Tag Archives: Sunset

Walking Simulator

This is for day 26 of Blaugust

“Walking Simulator” is pretty bad, somewhat derogatory name but for better or for worse it seems to have become its own category of games lately. These games mostly feature you walking, in first-person view, while exploring an environment. Mechanics are minimal – you may be able to jump or crouch, or interact with some objects, but other than that the games are mainly about exploring an environment.

What makes some of these games great while others can be a giant snoozefest?

Story

Without a whole lot of gameplay mechanics to keep the player engaged, the story really needs to hold up. In these games you’re generally not interacting with any other characters directly and story is mainly told through observation or narration. While leaving things up to the player’s interpretation and being vague can work for some games, a combination of vague story and lack of any action makes for a really dull experience. Like Dear Esther. Snippets of narration were given (as far as I could tell they weren’t even in a particular order), visuals sometimes offered clues but, otherwise, there was no solid story. Just a lot of walking. In Gone Home, on the other hand, the main story is very clear. There are little mysteries around the house that aren’t explained but you do learn Sam’s story.

Goal

Stanley Parable corridor

If the story isn’t strong, there needs to be a clear goal. In Slender the goal is very simple – gather pages, don’t die. In The Stanley Parable your goal is constantly shifting based on your decisions, but you are told quite clearly what to do. In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter your goal is to find (or find out what happened to) Ethan. The games I’ve found less engaging – Dear Esther, Serena, Mind: Path to Thalamus don’t have a clear goal. While Sunset does have a goal, that goal is to clean some rich dude’s apartment.

Tone

Having good tone and atmosphere is good, and having a changing tone is even better. Again, with a lack of action or interaction you need to feel engaged in some other way. The Stanley Parable does this best. Comedy (as long as it is truly funny) is a great way to make something interesting. Then at times that comedy turns a bit mysterious and dark, things get creepy. Then, back to funny! Horror is another way to make a game that is lacking in action engaging. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter had me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. Even among the beautiful, idyllic scenery, there was always a sense of danger and occasionally the unease was broken up by actual scares. Gone Home adds some scary elements without it being a scary game which I think was a good choice.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter cemetary

On the other side of things, Dear Esther had a mildly unsettling atmosphere throughout the whole game but I was unsure why I was unsettled the whole time. Serena classifies itself as a horror game, without including any scares or creepiness factor until the very end. Sunset has a backstory of civil revolution and war but nothing in the gameplay or immediate environment ever really reflects that. It’s tonally even the entire time.

Length and Pacing

This is a big one for me. Not only do I have a love for short games, but I can also only walk around so much. Gone Home is a perfect 2 hour experience. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. The Stanley Parable can be finished in 10 minutes, but it makes you want to go back and try different things. Though Ethan Carter is on the longer side, there’s enough interaction to make that okay.

Sunset would have been a much better game at 2 hours instead of 4.

The Gone Home Factor

Gone Home VHS tapes

While I think many people enjoyed Gone Home, for people of a particular age group/culture/location, it was catnip. I fall into that group. Besides having good writing and telling an emotionally affecting story, this game hit the nostalgia sweet spot. Taped X-Files episodes on VHS! I used to record it every Friday! Lisa Frank stickers, yes! SNES carts lying around, Street Fighter doodles in notebooks, magic eye posters, the Dream Phone board game. So many references to growing up in the 90s filled every room of this virtual house, and each provided a dopamine hit.


 

Do you have any particular favourites in this genre? Or have you played any particularly boring ones?

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.

Steam Summer Sale Haul

The latest Steam sale happened to coincide with me receiving a job offer after 3 months of unemployment, so I promptly purchased just about everything from my wishlist. There go my bragging rights that I’ve played more than 50% of my library. I’ve even had time to play a number of them. Funny how much gaming time I have when I take a break from The Witcher 3.

Here’s my haul:

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Hand of Fate – Roger wrote about this on CMP a while back and I’ve been wanting to try it. I’ve spent quite a few hours on this already. It’s a sort of card-based dungeon crawler with occasional combat. You go through randomly constructed dungeons, picking up armor and items, meeting merchants, getting quests, and fighting monsters with the goal of defeating a boss at the end. One of the things I really like about it is that it’s a game I can play while doing other things. I need more of these in my life. Making dinner? I can take a turn or two while I wait for water to boil or the oven to pre-heat. I can even chop things at my desk while I play. The combat is the only thing that really requires full attention (and both hands) and fights don’t take too long. Being able to play while distracted may not seem like a ringing endorsement, but I do really like it.

Invisible, Inc.

Invisible, Inc. – I heard the game referred to as XCOM-like, and that’s really all you have to say to sell me a game. I played this for a bit on Canada day. It’s enjoyable, the artistic style is great, the characters are diverse, the story is enough to grab me. It’s not overly intuitive though. Some things which should be simple aren’t. It took a bit to figure out where exactly I have to stand to revive a fallen squadmate. I’m still unsure about how I get more ammo for guns. Credits are used for all upgrades from character skills, to weapons, items, and augmentations, and I don’t feel like the game did a great job at giving me enough information so I know what to buy or know when I’m “prepared” for the end of the game.

Her Story – An interactive movie where you watch police interview tapes and learn about a murder that took place in the 90s. I really enjoyed this and am planning to recommend it in my next Short Games for Busy People.

Technobabylon – This is a point and click adventure by my favourite modern adventure game company, Wadjet Eye games. The games always have great characters and puzzles that aren’t too frustrating, and based on reviews this could be their best game yet.

Fallout 1&2 – I think I actually already own these on GoG, but they only cost $2 and it was right around the Fallout 4 announcement, so I was excited.

Dead State – Turn-based, zombies. Enough said. This one has been on my wishlist for a while.

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock. Desolate alien planet. Adventure. Exploration. Could not turn down.

NaissancE. An experimental exploration game with a stark colour palette.

Sunset – Tale of Tales latest, and unfortunately, last game about a housekeeper in the midst of a Latin American revolution. Not totally sure I want to spend gaming time cleaning things, but I’ve appreciated Tale of Tales other gaming experiences.

That leaves my wishlist rather bare. I only have Gravity Ghost (I’m actually not sure why I didn’t pick this up) and Darkest Dungeon (which I refuse to buy until that early access tag is gone) are left.


How did you make out? Pick up anything you’ve been waiting for? Have you played any of the games I bought?