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1st May 2021: Attack The Block

It's been quite a while since I last had a go at a good puzzle game, so to get the brain juices flowing again I have just played through the sequel to a game I played a few years back, in the shape of Q.U.B.E. 2.

Like its predecessor before it, this game sees you using special gloves to manipulate coloured blocks in your surroundings, using them to open up new paths and to make progress.

Now my memory is a bit sketchy, but I don't remember the last game having so many other environmental interactions as this one does. In this game, in addition to the coloured cubes, you also harness other powers such as wind, fire and magnetism. In addition, there are lots of other switches and turny wotsits that let you move or change things in the puzzles. This does make it feel quite different to the original game, which I'm pretty sure (not that I can remember very well) only let you use the cubes and the occasional ball.

The original game also had quite a clean, minimalist look, which to be honest, I preferred to the more natural environments found in this one.

It also seems like they put a bit more forethought into the story of the game, rather than tacking it on at the end like in the original. Still, it does seem like more of the same, with you playing as a character who wakes up with amnesia, before pushing out into the maze of puzzles to try and figure out what is going on.

All in all, I feel about this one very much like I felt about the first game, in that it's a pleasant enough puzzle game, that challenges but never seems too hard. And doesn't outstay its welcome. That's very important.

Delving deeper into the puzzles

Delving deeper into the puzzles

Spin, you spinny thing

Spin, you spinny thing

Burning my way through a door

Burning my way through a door

Well, this is not gonna be easy

Well, this is not gonna be easy

Just what am I doing?

Just what am I doing?

21st April 2021: Getting My Weeb On

Over the Christmas period I realised I was starting to build up a bit of a collection of quite anime-inspired games, so I gave a couple of them a go. The first one completely failed to convince me to keep playing it more than a few hours. But this game here, while failing to keep me interested back in January when I first tried it, did at least warrant a second look. Though it has been a bit of a slog, especially nearer the end of the game, I have now managed to complete the main story. So while there are other things I could work towards in the game, I'm going to consider it done so I can move onto other things.

This game is Trials Of Mana, a game that came out on the PS4 last year.

I didn't really know anything about this game before playing it other than knowing that it was a remake of an old JRPG from the early 90s. I didn't even read anything about it or the Mana series until I was well into the last half of the game. Turns out that this is a remake of the third game in the series, but luckily knowledge of those other games is not really required.

From what I can gather, they have been very respectful to the original when making this new version, something which, in my opinion, is a double edged sword. While fans of the original probably appreciate what has been done here, the sheer levels of early 90s Nintendo cheesiness are at sky high levels, and the story and dialogue are at times laughably bad. It really wouldn't surprise me to discover these things are direct from the original, as it seems no work has been done to improve or modernise them. Things are not helped at all by the fact that the new voice acting is also fairly lacklustre for the most part.

Compare this to the FF7 remake from last year. While quite a lot of effort was put into paying respect to the original story (at least for now - who knows what will happen in the future), the characters and their dialogue were dramatically improved, plus the voice acting was really good.

So forward I stepped into this franchise for the first time ever, picking the amazon Riesz as my main character, Angela the sorceress as companion number one, and the beastman Kevin as companion number two.

Wait. Did you just say Kevin? Kevin... the beastman?

Why yes.

Yes I did.

What's with these eyebrows?

What's with these eyebrows?

Merchants get their groove on<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Merchants get their groove on
(video)

I'm not distracted.<br />Honest.<br />Nothing distracting here.<br />What was I saying again?

I'm not distracted.
Honest.
Nothing distracting here.
What was I saying again?

Angela gets zappy

Angela gets zappy

Good job there's no fall damage in this game<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Good job there's no fall damage in this game
(video)

Wow, this gigantic bird-turtle-thing sure can swim<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Wow, this gigantic bird-turtle-thing sure can swim
(video)

As it turns out, the remarkably stupid name of one of the characters was far from the worst thing about my team. Riesz turned out to be an absolute bore, and as dumb as a bag of rocks to boot. Kevin was just as stupid as Riesz, with his only character trait being "me hungry". Angela was the most interesting of the trio, and the one I ended up preferring to control in battle, but even she was mainly just an irritating, entitled little princess who only seemed to get excited about going shopping.
Urgh. Not good.

The story was odd. An absolute multitude of different evil factions are all fighting against each other to claim something called the Sword of Mana, which will give the wielder insane power over the entire world, and you are obviously out to stop them. To do this, various magical elemental stones must be visited and activated, and their imprisoned monsters battled. I got a bit lost trying to keep up with who was who in all of the different factions. Each enemy force had leaders, and goons, and ultimate evils they were trying to raise, and I mostly just tuned out, preferring to run around twonking things.
I do give the game credit for having the enemy factions going against each other in the story, though. Indeed at one point, there is a large battle between three factions at the location of the mana sword, and its a shame we as the player don't actually get to see it.

So what is the actual gameplay like? Hmm. I'd say it was mostly pretty good and sometimes pretty bad. It's a third person combat game, which allows you to pause in order to use magic or items. So in this regard, it's quite like the FF7 remake, but more simple. And like that other game, there are similar things that annoyed me. For example, there is a delay in performing an action such as dodge if another animation is playing out. It's a problem with games that I keep rattling on about, but it's something that narks me. The other thing is that it's one of those games where the characters step forward, or sometimes even jump forward when they attack, meaning they can sometimes just step right passed their target and miss entirely.

The other main thing about the gameplay that annoyed me was only in certain locations. See, you often get indicators on the floor a second or two in advanced whenever an enemy is going to do a big attack, giving you the time needed to run or dodge out of it. However, I found that in sand or snow environments, these indicators were really hard to see, making battles here more difficult.

In truth, the main problem with the game was the slow load screens, of which there were many. So freaking many. This, as well as constantly re-visiting the same areas on the map, and constantly fighting the same enemies, made the game drag on for far too long. So while it was a perfectly fine game to play through, if it was shorter by a quarter or even a third, I'd have had a far better and more enjoyable time. As it was, I really had to knuckle down and wade through the last parts of the game.

Kevin gets scrappy<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Kevin gets scrappy
(video)

Goremand looks like he's taking a dump

Goremand looks like he's taking a dump

Some fancy harpy hovering skills<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Some fancy harpy hovering skills
(video)

What the fook is this thing?

What the fook is this thing?

That's some bad breath there my dude

That's some bad breath there my dude

Angela goes for the big twonk

Angela goes for the big twonk

The other game I played, back in December, is about as JRPG as it can possibly get, in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1. I saw this on sale on GOG a while back and thought it looked like it might be fun. Alas, it was not fun enough to keep me playing longer than a few hours.

The game has an interesting, tongue-in-cheek setting, which I found quite charming. The entire land is called Gamindustri, and each of the four countries or zones is named after one of four gaming consoles, such as Lastation and Leanbox. Each land has their own Goddess, who I think is supposed to protect their people from monsters and also promote their land so that their land can get more 'shares'. Shares of what I'm not sure. Maybe faith or something.
However, the Goddesses are more interested in fighting amongst themselves, and the game opens up with one of them, the main protagonist of the game named Purple Heart, being teamed up on by the other three and being defeated. Purple Heart falls down to Gamindustri suffering from amnesia. In her mortal guise of a young girl named Neptune, Purple Heart begins gathering a party to head out into the world, defeat monsters and figure out who she really is.

The game is split between somewhat typical turn-based RPG combat, and story sections that are presented in a visual novel style.

Would a Goddess who looks like this even take this comment as an insult?

Would a Goddess who looks like this even take this comment as an insult?

Neptune does not like big-heads apparently

Neptune does not like big-heads apparently

It's I <i>couldn't</i> care less. COULDN'T!! This shit always gets my goat.

It's I couldn't care less. COULDN'T!! This shit always gets my goat.

I can't mince my words here. While there were one or two things I liked about the game, it mostly just annoyed the fuck out of me. There were two primary issues. One being that the game barely explained anything, and often when it tried to explain something it was already too late. Case in point was when I was in a dungeon, and I saw a slightly different enemy icon on the minimap. Wondering what it was, I initiated combat, only for the enemy to one hit kill every single one of my characters. Then in the next dungeon the game finally explained that the different icon means "dangerous enemy". Thanks for the warning, game.

Mostly though the game does not explain anything, and I had to go on the internet to help figure things out. For starters, there's no explanation about what your character's stats do, at least in the first couple of hours of play. When the game does explain something, it will usually tell you that you can do something new, but won't properly tell you how to do it. It was annoying.

But the main problem without a doubt was the forced grinding. I just followed the main story, as most people I imagine would. And when my party was at about level 9, I came upon a boss fight against one of the other Goddesses, who absolutely fucking wrecked me. I assumed, as one would, at this early point in the game I would never be able to beat a Goddess, and thought it would be a scripted loss. But nope. I simply died and got the game over screen. Upon doing some research, I discovered people recommend a grind up to level 20 before tackling that boss. So with a big sigh, I set off into some dungeons, but only levelled up to lvl 12 before getting way too bored of that shit.

What an absolute joke of a requirement, to put that kind of grinding in a game so early on. Didn't help that most of the characters were also really irritating. Only IF of the main three characters was bearable (and what kind of name is IF??), though Neptune also became far less annoying when in her Purple Heart form. But other than that, all of the conversations made me roll my eyes so hard I could look back into my skull.

I promised I would not waste time on games I did not enjoy, so simply uninstalled it, never to be played again. Good riddance.

Boingee!

Boingee!

IF gets all choppy

IF gets all choppy

Yes, even more boob references

Yes, even more boob references

4th April 2021: My Balls Are On Fire

Up next in the completion list is the 2017 game Pyre, by the same people who made Bastion and Transistor. With those first two games, I had kind-of opposite experiences. I really liked Bastion at first, but it started to drag as I got further into it. And I really struggled to get into Transistor at first, but then started to enjoy it more once I'd unlocked more skills.

This game has been a different experience yet again. Though unfortunately, the experience was one of very little enjoyment from start to finish. I guess I really should have stopped playing it soon after the half way mark, as I was getting frustrated. But the end of the game did at least earn it a little bit of redemption, so I was at least a little glad I stuck with it.

So just what is the game, and why did I not get on with it very well?

The game is mostly delivered in two very different ways. The story sections are all in a visual novel style, with no voice acting and lots of text to read, and occasional choices to make that will have an effect on your characters stats or equipment.
The meat of the gameplay comes across like a fantasy version of basketball, where two teams of 3 players fight in out in real time, and try to throw or dunk a celestial orb into the opposing team's pyre, in order to reduce its flame to nothing and win the contest.

The massive amounts of text in the game quickly became boring, especially as a lot of the world's history and lore is delivered in the form of a book, with dozens of pages that you are expected to read. Let's just say I barely touched all that shit.

Synchronous banishment

Synchronous banishment

His name's Barker. 'Cause he's a dog. Get it?

His name's Barker. 'Cause he's a dog. Get it?

Jodariel goes for the big dunk

Jodariel goes for the big dunk

The competitions themselves, which are called "Rites", were also frustrating to play. Partly this was because I was using keyboard and mouse, which I chose so I could aim my attacks better. But this choice gave me some trouble seeing as my characters only then had 8 directions of movement with WASD.
All that I could deal with for the most part, but the main problem was that the enemy players just seemed to be more responsive somehow, like they could move faster, and jump better, and their auras would return faster. That kind of thing.

The story and characters were quite interesting, even though it did feel like it took forever for it to go anywhere and to get any pay off. But this feeds into the main double-edged sword of this game. See, when participating in the Rites, occasionally you will have the opportunity to free one of your characters from the exile you have all found yourselves in. Because I quite liked many of the characters, I wanted to free as many of them as possible. Problem is, when they are free, there is no longer any way to use them when competing in the Rites. And as all the characters have different skills, once my favourites were free, I was left with a bunch of players I didn't really like using all that much, making the Rites even more frustrating.

The little bit of redemption I mentioned earlier comes at the end of the game, where you are presented with information about all of the characters in the game, both on your team and on others, and learn what happened to them after all is said and done. I imagine the information here can be quite different depending on which players go free, and what other choices you make during the game, and this was the only time I was really into reading every last little word.

Concerning the characters, my fave was easily Jodariel, and I selfishly regret freeing her so early in the game. But I also really liked several other characters, including Ti'zo, Sir Gilman and Pamitha.

With so many games to play, it's unlikely I'll play Bastion or Transistor ever again, but at least there's a chance. This one however, has no chance at all. I mean, I'm glad it's done, but oof, I could have done without it.

Bertrude unleashes hell at our opponents

Bertrude unleashes hell at our opponents

Sir Gilman was fun

Sir Gilman was fun

Interception!

Interception!

One game I managed to get working after a bit of tweaking was Virtua Tennis. I played it for a couple of hours, and found it was ok, but it struggled to keep my attention when so many other games are vying for it.

It wasn't bad. I just found the player movement a little bit sluggish, and it seemed inconsistent when trying to place my shots. The main problem though was that progression seemed to be locked behind training sessions. I didn't mind playing the games, because at those times it was like the other (very few) tennis games I've tried in my life, being quite playable. However, the training sessions were frustrating and boring.

Still, I'm not saying I'll never come back to this, but it's highly unlikely, and definitely won't be anytime soon.

Come on, Tim!

Come on, Tim!

Giving Courier something to think about

Giving Courier something to think about

Looks like I'm checking for a bug on the floor

Looks like I'm checking for a bug on the floor

Trying a doubles match

Trying a doubles match

28th March 2021: My Mortal Weakness Rising

All done with another PS4 game, this time in the shape of Immortals: Fenyx Rising. This is a 3rd person action and exploration game set in a total cheesecake version of Greek mythology, where Typhon has stripped the Gods of their powers, meaning you have to step up to put things right.

It was strange at first to find that, even using a controller, there was a mouse pointer on the menu screen. Out of interest I plugged in a mouse and keyboard, and to my delight found out that this is one of those rare console games that support such inputs. However, I soon grew frustrated, as the mouse lag was so bad that it was making me feel sick. It must have been at least half a second between moving the mouse and seeing the action happen on screen. Totally vomit inducing.
With a sigh, back to the controller I went.

I enjoyed the game well enough for the most part. The combat is fast and fun, with lots of different types of attacks and item builds available. I also quite liked how fun and silly the game was, and with the exception of Hermes, who could be irritating, I also liked all of the characters.
However, I'm still not sure about the humour in the game. I mean, it wasn't really funny, even though it was trying hard to be. But it was fun that it was trying to be funny, if that makes sense?

The puzzles were a bit weird, though. I don't remember it ever seeming hard to solve the actual puzzles, but I do remember getting a bit annoyed with having to run around and find the pieces you needed to solve the puzzles, like a rock or a ball, for example. I don't like things that purposefully waste my time.

Twonking a bear

Twonking a bear

Getting ripped

Getting ripped

Meeting my boy Phosphor

Meeting my boy Phosphor

Fenyx plays with her balls

Fenyx plays with her balls

Mood of the day = purple

Mood of the day = purple

Fenyx gets ready to squeeze some New Year's juice

Fenyx gets ready to squeeze some New Year's juice

Very early on in the game, you gain a companion bird named Phosphor. This dude and I got on very well, and I based my entire combat strategy around him. I would use my stamina to constantly call Phosphor to attack. Whenever he attacked, he would also heal me. Then my gear was set to give me loads of stamina back every time I went in with the sword, which was also upgraded to do as much damage as I could afford. This strat worked a treat all through the game, so you can imagine my frustration when I went into the final fight against Typhon and found Phosphor was not available. It made the end fight a much longer slog as I had to constantly back off to use healing items, instead of just tanking and chopping my way through the threat like I had been doing up to that point.
Maybe if I'd created a more skill-centric build I would have been alright.

But then again, I would have needed actual skill for that tactic to work.

By far my biggest gripe with the game was the traversal. Sheesh. What an absolute ball ache it is to move around the world in this game. Until you've got more fast travel points open, getting from one place to another means a lot of foot slogging, or taming a slightly faster mount. The problem is there are always ravines or cliffs in the way to wherever you want to go. This sucks when climbing up the myriad of walls or rocks, or gliding just a short distance, drains your stamina in no time, especially early in the game. You have to constantly plan your routes to make sure there are enough stopping points to get your energy back. It fucking sucked.
And by far the worst place to get around in the game is the final zone in the north of the map. Even later in the game with more stamina and abilities, that area makes it as hard and as frustrating as possible to scale that mountain. I gave up trying on my own, and had to resort to a walkthrough. Felt like a right muppet.

But still, it's done, and I can move on to the next one.

Just going for a glide with my best bro

Just going for a glide with my best bro

Uh oh, the idiot found the photo mode

Uh oh, the idiot found the photo mode

Hit this thing so hard its arm came out the other side of its body

Hit this thing so hard its arm came out the other side of its body

Twonking a Cerberus

Twonking a Cerberus

Auditioning for the next Tron movie

Auditioning for the next Tron movie

Rumbling with two automatons<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Rumbling with two automatons
(video)

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