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    Opus Magnum (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 11th, 2020 at 10:52:53)

    Ever since SpaceChem, which I loved, I have been afraid to try more Zachtronics games. They are so clever, yet require such mastery. I dabbled with the idea of trying Infinifactory and Shenzen I/O, but eventually decided they looked too hard. Then Opus Magnum came out. I immediately liked the interface, and it reminded me more of SpaceChem than the others. I had the experience I thought I would with it and am happy to have given it some time.

    In Opus Magnum, you play an alchemist. Finishing up your degree, you learn how to use a "transmutation engine," which lets you assemble and disassemble elements to create new alchemical products. Upon graduation, you are employed at one of the world's royal houses. You begin by making mundane items--skin creams, hangover cures (it's just water, ha), and glue--for the nobility. Then some intra-house conflict begins and the solid story moves forward. You begin producing things for the war effort, and, long story short, you eventually find yourself in hiding and plotting a coup. Somehow, this text-based story (with character portraits) was riveting, and it is neat how the alchemical puzzles fit right in.

    Gameplay (puzzle) wise, you are given reagents, various mechanisms to move reagents around the machine, and an ultimate product to synthesize. Mechanisms may be grabbers that pick up/drop things, rotate, and extend; grabbers with multiple arms; bonding or de-bonding reactions, and tracks that grabbers can move along. Your goal is to figure out how to make the end product from the reagents using the mechanisms at your disposal.

    You have to program the mechanisms to move. They can turn, rotate what they are holding, extend or retract, and move along tracks. Arranging the instructions for each mechanism is just like arranging music in editing software, if you've ever done that. Each mechanism is an "instrument" and you harmonize their instructions.

    The puzzles get difficult real fast. I made it halfway through Chapter 2 before quitting (out of 5 chapters and many bonus puzzles). I love learning the basics of Zachtronics games, and seeing how clever the puzzles are, but I never care for maximizing efficiency that is the key to completing them. I did read the rest of the story online though and watched solutions for the rest of the puzzles. These YouTube videos of players making beautiful solutions are mesmerizing to watch. Confirmed, there is no way I would have gotten much farther!

    So, as far as Zachtronics puzzle games, I think I'm done for a while, but I do want to check out Eliza, the visual novel they did about AI and therapy.

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    Kingdom: New Lands (PS4)    by   jp       (Jul 9th, 2020 at 19:21:49)

    I've played two games so far and this seems like a rogue-like city-building game? But, it's 2D side-scrolling? I'm very confused by a lot of things...but my second game was kind of boring in the end because I entered a "lose cycle" where I didn't have enough gold coins to make progress or stay alive. The game kept on encouraging me to build the boat - which I did - and it was A LOT OF COINS - but then nothing happened, and it was too late and most of my workers were gone, and I had no way of getting more coins and ugh....

    So, I think I'll try again, just to see how it works and if I've figured stuff out, but I'm more intrigued and interested in the premise than the actual game. There's a lot here I think you're supposed to figure out on your own, but it's too easy to make a mistake and have it bite you in the butt 20 minutes later. And that sucks. (the game is quite slow as well).

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    Sayonara Wildhearts (PS4)    by   jp       (Jul 9th, 2020 at 19:13:51)

    Played a few songs again the other day, but now specifically to unlock achievements. For one of them I learned something I had not noticed at all when I was playing regularly! There's a song where you can "teleport" from the left of the screen to the right and vice versa! Huh! I wonder if there are other songs where this exists and I'm guessing it's the key to get gold scores on those levels?

    The achievement system is interesting - there's a special UI that lists them all, but they're in the form of cryptic clues/riddles you need to solve in order to know what to do. They're all tied to signs of the zodiac (2 per sign, there's a b-side with the other half) all on a wheel you can rotate. Once you've unlocked the trophy, a crown appears above the respective zodiac sign. I read a few, but wasn't motivated enough to try to figure them out and then do them. So, I looked online. I think it was a good call because otherwise I would have spent a long time between experimenting with answers and being able to pull them off. I think if they were all clues to something that wasn't hard to do, it would have worked better for me. In my mind having a double challenge - figure out the thing and then pull it off is too much (especially when you need to pull it off to verify your solution).

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    Astebreed (PS4)    by   jp       (Jul 9th, 2020 at 19:08:42)

    Finished it (easy mode) earlier today and uh... the game's story still doesn't make much sense to me. Once I finished it (only 6 missions) I bunch of stuff unlocked that was really interesting to look at.

    (a) The game's credits are really informal - I was quite surprised. A lot of handles rather than "legal names". And the the dev team (Edelweiss) was really small - maybe 10 people including the audio/music people.

    (b) There's a bunch of artwork related to a comic convention - I think it might have been teasers prior to launch (2015?) or thereabouts.

    (c) It was interesting to look at storyboards for the game's cut-scenes...there's quite a few of them (and quite long too).

    (d) There's a global leaderboard with scores that go way back (5 years was the oldest I saw), though there was at least one score posted in 2020. I was surprised by this. Also, most of the scores where from Japan.

    (e) I went back and played the first mission on "normal" just to see how much different the game would be. My "cheesy" strategy of holding down all the combat/weapon related buttons still worked - though I had to dodge a bit more around read-colored enemy attacks, these can't be destroyed with the sword. I couldn't be bothered to play through the other missions, but my sense is that the difficulty won't pick up (although the cheese strategy still would work?) until higher levels of difficulty that probably unlock?

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    Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (PS4)    by   jp       (Jul 8th, 2020 at 15:03:58)

    If Nintendo made a VR game, this would be it. I say that as the highest praise. This is an incredible Mario game in its inventiveness, creativity, polish, and level design, character design, etc.

    I've had so much fun with this game that it's hard to state - I think it's the only game I've played on VR for longer than an hour. More than that, once I got tired and took the headset off, I was like "wow, what time is it?" (it was 2 hrs?). So, time flew by, I hardly noticed - and I was having fun.

    In no particular order, what I've appreciated most (in terms of the games' design) is that it mixes platforming challenges with "operator" challenges - so, at times I need to navigate a character around, but in others I need to look around and pay attention to the environment. Not in an adventure game sense (spot the pixel that's different!), but rather to figure out where to go next, what to do, and to find the hidden bots in each environment. I've found the bosses a bit frustrating (mostly because there isn't a quick restart and you have to watch the boss set up and everything).

    Also, the animations and little details are quite remarkable - you can see your own shadow in the game, the bot character you control reacts to your presence (sometimes just by looking in your direction!).

    I recall this game had really good reviews and yes, they are well earned!

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    Random

    Batman: Arkham VR (PS4)    by   jp

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Friday 6 April, 2018
    It's pretty neat - the detective mechanic is more compelling than you'd think and it was fun to teleport around (to previously determined locations) in order to find clues and such. I think the game also does a pretty good job of the fact that you're immersed in first person, there's a few (Joker) sequences that are unsettling mostly because...well, it's you (mirrors, you look at yourself in them).

    I also enjoyed going back multiple times to find hidden things and unlock figures and what not. The only issue I had was that there were a few things that made no sense on my first play through BECAUSE they were things to find/pay attention to later. This sometimes confused me the first time I played but it made more sense once I was done. In fact, for a while I was under the impression that there was a different ending you could unlock by finding stuff in other playthroughs and such. Alas, AFAIK, that's not really the case - so the extra draw for re-playing some parts was significantly diminished.

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