The Den: January – June 2022

It’s time for my thoughts on video games and anime that I’ve played through the first half of this year. Keep in mind that I work on this post over these months and sometimes it causes the flow of the text to be very inconsistent.

Days Gone

Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before. An open-world zombie apocalypse survival game with crafting elements. And you have a motorcycle. That’s Days Gone in a nutshell.

When I first saw this game I was skeptical about the zombie stuff. A giant horde is cool and all, but I wondered what else it had going for it. Once it started getting reviews though, it seemed like reviewers were really disinterested with it, but the actual player response was mostly positive. It’s that latter aspect that got me interested in playing this once the PC version came out.

After a good few hours of it though, I just found myself in a similar place to the reviewers. The protagonist is pretty boring and not interesting to listen to at all. The NPCs are worse, and are constantly yapping at you on the radio. One particular character runs a radio show called “Freedom Radio” or something to that effect, and spend the time complaining about how the American government are a bunch of incompetent ass-hats who sell out the American people at every opportunity. Even if he isn’t wrong, it’s the preachiest bullshit I’ve heard. Thankfully you can skip every piece of radio dialogue.

The main story itself is about the protag and his buddy living in this post-apocalyptic world, and reminiscing about the old days. Specifically thinking about his supposedly dead wife. I haven’t gotten too far with the story, the game is such a drag.

The resource and fuel management in the game is just the complete antithesis of things I enjoy doing in open world exploration games. It limits how far I can go, constantly makes me micromanage and stop constantly so I can go search for fuel or ammo. Some people might enjoy this, but I find the whole thing a pain. Plus the shooting controls aren’t great, so wasting ammo becomes more of a problem than I’d like.

I am not very far into the game, but I’ve completely lost interest in it. It’s just tedious and boring.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

I originally heard of this game when journalists were praising it from the rooftops, and quickly assumed that it was some dumb walking simulator. Some time later, and after subbing to Game Pass, I saw that this game was on the list and decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly, it isn’t a walking simulator. It’s actually third-person stealth action game with crafting elements and a lot of escort segments.

It’s set during the plague era in France where the church was killing anyone who was diseased, burning the bodies, and attracting rats. Anyway, you play some girl whose family is attacked because her younger brother has some kind of special blood. I won’t spoil what makes him special, but it affects gameplay late in the game.

Main girl’s weapon of choice is a slingshot, and the previously mentioned crafting elements improve that by speeding up the time between shots and providing more ammo. There’s a lot of killing with that thing anyway, along with some light puzzle solving.

But the thing this game is absolutely full of is rats. A lot of fucking rats. It’s as technically impressive as it is terrifying. I’m not really that scared of rats in real life, but the damn horde of them in this game is quite unsettling. The overall graphic presentation is fairly impressive, although the game is very linear, so it doesn’t need to make the same compromises that massive open-world games do and can probably hide its blemishes well.

Last point I’d like to make is that I played the game with the French voices instead of the English. I did look into the English ones and saw that everyone had a really shit accent, so I think I made the right choice. That said, some things in the game require you to pay attention to the dialogue, and if you miss those points you may find yourself wondering what it is the game wants you to do. Thankfully, in my playthrough this only happened a couple of times. So keep that in mind.

I hope the sequel expands on the ideas here.

Windjammers 2

The original Windjammers is a brilliant competitive game that is still really fun today. Windjammers 2 iterates on that and adds a couple more mechanics on top.

It’s still a 4 button game for the most part. It plays super well. They even have rollback netcode.

The only problem is that it basically requires friends. But if you have those and they’re willing to play, then you’ll have a great time. Me though, I need better convincing skills.

Drakengard

Having Nier Replicant and Automata, I decided that I should finally check out the games that spawned them. And so I played Drakengard.

Jesus Christ this game is rough. Even by the standards of the time, the combat is pretty dreadful and slow. There’s a lot of very rigid, deliberate animation that you can get thrown out of very easily when attacked and can get stunlocked pretty badly. The game isn’t difficult, but you can get caught up unless you know how to counter it properly.

It’s not all bad news though, the Dragon combat (Although I would call Angelus a Wyvern based on their anatomy) is actually alright. There’s still some roughness with the controls and precision of movement, but it’s definitely more playable than the ground combat. The lock-on fire attack helps considerably. Unfortunately, when playing on maps with ground and air combat, which are most of them; Dragon combat often gets curbed frequently as ranged enemies can get you thrown off after only a couple of hits from either magic or arrows. The magic enemies are especially irritable.

The combat isn’t the only thing that’s terrible. The soundtrack is ear-bleedingly bad and often contains tracks that sound like the music is skipping due to a disc error. It’s a real headache to listen to, but at the same time, it makes sense considering the concept of the game.

Drakengard is not a happy game. The characters experience constant suffering and pain, and all their efforts to stop the events of the game from happening are futile more often than not. The basic story is that Caim makes a pact with a dragon to gain more power and loses his voice in the process. His sister is a “Goddess” who acts as a seal to some kind of ancient magic that could destroy the world. It takes quite a while before it starts making any sense, and only starts to come together once you go through the multiple story branches. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well in any of the 5 endings.

Ending A is fairly standard and the most normal. Re-sealing the magic and continuing on the world. All the endings after that though are completely insane. Including an ending where time itself is frozen, and of course Ending E that leads into the events that creates Nier.

Before I continue, I’m going to make it obvious that I’m trying not to spoil specific events in the game.

But I’ll just say one more thing about the story: GIANT BABIES THAT EAT PEOPLE.

Now before you can get to the final chapter of the game, the player needs to collect every single weapon in the game. All 65 of them. And you have to do it on normal difficulty, so don’t even think about changing it. The problem with this, is that the prerequisites for obtaining these weapons are obtuse to say the least.

Most weapons require the player to go to a specific part of the part, or defeat a certain enemy. Several of them require the player to beat a mission with a certain amount of health or within a specific timeframe. But there are more bizarre requirements, like following a specific path through a level, or touching particular items in the level in a certain order, or the most annoying; waiting 5-20 minutes for a chest or enemy to spawn. And there’s no in-game hints about any of this, so you have to rely on a walkthrough to know what you’re doing.

In relation to Nier, the game doesn’t really answer my questions with the series. I understand where the magic comes from in Nier now, but I still don’t know who the Watchers are, or the origins of the supposed “Red Eye” disease. Are the Watchers the people behind all the “Beyond the plane of existence” nonsense in Automata? Is there any relation at all with that?

Anyway, Drakengard is a terrible that’s very interesting. Should you play it? Depends on your tolerance for bullshit I suppose.

Tales Of Arise

I fell off Tales Of Berseria really hard. I disliked the characters and found the story to be really boring. I didn’t get very far with it either. Tales Of Arise is an improvement in the sense that I stuck around to the end of it.

I like the characters a little more in this, specifically the main two; Shinnone and Alphen.

Shinnone is a tsundere-type character. She’s described in game as a Renan, which are people that originally come from the bigger of the two planets that the game is set on. She does have a strange quirk though; touching her will cause extreme pain to the person doing the touching. To be more exact, she extrudes thorns when touched.

Alphen spends most of the game without his memories and unable to feel pain. And until the first Renan lord boss, his face is completely covered with a mask. As a counter to Shinnone, he is completely unable to feel pain.

The dynamic between these two is probably what kept me interested in what was going on. Their interactions were generally the most enjoyable part of the story. I don’t really want to spend this whole part of the post describing the other characters, so I’ll just say I don’t like them that much. Especially Law, he sucks.

The real-time combat the game is has is pretty good. You can switch out the move sets to give greater control over your combos. And combos really are the name of the game here, as most enemies have a limit bar attached and if you attack them enough in a sequence, you can perform a Break move on them for massive damage. It becomes doubly necessary when you get later into the game and it starts throwing enemies at you that are clearly under-levelled for.

I spent a lot of time in the game underleveled and it was as tedious as it sounds. Fights took much longer to get through, and sometimes you would fall into areas or encounters that could wipe your party in a few hits.

As for the story, well I hope you like fantasy racism, because it’s a lot of that. And honestly, it’s a bit too peachy for its own good. Most of the arguments in this game amount to dumb squabbles about classism or why slavery is bad. I’ll spare you the details because quite frankly, I don’t really want to go on about it.

It does do the JRPG thing where you think you’re nearing the end of the game, only for the game to turn around and throw a couple dozen more hours of gameplay at you. To add to this, the game adds another anime sequence showcasing what’s coming up in the 2nd half of the game, and also replaces the anime opening that plays when you start the game with this new one. And the second half is considerably different to the first half visually, going more into the sci-fi that it teases you with earlier.

However, my problem with all of that is it just makes the game longer than I wanted it to be, and when I did finish it I was more glad it was over than being excited for anything to do with the end game, of which there are a handful of new quests and dungeons. Compared to something like Scarlet Nexus, where I’m looking forward to playing through Kasane’s campaign.

Good game, but a bit too long and preachy.

Taiko No Tatsujin: The Drum Master

This probably doesn’t need a full post on here, but I’m doing it anyway.

Taiko is one of the few rhythm games that I actually enjoy playing. There’s only two notes you need to hit, Don or Kan. Simple, right? Unfortunately not, the series is notorious for its difficulty and precision. Easy and Normal are fun enough, but once you get into Hard and Extreme, you basically need a drum controller to keep up.

There’s quite a few anime songs and video game tracks in there, and that’s kept my interest for the most part. The Namco originals are mostly great too. Playing the game daily and doing specific songs nets you some extra points for customisation items and additional songs, although it’s still very grindy.

That said, as much as I like the game, there are a number of technical issues. First of all, it drops inputs frequently. There’s a Unity wrapper working around the game, so that might be the culprit, but it could also be my keyboard. Or both.

The second, more troubling problem is the lack of high refresh-rate support. It’s locked to 60Hz. Playing a game at that speed on a 144Hz screen causes a lot of problems, most notably, blurry motion on screen. The notes can move so fast that it becomes near impossible to focus on them, and it causes eye strain on my part. I hope they add support for higher refresh rates in the future, but I’m not holding out hope here.

But to not end on a low note, here’s a picture of Don-chan as a food item.

Elden Ring

Oh Elden Ring, oh Elden Ring. What a pile of terrible ideas.

It reminds me of Dark Souls 2, in the worst way imaginable. It mostly aimless, (Yes, there is a main path through the game, but if you follow it exclusively, you will have a bad time) large swaths of land will emerge before you, but there’s often not as much to do there as you think. What content there is outside the mainline quests is often repetitive. Most of the underground dungeons even have the same visuals and enemies.

Once you get into the world a bit, there’s some interesting things out there. I found a tower with a mage at the top that I had to fight, I also found some dude boiling crabs in a pot. And then I found a dude that was a giant pot.

Combat is such a regression from Sekiro. Everything feels floatier and less in impactful. Also, enemies can attack you through walls, still. It’s been a problem since Demon’s Souls and they still haven’t bothered to fix it. Surely some raycasted prediction attached to the animation would fix that, no?

PC performance is terrible. It stutters like mad. Basically unplayable at times.

I only managed to put 15 hours into it as of the time I’m writing this, and I haven’t actually touched the game much since it came out. But I really haven’t enjoyed my time with it. I might keep it installed just to see if my friend wants to try the seamless co-op mod, maybe that would improve my view of things.

Wild Arms

I’ve yet to finish the game as of time of writing, so expect a follow up in the new year, hopefully finished.

I quite like the game though. It’s got a lot of quirkiness, Jack’s intro is especially fun with all the intro text playing over him running away from various things.

The battle system is simple but functional. Typical turn-based battles, each turn causes a power up for the characters which unlocks additional abilities for use, including a summon. Rudy is the only character that can use ARMs though, which are this game’s name for firearm type weapons. My gripes are that the animations and time between actions are really slow, and the random encounters happen a little too frequently.

The soundtrack has been pretty good so far, although I think their homages are little on the nose. Some of these themes sounds like downright plagiarism. They’re still pretty good though.

I have been using a walkthrough, albeit sparingly. A lot of the puzzles have their solutions revealed to you only if you talk to specific NPCs in specific towns, and sometimes only after getting specific items. But I also like making sure that I don’t miss anything major, which is something that can happen in old RPGs like this. That said, exploring would be more fun if the random encounters were less frequent.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

I’ll be quite frank, I’m sick to death of Marvel. Between the movies and all the nonsense that they’ve done to the comics; I cannot stand anything from that brand any more. So why did I play this? Well, everyone who played it kept praising it, and it was on Game Pass. So I figured it was worth at least looking at.

Think of it as a Mass Effect light, but without as much exploration and a much more linear story. There are choices to be made, but how big of an impact these choices have I don’t know. One of the early choices you make is whether or not you keep a Space Llama on board your ship. For the most part, the thing is a nuisance and the root cause of many issues for the characters, but late into the game, its shenanigans end up getting Starlord out of some tight spots.

Gameplay wise, it’s serviceable. It’s a 3rd Person Shooter with some AI direction mechanics. I’m not the biggest fan of it, much like I wasn’t a fan of it with Mass Effect. The weapon you use gets a handful of elemental effects, but with some enemies, they’ll often have a weakness that you can’t exploit because you don’t have the element unlocked yet. When that happens, those enemies essentially become bullet sponges and make the combat encounters much more tedious than they need to be.

I mentioned how this game doesn’t have a ton of exploration. Well to add to that, whenever you do go exploring, your teammates will often berate you saying how you’re wasting time or getting lost. It’s really annoying. That said if you do explore, you’ll be rewarded with materials for craft and even get new costumes for the characters.

Going back to the dialogue, I am getting rather sick of modern games feeling the need to have the characters constantly be talking. This game is no exception. The characters never shut up, and are often talking about extended universe stories that I have zero context for as I do not have even an ounce of knowledge of the source material. This complaint is more aimed towards modern games in general though. Talk less, say more.

To end of a good note with this game, the licensed soundtrack is pretty good. Although “We Built This City” should be removed from existence.

Drakengard 3

Drakengard 3 is a strange one. The first game was very dark. A lot of killing, monsters, betrayal, and even incestual undertones. And to complete that package a utterly horrendous soundtrack that makes you think the game’s audio is broken. But 3 is far more slapstick, especially early on.

Past the opening, one of the first scenes you’ll see is Zero’s dragon (It’s technically a Wyvern) companion rolling around in mud, and then pissing like a firehose. From there it gets weirder, and the 4th wall gets knocked down a few times in the process. It’s definite tonal shift.

It does improve some things from the first game though. The soundtrack is actually good now, it’s coherent and not a mess that sounds like your disc tray is broken. And includes remixes of some of the better songs from the first Drakengard as well as some songs from Nier.

The combat is the second improvement, although it’s still awful. Or rather, the only weapons you’d actually want to use are the light and medium swords and bracers. Spears take a lot of build up to use and are mostly piercing focused, and the chakrams are only really useful for distant enemies and occasionally groups of lesser enemies.

The performance is dreadful. Most of the game is 20FPS on PS3 if that. I think they were using a much earlier build of Unreal Engine 3 which exhibited many problems early on in the 7th gen. The art style isn’t great barring some of the character designs and the higher quality models used for the cutscenes.

Anyway, the story. Well Drakengard 3 is a prequel to Drakengard 1. Zero and her sisters are intoners. Their songs bring about magic. Zero is trying to stop them for reasons that are considered to be spoilers. However, after the first level, she loses one of her eyes and her arm, and they get replaced by a flower and prosthetic respectively. The flower is interesting though. If Zero is dealt a mortal wound (Albeit in the cutscene), the flower will grow and she’ll be rebirthed from it in a rather bloody manner.

The endings are certainly strange. They’re not good endings, but they feed into Drakengard 1 pretty well. Although they still don’t answer my previous questions about who The Watchers are. Although the Red Eye disease is somewhat explained as originating from the flower in Zero’s eye. This is also the very rare flower that blooms in Nier if you’re willing to put in all the work.

Speaking of work, getting the final ending requires getting all the weapons again. Thankfully this is a much less tedious process. Most of the levels have gold chests scattered about, some hidden, some less so. More often than not they just contain money, but a good amount have weapons in them. On top of that is Accord’s Requests. This is where the real tedium is.

Most of those missions are just battle arenas with massive waves of enemies trying to give you a hard time. The actual mission goals can vary though, sometimes you have to kill all the enemies in a set time, gather resources from chests, gather resources from killing enemies, and so on. But with the combat being as crap as it is, and these sequences usually having a time limit, frustration was a very prominent emotion during my time with them.

The final request was such a pain that I gave up on it in favour of finishing the game and upgrading all the weapons. Doing the latter rewarded me with an outfit for Zero that refills the Itoner gauge instantly and lets me go berserk on the enemies.

Weirdly, the game’s notorious ending isn’t as difficult as that last request. Don’t get me wrong though, it is hard, very hard; but not impossible. It took me about a week of continuous playing to get past the final part of the game, but I felt like I was making progress that whole time. The last request however just kept killing me in the same spot each time and often with the same cheap, undodgeable attack. Hell, even with the Infinite Itoner Gauge outfit, I get died to an attack in the last part of it.

The final thoughts on it; You should play it, but don’t be surprised if you hate everything about it.

Trek To Yomi

This game might end up being my most disappointing game of the year. The visual style and atmosphere are mostly spot-on. They’re going for that Kurosawa vibe, and it hits the mark fairly well.

Unfortunately, everything else about the game is dreadful. The story is about a man who starts off the game as a boy fighting to save his village from bandits, and watches his master get killed. Following a time skip, he’s now helping defend the village as an adult, and gets led out into an ambush that doubles up as a diversion to get troops out of the town so the bandits can attack easier. Just to add to it, there’s also a love interest involved.

An interesting idea the game tries is killing the player, and then having them spend a large chunk of the game in the afterlife. However, this idea is hampered by the sheer awfulness of the game and just a very underwhelming execution.

So what’s so bad about it? Well the controls for one thing. They’re very unresponsive. Even blocking is a toss up as it to whether or not it wants to work properly, and parrying only works half the time on top of that. The timing for it is also sporadic. It presents a large variety of combos and moves, but they’re so difficult to perform consistently that the basic Square, Square, Triangle combo is what I ended up using for most of my playthrough.

It’s very repetitive on top of that, there’s some enemy variation, but the whole game is just a slog and just keeps going on and on, even though in reality it’s about 4-5 hours long. Adding to that, the difficulty is all over the place. Most of the game is a cakewalk, but occasionally there are sequences that I had to replay over and over because I was getting killed very quickly. As I got towards the end, it got worse. Near the end of the game, I switched the difficulty down from normal to easy just because I was sick of the damn thing and wanted to move on.

And on a final note, there’s a bunch of collectables in the game, and they’re worthless crap. No real rewards for getting them. Glad I played it via Game Pass instead of paying for it outright.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

I haven’t played a Lego Star Wars game since the release of the Complete Saga on PS3. I love those original two games to bits, so I was looking forward to this.

The first problem comes with Rey being front and centre everytime you start the game. I hate Rey, she’s a terrible character and doesn’t need to exist. And that little intro in unskippable. After that though, you get into the episode selection and you’re presented with little dioramas of all the different movies, and that’s great. So that’s a good point.

I’ve been playing this game with my friend via Steam’s Remote Play Together feature. There’s no online co-op so local multiplayer is the only option. Unfortunately, that takes the form of vertical split-screen, and absolutely no option to change it. Performance also takes a hit during this mode, although performance overall is fairly underwhelming. I’ve had multiple glitches, soft-locks, and many crashes to desktops. It’s a pretty big stain on my experience.

Just one example of soft-locking.

That’s a shame, because the environments are quite large and filled with collectables and quests. Even better is that you can fudge your way through a lot of puzzles if you’re clever enough. There’s a collectible Brick in Episode II that’s floating above a part of the city and would usually require the player to use a savagener type character and finish the tutorial for that type of character (Which you only get in Episode VI and VII, which if you’re playing from Episode I is a VERY long way into the game) and use the glider. My friend and I came up with an alternative solution of stacking a bunch of boxes on top of each other and exploiting some of the janky collision boxes on parts of the environment, and then I force lifted my friend to the brick for him to collect it.

On the note of the scavenger classes, once we did unlock their potential, my friend and I back-tracked through all the previous stuff we’d done and mopped up all the missing collectables and quests that were now fully available to us. There’s quite a lot to go back to as well, plenty of new ships and characters to get.

Overall, I am enjoying it (Still haven’t finished it, on Episode VII) but the technical issues and problems are a pain. I think I prefer the charm of the originals, but it’s not bad.

Other Stuff I Played:

Ridge Racer Type 4

I’ve wanting to play this game for a while now purely for the soundtrack. The car handling is a little rough these days, but it’s still quite fun. But Goddamn if the soundtrack isn’t one of the best.

Ridge Racer 2 (PSP)

Another Ridge Racer game I wanted to play, but this time it was from my experience with a demo from when I originally got a PSP. I never got around to buying it back then, but I can play it now. And it still plays great and is absolutely filled with content and a really jam packed soundtrack selection.

Voice Of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden

I really enjoyed the first Voice Of Cards game, but I’m really struggling to get through this one. The story isn’t gripping me at all, and going back to the starting area after each chapter hurts the pacing a bit, because I don’t feel like I’m progressing as much. Exploring the areas is still rewarding, but getting money is tedious, and battles are varied in terms of difficulty. I’m near the end of it, but I’m lacking the motivation to finish it.

Baba Is You

Fun little puzzle game. It’s more difficult than you think, and scales up very quickly. Baba is cute though.

The Lab & Aperture Desk Job

A couple of small games from Valve. The Lab is a fun little VR toy box. Bunch of small games and experiences to check out. Unfortunately, the Robot Repair Station game causes the game to crash for me, so I never got to check that out.

Desk Job is supposed to be a thing to check out the capabilities of the Steam Deck, but you can play it on PC with a controller. It’s a pretty neat thing that explores the lore of a very iconic character of the Portal games. It’s pretty funny and worth checking out.

Pistol Whip

Ever wanted to be John Wick in VR with some banging tunes? Well this is pretty close. Also pretty tiring. I do like the customizability of the weapons and playstyles. There’s a good few mutators that let you make it more or less difficult. I turned off dodging obstacles personally just so I didn’t knacker myself at as much. That said, as much as I like it, don’t pay full price for it.

Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars

I actually finished this, but it’s not worth a long winded paragraph. It’s disappointing, and mostly mundane and uninteresting cutscenes. The gameplay isn’t bad conceptually, but gets repetitive quite quickly, and the difficulty spikes for no discernable reason at points. As a fan of Senran Kagura, I can’t recommend this. At the same time, I can only hope buying it renews some hope that we’ll get SK7 that was teased years ago. But I’m not holding my breath at this point.

Eiyuden Chronicles: Rising

Played through a good chunk of the opening, found it to be really damn boring. I hope it gets more fun later, but the first impression is bad. I played it on Game Pass, not sure if I’d buy it.

Drainus

This was a birthday gift from a friend. It’s made by the same guys that made the Lodoss War Metroidvania. I got through the first 3 or so levels. I like it quite a bit, but I’m not great at Shmups. The lack of ability to freely shoot stuff behind you kinda sucks, and it’s something I’ve always hated about the genre. You can get a ship upgrade that fixes that, but said upgrades are tiered based on your performance. I’ll try and finish this one.

Vagrant Story

I started this on stream. It’s full of weird and very poorly explained systems, especially the additional attack timings that’s ask you to press the attack button again after attacking to perform an additional attack, but the timing for it is based on a on-screen prompt that appears for about a millisecond. The combat is some odd mix of real time and turn based, possibly even some weird ATB system under the hood. The cutscene direction is certainly punching above its weight, using a lot of close ups and advanced camera work, but because it’s a PS1 game, it all looks pixelated as fuck. I’ll get back to this once I’m through with Wild Arms.

Vermintide 2

Left 4 Dead, but Warhammer, but also Destiny-style loot and convoluted menus. I played a couple of levels of it with my friend and was turned off from it. There’s a whole lot of equipment leveling nonsense and microtransactions. I don’t want to deal with that kind of crap anymore.

Anime I Watched:

Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru

Perverted gyaru that wants to get into cosplay meets a dude that makes traditional Japanese dolls and then has him make outfits for her. And then there’s a buttload of romantic comedy shenanigans on top. It’s hard not to like Marin, she’s great. She ends up being cute without needing to be a generic moeblob. And then outfits, level her up a bit. Great show, enjoyed it greatly.

Shenmue The Animation

Surprisingly, not a terrible adaptation. It covers the first two games pretty well, although it does skip over or change a few things for the sake of pacing and not taking too much time on things. There’s also some extra scenes that give some much needed backstory to Ryo’s character. The fight scenes are decently animated as well. They did skip some moments from Shenmue II, particularly some events at the end of the game, but it can’t be helped due to time constraints.

Birdy Wing: Golf Girls’ Story

I was expecting a golf anime, instead I got a battle shounen crossed with a underground mafia ring, crazy characters, and a good amount of sexual tension. It’s getting a second season early next year and I’m wondering where the Hell it’s going to end up.

Spy X Family – Part 1

Much like everyone else, I watched and enjoyed this show. Drunk Yor is a miracle of the universe, and the dynamics of all the characters is fun to watch. I do think it focuses too much on Anya though, you don’t get to see Yor do her assassination jobs at all past the first episode. Loid’s stuff is fun, but only gets a few select episodes. I hope the second season addresses those issues.

___

Alright, that’s it. This took a little longer to finish writing due to various things. But it’s also one of the longest posts I’ve ever done as well. I’m looking to rename this style of blog post as well. “The Den” doesn’t really have a good ring to it any more. I’ll rethink it.

Anyway, the next time you see a post like this will be in the new year with my GOTY views and such. See you then.

ADMAN

13/06/2022 – I Have A New YouTube Channel

And you can visit it right here.

So why did I make a second YouTube channel? Simple reason really, there’s stuff on my gaming channel that I wish to separate from my game development material. You may have noticed that whenever I posted game dev videos here or on Itch they were always an unlisted video.

I didn’t really want to clutter my gaming channel with development stuff because I thought it might cause an audience imbalance. So I’ve now separated them.

I’ve currently uploaded a few videos I’ve previously posted about Game Jam games and older projects. Going forward I’ll likely be posting videos about new and current projects among other things. Maybe even some tutorials, depending on how I feel.

The original channel isn’t going anywhere, if anything I’ll be uploading new stuff more frequently to it as I clip and highlight stuff from games I play on my Twitch channel.

There’s more things to talk about, but I’ll save it for a future post.

-Adam

25/04/2022 – Rotation & Action

Happy St. George’s Day.

I’ve been working on another new game, although for justifiable reasons this this. Having made a bunch of game templates within Unity, I decided I should maybe try and make something with it. I had a small idea while ago while replaying one of my favourite games, Everyday Shooter, and thought about making a top-down shooter. But I also wanted to put it on my phone so I figured I should keep the controls simple. Around the same time, I was working on Global Game Jam and wanted to make an Ikaruga style game with colour switching, but as you now know, never happened. But I kept the idea.

And now I present, the new game.

It’s a rotating action game with colour switching as its core mechanic. Additionally, it has arcade style scoring. I’m quite pleased with how it’s coming along. There’s still work to be done, but getting it up to this point was surprisingly fast.

I do have a demo in the works (There’s a HTML version on the currently private Itch.io page), but I’m having difficulty getting the game on the intended platform I wanted it on, phones. Specifically, I can’t get Unity to build to an APK so I can test the game. Just to add insult to injury, the errors I get mostly amount to “Gradle Failed: 4 Errors” and then doesn’t elaborate. It’s infuriating.

I’m looking into solutions, but I’m getting rather pissed off at it. But I’ll keep working on it regardless.

On the plus side, I’ve learnt a lot about exporting and importing packages into Unity, and figuring out what dependencies I need for what game type. So when I eventually release the templates onto the world, it should be a smoother experience.

But just to cover some pros and cons: The templates can be somewhat rigid to work with and depending on what you’re doing may require a lot of additional work and changes. With this game, there’s a lot of stuff I needed to change in regards to what happens with collisions and I’m probably going to need to make adjustments to the spawning code as well. But on the positive side, I have saved days in figuring out various systems for things like aiming and spawning. Overall, I am fairly OK with the practical implementation, but at the same time, I’m curious as to how someone who has no knowledge with the codebase would use these templates.

Now, you maybe wondering what happened to making something with Stride. Unfortunately, I just could not get the engine to play nice. I tried my hardest to load the demo projects as well as empty projects, and it error out each time. And that’s a shame because I was really looking forward to using something other than Unity for once and getting stuck into a new IDE, and finally freeing myself of the chains of proprietary software. Alas it was not meant to be. So I’ll either wait or look into other engines. Not Godot though, that’s just awful to use.

That’s pretty much it from me. As always, you can find me streaming on Twitch. Lately I’ve been using my VRoid model in place of a webcam to see if it interests more viewers and change things up a bit. That model still needs more work though, it’s really ugly in places and desperately needs better textures.

See you next time.

-Adam

08/03/2022 – Quacking Around With PS1 Games

It has been a while, I’ve been keeping OK.

As you can maybe guess from the title, I’ve been messing around with PS1 emulation via Duckstation. Although it’s not the only emulator I’ve been fiddling with, I’ve also been poking around with PPSSPP and playing a few gems on PCSX2. Although a lot of work is required to get stuff working properly on the latter there.

I suppose what brought all this on was my desire to play through the old Drakengard games along with my friend linking me the opening movie to Wild Arms 5. All that just locked my brain into a place of wanting to play a bunch of PS1, PS2, and PSP RPGs as well as various other games I missed from my youth.

On PS1 emulation specifically, it’s nice to be able to play those games without the texture warping. It really cleans up the image and can make some of these games look really good still. Stuff like Wild Arms looks like it could be released today by some small indie studio or something. Although the actual gameplay and exploration design is probably a bit dated by today’s standard. But I’ll talk about that in my Den post later in the year.

Another point on the matter, phone emulation has come a long way. PPSSPP was on Android years ago and worked OK-ish. But now it and Duckstation both run pretty well on my Xperia 10 III. However, the experience of syncing up my saves between PC and phone could do with some dedicated support. Currently I’m using Dropbox for Duckstation saves. It works well enough, but you have to make sure that the PC application’s memory card settings are set to make a seperate cards for each game. The phone only gives you that option, and a shared card causes problems when importing.

Right, down to business.

The Game Template Project, the Unity assets designed for building basic game ideas without having to start from scratch every time; has reached a point where I’m fairly happy with it. I wouldn’t say it’s done yet, I do plan on adding documentation and general feel of the “games” isn’t quite right yet. But I’m happy with the amount of different genres covered. Hopefully I might actually finish this project. That would be refreshing. Whether or not it’ll make any money for me is another question entirely though.

Outside of Unity, I’m going to start experimenting with the Stride game engine. It’s an open source game engine made with C# that many say is a Unity-like IDE. My experiences with Godot was prompted my desire to check out other engines and such because I can’t rely on Unity for everything, and quite frankly Unity has been driving me up the damn wall in places. Having an understanding of how other engines and other people do things can only be a benefit. But I am worried about a lack of documentation.

As for what I’m building in it, well I’ll probably start with Pong as it’s the “Hello World” of video game development. Following that, I’ve had a small game idea pinned to my white board for a while now. It’s a very small game, so the scope should be small enough to use it as a reason to learn how to the use the engine. And if it ends up being too difficult to deal with there, I’ll port it back to Unity. Although perhaps at this point I should stop coming up with new ideas and finish the ones I already have.

There’s nothing else really to talk about for the moment. The Den post is getting filled in slowly, jotting down notes as I play through things and such. Again, that’ll be out come June. See you next time.

-Adam

31/01/2022 – Global Game Jam 2022 Post-Mortem

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:

-Adam

The Den: July – December 2021

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.

There wasn’t.

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.

Ys IX

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.

Townscaper

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.

Post Void

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.

Lost Judgment

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.

Scarlet Nexus

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.

Metroid Dread

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.

Deathloop

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.

The Pathless

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.

Crackdown 3

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.

Evo One

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.

Sable

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.

Takagi-san VR

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.

Project Lux

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.

Halo Infinite

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

Metroid Dread

I don’t like this game. End of.

Honourable Mentions

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.

10. Deathloop

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

  1. SSSS.Dynazenon
  2. Ijiranaide, Nagatoro-san
  3. Gokushufudou
  4. Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0
  5. Taishou Otome Otogibanashi
  6. Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu.
  7. Vlad Love
  8. Uramichi Oniisan
  9. Bishounen Tanteidan
  10. 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.

Special Mentions:

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.

ADMAN

18/12/2021 – The Wait For Headphones And Bluetooth Delay

In late October, I decided to get myself a new phone. I got an Sony Xperia 10 III.

The phone is alright. Taller screen due to the 21:9 aspect ratio which I am not really into. I tend to prefer my phones as compact as possible, and greatly miss the days of flip phones. Anyway, all my stuff still works, although there’s some getting used to because they keep changing the dumbest stuff between phones.

But onto the first story. The phone was promised to come with some wireless headphones, decent Sony sound cancelling ones. But when the phone turns up, it’s just a package with the phone. So I end up calling EE, who I bought the phone from, and asked them where the headphones I was promised are. That’s when I learnt about a waiting period, that was never mentioned on the site, and that Sony were running it and were supposed to send me a text or e-mail about it. A couple of days later I get that text, fill in the details, and then get told I’ll get it within 3 weeks.

While I waited, I pondered on what I would use these new headphones on, as I already had Bluetooth ones for my phone. And I figured I would use it for my Oculus Quest, removing one more cable from my setup.

Over a month passed, and I was getting rather impatient. I contacted Sony multiple times, only receiving one reply saying that it was something on EE’s end, and after contacting EE they told me to contact Sony again.

Just as I was starting to consider serious dispute options, lo-and-behold, the headphones just turn up on my doorstep. All’s well that ends well I suppose. But this only leads into another series of problems.

I paired these new headphones up to my Quest and found out the fun way that the thing doesn’t support low latency Bluetooth codecs, making it absolutely useless to use with games. I don’t know why they allow you to pair headphones if it doesn’t work properly, seems like a pretty big oversight.

Following that, I did some research and found myself a Bluetooth transmitter. A MaedHawk one specifically. It’s not too bad. The delay is dramatically reduced, although you can definitely notice it still, but it’s now at least acceptable.

But now I enter my next problem; I have more devices that need USB to charge than places and ports to charge them. Plus I need somewhere to put all these damn headphones I now own. Leading me to buying an Anker USB hub, and some metal hooks held to the bottom of my bookcase using sticky pads.

So after spending a bit more money than I wanted, I’m relatively pleased with my set up.

Now, I was planning on ending that story there, but there’s a new problem.

Lately I’ve been having issues streaming VR stuff with OBS, crashes after 15 minutes or so. Furthermore, the mic on the Quest is utter crap and sounds terrible when streaming. Meaning my next side quest in life involves finding a new mic and trying to figure out why OBS shits the bed whenever I stream VR stuff. For now I’ve found a workaround for the latter where I’ve just made a new source collection on my main scene collection, where OBS doesn’t crash.

I have a few candidates for a wireless mic solution, but I’m unsure about the quality; and in one case, the price. I’ll keep doing some research into the matter and see if I can find something decent.

In other news, I finally got Oculus Air Link working. It involved editing some values in Oculus Debug Tool that I had previously edited, to lower them far enough that it actually operated properly. Anyway, I’m now completely wireless in VR. FREEDOM.

Tested out Elevens: Table Tennis and Half-Life: Alyx. Both worked well, no serious delay. There’s certainly some visual downgrades compared to using a cable, but it’s a small price to pay, plus I hadn’t fully adjusted my settings to allow for a higher bitrate.

Game Dev Stuff

Last post I mentioned I was going to goof around with Mirror in Unity. It’s certainly more mature than MLAPI in terms of features, and I can certainly see what MLAPI influenced by.

But you may remember some months back when I did ThreeThingGame and made a pretty crappy Windjammers clone called “Bunny Jammers”. I was never particularly happy with that game, I thought it played terribly. So recently I decided rebuild it, with networked multiplayer, in Unity.

Currently, I’ve just about got the absolute basic gameplay features working. The player can grab and throw the ball, the scoring works, and movement is getting there. Unity undoubtedly tried to make building this more complicated than it ever needed to be, and furthermore, their physics system is absolute trash. I’ve rolled my own, which isn’t too bad because it’s fairly simple.

I’ve still got more to do for the gameplay, but once I’ve got that done, I can start working on the networked side of things.

As for Space Cart… I got nothing. I haven’t touched it in months. There’s still a lot of systems I need to rebuild for that. But quite frankly, I’ve lost pretty much all of my drive to develop that idea. I’m not gonna make any promises that’ll get worked on any time soon.

That’s it. Next thing from me will be the year-end Den post with my top 10. See you then.

-Adam

15/11/2021 – ThreeThingGame Autumn 2021

Frozen, Camel, Leaves

Those were our words this time around as we descended back into the depths of game jamming.

This time around I was a lot more prepared thanks to the game templates I had previously made. So during the design phase, when the idea was pitched, I could easily jump into Unity and have something playable within a few moments.

Alex & I were joined by an extra this time around. A music student from the Uni named Jordan. He did some pretty good work, taking over the sound and music production for us.

But on to the game. Called “Keep Warm”.

We went for a similar game to ill-fated The Feathered Stalker game that we did for Global Game Jam earlier in the year. The player gathers up items around an environment. This time though, players can now use items together in order to make progress.

For example, the player can find a lighter and use it with a pile of leaves in order to get an ending where they start a fire. I mentioned the Flash game “Don’t Shit Your Pants” when we were figuring out the gameplay aspects. The player’s actions leading to different endings being the point of contention.

The finished game has 2 ways of dying, and 2 ways of surviving. See if you can get them all.

If we had more time or wanted to expand on this idea I’d probably focus on more interactivity and tools. As well as more ways to die, both serious and silly.

Overall, the event went well. Game got finished, and I actually got to go sleep before day break. I’d call that a win overall.

If you want to play the game, here’s the link:

Other than that, I’m working on the year-end Den post and fooling around with Mirror networking in Unity. We’ll see how well those go.

-Adam