Nova-111 (PS4)

In space, no one can hear you bump into everything.

Nova-111I gave this PS+ free rental a try despite everything I’d heard about it (which admittedly wasn’t much) not being too positive. Dull, was the takeaway message from various forum posts, I think. It surprised me, then, when it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I think it’s really rather good. It’s a bit unusual, being a sort of turn-based strategy exploration game with some real-time elements and not a lot of strategy. And you’ve only one “unit”, unlike more RTSes.

You explore a planet, looking for lost scientists, lighting up dark areas of the map as you progress, and bumping into everything along the way. Rock needs breaking? Bump into it. That wall might be a secret passage? Bump into it. Need to kill an enemy? Bump into it. Switch need, er, switching? Bump into it. Power-up container? Bu–you get the idea.

Nova-111Soon you pick up a laser which needs to recharge after so many moves, and a phase shifter that lets you jump through one square, and bombs that freeze baddies, and most levels throw a new type of enemy at you. Some just head for you one square at a time, others zoom across the screen, some grab you from afar with tentacles, and others shoot glowing doughnuts at you. It’s quite funny too, with the things the scientists say and some weird mole creature that randomly pops up to say nonsense.

I’ve no idea how long it is, and although I can say I’ve reached the area that seems to be a laboratory, I can’t say how far in that is either.

Lemmings Touch (Vita)

No.

Lemmings Touch
Stupid.

What, you want me to expand on that? Erm. I’ll try: Lemmings Touch utterly ruins how Lemmings works by reversing the order you command your lemmings. In the proper, unbroken and excellent games, you click on what you want a lemming to do, then click on one or more lemmings to do that task or become that sort of lemming. It’s intuitive and it works. In this game, you tap on a lemming then a circle of options comes up and choose what you want that lemming to do. It means that for every lemming you want to make a climber, you have to tap the lemming then the climber icon. What’s the difference? Try making ten of them climbers.

Then they added evil lemmings to the game, which you have to prevent from getting to the exit.

Lemmings Touch
Or don’t bother, and go and play a different game instead.

Look, it’s just rubbish, OK? And it was a day late on PS+. Burn it.

Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4/Vita): COMPLETED!

Interest started to wane the closer to the end I got. Puzzles continued to make less and less sense, and even the interest with following the plot was becoming difficult as it was taking longer and longer to solve the puzzles so the story was frequently put into stasis for long periods.

By the end it had become so drawn out I’d forgotten half the characters and the secretary, Meche and the woman from the hipster club all blurred into one. Then Celso appeared and confused me further. What I’m trying to say, is either have the great, funny story and a simpler or less difficult route to progress it, or stick with convoluted and obtuse puzzles and have an easier or more straightforward storyline. Or something.

Things were hampered further by playing the final year or two of the game on my Vita, where it crashed frequently leaving me stuck in scenery or completely kicking me out of the game. On another occasion I was supposed to pick up a grinder with a hand in it, but it wouldn’t let me until I’d quit the game and reloaded an earlier save. I’d also put down the Vita’s smaller, lower res screen (compared to the PS4, I mean) as cause of much annoyance when searching for a body in a meadow in the final section of the game – you can’t see a thing as everything is too small – but since I’d already had similar problems earlier on the PS4 (the sign in the wood bit) I can’t.

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Items generally were fiddly to deal with. There was no way of accurately “activating” scenery, so often looking for items or clues turned into a Duke Nukem secret room style search, only without the HNGH HNGH WHERE IS IT. It was so easy to miss things, even when I was being helped (I didn’t use a guide, but did have a hint FAQ and Twitter at my disposal) simply because things were virtually invisible or you had to be pixel perfect to use them correctly.  Could I not cut a rope with my scythe because I’m in the wrong place? Or I can but not yet? Or it isn’t time yet? That sort of thing. Even objects you’d managed to pick up were a pain to choose from your inventory as you have to cycle through them all in what appears to be random, and ever changing, order one at a time.

tumblr_o1s0jhbhcz1svmpf2o1_1280I suppose back in the late 90s on original release this interface and 3D graphics style were still in their infancy, and later similar games rectified things a little, but for a game almost universally acclaimed as a classic falls way short simply because of the unnecessarily clunky interface – ironically an interface that seems designed to do away with the unnecessarily clunky interface of earlier titles like Monkey Island with its verb/noun point and click system. It’s a shame they didn’t improve the input method when they improved the graphics for the Remastered version. Oh wait! They barely did that either. Aside from being slightly less jagged and with altered – but not necessarily better  – lighting, the different between old and new is barely perceptible. In fact, at one point I’d been playing it for over an hour after accidentally putting it on “classic” mode before I realised.

Still it was funny, and I did, mostly, enjoy it. I just can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it’s nowhere near as fantastic as I’d been led to believe. Shame.

Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4)

_t__PS4share_httpst.coXWnvZYbI75Well, Rubacava was annoying. I had two main issues: the first was the disjointed way all the locations fit together (meaning I kept getting lost), and the second was how the hell was I supposed to know there were two ticket booths that look identical but one is sort of hidden and you can only progress if you use that one. Gah!

Some of the puzzles I nailed just fine, but others were frustrating in that I knew the solution but the chain of events to solve it I kept doing out of order. Some were totally random, like locking the waiter in the cupboard, and there’s no way in hell I’d have figured out the forklift in the lift solution without help from Twitter. Thanks Twitter!

_t__PS4share_httpst.coJfBmjnjqltAnyway, I’m done with that place, and after a trip in a boat (with a fun anchor puzzle) and some wandering around underwater, I’ve finally caught up with Meche! Although things are not going as well as I’d hoped, not least because Domino has apparently murdered Glottis. Boo!

If you want to catch up with my playthroughs, I’ve a couple of videos here (so you can see for yourself how lost I got):

Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4)

_t__PS4share_httpst.cokFBsL5Np0lHmm. Look, I’m really, really trying to like the game. I do, I think. But it keeps doing things that are awkward or unintuitive or just rubbish and I’m wondering if the story and the humour are the only reasons I’m still playing.

Good things from today’s session were the pigeon and teeth puzzles. Not too obvious, but both made sense and I managed them without help. With that I was able to leave the town and ended up in the forest.

There was a terrible puzzle in the forest, which involved moving a sign. The main problem with this puzzle being, well, this:

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Can you see what is going on? Or where I’ve put the sign? Or even where I am? No, I’m not the car. The sign is literally invisible. Once you put it down, you can’t see it any more and you have to remember where it is as you have to repeatedly put it down in different places.

After that, there’s a puzzle on a bony bridge which was a little vague (you have to extinguish flaming beavers – no really – but often your extinguisher does nothing to them, squirting through them) and now I’m in some sort of port town. Onward!

Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4)

Grim Fandango Remastered
Manny isn’t allowed to drive.

I never played Grim Fandango back in the day. I’m pretty sure I’d have enjoyed it then, as I liked Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion and those sorts of things, but for some reason it passed me by. It was, however, recently on PS+ so I’ve given it a go.

At least, I’ve tried to give it a go. I’m not sure if I’ve lost my touch or something, but I quickly got very lost. I had no idea what to do, or, once I’d figured out my goal, how to do it. The receptionist told me to get in my car, but the only car I could find (in front of the building) was not able to be used. There were a handful of locations I could explore, but I couldn’t find anything much to do in any of them.

Grim Fandango Remastered
The Land of the Living is a strange place indeed.

I did enjoy all the dialogue, and I love the setting and the characters, but I’m already concerned I’m going to keep getting stuck like this. Thankfully, I found a door I’d missed that led me into a new area and I managed to progress the story a bit more before I rhetorically threw the game in the bin. I did get stuck a bit more after that, but a couple of people on Twitter assisted when I moaned I was unable to figure out what to do next.

Grim Fandango Remastered
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

For now, I’m going to persevere with Grim Fandango. There is a lot to like here, and hopefully that will continue and will be enough to keep obtuse puzzle solving agony at bay.

Broken Age (PS4): COMPLETED!

Broken Age_20151026162213I like point and click adventure games, and it was only a matter of time before I went and bought Broken Age anyway. Then, of course, it appeared on PS+ so I didn’t need to. I sort of feel like I should do anyway, because I enjoyed it a lot and PS+ always feels like renting and renting is Bad. Probably.

Without giving too much away, Broken Age is a game of two halves played out as two seemingly separate stories. On one side, there’s Vella – a young girl chosen to be sacrificed to the monster Mog Chothra in order to protect her village in a ceremony that happens in every village every 14 years. On the other side, there’s Shay – a young boy who lives apparently alone on a spaceship and does nothing but terrible and childish “simulations” where he rescues woollen creatures from fake harm every day.

Broken Age_20151104204202Naturally, their two stories are not only linked, but become one later on. That’s not really a spoiler as it’s pretty obvious; otherwise why not just have two separate games, eh?

I assumed that you had to play one story then the other, but it became apparent that you can actually flit between both at will. In fact, in Act 2, you have to do this in order to solve some puzzles (and it’s at this point I realised you could). Near the start of the game I guessed what the end of Act 2 twist (and the reveal about Shay’s spaceship) would be, although maybe I got lucky.

Broken Age_20151107220309As far as the gameplay goes, it’s a streamlined point and click game. Streamlined in that gone are the days of choosing “give”, “go”, “use” etc., instead everything is context sensitive and this reduces annoyance greatly. I know Broken Age isn’t the first to do this, but it’s appreciated anyway. The puzzles are mostly straightforward, with actual simple logic to them, meaning they’re generally not frustrating as they can often be in these games. However, in the final half an hour or so of the game (or almost two hours as I played it…) there are some real head scratchers: It was too easy to seemingly get things right but them not actually work. Also, the less said about the hexapal wiring puzzles the better. Oh god did they annoy me.

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Broken Age was funny just as you’d expect from Tim Schafer, had a wonderful story and a cast of great characters (almost all with some excellent voice acting too). It was pretty long for a game of this type too, not accounting for my lack of skill in the latter part, it was well over 8 hours. I can definitely recommend it to fans of the genre too.

Here’s my entire playthrough. If you’ve the stamina!

Xeodrifter (PS4): COMPLETED!

Mutant_Mudds_reference__t__PS4share_httpt.copnYlVFN4rPYou can clearly see Mutant Mudds’ DNA in Xeodrifter. Similar chunky pixel graphics, the same feel in terms of physics, plane shifting, 8-bit music and similar looking baddies. But it’s not a sequel, ditching fantasy mud monsters and platforming for Metroid inspired planet exploration with Metroidvania style progression through ability unlocks.

_t__PS4share_httpt.coryA6YTdcJ0As you flit to and from four different planets in search of your damaged ship’s warp core, you pick up health and weapon boosts, improving your stats and making progress easier. You can reach deeper into the planets’ caverns by beating bosses, which provide you with new abilities – running across lava, turning into a submersible, swapping between the fore- and background planes, and so on.

_t__PS4share_httpt.coW88dty5bMLIt’s excellent and fun, and like many of these sorts of games, becoming a walking tank later on and taking down what used to be virtually impossible baddies with just a couple of shots is always enjoyable. It’s compact, and even though there’s a lot of backtracking, it’s never a chore; in part due to unlocked powers granting shortcuts. I’d read in many places that Xeodrifter was really tricky, but I didn’t find that at all. A couple of bosses were hard, but since they were all virtually the same with an extra move each time you met them, even the toughest was a walkover once I’d learned the patterns.

In fact, the only real downer of the game is the cloned bosses. They are literally just palette changes with one extra move each. Since you become more and more powerful as you progress, they generally get easier too – not harder – with the final few taking one or two attempts, whereas earlier ones took 10+ tries. Despite this, Xeodrifter comes highly recommended for anyone who fancies a short but great looking pixelly Metroid type explorey game. Nice.

Warning: video shows game played from start to finish, so contains spoilers!

Grow Home (PS4): COMPLETED!

Green_Hill_X_Mushroom_Hill_Zone__t_httpt.covHQuSQaYWtSo many people were excited for this game, and voted it way ahead of two other potential PS+ titles this month as a result, but the majority of views of people after they’ve actually played it seem negative. Apparently, it’s “ruined” by screen tearing. It’s boring. The controls (specifically the climbing) are terrible, and so on.

I’d like to suggest, that those people are idiots.

Grow Home_20150901191542Yes, there is screen tearing. But I only noticed it when it was pointed out to me via a screenshot. I genuinely can’t see it when playing. The controls are awkward at first, but soon you find that L2 (left hand grab) and R2 (right arm grab) are intuitive, and by pushing up and alternating L2 and R2 you can climb quickly. As you progress, you unlock a jet pack, what amounts to a parachute, and finally a glider, and from then on, you climb less anyway. You don’t fall off the plant you’re growing so much, and the game becomes fun.

Grow Home_20150905144840I found it fun anyway. Riding flower sprouts from the main giant star plant to glowing islands in the sky (the main task in the game) is fun. Grabbing objects just to see what they do is fun. Getting all the crystals is Crackdown-like, and fun. It’s all FUN.

The most fun, however, is grabbing a sheep, then dragging him into the sea. Always hilarious, especially watching his little sheepy face as you do it. Or, when two sheep are playing football with a pumpkin (no, really), you grab it, and chuck it in the sea. The sheep just look at you in disappointment. Leaves me in stitches. Being chased by a bull. MOM’s comments. Growing a giant phallus. It’s a great game, and those joyless inhumans who don’t think so are wrong.

Sheep based fun here:

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4): COMPLETED!

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150811211404I find the term “walking around simulator”, which games like this have often been categorised as, somewhat derogatory.  It’s as if there’s nothing to the game at all, bar walking around, and it should be derided because of this. Which is missing the point.  The aim of these games is not to “win”, not to solve puzzles and leap gaps and shoot Nazis, but to discover the story. Yes, you do this by walking around, but there’s more to it than that.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150811214804In Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, erm, everybody’s gone to the rapture. You start off as an unknown person on the outskirts of a Shropshire village in 1984, near an observatory. You can’t enter the observatory as the gates are locked, so you need to travel a massive loop of the village to try and get in the back way. As soon as you set off you hear a radio message which alerts you to “an event”, and as you explore the village radios and telephones start to fill in some of the story behind what happened.

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Along the way, orbs of light direct you to places of interest, where you see some conversations and actions leading up to The Event played out. Technically, you can just walk past everything and head for the end of the game, but then you really do have just a walking around simulator on your hands, and you’re missing both the point and the game.

When you reach the end, there’s no decisive conclusion and no full exposition of exactly what happened. It’s up to you to formulate in your head what you think occurred based on what you’ve seen and heard, and how you interpret what the “glowing light” actually is.

Almost as much fun as putting this together yourself, is reading what other people thought and how their theories compare to your own. With that in mind, here’s a big spoiler:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

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Obviously, there’s more to it than all this, but I’m not intending to write a dissertation! There are a lot of side stories as well, like the love triangle between Stephen, Lizzie and Kate, or Frank’s difficult relationship with his sister, all of which are explored literally by exploring. It’s intriguing and compelling finding out everything you can from the clues left behind, and the English village setting is beautiful to wander round.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150811212930The only minor negatives I have are that sometimes the walking pace, even with the “jog” button, is much too slow (especially when you realise you’ve missed something and have to backtrack for miles), and that there is a huge amount of asset reuse. The same shed, greenhouse, plastic garden table, white sheets on the washing line, Raleigh Burner-alike BMX bike and books are everywhere, repeated over and over again. Houses all have the same kitchen. Even the two pubs in the village have exactly the same “special offers board” and virtually the same layout inside. The worst copy and paste job is the large number of cars that are around the village – of which there are only about 5 or 6 types. This wouldn’t be a problem but they’re not just the same type of car, they’re exactly the same car with the same colour and same number plate.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150812223056Sometimes you can see that it’s intentional, with, for example, a car appearing in one location with a Peter Pan hat and swords inside, then appearing later at the holiday camp where the kids were performing Peter Pan, but most of the time it’s just jarring. In one case there’s a carpark with two instances of the exact same van in it! There’s no reason why they couldn’t have replaced the number plates and colour-swapped the cars to mix it up a bit, surely? Or had a red-and-yellow Burner instead of a blue-and-yellow one occasionally? I realise it was a small team making the game, but this would surely have been a tiny job compared to the rest?

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150812221952Another thing which was unimportant in the end but seemed necessary to record along the way was all the numbers broadcast on the radios (identical radios…). I started to get a little paranoid that I might miss one. Then I wondered if the names of the books were important. Or the times on the clocks (which were all stopped at the same time, as it turned out). Or the car number plates. I ended up documenting everything and – of course – none of it was needed. In fact, there was nothing you could even do with this information anyway.  This wasn’t the game’s fault of course, more mine for not having any idea what to expect and not wanting to miss anything that may be required later on. For new players: read and listen, but don’t bother making notes.

Should you play Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture? Absolutely. Will you understand what you’ve just played when you come to the end? Possibly. Will it matter if you don’t? No, I don’t think so.

Never Alone (PS4): COMPLETED!

Skinner_s_kitchen__t_httpt.coW04WLtjnbtWell that was short. Apparently Never Alone is about three hours long, but I appear to have completed it in little over half that time.

Probably just as well, actually, as after the first 45 minutes of “ooh” and “ahh” over the graphics and the setting and how unusual it all appeared to be, Never Alone quickly became a tedious platformer with bugs and glitches and some rubbish jumps. Relying on the wind to carry you further frustrates as there’s no way of telling exactly how far it’ll take you, often carrying you past the platform you want to land one and into the sea/hole/baddie instead.

Restarts are quick, thankfully, but it’s seemingly random how far you go back. Sometimes it’s a mere couple of steps, other times (like during on of the chase sequences) it’s back 20 or more screens.

5752__52GameChallenge__t_Never_Alone__PS4__httpt.cof0eRI46dRiOften I found it difficult to tell where to go next, either because I’d not “activated” an invisible spirit with my fox chum, or not panned the camera round in a completely different direction to where I’d expect to go, or simply not realised what was solid ground to walk on and what wasn’t. Things were complicated later on when your fox becomes a boy (spoilers, sorry) and the whole way you play changes – for the worse, in my opinion.

Your bolas attack too is overly complicated. You have to hold back in the opposite direction to where you want to hit (which is fine), but then flick it in the direction you want to fling it. I now realise the PS4 stick isn’t ideal for this, and especially during the frantic sections of the game where you’re not given time for a second shot, I feel that just letting go of the stick, or pressing a face button, would have been a better idea.

I sound harsh and it isn’t really a terrible game, it’s just yet another one of those arty games which has a lovely story and fantastic graphical style, but forgets to do something a bit more interesting (and controllable) with the gameplay. As it is, it’s just another slightly annoying platformer.

Anyway, here’s the last hour or so. Spoilers, of course.

Injustice: Gods Among Us (PS4): COMPLETED!

Cyborg_is_just_Mega_Man__innit.__t__PS4share_httpt.coxYawU3SQbuWell this was a surprise. The Mortal Kombat series left me cold after UMK3, and although this isn’t technically a Mortal Kombat title, it clearly is a Mortal Kombat game. It’s the same team, it’s a fighting game, it’s a followup to Mortal Kombat vs DC, and it’s even got Scorpion in it. And I enjoyed it.

Man_or_Aquaman.__t__PS4share_httpt.co6XyPVpBgTTThere’s little depth to the fighting, and in many ways the fights just seemed like the gaps between the story in single player mode, but something made me want to keep playing to the end. I liked how you’d flit from character to character as the story progressed too. Perhaps this is how more recent MK games have done things anyway, but it’s way better than the standard “tower of fighters” of old. It forces you to play as roughly half the roster as well, including some I’d never have picked through choice (Aquaman? LOLZ) who turned out better than expected in many cases.

I don’t think I’ll bother with multiplayer (I did try to play online, but I was alone), but the free PS+ rental was well worth  a story mode playthrough.

Rain (PS3): COMPLETED!

I started this just before my PS4 arrived, but went back to it today to finish it off. It’s reasonably short, and plays a lot like Ico or Papo & Yo, with some puzzles and a bit of platforming.

The “thing” is that the boy you control is invisible, and can only be seen when the never ending rain is landing on him. Under shelter, he’s hidden from both baddies and you (as in the player) – step out into the rain and his water soaked outline appears. The same is true of most of the baddies as well, and splashing through muddy puddles can reveal you even when hidden – until you take a bath or a swim to wash the mud off.

It’s quite a clever idea, modifying a standard hide-and-seek mechanic seen so many times before, but making the character you’re controlling so difficult to see (even when technically visible) can make things frustrating. Even more so when you’re finally joined by an equally invisible girl – frequently I forgot which one I was controlling and ran the wrong way. Not great when you’re being pursued by The Unknown, a bizarre giant creature who seems intent on killing both of your for reasons, well, unknown.

I sort of enjoyed Rain, but I was glad it came to an end when it did. It looks great, with all the apparently 1950s French streets you roam, and the classical music soundtrack is fantastically haunting, but I think it exhausted its ideas just before the game finished. Well worth the free rental, though!

Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! (PS4): COMPLETED!

Temple_of_Doom__t__PS4share_httpt.coHUDJExPrIlBack in the day, I did play Abe’s Oddysee quite a bit, but it was so difficult and so frustrating. I don’t think I ever even got out of the factory – I certainly never completed it.

With a free PS+ rental, and promises it was now easier to control, easier to play, and had quicksaves, I thought I’d give it another try. And I completed it this time!

Second_temple_challenges_done.__t__PS4share_httpt.cojigwgzSn2CSadly, I got the bad ending due to not rescuing enough Mudokons. I don’t think I’d let all that many die, and I don’t recall leaving many behind, so I can only assume I missed a load of rooms somewhere. Of the 299 available to rescue, I think I managed 83. Not enough to survive the mincer at the end of the game. Bah.

Good as the game was, I really don’t think I can be bothered playing it again to try for the good ending. I’ve too many other things to play!

Geometry Wars 3 (Vita): COMPLETED!

tumblr_nr6uffdgpu1svmpf2o1_1280Like the awesome but mostly ignored Wii version of Geometry Wars, Geometry Wars 3 (which was a free PS+ rental this month) has a great single player “adventure” mode. Each level takes one of the main score attack modes and requires you to beat a certain score or clear a level in under a certain time with the rules of that mode, or perhaps with no smart bomb or extra lives.

In addition, every so many levels, there’s a boss (which is a new thing in the series, I think?). All the bosses are superficially the same, consisting of a large gemstone type enemy who periodically drops its shield while spawning standard Geometry Wars enemies and occasionally rushing you.

tumblr_nr8p4yjb0x1svmpf2o1_1280It all feels a bit like a “best of” Geometry Wars, really. It has the stuff from the first two games, and from the Wii game, and then nicks a chunk from the also excellent  Nano Assault Neo by setting many of the levels on the surface of a 3D shape rather than on a flat plane. As you progress through Adventure mode, the score multiplier Geom items also act as currency with which to buy or upgrade special weapons and drones.

Frankly, it’s superb and my only issue with the Adventure mode is that the final boss is a massive, massive difficulty spike. I easily spent as long attempting that single level than I did on the previous 49 levels combined! A single life and multiple “phases” and attack patterns, along with insta-death walls did not make it simple.