Tag Archives: QTE

Begin your King’s Quest by outwitting four other knightly candidates

I have zero association with Sierra Entertainment’s King’s Quest series, despite its legacy in the point-and-click adventure game genre and my love for entertainment based on pointing and clicking. I remember hearing something once that these Sierra games were punishing and reveled in killing the player from time to time, and that’s lived inside of me ever since. From what I can tell, it helped pioneer the use of animation and pseudo-3D environments, as well as introduced the notion of players solving puzzles and advancing by using items found earlier and stored in their inventory, which is a big deal. It’s on my “want to play eventually” list, along with Loom and Day of the Tentacle, which I do own copies of the latter, but I don’t know when exactly that day will arrive.

Anyways, “A Knight to Remember,” the first episode of King’s Quest and free to download on the ol’ Xbox One, is a series reboot from The Odd Gentlemen, which you may know from their work on The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Well, that’s where I know them. It tells the story of the likeable yet overly excitable Graham, who’s working on becoming a knight and, eventually, the king of Daventry. That’s not a spoiler, seeing as the main meat of the game is told via flashback, from an older, bedridden Graham in bed, many years later after he became king. He’s telling the story of his life to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. Still, as a young knight-to-be, he needs to outwit four other candidates for the open position and make his name heard.

King’s Quest is most definitely a modern point-and-click adventure game, one clearly designed for a controller and home console, but still retaining many of its genre roots. For instance, there’s no tutorial or quest log to remind players about what they should be doing. One needs to quickly learn how to figure stuff out for themselves; that, or try every item on every other item, which is usually my go-to attempt when stuck. There’s also multiple solutions to puzzles, and, strangely enough, Graham can die, though since this is told via flashback the narrator quickly walks back any life-ending decisions like that. It also very much does not follow in the footprints of Telltale Games’ hand-holding, decision-makers, and for that I am thankful.

You control Graham like you would any avatar in a 3D character-action title, and there’s some sick cape physics to admire. Gameplay consists of exploring locations, talking to people and navigating through dialogue trees, picking up items, using said items, and surviving quick time events. You’ll put your wits to work occasionally and do a whole lot of walking. Let me touch on that last point a bit more because it is where I struggled with the game the most, to the point of almost walking away from it entirely, pun totally intended. See, King Graham, you’re not the only one with the good wordplay.

One of the better advancements in point-and-click adventure games is the introduction of a mini-map or the ability to double click on edges of screens to have the protagonist either move there automatically or simply jump to the next location. When a game is structurally built on revisiting the same locations over and over and over, some of which are four or five screens apart and broken up by loading screens, this is paramount to maintaining a good pace and not forcing the player to watch in stark boredom as Graham meanders to and fro like there’s nothing better to do. Lastly, you can’t skip dialogue, and I suspect that my six to seven hours with this first episode alone could have been trimmed down immensely if The Odd Gentlemen made room for a few more user-friendly design concessions.

Visually, King’s Quest is my jam. Specifically, my cel-shaded jam. This results in environments with a hand-painted effect that looks cartoonish, magical, and, somehow, completely natural. Characters stand out against these backdrops, but only initially. For this first episode, locations are limited, but strikingly varied. Graham ends up in the village of Daventry, inside the castle briefly, visiting a theater, exploring a darkened forest, and creeping through a cave home to a massive dragon, who may or may not be friendly, depending on how you interact with it. Strong, ambient lighting and minute details help round out this fantastical world into something believable and lived in. At one point or another, it felt like moving through a painting. This is also all backed by a good soundtrack and strong voice acting, specifically Christopher Lloyd‘s deadpan delivery of puns.

If I’m being honest, the reason I finally sat down and played King’s Quest is because it is a large, sizeable install and I wanted to open up some space on my console for other games. That said, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing the other remaining episodes any time soon, but maybe they’ll pop up in a nice bundle down the road or just eventually become part of the Games with Gold program. I mean, I already know Graham becomes king, but I guess it is all about the journey, after all. We’ll see if I ever see it through myself.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #46 – Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

Stop robots, transform
Camera sucks, limp punches
Press buttons as told

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, #30 – Tales from the Borderlands, Episode 1 “Zer0 Sum”

2017-gd-games-completed-tales-from-the-borderlands-zer0-sum

Vault key deal goes south
For Rhys, Fiona, and friends
Zer0 loves haikus

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.

Batman vs. The Joker and an army of ventilation gates

batman arkham asylum mash x to open vents copy

As you probably already know from the previous post, I beat Batman: Arkham Asylum over the weekend. It was really enjoyable and constantly full of stuff to do, even if there’s a few aspects of it that I found bothersome–more on that in a bit–and if someone had simply told me it was more or less Super Metroid plus Deus Ex: Human Revolution sooner, I would not be as late as I am to this crazy shindig. But whatevs, I did it. Not like I’m opposed to catching up on older games. But truthfully, I think I’m now good with Batman for a bit, not feeling the need to bat-glide right over to Arkham City or Arkham Origins. Though maybe that 3DS game has potential…

At the time of kicking The Joker’s clownish ass back behind bars and completing the game proper, my final stats were as follows:

  • Challenges – 2%
  • Riddles – 142/240
  • Upgrades – 18/20
  • Character Bios – 31/42
  • Completed – 73%

Not bad, not bad. But could be better overall. I’ve since gone back and upped all of those stats, now sitting at an 85% completion rate, with everything in the main campaign found, unlocked, and listened to. Whoop whoop, go moi. However, that means, in order to earn the remaining 15%, I have to not only finish all the challenges, which come in two forms, but also do them perfectly for all their medals. Which seems extremely difficult. In the Combat challenges, you fight against four rounds of enemies and earn points by combo-chaining attacks together, never getting hit, and using a ton of variety. In Silent Predator, you are tasked with taking out a group of enemies in a room from the main game itself, with three specific tasks to accomplish along the way. There’s a handful of each of these, and the difficulty between one and another appears to ramp up dramatically. I’ve tried a few and done simply mediocre on ’em, so I can officially wave goodbye to a 100% completion rate.

What I’m really here to talk about is how much you are required to mash the X button in Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s ridiculous. For all his brawn and muscles and high technology, Batman still has to mash on the X button to pull open/kick out ventilation shafts, rip down glass walls, and topple The Joker off a ledge multiple times during the final fight. That latter reason, I get–truly. But everything else feels unnecessary and is quite tiring, especially when you use the upgraded Batclaw to rip open glass walls from afar, which seem to take more button presses than anything else. Throw in the notion that you’re also, sort of, mashing X a lot during combat to dodge out of the way, and well…that button is getting some seriously loving. I’m not generally opposed to these kind of mini-mash QTE festivals, but Batman uses vents a lot, certainly more than doors, and I don’t understand why it couldn’t have been a simple single button press to open the vent. Is it more interactive? Sure, but it’s badly designed and does not make me feel like a badass superhero.

If you’d like to really stave off any sliver of interest to see how Arkham City and Arkham Origins play out, just let me know if this mechanic is still there. If so, I’ll pass on the mash.

Let’s give it up for extreme violence at E3 2012

First, a true fact: I am not at the physical E3, set at the Los Angeles Convention center, but I can still hear the clapping.

Clapping, in general, is a standard at a convention or event where someone talks and then pauses in anticipation. It’s also pretty much expected when shown something exciting, such as a new game trailer or even just a teensy weensy teaser to get the blood a-pumping and the heartrate up. It’s a reaction, and it is, more or less, a confirmation that what was shown was appreciated or desired or looked upon favorably. Golf claps and sarcastic, slow-building claps that are found only in cinematic talkies are different beasts. However, from what I witnessed via live-streams of E3 2012 press conferences, there are two instances of clapping that struck me as…woefully odd. Disappointing, too.

One happened during a live demo of The Last of Us, and the other during a live demo of God of War: Ascension, and both are sad reminders of why the media portrays gamers as violent-minded folk. When you clap for extreme violence, you are clapping with genuine excitement. You clap because you care.

In God of War: Ascension, during a boss fight, Kratos does his QTE thing and rips out a monster’s brain and then slices it in half, as if the ripping out the brain didn’t already do the needful. This got a rousing reaction from the crowd, with applause to back it up. In The Last of Us, Joel takes the head of a man attacking him and slams it repeatedly into a small dresser until the side of it–the dresser, that is–is covered in blood and the man is unmoving. The audience at the conference really liked this moment and decided to let the world know by starting giving it a round of applause.

Both of these moments immediately made me uncomfortable. I myself felt no need to clap; granted, I was watching from the other side of the United States, first in an office and then second in bed in my pajamas with a kitty cat by my feet. I spent most of the God of War: Ascension live demo reading the comments over at GiantBomb and laughing along, but I did watch the live demo for The Last of Us with genuine interest. I loved when Joel got shot and kind of stumbled back, but brushed it off due to the intense scenario he and that Ellen Page girl were in. I loved how crazy fast everything was happening, and I loved why Joel had to do that horrible thing to that man–to survive, to keep going. I don’t love the moment itself, but the push behind it. That kind of violence really shows the grittiness of the game and that it is in fact The Road and all post-apocalyptic tropes and themes, and that to keep on truckin’ one has to do what one has to do. By no means should these actions be applauded–but they should be understood. The audience members clapping like little kids on Christmas morning clearly did not understand what was happening on that big screen in front of them.

I’ll end with this polar opposite scenario then. In LEGO City Undercover–a debut videogame I now desperately want, but only on the Nintendo 3DS as I’m still not convinced a Wii U is worth acquiring–police detective Chase McCain races down a criminal, tackles him in broad daylight on a populated city street, and the evildoer explodes into LEGO bits and studs. No one clapped.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #15 – Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale

A halfling mage walks
Into a dungeon, grinds, grows
Kills dragon, the end

EDIT: Greg Noe submitted a haiku review of his own for Daggerdale, and as a lover of alliteration, I have to share with y’all. See it here:

Dwarf diviner ducks
To dungeon, drudges, deepens
Defeats dragon, done

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

The ending to Jurassic Park: The Game is a big pile of dino droppings

There are several problems with Jurassic Park: The Game, but none bigger than its ending, and I’m going to discuss it at length in this post, so if you don’t want to be spoiled beyond Spoiled City, get out now. Just go. Put in a VHS copy of the 1993 classic Jurassic Park, play with the tracking buttons, and then sit back, soak in, and be at peace. Trust me, you’re better off; I mean, I wish I wasn’t thinking about these things, but I am. And the only way to get rid of them is to dump them here.

::insert Tyrannosaurus Rex roar::

As the remaining survivors–Gerry Harding, Jess Harding, and Nima–race to reach the boat that can take them off Isla Nublar, a choice is presented, one that’s extremely easy to make: save Jess or save the Barbasol can of dinosaur embryos. If you go for the can, Nima dies. If you save Jess, the can is stomped flat, but everyone lives to see another day. The latter is deemed the “good ending” and was what I earned first, later going back to see what would happen if you tried to grab the can before Mean Ol’ Mr. T-Rex caught wind of your antics. Right. So, they all live and are motoring away on the escape boat as that familiar tune plays. Hooray. Except Nima is pretty downtrodden and not because her partner in crime Yoder got eaten: that Barbasol can represented a way to get her and her daughter into a new life, with food and security and all the things that a mother/daughter combo need to survive. Without it, she has nothing. Gerry promises her that he’ll do whatever he can to help the both of them, but before he can work out a plan, his daughter Jess interupts to inform them about a bag full of cash she just found.

And that’s where Jurassic Park: The Game ends. No, really. It’s that, followed by the boat scooting away into the sunset and a flock of Pterodactylus passing by overhead. Roll credits. Put the controller down.

Which means we–the viewer, the player, the puppet master–are left to interpretation. And the game seems to imply that Nima will take the money found on the boat. That Gerry Harding will totally be okay with Nima taking all that money, that it’s for a good cause. For the entirety of Jurassic Park: The Game, Harding has been constantly reminding his daughter that stealing is wrong and trying to teach her to be a wiser teenager, to make good, wholesome choices. To not smoke or talk back to elders or, y’know, steal stuff. And he did all of this while dinosaurs of varying sizes and skins tried to eat them. Good for him.

But here, at the end–and granted, he did just outrun a T-Rex–he says nothing about the bag of money. Nothing about going to InGen about what happened on the island and Dr. Sorkin or anything like that. Maybe he actually does. The scene cuts away after the literal money shot, and we don’t know what other conversations the trio have as they make their way home, but that’s the game’s fault. Again, it doesn’t tell us, and so we have to go off of what is presented, which is that Nima is going to get all the money, the money she was originally going to get anyway from stealing from InGen. If Harding lets Nima take the money, he is again approving of stealing, which I’m sure Jess would find contradictory.

It’s an atrocious piece of writing, that doesn’t make sense, but comes across as extremely unlikely and Hollywood-like. I’d rather have seen them sail away without a bag of money, happy to be alive, promising each other that they would get through whatever came next, especially considering what they just survived. Maybe even Nima would become a motherly figure to Jess since her parents were not going to work it out. Of, if anything, as a wink to the first film and a meta joke to the fact that Jurassic Park: The Game is in itself a wink to a throwaway plotline, Harding could’ve acknowledged the bag of money, zipped it up, and tossed it into the water–y’know, for someone else to find. As is, the game’s “good ending” is far from good.

And all of this makes me extra nervous about Telltale Games’ forthcoming The Walking Dead game. The only light there is that in a world overrun by zombies, a bag of money is pretty much useless.