Tag Archives: adventure

Sunset (Review)

Sunset is the latest, and probably last, game from Tale of Tales. They make rather unconventional, open ended games that attempt to provide meaningful narrative experiences. I like what they’re trying to do, though the execution is sometimes lacking. I really enjoyed The Path, while their (even) more abstract The Graveyard and Vanitas didn’t really connect with me.

With Sunset, Tale of Tales attempted to make a “game for gamers.” Whatever that means. They seem to think it means adding field of view sliders and multiple control modes? It’s kind of puzzling. I suppose Sunset has slightly more conventional gameplay than their other games, but to what end?

In Sunset you play Angela Burns, an American living in a fictional Latin American country under an oppressive regime. Angela is the housekeeper for Gabriel,  a powerful man in the government. Though the backdrop of civil unrest and revolution is potentially interesting, the game itself often isn’t.

Sunset game elevator

Each day you take an elevator up to a posh penthouse suite. While Angela narrates some thoughts you are presented with a list of tasks to do, though you can do more (or less) if you’d like. The main mechanic of the game is that you can perform tasks warmly or coldly. How you perform these actions affects your relationship with your absent employer. I didn’t even notice there were options on how to perform tasks until a few days in. Then all of a sudden, after choosing to paint a wall red instead of blue, leaving some lights on, and moving some slippers, Angela and Gabriel were on the cusp of a romantic relationship.

The idea of romancing your boss, especially given the nature of the working relationship, wasn’t one I was entirely comfortable with. The fact that Gabriel wasn’t even present in the game, and Angela never met him, made it even more strange. However, once I was started, I continued down the romantic path to see where it went. After a while, Angela and Gabriel start communicating via notes left around the apartment, though the content of these notes don’t seem to affect Angela’s narration events, at least in the beginning.

Sunset started out on rocky terrain by making the gameplay about housekeeping. That’s not really something I want to do in my own apartment, never mind choosing to pretend to do it in a video game. The story isn’t strong enough to make up for this. It takes a long time for anything interesting to happen. Days and days went by before the gameplay started integrating into the story of civil war. About an hour in, I was quite bored. Eventually some interesting tidbits of information started appearing, but they were spread too thinly throughout the game.

Sunset isn’t completely without charms. The voice acting is good, the music is great, and I enjoyed the increasing focus on art. But it’s just not enough. The good things in this game are few and far between. Had the game been 2 hours instead of 4 I think some of the issues could have been solved and the pacing would have been better but, as it is, Sunset just wasn’t an engaging experience.

Rating: Not recommended. Making a “game for gamers” seems to have backfired on Tale of Tales. As I read about how they tried to make this game appeal to the masses and see the options screen full of resolution options and horizontal smoothing sliders, I wonder – was Sunset made to mock “gamers” or was this really an attempt to go mainstream? Either way, I don’t recommend going out of your way to catch this Sunset.

This is my 9th post for Blaugust.

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?

The Cat Lady (Review)

When we first meet Susan Ashworth, she has just swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. She’s tired, traumatized, she feels like life has never done her any favours, and she’s had enough. Susan looks forward to oblivion, but it doesn’t come. Instead she finds herself in a surreal world which quickly turns from serene to horrifying. She can’t die. She’s been chosen to overcome five monsters, human parasites, that feed off violence and suffering. Rejoining the living is the last thing Susan wants, but she doesn’t have a choice.

The Cat Lady - Susan in the pest controllers basement

Mechanically, The Cat Lady is a point and click adventure game, except it’s fully controlled by keyboard so there’s not really any pointing or clicking. The keyboard controls were a bit awkward at first, but didn’t take very long to get used to. There is a lot of dialogue and gameplay consists of choosing responses and solving puzzles. The puzzles hit the sweet spot of having some challenge to them, but not being overly difficult. Solutions made sense, which is not always the case in adventure games. Often you just need to pay attention to your surroundings.

Narratively, The Cat Lady will take you on a journey that is disturbing, psychologically horrifying, and thought-provoking. It’s a game which is in turns harrowing and enlightening, infuriating and empowering.

The Cat Lady - Susan exploring an apartment.

Susan doesn’t start off as the most sympathetic character – people suffering from depression often aren’t to those on the outside. We don’t know why she hates life so much. We see people trying to help her and befriend her, but she’s so far down the rabbit hole that she doesn’t even see them. It’s not until Susan begins to suffer horror at the hands of the parasites, and experience some shared suffering that she begins to wake up. We begin to learn more about her past and why she has problems trusting people. She begins to entertain the prospect of letting other people in.

The Cat Lady excels at one of the most important aspects of games for me, atmosphere. While the graphics are a bit rudimentary and not technically amazing, I found this game visually stunning. The use of colour is genius. The majority of the game is in black and white with occasional pops of colour. Often it’s blood red, which is a common visual style, but The Cat Lady really stands out when it adds other colours into the mix. It changes the atmosphere completely. The dull blacks and whites show how the real world is an ugly, hopeless place for Susan, while colour starts to seep in during the more surreal parts of the game. When the game is the most violent, the most disturbing, the environments are suffused with suffocating greens. Golds and rich yellows are warm and comforting at a surface level, but often cloak the characters with the most sinister intentions.

The Cat Lady - Susan and The Queen of Maggots

The sound effects are sharp and often startling, while the music punctuates the game’s important events to great effect. The soundtrack covers all kinds of different styles and moods, from angry NIN-esque industrial, to erratic jazz, to sorrowful classical piano pieces.

This game is very unique. It’s like nothing I’ve played before. It covers some really dark topics with sensitivity, maturity, and style. At one point, Susan talks to a psychiatrist, who asks questions about her relationship with her parents and what her life was like. As I chose the responses, I felt like I was the one being psychoanalyzed, because there were responses that fit my own life pretty well. The ability to choose Susan’s responses about her past made me feel close to her in a way that was more deep and unexpected than most games are able to pull off. Even for people not currently suffering from depression, there’s something to relate to and empathize with here.

The Cat Lady - flowers

Really my only complaint about the game is that on occasion it’s too verbose. There are some extremely long conversations that take place, where the only interaction required from the player is choosing a response every couple of minutes or so. And often you end up choosing all the responses anyway. Though the conversations are interesting and well-written, and the voice acting is good, they’re just too long. Some of the dialogue could have easily be edited down, which would have improved the pace of the game.

The Cat Lady is made up of 7 chapters and has about 9 hours of gameplay. While I found the game exceptional, I do have to give very strong content and trigger warnings. While the visual style isn’t overly realistic the game has a lot of violence (including references to sexual violence), and tackles topics like death, depression, suicide, and abuse in a very direct way.

Rating – 9/10 – The Cat Lady is unlike anything I’ve played before and really broadens the scope of what adventure and horror games can do. It has wonderful atmosphere and tells a story that is both harrowing and empowering. It will take you to a very dark place, but there is light at the end.


I made a few videos of my playthrough of The Cat Lady, here’s the entirety of the first chapter if you want to see it for yourself.

The Walking Dead: Season Two (Review)

The Walking Dead is an episodic, narrative adventure game from Telltale Games. After the success of the first season, they made a second season, this time allowing us to play as Clementine. The first episode was released at the end of 2013 and the last, No Going Back, just came out last week.

TDW:S1 was one of my best gaming experiences from last year, so how does season 2 stack up?

The first episode of the season started off great. Playing as 11-year old Clementine, there was a definite sense of vulnerability and the game wastes no time putting her on her own. At the same time, it’s really emphasized how strong Clem has gotten, despite her young age and small stature. She kicks zombie ass and holds her own with the living as well. When a new group she meets refuses to give her the help she needs, she takes matters into her own hands and helps herself. The first episode has some great, if hard to watch moments, like when Clementine has to stitch up a cut on her own arm. It’s stomach-turning, and amazing. Really well done.

The Walking Dead season 2 game

As opposed to season 1, where the zombie threat was just beginning, at the time of s2, zombies seem to be old news. They’re still a threat (though sometimes merely an annoyance), but the real problem is the living. This game does feature a ‘big bad’ in the form of Carver, the leader of a settlement, who provides the biggest threat in episodes 2 and 3. The game did a good job of making me hate the bad guy and root for the good guys, but once this storyline ended, it seemed to go off the rails.

The writing got very sloppy, especially when it came to the other characters. I like Clem’s development (I should, I did get to shape it), but a number of the other characters were all over the place. Character deaths, which I felt were impactful and well-done in S1 became questionable and often meaningless. A couple of deaths in episodes 4 & 5 left me wondering “really? that’s what killed them?” and seemed to happen to try to provide a reason for future character actions rather than feeling organic in any way.

Warning, incoming rant. I really don’t like hating on all the female characters, but the ones left at the end were just terribly written. Jane started off understandable – she knew that other people could be liabilities and was afraid of losing someone she loved again, so she liked to stay on her own and tried to give Clem advice to keep her alive. But then, when she decides that Kenny is a loose cannon, she turns into one herself in order to prove it? What? Her and Kenny’s entire ending conflict felt so contrived, and her behaviour made my decision at the end easy when I assume it was supposed to be hard. But the worst character was Bonnie. I use the term ‘character’ very loosely, as she doesn’t really have any. She spends most of the game agreeing with anything anyone says. Or telling you what to do. “Clem, grab this”, “Clem, squeeze into that small hole full of zombies”, “Clem, go rescue that person from certain death.” Then, after a being nice to her, and compliant all game, she starts accusing Clementine of being useless when she can’t save another character. At this point I just wanted her to get eaten. The worst part of this was that the dialogue options didn’t even give me a choice akin to telling her to go fuck herself.

By the end of the game, I felt like I was watching an episode from The Walking Dead tv show – namely, watching characters yell at each other and make completely nonsensical decisions.  The fact that the supporting characters couldn’t get anything done without the action or direction of an 11-year old also did nothing to endear me to anyone other than Clem.

When I was finally past all the unexplainable nonsense at the climax of the last episode, the ending I got was actually pretty well done and got me a little emotional. However, the rest of the final chapter had already left a bad taste in my mouth.

Rating: 6/10 – Playing as Clementine was enjoyable, and the game started off well enough, but soon went off the rails. A game so focused on story over gameplay really needs to have exceptional writing, but this game doesn’t. Poor character development and meaningless deaths take away from the formula that made the first season so great.

Murdered: Soul Suspect (Review)

Murdered: Soul Suspect was released in June of 2014 by developer Airtight Games. The game has received mediocre to negative reviews, and I assume sales weren’t that great since Airtight closed up shop only a month after release.

Expectations really worked against the game. When I first heard about it, I was very interested. The impression I got from previews was that it was an adventure game made modern. When I saw that it was released for the new consoles, I was somewhat confused (adventure games on console?) but stoked that there was something I actually wanted to play on the XBox One. Then I saw the price. $69.99 at GameStop. This threw me for a loop. Adventure games don’t cost that much money. Even though the images from the game looked AAA quality, I never expected this to be a full price game. So, while I wanted to play it, I decided that I’d wait 6 months for it to come down in price. My boyfriend went out and got me a copy for PS4, so I obviously have played the game, but I can imagine the price driving off a number of potential buyers.

Murdered puts you in the shoes of Detective Ronan O’Connor who, at the beginning of the game, is being murdered. You become a ghost and need to wrap up unfinished business – namely tracking down the serial killer who killed you and has been killing young women in Salem – before you can move on.

The gameplay mainly focuses on solving mysteries. You investigate the scene of your own murder, and as the game progresses you investigate the scenes of other Bell Killer crimes. Here is where the game feels like an updated point-and-click adventure. You scour the area for clues, examining anything relevant, then conclude the investigation by selecting the most relevant clue. Sometimes choosing the most relevant clue was not very intuitive. Or, the answer was so simple that I completely overlooked it – I was trying to be clever and think like a detective, but the right answer wasn’t clever at all. I found this to be more of a problem at the beginning of the game though, and it got better by the end.

Murdered: Soul Suspect

Murdered involves a lot of exploration. As you travel through Salem you discover not only clues about the Bell Killer, but also information about the town’s history and Ronan’s life. Salem is dark, but also quite beautiful. There’s a kind of double environment effect, as you can see both the town as it really is, and see ghostly remnants of the past.

One thing I liked was that the world did not feel empty. There are plenty of people walking through the town. As a ghost you’re able to possess the living and read their minds, or sometimes even influence what they do. The world is also filled with other ghosts. You’re able to help some of them move on as a series of side-quests, while others aren’t quite ready yet.

Though Murdered bills itself as an action-adventure game, there really isn’t much action. The only ‘danger’ in the game comes from demons who appear in certain places that need to be taken care of. Defeating demons is mainly a matter of stealth. You hide out of sight, or within the  ghostly auras scattered around every location, then sneak up behind the demon and perform a QTE. It’s fairly simple and mostly requires patience and timing.

On an aesthetic level, I though Murdered was very good. The graphics are good, the city of Salem is interesting to explore and the ghostly apparitions which flit in and out of existence are a nice, eerie touch. I was happy with the voice acting and the writing of all the major characters.

Again, I have to emphasize that expectations are what will make or break this game. It’s an adventure game that focuses on exploration and telling a good story. Aside from the main plot, I really enjoyed the little stories the game told. You’d come across a crying ghost on a beach and discover how she died. You’d collect a set of hidden collectibles and be treated with a well-told ghost story.  I appreciated the game for what it was, so I had a lot of fun with it. If you like exploring, uncovering clues, and good narrative, I think you’d like Murdered too.

Murdered: Soul Suspect cat possession

However, if you’re expecting an action game, that’s not what you’re going to get. But you do get to possess and play as a cat sometimes.

My playthrough of Murdered took me about 7-8 hours, and that’s with going out of my way to find all the collectibles. Though I generally don’t like to harp on games for length, I thought it was a bit short considering the price point. However, the price has already dropped a fair bit, especially if you’re willing to play it on PC.

Rating: 7/10 – What it lacks in action, it makes up for by telling a good story and giving a haunting, fully-formed world to explore. Some of the detective work isn’t very intuitive, but I still recommend the game for people who like exploration and ghost stories.