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
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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

The Frostrune

Date Completed : May 20th, 2017

My long-time reader will be aware that I feel in my heart that all Viking themed things are awesome.  Frostrune is a mobile game based in Viking myths.  Naturally I bought it as soon as I came across it.

The easiest way to describe this game is ‘Like Myst except with Viking Mythology’.  The game isn’t very long and the puzzles are not as involved as a Myst game.  I found the difficulty to be just about right – difficult enough to be somewhat taxing but never so much that I got frustrated.

Overall it’s a fun little adventure and worth getting if you have a few dollars to spare.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 6/10
  • Length:  ~2 hours
  • System: iOS
  • Genre: Point and Click, Adventure

Until Dawn : Rush of Blood

Date Completed : April 22, 2017

I received a Playstation VR for Christmas from my in-laws (who instantly went up a notch on the awesome scale) but I didn’t receive any games so I had to content myself with the demo disc that game with the system.  I started the year off with the laughable goal of spending less than I earn which has sadly been a failure but did prevent me from making any un-budgeted 60$ purchases. While poking around Amazon one day I discovered that Rush of Blood was available for 10$ and since I already had a bundle of crap in my cart for my wife and son’s birthdays ( which unfortunately for my budget are only three days apart ) I figured this game would only be a rounding error.

Rush of Blood is on the demo disc so I knew what I was getting into. Each level consists of a short roller coaster ride where you are armed with two handguns and everything tries to kill you.  This was typically the demo that I’d let friends try when they tested the Playstation VR unless small children were present.  In my opinion it’s a rather sub-part rail shooter that was rushed out to be available for the launch of a new gaming platform.  I wouldn’t have paid full price for it but I figured the 10$ investment would be worth it to have an actual retail game for the VR.  (In true form Sony made the game free to  Playstation  Plus subscribers recently once again proving you should never pay for Playstation software).

I made one minor change to my play style when I started the full retail version of Rush of Blood.  I dug out my Playstation Move controllers and paired them up to my Playstation 4.  It turns out that playing this game with motion controllers MAKES IT AWESOME. I could look at my hands in VR and they would appear to be where I thought my real hands should be.  I could control them independently and shoot two targets at once.  The sense of immersion was complete.  I forgot that I was in a chair in my office and unfortunately I forgot there was a wall to my left.  Once I tried to point my gun at a bad guy only to find that I couldn’t physically orient my arm in the desired direction.  It was because back in the real world the previously mentioned wall stubbornly refused to give way.

I usually played 15-20 minutes at a time before going to bed but the game would get me so wound up I’d have a hard time getting to sleep.  The game is really short so It only took me about two weeks to finish all of the mission.  The short duration of each level was the perfect way to begin acclimating to VR.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  ~3 hours
  • System: Playstation VR (PS4)
  • Genre: Rail Shooter, Horror