Hey guys, welcome to our new board software. You'll need to re-register to post.

Izzy's 2022

User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Wed Jan 11, 2023 4:09 pm

Ok, it's going to take me a good while to assimilate all this, and I'm not going to try to do it in a hurry, so forgive me for my turtle's pace. I've always been that shell-covered reptile, in so many ways, and even more so as I've gotten older. I've got the bones of this thing kind of put together, but I'll need some fine-tuning and time to get it sorted the way I'd like. So, please accommodate my drip-feed reviews and ranking while I work it all out in my head and on the screen. I'll try to do a post every day or two.

I'll start, as usual, with replays. I replayed 2 games this year and here they are.

REPLAYS

Atari Vault (PC)
ImageImageImage

I was hankering for some simple nostalgia towards the latter part of 2022, and I decided to spend some more time with Atari Vault. There's something to be said for the simplicity of many older games, as well as for the pure joy of trying to best a score. Granted, many of these games (both 2600 and arcade) aren't very refined by today's standards, however there are still a good number of compelling, if relatively simple, games on offer in this collection. I got pretty absorbed in the arcade version of Asteroids for a bit this time, and I had fun playing Real Sports Football on the 2600. A pretty basic representation of the sport that can still be fun head to head, but I just enjoyed the nostalgia of going back to that one from my childhood. I remember being blown away by the marketing for the “REAL” sports line from Atari back then. Sports were my life, and gaming also held a large portion of my heart, and the idea of advancements in sports gaming got my blood pumping even back then as a child. I also spent a bit of time hopping around and sampling a smattering of the 100 titles in this compilation. It's difficult to rank it due to its age and the required affinity for the era from having lived it. I'll just say that it was a 5/5 at the time, but today it's more of a 3/5 with some exceptions that are still as fun as they ever were. But for the child who spent a great deal of time with many of these titles, it's still great to experience some of that emotional rush from the past, irrespective of relative quality and complexity. This compilation is one I'll always return to for a bit of that particular nostalgic flavor. (I need to pick up the new Atari compilation. I saw how much love was poured into that one.)

Dead Space (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

The unknown. It's the primal, fundamental fear. It's why people fear the more profound mysteries such as death and the deepest ocean abysses. It's why kids (and some adults) are afraid of the dark. It's even why people fear more benign human experiences and even many potentially positive ones, such as starting a new job or meeting new people. That unknown is, at its root, inevitably a fear of death in all cases. The dissolution of the idea of “self” terrifies the mind, believing itself and its comfort zones to be all there is. Dwarfed by an obvious vastness far beyond comprehension, the mind and ego recoils at its own frailty and, in many instances, simply buries its head (no pun intended) in the sand at the prospects of its insignificance. And what is more vast than the immensity of space (and time), a largely silent and endless inky blackness that is potentially home to all manner of threats, real and imagined. The inherent existential dread in this type of setting is what is so compelling about space horror to me. And the Dead Space franchise embodies one of the best examples of this sort of theme.

I decided to go back and play the original, something I hadn't done since its 2008 release. There's always a bit of trepidation when returning to a beloved classic, which Dead Space most certainly is for me. Would my memories be validated by a fresh set of eyes that have undergone their own changes on the journey of life, and in a more narrow sense, how have possible changes in expectations for the medium of gaming had an effect as time has transmuted the landscape of this art form? I didn't expect to find my opinion fundamentally altered, but again, there's always a bit of nostalgic risk tied to such ventures into the past, and that warm feeling of fondness for treasured experiences is not something I wish to callously tread upon. But my confidence was high enough to dive in, and I found the intervening fourteen years to have been very kind to this seminal work of action-horror.

The most immediate and obvious thing that stands out upon reinspection is the absolute tour de force Dead Space was, and still is, in terms of audiovisual presentation. The lighting against the predominantly dark locales is both striking and brilliant in contrast and depth. The glow of Isaac Clark's visor, the digital hologram displays of character inventory and various controls panels and data terminals, the starlight through windows and the dynamic lighting and ambient occlusion in murky, foreboding hallways all combine to create varying and subtle layers of the interplay of light and dark that blend to form a rich and dense visual setting. The geometry is often enormous with blazing engines and herculean moving parts, creating a sense of scale that makes the player feel small and insignificant within this massive mining vessel. The sound is equally detailed, full of echoes, metallic clanks and various hums and unidentified noises along with sounds of whispers coming from a Marker-addled mind losing its grip - all of it comes together to induce a persistent feeling of tense vigilance. Just wandering through the ship with no action taking place gives off an incredible mood that causes you to expect the worst at any moment, wonderfully befitting a horror experience. The feeling created is one that was well ahead of the curve in terms of presentation and that remains an impressive package that still amazes today.

And as good as the presentation is, there's a wonderful action experience driving the whole thing. Not only do we have twisted extraterrestrial necromorphs to contend with, but early on we're given the edict to “cut off their limbs”, a twisted and satisfying proposition given full expression via an excellent arsenal of weaponry the rends asunder the hordes of monstrosities threatening our rescue from the USG Ishimura. There are often numerous foes to contend with and combat takes on a strategic form as we use our stasis ability to slow one threat while dealing with another, blasting away extremities and stomping the pulp out of already-dead, twisted and mutilated forms in a cathartic stress release that never gets old.

And all the ambience and action is tossed into an enticing wrapper about powerful alien technology in the Marker - a double helix shaped artifact that is devastating both physiologically and psychologically, rending flesh and creating cultish loyalty and zeal in feeble minds, taking away all sense of power, identity and hope from most - a threat that carries the potential to endanger the whole of the human species if affecting the larger populace. The pacing was wonderful as well, with puzzles, zero-gravity sections along with oxygen-limited space walk regions keep things fresh and engaging in between action-oriented encounters. The intensity ramps up nicely as things unfold and there are some real pulse-pounding moments on the journey, especially at higher difficulties where ammo and upgrades aren't so prevalent. And going back to it on PC gave me a new appreciation of the title, as it was blessed with greater fidelity from better hardware.

There are some minor gripes as there usually are in even the most enjoyable things in life. Whoever designed the asteroid turret section needs to have their developer card revoked. I can't believe this was ever focus tested. It's unnecessarily difficult with an overabundance of targets to contend with while you tried to avoid compromising hull integrity. It always takes me a few times and I usually just get through by the skin of my teeth. This time it probably took five or six tries and I survived with 2% hull integrity, lol. You could argue that it sounds “tense” and fits the theme of the game, but the section is just not fun and should have been redesigned before release. Thankfully, it's brief and you can move on. It's also a little heavy on the jump scares in terms of sudden in-your-face enemy appearances as well as false scares or sound shocks. It's not a big complaint and is mostly appropriate given the circumstances and setting, but it does reach for some cheap thrills - thrills that are, nonetheless, fun and exciting.

Overall, I was blown away *again* by this trip back to the first Dead Space. It reaffirmed its status as an all-time classic in my book. It's intense, polished, gorgeous, fun and just well-made in almost every regard. If you're a fan of cosmic horror, excellent action games, or even better - both, it's a can't-miss game that is worth playing if you've never given it a chance or revisiting if you already have. 5/5
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
User avatar
Phaseknox
Posts: 1376
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:20 pm

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by Phaseknox » Wed Jan 11, 2023 6:51 pm

You’re making me want to play Dead Space again, it’s one of my favorite survival horror games.
User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Thu Jan 12, 2023 12:58 pm

Ok, let's start the countdown. (I don't rank replays in my yearly list.) I will say in advance that I played quite a number of games this year, but the total number may seem larger than it really is in some ways. I played a fair bit of smaller titles as well as dropping some games before completion that weren't really worth further investment. So, don't be shocked at the total. :P I also didn't play hardly anything for the last 2 or 3 months, so most of my gaming was front-loaded this year. I also tend to wander off the beaten path in gaming (and life), so you'll find a good number of likely-unfamiliar games on my list. Moving in this manner, I sometimes find myself in a dark, hopeless swamp or, on a better day, in a hidden city of gold. But it's always exciting (to me). Hopefully it's at least a somewhat interesting read of my experiences with this hobby in 2022. I do it for myself, but I also enjoy sharing with you guys.

And as a reminder, I use a 5 star scale for numerical judgments. A basic synopsis:

1- Not worth your time. Dreadful. No real explanation necessary.

2- Might have some positive elements and/or premise, but the execution fails to entice, or alternatively it's just not a good game. The bad outweighs the good here. I'd suggest passing unless it really seems compelling to you.

3- An average game. Most games will fall in this category. They're average for a reason. Some good, some bad or just middling all around. Many in this category are fun and worth playing, but just don't rise to a level where I'd feel like I really missed out if I had skipped it. Some gaming comfort food here, but missing the sizzle.

4- Very good and consistently entertaining / engaging. Ideally, I'd like to play nothing but this level and above. Easy recommendation to anyone who has the slightest interest.

5- Masterpiece that ranks among the best games I've ever played. I don't think of artistic expression in terms of "perfection", so I don't use such labels, but it's a can't miss experience for the game-lover in me and something that I would call an incredibly strong recommendation.


Of course, all opinion are my own. I make no attempts or have no interest in "objective" evaluations. I don't think artistic appreciation of any kind can be measured in such a mathematical / universal manner. With that:


72) Jalopy (PC)

ImageImageImage

Sometimes a game can be very appealing in premise but miss the mark so badly that it leaves a really sour taste in your mouth. I had a game called Jalopy in my backlog for several years, and the idea of it is that you are to assemble (at least most of the major parts) and maintain/upgrade an old beater of a vehicle called a Laika - a 1960s era fictional vehicle that seems to be based on the Trabant 601, a common vehicle to the former East Germany. Your goal is to keep this heap running through whatever means necessary as you make a long journey with your uncle Lufti across the Eastern Bloc. You've got to contend with the basics like your gas, water and tires in addition to managing cargo weight (for this low-powered vehicle) and an inventory of tools and whatnot that you keep in your trunk. You can find upgrades and resources from broken-down cars along the road or purchase new parts from dealerships in various stops along the way. You don't have much money, and you have to pay for a hotel at every stop along the way, so it's intended to be a balancing act of a trip. And the graphics are low-poly, which I usually enjoy, with a day-night cycle reflecting your lengthy journey. The presentation was satisfactory here, and in concept, I was very excited to play this.

However, immediately there are some massive red flags highlighting a buggy, untested, even unfinished product. In the opening tutorial, when your uncle is walking you through the basics of how to assemble the parts for your vehicle, there are a couple of instructional text boxes with absolute gibberish (see image) interspersed with others that are in comprehensible English. This is the introduction to the game. I'm like, “Well, I have no idea what you're trying to tell me here, so I'll just try to figure it out.” More problematic are the interactions with the parts and vehicle. You can use a controller or mouse and keyboard, and I tried both, but it was just an unbelievably unwieldy mess. When hovering over something you could interact with, it would highlight for you, but often you had to click on a very limited and tiny area of that highlighted object in order for it to register, if it did at all. Frequently, I'd try a handful of times before it responded to my input. Making it through the tutorial was a tooth-pulling chore, but I still gave it some more time, again, because of the concept being compelling to me. I made my way to the first hotel stop on the journey, but the interactive issues persisted to the point that it just wasn't worth it. I read some reviews to see if I was an isolated case or maybe just doing something wrong in terms of how I interacted with things, but I found a litany of further complaints beyond those which I encountered. People had crucial items vanishing from inventory, corrupted save files, inability to refill your fuel tank, gas pumps disappearing, vanishing wallet/funds, your car getting stuck in the world geometry and unable to move further, general crashes and a whole host of other problems I read about and won't bother to list. I looked at a fair bit of feedback and 6153 out of the 7999 reviews were positive at the time of this writing on Steam, however, so I'm not sure what those players experienced, but it wasn't representative of my time (or a significant amount of other players) with the game.

I'm generally patient and forgiving with games, and especially with lower budget/smaller developer entries. I get it - limited funds and persons can cause some rough edges, but I don't mind wading through some issues if the overall package is compelling enough, and actually *works*. (Although to be fair, there are *many* examples of very polished games from small teams or individuals out there.) But this game is just broken and incomplete in some very fundamental ways. In digging deeper, I read numerous accounts that the sole developer was blocked from continuing work on the game as the publisher decided it was time to release as/is, and if that's the case, I really feel for the person who clearly had a good idea and decent bones of a good game in place. I'd love to play this in finished, playable and bug-free (or reduced) form. Taking a road trip where you maintain an old clunker has the potential for a really fun experience in my opinion, but this is as close to unplayable a “finished” release as you're likely to find. If you value your time and any notion of “fun”, take the game's title to heart, and realize that the universe is giving you a nod and a wink. 1/5 with all due concessions and sympathies to the developer.

71) Bloomblebee (PC)

ImageImageImage

Have you ever wanted to be a bumblebee? Well, if so, there's a small indie game called Bloomblebee that allows you that experience. Your mission is to gather nectar from flowers and find the finish. The low-poly aesthetic was good looking, colorful and clean in its simplicity. The controls were fine, and it was fun flying around gathering nectar as you listened to the hum of your wings. However, the game is over in a flash. The whole thing took me less than 10 minutes. There's a total of 21 nectars to find along with 8 secret nectars, and...that's it. Game over. I didn't know it was so short going in. It was part of a big bundle that was just thrown in, so it's not like it cost me anything, but dang, that's too short. I don't mind dense games that don't overstay their welcome, but at least make an appearance of *some* kind. Could have been something interesting if developed further. No real complaints about what was there. There just wasn't enough of it to warrant a positive score. 2/5.

70) Somewhere (PC)

ImageImageImageImage

I enjoy browsing what's available on itch.io in addition to the backlog I have on that site because there's so much experimental stuff. I enjoy seeing what creators who are unfettered by commercialism want to express. There's plenty of fertile creative ground out there that is unbound to the normal structures that make industry “products”. And I've found quite a bit of interesting stuff, a great deal of which is free - or accepting of donations. Not all of it is what I would call an actual *game*, however, and I played one such proof-of-concept, I guess I would call it, called Somewhere. It's a work that didn't even have virtual “box-art”, so I anticipated that it would be less conventional in structure at a minimum and probably be lacking in the way of content. And it was, in fact, a brief experience. You find yourself waiting on a subway platform and when you board the train, you begin to get sleepy and discover yourself "Somewhere", appropriately enough, as you venture into this dreamscape. You eventually wake up and walk to your car, returning to your high-rise apartment as you smoke a cigarette in the moonlight until you repeat the process again, finding new environments. I eventually ended up on what seemed to be the moon, with an all-time classic, “Fly Me to the Moon” playing on a lonely piano as I gazed down upon Earth. In concept, I found Somewhere interesting and enjoyable, but again, there just wasn't enough there to really merit calling it a game, at least in the traditional or complete sense. I really enjoyed the PS1-era low-poly visuals, and would have been happy to play something with its mood and visuals that was further fleshed out, but as it exists, it doesn't offer enough to be more than a potential-filled curiosity. 2/5.
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Fri Jan 13, 2023 1:41 pm

69) Star Sky 2 (PC)

ImageImageImageImage

Star Sky 2 is a game that seems to be about uniting a man and woman who are each walking away from each other on a series of branching paths. On each path, music will sometimes play, and if you pause your movement to that audio cue, it may change the environment, including opening possible new routes if certain conditions are met. There seem to be quite a number of paths, and I found more than half of them during my play. The simple silhouette graphics are inoffensive, if lacking in detail, and the sounds were contemplative, suggesting a profundity to the journey(s). I don't know if the ultimate result was union of the two, but it seemed to be the end of things if all the paths were found and walked. I didn't find it compelling enough to try and discover every possible route or look up what the result of doing so may have been. It wasn't horrible, but there wasn't enough to it to keep me engaged deeply. Nothing more than a time waster. 2/5.

68) Backspace Bouken (PC)

ImageImageImage

I'm always searching for different gaming experiences, knowing that there are gems floating out there in the sea of gaming. Budget is no deterrent to my quest to find unique and engaging games, so I regularly give smaller indies a chance if it seems like the game has potential. I fired up Backspace Bouken hoping to find such an obscure treat. It's fundamentally a typing game like Typing of the Dead in essence, albeit in the form of a dungeon crawler rather than a shooter. You navigate hallways of a tower dungeon while accumulating “spaces” from reading message boards within levels, spaces which are used to allow you to copy the text of enemies in order to do damage prior to their attacks initiating. Run out of spaces, and you run out of ability to type more words, thus ending in you being powerless and therefore dying. You can use contractions where appropriate rather than copying exactly what the enemies said in order to conserve spaces, but the basics of the game are simply navigating the levels and fighting monsters via your keyboard. In premise, it had the potential to be interesting, but the execution was another matter. In the first place, the narrative didn't have any juice, feeling bland and with little detail. Secondly, saves were not user-controlled and if you encountered opposition prior to accumulating enough spaces via the signs in levels, it was automatic game over, killing progress and returning you to a prior save point. I may have persisted if things were more engaging, but this one just didn't pop or provide near enough stimulation to press on against the walls posed by its problems. And one final note, this game is regularly priced at $14.99 on Steam. I didn't pay anywhere close to that - only pennies on an itch.io bundle - but that price is in no way a reflection of the quality/worth of this game imho. It should have been $1.99 or thereabouts. 2/5.

67) Hommonculus Hotel (PC)

ImageImageImage

Hommonculus Hotel is a visual novel about a young lady who has a job of listening to guests and helping them make peace with their demons and unfulfilled dreams in an apparently magical type of hotel, a sort of limbo world. Things were never fully explained, but the mysterious rooms, along with the assistance of the main character Isabelle, have a quality of allowing for introspection and clarity concerning the primary issues surrounding a person's life before they depart to whatever may lie next. Again, it wasn't laid out in great detail, but that seemed to be the essence of things. We meet six different people, two on each of three floors, who ruminate on the core issue(s) of their life and try to release that energy before moving on. It was quite reflective and even melancholy at times. The individual stories weren't overly long, being more suggestive at times than explicit, but they all carried a tone of learning lessons and making peace with their experiences in life. Along with the narratives of the guests, there was a central story revolving Isabelle and her lover that was resolved alongside everything. In this tale, they split because of a lack of truly accepting one another as they were rather than as they wished each other to be, which was a relatable and important message. There was a lovely jazzy soundtrack that permeated most of the game, and the music along with the overall vibe carried this sleepy tone, bordering on depressive at times. I almost did fall asleep playing it a couple of times while playing, lol. The art was fine, although there was very little animation. There are some dialogue choices which you can make in conversation, but I'm not sure if they impacted anything. There was nothing particularly wrong with HH, but it failed to really make a strong impression or generate much excitement for me. It just had a somewhat bland flavor on the whole. 2/5, but with some positives that I enjoyed that could have propelled it higher if the overall package was a bit more involved.
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Sun Jan 15, 2023 11:43 am

66) A Memoir Blue (PC)

ImageImageImageImage

A Memoir Blue tells the tale of a decorated champion swimmer who reflects upon a childhood that was traumatic, despite its successes. In the course of things, we learn that this now-young adult saw the split of her parents when very young and was left mostly isolated as a single child being raised by a “tiger mom”. We're shown how, at least to the young child, the mother's love felt conditional and based upon her successes as a swimmer rather than freely given. The little girl just wanted to be loved and enjoy life with no such pressures, as any child does, but felt crushed both by the weight of expectation and the distant parenting she received. It was made clear that she missed out on the simple things that most little kids want - just to play and have fun. The water theming of her life as a swimmer was used nicely in metaphor as the bulk of the game took place under water conveying the heaviness she carried into adulthood from those childhood wounds. The interactive portion is simply a matter of highlighting elements that can be moved or pulled in various contexts, which opens up further narrative. The story is told without any dialogue, which I always appreciate, and it was not a bad-looking game. But it only lasted an hour or so and even though the narrative was clear and obviously emotional for the main character, I didn't really bond vicariously, which in a brief and minimally interactive “artsy" game such as this is vital if I'm going to be engaged. It's not that the story was poor or the messages without merit necessarily, however, I just found myself unmoved and actually a bit bored. Games which are designed to resonate emotionally as the primary method of connection with the player have to be really strong in that regard or I can't recommend them, especially when so brief and with no other elements worthy of interest. It's not that it was bad, I just found myself mostly unaffected. Buy it when it's a dollar or watch a play-through on YouTube if you're interested. 2/5

65) Picklock (PC)

ImageImageImageImage

Have you ever felt like the rat race was just getting you down? Did you want to throw in the towel because the daily grind has just ground *you* down to dust? If so, you might relate to the premise of a game called Picklock. In this title, you - as the main character - have decided that an honest day's work just isn't for you. You're tired of scraping by to just barely make ends meet, despite giving so much of your time away, and so you decide to look to a life of crime - robbery, in particular, to create a new and better life for yourself.

The game takes place in a mission structure, with the first being you getting your feet wet by deciding to rob your neighbors. After that, you meet a shady pawn shop owner who starts giving you tips and jobs around the city and off you go. Things start simply enough with you just dealing with locks and simple obstacles without any security systems, only having a bumbling rent-a-cop to contend with. But quickly, you're dealing with larger challenges in the form of more alert guards and escalating from there. In order to complete a mission, you have a series of things you must steal that are scattered about a location, and you discover those by simply highlighting various areas until you discover what is worth taking. There is a city map with locations to visit where you can find new missions, get drunk, see a stripper, buy new cars and furnishings or upgrade to a new residence altogether, among other things. In premise I was really into it. There was a fun vibe and I also really liked the simple, clean and colorful “Lego” looks. So far so good, right? Hold on...

I don't know if I have *ever* played a game that was so infuriating. The issues arise with the controls. You interact with things from a bird's-eye or isometric perspective. And you can move the camera around to see various areas. The default controls with mouse and keyboard felt pretty unwieldy, so I rebound everything to controller with controller companion, and that felt marginally better. However, the problems were far from resolved. The issue is that this is a time-based set of challenges. You've got to get in and get out, often within the constraints of a limited window for accomplishing everything. But moving around the environments requires you to align the camera appropriately so that you can interact with doors, locks or pick up valuables. There is no transparency at play here, so you have to position things just right so you can see into, what are often, pretty small rooms. As you tilt, pan and zoom your perspective, it's surely possible to get the proper vantage, but doing so rapidly, as is required, is often an exercise in unfiltered frustration. I found myself getting physically angry at the task at hand, so awkward it was to get it just right within those time-limits. I kept at it, but my rage only grew, and I eventually realized that I was torturing myself by continuing to play - not the reason I want to play games, lol. It's like having an interaction with someone who really knows how to push your buttons, someone you always dread seeing. You can feel that bubbling, uncomfortable feeling as the interaction approaches and continues and you just want to escape or stick a fork in their forehead. :P But then you come to your senses and realize that you can just smile and walk away, and that's what I ultimately did here. Picklock did everything just fine *except* the controls...the ONE THING you can't botch. It's a shame. A part of me really liked almost everything here, but the fundamentals had me seething. I wanted to get into it so badly, but it is what it is. 2/5.

64) Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures (SNES)

ImageImageImage

I don't mind old-school games much of the time as there are many great ones that are as fun now as they ever were. But that's not to say that we have learned nothing of value as creators in this industry. Those lessons sometimes make many older games a bit more difficult to digest and appreciate, given the lens of time and evolution of craft. The most glaring issue with many older games is often in the realm of mechanics. I'm still very fond of old-school pixel visuals and animations. The presentation is no deterrent to my enjoyment in the slightest, but the mechanics of some older games can be clunky, lacking precision and the design often lacking finesse.

I'm led down this train of thought by an SNES game I played for the first time in 2022 called Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures. I picked it up because I love the source material and I thought it might be fun to experience this homage to a beloved film franchise. In the way of positives, the game contains a “retelling” of the original trilogy of movies, and I appreciated having the narrative of all three original films in the package. There' are plenty of the bullet points from the films to enjoy. We've got the boulder chasing Indy, the confrontation with the Swordsman who Indy comically dispatches with his gun after the drama of that character's entrance, as well as most of the big scenes from the movies. There were nice little touches like the flight path when transitioning to a new location, as was also shown in the movies, and there are some (low-res) digitized stills from the films for some big moments. In premise, I was really enthusiastic. But going back to my original reflecting on the evolution of the medium, here's the rub. The controls are just stiff and lacking the fluidity I've come to take for granted as a gamer of the present day. It's very easy to make mistakes as you fumble with rigid and less-than-optimally responsive inputs. There are platforming moments where you're using your whip to carry you from one grapple point to the next, and it's incredibly easy to fall because of clunky controls. And that's just a singular example. I won't bother going into each issue, but for any who've played older games, I'm sure you understand the nature of what I'm talking about. I'm not saying the game is broken. It's entirely possible to “get ‘er done”, but it's a laborious, tooth-pulling affair that really saps the fun out of things. The platforming, whipping, shooting and so on “work" but most everything is just cumbersome. And things are often very unforgiving, especially in chase sequences like the boulder coming after you or an ascending fire beneath you as you try to evade the flames. There are obstacles and hazards that can appear with little time to react and so you're almost assuredly going to fail until you learn things via repetition and memorization. That's not necessarily “bad”, but it's certainly a bit dated. Having said all that, I'm not impugning all old-school games, as stated earlier. There are plenty of great ones that hold up just fine as far as I'm concerned, but the collection of games that remain really fun does seem to dwindle a bit with the passage of time unless you just have no sense of inertia carrying you along with your enjoyment of this hobby. I love the Indy films, but my time with this set of adventures just didn't live up to hopes or expectations. 2/5.
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Mon Jan 16, 2023 11:35 am

63) Road 96 (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

In the vein of other narrative-centric, choose-your-own-adventures, Road 96 covers the lives of a group of teens looking to escape the fictional and oppressive state of Petria as they hitchhike, make connections with others “crossers” and attempt to get over the border in any way they can. The premise was interesting and relatable to anyone who may have ever felt that rush to flee any sort of oppression, perceived or actual. And a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants road trip is full of potential in the way of adventure and the unexpected. You control one traveler at a time until they've either made it over the border or succumbed to defeat in a variety of ways. Along the journey, we're given bits of context for the world they live in and why they might want to depart. You can accumulate money to buy food or pay for taxis and buses or even to leave behind for future travelers if you've got enough to spare. And there are a variety of characters who'll make appearances in common for the group of adventurers. The visuals were reminiscent of Telltale's similarly structured games in that they're abstract in a cartoonified manner. In terms of the central idea and visual presentation, I was fairly intrigued.

Unfortunately, as with so many things, it's the execution of a concept and not the idea itself that matters most, and here I found Road 96 to be lacking. In the first place, any game that is going to give the lion's share of its focus to narrative had better have interesting and well-developed characters to place in the setting. But the characters here were not relatable in the delivery of their lines for the most part. The acting ranged from mildly tolerable to quite poor. It's funny because I often read comments or reviews about games I play after the fact just to compare my own impressions with that of others, and I so frequently find people praising the voice work in games that I find intolerable. I'm not sure what others expect, but for me, most games are full of acting that feels forced and overacted to a comical degree. Real people in real situations surely have emotions that are conveyed when speaking, but they don't sound like cartoon characters. To be clear, voice work doesn't have to be “realistic” to be enjoyable necessarily, but it does have to be *real* if that makes sense. Where's the subtlety and authenticity? In my experience, voice work is almost universally poor in games. There are surely exceptions and there's a scale from putrid to excellent, but the bulk of this medium resides in the dreadful side of the ledger for me when it comes to this element. Here, I mostly found the selection of actors to have the sensation of reading their lines in a wooden manner and when they stepped into any sort of emotion, they just felt like caricatures - real people *trying* to be other people without any sort of connection, empathy or understanding of the character they're portraying. There was no embodying of the roles on the whole. And while the narrative itself was interesting in theory, it also stumbled all over the place in execution. I mean the tyrannical political leader of Petria is named, “Tyrak”. Sheesh. Whoever crafted this mess just didn't know how to stitch a yarn. For me, this game fell much closer to the David Cage (that means bad for any unsure of my position :P) end of the continuum than the Until Dawn or better genre examples. And the performance was bad in spots, which is remarkable, given the modest visuals. I've surely played worse games, but overall I was disappointed with my experience with Road 96. 2/5 More money saved via the $1 Game Pass sub.

62) Thirty Flights of Loving (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImage

In the spirit of experimentation, I fired up an almost-game called Thirty Flights of Loving. In the course of things you platform, attend a toast at a gathering (presumably a wedding), serve a red-haired man a drink that will allow you to “track him across the galaxy” for some reason (and get paid for it), freeze and break locks, look to photograph 5 birds, and chase a woman who shoots you and steals your camera with pictures of said birds. It's all a bit incoherent and surreal, and while I can appreciate the odd, there wasn't much to enjoy here really, neither mechanically nor artistically, in my humble opinion. More of a weird art project or something for YouTube screamers to use as content than actual game. But it had some appeal in its pure oddness. 2/5.

61) Magic Sword (SNES)

ImageImageImageImageImage

Magic Sword was originally an arcade game released in 1990 and later ported to the SNES. In the vein of arcade games, there's a focus on your score. As you defeat enemies, you collect tokens that elevate your point total. The main premise is that you are climbing a 50 level tower to the end-boss and as you make your way, you find keys and rescue companions that have different skills and can level-up and help you on your way. You don't know what companion you will get when unlocking a door and it may be a lesser or undesired form of aid, and they're automatically switched for some strange reason, so it's best to unlock and move out of the way, only going back to get the companion if it's going to be of help. The fundamentals are familiar to many arcade or console games of the day with the platforming and hacking and slashing making up the bulk of the experience. You have a basic and magic sword attack, although there is no block. There are bosses every few levels and plenty of obstacles along with chests to open and power-ups to collect. The sprite work was pretty nice, although the platforming could feel a bit floaty and the difficulty overall was pretty high, even on easy, and it's very easy to run out of lives, resulting in a quick game-over. On top of that, extra lives and continues are very hard to come by, so if it's a challenge you want, you'll find it here. You do have the option of starting on a variety of different floors if you don't want to retrace your steps every new game with the 33rd being the highest level at which you may begin, but overall I just didn't find the level of polish or engagement I was looking for here. Aesthetics aside, it was lackluster for me. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a “bad game”, and I don't regret playing it to see what it was all about, but it just didn't excite enough to recommend. There are many better games from the era and console. 2/5.
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
User avatar
canedaddy
Posts: 759
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:36 pm

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by canedaddy » Tue Jan 17, 2023 10:41 am

Your wrap-ups are the best... great descriptions of so many odd/old games. Keep 'em coming.

isthatallyougot wrote:
Mon Jan 16, 2023 11:35 am
More of a weird art project or something for YouTube screamers to use as content than actual game.
You threw that in there to see if we're paying attention, didn't you. :D
Image
User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Tue Jan 17, 2023 12:38 pm

Thanks cane. I'm chipping away, little by little.

60) Broken Minds (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Broken Minds is a visual novel/detective point and click that I got in an itch.io bundle. It's really quite obscure. I could find zero critic reviews and there are a total of 7 user reviews on Steam, so yeah, this one is a deep, deep cut. The game starts off with you playing as Noa, a young Japanese adult who has a bad relationship with her parents, parents who are comically abusive towards her. They came off as caricatures rather than real people, although, to be fair, there are some really horrible people out there. But the vibe presented was of a creator who was very “emo” and full of unresolved teen angst. But that first impression was only brief. After the opening, her parents were killed and the whodunnit mystery unfolds. She hires a detective agency to help her out, and she, along with the trio from the agency, set off to uncover who killed them. The story was fairly interesting and there was a really nice soundtrack to accompany your sleuthing. The visuals were a combination of realistic looking backdrops, which you could navigate via on-screen arrows and prompts, and cartoon cut-out anime styled characters reminiscent of Gorillaz and their videos like Clint Eastwood, if you are familiar. Presentation-wise, I was pretty engaged and interested. The problem for me, however, arose with the implementation of a mini-game called the “Wheel of Fallacies”. It's a game where you try to support conclusions via logical connections from your evidence as you try to establish what the game calls a “logic train” that leads to the correct conclusion in different scenarios. In premise, I thought it was really interesting. In execution, however, it was another matter. You have to decide whether arguments/evidence are logically flawed, be they hypothetical, opinions, bad connections, incidental or a variety of other potential fallacies. The problem is that many of these links are highly subjective and open to interpretation, but you have to get them all exactly as the developer intended in order to complete them. There is an option to bypass this aspect of the game, receiving the answers with no deduction or guesswork, but that defeats the point of having it as an integral element in the first place. This soured me on a game that I was enjoying a fair bit outside of this mechanic. It just felt unnecessarily convoluted and rigid and took me out of the experience altogether. It's certainly not a bad game in all regards...in most regards, and I respected its strengths, but it stumbled in a crucial area that took the fun away for me. It's too bad because it had some real potential with the things it did well. But in the end, a significant problem (for me) undid the good will it had earned. 2/5.

59) Teslagrad (PC)

ImageImageImageImage

I've noticed that the more games I play, the tougher the critic I've become. It's not that I'm jaded as a gamer, far from it, in fact. I still love gaming so much, however, it's just a natural byproduct of so much content available and so much that I've experienced. It just takes more than it used to in order to impress. I suppose it's just the natural law of diminishing returns that happens over time when you've “done that” “seen that” and find yourself yawning at some fairly decent creations.

Enter Teslegrad for PC. I was looking forward to this one for a while. I thought it had a nice visual appeal - and it does - and it seemed like an interesting puzzler/platformer. The main mechanic is a sort of polarity switching from fire to ice (red to blue) through various means in order to open pathways and progress. Activating or deactivating these switches creates, removes or sets in motion platforms and barriers, among some other uses. There are upgrades/abilities to find and utilize, like “blink boots” that allow for short distance skip-teleportation, a weapon staff to fire an electrical charge in addition to some bosses to fights, but the predominant form of engagement is through environmental puzzles and the aforementioned binary switches. The problem for me was that I found the puzzles either boring or tedious, and to be entirely fair, I'm not a gamer who really loves most puzzle-dense games. I want to have fun, and puzzle games often seem like labor, even if they're not difficult - I just don't want to be hassled with them too frequently. There *are* exceptions, and I don't mind puzzles sprinkled into my gaming, but if a pure puzzler is going to grab me, it's going to be one special game that just hits that sweet spot for me of being challenging and engaging without being impenetrable or boring too much of the time. But besides some tedious puzzles, here you're also penalized heavily for mistakes. An error in platforming or execution can send you into an area that is a full 20 minutes or more away from where you were, and there's no way to make up that lost ground other than do it all over again - ugh. Also, while the platforming was serviceable, and certainly not broken, it was looser than I prefer. And in a game that often asks for great precision, as is the case with Teslagrad, it's a fundamental flaw in my view. It's a shame that I didn't enjoy this one. I expected to going in, but in truth I had very little information upon which to base my expectations - just some attractive visuals. And while the game was attractive, it had little in the way of personality or narrative to compliment the visuals. It was very minimal in that regard. It's not a horribly made game in many ways, it's just not a game for *me*. 2/5.

58) Trek to Yomi (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

I was drawn to a game called Trek to Yomi when I heard about it due to its Samurai tale and sense of style. The most obvious thing that jumps off the screen is just how visually striking everything is. While black and white, there's great use of contrast and an incredible attention to detail. Additionally, the choice to forego color added to the film-flare you might find in Kurosawa's classics of that format. The long and short of it is that you are out for revenge/justice against blood-thirsty oppressors and so you make your way throughout the world with unsheathed steel, looking to set things right. And that's the essence of how things play out as you navigate the world with an endless succession of sword fights. You can block and parry and acquire some new moves as you play in addition to finding stamina upgrades and some world-flavor collectibles along the way. The problem with Yomi is that the combat itself is awkward and just lacking the fluidity, responsiveness and excitement that the presentation really deserved. It's *very* repetitive and pretty dull mechanically, and the timing and flow of everything ranges from bland to unintuitive. It simply was not fun, and that's a real shame. Another issue that bothered me was the display of subtitles. The text is white and in a game that's black and white, with often predominantly white areas, the subtitles were sometimes virtually illegible as they were obscured largely by the background. “Little" things like this speak to a lack of attention to detail and are often an indicator of the overall craft you'll find in a work. It's not like you even have to put the text inside a black box, just outline it in black to maintain contrast and legibility. Lazy and indicative of development that isn't focused on offering the best experience possible. Another problem could arise in the form of navigation. While you can move into the background on a 3D plane, the camera is fixed from screen to screen and so you'll move into spots that contain pathways that are hard to discern, given the distance and vantage point, sometimes making it awkward to know where you can move. This wasn't a major issue, but did crop up on several occasions. As I played, I became more frustrated and disappointed overall, given the lack of quality in structure and gameplay that clashed with the high quality presentation. The bottom line is that this just wasn't very fun, and that lack of enjoyment was only emphasized by the contrasting strengths that Yomi so obviously possessed. I can't recommend it. It's a 2/5 for me that could/should have been so much more.
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Wed Jan 18, 2023 12:24 pm

57) Raji (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

I noticed a game called Raji (An Ancient Epic) when browsing Steam a while back. It caught my eye immediately because it had an Indian/Hindu theme and seemed to be a hack and slash game that modelled itself after the likes of God of War (the originals). In the first place, I love Hindu/Buddhist tradition/mythology and games that represent Indian heritage in *any* way are virtually nil - some references in Shin Megami Tensei, a bit with the Uncharted series, Asura's Wrath and probably not much else. And after watching a few brief clips, it did seem to have that God of War, third-person action flavor. Granted, it was developed by a smaller studio and so I didn't expect it to reach the spectacle of its inspiration, but in premise, I was surely interested.

I got a chance to play it during a Game Pass trial in 2022 before I could ever pick it up on Steam, and it surely was, in essence, what it seemed to be. The narrative centers on a young girl who is trying to rescue her brother, who is kidnapped in the opening. The journey to save him sees her mixed up with a cadre of traditional of gods and mythical baddies as she uses a variety of weaponry, from a staff, a bow and a sword and shield to dispatch the threats in her way. Being a former circus performer, she's very athletic, and that is very evident as she somersaults, leaps and bounces around levels both in platforming and combat. Within platforming she can leap across large gaps, balance on the tops of thin poles, slide gracefully down long fabric banners, wall run and generally move as a lithe acrobat would. Within combat, she can make use of her environment by running up walls or poles to modify her basic attacks as she leaps from these environmental structures, adding to the damage and area of attack. Visually, there was certainly some dynamic action. And speaking of appearances, the artwork was very nice, with plenty of culturally appropriate theming imparting flavor to the setting. The backgrounds were often very detailed and could be quite striking in spots. And there was a nice selection of Indian themed music that played over the course of the game, adding to the sense of place. Overall, the presentation was pretty nice.

I wish everything came together better as a whole though. There were some minor and major problems to contend with. Of the minor variety was the camera or its distance, to be more specific. During the action, things are pulled way back, and while it's functional, there was a lack of impact to everything, given your vantage point. It reminded me of some parts of God of War Ascension where things were also pulled back too far. And the combat, while functional, never had any real weight or impact. It looked decent visually at times, but it just had no punch. Additionally, there was a sluggishness to how things felt with controller in hand. The enemy variety wasn't very large or interesting either, with plenty of repeat encounters with rather boring foes. Even the bosses (I faced 2 of the 3) weren't intimidating in movement or appearance. And while you can upgrade your arsenal, how it worked remained a difficult to grasp mystery to me because of poorly explained menus. I made upgrades, but it was never clear to what or how I was changing things. I just thought the menus needed a serious redesign in this area. But the biggest problem of all were some bugs. I encountered one bug where I had climbed up some platforms within a large room, but found myself stuck in the air, unable to descend as I wandered about suspended high above and ultimately had to restart. The worst of all came late in the game, in the third and final act. Like many action games, you will enter a “room” of enemies which walls off progress until they're all dispatched. Well, I encountered an area where there was a flying enemy in addition to a variety of other foes on the ground. But the flying enemy kept flying away and even after I had eliminated all the rest, the battle music kept playing because the game was still accounting for this enemy apparently, and wouldn't open up progress and release me from the area. I tried it several times, including just focusing on this flying enemy at the start of the section, but it would always fly away almost immediately and always before I could kill it. I watched a video online and surely enough, my game seemed to have a bug here because the video allowed the player to kill the enemy that wouldn't stay for me. I guess I was just too intimidating. :P I was ready to give Raji a passing grade, albeit just barely, but if I can't complete your game due to glitches, I have a hard time justifying a recommendation, if even a tepid one. It's a shame because I wanted to embrace a game that showed love to a setting and tradition that I love, and one which is underrepresented in this medium, and although it had some real positives, the scales just don't land in its favor when measured in totality. Sadly, it's a 2/5 for me. At least I didn't buy it for full price on Steam. I'd love to see this developer go back to the drawing board and refine this concept for a - hopefully better - sequel because there's a decent foundation and an interesting niche that needs to be further explored. (After writing this review - they did release an "Enhanced" edition, and it ended up also being a part of a Humble Bundle, so I've got it on Steam now too. I'm not sure if I'll go back to it and see the ending or if it's substantially improved either. I saw the bulk of the game anyway, and even if they fixed some elements, it wouldn't rise above a 3/5 for me. So assuming problematic areas have been addressed, that would be my score - a mild 3/5. But I stand by the main review, as that reflects my experience with Raji on Game Pass. If I replay the Enhanced Edition in the future, I'd review it again.)

56) Nicolas Eymerich - The Inquisitor - Book 1 : The Plague (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Nicolas Eymerich - The Inquisitor - Book 1 : The Plague (yes, that's a long title) is a point and click adventure game set in medieval times in southern France. You play as the titular Nicolas, an inquisitor within the early Catholic church, and you are sent on a mission to a nearby village to investigate the nature of a sickness, some suspected heresy, and a missing monk. Graphically, I thought it was quite detailed and nice-looking, at least in the terms of the backgrounds. The flavor of the period and place was well-reflected, and I found it easy to surrender to the fantasy. The characters were a bit less believable, looking somewhat alien up-close at times, but it wasn't so off-putting that it repelled me from investment. I was uniquely excited to play this one for perhaps a strange reason for some. The entire game can be played in Latin. Oh my, do I love Latin - it's not a dead language to me! The audio dubbing was well-acted and carried the emotion of conversation pretty well for the most part. I was a bit concerned at first because the subtitles were so small, and I was playing from the couch making it a struggle to read them, but thankfully there was an option to increase the text size that only *just* made them adequate for viewing at my distance from the screen. That added flavor of experiencing the game in Latin was a real draw for me and added a very distinct and special flavor. In terms of the overall presentation, setting and narrative, I was really excited and enjoyed everything.

The game mechanics are familiar to anyone who has played point and click adventure games. It's a matter of finding and utilizing items, and managing and combining inventory to solve puzzles to forward the narrative. There was quite an amount of in-game notes that Nicolas carried around, and it was interesting to see his observations of the world through his role as an inquisitor. (The game is based on a novel, fwiw.) There was a system you could use in theory if you are stuck called Divine Help, a cross icon that would push you in the right direction, again in theory. I only used it once, and the help it offered wasn't very useful, and its use also subtracts from an (invisible to the player) in-game score. There was also a notebook to keep you up-to-date on any and all objectives Nicolas was working on. Nicolas himself was an arrogant, self-righteous and abrasive, if magnetic, individual, but the structure itself was fine and not unfamiliar to most genre conventions.

 I did, however, have some issues with the way things played out, some minor and some major. The first issue that cropped up was that you had to scour environments with a fine-toothed comb to find things you could interact with. Some things must have literally been the size of a pixel and they in no way stood out in a conspicuous manner within the environments. I found myself methodically moving over every square inch at times, just hoping to highlight something that I could affect. It was a bit tedious, but I was enjoying it enough that I could cope. More problematic was the fact that Nicolas would indicate that he had no interest in some things that you could highlight, and he would express the uselessness of various things quite forcefully, causing me to completely disregard them. The trouble was that these same “worthless” elements/objects would be eventually required for future puzzles, and so I would find myself searching for solutions, disregarding things that had been deemed irrelevant earlier only to be crucial as the story progressed. I don't really like that type of design, despite it having been somewhat common in some older adventure games. But the worst issue of all was that I encountered a puzzle where I had to arrange found bits of text upon a window, but things froze up and I couldn't manipulate or arrange them. I would open my inventory but it wouldn't allow me to select another piece, or if it eventually did, I couldn't manipulate it once placed on the window. I tried many times and reloaded old saves to no avail, so I was effectively blocked off from continuing the game. (Perhaps I should have tried running it in compatibility mode with Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8 - since it is listed as working with those particular versions of the OS, but I didn't consider it at the time of playing.) Even if that final straw hadn't cropped up though, the other problems were putting a significant dent in the fun, but I was willing to press on. The game had so much potential, with a thick and oppressive setting of the early Catholic church, full of authoritarian paranoia driving what seemed to be an interesting plot, not to mention the lovely inclusion of a full Latin dub as an option. But if I can't even finish a game, it's hard to offer a recommendation. I don't know why others didn't have this problem. I looked around, but could find no help. (maybe I'll give it another shot one day while using compatibility mode, as mentioned.) Usually if there's an issue, someone else has encountered it and has a fix - not this time. Maybe the overall player base wasn't large enough to reveal another with my unique problem. And so I had resigned myself to watching a play-through, but I couldn't find one with the Latin dub, only the poor English voice-work. That's the problem with playing a pretty obscure title, there's just less of a community out there to connect with. And so I lost interest in even watching the story, knowing I couldn't enjoy it the way that I wanted. It's a shame because I was so excited about this going into it, but it was not to be. Much credit to the potential and to the things it did well, but I wasn't even afforded the option of pushing past the problems to fully enjoy the aspects that warranted playing. I wanted to love you, but you broke my heart. Heretic! 2/5.

55) Apocalipsis (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

I picked up a game called Apocalipsis because both the premise and the art intrigued me. The theme is that of lost love which you are trying to regain - “heartbreak and redemption” in the words of the developer. I always find that to be a resonant motif that permeates our art as it permeates our lives. And the art was a particularly strong draw. It's all hand-drawn, dark medieval pieces inspired by classical woodcuts of the era, and it imparted a unique and alluring look that I haven't really seen elsewhere. The fundamentals of interaction center on point and click puzzles as a means of progress. There is very little dialogue outside a handful of cut-scenes to propel the narrative, and I didn't mind that minimalist approach, allowing the journey to mostly speak for itself. And some of the puzzles were quite clever and satisfying to solve. Additionally, the understated music created a nice oppressive mood that added to the experience. But there were some significant problems which arose at some points. The first problem is that many of the objects you pick up to use are indistinct - it's unclear what they *are* at all. Of course, this can be worked around by using what you pick up with everything just to brute force it and see if it “fits”, but I don't like that sort of sensation. Granted, it's not always the case, but often I had no idea what this blob or that shape actually *was*, so it was click and see without any feeling of being clever attached to progression at times. The game also sometimes struggled to recognize when you were doing the proper thing to proceed. So if you clicked the appropriate interaction and it happened to be slow to respond or not respond at all, you could find yourself assuming that was a pointless route, never to return to the action that was required. Finally, as I neared the end, I just realized that things felt more laborious than fun too much of the time for me to care to invest enough to push myself over the finish line. I watched the last scene or two on YouTube, not having missed anything of real value in this minimalist tale. It's a shame because the visuals and premise were so enticing to me, but the execution was more miss than hit, and despite *some* nice puzzles, the overall flavor was tedium for me on balance. Oh well, they can't all be what you hoped. There was quite a bit to like here, but it wasn't seasoned properly. Point and click games that are so heavily puzzle-reliant are always so hit or miss for me in the first place. That sweet spot, when things are balanced to my personal liking can make a game in this genre incredible, but the very nature of the genre means that some will feel personally tailored and some will feel ill-fitting and awkward, and this one was ultimately a (disappointing) miss, wonderful presentation notwithstanding. 2/5.
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
User avatar
isthatallyougot
Posts: 973
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:52 am

Re: Izzy's 2022

Post by isthatallyougot » Thu Jan 19, 2023 11:55 am

54) Lake (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

A 2021 release called ‘Lake’ by developer Gamious had a lot of reasons for me to be interested. It's set in a beautiful, remote location in the glorious 1980s. It's got that small-town rural vibe in a mountain lake setting that just invites you to breathe, to take things slow and to shift gears from any idea of "accomplishing" into a state of simply “being” with no need to justify or earn your existence - something that I feel lacking which is a root of so many problems in life, perceived and otherwise. The skin on that vibe is about the main character, Meredith, escaping the rat race in her high-pressure job in the big city to return to the place of her upbringing as she helps out her dad by filling in for him as the town's mail carrier. I was very intrigued and had placed it on my Steam wishlist as soon as I heard about it.

The essence of the experience centers on you driving your mail truck and completing multiple day's deliveries over the course of the game. Some deliveries are simple drop off and move on events, but many involve customer interaction, via packages or otherwise. In these interactions, you meet not only new faces but reconnect with people from your past who've remained in Providence Oaks over the years. Of course, people change, and you find out that things are not necessarily stagnant here either. Some of these interactions with faces new and old will prompt the option for side content, which really amounts to nothing more than extra deliveries with a little added narrative flavor. And that's how you spend your time. Driving from place to place, dropping off mail and chatting up the locals. I will say that there was an oddly comforting sensation in fulfilling this mundane routine day in and day out. And it felt in harmony with the idea of juxtaposing the main characters' normal life against the calm setting offered in the game.

However, the character interactions had no real spice or personality. They all felt plastic. There was just no zest to anything. Thematically congruent or not, I just found it crushingly boring. And that was the biggest problem for me. While I think the developers probably matched their intent in terms of tone, the sensation amounted to a whole lot of *nothing* for me in the end. You can have a small-town world with a little bit of drama and excitement, but there was just none here. Even the characters themselves seemed bored with life. There was this blandness that permeated everything. There were also some clunky controls to contend with occasionally. The character would not stop walking when I stopped providing input sometimes and wouldn't enter her truck or open the back to get a package until I could get her to stop her walking motion. One time, the option to enter my truck wouldn't even display and I had to restart. There was just an awkward feel to some simple elements which needed polish. And making each day's deliveries could take a fair bit of time as you had to drive the entire way around the lake to the residents on the periphery. Despite enjoying some of the tone, leisurely pace and a few nice 80s references, I just can't recommend Lake. It was just so muted in flavor that I felt like there was almost nothing there. I appreciated the sensation of slowing down, but on most levels, things just didn't connect. It's not terrible, but it's just missing a spark. Had just a little pizazz and personality been infused, I would have probably felt differently. Thankfully, I played it as a part of a 3 months for $1 Game Pass subscription instead of buying it on Steam. I would have waited for a sale, but paying next to nothing for it only cost me a bit of my time, albeit wasted time, in the end. 2/5.

53) Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings (SNES)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Did you know you can play as the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games mascot Izzy in a platformer from the SNES? Neither did I. But in honor of, um, myself? (or the Olympics :P) I fired up this retro game in 2022. Your mission is to collect the five Olympic Rings from some dastardly villains who had the gall to nick them, all while navigating environments and enemies in hopping and bopping fashion like so many genre staples. There's the typical collecting of all manner of things, some which seemed to serve a purpose and some which forever remained a mystery to me (without a manual, and didn't bother looking for an online version). The nuts and bolts of the platforming are solid, if vanilla. But there are some elements to spice up the traditional meat and potatoes. You can find stars to transform, giving Izzy a baseball bat, a bow and arrow, allow him to hang glide through obstacle courses, and turn him into a rocket to fly skyward while doing your collecting and avoiding hazards. The visuals are colorful and vibrant, although they weren't really infused with a particularly compelling personality in my view. The music was playful and inoffensive, if not memorable. There were some platforming sections where it seemed impossible to avoid damage, and navigation possibilities were sometimes unclear, but all in all, it was a decent platformer from the era. It's not something that anyone *needs* to play in my opinion, but it's not a bad time if you enjoy the genre. 3/5

52) Neverending Nightmares (PC)

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Being in the mood for something spooky, I pulled a game called Neverending Nightmares from my backlog for the PC. If you've ever experienced the condition of awakening from a dream only to find yourself yet within a dream, unable to extricate yourself, then you can resonate with this game, the premise being given away by its title. You play an asthmatic man in a minimalist sketch-art setting where you attempt to wake up, or find out what's going on as you experience a multitude of macabre things. There seems to be an issue with someone who is, presumably, your sister, and you make your way from room to room in a variety of locales from your home, to a sanitarium, a graveyard and so on. There is some stealth involved, but the gameplay is minimal with most of the focus being on atmosphere. The game designers must have thought that the presence of red (blood) against a predominantly monochrome backdrop would be terrifying. It wasn't. And the asthmatic condition which caused your character to stop to catch his breath if running too long was fine in principle, but the sounds he made when wheezing were more annoying than scary, making him sound like a whiny little beeyatch. To be fair though, the atmosphere, while not super engaging initially, grew on me as I played and it became more intense and interesting as things played out. It's not a game that can be put in the conversation with even decidedly good horror games, but I've played worse. I suppose it was worth the brief time to complete, if the bar for barely adequate is the mark to clear. A tepid 3/5.
Image

Dragon kick your a$$ into the Milky Way!
Post Reply