Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Game dump

Been a few days and there is much to discuss.

OnRush. On paper this game makes some sense. Take a racing game, make it team based, change the goal from finishing first to out scoring the opponents by either destroying them or accomplishing other objective and finally make it vaguely hero based by giving different cars different special attacks and ultimate abilities.

The chaos was amusing for about two races. The technical proficiency kept me around for a little longer - the cars controlled well and the frame rate was solid, though the game is not what I would call 'a looker.' Then I got bored. Really bored. Races all played out the same way in spite of differing objectives. Ending up in front of the pack, what you want in normal racing games, was a great way to fall behind in the points, but taking your foot off the gas to let opponents pass is a great way to get crushed from behind.

This games was directed by the same person who directed Driveclub, which I didn't like, and produced by the purchased leftovers of Evolution Studios. Evolution Studios was responsible for the Motorstorm games, which I also did not like. At least everyone involved is being consistent.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was a stretch goal for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. I forgot I had this coming so it did not bother me when the XBox One version was inexplicably delated by a few weeks. Now that it is out I can say that it was an appropriate bonus and am glad that I did not actually pay for it.

Both Curse of the Moon and Ritual of the Night are both spins on the Castlevania motif, Ritual taking it forward with fancy new graphics and Curse takes it backward. Curse of the Moon has much in common with Castlevania III, the awkward middle child of the early Castlevania years - not as terrible and II and not nearly as good as IV. It did have multiple playable characters and Curse of the Moon does it one better by allowing the player to switch between then characters at any time.

This freedom leads to levels with branching paths, sections that are much more easily completed with one of the characters and a few bosses that are almost impossible when one of them is dead. The four characters share a single life - when one dies you start from the most recent checkpoint with another and you don't get any of them back until all of them are dead. I always ended up with the alchemist at the end, because he is only good for very specific tasks, meaning that I more often than not threw him off a cliff when he had to go for it alone.

Visually, Curse of the Moon sticks close to its 8-bit great, great, great grandfather, just minus any slowdown or flicker. The chip tunes are good, just not as good as the originals, and the second quest removes one of the characters and jacks up the difficulty. I started the second quest. Started is the operative term. I did not finish it.

Speaking of difficulty.

Celeste hides some serious FUCK YOU difficulty under its retro pleasant aesthetic. I wouldn't call it Super Meat Boy hard, because I never finished that, but my death count did pass that of Cuphead before I made it to the top of the mountain.

The game is not subtle about its theme: Madeline decides to climb a mountain. On the way the mountain itself splits her in two (metaphorically, not physically) and she is forced to deal with her depression as if it were another person. They fight, depression wins for a while, then they make up and work together, earning a triple jump in the process.

I am not being flippant, this is just not something that I identify with. The meaning of the game is lost behind its pixel perfect platforming and levels that go on just a screen or two too long. From the outset I decided that collecting the strawberries and other nonsense was just not going to happen. What was there was difficult enough without adding more. The d-pad on the Xbox One controller also didn't do me any favors.

But it was fun when I wasn't furious with it so I toughed it out to the end. Based on the percentage of people who also finished it the game isn't that hard, I am just that bad at videogames. That ties in nicely with the game I am not talking about, Hollow Knight.

:P

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Unbelievable

Is it possible for a game to do almost everything wrong and still be somewhat playable? I mean commit cardinal gaming sins and yet still function as a game? Almost.

Past Cure is a 'game' by Phantom 8 Studios. Phantom 8's resume includes not have a functioning website, having no mention of Giant Bomb, and Past Cure. It a wonder that they ever got a game published, much less on PC and both major consoles. It is an absolute train wreck of an experience that makes decades old mistakes, turning it into the most unpleasant history lessons possible.

Right off the top it does not know what game it i trying to copy. The first stage is a nightmare sequence that makes the bad Silent Hills look like master classes in horror. It is a loop of about five rooms and populated with one enemy, copy/pasted over and over. They all die in one or two hits and nothing actually happens.

Then the protagonist wakes up, takes a few pills, answers the phone for some plot (and I use that term loosely) dump and sleep walks through a house for a few minutes. That's the whole level.

Level three takes on Max Payne, right down to the slow motion mechanic. It's terrible. Half way through it turns into a stealth game - the worst kind of stealth game - in which being spotted by the enemy is an instant fail and there is no way to tell what the enemies can see. Later there is more shooting, another two nightmare areas, and then the game is done.

It was so terrible that it was surreal. I could not believe that what I was playing was final code that was released on purpose and that could be purchased with real money. It was easily the worst game that I have played in the last several years, right up there with Alekhine's Gun in 2016. It was an experience that I wish on no one else.

Wait, forgot a few stolen plot points and other problems. There is a literal 'take the pill' moment, ala The Matrix. The one female character is placed directly into a metaphorical refrigerator moments after she is introduced. The second level consists of a dozen identical floors of a parking garage followed by a dozen identical floors of an office building. There are a total four enemy types, four weapons, and a single melee combo. The subtitles do not always match what is being said and what is being said makes zero sense.

Past Cure is the perfect storm of shitty game tropes held together by delusions of developer grandeur. It was jaw dropping in the same way a bad car accident is jaw dropping: you feel bad for looking, but you keep looking, because holy shit did you see that, that guy is fucking dead.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

2018 E3 Spectacular

Nothing is as bad as I thought. In fact a few things are a little better. I still don't trust Fallout '76.

Chamberlain and Chance - 2018 E3 Spectacular

Monday, June 11, 2018

Left behind

I should be in a very good mood. In the past two days there have been a bevy of announcements, some spoiled and some honest surprises. On the short list of awesome things are Doom Eternal, Gears of War 5, Dying Light 2, Devil May Cry 5, Just Cause 4, some new Battletoads nonsense, a date for Metro Exodus and a god damn Cuphead expansion. None of this is coming out this year, and that is fine, because I predict that come October 26th nothing else to go to matter through the end of 2018. It's almost as if the big publishers know that it is useless to fight Rockstar, so why try.

But I am not in a good mood. The press conferences so far have left me rather melancholy because there are other games, games that I was looking forward to, that have either been tweaked slightly outside of what I wanted or now exist in the radioactive no go zones of my fickle and unjustifiable tastes.

The third Wolfenstein was announced, but it is a co-op game that can probably be played single player. Not a total loss but I am worried that it will not be balanced properly for playing solo. Fallout 76 looks to be to be a trollers paradise and with no assurance as of yet that I can play the game without the interference of others it is pretty much off the list in spite of it coming out this year. Anthem really is just Destiny, but Bioware, and while I enjoyed both Destiny games the constant threat of running into other people in the open world kept me from ever being immersed in it. I want to spend time poking around a Bioware world without having to look over my shoulder for some jag off in a mech suit flying in and getting in the way or stealing a kill or blocking an objective.

And then there is Forza Horizon 4.

Forza Horizon 3 was my game of the year when it game out. No game I played in 2016 brought me as much joy and comfort. It was a perfectly tuned open world racer, just arcade like enough to keep it fun but enough sim to keep you paying attention. It was happiness pressed on to a disk. And they have ruined it.

Forza Horizon 4 is (and I stole this from a tweet I saw, don't remember who) an MMO-Car-PG. The world is always online, always shared, always filled with other people playing the game. Who in the ever living fuck thought this was a good idea. Did they play any online races in other racing games? Ever other person is driving like a dick head, pitting you for lolz or driving the wrong way around the track. Multiply that by however many dozens will be crammed on a server in Horizon 4 and the game will be an unplayable mess.

The driveatar function of Horizon 3 and the last few mainline Forza games was perfect. There are AI drivers there based loosely on the habits of other players. They even are labeled with said players' gamertags. But the cars aren't actually being controlled by people so they could be trusted to not ruin the experience for everyone around them. Why change this? Playing online in Horizon 3 was there and it was optional; the best of both worlds.

Remember Journey? Remember my visceral reaction to seeing another person? I tore my network cable out of my wall (gently) to make sure that my experience was mine and mine alone. I did not want to share it with anyone. I did not want anyone leading me anywhere or lagging behind. I do not want to play Forza Horizon 4 with anyone.

And if I can't play it alone I will not play it at all. There are still games for me, just not as many, and I will have to let a few of them go as they wander farther from what I enjoy in favor of what everyone else enjoys.

...

Update (from IGN article):

“It comes with loads of other problems, such as your internet goes down, you can’t play. Our servers go down; you can’t play. So we solved that problem by saying that Forza Horizon 4 will not be an always-online game. As much as this is a shared-world game, and we believe it’s much better played with other people, you can totally just click a button and play the entire game in single player with Drivatars if that’s your wont.”

All is forgiven. Well, Fallout 76 and Anthem are still a problem, but this was more important.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Almost good enough

Judged strictly on gameplay, Owlboy comes across as a poor man's Metroidvania. A very poor man's Metroidvania. Homeless Metroidvania. New abilities are nonexistent, exploring is not rewarded in any way, most levels are linear and uninteresting. In almost every way it is a very plain, rote experience. We've all played this before and the games of this type that I really want, the sequels to Ori and Guacamelee, aren't out yet.

But I soldiered on, because that is what I do with a game that is not offensive but still playable. And wouldn't you know it, Owlboy has pulled of some very interesting boss fights and some of the best looking hand drawn lava I have ever seen. It has taken a very limited move set and forced me to deal with the restrictions. Owlboy himself doesn't move very fast, making chase sections especially harrowing. Ori has half a dozen ways to fling himself through the forest. Owlboy has basic movement and a dodge that I forgot was there.

I am not going to call the game great but I will say that it is doing a lot with the minimal tools at its disposal. The story is about as subtle and smart as a bag of hammers and the well animated environments get repetitive and I hate that wandering into a random cave offers no reward but the game isn't bad.

It's a seven. The dreaded 7. Not terrible but not good enough to force you to put something else aside to make time for it.

...

Due to scheduling issues I will not be able to watch the EA or Microsoft press conferences live. My gamer card will be turned in shortly.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fabulous Bats

I stand by my statement that Batman: The Enemy Within is very good, however I have seen all of Tell Tale's tricks and it obvious from the outset what was going to happen in the final chapter. There had been choices for the four previous episodes, some of which were important and had real consequences, but at the end of the game John Doe was going to become Joker and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

His path there could have gone two ways depending how Bruce treated him: he either went full on crazy or he became a vigilante, modeled after Batman, only Joker's endgame ended with more death and mayhem than anything Bat's could muster. It worked for me because my Bruce kept trying to pull him back, to explain to him that hero's don't kill. Back in season 1 I decided that Bruce gay and therefore spurned each and every of Catwoman's advances. I stayed true to that decision and, in my mind at least, Bruce had just a little crush on John Doe.

John does not return the affection, as he loves Harley, but that latent, perhaps suppressed emotion helps explain why Bruce tries over and over to rescue John/Joker from himself. When Bruce showed up at Joker's cell in Arkham during the post credits sequence I audibly went 'Awwww.'

The Enemy Within does not crack the top three (Tales from the Borderlands, The Wolf Among Us, Walking Dead Season 1) but it is a welcome return to form that gives me hope for the future. I am fine with The Wolf Among Us Season 2 being pushed to next year, as expectations are high on that one. On the other hand I will dutifully slog through the final season of The Walking Dead. I must now how they decide to kill Clem.

If she makes it through the final season alive I promise to do something terrible: I will try to play Bloodborne again. That is how confident I am that she is going to die, probably the same way that Lee did.