Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Notes from The Wasteland...

Review of Mad Max on PS4, coming soon... strap in...!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Note after being 'INSIDE'


An updated, twisted, more artistic version of the classic 'Prince of Persia' 2D platformer games set in a dark, mysterious and menacing world would conjure up what...? Something like 'INSIDE' (wikipedia). The 'experience' gets progressively more interesting, puzzling and twisted. At the same time it remains atmospherically impressive and consistent in its combination of these key ingredients. Don't worry it's not overly frustrating and the sections when it does get hard finally betray their secrets. They should keep you playing.

Need I say more? This clip of gameplay should serve as a taster but also a reminder of how effective games can be when they simply focus on key elements such as atmosphere, intrigue, surprise, level design...unfolding with very little explanation or delay...


Friday, 14 October 2016

An Underwater Journey

I've had a long day and I'm in no mood for intense, concentrated console fighting or game progression. But don't think there aren't any developers out there who aren't tapping right into this frame of mind.

So now I'm slip-streaming with the fishes, diving down and exploring great caverns, hanging onto dolphins and even onto the mighty whales of the deep.


Ok so, ABZU is made by the same guy who did Journey and Flower, only this is the underwater version, so you can expect - and welcome - the same sort of format and magic. Any tiresome difficulty level or story aspects are sort of side-lined for a more direct, accessible experience. There's something to do with a lost underwater civilisation, a re-connection with the sea-life and a whole lot of dangerous triangles.

What's great though is the way the strengths of those former titles have been elevated or continued here: the sense of space, the quantity of avatar control and the slip-streaming scenes are back, longer and just as thrilling.

A superb family game. Includes an interesting Meditation setting (hidden in the levels) for re-visiting the undersea settings, learning about the correctly-modeled aquatic life and admiring the details. A nice feature now that these games are getting so pretty. It would all make for a great Virtual Reality experience too.


Desert and walking experience (tick)
Magical Seeds and wind experience (tick)
Underwater experience (tick)
What's next... Jungle? Save the Rainforest?

And might I suggest... bring back the multiplayer elements again, or as an additional feature.

Read about the game on Wikipedia

Streaming time:





Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Space Log: 'No Man's Sky'


I'm on a strange planet, gathering resources feverishly. I'm worrying about my health and life support systems. I'm very eager, as with most games, to master the controls quickly, master my resources, go exploring and feel immersed, adventurous, inspired...

Secretly, I'm hoping the experience will be unique and yet also shared. Maybe I can find things no one will find (and share them online), maybe I can make some good-looking space videos from my footage, maybe I'll be able to leave some kind of mark or artistic message on a planet for some future gamer to find... However, I'm hoping they'll be other players around somewhere, and maybe the setting will promote some kind of talking point, or... something... I want to see a bit of story somehow too, or some science-fiction problems to unravel... Maybe the game will even bring people - mankind even - together...

Remember the game Journey? Even touches of that would be ok.

Who knows? Did the developers of the game know? The big hook is that the game is a massive 'procedurally generated' affair in that there is a living universe going on. The lifeforms are also generated and 'live' ... sort of...

The line on the official site reads: No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy

It's a mysterious website, of course and with no mention of Muliplayer anywhere for the moment (Oct 2016). But what a nice canvas. What an elaborate, long-running party to invite everybody to...

So I purchased my Limited Edition Box and am into 'No Man's Sky'... I was still enjoying it actually, when a sort of backlash began against the game online. I'm thinking it's a big shame. This surely can't go wrong.



Is the proof of the pudding just in the eating? No, not these days of easy streaming, the proof is about the sharing, and - in fact - the game doesn't look that bad... But the controversy is taking centre stage at the moment as the success of the game 'as a game' raises questions.

How 'good' are the sandbox / 'make-your-own-adventure' features of this 'Space Survival and Exploration Sim'... You can subscribe here or to my Youtube channel to see - maybe - some of my own, shared adventures recorded. They may not be anything originally anticipated. You see, I had hoped to meet some fellow travellers, like in Journey. I had maybe hoped to create something or join some sort of cause. The canvas was a good one. But maybe the canvas is just too big for Hello Games to manage. Will they pack up and sod off on holiday? Or will they stick onto the hype they started and do something rich and rewarding with the procedural magic stuff?

So what did I really want from such a game? Its success was not a big surprise.

The trouble with the 'big games' is they attract a lot of attention these days. A lot of hopes. They offer a lot of possibilities for multi-gaming, video sharing / streaming skills, artistic creation, silly moments, hidden messages, hidden meanings... And most of the people bothering to provide feedback or to write Twitter posts, reviews etc. on the young-ish side of life; a big chunk of the internet. People want a vehicle to share with others. People want to 'own' experiences and share a sort of wry 'enlightenment' they can master by skill, chance or personal taste. Original trailer for the game:




Did the creators of 'No Man's Sky' know themselves? Not judging by a lot of the flak they seem to be getting now. Of course they wanted to hype and market an experience, an endless universe. But it sums up lots of questions and maybe that's where the game will ultimately score: by providing a potent question mark - or a black, monolithic signpost - in the evolution of big, modern, complex games.


ok... language is good... now what...

Was it all just too big? Is it that when games get so big and so complex, they start to imitate Life too directly, and people will be more easily tempted to switch off, than waste hours of time in upgrades and exploration?

In the end, what is the experience of a game going to provide? I don't want to just go about surviving and finding things, although this is OK if there's something really intriguing there. Alien Isolation was so intense in its focus as a survival game, that this was offering a unique, survival experience. It becomes amusing to find out how people play and fail at that game, how long they will last... And by sticking close to a well-known movie, it uses that super-dark, signature spirituality and wraps it up in its bleak, predator-prey experience.

So a game has to provide more content by way of connection and inspiration. It has to be a potent, heady brew of art, sound, story planning, multi-player input and challenging, changing interest. Or else it needs to focus on pure fun/challenge and the Single-Player mode, (although these are getting a bit old hat and lonely now, in this connected age).

I reckon that 'No Man's Sky' proves that people wanted that heady brew of something media rich, something internet-rich, collaborative, spiritual, fun, artistic, escapist, challenging... but instead have been left somewhat in the cold, gazing at another procedurally-generated planet. Sure, this can stick around on my shelf for a good while, but...

And meanwhile in Star Wars Battlefront, large multi-player teams are attacking the Death Star in a very direct, specific type of fantasy experience that is also a familiar and social or co-operative experience.

Let's see if 'No Man's Sky' will just trundle along and fizzle out, or whether new updates can enable the procedural wizardry to offer some potent depth to itself and to other games to come...

So... in the meantime, stay strapped in for any of my further comments or adventures. One thing about the game is you need your paddles in space. And since I've bought the boat as it is now, will sail on for some hopefully interesting discoveries, forever searching... for the ultimate game... a universe to fill with my own people, my own past, present, future... !! Hold on, has the kettle just boiled?


No Man's Sky : WIKIPEDIA information




Continued space adventures....


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Totem Inscriptions from Oros


My name here is Takkar. The snow is falling and I'm gradually getting colder. From the bottom of the cliff-face I've surveyed already the Udam cannibal camp thanks to my eyes in the sky; using beastmaster power my owl companion has scouted the layout and tagged the different types of foe. Thanks to my grappling hook I'm now hauling myself upwards, the sound of the rope creaking in the freezing wind. I've been sent packing a number of times already; my tiger slain, my arrows and spears depleted and my body clubbed by too-powerful commanders. Sure I took a few of them with me. But what's going to be my plan this time? It's getting colder again so getting to fire at the top will be the priority. Then... do I have enough patience to reach and destroy the alarm horns my owl has also located? I don't need any extra company. Whatever happens, I will need to get back to my village soon to replenish supplies, catch up with my Wenga buddies and spend more time increasing much-needed skills and abilities. Welcome a situation you'll face in Far Cry Primal. It wasn't always this way. Once, I was a member of a small group of hunters in another land, far away, until we were brutally savaged by a sabretooth tiger. I barely survived. Let me think back... 

waterfalls near your village retreat

EARLY PRIMAL DAYS...

Researching super worlds where you’re going to invest time and money before getting lost in them is important these days. I’ve just reached a land called Oros, and so far it’s paying off in terms of sheer involvement and setting. It must be a Far Cry game. I had to read the sturdy reviews it’s received across the board just to check it wasn’t similar to numbers 2, 3 or 4. I know these games were involving, wide in scope and cinematically great fun but memories of their worlds seem somehow a little pastiche. I remember getting - finally - bored by the enemy AI and even, handgliding. However, they’ve always been trying for greater realism at the same time as being top-notch first-person shooters inspired by Alex Garland's The Beach. They just seem to have been waiting for a big upgrade in technological realism, just as there have always been tribal or primeval elements in the games. With this title, here on the PS4, this marriage is getting really interesting.

And I’ve learned quickly that Oros is not just a different, prehistoric time setting (the intro presents a simple device to illustrate this: the year of 2016 appears and counts backwards with changing sounds that mark the rewinding process – really effective.) No, it really does feel like a more dangerous place than ever more; always the attraction of fun, virtual worlds. Players need to feel involved, seeing powerful things; surviving dangerous experience. And there is wildness here. And because it’s Far Cry, I’m guessing there’s going to be drug-induced trances and ‘emergent’ gameplay too (more of this later). Although this time, there won’t be any multiplayer.

So where was I? The beginning. I’d reached Oros. Up until this (sweet, pivotal) moment – looking out at a view from the ledge of my first cave and the landscape now open and beckoning - the game has delivered. It’s been a dense, first-person acclimatisation with the controls and rudimentary weapons; I’ve already felt vulnerable in the dark; exposed in the vicinity of fierce feline predators and seen fellow tribesman gored by mammoths. Cut-scenes have opened up and then closed tightly around me (abandoning me to the wild), crafting items have been breathlessly gathered and I have only just begun to feel like I’m ready to make it out there… in the non-linear(-ish) map waypoints of Oros. But now with good gameplay and narrative timing - I’ve got my own cave. Bring it on.


All the Far Cry elements are there so far: immediacy of controls, reliance on tools and environment, narrative cut-scenes blending quickly and seamlessly into the game. The difference is the scenario has changed: we’ve gone prehistoric. We’ve left behind guns and thugs, cheesy characters and dialogue (although not the advantage of a good map) and now there’s something much more intense and real about… everything. Now the cut-scenes have more vitality; we need to follow them and we need to focus on our equipment, tools and skills. The environment and its wildlife are now the big bad-ass character, although on top of this, there will be rival tribes, like the Udam out there who’ll want to eat us. The Far Cry series has gone back in time and really grown-up.

The unfolding map of Oros

So yes… involvement with a world. Primitive connections. Mastery and control. I know it’s going to be a painful process but I trust Ubisoft will keep things moving, surprise me as much as guide my way. Flashbacks from previous games come back to me (although there won’t be any hand gliding from cliff-tops in Oros). There was such a big focus was on shooting and although ‘nature’ on those islands was important, yes – it was also rather in the way. Right now I do want to make my way through the landscape rather than just keep to the roads. There is the desire to have more control over the environment; more choices with which to tame it.

Another central element in my wanting to return to this game with strong coffee is to round up my fellow tribesman. They were down on their luck from the beginning and now, it seems, my team have got to work hard in the not-so-paradise land of Oros. And I’ve got to find them.


UPDATE FROM... A BEASTMASTER: 

The world is a noisy place now. You don’t have to walk far into a terrain to find dangerous animals or people. In fact, there’s a lot of people out there; a lot of shouting even at night. Even my Wenga fellows who, thanks to my heroic antics, are more numerous and are getting up to all kinds of trouble. It’s a good thing I’ve got my beasts with me – a dynamic owl and a ground-based cave lion – or else I’d be in a lot of trouble. In fact, if anything, things are a little easy now thanks to my beast skills. But the world has kept my interest level high and there’s a lot of it on the map to keep me planning my next move: I’ve defended my village from attacks, tracked a cave bear, rescued hostages, gone underground in deep caves, taken over camps, offered totems to spirits and found some cool stone formations … and now there’s a new tribe on the scene roaming around. In general, the sheer beauty of the graphics and world keep me coming back too. Anyone remember a dated 80’s fantasy movie called The Beastmaster? The barbarian hero too had a hawk and a big cat at his side. Actually, it wasn’t a completely bad film and it’s nice to get to play as that character after all these years.

I’m wondering if there’s multiplayer to share some of these amazing setups for attacks and hideouts [no, not at this time]. It’s a stunning land but the elements can become familiar over time, especially as familiar Far Cry mechanics are beginning to emerge again, such as tagging enemies.

Just as I was fumbling around trying to master control over my wolf companion (who allows for greater awareness of surroundings), my village came under attack by the Udam cannibal tribe. What you'll see in this video below is my contribution to its defence, albeit slowed down by my fumbling in the 'weapon wheel'. Also, there's nothing like running out of arrows and any other weapon to make you scramble about like an idiot... Still, I didn't die during the battle, which is always a time-saver inside such big games.



'EMERGENT GAMEPLAY'

I like watching the emergent gameplay (unpredictable game events) too, where everything is attacking each other out there, adding a level of surprise. For now, I’ll stick safely close to my campfire and rest until dawn. See the below video of the local deer reacting to the presence of two brown bears... who soon cross paths... 



I’ve not yet explored the top realism or difficulty settings where, I’m sure, the degree of fun would be reduced and instead it would all be just too intense. But one does feel like the whole thing could have been more intense, like Alien Isolation, with no fast travel, no maps etc. presenting a really dark experience. [Update: Yes, there is a Survivor mode]. Will anyone be crazy enough or have enough time to select it as an option though??


UPDATE FROM… THE BEASTMASTER:

Playing with the different weapons and strategic choices of approach and attack are really what Far Cry games are all about, and in this perhaps it’s the most familiar. Finding the right balance of difficulty (in this large type of playground) that we – the single players - stumble into must be a very tricky thing for Ubisoft to get right in setting up the main paths through the game progress.  So far... so pretty good. Other than a monstrously difficult Udam fort that has left me limping away into other corners of the game map, things are pretty easy with a Bloodfang Sabretooth at one’s side.


THE AGE OF GAMEPLAY 'SHARING'...

It’s interesting how the availability of ‘sharing’ videos and live broadcasts/streaming  on the PS4 makes me feel like I’m already in a multiplayer game. I am not totally alone. I can record and share an experience quickly and easily, provided it’s at all worth watching. [There's even a Primal rap video out there on Youtube]. And I’m still enjoying the game itself: the little upgrades to equipment and village, the successful attacks on outposts and the few central quests that push me onwards through the sheer, visual delight of mastery over a world only I can slowly reveal – and survive - through my own effort. Upgrading weapons and equipment is occasionally a bit tiring but it's important for the much-desired increase in power for executing clean, satisfying attacks.

Is there anything to do besides hunting and shooting? Well, a little. Most memorably, I’ve had to find and gather things (such as rhino dung and eagle feathers from high peaks), talk to strange characters, rescue tribesman (in one of the many side quests) and utilise tamed animals to their most relevant attributes. The game does its best to make you reach the scenic areas and make a bit of use of them.


Don’t forget though: the patient effort of setting up and executing stealthy attacks on large encampments - using your resources to the full - is really what Far Cry is all about. Behind the dark, bewitching stare of its prehistoric gaze, it’s just an action game, after all. The bad guys do get harder as you work towards facing the leaders of the rival tribes but I guess I was hoping to see a little more change in the AI programming when compared to previous games. Having said that, I wouldn’t want it to turn into Hitman as there are still a lot of possibilities limited but more accessible quiver of fun.




FINAL NOTE:

I’ve now finished the main storyline, so here are some final thoughts. For now, I can report that the teeming world of Oros comes – thankfully - with a carefully staged and thrilling single-player ‘journey’ that must be even more special for newcomers to Far Cry. For old veterans of Ubisoft’s classic series however, one gets the sense (as with Assassin’s Creed) that it’s time to do something different soon. Changing the scenario here has allowed them to get away with it in (very savage) style because the context and scenario are such big players in open world games. However, signature Far Cry elements such as the range of enemy types, alarm horn positions etc. that must be overcome feel a bit tired now. What we need next, in my opinion, beyond the virtual versions they may try to make in the future, is something unexpected with the world itself. That might be a multiplayer project like Destiny, or just something that uses the glorious landscape in continually exciting ways, rather than one well-disguised but very potent - prepared - experience. Perhaps they could’ve included a lot of co-operative play options too. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t finished with what Oros can deliver yet. Will I go back to there post-story completion? The designers managed to keep the game length about right. Yes, I can see myself executing sweeter, more relaxing attacks with my full array of upgrades and expanding my village population. I can also see myself sporadically splashing out on some extra content, including the Legend of the Mammoth mission.  However, it’s interesting how dry the map now feels once it’s been conquered.  It’s the lack of surprise in the enemy camps now the big bosses have all gone. The game length was certainly long enough to be able to dust it down one day and enjoy a bit of a re-play however and starting up a brand new game on ‘Survivor’ mode now feels like an interesting option.

Some veterans might be looking for something deeper from open world games beyond fumbling panic-ridden attacks and shooting carnage so we find ourselves reaching for the more indie, space-based or marginal titles. But that’s only for days beyond the dark might of Oros, which will surely resonate. We are here thanks only to the legacy of so many similar games before it. It’s a thrilling hit from one of Tensay - the tribal seer’s - heady, cryptic concoctions. You’ve got to be truly resourceful and effective and, as ever, your own impatience is your biggest enemy.


I'm still quite proud of this particular 'death by mammoth':



FAR CRY PRIMAL (wikipedia)


Saturday, 14 May 2016

An Acid Blood-written Note from...

...the worlds of table pinball, in this case: Aliens Pinball Table from Zen Studios (Alien Isolation also available). This is available on most platforms and is quite simply a must-have distraction to make you reach for the boxsets. In fact, the best thing about the Zen Pinball app on a smartphone, is the power of the tables to capture the spirit and atmosphere of classic movie (and game) titles (and of course Star Wars), and be good, light-weight, challenging fun. It's all in the flippers...


Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Days Before 'No Man's Sky'

I'm enjoying a bit of time before the release of this cunningly large 'Adventure Survival' space sim to think for a moment about what I really want from such a beast... (especially as I'm doing ok for survival in the real world). The answers are the usual: freedom, yes, but also a decent balance between gameplay possibility and sustained interest. You can read more in my article for Dark Zero. I'll also do an initial review hopefully in the last days of June. Stand by!

No Man's Sky from Hello Games main image


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Notes of Rapture from...



...Yaughton, a leafy Shropshire Village stuck in a timewarp in the 1980s…[youtube vid]


An enticing valley is beautifully rendered before me, blossoms are falling from trees, sunlight is dancing across the empty road and glorious music is moving and uplifting where everything here is so... deserted… It’s intriguing… and it’s another fine example of game-'plays’ to come.

As I start looking around, the first, apocalyptic signs slowly appear: abandoned cars, unlocked doors… Am I an English 'Donnie Darko'? Hold on a moment: who’s this? Oh… the residual light energy from the past; ‘ghosts’ giving me clues about what on earth has happened. 

It must have something to do with the locked observatory nearby, which will mark the beginning and the end of this revelatory ‘journey' called 'Everybody's Gone to the Rapture'. A big question is: will these villagers know the 'Timewarp dance'? [ok, that's 1975 to be exact.] 

There are five 'areas' in the game, each of which revolve around a different character, with the main protagonists being Dr Katherine Collins (Kate) and her husband, Stephen – both scientists at the observatory. During their work, Kate and Stephen encountered a ‘strange pattern’ which appeared to be an unknown form of life. They observed the pattern ‘infecting’ and sometimes killing other lifeforms. Kate concluded that the pattern was attempting to communicate with humans, ignorant to the harm that it was causing during her attempts to communicate with it. During this time, Stephen becomes convinced that the pattern is a deadly threat capable of destroying the human race. [wikipedia]

Immediately, it strikes me as very radio play though, i.e. a lot of try-hard dialogue and this is a little distracting from any involving mystery. It seems to detract from a sense of mystery, the characters being so down-to-earth. Also, although not a big Archers fan, it’s quaint for the scenario and I do like some radio plays. The combination could still work… besides, the countryside and mesmerising light-shows are compensating.

Quick note to players: go with the flow. Try and get through it in about 2 sessions. This isn’t an open-world experience, but a story-based, emotional narrative that we get to – literally - follow. I treated it as a non-linear game initially, searching for ‘complete freedom’ (which is what I so love when I’m given a whole map to explore) but consequently I had to backtrack in order to proceed. Bummer.

1980s ordinance survey map preserved in a timewarp

On with the reflection and suggestions…

There’s lots of reviews out there of ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’, not just a great title in itself but a ‘mature experience’ in that it’s not any mainstream shooter, puzzler etc. We should just have some new genre now in the gaming world for the ‘deeper’ titles; spiritual titles that must really be celebrated straight-off for expanding what modern games can be, what forms they can take (especially before the advent of VR experiences).

And it felt a little like this is what strategy developer The Chinese Room has in their heads. Virtual atmosphere. The environment and sound are the key players as the world of Shropshire ‘breathes’ before an almost disembodied, first-person POV. It’s those 2 lovely adjectives: lush and detailed. We are supposed to move lightly through this story; we are given time to dream and to think for once. The power of PS4 was alive and well as I started to move about. It’s a game to play in a comfortable chair. I’ve read the term ‘a good couch co-op’ game which is a good one. You can watch someone else play without getting stuck all the time (unless they do what I did). 



The detailed countryside is the sort of thing I’m writing about in my nature-based game-world, The Spiral, which is a non-linear concept, in that the areas of the game-map are open to explore in any sequence and revelations will be a mix of scientific and magical but all relating to real science/nature. So naturally I was a little disappointed by the constraints imposed by the narrative in Yaughton.  

However, there’s loads I like about this ‘interactive story’ as opposed to game: the graphics, atmosphere and story have been given full attention; the dancing light streams are captivating and enrapturing (a Ghostbusters game would be great too like this.) There are clearly talented people out there who can program and control light graphics. Fine wizardry! The music (Jessica Curry) and scenery work really powerfully together. The sound adds a haunting, necessary weight to the whole exercise.


I’ve seen some of the bad reviews out there: ‘walking simulators’ is amusing criticism, but so undeserved. Yes, it’s a slow game, but this is the point; it’s all spiritual, just read the title on the tin.

I don’t like to add to the criticism (where this is an appreciation site, featuring titles which already resonate personally), and also because the central point is that, having experienced it through to the end; this game works. It feels perfectly crafted for what it delivers. No, it doesn’t test your mind (like shooters setting up an attack in Far Cry), or resource management (like a knowledge of crafting in Skyrim), but it ‘shows’ you an experience of people from an almost subjective perspective; everyday, earthbound people facing and sharing a looming shadow. 


As mentioned, it was a shame there wasn’t a bit more flexibility in how the user comes to understand this story. This would then work - even more - like seeing a theatre play where you actually controlled how you understood and experienced the events (but would be much harder to craft).

So, there are a few things not to like, but none really detract from its core objective: to show you a story about life and death; to present an artistic idea about this transcending. Personally, I didn’t like the Archers-style rendition of humanity, in that none of the English – or American - characters seem particularly real or likeable. Stephen, the most interesting, and a very eighties character, is also rather annoying considering this weight but it’s a good try at a 3-D character under pressure. 

The task of placing the writing around the ‘world’ of this countryside must have been challenging and they have tried hard to tune up the emotion, but the writing still feels stretched out across the spaces. Maybe a completely different setting - like a deserted space-station – would've been even better, because the characters would not have to be quite so real? See also the PC classic System Shock 2.)

The mystery itself here is interesting and revelatory but not surprisingly or amazingly so. The revelations begin to feel a bit contrived and flowery instead of moving but – at least - it’s mostly positive for once, for an interactive medium. I guess the title clue of Rapture pre-warns us. 

Towards the end we get writing like: ‘The earth continues after we’ve gone’ – well, yes – and the idea we’re all light and motes is great but the metaphysical snippets don’t really convince. It’s all a bit cosy and human wrapped up in a consoling blanket of music when there have been clearly a lot of issues between people in this village. I guess this may be the concept: to contrast with something alien or ‘other’ which is positive - in order to teach us to keep positive… and why not. But… I almost wanted more science to help give me a big insight somewhere. A Prof. Brian Cox to appear. Why not just find the positive from what science and nature teaches us more directly? There’s a lot there.


Following the balls of light – even when so captivating – starts to get a little tiring. It’s a good thing we start to reach the observatory before long.

To summarise, I hope none of these humble notes stop anyone from visiting this super-illustrated story-game and experiencing its stand-out moments which are awesome, pushing the medium.  Not to be missed is the beauty of feeling that you have ‘found’ or ‘followed’ a story moment, so that the past becomes more present, more revealed and understood. The way the night sky opens up and reminds us of our tiny place in a universe of light: great stuff.


Well done to The Chinese Room for contributing to, or continuing to expand, connections with virtual environments that are more about movement and time, and less about what we have to explore or click on. This title proves that the gaming genre can handle the dramatic. I hope their next title works even harder. Now that they’ve done the Archers, what about a Shakespeare!? All the English A-level students would have an excuse to do some gaming. Beyond this, there are so many revelatory experiences that could be presented in similar ways...

What is it now about the 1980s? I do love feeling nostalgic and admiring the graphical details. It seems to be becoming more and more prominent ‘modern’ timezone. I suppose it now seems a simpler realm to base stories, still with a modern rendering. 

ah... the old 'Play' button for cassettes

Is it because the 1980s were the last decade of our ‘innocence’ before gadgets and technology took over; a modern setting before we realised we were ruining the earth. Was it a time when people talked to each other – too much?! - but were still very flawed, as this game reminds us ! 


'live in fragments no longer... only connect.' [e.m forster]
[my youtube vid 'seeking the Rapture'...]

You’ll also like: 
Dear Esther (same studio), Journey, Alien Isolation (but… good luck!), System Shock 2, Heavy Rain


Friday, 8 April 2016

British Academy Games Awards


Please see the link for the news on the results from the British Academy Games Awards...

It's great to see this British game from company The Chinese Room, 'Everybody's Gone to the Rapture' being awarded for such a spiritual and different experience.


I've currently put Witcher 3 AND Star Wars Battlefront on hold to play through this £10 game and am finding it a really atmospheric change of pace. It's also keeping me inspired in my current creative writing about games, such as The Spiral...

Watch this space... for my upcoming PS4 notes, videos and full thoughts on 'Everybody's Gone to the Rapture'.

I'll let you know there if I've decided to join them!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Notes on... Red Dead Redemption 2

Readers may have encountered my recap on the classic Rockstar Games title Red Dead Redemption, which granted gamers the right to experience the spaghetti western in its own way...



Well, I've recently been reading that a sequel may be coming out this year or next, and I just felt I had to share some ideas (and worries!) about this event (some of which were mentioned in the recap)...


Personally, I'm hoping I won't have to sit through a million cut-scenes again which continually robbed the pace of the gaming action and didn't really add a whole lot of emotion or memorable moments (in comparison to the game itself). Keep it tight people at Rockstar! It seems that sandbox games in particular suffer from this disease. You can't keep pulling people away from the action, despite the reward for encountering a 'storyline moment'. Instead, why not keep it slick and atmospheric, with more emphasis on a dynamic gaming world that pushes the envelope of immersion.


Even having dialogue choices - I find - detracts from the freedom of acting in the game-world itself. 


What was so impressive about Red Dead Redemption was its freedom, its dynamic world, graphical detail and scale, with so much action embedded in it.


I do think there needs to be a strong storyline, but the more surprising ways to find it, the more concise and the more potential outcomes within it... the better! 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

M.C. Escher would have played this...

Monument Valley

A white, fragile little form is gingerly stepping through another door and I'm not sure where it's going to emerge... another long staircase? Perhaps I'll need to press a button, or find a cube to press a button... Maybe I'll be able to get my hat back from one of these accursed black crows... or... I may even have reached one of the big-hatted mystics at the end of a puzzle, who give me a sense that I'm achieving something as I progress through all these confining yet physics-bending buildings...

Check out the artist M.C. Escher here (wikipedia) because he would have loved playing Monument Valley, a neat, atmospheric puzzler in the vein of Journey and Flower etc... 


Forgotten Shores...

You've got to 'take your hat off' though to Ustwo Games. It must have been tricky to create, that's for sure, because it's tricky to play. But tricky is the name of the game and fortunately you'll never find yourself getting stuck for too long. The puzzles have been - thankfully - designed with great care and mastery to keep the balance and your humble figure never too far away from the next 'pat on the back' for progressing. Only in a few places did I have to return afresh to 'confront' a level, and if this game had been too confrontational, it would have failed.


Forgotten Shores...

The levels open up in inventive and unexpected ways that pay great homage to Escher and the beauty of design itself. They also reminded me a little of that menacing cube from the Hellraiser films from Clive Barker. An absorbing atmosphere is maintained through an eerie, mysterious backtrack and the light, magical sound effects.


Forgotten Shores...

The words 'beautiful', 'tidy' or 'neat': they don't sound that unique or alluring but here they all work consistently - and spookily - in tandem through the just-adequate quantity of intriguing puzzles. The easy playability also recalls top, classic platform games such as Prince of Persia (the original first and second 2D games) and the illusion of complexity is traversed with such simplicity on a touch device. Yes... it's all very neat. Another refreshing thing is that you don't keep dying and re-starting like so many games. You either progress, or you give up, and no-one likes a quitter, especially not inside such a beautiful, puzzling puzzle-land.




The spirituality of the storyline doesn't amount to a whole lot, but it adds a bit of mystery and enables us to feel the progression and the fact that our minds are becoming accustomed to the inherent trickery of it all by our very solving of it. The odd nature-touches are very effective though after so many blocks and squares.


Forgotten Shores...

And... don't forget the add-on pack of further 8 puzzles called 'Forgotten Shores' which does a good job of extending the dynamics, adding water, cliffs, flying etc... It ends up making us feel the potential of this type of game and that many more intricate puzzles could be made, enticing us with new mixes of graphical elements and physics-defying mental chocolate. 

A Virtual Reality version I'm sure would add a whole new perspective... and realism! You'd feel like you were certainly as trapped as this little figure, and the pressure to think and escape would be very real...