Virtua Fighter 2 (PSP): COMPLETED!

Polygone.

Sort of prompted by the Virtua Fighter article in the current issue of Retro Gamer, when I opened up Mega Drive Collection for the PSP – on my Vita – I decided to play this.

It’s crap.

No, it’s really pretty awful. The animation is terrible, the controls are unresponsive, and the implementation of the game on the Vita/PSP is woeful, with horrendous slowdown and sound syncing issues.

It looks nice. But then everything moves and you wonder what the hell Sega were thinking when they thought the Mega Drive was a good fit for a Virtua Fighter 2 port. It didn’t have the oomph to push enough polygons, so they rendered the animation frames with sprites instead. Leaving a poorly animated version of the game and awful sprites that are laughable beside Street Fighter II or even Eternal Champions.

I completed it as Jacky, by the way.

Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse – Episode 1 (PS3): COMPLETED!

The Penal Zone. No, not that one.

Since Minecraft: Story Mode was disappointingly adventure game free, I was in the mood to play a proper one. Luckily, I picked up the whole series of Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse some time ago, so it was all there ready to go.

And it’s so much better than the other game. There are actual puzzles. People to properly talk to. Items to find, combine, use and so on. And no QTEs or combat! Excellent.

In this series, which continues on pretty much directly from the previous one (good lord – was that really nearly six years ago?!), Max has gained psychic powers, each enabled by a Toy of Power. There’s one to let him see the future – just enough to hint at a solution to something but not necessarily solve it – and one to teleport to any telephone he has the number for. It makes for some clever and unusual puzzle solutions, not least the one where you have to get rid of a gorilla from outside a building.

As before, it’s pretty funny too. Even Sam just slapping Max out of the way all the time never gets old.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 8 (PS4): COMPLETED!

And finally.

Oh look. It’s The Hunger Games Episode. Which meant more QTEs. All the QTEs. So many QTEs.

Something which has bothered me with the final four episodes of the series, is the lack of “danger”. The huge, deadly, horrible witherstorm thing was clearly a threat of epic proportions, but since then, what have we had? A disgruntled ex-friend of Lukas who wanted a chicken. A computer that literally just needed unplugging. A woman who liked cats and wears pumpkins. And here, a man and a woman who rig some you-never-really-die olympics. Really?

It is all done. I can’t say I really disliked the series, but it’s probably the weakest Telltale Games title I’ve played. Maybe if I was into Minecraft, the references would elevate it a bit to make up for the lack of gameplay and adventure. Maybe it’s aimed at kids, but then why be a PEGI 12? It has put me off playing The Walking Dead now though, because I have no affinity for that series either.

Luckily, I do have a series of Sam & Max still unplayed, so I’ll probably do that instead.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 7 (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Remember puzzles? I remember puzzles. I remember when adventure games had puzzles. I miss puzzled in adventure games. I’ve lamented this already on the previous episodes.

Episode 7’s story was a tale as old as time itself. Person builds computer, computer takes over the world, creator needs to stop it. Which mainly involved even more QTEs, and one section where there might be a puzzle only – yet again – you’re told how to solve it before you get a chance to attempt it yourself.

I’m repeating myself, I know.

Still, it was reasonably enjoyable. Just one more episode and then I’ll be done with the series. Phew, eh?

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 6 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Whodunnit? Who cares.

As this chapter opened with possibly the longest string of QTEs so far in the series, I wasn’t looking forward to it. Then we entered a spooky old mansion and it was the beginning of a murder mystery, and I thought – actually, this is sort of cool.

Then I realised the other visitors to the mansion were real life “Youtubers”. Good grief.

I get that the game isn’t aimed at me. I don’t know who these people are and in a way it doesn’t matter, but it irked me so much that they were in it. Thankfully, some of them were killed off. Sadly, some were not.

Their horrible voices. Do they put them on? Is it a requirement for being on Youtube? Surely they don’t sound like that in real life? How the hell do people watch them without taking a drill bit to their eardrums? Kids today, eh? I suppose the horror added to the atmosphere so there’s that at least.

One thing I must say here, though, is that although the voices are horrible, the actual voice acting itself is surprisingly good.

Anyway. Once more there were no puzzles. At some point it looked like you might need to think for yourself and decide to make a ladder, but then the game just tells you to make one anyway. Why? In another bit, you have to get a cat off a chest. You’re literally told to make a fishing rod (and shown how) and told to catch a fish (and told where to get one). It might as well do it for you.

Oh, and my daughter figured out who the bad guy was waaaaay before it was revealed.

That’s that done now. Two episodes left.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 5 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Castles in the sky.

Well, this episode improved on the previous one somewhat. Sure, it was more QTEs and terrible fighting, but the story (a mostly standalone one, rather than a continuation of the previous one) was OK. It was funnier than the other episodes too, which helped.

The chicken was great, and although cliché I did like the Fight Club references. Not sure why Ivor has gone from Bringer of Evil to the comedy character though.

Anyway, with that done the setup for the next (and presumably further) episodes appears to be Sliders. As in the TV show, rather than little hamburgers.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 4 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Bacon, anyone?

Meh. This episode was pretty boring. Some puzzles that weren’t (again, you’re told how to complete them, or they’re blatantly obvious). Far too many QTEs, including what would have been an “epic finale” only it was full of QTEs.

Am I missing something? Am I just making the dialogue choices in the game which completely avoid all of the adventure and puzzle sections? Have I put it on “I’ve never played a video game before help me mummy” mode in the options?

I’m also confused as to why the story ended when there are four more episodes left to go. On the plus side, there are only four more episodes to go.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 3 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Dropping the F-Bomb

Things should be getting good now, right? I mean, there are Endermen (nope, no idea) and a massive room made of wool. And we’re making a giant bomb (hilariously referred to as an “F-Bomb”)! And collect five pink blocks that aren’t even hidden in a room. Puzzles? Nope. Interaction? Barely. QTEs? Oh hell yes!

So this is how it’s going to be. I can’t really complain, as that’s just how some games are. It isn’t a bad thing. But I was expecting an adventure game. All of the choices I’ve made so far have had very little impact either. I said something that made Lukas really angry, when presumably one of the other options didn’t. In the next conversation with him no more than two minutes later, he was fine again. What was the point?

Plot-wise, I found Soren, we escaped from his house in “The End” (no idea what relevance that location name has either), then I made a bomb and blew up the Wither. Only, of course, it isn’t dead because this was only the 3rd episode and there are five more.

Am I enjoying it? Sort of. Is it what I wanted? No. What I expected? No. What I’d have bought knowing what it was like? No. Hmm.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Cutie E.

Did things get better in Episode 2? Erm, no. Not really. More terrible combat, some out-of-the-blue QTEs, and not a single puzzle. Unless you class “click on everything” a puzzle. And if you do that, you’re an idiot.

Jesse went with Olivia to find Ellegaard or something. I had to click on everything outside of her “dome”, which opened her “dome”. Then I just clicked on what I was told to click on. Then we ran away, with some more QTEs. And then you go somewhere else, find Ivor, fight him and it’s the end of the episode.

This really isn’t up there with previous Telltale Games games, for sure.

Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 1 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Bland crafted.

Minecraft: Story Mode is another of those games I bought in a PSN sale at some forgotten point in the past. Which I then played for half an hour and then didn’t again. But now I did. Done. Have did.

Unlike most 12 year olds, I have no interest in Minecraft. Certainly, I’ve played it to a tiny degree, but it’s all too blocky and tedious for me to find any real fun it it. Aside from dropping TNT all over the place, of course. As a result, I came to this game solely from enjoying Telltale’s other adventure games, hoping my lack of Minecraft knowledge wouldn’t hinder me.

In this first episode, it hasn’t, really. There’s a lot of “lore”, but it’s mostly irrelevant to how you actually play. You have to craft stuff, but you’re literally told how, and essentially given all the ingredients. Perhaps you have to solve a puzzle to get something, but that’s it. So far, those puzzles haven’t been any more difficult than “flip this switch”, so perhaps “puzzle” isn’t the right word.

Unlike most other Telltale adventures, there’s some combat. This combat is little more than a QTE, however, but then there’s a million other QTEs that appear too. In fact, there are more QTEs that actual puzzle interaction, so the game feels more Dragon’s Lair and less Sam & Max. Not a good thing, in my opinion.

Still, there’s a good story to follow, right? Um. Maybe? It’s that lore issue. Some stuff about a witherstorm and traveling through “the Nether” and honestly? I have no idea. There are choices to be made with the characters but they don’t seem to make a lot of difference to how things play out.

Hopefully things will improve in later episodes. This one did seem to just be the setup – bad guy unleashes really bad thing, historical heroes need to be found, some temple “base” of said heroes is reached, and so on. Thing is, the game has been a combination of too-simple puzzles and too-rubbish QTEs so far, and I can’t really see them changing the mechanics.

Unravel (PS4): COMPLETED!

Red Thread Redemption

Unravel was bought about a year ago, but after playing the first level, I didn’t play it again. I’d enjoyed it, but as is so often the case, something else came along immediately and I forgot all about it, until the other day.

I picked up where I left off, and after just a few hours (not all in one sitting), it was all over.

The story follows, erm, I’m not entirely sure. A little yarn man who revisits the life a man and woman as they gradually age, by entering photos of places they’d been. As he navigates each level, filled with minor platforming and mostly simple puzzles, he slowly unravels himself. Because he’s made of wool, see – and that’s the name of the game. Checkpoints allow you to “refill” your wool, but care needs to be taken you choose the correct route – sometimes untying knots you’ve made to release some slack – or you won’t reach!

Unravel

All of the levels look beautiful. Genuinely photorealistic fore- and backgrounds, coupled with gorgeous woollyman animation and great environmental and lighting effects combine to create one of the best looking games ever. One of the snowy areas (complete with a pine cone you roll into a snowball) being perhaps the pinnacle.

It’s short, clever, gorgeous and – perhaps a spoiler – sad, but I loved it from start to finish.

Claire: Extended Cut (Vita)

Claire as mud.

I was given this, kindly, by @IndieGamerChick some time ago but only just got round to playing it. Turns out, I wasn’t really missing much in the interim.

Claire is a narrative discovery game, in 2D (unlike most which are 3D), with some nice pixel art. The story interests me, revolving around some odd happenings in a hospital. Claire is there seemingly because her mum is really not well, but after falling asleep Claire experiences some weirdness.

The hospital becomes empty, run-down, and dark. There’s a dog. Shadows of monsters flicker in the dim candlelight. Stuff moves by itself. Claire has flashbacks, or at least, what seem like them, to when she was a child. I don’t understand anything happening. That doesn’t matter.

Claire
Dark here, innit?

What does matter, is two things. Everything is dark. Really dark. Stupidly dark. Even with the brightness up full, you can’t see a damn thing. You have a torch, which barely helps. The pixel art might be the most incredible pixel art ever created, but you can’t see it because it’s too dark.

The other thing, is the map. Long time readers might recall me complaining about the 3D map for a 2D game problem that Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate has. Basically, you’d sometimes enter a door on the left, and this would put you on a different plane and so left was now down not left. Or something. Well, Claire suffers from the same thing. Navigating from A to B is hard enough anyway (too dark to see the doors, half the doors don’t open) without throwing illogical directions into the mix too.

Especially since where I am currently, I need to find a nurse in Paediatrics. You’d think that’d mean the nurse’s station, right? It’s labelled on the map, and signposted (if you manage to see them) on the wall, so you’d expect that. But no. Instead, I have to wander the entire hospital blindly (both literally and figuratively), not knowing if some of the rooms on the map can’t be accessed or if I just haven’t figured out how, or missed the door in the dark.

Claire
And not really much less dark here.

What I’m saying here, is that Claire – for all of it’s interesting points – is a frustrating chore to play. So I’m not sure if I’ll bother any more. And that’s a shame.

As an aside, and this isn’t the game’s fault at all, but my Vita is a crashy, broken, pile of crap. It’s lucky if I can manage an hour without it crashing. It’s not the memory card, and the error messages are generic and mean nothing. What this means is, that my desire to play Claire is reduced even further as a result – you can’t save at any time, yet my Vita could kick me off whenever it fancies. Sigh.

Lumo (PS4): COMPLETED!

A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end.

Lumo is how you remember old Spectrum isometric games played. You know the ones, like Batman and Head over Heels and Knightlore. Only you remember wrong. Because although we all loved them back then, they were a pig to control and the hardest things ever.

Take the idea of these games, and view them through a rose-tinted lens, and you have Lumo. It both pays homage to, and lampoons, the 8-bit isometric arcade adventure genre.

lumo

You begin in “the real world”, visiting a small-time retro gaming event. One of the machines on display malfunctions, and you’re sucked into a world where you’ve become a super-deformed wizard and electrified floors and hidden cassette tapes are the order of the day. You move from room to room, overcoming platforming challenges or puzzles, collecting four artefacts. Collect them all and you just might return home.

Where Lumo succeeds is in evoking the feeling of those old games. Not just in the viewpoint, but in the sort of objects, room layouts and traps you encounter. Several rooms are almost carbon copies of classic ones, triggering the retro glands. Some rooms contain more front-and-centre references, literally including sprites or screenshots. There are nods to 80s computer games and UK gaming culture of the time everywhere. In one section, you ride a lift and the music playing is Your Sinclair’s very own Whistlin’ Rick Wilson and his classic “Hold My Hand Very Tightly (Very Tightly)”. They played it on Radio 1 once, you know.

Sometimes the game will deviate from the Ritman/Drummond/Ultimate template into other areas. There’s a minecart section, and several bonus areas that ape Ballblazer, Zaxxon, Horace Goes Skiing and Nebulus amongst others. Some of these work well in isometric, some (*cough* Horace *cough*) do not.

Lumo

Where Lumo performs less well is mainly due to this 45 degree viewpoint. Also a complaint with many of the classic titles, seeing where you are in space relevant to platforms you need to land on can be a struggle. One particular section in a later area of the game has you navigating a bubble between spikes, and it’s near impossible to determine where it will actually pass. Failing a screen because your pixel-perfect jumping isn’t up to scratch is one thing, but because it looks like the landing area is in front of you when it’s actually up in the sky several squares away? Not great.

Thankfully, and unlike isometric titles of yore (unless you cheated!), infinite lives help stave off throwing your gaming device through a window. Some of the more tricky, long, or “perspectively challenged” areas still cause the red mist after several dozen deaths, but these are rare.

It’s definitely a game aimed at 80s Speccy kids, and is worth playing for the nostalgia if nothing else. In itself it’s pretty decent too. It may lack a little polish perhaps. And maybe a few rooms should have been tweaked to reduce the viewpoint issues a tad, but there’s a lot to like here anyway. Oh, just one more thing: Make sure you install the update before you play. There are nasty save game bugs otherwise!

lumo

Grow Up (PS4): COMPLETED!

And the award for most phallic flora goes to…

grow up Just a brief thing about Grow Up here. It’s good, it’s not as good as the original (Grow Home), and I enjoyed it.

OK, perhaps a little more than that. The premise is slightly different to the first game. You now have to find the parts of M.O.M. (literally your mothership) scattered around the planet. There is more than one Star Plant. The onus is more on jumping and (later) gliding from place to place. For some reason the game pauses sometimes when you collect things or land. It’s very pretty. The strange animals are cute. You can still drown them while they look at you with disappointment.

Despite the game, there’s less growing up than in Grow Home. Instead, you have to scale multiple heights rather than one main one. Each feels less high, and although you ultimately reach the moon, it doesn’t seem nearly as high up as in the first game.

Still, as I said, it was fun, the skies were blue, and I very much enjoyed it. 100%ing it, by doing all the challenges and finding (or rather, stumbling across) all the crystals though? Nah, y’aight.

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).