Return of the Obra Dinn: Brain Nod

The backstory is set; characters parade out one-by-one, each with their own motives and shady affiliations; the intrepid detective studies the clues and picks apart alibis; a red herring; summation and accusation. A master of the detective story, Agatha Christie had this formula perfected and, alongside the escapades of a certain Baker Street dwelling detective, our well thumbed copy of the adventures of Hercule Poirot is a favourite of mine. There’s a comforting completeness to the story: the mystery is laid out, we get to see all the clues, and finally the pieces are all put together. Unfortunately, satisfying translations of this premise to video-game form are few and far between. Sure, there are some good attempts; LA Noire and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments all take a crack at the detective formula in a more interactive setting, but inevitably the story tends to linearity (or very limited outcomes) largely because of the implausibly large number of permutations that even a few small decisions can produce. It’s impossible to give the player entirely free reign of the deductions, dialogue, or direction of the story, so we’re guided down specific paths inevitably meaning that sign-posting of the correct solution becomes painfully obvious. Continue reading “Return of the Obra Dinn: Brain Nod”

Heaven Dust: Esidentray Evilway

‘Heaven Dust’ is a game that makes me smile. It’s a game made by fans. Not just any fans; fans after my own heart, whose affection for the original Resident Evil games shines through in every polygon. Some twenty-x years after Capcom’s seminal survival horror hit the scene, this tribute made by ‘One Gruel Studio’ manages to hit all the right notes needed to evoke the feel of that first tentative shuffle through the Spencer Estate whilst still doing it in a new and distinctive style. Given how much the series has evolved and diverged, there’s something refreshing about a game that rewinds time back to what hooked-us in the first place.

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…oh, I’m sorry, you wanted an objective review?? Nope.. none of that here thank-you very much… 

Of course this type of thing is so in my wheelhouse that it’s basically an oak panelled part of the decor, but I ended up playing it mostly by chance after some fortunate browsing of the Switch store. In recent months, the Switch has become a staple gaming platform for me and I’m perpetually on the lookout for new releases that are compatible with my commute. ‘Heaven Dust’ was a delightfully stumbled upon discovery that has appeared on the store in the past few weeks and fills the super-niche of being a great choice for anyone who wants to play ‘Resident Evil’ on the go, but wants something just a little more causal than just playing ‘Resident Evil’ on the go*. Continue reading “Heaven Dust: Esidentray Evilway”

Doom 3: Hello Darkness My Old Friend…

… the dropship touches down on Mars and you tentatively step out. That murky gantry over some deep chasm your first taste of this isolated research outpost. Up ahead two shady characters mutter and plot; they’re altogether too suspicious. Unbeknown to you the suspicious characters go and talk to an even more suspicious and sinister character whilst you make your way to a suspicious commanding officer and…

Oh heck, everyone you meet in this damn game is suspicious & sinister. Someone desperately needed to tell the writer in Doom 3 that writing tense dialogue doesn’t mean each character tries to out gravely voice the other and that if you make everyone sinister then it kind of loses its impact. Anywho, where was I in the plot synopsis…

You get sent off to investigate some missing workers and then one of the sinister people does a thing that releases… “Doom”… (I guess) which possesses most of the humans in the local area and starts spawning in demons. Sadly for the demons their spawning accuracy is a little off and many end up trapped in a tiny cupboard waiting for some hapless space marine to touch the pressure plate just outside the hidden door and set them free. From this point on you are playing chase the objective, being sent hiking across the Mars facility to meet up/find/stop any combination of some people/evil force/object. It’s one of those games where whenever you get it the place you were trying to get to, you find an empty room, or a dying person, who lets you know that you just missed the person/thing/entity you were looking for and they’re now on their way to some new location about 5 levels away.  Ultimately you go to hell (because it’s a Doom game) and retrieve an object which helps you destroy all the demons.

… and if it sounds like my plot summary is a little thin on details I’d like to remind you that this is supposed to be a Doom game and plot really isn’t the reason that I picked it up; not that anyone told Doom 3 that. If you really want to know what’s happening then you’ll need to sift through the mountains of PDA’s that belonged to the crew reading though emails and listening to audio logs (most of which revolve around ‘strange goings on’ and ‘crew members behaving oddly’) to get hints as to the reasoning behind the path you’re inexorably being sent along. Whilst Doom 3’s plot might not be the reason it has had a mixed reception over the years, the very fact that it has a plot attempting to be more complicated than shoot demons could be indicative of some of the underlying difficulties it faced finding its identity. Continue reading “Doom 3: Hello Darkness My Old Friend…”

John Romero’s Sigil: Iconic or Demonic?

Growing up, I played Doom… but I never really played Doom. Does that make sense? Am I making sense right now? Let me qualify that; I was too young to play Doom, I mean, of course I was too young for the violence, but the point is that I was also too young for what is effectively fast paced first-person dungeon crawling. The labyrinthine like quality to levels loaded with secrets were lost on me as I jabbed in IDDQD and IDKFA to activate god-mode, all weapons, and keys just to shoot monsters. As a result I tended to get bored pretty quickly; I’d missed the point.

I don’t know if YouTube’s algorithms extend to delving in to your childhood, but for some reason recently I’ve been recommended many videos that outline the subtleties of Doom in the form of decino’s breakdowns of different game elements (it’s like they’re trying to show me what I missed out on). Picking apart the code itself I’ve been learning about monster, powerup, weapon behaviour and, armed with this insight, decided to pick up the recent Switch port of the original game (now that many of the initial problems have been patched) to finally experience the game as it should have been played. Over the week that followed I ploughed through the original three episodes, and the fourth episode (Thy Flesh Consumed) that was added in at version 1.666; ‘The Ultimate Doom’. It turned out to be one of the better four pounds that I’ve ever spent on a game and in its current state I have no problems recommending it (aside from an annoying bug where the game freezes if you put the system in to sleep) as a solid port. Blasting through the legions of hell I found a new appreciation for ID’s classic, how they’d managed to produce something so visually impressive on the limited PC hardware of the early 90’s, the thought that had gone into the various ingame elements, but most of all how the level design brings the entire game together. Continue reading “John Romero’s Sigil: Iconic or Demonic?”

Golf Story: Frosty Log

If you’ve been paying attention then you’ll know that I’ve been looking for games where it doesn’t necessarily matter if you suddenly have to putt the controller down and you can absorb just as easily in tiny slices as well as a great big drive for completion. A little birdie told me that, being essentially turn-based affairs, golf games are a pretty on-par choice that ticks these boxes. Having said that, I’m a fair-way off being considered a golf fan, to the point that I would be considered pretty green when it comes to the rules and nuance of the game. It just so happens that Golf Story had been on my radar for a while; the hook (or draw) here being that it’s all framed in the context of a 16-bit RPG – stroke of genius if you ask me – with the protagonist being introduced as a child cultivating dreams of reaching the top.-Spin on a few years and he’s a young man returning to the game, so determined to chip away at his once boyhood goal that he’s moved house and has been forced to bunk -er… ‘sleep’ close to the golf course whilst those ideas of fame he has to Mull… I … Gan…

…no… no, it’s no use, I can’t do it anymore! Your entire helping of golf puns is in that first paragraph… enjoy…  Continue reading “Golf Story: Frosty Log”

Bendy and the Ink Machine: Creepy Controls

Spoiler Warning: Oh yes, there are spoilers for ‘Bendy and the Ink Machine’ here!… erm… be warned? 

‘Bendy and the Ink Machine’ (BatIM?… does that work?) isn’t a game that was really on my radar. I guess I recognised the box art, but really couldn’t have told you anything about it, so it was an unexpected surprise when I was given it as a birthday present last week for Switch. Turning the box over in my hands a quick glance at the back suggested that it was totally my thing; 1930’s cartoon inspired, distinctive art style, slightly steampunk horror… sign me up! At that point I was also unaware that BatIM is actually the fever-dream product of TheMeatly, not that I’m a regular follower, but I’m certainly aware of their existence. After a few evenings of play I’ve now completed it and I’m left with mixed feelings about the experience. Continue reading “Bendy and the Ink Machine: Creepy Controls”

Nidhogg II: Get Eaten, Win Game

…with a deft flick of your wrist the tip of your rapier neatly disarms your opponent. They stand. Stunned for a second before you run then through, their body hanging momentarily from your sword, dripping purple. Then they crumple to the ground and you run. That was the last hurdle. All glory is yours… you are consumed by the Nidhogg in triumph… 

In a moment of impulsiveness over the festive break, I picked up Nidhogg II for the Switch. I own the original for PC and it is the sort of game that can be quickly wheeled out at a gathering for some fast multiplayer action if called upon. Given that the Switch is now our portable gaming unit of choice, picking up the sequel on that platform (with it’s handily built-in multiple controllers) seemed like a great way to both try it out and convince my friends to drop in for a round or two at some opportune moment. The concept and gameplay of the two titles are very similar, so for the uninitiated it works like this: Continue reading “Nidhogg II: Get Eaten, Win Game”

Mario & Bowser: Maybe We’ve Been Lied To

Spoiler Warning: This post does contain some plot spoilers of Super Mario Odyssey… you have been warned! … it’s also pretty silly…

My brain began turning last week after I posted a pretty off-hand Tweet about Mario’s behaviour in ‘Super Mario Odyssey’. It was only after that I started to question what I’d been shown in game and how a few choice camera cuts could have been used to paint a very different picture of the whole series of events. The conundrum raised is, “Is he really the good-guy?… and by extension, is Bowser really so bad?Continue reading “Mario & Bowser: Maybe We’ve Been Lied To”

Editorial: January 2018 – Happy New Year

Happy new year all! I hope you all had an excellent festive holiday and enjoyed welcoming in 2018 however you celebrated. I’m lucky enough this year to have been able to extend my break so I’m still in vacation mode and very very behind on blog reading (to which I apologise to my fellow bloggers), particularly those who participated in the excellent ‘Creative Christmas’ event orchestrated by Later Levels; I’m looking forward to catching up over the next few weeks.

The new year is always a fun gaming time; the evenings are still dark here in the UK and there’s usually (as there is this year) a backlog of games from the festive Steam sale(s) and Christmas gifts eagerly waiting to be played. I’m still splitting my gaming time between the PC and the Nintendo Switch with the latter carrying with it rumours of some exciting developments in the next month, or so Adventure Rules would have us believe. Continue reading “Editorial: January 2018 – Happy New Year”

Zelda – Breath of the Wild: In Defence of the Story

Spoiler Warning: In this post I discuss the plot, including the ending, of Zelda: Breath of the Wild…the clue is in the title…

As my first real outing into the Kingdom of Hyrule, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed BotW and feel at least slightly more qualified now to engage in a Zelda themed conversation than I did just a few short months ago. It’s a game that excels at providing challenge and the thrill of adventure, however you want to tackle it, all wrapped up in a well crafted and intricate world. One of the reasons I havn’t undertaken a review style piece (other than shying away from that type of article in general) has been that it would likely deteriorate into a meaningless stream of me using all my favourite words, like “intricate” and “crafted”, without adding much to the volume of work that’s already out there discussing what a solid experience it pulls together to be. Continue reading “Zelda – Breath of the Wild: In Defence of the Story”