Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Wolf Among Us

I have spoken before about my love of Telltale Games.  Their point and click creations are as intriguing as some of the best books I've read.  A Wolf Among Us is one of their typical five episode games that came to the Xbox 360 back in 2013.  It's based on the comic book series Fables, the stories of classic fable characters like Snow White, Ichabod Crane, trolls, ogre, princes, etc who have chosen to live in the non-magical world.

I am not much of a fan of fairy tales or children's stories.  I personally much prefer a dark, adult plot with lots of realistic characters.  But the Fable comics and the Wolf Among Us game made we want to dive deeper into these old, classic stories.  Any game that makes me want to watch a Disney movie is pretty amazing.

The game follows Bigby Wolf (Big Bad Wolf) as he attends to the residence of Fabletown, a small community in the Bronx full of creatures glamored to look like regular humans.  What made this game/story so interesting is that there is murder, romance, prostitution, magic, cut throat politics, and even a bit of fetishism.  I don't want to go into too much detail because it's really hard to not give things away.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to express my love for this bizarre, complex game.  I encourage you to play it if you haven't already.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Putting my prejudice for nostalgia behind me, I sucked it up and played The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.  This game hit all the right notes for me.  It reminded me of all the things I loved from the original game without cramming them down my throat.  The music, enemies, surroundings, everything was just right and kept me aware that I was playing a classic Zelda game.

Additionally, the developers made sure to advance the game forward, making it relevant today.  The graphics were hugely improved.  The learning curve and difficulty were much more balanced that previous titles.  There were more quests and collectibles which helped to make the game as short or long as you wanted it to be.

All too often, our generation clings to their childhood so hard that we all end up stuck with sub-par products.  I know people want to play a classic 8-bit game with terrible music and no save files, but some players want to see developers stretch the current technology and blow minds.  While A Link Between Worlds didn't break the mold as far as game design goes, it shows how easy it can be to make a game that serves to both old school and new school players.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pneuma: Breath of Life


Pneuma: Breath of Life is a puzzle game with a charming, protagonist.  The player solves the puzzles in first person as the protagonist entity.  While bodiless and nameless, the voice of the playing entity is constantly talking.  As the game progresses, the voice goes from believing he is a god to believing he has no control in the world.

The game takes on this super bizarre, ultra meta feel.  The voice begins to speculate and even panic that the player is the real god.  He feels like he has no control and accuses the player of manipulating him.  At one point, the voice ends up at a lone tree in a colorless world as the player reaches for what is implied to be the apple of Eden.  There is a good chance I'm not smart enough to understand why the game goes so far as to vaguely reference the Old Testament.  I'm not a theologian or a philosophy major, so the whole concept is just too far out of my wheelhouse. 

The voice itself is really charming until the end when he loses his mind.  Between the English accent and quirky comments, it reminds me a lot of Wheatley from Portal 2.  I began to feel bad for him as he slowly loses his mind/realizes the presence of the player.

The game itself is short.  I completed all six chapters and cleared all achievements in about two hours.  The game looks amazing and plays really smooth.  With that in mind, it's hard to justify the $20 price tag.  It seems like a lot for something with almost no replayability that took two hours to complete.

If you have the chance to play it for free or at a reduced cost, it is definitely worth your time.  But if your only way to play is through the full $20 purchase, you might want to wait until it's on sale.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

One More Line

One More Line is a free mobile game that has slowly taken over my life.  It is one of those apps that is perfect for passing the time.  Playing a round takes less than one minute.  If you aren't very good at it, like me, it will take about 5 seconds.

The goal is to travel the furthest possible distance down a straight lane.  There are small orbs scattered around that you must use to slingshot yourself forward.  You die if you hit the walls; you die if you hit an orb.  The replayability is akin to Flappy Bird.  No story, just a single objective to keep trying.

What makes this game so much better than others like it is the amazing soundtrack.  It's one song looped, but surprisingly doesn't get old.  It probably becomes annoying for those not playing, but who cares about those jerks ?  I once heard someone call the sound "futuristic space disco" and that is a fairly apt description.

The other great feature is the ability to take pictures of your run right in the app without having to take a screen shot.  It will then save the picture or instantly post it to social media if you want.  Why don't more games have this ?

Since it's free, just download it and save it for when you need to pass the time but might not have the attention for something difficult or story driven. 

Check out some game play here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lego Marvel-ous!

Yes.. I went there.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is so flipping fun you guys.  I literally can not stop playing it.  It's one of those games that you start playing, and then you think, "Wow, I should really get to bed."  Then 2 hours later you're still playing because you need to unlock Ms. Marvel oo and Ghost Rider ooo and Red Hulk oo and....  it just never ends.

That's the best part.  The story is fun to play, and has all of the elements you expect from a Lego game.  It's silly and funny, and overall fairly easy.  I have to say that some of the puzzles in this Lego iteration truly did leave me puzzled.  I actually had to Google a level because I could not figure out how to progress after I had run around, looked and destroyed everything.  That is the one thing I trip up on in this game - I don't know all of the characters so I'm not sure what all of their special skills are.  It doesn't make it less fun, but it does mean I spend some extra time trying and failing.

I have to say that the games have become more and more polished as they've gone along too.  In the early games (Star Wars, Harry Potter 1...) you could free play, but you only had access to a few of your characters.  Now, even when you free play the levels, you have access to everyone you've unlocked.  And you can save and quit at any time.  Amazing!  I think the characters are more dynamic in Marvel too.  They all have interesting and different animations which makes it fun to branch out from your initial favorites.

Probably the most fun development is the free world map.  The game is based in New York City, and in between levels you can free play the city.  There are about 150 mini side quests to unlock characters and gold bricks.  You can run, fly, drive, and explore the city from the subways to the rooftops.  It's basically an adorable version of GTA IV.  I love it.  I do not love the racing quests, because I am horrible at driving and I think that they flying characters are hard to control... so that gets really frustrating really fast.  But what's life without a few challenges?

So if you like Marvel, Lego, or just plain having fun this is the game for you.  I highly recommend it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Farming Simulator

I will literally play anything if it is a simulation.  Build a tower?  Please.  Live your exact same life, only digitally?  Obviously.  Run a hospital?  In my sleep.  So a farming simulator?  Yes!  It speaks to my Iowa soul.  I have wanted this game for such a long, long time.  It has hovered around the $30 mark as a download, and same for buying the disk, so when it was on sale this last week for $10, we snatched it up.  I am frugal, and exceedingly patient.  I also wanted to be careful. so I read reviews and looked at forums.  I found lots of positive out there, it sounded so fun.

I'm here to lay some truth on you.

First off, it is fun.  It is peaceful.  But I'll be double dipped if it isn't confusing, and actually hard to understand.  I honestly think you have to be an actual farmer to know what to do in this game, and all the farmers I know are too busy actually farming to pretend to be a farmer on their Xbox.  The game offers shockingly little guidance.  There are a few tutorials for basic tractor driving skills, and understanding a little about the whole planting/harvesting scenario... but when you start your own career farm you're just left there.  Standing in a field.  What now!?  I have never before felt like I needed a walkthrough like I do on this game.  A sim game.  I've built thriving metropolises before, but I can't grow and harvest wheat?! I am boggled over how to feed a chicken?? What is wrong with me?

And the kicker is, I've looked back through the forums, searching for someone to commiserate with.  A post about how hard it is to drive the front loader.  Someone else who can't pick up a pallet.  But no, it appears that I am alone in my struggles.  So I am here for you, dear reader, if you have also fallen prey to the promise of a fun farming simulator and now you have no idea what to do and are somehow $126,000 in debt.

Won't stop me from playing though.  There's nothing quite like driving a tractor.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Telltale and Gearbox Give Me A Much Needed Break.

Tales From The Borderlands is one of Telltale Games' latest release.  It fits the typical description of any Telltale experience including an episodic narrative, point and click game play, and choice based storytelling.  Thankfully, Tales From The Borderlands brings a lot more enjoyment and lightheartedness.

One can easily say that they don't want to play Tales because they didn't like Gearbox's Borderlands or Telltale's flagship game, The Walking Dead.  I would argue, that Tales From The Borderlands is the perfect game for those people.  Don't like the fast paced yet somehow repetitive nature of Borderlands?  Tales is strictly story driven and doesn't require side missions or level grinding.  Don't care for the slow build and intense emotions that come with The Walking Dead?  Tales provides funny characters and almost as much quick button action as there is dialogue.

Do yourself a solid and buy the first episode.  Follow the ridiculous characters with their sophomoric humor on an adventure throughout Pandora.