The PS4 is coming soon. Too soon, if you ask people who are still enjoying this generation of consoles. Over the years of the PS3, there have been many games to grace the system, both good and bad, and there are still more to come before the console walks quietly off into the sunset. A handful of games in this generation have been more than just video games, provoking legitimate thoughts and emotions from the players instead of just being mindless entertainment and activities. Three of these games in handful were created by Thatgamecompany, two of which I've already written about on this blog: Journey and Flow.
Well, I might as well finish off the trifecta of amazing experiences hidden behind the cloak of the "video game" label. I played Flower, which was second in the three games created by Thatgamecompany exclusively for the PS3 and the PSN. Sure, I wanted to play this game so that I can have all three games in the trilogy accounted for, because they deserve all the recognition and praise that my little, humble blog can dish out, but I also was inspired to do so now because of the announcement from Sony that Flower is officially being brought to the upcoming PS4 system. They didn't say if it was a Day 1 launch game on the PSN, or if it's just in development for sometime in the near future, but regardless, this is kind of a big deal.
With the promise from Sony of their GaiKai service bringing their library to the PS4 at some point, people are already under the assumption that this service will branch into the PSN library as well with good reason. But this service won't be available at launch, and while details are still unclear how the service will work, it sounds as if it will just stream ports of the games.
Sony's announcement made it sound as if Flower was actually being created for the PS4, as a tweet went out about actually playing it on the new system. I have to think that they wouldn't made such a big deal over just a port of an old game running on the newest system, especially with such a small, non-headline-grabbing game like Flower. So are they recreating this masterpiece of digital art for the PS4? I sure hope so, but until we know for sure, I'll be happy just playing the PS3 version.
Like I said before, it's the farthest thing from being a game as it can get, while still holding on to the title of being one. To full explain or describe this game would be a great injustice to Flower. In it's most basic explanation, you control the movement of flower pedals by movement of your controller, while also altering the strength of wind gusts with simple button presses. While there is no text or dialogue in the game at all, there doesn't ever feel like there needs to be, as the story arch is told by your emotions and imagination. There are subtle clues as to what the game is trying to tell you as far as a story goes, but realistically, it is meant to evoke personal emotions, moments of clarity and relaxation, and a sense of getting lost somewhere else in the vehicle of digital media entertainment. Every game is a personal experience than can only be experienced to be fully understood.
With any luck, the PS4 version of this game will be just as awe-inspiring, as any limitations the development team ran into with Flower will be fully developed to their full potentials with the remarkable PS4 system. Also, while the market will never be saturated with games like this experience, I truly hope brave independent developers continue to take chances in putting art and emotions over game play mechanics voice acting.
A lot of game intrigue me. Even if they are from a genre I don't necessarily enjoy on a regular basis or they are part of a series that I have played before and just don't like, I still find myself drawn to all different kinds of games. Maybe it's my unbridled sense of curiosity and desire to discover, learn about and say I've played a wide variety of games, or maybe it's just as simple as this blog needs new games every day to survive. Either way, I don't shy away from games I know nothing about, especially if something even remotely peeks my interest about it, whether that be a cool logo, a great looking character, fantastic screen shots or just that good old gut feeling.
Of course, when the game is free, that's also a driving influence as well.
Thanks to the continued excellence of the PlatStation Plus service, I got a little game called Malicious for free a few months back, and while I downloaded it long ago, I haven't touched it once, until now. I knew nothing about this game at all, and the only reason I kept it on my hard drive is because the logo was fantastic and the main character looked like it could be a fun game to play. Apparently neither one of those factors pushed me to play the game or even look into what it was all about, but I couldn't bare the thought of deleting what could be a good, and fun, game.
Once I jumped into it and skipped over the cut scenes that looked ripped right out of an anime film, I was lost. I was an empty space, similar to the loading program for The Matrix, where my character was just floating there. I moved around and eventually realized that I could enter the monuments in this vastly open, all-white world I was in. Once I got into the first level I chose, it took me forever to discover how to actually attack the bad guys, as it seemed like a legit boss battle right off the bat. With a tutorial (that I saw at least), figuring out the control scheme was something of a challenge.
After playing a few different levels to varying degrees of success, I realized that this game isn't for me, right now at least. It looks like an anime, which is awesome, and while I have no basis to judge the story on (since I skipped throughout it), I can't say this is a bad game. In fact, it reminded me a bit of DMC, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But in all honesty, I probably won't get back tot this game. It intrigued me enough to play it and enjoy what I did play, but it didn't keep my attention long enough for me to fully invest in it.
Even if it was free.
Rebooting a series is a risky maneuver, especially in the video game industry. For successful franchises with a devoted fan base and a successful sales history, the reasons for the reboot may be unclear to the average gamer. Sometimes the developers just need fresh perspective on the games they are creating, or they want to reinvent the character to update overall tone and feel of the game to more modern times, and sometimes, it's just to shake it up a bit and try to reinvent the wheel.
Rebooting a dead or all-but-forgotten about franchise is usually more of a desperation move, either to genuinely continue a series that fans have clamored for for far too long, or to make a quick buck or two by capitalizing on the nostalgia feeling fans once had.
When you reboot a series, however, you usually want to have some goal in mind. With Double Dragon Neon, I honestly have no idea which direction they were trying to go with this game. Were they trying to update the series and bring the franchise to a new audience in hopes of starting a new series of games? If that's the case, why make it a cheap, sub-par homage to the 80's, filled with neon (of course) and classic 80's style music? Modern gamers won't attach themselves to a new game playing of that decade in style and fashion.
If they were trying to just capitalize on the namesake of the series alone, they did that for sure. Playing the game I instantly had a flood of old memories playing the original Double Dragon games, with the infamously cheesy Billy and Jimmy Lee brothers. These two rules the streets with sweet martial arts skills that would make Napoleon Dynamite jealous, in games that defined the side-scrolling beat'em-up genre of video games. A few updates have been added in this newest installation, like the ability to evade attacks and some radical tag-team moves. And of course, lots of neon and decor that just screams the 1980's.
Say this game was just a nod at the past and a thank you to the long-time fans of the series. If that was the case, then I accept this reboot of a genre-defining franchise. If they were actually trying to revitalize the series and breathe new life into the Double Dragon franchise in hopes of this being the cornerstone for new direction of games, then ... well, I'm not sure I support them in that venture.
Oh man. The wait is over. Believe the hype, is all I can really say.
I've been waiting all week to write about playing Grand Theft Auto V. While I have been playing a week full of Grand Theft Auto games, I've also been sneaking in GTA V whenever possible. Sure, all the older games were fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed my week, and while it was great to get the context I didn't already have for the series, they are all old games. Sure, the last game didn't look bad at all, and was actually quite enjoyable, but compared to the new hotness? Yeah, not even close.
Before I even jumped into the game myself, which I did get on release day, I watched my cousin play some. I sat there in awe, watching him play, which is quite odd considering that I usually don't like watching people play games. When I finally got to play the game myself, I realized that after a couple of hours, my experience was already drastically different than my cousin's.
Sure, the main story missions are the same, but the overall experience when you factor in the totally optional side missions and exploration of the massive world, it's mind blowing how different our games have developed.
When I say this map is massive, that is the understatement of the year. Taking place in the fictional city of Los Santos, which is modeled almost identically to Los Angeles, the city is breathtaking in both it's size and it's detail. As I watched the entire series develop over the course of the week, I saw the level of detail raise with each game, finally culminating in this masterpiece. When driving around, you can clearly see off into the distance of the city, or mountain range, or wherever it is you're looking, but instead of just being background details, what you see is actually ready for exploration. In the industry, they call this "draw distance," which effectively just defines how far in-game you can see of the environment that you are actually in. In GTA V, the draw distance is second to none.
There are details upon details in this game. Apartment buildings you think you would just drive past can actually be explored. They have no baring on the game at all, but Rockstar insisted on not keeping you from the open world experience as much as possible. You can find the Playboy mansion, which would be in cool in its own right, but they went a few steps further by totally recreating the actual mansion's grounds, from the famous grotto to the bunnies lounging by the pool and partying in the evening.
Another thing I have noticed is just how lively the city is. At any given time, you can encounter random acts and scenarios that sometimes lead to side missions, and sometimes are there for no other obvious reason than just because. When switching between your three characters, you will drop in on them as you take control, but rather than them just sitting around their house, they are actually living in the world. Sometimes they will be out driving, other times grabbing coffee, but always doing something. This keeps you engaged in the world you are playing in, as it begins to blur the lines between a video game you have control over and a booming digital metropolis that is its own entity entirely. Essentially, we are a couple steps away from The Matrix actually being a thing.
Unfortunately, my play through the story is a slow one. I'm taking my time, enjoying the sites and side missions and all the little things that this game offers. I've heard some people point out how the graphics aren't the best, and while they are good, they aren't anywhere close to games like The Last of Us. But that game is very linear and much smaller in scope, so when you take a look at the sheer size of GTA V, the graphics are pretty incredible, all things considered.
It's a fun game, and I don't know how I will ever be able to finish any games for a while with GTA V sitting there, waiting to be explored. Just like the rest of the games, it's clear that Rockstar knows what they are doing. There is a reason this game made over a billion dollars the first week. It's an experience like no other, and the perfect send off for this generation of consoles.
And My Week Long Grand Theft Auto Crime Spree...
Just when you think you know the Grand Theft Auto series and everything the developers have put into the universe they created, they go and switch up on you. Granted, if I had paid attention to any of the games that came out after the original Vice City game, I probably wouldn't be as surprised as I was when I dove into Grand Theft Auto IV. However, my lack of knowledge going into some of these titles has led to some fantastic first-time impressions, which I can't complain about at all.
Talk about reinventing the wheel, though. In GTA IV, players return to Liberty City, set in present day (2008), but this isn't the Liberty City you grew to know and love. The city before was designed from the ground up , and players spent so much time in it, it became almost a staple or calling card of the series. However, everything that fans thought they knew about Liberty City ended with the GTA III era, and the older consoles that those games were released on. GTA IV, however, was the first Grand Theft Auto game developed for the next generation of gaming consoles, the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Finally, Rockstar had the ability to make the kind of game they envisioned making since GTA III, and what they tried to do with every game since that one. Of course they were limited in scope of what they were capable of doing from the technology standpoint, but you could always tell they had grand ambitions for what they wanted to accomplish.
Well, in GTA IV, they seemed to finally understand what they were trying to accomplish. And by that, I mean redesign Liberty City into what they envisioned it to be. Now it bares a stark contrast to New York City, complete with individual boroughs, familiar neighborhoods and islands, and even the Statue of Happiness, which is creepy yet eerily similar to the Statue of Liberty. While Liberty City used to be it's own character, now it feels less like a video game and more like the real deal. And in doing so, what was once a character now is a living, breathing organism in the universe, full of life and personality unseen before in a GTA game. Liberty City is now a place to call home.
The main character is Niko, a European immigrant with a mission, who quickly falls victim to the corruption and seedy lifestyle that Liberty City seems to inject onto everyone in sight. I remember when the game first came out, there seemed to be some backlash or resistance over having a European as a main character. Maybe I am remembering wrong, but I seem to recall that being a thing. After playing the game, I can't understand why there would have been a problem with it. Niko is a great character, someone you can connect to in ways that are really hard to explain.
Overall, this game feels groundbreaking, and a real step forward in the gaming industry, looking back at when it was released. It was the first exceptional showcase of what the new consoles were capable of, and well deserving of the critical acclaim. In fact, for the longest time it was the highest rated game on Metacritic (fluctuates up and down a spot or two as random reviews happen). In other words, it has been the gold standard for video games for a generation.
But now, a new generation is about to start.
Evolution. The key to growth and expansion, and what keeps anything from becoming bland, uninspired and complacent with the "norm." In the world of Grand Theft Auto, it would be easy for Rockstar to become complacent with their games being critically acclaimed and continue to roll them out, one after another, splicing in new new storylines to the same old gameplay mechanics. But that's not how they roll, not at all. They strive to evolve, thrive on the growth of their games, never content with the east route to success.
That's what makes them so great, and why their games continue to revolutionize the industry standards. Just when you think you've seen their best stuff, they come out and show you something you didn't even think of.
And just when people thought the 80's were dead and that Vice City was going to be a one-and-done game, they came out and released Grant Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.They put this game out on the PSP first as well, in the same vein as Liberty City Stories, which they later ported to the PS2 and eventually the PS3 via the PlayStation Network. Again, they went the prequel route for this game, further proving that their storylines they bring to their games are never just individual experiences, but rather fully evolved, before and after whichever games they are presented in.
In Rockstar's eyes, their universe spans infinitely, and their games only capture specific moments in time of the universe they have created. Their universe doesn't start and stop with each game. Their world continues as it would even without games to showcase it. That's how they present their philosophy in each experience they create, at least.
For being a prequel and a smaller game than the full console experiences, they still decided to evolve the game and gameplay mechanics. There is "empire-building" in the game now, where you can open and operate businesses out of confiscated properties. How deep you go into this mini-game within the game is entirely up to you, but it's nice to see them continuously adding new elements to the tried and true format. In addition to that, when you get arrested or killed, you can now bribe police officers or hospital staff to lower your wanted level and keep guns that normally would have been lost.
Despite initially being reported to be a direct port when they brought it over to the PS2 the following year, Rockstar actually improved graphics and other little performance details, as well as adding a few more side missions and rampages. Again, just when people thought Rockstar would be content with the basic concept of a port, they evolved the idea of what a port can and should be.
Just when the gaming industry thought they had all the answers, Rockstar changed the questions being asked.
It's all in the details.
One staple of the Grand Theft Auto franchise has always been the amount of detail they put into their games, not just in graphics, but their characters, stories and environments as well. Sure, you can have a great game, rich in vibrant textures and graphical engineering, but if you only execute those details on the surface, core designs, it will still be flat and lacking depth. When it comes to depth of details and attention to the little things that most games wouldn't even think about much less try to recreate, nobody can hold a torch to Rockstar.
For some reason, I think the mighty developer felt challenged after the release of San Andreas however. Maybe they felt like people just thought they were pushing out individual experiences with each game they made, and relying on the mayhem and sandbox gameplay to carry their titles each time. I can only assume they wanted to come out and let the world know that their games were not one-and-done experiences, and when they developed each game, they had every intention on expanding the world as much as possible.
They also wanted to prove that their games were not strictly home console experiences, and they could make a game that felt like a Grand Theft Auto game into a portable gaming experience. Not because they had to, or felt like they needed to, but simply because they could.
I present to you, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
Originally developed for the PSP, it was eventually ported to the PS2 and then brought to the PS3 via the PSN. In other words, it has been around the block and seen its fair share of platforms. But that's really besides the point. The cool thing about thing about this game, which I didn't know going in since I had never played it before, was that it is actually a prequel to GTA III. Of course, it takes place in Liberty City again, which was a significantly smaller map than San Andreas, but perfect for the handheld console experience they were trying to create.
True to Rockstar form, however, no details were overlooked, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. There is a bride in the game that is still under construction that is up and operational in GTA III. There are other little changes in the city that would be overlooked completely had you not played both games. But in playing both, you realize how much care went in to making the two games flow into one another. Like motorcycles being in the game now, as it is explained that by the time the events of GTA III happened, motorcycles had been banned in the city by a city ordnance.
Just one little detail that makes a world of difference when combined with all of the other little details.
It's no secret that the video game industry is dangerously close to transitioning full-on into the "next generation" of gaming. The wording and context behind the definition of "next gen" is clearly debatable, but that's neither here nor there. What's important to note is that in a couple of months, brand new consoles will be released, effectively ending the run of releases on PS3 and Xbox 360, save for a few random released scattered here and there. For the most part, however, developers will be focusing most if not all of their time and resources into development for the new consoles, all but moving on completely from the current generation consoles.
Usually this transition from one console to the next version means the lack of good, quality games are at a minimum in the last few months of life. It's hard to convince consumers to invest in games at the end of a console cycle while simultaneously expecting them to save up for the new systems and plethora of launch day games, which keeps developers shying away from pouring too much heart and soul into games that are at risk to be all but forgotten about and neglected.
Sony has decided that this trend needed to come to an end, by refusing to allow the PS3 to limp into the sunset, and actually pushing out games.
Not just any old games, either, but truly legit, great titles. One of those games that Sony decided to roll out before the end of the PS3 is Puppeteer, and despite it's unique style and cheaper price tag, it has staked its place among the best of the best Sony titles. Unfortunately, I worry how many people will miss out on this true delight of a game.
First of all, it carries a $40 price tag, and while cheaper MSRP right off the bat usually indicates a lesser quality of game, in this case, it couldn't be further from the truth. In all honesty, I have no idea why this was only 40 bucks, as it is a complete game worthy of sitting on the shelves next to the big boys. My only thought is that since it is an original IP, the first in a series (hopefully!) and at the end of a console cycle, that Sony banked on a lower price tag as the best way to move copies of the game. Either way, it's a win-win, as long as people are willing to drop assumptions and actually play the game for themselves.
The game itself is brilliant. You play as a puppet, without a head, and on a journey, of course. You find different heads along the way, which act as both a life meter and add different abilities to your character that allow you to get bonuses throughout the levels and unlock bonus stages along the way. You also carry a pair of golden shears, that not only act as a weapon, but also as a method of transportation. You see, as you begin to cut fabric or other things throughout the game, you propel yourself in the direction in which you are cutting; sideways, up, down, forwards and backwards.
The best and most endearing thing about the game is the setting of the game. As a puppet, it's only logical that you are on a stage, and in this game, that's exactly where you are. There are red curtains framing in the screen of the game, the bottom of the stage is visible at the bottom of the screen, spotlights move around and shine on things that need highlighted, and there is even a "live" audience (unseen) from the perspective that you see the game from, that applauds, reacts and cheers for you along the way. It's a unique thing that sounds quirky and gimmicky, but once you see it play out, it's more magical and whimsical than you could possibly imagine.
So far, Puppeteer is easily turning out to be one my all-time favorite platformers, if only because of how unique and different it is than all the cookie-cutter games out there. I couldn't thank Sony more for taking a chance and putting this game out there, with the PS4 looming just around the corner. Hopefully, the trend of consoles dying without good games on them for months before hand is over.
When it comes to buying video games, there is almost nothing better than getting package deals. Say you have never played a Mass Effect game - you can get the entire trilogy in one, nice and tidy combo package. Haven't gotten around to picking up that awesome game that came out earlier in the year, but now you have a few extra bucks to spend? If it was a critically acclaimed game, like say Borderlands 2, you can probably pick up the Game of the Year edition, which not only includes the game, but most if not all of the DLC that was released throughout the year as well.
And then there is the Orange Box, one of the most popular, best-selling and well received collections of video games ever, all for one low price.
Of course, Humble Bundles of PC games are in a league of their own when it comes to bundling games at one low price, and thankfully, the do it without worrying about making a quick buck, as their contributions to charity is proof that sometimes, the industry is more than just business. In cases like that, everyone wins, especially the consumers.
A while ago (maybe last year?), there was a package of games released on the PSN for the PS3 that I picked up on a whim, mainly because it was cheap, but also because the games included in the packaged looked fantastic, and definitely the types of games I could thoroughly enjoy. It's called the Arkedo Series, and while I knew nothing about the games before hand, I learned just how much trusting my instincts can pay off sometimes, and how package deals are totally worth it, when done correctly.
This package was done correctly, for sure.
The Arkedo Series package contains three games: Jump!, Swap! and Pixel!. Sure, the names are almost too simplistic, but "simplistic" fits the style and feeling of the games perfectly. The titles are essentially descriptions of the games themselves, which is irony in it's truest form. Thankfully, the simplistic nature of the titles and the games truly make the experience more enjoyable.
Jump! is a 8-bit platforming game, who's protagonist, Jumpman, bares a striking resemblance to Pitfall Harry. You simply need to just traverse level after level, collecting coins, defeating enemies and deactivating the bombs scattered throughout the level in order to open up the exit. In classic, 8-bit old-school fashion, once you lose all your lives, there is no "continue" options. You have to start all over, from the beginning. Thankfully, all the levels remain the same over and over again, so pattern recognition kicks in eventually allowing you to make it back to where you ended the last game fairly stress-free. If you're a fan of classic platformers, Jump! is right up your alley.
Swap! is a blocks-falling-from-the-top puzzle game with the match-4 style, resembling most games in the genre. The farther you progress in the game, the quicker and more challenging the games becomes. By the end, it's anything but a cake walk, which is exactly what you would want from a game like this. Aside from the basic story mode, there is a challenge mode which dares you to try and accomplish certain challenges in order to advance. Essentially, they just as replayability, but there is nothing wrong with that.
Finally, there is Pixel!, which you control a pixelated cat named Pixel the Cat, setting out on an adventure through a nocturnal, pixelated world. It is a platformer game as well, but much more of an adventure than Jump! is. It plays and controls well, and while the visual elements are exactly what you think it would be, the true charm of this game lies within the writing. For what it is, there is a lot of humor and quirkiness that you need to experience to fully appreciate.
All in all, this package of games was a steal, in my humble opinion. All three games spoke to my soul in different ways, mostly bringing back feelings of nostalgia while presenting them in classic yet modern versions of familiar-feeling games. And for only a few bucks, there isn't many more video games packages out there that give you more fun and entertainment than the Arkedo Series.
As long as we don't talk about Humble Bundles.
My quest continues, to keep chipping away at the massive list of PSN games I have downloaded on my PS3's hard drive, so ultimately I can fill it back up with games I've yet to even have room for to download. Most of these games I've been playing have been PS Plus free games, but some I've just randomly picked up on sale because they looked interesting. Sad part is, there are so many random games I have, I don't remember which ones were free or paid for, which really doesn't matter anyway since I can re-download them as I wish (as long as I keep my PS+ subscription, as if that's even an option not to).
I guess I just feel a bit of obligation to play and experience the paid-for games more so then the free ones, just to justify my purchase, despite how long it's been since I bought them. So with that, I just pretend every game was paid for. Makes some sense, right?
So another one of these games I had sitting around on my digital shelf was Labyrinth Legends. I want to say it was a PS+ game, as I didn't remember anything about the game, but I've been known to make impulse purchases before. Steam Sale, anyone? Anyway, I fired it up, and was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered.
Labyrinth Legends is a dungeon crawler ... and that's it. Game starts out with a little cut scene, explaining the story (wife is kidnapped on your wedding day, you have to go rescue her of course), and then it's just all action. No other cut scenes, no over-world exploration; just one dungeon to the next, your only goal being to find your way out of each one and collect some hidden stars along the way. The game play is a straight-up hack and slash style game, as you would find in any good dungeon crawler. There are puzzles to figure out, which can be a little tricky if you're not paying attention to your surroundings, but other than that, the game is pretty straight forward. And I can dig that.
When a game tried to do too much, or add elements to it that doesn't fit or lessons the experience of the game, it's always noticeable. Sometimes I can appreciate the effort of the developers, but for the most part, I would rather have some honesty served to me. Don't B.S. me and try to make me think I'm getting more than I actually am. Be truthful to me, but more importantly, be truthful to your game. If you know what your game is and what it offers, own it and show some pride in what it is, not dwelling on what it could be with a bigger budget or anything like that.
It doesn't seem like this game will take much longer to beat, and that's OK with me. I'm really enjoying these short games recently, especially with some huge, time-consuming games on the shelf waiting for my free time. Not sure if I'll go back and try to wrap this game up or just let it walk into the sunset, as I haven't actually deleted it yet, but either way, I think I justified my purchase already.
I think so, at least.
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
NNID = The Noyse
3DS F.C. = 3007-8109-2329
STEAM = TheNoyse
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Games played for project : 365