Saturday, July 23, 2016

Games of 2016: Summer

June: Rogue Galaxy ($6 PSN Flash sale), Kalimba (FREE, XBL Gold), Gears of War Judgement (FREE, XBL sharing), King's Quest (FREE, PS+), Grim Fandango (FREE, PS+), Dangerous Golf ($20), Never Alone ($5, PSN Flash sale).

Rogue Galaxy has a sweet battle system
Rogue Galaxy is an action RPG that was pretty highly regarded in its PS2 generation. I find the voice acting and dialogue to be boring and corny. The women are emotional, dainty and useless, and the lead male character is a goody-two-shoes white guy. It has a neat weapon leveling system, but I haven't gotten far enough into the 80-hour-long quest to find something I really like about this game. I have pretty good patience with RPGs, being among those who didn't have a problem with how linear the first 20 hours of FFXIII was. Not sure if I could recommend this yet.

I played Gears of War Judgement like I have the other 3 run-and-gunners in the series: split screen with my best friend over a really fun weekend. This game is brainlessly fun, shooting hundreds of bullets at waves of enemies in a very violent shooter. One point I'd like to bring up is all the hate on how uncreative and franchise-y Call of Duty games are, yet Gears of War is allowed to bask in shallow glory and stupid dialogue. If you like mindless shooters, don't be ashamed and get this one!

Jump. Look. Stop. Look. Jump. Look. Stop. Look.
Kalimba is a colorful indie game that was free on Xbox Gold. The beautiful geometric graphics are pretty, and the controls are simple. The challenge is how brutal the puzzles are. You play as two characters with mirrored controls, when you press left, both characters walk left at the same speed. You can stack one on top of another, and this is especially important in co-op, where you play as 2 sets of twins who can stack really high. There are of course parts of a level that split top and bottom so that you have to negotiate terrain in two separate couples. The game is pretty hard, and I'll leave it at that.

Searching all day to find a good knight.
King's Quest is an update to the series, featuring really gorgeous HD graphics, an easy-to-follow story, and some neat puzzles to solve. The challenge is in remembering details of dialogue to know what certain characters need to progress the story. The story is narrated as an old King Graham telling his granddaughter about his adventures when he was a spry lad and boy are there loads of puns. The nature of the storytelling made me think of Princess Bride, though I couldn't tell you why. If you want an enjoyable 5 hours and have a decent memory, this is your game!

I played Never Alone in one sitting, start to finish. I didn't know what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised to have a really easy game to play with my girlfriend. The game is a very basic platformer, where each of the two characters has abilities that only they can do. The story is a combination of Inupait legends, and during the game you can pop out and watch 2-minute documentaries on parts of the culture. The Inupait are a real group of people who live in remote parts of Alaska, and their ways of life are strongly being affected by global warming. Never Alone was made more to tell its legend and educate, rather than preach about current events. The game is worth buying to support this project, and if you're looking for an easy 2-player game to share with someone who thinks Super Mario Bros is too hard (which I wouldn't blame them!).

Surprisingly, this creepy guy isn't an enemy.


Dangerous Golf has two objectives: destroy everything in the room and then put your ball into the hole. These 2 stages make for some very quick rounds, and the mechanics are dreadful. The game has you move the left thumbstick up to put, no angle, no strength, just tap it and you swing full power. Then, you control the camera sometimes with the right thumb, and you can occasionally accidentally interrupt your ball's bounce by going into the putt phase. I had been really excited for this game, seeing as Burnout Takedown and Revenge were two of my favorite games, and team Criterion had been out of work for 10 years. When I first saw the $20 price tag, my hopes dropped - I'd hoped it would be at lest $40, which would have meant a larger project. Instead, we got this, which looks cheap, has a terrible interface, and uninspired music. To make it worse was that my progress got erased in a glitch. I started a single-player mode, getting through 10 of the 100 levels. Then, I played co-op for a bit, starting over, and when I came back to my single-player progress, it was at 0. I posted about this on Twitter and the team wanted me to show them what happened, so the developer is very willing to try and fix it, but they would need to overhaul the controls and hammer out bugs to make this game worth revisiting.

July: Assault Android Cactus ($5, PS+ Flash sale), Overwatch ($48) and Doom (borrowed).

Magma gun dishes out the d.
Assault Android Cactus is a 4-player arena shooter game that is crazily fun and manic. Enemies will flood your screen as the levels dynamically change, while the music pumps-- and this makes for a kickass experience. This was my vote for March 2016's free PSN game when it was stacked against BroForce and Action Henk, which of course BroForce took the win. This twin stick shooter feels great, controls are responsive, and you will die and retry many many times. Buy this if you want a couch coop shoot em up with mad style points.

And now, the most satisfying FPS game I've played in a long time: Doom (4). Bethesda has done an amazing job of making their 3 big games in the same genre pretty distinct: Dishonored, with a slower-paced stealth, abilities and loot system; Wolfenstein, with it's medium-paced action and weapon-kill challenges; and Doom, a fast-paced, gritty run and gun. One delightful part of the latter two games is that most of the trophy hunting and completing challenges also lead to permanent benefits for your character. There's in-game incentive to doggedly throw yourself at hard challenges, like 5 knife kills in 1 minute, or Glory-Killing 5 monsters from above. Speaking of which, part of Doom's fast pace is the ability to gruesomely finish off enemies that have low health to gain life, ammo and armor back. When you do this Glory Kill, you are invincible to enemies during your 1-second animation.

imp G(l)ory Kill. Sock to the face, pull out unspecified organ.
Doom rules. There are 5 difficulties, and I played the whole game on the second one and died a LOT. None of the bosses proved much of a challenge, but getting swarmed and backing up into vicious, clawing imps will happen a lot. The story and map directions are easy to follow and secrets didn't feel cheap or obscure. I am 98% of the way to the platinum trophy in 10 days of playing. I just have to finish the first level on Ultra Nightmare difficulty: enemies can kill you in two hits, health recovery and ammo are scarce, and there are no checkpoints.

Overwatch is one of the most addictive games ever made and consumes most of my free time. I currently play Mercy, Reinhardt, Zarya and Symmetra, lately. I feel bad for Battleborn, which is the same kind of game with more features, that just had the unfortunate timing of competing against Blizzard.


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