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.

Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Cut (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’d read in a lot of places, and the screenshots didn’t help, that Q.U.B.E. was a poor man’s Portal. Aside from the first person view and the clinical environments, it really isn’t. Mainly because there aren’t any portals, and so the puzzles rely on other quirks instead. Mainly, making use of coloured shapes that do various things – extend, act as a trampoline, create blocks, and so on. You do this to hit switches, move cables, or direct balls, and after each section of the game (of which there are seven) new elements are added, such as being able to rotate parts of the room or direct lasers.

OK, so it’s still a little bit like Portal.

Apparently for the Director’s Cut, they added a story. I’m assuming this is the one sided conversations you listen to on your radio in the game, and if so, before they added them it would have been a very quiet, rather pointless affair. The plot is that you are on some sort of spacecraft made of cubes, and by simply solving puzzles which exist for some reason, you’re destroying the spacecraft. Which is on a collision course with Earth or something. A woman tells you who you are (you’re conveniently suffering from amnesia) and praises you, but then you start getting messages from someone else who says this woman is a liar and you’re going to die. Who do you trust?! (Spoiler: you have no say in the matter).

Anyway, it’s not too difficult (although I did accidentally pass a few of the puzzles without realising), and certainly I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s a classic or anything.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

Actually it’s about at least four days.

I was 100% certain I’d played the original game before. I can clearly remember some parts of the game, some of the puzzles and characters, some of the events from when I originally had it on my Amiga. So imagine my surprise that I actually recognised very little of the game at all, and it turns out there never was an Amiga version. So why did I have the bowl, Bart?

Even more confusing, is how now that I’ve established I haven’t played it before, I remembered the solutions to some of the puzzles and part of the ended. Which is even more baffling as I know I’ve definitely never completed it.

Anyway. In a sort of reverse comparison, I’m going to mention The Secret of Woolley Mountain here as I’d compared that to Day of the Tentacle erroneously so it only seems fair to do the reverse now. In it’s favour, DOTT has much higher production values, but then you’d expect that as it also had way more staff and money. The graphics in particular have moved away from the functional style of the original Maniac Mansion to some really very good cartoon characters and backdrops. Sure, some of this is down to it all being HD and not pixelated like the non-remastered DOTT, but it’s still a world away. The voice acting is pretty good too.

However, as I mentioned in my Woolley Mountain post, the puzzles in these older point and click games are often a bit obscure. They’re not as bad in Day of the Tentacle as they are in Maniac Mansion or something like Grim Fandango, but some are obtuse. Take the use of “Booboo B Gone”, which is suggested by the name it’s some sort of cream or ointment for cuts and bruises rather than actually being Tippex. How you use it on a cat is then also a bit of a reach even knowing that.

That said, it’s well put together, hasn’t aged at all, and was a lot of fun. And very funny, of course.

Sparkle 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Sparkle 2, or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Zuma” was a free PS+ rental that I’ve been playing off and on for a few months. It’s not taxing, it’s not hard, but it is fun in the same way Zuma was. It’s just 91 levels of shooting balls at other balls, but it does it well enough and I enjoyed it. Not sure what else there is to say about it, really.

Iconoclasts (PS4): COMPLETED!

This is something I’d had my eye on for a while (nice looking pixel Metroidvania, so of course I have), and then, just when I was thinking about actually buying it a little while back, it popped up on PS+. Normally, that means it won’t get played at all, but since I’m letting my PS+ subscription expire (it’s just not worth the money now they’ve halved the number of games per month) I decided to give it a go before I can’t play it any more.

And it’s really good! It has interesting game mechanics, not least the literal mechanics of being an actual mechanic with a big wrench, looks wonderful, has a strange but enjoyable story, and is just a lot of fun to jump around in. And that’s the important thing in this sort of game – it has to be a lot of fun to jump around.

Also a big plus, is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as Hollow Knight. Sure, I love that game but it’s punishingly hard. Much too hard. So hard it’s verging on torture rather than enjoyment. But this is possible for mere mortals! It’s true that some bosses took a few attempts, but other than that, it was pretty easy and a lot more fun for that.

Aside from that “hide and seek” boss, of course. That was pants.

Anyway, here’s me playing it all:

King Oddball (Vita): COMPLETED

Imagine a cross between Peggle and Angry Birds. You can’t? Well just play King Oddball instead.

The aim (ha!) is to chuck rocks at tanks and helicopters, so as to destroy them all. Of course, there are more things to blow up than you have rocks, so you need to rebound them or make use of other objects to drop on them instead. If you manage to bounce a rock back at your head, or hit one than three baddies in one throw, you get a bonus rock.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s some variety in levels, with different layouts, and sometimes tanks need two hits rather than one, but very few are taxing and those that are can mostly be fluked. Still, it was enjoyable in a Peggle-y sort of way.

Burly Men At Sea (Vita): COMPLETED!

I was going to buy this for the Switch on a number of occasions, but never got round to it. And then it appeared on PS+. My Vita came out of retirement, and after twice as long updating it as it took to play the game, I’d completed it.

And then completed it again. And again. And again.

You see, this story about four bearded sailor brothers is somewhat short, but that’s only part of the point. At various points in the story you can make a choice (although it isn’t always obvious there is a choice!) and the story takes a new direction. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll end up back at the start ready to begin a slightly different adventure.

I really love the art style, and the text is humourous. There isn’t much in the way of puzzling or gameplay of any kind, really, but it’s an enjoyable set of sea tales nonetheless.

Yakuza 5 (PS3): COMPLETED!

いいね!

I know it has been some time since I completed Yakuza 4, but I’d forgotten just how bonkers it was. Playing through Yakuza 5 reminded me, but then took it further. So much further. Warning: very minor spoilers follow, although I’ve avoided any details.

For a game which is essentially a man punching game with some city exploration, the amount of time you can spend not punching men is astounding. Within minutes of starting out, I’d already found a Sega Club in which I then collected every item from all the UFO Catchers, played a few rounds of Virtua Fighter, and then had a go on Taiko Drum Master because why not. Bad things are going down? Pff.

Eventually, I took Kiryu off to progress the story and then was sidetracked again with noodle making mini-games and street racing. When I tired of the side-quests and managed to push on properly, I found the gritty violence and twisting story somewhat at odds with the whimsy of the rest. That’s the Yakuza way, though. Finding out why the Tojo Clan chairman had vanished, and what treachery was involved, peppered with giving a TV chef a gastronomic tour of the city. Of course.

After Kiryu it was time to take control of Saejima who briefly pottered around Kamurocho before giving himself up to the police and getting sent to jail. What felt like a retread of his story in the previous game soon morphed into Monster Hunter. I’m not even joking. Sure, it’s foxes and bears not dinosaurs and dragons, but it felt and sounded so much like Capcom’s series it absolutely had to be intentional. Now with a prison-issued crew cut instead of his long sweaty locks, Saejima has to try and find out who killed Goro Majima – his sworn brother and long-standing Yakuza series character. Or is he really dead? Before it’s clear it’s time to genre swap again…

To Haruka. Kiryu’s adopted daughter is now All Grown Up ((C) Daily Mail) and about to break into showbiz in that legitimate Japanese stereotype – the teen girl idol. Yep, Haruka’s story mostly involves rhythm action style dancing and singing, with street dance battles replacing the “hey guy nice clothes I’m going to fight you” fracas the other characters endure. When things turn upside-down, everyone’s favourite plum-suited moneylender Akiyama steps in, as he’s money invested in (unknown to him) Haruka’s future success. He doesn’t get a full story of his own, having to share Part 3, but he breaks up the dancing nicely.

After discovering some of What Went Down at Haruka’s talent agency, the next part of the game focusses on Shinada. He’s a new playable character, as washed up ex-baseball pro with a cashflow problem. Although he’s quite likeable himself, his story is dull as anything (being baseball linked doesn’t really help) and I couldn’t gel with his fighting style either. His plot involves his loan shark (Takasugi – who is a great character), and finding out what really happened 15 years ago when Shinada was kicked out of baseball for cheating.

The final chapter, as expected, brings everyone together and eventually explains how all their individual stories are just small parts of some massive plan to, well, that’s a spoiler. There’s twist after twist after twist along the way there, though. Imagine an episode of Scooby Doo, only after taking the mask off the monster it just reveals another mask and another under that. Then another. There’s even the now traditional finale atop the tower in Kamurocho, only it’s not because there’s another twist.

In all, it’s Yakuza. The serious organised crimelords at war juxtaposed with singing contests and taxi driving. Men in suits executing other men in suits alongside baseball practise and playing darts. Punching a huge beast of a man who just won’t stay down followed by a drink with a pretty lady in a hostess club. It’s ridiculous.

And it’s the best. Sure, there are a few slight plot holes. A couple of MacGuffins. A sometimes problematic camera and invisible walls a-plenty. There’s asset reuse, occasionally wonky animation, and product placement everywhere but none of it matters. It’s a great story with a weighty game attached, and sure – I can’t understand most of the words, but the voice acting is *kisses fingers*. Will I be playing more Yakuza games? はい、そうです。

Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

Spellbound.

What a fun puzzle game this turned out to be. It was a free PS+ rental and I only really started it on a whim, but it ended up being actually quite enjoyable.

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I’ve still a fair amount left to do, in terms of side missions and collecting more stars, but the main levels are done and so is the story, such that it is (basically I got pizza, it seems).

Things I’ve been playing recently

All games. All the time. GAMES.

Well, where “recently” is “any time in the last couple of months” and “things” is “games I’ve not completed as I’ve already posted about those”. In no particular order:

Spec Ops: The Line (Mac)

This was free, but only if I played it enough to get £1 credit back from Green Man Gaming. At first, I really struggled as it misdetected my PS4 controller and everything literally spiralled out of control – see this video, in particular from the 7 minute point:

With that fixed (I used a mouse and keyboard instead), I then worked through the first level, or mission, or whatever. It’s OK, but nothing special. It’s also difficult to play with an Apple mouse, because you can’t click the left and right buttons at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll play it more.

Paper Mario Sticker Star (3DS)

A lot of people seemed to be quite negative about this, but I’m really enjoying it. It removes almost all of the RPG elements (perhaps this is why it has the reputation it does), but the story and the combat are great and it looks lovely. Also, that Wii U one is out now and I thought I’d do this while waiting for that to magically appear in my possession.

Letter Quest Remastered (PS4)

Incredible Boggle/RPG hybrid. You’re given a bank of 15 random letters, some worth more than others (sort of Scrabble-like) and you make words out of them. The more powerful your word, the harder your attack is on your foes. You can level up abilities, making 6 letter words worth more, or double letters more powerful, etc. and it’s very addictive.

Assault Android Cactus (PC)

I set my Steam Link up again and this is one of the titles I played, having heard good things and getting it for virtually free in a recent Humble Bundle. It’s not bad, but I don’t think – so far at least – it deserves all the praise. It’s just a quite bland twin stick shooter with average graphics but with some great characters. I’m enjoying it, but not as much as I expected to.

Lego Dimensions (PS4)

I actually bought this a while back, but still had Lego Marvel Avengers on the go. With that finished (although not 100%ed) my daughter and I broke it out and yes – it is excellent. Jumping from world to world (we’ve had The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz, Ninjago and Doctor Who so far) is great, and the references to other Lego games (such as the Joker Titanbot rematch) are awesome too. Playing shuffle-the-characters on the portal is less fun, though, but we’ve negated that a little by moving the portal to the sofa between us.

Pokémon Y (3DS)

With over 70 hours on the clock now, and still about 30% of my Pokédex unfilled, there’s a lot of game here. Not least when you consider I “completed” it at around the 35 hour mark.

Actual Sunlight (Vita): COMPLETED!

Go to the roof, and jump off.

I’d never even heard of Actual Sunlight, so I was a little surprised to not only find it sat there on my Vita, but also to find myself playing it. Wait, what? A Vita game? Here? With my reputation?

It turns out it was on PS+ a while back. I dived in. Oh god.

actual sunlight
Get up, you lazy bum.

When a game starts telling you to commit suicide, you know you’ve made a mistake playing it. Sure, it’s telling your character to do it rather than you the player, but the exposition of Evan Winter’s dreary, dead-end life –  with his high tech trinkets that do nothing to make up for his non-existent love life nor his pointless, joyless job – rings a bell for many people, I’m sure.

Go to the roof, and jump off.

Actual Sunlight is a narrative discovery game, following Evan’s mundane activities as he gets up, has a shower, laments his existence, and heads off to work. Or the roof of his apartment building, if you decide to try and end it all. It’s a spoiler to tell you there’s no real choice in the matter, but a one worth spoiling as it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Actual Sunlight
No, no you won’t.

I didn’t enjoy playing it. I don’t think you’re supposed to. Everyone you talk to is miserable, and playing it makes you miserable. Still, it was interesting, I suppose, watching Evan descend seemingly into schizophrenia as he converses with himself, acts out a life he could have had, and ultimately takes himself to the roof after all.

The opening titles warn you that Actual Sunlight deals with difficult and mature issues. I’m not sure it actually deals with them, but they’re certainly represented. Probably best to avoid the game completely if the themes here are likely to cause you distress. An odd choice for Sony to push as a PS+ title, I’d have to say too.

Actual Sunlight
I think many people can identify with this.

Things I’ve been playing recently

Play ALL the things.

I’ve not done a roundup post for a while, but I have been playing quite a lot of stuff. Regardez:

BattlefieldBattlefield 4 (PS4)

I’m not a fan of shootmans, but I am a fan of bargains, so Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline together for around a fiver was a steal. Then I did an odd thing: I actually played Battlefield 4. Not only that, but I think I’m quite near the end. It’s been quite good actually, although at this point I’m finding it a little bit repetitive – enter area, snipe everyone, move on. Naturally I could mix up my play style and use some different guns but when I tried that it didn’t go well. Tanks and boats and stuff did add some variety at least. Online? No.

HYRULE WARRIORSHYRULE WARRIORS LEGENDS (3DS)

Which is still amazing. There’s more DLC this week, but in the meantime I’m nowhere near finished. I have beaten the boss on the first Adventure Map (unlocking a second) and unlocked most of the characters. It’s just so much fun – I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Unravel Demo (PS4)

I’ve actually bought the full game as a result of being impressed with the demo. That and 1) it was on offer, and 2) my daughter was quite adamant I had to. She’s played the full game but I’ve only done the demo. It feels a lot like Limbo so far, albeit brighter and cuter.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FETokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)

Ever since seeing this when it was announced I’ve been interested. I wasn’t entirely sure why, as I had no idea how the game mechanics would even work – some sort of cross between Akiba’s Trip, Idolmaster and Fire Emblem? Maybe? Who knows. It didn’t matter. Turns out, having bought it on release, it’s Persona. And it’s very most excellent, even if I’m only a few hours in so far. I really should get back into Persona 4 Golden, actually. Stupid Vita.

Table Top RacingTable Top Racing World Tour (PS4)

This was a free rental on PS+, and it’s not very good. Somehow, though, I’ve been playing it off and on and I’m just over halfway through the game. It makes me pine for Micro Machines and how much better that is than this, which is slow and has boring (and very few) tracks.

Assassin's Creed UnityAssassin’s Creed Unity (PS4)

I’m still playing it! I completed it not so long ago, but I’m still having fun doing side quests and mopping up all the collectables. Been a few Assassin’s Creed games since I last did that, so it’s obviously pushing the right buttons.

ShantaeShantae and the Pirate’s Curse (3DS)

So many boobladies. In eyepopping 3D! But as well as that, Shantae is a fantastic platformer with metroidvania elements. I’d enjoyed the original GBC game on the 3DS Virtual Console so when it was available as part of that frankly ludicrous Nintendo Humble Bundle I was very pleased indeed. I’m quite a way through it too, having been unable to put it down for a whole weekend, and I’ve just one main area left to clear, I think.

LocoRoco Cocoreccho (PS3): COMPLETED!

Thirty minutes of fun.

A short post for a short game. LocoRoco Cocoreccho was a disappointing item on the PS+ free rental list this month. Not because it’s a bad game, more because it’s was already almost free and it’s very, very short.

It’s charming though, and reminded me a lot of Hohokum. Of course, it reminded me more of the PSP LocoRoco games, but this plays much more like Hohokum than those. Perhaps this game was a source of inspiration for Hohokum?

Er, so the game then. Or “interactive screensaver” as I think it was even sold as. You vaguely guide little blobs around flowers and platforms and water, waking up other sleeping blobs and jiggling the controller to make things move. Wake up enough blobs and you can move on to the next area. In the final area, you shoot your collected blobs at baddie spider blobs. And then you win. All while the blobs sing at you.

And I won! Yay?

Broforce (PS4): COMPLETED!

Abrocadabro.

Broforce
Group photo

The aesthetic of Broforce really appealed to me, with all its pixelly loveliness and explosions and stuff. Apart from having lots of things to shoot and almost completely destructible levels, and of course having a pile of action hero parody characters, that was about as much as I knew. I was going to happily pay money for it on PSN and then they made it a free PS+ rental. Bargain.

Broforce
Are these… teeth?

The first few levels were more or less what I was expecting. Overly patriotic soldiers dropped into various levels full of terrorists, rescuing other patriot soldiers as you shoot your way through to the end. And this was great. Then, it slowly became less about shooting and started requiring some thought. Traps meant you couldn’t just rush in. Some enemies needed taking out in specific ways. If you blow up some areas it causes the roof to collapse in, and so on. Sure, there was still a lot of shooting, but it was changing.

Broforce
Over the top bosses FTW

After a while, other enemies started appearing which changed things again. Not least the aliens later on in the game, which – like in the film – bleed acid which eats away at the levels (and you). Later still, the undead start attacking and eventually demons and all sorts are added to the mix. I think what I’m saying, is that the game is constantly changing and you have to adapt your methods a bit as you progress.

Broforce
Not you again.

That said, it always remains mostly a platform shooter, and a very good one at that, but the main game mechanic causes problems. You see, every time you die, or rescue a Bro, your character changes to a randomly unlocked Bro. They all have similar running and jumping abilities (with a few differences), but they have wildly different weapon sets. Some have long range guns, some short. Some fire rapidly, some have a blast range, others have kickback. MacBrover only has TNT and no actual gun, making him tricky to use for much of the game (but incredibly useful in some circumstances), and Mr Anderbro has no weapons but his (very powerful) fists. What this means is that two Bros in the same situation won’t be usable in the same way, and some of the bosses in particular are virtual impossible with certain Bros. Which would be fine, but you can never choose which Bro you’re going to be!

Thankfully, levels are short and many have a mid-way restart point in case you does completely. If one Bro fails you, next time you might get someone more suitable. You rarely end up frustrated as a result.

Broforce

At least not with regards to Bro selection, anyway. Bugs, on the other hand, were almost game killers. Before a recent patch, there was a particularly nasty one where about a second into each level, your Bro stopped responding to inputs for around another second. This made at least two levels virtually impossible, as you needed to react immediately – and couldn’t. After two or three patches this bug was eventually removed, instead being replaced with a new one where between levels and sometimes between restarts (which used to be instant) the game appears to hang on a black screen, sometimes for over a minute. This new bug isn’t game-breaking like the previous one, but it does annoy, especially if you have to wait ages between restarts on a difficult mission.

Broforce
Bro puns aplenty.

There are also performance issues, in particular when the screen is busy with lots of enemies and explosions, meaning some levels play out almost entirely in slow motion, the final boss in particular. It didn’t bother me too much, but you’d think a PS4 would be able to handle a 2D platformer a little better.

Broforce
The final (final) Final boss. Finally.

The final few levels provided another annoyance. All of the other missions are made up of about 5 levels each, after which you get a boss, and then return to the map screen. The last mission, however, seemed to have three times as many with no way to save the game. As a result, the last 90 minutes of the game needed to be played in one single sitting. If I’d have known, I’d have done it another time rather than have to stay up late just so I didn’t have to play it all again. The final boss also suffered from Irritating and Unnecessary Gaming Cliché #3 – having to kill him over and over in various forms until he was finally dead.

From what I’ve written you may think I’m being largely negative about Broforce, but in fact I really enjoyed it. It has faults and isn’t perfect, but I still love the style and the gameplay and with hindsight I certainly would have bought it. I certainly suggest you do.

Nova-111 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Crash! Ah-ah! Lucky it saved before one I came across!

Nova-111
The final boss that wasn’t.

I thought I was getting quite close to the end of the game, seeing as I’d reached the lab (which I was convinced was supposed to be the goal) and beaten the big gooey thing (which I was convinced was supposed to be the final boss), and then a whole new area with new features, baddies, rock types and gimmicks opened up.

In this new region, fire and switches played big parts. Certain rocks could be burnt, opening up new paths, and switches reversed black and white rocks (and baddies). There were also special areas where time froze, and using your freeze time ability time flowed only in these areas, making for some interesting puzzles. In one section, you had to coax a flaming baddie into a time freeze area so you could push it around while frozen in order to redirect it towards some rocks that needed torching. It was surprisingly cerebral.

Nova-111
The actual final boss.

What was actually the final boss turned out to be a pain. He wasn’t especially hard, but he was several stages long and in each his weakness and method of attack wasn’t immediately clear. In a couple of these stages a single slip meant quick death, and all of his stages needed to be redone each time you died. Checkpoints after each would have been much appreciated. Worse than all that, however, was that once defeated for good, the game crashed at the credit sequence. And then did it again on my next attempt. And again. And again. Thankfully, it has recorded I’ve completed it as it allows me to start a New Game+, but I’ve missed out on the achievement for doing so. Odd.

Nova-111
Thankfully, not the sliding box puzzle I was expecting.

In spite of those final few issues with Nova-111, it was a nice little game, using many ideas I’ve seen elsewhere in a unique blend. If I’d had known it was going to play like this, I’d probably have bought it long ago. As a PS+ freebie rental, it’s certainly better than a lot of the stuff on that service recently.

Here’s a video playlist of a mostly complete playthrough. Skip to the end for the final boss fight (spoilers!) and see it crash out!