Monday, July 20, 2015

Filling the hours

Two big posts to make, one about what I have been playing and another about what I did this weekend instead of playing anything at all.

The summer months are, historically, not the best for big releases. They aren't even the best for small releases. It is the doldrums of the year, a time that I usually spend catching up on old games that have languished on the bottom of the list. In an odd turn the list is, or at least was before today, clean. There was nothing that I wanted to play that I hadn't yet played.

I needed something before withdrawal set in and I bought everything in sight just to fill the hours between work and sleep. That money was spent a week ago my arm (which is now terribly itchy and gross). Between Xbox Live and PS+ there must have been some free games that I missed.

Worms, that should kill a few hours. Only it wouldn't let me play worms as God intended, against three other people with all of the weapons unlocked. I never managed to get a game started and playing worms single players is not worth the effort. So much for padding my gamerscore, what does PS+ have to offer...

Who remembers Rez? I wrote a slightly suggestive review of Rez years and years ago that may have alluded to use a vibrating controller for something other than originally intended. It is a great game that never got a sequel because it didn't really need one. Entwined is similar to Rez in that it is little more than a visual trip with the thinnest possible story backing. Less on rails shooter and more rhythm game, Entwined took me all of an hour to play from beginning to end, but it was a good hour. If it sitting in your library and you have nothing else to do I recommend it, just be prepared for thumb cramps as you force them to move in opposing directions.

Now what? I have a few to kill before EVO.

Dust: An Elysian Tale is, for the most part, the work of one man (at least the original XBox version was, I doubt he had much to do with the port to PS4). I remember downloading the demo and never playing it in spite of hearing it was well worth the effort. It fell victim to limited time and was eventually deleted. This was a disservice and I can attest to the game being an acceptable Metroid clone with better than average combat and anthropomorphic characters that make me more than a little uncomfortable.

If this really was a one man passion project then this guy needs to be picked up by a publisher as soon as possible and handed a fat stack of cash to make something new. There isn't a great deal of variety to the combat or large cast of enemies but what is present is polished to an incredible shine. Dust and his victims animate smoothly no matter how many of them are on screen and what they are doing. Combat moves from the ground to the air and back to the ground without dropping a beat. The entire experience is best described as smooth.

Even menus have have had their wrinkles removed. For example, the player is required to craft the best weapons and items. Crafting sucks. Dust skips all the boring bits by allowing the player to craft items directly from the pause menu instead of walking all the way back to the nearest, or in this case only, blacksmith. But what of the item requirements? Hunting down that third shoggoth testicle to make a +1 sword is never fun. Fear not, just sell one of each item to one of the multitude of vendors in the world. They will then build a stock of each item so instead of castrating shoggoths the player can walk to the store and buy them in a can.

Everything is very good, I just wish there was more of it. The world feels a bit small and there isn't much in it. Changing weapons and armor has no effect on the in game model. All of this is forgivable as long as it leads to something more. The developer needs to sell out, post haste (if he hasn't already) and get a job with Vanillaware.

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