Running for Your Health – Zombies, Run! review

It’s been an incredibly long time since I wrote anything at all to do with the healthy side of this blog, so I thought it was about time to revisit it. I’ve been cooking, but nothing super fun or inspired or that felt worth sharing at all, so I’m not going to give you a healthy recipe today. Nope, today I talk about yet another app that gamifies one of life’s little miseries – exercising. More specifically, running.

Today, I talk about an app called Zombies, Run! Continue reading

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An Emotional Journey – Journey impression

I have plenty of new games I could be reviewing, but instead I want to take a moment to talk about Journey. Mostly, I want to talk about Journey because it segues into the next review I want to do, but also because I’d never played it before, and it was just so stinkin’ good!

I’ve been getting burned by indie titles a lot recently, which sucks. Sucks even more so because normally I’d say I’m all about artsy, indie titles. However, I’ve been playing so many flops that I’ve gotten a little trigger-shy. All that is to say, I kind of wanted to play Abzu, but I was also terrified of buying it only to find out I didn’t like it. Sure, it’s come pretty highly recommended, but so were the other games I’ve been playing. Basically, word-of-mouth and reviews have failed me! Which is just so rude. But I digress.

So yeah, I wanted to play Abzu, but I was also terrified to commit to that idea. At which point I remembered, “Hey, I own Journey! I’ve never played Journey, but Abzu is supposed to be similar. I’ll play Journey, and if I like it, I’ll continue on to play Abzu.”

That deal made with myself, I loaded up Journey, full of trepidation and a readiness for disappointment. I’d heard so many good things, what if I’d built it up in my head? It couldn’t possibly live up to expectations, right? Also, what if, disappointingly enough, I’d just changed? What if something in me had snapped, and I didn’t like artsy, indie titles anymore? I didn’t think I could stomach that thought. I didn’t want to be that person!

So, spoiler alert, but crisis avoided! Turns out the other games I’d been playing really had just been over-hyped and under-performing. Journey blew my socks off, you guys! Or it would have if I made a habit of wearing socks when the weather is like ninety degrees outside. It blew my metaphorical socks off. So, with all that said, onward to actual impressions of the game!

I’m not going to go on about the look of it. It looks nice, there’s no denying that, but at the end of the day, that wasn’t the important part. Though definitely the settings are gorgeous and help in building the narrative. So while I don’t personally care about the graphics, the settings blew me away more and more as the game progressed.

When it comes to multi-player, I’m usually not a fan. I don’t know what has happened in adulthood to turn me off of online multi-player considering I used love MMO’s as a teenager, but at some point the idea of randomly encountering another player who could judge my skill level became a recipe for anxiety for me. All that is to say, I was super nervous about the multi-player aspect of Journey. However, I think they got the formula down perfectly! My first time encountering another player, I was a little nervous, then kind of excited, then kind of sad when they were gone. It only lasted a second though, so I moved on fairly quickly. The next time, though, I spent much longer with the person (at least I assume it was the same person, though I guess there’s really no way to actually know). We helped each other, encouraged each other (as much as voiceless, little sprites can). Somehow, without ever actually speaking to each other, I felt a kinship with this person. Then they were gone, and I was very sad. From that point on, running into people was an emotional roller-coaster comprised of excitement over a new friend and the inevitable disappointment of losing them. Honestly, while playing alone in no way detracts from the game, the implementation of the multi-player adds to the experience exponentially.

There’s not a whole lot I can actually say about the story mostly just because I’m not 100% sure just what exactly it was about. That’s not a bad thing, at all. With the lack of any dialogue, it’s honestly meant for interpretation to some extent. Of course, I have theories, but I don’t want to go into that here. Spoiler-free is really the way to be when going into these games. What I will say is that despite the silence, this is a story that truly touched me. I cried and I cheered, and honestly I just felt like this was one of the realest emotional journeys I’d ever gone on with… well, with any media. At no time does the story feel incomplete or lacking for it’s non-use of dialogue.

Adding to that feel is a soundtrack that seamlessly blends into the game. None of the music ever stood out in my mind simply because it integrates so well with the game-play and story. Never once did the music over-power anything or seem at odds with a scene. It was simply there to offer support to the emotional resonance.

Basically, all-in-all, Journey to me seems to be a game that stands the test of time. It’s been four years since its initial release, and yet even still remains a game that simply blew me away despite even my jaded attitude going in. I also really don’t think I’d mind giving it another play-through, which says something considering a lack of replayability tends to be a problem I often feel many artsy, indie titles (and even plenty of AAA games) suffer from. I’m sure not much would change, but I feel like there would definitely be more to discover in the world. Plus it’s just an amazing journey (I do not apologize for the pun). If you haven’t played it, I cannot recommend this game enough. It’s only a few hours long, and now is definitely the time to pick it up, even if just for a rainy day, since it is currently one of the free games on PlayStation Plus this month!

Living My Childhood Aspirations to be an Astronaut – No Man’s Sky review

No Man’s Sky

Developer: Hello Games | Publisher: Hello Games | Available On: PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed) | Release Date: August 9, 2016 (PS4); August 12, 2016 (PC)

No Man’s Sky has been out for just around a month now, and if you haven’t heard of it, I honestly would love to know what space rock you’ve been living under. Considering the hype surrounding the game pre-launch and the amount of controversy it has been seeped in since it came out, I think by now basically anyone who games knows about this game. However, I’m not here to talk hype or controversy. No, I’m here to review the game. That said, I want to go ahead and get any and all disclaimers out of the way. First, this has proven to be a divisive game, so it’s a pretty fair assessment that plenty of people will have an opinion differing from my own. I’m all about discussing all angles. My only stipulation is we do it like adults. Secondly, I started in the camp of not liking it and have since decided I really enjoy it, so this is going to be a slightly positively skewed review. Thirdly, I realize this isn’t the game for everyone, and that is perfectly fine and will be discussed. Finally, I’m not here to talk about any direction the game may take in the future, as I simply don’t know. As such, this review approaches the game for what it currently is, and not what it may potentially become.

Now that I’ve officially been boring and perhaps overly P.C., let’s talk No Man’s Sky! So if you’ve been living under aforementioned rock, No Man’s Sky promised a journey through the cosmos where you could encounter somewhere around eight quintillion procedurally generated planets. Was that the number? Either way, for those of you keeping track at home who can’t even begin to imagine that number, that converts to about five-to-seven metric fuck tons. That’s a wide margin, I know, but look, conversions were never my strong suit and it’s been a long time since I took a math class.

So what do you do with these planets? Well, I think the nitty-gritty of that part was largely up for debate, and I won’t claim to have been an avid follower of the game pre-release to verify, but the main goal was to find your way to the center of the galaxy. Now you’re up to speed on what I knew going in. I wasn’t super sure what to expect from this game before release, as I’m sure many weren’t, so I’m going to try and shed a little light on just what to expect from the game if you somehow haven’t already bought into the kool-aide.

Visuals & Gameplay

I want to say the game looks good. I mean, it doesn’t look bad, per say. Actually, once things are rendered, it does look very nice. Ya know, assuming you aren’t on a hideous planet. However, because the whole thing is procedurally generated, everything loads up super grainy, which is quite honestly nothing but a pain when you first come to a planet and are trying to decide just where to land. After all, you don’t want to land in the middle of nowhere where there is absolutely nothing around, because then you need to try and fly somewhere else, which then just becomes a waste of the fuel in your launch thrusters. Wasting your fuel means hunting down plutonium to refill them, which basically is what the gameplay experience boils down to – resource mining so that you can use those resources to mine more resources. That’s basically the main thing you’ll spend your time doing.

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There are a few other gameplay aspects, things such as combat and sort-of socialization. The combat doesn’t feel great, however, whether you are on the surface of a planet or in space, and the “socialization” kind of feels really arbitrary? I mean, come on, I’ve learned way more Vy’Keen words than just “interloper,” yet somehow that’s all I ever seem to understand. Never mind the approval system which gives you know indication of just what any one standing means, especially when it’s different every time I talk to different aliens of the same race. In one space station I’ll have one Vy’Keen decide I’m a “special partner” while the other seems to think I’m something else. Though the Korvax at least all seem to be in agreeance that I’m simply a Traveler of the Atlus.

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Korvax know what’s up!

 

 

On the technical side of gameplay, the game gives almost no instructions. It will let you know how to fly your ship early on, but when it comes to everything else, it’s pretty much up to the player to figure it out. There were a lot of things I didn’t even know I could do for the first hour or two of the game. There is a control scheme you can reach through the menu, but even that didn’t seem super intuitive to get to.

Finally, the only “multi-player” concept I’ve come across is discovering systems and planets that have already been discovered by other players. It’s a neat concept, but one that I unfortunately find more annoying than enjoyable, if only because discovery is tied to monetary reward. If you’re the first to discover something, you can upload it and earn units (No Man’s Sky‘s currency). The couple of times I’ve come across something that someone else has already discovered, I’ve very much felt like what was the point and quickly flown off to the next system.

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So everything I’ve said so far seems pretty sour grapes, but like I said at the beginning, I actually really like the game. The planets, once actually rendered, are fairly breath-taking, and I’m always excited to land on a a planet and see what I’ll get. There are so many times I’ve had what I can only describe as “tourist moments” where all I want to do is run around the planet and take pictures of the terraine. And while combat doesn’t feel great, especially at first (where it feels downright awful), there’s something the feels highly rewarding and addicting each time I win in a dog fight out in space or take down a sentinal. Now that I finally have some good multi-tool upgrades and understand how it all works, sometimes I get it in me to just go take something down for the fun of it. Also, even if I do spend like 98% of my time resource mining, I still get stupid excited each time I find a rare resource. All that is to say that while the things you can do are limited, that doesn’t necessarily make them any less fun if you can take the time to appreciate what the game currently is instead of what you wish it was.

Characters, Story, & Atmosphere

Basically what this section boils down to is that there are a couple of different ways to play the game. You can just freely explore, following no specific path, which is the way to get you absolutley no where except to maybe find cool stuff. You can follow the path of the Atlus, which gets you different tech (I think?), and is also how you learn more langauges and lore (sort of?). Or, you can just go straight to the center of the galaxy.

I’ve been following the path of the Atlus. I thought I wanted to go straight to the center, which is why I had some aliens point me in the diection of the nearest blackhole, but the more I’ve played, the more I don’t want it to be over.

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Ultimately, the path you take depends largely on what you get enjoyment from. I’m a lore and story kind of girl, so following the path of the Atlus is what seems super interesting to me. But maybe you just want to know what’s at the center. Or maybe you want to just see as much as you can (to that, I wish you good luck!). No matter what, it seems to me that they have a path to appeal to anyone who has figured out how to play the game in a way that is entertaining to them.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, as things stand, this is a hard game to recommend. After all, despite the fact that I have now said goodbye to my life in deference to exploring the stars, I started out really not liking it. While I have every intention now of continuing my journey through space, I think if you’re feeling uncertain about No Man’s Sky, wait it out, watch some gameplay footage, and see what they do or don’t add in the time to come.

While I would love to say buy it if you like lore or collecting or exploration, ultimately this game has had such a varied reception between each individual regardless of what they do or do not typically enjoy. It has things that I think can definitely be improved upon even without adding brand new features as Hello Games has already discussed. No matter what though, I urge you to remember that at the end of the day, this is a game with fantastical scale that despite Sony’s backing was in all actuality developed by a small indie team. Whether or not you feel the game in its current state is worth the $60 price tag falls to you. However, I do think it may be worth checking in periodically to see if that valuation changes at all based on what they add or change as time passes.

In the meantime, I shall continue to explore star systems of No Man’s Sky between other gameplay experiences.

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Gotta expand my vocabulary, after all!

A Slow Stroll Through a Sleepy Town – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture review

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Developer: The Chinese Room & SCE Santa Monica Studio | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment (PS4); Playstation Mobile (PC) | Available On: PlayStation 4 (reviewed); PC | Release Date: August 11, 2015 (PS4); April 14, 2016 (PC)

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, for the uninformed, is supposed to be an interactive drama about discovering what happened to the mysteriously missing denizens of Yaughton. What it actually is is a wonderful example of a good premise suffering from horrible execution. It’s also an example of the internet lying to me because they said this was a good game!

Visuals & Gameplay

Visually, this is a fairly gorgeous game. The landscapes are incredibly realistic, the lighting is dynamic, and the story moments are shiny and lovely. Very, very pretty experience.

Gameplay, though? That’s pretty much a thing that doesn’t exist. I’m usually fine and dandy with stretching the definition of “game” a little. There are some really wonderful things that come out of that idea. However, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture suffers from basically just being a movie you were dropped down in. There are some phones you can answer and some radios you can listen to, but basically you’re just walking around the world encountering memories of the Yaughton residents made up of shimmery balls of light.

Also, when I say walking, I mean it. There is no obvious way to run. Apparently you can, but it takes holding down a button for an extended period of time before it kicks in, making it an incredible unlikelihoodA  that many would discover this on their own. The walking you can do is incredibly, painfully slow, making it a nightmare to explore the world of the game. So those pretty landscapes I mentioned? Yeah, I was totally terrified to properly explore them lest I get off track. Which I did towards the end, and what a nightmare that was. Had I not already invested so much time, I would have totally just rage quit.

Characters, Story, & Atmosphere

When I started up the game, I was intrigued. The options menu gives the impression that this will be some sort of post-apocalyptic experience, which I guess it is, technically. However, it took a hard left turn from what I expected, and while sometimes that’s great, not so much in this case. At the onset, the game does a good job of creating an eerie survival game feel which left me intrigued. I wanted to know what happened. Where did these people go? Why was there this lone woman on the radio?

Unfortunately, my interest quickly gave way to exasperation. For the first few hours of the game, I slogged through the desolate town where nothing of interest happened, listening to the memories of characters I was given no reason to care anything about. That may be one of the game’s biggest flaws. In a game such as this, relating to and caring about the characters is so important, but Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture does nothing to connect me to the characters I encounter early on. They are all faceless entities with names that blend together. I have no history, no connection, nothing. There were eventually a handful of characters I cared about, but I never encountered them in any meaningful way until several hours in.

As for the story itself, it gets a little convoluted. It’s an interesting premise, and I held on so tightly to the hope that it would play out in an interesting way. Unfortunately, I feel that it never really paid off. It wasn’t a bad plot, at all. Actually, had the mechanics been different or the writing tweaked on way or another, I think it could have been amazing. However, due to the difficulty in caring for the characters, it is near impossible to care for the story itself.

Other than being pretty, the only other thing really going for this game is the soundtrack. The score is beautiful and helped lend more gravitas to situations than was actually there in the writing or presentation.

Final Thoughts

I feel like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture suffers from an identity crisis. It’s interface outside of gameplay tries to present it as a post-apocalyptic survival mystery, while the actual game tries so hard to be an art piece that it’s almost painful to watch. It seems to have taken itself a little to seriously, which made it suffer all around. Without characters to care about, a defined protagonist, or any sort of twist at the end, it falls completely flat beyond being something pretty to look at and listen to. Never mind that it’s agonizing to play.

Maybe had I watched it on YouTube or Steam, I could have stomached it far better. Alternatively, had this come out as a VR experience, it could have shined a lot more. However, as it stands, I, quite sadly, really think they missed the mark.

Inside

Developer: Playdead | Publisher: Playdead | Available On: XBox One, PC (reviewed) | Release Date: June 29, 2016 (XBox One); July 7, 2016 (PC)

I never played Limbo beyond getting stabbed by a spider and saying screw it. There may have been a bear trap in there, too, but either way, I never made it far. However, I’ve grown as a gamer since those long-gone days, and with that time, I’ve grown to appreciate the artsy-er, indie-er side of gaming. As such, when people started talking about Inside, my interest was piqued, but I still had no intentions of picking it up immediately. Then people kept talking about it, and I realized that if I didn’t want this game spoiled, I should really play it soon. In that spirit, I’m going to do my darnedest to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. However, if you fear to tread the waters in case of lurking spoilers, before I even begin, let me say that I highly, highly recommend you play Inside. Continue reading

History 102: Repeat and Relearn – Bravely Second End Layer review

When Bravely Second was announced, I was elated! I loved the first game, and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for our beloved heroes next. Then the demo happened, and I wasn’t so sure anymore. After all, a large part of what made Bravely Default so amazing was the changes it made to the JRPG formula. Without that newness, could the sequel hold up? Never mind the fact that I didn’t like any of the new characters introduced in the demo at all when I first met them. The future looked bleak!

I’m super happy to say I was wrong to be worried. I loved Bravely Second, if not just as much as Default, close enough. That’s not to say it wasn’t without fault, but as someone who loves the series, it was a wonderful next step on the journey.

Gameplay & Visuals

Bravely Default breathed some new life into the turn-based JRPG strategy, and the amount to which it did that is hard to measure up to. However, Bravely Second does a good job of continuing down the path its predecessor forged. All the important gameplay aspects from the first game remain – customizable random encounter rates, brave and default, and job asterisks. Newer mechanics include battle chaining for increased experience and pg, a mildly addictive mini game, and sort-of branching story lines. These things are done to varying degrees of success. The battle chaining is a great way to level grind as each successive battle you win in the first turn gives you a multiplier on your exp, job exp, and pg. The mini game includes making stuffed animals which you can “sell” to earn points which can then be used to up your production of the plushes or be traded into pg. It was fun at first, but greatly lost it’s appeal before I ever hit the half-way mark of the game. The branching story lines kind of get my goat, though. In order to get the job asterisks from the first game, you must mediate between two opposing sides presented by those asterisk holders. At first, this seemed a great and compelling way to frame the game. Sometimes I was forced to choose between which asterisk would be more beneficial or which side was more in line with my morals and values. However, the wind was quickly removed from my sails as these choices are made moot by having no impact on the world of the game, as well as the opportunity to change them later on in order to get the opposing asterisk. What started as a great risk/reward system quickly turned into something that just seemed pointless. After all, why am I going to not get all the asterisks if I can?

On the note of the job asterisks, there are a whole slew of new ones, and I quite honestly can’t think of a single one I didn’t like. I definitely was partial to certain ones over others, but they all were great. There are also plenty of the old ones to get, as well. They aren’t all there, but the important ones are definitely available. Technically, however, you could probably get by without them due to the new jobs being more than capable of filling certain roles. It all depends on your preferences and play style. Plus taking the time to get the old asterisks greatly helps in levelling your characters.

Visually, the game isn’t that different than its predecessor. It’s 3DS graphics, so what can you really ask for? The environments and sprite designs are pleasing on the eyes, plus there are some nice looking cut scenes. Not much to praise in this area, but also nothing to really complain about.

Story, Characters, & Atmosphere

The story is a little convoluted, but then again, so was the first one. There were a lot of times I found myself rolling my eyes at the over-the-top nature of things, however, in the end I was pretty happy with it.

Without going into spoiler territory, the start of the game finds Agnes as the new pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, Edea as the next Grand Marshal of Eternia in training, and Tiz asleep in a fish tank. You begin the game playing as the Three Cavaliers of the Crystal Orthodoxy, which is comprised of Yew, Jeanne, and Nikolai. Through a series of events, you lose Jeanne and Nikolai, at which point Yew joins up with Edea, a newly awakened Tiz, and a lady from the moon known as Magnolia. Together, they fight to bring down the Kaiser Oblivion and the dark powers behind him.

I abhorred Yew, Jeanne, Nikolai, and Magnolia in the demo, and I could not imagine having to play these four characters for a whole game. However, Bravely Second does what the Bravely series seems to do so well, and it made me care deeply for all four of them. I was actually really emotionally invested in all of these characters by the end.

Despite the fact that there were a lot of repetitive moments and things that don’t quite get explained, I really enjoyed the story. There is a lot of focus on the events that led up to the first game, as well as more about the realm the fairies come from. It’s also basically all one big love story, and what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good, well told love story.

I also loved getting to explore more about the characters from the first game, namely, the asterisk holders. Getting to explore their histories and personalities in a whole new way was an absolute delight. I really loved most all of the new characters, too. This game did a fabulous job of creating individuals I cared about even when the story itself may not have been as strong as it could have been.

Also, you only go back in time once this time around, so hey! That’s way better than the first game. However, I will say that I don’t feel like what you need to do in order to go back in time is readily apparent. I cheated a little and used a walkthrough at that point, so maybe I’m wrong and I just didn’t look hard enough. Just know there is a trick to it, and if you do it wrong, you could wind up “going back in time” more than the once that is necessary.

When it comes to atmosphere, all there really is to talk about is the soundtrack and voice acting. Soundtrack was actually really good. It definitely played on the emotions. The voice acting, however, was slightly hit or miss. I can’t say anything was actually bad, per say, but some of it was super over the top and corny. One could argue that that’s in line with the feel of these games, but it really wasn’t necessary. There were several times that the excessiveness of the voice acting took me completely out of the experience. I found myself very often just pushing buttons through dialogue because the voices were getting on my nerves.

Also, puns. All the puns. In the world. They are all in this game. It was funny at first, then incredibly annoying, and by the end I think the part of my soul that was capable of caring about them was sufficiently trampled to death.

Final Thoughts

Bravely Second was a super fun game that definitely kept my love of the series going strong. However, it is not a good introduction to the series. The game relies very heavily on you having played the first game, not necessarily because of story, but more in just the sense of giving you something to care about. Like I said, the game does a great job of crafting individuals to invest in, but there’s a lot of emotion and investment that also comes with having played the first game. I think if you’re missing that investment, Bravely Second will fall completely flat for you.

Over all, if you played the first game and liked it, I think you’re sure to enjoy this one. However, if you were hoping to jump into the series on game two, you may need to rethink that approach.