Monthly Archives: February 2016

Adding to the Backlog – Greater than nine, but less than eleven PS2 games

gd adding to the backlog feb 2016 games

The world’s weird, and I say that because it was one year ago in February 2015 that I went out to my friendly neighborhood GameStop and grabbed a whole bunch of PS2 games for next to zero dollars. Well, I did it again the other day, feeling compelled to take one more gander before future purchases like these can only be done online, without the thrill of discovery. See, I moved from a house to an apartment since then, and there seems to be only one GameStop in my area still stocking shelves of case-less, manual-less PS2 games, and variety, in terms of selection, are growing slimmer by the day. I feel like I grabbed the last of whatever one might consider good games, leaving behind dozens and dozens of copies of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, SingStar ABBA, and Madden NFL ’08, which I assume will eventually just get trashed.

Anyways, since there’s ten total, I’m just going to list ’em below, along with their prices. Keep in mind that these were already marked down for me being a Pro Member, as well as from the store running a 75% off promotion on all things old school. Oh boy. Here we go then, in alpha order:

  • Bombastic ($0.45)
  • Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz ($0.67)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($0.67)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($0.67)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($1.13)
  • Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law ($0.67)
  • Jak X: Combat Racing ($1.13)
  • Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny ($0.67)
  • The Golden Compass ($0.45)
  • The Sims 2: Pets ($2.25)

All right. That’s a whopping $8.76 in total. Not too shabby, all in all. I’ll touch briefly on some of these and why, in my zany mind, I determined they were worth snagging on this last hurrah out into the wild. We’ll save a longer analysis and fleshed-out thoughts for down the road, when I actually get to play these. When that will be, I naturally can’t say, considering I haven’t even really dipped into the ones I got a year back, though I did attempt to play My Street and have a post-in-progress in my drafts folder on it…I should really do something about that soon.

Both Bombastic and Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz are games I’ve never heard of before. The former seems to involve exploding dice, and the latter is a, surprise surprise, multiplayer trivia show about pop culture.

Much like my fascination with all things Lord of the Rings, I’m just as curious about the videogame adaptations of the Harry Potter series. Specifically, the non-LEGO versions. I’ve only played a few before–one was a terrible DS title, and the other is a spin-off about Quidditch–but never any of the ones really dealing with the early going-ons of Harry and his school days. In short, I want to explore Hogwarts and go to classes and do a quest to figure out the new password for Gryffindor’s common room.

Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law…er, I have no idea what this is, having never watched a lot of the cartoon show. Why couldn’t I have found a videogame take on Home Movies instead?

Look, Jak X: Combat Racing. I really only got you to complete the collection, not because I want to play you. The driving around the desert and car combat from Jak 3 were my least favorite parts, so here’s a whole game devoted to that stuff. Insert some snarky comment from Daxter here.

I played an Onimusha game once, back in college, but I don’t think I could confidentially tell you which one or anything about it other than it was my roommate’s. They seem like decent character action titles, and I was surprised at how good the game actually looks for its day.

I’m a big fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, but less so of the film adaptation of the first book The Golden Compass. The theatrical version was too friendly and safe, scared to put children in danger. Heck, they even changed the ending, which would have greatly affected the plot in the next two films…if they ever got made. Pretty sure its reception was not great despite all the cute and cuddly dæmon voiced by mega stars, and they made a videogame tie-in, so I can only imagine how bad that turned out. Wait, I don’t have to imagine anymore…I own a copy. Woo?

Funny enough, I played The Sims 2: Pets at my girlfriend’s the other week, doing my best to recreate my kitty cats and a happy, stable home for all of us. I didn’t put a lot of work into either the cats or home, as I was just messing around and not planning on saving my progress. For example, instead of a bathroom, I simply had a toilet in the living room and surrounded it by plants. Anyways, for this price, I had to snag a copy for myself, which maybe I’ll mess around with once I am fully finished with The Sims FreePlay. You know, sometime in 2025. Sad zing.

Right. Well, here’s a whole bunch of more games to add to my backlog. May they wait patiently until it is their turn in the spotlight.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #19 – Samorost

2016 gd games completed samorost 1

Divert asteroid
Change its path, make things happen
Avoid anteater

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #18 – Covert Front, Episode 3 “Night in Zürich”

2016 gd games completed covert episode 3 capture

From train station to
Safehouse to jail, Kara fights
With her brain, walkthrough

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Covert Front, Episode 2 “Station on the Horizon”

2016 gd games completed covert front episode 2 capture

Kara speaks and sneaks
Finding clues, foul scientists
Ugh, door lock puzzle

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #16 – Covert Front, Episode 1 “All Quiet on the Covert Front”

2016 gd games completed covert front ep 1 capture 02

A World War I spy
Seeks revolutionary
Secret, search slowly

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

You’ll never find The Hunt’s Elk King unless you click everywhere

the hunt screenshot 001

For short, atmospheric-driven point-and-click adventure games, I try to go in blind. Maybe, at most, I’ll read a brief summary of what it is all about, but I’m probably already interested in playing based on either its zany title or if a screenshot revealed an appealing art style. I figure I’ll learn along the way, and it’s not like I’m committing to some hundred-plus JRPG where there are many spinning plates to pay attention to. Well, for Running Zombie’s The Hunt, I read a bit more than usual before exploring its spooky wilderness, and I’m so thankful I did, because without that knowledge, I’d never have been able to complete it.

The Hunt is an otherworldly and horror-heavy point-and-click adventure game that has you tracking down the legendary Elk King, for reasons not clearly stated. This Elk King is a demon that has cursed the surrounding forest, as well as those that pursue it. Also, I keep mistyping it as Elf King, which Thranduil would not approve of–my bad. Before venturing off into the woods, you grab a gun, knife, and your trusty dog Arrow, which I can only assume is a reference to The Point. Anyways, along the way, you’ll find clues, as well as fend off animal attacks, all in search of a mythological creature.

Since The Hunt is a point-and-click adventure game you can play in your browse, one only has to click on things to interact. Some objects will display descriptive text when you hover over them, but not everything you can interact with does this, which leads to a lot of clicking on everything…just to be sure. The game’s developers also seem to like to hide pertinent items and puzzle solutions along the far edges of the screen, where many might not even consider examining. This is the bit I mentioned reading earlier that really saved my skin. In terms of your inventory, it’s mostly weapons and tools, and these items are often used automatically if the stars are aligned and you are standing where you need to be standing. However, using the shovel to dig up the grave makes perfect sense, but the shovel remains in your inventory afterwards despite being depicted as on the ground after shoveling the dirt. I don’t know. The whole interface and way the puzzles are obscured from view makes for extremely awkward gameplay, nearly to the point of frustration.

For example, take a look at the screenshot at the top of this post. I picked it on purpose. See those trees and flowers to the far right side of the screen? Seem fairly nondescript. No descriptive text comes up if you hover over that area. Well, if you click near the “mute” button, but not actually on it, you’ll push the plants away, revealing a boat that will help you get across the island. I stumbled upon this solution through brute force. Or rather, brute clicking. I did not feel rewarded afterwards.

Here’s what The Hunt has going for it: atmosphere and sound department. Also, the art style is loose and grainy, but easy to fall into, like Thomas Cole’s paintings, and the animal attack jump scares did their job, catching me off guard by how fast they happened. I say all this because there’s something here, a glimmer of potential in a dark cave full of red eyes. Hopefully Running Zombie’s next adventure will require less clicking in corners like a madman and more logically tough puzzles. Otherwise, I’m less inclined to chase down that mysterious Elk King. For those curious, I took the “approach” choice when forced, and it did not end well for me or my dog. Sigh.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #15 – The Hunt

the hunt screenshot 002

Me and my Arrow
Go into the wilderness
For Elk King, jump scares

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Meet me in the Dark Zone in Tom Clancy’s The Division


You can’t see my face, but my eyes are both blurry and extra droopy today, and that’s because I put about four hours straight into Tom Clancy’s The Division last night, only stopping once to grab a glass of water. Specifically, it’s free, open beta thingy, happening from February 18 through the weekend. Xbox One owners got to get in a day early, which is better for me, since I’ll be traveling and visiting family over the weekend. Either way, this is actually my first experience with a beta/early access kind of game, and I’m coming away from it with a better understanding of what The Division is about, and maybe what it might become down the line. All in all, I think I’m in.

Story details are not the focus of the open beta, but here’s what I know so far about The Division. A smallpox pandemic, transmitted by a virus planted onto banknotes, spreads on Black Friday, throwing the United States into mayhem and panic. The U.S. government swiftly collapses in five days, and basic services follow after that. Without access to food or water, the country quickly descends into chaos. You play as an agent of the Strategic Homeland Division (SHD), or “The Division” for short, which is a classified stay-behind force of self-supported tactical agents under direct orders from POTUS to prevent the fall of society.

The Division‘s core mechanics are similar to other action-based third person-shooters of the last generation or so, like Gears of War and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, in which the player character can carry multiple firearms, grenades, and equippable skills that create effects on the playing field, like dropping a mini turret or pinging the area to highlight enemies from allies. Players can take cover behind objects during firefights, like cars and barriers, to avoid taking damage from enemies and provide a tactical advantage when attacking. Or you can do what I do often, which is forget to hide behind cover and stand right in the lines of enemy fire, taking shot after shot to the chest and wondering why I’m bleeding out so fast.

There’s also loot, which is where this begins to be more of an RPG like Diablo than a straightforward corridor crawl of just shooting fleshbags and moving on without a care to their corpse. First, there’s customizeable gear for your person, like new coats, shoes, breathing masks, and such, which are cosmetic only. Then there’s actually new pieces of armor and backpacks, as well as different types of weapons. You can carry two larger weapons, as well as a pistol-sized gun, switching between them with the press of a button. Naturally, there’s also a ton of mods to loot or purchase, which provide new grips, scopes, and muzzles. I’ve been focusing on using the pistol and Ballistic Shield ability, hanging back to heal myself and others via the First Aid ability.

Lastly, let me talk about the Dark Zone, since there were only two story-based missions in The Division‘s open beta, one of which was a surprising amount of fun, but they are over rather quickly. Basically, the Dark Zone, besides being the name of my forthcoming new wave death-metal band, is a player-versus-player competitive multiplayer mode, where a lot of high-end weapons are left behind when the military retreats in the game. It is separate from the main campaign and even has its own progression system, represented as a purple experience bar that fills up as you do stuff. Basically, players can discover contaminated loot inside a Dark Zone area, and these valuable items can be stolen by other players in the zone; the only way to permanently add this gear to your inventory is to extract them via a helicopter, which arrives after a timer countdowns. Other players can join you in hopes of extracting their loot, but both A.I.-controlled enemies and agents gone rogue will attack in hopes of performing a successful robbery. This means that every new non-lethal agent that pops up in the area has the potential to be a threat, which raises the tension of extracting higher.

Visually, The Division is extremely sharp, with dynamic weather effects and time of day changing somewhat unnoticeable…until you notice it is dark out. I’ve only been in NYC a few times, but the recognizable areas are there, and the map seems to correlate directly to real life, which is both cool and staggering. I played with a buddy of mine, and that definitely made for a more enjoyable–and learned–experience as he taught me some of the systems and lead the way. I do worry that if I can’t team up with people that The Division will be less fun to grind through solo, and even more tough to survive out in the Dark Zone.

Either way, I’m looking forward to playing a bit more during the open beta, and then we’ll see if I’m committed or not to The Division next month when it actually releases to all. This could be addicting, or it could be like Diablo III: Reaper of Souls was for me, addicting for sure, but only for a little bit.

This is my kingdom, where splatting globs of paint rules

gd final impressions unfinished swan

I shouldn’t have waited almost four years to play Giant Sparrow’s The Unfinished Swan. Nor should I have waited to play it since downloading it for “free” back in May 2015 as part of being a PlayStation Plus subscriber. I mean, it’s a short thing, an experience completely capable of devouring within a few hours, which I did recently on my day off thanks to all them presidents and whales.

For some reason, in my mind, I had paired this with Antichamber, which I’ve not played, but what seems like a lengthy and somewhat obtuse puzzle game. One I definitely want to try, but worry I don’t have the brain capacity to handle right now. Both also have amazing styles, where color is king, but thankfully the puzzles in The Unfinished Swan won’t melt your mind. Instead, you’ll find childlike glee and fascination in a straightforward, yet somewhat depressing story about magical and imaginary beings and lands.

The Unfinished Swan tells the touching tale of a young boy named Monroe, who travels through one of his deceased mother’s paintings to reach a mysterious fairytale-like realm, chasing after the titular farm animal. As Monroe makes his way forward, he’ll learn about the king of this world, who is no super saint and will leave you a bit conflicted by the time credits roll. Actually, credits don’t roll per se, but rather unfold as you play through them, and it’s fantastic, right up there with other playable credits, like in Vanquish.

The game is split into a few main chapters (and epilogue), each with its own look and mechanics. Clearly, the first chapter is The Unfinished Swan‘s most effective, opening to stark whiteness, with your only tool being tossing globs of black paint to reveal the world around you. You can use as little or as much paint as you want, and I found myself unable to not fill in the edges of the world to ensure I missed nothing. This is, in fact, only a slice of the game, with the other chapters relying on similar, but not identical mechanics revolving around tossing substances at things. Some work better than others; for instance, I disliked directing and climbing vines, and found getting stuck–and hurt–in the encroaching darkness to be strangely off-putting when compared to everything else up to that point, which never really threw danger in your face.

Naturally, color is used effectively from section to section. Golden crowns and orange footprints (gooseprints?) help direct you early on in The Unfinished Swan when you’re unsure where to go, and massive black-and-white city is fascinating to behold from afar. I constantly had the urge to jump into a spaceship and zip through it like in Race the Sun, but that’s probably just me. Later on, you’ll travel to another dimension where everything is blue, like unrolled blueprints, or desperately follow after a ball of light to not only survive the monsters stalking after you, but see where you need to go next.

Other than progressing forward linearly, there are balloons to collect, and these collectibles act as currency to buy power-ups, like being about to shoot paint in a hose-like fashion, and other goodies, like concept art. Do yourself a favor and buy the “balloon radar” toy as soon as possible, which will alert you as you get near a collectible. That said, I did not get all the balloons on my first playthrough, but similar to Rain, you can pop back into a chapter easily to find what you missed. Thankfully, not similar to Rain, these balloons are obtainable on your first go, so I only have a few left to snag. Mostly in the last main chapter, as there was a time pressure element at hand that caused me to ignore everything around me unless it served to get Monroe to safety.

So, I really liked The Unfinished Swan. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, based on only knowing how that first chapter played out from some Internet coverage, but that’s okay. In this day and age, it’s nice to not have everything about everything known to you beforehand. Also, more games need a button you can repeatedly press to have the main character call out for someone, anyone, à la Luigi’s Mansion. Despite nobody ever answering poor, lonely Monroe, I continued to push the button every few minutes, to ground myself and him in this world, to make noise.

Dakota Winchester does indeed anticlimactically find the third ruby

dakota win 3 capture

At last, the day has arrived. For a while there, I thought we’d never get the third and final act for Dakota Winchester’s Adventures, which stars an Indian Jones wannabe in search of three mystical rubies because…hold on, let me look this up. Right, these rubies are the keys to the even more mysterious Hilda’s box, which proclaims to contain the secret to eternal life. Anyways, I kept checking the Carmel Games website, but only saw that other brand new adventuring series were being started at a surprising and alarming rate. Thankfully, it is here, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Swoon. And I’m not disappointed, but only because I knew going in that I would, more likely than not, given my track record with these sorts of games, be disappointed.

I played the first two parts of Dakota Winchester’s Adventures way back in November 2014, nabbing two out of three rubies in preparation for the final victory. This third act kicks things off in the basement of some old mansion. Dakota Winchester is on the hunt for the final ruby, and he’ll have to solve puzzles involving fires, ropes, and hidden safe locks, as well as conversing with an old professor of his who does not think highly of him. See above. My favorite aspect of this character is that he himself is a wannabe, this time of Indiana Jones’ father, Henry Jones, Sr., played by the legendary Sean Connery. Look, we all can do terrible Sean Connery impressions, but that doesn’t mean we should or should have these impressions recorded and tossed into a point-and-click adventure game for many to hear. It’s potentially more cringe-worthy than when previous Carmel Games titles would obviously pitch up a man’s voice to portray a female character.

I found Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 3 to be a letdown from beginning to end, but maybe that’s because I built it up in my head to be a somewhat satisfying conclusion. Or at least provide closure so that I could feel like I finished a full thing. The puzzles are frustrating even though many of the solutions are obvious, and a few required brute forcing. There was also one scene that I didn’t realize provided an arrow to a second scene if you moused over to the left far enough, but I assumed that pathway didn’t exist because there was a chandelier on fire in the middle of the walkway, which looked like something our intrepid hero couldn’t get around. So that was frustrating to discover several minutes later. Also, one puzzle near the end is basically a round of rock, paper, scissors, which is strange and jarring and makes me think that the developer simply had access to this interface and decided to toss it in for kicks. I won on my first try.

Look, I’m going to spoil the last fifteen seconds of Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 3. If you can’t handle this, just cancel your Internet subscription and burn whatever device you are reading this on. I need to explain what a bait and switch this whole affair is. After doing all those puzzles, you finally gain hold of the special key that will open that locked treasure chest. Inside, as expected, is the third ruby. Dun dun dun. Dakota Winchester places each one into their respective sockets on Hilda’s box, which opens and is full of light, kind of like the Ark of the Covenant from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Anyways, Dakota says he can see some gold coins, as well as a map, and then…TO BE CONTINUED? pops up. Credits roll. Take note that it’s not TO BE CONTINUED with or without a period or even ellipses, but it has a question mark at the end, as if even the people making these have no clue what they are doing.

I recently read Javier Grill0-Marxuach’s will and testament about whether or not the writers of LOST were “making it up as they went.” It’s a fantastic examination of how nothing can be so simply said, laying out as much history as possible before it either fades or becomes exaggerated in one’s mind. That sometimes things come together conveniently, and other times you have to force it more than you like. Plus, mystery boxes. Even by the end, there’s no firm conclusion. That said, despite their very own literal mystery box, the developers behind Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 3 are definitely making all this up as they go. I guess they would; I mean, they want people to keep playing their games, and so they need those games to truly never conclude.

Okay, that was probably far too many words about Dakota Winchester’s Adventures. If you read them all, then bless your heart. You’re a good one. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the fourth entry, though, knowing me and my ever-curious mind, I’ll probably check it out nonetheless and continue to be flabbergasted when the map leads you on another wild goose chase that ends with more carrots on strings. Now that I think about it, a great twist would be that Dakota Winchester spends so much time trying to find the secret to eternal youth that he passes away from old age in the sixty-fourth entry in the series.