GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay Ex: Mankind Divided (PC) - 11 Aug 2019 - by dkirschner'm 22 hours into Mankind Divided and I've done four story missions. Yesterday I got to the gun mod tutorial. Am I playing incredibly slow? What I HAVE done: explore nearly every nook and cranny of Prague. At least the first two parts of it (are there more??). I've got a ton of money and more praxis points than I know what to do with. I can break in anywhere and steal anything. The pacing and open world are throwing me off. Am I far? Am I not far? 22 hours is a long time and I have no sense for my progression through the story. It feels like I'm doing things out of order. Example: I spent two entire play sessions just sneaking around and stealing everything I could from the Palisade Bank, a gargantuan building with guards and security systems densely populating it. No quest or anything. I just found myself inside and started doing my stealth thief thing. The exploration, stealth, and thievery are clearly mesmerizing to me. Combat? I'm not quite sure. I've mostly knocked people out, and shot a few with tranquilizer darts. Story? Not enough data yet. The world-building though is excellent. I've read a hundred emails in hacked computers, e-books, personal data files, and more. There are a lot of little stories that weave together to give a sense of a world on edge after the Aug incident at the end of Human Revolution. I'm looking forward to doing more story missions soon. I have noticed some odd gripes. The TVs and radios in the game. I hate them. These people in future Prague have so many TVs, and they are all tuned to the same news station that loops the same broadcast. Similarly, the radios are all tuned to an Alex Jones type angry man. I turn them all off whenever I can, but I've really come to loathe them because their noise pierces through all other sounds in the game. There are some bugs. After the gun tutorial, the game crashes. I re-did it three times. So I technically never completed the gun tutorial. Sometimes guards will become hostile to me because I am in a friendly space that used to be forbidden. The guards still think such spaces are forbidden sometimes. I don't know if this is a bug, but often vendors (like NPCs marked as such! In stores!) will not show me anything for sale and make comments suggesting that I have no money (and that that is why they aren't showing me their inventories). It seems weird to write about Mankind Divided having played so long yet so little. How many more areas are there? How many places will I have to revisit? How many story missions are there? I know it ends on an awful cliffhanger, and I think I know that it only takes place in Prague. Its scope is illusory.dkirschnerSun, 11 Aug 2019 17:10:55 UTC is Strange (PS4) - 19 Jul 2019 - by jp! And woah, that last episode went all kinds of crazy places. In really interesting ways as far as I'm concerned. I already knew about the final decision (save or not save) so I wasn't surprised there BUT that's totally fine because it was the natural/expected way for it to go. I mean, that's what the game was building up to in more ways than one. I also felt that it was consistent with the gameplay - and Chloe herself calls this out in the end. Max is essentially manipulating people and time in order to get what she wants (save her friend) but the universe is basically pushing back at all that. I'm really curious to play the "prequel" now because, supposedly, there won't be any of those time-rewinding mechanics? Supposedly? I guess I'll have to wait and see.. I also enjoyed how most of the trophies were connected to taking specific pictures. Something that, again, is consistent with Max's character AND it forces you to seek out those pic-taking moments...BUT, you're provided with a visual clue of what/when those might be. I didn't get them all the first time around, but I was more attentive later. Like a photographer would be attentive perhaps?jpFri, 19 Jul 2019 19:52:29 UTC (PS4) - 19 Jul 2019 - by jp've finished chapter 4 and I'm really surprised at how quickly major events are happening in the city. And also, it's neat how, at least so far, there has been buildup between these events in the city. For example, sometime between chapter 2 and 3 there were people in the streets complaining about the oppressive regime. A lot of public unrest. This was preceded (chapter 1 and 2?) by the regime cracking down on people more - more soldiers in the streets as well. By the time chapter 4 rolled around, there was a full scale revolt were the stormed the central keep/tower (which I assumed I'd get to at the end)! Chapter 4 was basically infiltrating the tower... while it was collapsing, exploding, etc. So, in all pretty exciting stuff. I'm having enough fun to keep on playing BUT... a. I'm always getting lost in the "open world" city. I have a hard time navigating to the places I need to go. I'm also always distracted by windows you can "break into" - not remembering if I've been inside (stealing) or not.. It also doesn't help that some rooms you break into have multiple points of entry/exit and that sometimes these are on different areas of the map. So yes, navigation has been a real pain and I've lost a lot of time to this. b. I'm not a fan at all of having to buy all my arrows. I'm scavenging all over the place and it feels that if I'm wasteful with the arrows I'll never save enough for the big upgrades because there simply isn't all that much money to be made. AFAIK, all the loot is fixed (never respawning) with the exception perhaps of whatever the townspeople/soldiers might carry. But trying to make $$$ of that would be a REALLY, REALLY annoying grind. I feel like the games' design wants me to try out the arrows and do fun things with them...but I'm all like ONLY if I REALLY have to. Otherwise I'm just wasting money. I've also been save-scumming those moments where I missed a few shots (trying to headshot soldiers)... I'd much rather you were limited in carrying capacity and that new arrows were unlocked along the way. So, feel fine about using them all in a mission, you'll get them back but perhaps be a bit careful about not wasting in a mission. c. The game has some haptic gameplay moments. I've realized that these are really rare in games. Most will have haptic feedback (rumble when explosions) but few have gameplay where you need to make a decision based on a slight rumble, for example. The haptic gameplay happens on two different moments. First, when you're searching for hidden things behind paintings/bookshelves that have them. You slide you hands around and need to stop when you feel a buzz on the controller. The other is when you pick locks. Here you rotate the left stick (or right?) and again need to feel a buzz. Harder locks require that you do this more often and the window of movement is "smaller", so you need to be more careful and precise. d. Oh, I'm also not enjoying the scarcity of "focus". You use this to activate a special sight and other abilities. BUT, it decreases never to increase again until you find and use a poppy flower. Again, there's all these neat upgrades/abilities you can unlock but I'm super careful about using focus because it doesn't replenish and there aren't that many poppies lying around (and there not cheap to buy). So again, the games' economy is getting in the way of what I imagine the intended play experience was supposed to be... Sigh.jpFri, 19 Jul 2019 19:44:34 UTC Blaster (PS4) - 19 Jul 2019 - by jp, I finished it! This game was just on the shy side of what I was willing/able to play in terms of difficulty. It was made better due to the possibility of upgrading your weapons, available hearts, etc. As soon as I finished, it offered up a new game! Strangely, it's not the same levels but harder, but different levels entirely (and harder). I tried the first one...and quickly realized that I wasn't going to get very far without a lot of practice, frustration, and time. The last level was interesting - you have to head back to fight the mayor/president(?)...but along the way you need to deal with all of the different kinds of monsters/baddies you've been dealing with along the way. This included one of the bosses (thankfully not all of them) who was obviously much easier to deal with since now my weapons were maxxed out. I wasn't too excited about the extra boss after the boss though. It took me a while to understand how it worked and to practice enough to BARELY defeat it. Barely. Phew. In all, I enjoyed the game - it's pretty old school in its design BUT really polished in a way that old school games were not. And, as far as I can tell, it's a Japanese indie game which makes it extra cool.jpFri, 19 Jul 2019 19:12:47 UTC (PC) - 18 Jul 2019 - by dkirschner another free game that I'd never heard of before from...from where...probably Humble Bundle since it was in my Steam library. The number of great free stuff from Humble Bundle (or $1, okay), Twitch Prime (free with Amazon Prime), Epic Games, and etc. is getting wild. It's like I don't have to buy games anymore. I bought two cheap things from the Steam summer sale (because it felt weird not to!), and I may not have bought anything over the winter one. And I've still got a massive backlog. Anyway, Wuppo. Odd name, odd game. What a hidden gem this was. It's like a narrative puzzle-platformer RPG hybrid thingy. It is cute and charming and funny and really well made. You play as a "wum," which is a little creature that reminded me of Strongbad's head on 4 legs. You're chilling in the "Wumhouse," where a lot of wums live, and the manager gets pissed at you for dripping ice cream all over the floors, so he kicks you out. But not before you meet a bunch of the quirky residents, take a lot of baths, play a quiz game to get a disguise to get to the 5th floor so that you can clean it, fight a giant dust monster, fight a giant ice cream monster, steal a train ticket, take over operation of the bell tower, help a wum paint a picture of fireworks, and more. Thus begins your adventure as you leave Wumhouse and look for a new place to live. During the game, you learn about the history of the world and its "races," largely through collectible film strips that you bring to wise wums (and one wise fnakker), who help you interpret the films. You'll encounter a wide variety of creature types (like the mud-loving fnakkers, the peaceful zen-like blussers, and the capitalistic splenhakkers). For example, you quickly learn that there was a big war between the wums and the fnakkers, and the wums cast the fnakkers into a giant sinkhole. Are the fnakkers really dead and gone, or are they still alive down there in that sinkhole?? Gameplay in Wuppo generally involves talking to NPCs and completing missions that move the story forward, opening up new areas to explore. You'll acquire a variety of items (and lots of hats) that you can equip one at a time. Most items serve some useful purpose. For example, you get a "popo" hat that can pull levers and doors, various items that let you see in the dark, a "workman's hat" that lets you blend in with wums in Popo City and gives you a mustache, and on and on. You do use a gun to fight, but it looks like it shoots paint, and you can modify it in a few different ways. There are a lot of boss fights (about 20 total, I believe, and a handful are optional), and these are really fun. I didn't have any real problem with any until the final boss, but I eventually got him after 5 or 6 tries. The focus of the game is not on combat, even though you have to fight to progress, and I really like that. It didn't feel violent or combative, which is a nice change of pace. The antagonisms are sillier. A related thing is that you don't have HP, you have "happiness." You can increase your happiness by doing nice things for NPCs. This was a cool way to incorporate HP in the game. There is all sorts of stuff to do in the game that isn't related to the main story. You can fish for items, you can go to a theme park and ride rides. There is an entire island chain that has nothing to do with your main mission, but you can go explore it anyway, talk to characters there, swim out far and see what's out in the ocean. I took a train one time and it stopped at a cafe that I never went in (because I had no money to spend at the time, but I'm sure there were other neat things there to do). The game is so creative and so well done. The art looks like MS Paint. The characters are really expressive. The characters and dialogue are always funny. The audio fits the game like a glove. Definitely worth just getting lost in the game's charm for the duration. It's never too hard, though there are some challenging puzzles and areas (such as Redav Kned's guest house) that will make you feel great for completing them. Took me near 11 hours. Minus a few points for some bugs (screen size was stuck small sometimes, first time I tried to play I couldn't get the sound working and nothing would fix it) and the time I crashed the game by worming my way off screen. I was worried that I would start and then not be able to finish because the audio wouldn't work or the screen size would lock small, but it was okay! How do people not know about this game?! It probably just got lost in the crowd in Steam. Play it and tell other people to play it! dkirschnerThu, 18 Jul 2019 13:17:10 UTC (PC) - 16 Jul 2019 - by dkirschner little twin stick shooter from the person who did 140, which was a really neat music platformer. In Thoth, you control a little orb and you shoot other shapes until they die. The shapes chase you. When you kill a shape, it turns into a black ghost version of itself and chases you faster. Each level is a set piece, and like any good game, Thoth adds tweaks and challenges bit by bit to keep you on your toes. So, there are squares that, when killed, fire a smaller square straight at you, which continues to bounce around the level. Some levels have deadly rows of lights running through them. When you kill an enemy, the lights flip on. Kill another enemy and the lights flip off, allowing you to pass. Another enemy type is a circle that expands indefinitely until you shoot it, whereupon it retracts. If you kill it, then its ghost version will engulf everything within about 10 seconds. If you don't kill it, it will continue to expand normally again until you shoot it back down to size, and so on. Key to each level is knowing where the enemy shapes are moving, killing them so that you can move around the level safely (e.g., taking into account rows of lights, expanding circles, and other obstacles), and knowing when to be patiently methodical and when to be aggressive. The later levels had some cool new mechanics like shapes that, instead of shooting squares at you when they die, release pulsing circles. When one of these circles is on screen, the next enemy you kill transports you into the circle. In this way, you can teleport around the level, out of (or into!) harm's way. Thoth is a short game, challenging but beatable, though there are extra levels after the main set that are probably really hard! I played through some of the procedurally generated ones, and then there are inverted levels (color swap?), a two-player mode, and one of the most difficult sounding achievements I've ever seen. For a brutal challenge, you can beat the game in two-player mode without the second player ever moving or shooting. When the second player dies, they become a ghost and chase you too. So basically this achievement means completing the game with another ghost circle chasing you around the entirety of every level. Veeeery few people on Steam have that achievement! dkirschnerTue, 16 Jul 2019 09:06:23 UTC Sombre (PC) - 15 Jul 2019 - by dkirschner THAT was cool. I wish I had a VR set. Scanner Sombre is a "cave exploration" game by Introversion of Prison Architect fame (or for me, Darwinia). They also did Defcon and Uplink. I've played everything they've ever made. It's always supremely creative. Scanner Sombre looks like nothing they've done before though. You wake up in a tent deep in a cave, find this radar type gun and a VR headset that scans the environment, pixelating and coloring it. Basically, you fire the radar gun everywhere to light your way and explore the cave. Along the way, you get upgrades to the gun that allow you to see more clearly. I won't say anything about the story, but I really enjoyed it, especially when I realized that where I thought I had started and where I thought I was going was not at all where I had actually started or where I was actually going. Scanner Sombre also has a little bit of horror in it with some hideous sounding creatures and oppressive sound design. The boat segment was one of my favorite parts and the most beautiful. The only thing that detracted from the experience was that sometimes navigating through the cave could get frustrating because everything is the same few colors. If you get turned around or can't find a little exit from an area, you can spend some time wandering. Not much though, as the entire game is less than 2 hours long. It's short and sweet and something different.dkirschnerMon, 15 Jul 2019 14:22:11 UTC of Fear (PC) - 15 Jul 2019 - by dkirschner this for free somewhere along the line. Mediocre horror game about a tortured artist. I wasn't totally clear on the story, but I think he went a little nuts when his wife got burned in an accident. Either that, or he was already going a bit nuts as his career faltered, and then his wife got burned and he completely lost it. The story seemed to get more interesting toward the end, but the game relies heavily on symbolism to convey significance to the player, like this set piece at the end with a checker board. No idea what that was about. The artist's madness playing his sanity in checkers? Decent voice acting, some solid artwork with plenty of disturbing imagery. The artist paints his portraits with body parts and whatnot. Oooh ahh, how gross. I suppose one issue I took with the game is that it wasn't scary and didn't instill any layers of fear in my heart. It relied overwhelmingly on jump scares and the aforementioned disturbing imagery to scare and unsettle the player. Jump scares are cheap, and Layers of Fear doesn't pull them off that well. Things predictably move and make noise and change. For example, when you don't see a way out of the room you are in, you can bet that when you spin around, oh no a mysterious force will hurl a vase against a wall! Jump scare got ya! Game takes 3-4 hours better spent playing a better, perhaps more interactive horror game. This one is borderline walking simulator. There are no enemies to run from (technically there are a couple "enemies" but they can't do anything to you), no weapons, no items to use (except in the most basic sense of like finding a key that unlocks a door). That's another reason why the game isn't scary. There's no real danger. You can't die (as far as I know). It's very linear. No choices. Nothing you do matters. I didn't feel like me playing the game mattered. It just needs someone to walk the tortured artist through his insanity.dkirschnerMon, 15 Jul 2019 11:54:48 UTC (PC) - 08 Jul 2019 - by dkirschner, Detention! I never had it in school, believe it or not. I had in-school suspension once but never detention. This game is not about detention. It's about a Taiwanese school during part of a long period of martial law. In this point-and-click horror game, you play as Ray (most of the time) and uncover events in the school's past and her own past. The game has highly disturbing images like rivers of blood with dead bodies in it, creepy eyes that watch you cross the screen, and the "lingered" which are malevolent spirits with lanterns and awfully long serpentine tongues that you have to hide your face from. There are lots of hangings, blood, rituals, blood, cryptic writing, and blood. In the first chunk of the game, you are exploring the school, avoiding the lingered, and piecing together a couple story threads. As the game goes on, the lingered disappear (I don't know why), which fundamentally changes the feeling of the game. You're no longer afraid of anything, running, hiding, or being careful. From then on, it's simply a matter of doing the (relatively easy) puzzles and reading dialogue. In the end, even the puzzles disappear and the game becomes more like a visual novel. I assume these shifts in tone were done on purpose, but I don't think I liked the shifts. The game settled me into the first horror tone, and I spent the rest of the game thinking the lingered would return as enemies, but it just told me a neat story and ended. I'm okay with that. Cool imagery and a unique story made me glad I played, but it wasn't anything magnificent. Howeverrrr, it does have me interested in learning more about Taiwan, about which I admittedly know next to nothing. So, that's a win?dkirschnerMon, 08 Jul 2019 19:15:04 UTC is Strange (PS4) - 02 Jul 2019 - by jp was going to play Life is Strange: Before the Storm, but that disc included the first episode of Life is Strange so I booted that up instead...and, it turns out that I already had Life is Strange (thanks PS+) so I've kept on playing the rest. I had a saved game from 3(!) years ago, but that was only the beginning. Wow, three years? Time really flies. In any case, I've already finished the first three episodes and I've really enjoyed it. It's a different kind of story that's told froma different point of view. There's more puzzley elements than I'm used to when compared to, say, Telltale's games and Detroit. The achievements are all tied to taking photographs of certain moments/places/things and I enjoyed the clues you get in a little scrapbook of sorts (there's actually a lot of info in the scrapbook - lots of stuff to read). Other than that...I'm SUPER surprised by the time-travel twist at the end of the 3rd episode and I'm really curious now to see where it all goes. I wasn't expecting a twist that big...jpTue, 02 Jul 2019 21:47:51 UTC