Friday, July 13, 2018

Summer Backlog Review #2: Oxenfree

Welcome back to the Summer Backlog Challenge 2018! My first review, for Night in the Woods, was fun to write and has been fairly well received, so I'm going to capture that energy and use the momentum to forge ahead with my second review, this time for Oxenfree.  This is another modern adventure style game, with a strong emphasis on character and player choice.   It was developed and published by Night School Studio and was released across all the major platforms in early 2016.  As I mentioned in my introductory article explaining why I picked my ten games, it was the only one of the bunch that I hadn't bought for myself, instead being part of my Xbox Game Pass subscription.  So then, should you buy it? Or at least use your Game Pass trial to check it out? Let's take a look...

& Character: 9 out of 10
Oxenfree begins with Alex, the player character, Ren, one of her best friends, and Jonas, her new step brother, arriving on Edwards Island for their annual summer party. They soon discover that not many people have bothered turning up this year though - just two others in fact.  The rather bitchy Clarissa, and her friend Nona that Alex doesn't know very well.

After a while chatting, drinking and playing an ill-advised game of Truth or Slap (like Truth or Dare except, well, you get slapped), Alex, Ren and Jonas end up investigating a nearby cave, where some strange phenomena involving a radio that they brought along results in the entire group getting scattered to all corners of the island.  From that point on your objective is to reunite with everyone and figure out what the hell is going on.  That's easier said than done though because you find yourself trapped in some rather disconcerting time loops that seem to get more serious as you go.  To say any more about the plot would risk spoiling the game for you so I'm just going to leave it there.

Depending on your responses to the other characters, Alex can be a friendly, helpful girl or a complete menace to everyone.  I was generally trying for the former but occasionally I picked an option that put me down the bitchy path.  As the game proceeds you can either get to know more about Jonas, or spend time reconnecting with Ren.  Personally I chose to go with the first option most of the time.  You also gradually come to understand why Clarissa has such an attitude to you, and you might even become friends with Nona, although I didn't really interact with her very much. The story is intriguing from the get-go and Alex is a strong enough protagonist to carry it along - soon after starting the game I didn't want to stop until it was done, which says a lot.

You frequently have to choose between dialogue options,with each one mapped to a different button.

8 out of 10
Oxenfree features a truly gorgeous hand painted art style that I fell in love with the from the moment I first saw it.  Every part of the island has been lovingly pieced together, from the woods, to the caves, the beach and the little town center. The character models are apparently 3D but from the zoomed out perspective that the game is set at they complement the style of the backgrounds well.  Whenever necessary there are also some decent lighting effects, and the "VHS player with dodgy tracking" effect that happens whenever there's a time loop is very cool as well.

Sound & Music: 8 out of 10
First and foremost, I was very impressed with the voice acting in Oxenfree, especially as I hadn't heard of any of the actors used before.  They may be established performers already, but if they are I'm unfamiliar with their work.  At any rate their delivery came across as natural at all times.  My only small gripe is that at several points in the game when I had chosen a dialogue option, my reply cut across what they were saying - there doesn't seem to be any queuing of lines like in Mass Effect, for example.  It was irritating because I wanted to hear what the characters were saying but sometimes it doesn't give you very long to answer before the game just moves on without you.

This is backed up by a fantastic soundtrack performed by the artist know as scntfc which is both dreamlike and spooky.  I may actually listen to some of this outside of the game - perhaps at work or during my commute home, it's very nice stuff indeed.

The art in Oxenfree is really fantastic, with a hand painted feel.

Game Mechanics:
8 out of 10
The game play of Oxenfree is mainly you exploring the island as Alex, trying to work out exactly what is going on and having conversations with the rest of the party. There are typically three different responses during any particular conversation, and you don't always have very long to answer which I found problematic sometimes. Depending on what you say, the other characters may warm to you or grow to hate you over time - in fact there is an achievement for getting everyone to despise you!

Occasionally you will have to use your radio to "tune in" to the weird phenomena on the island or interact with things to break yourself out of a time loop. There are no real mini games like there were in Night of the Woods, though - it's mostly just good old fashioned story telling and adventuring.  That's alright though, because Oxenfree does this very well.  The narrative is brief enough that it doesn't really need game play gimmicks to break it up.

Things start to get weird a short way into the game.

& Cleverness: 6 out of 10
The game play is not all that innovative, really, although much like Night in the Woods, Oxenfree does a great job of translating the classic sort of point and click experience into something much more console and controller friendly. The way the story is told does actually feature quite a lot of innovation though, and is very cleverly put together, to boot. Don't let the six put you off, this is actually quite high for this category.

Value & Replayability: 7 out of 10
Your total play time for a single run through of Oxenfree is likely to weigh in at around the four hour mark, which may sound rather slight.  There are quite a few different endings that can be achieved though which gives the game significant replay value. I'm not sure if I will go back and play it again, personally, because I usually consider my first play through of a game like this as my own personal version of the story, and leave it at that.  When so much time has gone by that I don't really remember the game anymore though, I may revisit it.

As part of the overall package you also get some documentaries that touch on various aspects involved in making the game, which is a very nice bonus and something I wish more games would do.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Oxenfree did draw me in much quicker than Night in the Woods - I originally only intended to play it for an hour, then that became two, and eventually I just said sod it and played through the entire game in one sitting! Don't let the four hour running time put you off too much, especially if you do intend to replay the game and get all of the endings.  This really is the perfect sort of game for Xbox Game Pass because you can try it out risk free as part of the free trial or your subscription if you're already paying for it.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Summer Backlog Review #1: Night in the Woods

I've managed to cross off several games from my Summer Backlog Challenge 2018 so far, and here I am with the first review of what will hopefully be a minimum of five, but potentially as many as ten. For those who are not all that familiar with this Night in the Woods, it is an indie adventure title developed by Infinite Fall and published by Finji.  It was first released on PC, in February of 2017 and has since made its way to all of the major consoles, including the Nintendo Switch earlier this year. I played the game on my Xbox One because I picked the game up around Christmas time in a sale. I had heard many good things about this game from the likes of Alex Navarro from Giant Bomb and others who recently discovered it due to the Switch release, so it was an easy choice for the first game I wanted to finish as part of this years challenge. So how was it? Let's take a look!

Plot and Character: 9 out of 10
This is really where this game shines the most, which is just as well because most the the game play does revolve around the characters and their antics.  The main character is Mae Borowski, an anthropomorphic cat like creature who has just returned to the town where they grew up after suddenly deciding to bail on college life for reasons that are undisclosed until later in the game.  Possum Springs is a quiet, mostly peaceful little town that has seen better days, at least economically - shops and restaurants are regularly closing down, the mall is mostly an empty, lifeless shell, far removed from the hustle and bustle of its glory days.  Mae is at that difficult stage in her life where she is no longer really a child but not yet fully committed to the notion of adulthood or aware of what is required of most responsible people.  She doesn't yet know what she wants to be, which understandably is the source of quite a lot of angst.  She spends her days sleeping or aimlessly wandering the town and chatting to the residents, and her nights getting embarrassingly drunk or doing things that she shouldn't with her old friends.

These old friends include Gregg, a foxy / doggy thing who has nothing but love for Mae, but is probably not the best influence on her. Nevertheless, despite his fondness of crimes and general immaturity he is at least managing to hold down a steady job at the local Snack Falcon and a loving relationship with his boyfriend, the bear-thing Angus. Mae's other closest friend is Bea, a chain smoking crocodile whose life spent looking after her ailing father and working at their family store every day is starting to take its toll on her.  She's tired, cranky, and more than a bit resentful that Mae not only up and left, but randomly decided to throw away the opportunities that were afforded to her at college on a whim. Over the course of the game you will mostly be spending your time with one of these two in various skits.  You normally have to choose, too - spending time with Gregg means that you won't be seeing Bea, and vice versa. As the game goes by Mae keeps a journal where she sketches key events that happen, and the only way to complete it is to play through twice so you can do what you didn't do last time.  Angus and a strange duck like bloke known as Germ do also feature in the story a little bit, as well as Mae's parents and her aunt in the police force, but the trio of Mae, Gregg and Bea are the main focus.

The script is incredibly well written, sounding very natural and full of humour. I liked Bea in particular as her snarky comments brought a smile to my face on several occasions.  Gregg is cool too but I really didn't spend all that much time with him - maybe I will play the game again so I can see what he was up to.  Underneath the charm and the amusing antics is a darker tale though, which I'm not going to elaborate on here - just know that the tone of the game starts to shift a bit towards the latter stages (though there are hints that something sinister is coming throughout the game). Yes, the plot and character are definitely the main strengths of Night in the Woods, but that's not all it's got going for it, thankfully.

Yeah, I get that a lot too, Mae. :(
Graphics: 9 out of 10
Visually, Night in the Woods is a delight to look at.  No, it isn't a polygon pushing powerhouse, with god rays and particle effects spunking in your face at every opportunity, but it is a great example of 2D artwork.  The whole game has a cohesive, cartoony style to it, probably because all of the art was created by just one person.  It reminds me a bit of Richard Scarry's Busytown, except a bit darker and with a more autumnal colour palette.  Gorgeous stuff!

Sound and Music: 7 out of 10
While I did enjoy the music while playing through game, I've found that a lot of it isn't all that memorable outside of the experience, save for a few pieces. I've used those in the background of the video. I was slightly disappointed that the game doesn't feature any voice acting at all, though I do understand why there may not be any for budgetary or artistic reasons.  I picture Bea sounding like one of Marge's sisters from The Simpsons.  Sound effects are used fairly sparingly throughout the game, but a pretty solid when there are used.

Most of the time, Mae does speak a lot of sense.
Game Mechanics: 8 out of 10
Being an adventure game at heart, there is quite a lot of talking to people throughout Night in the Woods.  Each day in Mae's life begins with her waking up at home, having a quick chat with mom, and then heading out to see what's going down in the town. You are relatively free to explore Possum Springs, although it is not a terribly huge location. Usually, by talking to either Gregg or Bea (and occasionally other people) you will trigger a story sequence, and then the day will end after it has played out.  You are given fair warning that this is going to happen though, in case you want to scour every inch of the town to see what's changed (something I recommend doing to get the most out of the game).

Dotted throughout the game are other mini games as well, such as band practice.  I was utterly terrible at the this unfortunately, and Mae's journal reflected this.  There's also a complete rogue lite called Demontower, which can be launched from Mae's laptop in her bedroom.  I spent almost an hour playing this and managed to get to level 5 (out of 10, I believe) where things started to get pretty challenging.   The art style changes to that of a classic 16-bit dungeon crawler and for a side game it's a very polished experience.  I think there is an achievement tied to getting all the way to the end but like I said it does get pretty tough after a while.

Night in the Woods probably won't appeal to those gamers who like a steady diet of blood, guts and wall to wall action, but you probably already know if this is the sort of thing that will appeal to you or not.  If you are still on the fence about buying it right now, then I would suggest that you wait for a sale, or for the game to be featured in Games with Gold, PS Plus or Xbox Game Pass.  It's the sort of thing that I can see being offered up as part of those services onr day, and personally I would be thrilled to receive it, if I hadn't already bought it of course.

A feline after my own heart!

Innovation and Cleverness: 6 out of 10
This was a bit of tricky one to score - games like Night in the Woods have definitely been done before so it's not that high on innovation, though the cohesive design style, witty writing and arrays of fun mini games all contribute towards a decent cleverness score.  Let's go with a six then!

Value and Replayability: 8 out of 10
Night in the Woods wasn't quite as short as I had been led to believe it was - it look me about a dozen hours to complete which considering the price is more than reasonable.  Then there's the fact that you can play the game over again if you want to and see quite a few different scenes from your first time through.  The Demontower mini game is the very addictive cherry on top, and you could sink a fair few hours into just playing that should you wish.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Night in the Woods did take a litle while to get it claws into me, but after I had warmed up to Mae, her friends and the strange world they live in I really did start to love it. If this sounds like your sort of thing then I would really recommend checking it out without hesitation.

Thanks for reading - I will be back with my review of Oxenfree quite soon.  In the meantime you can check out the video version of this review below.   Take care!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Summer Backlog Diary #3: Night in the Woods & Oxenfree

This post is not going to be terribly long today because I will be writing full reviews of both Night in the Woods and Oxenfree quite soon, and I don't want to end up repeating myself too much. I did want to give you a quick update however because at the moment I'm not too sure when I will find the time to edit these reviews together - hopefully I will have one of them done by next weekend at the latest and then have the other one ready to upload during the week after next.  My PC has been acting up just lately though which meant that the latest Covertape Chaos took almost 6 hours to make when it should only take about 3 at the most.

Anyway, I should stop rambling and get to the point.  Night in the Woods and Oxenfree share quite a few similarities: the are both gentle paced adventure games where being able to take your time and explore them thoroughly is really rewarding.  Neither of these are a huge time investment, but both are set up in a way that it is impossible to do everything in one play through - so instead of fretting about what you might have missed or looking up how get the best ending, you should just enjoy the story that the developers have decided to tell and go with your gut instinct. At least for the first time through.  I'm not sure whether or not I will come back and play either of these a second time - for certain games like the Telltale series, I like to just play them once and feel like that is my personal version of the story.  Going back and doing things another way can sometimes spoil the illusion.

Both of these games are very well written, and do a very good job of portraying believable characters with interesting back stories combined with some very strange goings on in terms of the plot. Both of the protagonists, cat like creature Mae and blue haired teen Alex, are fairly likable but definitely have their fair share of neuroses and personal shit that they have to deal with. I know common wisdom states that Gregg is apparently the best character in Night of the Woods, but I found myself more interested in Bee, the chain smoking crocodile chick who is having to work all hours of the day to support her ailing father after her mother tragically passed away.  It's clear that at one point in time Mae and Bee were extremely close, but her situation and resentment of Mae's decision to just give up college one day get between them.  I chose to spend time with her and work through their problems rather than carry out crimes with Gregg.

Whereas Night in the Woods took a little while to get its hooks into me, I was fully committed to finishing Oxenfree by the time my first hour with it was up and got to the end in one roughly four hour sitting. I loved the painterly art style, exploring the island with it's interesting array of places, and delving deeper into the mystery of what's going on.  It took me a lot longer to finish Night in the Woods over a dozen or so short-ish sessions, but one of those was almost entirely taken up playing the fully featured rogue lite that can be played on Mae's laptop.  The quality of that minigame alone rivals that of many indie games, and it's entirely optional!

I am glad that I have finally crossed both of these games off of my backlog list.  Time to think about what's next! I'm still plugging away at Mass Effect: Andromeda and starting to get towards the end game now I think, but I don't want to to finish it until I have at least completed all of the crew's loyalty missions.  Other than that, I think I will probably try Pyre next, it does sound very interesting. I'm also playing the odd session of OnRush here and there, and will be messing around with some of the Games with Gold / PS Plus / Xbox Game Pass offerings this week, but that's not official Summer Backlog business so I'll save it for another post or video.  I think that does it for the time being - keep an eye out for those two reviews over the next week or so, and I'll be back with another diary once I've had time to play some more.  In the meantime, take care!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Summer Backlog Diary #2: Putting the "Ass" in Mass Effect?

Welcome back! The Summer Backlog Challenge 2018 is now in full swing, and I have mostly been playing Mass Effect: Andromeda... mostly. So today I'm going to share my opinion of the game so far.

You will no doubt be aware of all the fuss and general derision that met Andromeda upon its original release. Memes were created, rants were spewed forth, mediocre reviews were written by the gaming press, and death threats were sent to one of the animators responsible for the notoriously ropy facial animations in the game. When Casey Hudson returned to Bioware, one of the first things he did was announce that the company had cancelled their plans for any DLC and that the franchise was going to go on hiatus for extended period. Andromeda was blamed with killing off the series, but does it really deserve such a stigma?

Well, in it's original state, maybe, but in it's patched state I would say that it is actually a decent game. Still flawed, yes, but enjoyable in many ways. At the moment I would place it above the original game in the series, which also had it's fair share of quirks and design flaws, slightly after 3, and way way behind 2 which is the best game in the series so far. I may adjust that assessment when I come to the end of the story, but I have quite a long way to go yet.

So what do I like about it? Well the most notable thing is the combat.  After an initial adjustment period where everything feels wrong, you quickly get a feel for jumping, boosting, and sniping fools in mid air, which is just cool.  For this play through at least, I went with a pure soldier character (my usual choice when I play a Mass Effect game for the first time). There are plenty of abilities in all three skill trees to choose from and lots of scope for building interesting hybrid class characters, which I may explore if I choose to play the game through again at a later date.

I also quite like the main character, Ryder - or at least, my version of her. I have watched some videos from the likes of Outside Xbox and Giant Bomb where they were playing as the male Ryder, and he came across as a bit of an annoying dick, but the female version seems kinder, more jokey. I am also playing as a purely paragon character this time, going to great lengths to help everyone out and be nice to them.

As for the rest of the crew, there is definitely no one to match Garrus, Liara or Tali among them, but I do quite like Jaal.  He is very well written and voice acted, and the Angara are an interesting new race. It is a shame that they are the only new non hostile race that are introduced, and they also came at the expense of fan favourites like the Quarians, the Volus, the Drell, etc. I strongly suspect that these other races would have been part of the DLC, but we will never know now.  Vetra is also pretty cool, different enough from Garrus to just be a female clone of him.  Peebee can be pretty annoying at first, but I warmed up to her over time.  Drack is basically just another, older version of Wrex and Grunt - the same gruff, hard headed Krogan stereotype that we've seen before.  I struggle to find the human members of the crew very interesting, they're just a bit too generic for me.

Talking to the crew between missions, getting to know them and furthering their loyalty quests is one of my favourite parts of the Mass Effect series, and Andromeda does a decent enough job in this regard. There's certainly plenty of content to get stuck into, with about 50 - 60 hours of play time, 6 or so sizable planets to explore, and a seemingly endless supply of quests.  Some of these quests can get a bit annoying as they send you back and forth across the Nexus, or to other star systems, but I haven't skipped anything yet. I think if I were to play too much of this game in a short space of time I would start to tire of it, but short sessions every now and then keep it interesting.

I've already touched on a few things that I don't really like about the game, but let's go over a few more.  Firstly, the plot is hardly inspiring.  The overall idea of exploring a new galaxy and preserving the Milky Way races from extinction at the hands (claws, tentacles?) of the Reapers is an interesting one, but for the most part it's squandered here. The remnant, and the kett just feel like recycle versions of what we've seen before, and the revelation of what the kett actually are was hardly earth shattering news.  They've just used the Prothean / Collectors story again, but not as competently.

Other than that I am definitely starting to notice some glitching as I get further into the game.  Mostly it hasn't been a problem, but there is some noticeable and distracting pop in on the planet of Kadara, and Cora phased inside a shelving unit the other day with just her head sticking out the top talking to me.  So although several patches were released and the game is a darn site better than it was initially, they didn't get everything, and now they never will.

I haven't really explored the multiplayer side all that much yet, just a few quick matches. It seems like it's basically what was present in Mass Effect 3 though, just expanded a bit.  Your actions in the multiplayer mode do tie back into the single player, giving your money and resources to use on crafting, but it doesn't feel as critical as it did when it was affecting your Galactic Readiness rating.

I probably could find more to say about the game but I think I'm going to stop there for now.  There will be a full video review in time, but it will probably take me a few weeks to play through the rest of the game.  In the meantime I hope that I will manage to play through the entirety of Night in the Woods this weekend, so that will be the focus of my post next time.  I usually post my YouTube content on Tuesdays, but I don't think I will be ready to make my review by then, so it may end up going up on a different day.  At any rate, stay tuned to RMGB TV and keep any eye on the blog for more.  In the meantime, take care!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Summer Backlog Diary #1: Why I Chose Them

As I recently announced on my YouTube channel, I'm taking part in the 2018 Summer Backlog Challenge. If you're not aware what this is, the idea is to choose 10 games that you've been meaning to get around to for a while now, and try and finish at least 5 of them between June 21st and September 23rd (the official start and end dates of Summer). I tried this a few years ago and only managed to complete 4 games, so I have adjusted my tactics this time around. This year, at least half of my picks can be finished within 4 - 10 hours approximately, so I should be able to finish these off over the course of a weekend and have no excuse for not meeting the quota. The rest are significantly longer games that will take weeks, if not months to finish, so I probably won't get around to all of those. If you would like to watch the video I made I will embed it at the end of this article - I've included the official trailers for all 10 of my picks that give you a nice idea of what each one is about. Game length isn't the only reason I picked the games I did though, so let's delve a little deeper into why each one made the cut.

I loved Torchlight and Torchlight II, so when Runic Games released Hob I bought it to support them, even though I was slightly disappointed that it was a different type of game.  I figured that they would probably get around to making Torchlight III later on, after making a few other things as a palette cleanser.  Then towards the end of 2017, they closed down.  For a while, I kind of resented Hob and blamed it for their demise, but after watching the Giant Bomb Quick Look for the game, I decided it looked pretty cool and that I should stop being silly and appreciate it for what it was: the last offering from a talented bunch of people that I respect and admire. Of course then there were tons of other games coming out and the game got a bit lost in the melee, until now. According to How Long To Beat, Hob weighs in at around 10 or so hours, so it's the ideal candidate for one of my short game picks.

Cosmic Star Heroine
Another game that takes around 10 or so hours to finish, Cosmic Star Heroine is the latest offering from Zeboyd Games, who previously brought us Breath of Death VIII, Cthulhu Save the World, and parts 3 and 4 of the Penny Arcade RPG games. Their games are always packed full of humour and entertaining writing, and the gameplay is a satisfying mix of classic turned based JRPG style combat combined with some new elements. I picked this one up in a sale earlier in the year and like most of the rest of the games on this list, kind of forgot about it until now. So here it is!

Night in the Woods
I've listened to so many people go on and on about how amazing Night in the Woods is ever since it was first released, and it's been on my gaming "to do" list ever since, but for whatever reason I keep putting it off. Well no more! Night in the Woods tells the tale of an anthropomorphic cat creature called Mae as she returns to her childhood home after being away for an extended period of time, as she hits that stage in her life where she is supposed to start being a responsible adult.  The trouble is she hasn't figured out exactly where she fits into the grand scheme of things, so this charming adventure game is mainly about her figuring that out.  Night in the Woods should take roughly 8 hours to finish, so it's easily doable, and this will probably be one of the first games I cross off this year.

This is another adventure style game that I've heard many people discussing over the months since it's release.  Unlike most of the other games featured here, I didn't actually buy it for myself. I either got it via Games with Gold, or it was in Xbox Game Pass - I forget which. Anyway, it looked interesting so I downloaded it, and then it just sat there on my Xbox One's external drive with the other 200 or so games.  So let's get it done!  Oxenfree is estimated to take just 4 hours to finish!

Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Now we start to get into a few of the longer games on my list. Battle Chasers is here because it's the next game from the mind of Joe Madureira, the comic book artist who helped create the Darksiders series with Vigil Games and was responsible for the look of those games. This is an adaptaton / sequel to his own comic book series that was apparently left with a cliffhanger ending for years, before this game was successfully funded on Kickstarter and released on most major platforms. I sampled the first few hours of the game back when I bought it, and it's a mixture of Joe Mad's fantstic art with classic turn based battles, combined with new gameplay ideas that help make it feel fresh. Battle Chasers: Nightwar takes between 26 and 43 hours to polish off, so this will be a more long term challenge.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
I've been wanting to play the PS2 version of Odin Sphere for ages now but eventually it got to the point where I wasn't willing to pay out a significant amount of money for an old game.  When Atlus remastered the game in HD, tweaked the mechanics to make the whole thing more accessible and put it out on the PS4, picking it up was a no brainer. Unfortunately, actually getting around to playing it proved rather more challenging, so I would like to try and put some time into it this summer. Doing everything will take 30 hours plus.

Jumping back to the shorter games for a second, Pyre is on this list due to a combination of factors, most of which will probably sound familiar.  Firstly, it's the latest product from Supergiant Games, the developers of the excellent Bastion and Transistor.  Secondly, it is very highly regarded by people whose opinions I value a lot.  Thirdly, it has very interesting game mechanics, being described as fantasy NBA Jam with RPG elements! Finally, it should only take about 10 hours to finish, so it's another ideal candidate for a weekend binge.

Mass Effect: Andromeda
I have just recently completed the original Mass Effect trilogy again, but I never finished Andromeda. Unlike the rest of the games on this list, I have already spent a significant amount of time with this game on the PS4.  However, I have started again from the beginning on the Xbox One with a different version of Ryder, the main character.  A lot of people didn't have very kind things to say about Andromeda, to the point where EA decided not to release any DLC and to delay any notion of a sequel for a significant amount of time.  This is a shame, because the game is nowhere near as bad as the whingers were making it out to be, especially now the ropey animation and unfortunate bugs have been patched.  While none of the characters hold the same appeal as the likes of Garrus or Liara, there is still plenty to enjoy here.  This will be the first of the lengthier games in this list that I will focus on, and is expected to take anywhere between 18 and 60 hours!

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time
This PSP entry in the classic Growlanser series has been in my collection for quite a long time, and I did spend a chunk of time with it on the handheld back when I first bought it - enough to know that it is a fantastic game with a great story, brilliant writing and gripping mechanics. It's also a significant time investment, taking around 50 hours to get to the end. I recently dusted off my Vita TV, which I picked up on the cheap a couple of years ago but never actually used all that much.  The thing is, it's great for enjoying PSP RPG's from the comfort of your sofa, on your big TV! This probably has the weakest graphics of all the game on this list, being a PS1 style game created for a very low resolution handheld system, but that doesn't mean it's not worthy of being here!

Journey has been on my list of shame forever! You know how sometimes, when literally everyone is banging on about how wonderful something is to the point where it actually becomes annoying and you actively avoid that thing as a result? Undertale was one of those, and so was Journey for me. I figured it was probably about time that I find out what all the fuss was about though, especially as it will only take 2 hours to finish!

So that's my list - after deciding on the final 10 I suddenly remembered another game that I originally wanted to be part of it: Firewatch! Oh well, too late now.  Maybe if I get through the first 10 I will play Firewatch as well as a bonus.  That's a bit of a tall order though.

The plan is that as I finish each game on the list, I will capture my gameplay and create video reviews for each on YouTube.  I also intend to continue this diary, probably with a brief update once a week summarising my progress.  That way, the blog gets a much needed injection of new content as well as RMGB TV!  See you again soon, in the meantime here's that YouTube video I put together...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Child of Eden | Last Gen Regen: Forgotten Favourites

Ever since I played Space Channel 5 on the Dreamcast for the very first time I have been a big fan of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and particularly any games he makes with a musical component to them. Space Channel 5 was funky, fun and fresh and I loved it. Then Mizuguchi released the game that absolutely cemented my faith in him and ensured I would follow his work with great interest.  That game was Rez, the trippy on rails shooter that played a bit like Panzer Dragoon but looked like a bit like Tron and sounded like 90's rave.  It was the unique combination of visuals, sound and vibration that made the game special.  It doesn't matter to me that you can basically finish it in less than an hour, I have replayed it countless times over the years and will continue to do so.  I think of it more of an interactive music album than a game, although that might suggest it's not that fun to play, which would be incorrect. Thanks to several re releases on the last few console generations, you can still get hold of a copy of Rez and find out what makes it so great for yourself, which I really recommend you do.

After this Mizuguchi released Space Channel 5 Part 2 shortly before the unfortunate demise of the Dreamcast, which improved on the first game in every way.  Then he went and founded a new company, Q Games, and made the fantastic PSP launch title Lumines, which melded music and puzzle game play together in a unique way.  He did a similar thing with Meteos on the Nintendo DS, although the game play of this one never really clicked for me - I greatly preferred the chilled out, relaxed pace of Lumines, over the frantic, stressed out feeling to get when playing Meteos.  We then shift forward in time a little bit to E3 of 2010, when Ubisoft unveiled a trailer that got me really excited.  It was a new game by Mizuguchi, and everything about it just screamed Rez, from the visuals, the music used and the brief glimpses of game play.  The name that was revealed at the end was Child of Eden though, probably because Sega held on to the Rez licence and so Miz couldn't use it.  So this was to be a spiritual successor rather than a true sequel then.  Interesting. It was also the first game for the Kinect that looked half way decent, although luckily you could also use a standard controller to play all of the game. I must have watched that trailer half a dozen times after that, and I really grew to love the tune that was used. After that though, all I could do was wait patiently for the game to be released, which is was it 2011. So let's get into why I think it's still worth playing today...

Graphics: 9 out of 10
The visuals of Child of Eden are fairly similar to those of Rez, being a trippy kaleidoscope of colour and light that reacts with your actions and with the music, but there with the exception of one particular stage everything has more of an organic feel to it. There is definitely a lot more going on visually than in the previous game, which can be detrimental to the game play at times because it can be hard to see the purple items that will hurt you.  After a bit of practise you will grown accustomed to the design of each stage though and be able to anticipate where the danger is coming from.  The Xbox 360 runs the game without any problems, and should you be playing Child of Eden via Xbox One backwards compatibility it looks even better thanks to the anti aliasing used by the emulator. It's still a very pretty game even today, though there will be definitely be those who this particular aesthetic won't appeal to.

Sound & Music: 8 out of 10
Like the visual style, the music of Child of Eden definitely won't appeal to everyone and will probably be an acquired taste for a lot of people as well. Rather than the pure trance found it Rez, the Child of Eden soundtrack is a trance / J-Pop fusion, and the music is all by one artist rather than a bunch of different ones. The artist in question is Genki Rockets, a passion project created in part by Tetsuya Mizuguchi himself and featuring the vocal talents of Rachel Rhodes. I was familiar with one of their tunes because it there was an unlockable music video for it in the Wii version of No More Heroes, and the same tune is featured in Child of Eden. Personally I really like their stuff, it's very relaxing and I own both of their albums which I have listened to many times.  I'm listening to "Heavenly Star" while I write this script actually, to help me keep the game in mind. I think I prefer the Rez soundtrack ever so slightly over the Child of Eden soundtrack, though I think both have their merits.

Child of Eden remains an extremely pretty game even today.
Game Mechanics: 7 out of 10
The game play of Child of Eden is incredibly similar to that of Rez, except the perspective has shifted to first person rather than third person due to the addition of the Kinect control method. You control a cross hair either with your hands and the Kinect camera, or with the left analogue stick, and "paint" targets by holding down the fire button as you move the reticule over the enemies.  Upon release you will fire homing lasers at all the enemies you have locked on to. A lot of the enemies won't actually pose any threat to you, though there are those that shoot back purple bullets at you.  With these you need to use the right trigger to shoot a matching purple beam that will eliminate them. There are also purple enemies that will need to be weakened with the right trigger before they can be shot normally with the A button.  From time to time blue orbs will appear that will increase your life meter which is portrayed by a five petalled flower in the bottom right of the screen.  There are also purple orbs that will allow you to fire a screen clearing super beam.

When Child of Eden stays true to its Rez roots I find it to be just as enjoyable as that game, however when it diverges from what came before there are a few issues that hamper it a little bit.  I've already mentioned that the game is a lot busier visually making it hard to see enemy bullets from time to time.  The game also features a star system where you cannot progress to the next level until you've earned a set number of stars. This is probably in reaction to Rez being too short, but it means you will have to replay the same few levels over and over to earn more stars which is rather tiresome.  It's not particularly challenging because you can earn more stars from levels that you've already completed, it's just annoying.  Finally there are the Kinect controls.  When I first got the game I did have a Kinect and I tried using it, but I found it much harder than using a normal controller and gave it up pretty fast.  Not long after I traded the Kinect in while it was still worth something. I expect you can get good with it with practise but I didn't have the patience for that.  It's not a major issue though because wisely Q Games haven't forced us to use Kinect controls.

The "Beauty" stage is quite possible my favourite.
Innovation & Cleverness: 5 out of 10
Rez would score very highly in this category, having pioneered the game play also seen here.  Child of Eden doesn't really bring all that much that's new to the table though.  It does include some very nice level designs which I why it still earns a five here.

Value & Replayability: 6 out of 10
Much like Rez, Child of Eden is a very short experience.  It does take slightly longer to beat due to the annoying star system to unlock the later stages that I mentioned earlier, but not that much longer.  There is also a bunch of unlockables that will extend your time with the game a little bit, such as a higher difficulty, a 6th stage which is a challenge mode, and a bunch of different visual skins.  I do come back and replay Child of Eden every so often, though not as much as Rez.  If you would like to buy a physical copy of the game, the PS3 version is selling for about £5 these days and the Xbox 360 version is £10.  You can claim a free copy of the digital version until December 15th if you subscribe to Xbox Live Gold though.

Overall: 7 out of 10
While Child of Eden doesn't live up to illustrious predecessor, it is still a lot of fun.  The few problems with it hold it back a bit, but it's nothing too bad. I remain hopeful that we will see a true sequel to Rez in the future, especially with the recent release of Rez Infinite and the extra Area X that Q Games made just for it.  In the meantime though, I think I shall replay Child of Eden one more time!  That's the end of this review - however please feel free to stick around for a little while longer if you'd like to enjoy some more of the graphics and music from the game!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Game Diary: Quite the Achievement!

Hello everyone! I realise there has been a dearth of content for quite a while though.  Hopefully this post will be just the start of a flurry of activity on the site, as I have a lot of things to write about. To begin with I want to let you know what I've been up to over the last month or so, and why both the blog and YouTube channel will benefit. So, somewhere around the end of May I noticed that my Xbox Live Gamerscore was about 12,000 points shy of 100,000, which is currently the highest VIP tier called Overlord. Those who are in the Xbox Rewards program who manage to reach this level get and increase in the amount of reward points they get back on purchases, which gets converted to cash every so often.  I decided that I would make it my goal to try and reach the 100,000 points, and also go back to quite a few games that I had only partially completed in the past.

So far I've managed to finish Far Cry 3 on the 360 as well as Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition and Assassin's Creed: Blag Flag.  These aren't the easiest achievements to get but they aren't too bad.  I'm not trying earn every achievement in every game either, as that's not my idea of fun. I did finish most of the side content in these three games though.  As well as these games there were also a number of Telltale games that I hadn't played yet - Tales from the Borderlands, The Walking Dead Seasons 2 and 3, as well as the Michonne mini series.  These are all an easy 1000 points just for getting to the end, and I had been meaning to get around to them eventually anyway.  In addition to all this I have also signed up for Xbox Game Pass and have been playing quite a few shorter games such as the Sega and Capcom retro collections for games like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Dungeons & Dragons.  I personally think the Game Pass is excellent because I never would have spent money on games like these when there are so many AAA titles just waiting to be picked up instead, yet I would still like to play them.

Just lately I have moved on to playing Watch Dogs and have gone back to Forza Horizon 3 where I still have a lot left to do.  The same is true for quite a few of the older Forza titles as well - there’s so much content in those games that I’m never finished by the time the next one comes out.  Although I have already played Watch Dogs on the PS4, that was several years ago now and I did enjoy it. Watch Dogs was one of the Games with Gold in June so I haven't had to pay anything for it - in fact I took a bunch of older PS4 games that have since been in either Games with Gold or PS Plus to CeX and got £27 in trade in value, which I used to get Ghost Recon: Wildlands.  I haven't really played much of it yet though.

Looking to the future, I’ll be moving onto trying to polish off Mad Max and Mafia III.  I have tons of other open world games to get to – Assassin's Creed Liberation HD, Unity and Syndicate, Saints Row IV Reelected, Sunset Overdrive, Re:Core – tons!!! Right now I still need to earn just under 5000 Gamerscore to reach 100,000, so I've still got quite a bit of gaming to go.  Of course, as a result of this very Xbox centric time my PS4 and Switch are getting a little bit neglected.  I'll make up for that after I'm done though, especially as I really want to spend more time with Wipeout Omega Collection and dive in to Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age which is out very soon.  Even the 3DS is getting some love right now with the awesome looking Ever Oasis, a full on remake of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Metroid: Return of Samus!

Anyway, as I've been playing through these games I've also been capturing quite a bit of footage from them, and I do intend to write reviews and create videos for them as well.  I've been putting it off for a while because I wanted to write this very article that you're reading now, so now I've got this out of the way I shall start knocking out those reviews.  I'm also in the middle of PS2 Tuesdays Season 4 as well, so I do have to spend some of my time playing and reviewing some PS2 classics.  Speaking of which, the next one of those will be The Red Star, a great and overlooked arcade style shooting and fighting hybrid. Once I've got that made and uploaded I shall then try and find a spare hour or so to write the Sleeping Dogs review, and so on with the other games.  You should see quite a bit of productivity if I manage to stick to the plan!  If you have any recommendations of Xbox One or Xbox 360 games that I could play through then be sure to leave a comment. I have recently picked up copies of Bionic Commando (the 3D one), Wet and Kane & Lynch: Dead Men for £1 each - are any of them worth trying? What about the Lost Planet trilogy? I've been thinking of getting those too as they are so cheap.  Any advice would be appreciated!