Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 (2016, PS4) - Pac Your Bags for the Ghost Train


When Namco announced a new Pac-Man Championship Edition game I was totally hyped. The original version, released in 2007, and its 2010 sequel Championship Edition DX were my favorite of the arcade retro-revival titles, with DX improving on the first game in a number of ways. I assumed CE2 would be more of the same, an iteration that improved and expanded on existing mechanics, but to my surprise, Namco's latest Pac-Man game goes in very different directions.

Championship Edition 2 feels less like an expansion and more like the original rules reinterpreted and evolved in a new manner. I feel that DX remains the better game, but I do have to applaud Namco for trying something new with their sequel instead of taking a safe course.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kholat (2016, PS4) - Snow Day for Death Mountain



I've generally enjoyed the often maligned "walking simulator" brand of narrative game; Soma, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Gone Home, these are all titles I've dug. These are games mostly devoid of action, where the focus is on wandering detailed environments, learning a story (often second hand by way of journals and audio logs) through observation, and just soaking in the atmosphere. Kholat, developed by Polish studio IMGN.PRO, sounded like something I'd be totally into: Stuck in a blizzard on top of a deadly mountain, players explore a hostile environment to find clues related to the Dyatlov Pass Incident of 1959, in which a group of Russian hikers mysteriously died.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Hyper Light Drifter (2016, PS4) - Deadly Drifter vs. Foul Frogs



With elements of both classic 16-bit and modern action games, Heart Machine's Hyper Light Drifter is a mixture of harsh combat, mysterious exploration, and minimalist storytelling. Designer Alex Preston made a big splash on Kickstarter, with the game raising over $600,000 on an initial goal of only $27,000. A few months after its PC release in March, the PS4 version is finally here, and I've been excited to see what it has to offer.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Salt and Sanctuary (2016, PS4) - Needs More Pepper


With Dark Souls being a hugely popular series, it's inevitable that elements of its game design would drift into other titles. You've got direct attempts at creating new games within the same genre, such as Lords of the Fallen and the long-delayed, often rebooted project Ni-Oh, games that attempt to mimic the challenge and loneliness such as Titan Souls, and you've got the 2D side-scrollers made in Souls' image, which includes the upcoming Death's Gambit. Ska Studios' Salt and Sanctuary falls into that final category.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Street Figther V (2016, PS4) - My Fight Money


It's never easy to review a fighting game. The genre is built on growth and learning, as communities both online and local develop new strategies, discover broken techniques, and figure out detailed match-ups, showing who's best in which situation. Developers release patches to boost or weaken characters, balance is often in flux, and new content, even a single character, can shake things up. Since its release in February, I've held off on writing about Street Fighter V. Six months out and with a major update released, now feels like the time to take a look at the game's issues.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Furi (2016, PS4) - Not so Fast and Furious



Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus is a title which has remained popular with gamers and developers since its debut in 2005. A masterpiece of boss design, Colossus focuses entirely on large-scale, one on one fights with little filler in between. The bosses themselves are the puzzles, and the land between them is meant only for atmosphere and for optionally boosting your strength if you choose to.

The inspiration of Shadow of the Colossus can be felt in the climbing of giant enemies in Dragon's Dogma, the bosses only, 2D single-shot action title Titan Souls, and even the peaceful landscape exploration of games like Journey. It's also a title that's referenced a lot in independent development. Furi, by French developer The Game Bakers, is one such indie game, a sort of hybrid of the Boss Fights Only format of Colossus and the quick, reaction-based pattern recognition of a Punch-Out game, with some bullet hell-style shooting in between.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brief Words of Mouth - The Neon Demon (2016) - or, Show Biz Will Eat You Alive



The Neon Demon: Or, what the hell did I just watch? Like Only God Forgives as a follow up to Drive, this movie is partially Nicholas Winding Refn saying, "that was too nice, how can I go darker?"

The first 2/3rd of the film are a hallucinatory show business/fashion world as Hell story, along the same lines as Black Swan. The final act is a disgusting series of events that keep getting more and more ludicrous until I went from feeling sick to just throwing my hands up and laughing. Every shot's perfectly composed, with incredible color, light, and framing, and Refn makes sure that we watch, in graphic detail, some absolutely horribly gross things. I really don't get grossed out by movies easily; I did here! This wouldn't be as effective at home on a TV, being there in a theater unable to turn away is truly something special and horrible.

Maybe there's some psychic future-sight at play here. Maybe the moon's a conscious, malevolent force. Maybe there's witches around. No one turns into a literal werewolf, though maybe they should. There are monsters, in the form of walking, talking metaphors. While picking out lipstick names, Jena Malone's character asks,"Are you food, or sex?" The best line in the film.

Keanu Reaves is really funny, until an awful turn of events. Jena Malone is the only real human in this world and has the only solid arc, until an awful turn of events. Elle Fanning and the other women playing models are all (intentionally) robotic. Alessandro Nivola is hilarious, and nothing bad happens to or with him! He says, "Beauty isn't everything, it's the only thing," which is maybe Refn lightly laughing about himself. The mix of the beautiful and the shockingly monstrous in this film's leads parallels the nature of Refn's films themselves.

Do not watch if you have a weak stomach. Even in the movie itself, some people just don't have the stomach for it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gone Home: Console Edition (2016, PS4) - Kaitlin Greenbriar's Radical Rummage



Sometimes, I just feel like digging through my dressers looking at old stuff. I've got a habit of holding on to relics of my childhood, even total junk like a busted Game Boy covered in racing stripe stickers. It's less nostalgia for the items themselves (there are dozens of more convenient ways to play Game Boy games now, and most of them were pretty bad anyway) and more an emotional connection to where I was in my life at that time. It can be an old comic book I drew, the first CD I ever bought, or an old photo album. I sat with my friends reading this comic, I listened to this CD with my dad, I took these pictures with my first camera. An obsession with the past is often messy, but a night of reminiscence is always fun.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Doom (2016, PS4) - Keen Excitement Returns to Mars



I have to admit I wasn't too excited for id Software's 2016 remake/re-envisioning of Doom when I first heard about it. While I enjoyed the original Doom way back in 1993, I'm generally not a big first-person shooter fan, and I put very little time into 2004's Doom 3 before giving up on it. Once the new Doom launched, I was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reviews, but didn't get a chance to check it out myself until publisher Bethesda launched a free demo at E3 2016. Demos are increasingly rare nowadays, but this one proved why they're so valuable: I downloaded it, played through, and immediately wanted to pick up the full game. I'm glad I did: This new version of Doom is the best shooter I've played in years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Valkyria Chronicles Remastered (2016, PS4) - Kawaii War II



Eight years after its original release on PS3, Sega's cult-classic turn-based strategy game Valkyria Chronicles has been remastered and re-released on PC and PS4. While it spawned two smaller sequels on the PSP, this series has never been a breakout hit, but this new version has the potential to inject new life into it. I was a big fan when I first played this title in 2008, so how well has it held up?