It's easy for people to bash on Nintendo these days, laugh at their failures and point out all of their shortcomings as a gaming console hardware company, especially in wake of the Wii U under-performing. While the Wii U does many things right, and has even proven that a second screen on a home console can not only be effective, but in some circumstances necessary, people still don't think Nintendo is viable as a hardware developer any longer.
Well, Sony doesn't seem shy to admit that Nintendo is doing things right, especially with the second screen function of the Wii U. Thanks to the remote-play function of the PS Vita with the PS4, gamers can play whatever games they have downloaded or loaded into their console on their Vita, as it pretty much flawlessly streams right to the Vita screen. This function allows for the television to be used for someone else (watching TV, another game consoles, whatever) while the PS4 player gets the full experience of the console shrunk down to the Vita, without lag or downgraded graphics.
This function, which everyone raved about since the PS4 launch, is exactly what the Wii U offers with the GamePad that is included with the console. Instead of having to buy a Vita separately, it's already built in to the console that everyone loves to hate.
While Sony has taken inspiration from Nintendo and ran with it, there is one particular thing Sony is doing that Nintendo could take some lessons from. Sony introduced the Cross-Buy option for gamers that allowed them to buy a PS3 version of a game and get the Vita version for free. I might be wrong, but I think the first game they did it with was Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, and since then, has adopted it for many of their games. Granted, most games that use it are smaller, PSN titles, but that's only because full versions of PS3 games for the Vita that are exactly the same are hard to come by.
So with these PSN titles, all you have to do is buy one version and get the other one for free, at no additional cost at all. Also, most of the Cross-Buy games also feature Cross-Saves, allowing you to upload your save file to the cloud and access it on whatever platform you choose, at any time. Also, most tiles feature a unified trophy list, but there have been instances of separate trophy lists, allowing you to double up on trophies easily, with one sync of a save file. Thank you, Sound Shapes.
With the release of the PS4, Sony's Cross-Buy program didn't get swept under the rug, but instead upgraded and expanded. Right off the bat, former PSN favorites began showing up on the PS4, which were free if you owned them on a previous console (PS3 and/or Vita). And now, with Doki-Doki Universe, games are seeing the Cross-Buy program spread over three different consoles all at once. Buy this games for any console of your choosing, and get it for free for the other two. Simple as that. It's brilliant, and if Nintendo ever decided to adopt a similar program with the Wii U and the 3DS, imagine the possibilities.
Of course, I can only imagine that Sony started up this program as a way to entice consumers to buy a Vita, as they have struggled to sell themselves. So by making gamers feel like there was a legit reason to own one and that there were tons of perks that came with ownership, they hoped to sell a bunch more. Nintendo is really in the same boat with the 3DS, but I wonder if the Wii U couldn't get a shot in the proverbial arm if it was possible to stream 3DS games onto it. Nintendo is moving closer to it being a possibility, now that they are taking the steps needed to completely unify your 3DS and Wii U accounts, so who knows what could happen in the near future.
Anyway, this game Doki-Doki Universe is pretty rad. Rad? Can I use the word still without making me sound like I'm a child of the late 80's/ early 90's, even though I am? Oh well, either way, I used it. Take it or leave it.
If you have played any of the Scribblenauts games, this game will feel quite familiar. Instead of the complete freedom to come up with any object you can name, all the objects you will need are already in the game, spread out over the worlds you explore, waiting for you to find and collect. Yes, it takes the creative freedom out of the game, which made Scribblenauts so charming, but with Doki-Doki Universe, it doesn't feel like it's missing anything. It feels just as adorable and charming, just in a different way.
It's pretty much impossible not to fall in love with the characters, as they all ooze so much personality and pizzazz. The art style is simple, but somehow it pops extremely impressively. It's crisp and clear and looks amazing, especially considering the style used. The story telling and humor are on-point as well, making the overall package pretty enjoyable. Sure, the game is simple and it's not the type of game for everyone, but if you're looking for a nice, relaxing and borderline cheesy game to make you smile and feel like a kid again, you can't go wrong with Doki-Doki Universe.
Especially if you want three copies of it for the price of one.
I don't think I have done this yet on the blog this year, although I have wanted to for quite some time now. It's a shame that it took this long to give it a shot, because if it's something that you, the readers, seem to enjoy, I would have loved to do it more often. I didn't play just one game for the blog, but instead two, as a way to get a couple different perspectives on a franchise for two really different games, both of which I enjoy playing for different reasons. I don't want to do a comparison and try to determine which game is better or more fun to play, as I did with the two baseball games that came out this year, but just hold both games up and put them under their own spotlights. I just want to do it in a one-day span, to drive home the point I am making about both of them.
This all came about because I finally sat down and planned out the rest of the year for this blog. That's right, you heard me correctly. I actually decided to put some planning in to this stupid thing and stop winging it like I have done for the better portion of ten months now. With the end of the year approaching quickly, and two new game systems coming out in a mere weeks, I wanted to make a battle plan for how I could finish off this year of gaming strong. I didn't want to limp to the finish line, as good as that sounds, but really drive home the fact that I am less than two months away from this once seemingly impossible goal.
Because of my planning and scheduling, I realized that I have way more games to write about than I do days left in the year. This isn't a bad problem to have, as I once worried about finding enough to fill the year. However, since I am not ready to reveal what will happen to TheNoyse.com after December 31st, 2013, I don't want to just allude to the possibility of something, if anything, continuing after this year is over. And because of that, I want to try and get all the games in that I want to write about, if possible, while still keeping to my schedule that I have planned out as of now. Again, if you know me or anything about this blog, you will know that I'm quite likely to change things on a whim, go against the master plan and throw you all curve balls when I feel necessary.
So with that, I present to a double feature, as I write about both X-Men Arcade, and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse.
First up is X-Men Arcade, which I played on the PSN for this blog, but am far more familiar with it as being an actual arcade game. I picked up the game on sale from the PSN store several months back, for a couple of bucks, hoping to recapture the nostalgic feeling and fond memories of button mashing next to strangers and friends alike in the arcade, all huddled around this game.
Thankfully, the digital version didn't disappoint on the good feelings aspect, as they didn't really change anything about the game. They didn't add new enemies or stages or characters, they just left it alone for all the fans to enjoy. Sure, they put some poilish on it, but not enough to ever confuse you into thinking you were playing an updated or remastered version of the game. Everything you remember loving about the game is still fully in effect on this version.
For me, playing this game in arcades was an absolute must. If the arcade I was in had it, I would be playing it, whether that meant waiting in line with friends or jumping in to an already started game with complete strangers, I was playing it. As you know, I'm usually not a multiplayer type of gamer, but once you step foot into an arcade, all gaming habits you may have fall to the wayside, as you just get lost in the musty smell, the sounds of machines racking up high scores and quarter machines spitting out change, and the sights of people just like you, all there for the same reason. To play games and have fun.
This game is meant to be just played and enjoyed. It's the truest form of button mashing imaginable, and because strategy takes a back seat to simplistic game play, you don't have to know, or even get along with, the people you are playing with to conquer the game. The X-Men characters to choose from offer a nice variety of choices to a broad range of fans, so everyone fighting for one character isn't common, as most people are just happy to play, regardless of who they are controlling.
There is a video game arcade and bar that I have been to a few times, and wrote about a time or two on this very blog, and every time I am there, the crowd around the X-Men Arcade machine is one of the biggest in the building. It's even comparable to the line at the bar and the restrooms, which says a lot. I always try to get in on a game when I go, and never hesitate about joining in on someone else's game.
Playing X-Men Arcade on the PS3 was fun, but lonely, It made me want to run down to the arcade and drop in a few quarters. I guess it's nice to have on hand whenever I feel like beating a game in about a half of an hour, but for the most part, it's just an awesome reminder of how far video games have come in society. We used to game with friends by our side, now we do it across the ocean via the Internet. It isn't a bad thing, it's just a thing.
I also played X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse for this X-Men double header. I chose this game because playing Arcade made me think of how well single-player X-Men games can be. Honestly, I don't know how critically acclaimed Mutant Apocalypse is or was, but for me, it's always the first or second game I think of when talking about the X-Men franchise. So I hooked up my Super Nintendo and fired up this game, taking me back to a different part of my life as a gamer.
As a kid, I didn't have many friends. Sure, I had lots of buddies at school and people I referred to as friends then, but looking back, they were more acquaintances than anything. I had a couple of good friends though, but unfortunately, circumstances pushed them both out of my life. Before all that happened though, I mainly hung out wiht my cousins and their friends when I felt like being around people. When I was craving me time, I would bunker down in my room and game. One of the games I dumped several hours into was X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse.
It was a great single player game, as you would pick from one of five characters, play their level, and then go on to the next character and stage. Eventually you'd beat the game, playing all the different characters and mastering all of their abilities and play styles. It felt like teamwork, playing all of them individually, but without all the social awkwardness of my childhood.
Sure, Wolverine was by far the best character, as it was so fun to just run through and slash your way past everyone. But personally, my favorite was Gambit, with his staff for melee combat, kinetic energy and card throwing capabilities. He just seemed like the outcast in the group, resembling how I felt a lot of my childhood. It was because of his appearance in this game that I decided he was one of my favorite X-Men characters, if not my overall favorite.
Unfortunately, Marvel hasn't done much with the character as far as mainstream media is concerned, but I'mm holding out hope that one day he will step out of the shadows as being a secondary, often forgot about character and actually develop a wider fan base. A lonely kid could hope, right?
Anyway, playing this game again drummed up some unexpected memories and feelings from my childhood, but there was a silver lining. It made me realize that just because I choose not game very often online with other people, doesn't make me less of a gamer. I'm just a different kind of gamer. One who appreciates the solitude and quietness of enjoying games solo, and getting lost in them, sometimes even escaping from whatever ales me in this world and enjoying the world I'm playing in, where I've been given the ability to be who I want.
When it comes to mainstream, popular opinions when it comes to video games and the industry the make up, I more often than not fall on the side of the minority way of thinking. I don't do this intentionally, as a way to be different or unique, or try to rise up against the system like a hipster of video games. For some reason, I just don't always agree with what everyone else thinks, but I always have reasoning for my not-so-popular opinions.
By in large, I find that the video game media grabs hold of an idea or an opinion, and runs with it hard and directly to the consumers, essentially forcing their own opinions onto the masses. When enough people with authoritative voices in the industry keep saying the same thing, all while dismissing any counter-arguments from other sources or outlets, it's easy for the masses to be heavily influenced.
The hype for The Last of Us was unreal before it was released. It was touted for months before it was on store shelves as the Game of the Year front runner, and was promised to be a game of the generation. Everything about it people were excited for, as it was going to be the gold standard for how video games are made going forward. And yes, I bought in to the hype myself, and couldn't wait to experience the game first hand.
Everything I heard about it before hand only validated all the hype. It was receiving perfect scores left and right, and every prediction about it before it was released was being confirmed. Every single person in the video game media agreed, it seemed, that this game was a masterpiece from top to bottom, and when game developers in future generations would make games, they could turn to The Last of Us as a guide or an example of how to make a game. Long story short, everyone unanimously agreed this game was an all-time classic.
Well, hate to break it to you, dear readers, but I can't share that same sentiment.
Yes, the game is absolutely beautiful. It is one of the most gorgeous games I have ever played or seen, but in a dilapidated, apocalyptic kind of way, of course. The characters are phenomenal and the story telling is excellent. Even in the first 15 minutes of the game, it's hard not to find at least one tear running down your cheek. The world that Naughty Dog created is bleak, depressing, quiet and lonesome. It's emotional and powerful, scary and intense. Everything about it on paper proves why it is worthy of the "masterpiece" label. Unfortunately, it all seems like the perfect game until you actually play the game.
The game play of this game sucks. I'm sorry to anyone who thinks differently, but I found the game constantly frustrating and irritating. The combat system is below average, and it feels like they made the game, especially the violent encounters with the monsters and the humans, hard for the sake of being hard. Even when dropping the game down to easy, I still found the combat unfairly difficult, and the actual "rules" of the world impossible to live by. They expect you to play a certain way, but constantly force you to play in ways you aren't ready for, expecting or prepared for in-game.
I understand this world is supposed to be unforgiving and relentless, and they did a great job of recreating that feeling. But this is also a video game, and I should be able to actually enjoy playing the game. In fact, the best parts about the game were the parts where I was just watching, or even when I was in control but merely walking around peacefully and without fear, sightseeing the crumbling world around me. When I had to stop enjoying the world and actually participate in it, all I wanted to do was just go back to what I was doing before.
The way I look at it, a perfect game is one that makes me want to keep playing, makes me enjoy holding the controller even if it is emotionally draining. The fact that I would rather watch the cut-scenes of The Last of Us on YouTube to experience the story as opposed to playing it out myself, makes me wonder just how good of a game it is. Trust me, I see all the great things this game has to offer, but I think it's a disservice to not acknowledge the flaws of it. Praising a game for it's accomplishments is wonderful, but dismissing the shortcomings, especially when it comes to how the actual game is played, isn't fair to all other games that get it right.
I have been holding off writing about this game for a long time now, because I wanted to beat it first. Well, I am still stuck in an area that because of an autosave mishap, I can't seem to get past. I'm about 50% through the game, as I have been for a while now. I want to beat this game, but I don't know if I can table my frustrations long enough to push through the remaining hours of this game. It's exhausting just thinking about it, and while I gave it a shot this time around, I didn't get anything encouraging accomplished. I want to know how the story plays out, but I just don't want to play the game in order to get there.
Does this sound like a masterpiece of a game to you? Everyone else thinks so. I guess I'm just crazy, right?
When I first got this game delivered to my doorstep, thanks to the every increasingly impressive Amazon Prime, the very first thing I did when I opened it up was take out the box art cover, flip it around and put it back in. While I have nothing against The Rock and all of his awesomeness that he has brought to the wrestling universe over the years, let's face it. Daniel Bryan is one of the best things to happen to the WWE in a very long time, along with CM Punk of course. Apparently, there was some sort of contest to decide the alternate cover athlete, and Bryan Daniel won I'm guessing, so there you have it. Good for him, I say.
Not familiar with wrestlers and the universe they reside in? Don't worry, you don't need background knowledge to keep up with this blog post. While WWE 2K14 is the newest addition to the wrestling game genre, and also the first WWE game made by the 2K Sports team, it doesn't bank on gamers being avid watchers or even followers of the current storylines. Sure, the game is more enjoyable if you are at least familiar with the wrestlers, especially all the current day ones, but it's not a breaking point for the game.
You see, if you have any sort of history with watching wrestling in your lifetime, chances are there is something for you to enjoy in 2K14, especially if you are feeling particularly nostalgic and want to take a trip down memory lane. In the last WWE game (which I wrote about, as you should recall), they introduced a new mode that revisited the Attitude Era of the WWE, recreating all the biggest matches and events from that important piece of the wrestling timeline, allowing you to participate and attempt to duplicate them as best as possible. I wrote then that it was absolutely the best part of that game, and if that mode was the only thing in the game, I would still feel satisfied.
Well, the new development team took that idea and ran with it. Just because it wasn't their original idea doesn't mean it wasn't a good idea or one they couldn't use. They saw the bigger picture of the mode, and what it could entail. So instead of pinpointing a specific era, they decided to pay homage to the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania, and the thirty years it encompasses. Going back all the way to the first WrestleMania, you can play as all the wrestlers you may remember from back in the day, in the biggest and most well-known matches of all time, trying to recreate all the important moments of each match.
Long story short, going back and and visiting so many vivid wrestling memories was amazing. The game looks great, and it's safe to say that the franchise is in good hands.
YES! YES! YES!
This whole week of Batman games and my journey through the gritty streets of Gotham was inspired and brought upon by the release of this game. Yes, usually I save the newest addition to the franchise for the last day in my "Week Of..." series that I have done before, but hey, I can't always be that predictable. Besides, this game is special and different than other newest games to franchises, in the sense that this is actually an official prequel to all other games before it.
So instead of playing and writing about the Arkham games in the order they were released, as I normally would have, I decided to switch it up a bit and try to tell a comprehensive story with these last four blogs of the Gotham week.
Batman: Arkham Origins was released, which technically is the newest addition to the Arkham series of Batman games, but at the same time, it is a prequel to all other Arkham games. Despite it being an addition to an existing series, it was actually developed by a completely different studio than the previous two Arkham games. Instead of Rocksteady continuing the amazing franchise they created, they passed it off to WB Montreal, which pretty much set the Internet in a tailspin when it was announced. With how loved the Arkham games were, nobody wanted to see the franchise fall into the wrong hands who might not carry on the pedigree of excellence already established.
If that controversy wasn't enough, Mark Hamill, who previously voiced the Joker in the Arkham games, retired from the character, passing the torch to long-time voice actor Troy Baker, who's done some pretty phenomenal characters over the last few years in the video game industry. Nobody thought he could even come close to portraying the Joker as well as Hamill did, but last month at New York Comic Con, he was on a panel discussing the game when he broke into a monologue in the voice of the Joker, and without overstating, brought the entire room into elation, excitement and admiration for his portrayal.
Crazy to think that the Internet overreacted, huh?
Well, they overreacted about the game itself, too. The new studio did a fantastic job recreating the fantastic Arkham series, and without knowing any better, you wouldn't even know someone else did it. It feels and plays like the previous games, and that's a very good thing. Honestly, I wouldn't want any drastic changes for the sake of trying to reinvent the wheel or improve on a good thing already. Why fix something that isn't broke?
This game takes place only a couple years after Batman officially becomes Batman, back when he was still a masked vigilante trying to do good for the streets of Gotham, despite the displeasure and constant grief from the police and Detective Gordon. It plays out over one night, Christmas Eve, and criminal boss Black Mask has put out a substantial reward for the assassination of Batman,which of course brings in trained killers from all over to go after the same bounty. You're goal is to take down Black Mask, and all those who stand in your way. While there is still lots of exploration and story to play out, the game almost feels like it is one boss battle after another, as you try to take down the opposing assassins and other villains. It's not a bad thing, it's just a thing.
Long story short, the Internet once again judged something before it knew better, and once again, the Arkham franchise produced another awesome game, despite who made it or voice acted for it. Gotham has never been a colder place, dangerous place then Christmas Eve.
Sure, Gotham City is an awesome fictional city. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most robust, dynamic and iconic cities in all of the comic book universes, and definitely adds as much character to the Batman franchise as many of the characters- especially the villains - themselves. But while it plays host to dozens of memorable and instantly recognizable characters, it is big enough to hold many, many more DC comics characters within its city limits, and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is proof of that.
Given the overall success of the first Lego Batman game, in sales, reviews and general reception from the fans, it was a given that they had to explore the Batman universe, and Gotham, some more. This time, however, they decided they needed to spice up the Batman storyline a bit, and introduce one of the most iconic and beloved storylines from DC Comics.
Yes, the Batman versus Superman story arch would be on full display, but of course with the quirky and humorous spin on it that only a Lego game could deliver. And what better place for this epic collision and eventual tag-team of super heroes than Gotham City?
Lego Batman 2 had everything the first game had, but multiplied it tenfold by adding all of the beloved characters from the DC universe into one game, as the heroes band together (reluctantly in the case of Batman with Superman) to foil the evil plan of the treacherous tandem of the Joker and Lex Luthor. The actual plot of the game takes a lot of actual cannon from the comics and mixes it together to make a coherent story in order to involve all the characters, but many basic story elements are familiar to fans.
When it comes down to it, the game depicts Batman in a way most fans aren't used to seeing him. He is, essentially, jealous of the Man of Steel, for good reasons, as Superman is quite cocky, whether it is intentional or not. Regardless, Batman doesn't take to kindly of this situation, with a new and flashy super hero is taking the spotlight in Gotham, despite Batman not wanting it in the first place. Without spoiling more, it's a great story arch that goes back and forth, but ultimately results in what every fan loves to see, the formation of the true dynamic duo.
I actually beat this game twice on two different systems, and while I got the Platinum trophy for the Vita version, the console version was just so massive and open that collecting and doing everything for all the trophies was way more of a grind than I could handle. Going back and playing it though, it was fun to see just how big the game is and how it allowed huge open world games from Lego, like Lego City Undercover, to exist.
With Batman playing such an odd role, it is easy to see Superman as the superstar of this game. Sure, all the other characters are great additions, but the writing and depiction of Superman is far and above any other character. With no good Superman video game to speak of, it would fair to label Lego Batman 2 as the best Superman game ever.
Only in Gotham.
Whoever said you couldn't make a Batman game without Batman was dead wrong. Sure, Batman is an amazing character, and one of the most iconic and recognizable characters and symbols in the world of comic books and pop culture. It's because he such an icon, however, that allows for an entire game to be developed about him and his legend without featuring him at all.
I mean seriously, who didn't want to be Batman as a kid? Or even so, who wouldn't mind being Batman right now? The dude has it all, and it's clear even from early ages for kids that he is different from all other superheroes, as it almost seems possible that under the right circumstances, anyone could be Batman. By day, he is a playboy, philanthropist billionaire, living it up as only billionaires can do. By night, however, he utilizes all the resources he has inherited and grown by his own personal investments, including the amazing gadgets and technologies that his corporation's R&D department has created for him, and becomes a masked vigilante, cleaning up the filthy streets of Gotham and being the savior that the city needs. He does all this despite the efforts of law enforcement to try and prevent him from doing so, and without ever expecting fanfare or recognition for his service. He was wronged as a child by evil, and is on a personal crusade to prevent any others from suffering the pain and agony he was forced to.
Whew. I'm pretty sure I didn't need to explain who and what Batman was all about, but I did want to give some context as to why people would want to be him.
In Gotham City Impostors, the concept of people wanting to be Batman is reproduced in-game, which was a fantastic and novel idea. The game takes place in Gotham, but instead of playing as the Dark Knight or actual characters from the story, you play as either someone pretending to be Batman in hopes of doing the Bat Man proud as you run around in your homemade costume, trying to bring your own brand of personal justice to the streets. Of course, what good would pretending to be Batman be if you didn't have bad guys to battle with? Well, don't worry, as you could also play as a deranged lunatic who looks up and inspires to be just as insane as Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker.
Confused? Don't be. This game is a first-person shooter multiplayer-only game, featuring 6-vs-6 gameplay. One squad is a group of vigilantes who look up to Batman and proclaim that their mission is nothing but for what's best for the city, while the opposing squad is a group bent on anarchy in the spirit of their inspiration, the Joker. Because they don't have the resources of Batman or Joker, however, they are forced to don handmade costumes and sketchy weapons, which describing them as rough versions of real gadgets would be the understatement of the year.
Just like in any good multiplayer FPS game, there are a few different modes to choose from, and while the blueprint for the game and the modes remain true to the genre they reside in, the game plays and feels differently than any of the typical FPS multiplayer games. Whether it be because of the cartoonish yet all too real violence, or the array of gadgets and weapons made from scraps of parts, the game has a certain charm that sets it apart from the rest.
Sure, you never really feel like Batman or the Joker, but you definitely feel like someone trying pretending to be them, and that's what makes it fun. It reminds you that no, you can't be exactly like Batman, but with enough ingenuity and determination, you could take care of the smaller jobs around the city that he just doesn't have the time to worry about.
When Telltale Games brought The Walking Dead universe to the video game world for the first time, it immediately captured the hearts and minds of gamers from all corners of the industry. Before then, Telltale was known for games like Back to the Future and Jurassic Park, but never really created anything that was universally critically acclaimed. Unlike their previous games, Telltale decided that the license associated with the game wasn't as important as the story they were trying to tell within the game. They focused on forcing the player to experience difficult scenarios, make tough choices and ensure that everyone playing connected with the characters more than ever before.
Their new formula worked perfectly, and it was highly regarded as one of the best games of the year, if not the best game in some pundits eyes. It remains to be seen whether or not the sheer excitement and hype of The Walking Dead universe had anything to do with the awesomeness of the game, but either way, they brought fantastic storytelling to the forefront of the industry.
It's well known that they are busy making the second season of The Walking Dead, but they aren't putting all their eggs into one basket and being complacent with the success they have already received. No, part of their studio has been busy, working away on another titles they hope will take off in the same fashion that The Walking Dead did.
The Wold Among Us is other project, one that us bound to sneak up on people more so than the uber-popular zombie game. It is based off of the comic book series called "Fables," which is about iconic fairy tale and fable characters who establish a community in New York as they try to fit in to the general population. While Telltale wanted to use "Fables" as the title of this game, they weren't allowed to due to the Fable video game series, as people with the power to make decisions ultimately decided that consumers would be confused by the name.
Anyway, you are forced to decide whether or not to allow Bigby Wolf, the mayor of Fabletown, will try to help all citizens or let his wolf out to create chaos and havoc. And yes, before you ask, he used to be the Big Bad Wolf, hence the not-so-subtle references. There has been a brutal murder, and his authority is being questioned.
They used all the same game mechanics and blueprints that made The Walking Dead so popular, which is great news for all those who loved that game. Sure, the loading screens are slow and the gameplay is still a little difficult and inaccurate, but it's tolerable, as the voice acting and story are thankfully the strong points of this game. Essentially, this game looks and feels like The Walking Dead, and that's a great thing.
My only worry is that this game won't get near the accolades as The Walking Dead, as quite simply, it's going to sell well below what TWD did. It can't even use its own name as the name of the game, which is a killer for those who don't dig deep into games or read all about the newest and hottest things. They can't even reference Fables, which would be like The Walking Dead not being able to use The Walking Dead. Essentially, something out of their control is going to severely hurt their bottom line figures.
It's unfortunate, because what I've seen so far - with four more chapters yet to be released - this game is going to be awesome, and hopefully can not only keep up with the quality of The Walking Dead, but surpass it when it is all said and done. But like they say, if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?
Honestly, I don't have a good opening or story to get you warmed up for this post. Everything that comes to mind, I have already used, and really, how lame is that? So I'll spare you repeat, redundant sounding blog entry and just get down to it.
I played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which originally was released exclusively on Xbox Live, only later to make its way to the Playstation Network, which is where I of course picked it up from to play. I had heard a lot about this game, especially for being one of those games that you just need to play to fully experience, as any review, preview or write up couldn't possible do it any justice. I knew of the basic gameplay mechanics, and that the story is unforgettable, but other than that, I went into the game blind.
This last year or two has been filled with games that evoke emotions or feelings that video games rarely touched upon in years past. The art of storytelling and capturing a narrative through interactive game play has been the golden ticket to success for games recently, or so it seems. While spectacular graphics and other elements that go into games are always important, the storyline arch, the journey to the completion of the story and emotional connection made when it all comes together has driven the industry to change its way of thinking towards what make games good, and surprisingly, the the independent and smaller development studios are leading the charge.
When I decided to play Brothers, finally, I had taken a sick day from work. Fighting a nasty head cold/sinus thing/flu bug, I just needed a day of rest. I'm usually not one to take days off because I'm sick, but because I have a stockpile of days to take before the end of the year (because they don't roll over into next year), I figured this day was as good as any to start chipping away at my vacation time. I originally planned on playing a bunch of games, working on my insane backlog and such, but apparently my body decided that I actually did need some rest after all. At some point, however, I decided that of all the games I had to choose from, Brothers was going to be the one to consume my attention for the day.
At first I questioned my decision, as I thought about quitting several times, because honestly, it just wasn't grabbing me. You play as two brothers, controlling one brother with one analog stick and the trigger of that side, and the other brother with the other combo of analog stick and trigger. It's pretty straight forward and simplistic on paper, but man, it takes every bit of concentration to pull it off with precision. Even by the end of the game, I still found myself bumbling around, forgetting which stick controlled which brother. The worst is when you get the two brothers on opposite sides of the control scheme. It's pretty much mind numbing brain overload at that point, until you get it corrected.
The scenery in this game is breathtaking. So much so that the developers placed benches all along your designated path through the land for you to sit your characters down and literally just gaze off into the distance, taking in the magnificent artwork doubling as landscape. The brothers themselves and environment you actually interact with aren't exactly graphical benchmarks, but the overall look and feel of the game is quite beautiful. There is actually one moment with killer whale lookalikes, jumping out of the water, that made me say, "wow," for whatever that is worth.
There are some really awesome scenes that I wish were fleshed out more, but obviously couldn't be considering the narrow scope and smaller size of the game. Without spoiling too much, the inclusion of mountain trolls, slain giants and a frozen village were awesome, and I wish I could have explored more or at least gotten more context to what I was traversing through. There was also a moment that caught me completely off guard - involving a man and a tree - that was timed perfectly, as I was just starting to get bored with my experience when I came about it. Whether or not the timing of that scene was intentional, I appreciated it being there and bringing me back to caring.
At some point, I just decided that I was going to finish this game, regardless of how much I was engaged in it. By the time I reached the end, however, I had a couple of OMG moments, where I just sat there silently as I didn't know how to react or what to think. I was just trying to sort out my feelings and emotions about what I just saw happen, what I had to do as a player, and how it all ultimately wrapped up.
Brothers has an ending to its story that completely fits the bill of needing to experience it for yourself to fully grasp. While I wish the journey to that point was more engaging, I enjoyed enough of it to keep pushing forward, thankfully to the awaiting payoff, that was completely worth all the frustration of controls and points of boredom along the way.
Go play it. Now, later ... whenever you feel the right time is. But you need to experience it for yourself. Trust me.
Developers make mistakes. All of them, at some point or another, mistakes will be made, from the best of the best to the laughing stalks of the industry. The great developers learn from their mistakes, take what they learned and transform them into success. Good developers make mistakes, fix them, but eventually make more, only to repeat the cycle. And the developers at the bottom of the barrel? Well, their mistakes are usually too dire to ever recover from.
It's hard for developers to recover from mistakes from original IPs, especially when they put all their eggs in one basket. But when mistakes come about in established franchises, it's usually something that they can move on from, apologize to the fans and go on to the next game in hopes of making amends with something better.
Insomniac, a very successful developer in the industry, is responsible for one of the most recognizable and iconic franchises for Sony and their many consoles, starting back on the PS2. Ratchet & Clank has been a stable, consistent staple among the plethora of Sony franchises, and has routinely put out one good game after another, always trying to reinvent the franchise while still attempting to keep consistency within their overarching storylines that span multiple games.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One might be one of those games that Insomniac would like to take a mulligan on.
Sure, they tried to reinvent the wheel by changing the core principle mechanic of single player gameplay to try a 4-player co-op experience, and I have to give them kudos for trying. But I think they put more thought and care into trying to make the best possible 4-player co-op game than they did the actual game itself. Maybe because I'm a social introvert and don't see the broad appeal of this idea, but for me, the Ratchet & Clank series has always been about platforming, collecting and awesome weapons. The moment something comes along to mess with that formula, I have reject the notion.
For some reason, the levels just seem to drag on and on in this game. Is it because they made them bigger to accommodate four players? I'm not entirely sure, but they feel like they go on forever. It would be one thing if the levels were all super exciting and engaging, but I find them to just be repetitive and sluggish by the end of each level.
The storyline is meh as well, as I found myself completely disengaged from it soon after starting. It's a spin-off game from the Future storyline that was the few games before this one, and it was essentially just created to accommodate the four player twist.
When it comes down to it, I just want the tried and true Ratchet & Clank formula. This wasn't the first time I played this game, as I put significant hours into it when I first got it many moons ago through PS Plus. But I was hoping some time away from it would yield different reactions to what I was playing. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Is it bad enough to be considered a mistake by Insomniac? In my humble opinion, I feel like they tried something new to breathe new life into a long running franchise, but they went too far outside the lines to make it work, so yes, a mistake it was.
Thankfully, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is on the horizon, and it is promised to return the series back to its roots, where the fan base is patiently waiting for them. Hopefully it won't be too little, too late.
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