Tag Archives: glitches

I can’t be alone in thinking Never Alone is cute yet disappointing

It was supposed to snow this past weekend, and while it did, all we got was a snusting, a new word I’m pushing to get into the OED. It means a light dusting of snow, in case that wasn’t clear. Anyways, this put me in a mood to play something snowy, and after scanning my list of games still to install on my Xbox One I saw it, the perfect winter weather game–Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa).

Ultimately, Never Alone is a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games and published by E-Line Media based on the traditional Iñupiaq tale, “Kunuuksaayuka,” which was first recorded by the storyteller Robert Nasruk Cleveland in his collection Stories of the Black River People. I realize that is a lot to take in at once, so please, give yourself a moment before moving on. In terms of gameplay, you swap between an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion to complete puzzles and navigate the wintry landscape. There are a total of eight chapters to get through, and the game was the result of a partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media. It is evidently one of a growing number of videogames produced by Indigenous people, and that’s really cool. Too bad I found the whole thing frustrating and disappointing, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep creating games that celebrate and explore different cultures. I do want more.

You can play Never Alone co-op, but I went through it by myself, which meant manually switching back and forth between Nuna and her fox companion. At first, during the early stages, this was fine, but later you have to take timing into consideration and it can be tricky to get both characters to work in unison. I wonder if the controls would have been better if they followed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons or ibb & obb. Anyways, Nuna can push/pull boxes around, as well as use her bola to destroy chunks of ice while the fox can jump higher and let down ropes from ledges. There are action sequences where you are being chased that require quick jumping, but most of the game is about moving from platform to platform, often using spirits as ledges to help Nuna get where she needs to be. This does become tougher later on when your fox changes and requires the two to work much more closely to get things done.

Look, Never Alone‘s story and its structure is based on the inter-generational transference of wisdom, and that’s mega neat. It is told in the form of an oral tale, and players are rewarded for collecting “cultural insights,” which are ultimately video vignettes of Iñupiaq elders, storytellers, and community members sharing their stories. These are all well done and produced, and this isn’t the norm when it comes to puzzle platformers, but I’d love to see more of collectibles like this. I ended up missing one by the game’s end, but the majority of them are along the main path, so you’ll find ’em easily enough and should dedicate some time to check them out.

Alas, here’s what I ended up disliking immensely about Never Alone. At first, the platforming and puzzles were rudimentary and simple, but became more time-based as the levels went on, which, when coupled with the fact that you had to switch between characters in a flash, resulted in many annoying deaths. The game is also glitchy, and I’m specifically talking about a tree I ran into during the last level that refused to walk forward; I had to return to the main menu and hit “Continue” for it to truly awaken, but this was only after 20 minutes of attempting to figure out if I just wasn’t doing something right. Ugh. Also, jumping and grabbing on to ledges with Nuna felt seriously inconsistent, and that’s a big part of the gameplay, so boo-hoo to that. I honestly thought, based on the first few chapters, that Never Alone was going to be a breeze, but found myself shouting curses at the TV screen near its conclusion.

It’s a cute game, doing really great things for the Iñupiaq community and culture, but it isn’t the most fun thing to play in the world. Sorry about that. I’m just as bummed as y’all.

LEGO Star Wars is from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

I’ve not played every single LEGO video game out there, but I’ve gone through a good amount, most of which were in order of release. For me, it began with LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game back on the PlayStation 2, but it’s probably more accurate to say that the starting point for the evolution of these LEGO video games from TT Games began with LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. That’s where you began to see things like an enlarged hub world to explore and a split-screen camera option for when playing with a co-op partner, both of which have become mainstays for the series. Going back to play LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga recently has shown me just how far the series has come, for better or…no, just better. It’s only gotten better.

That’s not to say LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is a bad game or un-fun. Mel and I have been having a good time completing levels, collecting studs, unlocking red bricks, buying multipliers, and revisiting areas for hidden collectibles. We chip away at the larger beast. The LEGO grind is here, but it’s enjoyable because, compared to LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, not every level takes upwards of an hour to complete. Not every door requires you to solve a minigame to open it. Not every puzzle is dastardly obtuse. I guess there’s some worse in the newer entries after all.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is basically a compilation of LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game and its sequel LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, that way you can play through them all together using one single product. Which is good for us because I only ever played through the former of those two, and Mel played the latter with her brother many moons ago. So we both got to experience some new areas together. Also, the game incorporates two previously deleted levels–“Anakin’s Flight” and “Bounty Hunter Pursuit”–though I’m only finding out about this now. Many other levels were redesigned and updated so that both games worked with each other and felt unified. Either way, the games follow the movies, which means you’ll get to see the exciting Trade Federation negotiations go down, young Anakin grow up, watch Luke learn about his father and The Force, and see Ewoks take down the Empire with sticks and stones. Since this is an older entry in the series, the cutscenes are wordless reproductions, but still silly when they want to be.

Here’s something I didn’t expect to ever say: Jar Jar Binks is essential. Early on, his ability to both double jump and jump high is pivotal for getting some hidden minikits, red bricks, or blue studs, which are the ones worth the most money. We brought him into every level we could during Free Play. I do miss the camera that would split in half and allow both players to do their own desires; here, you are stuck to each other, and often it made things easier for one player to simply drop out then for both to jump across sinking platforms floating in red-hot lava. Also, the flying levels are a struggle, especially when you need to get from point A to point B with missiles or a bomb being dragged behind you, and the whole world is out to make you explode. Later, we managed to make a door glitch out and not open despite doing everything right because glitches need stitches. Or something like that. Sorry, I didn’t know how to end that sentence.

We’re currently around the 65% completion mark, with several more levels to fully finish. Then there are special levels to do after you complete everything else, as well as challenges, arcade mode, playing online, gold bricks to buy, characters and vehicles to unlock, special cross-over Achievements to pop, and so on. Only after all that, after we see that 100.0% high in the sky, can we happily put LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga to bed. Still, this has been good co-op fun, which is not bad in July 2017 for the 23rd greatest video game of all time, according to the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition in 2009.

Gears of War 3 has bigger problems than just the Lambent

gears-of-war-3-campaign-freeze-right-there

I beat Gears of War 3‘s campaign the other night, on the normal difficulty, and the hardest part was at the very beginning, when our gallant troop of four from the Delta Squad–Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago, Anya Stroud, and Jayson Stratton specifically–would run up to the deck of the Sovereign and stare in astonishment at a surprise attack from the Lambent. You can see this depicted in the picture above. Trust me when I say I’ve also stared at it a whole bunch because it is this point in time that the game decided to freeze for me on multiple occasions, hard-locking the entire Xbox One and forcing me to do a reboot. I’m not sure if this was a common happening in the original launch version or has something to do with it being backwards-compatible, but either way…yuck.

Because I’m slightly loopy and couldn’t help myself, I began tracking the number of Xbox One hard-freezes I hit in Gears of War 3:

  • Act 1 – FOUR
  • Act 2 – ONE
  • Act 3 – ONE
  • Act 4 – ZERO
  • Act 5 – ZERO
  • GRAND TOTAL: SIX.

Now, six hard locks on the console might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it is more than enough to be irksome. Especially for a game of this quality and number of people working on it. Thankfully, as you saw, it was more problematic at the start and steadied itself by the middle of the campaign, which meant I could focus more on shooting monsters in the face and less panicking every time a cutscene started.

Right. Gears of War 3 plot summary time. So, the Lambent launch a surprise attack. Before dying, Chairman Prescott gives Marcus an encryption to a disc, which reveals that his father, Adam Fenix, is still alive, but held as a prisoner on Azura, a secret COG base. Marcus and his pals then must fight their way to the Anvil Gate Fortress, where Hoffman possesses the necessary equipment to fully decrypt Prescott’s disc. Upon arriving at Anvil Gate, Marcus and his comrades assist soldiers in repelling a combined Lambent and Locust assault. There, they also learn that Azura is protected by man-made hurricane generators, making the island only accessible by submarine. The basic goal of the game is getting to Adam Fenix, with four and three-fourth acts or so of roadblocks that deter our protagonists into other areas first. Because videogames.

Gears of War 3 plays pretty similar to Gears of War 2 and Gears of War. I know, you’re shocked. Shook, even. You might also be surprised to learn that it does not exactly play like Gears of War 4 and that I had some trouble switching between the two. Like, I won’t even tell you the number of times I tried to run up to cover and mantle over it. I won’t. It also seems to move slower compared to the newest entry, and there’s no knife melee kill much to my chagrin. As previously mentioned, I played through on the normal difficulty and didn’t have any problems with the combat, occasionally dying to a well-placed Boomer shot or someone chainsawing me unexpectedly. There are a few vehicle sequences that are merely okay, though I felt like the submarine section towards Azura could have used more punch.

I don’t have any plans to play through the game again on a higher up difficulty, but I might check out the first few levels once more via the arcade mode, which basically scores every action you do. I’m currently going back to select chapters (on casual, you nerfherder!) to find all the collectibles and lost COG tags because I already stumbled upon a good chunk of them my first time through, so I might as well finish the job. A few of these shimmery items are hidden pretty well, so I’m referencing a guide here and there. No shame about it. It’s actually going faster than I initially expected, which makes me want to pop back into Gears of War 2 and Gears of War to grab their respective sets of collectibles. Once I start, I often can’t stop. I really do like how well Gears of War 3 monitors and tracks your progress, from collectibles to executions done to Achievement progress. It’s a small detail, but much appreciated.

After this, while I continue to chip away at Gears of War 4‘s multiplayer modes of Team Deathmatch and Dodgeball infrequently, I’ll eventually need to try out the black sheep of the series. Yup, the dreaded Gears of War: Judgment. I at least hope we get to learn more about where Damon Baird got his infamous goggles. At the very least.

Fallout 4 opens up faster than expected

gd impressions Fallout 4 Sanctuary Hills

Welcome home, Fallout 4. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m super glad you’re here, as you helped push me into the next generation with the purchase of an Xbox One. Feel free to imagine the sound of an Achievement popping right here, right now. Sorry, PlayStation 4, but you’ll have to sit the next few years out on the bench, and I am saddened to know that I won’t get to explore an alien planet and colonize it under my nomenclature before anyone else in No Man’s Sky, but that’s okay. I assume I’ll still be romping around a ruined Boston in Fallout 4 looking for adhesive by the time that game comes out, with plenty still to accomplish.

Fallout 4 is the story, as far as I can tell because I’m not looking anything up to confirm or noodle out more details, of a ruined family. I’m playing as a good-hearted man named Paul that favors a scruffy beard and cool metal armor, but before we get to all that we need to know how we got to all that. Nuclear war is the short answer. As the bombs begin to fall, you take shelter in the nearby vault along with your wife and son Shaun. Unfortunately, as with all things Vault-Tec, this shelter is more of a social experiment than safehouse, with everybody being cryo-frozen the minute you arrive. You awake from this chilly slumber years later only to watch your wife get murdered by some mysterious folk. Oh, they also kidnap your child, which is the fuel driving your mission to leave Vault 111 and explore a post-apocalyptic Boston.

I was disappointed in how little you actually get to explore the pre-war setting, how quickly you are rushed through it. From Bethesda’s E3 reveal, I was hoping for a longer stay in this environment, but the world quickly falls apart after doing the needful in terms of creating your character and assigning your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points. I wanted to stroll down the street and speak to my neighbors, scrounge through their trashcans and eavesdrop on private conversations. I wanted to collect some things to take with me into Vault 111. Remember the Tranquility Lane quest from Fallout 3? I wanted that, extended, and not as creepy.

But it’s 2015, and I’m guessing people expect gun-shooting action sooner than later, especially if one was to target, say, the Destiny and Halo 5: Guardians fanbase. Fallout 4 hands it out really fast, so long as you stick to the main story quests for the early portion. In the first hour or so, I got hold of a suit of Power Armor and defeated a Deathclaw, things that were commonly late-game events in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. You also immediately get access to several different companions and the ability to build settlements, though the game does not do a great job explaining both how to do this and why it ultimately matters. I’m mostly decorating my house with coffee mugs and paintings of kitty cats.

All that said, this is an open-world game from Bethesda, which means there’s glitches and jank abound, and, unfortunately, I’m in the camp that, while still grumbling audibly about them, have come to accept this as the price to pay to play something so full of possibility. Here’s some of the things that have already gone wrong in my first few hours in Fallout 4:

  • Game froze within the first fifteen minutes, when prompted by my wife to spin my son’s mobile
  • Subtitles didn’t switch over when speaking with Preston for the first time, leaving up Sturges’ three words of dialogue for the entire conversation
  • No Achievement popped when hitting level 5
  • Paladin Danse climbed on top of a table and couldn’t get down in the background while I was having a conversation with someone else
  • Paladin Danse also had some trouble getting in an elevator, of which I have recorded proof and will eventually show y’all
  • Sent Dogmeat “home” to Sanctuary so I could try out a new companion, cannot locate him now
  • A single Raider Scum got trapped behind an open door and the wall, constantly switching between detected and hidden in terms of aggressiveness

Yup. It’s still janky.

I began writing this post after an hour or two with Fallout 4, but since then I’ve dropped another nineteen hours into my first playthrough. I’m mostly sticking to the main story quests, which I won’t talk about yet to keep this spoiler-free, but also am doing a few side things here and there, such as crafting a special chair for the local drug lady to sit in and do drugs. I don’t know why any of this is important, but maybe it will matter down the road. You can expect me back soon to talk more about some of the changes in Fallout 4 that I still don’t have a great handle on, like skill perks, V.A.T.S., and radiation.

Throne Together, a block-based puzzle game about building castles

Throne_Together_WP_06

Recently, I got my fill of Angry Birds Rio, so much that I even unlocked all twenty Achievements in it, and so I happily removed it from my Windows 8 phone feeling pretty satisfied with the experience. Which is not at all how I felt about Temple Run 2, since it glitched out and wouldn’t let me unlock the last Achievement despite meeting its requirement on many runs, as well as Microsoft Mahjong, also glitched to the point where I’ll no longer be able to earn 20 medals despite totally being able to. It seems like many games for Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones are less than stellar in the quality assurance section, but since the majority of them are all free, it is hard to grumble too loudly. Anyways, I downloaded two more recently, Throne Together and Hungry Shark Evolution, and I’m here to talk about the former first. Sorry, shark fans.

Well, once again, I couldn’t come up with a clever blog title for Throne Together, and so I went the straightforward route of simply describing exactly what it is: a block-based puzzle game about building castles. So far, after doing five to six puzzles, that premise has remained true and untouched, and so the diversity revolves around what kind of castles you need to build, the pieces you use to build them, how fast you move, and other level-specific challenges. Seems like there is a “lives” system similar to Hexic, wherein you get five chances to not fail and can keep playing until you run out of lives, with them regenerating over real-life time. Oh boy. Definitely not my favorite aspect of free-to-play medium, as I just want to play when I want and for how long I want, but I wonder then if people would just burn through everything super fast and move on to the next shiny item before even contemplating the thought of spending real money to buy a boost or extra slew of blocks. Me, no, I’ll never do that.

I’m no professional castle builder–though I always did make LEGO houses full of booby traps as a kid–but neither is Microsoft. Here’s how it works. Basically, you are shown a crown floating in the air (or sometimes multiple crowns), and you have to construct a castle that will touch these, all either under a time limit or specific number of block pieces used. You also have to factor in that the castle has to be stable, that constructing a long, narrow structure might sway and fall or too much heavy weight on top could crack the foundation and bring everything tumbling down. You can counter this by place additional pieces next to the parts cracking, but only for so long. So far, it’s all been fairly easy to figure out, but I can see future levels as getting very tricky, especially depending on where the crowns are positioned. Additional challenges, like building over a river, are also tossed at you.

I’ve only quickly touch upon the Achievements for Throne Together, which certainly look grinding and some require you to pester your friends, which I won’t do, but what really gets me down is that all the icons are the same: a red throne on a blue background. C’mon, we’re no longer living in the medieval times of Achievements (2007-2008). We can get more creative than this.

Right. I’ve run into a problem that I’m surprised has not popped up on other Windows 8 phone games yet. When moving pieces around with my pointer finger, it is difficult to see the screen and pinpoint where exactly to place them. Maybe I have fat fingers or maybe I don’t. I’ve had to rely on the Tetris way, lining up where I want the piece to fall and then watching it trickle down slowly on its own. During untimed missions, this is fine, but when I need to complete a castle in under X number of seconds, this will not work. The problem is that the castle block pieces are smaller than the end of my fingertip to begin with, so when I touch the screen, I can’t even see what I’m manipulating. You’ll probably hear me complain about this again later in Hungry Shark Evolution.

Anyways, not sure how many levels in total there are here, but I stopped at 16, which is one or two after you learn about blueprints and how building them while trying to build a castle can add extra bonus points to your ultimate score and help you on your path to a three stars rating. There’s no story to follow here, just instructions from a nameless castle inspector, and that’s fine because, while it worked in a cutesy way for Hexic, I just can’t see it adding anything here. The meat of the game are the levels themselves and figuring out the best way to build a castle. I’ll keep at it for a bit, but if the later levels prove too challenging I don’t think I’ll feel too bad abandoning this one. It definitely doesn’t have its hooks in me despite my love for castle structures. While this is absolutely a game of thrones, it is also no Game of Thrones.

Having trouble surveying the score in Grand Theft Auto V

gta v stuck vanilla unicorn mission glitch

I slip back into Grand Theft Auto V every now and then to drive around aimlessly, look at a few jokey billboards and websites on the game’s internal Internet, and do a main story mission or, at the very least, a random event. Truthfully, I’m always on the lookout for a new Strangers and Freaks mission, really zany one-offs, but they seem few and far between these days, especially since I’m maybe now halfway through the story. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell without looking up online and spoiling myself percentage-wise, so we’ll just pretend like I know what I’m talking about and say that GTA V‘s glass is currently half empty. Or half full. Whatever.

As much as I hate glitches, especially ones that bring a gaming session to a halt, such as Half-Life 2‘s Nova Prospekt level and the randomly spawning Alpha Male Deathclaw in Fallout: New Vegas, I still do find them fascinating pieces of broken tech and marvel at what they can do to a system, both visibly and behind the scenes. So far, throughout my decent amount of time with Grand Theft Auto V, I’ve not come across many, and if I did, they were pretty minor stuff, like a pedestrian getting caught in a walking animation against a wall or being unable to switch characters for seemingly no good reason. Nothing game-breaking, and so I continued to carry on, little by little. Please note that I’m not including my troublesome time in the early days of Grand Theft Auto Online in this analysis, which was a hot mess of server problems, but also some strange connectivity glitches.

While Giant Bomb streamed for 48 hours over the weekend to raise money for Extra Life, I tried to do my part at home as well, staying up with them and playing some games. Granted, I didn’t last terribly long, but I tried to keep things fresh, jumping between my Nintendo 3DS, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Ni no Kuni, and, our topic du jour, Grand Theft Auto V. I haven’t really played in a couple of weeks from the look of things, and as far as I can tell, the next main story mission is called “Surveying the Score,” which involves all three of our colorful characters–Trevor, Franklin, and Michael. It’s basically a reconnaissance mission, there for the characters to observe their next target, the Union Depository, and plan how to strike it based on the number of guards they see and its alarm system. That’s all well and good, but I can’t seem to start the mission, and the one time I did, my game glitched hard, with Franklin literally standing inside the car, unable to leave, unable to switch out over to Trevor or Michael.

Basically, you have to go to the Vanilla Unicorn, which Trevor owns, and find him in the back office to kick things off. However, something is seriously wrong in my game. The outside door that supposedly leads directly to the back office is locked, and I don’t think that’s right. If you try to go through the strip club, body guards will chance you when you cross into the back room area, and they shoot to kill. I died three times trying attempting this, but was once able to reach Trevor’s office to begin “Surveying the Score”–with body guards still in tow. I think that had a serious effect on the mission going forward, the system confusing itself, which led to Franklin stuck in the car, kind of clipping out of it, but unable to do much else. Grrr.

I turned on the DownloadStation 3 this morning to snatch up my free copy of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and noticed that there was a new patch available for Grand Theft Auto V. Alas, I think that’s mostly for Grand Theft Auto Online stuff, but maybe there’s a Vanilla Unicorn fix in there, too. We’ll see. I’ll keep playing until I run out of other missions on the map to do, and then I’ll try again; if I can’t get through Trevor’s strip club unscathed, I guess my dream of completing a GTA game for the very first time ever will come to a sad, but inevitable conclusion.

Searching for the Dark Brotherhood in a realm of distractions

I’m back into Skyrim for a bit, and my landlord is to blame. See, during Hurricane Sandy, we spent some time at his place since he and his wife had a generator, which meant heat and lights and entertainment to distract us all from the unknown. While we lingered away the night, he pulled up his level 75 character and floored me with just how much he’s seen and done in the game. I also think he slew a Frost Dragon in like…three sword swipes. My level 45 Lohgahn paled in comparison. The only thing I could hold above it all was that he was playing on the PS3, and I’m on the Xbox 360, and I think we all know which of those two consoles at least has working DLC for it. So, uh, yeah–take that.

But yeah. I did a wee bit of smithing–I still find that process really, really dull, no matter the rewards in the end–shot a fleeing deer in the butt with a sick killcam to boot, sold some skill books I already read, took one look at the house I bought at Lakeview Manor and realized I didn’t want to build a house, and then did some creeping through some caves.

Also, I decided that I had better just take the plunge and try and find the Dark Brotherhood with my “good” character, as I’m most likely never going to reroll a new one. And so, not knowing exactly how to do that–and I didn’t want to just start randomly assassinating nice people–I looked up a wiki to get me started. Boo, hiss–I know. However, without it, I’d have gone on another 100 hours without ever finding this one character to get the blood-covered boulder rolling. I’m thankful that the first person to be assassinated for the Dark Brotherhood is a mean, old bat. Makes the whole thing that much more easy to swallow. After that business, I got a mysterious note from a courier, and now I’m not sure what’s to happen next. Still haven’t found the Dark Brotherhood to be exact…

Oh, and I think I glitched this Achievement into popping:


Standing Stones (30G): Find 13 Standing Stones

See, I was looking for something to complete from my long list of quests, and picked one at a place I had not yet discovered. At this point, I don’t remember exactly which one it was–they all blur together in the end–but it had something to do with a wolf or wolf ghost wind thing. Mmmhmm. I’m really good with the fact. Anyways, the closest marker was a Standing Stone I’d already found, and so I figured I’d go there and take a walk. Upon fast traveling there, I unlocked this Achievement, which I don’t believe to be right, as I can surely say I found maybe six or seven at most. Oh well.

I wonder how long this spurt of playing will last, especially now that we know when the next bit of DLC will hit: Dragonborn, on December 4. And this one looks more up my alley than Dawnguard did, with strange, exotic locations that evoke the weirdness that is Morrowind. I’d still really love to see Lohgahn cross that level 50 mark, but it is just harder and harder to level up, especially now that all his main skills are capped. Regardless, stay tuned to find out if I’m worthy of being a dark assassin.