Saturday, June 21, 2014

Murdered: Soul Suspect, Entwined, 1001 Spikes, Luftrausers, and My Favorite Podcasts  


Games: So, it took me forever (and really, it's not a long game) but I finally rolled credits on Murdered: Soul Suspect, and you know what? I really liked it a lot.

We really don't have enough detective stories and murder mysteries in gaming, so it's nice to get one that kept me guessing until the end. I genuinely did not know how it was going to turn out, and it was a nice surprise when I got there. Of course, I freely admit to not being the best at guessing who the guilty parties are when I watch or read mysteries, but hey.

Other high points? The voice acting was top-notch and I give major points for the game being mostly free of combat. The player will encounter a group of demons to be destroyed or avoided approximately once in every big "scene", but there are long, long stretches when all that’s happening is the player walking around to look for clues, and it was pretty cool.

Of course, it's got downsides like anything else does. The biggest thing is that Squeenix was crazy to release this at full price. Everything about the game screams "mid-tier experimental”, and it should've never hit retail for more than $30. At that price, I think people would be more willing to take a chance on something so unconventional, but when asking for the big bucks, it's hard to make the case. I’m not saying it's a bad game at all (because it's not!) but when 60 bones are on the line, it just doesn't stack up.

Apart from that, the biggest problem I had is that the autosaves kick in far too infrequently, and there's no manual save. As such, I found it tough to find time when I knew I would not be interrupted because I never wanted to lose progress in case I got called away, and it's impossible to predict when the game registers something significant enough to save.

Besides those things, the usual caveats apply. It's not totally polished, there are some weird hiccups here and there, and so on… The usual stuff you'd expect from a mid-tier title, but nothing major. If you’re a person like me who puts a lot of importance on the narrative and characterizations in games, Soul Suspect is worth checking out. There are plenty of places where it could improve, but these developers are totally on the right track. I hope they get the chance to make another one.

Earlier this evening I started (and finished!) and Entwined on the PS4. I hadn't heard much about it, but the YouTube trailer looked like Brad-bait, so I took the plunge.

The gist of it is that the player controls a fish and a bird at the same time (one on each stick) and they fly down a cylinder in space. The player must maneuver each of them independently through hoops that match the color of the animal, and at the end they merge into a dragon to fly around. Aaaaaand that’s it.

I really dig the aesthetics and it seems like there are the beginnings of some cool things here, but my biggest takeaway is that it just doesn't feel finished or even very well-thought out. For instance, it seems like it's trying to tell some sort of a story, but there's nothing there apart from some extremely vague impressions. Likewise, the gameplay is incredibly simple and I got tired of it about halfway through -- and the game is only about 90 minutes long, if that!

I kept waiting for the play to get deeper, the story to get richer, or for something interesting to happen, but what you see in the first level is what you get for the whole game, and it really doesn't develop any further.  It looks great in a trailer, but does not seem like something ready for prime time at all.

I've had a lot of time with the Vita lately, and I am quite proud to say that I finished 1001 Spikes a couple of days ago. This little hardcore platformer is difficult as fuck, and it was an exercise in hand-eye coordination and frustration management to make my way through, but I did it. 

I honestly think it's a great game, but the difficulty does get out of hand in certain spots, especially at the end… I don't really want to spoil the surprise for anyone, but let's just say that once you get to the end, everything that came before it seems like easy mode. Still, totally recommended if you want to have your ass kicked for a while.

I can't remember if I mentioned it here at the blog before, but I've been dipping into Luftrausers, also on Vita. I had heard about this title about 14 billion times from other people, but it wasn't until I saw it on sale for $5 that I jumped in. It was definitely worth that price, and I had a great time with it…

The concept of 2D combat flying (plus physics!) is simple and the mechanics are solid, and in general, it's a great play-for-15-minutes game, but I do have to say that it doesn't feel as balanced or polished as it should. Some of the in-game "missions" are incredibly tough, and rely on randomly-generated conditions before they can be completed. 

Apart from that, there's a mode called "SFMT" that unlocks after you beat one of the sky-filling blimps, and that mode is so incredibly hard that I rarely last more than ten seconds. I don't understand what kind of superhuman is able to play SFMT, but it's disappointing to know that I probably won't ever be able to complete the game because of it. Still, I enjoyed it for a good long while, and would certainly recommend it to action lovers on the Vita.

Podcasts: A couple of quick shout-outs to some podcasts that I really dig --

First up is GaymeBar. I think I've been following this one for about a year or so, and I have to say, the discussions between the three hosts are incredibly intelligent and insightful. I may not always agree with their final verdict on certain games, but I feel like I always learn something when I listen to them, whether it's their perspective on social issues, or in-depth examination of a title I hadn't considered before. There's also quite a bit of humor and general commentary, although it never reaches obnoxious levels the way that it does on some other podcasts. There's usually a fair bit of chatter at the beginning, so if you're a person (like me!) who doesn't go in for a lot of non-game talk, just hang tight. Once the guys get into the games, it's some of the best game chat I’ve heard.

Next up, readers of Coffeecola will know I have much love for Josh and Jay’sExcellent Videogame Show (featuring Rowan Kaiser) and that remains true to this day. These guys have a great chemistry between the three of them, and having listened to them for quite some time, it's nice to hear the way they work in callbacks and references. It’s almost like they're doing a comedy routine, and I mean that in the best possible sense. However, much like Gaymebar, when these guys start talking about titles in detail, they get into it quite honestly and call it like they see it. The lack of bullshit is pretty refreshing, and they make me laugh.

Finally, a mention for Chic Pixel Plus, from my friend @ApricotSushi. I think she does an absolutely fantastic job as host, and while I can't claim as much knowledge or as deep an appreciation for Japanese stuff as she can, she manages to make it all quite interesting, and the guests she chooses are thoughtful and well spoken. This pod is pretty much a must-listen for any Japanophile, and even if you're not much into that side of things, just hearing the way she runs her show is worthwhile.

Of course, there are plenty of other shows that I listen to, but I can’t get into all of them in detail now. Apologies to those I didn't get into, but I still love Cane & Rinse, Gameburst, The Dark Souls Two, Snap Judgment, Experience Points, and The Lonely Tardis!)


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