First Impression: Dragon’s Crown

You realize almost immediately that Dragons Crown is a repetitive game. But so is Borderlands, and Diablo, and every other lootfest, so what?  So it becomes about the world, and the characters, that carry the rest of the game. Dragon’s Crown is better than most, but a step behind Borderlands 2. I would mention the story, but like any hack n’ slash, you’re moving from point A to point B, causing the story to take a back seat. It does scores some nostalgia points given the time I spent with Odin Sphere and Princess Crown (both the finest examples of 2-D graphics for their respective generations).

Oh, and the hyper sexualized imagery is somehow not as tacked-on as I expected.  But does remain odd, at-best (search “Dragon’s Crown Images” to see immediately what I’m talking about).

4-player is non-stop pandemonium

4-player is non-stop pandemonium


First Impression: Don’t Starve

Yeah the game is brutal.  Anyone who starts it up already knows this so there’s not much to complain about there. But the extent of what that means is a bit overwhelming even if you’re prepared for it.  The world is a complete mystery when you start out, and the things that will kill you and help you are constantly surprising.  There’s immediate needs, fire & food, but quickly things turn to science.  And here is where the biggest initial complaint comes in.  Do develop technology you need to build a “Science Machine”, to build one of these guys, you need a lump of gold.  Gold is not that easy to come by, so the first 30 minutes of every game you play is a desperate scramble to find some of this resource.  Once you’ve found it, there’s usually ample amounts, but trying to stumble upon it is one of the more frustrating aspects of the game.

DS_fire

But it keeps you coming back.  Even with nothing to show for it, you keep exploring the beautiful and insane world.  Masochism can be fun.


Soul Sacrifice First Impressions

Soul Sacrifice is a weird game.  By weird, I don’t mean “Japanese”, or that the technical execution is strange, I mean that it’s bizarre.   The first 15 minutes, which should pull you into the game, are borderline repulsive.  They’re out of place ugly (for a game that for the most part is beautiful), there’s no context (for a game with rich lore), and you’re companion, a talking book, is a huge burst of Evil Dead when it seemed to going the more serious route.  After an hour or two however, you start to get into it.  The actual narration of the story is moving, as you find yourself nudged in the direction of evil regardless of what you’d like to do.  There’s small annoyances that seem obvious- you have to go to the main screen for every little tweak and adjustment, and the story, although solid, is literally read to you in the slowest imaginable way (the narration speed could have easily been doubled).  But you keep playing, so that’s a good place to start.

Yes, that's blood coming out of his face

Yes, that’s blood coming out of his face


FTL First Impression (aka a lost night of sleep)

FTL

Faster Than Light (FTL) has the addictive charm that eats up 5 hours before you even realize it.  Like all games of that nature, it’s about understanding the rules, finding them and turning them to your advantage.  But even when you realize this, and you’ll become aware of the system that underpins the game quickly, FTL has so much charm that it hardly matters.  It’s not a particularly large game, but there’s enough replay value that you’ll keep giving it one more shot until it’s 4 am and you’re still wide awake.


Opening a PS Vita (the Non-Review)

I thought I was really clever. Since Soul Sacrifice came out I’ve been having my eye on a Vita.  I asked a few people about a price drop, and the consensus was that since they didn’t declare it at E3, it probably wouldn’t happen until the PS4 releases. So when I saw a sale last weekend at Target I scheduled a grocery run to get me close enough to pick one up. It turns if I had been slightly patient I could have picked the thing up with Telltale’s Walking Dead and a memory card this week for the same price. Therefore, less than a week after the purchase, this review is partially obsolete.
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When the clerk hands me the box the first thing I notice is how small and light it is. The cardboard is thin and it seems more like a box for a knock-off retro console, than a legitimate system.
Outside
Opening it up there’s not much inside. But it’s compartmentalized pretty well, almost like the original wii’s bento box appeal. Inside I’m surprised to find a pack of AR cards, not that I ever used them on the 3ds, but its a nice touch.
Inside
I loved my PSP.  The thing was beautiful and slick, and in my opinion the most underrated system since the Saturn.  But the initial setup was a horror (and it happened every-time the battery completely drained). So I’m shocked when I turn on the Vita and I’m through the setup, including wifi and my PSN account, in 2 minutes. The screen is also beautiful and movement fluid. It’s only now that the little thing starts to impress. Logging into the store and finding all the Playstation Plus titles for download is easy, significantly better than the process on the PS3, which is plagued with long load times and convoluted menus. However, when I go to download it freezes on the “Preparing to download” screen. A quick Internet search reveals this happens ALOT. Literally hundreds of people are complaining about it. I have to power it down twice before it finally downloads everything on the third try.
As for holding it in my hand, it doesn’t fit quite as naturally as the PSP, which had the analog stick perfectly placed on the left and the four Playstation buttons on the right. On the Vita the dual sticks seem to sit low, and the back touch pad remains a novelty. But all in all, its a hell of a lot more comfortable than the brick that is the 3DS.
Really, my biggest complaint, is the complaint that has always existed with Sony. The characters and the voice that guide you along lack the personality of a Nintendo system. A door opens, and a small orange stick figure walks through. Is he supposed to be my guide? Why would I bother with this? Then I notice that the tutorial considers itself enough of a game to have a trophy set.  Ok, maybe I’ll give it a try.
Conclusion- All the strengths and weaknesses of the Vita are evident the moment you open the box. The system is beautiful, well designed, but horribly neglected. Flimsy packaging, an unsolved critical but easily identifiable download problem, and just a general lack of games, shows how little attention has been paid to the thing. I think it has the potential to be a tremendously enjoyable system, like the PSP, but will inevitably be underrated and underutilized.

The First Few Hours – Shin Megami Tensei 4

There would have been a time, not long ago, when I would have been excited about a new Shin Megami game, let alone an entry in the main series.  The DS entries, and to a lesser extent Persona 4, have sapped this excitement from me.  But here I am, giving it another shot, because Nocturne and Persona 3 remain some of the best experiences I ever had on the PS2 (not to mention the earlier Persona’s)

First Thoughts, First Impressions:  The low key neon which somehow helped to emphasize the overall darkness from the early PS2 era Shine Megami titles appears to be completely gone (this started with Persona 3, but is complete now). It’s replaced with 80s camp anime, bright sunlight, and a throw back to early persona games in character portraits. Even the quirky and endearing personalities from persona 3 (and to a lesser extent 4) are missing.  Although I will say that the actual dungeon crawling looks amazing and works well.

So how does it play?  I’m not sure why, but there is something about the game.  Despite what I expected, I was actually very excited to continue playing it yesterday. It’s the beginning though.  I put quite a few hours in Strange Journey, but never ended up finishing it, because at a certain point in time you have to choose a very distinct ending.  Once you get there, it’s all out of surprises.  So I assume I know how 4 will end:  3 bland choices, evil, neutral and good. Although Nocturne avoided this convention, so it could always surprise me.
Nocturne neon

Nocturne neon

Digital Devil Saga neon

Digital Devil Saga neon

and 4's...

and 4…


Flight Control Non-Review

Name: Flight Control
System: iOS
Price: Free (iTunes 5th Anniversary)

Maybe if I remember hundreds of people are on each one I will care more...

Maybe if I remember hundreds of people are on each plane I will care more…

Played Flight control for 5 minutes before going to bed- Land some planes and dont have them crash. The tension is supposed to build as more aircraft comes on the screen and you play for a high-score.  This sort of thing can work (see any number of puzzle games), and maybe there’s a decent game in there, but I’ll never know because it was too boring for me to try again.


Why Ridiculous Fishing is brilliant

Ridiculous Fishing isn’t a fishing simulator…obviously, or I wouldn’t have downloaded it.  You grab a hundred fish at once and then blast them with a shotgun. What is amazing is a very simple concept that you almost never see, objective reversal. When you’re going down you dodge the fish and when your coming up you grab the fish. It’s the same movement, but opposite goals.  Its simple and brilliant in how effective it is. Sometimes you become so focused that you confuse the two, smacking into the first fish you see when you should be moving around it.  The potential application for this type of mechanic is phenomenal .. just have to find a way to go beyond the now obvious dodge/hit polarization.

fising_diving


How good is the Last of Us?

I started at 10 and when I looked at my phone next it was 2.  My original plan had been to go to bed early.

Saw this a few times last night

Saw this a few times last night


Little Inferno Non-Review

There’s almost no point in rating this game.  The only thing that would qualify it as a “game” is the interactive nature, while it admits at the very beginning there are no scores or lives, only the glimmer of a “story”.  But more importantly it’s what you take out of the short time you spent with it.  Over a few hours you’ll burn hundreds of items in your virtual fireplace, knowing there’s no point, knowing the laws of consumption are horribly unsustainable, and even knowing the world you live in is a dying freezing microcosm.

Being a part of the Humble Bundle is the perfect distribution platform.  I don’t think I could justify spending $10 on it, and I don’t think it wants you to.  It makes an active effort to question why you are spending time with your “Little Inferno”.  As you stare at the fire, the game questions what the purpose of the main character’s life is, and it’s only after awhile that you realize it’s been you whose been staring into the fire the entire time.

 

little inferno fireplace