Sunday, November 1, 2015

Playing Catch-Up!  


Welcome back to Coffeecola!

I’m currently between review assignments, so I’ve had some precious free time to play pretty much whatever I want without feeling guilty about it -- AKA, the best time of year!

So, what’s been on the docket?


>The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition (PS4)

Despite hearing all the praise last year, this one kind of snuck up on me. I honestly didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

While it’s very Portal-like in many ways, I really liked the different aesthetic of the game, and the writers did an outstanding job with it. The themes of humanity and free will were a great fit with the puzzle-based gameplay, and the world had an awesome atmosphere and style.

While I didn’t love some of the in-game text (the myths and historical writing found on PCs weren’t effective at all) Talos is one of the exceedingly rare instances where the existence of audio logs not only made sense, but actually did a great job of enhancing the story. Even better, the ending was both perfect and amazing, and it left me glowing with contentedness for the rest of the day.

In fact, the story is really what carried the day here. I think the game is too long by a third, and the final bunch of puzzles were exercises in frustration. If I hadn’t been so invested in seeing how things turned out, I’m certain I would have quit before the end. Thank god for GameFAQS, amirite?? Speaking of which, mega props to nomercyrider for his awesome FAQ. I used it and I am not ashamed.

Despite getting a bit burned out on it by the end, I am very, very glad that I pushed on through – it really was a wonderful experience overall.  I haven’t touched the Road to Gehenna DLC because I’m feeling pretty burned out on the puzzles right now, but I’m pretty sure I’ll give it a shot once some time has passed.


>Leo’s Fortune (PS4)

I have to say, when I saw this one pop up on PSN I wrote it off out-of-hand based on the screenshots, but I heard some positive things later on so I decided to give it a shot. I'm glad that I did.

I haven't been keeping up with mobile lately, but apparently this one was a successful mobile title that got ported. It doesn't really break new ground, but it's very focused on being a physics-based platformer, and it does what it does very well.

The main character is a big fuzzball who can puff himself up, and the developers have done a good job of designing levels which are a mix between straight-up platforming and puzzles which involve environmental manipulation.

I have to say, I also thought the story had a certain sort of magnetism. Although it was totally simple, it took a dark turn by the end and finished with a positive message that I didn't see coming. It could've used a little more story sprinkled throughout, but I appreciate what was there.


>Shovel Knight (3DS)

So, I first played this when it dropped last year, and I have to be honest, I didn't click with me. That retro vibe was pretty clear, but it just didn't seem to be doing anything that was interesting at the time, and I put it down pretty quick. Of course, it went on to receive so much praise and love that I couldn’t ignore it. I decided to give it a second chance and I finished it.

Now that I've done the main campaign, I definitely recognize it as a quality product and can appreciate what the developers were going for, although it never lit my world on fire.

I think that part of my apathy is that the visual design of Shovel Knight himself leaves a little bit to be desired… Something about it just doesn't pop for me, and his shovel feels underdeveloped. I mean, it could've basically been anything besides a shovel, so that feels like a gap needing to be filled there.

Anyway, don't get me wrong. It's definitely a good game and I'm glad that I came back to it, but… yeah. Probably not gonna end up on my ‘favorite 3DS games’ list.

Side note: the free Plague Knight DLC is pretty nuts. It’s basically a whole new campaign re-using some of the old levels, but the new character has all-new moves and different strategies. It feels a lot more technical and demanding than the vanilla content, so check it out if you need some of that.


>Sunset Overdrive, XBO

Now that I've got an Xbox One in the house, I've been trying to go back and see all of the games that caught my attention before I had access to one. This was at the top of the list.

Although I'm pretty tired of open world games, I do appreciate that the traversal in Sunset is fairly unusual and ends up lending it an energy that others have been lacking. Since the main character can grind/hang/wall run/bounce/air dash, getting from point A to point B is a lot more fun than simply crossing the city in standard open-world style. It reminds me of Crackdown a bit in that respect.

On the other hand, the missions haven't exactly been very interesting (I absolutely despise the base defense) and it feels like there's a little bit too much going on at times. Since the main character is a sitting duck when on the ground, having to constantly stay in motion while dodging things/targeting/managing crowds/working the camera leads to moments of pure overload, so it's probably a good thing that the save points are pretty generous.

Style-wise, I've seen a lot of people bounce hard off of it, but I found it to be genuinely humorous for the most part – some of the lines in the script are pretty sharp. It's definitely a little too "in-your-face" at times, but not horribly so given the irreverence at its core. I really like the female voice actress, so maybe that helps?

The things that I find more offputting are the different menus and "amps" that the game offers. These power-ups feel like an extra layer that I don't want on top of things, and it's presented in such a cluttered and busy fashion that I end up ignoring most of it. I wouldn't mind some streamlining in this area. Also, pausing when using the radial menu to change between weapons would be super welcome.

I'm just doing the main story missions and I’m happy to say that the game is going by pretty quickly -- I think I'm past the halfway point and not tired of it yet, which is a good sign. Dunno if I'll be up for any of the DLC once I roll credits, but it's been a thumbs up so far. It's not something that feels like a system seller, but it if you already have an Xbox one, then it’s recommended. 

Oh, and it's great to see Insominiac finally finding the fun again. They felt really lost when they were churning out those dreary Resistance titles, and as a fan of the studio, I had a hard time understanding where they were coming from and what they were going for. Sunset feels like a more logical progression for them and I'm glad to see that they've got some of their spark back.


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