This month has been...meh. I’m getting tired of blaming seasonal depression for my feelings of ennui, especially during Summer, so I’m going to start blaming people who eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Anyway, I chose to play a bunch of different games this month instead of dedicating a bunch of time to a single title. I’m not against sinking tens of hours into a single massive game, but I have a lot of ground to cover with my backlog, my decade project, and...I dunno, my brain being negatively affected by people mashing peanut butter and jelly together when peanut butter and honey is an objectively better flavor combination. Anyway, here’s my list;
(I watched the Gary Daniels Fist of the North Star this month, it's terrible, go watch it, it's free on Youtube)
I picked up a copy of Sonic Generations years ago, second-hand, for the PS3 and I don’t remember making it very far. I picked up another copy for Steam last year or so, and when I played this month I once again didn’t make it all that far. I don’t dislike Sonic Generations, it just isn’t a game that I feel fully invested in. I like how each level can be played in either a side-scrolling style or in a more 3D style in concept. The issue though is that playing with classic Sonic kind of just makes me want to replay Mania or one of the Genesis games. The 3D levels are mostly fine, and I didn’t notice too much reliance on boosting, but I was never a massive fan of 3D Sonic to begin with.
The main thing that keeps me from wanting to play Generations is that you need to play and complete at least one challenge mode per stage to get the keys to unlock boss encounters, and thus to progress through the game. Sonic has always been a game that encourages practice and replaying, but I would rather just move on and play new levels instead of mastering older ones, especially if I’m stuck on a level that I don’t really care for. I guess that’s why I haven’t put much more time into Sonic Generations; I like seeing the familiar elements, but the Death Egg Robot being the first boss takes away from the menace it had in Sonic 2. Metal Sonic being a challenge stage diminishes it somewhat too, but at least that got me a Chaos Emerald. Playing through City Escape was great in Sonic Adventure, but the Generations renditions of that stage just made me want to play the original again. The Pinball stage is a lot of fun though.
(Here's the thing...I love C-Word Night Zone)
As much as I loved the first two games, I don’t see myself getting through Max Payne 3. The plot seems interesting enough: a jaded and bitter Max flees New Jersey and takes on a protection job in Sao Paulo. The people he’s supposed to be protecting wind up being deadified and/or kidnapped and it’s up to Max to make things right. What I liked about the first two games was how personal the plots were. Max Payne is a story of the title character tracking down the people responsible for his wife and child’s death. The second game was an intrigue about a secret society, black market trade, and a tying up of loose ends from the first plot that tied back into Max’s wife, Max’s new love interest, and the survivors of the first game. Max Payne 3 is so disconnected that I don’t see why this needed to be a Max Payne game at all.
The shooting is fine, the bullet-time is fine, the cinematic camera shift when you’re taking out the last enemy in a group is fine, but every word that comes out of Max’s mouth and the situation he’s in just made me want to shut the game off and conclude that his canon ending included the words “self inflicted”. When I was able to tune out Max’s pontification on how old, fat, and rusty he is I was able to enjoy the mix of settings that I played through. The night club probably should have been more difficult to play through, the stadium offered a lot of challenge and verticality to consider, the New Jersey flashback was over the top, but a welcome inclusion. Collecting golden gun pieces encouraged exploration, but aside from having a shinier weapon I’m not seeing too much of a difference between those and their not-gold equivalents. Thinking about it, I don’t think it was Max’s attitude that made me uninstall this game; the gameplay is strong enough that I played much more of this than another game with characters I didn’t like this month. I think what made me stop playing Max Payne 3 was just a desire to try other games this month.
(I'll try again sooner or later, I'm just having trouble making a connection)
Resident Evil VII is a great game, but it isn’t as good as I remember it being. Or maybe it’s that I haven’t actually played it from beginning to end before. I have a really weird relationship with Resident Evil VII: My housemate was very into it when it was new and I played it on and off a couple of years ago. I played the demo multiple times without being able to avoid damage, I even played through the ship, the mines and the final encounter for my housemate because those sections were giving them so much trouble. So this month I played through Biohazard: Resident VII Evil from the beginning to the ending and again from the beginning up until I made it to Zoe’s trailer. If you’ve kept up on reading my journals then you may recall that I absolutely loved the Resident Evil 2 Remake, and played it through three times before uninstalling. I haven’t done that with ResiVII because of how sporadically frustrating I found it.
The exploration and item-based puzzles were my favorite part of the game. The Baker estate is a very creepy place, filled with litter, detritus, thick vines of mold, and a hostile family member depending on which house you’re in. In RE2 terms, you have 2 Mr. X’s to deal with and as tense as they can be to deal with there’s never any crossover between them. Marguerite Baker isn’t even much of a Mr. X since she doesn’t actively chase you, instead she’ll spawn bugs to attack you. Jack Baker is much more of a Mr. X, capable of breaking down walls if he knows where you are. The Baker’s son Lucas is present, but after a while he just seems to disappear without a trace and I’m not interested enough to buy the DLC that addresses what happened. Then there’s Mia; Resident Evil VII does the Silent Hill 2 thing whereby the whole game is predicated on a plot where your character gets a message from his missing girlfriend 3 years after she disappears. Saving her is the main goal, but she goes insane thanks to the influence of a bioweapon and acts as the first boss you have to deal with. If Resident Evil VII ended as soon as you escape from the Baker Estate, I think it would have made the experience stronger overall, but the ship, the mines, and the monsters you encounter in between boss fights diminish my overall opinion of Resident Evil VII.
Before you have to fight Jack for one of the three Dog Head keys, you’ll encounter a slime monster that looks like a cross between the Spider-Man Symbiote and Cookie Monster. It’s large, it’s not as slow as it seems to be, it can appear in a closed off room by slithering in through broken ceiling panels or vents that are easily overlooked, and they come in 4 flavors. There’s the standard Cookie Monster, a Cookie Monster with a larger-than-usual arm, a slightly smaller Cookie Monster that acts like the Lickers from Resident Evil 2, and a fat Cookie Monster who projectile vomits. The most reliable way to dispatch them is through headshots, but even with upgraded weapons the number it takes to finish one off seems to be inconsistent. Using explosive trip-mines is the most effective way to take them out, but those weapons don’t start to show up until the late-game. There’s also a flamethrower that you construct, but it’s absolutely useless against the Cookie Monsters on Normal difficulty. It’s not totally useless though; the flamethrower seems to be more of a puzzle item that’s used to destroy bug nests and kill the bugs who you only need to deal with in the boat house.
The bosses are more visually interesting than the slime-mobs, but they have the same issue of being damage sponges that don’t really convey damage dealt in a way that was easy for me to catch on to. The final encounter with Jack was the most straight-forward for me, since he’s covered in eyes which burst after taking enough damage. I was working to a tangible goal with that fight, but it was really late in the game compared to the fights I had with Mia, Jack, Jack, and Marguerite, that didn’t offer many visual clues that I was attacking the right way. In between boss fights, I seemed to build up massive stores of resources: ammunition, health items, crafting items, and the enemy encounters just seemed to exist to deplete those resources. That’s why I wanted to try a second playthrough: after beating the game I was given a new and powerful pistol. It was consistently more powerful than the pistols I used in the first playthrough, but it still seemed like the enemy encounters could tank a lot of damage if I didn’t attack the right spot. After my first playthrough, I felt like I had had as much fun with Resident Evil VII as I was going to have. It was definitely more than what I usually have with Resident Evil games, but it’s not a game that I see myself going back to.
(Scared by the little GIRL!?)
Necrobarista is a visual novel, and after an hour of engagement I can’t say I’ve come across any gameplay to speak of. It’s a visual novel though, I guess it would be weird if they had gameplay, this isn’t a genre that I have experience with. I think I’m right on the verge of beginning the second or third chapter (I can’t remember if there was a chapter 0) and I’m not sure how invested I am in the plot quite yet. Kishan seems to be the straight man; he’s a recently deceased guy who comes to the cafe and he’s the one who gets explanations on how the afterlife, well the pre-afterlife, works. The owner and operator of the Cafe, Maddie, is presented as the main character and it seems like taking over ownership of the cafe has some strings attached that she wasn’t expecting.
It seems like time is a currency in the pre-afterlife, and she owes 600 hours to the council of Death. Call me a cynic, but unless she’s scheduled to be hit by a bus within a fortnight I don’t see why she can’t just write off the debt on her own personal clock, or else demand the previous owner do the same since it wasn’t her debt to begin with. It’s been explained that the transference of time is possible, so I suppose I’m right on the cusp of gameplay elements that will let me gain more time. I may have missed something, or maybe I haven’t made it to an explanation yet, but like I’ve said, I’m not fully engaged with this story. In between chapters you choose several words from a jumble and those words have meanings which can be used to unlock memories which might add more context to the plot or characters, but I haven’t been able to see any of them yet.
I think part of what’s keeping me from fully getting into Necrobarista is the presentation and how I’m meant to engage with the story. Since there doesn’t seem to be any direct gameplay within each chapter, I’m curious as to why there isn’t an option to autoplay the narrative. There’s just enough animation in each frame that I’m not sure when I should be hitting the space-key or the X-button on my Dualshock to continue a dialog. I would much rather just sit back and let the story play on without having to deal with any inputs at all. Tapping a button after every sentence is enough to nudge me out of focus, whereas if I were reading this as a light novel I wouldn’t have to worry about turning a page nearly as frequently. If I’m being a cynical realist, I see Necrobarista as a game that I can unlock all of the steam achievements in under 10 hours. The plot and characters aren’t bad, I’m just having trouble staying engaged, but I would rather get through this because I’m having a positive experience instead of what will likely end up happening ie: this will be my third Perfect Game as far as Steam is concerned, and it’ll be the easiest to make happen.
(I was hoping I could make drinks for people...Oh well...Some day there will be a good barista game)
I have skipped over so much of Time Spinner’s story. I’m sure there’s context behind the war between the two factions, but I lost the thread early on and my interest in fighting monsters far outweighs my interest in who The Emperor is and why my tribe is being attacked by him personally. Time Spinner is one of many games that takes the Metroidvania title, and the level design seems to take a lot of inspiration from Symphony of the Night and its ilk. Unlike SYmphony of the Night, there isn’t as much openness when it comes to weapon loadout, and there are a lot of rooms that are just long, monster-filled corridors. So many of the rooms are like this that it’s negatively affected my interest in playing.
I haven’t uninstalled Time Spinner, but I haven’t been this disengaged from a Metroidvania-like before. Travelling between time periods, while also being a key part of the plot, helps to diversify the settings and enemies you encounter. There’s also a power that lets you stop time and turn otherwise harmful elements into harmless platforms. This kind of thing strengthened my engagement in Time Spinner, and I prefer the puzzles that require me to think outside of the box over the more standard combat scenarios. The thing is, a lot of what I’ve seen with Time Spinner has been long corridors, long hallways, a lot of fighting, and me saying to myself, “oh right, I can stop time” after going without for long stretches of gameplay. I can see myself finishing this game before uninstalling, but my overall feelings on Time Spinner are somewhere between disappointment and being underwhelmed. I haven’t met a Metroidvania that I’ve outright disliked, but this one is lesser than others I’ve played.
(This could be a whole lot better)
I’m still having fun with Assassin’s Creed Unity, but I haven’t made it anywhere near the end. The last major milestone I’ve passed by has been Memory Core 5 and the Eiffel Tower climb in occupied Paris. I can’t believe a game centered around the French Revolution managed to have machine-gun turret sections, but those mad lads at Ubisoft made it happen. I also started to unlock Nostradamus Enigmas. I’ve only done four so far and while I needed guides to do them, because I have no shame, I enjoyed solving the puzzle-platforming room that I unlocked under the Cafe. Assassin’s Creed Unity is still great, and I still recommend it.
Thief Simulator is a lot like the Thief games, but instead of taking place in a neat pseudo-Steampunk, early-industrial fantasy city it takes place in modern-day suburbia (among other locales, but I’m still early on in the game). You play as a thief and in the early game while you’re still learning the ropes and unlocking your various skills through level-ups, you’re at the beck and call of an unseen fence to whom you owe money. There’s nothing stopping you from ignoring the missions he gives you and just stealing on your own, but I’m finding that the missions are great introductions to and hands-on tutorials of new skills. I’m still too early in Thief Simulator to steal vehicles, but in the very beginning I wasn’t even able to pick locks either. I’ve started out as a petty thief stealing toasters from a trailer-like home in hour one, to picking locks to break into single-levels homes in hour two, to shutting off electricity for a large home in hour three. It’s cathartic enough to sneak into and out of a place with a big TV or a painting under your arm, but the character progression is really steady and satisfying too. I didn’t grow up with the Thief games, so I’m not really nostalgic for this kind of gameplay, but I’m really enjoying it in Thief Simulator, check it out!
(This is a really plesant surprise to me!)
Jalopy gave me motion sickness so I don’t think I’ll be going back to it any time soon. I probably should have given it more time, because it seemed like a really interesting management game. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to get or find more resources, but I played long enough to construct a car and drive to...a town. One of the components of the engine began to smoke, but I couldn’t tell how to address the issue, or even if it’s an issue that I could address at all until it became a full-blown disaster. It’s on my Steam profile forever, so I’ll probably look at it again some day, but I’m just not feeling it right now.
I used to think that Ubisoft game franchises were fine with their first entry, and great with their second. Then I played Watch_Dogs 2 which I absolutely can’t stand and it’s all because of the characters. I haven’t played Watch_Dogs to completion, story completion, and I probably haven’t even played more than 20 hours of it in general, but I can still recall a chunk of the plot, the name of the main character (Aiden Pearce), and what motivates that protagonist to do what he does. The characters of Watch_Dogs 2 definitely have names but their personalities are so utterly repugnant that I wanted nothing to do with them.
Then I realized it isn’t possible to skip cutscenes and my good will completely evaporated. Drunk 20-somethings, hacking into everybody’s personal information for personal gain, pointing out outdated pop-culture references and icons, and just never shutting the Hell up in general makes me want to run them off of a bridge. Watch_Dogs 2 looks gorgeous, but I don’t want to be part of this world because the people I’m stuck with are God Awful, and Aiden Pearce doesn’t even technically stop doing the criminal stuff that got his niece killed to begin with! I got this as a freebie by watching an Ubisoft stream, but I still feel like I’m owed a refund. Watch_Dogs 2 is further proof to me that bad characters can outright kill a production, and if you like this game then you have a higher tolerance for this kind of thing than I ever will. I don’t even see myself giving Legion the time of day, this was such a bad experience.
(I got this game for free. I want a refund)
In Observation you play as the AI controlling a space station that somehow went from low-Earth orbit to somewhere in the vicinity of Jupiter. The crew of the space station is gone, presumably dead, except for one other person and I’m still in the early game so the systems I have access to are still limited. I’m still very much in the “what’s going on here” portion of the story, but I’ve already been contacted by something other than the lone human still inhabiting the station. SO far the gameplay has consisted of accessing cameras and using my field of view to tell the human about issues with the ship which she then moved on to rectify. There have also been instances whereby I had to access internal systems to unlock doors or engage systems of the ship that were previously disabled. I assumed the whole game would be just that: I would have to change between cameras and gradually activate more as the narrative unfolds. I wasn’t expecting to be given a hovering camera early on, and I appreciate how it gives me access to the ship in a more physical way.
I guess it’s fine, and I like being able to see all of the space station, but I don’t feel as much like an AI when I’m controlling the hover-camera. I’m wondering how many more movement options I wind up getting later on, and whether or not I’ll be able to float around either in space or on the surface of one astral body or another by the time Observation reaches its peak. As far as gameplay and puzzles go, I was momentarily slowed down trying to power up a generator, and I’m hoping there are more puzzles that slow me down. Another big feature of this game seems to just be scanning documents which is fantastic since it fleshes out what the station was like when things were still normal. The problem I’m having is actually finding what I can, and what I’m supposed to, be scanning. So far I’ve enjoyed Observation! It was definitely worth the wait.
(::I'M AFRAID I CANNOT COMPLY WITH THAT COMMAND, YOU FILTHY ORGANIC MEATBAG::)
Dead Rising 3 reminds me a lot of Tomb Raider 2013 in that the characters who I play as and the same character in cutscenes seem to be completely different people. Nick Ramos in cutscenes is a weak, whining, crying, vomiting, greener-than-lettuce, sad-boy who seems like he’s one more inconvenience away from completely breaking down. Nick Ramos in-game duck-tapes motorcycles to steam rollers and gleefully drives over scores of zombies while downing Singapore Slings. It’s true that Frank West is a hard character to follow, the man is a charismatic supernova, but it doesn’t even seem like they were trying with Nick and given what he can do I would have rather played as Chuck Green again. I really liked Chuck Green and his motivation: He engaged in zombie death-sports because he needed the drug that would keep his daughter from turning into a zombie, and from there came his abilities as an engineer. Nick Ramos’ motivation is simply to escape the city of Los Perdidos, where a zombie outbreak has occurred. Before the beginning of the second chapter though, he’s bitten and needs to find the anti-zombie drug for himself...but then the zombie bite shows signs of healing and that’s about as far in the story as I’ve made it.
The city of Los Perdidos is much larger than the Willamette Mall or the resort strip-mall of Fortune City, but it definitely feels a lot smaller than any other open-world map I’ve explored in general. I’m still really early on in the game though, so there’s a good chance that I have a lot more space to unlock. For the most part I’ve had a lot of fun wandering around the city that’s available to me and the mansions on the outskirts. There are a lot of instances of subtle storytelling that I really appreciated, like when you find a pair of bodies in the bathroom of a specific mansion that for whatever reason has an AV room opposite a bedroom. What I didn’t appreciate about Dead Rising 3 was how I had to dig around in the settings to turn off multiplayer, since it seems like this game does the Dark Souls thing and allows other players to infiltrate your game unless you turn that feature off. A much more problematic feature that I haven’t figured out how to fix yet (unless I mess with .ini files) is the field of view. The camera is uncomfortably close to the back of Nick’s head and more than once I’ve been blindsided by zombies that I really should have been able to see. Even while I’m in a vehicle the camera is annoyingly close and has made it difficult to control myself.
It’s funny to me to think back on the Yooka-Laylee reviews that called that a bad 3rd-person camera, but in Dead Rising 3 I’ve had instances where Nick’s head has obscured the zombies I was trying to aim at and fire on, crosshair and all. The plot point of Nick’s zombie bite healing is just enough to interest me in following through on the plot a bit more, but I’m not as invested as I was in the previous Dead Rising games. A weird aspect to Dead Rising 3 that was definitely different in the other two is how I haven’t died yet in this one after a few hours playing, but in the first two those early hours were a killer. I don’t remember how leveling up worked in Dead Rising and 2, but I think you had to die before you could spend skill points and level up. In Dead Rising 3 you can level up and spend attribute points in-game as soon as you hit those level-up goals.
I wound up uninstalling Dead Rising 3 for now. For one thing, there are other massive games that I would rather be playing. Assassin’s Creed Unity really has charmed me, for example. The POV issues in Dead RIsing 3 have been an annoying bugbear, but I’m also having trouble sticking with single-player. I chose Single-player before even starting my game, but every time I would boot the game up after taking a break it seemed like I had to select single-player again or else risk having some random person join my game. This isn’t Dark Souls: I want to explore the city by myself dammit. As much as I like Dead Rising 3, I just couldn’t fully immerse myself like I could with the other two. I’ll be back, but it won’t be for a while.
(I understand why we see the back of Nick in promo images: If we could see his face, we would see ugly, horrified, tears)
Brutal Doom and Brutal Doom 2 are my happy-place games. I’ve been having trouble staying optimistic and happy this month, and those games elevate my mood. Something about the familiarity of the classic Doom and Doom 2 titles crossed over with the over-the-top violence, new weapons, new features, and the literal “fuck you” button just seems to be a panacea for my cases of The Morbs.
I’ve never played Gods, but I know of the Bitmap Brothers from Kim Justice documentaries. Gods Remastered is one of those really good remastered games that allow you to either play the original game or press a button to play that same game but with modern graphics, lighting, music, and sound effects. So far I’ve only played Gods for about an hour, and in that time I’ve made it to the third level. This is a difficult game, the movement is really slow and while I can technically use the D-Pad on my controller to play it’s necessary to use the stick instead to enter doors or climb ladders. Jumping is awkward too since you can’t just jump straight up; you always jump to the left or to the right, and it’s a slow, floaty jump at that. I can definitely see why there would be demand for a remake of this game though. The levels I’ve played through so far have been maze-like, but there was only one instance where I became stuck to the point that I had to reload a save.
Fighting monsters reminds me a bit of Gauntlet, where you’re essentially just throwing your weapons at enemies who spawn in but they die out in one or two hits. Picking up more weapons increases the number of projectiles you throw, and there’s magic that I eventually found which added to the spectacle if nothing else. Gods definitely falls into the category of difficult to master but easy to get into, antiquated jank aside. Speaking of jank, most of my deaths in Gods have come from one of two factors: Either fall damage or the combination of unclear hitboxes and a lack of invincibility frames. In a lot of action games, if you get hit your character will blink for a couple of seconds and be invulnerable to most types of damage. Not so much in Gods, a game where if you accidentally touch a stage hazard it’s very likely your entire health pool will drain in a couple of seconds. Funnily enough this isn’t an issue when it comes to enemies, who die when they touch you while also hurting you. I’m liking Gods Remastered, but some of the platforming challenges are really grating on me, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to the end of this one.
(Like Blasphemous, if that game was made decades earlier, and was power metal instead of black metal)
Did I mention already how I’ve had a difficult August? It would really help me out if people would just try using honey instead of jelly when making their sandwiches. Or maybe try a fluffernutter from time-to-time, you can find marshmallow fluff spread in the baking aisle, and the container isn’t so huge that you feel like you’re wasting your money if you end up not liking it. Maybe it’s just my dislike of grape jelly...peanut butter and sweet orange marmalade sounds like that would be more up my alley. I’m even willing to give marmite or vegemite a try, but that could be either the worst of the worst, or a gateway into an obsession with Australian or UK culture. I’m going to try and enjoy September, and I guess my first step in doing that will be to grab myself an Irn-Bru decide if I’m going to play a lot of games for a short amount of time again next month, or if I’m going to just try diving headfirst into a larger game.