Sunday, August 20, 2017

SOUTH PARK THE STICK OF TRUTH (PC)


The South Park game sequel is on its way in some months and since it´s developed by Ubisoft I got a nice discount. I´ve had the first game waiting on Steam for years and thought it´d be a good idea to finish it before the new one arrives

Truth is, I thought it´d be a short one. But it actually took me 30h to complete it. Admittedly I´m a compulsive collector and also spent time doing some unusual achievements, but since the game map is not that big I initially pictured it as one of those 8-10h long games

That speaks well of the game´s design and particularly the combat system. The world space is condensed but packed with content, and quests usually require you to move around enough to find optional challenges. At the end you often have that feeling of “I have so many different things to do… which one should I try first” that I only find in bigger games

Another interesting aspect to highlight are the visuals, particularly how well they´ve captured the look and feel of the original series. Honestly, you soon become one on this Colorado town, and the game is like an interactive episode of the series. On top of that all the characters are present one way or another, and if you dig their type of humor it´s also really funny

The combat system is a classic JRPG turn-based system but with a Southparkesque paintover. It works fairly well although I didn´t have problems to beat almost all enemies on the first try, including the final boss. Don´t remember if there was a difficulty setting at the beginning, but there are no achievements associated so I´m not interested in trying others. But even if there were I would have chosen the mid/normal bracket, and would have expected to be a bit more challenged

Also on the minus side I´m not convinced on the design of some of the UI screens (it´s an RPG after all, there are many) and controls. I think it could have been done in a more intuitive and nicer way. Also some of the subsystems (i.e. buddy abilities out of combat) were poorly explained


I´m currently trying a couple more achievements before deleting the local copy, but generally speaking I can say it´s a must if you´re a fan of the IP, and recommendable if you like role games in general. Now go ahead and kill Kenny, you bastards!


Monday, July 31, 2017

MONUMENT VALLEY 2 (iOS)


I consider Monument Valley the best game of 2014, so when I heard a sequel was available I purchased it immediately. Truth is I find difficult to play on mobile/tablet normally, I just favor PC/console. But it´s perfect for trips! So I managed to finish it on my way back to Malmo, and here are my impressions:

First thing is: If you played MV1, you don´t need much more to understand the sequel. It doesn´t add much in terms of game mechanics. They put more effort on the scenarios being more dynamic, and the little twist of controlling 2 characters simultaneously. Other than that the basic principles of the original game are still present: Escher-esque environments, small story hints – More to suggest thoughts than a real plot – and “find the exit” puzzles without any possibility of dying

The game is so similar to the original that it could have been marketed as an expansion. Also I think it´s shorter than the original – Or maybe I found it easier. Only 2 hours of gameplay for me. Overall it´s still enjoyable and suggestive, but I expected a bit more from a sequel

But if you liked the first one, you´ll surely cherish this one. And since the original one was so good, that´s no little thing

LOVE YOU TO BITS (iOS)


I often collaborate as a jury on different Spanish awards. Last year Love you to bits was one of the contestants. Despite some good remarks I didn´t see it particularly outstanding… but I got a free copy. It waited at my mobile´s desktop for a year until I gave it another chance, and my opinion about it changed drastically

The design is surprisingly mature and self-contained: It´s essentially a graphic adventure without relying on any text. Your character can move around the scenarios (never too big) without the possibility of dying, using the objects you can find freely, and it´s not possible to get stuck. This provides a stress-less experience, knowing the solution is always available and you just need to spend a bit more time to find the way

Although this basic principle could be too basic, and risks a repetitive experience, the dev team does a good job in iterating over the main mechanic to create always fresh content. Also the difficulty is fairly well balanced - not too difficult, not too easy. The proof is I don´t recall to have used any internet walkthroughs to find solutions (only for collectibles, I gotta admit)

Visuals are very nice. Cartoonish but with its own style. The music is amazingly evocative, too. All together the game has a high level of polish, with plenty of little details that clearly shows the team knows what they were doing – or they had a lot of time to spend on it

Not much on the minus side, to be honest. I guess some of the “time travel” levels were a bit obscure to understand, and I didn´t like some collectibles can be missable. Other than that it´s one of the best games I played this year for sure. Highly recommended for all ages and genres!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

UNTIL DAWN (PS4)


As part of an upcoming Gamasutra article I'm writing, I’m checking some narrative games and one was Until Dawn. I didn’t have it so I borrowed it from a workmate (Thanks, Patrick!) and had the chance to finish it. Well, finish one branch that is. It's one of those storytelling games whose ending changes based on some key decisions you make along the plot
Overall it's a variation of the Heavy Rain model: It lacks exotic gameplay but the story is much more polished, centered and digestible. That would be the first "plus" on the list. Aside from that it's a nice adaptation of the teenage horror movies into a videogame - which feels fresh - there is a good amount of story background through dialogues and collectibles and graphics are well executed
One thing I particularly valued was the branching journal, which explains all the decisions you made so far. Similar to the choice recaps at the end of Telltale games, but more nicely presented and always available
On the minus side it doesn't add so much in terms of game mechanics to the genre, and the homage to how those movies are resolved make it a bit predictable. Is still a good game, excellent if you like the genre, particularly if you consider that the tone of both Quantic Dream and Telltale products is extremely dramatic: No matter which decision you make, you know the characters will be doomed to an uncomfortable outcome. Also in those games most of the golden path is pre-defined, and trick you into petty choices to make you believe the plot has actually changed when actually it hasn’t that much

In Until Dawn you can either save all characters or they can all die, so the decisions seem to be more meaningful, and actually there is a “Happy ending” you can achieve. In short, highly recommended for the storytelling genre lovers, or people interested in entering into that type of games. Not sure about other type of players, though

Saturday, June 24, 2017

MURDERED SOUL SUSPECT (PC)


Years ago I had this idea for a game: You start as a ghost. Your body is on the ground, you were assassinated minutes ago. A number of friends/relatives surround the corpse. You don´t know which, but one of them killed you. They all leave the scene and from that moment you start an investigation to find who of them murdered you. It would have been a game about talking to other ghosts with unfinished businesses, unlock new areas and puzzles using paranormal powers: Possession, telekynesis, etc. I also had a fairly good final story twist

Never got the chance to pitch it, though. Then I found Murdered soul suspect, which plot is surprisingly similar to what I had in mind. I got it reasonably cheap at Steam, played a bit but left it for other games for 2 years. Only recently I decided to finish it - and even did all the achievements

It holds a 51-59 in metacritics, and I fail to understand why. User rating is around 70, which sounds about right. Admittedly gameplay is not mainstream, it´s all about investigation and collectibles. And you can probably finish the game in 4-5 hours if you focus on the main missions. But still if you dig that type of experiences (there aren´t so many investigation games in the market, after all) it´s very enjoyable and the plot is reasonably good. And the setting feels very fresh to me

I personally recommend it to anybody who likes detective stories / gameplay, or collectibles (there is a gazillion of items to find). Critics were unfair with this game, I believe

Sunday, May 28, 2017

RAGE (PS3)


Knowing that PS3/Xbox 360 will be discontinued (as well as its online services) some day, I´m still trying to finish some old games before that happens. In the last months I´ve been playing Rage, and honestly it´s been a bit of a testing one...

Fairly hyped before its release, it was met with mixed reviews. I personally consider the PS3 version (don´t know about other platforms) as a technical failure. My reasons are:



  • LoD popping everywhere. Worst game I´ve seen
  • Don´t undertand why they had to instance dungeons. Streaming technology should have made it possible, and honestly the game as a whole it´s not so detailed
  • Forces you to save all the time. Checkpoints are non-existent in some areas, or simply ignore the "no more than 5 min lost" rule

All things considered it felt to me like a game conceived for PC, and at some point someone told the dev team "Ey, you do remember we´re supposed to deliver it on consoles as well, right?"


Design wise is not bad. If you like Mad-max settings it´s probably appealing. The shooting mechanics are well implemented and the game balance is adecuate. I´m not too hot about the AI movement options, though, since some enemies move too fast both horizontally and vertically. For PC is probably ok, but in console I had some issues targeting. Also not totally sure if the collisions shouldn´t have been more indulgent, I would often miss when I´m almost sure it should have been a hit


Aside from the core mechanics, the game offers some acceptable (not particularly new) racing challenges, crafting, mini-games, and side missions. In terms of content delivered it´s solid, it took me up to 21 hours to finish the game, plus 90% of the trophies (I am of the completionist type)


Anyway, not a bad game but definitively not a memorable one

Sunday, April 16, 2017

HIDDEN FOLKS (iOS)


Looks like I can find more time for mobile games than console/PC. Particularly during flights, where you don´t have many leisure options. That´s the case of Hidden Folks

It´s a hidden object game, much like the old "Where is Waldo" books: You´re presented with a gigantic 2D scenario and a list of objects/people to find, along with a hint per each. I presume the biggest challenge for designers was to find the sweet balance between how much info you give to the player, to make it challenging but not impossible

Overall I´d say the game is brilliant in that regard, since I managed to finish all scenarios but one without going to internet walkthroughs. And on that one, I missed only one of the objectives. So all things considered, I´d say the game does well in the difficulty curve

I gotta say I love the visual style. It´s unique, simple, fits the purpose of the game and still has personality. Good work! There are also a shit ton of animations to make the world feel alive, and also whenever the player interacts with the canvas. On the other hand, I think that affected performance negatively, particularly in some of the bigger levels

I think it could have done better regarding rewards: Whenever you find one of the items there is little celebration, nor a list of achievements to make. You just keep going finding more stuff, until the game allows you to move to the next level. They can probably do better in that sense

I certainly recommend this game to anyone willing to test his observation skills. If you´re not, then it´s probably not for you, but still it feel fresh to anyone willing to find something different in their mobile gaming!