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    Puyo Puyo! 15th Anniversary (DS)    by   jp       (Mar 25th, 2020 at 16:31:58)

    I've always loved Puyo Puyo. I'm not that good at it, but it's an evergreen fun game for me. I was really surprised when I saw this in Japan (and fortunately it wasn't expensive). Wow, they did a 15th anniversary version? Heck, they even made a 20th anniversary version (which I do not own).

    The game's entirely in Japanese. I can't read or understand anything. But, I did have fun playing what I assume is the "regular" mode. You choose a character and play against it and so on until...well, it got to hard for me to beat a character. But this was a while in. Before each "battle" there's a spinner that determines which mode you'll play in. You hit a button to stop the spinner and off you go.

    I'm not familiar at all with any of the weird/alternate/special/cool other modes - so it was fun to play them and randomly realize...whoops, this feels like a totally different game. I've only just realized the wikipedia page explains what each mode is called and so on, but I just had fun playing with them as they came up.

    I don't know if the different characters are meaningful in any way. I don't think there are special powers or anything like that. But hey... it was definitely a fun experience!

    My favorite modes:

    a. There's a mode in the dark with a flashlight that swings around partially illuminating the board.

    b. There's a floating in water mode - here there's a water line (pretty close to the top of the screen) and the puyo puyo float on water. As you stack them, the stack sinks, so making combos is sort of like placing them on the bottom of a regular drop - so, it's weird and took me a bit to wrap my head around.

    c. There's a fever mode that I didn't really understand other than: I think you fill up a meter, once it's full you enter fever mode which are like little puzzles you need to solve for max combo. You do a bunch of these and then hopefully from that dump a whole bunch of trash puyo on your opponent. Often I entered with my opponent into fever mode kind of at the same time, so I don't know how the winner is determined for the fever mode.

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    Jotun (PS4)    by   jp       (Mar 25th, 2020 at 16:21:51)

    While the game's "heart" is the bosses - it's structure has a bit more than that.

    Before each boss you need to clear two levels. Each level as a rune, a special power to find (shrine?), and a health bar boost (golden apple). These levels are all quite different from each other and, especially the early ones are SUPER cool because they introduce/feature something that is then relevant/important in the boss fight. For example using the strong attack to remove vines, attacking dwarves, etc. The environments are pretty, but...the more I played, the less interesting they became partly because they felt less connected (gameplay wise) to the boss fight. It's like the early levels had more time and polish.

    Anyways, I've finished playing, enjoyed it - but I thought the latter levels were a bit of a missed opportunity in this way.

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    Ben 10 Galactic Racing (DS)    by   jp       (Mar 25th, 2020 at 16:07:23)


    I'm not familiar at all with the Ben-10 cartoon other than seeing the character here and there. I mean, I don't think I've ever watched the show - so, if there was anything I should appreciate about the game due to knowledge of the show and characters, that was all lost on me. Big time.

    I still played a fair number of races - 1 vs 3, and I didn't really understand the boost/power pickup system. There's a bar that charges, but I don't really know when - or why - or what to do with it. But, it didn't really matter since I was able to beat the first 5 races or so without much trouble. I'm clearly not the target audience for the game, but I was curious to see if it was doing anything interesting. It might be better than I thought, but I'm not terribly excited to try further.

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    Jotun (PS4)    by   jp       (Mar 24th, 2020 at 11:22:05)

    I played this over two weekends figuring that, as a smaller indie title it wouldn't take too long (or that I'd bounce off because it was too hard or something like that).

    I really didn't like the feel of the controls - things didn't feel all that responsive and the dodge/roll didn't feel effective, the strong attack took takes too long to little (perceived) additional effect, etc. And toggling between the different special abilities was really annoying in moments of stress - i really would have liked to map the powers to other buttons in addition to the regular switch from one power to another. Once you have more than three, it becomes a chore to quickly go from the healing ability to, say, the thor ability.

    BUT, I LOVED the art. The game is essentially fancy boss fights with beautifully animated hand drawn bosses (think old school disney or Don Bluth style) OR "not too challenging" exploration of cool environments. Here's what I thought was most interesting:

    a) Most of the game is narrated in a scandinavian/nordic language. (I'm not sure which, to be honest - my first hunch was Norwegian, but maybe it's Icelandic?). This was such an interesting experience. I very rarely play a game in a language I don't speak, and even if I do it's usually one of a select few (e.g. it's Japanese). I don't know why I enjoyed this part of the game, but kudos to the devs for NOT having the narrator speak in English. Yes, there were subtitles, but with the whole Nordic theme, it just made the experience better.

    b) The bosses were hard. Hard, as in it took multiple attempts. BUT, I enjoyed the fact that there were two curves at play with (pretty much) all the bosses. First, there's the "me getting better at what I need to do for this fight" curve. Second, was the "learn what the boss does and how it operates". This one was learning it's attack patterns and then figuring out what the best/good strategy for each boss was. I really enjoyed this part (except Odin, because I tried something - it didn't work, then read online that you could do it, and discovered the timing was really odd, and was only then able to take out Odin and finish the game).

    c) Before you fight the final boss (Odin) you walk past a hallway full of busts of...real people. I don't know if it's game devs or Kickstarter super-funders? Anyways, there were lots of them. It was neat, weird, a bit unsettling. Also, so many dudes!

    d) The game uses the camera really well to create moments of awe (panning back to reveal a faraway vista), but also communicate gameplay - in the Odin fight the camera pans back when one of his spears is approaching you. It's subtle in many places, but well done. Some of the boss fights got a bit tougher because of this (camera pans back really far, you're really small, and you need to dodge even smaller things) like the electricity during the lightning boss fight.

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    Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4)    by   jp       (Mar 23rd, 2020 at 19:01:56)

    I played this over the course of several weekends to much enjoyment. I had heard good things, but I was again pleasantly surprised even though it took me a bit to get a handle on the feel of the shooting.

    A few of the more surprising things (to me):

    a. There's so much world building that it's really quite impressive. Most of it happens through little notes, letters, newspaper clippings, etc. you find in the environment. Since the game takes place in the 60s, these things fill in the gaps between the regular end of the war (mid 40s) up until the in-game present. You don't find them in chronological order and also, as an added touch, you occasionally run into new clippings that reflect/comment on things you've been up to as a player (e.g. prisoners break out, which is something you just did)

    b. There's an amazing scene in the game that takes place on a train. You're disguised (as in, not fighting/shooting) and a high-ranking Nazi officer and her protege/close colleague force you to sit down and quiz you. They're basically of the opinion that they can tell if you're aryan or not based on some questions (and your response/reaction to them). Obviously it's a bad idea to be found out to not be nazi/aryan in this context. It's incredibly tense and interesting as a player as you try to figure out what the correct (most aryan?) answers are - when there really isn't anything to go off from - and the questions seem rather innocuous as well. I think this was by far my favorite moment in the game.

    c. The game has an interesting progression system in which you can permanently unlock perks/buffs/bonuses for performing specific kinds of actions. I unlocked a few "by luck" - but then noticed what they required and it was interesting to try to adapt my play style in order to unlock a few more (they're also connected to trophies, which is a clever additional incentive). So, they really want to encourage you to play stealthy, direct, use grenades, etc. It often happens to me that I don't like/understand a certain item/weapon and so I never use it - being able to "get by" otherwise. Here I was explicitly incentivized to try out new things and I enjoyed that. I was playing on a difficulty level that made it really hard (for me) to engage succesfully with a lot of the run'n gun style - but once I lowered the difficulty (towards the end of the game) I was able to get more of these down.

    d. After finishing the game I went into some older levels to pick up missing collectibles and that sort of stuff. I purposefully set the game to the lowest difficulty and it was AMAZING. By this point I was really comfortable with the shooting and such, and being able to run through levels taking out enemies quickly and efficiently was really rewarding. I basically got the most out of my learned skills and the super easy difficulty.

    e. I was surprised by the hub area (safehouse) and all the different characters - I was neat to see how much work went into making them more interesting than I expected. I mean, the game is still either a really well-produced B-movie action flick or, perhaps like a Tarantino movie? (I haven't watched Inglorious Bastards in a while, but it has a bit of that vibe).

    f. So many different and wildly varied locations! Submarine, weird underwater Jewish temple(?), Lunar base, sewers, prison, etc. I just couldn't believe how zany and wild the game kept on getting in terms of the locations and how different they all felt (experientially).

    I guess the big question now is should I go ahead and play the other (more newer) games at this point? New Colossus and the other one...Youngblood? So tempted, but also I have so many other games on the list...

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    1 : jp's Puyo Puyo! 15th Anniversary (DS)
    2 : jp's Ben 10 Galactic Racing (DS)
    3 : jp's Jotun (PS4)
    4 : jp's Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4)
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    Gradius (NES)    by   vinitagarwal

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Wednesday 31 January, 2007
    So I got a chance to play some more Gradius and get a bit further. Here are my findings:

    I love the seamless level design of the game. In the way that it is completely continuous, it makes the game far more immersive and the sense of space much more real. How the game alternates between the space scene and then the "level" scene gives the player the feeling that they are traveling alone through the depths and quirky segments of space, and really adds to the "lone samurai" element that is natural to the genre.

    Each level has its own theme to it. Part of the charm of Gradius that differentiated itself from other shmups was its extremely obscure level environments. From easter-island to lava, the player travels through many progressively weirder environments with progressively weirder bosses and by the end, they've seen all of it.

    Who thought of these bosses? Gradius has arguably the most confusing enemy designs, and this is in a good sense. I was only able to make it through the first three segments of the game, but I remember over a decade ago when I first played the game, I nearly pissed my pants when the scrolling stopped and volcanoes started randomly shooting out rocks. Genius! Using inanimate objects as bosses is something I still have not seen outside of the Gradius series.

    In the end, what makes Gradius, and further more the Gradius series so distinct in the shmup genre is its level of polish. Every level, every sprite is so solid and defined with proportions that work so well with everything else... the original Gradius still amazes me in the realm of 2D shoot em ups.

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