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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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    James Patterson Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion (DS)    by   jp       (Oct 5th, 2020 at 12:21:56)

    Finished it! And, I enjoyed it - the gameplay was relaxing and chill despite the terrible hit detection for finding objects.

    Once I finished it I looked into a cool little side-activity. The back of the box calls it "Create your own mystery", which I was very intrigued by. It's not quite what I had imagined, but a fun diversion nonetheless. It's basically a mad-libs style mystery. So, there's a pre-written mystery you can experience but before you do that the game asks you to take pictures of specific things like "man" or "container" or "item of clothing" - these are then integrated (as in, shown on a scree) as a detective tells you about the mystery. So, the "suspect" might be the "man" you took a picture of who was covering his face with the "item of clothing" and so on. I think it was like 10 pictures or so, and they're used a few times. Fun little activity - and I like how it used the DS cameras - not that many games allowed for/made use of that potential, so kudos!

    In all, a positive and surprising activity - reinforces my notion that we can learn from all kinds of games even when we're not the target audience.

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    Dead Space 2 (PS3)    by   fanwar3

    Dead Space 2 was one of the amazing apocalyptic games I have ever played. I have beaten six chapters of the game and have nine more to go. I have first played the original Dead Space on my iPad. It was great and I got used to using the plasma cutter to take apart necromorphs. And, I used the plasma cutter to shoot necromorphs from a distance. Then, I tried out the Ray gun, which was more advanced than the original plasma gun. Whenever I killed a necromorph, I got to have extra ammunition for my weapons. My health would regenerate in the original game, but not in Dead Space 2. In Dead Space 2, I had to pick up medical packs in compartments or dead corpses and necromorphs to heal myself. I had most of the same experiences while playing Dead Space 2 on PS3, but my health would not regenarte itself and I never was able to saw off necromorphs. I played as Isaac Clarke in the second Dead Space, but played as a girly Vandal in the mobile version of Dead Space. This is where Dead Space 2 comes in. As Isaac, I pick up the plasma cutter, wear an engineering suit, and fight of hoards of necromorphs that are out to kill me. The goal of this game is to find and obliterate the religious idol (the Marker) causing all of the apocalypse, but the story makes the game great as Isaac is fighting his internal war. He is totally ruined by the events in the Dead Space games. He saw hallucinations during his time on the spaceship USG Ishimuara, but it is the fact that his girlfriend died on the vessel after he wanted her to work there. I have a lot of exciting parts in Dead Space 2. Isaac's struggle with his combat strategies is more satisfying than it was in the orignal Dead Space (on Xbox 360 and PS3). He is light and fast on his feet. I can stomp crates swiftly and melee attack necromorphs, grabbing things with telekinesis is very responsive, and mixing all of this with different weapons is a blast. I can also stomp on dead bodies to get medical packs or ammunition for my weapons. Slowing down a necromorph, shooting off its arm, and using the limb to take down a foe on the wall is so beautiful it never gets old. The environments are very attractive in Dead Space 2. I run down the halls and corridors from Point A to Point B and necromorphs pop out for me to kill. There are environments that range from cheery schoolhouses to pitch black rooms. I like how the game throws childish themes and combines it with the dark theme of necromorphs. Once these themes are combined, I hear childish sounds while killing off the children-looking necromorphs, In one part of the game, I heard toys making sounds and then I saw a bunch of baby-looking necromorphs running at me in hoards. I felt like I was going to die and I will never finish off that hoard. But I did, with sophisticated weaponry and tactics. This hoard came on the airport with children stores and at the schoolhouse gymnasium. While I was running through the schoolhouse, I saw a variety of child-like colors and heard some nursery rhymes. There was another religious theme that took place in the church. The main religion was Unitology, a religion in which many believe that the human race was created by the intelligent design of a divine alien agency and will be reunified after death in Heaven through a power known as the Marker. The Church of Unitology looked fantastic and there were some scare moments there. The goal is to be against that religion. There were some really hard moments in Dead Space 2. One of them took place in the laundry room. In that place, I had to pick up extra ammunition and health behind those laundry machines and make sure I have enough health to survive the hoard of necromorphs coming at me. If I didn't, I would not finish the hoard and I would die, having to restart the checkpoint again. When I went close to the door, the lights went out in the room. I had to turn my TV's brightness all the way up to see what was going on. I heard the sound of necromorphs coming at me and it was very difficult to kill all of them. One of the hardest necromorphs to kill was the one that looked like a medium-sized human being and was able to vomit out infectious chemicals, which led to my demise in the room. I had put him in stasis so I can effectively kill him. Then there were skinny necromorphs that were running very fast and I could not stand them. Necromorphs were coming at me from different angles, and I had to stand near the back door. They were very hard to kill, since I was already running out of stasis and my health was about to run real low. It took me about six tries to kill all the necromorphs in the room and the door in the back was “unlocked.” I was happy when it said that but there were like three more necromorphs coming at me. It was a very difficult moment and I was glad to walk out of that room. Another really hard moment took place in the warehouse. This was the part where the raptors hiding stealthily for one moment and then coming out one by one at really high speeds. This reminded me of the scene from Jurassic Park when the kids were hiding in the counters in the kitchen when the dinosaurs started to attack the kitchen. The raptors were really hard to kill, as I was already running out of stasis and ammunition. So I had another way to kill them while saving ammunition and stasis; I had to pick up one of the fallen poles using telekinesis and launch them at the raptors. This was a successful tactic and I was able to walk out the warehouse. If you want a really well-defined apocalyptic game, then check out Dead Space 2. It is really fun.

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