Transistor – Finishing Thoughts

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I think one might be hard-pressed to find many games who’s combat rewards creativity and experimentation as much as Transistor’s does. It’s cunning and intricate, yet extremely intuitive once you get over the initial learning curve. It’s clear there was a great deal of thoughtfulness involved in putting it together, and that’s definitely not the only aspect of the game with that kind of meticulous care put into it. The presentation, art, music, character designs, and premise all assimilate to form an experience that is a unique one, to say the least.

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Transistor is an isometric RPG with a novel spin on turn-based combat. In actuality, it’s a clever hybrid of a real time action oriented style mixed up with turn-based esque elements. The game stars a silent protagonist named Red, and her magical talking sword. I suppose it’s not fair to put Red in the same category as your ordinary silent protagonist, because she can’t talk for reasons that are actually heavily relevant to the story. Her voice was stolen at the beginning of the game, and that fact is all the more heartbreaking when you consider that she was a highly commended vocalist. It’s not all bad though, by holding the correct button, you can make her hum along harmoniously to the jazzy-electronic ambience in the background, which is a neat touch.

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Let me get this out of the way now. The narrative style that Transistor puts forth is generally not for me. By playing through the game, I understood some of the basic surface level details of what was going on in the story, but much of the substance is exposed to you by reading terminals and descriptions. That kind of storytelling was never one that clicked with me. So because of that, the narrative had a disappointingly weak impact on my overall experience. Even on a second playthrough, I made an attempt to put more effort in comprehending and piecing together the details, but didn’t get much more from it.

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The combat is where this game really shines. At the beginning, you start off with 4 different skills (which are called functions) that you can map to the available action buttons. Since I played on PS4, those were Square, Circle, Cross, and Triangle. As you level up, you start unlocking more functions to utilize. Now, as I just mentioned, you only have 4 action buttons to map your moves to, so if you have 15 functions, you won’t be able to use those all at once, right? Wrong. You can actually attach functions onto other functions which alter how they behave. For example, there’s the Help() function that summons a dog to help you fight enemies, and there’s the Spark() function which shoots out multiple shells that explode to cause AOE damage. You can attach Spark() to Help(), which, when used, will summon two dogs instead of one. It also works the other way around, so you could attach Help() to Spark() for a totally different effect. This works for all of the 16 skills you unlock throughout the game, so as you could imagine, there are a ton of possibilities. As soon as I realized this, I immediately had a vision of strutting with a squad of dogs that would attack other enemies and turn them to my side for a limited amount of time. Soon enough, I got the opportunity to do that, but it admittedly didn’t go quite as well as expected.

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Moment to moment combat can flow more like a turn-based affair, or an action oriented style depending on how you play. That is so because when the action gauge is filled, you can freeze time and plan out each of Red’s actions. Each action set will drain said gauge, which limits the amount of actions you can take in one turn. Then you have to wait for it to fill up before you can freeze time again. If you play your cards right, it’s possible that you can largely avoid that whole deal. Attacking in real time doesn’t deplete any bars, but it also makes you extremely vulnerable as many enemies and attacks generally move much faster than Red does. It wasn’t until my second playthrough that I figured out a strategy which would allow me to play while significantly lowering the necessity to freeze time.

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On top of the 16 functions that can be attached to each other, there are also “Permission” slots that you can link them to, and each one adds a certain passive effect to Red. Transistor does a lot to encourage you to experiment with different setups. There’s a door that appears in periodic locations throughout the city that transport you to a beach where you can take on challenge rooms. Many of these challenge rooms forced me to mix up my functions, which ended up getting me familiar with how some of the functions I had hardly used prior to that could be useful. Some challenge rooms also teach you about certain mechanics, like comboing functions and backstabbing enemies to deal maximum damage. That knowledge serves to be invaluable in the heat of combat, though backstabbing can sometimes be a bit tricky, because it can be hard to tell exactly where an enemy’s back is facing. 

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Another key way the game forces you to mix things up is by getting heavily damaged by enemies. When  your health bar depletes, it overloads (or disables) one of your active functions, and you die when you lose your last one. These functions don’t get repaired until you’ve advanced to two different save points. Save points are usually placed after every few encounters, so they’re not too far away. Still, if a function you heavily relied on got overloaded, you’d have to fill that slot with another function and figure out new strategies. I thought this would be annoying at first, but I quickly learned to appreciate it quite a bit. There are many different combinations and strategies that I would have never realized were possible if it weren’t for that push.

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As you progress through the game, you will slowly be introduced to some new enemy types. There aren’t many though. This is really apparent on a new game + run where it throws out all of the enemy types at you from the start, and you go on to fight the same limited selection of goons over and over again for the rest of the game. The battlefields themselves generally feel pretty samey too. This is the biggest shortcoming in regards to the gameplay. The main way to lessen feelings of repetitiveness is to mix up your function setups. Playing around with different setups is what kept me enjoying the combat in my playthroughs. I also strongly believe that Transistor could have done with more bosses, because there weren’t many. I couldn’t help but think about the potential in that regard. The final battle had a very cool concept, but it ended up being disappointingly easy. I went into it with a setup where 2 out of 4 of my functions slots were useless and still had no problem winning on my first try.

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Another crucial thing in regards to keeping the combat engaging for me were limiters. Limiters are things you unlock that you can activate to raise the difficulty in different ways. I had a few of them on, and if I hadn’t, the game would have been too easy for me to feel like it was worth experimenting with function setups. If I could steamroll with any ol’ combination, then there would be little point in me searching for better strategies. As it was, the game was never overwhelmingly challenging with the limiters I had, but it was challenging enough to make me often rethink and revise my function setups to see if I could be doing something more effectively.

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There are a few minor gripes I had with Transistor. One of them is the fact that you can’t view and inspect your full function setup unless you’re at a save point. Only being able to do that at save points is fine enough, but there were a few times I wanted to do it in other instances and couldn’t. Seems like something that could have simply been accessed via start menu. Another small issue I had was the lack of a feature to save function presets. There are a lot of different slots to put things into, and there were times where I had wished I could just save presets instead of having to try to remember everything I had in a previous setup that I may want to revisit. Though, they probably did that on purpose because it would discourage people a bit to play around with new setups, so ultimately I can let that one slide.

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Transistor is a beauty. The artstyle is absolutely gorgeous, the soundtrack, while not one that sticks with me much, gave the game a distinct vibe. Only the narrative left something to be desired for me. The gameplay is what really tops off this experience, and is easily my main takeaway. Thanks to the open ended nature of the combat, I enjoyed a good 9 hours across two playthroughs of the game, and will definitely be looking out for Supergiant’s next title.  

Spoilery gallery below.

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NaissanceE – Finishing Thoughts

The world of NaissanceE is a lonely, yet captivating one to journey through. Its setting is based heavily around clean, brutalist architecture, with no detailed textures, and a very drab use of colors. The visual design is outstanding. Strong enough that it essentially became the sole factor that urged me to continue through the game, despite some annoying gameplay sections. I definitely wasn’t compelled to turn each corner to do another lackluster, first person platforming segment. Much of the platforming is there for the purpose of getting around the environment, rather than trying to challenge you with platforming for the sake of platforming. That’s not particularly a bad thing though considering what it’s actually going for. NaissanceE is mainly a first person exploration game, with some platforming and puzzle elements.

The first 20 minutes had me in a lot of really enclosed, dark, and cramped feeling areas that were a bit uncomfortable to traverse through. It did open up substantially afterwards though. NaissanceE is a very linear game, but it often doesn’t feel as linear as it actually is  because of how massive the environments around you can get. The goal in many scenarios is to search the area for a path that would lead to the next area. There are a fair amount of red herrings and dead ends that distract you from the right avenue. In some cases, it felt like there were certain landmarks that seemed like the obvious place to go, but would actually lead to nothing, or even traps in some specific instances that you would have to find your way out of. (Like an endless staircase, for one)  I sometimes found myself frustrated at being deceived, but I sort of appreciate many of those moments when I look back on it. Though, parts that I always found annoying were ledges that I could drop down on that seemed like a potential path, but weren’t, and left me trapped down there with no other way up, making me have to kill myself to respawn at the previous checkpoint.

Some segments are less about finding a path and more about overcoming an obstacle presented to you. The platforming generally ranged from serviceable to shoddy. Certain puzzle elements that involved touching floating orbs of light to move them to different positions presented some interesting ideas. Some surfaces would only be materialized when light was shining on them, and would dissipate into some kind of dark matter, lacking any tangible attributes, when in the dark. These were the gameplay mechanics that I was interested in the most, and what I hoped would have been expanded upon more. As it is, those puzzles aren’t really there to challenge your mind, but more to set a mood. It worked for what it went for. Those elements, combined with the ambient and dissonant soundscape, some uncanny visuals, and surreal elements elements sprinkled about, gave the game a very distinct atmosphere. Just running through the environments was enjoyable because of how interesting the setting was. I didn’t have much tolerance for getting stuck though. I usually took a break from the game whenever I couldn’t find my way for more than a few minutes. However, the world of NaissanceE always ended up drawing me back in each time, and if it weren’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have kept playing.

Sprinting isn’t a completely idle task. While performing the action, there is a breath icon that pops up in the middle of the screen periodically that needs to be maintained by pressing down R3 in a corresponding manner. Missing the prompt multiple times won’t slow you down or stop you from running. It’ll only make the sides of the screen glow more and more white until (I presume) it eventually gets to point where your character passes out. I never screwed it up enough to know for sure. It was a fine mechanic, but I never felt like it really added much. Makes me wonder why they chose to put it in the game in the first place. Maybe to keep players engaged with something while running through some of the vast terrain? There was one segment near the beginning  that had me chasing an orb of light while jumping from platform to platform. I had to keep up with it or else I wouldn’t be able to see the surfaces that I was supposed to be jumping on, as the light orb only lit up a relatively small circumference of area around it. I had to coordinate the act of timing my breaths with taking leaps and keeping up with the light ball in an almost rhythmic fashion. It was one of the most engaging gameplay moments in the game for me, and at that point, that’s what I thought a lot of the game would be about. Unfortunately, that’s the only segment like that, and looking back on it, I probably didn’t even need to focus on my breaths as much as I did because there isn’t that harsh of a penalty for missing it here and there anyway.

The alluring artstyle of NaissanceE is what initially drew me to the game in the first place, and is ultimately the aspect that got me through it. It was an intriguing world to explore. There was a portion late in the game that really freaked me out to the point of shutting it off because of certain surreal/trippy elements. I’m pretty sure that was just due to my abnormal fear of that kind of stuff and that not many people would have the same reaction, but it’s a moment I doubt I’ll forget. I’m sure this would be an amazing thing to experience using an Oculus Rift headset. (Although particular moments in the game with a lot of flashing lights and a heavy use of Depth of Field effects would be pretty headache inducing) As a game though? It doesn’t hold up too well in my eyes. Still, I can’t stress enough how much I loved the visual design. I couldn’t stop pressing F12 to take pictures. Here are some more I took.

Extra Notes –

Took me a little over 5 hours to beat.

Played on PC using a 360 controller.

Xeodrifter – Finishing Thoughts

A lone traveler flies through space, crashes into an asteroid that damages his warp drive, and proceeds to get stranded in a solar system surrounded by four planets. With that, you have your stage set for Xeodrifter. It jumps into things basically right off the bat. The game doesn’t give you any direction, so you can choose from whichever one of the four planets that you would like to explore. It’s a false sense of freedom though, as you quickly realize where you’re actually supposed to be. I just happened to stumble across the right planet on my first try, but at that point, the other planets are blocked off by sections that you clearly won’t be able to get through until you’ve gained the right ability.

Xeodrifter very tightly follows a basic metroidvania format. You’ll have to kill bosses to unlock new abilities to unlock new areas, and so on. I liked the format of having to go back in forth between the different planets while knocking out sections of them bit by bit. There is backtracking to be done, (which is expected in a metroidvania) and it rarely feels like too much of a drag since your character moves fast and it normally doesn’t take much time to retread previous areas. The map is very easy to work with, so as long as you’re paying attention to it, there should be no problem in finding where you need to be. The only checkpoints in this game exist at your ship, and right before and after bosses. They feel pretty sparse, but I didn’t have a major issue with it. It forced me to learn the environment and enemy placements well, so by the time I did get to a boss, I felt like I had earned it. If there were any more checkpoints, I would have been able to run much more carelessly past the sections until I reached one, which would have made things a bit too easy. The game’s difficulty as is I found to be pretty manageable anyway.

The four planets are very different from each other aesthetically, but there’s very little depth to them as separate entities. Whatever amount mystique that each location has to offer is worn out by their first segment. The game is still fun enough to play, so I enjoyed progressing through the planets for that reason alone. They weren’t actually interesting to explore on their own right though. Exploration stops being exciting when you’re coming across largely the same enemy types and environments over and over again. The 8 bit music was mostly boring and unmemorable, and that combined with other things gave this game an overall weak sense of atmosphere.

Even the bosses that you fight are palette swaps of the same enemy model with the same core moveset, and the only difference in each subsequent encounter being that a new attack would be added to its rotation. For me, it actually worked better in practice than how it might sound on paper. The boss is enjoyable to fight the first time, and it ended up being fun for me to go into the next encounter fighting a harder and more varied version of the enemy that I was already familiar with. Still, I wish there were a couple of different bosses, but it’s not surprising how things turned out when knowing that the developers at Renegade Kid whipped this all up in 5 months.

There are health and weapon upgrades to find throughout the planets. Many of them are basically out in the open, but you won’t be able to access them until you get certain abilities. Others are hidden behind false walls. When you get weapon upgrade modules, you can put them into 5 different stats that affect your gun. The game won’t describe to you in detail what they do, but the little icons should give you a decent hint. If you’re not sure, you can tinker around with them. The weapon upgrade points aren’t of permanent use, so you can always take them off of a certain stat and put them elsewhere. That character progression is definitely felt toward the end of the game where you will start to feel much more like a threat to the enemies around you rather than just a wandering nomad trying to get by, and it feels good.

Xeodrifter certainly seems like a game that needed more time to be fleshed out. A couple of the abilities that you get toward the end felt like they didn’t get enough use, and there was some opportunity for them to be used in more creative ways that wasn’t taken advantage of enough.

The character controlled a bit slippery, and his jump height was fixed (which got me into some trouble), but it wasn’t too big of a deal. Even with all of the gripes I had, I found it to be a nice little action platformer, just nothing too special.

Thomas Was Alone – Finishing Thoughts

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What could have easily been only a simple puzzle platformer about hauling around quadrilaterals to their respective goals became a thoughtful story about the plight of sentient AI and their efforts to escape the digital containment of a computer mainframe. Thanks to some clever narration, life was injected into the array of playable shapes, and insisted on a reason to progress through the game that extended beyond just completing levels for the sake of it. It’s pretty remarkable how a charming narrative and emotional soundtrack can take what would otherwise be a rather basic experience and elevate into something that feels much more grand in comparison.

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In Thomas Was Alone, you switch around from taking control of different colored and sized rectangles – each with their own set of unique attributes – and utilize them in collaboration to get over obstacles, and to ultimately reach the end goal of each stage. The mechanics are fairly simple and straightforward, and the presentation/aesthetic makes it come off as somewhat of a glorified flash game. I don’t say that as a bad thing, in fact, that’s what helps make the accomplishments of the narrative seem much more impressive. It’s the stark contrast between the fact that you’re moving around an assortment of expressionless rectangles in a minimalist world, and the fact that the careful and deliberate narration makes you actually care about those expressionless rectangles, that ends up contributing to this game’s uniqueness.

The way Thomas Was Alone personifies the playable blocks into notable characters is quite clever. It takes the rectangles and gives them a personality that often reflects whatever unique ability that they individually possess. For example, Chris is a short and stubby orange square that can fit into small places that most of the other characters can’t. He has a bit of a short man’s complex, often is grumpy, and feels like he doesn’t need help from any of the other characters. John is a tall, yellow rectangle that jumps the highest out of all of the other initial characters. He’s somewhat egotistical because of it, and likes showing off. Chris takes a particular disliking to this character at the start, while John merely finds Chris’s cynicism amusing. As one might imagine, there is a good deal of development that goes on between the cast of characters, which is noted by the narrator. It all feels like a story of an unlikely meeting of people with unusual abilities that get together to fight for the greater good.

The simplicity of this game doesn’t go completely without fault. Thomas Was Alone offers decent variation throughout the progression in terms of obstacles and how much of what abilities you’re relying on by a level to level basis, but it wasn’t enough to keep things from feeling a bit repetitive at a few points later in the game. The characters definitely felt fun to control. The jumping animations gave off a bit of a sense of bounce, which is a little detail that I always appreciated. Difficulty wise, this game is very low on the scale, which made it good to play purely for relaxation purposes and never demands much from your mind or reflexes.

At the end of the day, any game that can make me feel even slightly emotionally attached to a bunch of rectangles is pretty solid and worth playing in my book.

Extra Notes-

I played Thomas Was Alone on the PS Vita.

This is my second playthrough of the game. I originally played it back in 2013 and decided to revisit it in anticipation of Mike Bithell’s new release, Volume. (That is, if the Vita version ever comes out….)

Titan Souls – Finishing Thoughts

Titan Souls is an indie developer’s attempt at executing on the formula of the highly acclaimed title Shadow of the Colossus, and I think it succeeds reasonably well. It’s a game about running from boss to boss in a serene, 16-bit environment, with no enemies in-between. Accompanied by a tranquil soundtrack, you will explore a large landscape in search of your next target. You’ll spend a decent amount of time striding along ruins and flora to the next fight, and that’s not just because the bosses are spread out, but also because of the fact that when you die – and you’ll die a lot – you aren’t usually placed directly outside of the encounter. For me, it wasn’t as bad of a thing as it might sound. The checkpoints were normally close enough to the boss rooms that I didn’t find myself getting too annoyed at it. At the very least, it helped me feel more accustomed and connected to the world while also giving me a bit of time to rethink my strategies. While there are also no items or things to collect, I still found it a nice place to be in.

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One man, one arrow, one life. That’s the philosophy followed throughout the run of 19 bosses in Titan Souls. You die in one hit, but that also goes for a majority of the bosses. (The first boss in particular takes 5 strikes, making it the worst one in the game in my opinion) That’s definitely one of the strengths, because the fights aren’t necessarily about a test of endurance. Well, they don’t have to be at least, that is, if you know what you’re doing. I almost never knew what I was doing jumping into a boss though, and that’s where I hit my lows as far as enjoyment is concerned. The game felt like a roller coaster… When I got to the point where I learned how to avoid a boss’s attack patterns well enough to hang with it for a bit, my enjoyment would go up to healthy levels. When I started forming a real strategy on how to overcome a challenge, I got very into it. As soon as I executed my plan successfully, my excitement and confidence would peak, and I’d be on a high all the way until I got to the next boss where I would proceed to get slaughtered right off the bat, often multiple times in quick succession, and whatever ego I had built up to that point would have been beaten to a pulp. That wouldn’t be so bad, but that’s when the perpetual trek from checkpoint to boss room can sometimes get a bit bothersome.

The game tosses you out in a location that allows for a largely open ended progression where you can tackle the bosses in almost any order you choose. I didn’t find any those fights to be inordinately harder than others. There is also no character skill progression, so there are no balance issues to be had in regards to that. It’s just you and your one arrow. Yes, only one. If you shoot and miss, you have to retrieve it by either going over to it, or holding a button to magically drag it back to you. While doing so, you’ll be stationary and vulnerable.

Most of the bosses are quick and brutal with their attacks. It’s a real adrenaline rush trying to hang toe to toe with them. They were difficult to beat the first time around, but once you really figure out the trick, it’s relatively easy to execute on it again, which makes the game good for speedruns. The fights are fair as well. There are very specific instances that I felt like some of my deaths were cheap, like when I walked into a disembodied stone fist that was sat on the ground, completely void of any movement, or when I got hit a few times by something off screen. For the vast majority of the run, I felt like I was at the fault of my deaths. As long as I put in effort to learn from my mistakes and adjust, I wouldn’t feel stuck at a wall and would keep improving until I eventually succeeded. Admittedly though, at points I wished there was some kind of aiming reticle. I would rather my execution be focused more on just my evading and positioning rather than struggling with actually hitting the target i’m aiming for. I could see people liking the lack of a reticle, but I don’t feel like it complimented the fights in any meaningful way. With that said, even that was a problem that rarely came to the forefront of my mind, but still thought it was something worth mentioning. It wasn’t much of an issue overall.

Titan Souls has some small yet noticeable bumps in it’s design – not to mention the game’s arbitrary lack of a true pause function – but is still an experience that I very much enjoyed. It was worth the $7.50 that I payed for it. I ended up completing the game with 257 deaths. You can encounter the final boss without having to fight every other, so I got to the credits sequence with 15 defeated. You have to beat all of them to unlock the “true” final boss which is a much more grand, 3 part battle that makes for a very satisfying wrap up to the package.

Extra Notes –

I played Titan Souls on the Playstation Vita.

There are extra difficulty modes. Those include hardcore mode, one life mode, and no running or rolling mode.

Loading times normally fall somewhere around 6-10 seconds on Vita. They’re a lot quicker on other platforms.

Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut – Finishing Thoughts

It took me a while to finally jump into this game. I downloaded it for free off of PS+ a while ago but never really played it mainly because I didn’t like the artstyle and I never really bothered to research the game much outside of just glancing at review scores. All I really knew about it was that it’s a generally well received 2D horror game. I like trying out games that are highly acclaimed, yet appear to me as being somewhat unappealing and something that would lie outside of my tastes, because they often surprise me. Hotline Miami and Guacameele are probably the two most prominent examples of this. I was very off-put by the aesthetic/style of both of those games, and for a long while would never even consider giving them a shot because they didn’t come of as something I’d like too much. Eventually, the never ending praise I had consistently seen thrown at the two games raised my curiosity high enough that I just had to see what the fuss was about. Of course, I ended up being very surprised by how much I enjoyed them, and even began to appreciate their artstyles a bit more. I guess that’s one way to broaden your horizons.

No, that's not a large grin. It's a hospital mask.
(No, that’s not a large grin. It’s a hospital mask.)

I’m not experienced with the survival-horror game genre much at all. I’ve only played a few of them at friends’ houses, but never really sat down on my own time to play one myself. The closest thing to a horror game I’ve ever completed was Bioshock.

Since the game took place in a pixelated 2D environment, I underestimated just how creepy the game could actually be. In retrospect, I feel like the aesthetic only helped to add to that factor. There were a few moments that startled me a bit, but nothing too bad. I was often tense, mostly when going to new areas for the first time. Because of the way the game is structured, I got to learn most of the areas very well. It was always fulfilling to traverse places that I’d cleared of enemies or just had gotten familiar enough with to be comfortable in them. Since there were no surprises during those points, it gave me nice earned moments of relaxation and security for whatever brief time I had to pass through the area again. You have to go back to your apartment pretty regularly to sleep so that your character doesn’t pass out somewhere in a dark corridor. (It is also the only way to save your game) There’s a clever checkpoint system that involves finding mirrors spread about world and staring at them to warp you back to the mirror on the wall of your apartment. You can then use the mirror at your apartment to warp back only to the previous mirror you used. It was a very convenient mechanic without feeling too convenient, and eliminated a lot of backtracking that you would otherwise have to do. Finding a mirror deep in an area that I wasn’t familiar with gave me feelings of accomplishment similar to discovering the shortcut back to a bonfire in Dark Souls.

You also have to make sure your character is fed decent food on a regular basis or else he’ll keep complaining about being hungry and probably die. Early in my playthrough, I thought these survival mechanics would be a bit cumbersome and serve to be detrimental to the experience, but they’re actually quite straightforward and simple to manage. I rarely found myself on a shortage of food. You’ll find what you need as long as you’re looking around the environment, and it’s not like it’s easy to miss things because there is a button prompt that pops up on the screen whenever you’re near something that you can examine. There are also a couple other methods of getting food aside from just finding whatever is lying about the environment. There were times where I felt like my character was getting hungry and tired a little too quickly, but overall I like what the survival elements added to the game. I only passed out from exhaustion once, and never succumbed to an empty stomach.

I didn’t find the game to be too challenging. There was one specific section that had me a bit stumped, and I could see it being a part that a lot of people would have some trouble figuring out. With that said, I wasn’t stuck there for too long. For the most part, just making sure you’re exploring every area that you can go to on the map and picking up anything you see will progress you through the game in a fairly smooth manner. The map was a bit confusing for me to follow at first because it’s tracking your 2D left-to-right movement on a visual layout with twists and turns, but I understood it well enough after giving it a bit of extra examination. There are no puzzle heavy elements really, just parts where you have to use common sense to know what key items to use so you can advance through certain sections. Though, you do have to worry about getting around the monsters too. The game gives you different options on how to handle those encounters, and this element of choice extends to certain aspects of the narrative, as well as the way you take care of your own character, all which contribute to 1 of the 4 endings you can get on your first playthrough.

It’s been a while that I’ve felt this immersed in a game. Many aspects of the story are presented ambiguously, which helps make the world all the more intriguing. That’s mostly what kept my interest high. I wanted to try to piece things together and figure out exactly what was going on. I wanted to know more about the characters you came across. I wanted to know more about the main character. I wanted to know how the story would end. The ending I got wasn’t too satisfying. I knew it would be something vague, but I was hoping it was at least something that would help me tie together some of the events that happened previously throughout the game. Though, I had gotten that ending based on the way that I played. I had no interest in playing the game over again to see the other endings or to visit the new areas opened up in new game +. Not because I didn’t enjoy the game, but because it was so dreary and dark that I wasn’t exactly excited at the thought of going through it again. So I ended up watching all of the endings on YouTube. Some of the other ones I found to be a lot more satisfying than the one I got, and even though they were still a bit ambiguous, they at least gave me an idea of what was actually going on. I was very intrigued by looking up interpretations of the plot on the internet after everything was said and done.

Overall, I enjoyed the game a lot. Definitely something worth playing.

Earphones are highly recommended, as the audio is a crucial part of the experience. The (good) soundtrack and sound effects heavily contribute to its eerie atmosphere.

Extra notes –

I played Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut on the PS Vita.

I played on the normal difficulty setting.

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions – Finishing Thoughts

This is the first Geometry Wars game I’ve come in contact with. I didn’t know much about the series at all before I picked this up off of PS+. I remember some of my friends back in the 360 days talking about it a lot and I always thought it was some kind of math puzzle game or something.

As one who isn’t generally drawn to ship shooter games, or isn’t exactly an avid player of dual stick shooters in general, I found this to be really simple and easy to get into. The controls felt slick and responsive, the movement was fluid, the visuals were bright, vibrant, and exciting. There wasn’t a period of “getting into the game” really, I was having fun with it right off the bat.

The game has a lot more variety than what I had initially expected. At first, I thought the spice would only come in forms of variations in the geometric stage layouts and numerous enemy types, but it’s often throwing completely different gameplay styles at you that would give you a different goal aside from just “shooting these enemies without dying.” I suppose it mostly dials down to that, but there was definitely enough variation to keep me satisfied and even surprised at multiple points throughout the game. One of my favorite levels took away the shooting aspect completely, and instead had you focused on flying through gates that would then explode and take out whatever enemies were around you, while rewarding you with the deserved points of course.

The game gets very hectic. If you want to mindlessly play through it, you should have fun. Well, you can’t be too mindless. You definitely have to be attentive and alert. It’s not an easy game, but I also rarely got stuck. Mastering levels takes a good deal of deliberation and finesse. Settling for one star was a bit too straightforward for most of them, but going for the maximum of 3 stars was usually too demanding for my tastes. Aiming for 2 stars was the sweet spot for me. There are bosses in the game, but they tend to be the easiest levels to pass with 3 stars in my experience. That last boss though was ridiculous and is a huge difficulty spike in comparison to the rest of the game. I was struggling to beat it for a while, but then I watched it being done on YouTube and realized that i’m good with not being able to complete it and moved on, lol.

There are also drones you can buy and upgrade that do different things to help you out in combat. There are two different types. One has a finite amount of usage per level, and the other is indefinite. There are a few different models that you unlock throughout the game, and those can help alter/define your general strategy/playstyle. If you find that one combination isn’t working out well for you in a certain level, switching up your drones can help. Though, I often found myself sticking with the same setup and only felt the need to change it up a few times.

The look of the game is very colorful and stylish, and really comes together great in motion. Its soundtrack meshes well with the game’s aesthetic. The fast paced electronic music helps you get in the zone and keeps you focused so you can output the best performance possible, and even if I don’t think the music is generally that great (there are 2 stand outs while the rest are just serviceable in my opinion) it’s still worth putting on earphones for that reason alone.

Extra Notes –

I played Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions on the PlayStation Vita.

The Vita version has less flashy visual affects than the console/PC versions.

I only played through Adventure Mode. There were a couple others there that I didn’t try out.

Stealth Inc 2 – Finishing Thoughts

I played Stealth Inc 1 sometime last year and thought it was a neat little puzzler, but this is a much better game. As it should be really, considering it’s the second entry in the series.

I enjoyed the puzzles much more in this game than in the original, and that’s mainly due to the gadgets you get throughout it which help a lot in terms of variety. In the first game, at some point I ended up only playing it in little bite sized pieces. Things got worn out a bit quicker there. Stealth Inc 1 did throw in different types of obstacles at you as you progressed, but the gadgets that you get throughout the second game I felt changed up the dynamics of what you’re doing and how you’re thinking about solving the puzzles much more than the first game did. Because of that, I ended up playing this game in much larger chunks and was generally engaged most of the way through. I say “most” mainly because the beginning I thought started off a bit slow, but it definitely picks up.

The metroidvania-esque overworld progression is brilliant. This is definitely the main thing that separates the two games from each other. In the first game, you chose your levels from a level select screen, and that was really it. In this game, there’s a whole map to walk around in with the individual test chambers spread about. Basically, it’s one big level that hosts a bunch of smaller levels. Each section of test chambers is focused on one gadget. In each section, you go through 7 regular levels, and then a boss. You don’t get to take a gadget outside into the overworld until you’ve completed all of the levels within that particular segment, which I really enjoyed and also found kind of remarkable for a couple reasons. One being because I just like the idea of you having to “master” a particular gadget before you are allowed to carry it with you outside. The second reason is that after you’ve cleared multiple sections, you’ll have multiple gadgets to carry with you only in the overworld.

So then it gets to a point where you have to use multiple gadgets to get through parts in the overworld while whatever particular section of test chambers you’re on only focuses on one of them. Oh, and if you haven’t figured by now, the overworld has it’s fair share of puzzles and platforming challenges to clear as you make your way to the other test chambers. While there are parts where you do have to use multiple gadgets to get through sections of the hub, I don’t think this aspect of it was as fleshed out as it could have been. The overworld puzzles are generally easier than what you find in the test chambers, but that’s a good thing since it gives you moments of relaxation in between the more demanding parts of the game. Still, there was a missed opportunity for more multi-gadget puzzles. I didn’t go for many of the optional collectible costume parts that were spread around, though the ones I did get had more challenging puzzles, (at least in comparison to the mandatory sections around it) so that’s probably worth mentioning.

I found Stealth Inc 2 to be overall easier than the first game, which was good for me at least. Actually, I ended up giving up on the original because I got stuck somewhere in the last set of levels. I generally suck at puzzle games, so take from that what you will.

There was a much more involved story in this game than in the first. (Not like that it’s hard to top) It did a good job of making you feel bad for the clones and made you want to free as many as you could. The end is anti-climatic though. I suppose I expected there to be a bit more to it, but there wasn’t.

The soundtrack was cool and added a distinctive vibe to the game. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, but it was worth putting on earphones for.

Extra Notes –

I Played Stealth Inc 2 on PS Vita.

There is an co-op mode included that I wanted to try but couldn’t.