a specific spot on each level, which clears the level. There are some obstacles like spikes and moving platforms, but like I said before, it is really relaxing for a puzzle platformer.

    I enjoyed the music, which sounded like distorted instrumental post-rock like Explosions in the Sky with some chiptunes bleeps and bloops thrown in. But it did loop over and over and over. Variety would have been cool. The game also reminded me a lot of Ibb and Obb, particularly the latter bits with the red and green blocks with opposite gravity working together. One criticism is the character selection interface. You use the number keys to select characters, which are represented as colored squares in a row on the bottom-right of the screen. There should have been small "1", "2", etc. on the character icons because when you have 8 blocks on a level (and in the later levels most of them are gray, which just leads to a long gray bar instead of individually identifiable block icons), it's really hard to glance down and know which number will select the block you want. The levels are short and the blocks change order from level to level, so it's not like you can memorize "yellow is always 5" or anything like that. Yellow will be 5 on on level, 1 on the next level, 3 on the next level, etc. There was a lot of unnecessary number pressing trying to cycle and select the block I wanted to control.

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    The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess (Wii)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 6th, 2018 at 21:52:45)

    Finished! Sort of...I got frustrated and watched cut scenes for the last few dungeons. But finished! Okay so, overall, this was a game that felt like work to play. I occasionally lost myself in a couple of the great dungeons, but more of my time felt spent in tedium. A couple immediate factors leading to this feeling:

    1. Poor instruction and instructional timing for some new items. I remember when I unlocked the water bombs. I saw a lake, dove down, was excited to see destructible rocks, went to select the bombs and...they were grayed out. Why? Hmm. Maybe you don't actually place the bombs while in the water, but drop them from shore and the special thing about these bombs is that they explode in water. I could drop them from the shore, but they blew up long before reaching the rock. Hmm. I later saw on a walkthrough that you have to put the iron boots on first to use water bombs. That doesn't make sense to me. Why can't Link use bombs while swimming, or while standing on the bottom of a lake in normal shoes?

    Another one that happened tonight was using the dominion rod to make the statue use its sword in the Temple of Time. The game doesn't tell you you can do this, and soon after gaining control of the statue, it got seemingly stuck between a gate and a ledge. I couldn't move it. I did everything I could think of and, not wanting to save and exit (more on that soon), I consulted the walkthrough, which said you have to use the rod on the statue a second time to make it attack. Why would I think to use the rod on the statue a second time?! I already control the statue. The game doesn't tell you these hot tips that are necessary to your progression and saw me wasting a lot of time trying to figure out something that I should have been told.

    Yet another one tonight is when I learned (again from a walkthrough) that you can use the claw to pick up shells of a particular enemy type. I missed doing it in a room to get the Big Key for the Temple of Time and, long story short (explained below) quit in frustration. There is no reason for me to assume the claw would bring that object to me when it has never brought an object to me in 20 hours of play with the claw. The claw grapples to environmental objects like grates and moss for platforming purposes. I've tried to grapple other things that would seem to make sense and it never does it. I missed that key, escorted the statue all the way down 8 floors of a dungeon, opened the path to the dungeon boss, and came up against...a locked door that required a Big Key. I turned the game off, made food, and turned it back on after I ate.

    2. But what happens in Twilight Princess when you're in the Temple of Time dungeon and you save and quit after you've escorted the statue? Why, aside from the statue and the gates you happened to smash with it, the dungeon resets itself! All the enemies respawn, the traps reset, you have to re-do puzzles. At a game I was already lukewarm toward, I faced the prospect of having to trek back up 8 floors of a dungeon (and then back down) to get a key from a chest that I couldn't figure out how to open earlier. And that solution happens to be yet another item usage and/or bad (timing of) information that is inconsistent with its usage in the entire game up to that point.

    I'm done ranting. There is a lot I enjoyed about the game aside from what I talked about last time. Some of the later dungeons were excellent, with my favorite being the desert one. The puzzles got more challenging, and the more items you acquire, the more creative you can be with thinking about solutions. In the last dungeon, I used like 6 items. Shoutout to the spinner, a rotating disc you ride around like Marty McFly on a hoverboard. The spinner is one reason the desert dungeon stood out; it's a joy to use.

    One final thing I gathered from playing Twilight Princess is how influential Zelda games are in other adventure games. For example, a couple years ago I played Darksiders, which I really enjoyed (till it bugged out on me and I couldn't finish). But, wow, Darksiders is a Zelda clone!

    I'm glad I played this, though I could have stopped 10 hours earlier. Watching cut scenes didn't add a whole lot until the very end when All Is Revealed. The story is s-l-o-w and the dialogue is written at like a first grade level, not that exciting at all. Come for the neat use of the Wiimote and the charming world.

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    Recent GameLogs
    1 : dkirschner's The Darkness II (PC)
    2 : jp's 2064: Read Only Memories (PS4)
    3 : dkirschner's Alien: Isolation (PC)
    4 : dkirschner's Thomas Was Alone (PC)
    5 : jp's Space Hulk: Ascension (PS4)
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