Rolling Thunder 2 (MD): COMPLETED!

I’m not sure I’ve ever played this before, but I was always a big fan of the original game in the arcades. I was a little worried it wouldn’t be any good, because of both being a sequel and the passage of time, but I needn’t have worried – it was excellent.

It is, of course, more of the two-layer, door-entering, duck-and-shooting that the original was, and it played well despite being pretty difficult. You see, as well as having to contend with all the baddies, and the holes in the floor, you’ve only got a limited amount of ammo for your gun and there’s a pretty tight time limit on each level.

Then there’s the final boss, which was especially tricky as it’s a one-hit death for you, and a million-hit death for him, and you’re pretty much forced to use all your ammo on the frantic lift ride on the way to reach him. No bullets means your gun can only fire one shot at a time, making him especially difficult to take down. But, eventually, I did.

Mega-lo-Mania (MD): COMPLETED!

Time passed, and so I decided to play Mega-lo-Mania again. This time, I completed it on my new RetroFlag GPi – the thing that looks like a Game Boy but houses a Raspberry Pi.

I played as Madcap, and once again (see previous posts) I reached the final level with nobody else having put anyone in suspended animation to get there with me, so I instantly won.

It’s the best game, despite that.

Assemble With Care (iOS): COMPLETED!

Another nice little Apple Arcade game. This time, you’re a repair woman who is trying to make some money while visiting a town for some festival or other. You seem to be able to turn your hand to repairing everything, and despite having turned up with just a small suitcase, you’re equipped with spare parts for a watch, a music box, a handheld games console, and a slide projector amongst other things.

Like Possessions, which I also completed today, it’s short and easy, but the disassembly, repair, and reassembly of these items is just the delivery mechanism for the story. A story which involves two sisters who have fallen out, and a father and his daughter who have forgotten how to have fun together. By repairing their stuff, you can repair their relationships.

It’s not actually quite as twee as I’ve made out, but it’s enjoyable enough for as long as it lasts.

Possessions (iOS): COMPLETED!

This is a little puzzle game where you’re give a 3D view of a room with some objects hanging in midair. The idea is to rotate the camera in such a way that the items appear to be in the correct place – flowers on a window ledge, taps on a sink, that sort of thing – before moving on to the next set of items.

It isn’t hard, and the game is incredibly short, but it was fun and looks really nice. There’s also a story that plays out with the man of the house becoming more and more absorbed in his work and less and less interested in his family.

Not a game I’d have bought, but certainly worth a play on Apple Arcade.

Jenny LeClue – Detectivú (iOS): COMPLETED!

You know, I’m actually enjoying Apple Arcade a lot more than I thought I was going to. This is another of the titles on there I’ve completed.

I won’t go too much into the plot, but it’s a story of a girl solving a murder which turns out to be more than “just” a murder. There are interrogation sections where you prod people and question them about evidence you find, lots of puzzles (often of the jigsaw and press-the-right-buttons variety), and some platforming. Being an iOS game, the platforming is a bit woolly, as you don’t have direct d-pad control of Jenny. Instead, you sort of drag her around, or flick her to jump. It’s a bit fiddly, but you can’t die and it’s not against the clock so doesn’t really matter much.

None of the game is particularly difficult, with most of the puzzles being quite straightforward, but it took me a good 12 hours or more to complete so it’s a decent length. The plot is excellent though, and the way it’s framed as a book an author is writing, under duress, is very unusual and adds a sort of second plot.

My only real complaint is that when you solve the mystery at the end… you don’t. It’s left as a To Be Continued, which was a bit annoying.

Adventure (VCS): COMPLETED!

I got a Retroflag GPi case today. It means I now have a Retropie emulation device in a Game Boy style handheld. It’s very nice.

And I played and completed the Atari VCS classic game Adventure. On Mode 3, if you know what that means (basically everything is in a random place), and completed it.

It’s not a hard game, or a long game, but it is a fun game and it’s one of my favourite games of all times.

Heavy Rain (PS4): COMPLETED!

Never before has a game made me so angry.

It’s not the sort of game I’d ever normally consider playing, and I didn’t know that much about it apart from that it was by David Cage (which itself meant very little as I’ve never played a Cage game) and involved a murder story. I thought it was a bit like one of the Telltale Games adventures, but more “cinematic”. But, coerced by two people I considered, until this point, as friends, I played it.

I should point out that as I type, I am still very angry about this game. A game which is now the worst game I have ever played. And oh boy have I played some crap. This post will be full of spoilers, which frankly you should think of in the same way your parents tell you not to eat berries from the garden.

Heavy Rain’s plot is this: someone is kidnapping children, drowning them in rainwater, and dumping their bodies. You, as in, the four different characters you play as throughout the game, are trying to find out who the killer is. One of these characters, Ethan, is especially invested in finding out because his son Shaun has just been kidnapped and he’s been left a series of ridiculous and Saw-like challenges to prove his love for his son and potentially save him before he drowns.

I should try to get the positive points out before I vomit bile onto the page. There are some excellent toilets, and a lot of them, in Heavy Rain. Most locations in the game have at least one, and you can actually use them too. The plot would also make a good film. That’s it. Two things.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Heavy Rain gets it wrong because it gets so many things wrong. Each thing individually is, for the most part, relatively minor but they’re so damn numerous that it’s just a writhing mess of broken game elements thrown at a wall like over-salted porridge. Let’s start with the controls.

The controls are bloody awful.

Let us imagine you’re the person who though the best parts of Shenmue were the QTEs. But you didn’t just love them, you fantasised about them. You made up stories about how you wooed them, married them, and had children with them. Grew old with them. You ate and breathed ever more fanciful QTEs where using your Playstation controller became more like a game of Zen Twister, embellishing button presses with stick flicking and pad flailing. As if Dragon’s Lair and Wii Sports had been involved in a matter transporter incident and the resulting Brundlefly was how David Cage decreed every action sequence was to be played out.

But the QTEs had bled out into the rest of the game. You’d not just be required to press X to open a door any more. No, you need to perform a hadouken instead. Every button, switch, cupboard. Every time you stand up, check your pockets, put your glasses on. Each and every time you answer your phone or look in a mirror. They’re all mini-QTEs. Games have evolved to the point where you just press a button to activate things for a reason. Adding nonsense complexity, especially when often the button prompt on the screen isn’t, well, even on the screen – at least long enough or in a visible way – is like tying your own shoelaces together. Why are you making it more difficult to walk? It isn’t making the game more interactive or realistic, it’s just reminding the player that this is a stupid game and you have to do stupid game things.

And at least in Shenmue if you fail a QTE sequence, you get to try again. Here, if you fail in certain places, you change the ending of the game. People die. You might die. I mean, in real life. There’s a lot of flailing. That’d can’t be good for you.

Yes. Hold “down” on the right analogue stick in order to pick UP a flower. You idiots.

That isn’t the only issue with the controls. No, the game also suffers from the same tank controls that died years ago with the original Resident Evil games. A control system which was borne partly from the lack of two analogue sticks and semi-static camera angles, and yet here is Heavy Rain channelling it again. You have times were you can’t change direction, or it changes for you, or you move out of one room into another but then the camera changes and you find yourself spinning around to walk back out again by accident. The lack of fine-tuning on your movements means it’s all too easy to move slightly past something you want to interact with then have to fight the controller to turn around and get into the correct position.

These issues would be enough to sink any game, but the controls and camera are just the tip of the iceberg. Although as we know just the tip of an iceberg sank the Titanic so you can see how bad this is going to be already.

I have played many games with serious flaws that have been worth it overall because of either the story or the sense of achievement. The need to find out who the Origami Killer is perhaps pushed me to complete Heavy Rain, but even that carrot wasn’t really enough. I had to dig deep to fight the urge to just stop and look up the ending, so perhaps the real reason I completed it was because I just didn’t want to cheat. It wasn’t worth it.

You see, the game is full of plot holes, contradictions and things that make no sense to the story. Characters do things when there is no reason to do them. They jump to conclusions when there is no evidence – or worse, when there is evidence but that particular character isn’t party to it but acts like they are. For example, when Madison is told who the killer is, she is shocked even though she has no idea that person even exists. In fact, even the killer is unaware he is the killer, because although it’s made clear that he is, you play as him and you didn’t know.

Some more “fun holes”:

  • The killer plants a car in a garage for Ethan to pick up. The car has been there for two years. In the glove box is a video showing Ethan’s son from just a few hours previously.
  • How did the gun get through the metal detector into the lockers?
  • Did the killer follow Ethan around constantly waiting for Ethan to have one of his blackouts? He’d have to in order to kidnap his son.
  • When the killer killed the antiques dealer, why did he call the police?
  • What happened to Scott’s asthma? After an hour it vanishes forever.
  • If Ethan isn’t the killer, why does he end up in the street where the real killer used to hang out, why does he dream about being the killer, and why does he “wake up” with origami in his hand?
  • How did Madison know to call Jayden, when until then she wasn’t even aware of his existence?

There are more. Hundreds of things, perhaps. I have a list.

On the subject of Jayden, I have to mention his magic FBI gear. For a game which is based completely in reality with no “magic”, science fiction or supernatural elements, Jayden’s See Everything sunglasses and You Can Really Feel the DNA glove are completely out of place.

This bit is the climax of Jayden’s ridiculous chase through an indoor market which involves running on ice and having chickens thrown at you. Because it’s STUPID.

But as Jimmy Cricket would say, come here, there’s more. Oh so much more.

I could talk for paragraphs about the woeful animation. Look, I understand this was originally a PS3 title and things were a little different then, but it was supposed to be one of the selling points of the game. Everyone walks like they have a limp. They look at things like they’re snapping their spine. They wave their arms around like Gerry Anderson is in control of their upper bodies. There’s a sex scene between Ethan and Madison (which also doesn’t make sense, but I’ll leave that) which is like Ken and Barbie mashing their faces and bodies together. That’s not how people kiss, David. All open mouthed like they’re trying to eat each other’s jaws.

And speaking of Madison, just… what? When we’re introduced to her in her vest and knickers because she’s a woman, she’s in the middle of a nightmare where she is being chased around her utterly huge apartment by two burglars? Assassins? Who knows. Then she wakes up. And aside from a mention of insomnia later on this is never mentioned or expanded on ever again. Also, again because she is a woman, she seems to get undressed a lot. Worse, even though all the male characters can use the toilets in the game, can she? Of course not.

  • Why didn’t the police investigate the people that Scott killed in the mansion?
  • Why didn’t the police investigate the ex-doctor that Madison killed?
  • Why didn’t the police investigate the father than Ethan killed?

The latter of these would normally have bothered me. In that, I had to decide to kill this guy or not. I’m usually pretty moralistic in games, to the point where even if it makes the game harder I’ll try to spare the life of people who don’t deserve to die. I was in knots trying not to kill the girlfriend in the original Prey, for example. But here, although I technically had the choice, I just wanted the easiest route to the end of the game and didn’t even pause for thought. Bang, through the head, move on. So much for the game wanting to trigger emotions and having to make difficult decisions – all overwritten by just the need to have the game over and done with.

Ethan has a panic attack in a crowd because of the trauma caused by the death of his first kid. Which is actually a good idea in the game. But then immediately afterwards he manages to get a gun through a metal detector somehow because Video Games.

Other supposedly difficult to deal with scenarios included the other trials for Ethan like chopping off a finger and drinking the poison. The game had made me so disinterested in such unbelievable characters in such contrived and impossible situations that I didn’t care in the slightest. Ethan might have a wobble about My Son or My Finger but frankly I couldn’t give a toss at that point and Antoinette’d that digit immediately. The game’s first hour goes out of its way to explain what a boring guy Ethan is anyway, what with it basically being a Grand Designs style tour of his house. Then his bird dies for no reason. Then his other son, Jason, also dies for no reason. It’s rubbish.

The almighty problem with the game, however, is undoubtedly the reveal of who the killer is. It doesn’t make any sense to be Scott. If it was better written, then of course it could have made sense, but it feels like they’d intended the killer to be someone else and changed it. Perhaps depending on your choices, more than one killer would be possible. But no, they chose Scott. Scott who, in the game, is 40, and 44, and 48. Scott who murders a man while you’re playing as Scott, only somehow you don’t see it happen. Scott who, when you “think” by pressing L2, ponders who the killer is. Scott who, for no reason at all, has a list of subscribers for some origami magazine which only serves to incriminate himself. Scott who owns a car with a pull-out cigarette lighter even though that particular model car pre-dates the invention of the pull-out cigarette lighter by 7 years. Scott who visits Gordi knowing it will endanger his own life in doing so, to find out if Gordi is the killer, even though Scott knows who the killer is BECAUSE THE KILLER IS SCOTT. Jesus Christ.

All of this, and so much more, made me very angry. Angry I’ve wasted so many hours playing this crap. Angry I’ve been duped into playing it in the first place. Angry that the developers think me so stupid I wouldn’t notice everything wrong with this. Angry at myself that I didn’t just stop after a couple of hours and read the Wikipedia entry instead. Angry that I discovered that Omikron: The Nomad Soul is also by Quantic Dream and I’ve always wanted to play that because it has Bowie in it, but now I can’t because Heavy Rain has ruined it. That’s right – it’s so bad that it has affected how good other games are.

It’s a good job it rains because otherwise the killer can’t do his killings. Clearly he can control the weather. Also, heavy rain would actually mean more rain in two hours than falls in the entirety of the game over several days, so even the game’s title is stupid.

I urge you to never play this game. Just don’t. Even if you want to play a bad game because it’ll be funny, this is not the game for you. Go and play Gynophobia or Bad Rats or something instead. David Cage is clearly a man who would be able to make a good film or perhaps a TV series, but instead he’s shoehorning a film plot into a poorly realised interactive “experience” where the flaws shine like beacons and the mechanics detract from the story. If you want to make a game more like a film, just make a bloody film. Stop playing his games and maybe he’ll go away and do that instead.

I am still very angry.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch): COMPLETED!

You know what? It’s actually pretty good. I assumed, due to the dismal sales and very little game news fanfare, that Starlink was rubbish, but in fact it was a lot of fun.

Coming out just after the death of Plastic Game Tat (Lego Dimensions, Disney Infinity, Skylanders) was a bad first impression, but I picked up the Switch starter kit with physical Star Fox ship (which is obviously Switch exclusive and adds a bit to the story) for just over a tenner a while back and decided to give it a go this week. If they’d not bothered with all the figures and ships – as I didn’t – this probably would have sold much better.

The gameplay is pretty simple. Jet from planet to planet clearing out the bad guys (get rid of spires first to make the “boss” easier), all the while making friends, building outposts, and basically gaining territory from the enemy. Once you’ve done enough, you can build special towers, build one in each region of the solar system and you gain access to the final boss area, then go in and shoot him.

The core mechanics of gaining ground and allies, while fending off the attacks, are almost real-time strategy-like, and the combat is simple but fun. It’s not a fantastic game but it’s sadly overlooked and deserves a play. It’s a bit Star Fox, a bit No Man’s Sky, and a bit musou, but it works well.

Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones (PS4): COMPLETED!

After a little time away playing other stuff, I went back to The Most Impressive Game this week to do some of the DLC. I’d previously put maybe an hour or two into The Hidden Ones, but now I’ve finished it off.

It’s more of the same, really. That’s not a complaint, just a fact. And it’s all I wanted, actually. It feels a bit rougher, with less impressive terrain and a lot more places where they seem to have forgotten about the rock formation geometry (translation: some of the cliffs have holes in them), but it was just as fun as the rest of the game.

Yakuza Kiwami (PS4): COMPLETED!

All the Yakuza games are, effectively, the same. Sure, they have different stories (although they’re not really that different), and some have different characters, but ultimately, they’re the same. And actually, that’s just fine.

Kiwami is a remake of the first Yakuza game, which I’ve never played. I knew some of the plot as there’s a brief catchup video before Yakuza 3 (my first Yakuza) and the others I’ve played reference it, but I was looking forward to doing it “properly”. Turns out it’s the usual backstabbing, betrayal, plot twists and punching everyone in the face. This time with added bikini girls dressed up as insects. No, really.

I won’t go into the plot as it isn’t that important, but it was a bit of a shock how Nishiki changed since Yakuza 0. There’s also a “feature” called “Majima Everywhere”, which is pretty self explanatory – Majima pops up constantly in the game and you have to fight him. Doing so lets you relearn all your forgotten Dragon stance moves, but in reality it’s just padding the game out and I rarely used Dragon stance anyway.

So I completed it (although actually completion percentage is just 26%!), and then wanted to start Kiwami 2 straight afterwards. Only I couldn’t because I hadn’t bought it in the PSN sale last month when I thought I had. Tch.

Hyper Sentinel (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’ll be honest, shooters are not really my bag, and I was never a fan of Uridium, which this is clearly a modern(ish) update of. Sure, there are shooters I do like, and I’m a fairly recent convert to the Church of Fantasy Zone, but I’m just making my stance clear.

I bought Hyper Sentinel because it code me about three pence. And that’s not even an exaggeration – it was 9 cents on the US eShop, and I had some Gold Points to bring it down even lower. The first few attempts at playing it were foiled by a crash-to-black screen, but eventually, I managed to get past that.

Each level is one screen high and several screens wide, with a sort of space ship or something that you fly over. The aim is to shoot all the targets on the ship, which triggers a boss fight. Beat that, and you do the next level. Do all 13 levels, and that’s it. And that was it – it wasn’t hard at all.

I think the point is, well, points. It’s an arcade game so you play it like a score attack, which isn’t really for me. I’d have preferred more levels instead, but what is there was fun enough.

Pilgrims (iOS): COMPLETED!

This was a very short Apple Arcade point and click adventure game from the makers of Machinarium. You have to complete little tasks for people, some of whom join you in your quest, and then when everyone is happy, you win.

There’s not a lot more to say about it without spoiling anything, but it’s a nice little thing to play for the hour or so it lasts.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PS4): COMPLETED!

It was quite some time ago that I bought this, but as I’m trapped on the sofa recovering from an operation, I decided to start it this week. Which was a slight mistake to start with since I’d just had my stomach effectively torn open and the first ten minutes of Wolfenstein II has BJ also recovering from having his stomach torn open. In a much more horrific way, but still.

Anyway. I’d enjoyed the previous two games in the series, and this was almost as good. Or better. Hmm.

It’s somewhat different, in that you’re in America for most of the game, where Manhattan has been nuked. And, since it’s set in an alternative 1960s, it’s very hard not to draw parallels with Fallout for these reasons. The bombed out buildings and constant radiation, along with green-screen computers and the aesthetics on board your stolen Nazi submarine feel about as Fallout as you can get. There are other locations, which are less nuclear holocausty, though, such as New Orleans.

It’s also different in there aren’t as many giant dogrobots as in previous games, and there’s no weird Nazi experiments or messing with the occult. You do, however, end up on Venus for a while because the plot is utterly ridiculous.

But despite the differences, and the changes in personality for both Fergus and Engel, neither of which seem to fit with their previous characters, it’s an excellent game. It has fun weaponry, fast combat (I think it has taken a few pointers from Doom here, actually), and some great new characters. Apparently Youngblood, the followup to this, is a bit of a stinker, which is a shame as there aren’t many first person shooters I enjoy these days and another Wolfenstein would be appreciated. Maybe when it’s cheap I’ll try it anyway.

Astral Chain (Switch): COMPLETED!

I always like the idea of Platinum games, with their amazing combat and bonkers stories, but I rarely hold them in the high regard a lot of other people seem to. Bayonetta is a great game, but is it worth the heaps of praise it gets? I’m not sure. The Wonderful 101 was, well, Wonderful, but it was a way from perfect despite the reviews.

Astral Chain, though, is really something special. I think, being half “adventure” and half combat has helped, with the story and setting being allowed to shine via the slower paced police work. The combat is complicated and rewarding, and reminds me a lot of the way you control your heroes in The Wonderful 101, as they’re in a chain of sorts, as your Legion here is chained to you. You’re almost as acrobatic as Bayonetta, and there’s also a couple of motorbike sections like that game, but they’re thankfully much better executed (and looking) in Astral Chain.

The adventure sections provide a fair bit of humour, with silly police missions like cat and balloon rescue interspersed with more serious stuff. In the early levels, the combat (especially against larger enemies) tends to take place in the sparsely rendered astral plane and sometimes your police investigations drag you there. It’s a neat way of both providing a large open area to fight in, rather than the enclosed streets of The Ark, and to reduce the number of scenery polygons needed to be pushed around so the big foes can look incredible. It’s a very, very good looking game, especially for a Switch game.

I wasn’t going to buy Astral Chain, but I saw it really cheap and picked it up on a whim, and I’m glad I did. I hope too that the world teasing in the epilogue, coupled with how well this sold, will mean we get a sequel.

Tint (iOS): COMPLETED!

Tint is a relaxed puzzle game, where you use watercolour paints to colour in objects on each level. Mixing colours produces different colours, as you’d expect, and the trick is to make sure you don’t cut off routes from paint sources to objects as you paint.

There are a lot of these sorts of games around at the moment, such as Lines on the Switch, but this one isn’t grid based and gives you much more freedom in working out a solution. On the other hand, it can be a little fiddly weaving your paint line through narrow gaps without touching other colours already down.

It isn’t very hard, nor very long, but is an enjoyable little game while it lasts.