Tag Archives: RPG

2017 Game Review Haiku, #104 – Ever Oasis

Keep chaos away
Watch your oasis blossom
Through quests, skill, routine

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.

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Costume Quest 2, sweet like candy to my soul

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I enjoyed that first Costume Quest game. It was cute, charming, bite-sized, rewarding, and perfect for warping you back to your childhood to remember those consequence-free times of running through your neighborhood, ringing doorbells, and asking strangers for candy. Surprise, surprise, being that the games are nearly identical to each other in terms of mechanics, pacing, and exploration from the eyes of children with larger-than-life imaginations, I also enjoyed Costume Quest 2. Probably more than the first adventure.

Here’s the four-one-one. Costume Quest 2 from Double Fine and Midnight City takes place once again on Halloween night. The fraternal twin siblings Wren and Reynold from the original game are back, as well as a bunch of their friends,  to save All Hallows’ Evening from the evil Dr. Orel White. This ultra-nefarious dentist has teamed up with a powerful time wizard, as one often does, releasing the Grubbins into the human world in hopes of ridding the candy-filled holiday entirely from history. Wren and Reynold’s friends open a mystical time portal from the future to explain that, where they are from, Halloween has been permanently outlawed, with Dr. Orel White ruling the world. Wren and Reynold go back to the future with their friends to stop this disillusioned dental surgeon for good.

If you’ve played the first Costume Quest, you’ll know how this game works because it is nearly identical. You move around an enclosed area full of things to punch for candy and on-screen enemies, like a suburban neighborhood or dental compound, talking to NPCs and solving simple navigation-blocking puzzles. Often, to get where you want to go, you need to use the right costume. For instance, the pterodactyl can use its wings to blow away big piles of leaves or garbage, and the wizard can illuminate dark areas the kids are too scared to explore without a light. There are main quests to follow, as well as small side ones that will earn you extra XP, upgrade your candy bag, and provide rarer Creepy Treat cards.

The main aspect gating progress in Costume Quest 2 is combat. It’s turn-based, focusing heavily on timed button presses, just like Paper Mario: Sticker Star. You select attack and then must time the button press with the indicator on-screen to hit maximum damage. You can also do this for blocking, to take less damage, as well as learning the ability to counter attacks later on. Each of the costumes the kids wear have different basic and special attacks, and I ended up relying on the Superhero, Clown, Wizard, and Jefferson costumes the most. I’ll talk about the Candy Corn costume in just a bit. All of the costumes have different strengths and weaknesses against specific enemy types, but I really never found myself worrying about that. You can run away from any fight, and even if you die, you respawn by the fountain of health to try again. This is not the Dark Souls of lite RPGs.

In fact, the hardest thing about Costume Quest 2 turned out to not even be terribly difficult, just a little more time-consuming. I’m talking about the “Hardcorn” Achievement, which requires you to keep a kid in the Candy Corn costume for the entire game. Basically, the Candy Corn costume does not attack enemies. You can still take less damage to it with a proper button timing when blocking, but otherwise it doesn’t do much other than make silly quips at the start of its turn, which, alas, I can confirm do repeat. Later, when Corvus teaches the kids how to perform counters, Candy Corn can at least occasionally deal some damage back, since everyone like to target it the most. This did make the boss battles go on a little longer than normal, but otherwise, I was able to do it, and I even shared this journey with all of you via Extra Life this past weekend. You can watch the videos on my YouTube channel (not all are up yet). Also, thanks to Microsoft’s latest dashboard update, I can now tell you that, on the Xbox One at least, this is a pretty rare accomplishment. Like 2% rare…

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Go me. Anyways, Costume Quest 2 is real cute. Super duper cute. The kind of cute fun that makes you feel safe again in a world that is undoubtedly growing more dangerous every day. For sure, I’ll play Costume Quest 3, if Double Fine decides to make more, but I’d love to see this evolve more mechanically. Granted, I think it was a surprise to everyone that this sequel alone got made. That said, I’m getting a copy of Costume Quest 2 this month on PlayStation 3 from PlayStation Plus and, for once, I will not even bother downloading it. I’ve done everything there is to do in this cartoonish Halloween-land. Until the next thwart on withholding candy from children, I guess.

Telltale’s take on Game of Thrones is not sunshine and rainbows or even a game

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Well, I almost significantly spoiled my girlfriend Melanie on Game of Thrones over the weekend, which is something so bad that not even Ramsay Snow would consider doing it on the worst day of his wretched life. I am sorry, and may the Mother and the Father forgive me. See, sometime back, Telltale Games was offering the first episodes of its Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands, and The Wolf Among Us series for free, so naturally I nabbed them all, figuring I’d get to them when I’d get to them. After the stinging disappointment that was season two of Clementine’s return to The Walking Dead, I was in no rush for more.

In my mind, I figured the Game of Thrones series was set during the early parts of the show/books. Mel has read the first two books–and a page or two into A Storm of Swords–and seen all of HBO’s season one. To my surprise, the game takes place smack dab in the middle of the third book, at the Twins. Seems like Lord Walder Frey is throwing quite the celebration for whoever is getting married that night. Yikes. Naturally, the game even uses the phrase “The Red Wedding” when setting the opening scene to hammer home the where and when. I immediately closed out to the Xbox One dashboard and then proceeded to turn on the PlayStation 3 for some more progress into Puppeteer, getting as far away from the Crossing as possible.

Later, I burned through the first episode “Iron from Ice” by myself, and I found it, much like with that other Game of Thrones game, beyond dissatisfying. For different reasons, of course, but I do have to wonder if this well of potential will ever get the right kind of treatment in the industry. Probably not. Personally, of the two that I have played, I figured this would be the better style suited to a world of poignant choices and larger-than-life characters. While that aspect is covered and pretty good in the moment-to-moment decisions, I was also hoping for more things to do around picking who lives, who dies, who you let live because you are weak and you know they’ll come back to kill you, and so on.

The story revolves around the northern House Forrester, rulers of Ironrath, whose members attempt to save their family and themselves after ending up on the losing side of the War of the Five Kings. House Forrester has not yet been introduced in the television series, but is mentioned briefly in A Dance with Dragons, so at least they aren’t just ::cough cough Riverspring cough:: making things up. Still, with the events post-TRW, House Forrester must make smart choices to keep themselves in the fight, and that’s where you, the player, come in, eventually controlling a number of characters in the family. There’s Ethan Forrester, who finds himself learning how to rule at a much earlier age than expected; there’s Mira Forrester, all the way in King’s Landing, who serves as a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell; there’s Gared Tuttle, a squire who is off to the Wall to hide. I think later episodes give you others to play as, too.

Here’s my biggest problem with Game of Thrones, and it is the same problem I had with season two of The Walking Dead–it’s barely a game. It’s a choose your own adventure story, with a high emphasis on choose. Interaction is kept to a bare minimum, and you’re mostly left with dialogue choices. Basically, press this button or that button (or say nothing at all). I also found it difficult to roleplay these characters since I kept switching between them for different scenes; before, you had Lee, and every choice you made was reflective of the Lee you wanted to play as. Same for Clementine later on. Here, you get a short scene with Gared, then Mira, then Ethan, then Mira, etc, which makes it difficult to really grow them in my mind, learn who they are. I naturally tried to play each character the same, as an honest, hopeful soul in this grim world of brutality and betrayal. For many, it’s not going to work out well.

In “Iron from Ice,” I ran into zero puzzles. There are a couple of action scenes, where you have to hover the cursor over an item to grab and use it quickly, or swipe in a direction for some purpose, but that’s all early on and over with swiftly. At one point, while controlling Gared, I got to pick up two items from the room I was in–one was paper, the other some kind of plant or healing herb–and put them in my inventory, along with a sword. That said, you can’t select the items in the inventory or try to use them on other items or even people in hope of starting a dialogue. It’s a pointless list on the left side of the screen to make you think you are playing a puzzle-driven adventure game when, in reality, you are on a linear cart ride down the King’s Road. The other characters you play as don’t even have an inventory.

Kudos to Telltale for getting HBO on board to allow them to use the likenesses and voices of many of Game of Thrones‘ prominet characters/actors, like Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), and Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon). It does help to sell the setting and soften the blow that you’re playing as a lesser-known family in the great big mix of things. Still, even on newer consoles, the gameplay is glitchy, with it chugging along from scene to scene, textures are slow to load in, and character models occasionally vanish from scenes without warning.

Telltale has certainly changed the point-and-click genre to a more modern, easy-to-swallow sort of experience, the kind that just about anyone can play–but it’s not for me. I want more interaction, more noggin using. I hate to say it, but this is exactly the sort of game I’m okay watching someone else play and then move on. I’m glad this first episode was free, but I’m also worried about how The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands unfold. In my heart, they are all the same, and walking away from this company’s future output is one of the harder choices thrown before me as there’s a lot of like about the franchises they handle. Thank goodness there’s no timer.