Saturday, November 18, 2017

MASS EFFECT 3 (XBOX 360)


Having played the previous 2 games, and since I got it almost for free, it was always an option to complete the trilogy at some point. To be honest I wasn´t hyped on it because I favor 10-12 hour games, but I´d heard a lot of buzz about the ending (surprisingly I managed to avoid spoilers) so I thought it was time to end the “Shepard cycle”

On the plus side the classic sci-fi elements are all there: Worlds to explore, fascinating alien cultures, human kind in distress... The RPG and combat aspects didn´t change much from previous titles so they´re still solid, and the story was reasonably compelling. Good achievement design, also, since you can complete some of them either in single or multiplayer

On the minus side the mission journal was openly misleading, animation bugs were common in the cutscenes, the level design is as repetitive as the previous games and I found difficult to believe all the “take your time” situations the game allows while you´re supposed to be working against the clock to save the galaxy

If you like the Bioware-type of games, RPGs in general or sci-fi games you should enjoy it. If not be aware you´ll be required to spend 30-40 hours to see that debated ending (which I liked, by the way :D)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

HOTLINE MIAMI (PC)


As many other Steam games, I´ve had Hotline Miami waiting in my library for a looong time. As I often do I played 2-3 levels in 2014 and then abandoned it. I gave it a try some weeks ago and liked the fast turn-around of trying and dying over and over. Just yesterday I managed to finish it

It´s an interesting indie game, with the usual advantages and inconveniences of that sort: You can expect daring decisions, some of them turn out fresh some others sort of frustrating

Overall the game doesn´t lie: It´s a fairly hardcore experience where you have to kill everyone on sight on different houses using all weapons at your disposal. You´ll die a lot, and 90% of the time will be your fault. However the enemies react to your presence or noise a bit randomly, and you can expect weird reactions or undesired situations over and over. It´s difficult to come up with a real strategy since an enemy coming out of nowhere will fuck up your entire plan. However the levels are so small that you can try again immediately, so that´s essentially the game loop: Try, die, repeat until you get it

The story is kinda confusing to me. But since I haven´t played continuously maybe it´s my fault. It does have that 80s appealing and bizarre violence that makes it unique. The pixel art visuals do their work, and the music is appropriate but often too loud and annoying. Interestingly I found it easier to control with keyboard and mouse than gamepad. Generally games that require 360º orientation control are better used with a pad

Overall, if you like indie games is almost a must. At least trying it. If not it´s a fairly niche product which will appeal to a small but very passionate group


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

CASTLE OF ILLUSION (PC)


Out of nostalgia - and a bit because it was on sale - I got Castle of Illusion on Steam. Back in the days I played it on my Megadrive and have some good memories of it, so why not?

For context, we´re talking of a 3D reboot of a 2D platform game. While most reboots are questionable, this one came out better than expected, since the game offers several substantial advantages over the original. The most notorious being checkpoints: If memory serves in the original if you ran out of lives you had to start over. In this new version completed levels are saved, so you can continue playing from the last completed checkpoint. This makes a world of a difference from the original, which was a good platforming games with some fresh ideas, but it was fucking hard to finish. I don´t think I managed to do it

But this new version not only upgrades the game to 2.5D graphics but also adds some interesting camera variety, while keeping the excellent level design ideas. It´s still fairly simple in its proposal: Mickey can walk, jump and throw apples. That´s pretty much it. Each scenario is somehow unique, with lots of exotic gameplay elements. This is a rare luxury in these days where budget constraints favor reusable systems. Another advantage is that, since the mechanics are that simple, you can´t blame the game for your failures. It´s all on you

On the minus side I´d say the ending cinematic was underwhelming, much like if they ran out of money at the last minute, and the game was a bit short. Presuming the game has the same number of levels than the original it´s understandable: Since the player is not forced to start from scratch it´s easier to run through the game. That also makes the “Lives” system a bit superfluous, I see the game being clearer without them

Anyway, good fun and some impressive levels. A great platformer, highly recommendable for those interested in the genre or Disney characters

Friday, August 25, 2017

LIFE IS STRANGE (PS4)



I´ve been interested on interactive storytelling games since like forever. That was one of the reasons why I took that job at Quantic Dream. Some ex-employees of that company founded Dontnod some years ago, and created Life is strange. And thanks to a PS4 store sale, I had the chance to finish it

As it´s common in this genre, the story takes priority over game mechanics. However, while David Cage´s games use gameplay as a short relief in between story beats, Life is strange does a better job not only to give its game systems the opportunity to shine, but also the nature of them (rewind back time) is well integrated into the story, and supports the feeling it´s trying to build

Split in several episodes, the game tells the story of Max, a student of a prestigious photography academy, who has a vision of the future where the city is destroyed. At the same time he finds herself in the possession of the superhuman ability to go back in time at will, which is the main tool in most puzzles. While trying to win back her friend Chloe, they both get involved in the disappearance of another student... and all that happens afterward

The game offers a number of different scenarios and characters to interact with, through simple interaction puzzles and dialogues. The rewind ability gives uniformity to the whole game and it´s the main tool to solve the most complicated enigmas. The second theme is photography: Max is an aspiring photo artist, and all achievements are related to taking pictures of picturesque situations


All together the game is consistent with the genre, offers a moderate step forward in terms of gameplay, and delivers a reasonably interesting story. On the minus side, I´m not sold with the world visual style and sometimes I could use more variation on the puzzles. But if you like story games, it´s kinda a must

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!