Another Global Game Jam happened. This year’s theme was “Duality”. My friend and I cheated a bit and knew about the theme about a week before the actual event we had signed up for. In other words, the theme was out on the 19th and the jam site we joined started on the 28th.
We discussed a couple of ideas in the week leading up, I initially thought of making a bullet-hell top-down shooter with colour switching like Ikaruga, but my friend wasn’t into the idea, and wanted to make a platformer instead.
My original concept of the idea was a side scrolling platformer, where the player would jump on different coloured platforms, and the colour of the platform would change the background colour of the scene. That in turn would hide or reveal the platforms ahead of the player. This is the one concept we actually kept, but it didn’t become a 2D platformer.
I’m probably gonna ridicule my friend here, but he also gave me twice as much work to do, so he probably deserves it. When we prototyped the idea and I was giving him instructions on what we should do, he purposely ignored them and built a 3D platformer instead, and claimed his idea was “Better”. The kicker is that he did put in a 2D mode, but made it so the gravity was sideways instead of down, because he claimed being able to climb was a cooler idea. Which made designing a level even more difficult because it meant any 3D to 2D puzzle design had to revolve around a quite frankly undercooked idea.
By the end of it, we dropped the 2D side of things. Which brings me on to Godot.
I’ve complained about Godot before, but it continues to surprise me with how underdeveloped or obtuse it can be. Let me provide a couple of examples. The background colour changes. In Unity I could access the main camera, set the background to be a solid colour, and then in code, just change the value of the colour. In Godot, according to my friend at least, you have access a node, set a global variable to access that node, and build a script to access that to set it.
Another example is putting some UI around the map in the form of text tips or hidden words. In Unity there exists a text mesh feature that just lets you put whatever words you want wherever you want. There’s also UI element text which is constrained somewhat by the canvas, but for the most part is fairly easy to place and manipulate. Godot’s version isn’t anywhere near as easy to use. You have to build a viewport, build a control node (Which I didn’t do initially, I’ll get to that in a bit) and then attach a label or rich text label to that node, and then make a 3D sprite, and render that viewport containing the text to said 3D sprite. Now when I made the viewport without the control node, although the engine prompted me to edit the positioning via the 2D canvas, I couldn’t actually see the UI elements. So you need to attach the control before you can even manage that stuff.
When I complained to my friend about the latter of those examples, he then proceeded to take an hour and a half “Making it easier” and created a UI theme that in theory we could use to drop text anywhere. In reality it just took up a bunch of time and broke all the UI stuff that I made previously.
Other than the problems with Godot, making a 3D platformer provides its own issues. We were fairly limited timewise to implement mechanics. So we focused on making the level around the placements of the platforms, making a couple of additional platform types for destructible and moving platforms. Even with that, my level design experience is lacking at best.
The start of the level is just 3×3 grid that can demonstrate the colour switching, as well as a couple of destructible platforms. This then leads to some moving platforms, with some vertically following that, and so on. The 2D stuff had to be abandoned purely because there wasn’t really use for it, climbing walls isn’t useful compared to what I had planned about perspective switching. There’s a part about halfway through the level with a moving platform, and I placed a wall just above the platform forcing the player to jump to another platform and jump back to get around it. In one idea after settling on a mixed perspective, I planned the idea of having that be a 2D section, where they would see a wall, but when they switched views to 3D there would see a gap in the wall to go through. But with the physics set up that we had that my friend refused to change, it just wasn’t possible.
The sense of direction was also a problem when we watched other players play the game. Some players didn’t know where they were going or why. There are a couple of directional arrows in the game pointing at paths ahead, but perhaps we should have put a few more down.
Myself and my friend have done multiple game jams now, and something is clear, we have very different views on game design and development principals. Part of this is due to our choice of engine, I typically use Unity and he exclusively uses Godot for reasons beyond any human understanding; and that often causes problems in design visualisation and fully understanding what the other is capable of. Furthermore, he mostly exclusively insists on creating 3D games despite the fact that I have very limited experience with things like Blender, but it’s my turn to do art, he still wants to make 3D stuff and then butcher my sprite and jerryrig it to 3D meshes. I’m just complaining at this point.
After we finished this game, we did joke to each other that we had made a better game than Bubsy 3D. Considering how difficult it can be to make a 3D platformer, I’d say we at least did better than that.
As for things to do different, well if it was possible, I would have liked to properly explore the perspective switching idea. Or just keep to the original 2D idea I had and add in some of the more physics based sections, like the pachinko machine. I don’t really feel like making a Unity version to be honest. I liked the concept of Bunny Jammers enough to do something more with it, but I think this game proves its concept well enough that it’s unnecessary.
If we take part in another game jam though I might try and convince my friend to install and mess around with Stride, which is C# game engine I’ve been thinking of looking at for a while now. If we can both find an engine with like and want to use, it would probably increase our productivity. Possibly ditch the idea of switching roles each time too.
If you want to play the game, download it here or play it in the browser:
Later this year, this website will be 10 years old. You think I would have done more with it.
Anyway, do you like the new makeover? It’s not that big of an improvement, all I really did was change the theme and update some images. Either way, there’s a proper dark theme now and everything is less of an eyesore. Better fonts too.
Let’s start off with an update on that headphone story from the last proper post. Turns out the headphones I was using with my phone were APTX, meaning low latency. And the new ones that I was using with the Quest via that transmitter weren’t. So I’ve swapped them and I’ve noticed there’s even less latency when using VR now. And for an added bonus, the new headphones are much better at noise cancelling, making it superior for when I’m out walking the dog listening to stuff on my phone.
I mentioned last time that I got Oculus AirLink working with my quest. Although I’m fairly happy with the results, it’s not completely perfect. I certainly notice some jitter or stuttering from time to time and occasionally the picture resolution will drop in quality. But for being wireless, I’ll happily take the shortcomings. Unfortunately, I can’t use it wirelessly for long because it drains the battery very quickly.
Messing around with VR also led me down the road of thinking about using a virtual avatar to display while playing VR games, so that viewers can get an idea about some of my body movements. And so VRoid comes into play.
The software is quite easy to use and very detailed. Think of it as a more elaborate character creator that you might find in games like Saint’s Row. The default clothing options are very limited though, but you can edit the textures to create your own interesting designs. In the image above, you can see that I modified a texture to try and recreate my jacket. The bad news is that I didn’t have any decent tools for image manipulation or image creation. Although as I’m writing this, I’ve recently installed GIMP. Perhaps now I can do a bit more work to it.
Speaking of software, I’m starting to think about getting back into video editing and I’m considering downloading and trying out Da Vinci Resolve. I used to do video editing with Premiere and After Effects, but money is getting tight, so I’m looking at free options these days. We’ll see if I actually do anything though, I got a lot going on right now as I’ll get to later.
Another thing that’s been bothering me about my VR setup is the microphone. The built-in mic for the Quest sounds like muffled crap for me and no amount of audio adjustment seems to solve that problem. So I was looking at getting a new microphone with my Xmas money, but as it happens, my sister decided to gift me the microphone I wanted as a present. Saves me some money at least.
The new mic seems to be OK. It boosts the volume and helps the clarity a bit, but there does appear to be a small amount of interference or crackling on occasion. More tests are required I’m sure.
Just as a last thing; over New Years I watched They Shall Not Grow Old. Now I bought the physical Bluray of it, and my Bluray player of choice is my PS3. About 3/4 through the film though, I was getting horrible graphical artefacts and glitches. I had hoped it was just some weird HDCP bug caused by my capture set up, but when I adjusted my cables and reset the video settings on the PS3, it became apparent that the GPU was most likely dying.
My options were to go back to my other, older PS3 which a disc drive that didn’t function properly or buy another PS3. I originally picked the first option. But once I got it connected, I received the YLOD. That only left me with one option left and a day or so ago I received a used PS3 that was in fairly decent condition and decided to do a full system transfer.
I’m on my 4th PS3 now. I thought hardware failure of this kind was something only original Xbox 360 owners had to deal with. Either way, my plans for playing through PS3 games that are still on my backlog have shot up in my schedule because I should probably enjoy them before this machine conks it as well.
New Year Plans
It’s difficult to make plans for this year all things considered. I’m still hoping to hitch a ride to Japan with the help of a friend of mine and his mate. But God knows if that’ll happen.
But I will do the language proficiency test (JLPT) this year, if available. Starting with N5, although I have a feeling it might be too easy considering the Kanji levels I’m studying at the same time. I’ll look into it more soon.
At the tailend of last year I submitted my CV a couple of times to a few job openings, but I was unsuccessful on all accounts. I’ll probably keep trying, but I might start looking into going back into training. Perhaps online courses or something like that. I’m not sure if I’ll stick to games or maybe go back to traditional software development.
I would also like to get back into drawing again. It’s been well over a decade since I drew anything seriously and I’ve still got a desk full of art tools. I gotta start from scratch again and re-learn everything, and then education myself on new things like drawing humans and animals, and animation. But it’ll be a serious time commitment.
I can’t really commit to anything else for the time being.
Plans For Current Projects
I’m going to go back to the Game Template Project and start getting that into a somewhat releasable state. I need to add more multiplayer functions and game modes, as well as fixing and improving a lot of the game types. Specifically making them more flexible and expandable. I intend to sell this thing, so it has to be of a relatively high quality, or at least packed with features.
Space Cart is a bit up in the air. I know what needs doing, but it’s intimidating as Hell. There’s a ton of inter-locked systems that I now need to break up, remake, and put back together again. And then make all the new UI work with a controller. I need to figure out a way to motivate myself to just get it done.
The fighting game prototype is hold-on until further notice. I just don’t have the time or knowledge to be able to make anything competent right now. I do have some of the animations ready to use, but the actual system itself will likely require an overhaul as Unity’s default animation GUI can get messy with a lot of animations. Or perhaps I’m just doing it wrong. Either way, I can’t deal with it anytime soon.
Bunny Jammers Redux really only existed as a test for me to make a networked multiplayer game. And I haven’t achieved that goal yet, so I will probably work on that either alongside or after the template project.
I really hope this year is better than the last two. And I hope Windjammers 2 is good.
It’s that time again. Another year is over and now I shall arbitrarily rank what I think are the most above-average games of the year. But before that, let’s talk about what I’ve been playing since the last Den post.
Also, please remember that I work on this blog post over a period of several months, so if the writing seems a little disjointed or inconsistent between games, that’s probably why.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Despite the name, this is not a remake. Well it kind of is, but it’s also Nomura having a wank, slapping it on a game disc, and then Square Enix charging money for it.
It elaborates and spreads out more of the early part FFVII, building on more of the characterisation and adding various side quests to fill in the world details. Jessie gets quite a lot more attention which considering she’s a footnote-at-best in the original game, I’d say it’s a welcome change. Not sure what they did, but they really went overboard in trying to make Aerith extremely likeable. Which is probably so they can twist the knife they put in back when the original launched.
There’s a lot of weird changes story-wise, instead of doing side quests for the clothing store when trying to go to the Don’s house, you instead get a tournament arc. Hell House is the worst fucking fight in the game by the way. It’s a bit of a mixed bag in that regard, but it does take you to some new areas I suppose.
As previously mentioned, there’s a number of side quests you can do. Most of them aren’t really all that interesting, and frankly tends to slow the game down in places.
And now to my biggest problem in the game; the ATB system and the combat. Having to wait for an arbitrary bar to fill up so I can fucking heal is incredibly stupid, and then they double-down on the stupidity to make it so it fills up faster by attacking. Getting stun-locked is as common as breathing, and magic area-of-effect attacks have a much larger radius than your dodge, plus they track anyway, so dodging them doesn’t actually do anything. In short; I hate the combat of this game.
That last paragraph is really my defining feeling of this game; it plays terribly, and I hated playing it. Playing original FFVII was somehow less tedious than this game, and original FFVII is filled to the brim with unskippable multiple minute animations and constant random encounters.
I’m glad I got this on PS+, because I would not want to fork over money specifically to own it.
Resident Evil 6
I thought this would be a fun co-op game to play with my friend. But it really isn’t.
When we started it, we had to use the Steam Play Together feature with split-screen. However, the split-screen mode is pretty horrendous. Two tiny 16:9 windows, at awkward positions, that make it impossible to see much. Plus, I was forced to play with a gamepad so my friend could use the keyboard, which is a less than great expenice for a 3rd person shooter like this. And then to top it off, all of the resources in the split-screen mode are shared. Once I bought the game for my friend and we played online, we noticed that there were instanced pickups for ammo and such, making both our lives a bit better.
Only a bit though. Quite frankly I hate playing this damn game. Tons of QTEs, a lot of action oriented combat, but then a health system that’s very unforgiving and clunky to use. I can see why people dislike this game tremendously.
Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild – Finishing The Game
The expansion pass went on sale for once, so I bought it and finally had an excuse to finish BOTW. I’ll basically right at end of the main story anyway. Before I did that though, I goofed about a bit to see if there was any interesting side content worth looking into.
So I moved on to the final boss, which was a pain because Zelda’s combat hasn’t improved at all in 20-odd years. But once it was over, that was it. No fanfare, and absolutely no reward. All that changes is that your last save gets a star on it and the game then tells you how much of the game is left to get 100% completion.
That’s basically my problem with BOTW. It’s not rewarding. The combat being trash, the crappy stamina system, and the boring world are not worth the time investment because ultimately the game makes absolutely no effort to give you any kind of worthwhile pay-off.
And I when I eventually got to the DLC, it involved a weapon that One-Hit-KO’s enemies but makes Link die in the one hit as well, but the combat is so bad that doing anything related to it seemed like a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Plus whatever rewards there would be serve no real purpose because I’m already done with the game.
Resident Evil 7
When your series becomes so shit that you need a hard-turn in gameplay direction to get people interested again, that can come with some very interesting problems. But, it’s also a blank slate to an extent.
RE7 is a good game that has some rough edges due to the nature of being different. Being an FPS with no jump button is definitely a sign of a lack of experience with the genre. That said, it’s probably for the best it isn’t there. However the control scheme in general is a bit awkward. Not a major issue though as the controls are completely remappable.
That’s pretty much where the complaints end.
This game is fucking terrifying. The visual degradation of the Baker house over the course of the game is an increasingly oppressive reminder of how bad things are getting. Jack hunting you down at every opportunity put me on edge for the first few hours of the game. You can see a lot of the same ideas reused in RE2 Remake and Village.
The gunplay could be better, but it’s not an action game, so it can be forgiven. But for what it is, I’d say the weapons have good impact most of the time. The shotgun is an especially close friend late into the game.
The less combat focused parts like the birthday cake puzzle make for a nice change of pace, and add much needed variety.
Overall, I liked this a fair amount. However, I think Village improves on the ideas.
After the shitshow that Ys VIII was in more ways than one, I didn’t have super high expectations for this. At least until the demo came out and we could also see that it wasn’t a trash fire like the last game, especially on PC.
Ys IX gets back to the normal system of having a town with money, instead of the material grind that VIII was. Actually, it goes further than that and lets you just out-right buy materials with both cash and gem stones that you get in the tower defence sections of the game. Seeing as that was my biggest complaint about VIII gameplay wise, I’m glad to see it removed.
The story is OK. I don’t really remember much of it as I’m writing this after a considerable amount of time has passed since I finished. It does do some interesting things with perspective as you play as different Adols in various places, and quests often see you enact things with one character and then you see the consequences with the other. The party characters aren’t terribly interesting, but when you have 8 of them, it’s probably difficult to properly flesh them out.
One benefit of having all those party members though is that you get a variety of different powers. One of the first characters you meet lets you climb building and walls, another one later lets you see through walls and highlight secrets. Once you add all the individual powers together, it adds to the verticality and exploration that was very limited in the previous games I played. It’s a welcome and comprehensive playset.
Just on the last point, the PC version is perfectly fine. Ran it at more than 100FPS in most places at the highest settings. Translation was dodgy in places, but that’s NISA for you. At any rate, it doesn’t require them taking another year to “Fix” the game. Although depending on your view of a game being functional, Ys VIII’s PC port took a lot more than a year for that. Thankfully, this isn’t that.
Ghost Of Tsushima – Iki Island Expansion
Ghost Of Tsushima was a pretty good video game, and then they decided to put an expansion out. It takes place on the island of Iki, which is a tad south of the main Tsushima island. The story revolves around a Mongol leader named “Eagle” who’s planning to invade the main island, using hallucinogenic drugs that cause paranoia among other things.
The story itself is fairly average, spends a lot of time doubling down on the main character’s father being more of a warlord than a samurai of honour. The side quests aren’t terribly interesting either. It doesn’t help that a lot of the storytelling around these events is told via the hallucinations the player will have to suffer through soon after arriving on the island. This is probably the worst aspect of the DLC as when suffering from these episodes, your resolve empties completely and leaves you every vulnerable. It’s especially bad during the last boss fight, which I am spoilering below.
The final boss fight for Eagle is ridiculous. The character is supposed to be this old woman, but for some reason she’s able to perform acrobatic moves with her spear, and you have to get really good at perfect counters to be all that effective at attacking her. Furthermore, at multiple times in the fight, the hallucinogenic episodes start kicking in and you’re unable to heal for large sections of the fight. It’s very annoying.
Exploration is still a highlight, still plenty of goodies to find and Easter Eggs. There’s new mini-games involving playing the flute for various animals, archery shooting, among other things. Something they added that relates to the multiplayer are statues relating to warriors from that mode. However, the puzzles relating to them give a reward of armour based on various PlayStation games like God Of War, Shadow Of The Colossus, and Bloodborne.
It’s a pretty good expansion for the price, and worth the playthrough.
No More Heroes 3
Where do I start with this game?
It’s a disappoint. No two ways about it. The boss fights themselves are pretty cool, but they’re extremely short. The regular fights get extremely tedious fairly quickly due to the repetitive combat and all the enemies being massive damage sponges.
The story is complete nonsensical bullshit, for better or worse. I didn’t find it particularly entertaining as a whole, despite one or two specific parts that were somewhat stand out. The main villain comes off as of stereotypical (minus the part where he’s an alien) douchebag. He become quite grating after a while.
And when I say a while, I mean a while. You’ll be doing a lot of grinding for money and WESN. There’s also a good amount of collectibles, including t-shirts. Besides the t-shirts though, the collectibles aren’t all that rewarding, giving out a fairly minimal amount of money and WESN. The job mini-games are mostly cheap indie-mobile tier in terms of quality. None of them are fun.
Exploring the cities isn’t worthwhile either, no real rewards. Half the maps are vast nothingness anyway. Especially Neo Brazil. There’s absolutely NOTHING worth a damn there. Just a building and some trees.
The whole game feels unfinished, like they cut a lot of it. It’s a massive bummer for me. But somehow not the most disappointing game.
I’ve talked about Townscaper on the blog before, but I’d like to reiterate that it’s a really fun little toolset.
Making towns, figuring out the tricks to do specific things like lighthouses or clothes lines between buildings. It’s a relaxing, cathartic experience. I do wish there was a bit more building variety though, or maybe biomes/weather.
Something I mentioned before, you can export these towns and use them in other things. Small problem though:
The textures are buggered.
There’s a somewhat complicated way to fix the texture problems when importing them into Unity, but I don’t really care all that much. I’d put this in the same pool as software like PicoCAD, although this is more fun with poke around with.
Resident Evil Village
This game is the reason I played RE7 to begin with. I wanted some context for the characters. Frankly, I think this game makes some significant improvements in terms of exploration, weapon variety, and enemy assortment.
The weapons in particular are much improved from the first game. Although the enemies are still bullet sponges for the most part. There’s a much better progression for weapons, such as starting with a fairly standard pistol, moving up to a M1911, and then eventually getting access to a burst fire pistol; which each one providing a bigger and bigger increase in power. RE7’s weapons are good, but you never feel like you’re getting significantly better guns over the course of the game, more like you were just getting a different version of the same gun.
For as much hype as Lady D got before the release of the game, her castle is actually only one of many sections in it. That said, her section is likely the most impactful for setting up the world and atmosphere, as well as putting the most amount of stress on the player. Her and her daughters frequently stalk you, and try and funnel you into certain areas, often the boss rooms. It’s quite effective at keeping you on edge. But there’s also the humour of seeing a giant woman crawl her way through a normal sized door.
The other bosses have their quirks, ending with Heisenberg who’s probably the highlight of the whole game. But I’ll let you find out for yourself.
Exploration is greatly improved. The map is improved further and details additional high value treasure. The likes of which usually involve parts of combinable valuables that you can sell for quite a lot of money. But there are weapons and weapon parts as well, which are very welcome.
Last thing they improved is the FPS controls and feel. It definitely feels less sluggish now and the shooting feels more precise. It’s not completely perfect, but it’s an improvement.
There’s more I can talk about between the puzzles and surprise enemy encounters, but frankly, you should just play the game.
Psychonauts 1 & 2
I started Psychonauts years ago, probably just a bit before the sequel was announced. Didn’t play a ton of it, just the first couple of worlds. Now the sequel is out, I decided to come back to it and finish it.
The dark humour still holds up in my opinion. Poking fun in a grim way at mental issues, and making collectables around various psychological terms, such as figments of imagination, emotion baggage, etc.
The platforming is rough. If you’re familiar of the more magnetic pull of platforming like Ratchet & Clank or InFAMOUS, it will be difficult to go back to this game. That said, it’s not too bad for 90% of the game. The real problems start during the last area of the game, the Meat Circus; where there’s a large amount of platforming, especially rail grinding. The latter being absolutely fucking broken. I fell to my death from those rails at least 20 times in a row before somehow barely clearing that section.
The ending is a massive cliffhanger, which probably explains why people wanted a sequel so badly. However, if you actually want a continuation to the ending, you have to play the VR game, which in turn has a cliffhanger. Which now brings me on to Psychonauts 2.
The sequel improves my biggest problem with the first game, the platforming. Not only is there a bit more stickiness to platforms, there’s a much better feel for the weight and movement overall. It makes dashing and jumping around levels of magnitude more enjoyable.
I’d say the game is easier than the original. Although I did turn off fall damage because I think it’s daft to have that in a platformer. But even with the extra enemy variety, they’re just not that aggressive. But I also don’t think any of that is a negative, most of the fun in the game comes from the platforming and puzzles.
The dialogue is enjoyable. Usually the characters provide decent context or backstory to things, some of which acts as foreshadowing to the main plot. It doesn’t do the thing where characters are constantly talking at you with remedial, unimportant bullshit. Although if you want to listen to bullshit, you can always instigate it yourself.
That said, there are a few annoying things with the dialogue. Mostly relating to puzzles and repeating lines; in some cases, both. Raz will sometimes chime in that basically reveals the solution to a puzzle, often when you’re not actually doing the puzzle and instead going around getting collectables.
By the way, there are a lot of collectables. And I got all of them. The figments, baggage, and cards are back; but now with items from side quests, “half-a-minds”, and trophies that increase your PSI level. Because every game needs a levelling system now.
At the start of the game it tries to make fun of itself, with characters taking the piss out of Raz for doing that pedestal animation he does when he gets a new power. But that animation is still in the game as is later on. So making fun of it doesn’t make too much sense if they’re just gonna go back to it later on anyway. At least make a new one or something.
Last point, the worlds you explore in people’s minds are just as, if not more creative than the first game. Which world has its own quirks and themes, sometimes even mechanics and perspectives. My favourite world was probably the library one from later in the game. That said, the early parts of the game have relatively small scale minds to navigate, with just the right amount of collectables. Then around the midpoint, the levels scale up dramatically and they become multi-tiered ordeals, with a boat load of collectables to-boot.
Not complaining mind, those bigger worlds came with a lot more ideas and mechanics than the ones before.
Great games, both of them. Rough edges from the first one aside.
THIS FUCKING GAME MAKES MY EYEBALLS BLEED.
Seriously, turn off the visual distortion stuff, it’s a real eye sore. Otherwise, the game is really cool. Fast paced and fucked up.
The original Judgment (Or Judge Eyes, if you prefer) was an interesting take on the Yakuza (Ryu Ga Gotoku) style of game, and added its own ideas based on detective work such as trailing and investigation sequences. But it was flawed in the gameplay department, mostly overly relying on those previously mentioned gameplay sequences.
Lost Judgment improves that, and adds a Hell of lot more variety. Stealth sections, chases, skateboarding, dog searching, and more. And that’s just the main story. The side stories go even crazier with VF5 tournaments, motorcycle racing, boxing, skateboard races & stunt exhibitions, and more.
This variety comes at cost though. A lot of those side activities have side stories associated with them, and those are part of a larger side plot relating to the school. And this is on top of all the side quests in the game already. Now if you’re like me and do all the side stories before doing the main quest, you’re gonna find yourself making very tediously slow progression in the game.
Just to give you at idea, I started Chapter 4 of the game after playing it for 27 hours, which is already alarming; by the time I got to Chapter 5, that had shot up to 50-something hours. Chapter 4 basically contains most of the side story content. This wouldn’t necessarily be bad thing, but in this case, it slows down the main story pace to a crawl, and it hurts the story a lot. By the time I got back to main plot, I could barely remember what has happening.
Thankfully the characters are still pretty good, and they even add a bit more fan service around certain characters and the related gameplay (Like Saori-san).
The main villain (Or villains) aren’t terribly interesting. The whole plot of the game revolves around bullying and eventually blackmail, but the motivations behind those are pretty weak and very politically charged, and I mean that in the sense that it’s only being used to gain or maintain power and control. It dresses it up as some kind of moral argument, but it eventually falls apart. I also find it hard to give a damn about high schoolers.
I mentioned skateboarding. In the first game it was limited to a small 10-20 second sequence during a chase sequence following a quicktime event. Well this time, they actually let you use one to travel around. The bad news is that you can only use it on roads and specific areas. It’s certainly faster than running, but controlling it is far from perfect and getting thrown off of it whenever you bump into something or something, or riding a little too close to the pavement definitely gets annoying and I kinda wished it wasn’t so rigid.
The last thing I do need to talk about is the DLC. They put a whole fighting style behind a DLC paywall, despite that fighting style being in the game as part of a side activity. That’s very egregious. There’s still more DLC to come, so we’ll see if it’s worth the asking price.
Overall, I still liked the game, but I think it’s missing some charm the original had. Or maybe I’m just burnt out a bit from previous Yakuza entries.
My initial reception to Scarlet Nexus was originally very negative. I played the demo for it on PS4 and really didn’t like it. Mostly because of the camera, but also found the combat to not make much sense.
Fast forward to much later in the year, after the anime for it starting airing and I got interested in it because the story was going off the rails, I decided to buy it while it was at a steep discount. And I can happily report that they fixed the camera. Not sure why the camera in the demo was swimmy and followed the player in a weird delayed fashion, but the full game just has a normal camera.
As for the combat, well it was confusing at first still, but after a while you start understanding the weaknesses of enemies and how to correctly combo the SAS skills to do some serious damage them, especially once you get into the second half of the game where you get access to all of them. You become a really effective monster killer.
However, there are some difficulty spikes along the way and it mostly relates to human-on-human fights. Early in the game, those encounters are extremely frustrating. The enemies just mince you within seconds unless you spam health packs and desperately try to disable the side targets before going for the main one. That said, a little later in the game I started doing more of the side quests (Which are pretty crap) to get items, weapons, and experience; and after that I saw the difficulty lessen considerably. So I’m starting to think I was just under-levelled for those encounters.
But again, those side quests are pretty awful. Mostly amounting to killing enemies in very specific ways, often requiring particular attacks to be the last hits on them. The worst ones ask for item drops from enemies, but those drops have randomised rarity and if it doesn’t match the quest requirements it doesn’t count. And I love nothing more than quests around RNG drops.
The graphics and art style are a standout with this game. It’s got to be the best looking “anime” game I’ve played so far. It nails the art style and expressions exceptionally well. The animations are fairly high quality too. But I have to give special attention to the game’s soundtrack, which is just bloody excellent. Distinct, vibrant, and pulsating. Big highlight of the game for me.
My last point, I mentioned the anime; they hid secret messages inside the anime and then you go to a certain character in the game and give them those messages, and receive special items. I think that’s a pretty unique integration I’ve seen between a game and its TV show/anime/film/etc. I hope more games learn from this.
Definitely one of my favourites of the year, and certainly the one that won me over the most from my initial opinion. Arashi best girl.
I did not like this game.
This is my first Metroid game, and I absolutely hate it.
The EMMI areas suck. The EMMI suck. The QTE with the EMMI suck. The teleport system does not let you go wherever you want, which is annoying and limits your exploration options, especially after the game blocks you from backtracking.
Speaking of backtracking, you have to do a Hell of a lot of it and it’s extremely tedious.
The boss fights cause a massive difficult spike and most of them involve hitting your head against a wall trying to figure out their attack patterns, leading to a lot of trial & error. And a handful of them are just damage sponges that you have to pray you can kill them before they skin you.
And finally the controls are awful. Very sensitive too. Samus just hauls ass, and precision platforming is really infuriating. But my biggest annoyance is that I can’t use the right stick to shoot. If I want to shoot precisely, I need to force Samus to stop and aim. LET ME AIM WITH THE RIGHT STICK. IT DOESN’T HAVE ANY OTHER USE.
I never finished this. Eventually I hit a boss that was just a massive headache and decided that it just wasn’t worth finishing.
A Little Golf Journey
Golf games a small, distant memory in my mind. Back in the day (Christ I’m old now, aren’t I?) there was an abundance of PC golf games ranging from the simulation to the whacky mini-golf stuff. A Little Golf Journey is a bit more of the latter. It keeps its core mechanics at its chest, and then has the player figure out creative pathways through the levels to get in the ball in the hole in as little shots as possible. And then on top of that, it mutates those mechanics with elements like wind and Moon gravity.
There’s a wide and varied selection of worlds with a good selection of levels within, and plenty of secret levels on top.
It tries to write a story, but honestly it falls flat. The real drive of the game here is the gameplay, which is weirdly addicting. I often found myself playing it instead of doing other things or playing other games. It’s probably the reason Scarlet Nexus took so long to finish.
Other than the story, my other gripe is probably some of the imprecision with the controls. It requires some tricky mouse movement at times, often in a way that makes me think that the creators are more familiar with Macs and their weird mice than an actual PC.
Anyway, it’s a really fun game and I almost 100%’d it, there’s just one level I can’t get in the minimal amount of shots. Maybe I’ll try it again soon.
I can’t tell whether Deathloop is over-rated or completely forgettable. Folks raved about it for like a week and then never mentioned it again. And several others played it a bit and then just dropped it for something else. I’d say I’m a bit more in the middle about it.
Time loop are not something that I play particularly often, that aren’t that many of them either. But I think Deathloop does it fairly well. Once you get good enough at the game, a full loop really doesn’t take that much time at all, and it’s not a especially punishing game either. You’ll always get another chance, every single day.
The gunplay is fairly solid, most of the guns feel pretty good to use. If you buy the deluxe edition you get a pretty nice suppressed pistol that honestly makes the earlier parts of the game much easier. That said, some of the late game weapons with the right perks can be tremendously more effective.
The early game though is more difficult than you’d probably expect or want. Not necessarily a trial by fire, but frustrating in parts. Which is made doubly surprising considering how heavily the game spends its first two hours tutorialising everything. Even small items in the hub menu between levels get highlighted and explained in excessive detail. I can’t remember if there’s any option to skip it, but it’s a bloody lot. There’s quite a lot of things to read generally as well, which I’m not a fan of. Hiding the story behind a mountain of readable collectibles just makes it seem like they didn’t think through how the story and gameplay should meld.
But back to the previous point; once you start building an arsenal of weapons and powers though, the difficulty lessens a bit. Various secrets and side quests generally provide some decent gear or at least stuff you can infuse for the game’s currency. As for powers, the most useful one I found was probably Nexus. A power that lets you link up enemies and kill all of them with one shot. You can clear out whole areas with it if get the right perks.
As for the problems, well Julianna sucks. Fighting her early on can be a real dice roll as to whether or not she three-shots you to death. But even later on in the game, I could feel my eyes roll when the game was telling me she was invading. Everytime it happens, I have to stop what I’m doing, wait for her to appear, mince her, and then go find the jammer to unlock the level exits again. It just becomes a bother at that point.
By the time I played it, a lot of the technical issues had been fixed. I did get a stutter when I started playing, but it was due to having to update my graphics drives, which reset the refresh rates of my monitors. Once I set them back, that stutter was gone and I could play the game and reasonable frame rates.
My last problem with the game is just the story, dialogue, and ending. I just couldn’t give a shit about any of it. Besides most of it being collectable pieces of paper, the dialogue between Colt and Julianna could be replaced with TV static, and it would give the same effect. I just didn’t give a damn about anything they had to say. And the ending is just a “Pick-a-thon” much like Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
There you have it. Deathloop is a fun game with story that isn’t important.
This game came out last year on EGS, but finally came to Steam this year. Wasn’t sure what to expect with it, but ended up getting a Shadow Of The Colossus with more puzzles. Well, maybe not quite as good as SOTC, but similar vein.
It’s hard to put into words just how good the game feel is in this game. The act of shooting targets in some kind of weird rhythm while gaining great leaps of speed just feels great. Getting upgrades to jumps, speed, and bow speed make it even better.
The art style is pretty good, going for the more flat shaded look with minimal textures. Once you progress and open up the world, it certainly holds up. I actually quite like the sense of progression in the game, you’re always getting higher and higher towards the top where the “Big Bad” is. But then you look over the horizon to where you’ve been and see the vast world below you.
Negative points? It’s a bit easy perhaps. It’s not really possible to die or fail and the puzzles are fairly mindless. I think I only got stuck once or twice because it was difficult to see or read something.
But yeah, do check this out.
Voice Of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars
This game was originally going to be in the section below, because I didn’t think I’d be able to play that much of it before the year was out, but I ended up enjoying so much I figured I’d give it a dedicated section.
EVERYTHING is a card. The background tiles, the characters, the items, the menus, the opening and ending credits; EVERYTHING. If that wasn’t enough you can customise aspects of the game like the art used for cards, the backside art, the avatar used when navigating the word, and even the table you play on.
Another thing you can change is the soundtrack. You can replace the game’s OST with versions of song from Nier’s OST. That said, as cool as it is the hear those songs, the original soundtrack is really damn good on its own as well.
The combat is turn-based, with a gem system that accumulates after each at the start of each player action. You can use those gems to perform spells and greater attacks. It makes it easier to deal with than a mana system like other RPGs. I don’t have to worry about carrying around curatives to restore MP. You can only have 4 skills equipped at a time, but it’s not too big of a problem to switch those out when needed, and generally most of the skills with do just fine until you get blitzed by the final boss.
The highlight though is the story. The characters and interactions are just entertaining in general. Various towns in the game have their own unique way of doing things or interactions. For example, there’s a town where monsters and humans live together, but everywhere else, the monsters are hated. There’s also some story events that are quite funny, like a man stranded on an island waiting for somebody else to come and replace him.
Did I mention Yoko Taro and various other Nier devs is involved with this game? Well now you know. Do check it out, I really had fun with it.
Quick Comments About Other Games:
Shin Megami Tensei V
I’m still in the first area with this. I’m just finding the game to be a slog even in the opening areas and the did not grab me. I’ll probably jump in and out of this game over the next year.
Forza Horizon 5
Seeing as it was on Game Pass, I decided to play through most of this. Honestly, it’s the same as Horizon 4. The problems I had then still exist here. But now that added even more annoying and terrible dialogue that you can’t skip, and spends the whole game talking to you like you’re a 5 year old with brain damage. And the car handling model is still awful.
As silly as playing as Terry Crews is, I found the gunplay to be less than satisfactory. Particularly if you play on PC because you cannot turn off lock-on aiming. Anyway, the game-loop of taking over various areas of the city and fighting gangs gets tedious a bit quicker than you’d want, and the dialogue is irritating as Hell and never stops. I’ll probably play a bit more of it in the new year to see if there’s anything decent, but I have a feeling I’m gonna want my SSD space back.
This is the first game I used XCloud for, and the only game I’ve completed using a streaming service. It’s got a pretty great core mechanic, and the game feel is pretty good. Even when you lose speed and have to regain it, it’s still fun.
I think Sable has a cool art style. I don’t like the stop-motion animation of the characters, considering that everything else animates at a a normal speed. Exploration is supposed to be the goal of the game, but I went miles and miles without finding anything interesting at all. I think the game lack any significant drive to keep me engaged with it.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
I finally finished this game. The soundtrack is great. I still don’t like the parry system and would have preferred an actual block button.
If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be Nishikata, and get completely dunked on by a middle school girl, this is probably the thing you want. But I’ll be honest, the mini-games aren’t that interesting and finishing both games only takes a couple of hours at the absolute most.
This is a game the guys that made the Spice & Wolf VR did previously. Not really much of a game, you just watch and talk to some genius girl about artificial brains, feeling, and basic psychology. Again, quite short. Probably didn’t need to be VR either.
What I wanted from Halo wasn’t an open world. That said, I haven’t gotten to far into the game. Mostly because I have the need to do everything I can before continuing with the main plot. But my understanding is that you can’t replay missions or levels without restarting the whole game, so if you miss something it’s gone. On a brighter note, the grappling hook is fun.
My Top 10 Games Of The Year
Released Games That I Wanted To Play Or Play More Of
Tales Of Arise & ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights
Between playing Tales Of Arise and Scarlet Nexus, I picked the latter. I do want to play Arise, but I’m waiting for a steep enough discount. As for Ender Lilies, I had another game confused with it, and missed out on some sales of it. I’ll try it someday.
Best HD Remaster/Remake
Nier Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139…
I never played the original Nier, and now I got to, and the improvements are much appreciated, and the new content is interesting.
Worst Game Of The Year
I don’t like this game. End of.
Forza Horizon 5
So all the issues I have with Forza, there’s still some fun to be had driving 90s rally cars across open country.
And without further ado, the Top 10.
9. Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth-
8. It Takes Two
7. Ys IX
6. Lost Judgment
5. A Little Golf Journey
4. Voice Of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars
3. Scarlet Nexus
2. Psychonauts 2
1. Resident Evil VIII: Village
RE: Village and Psychonauts 2 were really close together for the top spot, but Village edges out by a bit because I enjoyed the puzzles and combat more. Psychonauts 2 is still really good though.
And now for the other Top 10 list.
My Top 10 Anime Of The Year
Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0
Taishou Otome Otogibanashi
Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu.
Uma Musume: Pretty Derby Season 2
Looking back, the best anime of this year was a show about Japanese race horses turned into anime girls and reliving their old races in what is probably the most notable sports anime made in the past decade. And it’s really damn good.
It is interesting to watch characters not just lose, but to get injured, try and recover, and go through the turmoil that brings. Plus, the slight competitiveness between Teio and McQueen, along with other characters, adds a lot to the story.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou & Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Sotsu
Worst Anime I Watched:
Yasuke & Subarashiki Kono Sekai The Animation (TWEWY)
And that’s 2021 over and done with. I’ve got plans for 2022, and I’ll be making a new blog post about that soon enough.