GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition (PS4) - 13 Jun 2018 - by jp it! (with a little help) So, I did a "non-perfect" (because I missed a few augs) playthrough of the game and it's definitely MORE interesting than I thought (as a game, the whole violent videogames controversy is a separate issue). I'm not that familiar with FMV games, but in comparison with Dragon's Lair, I think this game has some interesing design innovations (they might not be innovations because, like I said, I'm not that familiar with FMV games). goes: a. Yes, you have to react appropriately (press button for trap deployment) at the right time - BUT, you have to be at the (or watching) a specific location in order to do so. It's super easy to miss things that happen while you're watching the wrong camera. b. The new version is a lot easier because you can see a small version of each camera that "comes to life" when it's actually playing video. The original just had static images. c. Since there are often multiple things happening at the same time, this is a game in which you're figuring out the "correct" watching order - what to watch when in order to succeed. So, to figure it all out you really need multiple playthroughs which is not something I'd say of Dragon's Lair. d. I screwed up once near the end and it didn't "game over", rather it re-started a bit of time earlier. I'm not sure if it's a formal "check-point" (if I had messed up later, would I have restarted at the same moment) or if it's a "rewind X minutes on the clock". But still, I was surprised when it happened. e. Because of the randomized code changes, you have to pay attention to the video (well, the audio, case the video might be the same). f. The code changes are NOT all instant - rather, after a color code change you might have to wait (execute a few traps with the wrong color) before switching to the new color. I'm not sure why this was the case and I wonder if I missed something (e.g. they announce in video "hey, now it's changed"). g. There's a few moments where you get the cue to trap BUT it's wrong (you have to wait a few seconds for a 2nd cue). I messed up the first one (pressed trap immediately) and was surprised by this. They video makes sense, but I'm not sure the "trick" is a good one other than the fact that I enjoyed the surprise and quickly figured out what I had to do. h. There are multiple endings and playthroughs (which I didn't do) that are interesting. With more time I'd probably pursue them just to see what happens. i. At least in this edition, the game is really framed as a movie/tv show -> highlights the cast and most significant crew in a credits sequence that, I'm guessing would have been rare for the time. From the video bonuses, it seems like the creators weren't seeing it (in the original concept) as a game and more as a movie that's enhanced (the whole project started as a way to use a hardware addon to a VCR rather than a console videogame - BUT it was conceived as a sort of trojan horse into the game industry) j. Perhaps my favorite thing is that there is a nice tension between wanting to "watch the movie parts" and the gameplay - activating traps at the right moment. In order to play well (without foresight) you have to literally ignore all the social stuff (people being social, interacting, etc.) and just focus on spotting "bad actors". So, like actually running security? In a way it's sort of like blind surveillance - I have to ignore what I'm spying on because that part is noise... weird?jpWed, 13 Jun 2018 19:06:50 UTC Architect (PC) - 07 Jun 2018 - by dkirschner one student of mine has been bugging me to play Prison Architect for two years. "Did you play Prison Architect yet? Did you play Prison Architect yet? Aw man, you gotta play Prison Architect!" He also bugged me to play GTA V, so I guess he likes games about criminals. I didn't know until I booted it that Introversion made the game. I really liked Darwinia back in the day, and DEFCON was interesting. This made me more excited to play Prison Architect. Sims / god games / city builder type games are not usually my thing, even though I sometimes think one will look really cool (Crusader Kings II and Kerbal Space Program are both awaiting their unboxing in my Steam library). My initial impression...wait, back up. I spent an hour playing in sandbox mode on accident before I realized that the campaign was an extended tutorial. Why? Because when I ran the game, it just...started in sandbox mode. No title sequence or anything. Just a plot of land with trucks delivering some workers and supplies, a letter from the CEO giving me basic tips, and a couple basic goals. I thought, "Wow, drops you right in!" But no, this is not the tutorial. In my first hour, I was so lost. I couldn't figure out how power generators worked. My piping was all tangled. I didn't know how to assign a function to a building. Hell, I didn't even properly know how to build buildings. The difference between building a foundation and just laying concrete and putting walls around the perimeter was unknown to me then. That meant I couldn't build a holding cell, and the prisoners, they just kept coming! By the time I went to start over, I had about 35 prisoners roaming around near the road, all hungry and dissatisfied with my prison management skills. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but I think I clicked "help" shortly after starting over, and it opened a wiki that said at the top, "STOP! Don't read this until you play the tutorial in the campaign." Who knew the campaign was a tutorial? Why doesn't the game say that? Why doesn't it start you there? The campaign is broken up into 5 chapters, and it does indeed teach you, beginning with the very basics in chapter 1 (like how to designate a building), moving through dealing with riots, rehabilitating prisoners, assigning prisoners to work, assigning guards to patrol, and tons more. It does this through a really well told narrative, where each chapter is connected despite each one taking place at different prisons. It begins with you building an execution chamber and holding cell for a man sentenced to death for a double homicide. The next chapter sheds light on who he killed. And so it chains prisoners and events together. Despite all the things I enjoyed about Prison Architect (I looked at a clock and it was like 4 hours later), the campaign has some seriously annoying bugs. Here are a few I wrote down in my frustration: --Objective: Build a common room and place 8 chairs for a meeting space. Problem: There was already a common room, but I had built another one earlier. With 8 chairs. But this objective wouldn't tick off. Solution: I looked up why I was stuck and the internet said you have to just put the chairs in the original common room (even though it tells you to build a common room). So it doesn't recognize the second common room with 8 chairs and you cannot proceed. --Objective: Use riot guards to stop a prison riot! Problem: Riot guards get stuck going through doorways and killed one by one by prisoners with batons. No more riot guards come and I cannot figure out how to proceed. Solution: Restart the mission. This time the riot guards move a little more smoothly through doors, and the NPC correctly hits his cue and gives me reinforcements and moves the story forward. --Objective: Put out the fire. Problem: The fire is out and it won't tick off the objectives list. Solution: Call in a fire truck and move firemen to where the fire was even though they extinguished it 30 minutes ago. --Objective: Build phones in all the yards. Problem: I only see one yard, and I built phones in it. It's telling me I'm 50% done, so there must be another yard, but I don't see one. Solution: There was another yard that was not labeled, and I built a building on top of it. The game didn't overwrite the yard and replace it with the new building. If I want to place payphones in the second yard, I have to demolish my buildings one by one to find out where the yard was. Why not just let me put phones in the one remaining yard? --Objective: Oversee 20 family visitations. Problem: I have built a visitation center, but no one is visiting (by the end, I had built five lonely visitation centers). Solution: There is a specific spot you have to build the visitation center. You probably built over it with another building. You have no way of knowing. I guess this one isn't technically a bug, it's just not giving the player necessary information. Same as before. Demolish buildings and build visitation centers until you figure out where the mandatory spot for it was. I was planning to play in sandbox mode after the campaign, but the last campaign level is pretty much sandbox mode, and I have no real desire to build and manage a prison anymore. Oh , and also, the game does grapple a little with nature vs nurture and prison as deterrence vs rehabilitation. It comes down on the side of rehabilitation, and I think the game does a really good job of using procedural rhetoric to explore what it is like to be a prisoner or run a prison, including putting the player in the position to contemplate issues of the criminal justice system both while playing and once they are done playing. Good job Introversion!dkirschnerThu, 07 Jun 2018 18:23:26 UTC Novelist (PC) - 06 Jun 2018 - by dkirschner Novelist is a game about a novelist. And his wife and son. It's a simple narrative set inside a house. You play as a muse (or ghost, or spirit) in the house. You see, The Novelist begins, as so many stories about writers do, with the family coming to the house for the summer so the novelist can conquer writer's block and finish his book. The Shining and Alan Wake this is not. The only horrors are the incessant demands on your time and attention of your wife, son, editor, friends, and extended family. The game is broken up into three months, and you play three significant days within each month. On these days, the family experiences conflict, and it is up to you, the muse, to float around the house reading letters, diaries, magazines, looking at pictures, and exploring the characters' memories, in order to find out what each character wants. In your snooping, you can walk or you can travel between light sources by "possessing" them. This is important because the game has a stealth mechanic where if family members see you, they will become suspicious. Linger too long, and they'll become spooked and you can't choose their daily resolution or compromise. At the end of each long day of snooping, you decide how the novelist should proceed and whisper in his ear at night how to manage the conflict (because he's the only one who can make final decisions in the family--burn the patriarchy!). Of course, you can't give everyone what they want. Only one person gets what they want! Then you can choose a second person to compromise, and the third is left unhappy. Unfortunately these options are pretty predictable and repetitive. The novelist struggling with writers block generally wants to spent his time writing. The wife, struggling with her husband and their marriage, generally wants intimacy or support. The son, who is probably 6 or so and has a learning disability and trouble making friends, always wants the novelist to play with him or take him somewhere. No matter which decision you make each day, one person is happy, one person's outcome is something like, "She was disappointed (they're always disappointed) that Dan didn't quit working promptly at 7:00 and spend the next four hours cuddling on the couch with her, but she was happy that he quit at 8:00 instead of 9:00 and only drank 1 bourbon instead of 4," and the third person is invariably upset. I don't think there are many endings for the game. At the end of mine, the novelist was offered a university position, even though, as far as I could tell, he only has a BA and has published 1 book aside from the one he's writing in the game. They also refer to his position as both assistant professor and associate professor, and claim that "the sabbatical program is very attractive," which means the writers don't know how professorships work. To take the job, the family had to move, so the wife is disappointed that she can't work for an art non-profit. Despite the novelist crushing her career goals, the game says a few sentences later that the couple lived in a honeymoon marriage madly in love for the rest of their lives. Aw. The son, who I only gave what he wanted one time, grew up to be an isolated teen doing mediocre in school, and worked odd jobs in his 20s with few friends. Hey, it's not my fault! How does one summer mess a kid up so much? I wouldn't bother with this. It's slow, borderline tedious, with no payoff. It would take 20 minutes to read this story instead of 2 hours and 20 minutes to play it, and you wouldn't lose anything because you don't see characters interact anyway. There's no humor and it's too serious and overdramatic. I didn't like the wife much, and I really disliked the kid. If this is what having a family is like, I don't want one, seriously. I did connect a little to the novelist, but I guess that's because I write and have experienced a lot of the pressures he is under, including struggling with time management and scheduling, and he is a teacher now. I do wonder if he'll ever get a sequel though.dkirschnerWed, 06 Jun 2018 13:29:18 UTC Inferno (PC) - 05 Jun 2018 - by dkirschner the game approached its climax, I had begun feeling like I was wasting my time. Burning consumer goods from mail-order catalogs in a fireplace and trying to piece together 99 combos was making me a little crazy. "What the fuck are three items that will give me a MANLY COMBO??" "This stupid combo needs something cold, but there are FOUR COLD ITEMS! AAAH!" The game started throwing nuggets of significance my way a little earlier, but once the climax hit and the game fundamentally shifted, I understood. Little Inferno is basically Plato's allegory of the cave. The game is played facing a fireplace (Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace). You order consumer goods from mail-order catalogs and burn them. When you burn items, you get more money than you paid for them in the first place, and you can also get tokens that speed up how quickly items are shipped to you (Amazon membership?). It's extremely repetitive action, but I got really into trying to figure out the combos. The animations and sounds from burning toys are amusing too. I also realized how irritated I got when something too a long time to ship. Just like in real life. You carry on letter correspondence with your next-door neighbor, who laments that there is a wall separating you. You write and mail some things back and forth, but then she goes and burns her house down. Accident with the fireplace? I won't spoil the rest, but suffice it to say she starts putting ideas in your head, ideas that make you think you might be real. The gameplay then changes and the player gets a lot to think about. Our entertainment can lure us into comfort or serve as an escape, making it easy to ignore the wider world, our responsibilities, other people and events. Often we are lonely, isolated, and we don’t exist in the world, but digitally or in our fictions. We see the shadows and flames and call it reality, choosing not to turn our heads away from the screen and take advantage of the experiences in the big (scary) world. It's not just the screen that provides warmth and draws us near, but the chill of an increasingly isolating, bureaucratic, rationalist world pushing us toward what can comfort us. Sometimes it repels us, and other times it lulls us. In Little Inferno, everyone has to burn things in their personal fireplaces because it's been getting colder and colder, constantly snowing. The receptionist at Tomorrow Corporation embodies this rationalization, and the conversations your character has with adults are absurd in part because of the scripts the adults follow in their jobs. You are a customer, nothing more. The game tells us to go outside. There’s a whole world of experiences for us to go get. We can have meaningful relationships with other people who are “through the wall." I find a very anti-consumerist message here too. Burn your things. They are keeping you from new experiences. But, as the game keeps telling you, once you leave the cave, you can never look back. We're changed by experience, by responsibilities, by transitions in life. Another reading of this is that it's talking about transition between childhood/adolescence and adulthood. When the early stages end, we have to go out into the world. But as I said above, it's not easy. It can be cold, not warm and cozy like your hearth. You’ll have to pay. People won’t always help you. But that’s okay because you'll grow through your experiences. I'm sure there's more commentary here I haven't thought about much, such as how we play games, but I'll be thinking about this one for a while. Excellent game. The end is worth the journey of burning stuff. dkirschnerTue, 05 Jun 2018 21:20:41 UTC (PS4) - 05 Jun 2018 - by jp this last night and...oh, wow, that ending took a real turn to the bizarre! The kid you've been controlling all along finally makes their way into a large tank - with a bunch of scientists watching - and you start to unplug this weird bulbous fleshy mass that's floating from a bunch of mind-control devices. Suddenly, you're sucked in! ...and you're now in control of this large bulbous fleshy mass that has multiple arms and legs sticking out of it. It was weird! You manage to escape from the giant tank, you wreck a lot of stuff along the way and the onlookers are generally in fear. So, your goal now is to escape from the facility - which you do eventually - by solving more puzzles, breaking stuff AND, in an interesting turn - getting help from some of the people that work in the facility! Up until now, any other human was either going to kill you immediately OR was a "drone/zombie" that was mindless and that you could ignore (or control). But now, when you're the weirdest crazy thing - some people help you escape?! The game ends when you escape the facility, roll down a hillside and come to rest in a patch of grass. The sun is shining. It was weird. (I also then completed the "secret" ending - where you enter an old unused vault - walk a bunch underground and then unplug some stuff - that, if memory serves, is color-coded like the mind-control devices) Weirdness aside, controlling the blob was a real joy - it sort of flows over things and also strains and grunts to get "tall". It can't jump or use stuff, but can grab on to things. It was a nice change of pace both in terms of verbs (what you do) but, more importantly in terms of game feel. Huh.jpTue, 05 Jun 2018 19:08:13 UTC (PC) - 05 Jun 2018 - by dkirschner pixel art exploration game. You spawn in the ocean and make your way to an island, which is different every time you play, save for some landmarks that will appear in different places. It's beautiful to look at, and the music is procedurally generated. As you walk, it ebbs and flows, new instruments and sounds come to the fore. Find a creature, and it hops away to do-re-mi. I chased a lot of creatures into the sea. I wore headphones and walking around the island was sensory bliss. There is one landmark that you find that can move the game forward if you sit there overnight and watch the stars pulse and streak overhead. You can progress the game in this manner through seasons, and at the end you get a surprise. The seasons just change the color palette mostly. Trees will also shed their leaves in the fall, there is snow in winter. The whole experience lasts under an hour, and if you don't figure out how to progress the seasons, you might get bored from wandering aimlessly after 15 minutes or so. I can see turning this on to relax and letting the music wash over me.dkirschnerTue, 05 Jun 2018 14:50:33 UTC Planet (PC) - 05 Jun 2018 - by dkirschner Lifeless Planet, you play as an American (?) astronaut crash landed on the titular lifeless planet (surprise: it's not Mars!). Your crew is dead, but there's something perplexing. Your scans showed the planet teeming with life, but it appears barren! As you begin to explore this linear puzzle platformer world, you come across signs that the Russians attempted to colonize the planet during the Cold War after discovering a mysterious portal. The story unfolds from there, as you learn what they set upon doing on the planet, and how everything went wrong. It's actually a sad little story with a surprising amount of emotional punch. The game nails its atmosphere. It's eerie from the beginning, with equal parts wonder and dread. When you see your first alien construct and the bass rumbles and the orchestral strings rise, you'll feel like you stepped into 2001: A Space Odyssey or something newer like Interstellar or Arrival. I played it on my TV with surround sound, and the bass shook the walls. I can't say enough great things about the score. The visuals look bland and textureless up close, but actually create beautiful landscapes and vistas in the right spots. Some of the game takes place on high places, and you should take the time to look around. Cool stuff aside, the puzzle platforming is only mediocre. I lost a lost of time redoing platforming sections because the space man is imprecise to control. You can jump and boost once with your jetpack (and multiple times when you get some extra jet fuel for longer platforming sections). It's hard to control his direction. Like, if you jump a little to the left of your target, you can't really correct mid-jump. You'll die a lot because of this. The puzzles are generally easy, and only difficult when you didn't see something that wasn't obvious. For example, I spent about 45 minutes on the crater level trying to walk a wire tightrope to get across a chasm. But that wasn't the solution. Turns out there was a tiny button on a tiny shack inside the crater and then off through a gap to the right. Granted, there was some steam which, in retrospect, signaled to go over there, but the game led me to believe I could walk across this wire. I was to the point of thinking it was bugged, and it's the only thing I looked up online. After I'd started trying to cross the wire, every time I died, it would respawn me on the wire! Why would it respawn me on the wire if that wasn't a checkpoint? I couldn't cross it because another wire came down from above connecting to the one I was walking. I even figured out where the high wire came from, and got really good at getting up to its origin. But then, oddly, I couldn't walk on it; I'd fall through it. This was weird because I could walk on the lower wire, and where the two wires connected, the upper wire stopped me. It also stopped me if I jumped from underneath it and hit it. But I couldn't walk on top of it. Other puzzle elements and tools to solve them include: ability to pick up and push some objects; a couple 'place/push blocks in correct order' puzzles; a robotic arm tool to push buttons and move objects that your space man can't reach; dangerous plant life that lashes out at you, but if it misses, creates a root bridge you can traverse; power stations to turn on; etc. There could definitely have been more puzzles, or more complicated ones. Anyway, I definitely enjoyed Lifeless Planet, despite its flaws. It's slow paced and goes longer than it should (clocked 5 hours, 44 minutes, but I'd say it should have been condensed to 4 hours or so). Makes me want a good space exploration game! * Oh yeah, the ending is really cool. It gave me chills. * (This entry has been edited1 time. It was last edited on Tue, 05 Jun 2018 11:05:53.)dkirschnerTue, 05 Jun 2018 11:02:29 UTC Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition (PS4) - 04 Jun 2018 - by jp've played a few games (only gotten as far as "50" captures) and it's really hard to resist watching the video clips. As I've learned the hard way, this is not the way to succeed at the game. I'm actually surprised by how simple the gameplay is. It's REALLY simple - such that there are scripts online for how to win/get to the end. I'm not sure if I'll take the time for that a nutshell: a. Select room where there are active "augers". b. Push "trap" button when the warning indicator is red. c. Oh, find the clip that lets you know what the new color is, change to that color. I only learned about the color change from a lucky moment when I overheard the characters comment that they had changed the code - and then realized that my traps had stopped working. Will I make it to the end? I don't know...not sure if I'll have the patience for it all (it's basically a memory game in that you need to remember what room to switch to and then hit the button at the right time).jpMon, 04 Jun 2018 17:49:50 UTC (PS4) - 04 Jun 2018 - by jp played Limbo and it was good. (I'll have to go back to my GameLogs to know for sure, but at least that's the memory I have). I've heard two different things about Inside: a. It's Limbo, but with more colors. Even the same puzzles! b. OMG, this is so much better than Limbo - it's amazing! So, I picked up the PS4 double pack to see what Inside was like. ...and so far I'm really enjoying it. I was surprised when - a few minutes in, as I was running (always running!) I missed something and was shot and killed. It was brutal - especially because the game doesn't have a whole lot going on. So, the crack of gunfire was a stark contrast to what was on-screen and coming out of my speakers. I get a real sense of urgency when I'm running away from dogs and the swimming "creature"(?), I feel a sense of awe when I'm walking through these abandoned facilities, I feel so sad for the gray "lifeless" humans I control, I wonder where it will all end (who is the child I'm controlling and where do they want to go and why?)...jpMon, 04 Jun 2018 17:41:38 UTC from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack (PC) - 04 Jun 2018 - by dkirschner cool little game! Exceeded my expectations. I'm going through a bunch of games I got for free like three years ago from someone on a forum. He gave me his entire Humble Bundle account, which had every purchase at the time. Back then, I went through and picked out all the ones I was interested in and haven't touched many since. Mutant Blobs Attack is like a love letter to the late 2000s-early 2010s era indie platformer games, and there are references EVERYWHERE in this game. It plays like part Katamari Damacy, Osmos, and World of Goo combined. You'll also see references to And Yet it Moves, Guacamelee, and various internet videos and memes of the time, such as "oh my god, shoes" and etc. You play as a blob escaped from a science lab. Each stage, you have to get bigger by eating objects, food when you're small, then up to humans and cars and buildings and so on. The scale changes as you get bigger. The Katamari influence is really strong toward the end when you are rolling over entire cities. You can see what you ingest, which is very Katamari as well. At the end of each zone, there is a news broadcast (just like Katamari) recapping the events thus far. There is some physics stuff with the platforming, and the art also looks a little like World of Goo. You have a couple powers, such as attracting and repelling from metal objects, and using a telekinesis power to move platforms. None of the puzzles were too hard, and they were all fun. Osmos may be the biggest influence. The blob usually rolls around, but occasionally you go through a gate that makes you float. You then propel yourself around, just like the thing in Osmos, except you don't lose mass. There are even black holes with gravity to avoid, and the final sequence is basically a level of Osmos. I love this type of game, and to play a short and sweet one that felt like those from a decade ago was a blast. It took me only 2.5 hours, though you can replay levels for speedruns or to find all the blob friends, if you like. Such fun. Hopefully some more of these old Humble Bundle games are hits with me too!dkirschnerMon, 04 Jun 2018 10:16:01 UTC