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    Before Your Eyes (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Apr 14th, 2024 at 13:51:13)

    I've been looking forward to playing this, especially after playing One Hand Clapping, which had a singing mechanic. That game activates your mic and you use your voice, raising and lowering pitch, to interact with the game. Before Your Eyes was similar in that the game activates your webcam and uses your eye blinks as input. Before Your Eyes works WAY better than One Hand Clapping, and it's the better game all around. I figure that detecting blinks (yes/no) is easier than detecting notes along the range of human vocal pitch, so kudos to One Hand Clapping for trying.

    Blinking in Before Your Eyes doesn't do anything unless you do it over a prompt (mouse over the prompt, then blink to interact) or unless you do it when the metronome icon is visible, which progresses the story to the next scene. The rules are simple, and it became a game in and of itself for me to blink strategically. I imagined that at the end of A Clockwork Orange, Alex's eyes are forced open so that he could successfully complete this game. At times, I felt like holding my eyes open with my fingers. This is because your eyes will get tired/dry/itchy while playing and you will screw up and blink when you don't mean to, skipping dialogue or ending a scene early. That's frustrating enough. Make sure you do the blink calibration, but I think that no matter how well you do it, it will still occasionally register some non-blinks as blinks. This really didn't happen much for me; through calibration, I think I turned the sensitivity way down, and I wonder what effect wearing glasses had. But like I said, it works surprisingly well.

    So, the game itself is narrative-heavy. It's an obvious play on the idea that a life can pass in the "blink of an eye." You're picked up by a ferryman of souls who asks you to tell the story of your life. Back in time you go to remember it: your childhood, your parents, your career, etc., blinking your way through each scene. I won't spoil the story, but there is a twist that I absolutely did not see coming (though I should have paid more attention to the mysterious dark scenes) that changes the narrative and the tone of the game. This is one you can spend time reflecting on.

    Aesthetically, it's got a simple visual presentation, sort of painterly, with some really nice piano music. The voice acting is good, with the exception of the girl-next-door (who sounds the same at 10 as she does at 40). For some reason, they also used the same voice actor for your dad and her dad, which made the one scene with her dad calling her very confusing ("Why is my dad at her house?!"). But I liked the dad and mom's performances. I was wondering through the whole game if your character was mute and/or on the spectrum because he doesn't talk--only through a typewriter later in the game--and otherwise expresses himself through his prodigious musical and artistic talents. But I think he's just a silent main character, not actually mute.

    Anyway, the game won a BAFTA for a reason. It didn't blow my mind, but it's a neat experience that's worth having. It's short too, doesn't waste your time. I'm considering incorporating it into a class.



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    Stray (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Apr 13th, 2024 at 12:00:39)

    Patrick and I have been playing this together this semester, and finished it a couple weeks ago. We were talking after beating it about despite how simple and straightforward of a game this is, it manages to be something new. Playing as a cat (and being able to do cat things like curl up and sleep, scratch things, knock objects off tables, etc., so cuuuute) was novel, and the setting and story were interesting. But really, playing as a cat. I smiled a whole lot throughout the game. The lil companion robot was cute too.

    On the other hand, I was often tired and bored while playing, and literally fell asleep during several sessions. Patrick would be making dinner or something in the kitchen, and I'd snap awake, cat walking into a wall, and I'd pretend I had not fallen asleep, and that I was just watching the cat walk into the wall and thinking. Like how my dad always used to claim he was "resting his eyes" when he'd fall asleep on the couch.

    I would not call the game exciting. It was a lot of wandering around the city and talking to robot NPCs, fetching things for them. The city is a really good-looking dystopia, and the robots are quirky, but I wish they had more dialogue. You don't get a sense that many of them have personalities besides whatever one-note thing they do. I mean, the lack of dialogue makes sense, and it's not really "dialogue" since the cat can't talk. The fact that you are a cat adds a whole layer of silly to the game. Like, why has this lil robot befriended a cat? Why are all these robots putting all their faith in a cat to save them? Cats don't understand what we're saying to them, and cats do whatever they want! Playing as a cat in a game where you're doing fetch quests (fetching is dog stuff!) and doing things to help people is very un-cat-like.

    But, you know what? The ability to play as a cat and do cat things trumps how little sense it makes, and I would play as a cat in this dystopia again. Idea for next time: more cats. And what do you think? Were there cats at the end?! Optimistically, I think so.



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    Hadean Tactics (PC)    by   jp       (Apr 7th, 2024 at 13:32:36)

    This game is supposed to be a deck-building tactical game and it sort of isn't, but very lightly is - at least in my experience so far.

    So, like CD2: Trap Master this game REALLY wears it's Slay the Spire inspirations on its sleeve. Again, there's a path you that branches and you need to pick which nodes to visit - and there's fights, boss fights, resting spots, stores, artifact/rewards, and shops. Oh, there's also "story encounters" where you make a choice that often results in a benefit and a drawback. VERY Slay the Spire - though I noticed the way the events are distributed is different and that it's much more important to plan your way through it since the paths intersect a lot less and you can, for example in my last run, set yourself up with 4 rest/upgrade a card spots in a row!

    In addition to a deck of cards you have the character you chose and two "minions" (they're all monsters) that exist on a 2D grid that's quite typical of tactical games. The enemies will spawn, you have energy to cast your cards - generally you cast your cards, unpause and wait for the timer to pause the game when it hits the threshold (7 seconds) for your hand to flush, a new hand is drawn, and you get more mana to cast spells. What isn't really tactical about it is that all the fighting on the tactical grid (which includes everyone having abilities they cast once their mana is full) happens automatically. You can't (afaik) give orders to anyone. At best, if you have the right spells, you can move creatures around (your own or enemy), but they then move back to whatever it is they want to do (e.g. attack the nearest enemy).

    One of my runs used a character that had access to "trap" cards which are pretty neat since you lay them on the grid and then have to trigger them (with a different card) and ALL the trap laid will trigger. Some do damage, others heal your allies, and so on. So, the game isn't tactical at all in the turn-by-turn combat and movement decision-making sense. Yes, you choose whom to roll into a fight with, which spells to cast on whom, and when to cast things. But, since you don't directly control your combat units it all feels pretty indirect.

    Where the game goes pretty wild (and above/beyond what Slay the Spire does) is that once you've cleared a run - you gain access to making your own hero - choose skills/talents from a list AND choose which spells will be available (again from a list, which only has the ones you've unlocked). So, in this sense the game has a lot, lot more options/replayability and that sort of thing. But, I'm not sure it's that much more interesting?

    Oh, there is a meta-progression. When I beat my first run a giant death/reaper creature appeared and said "ok, now you can start to make progress towards winning - you have to collect wings". And I've collected a few since, you get them from killing the stage end bosses (which is nice in that you don't have to get all the way to the end). I need to get 7 - so I wonder if I'll just have to play over and over until I randomly get the right bosses or will the game feed me different ones until I get them all? I've also unlocked a new (third) character...but I kind of don't want to use it because I want to get all the wings with the character I've made some progress with.

    I've played about 4 hours and I've really enjoyed the "decay" and "trap" mechanics... we'll see how it goes!

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    Deathloop (PS4)    by   jp       (Apr 4th, 2024 at 11:14:36)

    Argh. The longer you go without playing, the worse this game's experience becomes. This is almost entirely due to me forgetting both how to play, but also all the localized information and knowledge you pick up - like who is where, when, and so on.

    I love the idea of a "clockwork" game where you deftly navigate your way through things that happen and certain times and places - there's a sense of beauty and elegance to the choreography you develop and create (sort of like when you watch those time loop movies and see a character weave through people and places because they know what's going to happen when and they've just learned it). BUT, that beauty also creates an entry barrier - at least a psychological one for me, because the game's on-ramp is past and now you're in the thick of it. But you've forgotten everything...

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    Devil May Cry 5 (PS4)    by   jp       (Apr 4th, 2024 at 11:09:05)

    So I took a break - and then came back to the game and had forgotten how to play. It took a bit to remember (I purposefully avoided looking stuff up because I wanted to see how easy it was for me to remember). So, some of the fights with V took longer than they should have - because I had forgotten that V has to "finish off" the enemies...lol.

    While I often focus (for my own personal interests) on game play and game design aspects of a game - I realized as I was playing this game that..wow, the visual design of the large enemies really is phenomenal. They're both beautiful, awesome, creepy, gross, and disgusting. It's quite the accomplishment and I really appreciated it. And, this is in the context of me playing a game that is ~7 years old and running on last gen hardware. Perhaps I haven't played enough PS5 games yet so I'm still too impressionable? Have things moved that far in terms of photorealism?

    I have decided to move on even though I realize, from the back of the box, that I'll miss out on the 3rd playable character. It's no fault or problem with DMC5...it's just that I've got too many games to play and I think I've understood enough about this game to move on to another.

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    1 : dkirschner's Blair Witch (PC)
    2 : dkirschner's Creaks (PC)
    3 : dkirschner's Before Your Eyes (PC)
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    Random

    Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PC)    by   dkirschner

    Some inane plot so far, but the setting is creepy. --------- Great setting for sure. Great gameplay. Plot is still weird.
    most recent entry:   Thursday 3 December, 2020
    Wild ending on this one with a couple twists. I've always enjoyed these games for the weird stories, huge monsters, and intense always-almost-out-of-ammo-and-health panicky gameplay. This is the best one since RE 4, and I'm super excited to play the remake of RE 2 at some point.

    I spent much of the beginning of the game rolling my eyes. It seemed ripped straight out of Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Outlast 2, and every other gory horror movie that makes rural white Americans scary. You play (mostly) as Ethan, who goes to the bayou in search of his wife, Mia, who has been missing for three years. Their "relationship" is stilted; when they reunite, they don't hug or laugh or cry or anything. Also, Mia appears to be wearing the same clothes from three years ago and is well-fed, despite being locked in a cage by crazies. Some shit happens, and Ethan again is unbelievable. A police officer comes checking on the house and instead of being like, "Sir, this family is trying to kill me. Missing persons are here. Go get backup," he decides on being vague. Of course the family kills the officer too, but maybe they wouldn't have if Ethan had made sense!

    Since this is Resident Evil, the "it's a crazy redneck murder family!" plot didn't last too long before going off the rails. I won't bother with spoiling story, but it gets weirder and worse and then better as it goes on.

    There are a couple notable things I very much liked:

    1. They make all the villains turn out to be sympathetic. It's hard to do that after seeing how vicious they are, but it makes sense and was surprising.

    2. Each of the family members has a unique "style." The dad regenerates over and over and keeps popping up at you when you least expect it; the mom likes bugs; the son likes traps. This makes you play a little differently in each of their areas (e.g., strutting around like an exterminator with a flamethrower in the mom's old house or moving slowly and constantly checking for remote mines and boobytrapped boxes in the son's party area).

    The family is a huge presence in the game, and I really liked the level design, which had exploration and boss fights quite intertwined. Usually there was a bigger fight at the end of each area, but the family members were omnipresent throughout the game.

    Other little things:

    1. I liked the simple crafting system, but inventory space is at a premium.

    2. There are four or so scenes that you play in the past. That was really cool because those (usually) took place in the next area that you visit in the present, which means that you have some idea of the layout of the level, of where some items are, and so on. Really clever!

    3. Speaking of inventory space, this is a game that has--I don't know how to call them--persistent storage. If you store things in a chest, they exist in every chest in the game. This is fine. I can ignore that it doesn't make any sense because it's convenient for gameplay. But there was one time that it stood out. You have to go into an escape room (Saw, yes) and are forced to leave all your things in the chest at the entrance. When you exit the escape room, all the things that--according to the story!--you left at the entrance are magically in the chest at the exit. Like, persistent storage makes sense if it's unexplained I guess. But when a character says, "leave your things in this chest," and then your things magically appear in a different chest, it actively doesn't make sense.

    So, weird story as expected, and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Definitely would recommend.

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