Saturday, November 1, 2014


I wanted to give it a try to pixel art, and find out for myself how difficult it is. Hence, I present you the big-boned Superman:

It takes some time, and it's not easy (at least for a non-artist). But doesn't look impossible to achieve decent results in a limited time. Any input is welcome!

Friday, October 10, 2014


Ah, god bless Steam. Where else could I find a 20 euro game for only 5?

Anyway, after some big publisher products, I felt like I could use some indie material. Gone Home is one of those critics darlings that have popped out in the last years, and apparently it had strong storytelling. Why not?

So, I just finished and the overall feeling is mostly positive. You can go through the whole game in less than 3 hours. It's very short (maybe too much?) and mainly based on exploration. You impersonate the older sister of a family who returns from a year travelling through Europe, but the house is empty. All gameplay goes around you opening drawers, checking notes and letters and playing tapes so you can connect the dots of the inner family stories.

There are no enemies, no shotting, no magic, no nothing. Just move around and learn about what happened to your family on that year. There are 4 plots that you can unveil, 2 of them not particularly interesting but the main one is touching. 3-4 puzzles for opening combinations (one I had to check for the solution online)... and that's pretty much it.

Now: Do I recommend it? It depends. If you are in the mood for some indie novelty, definitively. It offers a new approach of how to tell a story, and it kinda succeeds. Don't expect much more, though. Also for 20 bucks you can probably get more gameplay from other indie games, so I'd suggest to wait until it's for sale.

But I don't want to sound diminishing: I deeply appreciate the effort and applaud the final result. We need people trying new things, and Gone Home shows us a possible way.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Hitman Go is a very interesting study case. As a game is enjoyable and visually unique, and as a part of the Hitman franchise is daring enough to take the gameplay into a brand new territory.

As Jack the Ripper said, let's go piece by piece: Although the spirit of the game remains faithful to the Hitman series (you impersonate Agent 47 and your goal is to infiltrate and murder your target) the gameplay is turn-based. You can only move through a grid and it doesn't have many knots, which you share with a number of guards. Every time you move, the enemies move as well. You need to find the route across them and sometimes use some objects to alter their patrols.

So, although technically speaking you have a stealth goal, it's closer to a board game than the console ones. It's a bold move into a totally different area, and you need to applaud Square Enix for giving green light to this approach. And for the most part, it totally works!

The developers have done a good work in every sense: Each level takes 2-3 min, which fits with the average playtime on mobile platforms. There is a new enemy or ability unlocked every 3-4 levels, renewing the interest, and there are some optional challenges that can assure replayability. On top of that, it's fairly easy and I needed no internet walkthrough to finish it.

On the minus side the game lacks story and it's not easy to feel totally hooked. And it's not particularly long, either.

It currently has an 81 on metacritics (7.0 for users) and feels right. I was entertained for 3-4 good hours, and impressed for the bravery of betting on a totally new gameplay & platform. Well done!

Monday, September 1, 2014


I remember playing FEAR back in its day, and abandon it for being repetitive. But when the whole series was on sale on Steam for a ridiculous price I thought 'what the hell' and bought them all.

Still, my opinion hasn't changed. The gameplay is centered on shooting sections with occasional scary scripted events plus some optional exploration. It's a good display of what 10 years ago was considered as a FPS experience (more advanced than Doom, for example), but boy things have changed!

There was some buzz at the time regarding the advanced AI patterns. Every time you played the layout the enemies would behave different, if memory serves because the game would learn from the player's combat style and adapt. Back in the day I remember that was frustrating to me since I couldn't learn from each attempt what the NPCs reaction would be, and this unpredictability made me fail over and over the same scenario.

Still, I didn't abandon the game because of that but due to be always the same: The enemy variation is not high and some of them are scarcely used. I eventually managed to make my way through the whole game following the same strategy: Get into the combat zone, activate bullet time and headshot the bastards. It rarely failed.

Another semi-failure is the creepy moments. There are plenty of sudden appearances of Alma, the scary girl, but since the player can be looking any place when that happens it's fairly easy to miss them. The story itself is not particularly engaging, and hints more than tells. An interesting choice, but I eventually had to check wikipedia to understand what happened.

On the other hand, the combat systems work fine, the visual effects were ahead of its time and overall it was an interesting mix of genres. Also, it was very useful to me for collecting info about 'how not to do certain things' that I'm storing on a personal wiki to be used if at some day I go into teaching at the University. Yay!

Saturday, August 30, 2014


The game was GTA Vice City, and the mission's name is "Demolition man". If memory serves is one of the story ones, which means you HAVE to complete it if you want to progress in the plot. But the mission was... fucking difficult.

It goes like this: You get to control a helicopter toy with really sloppy handling. You're supposed to pick up a bomb nearby, fly the toy into a building and plant it on a specified location. Then you return, collect another bomb and repeat until you've dropped all of them, each on a different floor. Aside from driving through narrow spaces and the helicopter's low health, there are plenty of thugs protecting the location / shooting at you. Check here for more info.

I remember lots of days trying on my PS2, 10 years ago. Back in those days there weren't so much info on the internet, and definitively not video walkthroughs. You could get hints on forums but that was all. On top of that, the mission was super-hard even if you knew exactly what to do.

In the good old days, you played pretty alone and assumed the game was adapted to everyone's skill. As a consequence, if you couldn't finish a game/mission you immediately thought you sucked as a gamer. But today you can read what other people think regarding the same experience, and find out they have the same problems than you. That's how I've found most others were frustrated by this mission as well. That makes it less frustrating since it's not my fault, but instead the game's.

Funny thing is I got the iPad version and I completed it on my third attempt, I think. Times change.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Interesting talk, worth if you're working on an online service:

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Here's another one of those nice games you may have missed but actually are quite enjoyable: Deadlight. The first game of a Spanish studio, in which they struggle to finish it for more time they initially expected. I know that of first hand since some friends worked on it.

The final result, in my opinion, is quite good. The visual approach, similar to Limbo, totally works and gives a unique flavor to the experience. The game systems work fine, nothing you haven't seen before but I know for a fact they had huge issues just to have this. It was critizised for being too short and it's indeed: Just can finish it in 4 hours without major issues. Still, for 15 dollars in XBLA I wouldn't feel cheated (admittedly, I paid even less due to my "only games with 75% discount on Steam" purchase policy)

The game is essentially platforming and puzzles. Both systems work reasonably well. You can see little details that require polish but nothing major. The puzzles themselves were not particularly difficult (I completed the game without external help) and I'm actually a fan of that. I see no reason for frustrating users with challenges that at the end of the day internet can solve for you.

I believe they intended to make it much longer, but their scheduling and overall direction was not as precise as it should have, and the experience falls short. The story doesn't hurt but it could have been much better, since it sins where other games do (i.e. Ryse or Castlevania LoS): The most interesting plot twists are left for the end, where most gamers will never reach.

A nightmare mode (no saving), collectibles (often more a nuisance than adding value), leaderboards and achievements complete the pack. As a whole, a good first game of a new studio, and that's not little thing. Good luck!

Friday, July 11, 2014


Being an admirer of Escher’s artwork, it’s no surprise I was attracted by Monument Valley. In essence, the game makes interactive all those geometric fantasies, and creates a wonderful (although short) experience.

I’m kinda envious because I’m not good at designing visual puzzles at all. Sadly, I could have never made this game. However, somehow I aspire to do something similar in the future: Create a brand new gameplay experience that none has imagined before. Monument Valley does that, and it’s so uncommon that you have to admire the effort... and support it if possible, buying the game ;)

The design is remarkable since there are no failing conditions (much like Monkey Island, no matter how much you fail the game always allows you to retry), and with really little elements they manage to create a solid 1-2 hours of gameplay.

Yep, that’s one of the weaknesses of the game, it’s quite short. 10 levels, each of them you can beat in 5-10 min. The story falls onto the ‘poetic’ or ‘suggestive’ category: Few storytelling elements, that evoke more than lead. Think of Braid or Limbo for references. It works as a canvas, but can’t say I found it particularly engaging.

Honor mention for the visuals, simple but extremely beautiful, and the oniric audio. Altogether they create a one-of-a-kind experience. Hopefully they’ll make DLCs, or a sequel. I strongly recommend the game for whoever likes games or art in general. Monument Valley is currently my candidate to GoTY 2014.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Holy frijoles! I liked Guacamelee from the first trailer, due to its unique setting: Luchadores against skeletons, very Mexican. However, not that much as to buy it so I waited.

Sometime later, it was on sale on Steam (PC). After 3 frustrating hours I decided to forget about the game. I don't do that often. The problem was the game speed: Seemed to me the enemies and game logic was too fast for my reaction time. I reached an event in which you're running away from an enemy and no matter how many times I tried I died over and over. I watched some internet videos and realized the game speed in the console version was slower, but the player actions were as responsive as in the PC. Weird, right? I somehow suspect there was some issue with the port, then. I've seen that happening with versions of old 8 bit games.

But I liked the setting and so much humor & crazyness the devs put on it, so I promised myself to give it another try if I could get a console version. And thanks to the Xbox One monthly free games, I've got it and finished it. Guess what? I was right. The game is substantially easier, and I beated that event which blocked me on the PC version on the second try.

The game is very good, honestly. It was a very mature design, lots of replayability, some brand new systems and lots of love and humor. It's essentially a metroidvania brawler + platformer, with some side quests, a basic upgrade system and challenges. In the GDC the devs mentioned they were specially proud of the fact that the combat moves were also used for platforming (jumps). How does this work? Some of your punches, like UP+B, also project the character up. This move can be performed together with the normal jump to achieve higher distances. Nice design ;)

Visually speaking is really unique, with a mix of flash-like graphics and Mexican iconography. It has a co-op mode I didn't play, and that's it. On the minor side the difficulty is excessive at times, I don't think it was properly scaled. By the end of the game is almost unbearable. And I could have used some basic multiplayer, but I understand they're a small team and that's a lot of additional work.

I highly recommend the game for anybody who's into brawling games. It has an 88 in metacritics, and today those ratings are not given for free. Well done, Drinkbox!

Monday, June 30, 2014


Great game, for sure. Best thing I can say is when I finished the story mode I thought it was a little short, assuming I finished it in 6-8 hours. Later I checked on Steam and it took me actually 14.

I enjoyed Arkham asylum, and was tempted about this one. Again the combat system was a main reference for Ryse, and the free roaming approached seemed a good fit for the IP. Now I think it's a remarkable sequel since it builds onto the previous one. Practically every game system from Arkham asylum can be found on this one, plus some new gadgets, open world (although relatively small)... and Catwoman.

The pacing is similar to the original, combining combat with stealth & investigation challenges. I may be wrong but I believed there were some more bosses but less exotic gameplay sections (in Asylum you had several scarecrow levels, while in this one you one have one 'dream' section). The story works (although they put together so many villains that I found it a little confusing, and somehow unfinished) and the new free roaming systems (hook / wip) work like a charm.

Some new enemy types, same multiple collectible options and arena challenges makes me think they must have a mature and solid design team, who didn't go crazy but instead kept the foundations from the original, added some well-selected new options and created a decent sequel without excessive ambitions. They knew where the gold was, and mined selectively.

Highly recommendable, in any case. These Rocksteady guys are really something...

Sunday, June 22, 2014


aaaaand another game I got very cheap thanks to a work mate. I did play it a little bit back in 2008 at a friend's console, but I'm not a big fan of survival horrors in general so I passed. But since I also have DS2 waiting, I gave it a chance.

I found the game extremely well crafted, and as I usually say "very mature". The devs didn't try to excel on every area, and instead focused on where they thought they would get more gold: The monsters. The enemy design is smart, varied and features a new dismemberment tech. I suspect it sucks most of the rendering power, so the level dressing is very repetitive and doesn't have much windows. But that works fine with the horror genre.

They not only reuse most graphic assets in levels, but also you re-visit 2 scenarios as well. The story was good enough to me (I confused both female characters) and sometimes engaging despite the lack of charisma from the player character. The weapons design is intelligent (they use classic weapons with a Sci-fi twist) and I believe they were pioneers in the integration of the HUD within the game world, since health / statis / ammo are displayed onto the player character.

In summary, lots of little good decisions and well-measured ambition that offer at the end a rounded and mostly satisfying experience. If any, a little more variation on systems out of the basic combat would have been appreciated, and since the game doesn't have MP the 13 hours of gameplay felt a little short, but nothing major.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Thanks to the Xbox gold subscription I got when Ryse was finished, I'm enjoying some free games I had no real intention to buy. I was intrigued by SR3 because of the college humor you could see in promotional videos, but other than that I always took it for another GTA look-alike.

I can't say my opinion has changed much. There are indeed some funny missions and bizarre game options which can make you laugh, but I suspect they'll be more effective in the co-op mode. The game world is glitchier than any Rockstar game, and some of the missions doesn't seem to have been tested enough. But the overall experience is entertaining, as over the top as the developers intended (I attended to one of their GDC talks in which they explained their tools for concept phases, quite interesting) and very varied.

Can't really recommend it unless you're a big fan of free-roaming games, but it's not a waste of time. It holds an 84 in metacritics which I think it's a little inflated, but not too much. In any sense it's worth it particularly if it's on sale (or free) ;P

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Here's a little homage to Team Fortress 2 (I believe the second game I've played the most) and the country that has been hosting me for the last 2 years.

You need to have some basic knowledge of German to understand the joke. Also, it's funnier if you are aware TF2's spy is supposed to be French, and the medic German.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The end of Steam?

Interesting article about how Steam is more and more crowded, and developers are getting it increasingly difficult to stand out of the ocean of new games released every day...

Click here: How the surge of Steam releases will affect game developers

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Back in the days I wasn't impressed by Uncharted 1. I played the company copy for some hours and eventually concluded there were no new game systems that I hadn't seen before.

For some reason I can't remember I bought Uncharted 2, and liked it. Then I went for Uncharted 3 as part of the Ryse research and liked it too. So I thought: "What the heck?", and since it was very cheap at Cash Converters (just 6 euros) I purchased it last time I was in Cordoba, and I've just completed it.

Aside from the lack of MP, the game is very similar to the sequels, only more unpolished. The team mate presence is reduced and as a consequence you lack the witty dialogues from U2 & 3. The melee combat system is unnecessarily complex (it was simplified later) but the platform and shooter sections are pretty similar. Well, to be fair some of the combat layouts of U1 are poor in my opinion, with enemies spawning behind the player without warning, or at different height levels which is generally an issue. I believe those were much more refined in the subsequent games.

But aside from little details, I think the value of Uncharted is to be one of those games that began what some call 'Adventure genre', in the sense of a game that is not based on one system in particular, but in many. That way you simulate the multiple challenges the hero of a movie faces on a high-octane action flick. And it does that very well.

Looking forward to Uncharted 4. I could be the reason for me to buy a PS4...

Sunday, May 4, 2014


I left Grin Barcelona with a lot of frustration. Lack of time and expertise caused the project to struggle when building even the most basic systems. But above anything else, the careerists preying on the team caused us to spend more time on backstabbing instead of making the game better.

I'm 100% sure that if our focus would have been improving the game instead of kissing asses Wanted - Weapons of Fate would have been a fairly good game. Instead, it has a 61-62 on metacritics. Probably a fair rating. There was a lot of unfounded optimism in Grin at that time, but the tools were good and the employees were hard workers, experienced and most of them with the best of attitude.

Anyway, I finally built enough emotional distance with that project to buy and play the final game (I hadn't since 2008), and here are my impresions on the PS3 version:

In general, the game is super-short. Not to be surprised since some of the levels were re-designed up to 10 times from scratch. Only 9 missions made it to the final game, and the final difficulty balance is fairly easy. You can finish it in 4 hours without problems. On my side, I believe our game mechanics were not enough, and not particularly exciting. Half way through you get tired of the same player actions. We didn't have that much time to build more, but truth is we failed in the implementation of some of the ideas we had. I have my own share of responsibility on that.

Another issue we had was in my opinion an ill-conceived flat structure, that allowed up to 13 people to actively change the design (including tweaking game parameters), which at the end created a design with a thousand fathers and none of them really proud of it.

Back at the time I was very fond of the game story. It was written internally (and I was in no little part a major player on that) and we were given great freedom to approach the IP however we wanted. Our story expanded the Wanted lore a lot, and although I keep thinking it's much better than most other games (particularly those based on movies) after playing it altogether you probably won't understand the player motivations unless you've seen the movie beforehand. Since that doesn't need to have happened, you probably won't feel any empathy with the events told.

I learned a lot on that game, but the most important lesson is that I cannot deal with political animals. Or simply I don't want to. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure they'll continue existing, multiplying and destroying good projects and companies.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Not sure if mentioned in previous posts, but I bought at reasonable prices several AC games, and I'm intending to finish them all to get to Black Flag, the one I'm really interested in.

So, after AC1 now was the time for Assassin's Creed 2. In most senses it looked very similar to Brotherhood, which I previously played and enjoyed quite a lot. In my mind, they made wise high level decisions by keeping the things that worked in the previous game (parkour gameplay, simple but effective combat system and interesting locations to explore) and fixed some of the biggest issues: The story is not foreseeable and contains a fair amount of interesting plot twists, and the gameplay is more varied and has lots of optional missions and challenges.

Brotherhood took this even further, adding secondary challenges to each mission and even more combat options, but now looks to me more like an evolution from this AC2 than brand new. Still this one doesn't have MP, so I think Brotherhood is still my favourite one.

I already have AC Revelations, so one of these days it'll be its time...

Thursday, April 24, 2014


The GDC is a good opportunity to buy some videogame books/manuals. The only location with a book shop specifically about the theme, afaik. This year was no exception and I bought this 'All your base are belong to us' in the hope it would be a recap of how videogames have influenced the pop culture (a topic in which I'm interested).

Unfortunately, the book is nothing like that. It's pretty much a group of articles strongly US-centered (aside from Miyamoto, you would say no one else have made games outside 'Murica) and often in a laudatory tone. Can't blame the author, after all most of his info is coming from interviews with the main characters and after getting quality time from them doesn't seem fair to 'insult' them. But anyway seems to focus only on the big names of the industry, generally with a 'they were meant to succeed' spirit no matter how much they screwed it up in other projecs, or leaving aside the importance of the teams working on those projects.

I personally regret to have bought this book. Didn't add much to my understanding of the industry, and the author tends to turn some developers into mythical creatures. I see enough ass-kissing in my everyday work, don't need also in my books. My 2 cents.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Thanks to the good experience of playing AC Brotherhood, I've grown an interest on the whole Assassin's Creed IP. And thanks to Steam, I got the first game quite cheap, so I'm planning to play all of them sooner or later.

About AC1, I played a couple of hours back in the days, and was impressed by the fluidity of the parkour moves. Now that I've finished it I have more data to talk about it in general:

On the plus side I can appreciate the effort to build the first game. Having worked on new IPs all my life I know how difficult it is to create something from scratch. The game is far from being perfect, but there are multiple elements that I'm sure took a lot of pain to build: The parkour, the semi-stealth systems, semi-interactive cinematics, the holy land scenarios, etc. Also the story premise is quite fresh, not surprised Hollywood is considering to make a movie out of it. Truth is, all the major elements of the AC IP are present in the first game. The other instances fixed things here and there, but no massive overhauls.

On the minus side parkour is far from being smooth, many times the smart object is not detected ahead of you and falling/dying happens too often. The game was criticized for being repetitive after the first mission... and it's totally right, the gameplay flow is almost identical in the 9 assassinations. The interactivity on the cinematics add nothing to the final results and the combat controls are too complicated. Aside from that, I suspect the starting point of the design was heavily based on stealth principles, and seems like the game punishes you when you're not killing enemies without being spotted, although you don't have many tools to avoid that. Plus seems like the game spawns additional enemies when you're in combat, or they're alerted even if they're behind a building. Not sure.

So, unless you have an archaeological interest on the saga, I wouldn't recommend the game, but in any sense I appreciate the massive effort on building it and how it built an IP that well, has been feeding the whole Ubisoft for 10 years.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I was interested in Spec Ops - The line due to being inspired in the Heart of Darkness, a great novel from Joseph Conrad which was the base of Apocalypse Now's script as well. However the ratings of the game were not impressive so I passed at its time.

Thanks to Steam's offers I bought it some time ago, and now I eventually found the interest to finish it. After Mass Effect 2 I needed a linear game for the sake of variety. In that sense, SOTL doesn't disappoint. Offers direct action, generally shooting plus some on rail sections and storytelling gameplay. So far, so good.

The story, which is supposed to be the main attraction point of the game, has frequent loopholes that keep you in a semi-confused state. It makes more sense once you get to the end, but by then 80% of players (average) have abandoned the game.

In terms of systems I felt it could have used a little more variation from the core shooting, but it's not boring at all. My biggest concerns rely on the design area: Encounter layouts often don't telegraph the enemy locations and you end up using their (generally successful) shots against you as the best way to find out where they are. The game features a couple of interesting findings: A subtle slow down when you kill enemies (with headshots, I believe) and occassional sand cascades you can trigger, although the way to do it was often obscure to me. Also, the difficulty scaled up too much after missions 8-9 to the verge of being frustrating, dying time after time. Checkpoints were not smartly located, or simply there weren't enough. I played the PC version which has some dubious controller assignments on the keyboard. I guess that didn't help.

Visually speaking the game offers very interesting scenarios, quite fresh. Some of them were too empty imho, but in general is a good unique selling point. I could have used some more, actually, since you can finish the game in 5-6 hours if you're a skilled player.

Anyway, it's not the greatest gaming experience of our time, but it's generally solid and can be enjoyable if you ignore some little details here and there. I believe it's the first game made by Yager, and it's not bad at all. Hopefully they'll take this experience to the next step and make something memorable in the next one.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Due to my daily habits, I generally favor linear or iOS games these days. They adapt better to my routines. Free roaming or big RPGs require much more time to achieve something, and I tend to leave them for later. But from time to time, you need to hit one of those. It was time for Mass Effect 2.

I enjoyed ME1 (see my review here) but not passionate. For this second instance... more of the same, or even less. They changed some questionable systems: Planet exploration was substituted for an equally questionable planet scan system that doesn't offer much. They have simplified the equipment options (much needed) but the upgrade mechanics are a little obscure to me (since I played not by the book and avoided to go to the Citadel until the very end, most of them were unavailable without a good reason). The combat systems are pretty much the same (and again, I rarely felt the need of using the hard-earned biotic powers) but I saw some nice level design twists that offered variety.

The story work is simply impressive. There are excellent sub-plots, some of the best I've seen in games, and particularly compelling for the Sci-Fi genre. On the other hand, the initial twist of Shepard's death (not a real spoiler, happens in the first 30 secs) and his comeback is not sufficiently integrated into the overall plot, which is repetitive in general.

The game holds a 96 in metacritic. I don't think it deserves that much, an 85 would be fairer in my opinion. Unfortunately in the last 10 years the press has been particularly influentiable by the PR departments of the big publishers, and I think this is one of the cases. Still is a great game, some of the characters are memorable. and I definitively recommend it if you have 40 hours to dedicate to an RPG shooter.

Friday, April 4, 2014


After several recommendations (and an appropriate discount on Steam), I finally played and finished the reboot of Tomb Raider. For the most part, I really enjoyed it. Although it has been deeply inspired by the Uncharted series (which was inspired by the original Tomb Raiders in the first place), the game is solid, well implemented and contains plenty of well-conceived gameplay elements.

The biggest change over previous iterations is probably the main character herself, being Lara more innocent and less bad-ass. It's essentially her first big quest, and she learns how being a survivor along the way. The story is more character-centric than previous games, and takes more advantage of a unique location rather than travelling along the world.

Gameplay wise, they've added several leveling systems which not only promote a feeling of evolution along the game, but also allow a limited Metroidvania gameframe in which new abilities unlock new paths to explore. The game still has platforming, shooting and some chase sequences ala Naughty Dog.

On the minus side, there is nothing really new that I haven't seen in other games. Animations have a strong tendency of showing minor glitches and the story could have used some more twists, since by the 60% of it I was not particularly interested in the events and I was just engaged for closure and collecting hidden secrets.

Played the MP briefly, and I wasn't impressed either. Just an 'Online mode? Check!' feature to maintain their AAA status. Anyway, I recommend the game but not at full price. If you played the Uncharted series you're not missing much, but once it hits a 50% discount is definitively a great game to buy. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Here's an interesting article about how Spelunky's randomly-generated levels are created. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 23, 2014


I recall being intrigued by Alan Wake when it was first released due to its theme: "A psychological action thriller". Now that I think about it, I have no idea what that is... but sounds good I guess.

In reality, the game aims to provide a similar experience to reading one of Stephen King's novels. And for the most part, it works!

On the plus side the atmosphere is well captured. It's essentially a survival horror (surprise encounters, little ammo, vulnerable player) pivoting on the combat system (fairly fresh), some basic puzzles (too simple to me), lots of collectibles (too many, I think), scary scripted events, minibosses (not particularly impressive) and some pointless driving. There are also some storytelling sections in which you simply need to go from A to B and talk to people, which I personally enjoy.

On the minus side, the story was confusing to me: I spent most of that game saying 'Ok, whatever, at some point it'll be clearly explained' and although at the end it sort of does, there are multiple loose ends for me. The player interaction with the world sucks: The team physicallized most of the props in the levels, they can be kicked down but the player locomotion doesn't adapt well to these obstacles and jittering is common. You could also mention the character models are too PS2 for a 2010 game.

Anyway, although it could be a little repetitive at times, the game is enjoyable. It was structured as a tv series: Each level is an 'episode' with a final cliffhanger. These are the little details that make the game slightly fresh in many aspects. And I like people who dare to do something new! I don't think they really made a 5-stars game, but they came close.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


While playing Aliens Colonial Marines, I found this on a remote room:

In case you don't get the reference, here's the original scene from Spaceballs:

After checking Youtube, looks like I missed a part of the egg, since the lights inside the container indicate that in the next room, the baby alien samples have been dressed up with hats and canes as well.

Anyway, this made me think about the Ryse Easter eggs. The community found the Ghost army in the third chapter, and the Lady of the lake in the fourth but... what about the 2 easter eggs in York (6th chapter), the one in Colosseum (7th chapter) and the last one in Rome (8th chapter)? Looks like they still need to be found...

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Ok, another game waiting for its turn that bites the dust. This time it was Diablo 3. I bought it when it was released, played for a while, found it repetitive (as it happened with all the other Diablo games to me), and abandoned it.

So it was about time. I actually stopped playing by the end of Act 3, almost at the end. Just an extra push and the final boss is down. To be fair, finishing the story is just a first stage since the game encourages you to replay with each class and higher difficulty levels. I may actually give a try to nightmare mode.

But as I said, my overall feeling regarding Diablo games in general is not too excited. 90% of your play time goes around repeating the 4 player actions you have over and over, loot and sell. The bosses are ok, and achievements give the game a little extra spice but the biggest finding on this game are the events, which are small scripted encounters with a piece of story that are hidden around the world.

Other than that, the game is probably the most beautiful isometric game I've played, the art direction is superb and I value not adding the lately-so-common micropayments options. But I'm not hot about it, I think they could use some secondary systems to add variation. Actually I think they fucking need'em.

But hey, they've sold 15 million copies. It's probably me.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Continuing with my new year resolutions, I'm pushing for finishing a list of games that I've owned for years and never found the interest. It was time for Castlevania Lords of Shadow!

Four years have taken me to complete the game. I remember to buy it second hand, played it a little bit, dislike the (too high) difficulty and pass on it. When I joined the Ryse project, since it could be a reference for us, I resumed playing for a while but again lost interest around 40% of the timeline... until now.

Before the sequel is released, and already knowing the ending thanks to Enric and his presentation on the Gamelab, I've just finished the game. By all means is the best game done by the Spanish videogame industry in the last 20 years (probably after Commandos 2?) and it deserves all my respect. Plus, I know many guys at Mercury Steam, so I'm happy for them.

They made a good number of right choices: Instead of reinventing the wheel they pretty much copied the combat system from God of War, as well as their QTEs and bosses. Those are good references, and they adapted those systems to their needs and sometimes improved them. In addition to this, the art direction is not only outstanding but also quite varied. Practically every new chapter has a new theme.

On the minus side, albeit having an acceptable story most of the plot twists happen in the last 30 min of the game. 95% of the game is just an succession of 'the princes is in another castle'. And as I said, I think the difficulty was a little too punishing for me, although I can understand that since it's a Japanese IP and they fancy hard games.

So, if you like the hack'n'slash genre, you'll probably like Castlevania LoS. I'd love to see more Spanish studios making games as good as this one. Maybe some day...

Thursday, January 30, 2014


And another iOS game bites the dust! Devil’s attorney was recommended to me by a workmate due to its sense of humor and original combat sytem. In both cases, it didn’t disappoint.

Along with the Phoenix Right series, it’s the only ‘Lawyer simulator’ game I know of. In terms of story you impersonate an attorney who always defends blatantly guilty criminals. There are multiple pop references (you defend Rick Ashley or Arnold Swarzenegger-alikes) and some sub-plots based on the conversations between Max McMann (you) and the prosecutors. Fresh, selfish but charming, you sympathize with Max almost right away.

Regarding gameplay, aside from a basic leveling mechanic the game is entirely based on the combat system: Turn-based, the user needs to manage 2 parameters. One is the ‘health’ of your case and the other your action points per turn. You’re given (or unlocked) a number of abilities which consume action points, so you need to use them wisely. Once you run out of them, your enemies attack: These are witnesses and evidences (some of them boosting the others) which all subtract health points from your pool.

It’s relatively basic but works very well. You need to plan your strategy carefully, select your targets and trust the dice. For an iOS game I think it’s a great combat design.

Graphically speaking the game doesn’t feature many scenarios, but it has a clear 80s personality that I personally love. Another thing I really value is how they’ve tailored the game experience for short periods of time, around 5-10 min per case. That’s extremely convenient for portable devices.

All in all, a great purchase (this time I paid for it) and I fully recommend it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Well, this review is different, since this is the last game in which I worked. Yep, yesterday I finished Ryse Son of Rome. No big surprises, as you may imagine.

Of course I had played the game dozens of times. So there were little space for unknowns. Actually I didn't find all collectibles so I may replay some levels. I'm actually thinking on finishing the game on Legendary mode, shouldn't be too difficult.

I could talk quite a lot about all the problems we had during production, and all the ones we overcome, but this is not the place. Instead, I'll focus on my frustration for the Metacritic rating: 60. I think the game deserves more, but at the end of the day you have to accept the public/media verdict. However, I seem to be stuck on the sixties: Imperial Glory was a 69, Wanted a 62 and now a 60. Am I the only one who can see a trend down here? In all of those projects I did my best, worked like a beast and still the ratings are poor. Lightfish/Ecofish did better, around 70-80, but they didn't have enough reviews to go into Metacritics.

So, I'm still waiting for my great game, that project that justifies my career in the industry. Let's see what comes next...

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Thanks to the 16 hour flight to Austin, I finally managed to finished Mirror's edge (iOS). The game is not bad at all, but I was stuck at a certain point and despite several attempts I could not go further. After multiple attempts and some cursing I finally beat the game.

On the plus side it's entertaining, captures with fidelity the spirit of the original game and for the most part the controls are simple enough. The screen is free from HUD (where's my pause option, dudes?) and graphically speaking is above the platform average. They've kept the iconic red for interactive elements, and the camera work is fairly good, I rarely had problems seeing what I was supposed to despite the high speed of the main character at times. It also features the same (I think) music than the AAA version, which for me is a plus.

On the minus side the controls often fail, and that was the reason I was stuck: The platforming challenges for jumping (swipe right) on one direction, grab a wall and then jump back (swipe left) were not responsive enough and by the end of the game there are a couple of puzzles that force you to do that on perfect timing.

Aside from that the story is narrated by on-screen text without much syncing with the game, which looks cheesy. Ah, and a little more variation on the enemies could have been nice.

Anyway, despite having felt heavily frustrated by the controls and almost got rid of it, I finally finished it. I won't recommend it unless you're extremely proficient on iPad swiping or you're a hard core fan of the series ;)

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Continuing with my effort to clean up space from my iPad, I've just finished Dead Space (iOS). I wasn't really interested in the game but it was free that day and well, you know. Still it was almost a giga on my tablet and I need that for storing more House of Cards episodes!

Anyway, the game is quite good. Graphically speaking is clearly above the platform average, the controls are generally responsive and there is a nice variety of weapons and secondary uses. Not many enemies but they are well implemented and their abilities are varied enough to create additional challenges when different AI types are present simultaneously. Levels are too linear to my taste but there are some visual variations here and there to make them appealing. Devs used a good number of survival horror tricks (as many as the hardware limitations allows, I suspect) and they mostly work.

On the other hand, the story sucks. It's barely an excuse to keep you moving. The lack of checkpoints makes the experience really frustrating at times, and you can often end up in no-fucking-ammo-left situations with no option to go back and buy. Some of the game mechanics could have been used more (i.e. the gravity jumps and the no oxygen scenarios) but the overall experience is good. It took me less than 5 hours to finish it (admittedly I died a lot in some locations) but if I would have paid for it I would have thought my money was worth it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


One of my new year's resolutions is to finish as many games as possible from all those I've got in different platforms. I need to free up some space from my iPad, so I've just completed all the free levels of Where's my water?

In case I haven't mentioned it, I think there is an immense amount of design talent in portable devices. I've seen little wonders in those platforms and they keep coming. Where's my water? is not necessarily one of those, but it's super-enjoyable and well crafted.

On the plus side the game features a basic mechanic of water physics across all levels and they make the best out of it. On every additional level package they add 1-2 new twists to the basic system, but all of them are well implemented. There are some meta-games of achievements and additional item collection that offer more replayability, and visually speaking the cartoon style fits great on the platform.

On the minus side, the game has too many "influences" from Cut the Rope. Seriously, looks like they copied that one in detail and without remorse: The Screen layout, the collection of 3 elements for additional points, the reward screen, the main character... Just enough differences to not get sued, I guess.

Another great thing of the game is that it seems to attract kids, even at early ages (although they fail repeatedly) so it's good for keeping the young ones entertained for a while. If you can find it cheap (I got my copy one day it was free) I definitively recommend it.