2012 – Polytron Corporation – 1 Player
* Review is based on the PC Release
Neat and well executed 3D rotation Gimmick
Interesting and reasonably complex puzzles
Some of the puzzles are a little too complex and not obvious that they are even there.
Drives to be a community experience but the community has kind of dried up.
Navigating around the world is tricky and can get confusing.
Fez is a platform game centered around a 3D rotation gimmick. The core game play is simple platform mechanics. Walk around, jump and climb, with moving platforms and such thrown in. There aren’t a lot of enemies to contend with which doesn’t really matter because dying has no consequence anyway. The trick is, that Gomez, your character has been bestowed with the Magic Fez (or whatever) and can rotate the world 90 degrees left and right. This changes the layering of some objects allowing previously inaccessible paths to be accessible. The object is to collect these cube things. There isn’t much of an actual story.
It’s something that kind of has to be seen to really be understood but the general idea is, that say, there is a platform floating off to the right that you can’t jump to. Rotating the world may bring that platform in front of your current platform. You can then jump to it as if it’s in the same 2D plane. You can then rotate the world back and you will have no cross the gap that was previously not crossable.
Keeping track of the 3D environment can be tricky if the player is poor at spacial logic. The other puzzles all tend to revolve around learning (read Googling a key) for the multiple in game alphabets. These are little symbols that show up from time to time. Sometimes they look like Tetris pieces instructing the player to enter a certain button sequence, sometimes they are little riddles that you must answer. They are basically cryptogram puzzles. I probably would have figured it out eventually but I didn’t even know these factors were a “thing” until i went searching for answers online, which is kind of a problem of game design. It’s not a bad idea, it’s just not presented in a way that is overly intuitive to the player.
This is also a problem with the in game map. I went through almost the entire first half of the game before even knowing there was a map. a map that not only makes navigating the 3Dish world much easier but tells me when I have cleared out an area. You might think “how can you blame your own stupidity on the game?” Because it’s, once again, poor design. I played most of this game using a controller with at least a dozen buttons. Not one of the buttons was mapped to the map. Both the right shoulder buttons were mapped the same and both the left shoulder buttons were mapped the same, yet I had to press escape on the keyboard to open the map. In a game with such redundancy in it’s controls I would expect something as almost necessary as a map to at least be on the Start or Select button, it was not. This is likely not an issue on console versions of the game which don’t have a keyboard.
The game itself also has a few bugs, at least one pretty substantial one that I uncovered (though I am sure I am not the first). One of the puzzles involves cubes which only shot up on certain time intervals, the longest of which is every 48 hours. Firstly, any puzzle which requires player intervention at such a specific time period is pretty shoddy to begin with. This can be “circumvented” by futzing with the time settings of your PC (or console). Doing this seemed to screw up my save file though. I ended up resetting my play time. Not a huge deal. I did however seem to reset several cubes that I had collected, sort of. The map showed them uncollected and I could rediscover them, but at some point I had collected “everything” and could still get more cubes. It didn’t increment my cube counter though. and I could complete the game as if I had everything.
I believe in my searching for clue to complete the puzzles I read that you can collect all of the cubes in one play through but finishing the game once unlocks a FPS view mode which is required to see several hidden codes. It also unlocks a flight mode which basically turns the game into “easy mode”.
Completing the game a second time unlocks a Red and Blue 3D view (which can be disabled). I am not real sure how effective this mode is as I don’t have any 3D glasses floating around to test it with.
Anyway, it’s an interesting game. If you like the idea of combining cryptographic text puzzles with a platformer in a slightly confusing 3D environment then by all means give this game a go. Frankly, I probably enjoyed this game less than i should have. I don’t have the time or patience for this sort of puzzler so I ruined half the fun by just looking up the answers. I did find the 3D rotation gimmick enjoyable though.
So a lot of my game time was spent with Fez. I plan to do a full write up but I wanted to touch on the highlights a bit. This is a pretty neat platformer with a bunch of semi complex cipher puzzles embedded in it. I don’t really have the time or desire to work through most of them so I ended up just looking up a lot of the solution online.
At one point this game had a little community solving these mysteries. Those days are gone it seems.
World of Warcraft – The First Rule of Brawler’s Guild is You Don’t talk about Brawlers Guild
So here I am, out in the wilderness doing dailies, when I decided to battle one of those random tough mobs that show up around Pandaria. I defeat him and one of the drops is a rare drop item, an Invitation to fight in the Brawler’s Guild.
The Brawlers Guild is a 1v1 arena where players battle special enemies of increasing difficulty. At one point getting in was pretty hard and limited, I’m not sure how true that is these days. I checked some FAQs and these Rare monsters rarely drop invites. There are also invites listed on the Black Market Auction House, 10 a day at 1000 or maybe 10,000 gold. It’s intended for DPS classes and people have to care enough to bother going.
When I went there were two other people there, only one was fighting at all.
I played a few rounds, and it’s a neat concept. It would certainly be more fun with more people hanging around. As it is, just fighting 1v1 alone is kind of boring. I may as well go do some quests. The whole arena has a sort of light mood Goblin air to it. I’m not sure how much I’ll go back.
I also accidentally did some Tanking against the Sha of Fear, which I survived despite never tanking and not being geared for it (all my stats I put in Hit and Crits). The Sha of Fear has this sort of gimmick where players get swept away to fight mini bosses. Also, it seem whomever stands in the gold circle becomes the auto tank. Next thing I know the regular tanks are both gone and I’m alone in the circle taking shitloads of damage. Fortunately I was also getting healed a lot too. Eventually the Bear Tank returned and shoved me out of the circle.
- Interesting and ambition idea and gameplay.
- Impressive graphics.
- Lots of choices that shape the story a bit.
- Convoluted story that doesn’t leave a ton of questions but it’s super great.
- Many Sequences are completely pointless and superfluous to the plot.
- The game’s gimmick is neat but leaves a lot to be desired with it’s limitations.
tl;dr Sterilized Version
Beyond: Two Souls is an interesting narrative game from Quantic Dream and David Cage that is similar to their previous titles such as Heavy Rain and Farenheit. It’s much less a traditional game than it is an interactive movie, it reminds me a bit of the classic Dreamcast title Shenmue. The player controls Jodie and the entity attached to her, Aiden, across a variety of missions throughout Jodie’s life. Most of the game play involves traversing the scenes with the control sticks and interacting with the world either through a “Press X to proceed” and “old Square to complete an action” style of interface. The player can also switch to the spirit Aiden and push objects or control enemies (at times).
It’s honestly not worth a full game $60 purchase but it’s too bad at a $20-$25 level assuming you know what you’re getting into with it. It’s an interesting experience if you don’t mind the lack of “video gamey” elements.
Spoiler Filled Detailed Version
This game relies on two primary gimmicks. One, is the Aiden character, and the other is the fancy motion capture graphics, specifically, Ellen Page and William Dafoe, the game’s two main characters and Protagonist and Antagonist respectively. Dafoe is a pretty sympathetic antagonist, and isn’t particularly “evil” for most of the game but he is still the extremely sinister looking and sounding William Defoe, so you pretty much spend the entire time wondering “When is he going to turn evil?” Both of these elements have a lot of impact on the gameplay and plot.
I’ll start on the graphics. Quantic Dream went to a lot of work to capture the likeness of it’s two starring actors and present them in an incredible lifelike manner for this game. They did a great job of coming extremely close to the “uncanny valley” without landing right in it. There was even one scene where I was sure I was watching a video of Ellen Page and not a 3D render. Everything still looks like a game, it just looks really good while doing it. There seems to be a few tricks at work here though. Firstly, Ellen Page and William Dafoe are both well known actors. This helps a lot in tricking the brain into filling in the normal “gaps” that create the Uncanny valley. I’d actually be kind of interested to see what someone who doesn’t know who these two are thought of things.
Secondly, there seems to be some changes in the quality and density of the rendering (for lack of a better term). when there is a cut scene with just Jodie on screen, everything looks hyper detailed and realistic. When you’re just wandering around looking at Jodie’s back? It may as well be any other 3rd person title. You can break free of Jodie and fly around as Aiden but the view when controlling Aiden is hazed in blue further breaking the need for hyper detailed models. It’s not a bad way of handing things and I’m sure it helps cut down on processing power, but it’s there.
The lack of an uncanny valley also falls apart completely if you ignore the games’ action prompts. The story is fairly compelling when it comes to “make a choice right now” and each action has a bit of a leadout that fills in your reaction time with onscreen content and urgency. If you just ignore the action, this leadout action starts to repeat. Suddenly the super detailed characters and urgent action feels extremely gamey as everyone just sort of stares off into space looking creepy.
Though ignoring some actions may not be advisable depending on how you want the story to proceed. Most actions have multiple outcomes for pass/fail. Others just demand you repeat them and try again. This is one aspect that almost hurts the game overall, specifically, there is literally no way to “die” or fail. The story always moves on.
During one sequence you are being chased down by the police. Manage to elude them, and you get a bonus PS3 Trophy, but getting caught just means you have to use Aiden to escape from the cop car they throw you in. Either way you end up chasing away from them on a motorcycle.
During the more action filled sequences, failing to elude or subdue the guards generally results in a Quick Time Combat (QTC) sequence where you fight off the guard. Failing to succeed in the QTC forces you into Aiden Mode where you strangle the guard.
Basically, you can’t ever actually get caught or killed by these guards.
Which brings us to the most annoying hindrance of this title. Aiden’s abilities are great, except the only really work when the game wants you to use them. Just as an example, one of the few and most combat heavy levels involves Soldier Jodie sneaking through this Middle Eastern village to assassinate some nobody political stooge. There are a few different paths through the village, though not nearly as many as you might want. The logical path though would be to send Aiden out ahead and either possess guards to shoot the other guards, or to just start strangling all of the guards. Except you can only possess maybe two of the guards you encounter and you can only strangle a few of them.
Basically, ideally, you could handle the situation as you, the player, saw fit, except instead you end up limited to how the game wants you to handle it.
As for taking out guards with Jodie, well, that effectively doesn’t happen unless it’s a QTC failure event or sneak attack. This is in no way a Metal Gear stealth mission where Jodie can shoot whomever she wants despite having an entire training episode where you learn to shoot and take down guards. Honestly I don’t remember ever shooting anyone herself in the entire game, in fact the only time I recall Jodie even holding a gun with any intention to shoot was when she tries to suicide herself in desperation (it’s in the trailer above, Press R1 to kill yourself, except you can’t because Aiden and no fail scenarios and reasons…).
Aiden has other limitations beyond what he can do to others. Occasionally you can use Aiden to push or break things, this seems to be his primary communication method. Except at one point he is somehow skilled enough to type a name into a computer, which goes beyond what we’ve been shown.
Aiden also has an arbitrary range limit. Sometimes Aiden can fly a long long way from Jodie, others he can’t go more then ten feet. This is somewhat explained in the plot as “Jodie gets really stressed the farther Aiden goes”. Except late in the game when Jodie is under extreme duress, Aiden flies farther than he ever has from Jodie. It’s inconsistencies like this that slowly start to grind on your enjoyment.
There are also a lot of inconsistencies in the missions and story. The game is told in chapters spaced throughout Jodie’s life. Some take place when she is a little girl in the lab learning how to control Aiden. Others take place when she is a teenager trying to find herself, later there are a few missions working for the CIA, you end up on the run from the law for a little while and eventually things wrap up and we get a little closure to Dafoe’s motivations and yes, there is eventually an answer to what Aiden is and what his connection to Jodie is.
These chapters do not occur in chronological order, which feels cheezy on it’s own and there isn’t really a good way to replay them in order. You can replay any chapter but in order to keep any new choices you’ve made you have to completely restart from that point onward.
The core story isn’t too bad, it has a few gaps but nothing awful. The real issue is that half the missions feel completely useless. Many of the missions essentially just fancy tutorials disguised as story. You learn how to control Aiden while controlling Young Jodie in a lab. You learn how to QTC and shoot while training with the CIA, you learn how to read these little flashback scenes during a crisis event. That sort of thing.
Then there are missions which further the plot along. Jodie’s bad childhood, her betrayal by the CIA, she is running from the cops, she has to save the world. These work all right as well and there is some overlap with the tutorial missions.
Then there are the missions that feel completely tacked on. They are some of the more enjoyable game play missions but they ultimately just end up being noise. Jodie spends a lengthy mission running around the desert with some Native Americans; Jodie hangs out with some homeless bums and lives on the street for a while; Jodie tries to murder her classmates Carrie style. These events are not referred to again other than a passing choice in the epilogue, we learn no new abilities or skills, we learn no crucial or important plot points.
They just exist.
Which wouldn’t be a bad thing except this game is trying to be a narrative more than a game, and extraneous subplots are bad for a good narrative.
So I feel like I’ve been a little rough on Beyond: Two Souls, but i also know its a polarizing game. Overall, I did enjoy it. I wish there was more freedom of control and I wish there was a better mechanism to replay missions, but I still enjoyed it. It’s just not something that everyone will enjoy or be interested in.
World fo Warcraft – I Cheer After every Boss Edition
So a lot of this gaming week was World of Warcraft. I had an opportunity due to a variety of circumstances to completely binge, so I did it by tuning through the 25 Man Raids in WoW. Well, almost all of them. I still have the last one left where you go and fight Garrosh Hellscream. This is essentially the “End” of Mists of Pandaria (I think). It’s not entirely clear to me who the main villain here is. There is this giant Insect Queen, though I think she is just a pawn of the Sha. The Sha seems to be the main baddie maybe, but the Sha is just this physical manifestation of the imbalance that the War between the Alliance and Horde has brought.
Then there are the Zalandari and the Thunder King, though these jokers feel like they came out of nowhere. Basically, Garrosh is it, though it’s unclear to me at this point if Garrosh is behind the Thunder King or something. I don’t think he is, but I’m sure I could skim a Wiki at some point and straighten out the details. I do know that the actions of Garrosh result in a new Horde Warchief and later lead directly to the events of the next expansion, Warlords of Dranor. I suppose the Thunder King is the “end” of Mists and Seige of Orgrimmer (Garrosh) is a Prologue to WoD.
Whatever the case, I just want to kill Garrosh, because that guy is an asshole. I’ve been pushing the “gear” climb a bit but I feel like after finishing off Garrosh, even if it is through Raid Finder, will be enough for me. I don’t really care about running the whole mess again on some sort of Heroic 10 man Raid. I don’t really get anything by rerunning these things and there are quite a few older Instances I could breze through now that I’m level 90 and geared for Mists content.
So, yeah, I’ve run the gauntlet of like 15 Raids and killed a shitload of bosses. Going back to the Thunder Isle is almost useless now really, which is funny since like a week or so ago I could barely kill anything there.
On a total side note, I am so glad Transmogrification is a thing. I got dropped this belt at some point, it’s the highest iLevel item I have, so I really need to wear it. Except, as pictured, it looks ridiculous. The front view doesn’t do it much justice here, because the thing sticks WAY out, especially with the horns and that crazy glowing orb thing…
On another note, check out the numbers yo…
Ok, I only wish I could regularly hit like that. I have no idea what combinations of buffs made that figure but it’s like 10 times what I normally hit for…
Take on Helicopters
I also took a bit to finally try a bit of Take on Helicopters, which I got in some bundle recently. It was the reason I bought the bundle.
On the plus side, it supports Eyefinity. On the minus side, it looks kind of like ass no matter how much I crank up the graphics settings. It reminds me of Microsoft Flight… and Google Earth… a flat sat view terrain with some square buildings and trees dotted around. Mostly I learned that I prefer playing Airplane flight sims over helicopter flight sims.
This is sort of a ‘new’ plan/idea…
Oracle of Ages/Seasons (Game Boy Color)
Ok, so technically I didn’t really play Seasons this week, but these two games are effectively one game in a Pokemonish sort of way. I played through Seasons a few weeks ago and then started a New Linked Game with Ages. These two games let you pass short passcodes back and forth to trade items and to play a continued story mode. Each game has it’s own story, combining them lets you fight Ganon, which I did.
The Linked game almost makes the second game feel like Easy Mode. You can get your item upgrades pretty early with the Secret Codes and you start with all of your previously collected ability rings (2x Damage all game FTW). Still, it’s an interesting mechanic. The real issue is that often (more with Ages than Seasons) the game leaves you with little idea of where to go next. I had to consult the GameFAQs quite a bit. It doesn’t help that I don’t have the patience to puzzle some of this junk out anymore.
Both games are completed now so I’m pretty much done with them.
Codeword Unlimited + (Android)
This one was the Free App of the Day on Amazon a few days ago. Its essentially a Crossword Puzzle with no clues. Instead the numbered squares correspond to a letter of the alphabet. IE all of the 5s may be "G". You fill in letters and solve words in this manner.
It’s interesting and fun. It has ads though which is lame since it’s supposed to be the paid/full version on the Amazon App deal. They are at least pretty non intrusive
World of Warcraft (PC)
I’ve been back on the WoW Train. I’m starting to get a hang of the Timeless Isle region. Everyone is all "There is loot everywhere" but I’m still not really seeing it. I got a few Timeless pieces but they are not for my class, which is lame. I can trade them off to my alts though. Too bad I don’t have any other Level 90s.
Aside from the Timeless grind fest I found an interesting quest line on the Thunder Island. So far it’s been a series of Solo Instances. These are effectively story driven mission based quests. Ultimately I guess it results in battling the Thunder King. It’s a good place for me lore wise since it’s sort of a continuation of the concepts introduced in the Shadows of the Horde: Vol’Jin book that I finished recently.
Back in the day, I used to play a lot of SIM Ant, which is essentially an Ant Simulator. An Ant Simulator where you can wage war against enemy ants and humans alike.
These days you can wage a similar virtual war… with Goats…
Presenting: Goat Simulator…
I am honestly not sure what to think considering the creator advises that you’re better of blowing your money elsewhere on his page.
So, like many PC gamers, aka the Glorious PC Master Race, I use Steam for the majority of my games. Sure I have a few Origin and GoG.com titles and Blizzard is always off doing their own thing but, mostly, it’s Steam. I certainly don’t fall into the category of Steam or nothing, but I’m at something like 600 titles in my Steam Library.
So, just a bit of use there.
I’m also quite a bit higher than the average of "I own all these games but I have never played them, hurr durr Steam Sales" metric. I like variety.
While I do think that the PC is the superior choice for playing games, mostly for reasons such as mods and long term playability (you can always run an old OS in a VM), I do play Consoles a bit as well. The Wii has it’s neat controller gimmick and the Playstation 3 has enough exclusive titles that I was convinced to pick one up recently. That said, I don’t understand the point of the SteamBox.
Whatever, there are like a dozen of them in different prices and sizes and styles.
Except they are mostly not real cheap. And Steam OS, while neatish, runs on Linux. I like Linux, and want to support it, but something like 10% of the Steam Library runs on Linux, maybe. So for example, of my 600 games, I could run maybe 60 of them on the Steambox. Limited library aside, I still don’t really get the point with the pricing. These are essentially small specialized PCs that cost a ton of money. Could I not instead just buy a laptop to stack in my entertainment center and hook to my TV and use with a 360 controller? I already have an HDMI cable running from my desktop to my TV, I can already play all of my Steam titles (because I’m running Windows) on my TV. Not to mention that I spent maybe 500 bucks building the PC in the first place. Granted I had the case and a hard drive, but for $600 bucks I could build a decent gaming PC and hook it to any TV in my house.
No, it’s not a 6" cube but if I am saving $600 in cost overall, who cares.
What would really be preferable to a whole dedicated expensive box would be a simple Chromecast style dongle. Something I can stick on an HDMI port on my upstairs TV and connect to my desktop. If I want to play Rogue Legacy on my TV upstairs, I could just pick up my controller and go. Latency might be an issue though with that sort of streaming, though it shouldn’t be too bad if it’s all in house.
Oh the other hand, it’s Steam. Maybe these boxes are all priced for the inevitable Summer Sale blowout.
After pitting together this set i am having visions of a little LEGO camp ground. There seems to be a few different campers available with various styles and designs.
I’m not real sure if this is a gas cap or a power outlet or what? I suppose maybe it’s a water hook up, the kitchen is on the other side.
I’m not real sure how realistic this fire is. It’s pretty much a blazing pillar of flame. Also, there isn’t really any sort of hot dog sticks for the people to use so I guess they just end up with singed fingers.
There is also a nice little bike for the people to ride.
Hey look, it’s Blaster. Repaint and remold of Soundwave. It’s pretty much the same toy as Soundwave, though it’s mostly decent so… yeah.
Blaster is kind of in an odd place for me and my collection. I like the look and design and all of the character, but I really don’t know much about the character. I mean he’s kind of a cool musicy guy, but then Jazz kind of fills that role. He isn’t really part of any significant team that I can think of (like the Wreckers or whatever). In IDW he is pretty much just a DJ on the radio who shows up sometimes.
This, combined with the fact that he’s a repaint of a toy I just got, made me kind of question even bothering. I kind of want a Blaster toy, he’s a pretty well known character and all and he’s neat, his obvious mold reuse was just kind of a turn off. I’d have just passed on Soundwave except there hasn’t been a better “classics” Soundwave at all and there may not be another.
Anyway, just rambling to fill space mostly. He looks really nice. I like this mold as Blaster way more than I like it as Soundwave. He comes with a really shitty tape buddy though. The spring seems to be flaked on the back and the disc doesn’t quite flatten up so he doesn’t work too well in his chest.
Soundwave has been kind of a gaping hole in my Classics collection. There has yet to be a really solid Soundwave for classics. The old War for Cybertron one was kind of small. Masterpiece SW is a little too large (unlike Masterpiece Grimlock who works pretty great). Animated and Prime Soundwave are totally off on design. I’ve been using Cybertron Soundwave, who has a huge ugly backpack but has been (personally) the best option.
Fall of Cybertron Soundwave… mostly works…
The cold reality is, there will never be a properly scaled perfect Classics rendition. No one in this age knows or cares what a tape player is, and even in robot mode the design is too distinct. So FoC Cybertron will work, certainly better than the old Cybertron Soundwave.
He’s got a nice bulk to him, he’s larger than a Deluxe, so he’s a bit taller than everyone else (as he should be). He even has the chest gimmick.
Shove these discs in his chest, press the button, and they pop out. Not quite as dramatically as the photo above, but still it’s pretty neat. There are some additional Discs available but I have not picked them up and tried them out yet.
He also fits in pretty nicely with other FoC figures. Though I’m not real sure what he is supposed to be. some sort of crazy battle van. He’s bulky and spiky on the front and has a cannon and a seat on top. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the one Diaclone driver I own to stick in the seat but it’s the right size for it.