Farpoint VR

Date Completed: January 14th, 2018

Most of the content that has come out for the Playstation VR would be better understood as ‘experiences’ rather than games.  I was hoping that Farpoint VR might be something different – something fantastic.  The game came out in May 2017 as part of a bundle with the Aim controller and the total bundle price wasn’t much more than the price of a normal game.  I decided to wait for the reviews to make any purchase decisions and the reviews were very disappointing.  I decided that even with poor reviews I was interested in the game if it came as part of the controller bundle.  Sadly they sold out of the controller bundle and I didn’t see it in stock again FOR SIX MONTHS.  There were even rumors that the bundle had been discontinued.  Shortly before Christmas 2017 I started seeing it show up online again but my budget for the month had already been blown several times over so I didn’t buy it.  Luckily I received some cash for Christmas and I noticed the bundle had gone on-sale at the local Walmart for 10$ cheaper than anywhere else.  I snatched it up immediately.

I started playing the game and immediately got motion sick.  This was a surprise to me because I had played the Doom demo in VR and hadn’t experienced any major issues and Farpoint VR isn’t anywhere near as frantic a game.  I was only able to play in 5 minute intervals at first.  I started reading up on VR sickness online and found that ginger supplements were recommended as well as pointing a fan at yourself.  I set up a series of fans in my game room and made myself tea with ginger oil my wife had supplied before each play session and surprisingly it worked.  It didn’t completely eliminate motion sickness but I was able to complete the game with minimal discomfort.

The game is a first person shooter but movement is restricted in most directions by the game’s ‘Comfort Controls’.  I didn’t try changing the default comfort settings because of my early issues with motion sickness but it appears you can play the game with a more traditional range of motion.  There is a minimal story to the game but mostly it involves exploring an Alien world and killing what you find there.  Since movement is restricted the game itself ends up being very linear.  You mostly walk down corridors with very few twists and turns.  The story unfolds as you explore via a series of hologram flashbacks.  The story is very basic and while it does have a few interesting parts overall I’d call it forgettable.

With only a few basic enemy types, linear exploration and a ‘meh’ story you’d think I wouldn’t have enjoyed the game but much like other VR titles the VR makes it fun.  Combat felt realistic (especially with the Aim controller) and while movement was linear the sense of immersion into the environment helped with the enjoyment factor.  If this game wasn’t in VR I would not recommend it, but I think my pre-purchase impression was correct.  If you can get it bundled with the Aim controller it’s totally worth it.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 6/10
  • Length:  6-8 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter / VR

 

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Super Mario Odyssey

Date Completed : January 7th, 2018

I knew when this game was announced that I would buy it eventually but I wasn’t as excited about it as I usually would be for a new Mario game.  The screenshots didn’t really grab my attention and the Wii U Mario games fell a bit flat.  I planned on putting the game on my Christmas list and playing it whenever I got around to it.  The reviews that game out were overwhelmingly positive but I’ve learned that reviews – particularly game reviews – don’t always align well with reality.  I didn’t end up putting the game on my Christmas list because I was considering the idea of getting it for one of my sons but I couldn’t decide which one and ended up forgetting about it.  Christmas came along and in the aftermath my wife noticed that we didn’t yet have a copy of Super Mario Odyssey in the house.  She ordered it immediately and we had it a few days after Christmas.

It turns out the reviews were accurate.  This game is fantastic.  The game feels both instantly familiar and excitingly new.  Nintendo has clearly adopted the ‘social network’ strategy of constant positive reinforcement.  The goal of the game is to collect ‘Power Moons’ and there are power moons EVERYWHERE.  There are so many power moons in the game that someone figured out that over the course of the game if you collect all the moons you will spend over an hour watching the brief ‘You got a moon!’ animation.  That’s a lot of mooning.  The massive quantity of moons hidden also encourages full exploration of the various worlds you explore, all of which are fantastically designed and very unique.

You may be wondering what’s new and exciting about this Mario game that Mario games didn’t have in the past and the answer to that question would be Hats.  Mario’s had is replaced by ‘Cappy’ some sort of Hat monster that has the ability to possess other creatures that Mario encounters.  Almost all enemies from Goombas to Dinosaurs can be controlled and even some inanimate objects are not immune to Cappy’s Imperius curse.  This sets up for some truly great moments that I don’t want to spoil but I was ALL SMILES.

My kids all loved watching me play and since I finished the game both of my older children have played their way to the final level and one of them has even beaten the final boss (I suspect my younger son will beat it tomorrow).  We found out that there is a two player mode where one person controls Mario and a second player can control Cappy.  This was also a lot of fun and the second player was really able to help with some precision Hat throwing while I was able to focus on my Mario-ing.

Overall a fantastic game.  Total recommend.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 10/10
  • Length:  20 hours
  • System: Nintendo Switch
  • Genre: Platform

 

Hellblade : Senua’s Sacrifice

Date Completed : December 1st, 2017

I had never heard of this game but a co-worker bought a surprise copy of this game for me (Thank Again!) and after reading about it I was intrigued.

This is one of those games that once it’s spoiled you can’t go back so I’m not going to say much about it.  It takes place in a Norse setting (which gets it 10 extra Awesome points) and follows the story of a woman named Senua.   Throughout the game you hear the voices that are whispering to Senua which I first tried to ignore as background babbling.  Eventually I got to a point where I realized I was listening to the voices and doing what they told me.  When I realized the game had subtly led me to listening to the voices in Senua’s head I realized it was something special.

One of the top billed individuals in making this game was the Psychology Consultant.  The descent into mental illness particularly in a time when it was not understood or remotely treatable was believable and horrifying.  More than once I’d go to bed after playing, look at my wife and say “I shouldn’t play that game before bed.”

I recommend playing with headphones on for maximum effect.  When I was wearing the headphones gave the sound a better ‘sense of immediacy’ and it felt as if the voices were in my head as well.

Since completing the game we’ve had many conversations at the office about what was really going on – how much of the game was a delusion and how much was real.  There are a lot of possible ways to interpret the events of the game and there is so much depth to them it may take a few play-throughs to fully understand it.  I ended up playing through 1.5 times, just to pick up my platinum trophy.

I will leave you with the soundtrack of my favorite scene.  When I got to the Bridge with the Nordic Chanting started I was all smiles.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~8 Hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Third-Person Adventure, Psychological Thriller

Horizon Zero Dawn

Date Completed : August 27th, 2017

When I first saw the trailer for Horizon Zero Dawn I sensed greatness.  Robot dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic world?  YES PLEASE.  Sadly I live in a world without money so I didn’t pre-order it at launch.  It also had the unfortunate circumstance of sharing a launch window with The Legend of Zelda : Breath of the Wild so I knew I wouldn’t get around to it for awhile.  Luckily being married to my wife paid off once more and my brother-in-law loaned me the game for free.  I played through the intro and was instantly hooked.  The robot dinosaurs did not let me down.

The game takes place on earth after a robot apocalypse.  Human beings have reverted to tribal lifestyles and robots and animals live side-by-side.  During the course of the game you discover the answers to the mystery – what caused the Apocalypse?  And what has happened since then?  And quite a mystery it turns out to be too.  I won’t give anything away but in my opinion it is one of the best sci-fi stories ever.

The game is rated Teen but most of the violence is human-on-robot so I figured I could get away with letting the kids watch.  Violence is OK if it’s against machines, right?  Oddly enough my boys weren’t particularly interested in this game (unless they walked in on me battling a Thunder-jaw or something) but my daughter loved it.  She declared that the heroine (‘Aloy of the Nora tribe’) was her mother and she called this ‘The Mommy Game’.  I assume this is because my wife, like Aloy, kills with impunity and uses a zip-line to get down the stairs.  Hopefully my daughter will not grow up thinking that a video game character is her biological mother.  We played a lot of hours of this game together and she was heart-broken when I returned the borrowed copy to her Uncle.

Since completing the game I have badgered everyone I know to play it so I’ll have someone to talk to about it.  Because of my actions I have no friends left and at least one marriage is on the rocks (long story) but it will be worth it.  It’s a great game and worth buying a PS4 to play it.  Yesterday for Christmas I finally received my own copy of the ‘Complete’ Edition that includes the DLC and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~70 Hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Third-Person Shooter

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

June 17th, 2017

This game is a smaller, 3D version of Donkey Kong Country Returns which I have already reviewed.  Nothing has changed, except the game is a lot smaller.  A LOT smaller.  When I originally bought the game I owned a standard Nintendo 3DS and it was hard to see so I upgraded to a larger 3DS XL.  Sadly the 3D wasn’t very stable so I sold my 3DS XL and replaced it with a ‘new’ Nintendo 3DS XL with super-stable 3D.  The 3D doesn’t really add much so I ended up playing most of the game with the 3D off.

If you don’t have a Wii or Wii U it’s worth picking up but if you have the option I found the experience to be superior on a Big Screen.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 8/10
  • Length:  ~8 hours
  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: Platform

Portal

Date Completed: June 3rd, 2017

I was bored one day and my son was bugging me so I sat him down and I said “I’m going to show you Portal”.  We sat down together and played through the entire first game.  He LOVED IT.  Most of the humor was over his head (He’s 6) but he thought the teleportation mechanic was the Bee’s Knees.  For the next several months he kept telling me how he was going to invent his own Portal gun and all of the usefully comical things he would do with it.  My favorite was that he’d make a Portal directly into his Stomach so he could feed himself without chewing (More time for Video Games I presume).  He also asked what would happen if he jumped into the Portal into his own stomach which isn’t a problem I was prepared to think through.  After we finished the game he asked if he could play so I set him up with Portal 2 on my PS3 and he worked his way through the first 14 test rooms or so before getting distracted by something else.

Portal is a fantastic game and still holds up 10 years later.   Highly recommended!

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 9/10
  • Length:  ~3 hours
  • System: PC
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter