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    Nex Machina (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jun 17th, 2021 at 07:33:51)

    Intense twin-stick shooter/bullet hell game that is very polished. Its arcade mode on normal difficulty clocks in at around an hour, though I spent over twice as long because I exited once without knowing you couldn't save and then it crashed on me. Then I tried the first world on the two next hardest difficulties. So I basically played the first world...5 times, the second and third world twice, and the fourth and fifth once.

    On each "level" of each world, which take like 30 seconds to a couple minutes, you progress by killing all the spawning enemies. There are several humans to save and various secrets and optional objectives that add even more challenge to an already challenging game. The normal difficulty wasn't too bad, and I could save almost all humans and find some secrets, but it ramps up on the other difficulties!

    Enemies begin simply walking toward you, but by the end of the game they are firing bullets and lasers everywhere and doing leaping and burrowing attacks. Boss battles are fun and chaotic. One is like a mecha-Donkey Kong, which was funny. I have no idea what the game is about. You're killing bad machines I guess? At the end you pull a plug or something? Doesn't matter! Kill kill kill.

    Yeah, that's about it! I played this on Xbox Game Pass and would pick it up on Steam to own permanently for a couple bucks. Worth playing, but nothing you haven't seen in a twin-stick shooter before.

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    The Medium (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jun 16th, 2021 at 09:25:51)

    Bloober Team is kicking ass. I played Observer a couple months ago, which was fantastic. The Medium is at least as good. It's another story-focused game, straight up psychological horror this time. Observer had some psychological horror to it, but the dystopian cyberpunk setting was so strong that it overshadowed the horror. Honestly, the horror elements in Observer--primarily avoiding a monster--were the most drab parts of the game. And Layers of Fear, their first game I played, was not good. So The Medium is the first time they nailed the genre.

    The story is a complex narrative puzzle that you are fed out of order. You'll be confused as it unwinds, but you should stop to think about it. Piecing it together is thought-provoking and all falls into place by the end. Here are the basics: You primarily play as Marianne. Marianne is mourning the loss of her adoptive father when she gets an urgent phone call begging her to come to an abandoned workers' retreat, as "you are the only one who can help." Marianne is a medium, which means she exists both in the physical world and in the spirit world. She goes to the workers' retreat, which has suffered tragedy and ruin, and over the course of the game, she learns the dark truth of what happened there. Spoiler: It involves Marianne's past.

    The gameplay is a novel take on psychological horror games. You play from a third-person perspective with fixed camera angles (which are done well, very few issues with doors or movement!). You are generally exploring areas, reading notes, listening to "echoes" and "memories," and solving puzzles. The neat bit is that, as I said, Marianne exists in the physical and spiritual worlds, and so at times, the screen splits and "both" Mariannes are controlled together. Their movements are exactly the same. Sometimes you can interact with things only in one of the worlds; they need each other to solve puzzles. Sometimes, physical world Marianne's way will be blocked and you have to trigger an "out of body experience," which allows you to briefly cross obstacles with spirit world Marianne. In more elaborate puzzles, you use mirrors to cross between worlds at will. Characters and objects may exist in only one world, and it is cool to see both Mariannes doing the same actions, but only one of them actually interacting in the presence of the character or object.

    If I had to take an issue with the game, it would be that it's totally linear. The game's progression is, I mean. The story is not, but the gameplay is. Couple its linearity with the lack of challenge in the puzzles and one could understand how players could find the game boring. However, I found the story, characters, and settings so strong that I didn't feel bored in the slightest. The Medium is really well paced. Although there is no combat per se (no weapons), there are a few enemies. And beyond the simple "avoid bad thing" in Observer and Layers of Fear, you do actually "fight" the enemies here and you can (and will) actually die. They are also scarier and more omnipresent.

    Taking a page from Observer, the enemies are all manifestations of psychological suffering and trauma. In that game, the protagonist hacked into the brain-chips of murder victims and explored their memories/consciousnesses and saw their lost grips on reality. In this game, you do a similar sort of thing, exploring past traumas and facing characters' demons. Since the worlds are linked, doing something in one world affects characters in the other. It's really interesting, similar to and different from how Bloober Team did it in Observer.

    So yeah, I'd definitely recommend this. I've got The Evil Within 2 queued up soon, so I'll get some direct comparison in the genre.


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    Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jun 15th, 2021 at 12:44:23)

    Flew through this one. It ends the Dishonored series with the Outsider (apparently there is another coming with a new storyline). It's basically a watered down version of Dishonored 2, still fun, but less interesting than either of the other games. You play as Billie Lurk (aka, Meagan the boat driver), and I might have enjoyed her and Daud's story more if I'd played Knife of Dunwall.

    I'm not sure why this plays so much as watered down Dishonored 2. Maybe they rushed it? I understand this was meant to be DLC and then folded into a standalone expansion. Anyway, some things are missing from the main game. There's no Chaos system, which means that it doesn't matter how you go about your missions. Kill no one, kill everyone, doesn't matter. Instead of unlocking Void powers as you go, you get your only three almost right off the bat, and unfortunately they are not great. One is a movement power (though when I learned that if you teleport on top of an enemy then they explode, it is how I killed most enemies from then on, very satisfying). One is a mimic power where you can impersonate someone, which is useful for sneaking around I guess, but I always went guns blazing and only used it a couple times. The third is just an exploration power that lets you spirit around undetectable and tag enemies and objects. Useful I guess, but not fun or necessary.

    I preferred to go in guns blazing, getting all the enemies pissed off and chasing me, then just jumping around like mad and picking them off with sword techniques, by teleporting onto them and making them explode, and with my other favorite move, jumping up high and doing an air assassination. Beware fighting me in a room with stairs! I actually never used an offensive item (grenades, mines, etc.), save for a few bolts at the beginning of the game. I felt like a badass, but compared to other Dishonored main characters, I really wasn't.

    I did explore a fair amount, as you can go in houses and poke around stealing things. Though toward the end, it felt like none of that mattered in the way that it did in other games. I read a lot of books and letters and whatnot that were mildly interesting. I did some of the side missions, which you collect from a hub instead of find naturally in the world (mostly), but also stopped caring about them because again they didn't seem to matter. There are fewer upgrades and fewer incentives to do most anything except blast your way through. There weren't even good puzzles! The level design was fine, but I was really missing something like the Jindosh mansion. Cracking the bank vault was the closest thing, but it is a simple arithmetic puzzle (versus the Jindosh lock in Dishonored 2 that took me an hour!), and for some reason these people barely kept anything valuable in their lockboxes (and always a lore book, why?).

    In the end, I saw the series' ending, which was fine. That's my summary of the game. It's fine. As I read a reviewer say, "a bad Dishonored game is still a good game," and I agree with that. It was enjoyable, but unnecessary. The other games are so much better! Well, until Dishonored 3!

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    A Way Out (XBONE)    by   Sup3rCondor       (Jun 14th, 2021 at 10:07:43)

    I sat down with one of my friends and beat A Way Out in one sitting. Its not a long game as we beat it in just over 5 hours. The game is paced in a way that all 5 of those hours were well spent. The game goes quick and doesn't dwell on any location, or gameplay system for long.

    The game starts as a prison break adventure, and ends as an action heavy game. There are driving sequences, there are sports gameplay sequences. It's truly remarkable everything Hazelight was able to fit into this game. None of it is truly great on it's own but together it's amazing.

    The story is pretty good as well. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep players engaged on their journey.

    Surprising enough, the game also looks good. There are moments that the characters suffer from wax figure syndrome, but it's never too bad. Where the graphics really shine is in the game's environments. There is so much variety in the places players go and all of them look great.

    My last note, there is a sequence in the game that takes place in a hospital. It is the best co-op sequence ever and is more cinematic and exciting than any I have ever seen before it. It is definitely my favorite part of the game.

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    Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (DS)    by   jp       (Jun 13th, 2021 at 23:55:48)

    I don't understand the spelling on the name (hyphen?) BUT, this is an officially licensed product. I thought it was interesting that the game announced itself thusly in the begginning! So, it's listed as merchandise and Columbia Pictures is one of the publishers? At least their name is no the back of the box. I wonder if this was because of the weird licensing for Spiderman? Like, Columbia could do the movies and merchandising, so this game - which AFAIK is NOT based on any of the movies, was listed as merchandising so that it would fall within the licensing agreement because other companies had the rights to make videogames?

    According to the wikipedia page that I just checked - the game was de-listed from digital storefronts on New Year's Day 2014... so, definitely tied in to the movie-based license.

    The wikipedia page also notes that the game is (supposedly) "based on the styling of [the three first movies]" and that it "reinterprets big-screen moments and battles with a humorous twist". We'll see about that. I don't even remember the movies much at this point (Tobey Mcguire?) and it's even possible I didn't watch all three...so we'll see.

    The first level so far has been interesting though because:

    (a) There's two PCs! You can switch between Spidey and Black Cat(?) like you do between characters in the LEGO games. According to the back of the box it also has two-player co-op play, which is pretty neat (and not that common on the DS?)

    (b) The game uses both screens in an interesting way. Rather than having a single "picture" that's cut in half. The lower screen represents a view that makes sense with the upper screen but, in a slightly different perspective. They're connected - but it's like there's a slight camera shift when you move into the lower screen. It's hard to explain in words - but it looks interesting as you play even if it's still something I'm getting used to as I play.

    Gameplay so far is "meh" (it's a brawler, you collect tokens, etc.), but we'll see...

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    1 : dkirschner's Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PC)
    2 : dkirschner's Wreckfest (PC)
    3 : dkirschner's Nex Machina (PC)
    4 : Sup3rCondor's A Way Out (XBONE)
    5 : dkirschner's Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (PC)
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    1 : jp at 2021-04-08 11:25:29
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    Random

    River City Super Sports Challenge (DS)    by   jp

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Wednesday 9 June, 2021
    It's been a while since I've bounced so hard off a game. Apparently this is the first River City game with 3D graphics (instead of 2D sprites) and I think it also has a new control scheme. I would have called this game a "brawler" and I was expecting to move around punching and kicking oppoents to get to the next location and, while there's lots of punching and kicking...well, it's a slightly different experience. I must have done 10 tutorial levels or so - quite boring to be honest, they could have rolled all of that into two or three...and then I was told to win the next event (level). It's 4 character free-for-all where you get points for punching a treasure chest, but you can also lose/gain points by hitting someone who just punched a treasure chest. The brawl takes place in a small environment and...I just could not do anything. I'd kick and punch but still end up with 3 pts compared to the winner with 17 or 18. I tried different things just to see if I was off-base with my strategy to no effect. I think I'm obviously doing something wrong in the "I don't get it" sense - but still, I have no real interest in spending more time practicing, figuring it out, and making progress because...well, I've realized it's not a game I want to play. I was expecting a "move along in the environment" type brawler - but it looks like it's much more focused on sporting events and stuff like that.

    So, back on the shelf it goes!

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