Game Log 2: The Refined(?) Sequel [June 2013 - April 2015]

Starting this in June 2013. This will be a list of games I play from now on and some thoughts about them. The closer to the top a game is the more recently I played it.

If a game is on this list it means I'm either finished with it or that I've at least played enough to feel comfortable writing a review.

Currently I'm using a simple good (▲), bad (▼), and ambivalent (◄►) scale. Deciding on more specific ratings can be pretty agonizing, and I'm tired of it. I'll also be trying a more compact review format that might get me to actually write something about games I play.

Currently Playing: Dragon Age: Inquisition [PS4]

Backburner: Radiant Historia [NDS]; Valkyrie Profile [PSX]

Not on the site yet:

Ditto ▲ [PC] 5/2/14

List items

  • ▲ [3DS] 4/14/15

  • ▲ [PS4] 4/5/15

  • ▲ [PSX] 3/23/15

  • ▲ [PC] 3/22/15

  • ▲ [PS4] 3/22/15

  • Vergil's Downfall DLC: ▲ [PS4] 3/14/15

  • ◄► [PS4] 3/8/15

  • ▲ [iOS] 3/7/15

  • ▼ [3DS] 3/4/15

  • ▲ [PC] 2/9/15

  • ▲ [PS4] 1/31/15

  • Dark Souls II: The Three Crowns DLC: ▲ [PS3] 1/12/15

  • ▲ [PC] 1/5/15

  • ▲ [PC] 1/3/15

  • ▲ [PS4] 12/25/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 12/18/14

  • ▲ [WIIU] 12/17/14

  • ▲ [WIIU] 12/11/14

  • ▲ [iOS] 12/1/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/17/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/10/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 11/7/14

    2033 isn't quite what I expected. I guess I had assumed that due to the post-apocalyptic setting and the use of ammo as currency in this world that the survival elements would be even more pronounced. Only possessing a few bullets at a time with not much forced combat and small numbers of enemies. 2033 is a more standard campaign shooter than that, with them plopping you down in turrets or making you gun down 5 waves of enemies before progressing, etc.

    But that isn't all of the game. There are a number of open areas where stealth is viable for the duration if you can manage it, where you can creep along plinking headshots on dudes with your nightvision scope in the dark. That's how I want to play.

    It also just feels different than other shooters, even in the action parts, due to how much you have to manage. There's a battery for your flashlight and/or goggles that must be charged up periodically using a hand crank. You have to not take too much damage with your mask on or it will break, giving you no protection from the toxic air. There's the air filter on the mask that needs to be changed every few minutes and if you run out of filters, you die. You can wipe blood and water droplets from the surface of your mask, but the sweat that accumulates on the inside of the mask when you're low on air can't be, which is a nice touch. These things may sound oppressive or frustrating but in my time with the game my mask never broke and I generally had enough air filters unless I really messed around recklessly. The battery isn't a real hassle. You can see well enough without wiping your mask.

    But the effect of these things is a constant reinforcement of this world's legitimacy. I may not be running out of air filters but I also don't feel comfortable poking around indefinitely in random corners. It's always in the back of your mind on the surface: the air here is fucked so my time is limited. I am conscious of the cracks appearing on my mask and how that is Bad News. I have to recharge my flashlight battery every few minutes using a hand-operated system because that's the best we have here. It asks you to be aware of and do things you often aren't in a shooter in ways that support its fiction, which I guess is ultimately why I was able to forgive the times it asks me to just mow down some monsters for a bit.

    Also the story is bizarre and interesting in ways I didn't expect at all and will not talk about.

  • ▲ [PS4] 10/28/14

  • ▲ [3DS] 10/22/14

    I remain kind of baffled at how long this game is. It's the length of a full Layton and Phoenix Wright game combined, which I suppose makes sense given this is just mashing the two together, but it doesn't do the pacing any favors. The Wright parts are also just significantly better than the Professor's. Still, Shu Takumi's prowess at writing charming characters and interesting cases shines through and kept me going till the end. I liked Dual Destinies but Takumi does have a particular touch that I enjoyed seeing again, even if it's not really possible to combine these franchises and come out totally unscathed.

  • ▲ [GCN] 10/12/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 10/10/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/23/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 9/20/14

  • ▲ [WIIU] 9/13/14

  • ▲ [PS3] 8/31/14

  • ▲ [PS3] 7/20/14

    It's a funny game with some clever battle mechanics, but I don't really want to talk about that. What drew me to this game more than anything was the cohesion, how good of an adaptation it seemed to be. I've been a lapsed South Park fan for more years than I actively watched the show. Playing a South Park game wasn't inherently appealing, especially when my last game experience with the license was renting the terrible one on N64. But just watching videos of this game, there was a fidelity to it that sold me. Which is silly to say of something that looks as shitty as South Park does, but it matches the show so well. I really can't think of a better direct adaptation of a property, not just something that takes place in the same world or has similar themes but a work that feels like a natural part of the original whole. There's a level of craft to it that drew me in and made me want to see what they'd done.

  • ▲ [PC] 7/13/14

    I came to this game months after release, a lot of the mechanical discussion that I may have heard forgotten. I didn't realize how extensive the sort of "choose your own adventure" element was. It probably doesn't add up to this, but it feels like half the game is spent choosing things to say and making decisions about your caravan. And that's not meant as a bad thing, like it drags, because that stuff is great. Sometimes I was able to puzzle out what was truly the best option and was rewarded. Other times it's murkier or the outcome isn't what you expected and that's fine too. It would be disappointing if it weren't that way.

    What I find most interested in the strategy RPG aspect of the game is the use of health as strength for the units. Most games don't take health into account when calculating damage, the notion of the unit getting worn down, or if anything taking damage helps the character build up some sort of special attack. Advance Wars is the only series I can think of to mess with this kind of system, and you can't just make more units here. There's also no healing. Your heavy getting his strength sapped early on is going to force substantial strategy changes. Armor break and some special abilities aren't hurt by low health so you can still get some use out of injured units before they're cut down. That's generally what you have to do in that situation, just try to make the best of the turns they have remaining.

    I love the dynamism of something like Fire Emblem: Awakening, where I can see things are going bad and use the carry system get someone most of the way across the map in one turn to save the day. That's certainly not the case here. A unit too far away from allies or even one close but just poorly positioned is going down, and it's appropriate for the tone of the game. Fantastical rescues are for different worlds than this one gone sour.

    I really can't wait for the next game in this series, which is unfortunate because I doubt it's very soon.

  • ▲ [WIIU] 7/6/14

  • ▲ [WIIU] 6/29/14

    I don't even know where to start. This game nails everything it's going for to an unusual degree. In a time when so many games are meant to be tributes to the 8-bit era, Shovel Knight feels like it's OF the era, in many tiny ways that would be hard for me to explain. At the same time, there are a lot of clever, modern ideas like the chance to recover lost money after death and the breakable checkpoints that let players choose their own difficulty. It's clearly very knowing about NES game design but manages to avoid the pitfall of obnoxious referential humor. The story has this sincere simplicity to it that makes it feel of the time, not like some guy trying to be witty about those games 20 years later. It's cute, smart, and always feels great to play. That's all I've got.

  • ▲ [PS4] 6/20/14

  • ▲ [3DS] 6/17/14

  • ▲ [3DS] 6/11/14

    A more traditional Kirby game than, say, Epic Yarn but still inventive and fun. I got so many cute keychain collectible things.

  • ▲ [PS4] 6/4/14

  • ◄► [PS4] 6/1/14

    I've been thinking about this game for a while and I still feel conflicted. Kirk Hamilton described the game in his review as a shattered statue strewn across a lawn, one with ten arms and no heart; it's not just a matter of the pieces not being together, cohesive, but that they're not the right pieces either. And it would be hard to say that's wrong... but I like some of those arms. They're nice arms. Shutting the train doors in the face of the police then disappearing into the crowd at the next stop is the sort of thing I've always wanted to do in a game. The story is just terrible though, somehow super bland in a way that manages to be annoying because it feels so lazy. A LOT of things about Watch Dogs feel lazy and it leaves me conflicted because I did have a few amazing moments. I don't know.

  • ▲ [3DS] 5/30/14

    Donkey Kong is pretty good at golf considering he swings one-handed. What a bunch of bullshit.

  • ◄► [PS2] 5/19/14

    This game has a limited goal and scope to its story that I appreciate. You mainly find out only what you need to progress, people don't take the time to explain their whole histories to you, and your ultimate goal isn't the grandest, most heroic thing. It's too bad the gameplay isn't really there. There's a fun action core, hectic but comprehensible, but they struggle with giving you stuff to do with it. Unclear objectives or clearly padded out parts that have more steps than they need to. There's a solid foundation here, but they don't turn it into what it needs to be until the next game.

  • ▲ [PS3] 5/17/14

  • ▲ [PS2] 5/10/14 [Special Edition]

  • ▲ [iOS] 4/27/14

    I love that this game exists. When I first heard about it I assumed it was some weak attempt at putting a "real" Hitman game on iOS, walking around a 3D environment with touch controls. Seeing it in action, though, sold me. There's something beautiful about this abstraction of Hitman mechanics to a clean, board game aesthetic. Obviously there are inevitable differences, not being able to wait in a spot, for one, whereas waiting in the traditional games may be a necessity. Disguises and other elements also have their quirks that differentiate from how they perform in the console games, but all that is kind of irrelevant.

    It's evocative, this clean way of looking at the world, individuals as pieces on a board. Seeing things in a tactical way, where every piece poses a potential threat to your mission, and you have to work around them smartly to succeed. It works, it's not just a thoughtless slapping of a brand onto something, and it's also just a very fun game. Not going to go into all the mechanics here, but a few minutes of video is probably enough for you to know if this interests you; I was sold pretty fast. I have All The Medals, hundreds of the things, and I can't wait for more levels to be released.

  • ◄► [360] 4/19/14

    The style of this game really pops and it has some charm to it. Brash dude with a heart of gold isn't that unique of a protagonist but it works here, plus he has an Irish accent. There's a lot of standard open-worldy stuff going on in this game, but you can disguise yourself as a nazi and use the climbing system to go around obstacles; there are ways to strategize and avoid all-out combat that were fun to utilize. Mechanically, though, everything just feels pretty junky to interact with and it wore me down over the course of the game.

  • ▲ [360] 4/4/14

    +Most every weapon has some kind of useful alternate mode. Burst fire, a grenade launcher, explosive shots. My favorite gun is the assault rifle that has a fairly wide iron sights-type view with full automatic fire AND an alternate sniping mode with a zoomed in view that fires single shots. You can carry two guns and each will probably have a couple of useful modes, so you have a lot of versatility in combat.

    +You have three powers that recharge at different rates, in addition to what's basically bullet time + detective mode; time slows down and you can see enemies through walls and cover. You constantly have something to pop off and give yourself the advantage, and it feels good.

    +The game realizes its limited number of guns and mechanics will be entertaining for a certain amount of time and doesn't try to pad it out beyond that. I beat it in around six hours, and it feels like a fast six; you don't stay in any one area too long and are constantly seeing new things. Feels complete but brisk.

    -There are more bad bosses than good, pretty sure. They're immune to your powers because if they weren't they'd be real chumps, but that also means you have to just slowly wear them down with standard shots, which isn't that engaging. I did enjoy a couple of them, cases where the enemy pattern was interesting or you use the environment in smart ways but they're mostly ehhh.

    -This isn't unique to this game at all and isn't even a true "annoyance" per se, but there sure are a lot of grates and doors that need to be pried open by you rapidly mashing buttons. A high enough ratio that I took note. Just ease off a bit, okay.

  • ◄► [3DS] 3/27/14

    I don't know, man. I tried. It's not an unpleasant game. Every few levels I might find some little clever secret area or something else interesting that would give me hope but it would never last. It just feels pretty dull, with the good bits too few and far between for me to want to keep going; I gave up about halfway through World 3.

  • ▲ [PS4] 3/24/14

    Even though it has more total content than a demo would, I understand the comparison; it serves the same function, showcasing the new controls, systems and features of the future Phantom Pain. It's a small piece of a larger whole. But what can I say, it's a fun piece. I played all the available missions of the game, most of them multiple times, including the harder to unlock Deja Vu Extra Op. Also it looks pretty fantastic on PS4.

    The controls feel legitimately slick. I've always enjoyed these games and the level of interaction they give you with the environment. Being able to throw a guard, choke him out, snap his neck, interrogate him, or hold him up. The ambition of that stuff in 3 in particular, especially for the time, is really striking to me. But there was still an awkward learning period with those controls that doesn't exist here. It feels simplified while retaining the same level of depth. It's basically an evolution of Peace Walker controls, which were stripped down some by necessity for the PSP. They retained that overall simplified feel but now take advantage of the guaranteed two clickable analog sticks and four shoulder buttons to make something that's intuitive but not at all limited.

    It's too bad I don't have positive things to say about the story. It's just not long enough to have any sort of arc or satisfaction to that part of it, and what's there just feels kind of gross. I've enjoyed Metal Gear's goofiness over the years a lot but if it wants to take that over-the-topness into more grim territory for this final period of the Big Boss story, that's okay with me in theory. But this story is so brief it's basically "here's some really bad stuff, the end." It didn't do anything for me other than get things in position for Phantom Pain.

    Despite that, I just quite enjoyed playing it. Replaying the levels and discovering all the different little paths through the base, approaching missions in several completely different ways including RUNNING PEOPLE DOWN WITH JEEPS. The Deja Vu mission is a bizarre and kind of funny tribute to MGS1 that gets you some cute unlockables. There's a lot here if you dig poking at these systems, setting better scores, etc.

  • ▲ [PC] 3/23/14

  • ▲ [PS3] 3/20/14

    [soon, watch this space]

  • ▲ [PS4] 3/8/14

    +The first-person perspective certainly helps makes this game intense. You're immersed in this person's view which means no cheating the camera around corners to know what's up. You have to peek around it and you may not like what you see. Leaning out right in front of an enemy boned me a couple of times that way, but that did help me learn to use the audio cues more effectively; these asylum jerks make plenty of scary noises. It's probably a bad idea to look out if you can hear them well. The extension of that limited perspective to dark areas requiring nightvision that suck up your limited supply of batteries just furthers the unease in this place.

    +Probably the best times in this game are when you have "oh shit" moments that work out. Where you get spotted and start running and are able to get away. You jump over the gap to safety instead of falling to your death or your scrambling in terror takes you to the right path instead of into a dead end where you get murdered. The intense peaks that don't result in tedium, just excitement.

    -Which brings me to the times that doesn't happen. Some areas are just laid out in such a way that if you're seen, it's not possible to recover or at least not likely. You'll run around looking for a place to hide without being able to put any distance between you and the pursuer until you're beaten to death trying to open a locked door or something. Doing a section 3-4 times so that you know the layout and exactly what to do really defuses the tension the game is trying to convey. There weren't many places like this for me, only a couple, but it did happen.

    -Last area, ehhhh.

  • ▼ [PS3] 3/6/14

    I really can't. I tried.

  • ◄► [PC] 2/27/14

  • ◄► [PC] 2/27/14

  • ◄► [iOS] 2/27/14

  • ▲ [iOS] 2/27/14

  • ▲ [PS4] 2/21/14

  • ▲ [PS3] 2/10/14

  • ▲ [360] 2/1/14

  • ▲ [PS3] 1/24/14

  • ▲ [PC] 1/21/13

  • ◄► [360] 1/21/13 [Jake campaign only]

  • ◄► [PS4] 1/16/13

  • ◄► [PS3] 1/15/13

  • ▲ [PS3] 12/31/13

  • ▲ [PC] 12/23/13

  • ▲ [360] 12/20/13

    Some minor, probably not very shocking spoilers here.

    +I love the idea of BioShock 1 and the place of Rapture, but the combat was really monotonous. Splicers respawn every few feet in a lot of areas and rather than being intimidating or scary, they're just a pest you have to swat out of your way as you try to explore. Infinite feels much more built from the ground up to be combat-focused, with bigger spaces for encounters and more choices and mobility for the player. Combat encounters also, you know, have a point where everyone is dead and you can basically explore to your heart's content without dealing with nagging respawns.

    +As ever, Irrational's strength lies with imagery and style that draws you into the place. Columbia has a beautiful nightmare kind of feel that kind of jives with the style of Rapture in some ways while being distinct. The striking imagery is the prime thing that makes the ending strong, because conceptually it wasn't as revelatory as some of the rumblings had led me to believe; but boy they know how to sell it.

    +The dialogue between Booker and Elizabeth and the fairly lengthy non-combat sequences in the game help the pacing, keeps it from becoming a unrelenting shooting slog the whole game. They probably could have used one more of those in the second half somewhere [I had my weary moments], but I still appreciate what they did. It feels like a good correction after my fatigue in BioShock 1.

    -The race element of the game feels off to me. Fundamentally, that conflict is irrelevant to the main story of Booker and Elizabeth. The Vox just become another force for you to slaughter, interchangeable with the Founders. The race war could just as easily not be in the game, with a few tweaks. This isn't to say something like that SHOULDN'T be in the game, but it doesn't feel fully realized. It's window dressing that they use to give some sort of weight to the story early on and then basically discard when it becomes irrelevant to the plot later. But not before they have the Vox leader smear blood on her face like a savage caricature and you see every black person for the rest of the game be hostile toward you and probably killing the unarmed. There's no nuance to it because there doesn't need to be for the main story thread to work, which raises the question of it it should be in there in the first place.

    -I guess this is nitpicking but I can't help it: vigors don't feel like a natural part of Columbia to me. In Rapture, objectivism permits the genesplicing and plasmid use that eventually destroys it. Plasmids are an inherent part of the history and philosophy of that place, fully woven in. Columbia doesn't seem to share the objectivist idea; it's basically a weird nationalist theocracy, with a huge military under the total command of Comstock. You never see a civilian carrying a gun or using vigors, even in those pretty long non-combat parts. [There's a shooting range game at the fairgrounds, but ehhh, pretty special circumstance.] There's slavery. It doesn't seem super big on the personal freedom at all costs idea. And yet there's these crates out in the open, in public areas, with vigors that give you the ability to hack gun turrets and turn them against the police or blow them up or any number of different things. The Shock Jocky vigor has the implication regular people may use it to power up devices, but it just gates you from like 1-2 story doors. No real feeling its essential to the Columbian way of life. The very first vigor is the hacking one, sitting unguarded at a public fairgrounds where there's plenty of foot traffic, and you drink it and use it to enter a restricted area. It's just bizarre. Shouldn't they at least be concerned about how easy it would be for a Vox spy to steal a crate of these and become a superpowered god? Not to mention that the military forces only have like 1/10 guys outfitted with a vigor, so even they aren't using them very well. I just think its clear that they sat down at the table and said "well we need a plasmid equivalent, this is a BioShock game" without integrating it all that well. I think they could have had Teched Up guns that were just as varied as vigors, electric alt fires or something, that would make more sense, in that they wouldn't be easy to get your hands on for a civilian [or Vox] but Booker could be grabbing them off bodies or from restricted areas all the time. Sorry about the length of that.

    -Press X to comfort Elizabeth.

  • ◄► [360] 12/16/13

  • ▲ [PC] 12/10/13

  • ▲ [360] 12/9/13

  • ▲ [3DS] 12/1/13

    To some degree I feel weird about loving this game as much as I do because so much of the praise inevitably mentions how it differs from other recent Zelda games, most notably Skyward Sword. I think Skyward Sword is incredible; maybe the last of it's line, the last Zelda game that could use that kind of regimented structure, but also the epitome of it. There's a fundamental magic to the world they develop in that particular game, at least, and the ways you interact with it via motion controls make me perfectly happy with what it is. So even though I'm a big fan of the original Legend of Zelda, the closest analogue to this game in the series, I haven't been one of the people clamoring for a more non-linear game. That doesn't mean it's not fucking great when it comes along or that I can't appreciate it.

    The agency is important, letting you do dungeons as you discover how to even get inside them, which isn't always immediately clear, but really it just contributes to what's overall most appealing about the game: briskness. The pacing is very lively, which isn't the most technical description, but it's what I can think of. You get started fast, you get access to items fast, there's a quick feel to even basic movement, with Link slashing literally as fast as you can mash the button. Dungeons are consistently interesting and creative, especially with the new emphasis on verticality, but aren't all that sprawling or agonizingly complex. You're free to just wander and find things as you feel like it and can mark things on your map for later if you aren't able to do it right then.

    Even as a big Zelda fan, I hardly ever do all the collecting. I find a fair bit, maybe even most, but I'm generally too lazy to track down every heart piece. In this case I got all 100 of the little maiamai dudes on my own and all the heart pieces but 3. Had to look up the last few but I did get them, which is rare. The world is fun to explore and has this feeling of compactness despite its size that makes doing All The Things seem practical so.. I did them. Got every chest in every dungeon and fully upgraded my items, in addition to the collectibles I mentioned earlier. Rupees have a value with the rental system that they've never had before, although by the end I was still very rich. For most of the game they were an actual significant reward though, which hasn't been true. I don't even know what else to say. Everything about this game is interesting and feels good.

  • ▲ [PS3] 11/23/13

    +The storytelling device of swapping stories in a saloon is a lot of fun, especially when the conversation results in the gameplay situation changing as they speak.

    +The dueling system has a decent bit of depth and challenge, while remaining intuitive and fun.

    -The non-duel bosses take a million shots and are generally pretty dull. I threw dynamite at a guy like 50 times once. It wasn't very exciting.

  • ▲ [3DS] 11/16/13

  • ▲ [PC] 10/26/13

  • ▲ [iOS] 10/22/13

  • ▲ [SNES] 10/18/13

    For years I had random thoughts about the ATM game, some game I had rented as a child from the grocery store, SNES era, where you used an ATM card to get money and the roads were blocked by police. I didn't realize that game was EarthBound for long time, till looking into it online after seeing it mentioned as a cult classic. I don't think I got very far, probably Twoson because I believe I defeated the Sharks.

    I appreciate a lot about the game but the writing has to be what makes it singular. It's hard to think of a game where I've been more consistently interested in what the NPCs have to say. There's a lot of humor and many of the lines are just oddly poignant, little bits of insight all over the place. It's alternatingly funny, sweet, melancholy, and occasionally disturbing. The overall quest has it's strong parts, especially at the end, but the bizarre sense of world it builds through the story locales and dialogue is the biggest thing.

    The abilities system is pretty simple but nice. Everyone has some specific skills and tendencies. Jeff in particular with his 0 PP but ability to use damaging items and fix things is an interesting specialized character. The real star on the mechanical front, though, is the slots system. You can take a mortal blow in battle but if you kill all the enemies, run away, or heal before the slots roll down to 0, you can survive. It's a really clever way of adding an element of timing to turn-based battles without just using an FF-esque ATB system. When you take a bad hit you are FLYING through the commands trying to get them in before death.

    The inventory system feels quite archaic and annoying to futz with, especially for me where most RPGs I've played basically give you a bottomless bag. Everyone has a limited number of inventory slots and you are constantly having to pass items between people so they can equip things or to free up space on a person for something you want to buy. If the limited space created an interesting difficulty balance I might be more accepting of it, but mostly it just makes things take longer. There are also a couple of stretches in the game that are just fucking rough, times when I found myself heading to the hospital constantly because somebody got knocked out. There's no way around those bits other than to just try again until you grind your way up and it's not a lot of fun.

    Honestly, though, when I finished the game the complaints I have were pretty far from my mind. I was thinking about my adventure and how I'd never played anything like it. It's a very special game.

  • ▲ [PC] 10/8/13

    +A strong visual style that makes great use of color. I was consistently impressed with it.

    +The game is constantly changing up what powers you have available between worlds and sometimes between levels. It stays fresh the entire time.

    +Boss fights in platformers can be pretty lackluster, since they often try to come up with boss-specific gimmicks that abandon what makes the rest of the game fun. Here the fights are pretty logical extensions from what you've learned in the other stages, just more demanding.

    -There are a handful of times in the game it asks you to jump at the very last pixel of a platform to make it across, a millisecond before you'd fall off. Obviously precision platforming is part of the package here, but these jumps are just kind of obnoxious. But there aren't very many.

  • ▲ [PS3] 10/6/13

  • ▲ [360] 10/3/13

  • ▲ [360] 9/20/13

  • ▲ [PC] 9/14/13

    This game deserves a full review, but right now I think I'm too lazy to do a full discussion of what makes it so incredible. For now, at least, I'll say that Spelunky is a landmark of design, a game worthy of study. Pretty much everything in it has been tweaked until it feels great and is balanced. The way its various systems and objects interact is constantly surprising no matter how much of the game you've played.

  • ◄► [PC] 9/10/13

    +I had fun with a handful of the levels.

    -I mostly did not have fun with the levels.

    -As someone who loved Origins I'm not sure I could have been more excited for this game. It still has the beautiful style and charm of Origins, at least, but I'm not sure what happened to the level design. The game contains a number of Origins levels as bonuses and I had as much fun with those as I remembered, so it's not just a matter of me having weird nostalgia for a 2011 game. The Murphy levels are frustrating trial and error; seeing him fly in was the most disheartening thing after a while. But even the non-Murphy levels don't have a sense of flow and fun base design like Origins; instead you get shit like the cake world or whatever, which is so tedious I almost quit playing then.

  • ▲ [PS3] 8/29/13

    +One of the more beautiful games in recent memory. The style and charm of it carry the game a long way. It's unapologetically tropey, using terms like "chosen one" and needing to get the three MacGuffin gems before you can proceed, etc., but its earnestness makes these things feel sweet instead of lazy. The positive attitude of the game is especially important to note because as I will clearly show in the negatives section, there were some dark times, times I wasn't sure I wanted to keep playing. The game keeps up this innocent, adventurous tone, though, that dragged me through some of the tougher stretches.

    +The battle system is pretty interesting, where both Oliver and his familiars share the same HP/MP pool so you can't just use a familiar till it gets knocked out then switch like Pokemon. What happens with the health and magic of a familiar affects everyone so you need to pay attention. The direct control element also keeps battles a little more engaging, running around dodging attacks and looking for health pickups.

    +The puzzles that involve checking the Wizard's Companion book or casting a specific spell Oliver has found to progress in the environment help give you a sense outside of battle that you are a young wizard, growing in knowledge and repertoire. Plus they're cute.

    -The battle system doesn't really live up to its aspirations. You need to use the Defend command to block particularly devastating attacks but sometimes the windups for these are too damn short. I would cancel my current attack and go to select defend basically as fast as a person could do it and still take hits depending on the fight. There's a time between when Oliver is committed to casting a spell and when you're able to control him again to select defend and there are bosses that can go from no sign of attack to unleashing a supermove in that time, when there was no way to stop it or see it coming. Other times, a boss might have multiple gnarly attacks he can do and he might use them in fairly rapid succession, before your defend command has recharged. There are limitations to what you can do and how fast you can react in this system but a number of boss fights don't respect that.

    -Continuing to expand on the last point, your party is fucking stupid. They have AI behavior you can set, and I had both of my other members set to focus on healing the whole game. They were still extremely iffy about healing me or themselves. If they die you might as well not revive them because chances are they will just get themselves killed again anyway and all you did was waste an item or MP. I had a number of boss fights where in the end I just played as Oliver kiting the enemy around and healing as I needed to, letting my party stay dead because they were useless. Eventually, after maybe the most frustrating fight in the game, you do get access to a Defend-All command that will make your party AI block so they don't get obliterated by big windup attacks, but it should have been introduced as soon as you got any AI companions. AI in general is a problem. I had plenty of frustrating moments where I'd command a familiar to attack an enemy and he would struggle to pathfind his way there and would just run continuously into other enemies trying to get to the guy, taking unnecessary hits. At this point you have to just cancel, wait a few seconds for your attack command to recharge, then try again.

    -Enemies respawn after you take a few steps away from where they were. It really discourages exploration because you know to get back to that fork in the path and see what was on the other side you will be fighting about 20 more battles. This probably wouldn't be ideal in any game but when you combine it with some of the annoyances described above, it really makes you not want to look around. Late in the game you get the Veil spell that makes you invisible to enemies but it's VERY late.

  • ◄► [PC] 8/26/13

  • ▲ [PC] 8/15/13

  • ◄► [PC] 8/12/13

  • ▲ [PC] 8/7/13

  • ▲ [NDS] 8/2/13

  • ▲ [3DS] 8/1/13

    This is my first Animal Crossing and I enjoyed it, but I'm not totally sure how to feel, mostly due to how my experience evolved over time. Early on I was complete enamored; everything was new, I loved meeting everyone and every bug or fish I caught was a fresh discovery. There was a sense of wonder and relaxation that you don't really get in games. Just a pleasant place to live and do what you want. There's so much good here, as far as the different parts that make up the game. Tools like the QR code reader let you easily use and share designs [I say easily even though the way to unlock it is absurdly hidden], and in general the game is good about incorporating online elements via the Dream Suite, Happy Home Showcase, the ability to take a photo any time and upload it via the 3DS, etc. They really provided the tools to make New Leaf the online phenomenon it was [and still is to a degree]. Having to deal with shops and other activities using real world time, times I may not be available or want to play, was kind of annoying but also unique for me and there was enough going on I didn't mind. It was pretty amazing.

    Now, I don't know. Once life in my town became routine, things I was too pumped to care a lot about before became more nagging. Having to make extra trips to the store to sell things because my tools take up 5 inventory slots, and my number of available slots actually becoming even less as I sell things because excess bells take up space. Some items you would think might stack in inventory don't. The online features, while good to have, take forever to use. Want to visit a friend? I hope you enjoy going through a minute long dialogue process with a monkey before he shows you a blank list of available towns. Seeing the same welcome and exit dialogue for about the 500th time when you go into a store to buy or sell something or turn in a fortune cookie message. Everything is at least somewhat inefficient, and it wore me down over weeks of playing, especially when I started getting to more expensive home expansions and needed to make a lot more money more often.

    But those first couple weeks of discovering just what the hell Animal Crossing is and getting sucked into it were joyous. Definitely a worthwhile experience.

  • ▲ [iOS] 7/28/13

  • ▲ [PC] 7/27/13

  • ▲ [360] 7/15/13

    +In many ways, it's still fundamentally Hitman, and by that I mean disguise-based stealth. That's always been what's interesting about playing this series versus other stealth games I enjoy, the idea of pretending to be someone else to get by. As I recall, the older games took it to an even further extent and made you carry the same weapon as the group you're impersonating, so if you're dressed as a Russian soldier you'd need to be holding an AK-47 instead of your silenced pistol. They don't go that far here, which is slightly disappointing since it was a neat specific touch, but whatever. The most interesting part of the series is still intact.

    +Levels are pretty smartly laid out. An obscured path like a vent lowers your chances of being spotted, but if anyone sees you getting in or out of one it's way more suspicious. There are pretty direct paths to targets that will require using most of your instinct meter, or you can be more roundabout and save some for later. That stuff has a good sense of risk/reward.

    -Absolution's most fundamental issue is the game's desire to be cinematic, to create this sort of flowing journey for Agent 47 rather than have discrete missions. The "missions" in this game aren't broken up as such; they're designated chapters and for good reason. Killing the target doesn't necessarily make them end. Basically what would be a full length assassination in an earlier game is maybe 1/4 of a chapter here. Not that they all work like this but hypothetically, let's say the early part of a chapter is infiltration of a building in search of a target, part 2 is the assassination itself, and parts 3 and 4 are prolonged escape sequences. One of the big effects of this is that you're spending a much longer time at each location. The variety in the game is reduced because... you go to fewer places, see fewer locations and types of people. In Blood Money, you could scope the scene, put a bullet in your target, then walk out the door still in your suit within 15 minutes. Now there has a to be a big cinematic where police swarm the place looking for 47 and you need to go through a different area to escape, stealthing by cops for 30 more minutes. Or you discover there's info you need to get off a computer elsewhere in the complex; there's always some reason to go to a new area within the same type of environment.

    I assume the idea was to create a game that flows more naturally forward. In previous games there were breaks between missions where you would read intel on the new target and pick a weapon loadout, and the missions themselves were shorter, as stated. Like needing to hold the appropriate weapon for the person you're impersonating, the loss of picking a loadout and reading up on your target disappoints me. I can accept it because I think Absolution is a good game in its own right, but touches like that were just so appropriate. With Absolution they wanted a cinematic feel where many events happen at each location and Agent 47 isn't driving off to someplace new every 15 minutes. I just don't think the variety trade-off was really worth it. I just wrote too much in the negative section for a game I liked a good deal; the structure was just the main thing that nagged me throughout and it takes a while to explain. Oh, also, the story is bad.

  • ▲ [iOS] 7/10/13

  • ▲ [iOS] 7/10/13

  • ◄► [iOS] 7/8/13

    +Pretty charming characters and cases overall. There's a good sense of humor, and some of the middle cases especially have bizarre and clever scenarios to puzzle out.

    -The structure of the game has you going over crime scenes before asking you anything about them, so being told to point out the murder weapon on the scene when you've already examined it previously gets old. Situations like that happen pretty frequently.

    -The entire last pack of cases gets way self-serious about the main narrative, one that you don't have particular investment in and shouldn't really be the focus. It was better when they just dropped some narrative breadcrumbs into other cases. It also ends on a ridiculous note, trying to hype you for the next game; it failed.

  • ▲ [iOS] 7/1/13

  • ▲ [3DS] 6/30/13

    +It's Picross.

  • ▼ [PC] 6/26/13

    +It didn't cost me any money.

    -It's not fun. Maybe it had to do with the character I chose, but I wasn't excited with my skills at all. The community combat areas are also obnoxiously sprawling and filled with constantly spawning enemies so it's just a slog to get anywhere. It wore me down pretty fast.

  • ▲ [PS3] 6/16/13

    I intended to write a full review of this game, but honestly, I was too lazy. All I can say now, getting close to two years later is that I still think about it regularly. How it feels and how I feel about it. Thinking about the story and questioning what I would do in an honest way, shining a light on me and my morals and my weakness. I do hold it close to my heart.