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    Bee Simulator (PS4)    by   jp       (Oct 24th, 2020 at 17:46:02)

    Finished!

    I'm not sure I have all that much more to say - the game isn't that deep but I did have a bit of extra fun picking up some trophies and finding some easter eggs - a literal one in this case (there's an easter egg inside the hen house in the zoo, if you sting it, it turns red and unlocks a trophy). Perhaps the neatest was finding a ring in the seal pen, stinging it, and an inscription appears! (like in the Lord of the Rings movie). It has a code that you then need to enter in a laptop. WHAT?!

    Anyways, light, fun and totally charming game.

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    Bee Simulator (PS4)    by   jp       (Oct 20th, 2020 at 22:07:28)

    I've been enjoying this. It's simple, easy, educational and completely unexpected. I think it's the freshness/novelty I enjoy as well as my sheer surprise that a game like this even exists.

    It's also surprisingly easy to describe in "game design terms". I can do this poorly...for example, by saying that it's like an open-world game (al a GTA, Assassin's Creed) with a central story-driven narrative and in-world side missions and quests. You fly around to certain locations (often see in the screen as a pillar of light in different colors according to the type of quest) and activate them. These function like mini-games: there's a combat game, a racing game, a pattern-matching (mimic the bee dance!) game, and a collect-stuff game. There are also (very few, it seems) some story-driven side missions like helping an orphaned baby squirrel, feed squirrel kids, and a few more I don't recall right now.

    I think what I like about it is that is has this structure, but it's applied to a game that is not 80 hours long. It's probably about 8 hours - I'm guessing even less if you only stick to the main storyline. I think I'm 90% done with the story in 4 hours of gameplay?

    It's also surprisingly earnest and serious - the characters are modelled in a realistic fashion (not cartoony) and it the issues are...well, real? I mean, maybe its closer to the antz movie than bug's life...but it's not a cartoon in the over-the-top sense. Like, I really am collecting pollen (by flying over flowers, which is not realistic) and learning about different flowers and...who the bees don't get along with (wasps, hornets), and how important it is to have enough pollen for the winter...and, stuff like that.

    So far, pleasant surprise!

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    Photographs (PC)    by   jp       (Oct 17th, 2020 at 19:08:55)

    Whoops. I should have started this gamelog a while back. However, I have played recently - so I guess that works.

    I really like the photography mechanic here - it's implemented in a way that feels authentic with nice detail on the focusing and the audio. The photography, however is not really the central activity - since most of the game is really about puzzle solving. So far I've played through 3 characters' stories (I had no idea how many there would be - to be fair I still don't know but interstitial messages suggest that there'll be 5 of them). The first was a sad touching story about a grandfather saving his granddaughter (at least that's what I recall at this moment). The puzzles here were sokoban-style - you have to get characters to an endpoint by making them go in a direction. The 2nd story was about a teenage girl on a school diving team and how she dopes to win, but then loses it all. This episode seemed a bit long for me - and the puzzles were of the "shoot cannon and make the projectile land in a spot, sometimes hitting a thing along the way". You could change the direction of the cannon and sometimes also moves items in the environment. I didn't really enjoy these puzzles - they seemed to trail-and-error-ry to me.

    The 3rd story, which I finished yesterday - was MUCH more interesting, here I felt that the puzzles were much more connected to the theme of the story. It's about an indigenous people who welcome settlers, but then the settlers take over, the indigenous people are starting and stuff (tragic stuff) happens. The puzzles here were tangrams - but once completed the area you placed them in would grow food and different characters would eat. In a few of them the "lines" (plow lines?) would not line up with the majority - and those tangram pieces had an indigenous character on them. When the food would grow - they wouldn't see any food grow on their piece and would go hungry that turn! Whoah! I thought that was really cool - and the same idea was also used later when doing a puzzle in a riverbed area (that's dry - they went hungry again).

    I recall being interested in this game due to the picture taking mechanic (there aren't that many games with it - though the WWI game (11-11?) is a recent example I remember), but I'm surprised there's more to the game than that. I'm curious what the last two stories will be about. So far there doesn't seem to be any common thread tying them all together...

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    Before I Forget (PC)    by   jp       (Oct 15th, 2020 at 21:17:30)

    This one's unusual. I cited this game in a paper based on description from an interview (or something published, I don't recall off the top of my head). But, I never actually played the game.

    So, now I have!

    It's nice and short and the subject matter definitely puts it in the "this is not supposed to be fun" category.

    I was confused for a bit because I wasn't sure what to do - you're given an impossible objective (find someone) and then the game doesn't let you complete that (which is fine) but it kind of stalls out if you don't start exploring...basically finding objects and interacting with them. At that point color returns to the area where that object was - and you start to learn about the character you're controlling.

    She's got alzheimer's, is easily confused, and doesn't really know what's going on.

    You piece this together by observing the environment - noticing the dates, and so on.

    I enjoyed the experience and there are some nice "interludes" - flashbacks of a sort, and the whole experience is tinged with a lot of sadness as you realize that the protagonist is unaware of her situation - and her "rememembering" is there mostly for the player's benefit, or perhaps they represent "flashes" of memory? They're mostly rooted in the past - years ago...and then there is the obvious twist. The person you're looking is no longer around. You learn what happened to them and when of course.

    It's an unusual game experience, to be sure. My overall emotion was sadness...not just because of the protagonists situation, but also because of the sense that her life didn't "end well" - her marriage was struggling towards the end and...well, she doesn't really have much left except mementos from the past... Her life seems, meaningless in some sense? (despite being an accomplished and important scientist - you get the feeling that her professional career also feel of a cliff in the end)

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    Lego Battles (DS)    by   jp       (Oct 6th, 2020 at 19:38:16)

    It's an RTS on the DS! And it's Lego! It's been quite easy so far - but I've only played two levels to be honest. I'm not sure the interface will be able to handle what I expect is the forthcoming craziness of tons of units and stuff happening at the same time. We'll see.

    One of the neat things is that, AFAIK, this is a Travellers Tales game - so, the same company that made all the other Lego themed games (Lego harry potter, star wars, etc.). While this game doesn't have another IP slapped on it, they've kept some design elements! So, I was surprised to see that there are red bricks (dunno if you find or just buy them), there are also minikits, and so on. You can unlock new characters (not sure for what, though you do have a hero unit that has special powers - perhaps this will come into play later?)

    Anyways, it's been fun to see some of that design language (not sure if it's a design language) move across titles and genres...

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    Random

    Knights of the Old Republic (XBX)    by   BadWolf

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Sunday 13 January, 2008
    GAMEPLAY
    This time I played for something like 45 minutes. It was a more frustrating experience than the first. I spent most of the time walking... and walking... and walking... I was still a little lost for a while, and the setting was starting to all look the same. In short, the novelty had worn off. I just wanted to get to more plot, but mostly I found bits and pieces. Then too, I began to hear the same bits of dialogue from multiple characters. Most of them have the same things to say about the Sith.

    Also, it was getting a bit harder. Eventually I got into another area... and immediately got killed. I could probably have avoided it, but by that time I was kind of frustrated, so I quit for the day. This time I was playing alone, and it was kind of a different experience. I mean, there were fewer distractions, but I found myself taking it too seriously.

    On the plus side, one of the major characters is shaping up into quite the interesting fellow. He has a troubled past, and it was interesting talking with him and trying to get him to tell. I also flirted with him. I'm playing a female character, and I wonder if he would flirt with a male...


    DESIGN
    My impression is that especially when this came out, it was rare to find a game where one could be a villain, especially one with as many options as this one. Even this early in the game, the number of possible choices is staggering - in every significant dialogue there tend to be about three options. Sometimes it's good, evil, and somewhere in between, others it's confrontational, submissive, and noncommittal/diplomatic. It must have been a huge task to write and record all the material for this game, though I don't know how long it is. Even so, there's a high degree of repetition.

    This game suffers from the same problem as most of its genre - a large percentage of play time is downtime, getting from point A to point B or figuring out what to do next. Also certain areas look mostly the same as each other, such as the various corridors on the ship in the beginning, or the two Upper City sections. There are a certain number of interesting decorations and such, but few small objects, and the same textures appear on most buildings, though I do like the curvy architecture.

    An interesting thing this game does is that it raises issues around trust. You don't know much about your character or your companion, and he frequently points this out. A lot of the characters you interact with are not entirely on the up and up. The setting contributes to the tone as well - it's a technologically advanced city that's clean on the surface, but under enemy control. Rumors of dangerous gangs and rebels below abound, and the visitors are restless about the blockade that keeps them there.

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