Category Archives: Playstation

Rule of Rose (Retro Game Review)

I’ve got a new video review up. It looks at the rare and somewhat controversial PlayStation 2 game, Rule of Rose. Check it out if you’re into survival horror.

What I’m Playing This Week

Between the long weekend and being off sick from work one day last week, I’ve had a chance to play a lot of games over the past little while. Here’s what I’ve been playing.

Gravity Ghost

Gravity Ghost

I picked this one up a while ago and just tried it out this past week. What a thoroughly charming game. It has a great art style that looks like pastels on dark construction paper and very relaxing gameplay. It’s about a little ghost girl who is searching the cosmos for her lost fox friend and it manages to be both sad and uplifting. Each level has you collecting stars, or sometimes reuniting animal spirits with their bodies. The game plays with gravity, with different types of celestial bodies causing different reactions and pulls on your character. While there’s a bit of a puzzle solving element in reaching your goals, its also feasible to just float around until you find your way there. Like a happy accident.

Undertale

I heard this was a great RPG and I was interested to try it out, but not in any rush. When I heard the gameplay used bullet hell mechanics my need to play became more pressing. Undertale is quite charming. It’s full of wit and humour and put a smile on my face at times. However, I’m not overly fond of the gameplay. During combat, you can attack opponents or interact with them in some other way. When you get attacked is where the bullet hell mechanics come in and they really aren’t great. It’s basically a tiny box in the middle of your screen with your character represented by a heart and you need to move around to avoid objects that start moving through the box. I guess that’s technically what a bullet hell (minus the quite important ‘shooter’ bit) is, but it’s not fun or flashy and you have to move around with your keyboard. Ew.

Undertale’s big draw is that it subverts normal RPG tropes. The biggest one being that you don’t have to kill monsters – you can talk to them or interact with them in some way to make them surrender. However, without killing things you gain no XP so the no-kill route is the harder path. I’ve heard people complain when things get too tough that they don’t want to ruin their no-kill playthrough. There’s something very unnatural feeling about this – choosing how you’ll play a game beforehand. Placing these kinds of restrictions on yourself, and having gameplay that totally supports and even encourages this, feels  strange. Inorganic. My favourite parts of many RPGs are being able to use your character’s particular set of skills to complete an objective without combat. Often pumping skill points into things like Intellect or Charisma means you’re not as good of a fighter when combat is unavoidable. Undertale takes this to a whole other level by completely removing any measure of character progression, a very important part of an RPG, and replacing it with… feeling good about yourself for not killing monsters? It does raise questions about how much punishment you’re willing to take to do the “good” thing, but I’m still in the camp that thinks gameplay should be enjoyable. Maybe I’ll write some more about this when I’m further in.

The Beginner’s Guide

The Beginner's Guide

The Beginner’s Guide is… a game. It’s from one of the co-creators of The Stanley Parable, which I loved. This game, on the other hand, I didn’t love as much. It tells the story of a developer named Coda. A narrator walks the player through games created by Coda, giving us his interpretation of what they say about their creator. I think The Beginner’s Guide has some very apt things to say about player entitlement and not respecting the boundaries, of projecting ones own needs and interpretations onto games and their creators. The problem is that it’s just not very fun or interesting to play. The games we’re introduced to are all quite dull, and the narration becomes very disturbing by the end. So, while I appreciate some of the messages, the game itself was repellent to me. What I do like though, is all of the great discussion it has spawned. See Cameron Kunzelman’s review at Paste, or Laura Hudson’s article at Offworld, or Spidey J’s post on Medium.

Silent Hill

PS1 and PS2 survival horror games hold a special place in my heart, but I’ve never beaten Silent Hill. I played it as a teenager, for a very brief amount of time. The sound the radio made when monsters were near creeped me the fuck out and I quit. I maybe played for 30 minutes.

Now I’m older, wiser, and hopefully braver, so I’ve started playing again. I’ve made it to the school, so I’m already doing better. While the graphics of the PS1 don’t hold up particularly well the game still manages to be unnerving. The fixed camera angles are effective and the sound effects are chilling. I’m not thrilled with the tank controls but I want to know what happens enough to continue on.

Out There

Out There

Out There is a mobile game. I’ve very selective about which mobile games I play, but an article by Kaitlin Tremblay on Playboy.com got me interested in this one. It’s a roguelike, a genre I’m generally not interested in, but I liked the concept. You play an astronaut, lost somewhere, in some galaxy, trying to find your way home. You jump from planet to planet, searching for resources that will keep you going, technologies that will help you, and even meet aliens. The events you encounter are mysterious, often deadly, and always deftly written. The resource management aspect of the game is very difficult and you will die a lot. I’d love to reach the end of the game but I’m pretty much done with it now. I enjoyed the couple hours I spent with it though.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong

The Shadowrun series keeps getting better. This isometric, cyberpunk, RPG sends you to China, where your foster father has been killed. Soon you find yourself wanted by the police and need to become a shadowrunner to find out what’s going on. The game sends you on all kinds of interesting missions where you can solve problems with force, magic, wits, or technology.

Shadowrun’s gameplay keeps getting smoother and more refined, and the stories and missions more interesting. Dragonfall was good, but ran a little bit long, around 30 hours. Hong Kong clocks in around 15-18 hours which I thought was a perfect length. I’m even replaying this one to see some things I missed, which is quite an endorsement as I almost never replay games immediately. Also, this game is full of lady characters! So many of the major players are women which is always nice to see.

Hope, Hype, Disappointment – The Last Guardian and FF7

Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favourite games of all time. It’s a beautiful, haunting game with a story, atmosphere, and heartbreaking battles that have lingered with me for years. When The Last Guardian, a spiritual successor, was shown at E3 2009 I was stoked. It had a similar feel, the same beautiful lighting and magnificent architecture. Where SotC featured a man and his horse, TLG showed a relationship between a boy and his giant griffin. It looked lovely, and I was more than ready for another great experience from Team Ico.

Then, nothing. Year after year, The Last Guardian was notably absent from Sony’s press conferences and release schedules. Each year I hoped to get a brief tidbit, a hint it was still happening, but for 5 years I was disappointed. Then, last night it was back. But it was too late. Prior to this year’s E3 I had decided I didn’t care about this game anymore, and declared it vapourware. I had been strung along for far too long, disappointed too many times.

There was a brief glimmer of surprise and delight during the conference when I first realized they would actually be showing something this year, but it quickly faded. As I watched the gameplay footage I felt very little. I think annoyance at the voice of a young boy calling the birddog repeatedly was the main thing I felt, and it didn’t seem that I was seeing anything really new. Certainly not 6 years worth of new.

The Last Guardian

The constant vocalizations for the griffin in order to overcome platforming puzzles seemed to draw much more from Ico (which I was never a fan of) than Shadow of the Colossus. Worst of all, the gameplay just didn’t look very engaging. Maybe after 6 years they counted on people being so desperate for scraps of information that they’d take anything, but I was disappointed by the showing. Dull footage, barely any actual talk about the game, and a vague 2016 release date.

I think this may be a case of excitement and constant disappointment slowly turning into resentment, and I though the presentation was too little, far too late. Hopefully the game will surprise me when it’s further along in development (if it ever gets to that point).

Sony made another huge announcement last night, and that’s Final Fantasy 7 finally getting a remaster. Though this is something I’ve been hoping for for even longer than TLG, my reaction to this was one of elation. I’m so excited to be able to play one of the games that meant the most to me and really got me back into consoles back in the late 90s, and have it look nice. Those polygons just don’t age very well. Though Sony and Square Enix have made some dick moves regarding this in the past – showing a FF7 tech demo for the PS3 release, announcing a port of the original to PS4, announcing some teeny tiny FF world thing last night right before the remake reveal – they never really entertained the idea of a remake. So for the past 10 years of so I’ve felt a low key kind of hope that they’d remake it eventually, while understanding that it might never happen. But now it’s happening. I may have cried during the trailer.

The Sony presser was quite a roller coaster of emotions.

What do you think about Sony’s big announcements? Excited?

Tips for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The long awaited Witcher 3 was just released. This third and final installment introduces open world gameplay, and though some aspects of the game have been streamlined, there’s still a lot to learn as you’re playing. Here are a few tips I’ve learned as I’ve been playing. I’ve played on normal, on XB1. This post is spoiler free.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

General

  • The Bestiary is important. Unlike most games, it doesn’t just give history but actual useful information. Before fighting monsters, check the bestiary for its weaknesses to certain items, bombs, or signs.
  • When you pick up books, make sure to give them a read before you ditch them, they may add something to your Bestiary.
  • Meditate. You can do it pretty much anywhere out of combat. It will refill your health (on most difficulties), and restock your potions.
  • You can usually find armor and weapon enhancers in towns or outposts, use them when you see them for a temporary upgrade.
  • If you’re short on money, keep an eye out for treasures and caches on the map.
  • If you come across a monster nest you need to destroy, walk up to it and you should get a button prompt. Don’t just toss bombs at it.

Travel

  • You can fast travel at signposts, but do it too often and you’ll risk missing things out in the world.
  • If you’re mounted you can hold down A and your horse will follow the path without having to be steered.
  • You can fight while mounted.

Items

  • Pick up everything (but don’t spend hours picking flowers, unless that’s what you’re into). The inventory UI isn’t great, but you can generally use items to craft things, or disassemble them into crafting mats.
  • You only need to make things like potions once. After this, they are replenished during meditation using alcohol.
  • An item called Potion of Clearance will let you reassign your skill points, but costs 1000g. The first place I found one of these was Keira’s hut.
  • Repair your equipment when you can, but don’t waste money repairing the junk you plan to sell or disassemble. Repair kits are also sold and come in handy in dungeons.

Leveling and Quests

  • In this game, you have to ‘equip’ skills, and in the beginning you only get 3. So it’s best to pick a couple favourite abilities (I like to focus on fast attacks and Igni) and put many points into them rather than spreading them out over many abilities.
  • Equip a mutagen that will buff your most important equipped skills (they’ll be the same colour).
  • Do all the available side quests before you face your first big enemy. Experience and gold were a bit hard to come by at the start of the game.
  • Check the bounty board in each new town.
  • Secondary quests can vary wildly in level. Make sure you check the level of the quest before tackling it, you generally want to be within 2 levels of it.

Combat

  • This is the first Witcher game where you have a ranged weapon, so don’t forget about it. While it doesnt do a lot against armored enemies, it’s good when things are out of range or in the air.
  • Dodge a lot. Parry enemies with swords. Attack from the back.
  • You’ll sometimes have a companion with you in combat – let them serve as a distraction so you can attack from the back.
  • If your offensive signs aren’t proving effective against certain enemy types, Quen is always a good choice.
  • You can only assign 2 potions or foods to hotkeys, but you can also consume them from the inventory screen.
  • You can eat and drink in combat.

When in doubt…

  • Use your Witcher sense (L2). It’s necessary for many quests. Quest-related items and locations will glow red, while objects you can loot will glow orange.
  • Use Aard. If you’re stuck, there may be a door you can knock down or rubble that can be cleared with your telekinetic burst.
  • Check your quest log.

Have fun!

Silent Hills – Teasers, Promise, and Disappointment

Silent Hills has been cancelled. For horror fans and gamers in general, it was one of the most hyped games announced last year, and for good reason. It was to be a collaboration between Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear Solid, and Guillermo Del Toro, director, writer, and producer of a number of great dark fantasy movies. It would star Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead (and the really terrible Boondock Saints). Having such prominent names attached to this game meant it cast a wide net and got its hooks into a lot of people.

PT hallway

The biggest hype came from the playable teaser, aptly named P.T. When it was first released, it wasn’t billed as a teaser for a Silent Hill game. It wasn’t until people had solved the final puzzle that a trailer played, revealing that the next game in the Silent Hill series, Silent Hills, was happening.

P.T. was, to put it plainly, an amazing game. It was one of my best gaming experiences of 2014. But was it a successful trailer? From the wailing and rending of garments happening all over the internet since the cancellation was made official, I suppose the answer is yes. But for me, P.T. had the opposite of the intended effect. It provided a tight, harrowing experience in a perfect little package and made me question whether a full length game could improve or even match its quality. The mechanics of P.T. were simple – you walked around and you looked at things, zooming in on certain objects to trigger events. The environment was tiny – a hallway, a bathroom, and a small basement that you looped around continuously. The limited scope of the game, I would argue, is what made it so special.

When you’re confined to a small area, everything can be controlled. The player experience can be engineered down to the smallest detail. There’s no wandering off to collect ammo or health packs, no pausing to read a codex or a quest log, no inventory management. Player choice and branching paths can be great, but there’s also something to say for a gaming experience which removes all but the most basic choices from you (do you really want to turn around?) and delivers the exact experience the creator intended.

I was so impressed by P.T., was provided with so much fun and terror as I played through it with a group of friends, that my outlook for Silent Hills was bleak from the get go. It was just too good to be a teaser. Could a more open world provide such a consistently tense atmosphere? Could a full length game keep me on the edge of my seat like this? Would the addition of fumbling combat or having to search for keys add anything at all to the experience? I don’t think so.

It’s disappointing that Kojima and Del Toro don’t get a chance to try to live up to P.T. but at the same time I appreciate the game they did deliver. If you’ve got a PS4 and haven’t already, make sure you download P.T. before it’s gone.

What I’m Playing This Week

Another long weekend, another few days full of games! Here’s what I’ve been playing recently.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

I never got into many games on the PS3 though I did own the whole Uncharted series, which sat unopened on a shelf for a good year. Finally this week I felt the urge to start the series. My feelings about Uncharted 1 are so mixed. It’s very cinematic and I like the combination of platforming, puzzling, and combat. However, the combat can be completely rage inducing. Raising your weapon puts your reticule not where you’d expect it to be, enemies are bullet sponges who never stop spawning and take 6 or 7 shots to take down if you don’t hit them right in the head, they often spawn behind you (how did they get there?), and Drake is very fragile. Plus, the game is super mean about where you respawn when you die. I’ve often found myself dying after taking out a dozen enemies, only to have to restart from the very beginning of the sequence. There were also a couple of jet ski sequences which were the opposite of fun. At one point I rage quit at the very end of the game due to being given only a shotgun with which to take out a bunch of enemies behind cover, at range. I did go back and finish later, when my blood pressure had stabilized.

Now, after all this complaining, I don’t actually dislike the game. It’s mostly a lot of fun, it just has some really annoying aspects. I really hope that combat is more enjoyable in Uncharted 2 though.

Divinity: Original Sin

This is what I’ve been playing most, I think I’ve sunk  almost 30 hours into this game over the last couple weeks. It’s amazing. It’s an isometric RPG, reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate, except it’s even better than BG. It’s almost as good as Planescape: Torment. There’s so much in the game to explore and discover, from the main quest lines to little secrets and sidequests. Combat is tactical and a lot of fun. There’s a lot of reading to do in-game, but the dialogue is often hilarious. If you’re into RPGs, I definitely recommend picking this up.

Divinity Original Sin

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

I picked up this game for free with my XBox Live Gold membership. It’s a fun little platformer. You play a boy attempting to rescue his little brother, and his special power is that he can build and erase platforms with his magic marker. It’s pretty, the controls are good, and it’s fun so far. It’s not particularly innovative, but at this point I’m pretty desperate for things to play on the XBox One so it doesn’t just sit on the shelf like a $500 brick, and Max is pretty good entertainment.

The Bridge

This is a fun puzzler with mechanics that focus on using gravity and momentum to reach your goals. The controls are simple, you can move your character left and right, or spin the entire puzzle in either direction. So far it’s been a lot of fun, and the puzzles are starting to get more challenging as new ideas are introduced. It’s also quite gorgeous, with levels that look like they were design by Escher.

The Bridge

I’ve also been continuing to pick away at Saint’s Row IV which is still ridiculously fun and I finished The Walking Dead season 2, which I reviewed.


What have you been playing?

Gaming Questionnaire – My Answers

I guess I should fill out my own questionnaire, here are my answers.

  1. When did you start playing video games?
    I started playing games as soon as I could sit up at the computer, when I was 3 years old. I’ve been playing ever since.
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?
    I’m using a very loose interpretation of the word ‘remember’ here, as I actually asked my mom what the first game I ever played was. We weren’t 100% sure of the name, but we think it was Cross Country USA, a game about trucking on MS-DOS. My first console game was Super Mario Brothers, but that was a few years later.
  3. PC or Console?
    Console.
  4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
    XBox. Though for the newest generation I’ve played a lot more games on the PS4. Come on XB1, release some games I’m interested in.
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    Planescape: Torment. It’s an amazingly immersive and well-written RPG based on AD&D rules. The story and characters are all amazing, and it’s backed up by very solid gameplay.
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    WWII Combat: Iwo Jima. Part of the problem came from the fact that this game was the definition of a generic, low budget, military shooter. And part of the problem was that testing it was my job. I’ve done QA on a number of mediocre games, but this was a special experience. While QA was expected to test this game for 8 hours a day, the developers were doing something else I guess, and we were only getting a new build every week or two. This made for the most tedious gaming experience I’ve ever had.
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    To the Moon. It had a really good, inventive concept, but I found the main characters endlessly irritating. They completely ruined what would have been a very sweet and poignant story, and I spent the last half of the game clicking through their dialogue as fast as I could, waiting for the game to end.
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    Remember Me currently has a metacritic score of 6.5 from critics. This is bullshit. Remember Me is a really fun action platformer with an interesting story and a lot of great female characters.
  9. What are your favourite game genres?
    RPG and action-adventure.  I also really like clever puzzle games.
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
    Jade from Beyond Good & Evil. Jade has strength, smarts, and sass. She wields her camera to expose truths as expertly as she wields her jō (staff) to kick ass.
  11. Describe your perfect video game.
    I’d combine the story, writing, and character depth of The Last of Us, with the gameplay of Tomb Raider. It would take place in space, or on some distant, unexplored, gorgeous planet.
  12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
    Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins.
  13. What game has the best music?
    Final Fantasy VII. It’s good on its own, but I especially like it when it’s remixed or recreated.
  14. Most memorable moment in a game:
    The beginning of Under a Killing Moon. The first time I saw it, it just looked 100x cooler than anything I had seen before. The music and sound were great – it had James Earl Jones reading Poe quotes! FMV is often looked down upon, but in Under a Killing Moon it showed me a whole new idea of what games could be.
  15. Scariest moment in a game:
    The radio in Silent Hill. It was so unnerving that it made me turn the game off and never turn it on again.
  16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
    Saying goodbye to Garrus before you head toward the final showdown in the Citadel in Mass Effect 3. All the goodbyes at the end of the game were hard, but this one was the worst.
  17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
    I really like Polygon for gaming news. It goes beyond the normal review and previews and often looks at gaming from different points of view. Also, I really like The Astronauts blog. It’s written by game developers and often has really fascinating insight on game design and good articles like The 7 Deadly Sins of Adventure Games or How Gamers are the Ultimate Trolls.
  18. What is the last game you finished?
    Broken Age.
  19. What future releases are you most excited about?
    I’m really looking forward to Dragon Age: Inquisition this fall. Also, a little further out, Rise of The Tomb Raider, since the previous game is my game of the year so far. I’m also looking forward to Life is Strange, by the studio that made Remember Me. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Inside, Torment: Tides of Numenera. Lots of games!
  20. Do you identify as a gamer?
    Yes. I’ve been playing video games for most of my life. It’s something I spend a lot of time on – not just playing but also reading about, writing about. I know the term ‘gamer’ is starting to become a dirty word in a lot of circles, but I don’t let the loudest and most awful parts of the community detract from how I identify myself.
  21. Why do you play video games?
    For entertainment mostly, though games can entertain in a way unlike books or movies. I love really being able to put myself in a game, feeling what a character is feeling, and having decisions be difficult. I love the sense of adrenaline they can give when you face a particularly challenging or stressful scenario. And I like that games are ultimately something I like to enjoy on my own while playing, but there’s never a shortage of analysis and people to talk to about the games I’ve played.

If you haven’t already, go answer these on your blog or in the comments here.