Well, after a week of nothing but Sonic games, it's nice to actually get to write about other games for a chance, especially since this year is winding down and there are a few newer games that I want to sneak in before my project is complete. Did you notice that I said that I'm excited to write about different games, and didn't say play different games? Well that's because all throughout the week, I was actually playing a different game as well, but you know, I just couldn't write about it in order to keep the week of Sonic alive and well.
Throughout this year of gaming I've partaken in, my kids have been instrumental in helping me along the way. Granted, they didn't always know they were helping me directly with the blog itself, but they have been along with me all the way, from the first day and beyond. Sometimes they were just innocent bystanders while watching me play whatever it is I was playing. Other times, they inspired me to do an entire week of a series and rode out every minute of it with me. They have played games, suggested games and broke in new systems.with me. Sure, they haven't been around for every game or been apart of every blog post, but I can't help but give all three of them a significant amount of credit for keeping me dedicated and reminding me constantly how special video games were to me as a kid, and how much they still impact children's lives today.
The reason I brought this up is because with my daughter over at my apartment this weekend, in the midst of everything else, we played a bunch of Peggle 2, the newest downloadable title for the Xbox One. And when I say "we played a bunch," I totally mean that she played a bunch of Peggle 2 while I watched on, helping out when necessary. Surprisingly, however, it turns out my little five year old daughter is a rock star when it comes to Peggle 2, unbeknownst to me until this weekend.
She did awesome, plain and simple. I explained to her which buttons to push (simple controls are ideal for small people), and outlined the principle of the game, and she was set. Go for the red pegs, only go for the blue pegs if you have enough extra balls to do so or you need to clear a path to a red one, the purple pegs give you extra points and the green ones give you special abilities for a turn or two. Not only did she understand the concept, but she applied them perfectly. She ran through level after level, mostly without much trouble, unlocking new levels along the way for me.
Granted, she did get stuck on a couple of different levels, where I had to help her out with them, but for the most part, she cleared probably 25 levels or so on her own over the weekend. It was a fun and proud moment to see her just ripping through them, one after another. The best part was watching her face every time she beat a level, as it lit up with joy and excitement, genuinely proud of herself and her accomplishment.
For the record, her favorite character is the troll, mainly because of the giant boulder special attack it has, but also for the goat's head that explodes after beating each level. Yeah, she's my daughter alright.
So when I got my Xbox One, I had this weird feeling that the launch line-up for games was pretty weak. I couldn't get passed how few retail games I wanted to buy when I picked up my system, and how it seemed like I would be relying on the XBLA to supply me with games to play on the new console.
What I wasn't thinking about at the time, which had to be pointed out to me, was that because I got so many games for the PS4 that were cross-platform, that when looking for Xbox One games to get, the selection seemed a lot more limited than it actually was. Despite my own Jedi mind tricks on myself, I also have to point blame to Microsoft for launching after the PS4, because for everyone who took the plunge and bought both systems, they hindered themselves on game sales as the opportunity to buy "next=gen" games came a week earlier on the PS4. Sure, some gamers would still buy some of those games on the Xbox One because that would be their system of choice, just as how the PS4 is my system of choice, but either way, it's lost dollars however you want to slice it.
Anyway, because I wasn't buying a bunch of retail games for the Xbox One, I did want to jump in to the XBLA games more so than I normally would. I am kind of disappointed that Sony knew how to bring attention to the PSN buy giving away two, quality games for free while Microsoft refuses to give it's uses anything worthwhile at all, and nothing for early Xbox One adopters.
Well, one of the games I decided to try out was LocoCycle, which I have heard a lot about for what feels like forever now, but seemed to lose it's own hype once it was close to release. I had actually forgotten all about it until I was browsing the store, and thankfully Microsoft decided to give it a featured spot on the main page.
The main reason why I was even interested in this game at all was because it was developed by Twisted Pixel, the development team responsible for 'Splosion Man, Ms. 'Splosion man and quite possibly the best Kinect game available, The Gunstringer. Truth be told, 'Splosion Man was the first XBLA game I ever bought, and I loved every bit of it. Back then, I was hesitant to jump in to the downloadable game market, but the premise of the game was just too compelling to pass up.
Now, with LocoCycle, the team has taken everything they learned over the years to put together a very interesting, unique game. The gameplay is constantly transitioning from one type of game to another, seamlessly I might add. Just when you get used to a driving game, it tossed you right into a shooter. From there, you might go to a brawler or some other type of game, but either way, you really have no idea what you're going to be playing from one minute to the next.
There is also an interwoven live-action short film within the game, which breaks up the over-the-top gameplay with a fun and entertaining little movie, that is almost more ridiculous than the game itself. Fortunately, the game never takes itself seriously, and seems to be self aware more so than it lets on. There are hints of mild racism revolving around the Hispanic mechanic of IRIS, the talking bike, which some people in the journalism community has taken offense to. But if anything, it just feels juvenile, not intentionally offensive. While you have to imagine the development team didn't set out to be racist in anyway, I could understand how some people could be sensitive to it.
Regardless, I have had a good time playing this game, more so than I thought I would, but as much as I hoped to. So far I have been plenty entertained with the XBLA options offered up for the launch of the Xbox One, although I can't help but feel taken advantage of instead of appreciated like I did with Sony.
Take notes, Microsoft. If you want to stay competitive in this arms race, especially in the digital download independent games arms race, look at what Sony is doing with the PSN.
When I was talking about the XBLA marketplace, with it being really hard to find games that aren't featured or given a spotlight to catch buyers attention on the main page of the store, I was talking about this game. For some reason, Microsoft decided that despite it being a launch title for the Xbox One market, they weren't going to help promote it at all, burying it deep within the search pages of the store, making it almost impossible for browsers looking for new games to stumble across it.
And that's a shame.
Of all the non-retail downloadable titles, Powerstar Golf might be the shining star of them all. While it doesn't showcase the graphical and processing power of the new console like other games might, that shouldn't diminish the value and overall charm of this game. Apparently it was originally designed as a 360 game, but Microsoft decided to hold off on it and push it to the Xbox One, of course with some more polish to class it up a bit I;m sure.
I'm glad they decided to hold on to it, because if it had been a 360 release, I wouldn't have touched it, like most other games on the 360. But being on a new new system on launch day, I made it a point to check it out. You know, once I found it in the store of course.
Once you start playing the game, it's impossible not to make comparisons to the other popular arcade-style gold game that can be found on Sony platforms, most recently on the Vita. Hot Shots Golf is a great game and has dominated the market-share for this genre. But with the emergence of Powerstar Golf, now, hopefully they two competing franchises can push each other into making the best product possible.
I really like arcade golf games for the simple fact of how over the top unrealistic they are. Tiger Woods golf games are fun, but almost too realistic, and are usually more stressful then they need to be. Just like real golf! With games like Powerstar Golf, however, I never feel rushed, or stressed or anxious to be perfect. I just get up to the ball and mash it and hope for the best.
Sure, there is a considerable amount of skill and strategy involved with this game, just like any other golf game. But the simplicity and ease of which anyone can just jump into a round makes the game very approachable by golf fans and gamers alike. In this new franchise, there is an added RPG style element to the development of your characters, as everything you do on the course nets you XP that goes to upgrading your golfer. Throughout the round, random challenges will pop up left and right, giving you a hefty payday of XP when and if you complete them while playing. And if you don't, there is no penalty, so no worries there.
The characters themselves are over the top and come with their own set of special abilities, and the option to select different caddies that have their own personalities and ways to contribute is a nice touch. Most everything in the game is interchangeable, which adds a level of depth unseen in a lot downloadable-only titles.
Granted, this isn't the best launch game you will play, but you will be hard pressed to find a better one within the XBLA marketplace. Especially since you can't find anything easily anyway.
It's a growing trend in the indie video game side of the business that games are being developed lacking key, distinct plot points and/or unclear or open-ended endings, thus forcing players to develop their own meanings and reasons for the game they just experienced, opening up the dialogue for conversation. While the bigger, "AAA" titles tend to be more straight forward, spelling it out for the player, indie games have a lot more freedom to be creative, quirky and left open to interpretation.
While there were a few games before Limbo to go this route of story telling and forced critical thinking, Limbo was the game that thrust this new way of looking at how games should be experienced into mainstream recognition. And ever since it was released on the XBLA, so many indie games have tried to replicate not only the success, but the emotional experience this game brought to the consciousness of gamers everywhere.
Few have accomplished this feat, but even when they do, they are still compared to the likes of Limbo.
Basically, Limbo is the hipster game of the genre.
I first bought this game after it had came out on XBLA, when Microsoft was having its end of the year sale, where they teased the upcoming titles they would put on sale. My friend and I both knew Limbo was coming, based on the hints, and that night, we both waited up until midnight to see it go on sale so we could pick it up. Consider it a midnight launch party, except we were just texting back and forth. Oddly enough, this was one of the first games that we both owned and purchased at the same time, meaning we were able to experience and share notes about the game at the same time. I think that first night I stayed up for a few hours, glued to the game, which is crazy considering it was just an XBLA game. But man, crazy or not, it was so worth it.
This game is amazing. I simply don't know how else to put it. Today it was released for the PS Vita, which of course I bought, and it is still the amazing game now that it was back then. In fact, I almost think this game was originally built to run on a handheld like the Vita, because this system is ideal for games like Limbo - especially with the ability to just suspend the game on a whim, and return back to that point whenever you so choose. While Limbo is great in long playthroughs, I really believe it is better in slightly shorter sessions, to allow you to sit back and reflect on what you just experienced.
I really do enjoy this game, and even though I beat the original XBLA version of this game a couple of times, I am still struggling to remember all the easy solutions to the platforming puzzles. I shouldn't have a problem, but the beautiful yet creep atmosphere and overall sad, melancholy tone of the game completely distracts me from the task at hand, usually. At least I am distracted by in-game things rather than being bored with the game itself so much that my mind starts to wander off.
If you have a Vita and still haven't pulled the trigger on this game up until now, NOW is the chance. Apparently, the totally awesome cross-buy promotion is in full force for this title, so you can have your cake and eat it to. Or something like that...
Over the last month or so, in the midst of all my personal issues, I have learned to rediscover and rely on Netflix to keep me entertained in the wee hours of the night. My insomnia has reared its ugly head back into my sleep habits, and while playing games is extremely difficult when you're tired and still unable to sleep. In lieu of late night gaming sessions, I have instead turned to Netflix to keep my mind from wandering and attempt to keep myself somewhat sane.
One specific category I have gravitated to is the Documentary section, as I have found several interesting documentaries to watch that are far and beyond more interesting and entertaining than half of the garbage movies found on Netflix. One of these hidden gems I stumbled upon was a film called Indie Game: The Movie. It is a documentary that focused on the development team of Super Meat Boy as they were finishing up the game, as well as Phil Fish, the developer of FEZ, on his struggling journey of developing the long-awaited and highly-anticipated game.
The movie doesn't cast a warm and fuzzy light on the indie game industry by any stretch of the imagination. The developers that they follow are sad, depressed and desperate to finish their games. Fish, who is shown in the middle of a viscous legal battle for the rights to continue developing and showing off the game with a vindictive ex-business partner.
FEZ, the game he is shown working on, had one problem after another. It was first shown off one year, and went several years after that before any new information, screens, videos or demos ever came out again. He ran into one problem after another in the development in the cycle, and people started to question whether it would ever come out. Well, it did, last year on the Xbox 360, and I gladly bought it then. I played it, beat it and loved it immensely. The long wait and hard work paid off for Phil Fish, as the game was an instant success and one of the true masterpieces of the XBLA.
Well, FEZ was re-released for the PC this week, and because Steam is a vicious, unforgiving money-grabbing rabbit hole, I bought it - again. Tonight, I plugged in my Xbox controller, fired up my laptop, opened up Steam, and jumped back in to the beautiful, imaginative world that Gomez (the character) is discovering for the first time.
Playing this game tonight made me think of something profound, and literally by sheer coincidence. You see, last night, as I was playing Thomas Was Alone, I was also helping my cousin write a paper for his English class in college about whether or not the college education experience is meant to simply guide you along a career path and tell you what to think, or to open your mind and teach you how to think. There was one analogy in the book he was reading that struck me as powerful, and was the core concept of the paper being written. It was a story about a group of fish, where the older fish looks at the couple of younger fish as they are swimming along and asks them, "How's the water today?" The younger fish look at each other confused, turn back to the older fish and ask, "What's water?"
The principle idea is that people are so focused in today's society, especially in college, in figuring out their path through life that they don't ever really see or notice the world around them. And that, folks, is EXACTLY what the game FEZ is about. Living in a world where you think what you see is the only thing that is reality, until someone opens your eyes and you see the real world around you for the first time.
Now I could go on and on about what the game is about, how it plays, how fantastically gorgeous it is - but that is exactly what you want me to do. Instead, I challenge you to go play the game - whether it be on XBLA or Steam - and discover what it's like to learn how to think. Go, be the young fish and discover what water is.
Besides, these indie developers need your help. They are a depressed group of talented people, and every dollar you give them will help bring them a little bit closer to happiness.
For tonight's game and blog posting to accompany it, I chose to play one of my most favorite games from the last few years - Bastion. I heard it brought up on a podcast I was listening to today, which seems to be a major source of inspiration for the games I pick these days, and so I decided to go back and revisit it.
When I played it for the first time, I had no idea I would fall in love with it the way I did. Going back and playing it again tonight, I felt that same charm and allure that I did back then, which is comforting and energizing, as well as refreshing to know that it wasn't just a fling I had with the game, but instead, a true love.
I want to do something different for this blog post, however. I want to share with you all the review that I wrote for it back when it was released, because honestly, I can't recapture how I felt about the game as well tonight as I did back then. I wrote with pure affinity and admiration for what I played and experienced, and so, I want to share that with you all.
Remember, I wrote this when the game came out, so keep that in mind as you read it, for context purposes. Hope you enjoy!
Every story has a beginning. Every game needs a narrator…
The annual Xbox Live “Summer of Arcade” event kicked off this year with a surprising title called Bastion, a game that not only shatters expectations of “Arcade” titles, but comes dangerously close to breaking down the fourth wall as it’s known in the process.
Bastion is classified as an action RPG game, and that was my first concern. Admittedly, I am not much of a fan of games from that genre, so going in I had reservations about the game play. Seeing previews of the game beforehand, I knew what to expect, and I was hoping the gorgeous visual design and ever-so-intriguing narrator would be enough to make up for the style of game it actually was. My somewhat low expectations were quickly smashed within the first few moments from the game, and by the time my character first stepped foot on The Bastion (a floating battle hub, if you will), I had already forgotten what I was worried about in the first place.
You play as a character known simply as “The Kid,” and the game starts off with you waking up on a floating rock. As you wiggle the joystick to move for the first time, the narrator who just got done explaining that every story has a beginning, somehow notices that you have awoken and gotten up. In his raspy, Marlboro Man voice, he begins to not just narrate the story, but narrate The Kid’s every action. As the ground begins to form under your feet from the world down below, the narrator walks you through every step of your journey.
The seamless transition from how he is seemingly explaining to The Kid what his purpose of being there is, to almost talking to you, the player, what The Kid is encountering, is nothing short of spectacular. And don’t think the narrator is just there to streamline the story … he will comment on all aspects of the game play. If you accidently roll off the ledge of the floating pathway, the narrator will chime in, saying something like, “They have meant to build guard rails there…” or “… and The Kid falls to his death. Just kidding…” (as you reappear back on the path, slightly lower in health). One time I got carried away smashing everything I could to collect some extra fragments (the main currency in the game.) After a while of smashing and not advancing the story, the narrator interrupted the mayhem, saying, “The Kid keeps on smashing everything in sight … like he is going to get a special reward for doing so.” Needless to say, I immediately stopped my destruction spree and moved along, feeling almost shameful for keeping the narrator from doing his job, like I had interrupted the flow of his story for my own guilty pleasure.
Never has a video game made me feel bad for how I played it. But then again, never has there been a game quite like Bastion with an intangible quite like the narrator … and that is what makes this game special.
Once your character reaches The Bastion, you meet Rucks for the first time, who it turns out is the mysterious voice who has guided you there. How could an actual character have been narrating your journey? Before that, you assumed the narrator was an ominous-type being, but the fact he is in flesh, right in front of you, only brings up more questions than answers. And that seems to be the reoccurring theme throughout the game.
As you progress, you get more and more information about what is going on. Something called the “Great Calamity” has all but destroyed life as you known it, allowing dark creatures to infest the ruins of your now-shattered world. The more you play, the more of the story you get. Trying to explain what is going on halfway through the game is an impossible task, as it is not until the final moments of the game where everything seems to make sense … or does it? Personal interpretation of what you just played seems to be the catalyst for describing the story.
As open as the story is, the visual aspect of the game is as sharp as it is whimsical. The game looks like a cross between a cell-shaded game and a watercolor painting. The colors are bright and vibrant, especially for being about the last remaining life. As the path builds stone by stone, it is easy to get lost in the design and forget that games can be beautiful and simple at the same time.
Another thing easily forgotten is the fact that it is still an action RPG. All the basic fundamentals are there, from upgrading your weapons, to obtaining XP with every kill or item collected, and even being able to customize your two-weapon/one-special ability load out. The game plays like your normal dungeon crawl game, as enemies lurk around every corner of every path. Between every level, you recharge back at The Bastion, where after constructing the buildings, you can change which weapons you will head out to battle with, as well as upgrade them with acquired materials. You can also activate drinks that add different abilities or health to your character, with more slots available as you level up your character with XP.
To add even more customization to the game, you collect different idols throughout your journey that represent different Gods. If you choose, you can activate one or more of these idols, which will evoke the selected deities to add different degrees of difficulty to the game. Naturally though, the more idols you activate, the more XP you get as you play. What fun would it be to make the game hard be if you weren’t rewarded for it, right?
Long story short, the game has all the classic elements of an action RPG, but the overall experience of the game makes you quickly forget that classification. If all games were as good and fun as Bastion, I would be an action RPG super-fan.
The game also sounds as good as it looks, if not better. Aside from the amazingly-awesome narrator, the soundtrack is fantastic. There is one level in particular where a song is playing in the background that is simply captivating. To be honest, I don’t even remember how the level played, but I do remember turning up my TV as I got lost in the song. Arcade games usually have no business in making soundtracks this good.
Speaking of being an arcade game, it has only 200 achievement points out there to get. I am proud to say that this is officially the first game I have ever completed every achievement for, and while I only had to play through the story twice, I enjoyed every step of the way. Unfortunately, however, now that I have completed everything there is to do in Bastion, I don’t ever foresee returning the captivating world of The Kid, his personal narrator and his quest to undo what was done.
There are online leader boards for the main story, as well as the three dream quests found in the game, but unless you are uber-competitive, the only real reason to strive for high scores is to top your friends. Taking into consideration the fact that there is no real explanation as to how point totals are given, the leader board concept seems flawed at best.
For such a special game, I feel a little slighted by the fact that once you are done, you are done. I wouldn’t mind having Rucks tell me that I’m wasting time smashing meaningless stuff again, but there just isn’t the reason to do so. But I wish there was, because I had so much fun exploring the destroyed world, hearing the story and making some tough choices at the end of it all.
As someone who doesn’t normally like or play action RPG games, Bastion stole my heart and made me an instant fan of the genre. The narrator gives Bastion that “it” factor every great game has. The visual representation of imagination is simply breathtaking, and the soundtrack is riveting, if not down-right beautiful. While the game doesn’t offer much once all achievements are completed, the want and desire for more is a clear indication that the team at Supergiant Games made a great game, and one that I feel I drastically under paid for at the Xbox Live price equivalent of $15. So much for the normal summer drought of good, quality games, huh?
SPOILER ALERT: Curb your excitement, PC fans, for I did not play this game on PC tonight, but rather the Xbox 360, thanks to that cool little program called Xbox Live Arcade. Proceed with disappointment, PC lovers.
OK, now that we are past that awkward moment as I broke the hearts of everyone eager for me to play a PC game, allow me to explain why I chose to play Portal tonight. You see, on Twitter the other day, EverydayGamers.com posted a question for their podcast wondering what games we have loved after giving them a second chance, because the first time we didn't like them. I responded with: "Portal, and there is a funny and sad story behind it as well."
Well, listening to their podcast today, they read my response, and then almost challenged me to write about the funny and sad story on my blog, because I had left my initial answer at that, and well, curiosity is always the best way to rope people in. So, here we are, as I am about to share one of the darkest and most embarrassing gamer stories I have. Brace yourselves, and feel free to mock me afterwards, as I realize I probably deserve it.
I bought this game on XBLA a few years ago, mainly because it was drastically marked down. I really had no ambition to play it before then, but a buddy that I worked with insisted I play it, because apparently it was the best thing ever. Since it was on sale, and knowing that I was probably the only one in the world to have no idea what this game was even about, I went on his recommendation and picked it up. "I've wasted a few bucks on worse things," was my thought as I purchased it. Remember folks, this was a smash-hit PC game before Xbox, and I wasn't exactly in the know when it came to PC gaming. When it came over to the Xbox via The Orange Box, I paid it no attention, because really, they were all just PC games ported to a console. My interest level was at an all-time minimum.
So I started up the game. First thing I remember thinking, which I remembered tonight, was how messed up it was to make you start out in a human cage for several minutes with no way of escaping until it chose to let you out, all while watching a clock with no abilities other than "jump." If it's possible to feel claustrophobic in a video game, that's it. You pretty much feel dumb right off the bat because it seems like you should be able to do something to get out, but alas, you cannot. Just sit there with a disembodied robot voice talking to you.
Waiting. Jump. Jump. Waiting. Waiting. Jump. Until he mysterious portal opens.
SO I played through the first couple of rooms, getting a hang for the basic principles of the game that would prove to be instrumental in getting through the game. You know, like placing blocks on pressure-activated switches and such. Everything was going fine, no problems. Game was playing pretty much how I expected it to. No hiccups, but no real excitement either. Then I get my hands on the Portal Gun. And that's really when the story begins.
You see, I made it through the first, oh, two rooms or so with the gun. Then I came to a test chamber that would forever haunt my gaming psyche. There was an orange portal that I just came though, and two gaps, both with stairs only on side, with the exit on the other side of one of the gaps. All I had to do was cross that gap, somehow, and advance.
Well, as it turns out, I had not wrapped my head around how the Portal Gun, or the portals for that matter, worked or what physics were behind them. I kid you not, I spent well over a half of a hour in that room trying to cross the gap, and I could not get. I finally got so mad at the game and the inability to figure out what should have been an easy first part of the game, I quit it and vowed to never return. A few dollars down the drain.
A few weeks had passed, and my buddy at work asked how I was liking it. I revealed to him that I hated it, never wanted to play it again. He asked why, of course, and I told him it was due to my frustrations with the unsolvable problem. I tried to explain which room I was in, since he had beaten it several times over the years, but I couldn't explain it well enough. I'm sure he thought I was much, much farther into the game than I was, based on me actually being stuck. I resulted to sketching out the entire room on a white board we had in our shop. I located the portal I came though, where I needed to get to and why I couldn't figure out where to place the blue portal to make it happen.
I probably took as long explaining my problem as I spent actually trying to solve it. When it finally clicked to him what my problem was, he gave me the most dirty, disapproving look one gaming friend could ever give to another. Seriously, it was like just erased his maxed out WoW character by accident or something. It was bad. I knew what that meant, too.
It meant I was stupid. So stupid he felt bad for even having to tell me how stupid I was. He drew out the solution, but I didn't get it. He drew it out again (with different color pens and all), and I still didn't get it. Now he was confused how I could still be confused.
Then it clicked. I almost wish I hadn't asked him for help, because of how stupid I felt, and how much of his time I wasted because of my stupidity. I'm pretty sure I still owe him to this day for it, actually.
You see, up until it all clicked and the proverbial light bulb turned on, I had thought, for some reason I will never be able to fully justify, that you could only exit through the orange portals and only enter through the blue portals. Yes, you read that right. I associated the colors of the portals with the the direction from which you came or went through them. So basically, the only thing I had to do was shoot a blue portal on the wall next to the exit and then walk back through the orange portal, and I would have been well on my way. But because I thought I could only exit through the orange, I was trying everything I could think of to place the blue portal in spots that I could fall through, coming out of the orange portal and then trying to somehow make it over the gap. I can't even truly explain what I was doing or what my mindset was at the time, because of how ridiculous it was.
Once I discovered you could come and go as you please through either one of the portals, despite their color, I saw that game in a whole new light. I think I ended up beating it in one sitting the next time I played it, just so I could scream from the mountain tops that I had beaten it. I honestly don't even think the puzzles ever really stumped me from that point on, and even the boss fight went smooth. Finding out that idiotic yet crucial information about how the portals worked made me feel like Bradley Cooper's character in the movie Limitless - pretty much an unstoppable wrecking ball.
So playing tonight, I wanted to kind of relive the worst and most embarrassing memory of gaming that I have. Well, the most recent one at least. When I got to that room, I just looked around and couldn't believe I ever got stuck in there. If I had just bothered to try to walk through the orange portal, all that could have been avoided.
I played past that part tonight, of course, as I had pretty much forgotten everything about the game because of that one room. That one room. It's a fun game, no doubt, but Portal 2 was way better. I'm sure I will be playing that sometime this year as well.
Oh, and remember, the cake is a lie. But unfortunately, my stupidity is not.
Game of the Year awards are still trickling in from various media outlets - yes, three weeks into the new year, but I digress - and while Mark of the Ninja hasn't won GOTY anywhere I have seen, it has been nominated and in a lot of top tens throughout the internet. It should be noted that I have seen it win "Downloadable GOTY" or "XBLA GOTY", but not the flat out GOTY overall.
So anyway, I kind of ignored the game when it came out, for no real reason other than I probably had way too much to play at the time. It did come out on XBLA and was a critically acclaimed success right off the bat. Fast forward to tonight, when I was scrolling through my games catalog on my Xbox, and imagine my surprise to find that I actually had downloaded it a while ago, and simply forgot about it. Probably isn't the first, or last, game that will happen with ... I can guarantee that.
So I played it. On the heels of being disappointing by the newest Ninja Gaiden offering, I was prime to be wowed by this ninja game. As I was playing it, I thought the only appropriate way to blog about this game would be in haiku. So without further adieu, here is The Noyse's first official gaming haiku:
Ninja in the dark
Silent kills, death by the sword
Best ninja ever?
I enjoyed this game. But I didn't love this game, as much as everyone else at least. Maybe I just need more time with it. While the sneaking around, being stealthy is pretty fun, the controls seems iffy at times, and the combat system is based solely on being stealthy. You can't confront enemies head on, even if you are accidentally noticed. Your only chance is to run, hide and wait it out. Trust me, that gets old after a while.
I do love the art style. But I also wish the game didn't blur the lines between modernized enemies and weaponry and the ancient art of ninjas. I want a ninja game based in ancient times, when ninjas were at the height of importance. Being a ninja trying to avoid laser beams while stylistic Asian culture sets the scene is just weird to me.
Like I said, I need to put more time in with this game. I won't mind doing so, as it is easy to pick up and play on a whim it seems. Unless I forget I have it again, and if that's the case, well, it was fun while it lasted.
Let's get to the point. The Kinect for the Xbox 360 sounded good on paper, before it was released. All the tech demos, videos, and hype made it out to be the best gaming invention since analog sticks on a controller.
Well, then it came out. And while it was fun for a bit, to play dancing games with your friends or show off how sorta-well the motion captioning worked, it got old and stale quickly. Then games, regular games, starting implementing Kinect controls into their games for no other reason than Microsoft paid them a bunch of money to do so. Games like Halo, using Kinect to throw grenades simply by yelling out "GRENADE!", and other crap like that. Sure, it was nice, I guess, to have the option to use them, but didn't anyone really utilize them in Mass Effect 3? I would bet not.
I've had some fun with my Kinect, but honestly, if I hadn't won it in a contest, I probably wouldn't own one to this day. My kids have gotten a lot of enjoyment from it, but they have problems using it thanks to the inconsistent camera, iffy lighting in our game room and just not enough space to make it worth while. Sure, we got a Nyko Zoom for the camera, shortening the distance needed for proper connectivity, but it's still hit and miss.
That being said, I decided to try out a Kinect game I've had for a while but never bothered to play ... until now. I tried out Wreckateer, a game I downloaded from the XBLA shop. The concept is simple. You fling ammunition (rocks, cannon balls, explosives, etc.) at castles and try to knock them down, earning more points and medals for doing more and more damage.
Sound familiar? It is. It was only missing some birds and pigs, basically. It's pretty much a straight Angry Birds ripoff, set in medieval times (when else would you use catapults?) and slapped with the motion gaming gimmick.
It was a little fun, for a while. But once the controls started going haywire and the game play got repetitive (which was quickly), I was pretty much done with it. All it made me want to do was play Angry Birds, to be honest. I admire developers for trying with games like these, but I think it's more the Kinect's fault then it is the game's being bad. There have been some good Kinect games, like The Gunstringer, but for the most part, it's filled with a bunch of repetitive gaming.
I know I will probably play a few more Kinect games for this project, and maybe I will try to rope my kids into playing with me to make it a little easier to swallow. Can't say I'm looking forward to it, though. And with talks of an all new Kinect sensor coming with the impending new Xbox system, and while I am cautiously optimistic, I think Microsoft needs to realize that maybe the Kinect isn't the best new innovation in gaming since the analog sticks.
Leave the gaming revolutions to Nintendo.
I'm not going to lie, this weekend has been a pretty horrific one for me. Sure, I would have spent the same amount of time watching football that I did had I not been sick, but having the Flu of Death has not made anything done these past couple of weeks enjoyable. While I am feeling significantly better than I was, say, two days ago, I'm not near 100% by any stretch of the imagination. I'm down to all the little annoying symptoms, like running nose, severe coughing and body fatigue. When I'm not sneezing or or blowing my nose, I'm coughing, and when I'm doing any of them, my chest is hurting. Plain and simple, I still don't feel like myself, and that's all I want right now.
I know none of this has to do with gaming, and it's not the reason any of you are coming here to read this blog. But how I'm feeling tonight did impact which game I decided to play. Deadlight, an XBLA game that was released as part of the Summer of Arcade this past summer, is a unique twist on the zombie game genre. Yes, a zombie game: because that's how I have felt recently. Oh, and it takes place in rainy Seattle, which low and behold, is damn near my stomping grounds. And it rained today.
When I first got this game last summer, I was so excited for it before hand. It had a decent amount of hype surrounding it, considering it was just an XBLA game. Everything I had read and saw about it then made me feel like this was going to be just an amazing, mind-blowing gaming experience. And then I played it. And I felt then what I felt tonight, playing it. So much potential, poor execution.
Granted, I felt like a zombie tonight while playing, but I'm pretty sure that didn't hinder my experience. If anything, it should have enhanced it. But as I sit here, deciding how much further I want to play to see where the story takes me, I have to ask myself if it's worth it. I didn't finish the game back then and I really don't feel like finishing it now. It's not that Deadlight is a bad game, I just thought it would be better.
The visuals are stunning, in a grim, dirty, dark kind of way, but the puzzles are repetitive, and finding clues about the story just isn't that interesting. I think I've been spoiled with other awesome zombie games recently, so even going back to this game now, it just doesn't hold my interest.
Neat little game, just not one I can spend significant time playing. Like I said, I have better zombie games to play. Even if I might not make it to them...
My Year of Gaming – Project Stats
Games played: 6
Systems played on: NES = 1, PS Vita = 1, PS3 = 2, WiiU = 1, Xbox 360 = 1
Total time played: 8.25 hours
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