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    Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jun 10th, 2021 at 07:04:56)

    This shattered my expectations. My little Star Wars obsessed brother had been talking it up and I played half an hour at his house recently and got more interested. My first impressions were, "Wow, this feels like Dark Souls with a light saber." The basic combat controls and the flow of combat are similar. As I played more, I thought, "Wow, this feels like Tomb Raider too," because you spend a lot of time with solid environmental puzzles (really, some of these were head-scratchers! great puzzle difficulty) and exploring tombs. Then, as the game really gets rolling, I realized this was an excellent, unique Star Wars game with smart influences.

    I'm not big into Star Wars. I like it, but stopped paying attention when Disney started rolling movies out every year. My knowledge of it was enough to understand basically where the story fit into the timeline though. It's interesting how Star Wars can take for granted that most people will be at least somewhat familiar with its world, story, and characters, and I try to imagine what the game would be like for someone with zero background in the franchise. It would still be fun, but would probably lack depth (and I know I missed depth, compared to my brother for example, who was going on and on about events and things as I blankly nodded along).

    The story this game tells is compelling. You play as Cal, a force user who escaped the Jedi purge (when the Empire activated all the clones to kill their Jedi masters). Cal has been in hiding but uses the Force to save a friend, which is detected by the Empire, and the Inquisitors come to hunt you for the rest of the game as you go on the run with some trusty crew on the trail of an old Jedi master who was looking to restore the order.

    You'll travel from planet to planet on this quest and for me the game got better as it went along. At first, it felt slow. I was getting used to the controls (admittedly, I've only completed one Soulsborne game and wasn't great at it) and the characters mostly seemed like cardboard cutouts. It took time for their personalities and stories to emerge and for me to care about them, and in the end I enjoyed their growth.

    Another reason it felt slow at first is because on the first planet, I discovered a special enemy, some three-eyed frog boss. There is maybe one of these bosses per planet. This thing annihilated me. Remember, I had just started and was learning the controls and basic combat mechanics. Well, like in Dark Souls, when you die, you lose your experience. Sort of. Your experience stays with the enemy that killed you and you can get it back by landing an attack on that enemy. If you die before you attack the enemy, your experience is gone for good. But, this is a generous system! Only one time did I die before recovering my experience. To the frog boss, I died about 30 times. So within my first few hours of playing, half of my time was spent on this frog boss. This made me think, "My god, this game is going to be hard, and I'm only playing on normal." But 30 deaths later, I had gotten pretty damn good at dodging, targeting, slowing time, attacking, reading the frog boss, and I killed it. It felt awesome. I never died that much again, though there were plenty of difficult encounters that required several attempts (the first time I fought some of the Purge Trooper varieties and the Second Sister in particular).

    The first planet also introduces you to the level design, which I think can be described as "sprawling and complex." There are a lot of obstacles that you can systematically pass throughout the game as you gain new abilities, and on that first planet, I spent a lot of time trying to get to places that I didn't have the abilities to get to yet. I wish I had known that there was no way to get that chest! (I never did figure out how to get that chest.) Paths connect in surprising ways and there are a lot of shortcuts to open.

    Some of the planets you visit look incredible, and some have like self-contained stories. On Kashyyyk, you help resistance fighters in your search for a special wookie, and fight through a giant forest, with a badass set piece and boss fights at the end (set pieces and boss fights are exhilarating throughout). On Dathomir, my favorite, you learn about the history of the Night Sisters and Night Brothers who live(d) there, what's become of them, and meet some really strong characters.

    By the time you get to explore Dathomir for real (you can go earlier in the game I think, but I skipped it early and just went later when you have to), you'll have unlocked all your Force abilities and most other abilities. The Force abilities make the game stand out among its influences. They are really fun to use, and you can get a bit creative with them. Storm Troopers serve as wonderful fodder to abuse, and when I realized that I could Force Push them off cliffs, I never stopped smiling when I did it. The best was when I pushed four of them off at once. Running around deflecting blaster bolts, pulling enemies toward you and impaling them, switching your light saber from a single blade to a double blade to take on groups, and doing all the other badass things that Jedi do never, ever got old. And, by the end of the game, you probably will have gotten most everything on the skill tree.

    I did a good amount of exploring and took my time admiring the planets and killing all of their inhabitants. Exploration in this game rewards you nicely with experience, which is always a motivating factor for me. It also rewards you with information and lore (neat), secrets (rare but useful, increase life and Force) and chests (so, so many chests). I think the chests are like a fan service because, besides giving some experience, they all just have cosmetic items in them so that you can customize your clothing, ship paint, lightsaber parts, and so on. I care nothing for any of that, so the fact that there are SO MANY chests (literally over 40 on some planets) was disappointing. I would have liked more of the story/lore collectibles than the customization ones. That's about the only minor gripe I have.

    Highly, highly recommend this one. I like it even better than Nier: Automata, which I thought was going to be the Best of Summer when I started. Nope, quickly displaced by Fallen Order!


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    Quick Yoga Training (DS)    by   jp       (Jun 10th, 2021 at 00:14:57)

    This is exactly what you'd imagine from the name. It's a serious (as in, no funny anime characters or other nonsense) "app" for learning and practicing yoga! I read/looked at some of the tutorials just to see what it was like..and, I pretty amazed that this was even created in the first place.

    As I think more "big picture" it really seems like the DS was the first game console for which there was a SIGNIFICANT amount of non-game titles created. I wondering how many were commercially succesful. This one was published by Ubisoft, which is pretty suprising!

    I know there are lots of "wellness" apps (we call them apps now, which is not what we'd call them back in 2008 or so when this game came out! not sure to call it a game either...), also a bunch for learning languages, there's even a "quit smoking" one. It's a huge category that I hadn't really appreciated.

    THe other thing I think is interesting is that this came out in 2008 which is pretty early in the consoles lifecycle. It released in late 2004 - so we're only 4 years in? The DS Lite came out in 2006 an the DSi in 2008. So, this doesn't really seem like a "end of lifecycle" release? (definitely not a close to launch either). Interesting...

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    Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)    by   jp       (Jun 10th, 2021 at 00:07:32)

    I'm having a real hard time deciding to make progress. I've played a LOT, and I've mostly been doing all the side-missions and quests, and locating places in the environment, and unlocking new abilities, and so on. I think I'm ready to "storm the castle" and rescue my uncle at this point and I'm worried about what will happen in the story. I've NOT been living up to the samurai code and I imagine this will be a source of tension? (of course, this is all assuming I'm even succesfull).

    The game is still beautiful to look at and I've realized that it's not afraid to - for visual effect - making the environments impossible to look at. Depending on where you are and where the sun is in the sky (and what direction you're headed) you might not be able to see anything at all! (all white-out because you're riding into the sun, for example). It's an interesting aesthetic choice and, weirdly, I think it adds a lot to the experience.

    What I'm still having a hard time with is how suddenly the weather and time of day seem to update/change. It feels like it goes from noon to dusk in seconds...or when I enter a town. It's strange - and note that I'm not thinking of those moments where you start a mission or something like that (some missions have pre-set times of day, for example they take place at night).


    Oh, I've also started playing "Legends" mode - which was confusing at first because of how it's integrated into the main game. I thought it referred to "special super hard missions" of which there are several because there are several characters in the main game (NPCs) that are "Legends" storytellers, or something like that. Legends mode is basically the grindy progression mode that includes "zombies" and some other stuff. It's fun - but I suspect I'll get tired pretty fast unless I start playing with friends (it's also the only way to play co-op, up to 4 people AFAIK). We'll see how it goes!

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    River City Super Sports Challenge (DS)    by   jp       (Jun 9th, 2021 at 23:47:16)

    It's been a while since I've bounced so hard off a game. Apparently this is the first River City game with 3D graphics (instead of 2D sprites) and I think it also has a new control scheme. I would have called this game a "brawler" and I was expecting to move around punching and kicking oppoents to get to the next location and, while there's lots of punching and kicking...well, it's a slightly different experience. I must have done 10 tutorial levels or so - quite boring to be honest, they could have rolled all of that into two or three...and then I was told to win the next event (level). It's 4 character free-for-all where you get points for punching a treasure chest, but you can also lose/gain points by hitting someone who just punched a treasure chest. The brawl takes place in a small environment and...I just could not do anything. I'd kick and punch but still end up with 3 pts compared to the winner with 17 or 18. I tried different things just to see if I was off-base with my strategy to no effect. I think I'm obviously doing something wrong in the "I don't get it" sense - but still, I have no real interest in spending more time practicing, figuring it out, and making progress because...well, I've realized it's not a game I want to play. I was expecting a "move along in the environment" type brawler - but it looks like it's much more focused on sporting events and stuff like that.

    So, back on the shelf it goes!

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    Nier Automata (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jun 9th, 2021 at 09:12:41)

    I really had no idea what this was about before playing, just that it was supposed to be a phenomenal action game. I assumed it would be in the vein of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry and I was somewhat right, mostly in terms of the combat. It's more open-world than I thought and the story is way better than I would have thought, so I was impressed and thoroughly enjoyed it. But, it both ended too soon and lasted too long! What a contradiction!

    Right now, I am watching the other 25 (!) endings on YouTube. There are at least 3 main ones for finishing the game (once, twice, and thrice), and most of the rest are jokes, often obtained through ignoring an urgent story mission. I just watched one where 2B (one of the main characters) decides to go fishing instead of helping the resistance camp, watched one where 2B eats a mackerel and dies, and am watching one now where 9S and 2B are annihilating the peaceful machine village, even as they plead not to die ("Please! Do not kill! We have done nothing bad!"), which is really sad!

    Anyway, as I played the game, I was doing all the side quests I could and had done ~42% of them. There were also a handful of unexplored areas of the map, and I had only done one round of the various arenas and wasn't even leveled up enough to do the next rounds. So, I thought I had a lot of game left. But it ended! I mean, it wrapped up and I liked the ending, but it there is obviously more stuff! After the credits roll, Square Enix tells you that there is more to the story (!) and that you should continue your save and play again.

    I did as suggested and, whereas you play from the perspective of 2B first, on the second playthrough you play as 9S, which was immediately awesome and revealed just how clever the writing is. For example, in the beginning of the game it's just 2B and then 9S comes and remotely helps with some of the first area. Well, you get to play all that from his perspective, which is differently gameplay. Then, after they are back in the bunker, 9S helps 2B boot up. This is when, as the player, you adjust the game options as 9S walks you through things. He casually says, "This is being recorded for posterity." When this happens as 9S in the second playthrough, he talks 2B (you) through options like he did before, but it plays back the video of you adjusting options from the first playthrough. That was so cool!

    After that, though, it seems like you mostly just play through the game again but controlling a different character. There is a third character I'm seeing in the endings, A2, and apparently you can play as her on the THIRD playthrough, and the gameplay and story is different there. But that's what I mean about it being too short (there's clearly more to do) but too long (I don't want to play the whole game again and THEN play it a THIRD time with another character). I guess I would have seen more side quests and some new stuff, but one playthrough was sufficient.

    Oh, I just watched another ending (ending U) where 2B self-destructs in the bunker and destroys everything and everyone there, ha. "Somewhere in the depth of space, the Commander still floats about with a stern look on her face." Some of these are funny. In ending W, you can die in the first battle ("YoRHa was destroyed and Earth became a paradise for the machines"). In X, A2 abandons 2B. In Y, there is a secret level 99 boss fight (I finished at like level 35). Z is a sad one.

    Okay, so, I've established that everything is basically great. Combat and controls are super slick. Looks great, sounds great. The chip system for upgrades is fun to use. None of the upgrading stuff is very strategic, so it's really just about pursuing the upgrades, but that's fine. Story is outstanding, main characters especially. Honorable mention to the cute machines, which have gained sentience and are struggling with what that means. You've read/played/watched hundreds of stories about machines and androids and what it means to be human, but this is one of the better ones.

    But I've got to find a flaw, right? What is the flaw? You don't have to look hard for it. The flaw is the unnecessary objectification of 2B. The artists took great pains to make her underwear visible. And not just like the waistband sticking out, but constant upskirt camera angles, her skirt that has a permanent billow such that you can always see inside it, the white underwear that is visible in full view. Why? What is the point? Why can't I see the male android's underwear? Why does 9S get shorts and reasonable attire, but not 2B? Why do other androids and characters you encounter in the world not have this billowy skirt issue, only the one that the player controls? This shit boggles my mind and drives me nuts.

    Final verdict: Despite seeing 2B's underwear for the whole game, it's awesome and very much worth playing.

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    Storm the Train (iPd)    by   mobmarkymark

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Thursday 13 December, 2012
    Storm the Train is a beautifully polished mobile game for platforms like the iOS and the Android. The game consists of a character controlled by the player who does exactly what the title of the game says. He “storms the train.” The character is dropped on a train from a helicopter, and is then bombarded from both left and right by enemies. The player must shoot these enemies in order to survive and advance levels. The main objective of the game is to complete the missions that are given to you. These include certain challenges such as “kill 50 zombies.” The mechanics of the game include moving left and right, jumping, and shooting. In order to move left, the player must click a left arrow towards the left of the screen. In order to move right, the player must click the right arrow on the left side of the screen. There is an upward facing arrow towards the right of the screen that the player can press to jump. Beside this up arrow is a star button that can be pressed to shoot in the direction that the player is facing. This game is a side scroller, and it is absolutely beautiful in terms of its polished art. The rules of the game are that the player must stay within the confines of the train. Other than that, the player is able to move freely throughout the train and kill zombies. When the player kills a certain number of zombies, a meter fills up and he earns a power up. An example of this power up is a hovering sentry gun that automatically shoots the zombies that run at you. The player can also collect coins throughout the level to improve his or her score. I find it astounding that such a beautiful and fluent game is available for free on the application store. If you haven’t tried out Storm the Train, you definitely need to download it as soon as possible!

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