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TheMG42

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  1. The premise of designing the game around Norwegian mythology was interesting. Some beautiful, mountainous regions in some of the later sections of the game. Mostly a dark forest walking simulator, even though it was clearly trying to invoke something deeper than that. No combat mechanics, but enemy encounters were almost a non-factor. Voice acting was not that great and cutscenes felt weirdly paced and framed. A lot of areas felt unnecessarily dark and lost some of the levels' atmosphere. Ending was kind of upsetting and perhaps one of the few memorable moments in the game. Frame rate can lag at times, loading screens are a bit too long for my liking and I got 2 crashes to dashboard playing this on Vanilla Xbox One. Overall rating: Doubt.
  2. Highlight of the game was definitely the world they've created within the game. A really unique, colourful, beautiful alien world that shows off the games art direction. Main campaign felt kind of threadbare; was done in just under 7 hours and that was with me getting stuck/dying on a few platforming and puzzle sections. Exploration is really fun when the game opens up via the double jump and grappling hook upgrades. Simple and effective core gameplay loop. Post campaign content is mainly just collectible and crafting related, but with no real way of tracking their objectives via a map or nav icons. There's a good game here, overall, but I don't think this one's for me. Overall rating: Hazy.
  3. Definitely Games as a Service, so this WILL die. Feels like yet another third-person, cover-based, looter shooter.
  4. Went for a magic and guns build. A decent, fantasy RPG title with a 12-15 hour story that got stretched out to a 30-35 hour game. Fairly easy to pick up and play for some one who isn't all that familiar with these types of RPGs. Kind of reminds me of the early Dragon Age games, so I get where the comparison to "OG Bioware" come from when describing Greedfall. Kind of straddles the line between Hazy and Good/Great.
  5. TheMG42

    Dex

    Basically if Deus Ex or Bladerunner were reimagined as a 2D, pixel art, side scroller. Art Direction is great; it really captures that dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic. Combat is kinda 'meh'. Guns don't feel all that powerful and basic enemies take more than a few shots to go down. Hand-to-hand combat is very simplistic and kind of repetitive. Overall size and scope of the game is quite good. The story kind of lost me at certain parts. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Good/Great.
  6. I can absolutely recommend playing Stories Untold for it’s strong overall creative direction that involves telling a great, thrilling story while presenting it in well designed, genuine retro environments. This sort of game is highly unlikely to have any mass appeal, but at a fairly low cost and a short playtime of maybe 3-4 hours long, it’s still worth a try. You might end up like me and be pleasantly surprised by this game. I'd give this game a rating of Fantastic.
  7. The best way I feel like I can sum up the game’s overall motif would be: shoot “2001: A Space Odyssey” in the style of “Paranormal Activity” where you take control of “HAL 9000”. Puzzles are fairly straight forward and while the game won't hold your hand during any of them, they kind of boil down to just instruction following. Audio design is fantastic. The game really does a great job of conveying the sense of deathly quiet isolation in the seemingly limitless emptiness of outer space while also dealing with an impending doom. Everything from the crackly radio communications to the sounds of airlock decompression all give off the expected muted sounds that make the whole thing feel authentic. I'd give it a rating of Good/Great.
  8. Love the premise of this game even though it can be a bit heavy-handed and lacking-in-nuance with it's story-related decisions and plot escalation. Gameplay loop is a rudimentary and less engaging version of Lucas Pope's "Papers Please". Likeable NPCs, has some replay value with an interesting meta narrative that triggers on your second and third play throughs. Art direction for the city and night time atmosphere are well done. Kind of straddles the line between "Hazy" and "Good/Great".
  9. A follow up to the previous game: Decay, Decay: The Mare is an episodic, first person, point-and-click adventure, horror game played from the perspective of Sam, who was recently institutionalized for drug abuse in a place called "Reaching Dreams". After taking some medicine that was left in his room and going to bed, his first night goes off the rails and Sam finds that his dreams and reality are slowly starting to run together in a seemingly endless nightmare. As the player, you'll spend 3 episodes controlling Sam as you explore the dark, decrepit, dingy environments that are very reminiscent of the early Silent Hill games where the graphics are kind of muddy, visually noisy and hard to make out clearly. The core gameplay loop revolves around pointing-and-clicking your way through static environments that mostly feel abandoned, derelict and creepy. You can also control Sam with the directional pad, making him turn left, right and behind him. The images are have a muddy, old-school VHS overlay to them and feel satisfactory in overall quality, if a bit sparse and lacking details. You move your mouse cursor around to try and find hotspots that you can inspect for clues, items, coins (which serves as the game's collectibles) and newspaper clippings for backstory. You can also combine certain items, such as a metal block and hammer handle, to create a sledgehammer that will break down a brick wall, so you can find a clue to progress the plot. There's also puzzle solving mechanics that, while not overly challenging, were still satisfying to solve and represent the only sort of "traditional" gameplay in the Decay: The Mare. In regards to clue and item hunting, you'll be backtracking through various rooms a lot and it can be a little disorienting and tedious at times, since it's largely the same hallways and rooms you're navigating through. There's not much in the way of animations, save for some cutscenes and a few in game moments. There's also not much in way of voice acting, save for the narrator who delivers lines rather flatly and monotonously. This is contrast the game's musical score, which is actually quite good. Specifically during the game's introduction and subsequent cutscenes. Overall, Decay: The Mare falls into a lot of horror clichés which doesn't help it stand out from the pack in any significant way. It has some genuine horror moments and doesn't rely too much on cheap jump scares (I counted maybe one per episode), which is perfectly fine. The game can be completed in about 2 hours, so it's not an overly hefty adventure. There's also a binary, good ending and bad ending choice you can make at the end of the game that provides an unambiguous conclusion either way. If you can pick up on sale like I did for about $7 CAD, then Decay: The Mare can provide a short, satisfactory horror experience. I'd give this game a rating of Hazy.
  10. Full disclosure, I genuinely dislike talking about political themes in games. It's not something I'm particularly well-versed in and such discussions can result in a lot of shit-slinging from multiple parties. In my experience, a lot of political agendas in games come off as heavily contrived and are often met player backlash as a result. With Black The Fall, however, I sort of have to get into the politics of the game since it plays a big part in it's striking theme. The game is an indie, puzzle platformer game that's set during the oppressive Communist regime in Romania. Further research turned up that the face of Romania's communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is displayed on giant TV's throughout the game and you can even find a subtle outline of the country in the main menu, just off to the bottom right of the bike. The game supposedly draws a lot of references to Romania's dark past and provides an interesting "what if" scenario regarding the Communist regime not being overthrown in 1989: the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's term as Communist leader. The core gameplay loop revolves around using stealth and puzzle solving solutions to navigate through factory floors, secret passage ways, an abandoned wasteland, a prison complex and ultimately escape. Throughout the game, you'll experience just how far an oppressive regime will go to squash any dissenters and maintain order as NPCs are forced fed propaganda and are worked to the point of exhaustion and sickness. I felt that the games graphics were well done. The dark, imposing atmosphere that covers every colour on the grey spectrum do a great job of creating this drab and dreary environment that you want to escape from and never look back. The game also leverages the colour red to indicate security measures, which presents a threat to the player. Funny enough that the colour red has also been associated with Communism (the infamous "Hammer & Sickle"). The game's runtime on a single play through is about 3 hours with very little replay value. Despite the shorter run time, the game still tells a pretty compelling story about refusing to no longer be a cog in an oppressive regime and plotting an escape. The game has a pretty demoralizing ending, considering everything the player has to go through to get to the end. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Hazy.
  11. BJ! We need you defending us with the MG42!
  12. It's a first person interactive story that's told through the perspective of two different characters: Caleb Pearson and Madeleine Stone where you explore the subterranean medical research facility called The Assembly. The game's overarching narrative about exploring morals and ethics in medical research is interesting enough and it comes across as a game that could be preamble to a larger scale disaster/survival game. The game's graphics are kind of hit and miss. There are some objects that have a low, pixelated texture quality, it's very clear they only made like two NPC models and just copy and pasted them throughout the game, only making changes related to skin and eye colour. The NPC all have the lower half of their faces obscured by masks and hair obscured by a balaclava that make them look like Scorpion or Sub Zero rejects from the early Mortal Kombat games. As such, facial animations are borderline non-existent except for blinking. This is in contrast to the lab's environment design being perfectly satisfactory and one particular section where Madeleine and Caleb's stories intersect for the first time. Madeleine is lead into a suspended laboratory above a chasm, a giant monitor on one side with a map of the world displayed and a series of computers on the other. The setup is very "Hollywood" and it really does a nice job of illustrating that The Assembly really is an underground secret medical lab. Oddly enough, this is where the game presents it's most interesting puzzle element. Sure, there are others before and after it, but they're almost insulting easy and barely worth mentioning. It's a classic doomsday, viral outbreak scenario where you, as Madeleine, need to parse out resources in order to keep loss of life below acceptable limits. It's the most though-provoking puzzle of the game and it's underlying message is all too real. This culminates into the game's peak for me and it's most memorable moment in my play through of this game. The voice acting is also kind of hit and miss. Madeleine's voice acting is perfectly fine in terms of conveying emotion and temperament, whereas Caleb's is a bit more monotonous. By in large, it works well, but there are some scenes where Caleb's voice needed to emit more emotions. Between the two stories, Madeleine's story is the stronger of the two. Her's features more traditional gameplay elements, an exploration of her backstory and better voice acting. Caleb's is more akin to wandering around rooms, opening draws and cabinets and then finding an object to progress the plot. The game apparently has four different endings and at a play time of roughly 2-3 hours, you can burn through the game pretty quickly. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Hazy.
  13. The interesting thing about Observer is that, in theory, I really like it: you play as a detective or "observer" with mind hacking and augmented vision to analyze your surroundings. The Observer is voiced by the late Rutger Hauer who is tasked with solving a murder case and it's all done against a Bladerunner-esque backdrop. In practice however, it's just a baffling experience. The game world is well done and has a fantastic atmosphere. It's a dark, dystopian, cyberpunk style where the events of the game feel like it would be going on in the background of the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game. It ultimately left me wanting to see more of the world, beyond just the apartment complex that the game is largely set in. The game also nails it in the horror department. Between dismembered and eviscerated bodies and other grotesque scenes, Observer clearly understands horror. The investigative/crime solving mechanics are pretty rudimentary. It's just a matter of cycling between your two augmented vision modes and waiting for a clue to light up which allows you to scan and analyze it. The mind hacking part is where the game really loses me, which is unfortunate, since that's a decent chunk of the core gameplay loop. They're incredibly trippy and obtuse sequences that are just really tedious after a bit. It reeks of style over substance. The game's frame rate is also pretty up and down. Sometimes it runs buttery smooth, other times it drops below 30fps and just chugs along. The game is also on the shorter side in terms of run time and can really only be experienced once. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Love/Hate.
  14. The best way to describe Layers of Fear is that it's akin to riding the haunted house ride at any amusement park or county fair that you've ever been to: get railroaded down a linear path full of scary and/or horrifying set pieces, it's dark a lot of the time, get jumpscared several times and then the ride is over. You play as a tortured artist who returns home to complete his masterpiece. He enters his studio, paints the first layer of the painting and then begins to suffer from hallucinations. As you explore the artist's home, you unveil horrifying secrets about the artist's life. As you discover more secrets and clues about the him, you begin experiencing more twisted and dark hallucinations. You eventually learn that the artist was once a loving father and husband but his relationship with his family deteriorated over time when he distanced himself from his wife and daughter to focus more on his paintings as well as developing a drinking problem. The game's art direction nails the "horror" aspect rather well, particularly the final painting that I got at the end of my playthrough as well as the discovery of certain clues and the narrations that came with them. Some of the environments in the game's last half hour or so also nailed the "horror" aspect really well. The one thing I wish the developers would've done is to create some sort of cutscene for the clues you uncover, even if it was only a slide show of a few still images, because there was some REAL potential to create some fucking hard-to-watch moments out of those. This is likely why the game's story wasn't really capturing me since it's given to you in short voice over segments and flavour text that break up the tediousness and repetitiveness of explore dark corridors and rooms. The game's frame rate is terrible; plenty of stuttering, streaming and lag issues at various points throughout the game. It's a shame because the game's environments are well rendered but trying to pan across to look around while dropping frames kind of kills it for me. One suggestion for Ross when he gets around to playing this game: turn head bobbing off because my god is obnoxious! I had to disable that option after about 20 mins of gameplay because I felt like I was going to be sick. Layers of Fear does some things well with it's great horror set pieces and general art direction but it's story wasn't really grabbing me because it was mostly fed to me through narrations and text dumps, the game's pace felt like a bit of slog and it relies a bit too much on jumpscares for it's "scariness". It also reminded me that it was such a shame that Silent Hills got canceled, since Layers of Fear's gameplay borrows heavily from it's teaser. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Pass.
  15. TheMG42

    Kona

    Kona does a great job of establishing it's environment. It takes places in the backwoods of Quebec in 1970. It's freezing cold, snowy, white-out conditions and gale force winds are whipping at your face. This is a downright hostile survival situation that will claim any victims who aren't highly prepared for it. This is a game that I would love to explore in VR at some point. The game is a first-person, detective, survival game which also features some supernatural forces at play. You play as Carl Faubert, a private investigator from Montreal who initially gets called in to investigate a case of vandalism at the General Store. Carl shows up on location and the vandalism case quickly escalates into a murder investigation. You travel around the town and search houses for clues (documents, journals etc), tools and crafting materials (to help you solve puzzles) and as a means of shelter. Your primary threat is freezing to death, so seeking out shelters and making campfires is your only way to combat that element. You may also have to defend yourself from wolves. This is where you have the option of exploring the game's combat mechanics, which are really clunky and awkward to use. There's no hit markers and you really don't get the sense you're connecting with anything. You're better off just throwing a raw steak at them or firing off a gun shot into the air to scare them. There's also a stress metre that can increase if Carl is dealing with an unpleasant scene, such as having to kill wolves, crashing his car or being exposed to the elements for too long. You decrease your stress metre by smoking cigarettes, taking pain pills or drinking water or alcohol. The game doesn't really hold your hand when it comes to puzzles, controls or clue hunting. Although the game's plot funnels you down a linear path, how you go about commuting through the level to carry out your investigation is up to you. There's no invasive HUD elements; you're given a map and that's it. One thing that kind of stood out to me, and it was only via a second play through that I caught it, is that a bit of flavour text briefly brings up the Anglophone vs. Francophone divide that was highly prominent in Quebec during that time. Although it's not nearly as extreme now, it still has relevance in Quebec to this day. I won't dive into that, since it's not really my area of expertise and I'd rather stick to gaming. Performance wise, the game runs pretty smoothly without crashing on Xbox One. My only gripe is the mid-game loading screens that can last several seconds when you're about to enter a new area of the map. It happened nearly a dozen times through both of my play throughs and it really breaks the immersion for me. The game's ending us where I really dislike this game; it feels rushed, tacked on and incredibly anti-climatic: There's an exposition dump that says a lot without really saying anything, there's an asinine chase sequence that's incredibly slowly paced that comes to an awkward conclusion, in fact, I'm convinced it's broken. Then you just escape and the game ends. Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Love and Hate.
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