Category Archives: 2011 completed games

Games Completed in 2011, #38 – Half-Life 2: Episode One

Much to my disliking, I was unable to finish Half-Life 2 due to an annoying switch glitch, and had to move on to the next adventure in the series in a non-traditional manner, with large gaps jumped and story bits left behind. Upon starting Half-Life 2: Episode One, I was pretty confused plot-wise and spent the first hour or so trying to piece everything back together, much like Gordon and Alyx were doing in-game.

However, I think that was my favorite aspect of this bite-sized experience. Not that it was straighter, stronger, and had less driving sequences, but that it paired Gordon and Alyx together for nearly the whole time, and she’s one of the better AI companions I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Her dialogue is believable and delivered emotionally, and it made going forward a less lonesome affair. Plus, y’know…appropriately punny jokes. A digital woman after my own heart. Gameplay still involves shooting enemies until they fall down and solving some light puzzles, mostly involving the Gravity Gun. It’s all very polished, much like in the former Half-Life 2, but just condensed into a nicer-sized package, perfect for running through in a single afternoon.

I think it took me about four hours to complete Half-Life 2: Episode One, and those four hours were amazingly strong, save for a tiring elevator sequence that saw me trying and trying and trying over again to not let falling debris crush Alyx and Gordon to death. Eventually I solved it, but man–it took a handful of attempts. Otherwise, it’s generally clear where to go and what to do next, something I’ve struggled with in Valve’s games up to this point.

At some point, I’ll give Half-Life 2: Episode Two a spin. And maybe even see if I can get past that broken switch in the larger, original game. Maybe. I dunno. I really don’t want to play the majority of that game again, naming the driving sequences and shooting down those attack choppers. Seeing as the Internet is constantly salivating over any and every slip about Half-Life 2: Episode Three/Half-Life 3, of which are constantly turning out to be red herrings, I’m in no rush.

Also, this is the final videogame I completed in 2011, bringing the total number to thirty-eight. Not too shabby, I guess.

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Games Completed in 2011, #37 – Professor Layton and the Last Specter

I bought Professor Layton and the Last Specter back in October 2011 and had to almost immediately give it over to my wife, after her curious levels reached a brand new high. She ate up the game and then had to keep quiet as I finished my playthrough, which I did slowly and in small pieces. Not my fault. Some other heavy-hitters came out around the same time, as well as my continued quest to beat Chrono Trigger. Plus, that little mini-RPG thing London Life was fairly distracting. But I did see it through the end, solving the mystery of the ravenous specter and the disquieted town of Misthallery.

In Professor Layton and the Last Specter, which is set before the other games in the franchise, Hershel Layton and his new assistant Emmy Altava head off to Misthallery after receiving a concerning letter from an old friend. Seems like a mysterious monster–a specter, if the townsfolk are to be believed–is rampaging through the town at night. There, they meet a young boy who is able to predict where and when the specter will strike next. And the plot gets more complicated–and spoilery–after that, so there’s my summary. You wanna know more? Play the game, you puzzlin’ fool.

Story-wise, just like Professor Layton and the Curious Village, twists and turns aplenty. But this time, things get sadder. Even made my wife cry. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t cry, but can understand why she did; it’s like, you know what’s going to happen to your equestrian partner in Shadow of the Colossus, you can feel it in your gut from the very beginning, and then you still feel sick and shocked when the moment hits. There was some confusion towards the end of the game, where a revealed character implies he already knows Layton intimately, but maybe that’s a detail I’m missing from not playing games #2 and #3. Or it’s just a big tease to come for further prequels. Either way, whatever. Mystery solved, new friends acquired, and puzzle skills enhanced by +15.

As it is a Professor Layton and the Adjective Noun title, all is where it should be: puzzles, high quality animated cutscenes, minigames, hidden hint coins, so much dang charm, oh so creepy characters, and infectious music. I played Professor Layton and the Curious Village right when it released, but never touched the other two games, putting a span of a few years between my first adventure and this new one. Surprisingly, not much has changed–and that’s okay. It was a little like going home.

As for the minigames, unfortunately, they are not as much fun as the ones in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Maybe the inclusion of a massive minigame–Professor Layton’s London Life–is to blame. What we have is the following:

  • Miracle Fish: Bouncing fish around an underwater room, trying to collect a number of  bubbles in a locked amount of time. Trial and error is ultimately one way to solve these, though a few of them are extremely tricky. I did the majority of them.
  • Miniature Train: Players must lay out train tracks on game boards of increasing difficulty that will allow a toy train to go from a starting point to the finish line while passing through every station on the board. These were too frustrating to be fun, so I did the first one and never went back.
  • Puppet Theatre: A group of puppets perform short plays, and players must help them fill in the blanks with words they collect during the main game. I really enjoyed doing these and trying out different phrases in hopes of getting it right. The plays themselves are cute and down in a nice art style.

The puzzles in Professor Layton and the Last Specter range from super easy to super hard, with the super easy ones sometimes being a mindf*ck in the way that it will seem so easy that you will start second-guessing yourself. Boo to that. But the game’s pacing and charm are top-notch, and I loved being able to play for a half hour before bed, knocking out a few puzzles and progressing the story, but being able to stop for the night and pick it up the next day. You always get a summary of what’s been happening, and if you ever get really lost, you can re-read Layton’s journal for extremely detailed retellings.

I am looking forward to the first iteration of Layton on the 3DS, as well as maybe picking up the other two–hopefully for cheap–over the year for when I need a little more puzzlin’ in my life.

Games Completed in 2011, #36 – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Don’t panic, dear readers. Yes, it is still 2012, the year of our unmaking. We did not travel back in time by nine days and some change. Instead, since I’m slow and sometimes lazy and not the best of planners, I did not get to write about all the games I completed in 2011 in 2011. So there’s some carryover. No big deal, really. I just need to type up some words on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, and Half-Life 2: Episode One before moving on to a brand new list for a brand new year, which, I might add, already has an entry. That said, expect me to bang out these three final posts for my Games Completed in 2011 list this week.

Right. Completing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim seems like an odd thing to say, as I both have done it and have not. I have finished the main story questline, killing dragons and dragon supporters and dragon masters and all that. I have made my way to the top of the power heap in both the Mages Guild and Thieves Guild. I have raised a skill to 100 and bought a house in Whiterun and earned a bit of gold and did some errands for Daedric gods and goddesses. My save slot says I’ve played for around 75 hours or so, and there’s still more for my character Lohgahn to do.

It’s kind of crazy to consider that after such a long amount of playing, I’ve not even touched any of the civil war story stuff. Not a single thing. I kind of feel like my Imperial will side with the Stormcloaks since he’s none too pleased with almost being put to death by, uh, his Imperial brethren, but later on, during the main storyline, I kind of slighted Ulfric , and now it seems odd to pick either/or. I guess I wish that the civil war missions were interspersed into the main story stuff to make it seem more important, but given how optional it is, I dunno. Maybe it’d be better to save that stuff for a new character, as I do want to try a non-stealth route to get a better feel for the combat or deadly use of magic.

Despite being full of bugs and glitches–some more annoying than others–the realm of Skyrim is deeply impressive. It’s not all just snow and mountains and snowy mountains, which is appreciated, and the designs of dungeons, caves, and ancient ruins are ten times better than in Oblivion, making them fun to explore. Toss in the addition of shortcuts for exiting said dungeons, caves, and ancient ruins as an extra bonus, and you’ve got some great design work here. At this point, I haven’t even fully explored all the major towns yet, as well as not even hitting 100 locations discovered. There’s so much life in Skyrim that one might honestly not ever see it all.

Not all is perfect in Bethesda’s newest mammoth. The dragon fights can be pretty lame thanks to kiting or horses joining in or the dragons themselves glitching into a rock. Conversations, while not as stiff as previous games, are still pretty robotic. The menus are easier to navigate, but I wish there was a better way to see what your character looks like with all your glass armor and enchanted weapons.

I haven’t touched The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in a couple weeks now, but I suspect I’ll hop back in soon enough to do some more quests and maybe whittle away at my ever-growing miscellaneous objectives list. Or just start over with another character. But not until I get at least 100,000 gold in my pockets.

Games Completed in 2011, #35 – Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

Initially, my mother bought Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars for her Nintendo DS. I thought it might be something she’d like, a mix of puzzles and story, with a laid-back pace and friendly presentation to it, and so I suggested it. Alas, my suggestion was wrong, as I discovered during one trip home that she never got further than the first few screens before giving up. I asked to borrow it, always curious about the point-and-clicker. After playing some, I could see why she struggled–the puzzles were a little tricky, and a lot of figuring out where to go next was based, at least for me, on stumbling rather than solving. But I continued on, in sparse chunks, because I’d get stuck a lot and move on to something shinier. Eventually I wrapped up the plot, earning George a silly smooch and me another game for my Games Completed in 2011 list.

The plot can be summed up like this: American tourist George Stobbart is chasing down a clown after he sets off an explosion outside a Paris café. As simple as that sounds, things eventually get out of control, and George finds himself, along with journalist Nico Collard, deep in a conspiracy involving the Knights Templar.

Gameplay involves using the stylus to tap around the bottom DS touchscreen for things/people to investigate, pick up, or  tinker with. When it comes to chatting, there’s chatting. Plenty of it. George is a confident and socializing sorta chap, and has something to say for everything. The same can be said about the NPCs in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, as every single character George spoke to reacted differently to the used tissue he was carrying, and at that point, the item was mostly meaningless, just a thing in his pocket. In that way, the writing is fantastic, with an attention to detail and actual facts of history and making characters really feel unique, even if George himself got creepy now and then.

This version is actually the Director’s Cut, which features new puzzles and then some new animations by artist Dave Gibbons (of Watchmen legend). Considering I’ve never played any previous version of Broken Sword, I couldn’t tell new from old, but it all looked great. The character portraits when speaking with someone offer up a wide amount of expression and detail, and pixel-hunting isn’t made all the much harder by low-res and dark screens; locations, which range from France to Ireland to Syria to Scotland, are colorful and designed to be navigated through with the touch of a style. You can press down on a selectable item or place to get more options, such as observe, talk, pick up, and so forth.

At one point in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, George comes to own a hand buzzer. It’s a prank item, intended to give someone a little shock after shaking his hand. You can select it as a topic of discussion with everyone, but nobody ever falls for it–that is until a certain someone does. Saying any more would be spoilery, but man, it was pretty great to finally see the buzzer in action. The game is peppered with these wonderful moments, where an item you’ve been carrying around for days finally shows its quality.

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars is intelligent and brimming with charm, telling a story that is, many years later, fresh and gripping. Take that, The Da Vinci Code! There are moments of frustration in terms of cryptic puzzles or lack of a clear destination, but those are easily rewarded with new, fantastic characters to converse and unexplored content. I think it works well on the Nintendo DS as a portable game, thanks to a “save any time” feature, and George’s notepad is great for catching up on all things plot after disappearing for too long of a time. I definitely recommend it for fans of Monkey Island or Sam & Max, or if you’re a history buff; I now know more about the Knights Templar than ever before.

Games Completed in 2011, #34 – The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures Anniversary Edition

This year marked the momentous 25th anniversary for The Legend of Zelda franchise. Nintendo celebrated with elaborate symphonies, commercials purporting that Robin Williams and his pixie-haired daughter Zelda Williams gamed together, and a free copy of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for those rocking a Nintendo 3DS. Hey, I’m one of those! A 3DS owner, that is. Not Robin or Zelda Williams. Snartleblast, I know.

Some history first. Four Swords Adventures was originally for the Nintendo GameCube and, while containing a lot of familiar faces and gameplay aspects, was a little different than Link’s previously traditional treks to save the princess. This time, it was all about multiplayer chaos, with multiple Links having to work together to solve puzzles and at the same time trying to one-up each other in terms of collecting the most rupees. If you had friends and a lot of systems/cables, you had a solid Friday night. I never got to play it way back when, but it sounds like a fantastic party game, with plenty of room for hijinks and backstabbing.

The 3DS version–well, it’s actually available as a piece of DSiWare, meaning gamers with either/or system can play–was redesigned slightly to include a single-player mode, as well as new enemies, maps, and puzzles. Thank goodness for this. I’m sure many of us went into the freebie with high hopes of playing with friends over WiFi, but the 3DS is still not a great system for online play. I have one person on my 3DS friends list that I know also downloaded the game, but for us to communicate and set up a gaming time session would probably be more hassle than fun. So yeah, more like The Legend of Zelda: One Sword Adventures. Eh…Two Swords, really.

If you don’t have anyone to play with and you’re going the single-player route, the game tosses in a second controllable Link. If you’re familiar with using the Phantom Knight from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for solving puzzles then you’ll pick up the pace pretty fast here. A lot of switching and throwing each other at levers. Strangely, at the end of each level, the game still tallies how much your Link earned rupees-wise versus how much the second Link did. Either way…um, you’re a winner. Unless you picked up too many rupoors.

So, there’s three main worlds to traverse across, split up into different levels. I’d say that each averages around 15 minutes to complete. End bosses have a pattern to discover, and there’s also a main end boss who is not named Ganon. Sure, it’s weird, but it is what it is. After completing the game, a new world opens up, the Realm of Memories, letting Link hop into theme-based worlds of Zelda yore. The one based around A Link to the Past is simply fantastic, mainly from a visual standpoint. I am now just daydreaming about getting a 3D version of it down the line. It’s okay, Nintendo. You can charge e-money for it; I’ll pay. Oh, I’ll pay.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was a free download, and I had a good time playing it. Alas, I’m not getting the mileage from it that Nintendo probably hoped for, but it’s a great experience nonetheless. Get it before it stops being free.

Games Completed in 2011, #33 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

This took some time, but I finally got around to writing down all my multifarious thoughts about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that did not turn out like I’d hoped. Head over to The First Hour to read, read, read.

It was hard to assign the game a numerical score, something I don’t like doing in general, but I think 7 gets the point across–by no means is this a horrible, excruciating experience. Adam Jensen’s journey through a bleak and fascinating future to find answers is quite good, but marred by many elements and too much frustration for players that enjoy going the ninja route. Re-reading, I see that I actually forgot to talk about some other things in the review, such as the hacking mini-game and the augmentation that lets Jensen read personalities and whether or not someone is lying (this was not used enough, honestly). Oh well. No re-loading now.

Actually, I’m hoping to not have to write about Deus Ex: Human Revolution for awhile. Kind of burnt out on it. As promised at the bottom of the review, I do plan to go through it one more time, guns locked and loaded, but with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 dropping in just four days, that might not happen any time soon. Fine by me, really.

Right, another game done for 2011. Oh, and thanks, Greg!

Games Completed in 2011, #32 – Bastion

It’s easy to feel like you’re floating when playing Bastion; in fact, due to the Calamity, a catastrophic and harrowing event, the world of Caelondia is now a set of floating islands, and it’s up to The Kid to recreate the Bastion, a safe haven where everyone can go for food, shelter, and answers. But that’s not the real reason for feeling suspended in the air; no, one floats through this colorful and amazing downloadable title because it’s just so freaking special. It begins and makes a home in your heart. It ends, but never leaves you.

Bastion is an action RPG, but it’s greatest strength is in its story, which is paced effectively thanks to the Narrator. Voiced by Logan Cunningham, Rucks the Narrator is both a storyteller and employee for Big Brother, remarking on your every move. Fall off the side of the level? He’ll make a quip. Slash like a maniac with your war machete, murdering a dozen squirts? Be prepared to be called wild and raging. It’s a solid hook, though at times it can be distracting or hard to even hear him over the frantic cries of on-screen enemies and spellbinding soundtrack. Because of this, I missed a few bits of commentary, but thanks to New Game+ got to hear them a second time around, as well as new dialogue made specifically for those on playthrough two.

The game is more action than RPG, but both elements mesh well with each other. The Kid can choose a weapons loadout before heading off to find Shards to complete the Bastion; these include tools of destruction like muskets, hammers, bows, and pistols, as well as a secret skill. All of these weapons can be upgraded with found items and gems, earning stats like 25% more damage or longer ranges/less spread. The Kid himself increases in levels too, with each new level letting you acquiring a new drink from the distillery; these do things like absorb stray fragments (Fetching Fizz), 33% speed while defending (Cinderbrick Stout), or automatically retaliates when injured (Stabsinthe). All of this makes a difference in staying alive and just rolling/slashing your way to an early grave. And be ready to roll a lot; combat can get fast and frantic, but if you know what you’re doing and remember to block now and then, it’s survivable. Of course, if you ever want to up the challenge, turn on some idols.

I won’t go into all of Bastion‘s story details, but it’s a hefty, emotional affair. There comes a time near the game’s end where The Kid will have to make two–not one–major decisions. These are presented blandly on a menu, with some modest flavor text, but they forced me to sit and ponder their individual outcomes more than anything else of late. Watching these choices play out is extremely satisfying; we all play videogames with the hope of completing them, but here, it was more than that. I needed to see what happened next, and not just to get to the credits. I never wanted the credits to scroll, in fact.

As an artist, I have to comment on Jen Zee‘s work in Bastion. Lush, colorful, hand-painted–these all work as adjectives for what makes the game’s visuals pop so much, but I’m sure there’s even better ways to describe. Initially, the look of the game is what bought me; everything from the way the world floated up in front of The Kid to the blurred yet still distinguishable underworlds had a sense of oneness. Even the darker levels let color shine. At times, I wished to zoom in more to get a better look at those crates or gasfellas.

Oh, and I unlocked all the Achievements in the game, which is pretty rare for me. Only a few required some work, but I’ll get to that in another post. Hopefully. Don’t let me forget.

I highly recommend Bastion. For 1200 Microsoft Points (or it’s now on Steam, too), you get an experience unlike anything else, one that continues to resonate long after you’ve completed every Proving Ground, survived every trip to Who Knows Where, and fully upgraded the Bastion itself. Get it, and get restoring the world. Hurry, before Rucks calls you a slacker!