Finished Journey

So I managed to play through this game in one sitting splitting time with my sister and her boyfriend over the Thanksgiving holiday. I have to admit-it was a great experience.

First of all, the graphics/art style is gorgeous. The many effects the developers use to make the sand look different between levels are just great. For some reason I kept thinking to myself that thus is how a "next gen" version of Zelda should look. Imagine the mountain the the background of the game was "Death Mountain"?

The music is also fantastic and very atmospheric. Loved everything about the presentation about thus game.

Now, while I found the multiplayer component on the game interesting, I did wish I was alone for the entire game. There were several "levels" where I felt like my second player was just busting through the game and advancing the game faster than I would have done it myself. This just made me get from objective to objective faster so I could feel like I was doing something rather than having my second player essentially play the fame for me. While an interesting implementation of multiplayer-made things a bit more stressful than I anticipate the developers wanted.

Now anytime people brought this game up (when it was first released) the entire "video games as art" debate seemed to raise it's ugly head. Now this game is gorgeous. The music-fantastic at setting mood. But does this game manage the transcend other games that came before it? In my mind-not really. I appreciate how it looked and feel, but was it really any better than the multiple of action/adventure games I've played before? Is it better than Zelda? Is it better than Hid of War? I don't really think so

Anyway, loved playing the game with the family. It is definitely a game you need to play on one setting on your first time.


Finished Skyrim

Well, by "finished" I mean I beat Alduin. It took about 36 hours. The only main side quests I've finished was the mage guild and the bard's guild. I have lots and lots left, but I managed to finish the main story before the release of Diablo III (one day before actually!!!).

Anyway, I'm really not sure if I enjoyed the game. At the end of the day, I think I did. For some reason, the combat did something for me although it wasn't too much more than circle strafe. I played as a nord with light armor, block and one handed weapons. I finished the game at level 26.

I guess the thing that I enjoyed most about Skyrim was the fact that it felt like I was always progressing. It felt like I was always building on my character and was always leveling up. I also liked getting more and better loot--but I felt like I wasn't getting as much useful stuff for my particular build.

The thing that I couldn't stand about the game though was the loading. I wonder of the 36 hours I put into the game, how much of that involved me rotating the object that was on the loading screen. I mean, I would travel to some place (which would require a load), then enter the city/dungeon (load), and within that place load more. That was probably the most frustrating part about it. Some of the crashes bugged me, but I've never really lost that much progress (thank god). I guess another thing that drove me crazy was the voice acting. There were like 3 main dude voices and 3 main lady voices. It didn't help that one of those main dude voices had a TERRIBLE Ah-nold like accent and was annoying. Thought some of the story was weak as well.

But considering all the stuff that the game provided, I guess my complants are a bit small. Overall, I think it was a good game. I just didn't get into all the systems (could never figure out how to enchant anything). I can definitely see how someone could sink over a hundred hours into the game. Now on to Diablo III.


Finished Uncharted 3

Man, this was a very frustrating yet beautiful game. I switched over to the "modified" controls early on but never really got a hang of the shooting--it just felt a bit too loose. I think I have the exact same problem with the first 2 games tough, but this game seemed worse. I kind of felt like the game was really boring until the ship stage where it got really awesome, but that was only the back 3rd of the game. I kind of think that this is one of those games that the gaming industry thinks is great because it is just so cinematic but in my opinion did not really top tier in the "game" department. I felt like the movement and shooting just seemed a bit off. The scenes were you are chasing or running from something have the worst fail state moments I can recall in recent gaming--I mean it is all trial and error and if you fail--just start over and try and try again. I also thought the story just just "meh" And what was the deal with these ancient places Drake visits that no one in a thousand years has been, but the lights are still on.

The puzzles were also just an example of lazy game design where the designers really couldn't figure out how to give you contextual information on how to figure out the puzzles so they give you a book with the answers drawn in.

And what is up with Elena--did her character model look kind of weird in some levels? And what was with all the dudes in suits you fight, kind of boring.

I thought the game was OK. but man, nothing that deserved all the praise it has gotten.


Finished The Legend of Zelda-Skyward Sword

Man, what a wonderful, frustrating, repetitive, annoying, yet magical experience.

I am really torn about this game. First of all, I was drawn to keep coming back to the game to play it (which is something a game hasn't done in awhile for me). Most of the endgame stuff was amazing and wonderful. I also thought the dungeon designs (especially the last one) after the first volcano temple were great, and some of the best the 3D Zelda's have to offer. I really enjoyed the look of the game and enjoyed the story and how it pays tribute to the games before it.

But man, some of the design choices in the game drove me crazy. First of all, I am still not sure why Nintendo keeps treating the Zelda audience like a bunch of 5-year olds. I can remember how many rupies a red one is worth--I don't need to be reminded of it each time I get one in a chest. Also, they have this mini-game collect-o-thon that was sort of fun (the bugs-not sure why but I liked flailing that bug net around) but the fact the game always had to tell me what bug I just collected and then switch over to my submenu to show me that I collected a new bug really annoyed me and made me not want to get new bugs. Also, yes, the game starts out really, really slow. It was probably at least 5-7 hours into the game where I felt like I was having some fun and was only after the fist Volcano temple that I started to enjoy the game. Also, man, those silent realms were TERRIBLE!!! I hated the first one, and the next 3 were not any better. Once again, I think the experience wouldn't have been so annoying if I didn't have to see an animation every time those spirit things were alerted to my presence or have to get through like 5 screens of text when I fail and try to restart that "mission". That was easily the least fun part of the game (that or getting those tad poles for the water dragon song).

I think that in level design, Nintendo is still tops. But in overall game design, it is really behind the times. The fact that I have to go though a bunch of non-skippable text boxes to buy something or upgrade something or get/store a item really made me not want to do any of those things. I felt like I was always waiting for the game to let me do what I wanted it to do. If they would let me skip through those text boxes.

The game is also just a bit too long. It would be one thing if the game was 30-40 hours because of all the dungeons you had to do, But really you had to do a whole bunch of boring stuff to get to the dungeons.

With those complaints, I kept coming back to the game. And after I beat it--I kept thinking how awesome the game was. I think for all it's faults, it has such great highs that I can't help but think fondly for it. I sort of enjoyed the combat, but I'd rather use a normal controller for the next Zelda. I did appreciate how there were save spots everywhere and even multiple save spots in dungeons. While I usually finished a dungeon in one sitting, it made me feel better that I had a real options of stopping in the middle just in case something came up. While I thought Majora's Mask was ok, I had a hard time motivating myself to play the game at times cause I knew I had to sit down and devote 2-3 hours of solid play to find/get to the dungeon and then to beat the dungeon. Sometimes I'm tired and really don't feel like I have the energy and try to figure out an entire dungeon in one sitting. In skyward sword, not only are there multiple save points in a dungeon, the levels are designed so that you hardly ever have to do something that you've done before-thanks to the great Nintendo level design. Also, as a long time Zelda fan--I really appreciated how they tried to establish a real world and fiction. I was fun seeing how they were trying to tie all the Zelda games together.

Finally, some random thought's I've tweeted in the past while playing:

-So Ganon is like Dracula? He just sort of comes back every few generations to cause havoc?

-Also, it says at the end of the game, that Demise's spirit is sort of trapped in the Master Sword. Does this mean it's like the one ring? Does it need to be destroyed to rid the world of Demise forever?

-Kind of bugged me that in the first 3 temples, even though Zelda visited them first, it was like I was the only dude ever to enter the temple. How come she, or anyone else for that matter, never picked up the items or keys scattered throughout a dungeon? And how did she get past the dungeon anyway? All the doors were locked, and there were monsters everywhere-not to mention a HUGE boss and the end them.

-I never got how the game wanted me to do that tightrope part. No idea. Just sort of struggled through them.


Finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution

First of all, I think that this game made me finally realize that I hate stealth. That or I just really suck at stealth. I think now a days, I just want to play through a game and stealth for me just a big road block to my enjoyment of that game. As I think about it, stealth levels usually requires the player to stare at people moving back and forth so you can memorize a pattern, then slowly move forward, eventually get spotted or seen and then you either run away and wait till some arbitrary "alert" meter dies down so you can start over again or you just reset the level. It's trial and error at it's worst and I just don't have time for it anymore. Come to think of it, I don't think I really enjoyed the stealth aspects of MGS 4 (trying to sneak around on the ship level drove me crazy).

So this game really didn't set in with me until about half way through the game when I finally decided to bag all of the stealth stuff that I sucked at anyway and decided to go full combat all the time-I guess that the game allowed me to go that route is a "plus" for its open design, but even with all the combat attributes powered up, combat still never felt that great. While I actually enjoyed parts of the game after going all combat, I never really not into the story. 2 of the main characters (Sarif and Pritcher) just sort of drove me crazy most of the time and none of the other characters really were that memorable. Didn't help that the main character has no personality and sounded terrible. And what about that ending? The entire game I'm kind of looking for Megan Reed (super scientist and ex-girlfriend) and when I finally find her the game just sort of glosses over the encounter and then really gives you no closure to that relationship at the end of the game. And they also just throw you into some remote level in the arctic (not sure why someone would build a station there) and then gives you frickin' "zombies" to fight at the end of the game. As the combat was kind of wonky, having to fight off dozens of dudes at a time wasn't the best experience I could think of. Perhaps for those who went the stealth route, that portion was a bit better, but kind of annoyed me on the combat side.

Also, this game had the worst in-game map ever. It took way to long to load the map (and the sub screen for that matter), but trying to navigate through the hubs were painful. If any game in recent memory could have benefited from a HUD mini-map, it's this one. Having the location makers show up in your HUD was a help, but most of the time I would be running into dead ends or really had no idea where to go as the "go-to" marker was on a different level that had no apparent access point from the level I was on. Anyway, I just found the map to be very frustration to use.

And the boss battles. Man, I have no idea how anyone not focused on combat ever beat those dudes. These encounter just sort of place you into a closed space and you would shoot at each other until one of you were dead. Not sure how anyone could stealth or hack their way though these encounters. I ended up shooting, running, saving and repeat, No real strategy. The last boss did kind of have more options for the way you could take it out though-I did a combo of hacking and combat.

It's not that I hated this game, some of the things I did enjoy. For some reason, I kind of dug the hacking mini-game. I have no idea why as it's just random luck/planning on if you are going to hack the thing or not, but I enjoyed it none the less. It probably had to do with the little bit of experience you got for each successful hack. It gave you a small sense of accomplishment and progression. Also, even as I complain and complain about the combat, it was sort of satisfying to take cover and then head shot the enemies one-by-one. Once agin, nice to see the little experience point meter go up with each kill and more so for each headshot.

Anyway, not a terrible game but just an average forgettable one. I think the fact that it was the first big release of the holiday season gave it more press and credibility than it would have gotten if it came out in November.


Finished Portal 2 (Single Player)

Just beat Portal 2 the other day.  First of all, I suppose I should get the things I didn't like about the game out of the way first.  The only thing that I didn't jive with where in the second part of the game where you were doing the "old" aperture science test chambers and was trying to get from 1 section to the other.  I guess I just liked the clean, room to room thing that the original Portal provided.  

Just about every other thing about the game I loved.  I really wasn't expecting the story to be so large in scope.  I loved the large environments and the sense of scale that the game surprisingly provides.  Really enjoyed seeing the crazy "behind the scene" view of Aperture Science, and the voice work was great as well.  Still have the end song in my head. 

I personally thought the game was a good length.  I necessarily do not  have time to cruise through a 20+ hour game (and I think that most games I play nowadays overstay their welcome anyway).   Interestingly enough, I only got stuck once (looked up the solution on youtube).  Thought the puzzles were decently tough enough to make me feel smart when I solved the puzzle, and not so hard to make me be stuck for too long.

Can't imagine where they go for 3

Finished Bayonetta

Man, what a  crazy game.  Imagine a game director who just wanted to throw every little idea into a game and you might get something as crazy and over the top as this game.  At it's heart, this game has one of the best 3rd person combat mechanics yet.  While the camera angles can be a bit funky, the action as been smooth and the combos seem to flow naturally.  It seems like this system has a bit of button mashing involved but has depth to it for those who want to master the system (not that I ever mastered it though).  One of the things that I really appreciated about this game is the checkpoint system.  Now that I'm a bit older and really don't have that much time for games, I'd like a chance to finish a game or two nowadays.  In games like Devil May Cry when you die, you use a continue that you had to buy (and the continues got more and more expensive) or you restarted at the beginning of the level.  Bayonetta has a really forgiving check point system where if you died, you not only have unlimited continues (it does take away from your end of the chapter score if you use it though), but you start at the beginning of each sub-chapter (or "verse" as it's known in-game).  Not only that, you start the continue with full health.  Makes finishing the game much more tangible for those that do not have the time or skill to play a really hard section of a game over and over again just to pass it.  I really appreciated that.  The game even had mid-boss checkpoints as well so you didn't have to fight the entire battle over again if you died in the middle of the battle.

When I first hear about this game, the director mentioned that he wanted to make the game "climax" based.  What i've taken that to mean is that every level is really over the top and crazy.  First level in the game is a level where you are fighting on top of a church tower that is falling down.  Almost every action setting in the game is over the top and really fun to play.  I really appreciated how varied the levels, environments, and even the game types where.  

You can tell there a lot of attention was paid in making this game.  I really liked some of the little touches like the mid-level map where it showed your progress.  It's a map that has an "old film" feel where you are represented by this little toy Bayonetta and gets moved from one place to another.  What the hell does this represent in game?  I idea but I liked the way it looked.  Also, in between levels there is this shooting mini-game where you shoot enemies for extra bonuses.  Does this make sense for the game fiction?  Not at all, but who cares?

I also enjoyed the music in the game.  The overall game music is a combo of a jazzy, ominous, techo theme and every once in awhile, a techno-dance version of "The Way You Look Tonight" comes around.  While totally odd, I found the soundtrack to be endearing and memorable.  Unique at worst.

Not everything it the game is all peaches though.  The story--totally crazy and a bit hard to understand.  I did like the story enough to enjoy the craziness, but  really hated the "film-based" cutscenes.  These scenes were more like those new motion comics when a film border.  I never really like the way they were presented.  Also I really couldn't stand Luca, the male non-playable, character in the game.  I found him just kind of annoying and kept wondering what the hell was he doing in this game?  The kiddo in the game was kind of obnoxious  as well.

I loved this game for the over the top scenarios, crazy music, non-stop action, great graphics and fun main character.  Not a perfect game, but one that really hit the spot for me.  Hopefully more games like this will come out.  While people are moving more to "reality" I think that games are better when they are "hyper real".

At an impasse in Bayonetta

I'm at the level where you are supposed to kill several waves of enemies using nothing but your weave attacks and have a time limit of around 3 minutes. I've played this section for several hours now and I've gotten super close ,I think, but to no avail. Really annoying section. The problem is that the more I play that level, the crapper I get at the weave combos. I guess I'll put it down for a bit and come back to it later when I'm fresh. Hope this level doesn't turn out to be one I can't pass. Would love to get through this game one day.

Bayonetta is crazy and awesome

So I bought Bayonetta at Christmas from Amazon for $10 and finally got around to playing it (after finally finishing Vanquish).  And I have to say this game is awesome!!!  I really love the attitude the main character has and the game as just the right amount of crazy for me.  The thing I really dig about this game is that it is a fun, 3rd person character combat game (in the same vein as Devil May Cry) but with actual check points and a (wait for it), continue system.  The thing that drove me crazy about the Devil May Cry games is that you had to BUY your continues and they got progressively more expensive the more you got.  This would put me in the situation where if I continued, I had to decide if I wanted to start over from the beginning of the level, or continue.  
I admit that I'm not has hardcore as I once was.  Nowadays, I want a fun challenge,  but not one that is overly punishing.  I've felt that the Devil May Cry games (and other Japanese action games) tend to be more punishing than fair.  And in this day in age with so many good game and so little time, I don't want to play a game that just kicks my ass and doesn't really give me a shot.  That's why I enjoy the fact that Bayonetta actually has a real life, honest to goodness checkpoint system and continues.  That and the fact that the game is challenging but fair and is CRAZY.


NBA Jam in iPhone

So I'm stuck out of town for 3 weeks and have nothing to do in the evenings. I own NBA Jam for the PS3 and honestly, haven't really played it all that much since I got it. I've been hearing some good things about the iPhone version and decided to get the bad boy. 

I have to say that I will probably end up playing this version more than the console one. This game plays amazingly well on the touch screen and for some reason I can actually do things more reliably than the console version (can't tell you how often I jump instead is shove on the PS3). It has the same graphics, the same (crappy) music (thankfully you can access your iTunes library during the game to replace that horrible and boring normal background music) and the style of gameplay. The things it dosen't have are multiplayer, the minigame challenges (never played those things in the PS3 actually). 

The type of gameplay is perfect for a quick break and perfectly tailored for the phone. I may seem lazy, but it takes a bit of work to boot up the console, change the TV input, get the disk loaded and then start the game. I didn't really feel that the console version had enough stuff to warrant all that "work" and wished it stayed as a downloadable game as originally planned. Now I can just grab the phone and play a few quarters and then go on to something else. 

Would love if the next version have a character creator. I loved that feature in NBA Hangtime for the N64 (loved the hangtime rap as well). I can only imagine that if they do release a new Jam, I'll get it for the phone and not the console.