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Platinum Review – Guacamelee! (PS Vita)

My second Platinum was the first one I ever earned on purpose: after realizing that I ended up with The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season one by accident, I decided I should go for one in a game I actually enjoyed playing.  Guacamelee! is quite special, which is why I reviewed it as highly as I did.  In fact, I like it so much that I’m sure I’ll eventually buy it again for the PS4 next time a sale rolls around.

Unlike the unmissable Platinum in The Walking Dead, Guacamelee! demands a lot more attention to complete it.  There are a fair number of collectibles in the game, as well as some challenges that border on crazy.  Thankfully, playstationtrophies.org exists, which has made my Platinum quests a great deal easier.

As before, here are my most noteworthy trophies:

Best Trophy: Licking His Wounds (Bronze) — defeat Jaguar Javier.  I found this fight to be especially rewarding given its toughness (but also its fairness).  This guy will annihilate you if gets his hands on you; there’s a very good strategy you really need to stick to in order to win.

Worst Trophy: El Savior (Gold) — access the alternative ending (collect all orbs).  I found the process of finding all the optional orbs to be grueling and masochistic.  The amount of precision platforming required to reach a couple of these orbs is outrageous, with the constant threat of having to start a long sequence all over again if you make even one mistake.  Also, I do find it regrettable that this trophy dramatically changes the ending for the game; in fact, it’s the better of the two options, so you’re really obligated to go after this one.

Special Mention Trophy: Cock of the Walk (Bronze) — defeat an enemy as a chicken.  The very idea of this is not only hilarious, but it’s also something you would never attempt otherwise.

Rating: A — just as I rated the game.  I found this Platinum to be enjoyable overall, the El Savior trophy notwithstanding.

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Written by Michael

24 August 2014 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Games, Reviews

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Platinum Review – The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (PS Vita)

There was a time that I didn’t think I’d ever earn any Platinum Trophies.  I had largely ignored Achievements on Xbox 360, and I didn’t think there was much reason to handle Trophies any differently.  But then I ended up with this one by accident, for The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season, and I felt a strange sense of accomplishment.

I then learned that this Platinum is in fact completely unmissable.  That is to say, you get it simply by completing the game.  Many trophy purists found this to be quite annoying, since most other games require a great deal more effort — a great deal more care.  After considering this fact, I realized that trophies offered a great measure for comparing just how much you cared about a certain game with your friends, and that I suddenly wanted to start collecting them for my favorite titles, almost out of a respect for the developers.

The Walking Dead was not a favorite of mine, as I’ve written before.  That voice acting and storyline were all very good, but the general controls combined with the astoundingly poor performance of this game on Vita made me severely unhappy to actually play it.  On this level, I’m slightly embarrassed to acknowledge it as my first, but here we are.

For this series of Platinum reviews, I will pick what I think is the best trophy, the worst trophy, a special mention trophy, and my overall rating for how much I enjoyed earning the Platinum itself.

Best Trophy: What Remains (Gold) — complete Episode 5: “No Time Left”.  I selected this because it was the end of the first season, the end of a miserable experience, which is kind of a terrible thing to say, but seriously, the technical issues were that bad.

Worst Trophy: The Walking Dead (Platinum) — earn all trophies in “The Walking Dead”.  As already stated, the idea that you get this one simply by playing through the story is a bit offensive to the idea of what a Platinum should be.

Special Mention Trophy: Lend Me Your Ears (Gold) — complete Episode 3: “The Long Road Ahead”.  This episode was especially powerful, storytelling-wise, featuring a shocking fate for multiple characters as well as a great twist at the end.

Rating: D — I wanted to give this an F for being so ludicrously easy to get, but the story was compelling enough throughout that it still felt like an achievement to complete (read: endure) it.

Written by Michael

15 August 2014 at 12:14 am

PS3 and PS Vita Priority Lists

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I should note the full menu of games I’m trying to play before the close of this generation.  (There’s no way I’ll finish before the PS4 launch, so this will continue past November 15.)

PlayStation 3 Titles

  • inFAMOUS (in progress…)
  • inFAMOUS 2 (will download digitally after first game)
  • Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (delivered on 09/20/2013)
  • Beyond: Two Souls (preordered; comes out 10/08/2013)
  • Shadow of the Colossus (downloaded; awaiting play)
  • ICO (downloaded; awaiting play)
  • Catherine (will purchase)

PlayStation Vita

  • The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (in progress…)
  • Persona 4: Golden (will purchase after finishing Ni No Kuni on PS3)
  • Dragon’s Crown (maybe; will decide later)
  • Killzone: Mercenary (will purchase)
  • Soul Sacrifice (will purchase)

There are other titles I’m interested in, too, including a couple of Final Fantasy classics I can play on Vita, as well as God of War II and III on PS3.

Beyond this, there are always new titles being added to the free Instant Game Collection (IGC) on PS+.  Europe is set to get Far Cry 3 (90 on metacritic, less than a year old!).  You can bet that I’ll download that if it gets added to North America’s IGC.  Rayman Legends is coming to the IGC for Vita next week, I think, so I’ll probably try that too.

Snap Judgment – Machinarium (PS Vita) Micro-Review

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Machinarium (PS Vita)

As I eluded to in my previous Premature Judgment about the game, this is a very cute, clever puzzle game oozing with wonderful art and style.

I made a mistake about one item in that summary, however.  It is possible to manipulate the cursor with the touchscreen (and even the back touch panel), but this is difficult to do well.  It’s easier, at least in my mind, to use the analog stick — as awkward as that is.

My only complaint about the game, and the reason I’m giving a grade lower than it probably deserves, is the lack of context in the puzzles throughout the levels.  You almost have to randomly click over various parts of the screen to find items you can either manipulate or pick up, and you’re not even sure why you’re doing so until you randomly click it with something else.  Also, some things can’t be manipulated unless you’re standing next to them, but some others you can click from afar, and your robot will saunter over and do some wholly unexpected action.

It really feels like you’re just throwing things against the wall, waiting for something to stick.  It doesn’t help that the items I found were unlabeled as well, so I couldn’t always tell what it was that I had, which would have been a clue as to where to take them.

In other words, keep a guide handy.

Still, a charming journey.  B

Written by Michael

19 September 2013 at 12:17 am

Posted in Games

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PlayStation Game Reviews – September 2013

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I’ve been playing some PS3 and Vita games lately, trying to get caught up before the PS4 hits this November.  There’s still more to come, so stay tuned.  Moreover, I’ll have some thoughts on the next-generation console war, as well as a review for the PlayStation Vita soon.  In the meantime, here are my micro-reviews:

Snap Judgments

God of War HD (PS3)

This venerable PS2 title was remastered with HD textures and higher-res character models, and largely looks pretty good, especially considering the original title came out in 2005.

God of War follows Kratos, a mortal given god-like powers after he makes a deal with Aries, the God of War, to save him from defeat on the battlefield.  In exchange for his salvation, Kratos becomes a killing machine with the sole purpose of fulfilling Aries’ will — that is, until something grievous happens in Kratos’ personal life, and the two had a falling out.

The game harkens back to a time when games were harder, partially by design, and partially by awkward control mechanics and level layout decisions.  I cursed this game a bunch of times while playing it, and it’s story is pretty thin, so it was hard to push through at times since the only reward was for me to just say I finally beat it.  (Which, granted, was a pretty big reward in itself.)

That said, much of it is fun hack-and-slash, and the cutscenes are enjoyable in a B-move, unintentionally hilarious way.  This is one of PlayStation’s most important series, and so I will probably playing II and III, even if the original title is a bit trying.  C+

Journey (PS3)

A PlayStation Network (PSN) downloadable title, this game has gleaned numerous awards and industry accolades for its beauty, originality, and moving musical score.  The game opens with your character gazing up a far-off mountain; reaching it is your singular goal, and journeying to do so will feature jaw-dropping deserts, abandoned cities, underground ruins, and other locations I don’t want to spoil.

It features the most unique multiplayer I’ve ever seen, in that you don’t find people in a lobby, or see other player’s game tags floating above their heads while you play.  There is no chat whatsoever.  All you can do is chirp notes at one another.  You are nameless, and so are your potential companions that the game auto-matches you with.  It’s not possible to ruin someone else’s experience, and everything you do is cooperative and meaningful — and I would argue necessary to fully appreciate the story Journey is trying to convey.  When you travel alone in this world, there’s a sense of loneliness that’s only cured upon finding another traveler, and the excitement in doing so is tangible as you both greet each other with chirps and by jumping up and down.

While you complete your pilgrimage, the game shows you mini cinematic clips to give you background on what happened to your ancestor’s civilization, but with zero narration.  Only mural-style art and melancholy music.

And it’s incredible.  A+

Heavy Rain (PS3)

Quantic Dream’s critically acclaimed mystery thriller ties the lives of four main characters who are impacted by the recent kidnapping of a ten-year boy when it is learned that the culprit is the infamous Origami Killer: the boy’s emotionally distraught father, a reporter covering the high-profile case, an FBI investigator, and a retired police officer.

This game is very impressive for a lot of reasons, mostly for the way that subverts your expectations for what a game can and can’t do.  But I will say that it features the most unusual gameplay I’ve ever seen, because nearly all of your actions are pantomimed with the controller.  This is mostly done on the analog stick in some way, with very few button presses.  Heavy Rain also features heavy doses of quicktime events.

I kind of hated this at the beginning, but as the game went on, I grew comfortable with it.  That’s not to say I liked it, but it was fine for me by the end.  What made this better was the fact that failing these quicktime events didn’t result in a game over screen in most cases.  In fact, I remember reading that Quantic Dream’s head feels that game overs are actually the developer’s fault, not the gamer’s.  The net result of this is a fluid story that changes and adapts to how well you play, and to the choices you make.  No two playthroughs are exactly the same.

Much of the storytelling is pretty great in fact, though I will say the ending is quite jarring and will put off some people.  There’s a plot twist that doesn’t feel earned, but despite this, I still look back on the entire game fondly.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that most of the voice acting is good, but some of it was done by French actors who did their best to fake American accents, but this isn’t always successful.  I found this to be distracting at times.

Still, an important game in the grand scheme things, showing that games can be art.  Their next effort, Beyond: Two Souls, looks very good and I’m extremely excited for it.  B+

The Last of Us (PS3)

Given a perfect score by many outlets, I feel as if I have very few points to make about the game that others have not.

Naughty Dog cemented themselves as the best studio making games today with this title, featuring one of the most compelling stories, art design, creative direction, and voice acting you will ever see, period.  Not just in games, mind you.  Anywhere.

The game takes place in a post-pandemic world, in which much of the human race is either dead or infected with cordyceps fungus, which renders those people into zombie-like beings in a kind of living death.  (That said, these are not actually zombies.  The infected ramble as if sick with fever, and writhe in pain.  As the game progresses, one gets the impression that these are still people in there, but people who now lack the ability to control their own bodies.)

The frightening thing about this game is that the infected are not the worst things you’ll face.  It’s other survivors.  The Last of Us manages to paint one of the bleakest pictures of humanity and humanity’s lack of grace after the fall of civilization.

By the time you reach the end, you’ll ask yourself whether humanity can survive this.  What you should be asking yourself is whether it should.

For two days after beating it, I was filled with a strange disquiet.  I realized the reason for this was because my answer to that question was “no”.  A+

Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PS Vita)

The very first game I downloaded and played on the PS Vita was this title.  The Uncharted series on PS3 is one of my all-time favorites, and so I leapt at the opportunity to jump back into that world with some of my favorite characters to ever grace video games.

There was reason to be skeptical, however.  Naughty Dog, the creators of the PS3 trilogy (and the aforementioned The Last of Us), took no part in actually creating this title.

Instead, the game was developed by Bend Studio, a subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment of America (which also owns Naughty Dog, it’s worth mentioning).  And they did a fantastic job.

The game features a lot of touch and motion controls, trying to show off the Vita’s capabilities.  (It was a launch title, so these are obligatory.)  For the most part, this works well.  You can do charcoal rubbings of reliefs you find by rubbing your finger on the screen, or reveal hidden lettering on a piece of paper by actually holding the Vita up to a light (using the camera on the back, obviously).  The only time this failed, as far as I was concerned, was in the combat system.  Bend has you swiped in different directions for counter moves, and it’s kind of annoying to lift your hands away from the joysticks or analog buttons to complete those actions.

Simplistic but fun story, solid voice acting.  Overall, a worthy entry into the series.  B

Gravity Rush (PS Vita)

This is my second PS Vita game that I completed, and I feel like I should start by saying its very anime in its sensibilities.  How you feel about anime will affect how you feel about this game.

It’s gorgeous and features an interesting mystery surrounding its reasonably compelling main character, Kat, who has the ability to change the direction of gravity to explore and fight enemies.  It’s pretty fun.

And awkward.  Not just in its gameplay mechanics, which features more motion control than I want, but also in its general storytelling, which is, again, very anime.

Still pretty cool.  And while the story purposely leaves some loose ends for a sequel, it’s still quite satisfying by the end.  I look forward to this becoming a series.  B+

Premature Judgments

I’ve also started a lot of games, but I haven’t finished them yet.  Even so, here are a few thoughts:

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (PS3)

An arcade style, side-scrolling beat-em up, which harkens to the golden era of arcade gaming in much the same way that the eponymous movie and comic do.

I am reminded of The Simpsons Arcade Game, in the way that you can play with others in local co-op, pick up items to use as weapons, and even through people.

This game is hard.  I’m not sure if I can beat it alone, but the game allows for couch co-op, allowing me to involve friends.  The couple of boss battles I’ve played (the first two evil exes) were pretty cool.

I’m leaning towards a B-.

Okami HD (PS3)

Okami is often referred to as the greatest Zelda game ever made, except for the fact that it’s not a Zelda game at all.  But there are some superficial similarities to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, at least insofar as both games feature wolves.  Beyond that, I’m a bit dismissive of the comparison.

The HD remake of the PS2-era title is gorgeous, and the artwork is inspired, almost looking woodcut and painted.

The companion, whose name I can’t remember, features the worst sound I’ve ever heard for mimicking speech.  And much like Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, this character is incessant with trying to teach you gameplay and give awkward summaries of world-building background information.

Even so, that really doesn’t detract too much from the overall game, and it’s quite stunning to take part in a complex Japanese-style myth.

I’m not very far, and I fear the reason I haven’t beaten this game is because I’ve fallen out of love with this kind of game, but I will endeavor to complete it nevertheless.

I’m leaning towards a B+.

inFAMOUS (PS3)

Another cornerstone franchise of PlayStation (along with Grand Turismo, Uncharted, God of War, and others I’m surely neglecting), I actually had almost zero interest in playing this game until I saw the preview for inFAMOUS: Second Son on the PS4.  That game looks amazing.

Even though it’s not technically necessary to play the first two games in order to appreciate the third game, from what I understand, I still really want to.

And so far, I’m fairly satisfied with it.  In spite of its awkward controls and slightly obnoxious mission system, inFAMOUS really makes you feel like a superhero.  And the game rewards you for defeating your enemies with style and general badassery.

Graphics are passible if a bit underwhelming for a game that came out in 2009, two and a half years into the PS3’s life cycle.  But art direction is solid, and the use of comic book-style cutscenes is very cool and rare in this medium.

Really solid so far.  I’m leaning towards a B.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (PS3)

When I saw this game come up as a free download on PlayStation Plus, I had high hopes that it was a compilation of the early titles in the franchise.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Instead, it’s an arcade-style, on-rails shooter that takes you through the chronological best moments of the series in a kind of executive summary of each original title’s story.

It’s very strange, and kind of terrible.  But I’m playing with someone else, and that makes it kind of enjoyable, in a share suffering kind of way.

I’m leaning towards a C-.  (It’d be a D- if I were playing alone.)

The Unfinished Swan (PS3)

Another heralded PSN title that is often connected to other high-concept endeavors (like Journey, Flower, and so on), this game follows the story of a boy who recently lost his mother and is now living in an orphanage.  His mother left him a bevy of unfinished paintings, but he was only allowed to take one.  He chose her unfinished painting of a swan.

He is awakened one night to discover the the swan has gone missing from the painting, so he enters the now blank canvas to pursue it.  Gameplay begins in an all white scene, and your only tool is an infinite supply of black paint.  As you cast splatters of it, it reveals terrain, buildings, nature, and tons of other objects in the world.

The game is kind of a maze, as you use the paint to reveal the path ahead.  It’s visually quite stunning.

The heart of the game is its narration and story, however, and so despite the seemingly simplistic-sounding gameplay mechanics, it’s quite compelling.

I’m learning towards a B+ on this one.

Machinarium (PS Vita)

Machinarium is a clever puzzle game about a robot-filled world — and I mean that literally, all living things in the game are mechanical, including owls, cats, and rodents.  The game centers around a much-bullied robot whose sole purpose is to make it back into the city he was thrown out of, exact revenge on those who have abused him, and reunite with his one, true love.

It’s very cute.  And the excellent artwork suits this game well.

But I must admit that I’ve had to refer to a guide more than I normally do with games.  I’m not very big into puzzle games and generally only tolerate them when I’m in the rare mood.  (I had Portal 2 waiting for me to play for nearly half a year before I finally dove in, and I absolutely loved the first one.  I’m just impatient with the genre.)  That said, I’m trying to do as much of it as I can, and it’s quite enjoyable.  My only complaint is that it’s a port of a PC game, and so the developers mapped a floating cursor (a mouse pointer, really) to the left analog stick.  This is clunky and kind of insulting given the excellent touchscreen the Vita possesses.

I’m leaning towards a B on this one.  Better controls would have raised this potential score higher.