Losing My Balance: The Bridge Review

Losing My Balance: The Bridge Review

The Bridge is a black-and-white 2-D logic and physics puzzler. M.C. Escher inspired its levels with his mind-bending artwork. There are only two mechanics: walking left and right, and rotating the world in the same directions. Your only goal as the player is to walk through the door at the end, but that is anything but simple.

The music is melancholy and discordant, the perfect accompaniment to the somber mood–second only to these death screens:

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The controls are exact, a great match for a game that takes precision down to the millisecond. These smooth controls allow for a steep difficulty curve halfway through this interactive demonstration of Escher’s theories. In the third chapter, you invert colors at will, affecting what you can and cannot touch; this isn’t the most complicated though. The real trouble is “the veil”. Entering this area flips the entire world on its axis–literally. This is where my brain shut down.

If you missed my earlier ramblings about physics-based mechanics, read here. I won’t rehash it, but, in summary, I can usually figure out what to do in theory; my difficulty is in the execution. My spatial reasoning is far from my strength, but this one takes it further. Once you get into the later chapters, not only do you have to keep track of where you and your enemies will fall depending on the way you rotate, but you have to know individual objects’ center of gravity; that’s something I could not begin to comprehend.

I wanted to love this game. Between my lifelong passion for brainteasers and optical illusions, the subject alone gravitated me towards The Bridge. But once the game went from letting me play through trial and error while admiring the artwork to demanding complex and precise solutions, the fun leaked out of the experience. I can admire a game for its message, educational value, and style with no effort whatsoever. Traditional fun does not always have to play a part in my reasons for trying. Is reading fun because of the scientific process of recognizing letters and transmitting messages to the brain or because of the subject you take away in the end? As long as the game does not overstay its welcome or let frustration outweigh other benefits, I will stay along for the ride.

Here my irritation tipped the balance.

For full disclosure, I have yet to finish the inverses of the four chapters, but this game is not worth two posts railing on it; it also introduces nothing new.

Stay tuned.

Bonus footage: These moons look like they fell straight out of Majora’s Mask: 

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Fight the Power with…Spaghetti? Stick It to the Man Review

Fight the Power with…Spaghetti? Stick It to the Man Review

Stick It to the Man! is an adventure game in the style of old Lucasarts titles. The art style is what you would have if the people in Psychonauts were made out of paper and missing their jaw bones. You are a young man named Ray who works as a hard hat tester who ironically gets hit in the head by a package that falls from the sky. It turns out it held this little alien creature who nests inside his head, giving him the power of what everyone in the game calls a spaghetti arm. With this odd power, he can read people’s minds and borrow their thoughts in the form of stickers fulfill other people’s wishes.

This mechanic gives Stick It to the Man! a clearer path to follow than the old-school point-and-clicks, especially after you help the first NPC in a chapter; this creates a chain reaction of good fortune that a town this dark could probably use a lot more often.

How dark, you ask?

Shhh, you asked.

Early in the game, you come across a magician talking to a medium, attempting to contact his dead wife. The catch? She died when her husband cut off her legs during a magic trick. For his dead wife to find peace and stop haunting the town, you must find her a new set of legs. Once you find these–because yes, you find a spare set of legs lying around town–you can borrow the medium’s turban, taking her power with it. Then you give this to a therapist whose patient is grieving the death of his judgmental father. This lets the son talk to his dad to make peace. When he instead continues to criticize his kid, you can literally paste a smile sticker on the father’s face, giving the father-son duo both the illusion of reconciliation.

The tasks you complete weave a theme throughout the game. So often your invisible interference as a third-party works one of two ways. Either you are a benefit, exposing lies that were used as ammunition (i.e. a set of triplets who tricked one brother into thinking he was the runt instead of the tallest of the three), or you allow the characters to follow desires that are sure to end in disaster (i.e.  reuniting a man with his shallow girlfriend who left at a moment’s notice for an old man with shiny dentures). This gives credibility to both of the clichés–the truth will set you free, and ignorance is bliss.

As with any adventure game, you want to make sure you listen to what everyone says and what they want, or you will get lost. Though the game is fairly easy, the couple of times I got stuck, I had forgotten about a person who was an obvious fit for the sticker, i.e. Santa asking for a chimney. This is where it is helpful to have an inventory if you can use it to your advantage. Though you can only hold one sticker in your hand at a time, you are given infinite pockets that you access with the scroll wheel on your mouse. This, for your average gamer, makes it easy to keep track of what you have, but if you are me, you keep forgetting what you have since it’s not always on the screen. I would never want that since it would clutter the UI and hinder the experience, so my only advice? Don’t be me.

While playing through this game, I kept taking screenshots when I saw something I thought was funny, and now I have too many to show you. I don’t want to spoil the game here, but I’ll post a gallery of them after this review so you can see my favorites. I played this game in one five-hour sitting (and that was with getting confused a couple of times) and am itching to go through it again for laughs, so I think even spoiling some of the jokes and story points won’t ruin the entire experience.

Now the length is perfect for what the game offers. Each chapter introduces a slightly different mechanic and centers around it. One will solely consist of people-pleasing, and the next will only have you avoiding and tricking guards. The only complaint I can think of is that it’s hard to guess how long a section is from the start. You barely play the game for the first two chapters since the first is exposition and the second is a tutorial level. Later in the game, you might spend forty-five minutes on one chapter and then speed through the next in ten minutes or less.

Overall, I adored this game. I had wanted to play it for a while, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. Now to see what bite-sized game I can power through next.

Stay tuned.

Typing–The Most Dangerous Game: Type:Rider Review

Typing–The Most Dangerous Game: Type:Rider Review

Type:Rider is a typographic platformer. Can’t picture what that looks like? Neither could I until I saw these:

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With each world based on a font such as Helvetica or Clarendon, you go through levels as two little periods looking for their third counterpart to complete an ellipses. Throughout each one you collect every letter of the English alphabet and have a hidden ampersand to find; you also collect six asterisks which give you access to historical information related to typography, printing, and the font itself.

The simplicity and accessibility of this game–it starts off by explaining the most basic platforming controls and limiting the keys used to the space bar and arrow keys–makes it so a font geek can enjoy this as easily as a seasoned gamer. Though I can’t speak to the versions’ quality, Type:Rider is available on iOS, Android, and even Facebook, meaning technology is also less of a barrier.

Now the nature of the nameless character you control affects the physics. Instead of moving as one solid mass, these two invisibly connected punctuation marks only move together in theory. Though one key press causes both of them to jump, you have to safely land both on the next platform, or they will slip off into an infinite ditch. There is no wall grab and no pulling yourself up from a ledge. I mean, have you ever seen a period with hands?

The only extra mechanic is a wall jump you can execute by literally jumping on a wall, but I tended to have trouble executing it consistently. I would put that more into the “might have just been me” category. Also I beat the game with little use of it, so if you have trouble with it, it will do little to inhibit the experience.

Bonus: If you like deadly cats with laser eyes and acid trips, it has those too:

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Stay tuned.

Always Midnight: Dying Light Review

Always Midnight: Dying Light Review

Note: In case you are confused by why you were brought here, I converted my wordpress.com blog to a wordpress.org that I host on my own. Considering the endless options are new and exciting to me, feel free to let me know any suggestions you have for possible content!

Despite reviews from other people that this came dragged on longer than necessary, Dying Light stayed fun for me up until the end. Emphasis on the end.

After the saga that was my account of Dragon Age: Origins, I decided not to do another play-by-play of a long Triple-AAA title, choosing instead to do a snapshot at the beginning and a review at the end. All feedback on this newer, concise format is greatly appreciated!

Now as I said before, I am somehow new to the zombie survival genre, something I know sounds impossible with the over-saturation of them in the market lately. This means I’m not sure how your typical story plays out, but this game based everything in a gigantic power struggle between the survivors trapped in Harran. You watch Crane’s despair as he tries to do good by the people who saved him from death at the beginning of the game while the antagonist slowly brings down his allies one by one. My heart wanted to care, but I felt more for the anonymous survivors I didn’t save in time during random encounters than I did for the main characters in the game. My favorite narrative moments were when a blue arrow would pop up on the mini-map, alerting you to a nearby stranger who wanted to chat. Here you would listen to haunting stories of people trapped in the city. One man explained that the biters in the Hazmat suits were originally there to help but soon were turned, now unable to even eat since they couldn’t figure out to take off their helmets. Another tells a story where he and his friends got drunk, thinking the alcohol would purify their bodies, making them resistant to the zombie virus. But while he laid passed out from the whiskey, his friends caught a helicopter out of the quarantine zone, leaving him hungover and hopeless on a roof in the slums.

Like any open-world game, Dying Light is full of side quests though not in the vain as other Triple AAA titles. There are a total of forty-two, evenly divided between simple fetch quests and fully-developed side stories. In these you were forced to feel the wrath of angry mothers and engineers alike. Whether Crane was yelled at for giving a father a gun or called a meathead by a couple of brains who were afraid to leave the safe zone, these seemed to have the protagonist constantly doing something wrong. Luckily he isn’t all that likable anyway.

See while the character sketches and anecdotes told by NPCs were my favorite part, Crane’s reactions were a lot more disappointing. I would be enamored by a person’s story only for him to respond as if he hadn’t heard a word they said. He responds to heartbreaking tales with zingers like, “I bet you’re a lot of fun at parties,” or, “Right. Avoid zombie one-percenters. Got it.” I understand Crane is good at keeping his distance sometimes, but other times, his reaction felt disconnected from even his misanthropic persona. One man sits there and rationalizes the antagonist’s terrorist tendencies for five minutes, and Crane takes him seriously while giving lip to downtrodden strangers. Either act like you don’t have time for anyone or have consistent reactions based on the conversation.

Now past reviews criticized the game mechanics for their repetitiveness, and understandable complaint. You essentially fight, fetch, sneak, craft, and parkour. That’s it. And yet for me, the gameplay never dragged; I enjoyed all of it. I have done all but two of the side quests and still wish I had more. Maybe it is because I haven’t exhausted the genre for myself. Maybe I’m still such a sucker for any kind of climbing mechanic that vaguely reminds me of the Sly Cooper franchise. Maybe my checklist fetish means I am perfectly willing to grab lavender from a mountainside for you if I get the pleasure of crossing the task off of my list of quests. Really I can’t give you a rational reason. It’s all personal preference; you’ll like it or you won’t.

Once again, I also suffered from a misuse of the inventory system. Instead of utilizing items in moderation, I would do what I could to empty my bags for the chance at better loot. I would pick up a hammer, duct tape fire and lightning to it, and then dismantle it the moment it became the weakest in my lineup by only a few points.

Speaking of which, despite how nonsensical the weapons are, they are buckets of fun. Of course I don’t know why Crane can’t crack a smile after making something called an Angel Sword or God Hand, but you know, I don’t know his life. Seriously, I don’t actually know anything about him outside of the game’s events.

Now for the end, I prepared. I ran all over town picking up gauze and cleavers since I can’t get into a melee fight without getting slapped upside my entire body a couple of times. But after all of this, I was instead slapped with a colossal waste of time I couldn’t see coming. I won’t get content-specific to avoid spoilers, but it was a scripted series of quicktime events that could have happened first thing in the game and gotten the same outcome. For the life of me, I will never understand why any game with skill trees, experience, and any other RPG-style progression will have an ending that doesn’t let any of this come into play. My JRPG roots might be showing, but if I have maxed out any skill, level, or weapon, I better be able to rain down hellfire with it in the final fight.

This game’s performance is middling. I could barely get it to run at 30 fps consistently until the March 10 patch. After that it kept itself at 50 or so fps without too much trouble but still lacked stability. Occasionally my keyboard would stop responding, and Crane would keep running in the same direction until something exploded in his face. Nothing was honestly too game-breaking though and Techland is doing their best to actively improve it, something I can’t fault them for since at least it wasn’t broken on launch, merely imperfect.

Overall, I wouldn’t trade the forty hours I spent on Dying Light for another game this month, but the few missing pieces keep it from reaching what I wanted for it. It looks like the developer’s goal was a serious game, and it did. Just a serious game with giant poisonous katanas wielded by an antisocial man with athletic abilities of the superhero caliber.

Stay tuned.

Game Length: Better Than I Can Say It

Game Length: Better Than I Can Say It

With the recent hub-bub over The Order 1886, game length has been a common topic ruminations for all games’ thinkers. I wanted to make a post with my feelings which once again might fall on the wrong side of the debate.

Mainly inflated game length does not make for a satisfying game. I will take a five-hour campaign I can enjoy in one sitting over a needlessly drawn out one. This doesn’t mean I want it accompanied with the standard Triple-A $60 US price tag.

Below is one of the best arguments I have found for shorter games and what draws the line between a good one on both ends of the length spectrum.

If you enjoy his editorial style, feel free to check him out. He tackles an array of topics and games in the same fashion.

Now let him say it better than I can and stay tuned!