Game Log

Starting this in June 2010. 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.

As of the start of 2013, star ratings are being retired in favor of 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: Radiant Historia [NDS]; Final Fantasy VII [PSN]

Backburner: Valkyrie Profile [PSX]

List items

  • ▲ [PS3] 6/16/13

  • ▲ [PC] 6/7/13

  • ▲ [PC] 6/5/13

  • ▲ [360] 6/2/13

  • ▲ [PC] 5/31/13

  • ▲ [GCN] 5/29/13

  • ▲ [SNES] 5/18/13

  • ▲ [PS2] 5/10/13

    + Potentially the best audio design of any game in the series, which is no small accomplishment. The atmosphere remains consistently great.

    + Smart area structure that creates a sense of building claustrophobia, ratcheting up the tension while knowing when to dial it back for a bit.

    + The story didn't connect with me the way 2 did, but it has it's moments and Heather is a good character. One cutscene in particular may stick with me forever.

    - A few too many instant death traps and monster ambush sort of rooms. Just a few things that feel unnecessary and cheap.

  • ▲ [PC] 5/1/13

  • ▲ [PC] 4/21/13

  • ◄► [PS3] 4/19/13

  • ▲ [PS3] 4/13/13

  • ▲ [360] 4/9/13

  • ▲ [NES] 4/8/13

  • ▲ [NES] 4/4/13

  • ▲ [NES] 4/4/13

  • ◄► [iOS] 4/3/13

    +Pretty neat battle system that uses touch in smart ways, with RPG progression elements to keep you playing.

    -Detection on swipes to parry blows seems pretty iffy on my iPhone; I end up taking more hits than necessary. It's frustrating, and I don't really want to play more to try to beat it.

  • ▲ [360] 4/1/13

  • ▲ [iOS] 3/29/13

  • ▲ [360] 3/29/13

  • ◄► [iOS] 3/22/13

  • ▲ [360] 3/21/13

  • ▲ [iOS] 3/15/13

  • ▲ [360] 3/12/13

  • ▲ [PS3] 3/7/13

  • ▲ [PS3] 3/7/13

  • ▲ [3DS] 3/4/13

  • ▲ [PC] 2/27/13

    +Beautiful minimalist style that struck me every time I started it up.

    +The game takes a joy in defying the player's expectations, not just in terms of overt puzzles, but in even traversing the environments, finding your way from room to another. That kind of consistent ability to surprise players and maintain a sense of wonder and uncertainty is so rare in games.

    +Despite staying off-balance as far as what to expect from the game, you do become more capable in important and satisfying ways as you progress. Learning the language of the environment and using that knowledge to get a foothold in this strange world is such a good experience.

    -Sometimes mechanically executing the puzzle solutions isn't as fun as it was to figure out conceptually.

  • ◄► [AND] 2/26/13

    +It's all right. I don't know. Nothing about it strikes me particularly but a good time waster.

  • ▲ [AND] 2/4/13

    +Play sessions can be incredibly short if you just need to kill a few minutes, but I've also fallen into hour-long holes at home. It's an intense and fun game, and the instant retry nature of it makes it very hard to stop playing.

    +Cool music.

    -I'm bad at it.

  • ▼ [AND] 2/1/13

    -Unresponsive to the point of basically being unplayable. I don't know what's up with it, but I have no desire to try it again.

  • ◄► [360] 1/30/13

    -Ugh. That's it; I don't want to write more about this game.

  • ▲ [WII] 1/18/13

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    +A game of mood and emotion. It deals with a lot with the quiet tragedies of life rather than simply death: loneliness, regret, longing for a different time or just more time. Of course, death is also part of it, a death is what prompts Seto's journey in the first place, but the game deals effectively with subject matter not often tackled, and does it in a way that's equal parts sweet and melancholy. It's a special game.

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    -Combat is manageable but doesn't feel great, and the breakable weapons can be wearying, depending on your luck. Part of the problem is also that you can only take additional weapons and items out of your briefcase and into active inventory at bonfires, meaning you need to need to clog your already limited inventory up with at least two weapons in case one breaks, since you cant replace it immediately. You can't move things you pick up from your inventory TO the briefcase away from bonfires either, so you can get filled up and just be unable to grab anything else for a while. If this only meant you weren't able to pick up new weapons or healing items it would sit better with me, but you also are not able to get new memory items, trinkets that tell stories of their past owners that are some of the more compelling things in the entire game. Ultimately, all the inventory management just becomes a hassle.

  • ▲ [PC] 1/8/13

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    +The core strategy elements of the game [units, enemies, loadouts, the focus on physical positioning and not being exposed] are super satisfying in their tactility. The skills you assign to units as they level up create distinctively different skill sets, with Snipers especially playing almost like different units based on an early choice. The importance of using cover and not putting yourself in position to be flanked or charged gives a significant weight to every move, even in cases where you have the battle won and are just trying to take out a couple of remaining guys.

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    +The base management stuff is in general pretty compelling; the constant hard choices of what to invest in with this month's funds, what you need versus what can wait for the future, etc. It really does feel like you're managing a global conflict, trying to establish a presence everywhere at all times. The equipment you gain from your research choices makes a ton of difference in the damage dealing and survivability of your units, and the first time you get to go out in the field and try out your new toys is amazing. When I upgraded from standard guns to laser rifles after the new alien units being introduced had started to become too durable, I was doing fucking backflips about my new power.

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    -Some of the basebuilding elements are pretty unclear about their importance or when would be a good time to invest in them. Specifically satellites, which you need to detect UFOs over a given country, aren't introduced very well; without Vinny's warning on the bombcast that I shouldn't ignore them I don't think I'd have made another satellite period before it was too late. And even with that warning and sending up a couple more satellites, I didn't invest in it enough to keep from losing a few countries toward the end, despite being able to survive it. The production time on satellites is long enough that by the time you realize you really need one in an area, that country is probably lost. There's also a time in the game when you need to invest in a new fighter aircraft, and if you haven't researched it already by the time you need it, that's not going to do good things for your panic level. Aircraft take a while to build.

  • ***½ [360] 12/28/12

  • ***** [PC] 12/25/12

  • **** [PC] 12/22/12

  • **** [360] 12/14/12

  • ***½ [PC] 12/9/12

  • **** [PC] 11/12/12

  • **** [PC] 10/30/12

  • ****½ [PC] 10/22/12

  • **** [360] 10/7/12

  • **** [3DS] 9/19/12

  • ****½ [360] 09/18/12

  • ***½ [ARC] 09/14/12

  • **** [SNES] 09/10/12

  • *** [ARC] 09/10/12

  • *** [ARC] 09/03/12

  • ****½ [NES] 09/02/12

  • **½ [ARC] 8/26/12

  • **½ [ARC] 8/25/12

  • ***½ [NES] 8/21/12

  • ***½ [ARC] 8/19/12

  • *½ [SNES] 8/19/12

  • **½ [SNES] 8/18/12

  • **** [SNES] 8/14/12

  • **½ [SNES] 8/13/12

  • **** [SNES] 8/9/12

  • *** [GEN] 8/8/12

  • ** [GEN] 8/4/12

  • **** [SNES] 8/3/12

  • ***½ [NES] 8/2/12

  • **** [PS3] 7/29/12

  • ***½ [NES] 7/11/12

  • **** [3DS] 7/11/12

  • ****½ [PS2] 7/9/12

  • ***½ [PC] 7/03/12

  • *** [PC] 7/02/12

  • **** [PS3] 6/27/12

  • **** [PC] 6/16/12

  • ***½ [360] 6/10/12

  • ***** [PC] 6/9/12

  • **** [NES] 5/31/12

  • **** [GCN] 5/30/12

  • ****½ [360] 5/20/12 - Rockstar's take on Max Payne is a departure in a lot of ways, but in many cases those changes are better and the character of Max feels about the same, not remolded to suit a new master. He still has the insightful, if not quite as poetic, narration that belies his gruff exterior and even more so than in 2, he's an unglamorous action hero despite his unparalleled killing skill, one filled with so much self-loathing and regret that the term hero would make him scoff. And in many ways he is a failure, unable to protect the people he cares about and engaging in self-destructive behavior, beating himself up while also being beaten down by the world, but with that comes a feeling of having nothing left to lose and no fear of consequences. Despite his flaws and probably not seeing himself as much of a step up from the scum he's killing, he still has a feeling of needing to make things right and accomplishes it by sheer force of will. It makes for a compelling narrative, and the game also has a strong sense of style that fits well with that story, even if the effects do become a little much at times. The story itself is long and winding for a shooter campaign, and while much of it builds up to a not very surprising twist, there were layers to it that I wasn't expecting. It's a satisfying and pretty complicated journey, although I wish ultimately there was more emotional investment in characters that aren't Max, to give me more of a stake in the events of the game.

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    But let's talk about shooting. Max Payne 3 does that real good. There are some changes to how the bullet time system works in this game that I think are for the better. For one, hitting an object while diving knocks you out of bullet time and onto the ground, where dudes can riddle you with bullets; I guess that could sound annoying, but it adds an element of strategy and focus to the firefights, since you cant just dive around all willy-nilly. Cover is necessary to survive since Max is till fairly fragile, but you don't have to stay behind it generally. Unless I was really pinned down I usually shootdodged between pieces of cover, taking out guys while in the air. Staying in the same cover isn't a very good idea anyway, since the AI will try to flank you a fair amount or use grenades to flush you out. It's challenging but considering you have the ability to slow down time, having to deal with large numbers of not-complete-idiots seems pretty fair.

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    That's something consistent throughout the game: a sense of balance. Because Max doesn't have three hands, you need to drop your rifle to use dual pistols; the decision of which type of weapon is more valuable to you at the time is yours to make. It's not the most weighty decision; it's not like not having a rifle is going to bone you over in the vast majority of cases, but it's still an additional thing to consider. The last stand ability gives you a chance to get back up after losing all your health, but you need to have a painkiller, a bullet in your gun, and a clear line of sight to the guy who blasted you. It also takes longer to get up after a dive in this game, so whether or not you should stay on the ground and continue shooting or attempt to stand is now a bigger factor. One thing that doesn't come with a trade-off is Max's new ability to not be hurt by falling, or if he does take fall damage its small enough to not be worth considering. Since shootdodge bullet time lasts till Max hits the ground, diving off a second story to first floor gives you a ton of time to shoot guys with basically no consequences, assuming you have time to safely get up afterward. At least on Hard, all these things combine for a relatively strategic shooting experience despite Max's insane action hero abilities. I'm not the best at deciding things like this, but Max Payne 3 may be the best shooter I've played in a while.

  • **** [PC] 5/15/12

  • ****½ [GCN] 5/6/12

  • ***½ [360] 4/25/12 - I can find a lot of things to appreciate about BioShock, but it's still a disappointment given its pristine reputation. Maybe part of it was unrealistic expectations. I also know that as a consequence of playing it so long after release that I was more aware of what Rapture is like, the political themes, and other things that might be more relevatory if I was playing back in 2007. Those caveats aside, I think the game is flawed in significant ways that the strength of the setting doesn't make up for. My foremost issue is with the combat, specifically how much there is. It's not obviously broken or horrible, it's just dull and there's SO MUCH OF IT. The first time I zapped a dude with lightning and the whacked him with my wrench it was pretty cool, not so much the next 500 times. It's not fundamentally bad, but any time you need to go somewhere guys are pouncing on you and they respawn as you explore, even if you don't leave the area. I tried using other plasmids and weapons, but none of it made the constant splicer swarm less tedious. The enemies don't make the game tense, just annoying. I ended up putting the game on easy so I could basically swat them away like flies or ignore them totally if I was just running through an area, without having to worry about them damaging me in any significant way. Hacking is another aspect of the game that seemed fun at first but you need to do so much of it throughout the game, at least the first half until you start being able to make auto-hack tools, that I got completely sick of it to the point where I started just blowing up drones and turrets rather than taking the time to turn them to my side. There are also fetch quests that seem to serve just to extend the game, having you go through areas you've already seen, fighting guys and collecting X amount of some item. The most frustrating example of this is when I specifically wanted to pick up some glowing items my first time through an area, but it wouldn't let me until I had the quest to do it.

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    Rapture is an extremely memorable place; the aesthetic is obviously unique and the audiologs really help fill in the world, although at some point the sheer number of them gets absurd. The actual plot of the game is pretty interesting, especially since I somehow managed to avoid knowing the twist for five years; however, I do feel like there was a missed opportunity to make the pre- and post-twist gameplay divergent in a way that would make the story events feel more meaningful. This isn't the place to go into it, though. There's also the mechanic of dealing with the Little Sisters, which is simultaneously one of the more effective and meaningless aspects of the game. Killing the Big Daddy guarding a Sister and hearing their fear and grief is legitimately distressing, but the supposed moral choice aspect of it, of curing the Sisters or harvesting them, has ultimately no impact mechanically. The debate is supposed to be between enriching yourself with Adam by sacrificing the Sisters, allowing you to purchase more upgrades, or getting less by taking the high road and saving them. But at certain milestones you get gifts from the Little Sisters you save, including Adam boosts, that make saving them or harvesting them pretty much the same from a benefit standpoint. So it's not a serious of choice between morals or convenience, it's do you want to be a fucking monster and kill these girls or not. There's no depth or shades of gray to it.

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    I feel like I might be coming across as more down on the game than I actually am. It was a positive experience and aspects of it are very strong, but it has problems. The number of big guns and plasmids show action was always intended to be the focus, yet that aspect of it is one of the weaker parts. A moody, tense horror sort of game seems like it would suit the dead city of Rapture better, but that's not the direction they went in. It also feels too long, with boring collection quests serving as an excuse to engage in more mediocre combat. I think I feel conflicted about the game because there's already a conflict between many of the elements. The conflict between wanting to have a significant moral choice while also wanting players who take either path to be able succeed, between making a focused and immersive narrative while also needing to fill out a certain hour count, between the exploration they seem to want to encourage and the waves of respawning dudes they throw in every area. It's a good game, but it's troubled and trying to serve too many masters.

  • **** [PC] 4/17/12

  • **** [360] 4/15/12

  • ***½ [PC] 4/11/12

  • **½ [SNES] 4/4/12

  • **** [SNES] 4/2/12

  • *** [PC] 3/30/12

  • ***** [SNES] 3/22/12

  • *** [NES] 3/15/12 - This game has heart, if not much else. The opening line says it all: "It was a robot-producing exploration planet like any other." The whole game has that sort of goofy charm to it. You shoot enemies to freeze them and then jump on top of them and spear downward over and over again. The animation on the spear is pretty good, and there's something satisfyingly savage about it. When you kill some enemies you jack the vehicles they were riding in and can use them to navigate the stage and attack for a short period. It's not a super well made game, but the novelty of these mechanics carries it for a good while. As the game goes on, though, it becomes less fun. The bosses start having pretty huge amount of HP, and spearing them forever becomes tedious. There are one-time use attack items, but that late in the game they aren't all that helpful. Eventually I got to a boss that just seemed impossible, at least for me, and decided to stop playing. It's hard to call this a hidden gem exactly, but I'm glad I spent the time with it that I did. The mechanics here have a lot of potential, and I'd love to see an XBLA or PC platformer that uses some similar ideas.

  • ***** [PS3] 3/13/12

  • **** [NES] 3/12/12

  • *** [NES] 3/12/12

  • ***½ [NES] 3/12/12

  • ****½ [360] 3/11/12

  • *½ [NES] 3/4/12

  • **** [FDS] 3/1/12

  • **** [GB] 2/23/12

  • ***½ [360] 2/19/12

  • ****½ [WII] 2/17/12

  • **** [PS2] 2/14/12

  • **** [360] 1/16/12

  • ***** [360] 1/11/12