Sunday, June 30, 2019

FRAMED 2 (iOS)


Framed 2 is as good as the first game, for better and worse. That means the concept of rearranging comic frames still feels fresh and engaging, but there aren't many novelties to claim this to be enough development for a sequel. Since it's also around 2-3 hours long, it feels more an extension pack rather than a stand-alone game

Ok, that sounds a bit worse than it should. Make no mistake, it's a good game and more addictive than you might think. And being short is not a problem for me, I'd rather pay for an intense experience that keeps me engaged over an artificially stretched game that repeats itself. Framed 2 does have some little iterations over the original concept such as (if I remember correctly) managing 2 characters simultaneously and the collectibles. But again they fall short to make you perceive the game as more than an extension

Visually speaking it has a firm and unique art direction, and I personally find the asian noir a nice twist that adds value to the overall product. But I can´t forget it crashed 3 times just before I was about to complete a scene successfully. Mi iPad is old, but still if l can purchase it, it should run smoothly

In summary, if you liked the first game you should try this one. If you didn't don't bother. If you didn't try it start with the first ;)

Monday, April 22, 2019

GOD OF WAR (PS4)


Can´t really say I was a hardcore fan of the God of War series, but I did play a bit most of them. The PSP ones were my favorites and afaik the only ones I completed. When I was working at Crytek I heard about the reboot and the viking theme. Intriguing. When the game was finally released a hype wave took the media, which quickly labeled it as the Game of the year. In these situations I always feel skeptical

Some months later a workmate lend me his copy and I finally had the opportunity to play it a bit. Also, at that time the other game I expected to be the GotY (Dead Red Redemption 2) had been released, and somehow my perception of GoW changed for the better: Now I don´t have a problem in considering it the game of the year. Partially because I liked some of the risks/solutions they took, but also because - much like Atreus is for Kratos - RDR2 was a major disappointment to me

On the plus side they successfully brought new life to a semi-stagnant IP. Norse mythology offers a lot of possibilities for future games, and they have barely scratched the surface (i.e. Odin/Thor are only mentioned). They have also turned the anger-driven Kratos into a believable character and introduced a richer relationship with those around him, particularly his son Atreus

The camera work is also remarkable, since the whole game is displayed as a one-shot sequence (including cutscenes). And being a completionist/collectible fan myself there are lots of items to find/sniff around the scenarios for. Visually speaking the game plays very well with the sense of different dimensions (you often feel very small compared to the magnitude of the scenarios), something already present in the Greek setting but less impactful due to the more-distant camera

On the not-so-great side I don´t think the combat is better. It´s different and it works, but I miss the sense of being a kill machine from the previous titles, and the 3rd person camera often hides enemies attacking from the back. The plot does have some interesting twists but I´m still not totally sure why Baldur is fixated on Kratos, and I feel most of the world trips I´m forced to are not motivated by character development but because the level designers needed excuses to move me around the map

Aside from that I felt some of the encounters were poorly balanced. I had less issues killing the final boss than some of the minions (particularly elves and revenants). Some more checkpoints would have helped. On the world side the metroidvania gates I found along the way didn´t do a great job in telling me "don´t bother now, you need a future ability for this". Also the teleport options didn´t seem close enough to promote more exploration (at least for me)

I frankly didn´t feel like finishing the game. I had a feeling I had seen all that needed to be seen when I was 50% through, but eventually I forced myself to complete it. I don´t regret it, but I don´t see it as a memorable experience. It´s great at times, but overall I think there are areas to improve that make me think the sequels might be better

Still, I don´t see any other game this year taking so many risks and succeeding as often as God of War does, so to me is a fair winner of the GotY title

Saturday, March 2, 2019

WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH (PC)


One of the best-knowns indie darlings, it has been in my Steam wishlist for years. Fortunately the Epic store gave it away for free a couple of months ago and - together with being only 3-4h long - gave me the final nudge to play it

Part of that sub-genre known as "walking simulators", it tries to be a bit better than just a moving story that takes you from A to B and so on. It achieves that, but it didn´t string a cord in me. I believe it has been a sales success on the indie target, so it´s probably my problem

On the good side the game gives you the rare luxury of exotic gameplay on almost every "chapter", which doesn´t happen often. I should probably stress this: In these times of reusing gameplay templates Edith Finch stands out for trying to be unique on each situation. And it commonly succeeds

The ambiance is well reflected on music and world creation, and it creates an interesting melancholic mood you don´t see often in other games. The in-world UI  and subtitles make the game also feel different from similar titles

On the not so good side my biggest problem with the game is on the story: Dark and gritty - uncommon in these days of rainbows and pinky unicorns - but not interestingly dark and gritty. It took me several weeks to finish the game, through several sessions. "But it was just 3-4h, why didn´t you finish it in just one session?". Here´s the thing: I personally didn´t care much about those characters - who all seemed to be doomed - and the story outside of them is almost non-existent. You´re essentially taken to a zoo tour without a carrot on the stick

Another element I think could have been improved or communicated better was the level design, more precisely the flow between chapters: Me being a completionist I cherrished the idea of experiencing all the stories. However the initial flow seems to allow you to skip some, while the later stages are much more tunneled. I suspect I could have back-tracked to the beginning but it didn´t seemed easy on the final chapter´s level design. I finished the game missing 2-3 characters. Admitedtly you´re then given the option to check them all, but it´s not the same

If you like indie games you should check it out for sure. It wasn´t memorable for me, but I´m sure it can be for many others

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How '80s culture trickled down into the design of Crossing Souls


In case you missed it, here is an interesting interview in Gamasutra with the developers of Crossing Souls, an Spanish indie game I reviewed some time ago

If you like the mood of 80s teenage movies is a must ;)

Click here for the Gamasutra article, which includes the video

Friday, July 27, 2018

XCOM 2 (PS4)


Not always, but some months my Playstation Plus subscription has an interesting game for free. This time it was Xcom 2. I played the first one on PC, and I thought "let´s see how it feels on a pad"

In short, it does feel good. Turn-based games often work fine in consoles. Aside from that I don´t remember 100% the previous game but I think both are consistent in the good... and the bad things

On the bright side, the combat system works really well, much like in the previous title. The upgrades and technology research options usually enhance it, offering more abilities and supporting different playstyles. New enemies, new combat behaviors... generally speaking it works like a charm. I think the "conceal" system is new, which is a good addition since you can decide when to start the fight. Visually speaking I believe it has been a big step up (but tbh I don´t have a good eye for graphics)

On the dark side, I suffered the same problem I had with Xcom 1: The golden path is extremely narrow, so much that if you make a minor mistake at the beginning of the game (i.e. lose 1-2 soldiers) you can be blocked hours later and it´d be extremely difficult to  be back to a situation with a chance for victory. You have to rely on save/load A LOT. Likely the top game in the market in this aspect. And loading a saved game can take up to 2 min...

Aside from this, I noticed extreme framerate drops too often, I believe mostly associated to loading the map (really? they aren´t so detailed!) and too many simultaneous particle effects. They were so obvious that made me question the ability of their programming team

Anyway, I certainly recommend it for strategy, turn-based aficionados. Particularly if you´re a bit hardcore you can easily fall in love with this game

Sunday, June 24, 2018

SUBSURFACE CIRCULAR (PC)


Thanks to one of the frequent Steam sales and my wishlist, I gave a chance to Subsurface circular. I´ve heard it was short and very narrative driven. It didn´t disappoint

To be honest, it felt a bit like an over-developed Twine game: All about dialogues and decision branches, you can´t lose in any way and it´s indeed short. Since I´m generally interested in the genre, I thought I´d enjoy it more. Since it delivers what it was promised I cannot say it´s bad in any sense, but there weren´t any novelties in the proposal. Being indie is a bit to take chances, but I didn´t feel SSC took any. It is polished, graphically modest but well finished and plays nice. But the story wasn´t particularly compelling, being so text-based makes it a little tiresome and doesn´t offer much replayability

Still, I´m a believer in short experiences (i.e. 3-4 hours) that cost accordingly. In that sense, SSC is to be praised. And if you do like storytelling experiences you probably won´t be disappointed

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

KILLZONE 3 (PS3)



Frankly I don´t remember how I got Killzone 3. It wasn´t a game I was particularly excited to play not even when it was released. Either someone sold it to me almost for nothing, or was left as "first come first serve" at the company kitchen. Anyhow it´s been waiting at my "Games to play" shelf for months if not years

Some weeks ago - after A LOT of time spent on open world games - I developed a need for some linear experience, so I gave it a try. I´m also trying to finish old games (i.e. PS3) before they become unsupported, servers closed and such. So I said "why not?"

Overall is a solid shooter, but there isn´t anything remarkable on it. The story is fine but can´t help to think the writers had to "revive" the baddies for the sake of milking the franchise cow (didn´t I finish with the Helghast in the second game already?), weapons are satifying to use and AI behaviours and scripting (both enemy and friendly) are adecuate. The scenarios are mostly ok - I presume they reused city assets from the previous game - and even they take you to some new locations for no good reason other than visual variety (which is not bad, though)

There is simply nothing bad on the game, if you like shooters you´ll likely enjoy it. But I struggled to find anything I could find memorable other than some cutscenes and a couple boss fights. In short, a nice experience but a bit of "was it really needed?" feeling. Since they made Killzone Shadow fall afterwards, I presume they made some good bucks out of it, so nothing to complain. Good business is good business

By the way, just when I had finished the campaign I tried to play MP and found out the servers were closed 2 months ago. Yay