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    Star Wars The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance (DS)    by   jp       (Sep 8th, 2021 at 02:24:47)


    I played the first two missions and...hmmm... part of me was really impressed, but the other half of me was slightly disappointed. Now, this might be a bit unfair - I had no idea what this game was about, how it worked, and so on. So, it was all upside in that sense. And, I found there was a lot to be impressed by in this game even as I was confused at times because it seemed like there was so much.

    Before you even start you have to choose a pair of Jedi. You'll control one, while the other is an AI-controlled partner. The game is controlled (entirely?) via the stylus and has a really neat fully-voiced tutorial/explanation for each of the important things you need to know about. This includes jumping, moving, combat, secret areas, using the force, etc. And it turns out the game has quite a few different gameplay systems....

    (a) Navigation is the 1st, and most obvious. It's entirely stylus driven and, nicely, you don't need to worry about speed - just getting to places. The camera is really interesting - it moves around (panning, zooming, etc.) in what I would describe as a cinematic way. It really makes the low-fi (for today's standard) environments seem more interesting. I was surprised that I didn't resent the lack of camera control though I did not feel that connected to the character (through the movement).

    (b) Combat - Your characters have both a health and a shield(?) bar that depletes as/when you take damage. Attacking opponents is as easy as tapping on them, but you can tap three locations (high, mid, low) and also execute different combos to stagger/stun enemies. ALSO, when you kill an opponent you can combo over to another one for more bonuses and stuff. For such a simple control scheme I was surprised at how much there was going on in the combat system. I think my favorite part though was that to engage in combat you simply tap on an enemy and, like in the movies (and the show?), your jedi simply leaps over there and starts fighting! The leaping part was the cool thing. Also, blaster reflection happens automatically if you're not fighting, which is a nice touch. You really do feel that these are jedi masters you're controlling rather than bumbling noobs.

    (c) Quick-time stylus sliding events - The game really plays up that these are jedi. Super athletic, fast, great reflexes, wild acrobatics, etc. So, these aspects are "recreated" via slide-the-stylus in a certain direction quick time events. I did get frustrated with problems related to its recognition of the stylus moves...but overall I think it was a neat system that was implemented well in the context of the game's fiction and so on.

    (d) Jumping - this one's strange. When you get close to an area you can jump to, an animated circle appears, you tap on it, and your jedi automatically jumps there. I felt it contributed to not feeling all that connected to the character since you're sort of one step removed from the action. Kind of like a point and click adventure game rather than the direct control you see in many other games. However, it's an interesting choice because they're trying to simplify things given that you're using the stylus - so the indirect control mitigates some issues? It does also give the game a slightly slowed pace/feel, and from what I played there's never really the need to urgently move around (except during quick time events) so, it makes sense?

    (e) Inter-Jedi relation(?) - There's a bar in front of each Jedi when you select them, and I noticed that one of the Jedi's bars grew by one (now two bars) after I completed the first mission. I assume this has to do with the relation between both Jedi? There's some sort of experience/upgrade system and I did find some "secret" things that I have no idea of their purpose...but perhaps that's connected? I imagine you can both improve the jedi's stats and perhaps also their attributes?

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    Blood & Truth (PS4)    by   jp       (Sep 8th, 2021 at 01:13:40)

    Ok, so everything I had left to play (all the way to the end of the game) was fun, wild, bombastic, and over the top in a good way. It was pretty neat - mostly like a great lightgun game!

    However, and this is a really, really big however, I came SO CLOSE to bailing on the game entirely. There's something really wonky about the controls and - despite trying to figure stuff out from the menus, re-calibrating, etc. I got stuck in a situation where I could not let go of an assault rifle. This was convenient in that I was able to keep it from area/level to area/level but it was really inconvenient when I needed to use my free hand for anything. The controls would alternate between holding the pistol or double-holding the assault rifle. I was not able to find a way to have that hand free other than wildly toggling back and forth and hoping it would "glitch" into the correct state. So, I spent 20 minutes crawling along a vent (one-handed) that should have taken 30 seconds. This does not include time spent reading stuff online trying to see if I was missing some "obvious" button I needed to press to put the assault rifle away (and then be able to pick it up again). In the end all I learned is that the move controls were glitchy and people complained about the big weapon holsters. Nothing about the standard control I was using. Later on I ran into another similar problem - fortunately "resolved" much faster, but it was close.

    Narratively? Interesting stuff, lots of loose ends and its definitely set up for a sequel. I'm not sure they're working on one though. So, you get your revenge - but there's no real info/progress on the "real powers" behind everything.

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    Championship Pony (DS)    by   jp       (Sep 7th, 2021 at 17:28:39)

    Another example of "went in blind" and...uh...I'm not entirely sure where to start. The obvious is that I'm not the intended audience, but still - I was curious to know what this game's gameplay is about. Theme notwithstanding - what do you actually do in the game?

    So, the game is part "pet sim" but mostly it's an "action" game? This sounds really weird. It's not super adrenaline reflexes based action, but you basically have to control a horse (riding) in real time on a track (follow the trail accurately) or in an obstacle course (follow the guides for where to go next, and jump at the right moment). The 3rd mini-game (that I played, perhaps there are more later on?) is basically a pattern matching game where you see a symbol on the top screen and then need to tap on its equivalent in the bottom screen as quickly as possible. This one is dressage - where horses to fancy tricks like walk sideways and such. I don't really know much about horses and riding and all that to be fair.

    So, the game is basically a "horse riding" sim where you participate in events to earn money, which lets you buy better/faster horses so you can continue participating. There might be more to it than just this - but that's at least as far as I got (played in 3 tournaments, each with 3 events corresponding to the mini-games I described earlier). You can also groom your horse so that it's loyalty increases (more hearts!). I'm not entirely sure how this plays out in the game - I only played with two horses (starter + faster one purchased later) and... I'm not sure how your horse's performance changes? Maybe it doesn't? Speed definitely makes a difference - as I saw from getting a faster horse and then really getting a lead on my opponents (whom you never see - only names on a leaderboard).

    Other than that you can spend money on accessories for the horse and different colored saddles and tack. As far as I can tell none of these have an impact on gameplay (there's no +1 speed saddle, which makes sense). For a hot minute I thought this might have been a driving game! ("drive a horse" and then upgrade it). But all you really seem to do is buy new horses - which feels a bit sad to me - like I got rid of slow-poke 'cause it's slow!

    The game is also entirely stylus-driven, which awkwardly includes the jumping that I was never able to get to work right (you're supposed to double tap). That is, until I discovered you could also press the right trigger (R1) and have the horse jump. THEN, it works fine. Sigh.

    As I was playing I realized that - wow, there might not be another generation of games designed around the use of a stylus (rather than finger) and I thought that was a bit sad. Game devs had to get up to speed on stylus-for-input only for that to be mostly gone by the time the 3DS rolled away...perhaps by that point most people had given up? Obviously the finger replaced the stylus, but the experience is quite different!

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    Blood & Truth (PS4)    by   jp       (Aug 30th, 2021 at 23:06:45)

    I've just finished the "shoot out in the tower that was going to get demolished" mission trying to save "me mum". The mission right before that was mostly looking at things so it was a nice break...and I had to stop playing because I was getting too sweaty.

    The controls are still really wonky at times (using controller not move controllers) but, for the most part they do the trick. What I'm starting to get annoyed by is the main character - I really don't like him as he's a bit of a... twat?...a silent protagonist might have been better for me rather than an annoying gangster/soldier type.

    The story is getting a bit more interesting - especially since it's being presented out of chronological order. I'm being interrogated by a CIA agent - and then play missions he's asked about (so, tell me what happened at X), but NOW we're going to be working together! Something about a rival gangster who seems suddenly too well funded and organized as well as revenge for killing my dad and (as of the last mission), my mum as well!

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    Steel Horizon (DS)    by   jp       (Aug 30th, 2021 at 23:02:15)

    I've gone into this game completely blind having no real idea what it's about other than WWII. I was a bit worried that it might be a hex 'n chit style wargame that would be interesting on paper but unplayable in practice (the interface being the biggest issue followed by a convoluted and lengthy system of rules). I was not set at ease by the fact that there are 6 separate tutorials - 3 strategic and 3 tactical you need to do before I think it makes any sense to even get started. Maybe. I think I did 4 of them and then decided to do the first mission.

    I got impatient because, from the tutorials, I was getting the sense that this game might be like Advance Wars (bases to build troops, healing/repairs, turn-based) but with a bit more depth (groups of units together get bonuses depending on which units are in the group). far I haven't had much luck (only played 2 missions) because I haven't run into the unit creating part that I enjoy...the first two missions still feel a little like tutorials (though I did lose one) so we'll see?

    The back of the box says there are 20 missions so...perhaps the latter ones get really long and involved?

    Oh - the game is a WWII pacific fleet game with subs, and destroyers and all that stuff. I think it's neat that you can (should?!) create different fleets with different ship types and so on...but strangely the battles are in real-time! I'm not sure how to play these well other than paying attention and triggering a special attack when it comes online, but other than that I just watch things play out? So, there's a rock-paper-scissors style relationship between certain ships. I've also just noticed the game has a manual - perhaps I'll read it to refresh stuff from the tutorial...there are lots of different ship types and I'm not sure I'll be able to keep them all straight..

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    ブルードラゴン Blue Dragon (360)    by   vinitagarwal

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Friday 9 February, 2007
    So I got a chance to get into the battle-system a bit more. It's interesting because at first the characters fight, but soon afterwards, they run into an encounter with Nene, who is presumably the grand master behind the Jisame, and end up being forced to swallow blue crystals which cause them to acquire avatars in the form of a cow, dragon, and horse. From then on, the characters fight using their avatars, who in turn have shadows.

    Reintroduce the job system in the form of shadows, that's interesting. The shadow system essentially gives the character a different set of skills depending on which shadow they use. For example, one of the characters Shuu, could use the "white" shadow. This will allow him to use a variety of white magic skills and will also affect his stats to bias it towards magic defense
    and away from attack power, etc. As he levels up that shadow skill, he will slowly permanently acquire some of the white magic skills into his pool of skills that he can equip when he's using a different shadow.

    One gripe I have with the shadow system is that it's not explained at all. Why there are different shadows and why new ones are acquired are, as of yet, simply things that happen. Unlike in Final Fantasy V, where the characters acquire the souls of ancient warriors, here, the shadows just exist. I hope this is explained later, because otherwise it's somewhat silly.

    I've been reading online and a lot of people highly criticize the "primitive" turn based battle system. What's said is that with game like Final Fantasy XII progressing towards a more real-time system, Blue Dragon looks in comparison very "old-school". Personally, I think this is completely a design choice and that Mistwalker had it completely in their hands to design a game that wasn't turn based. While one was certainly introduced later, it doesn't mean that it is necessarily a better system than the turn-based system, but rather an alternative. Both produce entirely different effects and some like one more than the other. It's hard to argue that either is the best.

    I will say though that the turn-based system in this game is particularly drab, and I still can't figure out why. It might be the music, or it could be the slow speed the attack animations go at. It'll take me more time before I really figure out why, but I can't say I'm always the most excited to enter a battle. Though simultaneously, the player's never forced to enter a battle because all
    enemies are present on the screen, and it's up to the player whether or not they want to engage them in a battle.

    This certainly brings up very unique game design elements in Blue Dragon. There are times where you can group several enemies together and have what's called a "Monster's Fight" which allows the player to, if having chosen the enemies grouped together right, let the monsters fight amongst themselves. I find this system particularly genius, and it allows players to manipulate their enemies on the world map.

    I still have a lot to see in this game and I really hope the story picks up because the game is horribly cliche right now and I can't help but think that it could remain that way for the rest of the game.

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