Wednesday, September 1, 2021

ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS (iPad2)

 

I´ve always liked to have a portable gaming device in my life. Since my Gamewatch times as a kid (and not so kid actually, since in the last years I´ve purchased a bunch of those vintage mini-consoles on Ebay) there is a number of everyday situations where I enjoyed playing with my PsP, Nintendo DS or lately my iPad2

As a consequence, I tend to keep my latest device of choice more or less filled with apps - and particularly games. Unless I´m hooked somehow on one of them, I don´t play regularly. Only when the situation arises. So, sometimes they can stay untouched for years

That was the case for the last game I finished, Angry Birds Star Wars. I think it was on sale so I said to myself “why not?” and played it on idle times here and there. Last week I found out I was only 10 levels away from completion and decided to finish it once and for all. As the matter a fact it´s not truly done. There are bonus levels I should pay for, and unlockable others that require to achieve X amount of stars. I guess I´m changing my definition of completion on mobile games to “finished all available levels from the initial purchase”

Anyway, it´s basically Angry birds with a Star Wars skin. It does have some new units – modelled after the IP characters – but feel more iterative than innovative. Still, it works and definitively fills up those 10 min you don´t know what to do with while riding the bus or waiting for your next meeting

Friday, July 16, 2021

LEISURE SUIT LARRY - WET DREAMS DRY TWICE (PS4)

 


Sequel to LSL Wet dreams don´t dry - which in turn is a sequel of many other Larry games - It´s another graphic adventure of pretty much the same quality than the former. Maybe less

It´s basically the same game with a new story and setting, plus a couple of UI improvements that don´t completely work. To make things worse, I had to restart save games several times because you could fall in infinite loops preventing progress. Not totally sure if because I play very disorganized - which shouldn´t be a problem - or the saving system can mess up things totally

Why am I playing this series, then? Well, two reasons: First is that it´s one of the few videogames which takes pride on not being politically correct, and has mild sexual references (no nudity). You don´t find that often these days. Second, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of Loung Lizards was one of the first PC games I ever played, and not supporting the series makes me feel like abandoning an old friend from my teen days

Anyway, you might be lucky and not have tech problems. If so, it´s a fairly standard adventure. If you like the character, then it´s probably a must

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

TACOMA (PS4)

 

A walking simulator of sorts, Tacoma is a nice narrative videogame with some unique elements on it. I am generally interested in that sub-genre because they provide a different pace from action/shooters – so prominent these days

The story is simple but reasonably effective: What happened to the crew of the Tacoma space station, now abandoned. You will find out, watching animated scenes recorded by the resident computer

The game is not superb on anything, but it does his job. Provides 4h of enjoyment and doesn´t ever frustrate you. It´s probably impossible to “fail” it at all. I still think other games of this type – The Stanley Parable, What remains of Edith Finch, Gone Home… - tried to go further, but I cannot NOT recommend Tacoma because it delivers what it promises. If you can find it at a reasonable price, go for it


SID MEIER´S MEMOIR!


Sid Meier is credited to be among the best designers in videogame history. He was the creator of dozens of games - mostly simulators - but he got his credit mostly due to Civilization!, one of the best games ever created

These memoirs are mostly professional. Little is said of his personal life aside from what is relevant to understand certain work decisions. I didn´t recall him being so active in the 80s, but I do remember Microprose as a popular company back in those days. Then, I spent so many hours playing Civilization I am not fully confident to admit

The book also gives you a lot of background info on how was project development at that time, how the decisions were made and the people involved, and how things have changed since. Today we mostly work on genre products, whereas in the 80s each game was supposed to reflect a unique experience, different from other existing games. Ah, youth

I was shocked to find out the "Sid Meier´s" prefix was suggested by Robin Williams, and a number of games were released with it that didn´t actually have so much involvement from him - Specially Colonization and Civilization 2, a game I still today consider myself a recovering addict from

Anyway, it was an interesting reading, not only if you like the character behind but also if you are interested in how things used to be and videogame history in general

https://sidmeiersmemoir.com/


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

KATAMARI DAMACY REROLL (PS4)

 


I played Katamari Damacy for the PS2 many years ago, and liked it so much I tried to play all sequels/ports there were. Probably pirated copies, but it might have been one of the first games with whom I followed my “If you finish a pirate game, you buy it”

Just recently I found out there was a remastered version on the PS4, and thanks to the Summer sales it was fairly cheap. So, taken by nostalgia, I bought/finished it

It is still Japanese videogaming at its best/worst: Insanely original, but also bizarre. The basic gameplay works fine, although I could think of a number of potential improvements to controls. However, knowing how Japanese approach their designs, they probably tried them all and failed. I still feel the handling of the Katamari a bit cumbersome - specially the fixed camera - but let´s admit it´s a difficult concept to make it work in the first place, so I´m willing to think they did their best and I should just enjoy the final result

The story is absolutely pointless, and the art direction flashy, colorful and inconsistent. And that´s probably what they were trying to do in the first place. It is enjoyable, it is creative and you should love it or leave it. I chose loving it


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

SYNDICATE (PS3)

 

I kinda remember the 1993 Syndicate as a “not my cup of tea” game. Not sure what was the issue: Maybe the controls, unclear objetives… I don´t recall. Anyway, years later the IP was in EA's hands, who decided to revive it as a FPS. Maybe it didn´t resonate on me when it was launched in 2012 because of my lack of interest on the original, or simply because it wasn´t successful

Anyway, years later I got a copy and – since I am trying to finish up all PS3 games before Sony discontinues the console – thought I could give it a try. Overall it´s a solid game. There is nothing fundamentally bad on it, just nothing truly memorable. But certainly enjoyable if you get your hands on it under full prize

On the bright side, the weapons design is very solid. All guns feel powerful and helpful in most situations. The “breaching” abilities are not amazing but they do the trick to offer some variation on the basic gameplay. Enemies are not particularly clever, but they do move a bit looking for better positions enough as to perceive that developers put some work on them. Visually speaking is very decent, probably above most other PS3 titles

On the dark side, like I said there is nothing remarkable in the game. A pity, I am a big fan of “Bladerunner´s style” stories whenever available. Maybe because of that I tend to dislike bright and clean cyberpunk (Mirror´s edge / CDR Cyberpunk) because they don´t communicate to me the feeling of a rotten society, or suffering proletariat. The story is not bad, just predictible, and the Hollywood talent don´t hurt but also won´t sell me the game by themselves

There is a fair number of glitches – I almost had to restart the game from the beginning if it weren´t for the online automatic saves, I couldn´t experience the coop mode (the servers are completely abandoned), and there is a number of weird decisions that detract from the final enjoyment: Loading times, so-so metagame, and a cuestionable choice imho over which elements to include in the normal HUD and which on the DART mode (bullet time)

Anyway, it´s still a decent shooter that should please fans of the genre or SF aficionados. Otherwise it won´t change your life


Sunday, June 13, 2021

DONUT COUNTY (PS4)

Donut County was one of my wishlist games. That means I´m not so interested on it as to buy it full price, but if at any point it´s on sale I´ll consider it. I found it very cheap recently on PS4 and I thought to give it a try

It currently holds 75-79 in metacritics depending on the platform. That makes you think it´s a good game but not memorable. I believe I know why: There is practically no challenge. Even if you try, the worst thing that´ll happen is not progressing. The game will wait patiently until you find the next step. This is against the classic design approach of punishing players so they appreciate better the triumph of overcoming the challenge

Donut County plays in another league: There are no difficulty levels, the main mechanic – a sort of reverse Katamari Damacy – don´t feature a timer, and you can almost go through most levels just moving the cursor randomly. As such, you can finish it in 2-3 hours and becomes an easy platinum. I am not convinced that´s such a bad thing. Some gamers don´t want any trace of hardcore challenge at all, and appreciate relaxed experiences without rubbing on their faces how bad they are

The story is cute but shallow, much as its visuals, and there are little options for replayability. All in all it´s a good indie game for those on the opposite spectrum of From Software (Souls series). Won´t change your life, but it´s honest in offering a new mechanic, wrap the game around it but don´t drag the game beyond of that mechanic´s limits


Sunday, May 16, 2021

FAR CRY 5 (PS4)

 

Wow, more than 15 years since I played Far Cry 1 (Crytek). Since then, the IP went to Ubisoft, I played the Far Cry 2 demo – didn´t like it – then ignored the saga until this last one came out

Why Far Cry 5 in particular? I was mostly intrigued by the game world – a USA county controlled by a doomsday cult. Not only because it resonated on me as an allegory of the Trump administration, but also because it´s unusually daring for a game to set such violent franchise in a real and “civilized” country (those are usually set on fictional third world nations)

Anyway, the IP has evolved since the Crytek times. Now it´s an open world – quite typical on Ubisoft – but retains some of the original characteristics: First person camera at all times (even when driving) to promote immersion, some emergent gameplay and the possibility to approach challenges in multiple ways. It adds some Ubisoft-flavored elements, such as lots of player tools (weapons, skills, team mates, customization, etc) and a bigger focus on storytelling

Overall it plays well, and sells the fantasy. The shooting is satisfying, the villains are iconic, the world is believable and full of content. On the other side - as most Ubisoft games - the missions are mostly template repetitions, priority C bugs are not uncommon and I don´t think all systems work together smoothly: Sometimes you die not knowing really why, team mates often make weird decisions on certain situations and it´s not uncommon to feel unfairly treated by subsystems working together leading to unexpected outcomes. Special mention to the death cam, a 10 years old ragdoll I am surprised they kept in the game

One good thing in general of Ubisoft games is that the game is not particularly difficult, the challenge is normally on finishing all content instead. I personally recommend Far Cry 5 if you like FPS open worlds and get immersed in an interesting setting



Sunday, April 18, 2021

DEAD SPACE 2 (PS3)

 


I´m not a Survival Horror fan, but if I get my hands on one of those games at a reasonable price I´m not against them. So was the case with Dead Space 2. Can´t remember how I got it but it was back in my time in Frankfurt/Crytek and I was either free or super-cheap. And since I am trying to finish all pending PS3 games before Sony shuts down support/servers on that console, I finally finished it

It is a great game for sure. It currently holds an 89-90 in Metacritics, and in this case it´s probably worth it. The gameplay is perfectly adequate for the genre and claustrophobic levels, the art conveys the story goals and intended mood, the story is gritty and gore and generally it plays well. It is a rounded product, where all elements work together and add value to the whole. I didn´t play the multiplayer though, I think my game code was used previously since my copy was second hand

On the minus side I don´t think the dismemberment tech was really core to the gameplay as you might expect, and I don´t feel it as an evolutionary sequel (meaning it tries to do better than the first installment) but instead solidifies the same ideas and scenarios. I also have some minor concerns about the in-game technology plausibility (such as the telekinesis and stasis) but c’mon, it´s a videogame. It´s all for the fun

A pity the IP is dead now. I think Visceral was a very expensive studio for EA (it was Bay area based) and Survival horror are niche games that won´t sell more than a couple million copies despite having devoted fans


Saturday, March 20, 2021

SERIOUS SAM 3 BFE (PS3)

 


I´ve had Serious Sam 3 installed in my PS3 for - easily - 6 years. Not 100% sure but it was probably free on Playstation Plus, thought I could give a try, played 2-3 hours, got bored and let it rot. It has been a major inconvenient because the console´s HD is limited, and I´ve never been able to store more than 3 games simultaneously. I should´ve deleted it a long ago... but I have a closure problem

And that´s the reason why I decided to finish it now. Since the PS5 is out, the PS3 will be discontinued in a couple of years. Multiplayer modes won´t be available, trophies un-obtainable anymore... So I thought let´s get rid of SS3 once and for all, even if it´s not my cup of tea. And it is not, its gameplay is simplistic and out of date. But funny enough, that might be the reason why it can be very interesting for today´s audiences

Although the starting point for all of them were common (Doom/Quake -> Shoot monsters mindlessly), for some years now shooters have evolved to become more and more immersive, make players feel like they are some combatant type: Military (CoD, MoH), space soldier (Halo), secret agents, etc. Serious Sam is an IP which based its gameplay on pure craziness: Big weapons, weird monsters, dozens of them, all coming for you, shoot-kill-repeat. And they stuck to their guns (pun intended) while others went into the simulator experience. That´s why it kinda feels fresh, because they haven´t evolved at all, and now their approach feels truly one-of-a-kind

Aside from this unique advantage, the game plays well, the weapons are satisfying and the MP was probably fun to play (the servers are deserted today). On the minus side, it was visually poor already at the time, the game is very limited in mechanics and surprises, you can sometimes get lost in the levels and the story is not only absurd but also an uninspired Duke Nukem rip-off (which in turns is also an 80s testosterone movie - not always funny - parody)

Nevertheless it is not a bad experience, just old fashioned. I wouldn´t be surprised if there are fans out there, but I think I´ve had enough of the IP for another 6 years. Or more

Sunday, February 7, 2021

ASSASSIN´S CREED ORIGINS (PS4)

 


As it commonly happens to me, I played Assassin´s Creed Origins when it was released for like 60-70% of the content and got bored. Admittedly my playstyle fosters eventual abandonment since I´m kind of a collector and get obsessed with finding every little location/collectible the game offers, ignore main/side missions and at some point it becomes so repetitive I put aside the game

Normally 2-3 years later I get the urge to finish what I started and give a final push to complete the story. This time – since I had done most of the heavy lifting already – I went for the Platinum. In total, 75-80h of playtime

Overall is a good game. If you are into ACs I definitively recommend it. Maybe it´s just me, but having the possibility of exploring the ancient Egypt is very appealing, not to mention to climb all those monuments without tour guides threatening your life

On the plus side, as mentioned, the game world is super interesting. Having played previous ACs, I think the amount of player tools (weapons, player actions, gameplay decisions) is probably better balanced that other titles, which had maybe too many of them. Visually speaking it´s remarkable, and it definitively sells the fantasy that you are living at that time, with lots of little graphic details

On the minus side, the story is not memorable as it often happens in open world games. A pity, it basically tells how the creed starts and why. But since you can pause story development at will to wander around the world, characters and plotlines can easily fall into oblivion. Aside from that, you will find the usual “template content” commonly found in Ubisoft games, and most quests are mere excuses to turn you – an epic warrior – into an errand boy

I guess ACs are games conceived to make you play for months. I think at this point of my life I favor games that offer 10-15 of high quality gameplay over those asking you to devote half year to them. But that´s just me. Anyway I even got the platinum, so maybe it´s worth those 6 months of your life 😊