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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: Hyper Nopetunia

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

11th February 2021: And That's That, Bat

Been spending some more time in Gotham, and have managed to apprehend all the villains and collect all of Riddler's trophies in Arkham Knight. I'm still not sure why I really bother with all the trophies and crap in these games, as I didn't really get much out of it in Asylum or City, and didn't really get much out of it in this. But I just had to shut the annoying little shit up again.
Also, why did they make the Riddler kind-of the end boss in these games, as you spend way more time hunting him than dealing with any of the other members of Batman's Rogues Gallery?

With the main game out of the way I went through the six mini-games, called the Arkham Episodes, which I think had all been DLC when the game originally released. In the episodes, you play as other characters instead of Batman. Surprisingly, the one I enjoyed the most was the one where you play as Red Hood, one of my least favourite characters in this game. There was just something about his play style and no-nonsense attitude that made it that bit more gratifying than the others.

The least favourite episode I did was the last one, which happened to be Catwoman's. The entire series of Arkham games up to this point has rewarded a certain approach to fights, by being tactical and precise. But the end fight in this was incredibly frustrating, and in contrast punishes you for trying to fight in the "proper" way. I tried and tried a bunch of times, with absolutely no chance, until I settled for just spamming the attack button, which easily beat the fight on my very next attempt. I didn't feel either happy or skilful after that experience. Just relieved.

So now I'm all done with Arkham Knight, and therefore, the entire Arkham series. It's been a wild, mostly very enjoyable, ride.

This dude's having a bad day

This dude's having a bad day

Batman and Dollotron boogy on down

Batman and Dollotron boogy on down

Ouch

Ouch

No photographs please

No photographs please

Just helping a cop with his bad back

Just helping a cop with his bad back

Finally "mastering" this battle

Finally "mastering" this battle

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