Tagged: game

Like I mentioned earlier, Pankapu will be released on the 21st of September.

Which is today. Yay.


I have played the game for about 3 hours up until I came to a roadblock that I will explain later. Don’t know if said block was poor design or a flaw that is unique to the pre-build. In either case, expect a timely review now and a thorough review later this week. Once I beat episode one, I will have even more info and insight as to what I think of the “ending”. Yes. There will be spoilers. Not in this review but in the next one. You have been warned.


Before I get into the Good, Bad, and Summary of my gameplay experience thus far, let me recap briefly on how I got this game so early. Like many of the indie reviews I do, the source comes to me rather then the other way around. And as is becoming fairly common for me, the messaging system of choice tends to be through my profile  on LinkedIn.com. I was approached by a representative of Too Kind Games and was asked to review it. Upon accepting, I was given a press kit with the pretty pictures you are about to see and a steam code. Perks of being a game reviewer, I suppose.

If you haven’t read my previous post yet, let me recap what this game is about. Real quick; boy has PTSD, his dad cheers him up with a bedtime story, story is about dreamland being taken over by nightmares until dream god creates a hero to save that world RPG platformer style. There. Your all caught up now.

Pankapu is a kickstarter project of a very small indie studio called Too Kind Games, is the dream product of two talented frenchmen, and has been released for the PC as well as pretty much any next gen console you can afford. There is even hints about it being for NX, so you’ll be able to download it if and when you get it for Christmas.

Okay, as always we start nice and positive. Here’s what went right.

The Good

The game in question can be as smooth and polished as you’d expect. It’s an indie game for sure, but one with low-maintenance graphics that feature beautiful artwork, flowing animations, and responsive control schemes that are intuitive to master. So intuitive in fact that the game manages to keep handholding tutorials down to a bare minimum; a godsend in the age of annoying information blips every time you try something new. All in all, maneuvering between enemies and platform is easy enough, and the challenges can require great precision without being unfair. That in and of itself is a staple of good design.

The narrative seems a little too simple at first, right up until you remember that the game itself is actually a child listening to a bedtime story. The game reminds you of this subtly with characters that resemble people who for the sake of this game’s meta story exist “in the real world”. Even when you level up your hero with new magical abilities, you get sparse flashbacks that tell the story of what exactly happened that made the child listening to the adventures of Pankapu wind up with real nightmares. This promises to come together at the end to provide a real sense of closure to what is bound to be a tragic tale of trauma and rehabilitation.

I wasn’t able to play all three character classes yet, but got a good feel for the one called “Bravery”. Its basically when your hero dressed up like a crimson knight complete with shining armor (beautifully drawn shining armor, I might add) a sword you can throw, and a shield that absorbs attacks to restore your magic. It’s annoying to see places where your hero can’t reach because it lacks the ability to “double jump” as promised by the green archer class, but you can always work with what you are given up to a certain point.

The lighting effects of this game contrast sharply and add subtle effects when needed and dramatic effects when appropriate and impressive. The music is soft and peaceful enough to be engaing without being annoying. The levels are well designed, and while it is sometimes tough to play, the game is always fair in a way that tests your skills rather then your patience.

That’s it for the good. Now for the other stuff.

 

The Bad

Just like I called it, the gameplay narrative is EXTREMELY reliant on cutscenes that aren’t so much cutscenes but slightly animated graphic novels with moving text. The only human voice you can understand is the narration of the father telling the story. Everything else is either mute, or speaks in sound effect gibberish, while you rush through a non-rewindable wall of text that you can easily skip over without meaning too. What’s worse is the annoying habit of the narrator to deviate from the storybook text printed on the page. It’s a minor complaint, especially given the developer’s lean resources, but I can’t help but feel a little confused and snapped out of the moment when I see the game spell one line of text and hear the narrator say something else that is the same but completely different. You never lose the gist of what is happening, but I still would like to hear the father read the story in front of my eyes and not in the designer’s head.

 

Like I said earlier, the story of the actual game is a little bland. If you ever played a video game since the 80s, you know the basic narrative pretty well, and the plot doesn’t get interesting without the flashbacks or the meta underneath. What’s worse is that some of the characters can be annoying. The spider sidekick you get stuck with seems to quote the obvious a lot, and is the kind of annoying guide that hasn’t bugged gamers since Navii. See Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for details on that infamous character.

While the spider has some moments here and there, even the good parts of the game fail to make up for what appears to be a very severe design flaw. I can honestly say I would not be able to complete the game even if I tried. Unless they update this one major flaw or I find a way around it (will let you know if that’s the case), I find that while exploring a deep cave, one with ledges and platforms jutting out of the walls, there is literally one space that is JUST OUT OF REACH. I cannot jump high enough with my current abilities, and the game will not let me progress without making the impossible jump. Literally an impossible jump is blocking me from completing a single level in the game. To call it a game breaking bug is an understatement, and it needs addressing ASAP if its worth even a dollar to play, let alone 5. Hopefully, by the time you read this article, they will have addressed it in time for you to buy the game.

That’s the Bad. Time to wrap things up.

 

The Summary

All things aside, if they can fix that one game-breaking bug this game is worth much more then the five dollars advertised. Even if this is episode one, it promises to be worthy your money and your time. It takes real guts to start an indie project like this, and these guys bang out an awesome product that would make and humble bundle an awesome holiday gift by virtue of gracing it with its presence. By itself, I would pay three times this amount for the experience it offers, and despite having some dark undertones, this game is bound to be a family favorite for the budget conscious. 

The only thing holding this game back from being an instant classic besides that one bug (which they can fix with a 5 minute update) is the fact that the bedtime story narrative is a little weak and some of the narration doesn’t sink up. Both can be fixed easily by tweaking some of the text elements in the game in a way that perfects the already glorious design.

That’ll end this review. Next up on my list is a game from Telltale, about another kind of knight…

Image result for telltale games Batman Logo

See you then!

 

 

Title says it all. I will be hosting another random giveaway for all my loyal followers and subscribers!

Please subscribe to my newsletter on the right and/or click the “Patronize Me!” button here or up above to donate to my Patreon account. Both supporters and subscribers are eligible to win.

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Geekfest

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE BROADCAST LIVE AT GEEKFEST – 9:30AM TO 5:30PM

Ah, Watch Dogs.

If you’ve been watching video game review sites other then mine, you more then likely saw trailers similar to the one above. If you have, you may also be aware that Watch Dogs was scheduled originally for last Christmas but was delayed up until its current release on May 27th this year. That may be a good thing, since it might mean that Ubisoft is going the extra mile to polish off bugs and nuances in the game before its finished. Then again, it could also be due to the fact that they found something that broke the game and they needed a deadline push to get it sorted out. That would imply the original beta was a horrid abomination and we will get to see the stitches popping out right before summer. Or worse yet, someone with a lot of weight to throw around at Ubisoft wanted to make some “last minute changes” and Watch Dogs was pushed back to accommodate his or her wishes. This is the worst case scenario, since it implies that instead of fixing the game, they needed more time to ruin it. To extend the previous analogy, it would be like taking another six months to let the lead doctor jam in some weird and unworkable contraption after the game’s open heart surgery. Take it from a game dev; stupid ideas that don’t work kill a game faster then anything else. That’s why companies like EA have such a good reputation (word to the wise; they don’t).

Cynicism aside, Watch Dogs does look like an interesting game, despite flaws already popping up. Fun fact; unlike most game journalists who salivate over the upcoming game trailers and fall for their publisher’s PR campaigns like a Halo game on a stick, I tend to try and find flaws first and then save any potential butt kissing that’s left for when the game is already out. That way if a game really is good, it’s a pleasant surprise, and if it’s bad, no one’s disappointed. As much as I want a press past for next years E3, I would be dishonest to say they didn’t cater to this kind of pandering that most game reviewers fall into, and only greats like “Yahtzee” from the Escapist seem to have the guts to go against it. I like to think I provide a more balanced view by putting my Cynicism toward the hype and my praise toward the game. After all, which matters more? The Watch Dogs promo pieces, or the quality of the game itself? I beg to differ.

Instead of bombarding you with excitement, fanboy drool, and biased favoritism, I will instead give you a look at two other trailers straight from the Watch Dogs youtube channel that depict the game itself in action, followed quickly by my analysis.

If you can describe to me where you’ve seen this kind of talk before, kudos to your game rep. If not, be warned that this is the same kind of push trailer released for:

  • Red Dead Redemption
  • LA Noir
  • Assassin’s Creed 3
  • Fallout 3
  • Skyrim
  • and Grand Theft Auto from 3 all the way up to 5 and beyond

The only game on the list actually made by Ubisoft is, at least from that list, the worst. People constantly criticize the poor character quality of its star lead, the gameplay was more then a little stilted, and the “Open World” concept didn’t venture very far AT ALL. These are the guys making Watch Dogs. Yikes. These trailers are harder to find then I first thought, and in the interest of being topical, I will post them in a later Update of this post.

Moving on; While the “Open World” angle has easily become the new cliche’, One thing I will give Ubisoft credit for is approaching the concept differently-at least in a purely mechanical game design capacity. Instead of merely stealing cars and blowing the police away in between network hacks, you actually play in a dynamic environment that has as much people traffic as it does for vehicles. What’s more is that everyone seems to have a computer and/or a smart phone, and you can hack their Wi-Fi space to actively profile them, track them, steal from them, or rescue them. This is really interesting, since it makes the world a lot more detailed, and has the capacity to tell not just one story, but tens of thousands. It tends to oversimplify the actual act of hacking by basically giving you access to CTOS, which is basically the chief surveillance program of “the man”. In short, you become a surrogate big brother every time you tap their systems.

The Way you do tap into their systems is obviously inaccurate, and the dev team missed an opportunity to put a great character from real life into their story, but to get into that is an article in and of itself. To see what I mean directly, here is an extend gameplay trailer that might illustrate a few of my points.

To be clear, the idea of government surveillance and loss of privacy to digital distribution is an awesome high concept. It is the zeitgeist of our times, the thing that is most controversial today in the decades following 9/11. Watch Dogs seems to be grasping feverishly at this concept, making you both a vigilante taking on the system, and a hacker who can be a surrogate big brother unto himself. The stories that come from simply peering into other peoples lives is staggering, and no doubt players will spend just as much time exploring the inside of peoples homes as they will the streets of near-future Chicago.

Thing that worries me thought is that not only would you need a high number of writers to make the narrative of all the NPCs work, but a high number of good writers. Writers who know their craft almost as much as the medium they are writing for. Unless you work for a great company like 2K games or Naughty Dog, both of which have games that are legends in Video Game Narration, you are likely to see a very limited number of writing talent in your studio, and most of them will be hired from outside mediums. While Ubisoft has a fairly good history of making interesting backstories and decent enough writing, as far as character writing goes, I will remind you again that they invented Connor. People hate Conner, mostly because he’s as bland and as boring as you can get. If you watched the trailer I started this article with, you’ll see what amounts to a less moral, much more trigger happy Batman. Batman is a good character, but they seem to be cutting out most of his redeeming qualities and to be frank, his character archetype has been done TO DEATH! If you think I’m wrong, name ten video games that have a vigilante as a main character. Now name ten movie characters that are also vigilantes, and also dark and brooding. Case closed. The fact that they already stuck with such an overused and increasingly unredeemable character makes it hard to care about him. Plus, if they botched the center piece of their story that badly, I shutter to think what would happen when they need to write voice acting or text messages for the 10,000+ minor characters whose privacy we will be invading. If I see more then 100 lols and ttyls with little to no context in between, I wouldn’t be surprised.

To end this first look with a silver lining, I will merely list a number of things it did right. Very right. I look forward to reviewing this game intensely, and will either skewer it for what it’s worth, or be pleasantly surprised. I hope you are too.

List of Good things

  • Excellent Cinematography. That scene with the shopkeep sounding the alarm over you had the perfect camera angle. Lets hope they keep up the good work
  • Awesome Graphics-Not surprising, since it has such a high budget and powerful platforms.
  • Cool reactionary  karma system- having the consequences affect your actions as directly as they did was something that could only be carefully planned.
  • Again, awesome high concept-If indie devs don’t follow the same rabbit hole these guys did, I will be dissappointed.
  • Intuitive hacking system-this is almost a flaw, since it might not challenge some gamers enough, but its perfect for the casual market
  • Good exploration of choice-I can be a gung ho shooter or an unseen hacker. Awesome
  • Interesting upgrade possibilities-I think this will appeal to me more then anyone, since I’m a sucker for RPG stats. Might seem too “skinner box” for some.
  • And Finally, the idea of “tapping” into someone elses game online to hack them is a stroke of genius. That system alone is worth the 70 bucks you will have to drop for this game. I guess online multiplayer is the new playground for AAA games

That’t it for now. I will be updating this post yet again when the Active Critique, review, and adjoining articles are done. Look for the links below during the next two months.

Thieg Logo

Almost seems redundant writing a review I made a two hour video on. But not everyone has a super fast computer to run youtube videos on, and I feel that the game’s lackluster performance warrents further observation. Especially since it’s somewhat of a trend lately.

If you didn’t see the Active Critique I had yesterday, I’ll break it down for you quick and dirty; It was a game that took Stealth games into the FPS zone in the 90s, had three games before this one, and is about a Thief in a weird alternate renaissance that clashes with both medieval Europe and steampunk. You are of course a thief; more specifically an ex-rebel turned klepto who steals from the rich for his fence and with his portage’. Spoiler Alert; she doesn’t stick with you for long, and I’m pretty sure if I played all the way through, I’d have to rescue her. You and her basically spring in on a magic ritual that blasts her into oblivion and you into a coma in which you wake with “flow” vision. Basically gives you superpowers not unlike the one’s in Dishonored. You then go right back into doing jobs while unraveling the mystery behind what happened to you and your partner. If I ever play this game again, I’ll have another broadcast for it. Update on that another day.

I won’t waste your time and convince you not to waste your money with my review. As always, we start with the good.

Faithfully Adapted

 

Thief-Game-2014

I won’t lie to you folks; I had a hard time coming up with positive things to say. If you saw my video (seriously, see the video!) you probably saw this coming. By reading this, you might also see a bad review coming. Before you put Thief back on the shelf, I suggest you keep reading and hear me out on this. There is a silver lining that I was pretty oblivious to that took a small bit of research to confirm After looking up the history of the game and only watching ten minutes of someone’s documentary, two big things occurred to me.

  1. Thief, while revolutionary at the time, was not the first stealth game. Metal Gear was. Thief was published in the 90s while Metal Gear was an old MSX2 game from 1987. MSX2 was a failed console that competed with NES. If you knew that, wear your indie hat with pride. If not, rest assured, cuz I didn’t know that either until I Googled it.
  2. That many of the features I labeled “unoriginal” and “hackneyed” started with Thief to begin with. Loss of visibility in the darkness? Thief started it. Pick pocketing? Thief Started it. Shooting a light source to create darkness? Picking lock mini game? All Thief’s original idea. Splinter Cell didn’t start with these things; Ubisoft just adapted them to their own game. For it’s name, the Thief series is a standup original game that is only affect by age and not much else.

So yeah; if you are a fan of the Thief series as a whole and have followed it since it’s inception or soon after, there is something for you hear. Playing the game and seeing how Thief: the Dark Project plays, it’s obvious that they took almost all the mechanics from that game which works and gave the rest of the game a much needed upgrade. Fanboys, rejoice!

Now that I gave you something to chew on that didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, let’s address the issues that will no doubt affect those of you who, like me, didn’t play Thief since the beginning. Here is the Bad.

Boorishly Cliche’

John Carter

 

I am feverishly entrenched to the idea that video games are not only comparable to but must exceed the standard of blockbuster movies in terms of narrative and presentation. When they don’t, they prove to all the idiot pundits who ostracize our medium that not only are they right, but they are better for being right. That is why game devs need to stress the quality of their games more then anything, and stop using stuff that was only revolutionary in the 90s.

Okay, stepping off of my soapbox for a minute, I can safely say that Thief is a victim of its age. To go back to the movie analogy, I would compare the game Thief to the recent live action Disney movie John Carter. For those of you unfamiliar, it was originally a pulp novel about an astronaut who went to mars and saved the planet due to being immortal, plus stronger and faster due to low gravity. Superman 0.1, basically. It was because of this that the long awaited movie adaptation didn’t do so well at the box office. Even though John Carter was the original Superman, Superman and others like him have been repeated through the Hollywood business so many times that the original no longer outshines the competition. They say imitation is the best sort of flattery, but it sure doesn’t make you stand out.  Thief encounters the exact same problem; the traditions it started have been adapted throughout the medium. Splinter Cell took it’s Darkness mechanic, Dishonored had a dark Steampunk vibe, FallOut 3 had the lock-picking mini-game, and knocking people out from behind is almost a universal standard not just for stealth games, but games period. Plus, the only things that come into the Thief game that it didn’t invent decades ago was things like Mirror’s Edge parkour system and Dishonored and Batman: Arkham series’ detector vision. So even when they try to catch up with the modern world, the lack of originality shows. I like the classics as much as any nintendo generation nerd, but game mechanics do not age like fine whine. They grow stagnant like sour milk, and Thief is a walking testament.

Now let’s wrap things up here.

Lame Franchise Reboot

Thief-Game-Indoor

You might be a little surprise to see a negative word placed in the Summary. But the truth is, where this game failed to tow in the mechanics and systems and gameplay that made Thief a legend to begin with, it makes all the same mistakes all games make when they don’t take risks. Uninspired cutscenes, lame voice acting, juvenile plot, laughably one-sided perspective, wooden character models, and to boot even a poorly choreographed music score. Square Enix wasn’t trying to resurrect the series, they were using the brand name to make another quick buck. Its the kind of thing that makes schlock like Transformers 3 and the new RoboCop movie in the movie business, but it happens all too often in the game business with little to no one batting an eye. Even guys like me didn’t look twice until games like Uncharted 2 showed us what the industry now was capable of in terms of narrative.

Thief had potential to pick up the slack its outdated mechanics left us with by giving us a fresh look. It’s about as fresh as a rotted corpse with the gloom. While I firmly believe you can teach an old dog new tricks, it seems like our corporate masters in game land didn’t even bother to try. Unless you are a DIE HARD fan of Thief, and want to play a game that hasn’t collected dust in your basement for that fix of Thief’s original greatness, this might be worth at least renting. To anyone who wants to see what video games are capable of being, I recommend Bioshock:Infinite instead. Way better everything, plus its cheaper since it came out a while ago.

To recap:

thief-4-logo

Thief: $25(PC)

 

Faithfully Adapted

 

Boorishly Cliche

 

Lame Franchise Reboot

 

Since I am thoroughly pissed at the video game industry, it is time for me to review something original. This game should fit the bill just nicely. Next review is for a game called

Blind Swordsman

it doesn’t have the best graphics, and it never needed them. It is something you have never seen before! Pun intended 🙂

This is something new I am going to try. You might have heard of Twitch.tv. You may have also heard about Xbox One’s new ability to feed directly to it.

I am going to have what I like to call an “Active Critique” which is basically a Lets Play where I review the game I am playing

at around 9:00 pm tonight, I will have a live Broadcast of me playing and critiquing TitanFall. You might have caught my test of this eariler. If you haven’t, Stay tuned to the screen below. IF you are arriving to this post too late, you need to check out my recording on youtube. 

UPDATE: Sorry guys; looks like twitch.tv deletes the video recordings if you wait too long. Guess I waited too long. I’ll have another broadcast for it soon.

Watch live video from Ideawizard on www.twitch.tv

Feel free to chat me up while I am playing.

Beyond-Two-Souls-Promo-ArtIn and effort to both cover as many games as possible and save my hard earned dollars, I embarked to scour through my entire collection of Video Games from today and times before over the course of an entire month in what I like to call a Review Marathon. So far, my pace hasn’t seemed to earn that title justly. While I did write two reviews over the course of one day this week, the days since my last review stacked higher then I like to admit. Maybe because I heard from various sources that this game wasn’t exactly stellar. Maybe it was because I am not used to cranking out writings at such a hectic pace. Or maybe I was just feeling lazy these last couple days, and now I finally want something to show for it. Either way, the marathon continues, as does my reviews. Round 2; FIGHT!!!

_FIGHT!

 Video games have been trying to cross over into the movie business since the inception of the Sega CD back in the 90s. The fact of the matter was that it was less then successful, as the fact that movies had tricks, tropes, and entertainment strategies that just didn’t work once you applied them to games. One of the poor unfortunate souls to try an make the “interactive movie” dream come true was a man named David Cage, who now is founder and president of a studio known as Quantic Dream. The studio only produced three titles including this one, and they all had mixed reviews overall. Some like the idea of a story based game while others think all of David Cage’s work can be compared to fecal matter. I try not to read review of games before I can review them (for obvious reasons involving objectivity) and I couldn’t help but notice the headlines of other reviews. They weren’t positive. I tried to give this game the benefit of a doubt, but I can at least see where my fellow review monkeys are coming from. I was hoping Beyond Two Souls would surprise me with something, and so far it hasn’t.

But before we get to my take on it, let me once again remind any new readers out there how I review games. Mainly with the Seven Word Synopsis. It’s basically my answer to the usual 1 through 10 scale of most review sites. Its only a seven word review of the game compressed to dileniate

The Good

The Bad

And The Summary

With the exact same number of words that you see above. Let’s begin, shall we?

Unique

Pretty Unique

As in the game is both pretty to look at and its a breed of its own. One thing Cage manages to get right with his games is to craft a story that’s pretty original. His first game called Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy here in the US) was about a guy who is possessed by a shaman to take the fall for a murder. The second game called “Heavy Rain” was about the investigation of an abductor that leaves origami as his calling card. This one is basically about a girl named Jodie whose soul is tethered to a supernatural being that acts like your typical ghost.You know… is invisible to people, passes through walls, possesses people and controls their actions. Basically the same things that can be done by either a psychic character in a video game(Psy Ops, anyone?) or Casper the Ghost. Neither are the best reference for making a movie. Only true difference between the thing she calls “Aiden” is that it’s connected to a  little girl who looks like Ellen Page and can see through its eyes.

Fortunately, they seem to be aware of how corny this is, and work hard to define this thing as anything but. Fairly early in the game, she is placed into a meeting with a doctor who will serve as a father figure to her throughout the game. He asks her about  Aiden, and through his inquiries we learn about how her powers work. He asks if its a ghost, to which she replies no. It is just a creature from beyond (as the title suggests), and apparently not the only one Jodie encountered. This is what we in the writing business call “foreshadowing”, and in this scene in particular, Cage does his job and does his job well. Only thing is, I only used the words “fairly early” as the game takes a very long time to get going. More on that when we get to the bad stuff.

Another thing that makes David Cage’s work stand out, despite their lackluster results, is the sheer graphical quality inserted into each game. When it was first being “previewed” by review sites whose budget and spare time dwarf my own, it was nick named as project Kara, many reviewers were amazed at how “awesome” the graphics looked. I’m not that surprised myself, given the technology they had available at the time, but I must admit they couldn’t have tried hard to make things look more realistic. The models rival reality, the textures are smooth and detailed, and the color is spot on, even in dark shading. The lighting needs a bit more work, especially when the main character is working through dark places without a flashlight; something that happens a little too frequently. The first among many shortcomings this game and others like it have to offer.

Slow, Sloppy

QTE2

Beside being seeped in darkness at some points, Beyond Two Souls tends to fall into a trap both movies and video games fall into when they focus too much on “story”. I put that in quotations only because there is a big difference between focusing on “story” and actually delivering an enticing narrative. The high concept by itself is pretty solid; little girl is born with unusual imaginary friend that is both menacing but also helpful. She seeks help in controlling it and winds up becoming a secret agent. Now she must run from that agency before they kill her. Okay. Good enough plot in and of itself. Few holes pop up though; why are they trying to kill her? Did she run away? Why did she run away? Such things are missing from the game story thus far, and are kinda important to the story. While there is nothing wrong with keeping things mysterious, this once again falls into M. Night Shyamalan and JJ Abrams “Mystery Box” territory in the sense that mystery serves no purpose but to excite an audience before they enter the theatre. They usually wind up disappointed. While I cannot say that I was dissapointed, I did play the game for three hours and still can’t answer the questions above. The origin of “Aiden” is also a mystery, but I almost expect that to be the case only because the supernatural is a mysterious thing in and of itself. Why you became a secret agent and then desert is something that people don’t normally do without a good reason, and thus need some explaining. That and the fact that the intro to the game has NO interactivity and the game as a whole features cutscenes outnumber those of Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid creator; infamous for having way to many cutscenes). I could easily forgive this if the game had a sense of coherency in its plot. But the only things consistent are the heroine’s misery and the writing’s blandness. Nothing much to say on that.

William Defoe

I call it Sloppy for much the same reasons listed above, plus the issues I see with the modeling and with the cutscene execution. Cage makes it clear that he wants to make an interactive movie, and Beyond Two Souls has the Dual Star-power of Ellen Page as Jodie and William Defoe as the doctor who studies and befriends her. In case you don’t know who those people are by name, Ellen Page was the female lead in the movie Inception and William Defoe was the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie. Chances are good that you have at least seen them and their stellar work, and the talent does shine through the voice acting. Simply hearing it sounds like a professional movie star being given a lackluster script, and the models themselves bear a striking resemblance to say the least. But the thing that doesn’t come through the game to the eyes of the viewer tends to be that thing most actors are known for. You know… what some people would call acting?! The animation of the models do nothing for the character’s expression, to the point where I almost mistaken Ellen Page for that crappy actress who played the female role in Twilight. Yeah. Her. Grand Theft Auto used little more then super-detailed cartoon characters and still made movements less stiff and more realistic. If these guys used the same motion capture technology that was used in LA Noire for recording faces, this game would have very easily gotten a better review. I guess David doesn’t talk to those guys.

Beyond Two Souls fails to deliver on the promise of interactive storytelling, proving once again that it takes way more then just mashing the rules of movie making was a slap dash game. Here’s what I mean.

Interactive B Movie

QTE

There was once a game known as “Dragon’s Lair” that frequented arcades at one point but then quickly fell into obscurity. To sum it up, it was a Disney cartoon where you had to press the right button to keep the main character from getting killed. On the whole, it was a pretty neat concept and probably seemed revolutionary to the team that was working on it. But in the end, it was merely a well drawn, poorly written cartoon that restarted itself every time you didn’t press the exact button. If real Disney cartoons did this, they wouldn’t survive to make the Little Mermaid, let alone fund Toy Story.

It did give rise to the often called “Quick Time Event” which basically does that same exact thing but with 3D model cutscenes. Beyond Two Souls is flooded with these, almost to the point where you wonder why. You often have to do pointless actions like getting up or sitting down or make choices in the game that are completely useless in determining anything that happens; and unlike The Walking Dead, Beyond Two Souls kinda makes it obvious. The game doesn’t punish you half as seriously as “Dragon’s Lair” did-thank the lord-but when it seems like you succeed even when you fail, the button pressing seems even more pointless. I’m sure that if you fail enough times, something bad happens, but we never seem to get a chance to fail too badly. I was driving on a motorcycle while being chased by a police helicopter (like we never saw that before) and not only were the turning controls unwieldily, but the game seemed to compensate by making it impossible to crash. C’mon! That’s like finding out the gutters are way to wide at your bowling alley and then fixing it by putting in permanent bumpers. If a interactive element doesn’t work, and you don’t have time to fix it, remove it! Game Design 101.

Aiden looking at Jodie

And speaking of design decisions, let me flex my own game design muscles that I have been working out since Global Game Jam and give you my two cents on what Cage should have done to prevent this thing from bombing; take out the parts where you play as Jodie. I’m serious. Between doing things as thrilling as sitting down and preventing a boy from touching her butt, it seems like my actions are completely unnecessary. The thing that carried the game barely halfway was the fact that it had high production values and you could control an angry ghost that can take revenge on evil teenagers. Stick with that. You could have easily dissected the game between me watch a movie played by the character models and me watching the same movie play out in 3D while I wandered around bound to the main character. Press Y; see Ellen Page act. Press Y again, go back to possessing people and blowing stuff up. That would have been a good experience, especially if you put the same effort you did in those “Quick Time Events” to improve the script and take better advantage of your star power. I seen both their work; Ellen Page and William Defoe are both stars actors that deserve to be stars. But you got Ellen Page saying nothing half the time between being awkward and being a badass, and you got William Defoe in the background more often then not. Lets have the stars shine in this picture, shall we?

Sad Jodie

Although to be perfectly honest, even Aiden’s controls were wonky, as I often had trouble finding something to click on and even looking at a card in someone’s hand. I’m sure if you spent less time and manpower on Jodie’s button prompts, you could have used the same programmers to develop a better control scheme for Aiden, and maybe add some new features. Or work with the animators for better acting.

That wraps up my review. I am sorry this review is so late; I really need to get into the flow of things here. Let’s finish off with a brief update on the Synopsis, and a quick link to where games are sold if you weren’t scared away from my review.

Beyond Two Souls

Price: $55

Pretty Unique

Slow, Sloppy

Interactive B Movie

Tommorow I will be reviewing

 

Yes... I have a Xbox One.

Yes… I have a Xbox One.

Got it for Christmas and posted it on Facebook. Would have opened and reviewed it a lot sooner if I hadn’t been so busy, and since I’m doing a Review Marathon now in the hopes of catching up with the rest of my fellow gamer folk, this is as good a place to start as any. In the interest of your time as well as mine, I will make this brief, and do my best not to state anything that hasn’t been repeated a million times. If you see something  you already knew anyway, my bad.

As always we will begin with our synopsis. For those of you who don’t know, the seven word synopsis is just a seven word review that incapsulates

The Good

The Bad

And The Summary

In the same order and number of words that you see here.

Let’s Start with the good.

Cutting Edge

To be fair, clear, and completely honest to fans of every preference, I will be the first to admit that the Xbox One is an awesome piece of technology. Even if the PS4 is technically cheaper and had a better review at last year’s E3 showing, the high price tags on both consoles are like that for a very good reason. With 500 GB of hard drive space, wireless internet with built in DVR capabilities, and the awesome Kinect toy included with the package, your paying about a dollar for every gig and a whole lot more. The Graphics are amazing, even if they aren’t as much of a leap as they used to be. Truth is, we already come so far as it is with graphical fidelity that we are treading the uncanny valley. Look it up; it’s a thing.

from Dead Rising 3: Not my photo, but matches my experience 🙂

 

The voice recognition on the Kinect isn’t anything new, but since it was always just a motion detector add on up until now this is the first time I actually used it. Made me feel like a Captain of the starship Enterprise just turning it on. Plus, it can sign my account in by recognizing my face and even detect my pulse by measuring my body heat like a thermal image camera. Orwell would be just as creeped out as I was. Fact remains that despite the major flaws that it’s presentation and hardware had (read below), Xbox One is something worth buying now, if not later. I would normally opt for later, since consoles like this always go for cheaper and have more games over time. But my darling mother wanted to get me something good for Christmas, and for the most part, she succeeded.

That was the good, now for the bad…

Unfinished, Unpredictable

It’s almost a running gag how far off the mark Microsoft has fallen in launching this thing. Log onto memebase.com and browse for a few minutes and you will see at least one snarky comment on either Xbox One’s hardware setbacks or Microsoft’s bad campaign on E3. I myself saw the photo meme you see here and shared it on Facebook just before Christmas. I wished I hadn’t up to the point where I started operating this thing. To sum up , I’m going to list some bullet points outlining my experience operating the Xbox One for the first time.

  • Turn on the console for the first time once internet was up. Feeling excited; like Christmas is back in February.
  • Put in a half hour while it asked me questions about my internet connection. Still wondering what the hack “TKIP” means.
  • wait an hour for it to load.
  • Connection fails; hit retry.
  • Load up again and is successful, so all is well.
  • Notice the striking similarities between the Xbox One UI and the Windows 8 UI everyone hates so much.
  • Bad UI or not, operating the console is pretty easy, and once I get the Kinect working, playing on it is kinda fun.
  • Try Xbox Fitness, Kinect stops working. I curse the screen
  • Try to go to settings, Xbox freezes. Try turning it on and then off. I curse the screen again.
  • Since Xbox One is “Always on” I turn it back on to another frozen screen and have to unplug it. Curse the screen yet again.
  • try to find my old Xbox 360 games, and find none. Remember that most of my games were on my old hard drive instead of a cloud. Curse the screen again.
  • Look up games at the store and realize that there are no browsing options. Only a search bar and recommendations.
  • Quickly realize why there’s no browsing options; I can count the number of games here with my fingers and toes.
  • Settle on a Dead Rising 3 demo, wait an hour for it to load.
  • Play the game and realize there is a time limit to the demo, and only two plays allowed. Curse the screen one last time.

As you can see here, there is a reason Sony fans are so smug about the whole thing. Overall, the system has some major flaws in both it’s hardware and its software, which hinders the experience despite being so advanced. I have yet to try the DVR and Twitch.tv features and will probably update this post here when I do. But the sad truth is, there was an easy answer to all of these flaws and any other flaws I can and probably will encounter with it.

They could have release the console next Christmas just as easily.

It would have given them more time to work out the bugs in the hardware, software, and game library, not to mention add some features like a cloud system for my Xbox 360 library. Yeah, some fanboys would complain, and probably already have at not releasing it with the Wii U. But we all paid the price for such impatience, and I personally would rather have for a good console with great features and games in one year then to have what I have now. Plus it would have saved the Microsoft execs from face, instead of irreparably ruining their first impression with it. Good thing about Christmas is that it comes once a year, unlike a good reputation.

That was the bad, now lets wrap things up.

Pivotal Entertainment Center

Numerous flaws aside, I am grateful for my Christmas present. Not only because I run a video game review site and it cost $500, but also due to the fact that it is more then just a console. It’s a DVR, HD recorder, fitness trainer, multi-media device, and even a cable adaptor. I been messing with this thing all week, and I still don’t know the extent of its power. Most due to the fact that it glitches constantly, but the fact that there is more still excites me. All the software flaws are easy for them to update, and I fixed hardware before on their previous console (with this video), so I’m not too concerned with the results as of yet. I still want to see what Xbox TV is like once i connect it to my FIOS box with an HDMI cable, and being able to upload my videos directly from the console will make my job a bit easier.

 

Good games like Evil Within and Watch Dogs are on the horizon, and the fact that they are taking their sweet time unlike the Microsoft boys almost assures me that their products are worth while (Don’t hold me to that; wait till I review them). Plus, with the Kinect fully functioning and the promise not only of new games but innovative software as well, the Xbox One might last a longer time then any console before it, especially since game development is moving away from simply boosting graphical fidelity. If Microsoft wises up and makes their own cloud server deal like PS4’s GenKai, it might be the last Xbox console they ever make. Unless the idiots up top continue to make stupid decisions like their “Trade in your PS3” deal. We are all holding our breath.

 

Anyway that’s it for the Xbox One review. Once I get my own PS4, you can expect a review of that too. But for now, the game review marathon continues and I leave you with these seven words that describe a flawed yet still workable system. Plus I’m adding a price system this time that connects direct to Amazon.com. See it in yellow below.

Xbox One

Price: $400-500

Cutting Edge

Unfinished, Unpredictable

Pivotal Entertainment Center

 

Thus begins the Marathon anew. Next on my list will be a Beta test on…