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

 

 

 

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Never Alone

Date Completed: February 7th, 2017

According to my current count I’m about 11 games and 10 months behind in my blogging. After some self reflection I’ve decided that the biggest issue preventing me from being more timely with producing these little blurbs is that I feel like I should try and do a good job.  Unfortunately this has resulted in dedicating additional time that I do not have hunting down screenshots, collecting my thoughts, reading and re-reading what I’ve written to see if it makes sense and eventually giving up and publishing when I realize I have no talent for writing. Well, no more of that! I’m going to change my format up to be shorter and try and get these things out within a few days of finishing the game.

Never Alone was on my radar before it was made one of the free games of the month on PlayStation Plus. I would have paid actual money for the game but once again Sony proved to me that only chumps pay for games anymore. Wait long enough and sooner or later you’ll get every game for free.

I installed the game on my PS4 but I didn’t get around to playing it until February this year when the city was covered in ice and snow and the entire family got sick. My wife had both bronchitis and pneumonia at the same time and all three kids cycled through various infections and treatments of antibiotics. I stayed home from work to help out but between feedings everyone mostly slept so I had some time to sneak away and get some gaming done.

Never Alone is based on Native Alaskan folklore and follows a young girl and her Arctic fox companion as they attempt to save her village. The game involves you solving simple ‘puzzles’ by switching between controlling the girl and the fox. The ‘puzzles’ are easily solved and don’t require any serious thought. There is really very little about the gameplay that is particularly interesting. Sometimes you run from a Polar Bear, sometimes you jump over a pit. The in-game physics are frustrating and the game isn’t particularly fun to play.

Surprisingly that doesn’t ruin the game. The characters in the game have a certain charm to them that transcends crappy game play. The story was interesting enough to keep me playing and the game includes ‘Cultural Insights’ that discuss the Native Alaskan people (and that you get trophies for watching).  The game is short enough that I didn’t get too frustrated with the game play.  Overall I’d say the experience was worth it!

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  ~3 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: Action / Adventure, Platform

Firewatch

firewatch-game-cover-pc-2016Date Completed: February 4th, 2017

Firewatch is more of an experience than a game.  Its similar to the game ‘Journey’ where it tells a story, and any spoilers to that story could potentially ruin it.  I’m going to stay away from spoilers, and instead focus on all of the things I did wrong while playing Firewatch.

Firewatch tells the story of a dude who watches for fires in Colorado wilderness.  When I started Firewatch I wasn’t sure what kind of game it was going to be.  Was it silly?  Was it scary?  Something else?  I didn’t know what to do or what kinds of interactions with the game world would be allowed so I tried stuff.  The first thing I did was pick up the bottle of dish soap from my watch tower and go for a hike.  Once I got out into the wilderness I felt bad about littering so I ended up carrying that bottle of dish soap around for an entire day.  This was super inconvenient because I had to set the soap down every time I wanted to consult my map ( which required both hands to be free ).

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My soap and I enjoying the sunset.

The other thing that really pissed me off about this game was the sound the electric generator made.  When the game started up the first thing I noticed was the constant grinding sound of an electric generator.  I found the generator outside my watch tower and tried to shut it off but this wasn’t allowed.  Sometimes the generator would power down and I’d have a few precious minutes of silence but it would always start up again.  For some dumb reason the generator sound followed me through the entire park.  I’d be miles away from my watch tower and I could still hear it!  I began to wonder if it was a clue to the plot – maybe my character was in a hospital room hooked up to some machine and the whole game was a hallucination of some kind?  Maybe it was a bug in the game?  Either way it was super irritating.  You know what the worst part was?  After I turned the game off for the night I could still hear the noise!!!  This was the moment I began to suspect something was amiss…

Yeah…so it turns out that the kids had shoved a pencil into the pencil sharpener on the windowsill behind me.  It’s about at ear-level when I am sitting down and I was wearing headphones while playing and couldn’t tell it wasn’t part of the game.  It would run for a few minutes before shutting down on it’s own and eventually restarting.  Darn kids.

I would have played the game straight through except after 11PM I figured I should go to bed or I’d be in a mood the next day.  Overall a great game although the kind you only get to play once.  After experiencing the story there isn’t any reason to visit this game again.  Except maybe to find those turtles.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 7/10
  • Length:  3-4 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: First Person / Thriller

Dragon Age : Inquisition

91iutl4hdvl-_ac_sl1500_Date Completed : February 3, 2017

Two years ago – about six months after we moved into our new house – I participated in the “It only happens twice a year gift exchange event” with my college roommates and the one random guy who keeps showing up to our holiday parties.  The rules of the gift exchange are simple.  We all get the same gift, hand it to another participant and continue redistributing gifts until each participant ends up with exactly one.  When it first began we usually purchase each other the same video game such as ‘The Orange Box’, ‘Command and Conquer : Generals’ or ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’.  Since kids and budgets and new game consoles have come along this strategy no longer works so today have a policy of exchanging Amazon.com gift cards.  In late 2014 I still hadn’t purchased any games for my PS4 so I spent my entire gift card on Dragon Age : Inquisition.  I didn’t know anything about the Dragon Age series other than the fact that people seem to like it and it has the word Dragon in the title.  Dragons sounded cool, and I wasn’t aware of anything else coming out for the PS4 any time soon.

My daughter was about 5 months old when I started the game.  To celebrate my newborn child I created a lady elf warrior and named her after my daughter.  I played through the first area of the game but I found the tutorial to be lacking and I never understood what was going on.  I put the game down for a few weeks and when I came back I had forgotten what little I knew.  It’s hard to find the time to play a game with a newborn in the house and it’s hard to feel motivated to do so when you keep forgetting how the game is played.  My enthusiasm for the game suffered and after a few price drops I experienced buyer’s remorse.

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One big giant sand box.

Every once in awhile I picked up the game again and made some progress.  The game consists of several large (and I mean LARGE) areas that you can explore that each have dozens of missions to be completed.  I’d start the game up, run a few missions and then take a few weeks off.  The game is so vast that I usually didn’t feel like I was making any positive progress towards the eventual ending.  Running quests was ‘OK’ but often it just felt like busy work.  Towards the end of the game I was surprised to find that my views on this had changed.  I actually liked completing all of the stupid little missions, and exploring all of the maps.

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On a mission to kill the saddest bear ever. 😦

The game is full of many memorable moments and after I recalled that the PS4 has a share button I started posting a few of them to my Twitter feed.  Once such moment occurred when I was taking a stroll on a beach and happened upon a giant punching a Dragon IN THE FACE.

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Uh…leave me out of this.

It was clear to me early on that at least some the characters in this game had been in previous games in the series.  The back of the game case said ‘Meet Legends’ but I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be a legend or not.  I didn’t know who any of these schmucks were!  You can recruit nine different playable companions to your cause, most of whom seemed pretty cool.  It also turns out that you can choose to romance one of your companions (or some of the NPC characters).  There is even a trophy for committing to a long term relationship.  Since I wanted the trophy I found myself in the somewhat uncomfortable position of choosing a romantic partner for a woman named after my daughter.  I didn’t like it but eventually I settled on commander Cullen, one of the NPC advisors.  He seemed like the most honorable choice that didn’t have a porn-star beard.

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STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!!!

After I started really getting into the game and beginning my final push towards completing it I became obsessed with doing things the ‘right’ way.  Events can unfold different depending on how you handle some of the situations that come up in the game.  Your companions may either grow to like or dislike you depending on how you converse with them.  Whenever a speech bubble popped up I’d always pause the game and look up the consequences of the various answers on the web before continuing.  My goal was to not miss out on anything in the game (especially those trophies) but this ended up partially ruining the experience for me.  I shouldn’t have worried about making the right choices.  Instead I should have owned the choices that I made and lived with the consequences.  It would have been more realistic and more fun.

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Advisors gotta advise…

I usually didn’t let the kids watch when I played this game, unless I knew nothing horrible was going to happen (This game is rated M).  My daughter (who is now 2) was a big fan since the main character was named after her.  She’d walk in while I was playing, point and say “That’s me!!”.  Now that I’ve finished with the game she’s seemed pretty disappointed to find me playing other things on my Playstation.

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Wouldn’t be an RPG without some questionable outfits…

Since I didn’t really know what was going on most of the game I avoided spending skill points, crafting weapons/armor or choosing a specialization until I felt like I absolutely had to.  My inventory was always full of items that I wasn’t sure if I should hold on to or not.  Eventually I’d stored up about 18 unused skill points and spent them all at once.  Suddenly I had TOO MANY skills and it took some trial and error to find a set of abilities that I liked.  My favorite was the ‘Charging Bull’ ability that had my warrior dashing into danger like the late Mr. Jenkins of World of Warcraft fame.

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Leeeroooooy……

My first impression of Dragon Age was poor but after I understood enough about the game to play it intelligently I started to enjoy it more.  It’s a solid game but I can’t recommend it to everyone because there is a time investment required to acquaint the player with how the game is played.  This isn’t a pick-it-up-and-go title, it’s a read-the-strategy-guide-first kind of game.  I don’t plan on holding on to my copy, or playing any other games in the series.  If another Dragon Age game comes out some day I may look into it but for now I’m (finally) done.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 8/10
  • Length:  ~110 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: Action / RPG

Uncharted 4 : A Thief’s End

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The Intro Screen

Date Completed : June 4th, 2016

It looks like the Olympics are on once again which means that my wife will be commandeering the Television for two weeks.  During the Winter Olympics 2 years ago I was able to take the opportunity to complete The Last Of Us but this time around I think I’ll start by getting caught up with my blogging.

I spent the first few hours playing Uncharted 4 taking screenshots of everything. This is the first PS4 exclusive game that I’ve played on my PS4 and it looks fantastic.  It took awhile but eventually the ‘Wow’ wore off enough for me to focus on playing like I would any other Uncharted game.

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Don’t Sneeze!

Being a long-time fan I already knew the drill and I set myself up with a spoiler-free walkthrough that detailed all of the hidden treasure locations.  I played all three of the previous game without the assistance of a walkthrough and each time I regretted it.  The hidden treasures are squirreled away pretty deep in some cases and I’d rather be experiencing the story than exploring every nook.

One of the things that really stood out for me was the bantering.  Characters engage in bantering with each other and it comes off as perfectly natural.  I never observed any ‘repeat’ conversations – I can’t imagine how much voice work must have been recorded to make this game possible.

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Lots of back-seat driver banter through this section…

The game plays exactly like the predecessors, with the notable exception of rope/vine swinging mechanics.  I thought that I’d enjoy the vine mechanics more but in practice I didn’t find a lot of opportunities where it made much of a difference.  I usually went with my go-to strategy of charging down my enemies with guns-a-blazing.

So, how does the game rank in the grand scheme?  I’ve really enjoyed every single Uncharted game but when I think back on previous titles I think I enjoyed them all for different reasons.  The original Uncharted had a small cast while later games had much more cast members with seriously over-the-top action sequences.  I think Uncharted 4 manages to recapture some of that small cast vibe while still including great action.  Thinking back on the games I think that Uncharted 4 may be my new favorite.  Here’s my official ranking, if you’re keeping score:

  1. Uncharted 4
  2. Uncharted 2
  3. Uncharted & Uncharted : Golden Abyss (Tie)
  4. Uncharted 3

The game is too violent to let the kids watch but sometimes I let them sit in the room with me between action scenes.  Some of the language in the bantering sections could get questionable but the kids didn’t seem to have noticed.  Whenever bullets started flying I’d kick the kids out of the room.

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Sometimes you’ve gotta push a wagon.

Occasionally my wife wandered in while I was playing and she seemed at least somewhat interested in the story.  The storytelling is one of the elements that has elevated the Uncharted games above other similar games.  This game continues the tradition, and being Nathan Drake’s last outing they take every opportunity to please long time fans in every way.

I didn’t purchase this game – I borrowed it from a colleague.  This game is a lot of fun and I can see myself plaything through it again but it’ll have to wait until I have access to another copy!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  20 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Action / Third-Person Shooter

LittleBigPlanet 3

915sTmK8U1L._SL1500_Date Completed: February 21, 2016

The original LittleBigPlanet game wouldn’t have normally been something on my radar but a colleague of mine (Lets call him MDL for short) became a very big fan and even earned one of the Rare Prize Crown accessories as a level design contest reward.  I had a handful of ideas for levels but children started flying out of my wife at an alarming rate and I suddenly didn’t have the time to put into level design that I needed to accomplish anything of note.  Even so the game had a lot of charm and I discovered that I had become a LittleBigPlanet fan.  Unfortunately none of the games have been able to recapture the magic of that original title.  LittleBigPlanet 3 feels like they’ve given up trying.

The single player experience is OK but extremely short.  Rather than the linear progression of previous games the game is broken up into hub worlds, each of which involves you collecting one of the new characters in the game – Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop.  Each of the new characters can only be used in designated areas which I found disappointing.

In general the world ‘disappointing’ would sum up my entire experience with this game.  I didn’t care for the story.  I didn’t  care for the new NPC characters introduced.  I didn’t like the new ‘hub world’ concept, or the addition of quests.  I could continue listing things I didn’t like about the game but I’ll just say there was a lot to not like.

Not that the game is all bad.  I liked the new playable characters and I wished that I could have used them more.  The level design is very good and they are very fun to play.  My kids got to know SackBoy very well playing Run Sackboy Run and they loved seeing more of him in this game.

It many ways it feels as if the developers packed as many features into the game as they could, but decided not to make levels for it.  Instead they decided to rely on the community to create, share and play user generated content.  This may work for some of the audience of this game, however that’s not how I play.  I want to play a game with a beginning, a middle and an end.  I’m not really into playing games just for the sake of playing, I want a storyline and a goal.

After beating it I decided to sell the game.  They’re trying to push the DLC pretty hard for this game so I assume sooner or later LBP3 will be free for Playstation Plus subscribers.  I might play it again someday, but then again I might not.  I liked the game enough to play it but in the end it failed to capture the magic I was looking for.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~5 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Platformer

Trine 2

Trine-2-Complete-Story-LogoDate Completed : June 23, 2015

Today I will tell you a tale.  A tale of a time, long ago when I saw the first screenshots of Trine, and the obvious beauty of the game encouraged me to purchase it.  It was clear to me that this game would offer a superior experience on a console but a series of circumstances lead me to purchase it for the PC.  What sort of circumstances you ask?  I became addicted to the price savings offered by the Humble Bundles, and in 2011 they offered the Humble Frozenbyte Bundle, which included Trine 1.  I tried playing Trine on the PC, and it was certainly beautiful but it pushed my laptop a bit too hard and it became uncomfortably hot and overheated my nether regions.  They keyboard controls were also as poor as I expected.  I was able to make it a few levels in but I never gave the game a fair chance.

The years rolled by and I didn’t give Trine another thought until one day I heard that Trine 2 had not only been released, but it was being made available FOR FREE to Playstation Plus subscribers.  FREE! (With paid subscription) is one of my favorite price points so I immediately downloaded and tried the game out.  Then I didn’t play it for three months.

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My daughter was born in August 2014 and when up late, or early, or both with her I’d set her into the crook on my left arm and sometimes I’d play some Trine, but usually I’d watch Star Trek : TNG on Netflix because I didn’t have the mental energy to engage in a video game.  I’ll be honest too – I wasn’t enjoying Trine that much.  It is beautiful, challenging, interesting and unique but it is too slow.  It may be the Mario player in me, but I wanted to be able to run faster, jump higher, but Trine is a puzzle game first and an action game second.

The puzzles in Trine require either thought, or brute force.  It’s not like other games where there is one correct answer, there may be many possible ways to get up to the next ledge.  Some of them require skill, others require patience but all require you to stop running and start thinking.  Levels generally took me 20-40 minutes to complete and I was never sure if I could save mid-level.  I couldn’t find a save option – I assumed the game had an auto-save feature.  Sometimes after reloading I would start at a checkpoint and other times I had to start a level over.  It was slow going for me.  I played a few levels a month and I monitored the list of Trophies to gauge my progress but I never seemed to be any closer to finishing the game.Trine_2_Complete_Story_Sandworm_720p

Then Sony bequeathed unto PS4 owners a glorious update.  The ability to suspend a game in the middle of a level and resume later without losing any progress was added to the system, and the people rejoiced.  Without concern of losing my progress through a level I began to play Trine 2 in smaller, bite sized sessions.  With the mighty sword of suspend, and the shield of resume I was able to conquer my foe and Trine 2 lies dead in the graveyard of my blog.

Trine 2 isn’t especially graphic but I tried to limit my kids to only watching the puzzle portions of the game and kicked them out when I was involved in goblin hacking.  Sometimes I’d get through a puzzle only to be thrown into a battle and forget to kick the kids out but they never seemed overly traumatized (I’m pretty sure my 4-year-old’s night terrors were unrelated).  They seem to be able to grasp that it’s only a game and most of the action on my 24″ monitor is too small to make out much detail anyway.Trine2CompleteStory_Wyvern_Screenshot_02

I discovered accidentally that Trine 2 is one of the few PS4 titles to support 3D, and as the world’s only fan of 3D I took the opportunity to play in 3D as much as possible.  The game looks absolutely amazing-er in 3D, although since it is a 2D side scroller 3D mode doesn’t accomplish much other than emphasize the distance between the graphics layers.

Suspend mode was the feature that really made it possible for me to enjoy Trine 2.  I had tried playing using remote play from my Vita (which worked well) but Trine makes full use of the controller and the Vita’s emulation of the extra shoulder buttons is…not fantastic.  After I got into the game I had a lot of fun playing it and I’m considering going back to that overheating laptop to give Trine 1 another shot, especially since I have three kids now and I don’t need my nethers anymore.

Pros

  • Stunningly Beautiful Artwork.

Cons

  • Can be a bit slow going.

Is it fun: Yes

Score: 8/10
Length:  ~8 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Action