List items

  • | Mac | January 6th |

    OK, so I played Undertale in one sitting, and I've been letting my feelings on it settle for a few days. That's because really, I didn't know how to write about it. I still don't... so, I'm just going to do it. This might be disjointed, and messy, or whatever... but I don't think I could write it any other way.

    My mom came to talk to me while I was playing through Undertale. She noticed my runny nose and the plethora of used tissues on my desk and rightfully assumed that I had caught some sort of cold. I had to tell her that a cute game where you're nice to people and stuff was making me really emotional. She quietly left me alone immediately after.

    If there's one thing I can say definitively, it's that Undertale is exactly the kind of thing I needed. It comes across to me as extremely genuine, especially in regards to its tone. The way it encourages kindness and love, and making it a totally valid way to play the game makes up for a bulk of why I like this game in the way that I do. The characters, for how little screentime they have at times, are bursting at the seams with personality, backed by relatively sharp writing. Apart from the occasional flat joke that goes on for too long, nothing about the setting, or characters, or story felt overbearing to me, or like... forced, or hokey. The various aspects that make Undertale what it is; especially its soundtrack, all feel like they came from a warm place.

    Just... the game's big heart by itself makes me love it to bits. Even in contrast with its often-times somber story, everyone and everything in the game is so dang cute in their own ways. No matter what happens, the game always encourages you to be determined, and that everything will be okay.

    ...and like, even as someone who's afraid to show affection (for one stupid reason or another) despite a strong desire to shower everyone and everything with affection, Undertale kind of encourages me to be that person that I'm afraid to be. I really, really admire it for that.

    And look, Undertale is not a perfect game whatsoever. The boss battles, despite how cool they are in regards to how they play with the mechanics, I felt hampered the game's otherwise consistent momentum with its sharp difficulty curves. If it also weren't for the game's (appropriately) brief length, I don't think the gameplay would have kept my attention...

    ...but like, none of that matters. I love Undertale for the warmth it shared with me, and the way it made me feel about myself. I bought the soundtrack, and I'm pretty sure I'll never listen to it because it'll just make me cry. I'll never, ever forget about Toriel because like... I literally can't stop thinking about her. More importantly, though, I'll never forget what Undertale helped teach me and that's that kindness is cool, man.

  • | PlayStation 4 | January 12th |

    I vividly remember raving about Gone Home when I first played it in 2013 to just about everyone. I (figuratively) held friends at gunpoint, telling them to play it (I'm positive they still haven't) and I made it one of the subjects of a huge, important project I had that semester. It prodded me in the direction of finally listening to riot grrrl punk and it was conveniently relevant to how eighteen year old Ajay was feeling at that point in time. I'd even say it's still relevant.

    So, without hesitation (and plenty of excitement) I dropped twenty bones on the PS4 version of Gone Home. At the very least, I was happy to give my barely-hard-earned dollars as directly as I can to Steve Gaynor himself, but I was hoping that my revisit to the spooky Greenbriar residence would be something a little more substantial.

    Well... I mean, it's still Gone Home. I still do really like the way this story is told. Even as someone who wasn't born in the right timeframe to properly appreciate all of its nostalgic hooks (this game is set mere days after I was born), the small details and characterization through household items, conveniently placed notes and Sam's journal entries are still thoroughly fascinating and relatable. Even after knowing where the story goes, I had a nice time just exploring the house, listening to the rain and occasionally finding a little bit that I hadn't seen before.

    Umm... yep! Gone Home is still a cool game that is very important to me. I'm really excited to see where Tacoma goes from here.

  • | PlayStation Vita | March 15th | Hanzo Story |

    Even though it took me almost two years to finish, I really like Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus. The combat is mindless, fun and flashy even though it's very easy and can get pretty old quick. The story is relatively standard for, you know, a ninja boobie game but as expected, it's good at providing exposition and fleshing out characters to make you actually care for them. It looks and runs great, and has plenty of fun customization options and junk to buy in the shop... I really like clothing and customization stuff, so I spent a huge chunk of time just creating outfits just by itself.

    I'm a bit mixed on the new characters-- though I am definitely going to play through the other stories to see what their deals are. The Hanzo story went by very quickly, so I kinda expect the others to be the same, if not shorter. I'm looking forward to checking in with Homura's Crimson Squad... as if I don't have enough Senran Kagura games to play already.

  • | PlayStation 4 | May 4th |

    The Wolfenstein series is dear to my heart. I could stack endless paragraphs on top of one another talking about _why_ that is, but let's just leave it at this: I like Wolfenstein way more than someone probably should.

    So... with that in mind, I'm proud to say that Wolfenstein: The New Order is really fun. The entire game is fast as heck, and the shooting is absolutely ridiculous in the best possible way. While I wish the weapons were a little more over-the-top, mindlessly unloading rounds upon rounds into a room with dual-wield shotguns or assault rifles is really satisfying. The stealth, somehow, is just as fun, especially with the cool sound cues when you take out someone silently.

    The story isn't half-bad either. The cutscenes look great, and everything moves as a rapid pace-- to a fault, in a way. I love how fast we move from one location to another, but it gives little room for things to sink in. I'm sure that's the point, considering the game simply skips past logistics most of the time to get you right into the action, but sometimes it makes the whole thing feel abrupt-- like I've skipped a few cutscenes by accident. The ending in particular is... bad. It went by so quick, it felt like a complete afterthought.

    I have other weird gripes with the story too and some of its characters, but otherwise, that's kind of the only big issue I had with Wolfenstein. Even though it moves a bit too fast for the story's own good, the quiet moments are great at changing things up a bit-- though what those quiet moments build up amounts to very little.

    ...but whatever, man. It's one heck of a good time if you just want to blast dudes into the next dimension while sick guitars rip in the background. The more story-focused approach is commendable, and is shockingly effective in some spots, but what it all boils down to is that Wolfenstein does what it does best-- killin' nazis.

  • | PlayStation 4 | July 15th | Jill Ending 5 |

    I have not been so consistently stressed while playing a video game since... well, probably since I finished Resident Evil 3 last year. The praise for this game is pretty huge, but more importantly, it's justified. The changes from the original PS1 game to emphasize avoiding encounters and playing smart are really cool shake-ups. Plus, the added lore and revamped art were very, very welcome additions.

    Changes aside, the core of the original Resident Evil is still very cool. I've always admired the way these games handle storytelling; people being thrown into mysterious situations that are way over their heads, putting the pieces together through cryptics messages and leftover memos. The new voice acting and dialogue... still aren't great, and somehow bonk you over the head with a few of the game's plot twists even harder than the original, but the general premise is, at this point, a classic. The added Trevor family story is... haunting, and bits with Lisa Trevor were, no question, my favorite moments in the game.

    I'm really glad that after years, and years of admiring this game from a distance, I finally got to play through it. It butts heads with Resident Evil 2 very closely in terms of the best classic Resident Evil game, and I think it goes to show how great Resident Evil is when Shinji Mikami steers the ship... but they certainly don't make games like this anymore.

  • | PlayStation 4 | August 10th |

    I've been playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; sometimes obsessively, other times on occasion for almost 12 years. I own nearly every release of it, and this would probably be my fifth time finishing the story. After all of that, I'm still seeing new things.

    Granted, a good chunk of that is because San Andreas, as always, finds new ways to break itself. 99.9% of the time, it's the good kind of breaking with pedestrians freaking out, cars flipping themselves over for no reason, things exploding suddenly and of course, tons and tons of cutscene and animation goofs but that's exactly why I love San Andreas. It's why I loved it then, and it's why it's one of my favorite games ever. Even when you understand how to break it, it finds new ways to surprise you.

    All of that is... well, perhaps not entirely intended by Rockstar themselves, but the stuff they threw in is, likewise, spectacular. I think this might be the best Grand Theft Auto story, mainly because of the gradual rise from beating people up in crack dens to stealing military fighter jets and having stakes in casino, mechanic and hip hop enterprises. I'd call it the typical "rags to riches" crime story-- and it is derivative (perhaps by design) but the sheer scale of the game world and the way you slowly make your way around San Andreas for one reason or another always makes me feel like I'm on some grand adventure-- one much bigger than any other GTA game.

    And even today, it still impresses me. I switched up the way I played a little this time around, and I heard new dialogue and saw restrictions that I didn't even know existed. Exploring the state still feels exhausting in the best kind of way, and I noticed new details in the way the game tries to immerse you like weather predictions and breaking news relevant to you on the game's radio... and for long I've been playing this game for, I'm blown away that I'm still seeing new things.

    Like, dang. I really like San Andreas. It's one of my favorite video games ever. There are countless things in my life today that are there thanks to playing so much San Andreas, whether it's music tastes or inspirations or general knowledge about early 1990s west coast junk. I'll probably play it again next year.

  • | PlayStation Vita | August 26th |

    Goodness. How times have changed.

    Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is a huge game to me, at least sentimentally. It was the game that helped me connect and meet friends when I started high school-- friends that are my closest today. We'd sit around at lunch and take turns going on rampages basically the whole time, until everyone started bringing their own PSPs to school. When I was a sad, lonely kid who was without their close elementary school group, it helped me find new friends. For that, this game means a lot to me.

    Even without a sweet story, I loved this game a lot for the mere fact that I could just blow stuff up wherever I was. Having a full-fledged GTA game was... insane, really. It was the game that was in my PSP the most because as it has been proven time and time again, the classic GTA formula is timeless.

    With that said, revisiting this game 10 years later is... different. Out of the handful of GTA games I've revisited over the past few years, this was the only one to seem really, really dated. The characters are bland, corny and at times, straight up unlikable in a bad way. Toni Cipriani is probably the least likable protagonist right next to Vice City Stories' Vic Vance for the mere fact that he has no apparent personality. I don't get it. After a game like San Andreas with a genuinely likable protagonist with actual personality and development, Cipriani is lifeless.

    I know, this is an old GTA game, but San Andreas did things so well in spite of Rockstar's lack of steady pacing and subtlety. Even things like the game's sense of humor and story are both lame as hell. It kind of explains why GTA is so popular with kids, considering the whole thing seems like it was written by 12 year olds... and look, I could blast the game's story forever, but in the end, it's a side story. It's not supposed to be as grand and spectacular as the main games. I just wish it was better than this.

    Thankfully, the novelty of having all of Liberty City on a handheld in 2005 is still really impressive in 2016 considering how much dialogue, music, weapons and vehicles they pack in... and like, in terms of shooting and blowing stuff up, it's still really fun. It plays like a very bland Vice City, which probably explains why I played it so much as a kid.

    OK, I gotta stop. Seriously. I'm starting to ramble on far too long for these little lists.

  • | Xbox 360 | September 8th | Revenge |

    I still really like Grand Theft Auto IV. I'm pretty sure I like it even more now than I did when it first came out. Maybe it's because I have a tighter grasp on storytelling and stuff now, but a lot of the stuff that I didn't like about GTA IV's story beforehand are things I appreciate way more now. That includes Niko as a character-- who now I think is the best GTA protagonist ever. I also have a better understanding for his journey, revelations and overall character development. Especially compared to earlier games, i think this game's slower, and much more personal style of storytelling isn't perfect, but I love and commend what it tries to do. It's a much more human story, and a welcome change of pace. The main story motivations (Roman's debt, Dimitri, That 'special someone') get lost among the zillions of characters at some point, but cool sub-plots like the diamonds and the entire McReary family are great. Still though, that diversion makes the ending seem real bad, like they forgot that they had a story, so they closed it up very abruptly.

    Story stuff aside, I adore Liberty City roughly ten thousand times over Los Santos in GTA V. Something about the dense streets, big bright lights and superb radio stations do it for me. It has lots, and lots of life and personality which helps since this game looks pretty ugly now and runs terribly. Plus, the gunfights are fantastic and intense and the driving model is... insane in retrospect, but I love how weighty and flimsy the physics are. It was one of the things that made multiplayer timeless. Even the details like the overwhelming amount of different dialogue, story paths and the cell phone (I lovelovelove when you call Francis during Blood Brothers) are superb even eight years later.

    I really, truly adore GTA IV with its flaws and everything. It's one of my favorite games ever for plenty of reasons, and that can never be taken away from me. It just helps that it holds up so well.

  • | PlayStation 4 | September 23rd |

    I like Virginia, and its presentation is really cool. I also think that I'm too stupid to understand what's actually going on in this game. I thought I got it towards the end, and then I completely lost it.

    It's short, so I want to try and play it again. Maybe it'll make sense?

  • | Nintendo 64 (via OpenEmu) | October 1st | Agent |

    What better way to console the absolutely harrowing after effects of an emotional breakdown than by playing a video game where all you do is shoot blocky men? I have beaten this game countless times on Agent, but this is the first time in about six or so years where I've powered through GoldenEye.

    Frankly, there are worse ways to play this game than with a 360 controller (which, let me tell you, is _definitely_ not an N64 controller) on a rapidly dying MacBook Pro but yeesh. For how awful the N64 controller is in just about every conceivable way, it goes a long way in demonstrating just how well this game controlled when that's the only way I can play it. It also shows how fun this game still is even when I can still really enjoy it with awkward, borderline nightmarish control translation.

    I've never actually played this game on Secret Agent or 00 Agent. I'll definitely hold on finding my N64 wires before I even consider that because I _really_ need to play this game with a proper controller again. Even though I generally don't like James Bond movies either, my utter fondness for this game kinda makes me want to watch it...

  • | PlayStation 4 | October 13th |

    Rez is probably the coolest video game ever made.

  • | PlayStation 4 | November 25th |

    [Note: I normally make separate entries per episode for episodic games, but this is an unusual instance where I've plowed through every episode without having to wait.]

    Hitman is very, very good. I'm genuinely impressed at the solidity of its mechanics (provided there's a suspension of disbelief), the super gorgeous and detailed locales, the flexibility of how you can approach situations (opportunities included) and its fantastic dynamic music.

    Really, this is the first Hitman game I could enjoy without having to make excuses for stiff, awkward gameplay by saying it's just 'dated.' It is overwhelming and can seem sorta clunky at first especially considering the zillions of systems working all at once, but there's enough good tutorial stuff to pick it up pretty quickly... and once you pick it up, good grief it's fun.

    I really liked most of the locations-- they're all unique enough to be relatively distinct in terms of opportunities, though I didn't dig the Colorado level all that much. I think it traded in the vibrant, silly, exciting scenarios of all the other levels for a drab, annoying military setting. My favorite parts in Hitman were split between when I was barely making it by with improvisation and completely acing the stealth mechanics. I didn't think of that was in Colorado, though it did have a very, very cute mission name.

    I'm thrilled that IO Interactive finally made a great game after so long, especially considering how much potential was wasted on the Kane & Lynch games. You can totally see parts of K&L in this game too, both good and bad: super cool scenarios, promising story, good voice acting and awful, awful shooting mechanics.

    As much as I can't wait for Hitman's second season, I might be one of the three people in the world who want to see another Kane & Lynch game... provided that it's, y'know, good this time.