Whodunnit? MURDERED SOUL SUSPECT Review

Whodunnit? MURDERED SOUL SUSPECT Review

MURDERED SOUL SUSPECT is an investigative game that tries many different mechanics but succeeds in very few of them.

You play as Ronan, a detective who is thrown out of a window and shot at the start of the game. From there he must figure out who killed him and why before he can leave the in-between plane on earth. Ronan gets assistance from a young girl named Joy, a medium who witnessed his murder. Between her account of the events and a symbol left at the scene of the crime, he suspects a serial killer dubbed the Bell Killer took him down and must follow his trail around Salem, Massachusetts. It sounds like a thrilling concept but was somehow so boring that I kept skipping cutscenes in a story-based game. In case you haven’t realized by now, that is unheard of for me.

There are two main reasons I couldn’t stomach the narrative. One Ronan is unlikable and barely redeemable as a protagonist. His only personality trait is TOUGH, a postmortem cigarette always in hand. His only backstory is that he’s a bad boy who reformed for his now-dead wife and joined the police force. There’s nothing about him that makes me want to make sure he reunites with his wife on the other side. Besides being one-dimensional and boring, he is mean. The young girl Joy who is helping him is also looking for her missing mother. When she says halfway through the journey that her priority is to find her missing mother because there’s a chance she’s, you know, not a ghost, he calls her a bitchy teen. What’s worse? She apologizes for being too harsh. At that point I went from uninterested to wishing I could make sure he lost in the end.

Along with a leading man I couldn’t stand, the story is entirely too predictable. MURDERED SOUL SUSPECT makes the common noir mistake of using predictable red herrings. They are supposed to throw you off of the real suspect’s trail, but I never believed one of the misdirections for a minute. On the other hand, the ending was still satisfying. I saw neither the real culprit nor his or hers motive coming. If the writers had left out all the false flags, the story would have been strong. It wasn’t predictable from the start, so why the need to try so hard?

Outside of the story, the gameplay and mechanics didn’t do much to draw me in either. The investigations felt less like I was playing a detective novel and more like I was playing a glorified hidden object game without a word bank. All you do is run around the area in third person and hope a keyboard prompt pops up. At no point do you get to reconstruct the crime scene or try to make sense of the clues after you find them. Instead you sometimes answer the question, “Which clue is relevant?” Um, I like to think they all are since I spent a half hour searching the room for them. Other times you are asked to determine the order of events, but the events given have no logical time stamp on them. They are regular clues that happened in no particular order, leaving you to click on everything and using trial and error to figure out the solution.

Outside of the investigating, you spend a lot of time hunting down collectibles that contain extra story bits, and somehow this is a lot more fun. While both used the same mechanic–searching aimlessly in a limited area–not collecting every piece of lore didn’t hold up my progression for a half hour. Not finding the clue hidden behind a picture that I swear wasn’t clickable the first ten times I looked does.

Now one of my biggest pet peeves not only in games but in everything with a story is something that doesn’t keep its own rules. At the beginning of the game, tutorial Wednesday Addams tells you that you can walk through walls, but not into buildings without an open window or door, but sometimes you can, and sometimes there are ghost walls you can’t walk through even though they have the word ghost in them, and are you getting my point? You never know where you can go and when because MURDERED SOUL SUSPECT wants to pretend it has some logic to it when really the developers didn’t want to abide by any set of rules. For example you can walk through mausoleums without anyone letting you in, but not other places around town. Why? You tell me.

2015-08-28_00002
See, I wasn’t exaggerating.

Also while the game has no map, you do get waypoints that lead you to your destination, making me wonder why there couldn’t be a map in the first place. Ronan is a local, so why you have to wander around Salem like a tourist who spilled Gatorade all over her map is completely illogical. I wish the developers had at least taken on the approach that large-scale RPG makers do where locations become available on a map as you explore them. Backtracking to find collectibles was nearly impossible because everything in town looks the same, and the waypoints constantly rubber-banded in terms of how far away I was from my destination. The moment you got only a few meters away, you were either met with an impassable obstacle or the distance suddenly went back up to thirty or so meters.

Now I know Salem’s residents weren’t the brightest back during the Witch Trials, but they haven’t seemed to get any smarter. To keep the town from feeling empty, the developers programmed NPCs to wander around the streets in the same pattern over and over again. Considering the game takes place in the middle of the night while a serial killer is on the loose, deserted streets would make sense. Instead we get a bunch of insomniac townspeople with no sense of self-preservation.

My last complaint is specific to the PC version. The menus and inventory were hard to navigate because every time you opened them up, you never knew whether you need the keyboard or the mouse to move around. I would spend minutes throwing my mouse around before I realized it wasn’t working and needed to use the arrow keys. the bane of a right-handing PC gamer’s existence.

In case you can’t tell, I couldn’t wait for this game to end after playing for only an hour. It was full of ideas that were never fleshed out, and an impossibly impossible story. It’s frustrating and not worth your time.

Stay tuned.

Procrastinating is Good for the Heart

Procrastinating is Good for the Heart

Let’s get straight to it–I’m ecstatic to finally talk about one of my favorite series today: Kingdom Hearts.

In what is hopefully a true preparation for the release of Kingdom Hearts III at some point in the future, Square Enix has been releasing HD ports of the Final Mix version of the Kingdom Hearts games for PS3. On top of remastering the two original PS2 games, they pack in one handheld title to play and the cutscenes for another. Last winter I spent more time with the PS3 version than I ever did with the first game—and there is good reason for that.

Back when I played Kingdom Hearts, both main games had already been released. This meant I felt no need to savor the first game. I never realized all of the extra bosses or how fun synthesis can be for someone who likes checklists. This made replaying the game feel like a brand new experience—except for Alice in Wonderland. Fuck Alice in Wonderland.

I think this is because unlike so many JRPGs–at least more modern ones–you are never beaten over the head with what the potential secrets are. I was able to assume this was the way to obtain the Ultima keyblade and able to see that I could make potions, never imagining the wide variety of accessories and materials that came in between the two. It is the same way with the secret bosses. This was a game where I wanted to finish everything in the world on my first visit (a mindset I can’t fathom now). This means I never knew that talking to Wendy at the clock tower in Neverland or the magic carpet in Agrabah would take me to these long, difficult, and detailed boss battles. None of these were ones you could brute force. Each has a specific strategy you had to know to win and that still didn’t guarantee you victory. The only secret boss battles I even knew about were the ones at the Coliseum, and that’s probably because they list it out for you if you win the tournaments.

And the remake doesn’t change any of this. Instead, my friend and I wanted bear hug all of the content this time around, so we looked everything up online. Even with PSN trophies, all of the ones you get for beating secret bosses were hidden. This was just our chance to give the game the time and obsession it deserved back in high school.

What it did add was meant to spice up the more mundane parts of the game, making sure there was something new for everyone, not just people like me who blitz through it. There are multiple new Heartless who resemble the secret bosses. All of them take a certain strategy to be able to beat them. For example, there are these monkeys in Traverse Town that will become invincible if you do not kill each wave of them in a very short amount of time If they become impossible to hit, you better run for the exits; you’re doomed.

But the sneakiest trick this version pulls? These complicated Heartless now are the sole droppers of many synthesis items. This means that you not only have to pull off whatever Herculean feat once, but as many times as it takes to get the stones you need.

Seriously, I don’t even know how many times I went in with a kill or be killed mindset with those monkeys. Spoiler: I died a lot.

But these little tweaks to the main game made sure there was a surprise for anyone. These enemies don’t spawn every time in the same place. This means at some point a veteran player would have to get caught off guard. I mean, unless they imported this version from Japan ten years ago for which I have a lot of respect. I do not have the patience for that.

So no matter how much of a cash grab this release might have been, it did so many things right:

1. This game was old enough that fewer and fewer people had access to it. I also know that some older games–even those on the PS2–don’t look right on modern TVs. This was not a “Definitive Edition” of a game that is one or two years old. It was a chance for a new generation to have the same experience I did as a teenager.

2. It introduced content that was not originally localized here. This was a time a good five years or so before the extra enemies and items could have been sold as DLC. Square had to re-release the entire game even for its customers to experience it.

3. Most of all, even if most sleazy of all, it was a fan service that we wanted. I know I can’t speak for the world, but I do know that as an avid fan, this was the next best thing to a true console sequel. It had been so long since I saw it on the big screen that I was happy to get my hands on it.

So how do you feel? Over the last couple of months, you’ve heard my thoughts on remakes. How about you? Absolutely awesome and actually atrocious? Comment with your pros and cons.

And stay tuned!

Procrastinating is Good for the Hearts

Procrastinating is Good for the Hearts

Let’s get straight to it–I’m ecstatic to finally talk about one of my favorite series today: Kingdom Hearts.

In what is hopefully a true preparation for the release of Kingdom Hearts III at some point in the future, Square Enix has been releasing HD ports of the Final Mix version of the Kingdom Hearts games for PS3. On top of remastering the two original PS2 games, they pack in one handheld title to play and the cutscenes for another. Last winter I spent more time with the PS3 version than I ever did with the first game—and there is good reason for that.

Back when I played Kingdom Hearts, both main games had already been released. This meant I felt no need to savor the first game. I never realized there were extra bosses or how fun synthesis is for someone who likes checklists. This made replaying the game feel like a brand new experience—except for Alice in Wonderland. Fuck Alice in Wonderland.

I think this is because unlike so many JRPGs–at least more modern ones–you are never beaten over the head with what the potential secrets are. I was able to assume this was how to obtain the Ultima keyblade and able to see that I could make potions, never imagining the wide variety of accessories and materials that came in between the two. It is the same way with the secret bosses. This was a game where I wanted to finish everything in the world on my first visit (a mindset I can’t fathom now). This means I never knew that talking to Wendy at the clock tower in Neverland or the magic carpet in Agrabah would take me to these long, difficult, and detailed boss battles. None of these were ones you could brute force. Each has a specific strategy you had to know to win and that still didn’t guarantee you victory. The only secret boss battles I even knew about were the ones at the Coliseum, and that’s probably because they list it out for you if you win the tournaments.

And the remake doesn’t change any of this. Instead, my friend and I wanted bear hug all the content this time around, so we looked everything up online. Even with PSN trophies, all the ones you get for beating secret bosses were hidden. This was just our chance to give the game the time and obsession it deserved back in high school.

The additions spice up the more mundane parts of the game, making sure there was something new for everyone, not just people like me who blitz through it. There are multiple new Heartless who resemble the secret bosses. All of them take a certain strategy to beat them. For example, there are these monkeys in Traverse Town that will become invincible if you do not kill each wave of them in a very short amount of time If they become impossible to hit, you better run for the exits; you’re doomed.

But the sneakiest trick this version pulls? These complicated Heartless now are the sole droppers of many synthesis items. This means that you not only have to pull off whatever Herculean feat once, but as many times as it takes to get the stones you need.

Seriously, I don’t even know how many times I went in with a kill or be killed mindset with those monkeys. Spoiler: I died a lot.

But these little tweaks to the main game made sure there was a surprise for anyone. These enemies don’t spawn every time in the same place. This means at some point a veteran player would have to get caught off guard. I mean, unless they imported this version from Japan ten years ago for which I have a lot of respect. I have no patience for that.

So no matter how much of a cash grab this release might have been, it did so many things right:

1. This game was old enough that fewer and fewer people had access to it. I also know that some older games–even those on the PS2–don’t look right on modern TVs. This was not a “Definitive Edition” of a game that is one or two years old. It was a chance for a new generation to have the same experience I did as a teenager.

2. It introduced content that was not originally localized here. This was a time a good five years or so before the extra enemies and items were sold as DLC. Square had to re-release the entire game even for its customers to experience it.

3. Most of all, even if most sleazy of all, it was a fan service that we wanted. I know I can’t speak for the world, but I do know that as an avid fan, this was the next best thing to a true console sequel. It had been so long since I saw it on the big screen that I was happy to get my hands on it.

So how do you feel? Over the last couple of months, you’ve heard my thoughts on remakes. How about you? Absolutely awesome and actually atrocious? Comment with your pros and cons.

And stay tuned!

No-stall-gia, Part 2

No-stall-gia, Part 2

Or otherwise called, who needs cohesive and sequential posts?

I’ll start off with a confession: when it comes to gaming, I am an entitled U.S. citizen. Whenever another country makes a game, I get bitter when they don’t localize all of the content. How dare they feel the need to save money and and prioritize their distribution process?

I don’t know if a particular country came to mind for you, but I’m talking about Japan. With my love for JRPGS and every single thing I’ve played on my Vita (Persona 4 Golden may have received more quality time than my family this holiday season), I hate hearing about earlier local releases and abhor Japanese-exclusive content. I’m also too cheap for importing, so you could also call it a personal problem.

I also don’t know if a particular company came to mind, but Square Enix, I’m looking (typing?) at you.

I was introduced to the Final Fantasy series late in the game. My first one was also what I would call one of the last ones worth playing–Final Fantasy X. It is the first time I remember a game ever having such an involved story. Despite its simplicity in message, I was playing through it not only blind to the story, but also any tropes that might have made it predictable. The moment I found out the pilgrimage’s true end goal, I dropped my PS2 controller on the ground. So often I played generic good-beats-evil games. Even with captivating characters, the only unpredictable parts of those games were what wacky thing they would say next (and some one-liners you could see a galaxy away).

Also new to me? The overwhelming amount of optional content. With the extra summons, celestial weapons, and monster hunting collect-a-thons, up to fifty hours of my first game file was spent flying around in the airship, procrastinating on that silly thing called my destiny.

With all of these sidequests, I have a hard time understand why they chose to cut out the biggest challenge in the game: the dark aeons. Here you get to battle summoners who sided with Yevon, convinced Yuna and the gang were the sacrificial lunatics. These are quite possibly one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across, and with the HD remake, the United States finally got to feel the pain.

I’ll be honest, I only beat a few of them before I ran out of useful places to grind, and they are long and painful without the right exploits and leveling. Here instead of having elemental weaknesses, elemental magic is completely useless. As you might have guessed, an all-out assault is also not an option. Here you need to always have Yuna for her healing and two others. The game guide I bought–I take this shit seriously–said that you have to plan from the start who you want to have fight the dark aeons so that you fill out their sphere grids the soonest as well as give them all special stat and ability boosts.

Now I’ll be honest–this is about it for the differences. If you are not as in love with the story, characters, and battle system the way I am, there isn’t much more replay value here than there is in the PS2 original. But with the addition of this one feature, it reshaped my progress in the game. Finally I could feel justified in favoring some characters over others in battle and not feel guilty for ignoring some of the ultimate weapon quests.

A poll to the masses–has anyone out there actually dodged the two hundred lightning bolts it takes to acquire Lulu’s weapon? If so, let me shower you with virtual gold, jewels, and loose women and men.

Overall I had just as much as I did every other time I’ve played this game, but it is also one of my absolute favorites, making me easy to please. Would only one or two additions be enough reason to replay a game you have a middling opinion of? Or even one you really love; I’m a fountain of curiosity tonight.

Now I only have one more game I really want to talk about, and it is the biggest difference for me, both in how I played it and the content added.

Also I will hopefully have more information on my upcoming weekend stream here, so that you can tune in. Hey, now I can say, “Stay tuned,” and mean it literally.

So, of course, stay tuned.

No-stall-gia, Part 2: Final Fantasy

No-stall-gia, Part 2: Final Fantasy

Or otherwise called, who needs cohesive and sequential posts?

I’ll start off with a confession: when it comes to gaming, I am an entitled U.S. citizen. Whenever another country makes a game, I get bitter when they don’t localize all of the content. How dare they feel the need to save money and and prioritize their distribution process?

I don’t know if a particular country came to mind for you, but I’m talking about Japan. With my love for JRPGS and every single thing I’ve played on my Vita (Persona 4 Golden may have received more quality time than my family this holiday season), I hate hearing about earlier local releases and abhor Japanese-exclusive content. I’m also too cheap for importing, so you could also call it a personal problem.

I also don’t know if a particular company came to mind, but Square Enix, I’m looking (typing?) at you.

I was introduced to the Final Fantasy series late in the game–Final Fantasy X, actually. It is the first time I remember a game ever having such an involved story. Despite its simplicity in message, I was playing through it not only blind to the story, but also any tropes that might have made it predictable. The moment I found out the pilgrimage’s true end goal, I dropped my PS2 controller on the ground. So often I played generic good-beats-evil games. Even with captivating characters, the only unpredictable parts of those games were what wacky thing they would say next (and some one-liners you could see a galaxy away).

Also new to me? The overwhelming amount of optional content. With the extra summons, celestial weapons, and monster hunting collect-a-thons, up to fifty hours of my first game file was spent flying around in the airship, procrastinating on that silly thing called my destiny.

With all of these sidequests, I have a hard time understand why they chose to cut out the biggest challenge in the game: the dark aeons. Here you get to battle summoners who sided with Yevon, convinced Yuna and the gang were the sacrificial lunatics. These are quite possibly one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across, and with the HD remake, the United States finally got to feel the pain.

I’ll be honest, I only beat a few of them before I ran out of useful places to grind, and they are long and painful without the right exploits and leveling. Here instead of having elemental weaknesses, elemental magic is completely useless. As you might have guessed, an all-out assault is also not an option. Here you need to always have Yuna for her healing and two others. The game guide I bought–I take this shit seriously–said that you have to plan from the start who you want to have fight the dark aeons so that you fill out their sphere grids the soonest as well as give them all special stat and ability boosts.

Now I’ll be honest–this is about it for the differences. If you are not as in love with the story, characters, and battle system the way I am, there isn’t much more replay value here than there is in the PS2 original. But with the addition of this one feature, it reshaped my progress in the game. Finally I could feel justified in favoring some characters over others in battle and not feel guilty for ignoring some of the ultimate weapon quests.

A poll to the masses–has anyone out there actually dodged the two hundred lightning bolts it takes to acquire Lulu’s weapon? If so, let me shower you with virtual gold, jewels, and loose women and men.

Overall I had just as much as I did every other time I’ve played this game, but it is also one of my absolute favorites, making me easy to please. Would only one or two additions be enough reason to replay a game you have a middling opinion of? Or even one you really love; I’m a fountain of curiosity tonight.

Now I only have one more game I really want to talk about, and it is the biggest difference for me, both in how I played it and the content added.

Also I will hopefully have more information on my upcoming weekend stream here, so that you can tune in. Hey, now I can say, “Stay tuned,” and mean it literally.

So, of course, stay tuned.