PS+ Catch Up, More Bloodborne, and Mario Kart 8 DLC!!

I'm not gonna lie, this month was kind of a lean one in terms of the PS+ games. Which isn't the worst thing in the world, given that I still really like PS+ as a whole, and need it for playing games online anyway. Rough months are to be expected. But, I'm saying this upfront as a way of explaining why it's been so long since my last blog. At the very least, it's quite a bit longer than it has been lately, and longer than I would have liked. But, with the help of a slightly older PS+ game, and some other stuff, I think I've got enough material for something up to my usual standards for length and quality. Or, length, at least.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.

Since I played the PS3 version, I'm reliant on screenshots I can find online, which seem like slim pickings.
Since I played the PS3 version, I'm reliant on screenshots I can find online, which seem like slim pickings.

So, this game was free a month or so ago, but I didn't get around to it then. Mostly because it was the PS3 version, and I didn't really feel like turning on the PS3 and syncing up one of my PS4 controllers with it, because the PS3 controller is bad and I don't understand how I deluded myself into thinking otherwise for years. Speaking of, the game does work fully with the PS4 controller, which is more than I can say about some other, beloved games (damn you Burnout Paradise). But when I realized that I had barely anything to say abut this month's actual PS+ game, I realized I should actually give this game a shot.

And, while I can't honestly I enjoyed everything about it, I can say that I did mostly enjoy it, even if that was often in spite of itself. Well, that's not quite fair. And some of the issues I had were technical in nature, and from rewatching the Quick Look of the PC version, it's safe to say that the PS3 version isn't the best version of the game. Maybe play it on the PC if you have a decent one. The PS3 version isn't broken, or anything, but it's pretty rough. Frame rate, and just textures and stuff in general aren't great. Conversely, I think Holmes and Watson actually look pretty decent, as do some of the NPCs in the game.

I feel like a good way to describe the game overall is that there are things about it that I like a whole lot, but there are other things about it that just don't quite work. There's some good puzzles in the game. There's also some that seem well intentioned until you try to do then and spend way too long trying to find the exact spot on the thing you need to attach the thing to in order to proceed.

That's another issue I had with the game. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a pixel hunt (because I get asinine about semantics and it's never a literal pixel that you hunt for), but there were definitely instances where I was stuck for a long time, and all because I missed something. In at least one case, it was something that was pretty obvious, and I guess I just missed it because I played the game almost exclusively in first person, and the thing was just out of sight without looking up in first person. But I wouldn't have played in first person if it didn't feel better (a lot less time waiting for Sherlock to turn around, or work his way up to a run), and feel like the game ran better in first person.

I suppose I should try to describe what the game actually is. It's a lot like LA Noire, but without that game's high production values, and with a heavier emphasis on puzzles. No combat, aside from a quick time event or two. That's actually the one thing I prefer about this game over LA Noire, because as much as I love LA Noire, there was definitely too much combat in it. I enjoyed the car chases quite a bit, but the shooting got old. There's also no open world in Crimes and Punishments, which, again, I'll say is to this game's advantage, because I feel like the game's developers were already stretching themselves a bit thin on this one.

Don't get me wrong though, I liked the game! There's something about snooping around crime scenes, looking for clues, interrogating witnesses and suspects, and solving puzzles that I really like. Even if a lot of that stuff in this game is kinda rough. Even if there's some holes in some of the logic of the game, and even if some of the voice acting is kinda bad (but overall I liked that aspect of it, especially Holmes and Watson).

And the game has heart, too. There's some fairly inventive stuff in the game, in terms of the crimes committed, the solutions to the mysteries, and even in a few of the puzzles. And some of the characters are pretty likable too. I don't really have any experience with the original Sherlock Holmes stories, so I really have no idea how close or far this game's portrayal of Holmes is from that, but I think he especially was a pretty good character. Kinda wacko in a way that I liked a lot, but not so much that him solving these cases still seemed plausible. Even if he is a reckless chemist who doesn't immediately turn his Bunsen Burner off when he's not using it. No, seriously, that bothered me A LOT whilst playing the game, because you should turn Bunsen Burners off if you're not using them!

And you can play as Sherlock's dog Toby, the best nose in the British Empire.

Pictured: An actual basset hound, rather than the in game one.
Pictured: An actual basset hound, rather than the in game one.

I should touch on a couple of the bigger issues I had before moving on, though. One of them lies in this game's big new thing that wasn't in the previous Sherlock Holmes games: The ability to accuse different people of the crime, and then make a "moral choice" about what to do with them. On paper, that's a really interesting idea. Not wholly new, because LA Noire definitely had a case or two with multiple suspects you could accuse at the end, but it's still a cool idea for this sort of game. The problem is that I don't think it's handled especially well in some ways.

Specifically the cases in which the game arbitrarily prevents you from getting more information that might sway the case toward one suspect over another, to make the choice more ambiguous. Like having a piece of evidence that, logically, Sherlock would talk to a suspect about, but not having the option to. That literally happens in the second case in a specific instance, and it kinda drove me nuts. And when you do complete a case, it gives you the option to see if you got the "correct" result or not, but even that isn't very clear. All it does is show the result you got in red if it's incorrect, or green if it was correct. But it doesn't tell you that, so I went through the first two cases thinking I got the correct result because it showed me the same text, as I thought it was going to show me the correct one! It's even more frustrating because in some cases, you pick not only who did it, but how they did it, which adds an extra layer of getting it wrong to your final result. Also if you want to Platinum the game, because one of the Trophies is for getting every possible end result for each case, which is the thing stopping me from getting it for that game.

But the weirdest thing is that while some of the cases go out of their way to obfuscate any way of telling who actually did it, the others are so obvious in who did it that I can't imagine why you would go for the other option, unless you were working toward that Trophy. I mean, they're not bad cases, and there's definitely things about them that I like, but it just felt weird compared to the earlier cases in the game.

Also weird is how the game just ends after a case that, wasn't bad, but certainly didn't feel climactic in any way. It also involved this vague through line that had been mentioned a few times throughout the game, but not enough to really make me care when the game ended with a moral choice regarding that thing. It definitely felt shoehorned in to give the game some sort of final choice.

It's a weird game. The sort of game where almost everything I have to say about it sounds negative, but I enjoyed it more often than not. It's not for everyone, but if you like puzzle solving, and talking to NPCs a lot, I think you'll probably get some enjoyment out of it. Just wait for a sale on the PC version or something, assuming it's not already really cheap. I know the previous ones are all like $10 on Steam, including one with all cases where Sherlock investigates a Cthulhu cult. Realizing that existed made me give up on my plans for "Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu," because clearly that market is already being adequately served.

Tower of Guns.

I forgot to PlayStation Share a picture of this game, so instead here's a character I made in Bloodborne.
I forgot to PlayStation Share a picture of this game, so instead here's a character I made in Bloodborne.

If you don't know what this game is, I don't blame you. It's a rogue-like-like-like-like where you go from room to room shooting at turrets, some of which can fly. There's also spinning spikey enemy things, and a boss at the end of each level. Different levels of the tower have different looks to them, and some different music. The game has a sense of humor that isn't great, but it's not offensive either. Well, I dunno, it might offend someone.

There's some decent variety in the weapons, and there's plenty of power ups, and power downs to collect on your climb up the tower. Sometimes it gets absurd, like so many additional jumps that I could literally jump like 15 times before having to stop. The game tries to go for an old school vibe, with things like what I swear is the same jump grunt that Serious Sam makes. It's okay. It's not great, but it's not bad. It's something that I've played for a lot longer than I expected, because it's a decent podcast game. It's also not something that I can really recommend for a lot of actual money, but for free, hey!

The framerate is kinda spotty, though. At least for a game that didn't exactly blow me away. It's fine most of the time, but when there's dozens of bullets flying around, it gets a bit slow and choppy.

Anyway, I'll probably play it more in the future.

And uh...

So, I realized whilst writing this that I couldn't even remember the names of the other PS+ games I played this month. I remember one was the game made with input from Alaskan native people (because I don't remember the actual name of their group), and the other had some hairy thing and a narrator that sounded like she was the kid of one of the people that worked on the game, rather than an actual voice actor. Neither game seemed bad, I just got kinda bored with them and they got deleted when I was clearing up room on my PS4's hard drive. As such, I felt it was better to be honest about this, rather than try to cover that up. Especially since I had a lot more to say about Crimes and Punishments than I originally expected.

So, I Platinum'd Bloodborne.

And, honestly, so far as Platinum Trophies go, it actually wasn't that hard. There was one in particular that caused me some trouble, but overall, not that bad. Definitely requires less grinding than Dark souls did (I did not Platinum that game). In DS, you had to do things like upgrade a weapon of every elemental type to max. I think. That might have been Demon's Souls. Anyway, nothing that bad in Bloodborne. I am going to go into detail about the one that did cause me some trouble, but hopefully I'll remember to white out that paragraph so it'll be easily skippable, if you don't want to read it.

So, as you might already know, Bloodborne has Trophies for defeating all of the main bosses. But main, I mean bosses that aren't just Chalice Dungeons ones. Except for one that appears at the end of a specific string of Chalice Dungeons. The process of getting from Dungeon to Dungeon is fairly straightforward, and the boss at the end isn't super tough. A bit challenging, and I'd say my least favorite boss in the game, but I'll get to that in a minute.

The real problem with this is the Defiled Chalice. Why is that, you ask? Because the Defiled Chalice halves your max health whilst you're in it. It returns to normal as soon as you leave, but during the duration of that dungeon, your max health is half of what it is outside that dungeon. No way to raise it. Now, you might be thinking that Demon's Souls and Dark Souls II would lower your health below the normal max too. But in both of those cases, you could equip a ring to reduce the amount it lowered, or use a consumable item to bring it back to max. Neither of those is an option here, and all you can do is deal with it.

Most of it isn't that hard, but the bosses in particular are. Specifically the ones on the second and third layers. The second one is the big fire dog that appears at the end of the very first Chalice Dungeon, but this time it has more health. Also, with your health halved, it has several attacks that can kill you in one hit! And yes, I know that Chalice Dungeons don't scale to your level. I was quite high level, and in a new game plus when I did this, so don't try to tell me I just needed to be higher level. The problem was that I was not dodging well enough.

For most of an entire day. Granted, I wasn't playing the entirety of that day, but I was stuck on that boss for hours of in game time. I did beat it, without summoning too. Not because I felt I had to do it without summoning, it was because the process of summoning people in Chalice Dungeons is needlessly obtuse, but that's another subject. Never mind the fact that I was high enough level that I probably couldn't get anyone to summon in anyway. Not just with random searching, I mean.

I had less trouble with the boss on the third (and final) layer, but it still wasn't easy. In that case I was fighting Amygdala, though this one had extra health as well. But, unlike the fire dog, in which my problem was that I needed to "get good," there actually are better strategies for fighting Amygdala, and going online for that led to my victory. Specifically there's a way to cheese the last third of the boss that makes that part of the fight laughably easy. You can kinda use the same technique on the rest of the fight, but I kept dying, and instead just played the first two thirds normally, but also kinda slowly and carefully. But it's absurd how easy the last third of it is if you know what to do. (Just stick behind its legs, and chip away at them. Dodge the stomps, and you're fine. Every time it jumps in that part of the fight, it'll jump away from you, and facing away from you, meaning there's zero risk to run back behind it and keep chipping away.)

The Dungeon after the Defiled one was a lot easier, because there wasn't an arbitrary limit on my max health. And the boss at the end was, like I said, not great. Like most (all?) of the bosses in Bloodborne, she has three stages. In this case, the first one is super boring, but can go wrong really quickly if you slip up even slightly. At the start of the fight, she (Yharnam, Queen of Pthumeru, which I realized I had forgotten to mention) has he hands tied together, and all she can do to attack is spray blood from her hands. If you attack her, she goes into a counter splash that is easy to dodge if you don't get greedy, but the first part of the fight is pretty tedious, so it's easy to get greedy. She also can't move very fast during that part, so you just basically dart between attacking her, and moving away to dodge that counter attack.

But the frustrating part is that sometimes during the fight, you can hear a baby crying. If you hit her more than once or twice whilst the baby is crying, you'll get caught in an energy ring that won't damage you, but it prevents you from moving or attacks for several seconds, during which she'll attack you. And so far as I could tell, all of her attacks do a LOT of damage, and it's all Blood damage. I dunno if I missed something, but I didn't really have any gear that had high blood defense. I ended up using a mishmash of stuff like the Knight's shirt and the white church dress, I think.

The later parts of the fight are at least more interesting, but she does so much damage, and the crying thing persists throughout, so it just ended up being frustrating. So far as I could tell, when the baby cried was completely arbitrary. For a while I thought it might be triggered by attacking the boss, or even attacking her stomach, but I couldn't do anything that proved any of that was actually the case.

I eventually beat that boss, and I'm glad I did, because I got that Platinum, but I wouldn't really recommend it. Not even because of that so much as because I think the Chalice Dungeons are kinda bad. In concept they're a great idea, but the game doesn't have nearly enough different rooms to keep them fresh enough for me to want to keep playing them. You can't even complete one dungeon without seeing rooms repeat. And you have to go through like five or six in order to get this Trophy, and there's still a bunch of different ones that I didn't do. It doesn't matter if they are procedurally generated if there's not enough variety in them to keep me interested.

The reason why games like Spelunky and Rogue Legacy work is that there is enough variety. I definitely played enough of both of them to see rooms repeat, and see a lot of the different pieces, and how they were being stitched together. That said, I never got bored of them. I stopped playing Spelunky because I "beat" it (or at least Olmec), and I still go back and play Rogue Legacy every once in a while, even though I beat that game too. I don't have any intention of playing more Chalice Dungeons unless it's in co-op with a friend.

Though, the problem with that is the way in which the Chalices are structured. You can't co-op with someone else in one of those unless you're in the same Chalice. Even if it's one of the ones that isn't procedurally generated, so far as I know, the host still has to share the dungeon with the other person. That's bad enough, but on top of that, you can't play someone else's dungeon unless you created one of that type before. I dunno if you can get the Chalices you need for that stuff as the person being summoned, but if you can't, then that's extra messed up.

I kinda understand why From keeps the co-op in the main game the way it is, with stuff like the level limit to keep you from summoning someone over leveled to destroy the game for you. But not making the Chalice Dungeons easier to get into with friends is not great design. Especially when the only way I could see the Chalices being fun for more than one or two is if you were doing it with a friend, at which point it just because talking with someone whilst engaging in Bloodborne combat against enemies.

That said, now that I'm almost done with my third playthrough of the game (on a new character, one I've intentionally kept low enough level to do co-op with a friend who hasn't finished the game yet), I am still firmly considering this game one of my all time favorites. As disappointing as I find the Chalice Dungeons, I think the rest is sooooo damn good that it more than easily makes up for that stuff, and for some of the game's other issues. Like occasionally having to farm for healing items.

I've been trying to play this new character differently than the first one. Rather than using the Saw Cleaver the entire game, I've been switching between the Threaded Cane and the Tonitrus. Though, the only reason I'm not exclusively using the Tonitrus is that it has way lower durability than the other weapons, and thus it isn't really viable to use on its own. At least not unless you don't mind risking it breaking, which I am not, because I worry about these sorts of things.

I've also been using a lot more Arcane in this playthrough. Which is to say that I've been using Arcane in this playthrough. It's interesting, and some of it seems pretty useful, but a lot of it doesn't really jive with how I play the game, or doesn't seem super useful. I really like the one that enchants my weapon with Arcane damage. It doesn't use a ton of bullets, and it lasts pretty long. I can't use it on the Tonitrus, because that already does Bolt damage, and you can't double up on that stuff, but it's quite good on the Cane. I also like the Tiny Tonitrus a lot. It does use a lot of bullets (six), but it creates these pillars of electricity that look rad and can do a decent amount of damage. I also found a healing ability that also uses a lot of bullets, but heals a lot, so it's good in a tight spot.

Some of the other ones just don't seem great, though. There's one that lets you teleport short distances instead of dodging, and I think it makes your stamina regenerate faster. But it also uses six bullets and runs out before I ever get to get any real use out of it. And the other ones I've tried using just don't seem useful at all.

I still think it's weird that the Arcane abilities use bullets, but I get why they do from a game balance point of view. Speaking of, while the load times are the thing that got the most press in the latest patch, there is some balance stuff in there too. The aforementioned healing spell got nerfed a bit (but also uses fewer bullets to make up for that). Conversely, the cannon now requires 12 bullets to fire, instead of 10, which means you can no longer fire it twice without using a Rune to increase your bullets. That's not a big deal to me, but it probably is to someone, somewhere.

They also fixed the bug that would make bosses a lot easier if you left the game on when the PS4 was in Rest mode. I feel like there must have been another cause of that bug that I didn't know about, because I swear there are two bosses in the game that I had way more trouble with on my new character than I did before, as I beat both of them in one shot on my previous two playthroughs. One of them might have been a case of me just being underleveled in this new playthrough, but I swear I saw the boss doing things that it hadn't done before. I never suspended the game, so I don't think I could have caused the game to trigger that bug, but I dunno. It's also possible that From secretly made some of the bosses harder without telling anyone, but that's just me guessing.

The load times are definitely quite a bit faster, though, and that's very welcome. Next I hope they can clean up the framerate a bit, as it's still kinda not great in a few spots. Honestly, I had hoped they would improve that before the load times, but of course it was the load times that got the most attention, so those got improved first.

That's about all I have to say about Bloodborne for now. Still adore the game, and I'll keep playing it for sure. Something about this game does it for me like no game has in a very long time.

Mario Kart 8 DLC.

To be honest, there really isn't a ton to say about this. The new tracks are good, and I think 200cc is a lot of fun if you just want complete nonsense. For actual racing, though, I think it's a bit much for me. I have to pick an entirely different racer and kart (with lower speed and higher handling) to do halfway well in 200cc. Of course, I could also try braking, but where's the fun in that?

Mostly, I just want to use this to once again lament that there has not been a new F-Zero game on a console since F-Zero GX in 2003. I know there was a GBA game or two in the time since, but I didn't play that, and even if I was including that, I'm sure it's still been a very long time since the last one. Just a bit shorter than the TWELVE YEARS since GX. And as much as I like the F-Zero tracks that have been added in the DLC, I just wish there would be a new F-Zero. It doesn't even have to be a huge game, with tons of tracks and a story mode like GX had. I'd take a smaller game that was sold digitally for $20 or something. ANYTHING would be better than nothing.

Of course, Nintendo's not going to do that. Why? Beats me, but this is the same company that sold Captain Toad on a disc for $40. Actually, I shouldn't be using that as my example when I haven't played Captain Toad, though what I heard made it sound like they priced it a tad high. Anyway, I sincerely hope Nintendo gets around to making a new F-Zero game before too long. That is all.

Also this new version of the Big Blue music is the best video game music I've heard in a long time. It's sooooooooooo goooooooooood.

Anything else?

Not in terms of games, at least. And nothing much on the horizon either. Of course there's The Witcher III next month, which I'm very excited for, and I'll play at least some of next month's PS+ games. But I can't think of anything else in May that I'll be playing. I have been meaning to play Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut for a while, so I might finally do that. I'd like to write some sort of a five year retrospective on that game too. Because, yes, it's been five years since that game came out. I know. Crazy. I mean, the original version. The Director's Cut came out a couple (few?) years later, and I've not played that version of it.

Also, I kinda want to apologize for this blog. As usual, I haven't proofread any of it at all, but I have the distinct feeling that this one is kind of a mess. I would go and try to clean it up a bit, but...I won't go into details, but you know, I'm just happy I was able to write something halfway coherent. That sort of situation where several weeks in a row of being down in the dumps makes you feel like garbage, and being able to get anything done makes you feel good. I dunno.

See you next time! Thanks for reading!