Tag Archives: adventure

2017 Game Review Haiku, #60 – The Fickle Hands of Fate

When Fate rings her bell
She’s off, in search of something
One click, not two clicks

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #55 – Strolling

A walk down the street
Dig deep, make tail deductions
Slow, blah interface

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #53 – Memories Fade

Old man forgets wife
Photo jogs his memory
Raindrops, jazz, and cake

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Explore Datura’s mysterious forest clumsily

I was surprised when I typed Datura–the first-person exploration game from 2012, not the poisonous flowering plant–into How Long to Beat? and saw that many were completing it in under two hours. That’s great. I’m a big fan of shorter games, and yes, I’m giving you stink eyes, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Stardew Valley, for each eating up over 50 hours and not being close to completion. Ugh. For some reason, I thought this game was a really long affair with obtuse puzzles. Perhaps I was thinking of Pneuma: Breath of Life instead, though that also doesn’t seem to be an epic adventure. Instead, Datura seems to be a short affair with clunky puzzles. I polished it off in two sittings, though one could easily push through it in a single go.

Datura begins with you, whoever you are, on life support in the back of an ambulance. You are tasked with removing the cloth and wires connected to your body, which surprises the EMT helping you. This is also where the game surprised me. I mean, I knew it was a first-person exploration thing, but I didn’t realize that meant you’d see your disconnected, Addams Family-esque hand floating in front of you, moving around in a certainly unnatural manner. It’s extremely bizarre at first, but you eventually get the hang of it (I almost wrote hand of it), maneuvering it into place with the analog stick and pressing R2 to perform an action. After this, you are then transported to a mysterious forest, which serves as a hub of sorts. Here, you’ll travel incomprehensibly through time and space into different playable sequences to solve some relatively straightforward puzzles.

The game was clearly designed for the PlayStation Move controller, but I don’t have one of those. So my standard PS3 controller will have to suffice. However, this resulted in some odd, finicky control methods, with myself more or less fudging my way through some puzzle elements, like taking wooden boards off a door with a crowbar or twisting something around. There’s also a lot of tilting, which, when my controller is plugged in, is a wee difficult to do in some directions. Again, you can do it and get through it, but the whole thing reads as clumsy. Also, mashing the R2 button to “run” in the woods is annoying, especially when the speed difference between walking and running is minimal and you tire rather quickly. That said, being in the autumnal forest hub is the best part of Datura, as the atmosphere is amazing and I did enjoy finding white trees and expanding my hand-drawn map.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of each sequence is to present you and your dismembered hand with a choice. Depending on what you do, the forest itself changes to reflect your actions. Are you more sinister? Well, prepare for everything to darken and play home to flies. If you are kinder, there will be brighter areas and more butterflies. It’s a little on the nose, but wandering the woods is the most enjoyable and immersing part of Datura, so it makes a difference. I think I split the difference, being nice and being naughty. A lot of the sequences are clear in terms of what is happening then and there, but on the whole, I didn’t really understand what Datura was trying to say. I’m sure everything has meaning. Maybe this is all about the poisonous plant killing you and everything after the ambulance moment is a fever dream.

Datura wants to be a literary journey through morality. Alas, it misses the mark. The big ol’ life-changing choices are easy to make, even when it comes to issues like beating a dog to death or cutting off someone’s hand. The reason for this is that the game, while visually pretty in spots, appears goofy, and the floating hand, especially when you see it next to your other, normal hand, which is connected to an arm, has a lot to do with this. There’s no solid conclusion, save for a mirror shot at the end that shows you exactly who you are, and so this was a decent two hours in a lovely wood where the fog is thick and the leaves are endless. Man, oh man, I love autumn.

Absolutely nothing special about the platforming and punching in Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

Everyone’s been talking about collectathons of late with the release of Yooka-Laylee, and I’m a pretty big fan of this…uh, genre. Sub-genre? This style of game. I mean, I like things like Insomniac’s Spyro the Dragon–still working my way slowly through Spyro: Year of the Dragon, somewhere now over 40% complete with plenty more eggs to track down–and Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, which split the difference between action elements and collecting shiny trinkets pretty nicely. Shockingly, I’ve never played Super Mario 64 (or 98% of the Nintendo 64’s library). But, having a list of shiny objects to collect is not the worst thing in the world and, in a lot of ways, can be quite calming and satisfying, even if there’s no larger reward at the end of the task.

I’m also a firm believer of playing bad videogames. Not because I’m a masochist and love them more than good games, but because it is important to see all sides of the industry, from the AAA work that takes hundred of people and years to make to the smaller outputs that certainly needed more time in the oven or someone to step in and fight for or against specific design elements. Some less-than-stellar titles from my past include The Incredibles for PlayStation 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One for the Nintendo DS. There’s more, but I’m not going to name ’em.

Naturally, these two paragraphs of buildup is for me to talk to you about a little ol’ thing on the PlayStation 3 called Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, of which I’m currently working my way through. It was a PlayStation Plus freebie for April 2017. If you, like me, have never heard of this beast before, fear not, for I have a summary of sorts. Invizimals is a Spanish augmented reality video game franchise developed by Novarama and published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. The series, which originally began in 2009 as a video game on the PSP, has since inspired toys, trading cards, comics, and an animated television series telling an interconnected transmedia story.

In Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, you play as the child hero Hiro, who is sent through a Shadow Gate and into the Invizimals world to form allegiances with the various creatures that he encounters, as well as stop a bunch of evil robots for some reason that I stopped following. The uneventful story is told through in-game cinematics, but the introduction is done in full-motion video with actors, like Brian Blessed, that fans of the show would probably be excited to see. All I’ve been able to gather is that robots are bad and violent animals that attack them are cool. Not sure yet where humans fit into the picture.

Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom‘s gameplay is beyond perfunctory and repetitive. Hiro is able to fuse his teeny tiny body with the various Invizimals he meets, which help to unlock a number of abilities. Such as climbing up vines, swinging over inexplicably large drops, swimming underwater, and teleporting past locked gates. You can switch freely between these Invizimals using a weapon wheel menu, though the game will often automatically transform you into a specific Invizimal when the puzzle or platforming section says so. When given a choice, I’ve been sticking with Ocelotl, mostly because I like how the narrator says his name. There are two main actions: attacking and collecting. The fighting is bare bones, with mashing more than enough to get you through it, and the menus for upgrading don’t provide a lot of context for the abilities you are purchasing. As for collecting, well…there’s a lot to snag–Sparks (2,000 in total), Z-Sparks (13,000 in total), pup idols, dark seeds, and unlockable vault doors. None of it is difficult to gather, but I’ve completed some levels with a few items unscooped, and it’s eating away at my brain.

Some general complaints about Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom include that there are no subtitles or even options to muck around in. You may be able to play with the audio levels, but I can’t remember. There’s also next to no explanation for a number of things, especially the Battle Mode, which, from what I saw, is kind of like a one-on-one Pokemon fight in real time, where you can level up your creature. But to what end? I don’t know. There are also too many quick time events, which instantly warped me back to when I first got my Xbox 360 and only had Kung Fu Panda to play for many days.

Look, I’m just not as into Trophies as I am into popping Achievements, and part of that still has to do with how finicky it is to sync them with your profile and the clunkiness that is trying to quickly view the list as you are playing. But whatever. I’ve completed a few games on the PlayStation 3 to 100%, namely Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Doki-Doki Universve, Dragon Fantasy Book 1, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Kung Fu Rabbit, Machinarium, and rain, but have yet to acquire my first Platinum Trophy. I came close with Prototype 2 (at 91%). Sadly, or rather humorously, Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom might be my first Platinum Trophy. It doesn’t seem difficult to get, just a little bit of time and collecting and we’re at our final destination. So while it may not have been the best freebie in the world, at least it served a purpose…for me and my desire to have digital rewards. I’ll let you know when I hit it.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #41 – The Bottom of the Well

Unsettlingly dream
Your landscape of decisions
Shock–I’m not social

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Yesterday is such an easy game to play

“Yesterday” is not my favorite song from The Beatles, nor is it my favorite point-and-click adventure game, but I enjoy both of them greatly. They are easy to listen to, easy to play, and leave me wanting a little bit more from their respective mediums. For those curious, depending on the day, either this or this is my favorite tune from The Fab Four. I don’t know if I’m ready to commit to saying what my favorite adventure game is yet. That’s kind of like naming the best cheese. Besides, there’s a bunch of so-called classics–here, I’ll name a few, like The Dig, Day of the Tentacle, and The Secret of Monkey Island–that I’ve still not touched despite having copies at the ready, which would probably affect my decision immensely. Probably.

Anyways, Yesterday from Pendulo Studios is a dark beast. A quick research of the company shows that many of its previous games were more comedic, but there’s not much to laugh at in this one, which features a lot of murdering, satanic worshipping, and forced suicides. It all starts with the philanthropic Henry White and his bungling friend Cooper. Both of these men work for a charity committed to helping New York’s homeless people. However, after a serial killer starts murdering members of the community, Henry and Cooper venture into the abandoned Cadway Subway station to see who they can help. It is here that they meet the murderous Choke and his assistant Boris and are forced to take drastic action. That’s more or less the prologue of the game, with the real meat of it focusing on satanic cult investigator John Yesterday many years later. He is recovering from an apparent suicide attempt that has left him suffering from amnesia because of course. Henry White now runs White Enterprises and has employed John to unearth the link between the serial killer and the occult known as the Order of the Flesh.

Yesterday, in terms of gameplay, is a pretty straightforward point-and-click adventure romp. You examine an environment, collect items in your inventory, chat with other characters for background details, and solve puzzles to move forward. Something that gave me a bit of anxiety was the high amount of items you often pick up and the fact that many of them do not vanish after being used. Reminded me of my time with Deponia, which was not a blast. Sometimes these items are used again later on, and sometimes they aren’t. You’ll never know until it is too late. Naturally, as it often happens with these types of games, some of the puzzles don’t follow the best logic this side of brain development, which leads to trying everything on everything in hopes of anything changing. If you only knew the number of solutions I came up with for acquiring a truth flower that didn’t come close to working.

Thankfully, Yesterday offers a couple tricks to help when you are stuck: a hint system and the ability to ping the scene and identify every object you can examine. The hint system builds up over time, so you can’t spam it, but it’ll point you in the right direction, though it can be a bit condescending. I ended up using it more than I would have imagined, but at least it let me stay in game and not close out to look up a walkthrough. You can also, at any time, press a button at the bottom of the screen to highlight every interactive object around you. This is great as it helped reduce pixel hunting, as there were occasionally a couple areas or items that I missed after doing an initial scan of everything.

I was pleasantly surprised with the conversations system. These occur with the two speakers framed in their own windows, with dialogue options in a bulleted list. As you move through each option, the boxes are checked off when the topic is concluded. New topics open us as you chat, and I found myself exhausting every topic, even if it didn’t immediately seem relevant to the puzzles at hand. I found the script and voice acting to be well done, save for that Frenchman who endlessly gave out tips on how to identify a Frenchman. At times, the whole thing reminded me of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. Occasionally, the subtitles did not match the spoken words perfectly, but that’s just me being an editor and too observant. Lastly, I’ll say that the game’s visuals are gorgeous and detailed and kept me interested in seeing what was next. I especially liked the comic book-style cutscenes.

The loopy narrative about investigating satanic cults and unraveling John Yesterday’s mysterious past comes to a close rather quickly, somewhat abruptly, and the post-credits scene added little to the whole picture and was completely unnecessary. It felt like things were just beginning to build to something grander, but once the villain began to explain why he did everything and how, I knew it was over. Still, I enjoyed going through Yesterday at a slow pace, over a few nights, eating up the atmosphere, characters, and designs to make puzzling out progress less frustrating. Maybe I’ll check out Yesterday Origins or one of Pendulo Studios’ other titles down the road. However, for now, I have some other point-and-click adventure games still to launch in my collection, and I just know that many of them won’t make things as easy as Yesterday did in this tiring day and age of too much to play and not enough hours on Earth. Boo to that.