Thursday, August 1, 2019

LEISURE SUIT LARRY - WET DREAMS DON´T DRY (PS4)


There was a transition time in the late 80s when home computers (mine was an MSX) were replaced gradually by PCs. There weren´t so many games available, one of them being Leisure suit Larry in the land of the lounge lizards, an erotic-themed graphic adventure. I was in high school at the time, and this combination of hormones and games shortage made it immensely popular for my friends and me

Since then, the Larry series has managed to keep going. With ups and downs, different platforms and slight IP changes, but generally speaking keeping the essence: Larry is an aspiring womanizer who generally fails miserably at his attempts to hook up with all women he can find. Frat house humor and graphic adventure systems complete the cocktail

Talking about old games with my friends, I found out a new Larry game had just been released. I was taken by nostalgia, and purchased it on PS4. Looks like it´s now being developed by a German team who´s betting on a classic point-and-click approach. Overall it works, the tone is consistent with the IP and if you like graphic adventures you´ll enjoy it

On the plus side… well, I wouldn´t recommend the game to anyone who´s not into the character and juvenile humor. But if you are, it´s funny and there is even some mild criticism of the current society and social media you can find refreshing. There are a couple of nice twists when you replay a small section of the first game – with 1987 visuals - or an verbal confrontation with Donald Trump (I would have moved both earlier in the game, for bigger impact)

On the minus side I had real problems navigating the UI menus, some of them felt broken to me. Otherwise it has the same issues than any other graphic adventure: Likeness of getting stuck, weird item combinations, users resorting to talk to NPCs until they repeat themselves… Also it might be just me but I didn´t like the “Flash” visual style, it felt a bit cheap to me

I admit that – to avoid frustration – I decided to cheat and played using a walkthrough: The platinum trophy seemed achievable and I knew it was unlikely I would ever play the game again. In order to not miss anything I simply read an online guide and try things only when I knew I could not miss anything. I kinda like it, tbh, it saves a lot of the “I don´t know what the fuck to do” that is inherent to this genre

Sunday, July 28, 2019

THE DIVISION 2 (PS4)


Being TCTD2 a live game is not easy to decide when you´ve truly “finished” it but it´s a tacit understanding you can claim that when you´ve completed the story campaign

Anyway, although I did complete it some time ago, I´ve been trying to get some of the low-hanging trophies and follow-up on the end-game activities. There are plenty of them, actually, since it was a conscious decision to make the game particularly rich in that sense. I´m still on it

TCTD2 is kinda unique game for 2 reasons: First it´s a semi-MMO, adapted to consoles. Second is one of the first games in Ubisoft conceived as a mid-term GaaS: You do pay for the box, but there is a myriad of new content afterwards, plus updates and fixes across several years of post-launch

As such, sometimes you feel in uncharted territory when working here, since we need to come up with standards that don´t exist in the company (maybe in the industry?). Naturally, adaptation and flexibility becomes a must, which brings its own challenges

Reputed to be one of the best “looter shooters” in the market, if you like the genre and/or Tom Clancy´s political fiction you should give it a try

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