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    A Hat in Time (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Nov 11th, 2019 at 19:21:08)

    Wow, this was a surprise hit. 3D platformers generally aren't my thing, but I adore A Hat in Time. This is the best of this genre I've played since the two Super Mario Galaxy games. The game has very positive reviews, but I still had it pegged as "too kiddie" or "meh 3D platformer not as good as Super Mario Galaxy so who cares." Neither of these is true! It might have a cartoony art style, but it's function is more cuteness and humor.

    This gist of the story is as follows: You, Hat Kid, are flying home in your spaceship when you have an accident and all of your time pieces (like fuel) fall to the surface of the planet below, scattering to the different places there. You need to go recover you time pieces so you can get home. Not easy! There's another kid, Mustache Girl, who wants to get rid of all the bad guys. When you don't immediately help her, she vows to crush you. You proceed to go world by world collecting your time pieces, leading toward a final confrontation.

    The worlds are really creative! The first one is Mafia world, which is populated entirely by big, stupid mafia men. They like to punch things and keep it simple. Sets the tone for the game. The next world is Dead Bird Studio, where two birds (a wild-west owl and a disco penguin) compete to make the best movie and win a film award. Naturally, you star in both of their films and uncover a sinister plot while doing so. Then, probably my favorite, was the graveyard level because of the boss. You sign your soul away to this Oogie Boogie type character, who makes you do tasks for you and eventually tricks you! He was definitely my favorite character. The fourth world was a strange one. In every other world, there are "acts" that you complete in order, but in the fourth world, Alpine something something, you get to free roam. There are a handful of time pieces, but you explore the world without much structure to find them all. I appreciated this change of pace, but the conclusion was unsatisfying. The characters in the world didn't have as much personality as previous worlds, which made the exploration less exciting. The final world is...well, you'll have to play to see that one.

    The main mechanic of the game involves equipping different hats with different abilities. The basic hat points you toward your objective. There's one that lets you sprint, another that lets you toss bombs, another that lets you see previously invisible platforms, and so on. Then you pin "badges" onto your hats, which give you still more abilities, such as the ability to shoot a grappling hook. That one is absolutely necessary, while others are optional. Some of the hats are like this too. There's a final hat that I never crafted that (probably) lets you stop or rewind time. There are also other (useless?) badges you can buy. You can switch between hats on the fly and easily equip different badges to suit the situation.

    My one gripe with the game is, as with most 3D platformers, the platforming. That has to be tight! The controls here were definitely good, just not great. Hat Girl especially has this annoying habit of hopping when you land from a jump, which makes it unnecessarily tricky to jump multiple times in succession. This made avoiding moving obstacles difficult at times. I was able to abuse her getting stuck on walls to get higher, and then other times it's difficult to judge distance for jumping. Platforming could be mildly frustrating.

    Anyway, I'm definitely surprised by how excellent the game is. If you like 3D platformers at all, you need to play it. It's a relatively short one (took me ~12 hours), and you could easily sink some more in to collect every time piece. I finished with 26/40, which is the minimum required!



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    Life Is Strange: Before The Storm (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 11th, 2019 at 19:14:28)

    I played this over a few sessions (3, I think?) not too long after having played Life is Strange. It's definitely an interesting prequel - Max, the protagonist of the first game is nowhere to be found, with everything centering on Chloe Price (Max's best friend) and Rachel Amber (the girl who went missing in the first game).

    If you played the first game, you obviously know what lies in the future for both characters - but it's interesting to see how you can shape things in a way that can be interesting to you. So, I really enjoyed that part of the game.

    The original game (LiS) had a special time-rewinding mechanic that Max could use to change things around and so on. It was pretty central (thematically, narratively, and mechanically) to the game so I was curious if it would appear here (it would make no sense narratively...unless the team sort of bent over backwards to explain why it might work). Fortunately, they didn't include that mechanic but clearly there was a need to have SOMETHING special. I think it's mostly a differentiator from the Telltale Games? At this point, both were not interested in the puzzle aspects common and Telltale has QTEs. LiS doesn't really (hedging my thoughts here just in case there are a few and I'm forgetting).

    So, LiS: Before the Storm has a "argue" mechanic reminiscent of the old swordplay/wordplay from Monkey Island. A character says something and then you have to find the right/best response such that you make progress towards a central icon - at which point you've "won" the argument. Winning here is more like "you've manipulated the social situation to get what you/Chloe wants" (e.g. got someone to let you in to the club, pissed someone off, etc.). Those moments - there aren't too many of them - were perhaps the most enjoyable part of the experience for me. Keep in mind that I'm a middle-aged man playing a game about two high-school girls and their issues/angst/etc.... so, I'm not the target demographic at least in terms of relating to some of the issues the characters go through...

    I also enjoyed the "trophy mechanic" - in LiS Max had to find special moments/things to photograph (to unlock that trophy) and it was fun to try to guess/identify where those moments/places were. Some were obviously harder than others. In this game, Chloe likes to write/graffiti/tag things - so basically the same idea - you have a clue in each episode that helps you try to find/figure out/setup a moment for her to tag something (and thus unlocking the corresponding trophy). I appreciated the consistency with the first game and the minor twist on the theme. It makes sense with the story (Chloe the rebellious kid with art skills vs Max the amateur photography lover).

    I've been thinking of the overall tone of the series - and I'm not sure it meets the formal checklist for "tragedy", but I definitely think of that when I reflect on my experience with the game. Also, I've been thinking of how many other games do this (or have this sort of an experience)...and there aren't many, which I think is kind of interesting in and of itself. It makes me wonder what next?

    Oh, as a final note - the bonus episode is also fun (and nice and short) and perhaps even sadder even if it's not sad per se. It's just sad in the context of everything you know will come for both characters - you play Max at Chloe's house before Life is Strange: Before the Storm takes place...so it's a pre-prequel of sorts. (it's their last day together as pre-teens before Max leaves for Oregon, she returns from Oregon for Life is Strange and Chloe is angry that she never wrote/they lost touch with each other).

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    What Remains of Edith Finch (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Nov 11th, 2019 at 08:50:32)

    If I could insert a little emoji with hearts for eyes here, I would. What Remains of Edith Finch is a fascinating exploration of a family's history, misfortunes, and quirky (possibly cursed) house. You play as the titular Edith Finch, who has returned to her family's home to do some combination of uncovering truths and getting some closure. All of her family is dead and/or gone. Most of them died tragically. You'll explore the house, finding secret passageways, poking around dead peoples' preserved bedrooms, and reading very sad, shocking, and surreal diary entries, letters, and other "remains." You'll also wonder how one family can have the same copy of so many of the same books in their house, especially cookbooks (my favorite: A Viking's Belly).

    I played this with my girlfriend (the first game we've ever completed together?!). She likes story-driven games and classic JRPGs, so I've set some aside to play together, or to at least play in her company. I've been playing Earthbound on and off at her house for half a year, and just wishlisted Chrono Trigger. I never owned an SNES as a kid, OKAY?! This was better than the last game I tried to play with her, Pony Island, which had way more puzzles and demanded more precision than I remembered. She thought the story was neat at least. Anyway, we were both enthralled by the vignettes in the Finch home, understanding the family tree, and piecing together what happened to each of the characters! The family tree is difficult to wrap your head around at first and it took us half the game to get a good grasp of who was married to who, of what the "leaves" were, and so on. Paying attention to who Edith is talking about when she calls someone "grandpa," for example, will really help.

    Some of the vignettes were really creative, such as the "Tales from the Crypt" comic inspired home invasion murder of Barbara. Others let you play with toys (the bathtub scene, the kite scene). These vignettes often begin innocently enough, then take a dark turn. Eventually, as you realize what is about to happen, they can become very distressing. My favorite vignettes in order were:

    - (King) Lewis. Good lord, the twist on this one...
    - Molly. This is the first you encounter, and although the controls for the cat were a pain, the monster totally makes up for it. Very surreal.
    - Gregory. Bath time. Play with a toy frog.
    - Calvin. The dread from knowing what's going to happen here was awful. And who hasn't wanted to swing all the way around?! Very relatable death.

    I didn't dislike any vignettes, though Gus's (punk rock 13-year-old) was silly and a little confusing. The game did leave me with questions:

    1. Is the Finch house really cursed? Or is the family cursed? If either is true, then WHY is it cursed? This will require some deep thought about the story and characters...
    2. Where is Milton?! I think he died crawling through secret passageways in the house...
    3. Can we visit Edie in the old folks' home? Is she still alive there?
    4. Assuming Edie and Milton are dead, then Kay is the only person alive (maybe). What happened to her after the divorce?
    5. Did Edith's kid make the same journey through the house as she did, reading her diary along the way?

    I would LOVE another game just like this. Also, I need to acquire a PS4 and play The Unfinished Swan, these devs' first game.

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    Musynx (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 5th, 2019 at 18:46:52)

    You know you're in trouble when you're surprised by the level of challenge in an easy low-level starter song. It took me 2 songs to get the hand of it, such that I could pass harder songs...but I also realized in two songs that I was not the target player for this game.

    It's a pretty bare-bones rhythm game that has a bunch of features and options for advanced players. I don't know if it has more than the games the advanced players follow, but definitely more than I knew what to do with. Features you would care about if you noticed there were delays with your tv? I don't know. I played a bunch of songs I enjoyed, realized that pretty much all the other songs were j-pop (that I don't particularly care for) and decided that I'd seen enough to know what the game was about and to leave it at that.

    I did think the interface was unusual. The default setting was left, up, triangle and circle for each lane respectively. It reminded me of playing DDR on the playstation, but I think that worked better in terms of letting you figure out how to handle two arrows at once. Here my hands just got into knots. Also, it didn't help that the symbols flying at you aren't representative of what you press on the controller. It took me too long to wrap my head around what lane required which button press...

    But, oh well!

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    EVE Valkyrie (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 5th, 2019 at 18:31:23)

    The first time I played this game was at GDC and I was blown away. Finally, a game that allowed me to "experience" the "experience" of being a space fighter pilot (as in, an X-Wing pilot). I was really looking forward to playing the game when it came out and...I was so disappointed.

    I got off on a wrong foot when I had trouble navigating the UI and understanding the basics of the game - I felt that I was thrown into the deep side of a pool with no idea of what to do, what to select, where to go. It seemed like all the missions involved playing with/against other people online, I had no idea why I would/should pick one ship over another and so on. I guess I was hoping/expecting a campaign style game with a fun narrative and interesting and exciting missions. What I ended up playing was "ok". It didn't really activate my imagination with the thrill and awe I experience that first time I played the game.

    Maybe I played a pre-release demo that was different and heavily curated? Maybe I was never able to find the "campaign missions"? I'm not sure to be honest, I think I was mostly confused. I played enough to try out some missions, but I always felt unsure of how to play the game well. How to tell that I was getting better? Or, how to tell that I was doing things poorly.

    So, on the shelf.

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    Recent GameLogs
    1 : jp's Life Is Strange: Before The Storm (PS4)
    2 : jp's SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals (PS3)
    3 : dkirschner's What Remains of Edith Finch (PC)
    4 : jp's Musynx (PS4)
    5 : jp's Driveclub VR (PS4)
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    1 : dkirschner at 2019-10-15 06:47:26
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