Sunday, April 8, 2012

Monday Musings - 9th April, 2012

This week i did something that i haven't done in a while (and used to be a staple of my gaming habits)... i downloaded and played some demos. Extra Credits was responsible with their most recent episode of 'Games you might not have tried'. I recommend you give it a watch as there are some very interesting titles in this edition (and if you don't watch Extra Credits, i recommend you go back and check out their archives cause the work they do is absolutely amazing in terms of looking at games analytically and making the medium better).

Now, let us muse!

Catherine (PS3)

Having jarred my ankle something chronic early on in the week, i had a lot of time where i was resting it. Aside from watching movies, and checking out some of the local television stations that have on demand services through my PS3, i played a bit more of Catherine. I also played some last night, but being near the end of the game and playing at night is not the smartest idea. I was stuck on stage 7-2 and for the first time in the game, i looked up a video walkthrough on youtube. Of course the solution made me feel stupid as it was pretty obvious, i just didn't see it (isn't that usually the way though?).

I touched on this before, but while earlier i found Catherine's formulaic progression kind of quaint, now it's gotten a little disappointing. The whole cycle of nightmare, cut-scenes during the day, and then the bar in the evening works well to breed familiarity and what to expect, but in that familiarity, the lack of surprise for new gameplay is extinguished somewhat. I mean you expect a new twist on the climbing each night and that does make for interesting gameplay, but really the only surprise comes from the progression of the story, and as that section of the game is not interactive (except for influencing the morality dial in other sections of the game), as a player, this sense of just going through the motions starts to set in.

I will end by saying that the climbing stages are quite clever in how they progress, and you genuinely feel intelligent for working your way passed a problem. Puzzle games that make you feel smart are definitely doing something right.

Portal 2 (PC)

It's been close to a year since i played the game (i never did finish it), and the reason i returned is i had an opportunity to try the co-op with a special lady friend. We played through the majority of the first two lab sections, stopping on this one puzzle with a laser cube and crushing spiked walls.

I must say that there were many circumstances where the urge to play a prank on my companion resulting in their unfortunate demise overtook, but in self interest i used my willpower to overcome these feelings.

Perhaps it's due to time or just that the co-op experience is more of a pure puzzler like the first game, but i got that feeling of solving the puzzles making me feel smart again (I think my issue with the single player of Portal 2 is that the story and humorous dialogue overshadowed the feeling of solving the puzzles). It could be sharing the experience as well, or at least solving puzzles with another mind (for instance i've always enjoyed playing through adventure games with friends as a second mind brings greater enjoyment, and less hitting that brick wall that the genre is famous for creating).

I am definitely looking forward to continuing the experience.

Xotic Demo (PC)

The first game i checked out from the Extra Credits vid. It's kind of like what The Club tried to do, but instead of chain killing, you're terra-forming the land (so essentially switching the theme of this type of play from death to life). Well there are enemies to destroy too, and it is one of the completion icons at the top of the screen, but the majority of the game is shooting plants to cause chain reactions to areas, and jumping to collect these coloured DNA-strandy type things. There's a time bonus, so quick completion is rewarded, and at the end of a level, a five star rating is possible (and then experience is gained to upgrade your character).

While i found the gameplay fun and intriguing, the lengthy tutorial and the vague areas and reasoning for play left me a little cold, as did the plethora of game options when choosing a level (as well as the strange restrictions on upgrading my character which i think were imposed by the demo).

I recommend people give the demo a go, especially if you were one of those who liked what The Club tried to do (i was for the record).

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale Demo (PC)

I've heard good things about this game for a while and after it was mentioned in the video i grabbed the demo. I've actually put quite a bit of time into it so far. My first play i fell quite short of making the weekly payment that acts as the game's checkpoint barrier. I started reading tips and tricks online and so far my second playthrough has me in no danger of missing the payment. Having figured out the best way to make money though, i'm a little disappointed with how the game plays.

The hook is that it's a management sim. You're controlling the item shop in a town full of adventurers, and each day you need to buy stock, display it, and then sell it for an optimal price (which fluctuates depending on customers). The funny thing is that to level up your market skill, which opens up more options for selling, you need to chain sales together (which means not selling an item at a rate where the customer asks you to lower your price). The best way to do this is to sell at base price, which if you have bought your merchandise, will not net you any profit whatsoever.

This leads to the best way to make money, which is to hire an adventurer and go dungeon crawling. Everything you find in the dungeons sells for one hundred percent profit, and within three days of opening the store, i had almost reached the weekly payment goal. My problem with this is that in essence it becomes like every other Jrpg with a fun little side addition of selling everything you find as the manager of your own shop (kind of like playing the auction house in an MMO).

It's still a good game and i'll probably sink more time into the demo, but seeing that the hook of the game was a bit of a fa├žade dampened my enthusiasm for the title.

Final Thoughts

It's not videogames but board games i want to talk briefly about here this week. For starters my Saturday night was spent with friends, Easter chocolate, alcohol, and The Simpsons Game of Life. Not only was our game immensely fun (because of the company and mood of course), but most of our conversations were recorded by one of the players on her phone and there might be some animating and youtube uploading in my future to share some of the more hilarious moments with the world.

But speaking of youtube and board games, i encourage you to check out Wil Wheaton's new show Table Top in which him and some of his nerdy celebrity friends play interesting table top games as the cameras roll (and the game is explained as they play). Episode 1 is on a game called Small Worlds, and it looks like episode 2 which is being released later this month is Settlers of Catan. The link is below.

I'm interested, is anyone else a fan of all games, and not just the electronic variety? I'm always on the lookout for fun new board and card games. I think part of it is that these games force local multiplayer, which readers will know is my favourite type of multiplayer, having your friends on the same couch or in the same room. It creates a much more enjoyable gaming experience in my opinion. Some of my favourite non-videogames from the last few years are Munchkin, Carcassone, and Gin Rummy (i've also been planning to run a Shadowrun game for what seems like forever now).

So if you do play other games, what are some of your favourites? Let me and others know in the comments!

And til next week, happy gaming all!

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