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    COP: The Recruit (DS)    by   jp       (Nov 30th, 2022 at 13:17:23)

    I've always been a bit surprised at how few "GTA clones" there are given the success of the series. Sure, there's Saint's Row, and Ubisoft would probably count their open world hacker game I'm drawing a blank on as I write this. (Oh, it's Watchdogs!). I think there are a few older ones - sort of circa GTA III era.

    So, imagine my surprise when I boot this game up - went in blind - and, lo and behold it's a GTA-clone (I don't use the term pejoratively here). You've been newly recruited by the cops because something's going on, you drive around to different locations to do missions, you can stop/hihack card (but, you're a cop here - so, it's commandeering?). There's guns and shooting and a minimap that looks very familiar. There's also collectables including taking snapshots in special locations and more.

    Like, wow. This really is the GTA template in DS form. Technically quite impressive - it has all the 3rd person 3D stuff going on (rather than the handheld GTA games that went top-down view if I recall).

    Sure, there's technical limitations - and it's a bit amusing to watch vehicles up-rez in LOD as you get closer to them. And I really couldn't work my way through the UI - I have hard time holding the DS and aiming and firing all at the same time (with stylus). Maybe it's the extra large and heavy DS XL that's to blame here?

    The game is set in NYC - and there are recognizable landmarks and all the good stuff you'd expect. Oh, there's also interior locations to run around in, chase missions, and more.

    What doesn't seem to be there is the humor and style of GTA. Here the characters (in cut-scenes, not the 3D models) are western-anime style. It makes me wonder who made the game, and I've now noticed it's also published by Ubisoft!

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    Tales From Off-Peak City Vol. 1 (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Nov 24th, 2022 at 22:33:49)

    This was a little less interesting than Off-Peak and The Norwood Suite. The art was less surreal and imaginative than The Norwood Suite. And whereas that game was self-contained, about exploring the life and death of Peter Norwood and his music, this was half a game, "Volume 1," which basically involves making and delivering pizzas. The former I appreciated for the art and culture in the world; this one, the best thing was seeing what customers said when you put weird shit on their pizzas. Granted, it was really funny and I definitely laughed a handful of times. But also as with The Norwood Suite, the conversations can get a bit long. Since they're so dang weird, it's easy to get bored, like, "Okay...where is this headed? Half of this game is people talking about pizza toppings..." It's building to something (an evil corporation destroying a neighborhood) and I'm sure I'll play Volume 2 when it comes out. Actually, I just searched for its release date and saw that Cosmo D has another recent game, Betrayal at Club Low, which is...maybe a sequel to Off-Peak City Vol. 1? These games are all so weird. I have no idea. But I'll buy it!

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    Marvel Snap (iPd)    by   jp       (Nov 13th, 2022 at 17:34:15)

    Huh. This one's an odd duck on more ways than one:

    1. You don't get new cards by collecting money for lootboxes. You get new cards by upgrading your existing ones that makes you progress along a track. The upgrades are purely cosmetic.

    2. Make a deck of 10 cards, but you'll (usually) only get to use 5 or 6. The game plays in 6 turns with an automatically increasing mana source - just like hearthstone, but it's all in the locations!

    3. There are 3 locations you play cards to - and the locations have effects and the effects are revealed on turn 1, 2, and 3. The effects can be pretty significant - setting game rules, adding cards, boosting, etc. The effects are super important in making the game work successfully because they add tactical considerations. In other words, how you use the cards you have for maximum effect has a lot to do with the location effects.

    I've enjoyed it enough so far that I paid for the season pass. Only 4 weeks though - which seems a bit short and it seems impossible to climb up the ladder to get the rewards. So, I'm feeling a bit miffed by that, but we'll see. I might be wrong on the ladder bit.

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    Spiritfarer (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 13th, 2022 at 17:29:52)

    This game has a curious dichotomy: it's relaxing to play and not stressful in setting a tone of urgency, while it is also a game where I feel I'm busy all the time always with something I need to tend to next or worry about. Either the plants are going dry, or someone on the boat wants to talk, or whatever is in the kitchen is ready, or something needs harvesting, or I forgot to set the destination and get the boat moving, and so on.

    I guess that makes sense with the official website's tagline "a cozy management game". I mean, I have to manage stuff - but I'm not sure there's a fail state you can paint yourself into? So, just manage until you're ready to continue. I wonder if nighttime is when I'm supposed to be all about getting catching up? The ship doesn't move, and the game lets you advance time pretty easily (you go to bed and wake up next morning). I wonder if you can work all night? I don't even know if time passes at night? Oooh! I guess I want to try this out...

    So far it's pretty linear in the progression - boatmates make requests that usually align with the next thing to do in terms of progression (build me this room, which you need to get some resources for, and the next room unlocks more resources, and then you make the boat bigger, etc.).

    I've currently got three guests on the boat and I've built some stuff and even upgraded the kitchen so I can make some new recipes.

    It's pretty relaxing actually, slow paced, no urgency, and - so far, no real sense of having to grind stuff out. I'm surprised it's taken this long to get a character off to whatever the afterlife place is.

    I'm guessing I won't finish the game - but will play enough to see a few characters depart?
    Also, the 2-player mode is quite fun, the cat becomes playable and can interact with stuff - so, you can collect resources, cook stuff, and more.

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    King's Quest: The Complete Collection (PS4)    by   jp       (Nov 8th, 2022 at 00:32:58)

    I played the first chapter of the game Saturday evening. I never really played much of the original King's Quest games - any of the 7(?) in the series. It's kind of weird then to play this game - not really knowing much of the originals, and have it feel familiar to a vague sense of understanding of some of the things that happened in the original game. The characters hat (with feather) was pretty iconic - and it's referred to a lot in the chapter. But also I remember knowing something about a mirror and a dragon and stuff like that.

    The game is narrated in raconto (I think that's the term?) - so, there's an old man narrator who is telling his grandkids about his adventures when he was younger, which is what you're playing. So, when you screw up, the narrator addresses the error (sometimes one of the kids pipes up to complain). It reminds of the Prince of Persia Sands of Time which had a similar framing. It really works well.

    These kinds of games live and die by their puzzles and the writing - I enjoyed the humor in the first chapter, both from characters, situations, and even the art/modeling/animation. I thought it was interesting that there are multiple paths through the game - in this chapter there are 3 puzzles you can do, but you only need one to make progress (doing the other two, which I did, requires quite a bit of extra work - since the puzzles are "gated" buy requiring a coin which you spend on the first puzzle, so doing the other two (which also require a coin) means wandering around the game environment until you find where the coin might be.

    I also thought it was interesting that some of the "puzzles" are quick-time events and others are real-time (the one where you move the yarn around to trip the strong guy!). So, dexterity and hand eye coordination matter this time around. But, overall it was neat to see the variety in the overall experience.

    I've "soft" decided not to play the other chapters - mostly due to time (and huge pile of other games to get to) BUT, at least from the icons illustrating the other chapters - it looks like each one will tell a story from a different moment in the life of the King (main character). The character's portrait looks older in each, which I think is a neat thing to have in a game - you're living/playing through the highlights (presumably) of the character's life. This is a perspective that is not that common/usual in videogame narratives, so kudos for that. It also seems that the first episode is the highlight in terms of review scores, so perhaps it's best that I leave ahead as it where? I did like that once you finish the chapter you get a "picture" that has elements representing main decision points/choices you made in the game - so, did you spare the goblins (patience) or kill them quickly (speed?) and stuff like that.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise (and pop culture touch point) was meeting the short knight (whose name escapes me), but whose voice sounds exactly like the short guy in the movie the Princess Brid. The character that does the poisoned cup switcheroo game. And, lo and behold, there's a scene with that character, with cups, one of which is drugged and then you play a boardgame. I wasn't able to win "fairly" (but got some help by changing the color of the drink in one of the cups, and was then able to trick my opponent into drinking from the drugged cup, thus giving me a turn to set myself up to win). Yay!

    Is it cheating to cheat in a mini-game inside a game? lol.

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    Recent GameLogs
    1 : jp's COP: The Recruit (DS)
    2 : dkirschner's Tales From Off-Peak City Vol. 1 (PC)
    3 : jp's Marvel Snap (iPd)
    4 : jp's Spiritfarer (PS4)
    5 : dkirschner's Hand of Fate 2 (PC)
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    6 : dkirschner at 2019-10-15 06:47:26
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    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)    by   dumpster_fox

    A classic very worth playing.
    most recent entry:   Thursday 21 February, 2008

    The second session with Shadow of the Colossus both resolved some issues and brought up some new ones. I have become more accustomed to the controls through further gameplay, and while the camera controls and I still refuse to talk to each other, I have somewhat come to terms with the situation. Instead of relying on direct visual contact to track the colossi at the expense of sight of myself, I simply track them by sound, periphery glances, and memory (as they have tended to be rather slow so far).

    The battles with the colossi are, not surprisingly, the highlights of this game. The frequency of near-slips of your grip and of being flailed around like a toy create the impression that you are almost always under the threat of being dislodged, and when it does happen it tends to do so in a spectacular manner. The portions of the battles against the colossi when you are ascending them and striking blows are near-perfectly executed, generally thrilling and interesting all the way through (with the bonus of looking completely awesome to onlookers when you make a daring leap off of one part of the colossus onto another while it roils and heaves beneath you).

    Unfortunately, the manner in which you need to grab your first foothold on their bodies is not always readily apparent, nearing the point of obscurity in some situations. Half the time I have to wait until a blunt and immersion-breaking message is delivered to me by a literal god floating in the sky, which it then proceeds to repeat constantly through my many attempts to decipher and execute the unusual hints. Most of the tactics require that you visually grasp and identify aspects of the environment and actions by the colossus, a task which is hindered by the fact that sometimes these things are not actually visible to the player unless they actively know to investigate it. In several situations the advice delivered to me by the game actually put me in a situation where I was not able to see the action I was supposed to react to.

    The game has more than a few brilliantly designed but poorly executed aspects. One of the colossi, for example, shoots lightning bolts from its mouth at regular intervals, which then proceed to electrify the impact area for a prolonged time, during which if the player wanders into them, they will receive damage. Problem is, not only are the effects that signify the area is electrified very missable, but there is absolutely no feedback that you are taking damage when you are standing in such an area.

    The art design in Shadow of the Colossus is absolutely brilliant, with a muted palette, effective use of bloom lighting, and wonderfully detailed texture work on characters and geometry. The colossi and architecture in the game have a distinctly Aztec feel to them, with a heavy focus on repeating geometric patterns and orthogonal line work. The environment makes good use of vertical space, with leaping canyon walls and diving basins, waterfalls tracing the path down and accentuating the dizzying heights. Lighting also is utilized well, with shifts between bright and dark areas emphasizing the geometry. Artistically, this game is a masterpiece, and by and large, the game is brilliant, innovative, beautiful, and a blast to play, but simply lacks polish in portions.


    Said lack of polish is found in the areas traditionally associated with shortcomings. Minor gameplay oversights, such as the obscuring of view of significant geometry during colossus battles, argumentative camera controls, and jerky player movement could all probably have been ironed out through additional playtesting, as these are readily apparently and easy for people to give feedback on. The game is oddly hindered by perhaps too much artistic direction; for example, the lead designer apparently insisted that the horse not always respond to player commands because real horses do not always do so, either. Unfortunately, it is not communicated to the player that this is what is happening, and the person is left with the impression that the horse simply controls poorly. Another example is the character animations. The player character flails about awkwardly, stumbling upon landing from jumps (if not sprawling completely). While this certainly adds to the drama and feels very fluid, it tends to give the player the feeling that they are stumbling around on the verge of falling throughout the entire game.

    The movement of the boss battles into the space of level design was a brilliant and innovative move that works very well. The player ends up performing actions while ascending the colossi that are more similar to those typically associated with environmental puzzles than with boss encounters, such as climbing, leaping, locating specific places, and avoiding getting displaced to an undesirable location. The actions typically associated with boss encounters are less prevalent, with the player mostly fighting to avoid being dislodged, timing their stabs, and avoiding blows. Many traditional boss activities, such as dodging patterned attacks, are absent in favor of more environmentally-focused activities.

    The lack of structured activities to be performed outside of the hunts for the colossi is also notable. There are no items to collect in the game, and generally exploration will yield nothing but vistas. The player character also has a distinct lack of gear, wielding only a blade and a bow. This puts an emphasis on the player's wits instead of their gear for the purpose of downing a colossus. The simple (if not always perfectly responsive) controls also free up the player to simply think about the game in an environmental puzzle sense instead of demanding their attention for complex actions. The intention of the design of this game is clear. It strives to push the boundaries of games and move into new territories in storytelling and drama. Shadow of the Colossus is a brilliant game slightly hindered by artistic ambition.

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