Dust is a great game in the metroidvania style, but here’s the amazing part: the credits are very short. Basically the whole game except the music and vocals were done by one guy. It’s got a great cartoon style, along the lines of old Disney shows like Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers or Darkwing Duck. I’ve read that plenty of people are turned off by that because they see it as some kind of furry thing. It’s got bipedal talking animal-people. But it’s a video game, right? Lots of video games have talking animals.
Yes, yes, it took me 10 years to finish KOTOR. Let’s get the bad out of the way. It’s not a mechanically exciting game. The pathfinding AI is frustratingly dumb. It’s no pushover, and sometimes the difficulty feels unfair. The last area is a serious slog through a mountain of Dark Jedi and Sith troopers and that is barely fun.
What keeps it moving is the setting and the story. Even though it’s set well before the Star Wars movies, it’s very clearly a Star Wars game. It starts with an exploding planet and runs through all kinds of Jedi/Sith/force nonsense. It’s got tons of different races, languages, cantinas, and smugglers. Those things KOTOR does very well. And the story is interesting, if a little simple. I had a major plot point spoiled for me years after the game had been out, but it was still worth experiencing for myself.
But I really only wanted to finish it so I could play KOTOR 2, which I’ve read tells a much better story and is an improved game despite some quirks. KOTOR on Steam crashed pretty frequently, which really impeded my progress and pretty much forced me to quicksave every 5 minutes. Here’s hoping KOTOR 2 goes better for me.
I finally got around to finishing up Torchlight 2! This is a pretty big victory for me. I’ve never finished a Diablo-like action loot RPG. You don’t have to tell me, I know. I’ve played an awful lot of them (Diablo, Diablo 2, Titan Quest, Dungeon Siege 1, 2, 3, Torchlight, and others), but this is the first one I’ve finished. Unless we’re counting Borderlands as loot RPGs, which I’m not.
The closest I got before was getting to Hell in Diablo 2, where I was mercilessly destroyed over and over before even getting to Diablo himself so I quit playing it. That’s probably the biggest reason why I never finish these games. They’re loot and run oriented and I hate grinding. Where as many many others would play these games repeatedly for better loot and cooler stuff, I could not care less about loot. The loot is secondary to enjoying the game for me. As soon as it starts feeling grindy, I typically move on.
But Torchlight 2 is pretty fantastic. It’s paced well enough that if you do most of what’s available, there’s no grinding needed to continue on. It’s structured a lot like Diablo 2, where you have a hub area that branches off, and then you move to a different hub after you’ve cleaned out the last one. And then you click on a lot of stuff until it dies.
Who hasn’t heard plenty about Phil Fish and Fez? If you haven’t seen Indie Game: The Movie, it’s on Netflix now and it’ll give you a glimpseof what goes into making a game like Fez. Some people see Phil Fish as a huge pompous prick. What I saw was a guy who just wants to make video games, without being constantly berated by the people he’s ostensibly making the games for.
Anyway, regardless of whatever anyone thinks about Phil Fish, Fez is so fucking amazing. It’s a 2D/3D platformer, in a beautiful world with no enemies to stomp or shoot, just a bunch of items to collect and puzzles to solve. If you think you’ve finished the game, you’ve probably only gotten halfway there. There are codes and secrets everywhere, and some of them are fairly obvious, and some of them are seriously well hidden.
Fez 2 has been more or less cancelled by Fish because of shitty people on the internet, and that’s a fucking shame.
Here’s the long and the short of Gone Home: you explore a house and learn about yourself (as a character) and your family. That’s it. There’s no guns, and no monsters, but there might be a ghost. You spend a lot of time rooting through other peoples’ belongings, picking through the scraps of their lives. And it’s fantastic. There are times when the house feels comforting and familiar, and times when it’s a creepy old house that may be haunted. But it never feels fake. There’s no other game like Gone Home. It’s not going to click with everyone, and it doesn’t have to.
I was a huge fan of Metro 2033. Metro: Last Light is a competent sequel. It’s a fair amount easier than Metro 2033 and has a greater emphasis on stealth. It’s missing something though: the absolute bleakness of Metro 2033. There’s almost hope for a better world in Metro: Last Light. Metro 2033 has no hope.
Regardless, it’s pretty fun, and it looks amazing.
I don’t think I’ve ever played an Aliens game that wasn’t Aliens vs. Predator. Except for Aliens Doom. Aliens Doom might be better than Aliens: Colonial Marines. It’s not that it’s a bad game, it’s just not the most exciting game. It feels like it fails to capitalize on the franchises strengths, which are being spooked by aliens that fucking kill you, and watching your friends die all around you. The aliens in this iteration are not very lethal, and they rarely manage to kill anyone except some unnamed scientists. If it weren’t for the dead bodies scattered around, you’d be hard pressed to tell that the aliens are killing anyone at all. They just seem to be bothering people.
And there’s a lot of dumb stuff in this game, even for a video game. Zombie aliens that explode. An ending that goes nowhere. A pointless cameo that fails to explain or justify itself. I mean, Aliens: Colonial Marines isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, but I’d probably be pretty unhappy if I’d bought it on release for $60. And I’m playing it post-4GB patch that apparently improved the graphics but not much else.
Tomb Raider (the 2013 one, not the original) is my first Tomb Raider game. I am, of course, well aware of the rest of the games of the series but I never got around to playing them. As much as I enjoy action, 3D platforming isn’t something I enjoy much so I never really gave the Tomb Raider series any attention.
Tomb Raider, however, is fucking great. It’s a good blend of action, platforming, and exploration. There are even tones of Metroid in that your weapons and equipment allow you to move more quickly through previously explored areas, or open up new locations. There are plenty of collectables, but not so many that it feels impossible to find all of them.
A lot of reviews weren’t hot on how Lara is repeatedly physically abused by falls and tumbles and drops but it never seems to affect her performance in game. I, however, do not care. Because it’s a video game. Surely, if Lara Croft were an actual person experiencing the things that happen to her in this game, she would’ve been done from the start with at least half of her ribs broken, and a piece of rebar sticking out of her hip.
It’s a rainy day so it’s a good time to wrap up some of these indie games I’ve got lying around. Thomas Was Alone was recently ported to PSN and featured in Humble Bundle 8, which prompted me to give it a go. I’ve had it for a while, but I’ve got a whole mess of indie games thanks to Humble Bundles and Indie Royales and Indie Galas. Just ludicrous amounts of indie games, and not enough time to sort through the winners.
Thomas Was Alone is a winner. It’s a simple puzzle platformer, using colored rectangles to represent AIs in a computer system. The story follows Thomas as he meets other AIs and they generally cause catastrophe for this computer system. The outside perspective comes from quotes that appear at the beginning of each chapter, but what makes Thomas Was Alone more than just a simplistic platformer is the narration in game. Each of the AIs has its own personality and motivations and abilities. Thomas can jump, but Claire can flow in deadly water. Using these abilities, the task is to get each AI to a particular spot in the level.
Without the excellent narration and music, this game would be fairly unremarkable. I wouldn’t have kept playing without it, but I don’t think the game was designed to be a fantastic platformer. It’s a competent platformer that stands out because of the story elements that accompany it.
4 out of 5 jumping quadrilaterals
“The Swapper” is kind of a dumb name, but this game is excellent. It is parts the movie Moon, parts Metroid, and parts Braid. It takes place in space, you’re (almost) alone, and it relies on clever use of simple mechanics to solve a bunch of puzzles. It just over three hours long, and the puzzles involve cloning yourself a lot and transferring your consciousness to your clones. That’s probably about as much as I should say about it. If you liked Braid, get it. It scratches that Braid itch very well.
5 out of 5 talking rocks