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Review: FAR: Lone Sails (2017)

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FAR: Lone Sails
2017

FAR: Lone Sails is an exploration adventure game by Swiss developer Okomotive. Available on PC, Xbox One and PS4. Where you traverse a dried-out seabed littered with the remains of a decaying civilization. Keep your unique vessel going, overcome numerous obstacles and withstand the hazardous weather conditions. How far can you make it? What will you find?

Now that that’s been said, I’ve beaten this game 5 times in 3 days and got 100% steam achievements. That’s something I rarely do. It isn’t a long game so beating it several times will only take a few hours. However, this game is full of magic.

Let me explain. In this game, you have an androgynous character traveling a grayscale landscape with red being the only other color. The art style is beautiful. As you side scroll in your large land vehicle, the scene is ever-changing. 

You start in a small house/workshop after taking a moment to honor the passing of, what I assume is your father or mentor. After leaving the building behind you walk until you come across a massive vehicle. It reminds me of many things, reminiscent of movies about a dystopian future, you do everything you can to keep your vehicle operating. 

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Stopping to gather items for fuel, solving puzzles to upgrade the vehicle, outrunning disasters. All while a quiet story is told in the background. A story without words, which can be the best story there is. As I travel, my mind races to try to fill in the blanks. Wondering if it’s a comment on our current society and where we are headed or it’s just a simple story to be interpreted how we wish. This was magic to me. 

As I stated, I played the game over and over, hoping to grasp more and get all 14 achievements on steam. Each playthrough I noticed something different, something I was surprised I hadn’t noticed before. Honestly, these discoveries excited me and now that I’ve achieved everything I may slowly go through one more time to see if I’ve missed anything else.

This is definitely a comfort game for me and I could see myself booting it up after a long/bad day. It’s stunning, well worth the price and time. I can’t wait to see what else this developer has to offer.

TL;DR: Great Game, Must Play

A Trip Through the SNES Classic: F-Zero

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It’s shameful, I know, but up until I got the SNES Classic, I’d never played a game in the F-Zero series.  I didn’t even know what type of game that it was, though the title sounded familiar.

For those in the same boat, F-Zero is a racing game set in the future.  It’s the series that introduced everyone to Captain Falcon, though he doesn’t have a clear presence in the first game.  If you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer like me, I recommend reading this interview with Kazunobu Shimizu, Yasunari Nishida, and Takaya Imamura, three of the original developers of F-Zero.  They share some great stories about the history behind the game and the reasoning behind some of the decisions they made.  Some highlights include: Captain Falcon was initially designed to be a mascot for the Super Nintendo system, not F-Zero, and that the game was set in the future to work around different programming issues.  They didn’t have the technology yet to create effective tires that turned, so they just took out the tires and designed hover cars for the racers.

The original game allowed you to pick between four different cars and race through three different sets of tracks: Knight, Queen, and King.  In a manner similar to Mario Kart, once you pick a set, you have to play through all of the tracks. I wish these games would just let me select a racetrack that I really enjoy and let me play it without going through hoops to get there.  That’s something that I appreciate more and more about Diddy Kong Racing.  (And yes, F-Zero has a Practice Mode that lets you do this, but only for seven tracks.)

Regardless, I fell in love with the original F-Zero. I couldn’t get over just how fast and smooth it feels, even when using a control pad.  It doesn’t have all the extra bells and whistles that you get with racing games like Mario Kart or Diddy-Kong.  You can’t pick up items that give you colorful shields or the infamous Blue Shell missiles.  But that’s not a bad thing at all.  It’s just straight, pure racing and I appreciated the change.

When you start a race, your hovercar has a Power gauge that functions similar to health.  If you hit the edge of the track, or your fellow racecars, your power diminishes.  If it drops down to zero, your hovercar will explode and it’s game over.  You can also fail if your hovercar goes completely off-track or if you fail to complete laps after a certain period of time.  It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of things, and it helps having Practice Mode available if one ever needs a quick refresher.

If there’s one thing that holds F-Zero back from being a perfect experience, it’s the lack of a multiplayer mode. While it is fun and challenging, playing against an AI can get boring after a while.  Having the option to play with friends would have made it even better and increased the replay value.

Still, I’m so glad that I had the chance to discover the original F-Zero on the Super Nintendo Classic.  I’ve had a blast playing it, and if the other games in the series are just as good, I’ll have to check them out too.  If you’re a fan of F-Zero and have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!

I’m rating this game 9 out of 10 hovercars.

For The Hoard (Of Dice)

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One of the first things that people new to Table Top Role Playing Games take notice of is the oddly shaped dice that are used. More than just a six-sided die left over from a copy of Monopoly they range from 4 sides to 100 sides. Veteran players tend to develop collections, nay even a hoard, of dice.  Why, you may ask? What is the attraction to the random tokens of fate that we roll across tables,, into dice trays, and drop down dice towers?

Depending on the game, you may find yourself wanting multiple sets. Deadlands for instance has a mechanic where you’re required to roll multiples of the same die for each skill check. It’s easier to purchase 5 sets and roll a handful of D8’s instead of picking up the same one and making several rolls with that. Champions, a superhero game I locked onto through most of my 20s and early 30s relied on your standard D6s but would see dozens of them being rolled for damage depending on the power level of the hero you had created. When I started I would stroll the aisles of my local pharmacy searching for  5 packs of black and white D6s from Hoyle. I’d pick them up regularly. gathering more and more until eventually I found myself purchasing bricks of tiny 6 sided dice in different colors to match the color scheme of my heroes.

To an outside observer our behavior concerning dice is odd. We anthropomorphize them. We talk to them. We “train” them to roll well by displaying them on the table with the better numbers on top. We scold them when they roll poorly and put them in dice jail after a string of bad rolls. We are superstitious about them as well. You never roll someone else’s dice (without permission). We treat specific ones as blessed or cursed as we watch them roll consistently well or poorly.

Dice also come in all colors, sizes, styles, and materials. No matter your budget you can build up a collection of these precious rolling gemstones. Translucent or solid colored plastic dice are the base models. You can get a set for free with shipping if you trust certain overseas shopping apps, or a drawstring bag decorated as a bag of devouring full of 20 complete sets from Amazon for around $30.

True collectors though can expect to pay out some serious cash for dice crafted from metal, stone, bone, or even wood. From the moderate pricing like Skullsplitter Dice to the high end cost of Level Up Dice you can satisfy your inner dragon and amass a hoard of fateful gems.

The accessories we get for our dice need to be discussed as well. The first is the dice bag. Usually a felt drawstring bag, sometimes lined in bright colors, or decorated on the outside as a magic bag. Many dice hoarders begin with a borrowed, or stolen bag from Crown Royal. Like a pouch of coins we arrive at the gaming table and set down our purse of luck pulling them out and testing to see which ones will behave that night. Some people use dice chests, designed to look like…chests…or mimics. I’m a bag man myself.

Rolling them across tables can be problematic, what with maps and miniatures getting in the way. Dice towers sculpted from wood and plastic resembling watchtowers and fortified walls with little trays or courtyards below restrain range our dice may wander. There’s also portable trays that fold and snap into form that are more easily transported.

So search high and low, near and far. Find the shiny baubles that speak to you. Feed your inner dragon and collect your hoard of dice, but I issue you a warning:

Never let Wil Wheaton touch your dice. You may as well toss them if he does.

Quick Start: City of Heroes – Homecoming

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Lords, ladies, lads and lasses, I am Vinni the Troll and I have good news for you.

The capes are back. City of Heroes shut down roughly 7 years ago and it has been resurrected by a devoted fan base. How much will this cost you? Nothing. How can you get into the game? With three easy steps: 

  1. Head to the City of Heroes: Homecoming forums and create an account.
  2. Login to the forums and then go to the Game Account thread and create a game account. If you have trouble try a different name. This will NOT be your global handle, so don’t worry about that yet.
  3. Download the Tequila (pc) or Island Rum (mac) launcher and install the game

That’s it.

What can I play as?

You can create a hero or a villain, playing in either Paragon City or The Rogue Isles. You can choose to play through the tutorial, or skip it altogether. You’ll have access to all the archetypes, even the epics: Peacebringer, Warshade, Arachnos Soldier, and Widow.

How do I change my Global Handle?

Once in the game you can change your global handle (your first toon’s name) from the main menu.

I’m not starting with much, am I?

If you miss the prestige sprints, jump pack, Nemesis Staff, Black Wand, etc. look for the P2W Vendor. They are in the tutorials and starting zones and will give you what you desire for free (despite their name). They even have boosters for experience and the origin starter powers.

That’s it for my helpful 2 merits. See you on the flip side.

Review: Detective Pikachu (the movie)

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Is Pokémon: Detective Pikachu the very best video game movie, like no one ever was?

Well, the competition wasn’t exactly fierce.  But, yes.  Yes, it is. While I’m no longer the huge fan of Pokémon that I used to be, I had a good time watching this movie.

It’s interesting, based on the different reviews that I’ve read and watched, how many people don’t seem to realize that this “video game movie” is based on a specific video game in the Pokémon franchise: Detective Pikachu for the Nintendo 3DS.  I played and reviewed the game in anticipation for the movie’s release and really enjoyed it.  The film is a loose adaptation that follows the premise and some of the major story beats, but mostly does its own thing.

Tim Goodman, a young man who once dreamed of becoming a Pokémon trainer, travels to Ryme City after hearing that his father was killed in a car accident.  When he gets to the apartment, he discovers his father’s partner: a talking Pikachu that nobody else can understand.  Pikachu claims that Tim’s father, a renown detective, is still alive somewhere, and proposes that they team up to solve the mystery of what happened to him.  After a few mishaps, Tim reluctantly agrees.

A lot of reviewers have praised the film for bringing the world of Pokémon to life, and I’m going to join the chorus.  Wow.  I’m also not alone in saying that I would have been satisfied with a film that showed long, extended shots of this world and absolutely nothing else.

Detective Pikachu takes the game’s concept of Pokémon as partners and combines it with the more familiar world of the main series and the anime.  It’s established that kids like Tim do traditionally leave home and go on adventures to capture Pokémon.  Tournaments exist.  The Kanto region is mentioned.  However, none of the usual rules exist in Ryme City, which is specifically designed to be a place where battles are banned.  Pokémon and humans live side-by-side, as they do in the 3DS game.  It’s a treat to see all of the different Pokémon fitting in this live-action world in ways that you might expect to see them if they existed.

There are fun shout-outs to different parts of the franchise.  I know I missed a lot of them, having been out of the loop for so long, but there was still plenty for this Gen 1 fan to love.

Although this film did a wonderful job of realizing the world of Pokémon, it wasn’t perfect.  It started out strong, but I had some issues with the pacing of certain scenes.  Right as Tim meets Detective Pikachu for the first time, some Aipom attack the apartment and a chase ensues.  Immediately following said chase, Tim goes back to questioning why he can understand Pikachu.  And Pikachu, as voiced by Ryan Reynolds, makes nonstop quips throughout the scene. It all happens so fast that it’s hard to follow at times.  It wasn’t until the underground battle with Charizard when I really started to become invested again.

Speaking of which, that live-action battle was thrilling.  All of the action scenes were fun to watch and kept me interested in what was happening. And while many reviewers have stated that they found the story twists to be a bit too obvious, there were a few moments that caught me off guard.

And now I’m going to get a little controversial and admit that I didn’t find Ryan Reynolds to be as funny as I anticipated.  I thought he fit the role of Detective Pikachu better than his video game counterpart (Kaiji Tang), and I definitely laughed during the movie- just not as hard as I thought I would.  The character that got most of the best jokes was Psyduck.

But Reynolds did have some great chemistry with Justice Smith, who plays Tim Goodman.  And just as I predicted, I liked Smith’s version of Tim much better than the protagonist of the 3DS game.  He and Pikachu have some very heartwarming scenes together, as well as funny moments.

If you love everything about Pokémon, you should love this movie.  If you hate everything about Pokémon, then this movie’s not really for you.  Detective Pikachu embraces the source material instead of poking fun at it.  It’s not a perfect film, but it is fun, and I hope there will be sequels.  I’d rate it 7 out of 10 Pokéballs.

Review: Detective Pikachu (The Game)

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Between the movie adaptation coming out and one of my friends highly recommending the game to me, I finally decided to play Detective Pikachu.  It’s a spinoff of the Pokémon franchise for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS that’s not as bizarre as it sounds.  I had no idea what to expect from it.  What I got was a fun game that kids and diehard Pokémon fans should enjoy.

Detective Pikachu follows the adventures of a teenage boy named Tim Goodman, who’s looking for his missing father.  Harry Goodman was a famous police detective who went missing after a suspicious car accident.  Only his partner, Pikachu, could be found at the scene.

By the time that Tim arrives in Ryme City, two months after the incident, his father’s Pikachu has somehow gained the ability to speak- but only Tim can understand him.  He presents himself as “the Great Detective Pikachu” and wants to help Tim find his missing father.  Unfortunately, Pikachu isn’t much help in one respect: he suffers from amnesia and can’t recall what happened during the accident.  So Tim and Pikachu team up to investigate Harry’s last case and figure out why he disappeared.

The game is divided into nine “chapters,” each concerning a unique case.  Tim and Pikachu work together to solve crimes by interrogating suspects and searching the crime scene.  Pikachu gives the duo an advantage by talking to all of the Pokémon witnesses and translating their testimony for Tim.  It’s all very straightforward and you’re not likely to get stuck on any point in this game.  If you’re looking for a serious challenge, don’t expect to find one with Detective Pikachu.

Don’t expect to collect any Pokémon or engage in battles either.  In the world of Detective Pikachu, most people have one Pokémon as their “partner,” similar to Ash’s friendship with his own Pikachu.  The secretary at the Baker Detective Agency has a Fletching that delivers mail for her, a talented violinist works with a Kricketune that helps her practice, and a police office partners with a Manetric that uses his nose to solve crimes.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get as much out of the world building or the Pokémon cameos as I ought to have.  As a kid, I stopped paying attention to the Pokémon franchise after the first movie and I’m only just starting to regain interest now.  My knowledge of Pokémon begins and ends with Gen 1.  As it is, I liked the game’s setting and the Pokémon that I encountered.  Lifelong fans will probably love everything about them.

This game does an impressive job with episodic storytelling.  Each case leads directly into the next and has some importance to the whole plot. When I think of other video games or TV shows that try to do this, they usually follow a certain format: the premieres and the finales are where all the important stuff happens.  Then you get a lot of “monster of the week” episodes in between that are loosely connected to what the characters hope to accomplish.  Without going into spoilers, I can say that that’s not the case with Detective Pikachu.  Granted, not every mystery directly ties back to Harry and his investigation.  But Pikachu and Tim always have a reason to be where they are and they find clues in every case that help them piece together the larger mystery.

Speaking of Tim and Detective Pikachu, they had a nice partnership and I liked all of the human characters in the game.  However, I found Tim to be a little too flat and generic.  As of this writing, the movie hasn’t come out yet, so it’s too early to pass judgment on who will ultimately give the superior acting performances.  Still, based on what I’ve seen in the trailers, I’m enjoying Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith much more.

Overall, Detective Pikachu is a solid game and I recommend playing it if you have a Nintendo 3DS (or 2DS).  It’s simple to play, which makes it a good choice for young kids to try out.  Fans will enjoy the story, the setting, and the many different kinds of Pokémon. Enjoy it before you watch the movie!

Games Created by Women: Gravity Ghost

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Sometimes you need to play a game that is just visually appealing. No killing or shooting. Just great graphics and good music.

Released in 2015 Gravity Ghost is just a lovely game. It was developed by Erin Robinson Swink, who is not just a game designer. She also helped start the label that launched Gravity Ghost. IVYGAMES is taking a new approach to video games. Currently you can play the game on Steam, but 2019 is the year it will also be available on PS4 with some new content.

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Gravity Ghost is a peaceful game all about planet hopping. Iona is a ghost in search of her best friend, a ghost fox, who is lost. As you play you will meet guardians. You will explore the galaxy and rescue survivors. There are multiple levels of interesting gravity challenges for the player as they level up in the game.

The soundtrack for Gravity Ghost is really lovely. It perfectly sets the mood of floating through space. The character design is rich and colorful. The overall design of the game is full of calming colors. There is story woven through the challenges in the game.

All together Gravity Ghost is a lot of things that we don’t get an abundance of in games anymore. It is a game that is meant to stimulate. It is also calming by design. You feel like you are free in space as you play. The colors and the music come together with the challenges of the game to build this perfect world.

I would recommend this game if you are looking for challenging yet alternative game play. If you want a treat for your eyes and a more calm form of stimulation this is the game for you.

gg

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!