Author Topic: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread  (Read 92542 times)

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #570 on: October 28, 2019, 10:22:04 AM »
Shadowrun Hong Kong returns to the very successful setting of the Shadowrun universe as established in Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun Dragonfall. At its core, SHK is a top-down isometric role-playing game where elves, trolls and dwarves exist in a universe with cyberpunk aesthetics. You get to choose your race, sex and some preliminary traits, and as you play can narrow down what type of character type you wish to play: hacker, brute, wizard, etc. I eventually honed my rifle and hacking skills, although I was able to develop a team with all sorts of characters to bring along on my adventures.

SHK immediately throws you in the deep end, as you depart a boat after being released from prison, and meet your foster-brother in Hong Kong – all to satisfy a request of your foster father to find him. Within 5 minutes, a firefight kills your main contact and puts you and your foster brother on the run from everyone. Your only hope for survival is to become a Shadowrunner for a Hong Kong kingpin. And she has certain goals for you, in order to pay off the debt for saving your lives.

SHK has a deeper storyline than just simple Shadowrunning tasks of murder and mayhem, but this arc doesn’t come to the forefront until later in the game. In the meantime, you’ll need to meet up with folks, grab information, make some examples, and uncover the truth of the underlying mystery: what happened to your foster father, and why did he want you to come to Hong Kong? The story takes a strong supernatural turn in the finale and gives you several endings to contemplate.

The home base port is full of characters that you can chat up, and eventually help them come to a conclusion – good or ill – for their own personal lives. Some folks provide helpful information or gear, based on your interactions. And this is where SHK excels – in giving you a variety of ways to relate with others: maybe you have a high persuasion skill and can bluff your way through a situation. Or maybe your strength or hacking skills allow you to brute force the scenario. I loved that I could actually get out of fights just by saying the right thing.

But when fights did arise, the game switches to a turn-based arena, where you have a certain number of action points and can move, fight, cast a spell, heal, hack, etc. within that time. Early in the game, until my own hacking skills were up to snuff, I generally brought a hacker, a decker who controlled a drone (as this provided an additional “man” on the team”), and a soldier. Later, I switched the hacker out for a mage, who could heal, make the team move faster or aim better, and cause area-of-effect spells.

You also can hold conversations with your individual team members (or hire outside mercenaries for missions, which I never did). Doing so allows you to advance their own stories, giving you new missions pertinent to them, and makes them more effective with their weapons and skills. It was also cool to hear what made them who they were. Unfortunately, the only way to really get the most out of your conversations was the “honey” approach – to tell them what you thought they most wanted to hear. If you went the “vinegar” route and crapped on all their ideas, they wouldn’t warm up to you, and you’d lose out on the extra missions.

Within missions, you can occasionally jack into the “Matrix” – an online landscape with its own foes. Sometimes you can sneak past, but generally you would have to fight several enemies. Here’s where an experienced hacker comes in handy, because they have sufficient life to both fight their foes and then break into closed areas to download pertinent information or to turn on/off outside elements such as alarms, elevators, doors and vents. Breaking in consists of either knowing a password from something found in the “real” world, brute-forcing a break-in if you have enough life left, or playing a dual game of numerical Simon Says with a match game – all with a decreasing timer in the background. The Matrix sessions were mostly fun, but I hated the Simon Says portion because you have to memorize from 4 to 8 numbers and instantly regurgitate them.

After the finale, I played the add-on “Shadows Of Hong Kong” – a 6-hour addition to the 48-hour main campaign. Shadows answers a number of lingering questions from the main campaign and introduces a new threat to Hong Kong that you and your team must solve. Beware though, because actions you take at the end will mean you lose some of your team forever. It’s a poignant turn to your story.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and flow of Shadowrun Hong Kong – you have a diversity of mission types, you can choose to fight or maneuver around obstacles, and the characters – both on your team in out in the world – are interesting and add depth to the story. 8.7 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #571 on: November 04, 2019, 11:21:16 AM »
Zombi originally came out as a WiiU exclusive, and the PC port still shows those roots. The game is a decent entry into the first-person zombie genre by providing the unique setting of London and a new perma-death mechanic incorporating “new” protagonists. But the gameplay and graphics are hampered by the WiiU roots.

The game starts with your recruitment by a survivalist who calls himself the Prepper. He has access to most of London’s CCTV cameras, and provides access to a safe room in a local Metro subway station. Your first task is to turn on the generator and clear out some of the zombies who have managed to get in, with a cricket bat, pistol and flashlight (or “torch” since this is London) as your starting gear. Zombi’s zombies are mostly of the shambling type, and can fling themselves over small walls or crawl along the floor – no true “fast” zombies here, fortunately.

So after you get the safe room cleared out, the Prepper will ask you to complete other tasks to boot up more of the cameras to which he doesn’t have access, gain food supplies, gain petrol to keep the generator running, and more. He also espouses his views about how the plague that has overtaken mankind is essentially necessary to ensure humans don’t cause significant damage to the planet. While away from the safe room, you also are contacted by a military channel, and their view is greatly at odds with the Prepper. They think they can develop a cure for the pandemic, but they need your help as boots on the ground.

Along the way, you are able to gain better gear, including more effective melee weapons, and all manner of rifles, assault weapons and sub-machine guns. You also receive a scanner/radar, which allows you to target items of interest, including enemies, doors and items for pick-up. C-4 charges, which are hard to find, allow you to open blocked passageways – sometimes you’ll need to do this to open up the next location, or maybe you’ll just find some new rare items.

Your pistols and rifles can be modified with special items to make them more effective. Unfortunately, ammo is relatively rare, so you might not even find additional bullets for certain weapons even if you enhance them. This is perhaps a more realistic tone to take with a large city under zombie siege.

It also means you’ll have to get close and personal with many zombies, because you won’t have any range weapons. This whole facet of gameplay is probably where I had the most physical challenge. You see, to wield any weapon – melee or gun – you have to first bring it up and constantly “hold” it with the Right Mouse button, and then you have to “attack” with the Left Mouse button. Having to constantly manipulate 2 buttons to simply attack your enemy got me killed several times, because I just couldn’t act fast enough before I’d get overwhelmed and bitten. This mechanic was definitely a holdover from the WiiU format.

But death also brings about an interesting new dynamic. When you die, you become a zombie, with all your gear that you are carrying. The Prepper, meanwhile, will attract another survivor to the safe room, and you then take over this new character. You can opt to just use the gear in your storage cache at the safe room, or you can go attack your former self and get all your gear back that was lost. I thought this was a really neat way to use perma-death as a punishment and a reward.

Graphically, the game really suffers and shows a lower-gen look. I could never get the graphics to look very sharp and the whole thing appeared a little “muddy”, for lack of a better term. The light/dark zones were very hit and miss, because if you aimed for a dark black shadow, then you effectively can’t see anything on your sides. So I basically went with about 65 to 70 percent brightness.

The game separates into about a dozen or so zones, that are accessible by transition levels that are exactly the same layout. As you play through each map, you might find a sewer exit that then grants fast-pass access to other sewers or even to the safe room. You’ll also occasionally find both beds, where you can sleep and save your game, and workbenches, where you can modify your guns. Take note that even if you pass into a new zone, the game doesn’t save! So I would constantly return back to the safe room or a bed to save, if I was about to enter a new area.

The story is fine, and there are some legitimate scares, but mostly because you’d get attacked and not have your weapon at the ready. The London setting was not really used to its fullest, as the game felt like it could have literally taken place in any location. There was a nice swerve toward the ending that was unexpected and threw me for a loop, and the actual ending is somewhat frantic.

So overall, kind of an average FPS and zombie game. I would probably recommend something like Dead Island or Dying Light instead, unless you really need to play another zombie game. 7.1 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #572 on: November 11, 2019, 10:12:47 AM »
When I was younger, I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but never got into Agatha Christie’s titles with Hercule Poirot – possibly because I didn’t know how to pronounce his name. But my recent playthrough of Microids’ Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders showcased a decent point-and-click mystery.

The story follows a murderer who is targeting people by their name, linking the letters to a similar-lettered town – like killing Abigail Adams in Aberdeen. The assailant sends Poirot a letter, and leaves a copy of the train schedule as a calling card after each murder. At this point, Poirot investigates the crime scene and begins to stockpile clues and suspects for the final showdown.

Upon gathering sufficient clues – some of which may require completing mechanical logic puzzles like opening up locked boxes – Poirot will segue into a logic session. He then asks himself a question, and you try to solve it with the clues you have, some of which may be red herrings, and some of which may not pan out until the ending.

Using these logic sessions, Poirot can narrow down the list of suspects, and actually pulls all of them into a single room to unmask the perpetrator. Some of the suspects may match a significant number of the clues, but only one matches all the clues.

The cel-shaded art style is very unique, with layers placed upon each other to generate a 2.5D background. The locales are nicely developed and the up-close models are also nicely done. Sound is generally good for Poirot and his assistant, but some of the other characters don’t fare as well.

Overall, this was a quick but pleasant murder mystery. 7.1 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #573 on: November 18, 2019, 05:11:14 PM »
What started as a truly unique game premise quickly spiraled downward the longer I played. INFRA is a first-person structural analysis simulator, developed in the Source engine. Throughout my gameplay, I was constantly reminded how much the game felt like a Half-Life 2 mod – mostly because of the assets used, but also due to the mechanical puzzles you’d have to solve, and the vast number of challenges that constantly assail you.

INFRA takes place in the city of Stalburg (possibly in Germany, or at least in Eastern Europe). Your name is Mark and you work for a company that has been hired by the city to monitor and correct structural integrity issues throughout the city. Your assignment for the day is to visit the water treatment zone and see what, if anything, needs to be repaired. What transpires is the longest day EVER, with you having to repair, and oftentimes escape catastrophe.

I really loved the premise, that this is a non-violent first-person game where all you do is take photos to document things that need to get fixed. But unfortunately, the rest of the game is non-stop electrical and mechanical puzzles – some of which are truly esoteric and near-impossible to decipher without a guide. The main puzzle of starting the water pumps system is required to access a very important secret area later in the game.

The game also is too long, for my personal tastes. It could have stood to be half the length to really be something special that stood out. But the length made me hate to play the final chapters because of how taxing the puzzles were, and how something was always breaking down that you’d have to figure out how to fix.

The game did have some truly unique destinations, and when you did figure out the puzzles on your own, it was a truly magical experience. But everywhere you look, something needs to be fixed. And this is the heart and soul of the overarching storyline, which I won’t share because it’s a bit of a spoiler. Everything that is going wrong should make sense once you gather sufficient evidence.

Graphically, the Source engine is looking creaky, but the developers really eke every bit of mileage they can out of it. Some areas do have a HL2 feel, while others have different textures not seen before. The developers also tried to create some awe-inspiring vistas and areas to visit, with occasional teases of what is to come. Within the game, there are hundreds of repair spots, documents, GPS caches and more to find. If you gather sufficient repairs and documents, you can enter a secret area at the very end, but I was unable to do so myself.

Other than the game’s length, my other huge gripe was the protagonist Mark’s voice. It was really, really bad and totally took me out of the game every time he would speak. INFRA has a stellar idea as its core basis, and the mechanical and engineering puzzles are nicely integrated throughout each level. But the sheer length of the game and the poor voice work were detrimental to the overall package. 7.3 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #574 on: November 25, 2019, 07:53:23 AM »
Virginia provides an interesting gaming conceit by going completely without any dialogue – written or spoken. All context comes from the characters you meet, and clues in your vicinity. And as such, it can often be challenging to understand what is truly happening within the story.

You are Anne Tarver and have just joined the FBI as a field agent. For your first case, you need to look into a murder committed several hours away in a small Virginia town. But your superior also tasks you with conducting an internal investigation on the side into fellow agent Maria Halperin. Although Maria initially greets you with a cold shoulder, over the course of the investigation, she opens up a little at a time. By the end, you have come to know what secrets she is harboring, and must make your own decision on whether to report her indiscretions. The murder case itself is also a bit of a surprise ending.

The graphical style is simple but engaging with warm color tones. Although not photo-realistic, the characters are expressive, so that even without words, you mostly understand what they are implying with their actions. And the music is hauntingly gorgeous.

I regret that the game is little more than a walking simulator and click-fest, but the short story (about 2 hours) may deserve a second playthrough to gain a fuller understanding of everything you experienced. 6.8 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #575 on: December 02, 2019, 03:44:46 PM »
Color me surprised by this one!! Valley offers fast-paced gameplay interspersed with a unique and original story. And the game shines graphically, with some gorgeous level design.

You are a researcher who thinks they have found a mysterious “Life Seed”, only accessible in a particular location in the Rocky Mountains.  Upon arrival, you are trapped and wander out of a cave into a stunning valley filled with life and unique creatures. Very quickly you find a LEAF (Leap Effortlessly though Air Functionality) suit, which was created toward the end of World War 2. With the LEAF suit, you can run faster, leap higher, and even take or restore life to other living plants and animals. The LEAF suit allows you to access new locations, and it can be enhanced over time with new features, including supersonic running, double jumping, rope swinging, running on water, and more. And if you happen to die, the LEAF suit will suck up life from your surroundings and bring you back.

You’ll quickly start hearing messages left behind by previous occupants of the valley, and can seek out additional scattered writings to glean more information on what happened to everyone. Most notably, the Life Seed you are seeking was at the heart of many experiments in this particular valley – all designed to gain more warfare capacity and help the Allies win WW2. Unfortunately, grandiose egos pushed the valley’s resources to the limits, only stopping once saboteurs were able to act.

The first-person platforming elements are challenging but mostly fair – when you get past them, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. And when you can run down hills or along a supersonic electrified track, you feel a whiff of speed like I haven’t seen in many games before. Combine the speed and jumps with the opportunity to swing from cables, and you’ll feel like a superhero by the end.

Collecting orbs to ensure your LEAF suit works properly does grow tiring, but it at least gives you an excuse to seek out hidden notes and power-ups. You’ll also come across a few enemies that can be banished by using the LEAF suit’s “remove life” function. And when enemies and trees drop acorns, those can eventually be traded in to open locked areas that lead to more notes and power-ups.

The game moves along pretty quickly, with gorgeous scenery throughout, and the constant story reminders will keep you on track with your next move. I enjoyed jumping through the air with a resounding thud when I landed, and the breakneck speeds that I achieved in an underground mine. And by the end, I understand how special this Valley was, and what needed to be done to protect it. 8.1 out of 10

Offline bobdog

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Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Reply #576 on: December 08, 2019, 11:23:46 PM »
The first Mirror’s Edge (which I reviewed here) had a unique premise of first-person parkour in a proto-futuristic setting. At the time I griped that the game should have let you spend more time playing about in the open game world, removed the challenging gunplay, and lowered the need to fight every guard you see.

The newer Mirror’s Edge Catalyst took some of these concerns to heart and offered up a revised prequel that shows us how Faith from the original game earned her skills in the city. Catalyst clocked in at 34 hours playtime for me, and I was probably at 75% of the full game’s potential -- having run through the story missions but skipped some of the optional side missions.

Catalyst has structure in the story missions that are parceled out, but it also gives the player agency to seek out a variety of other missions that generally are timed, get from Point A to Point B scenarios, but sometimes also toss in a fragile object that you have to keep safe while traversing the City. You also can pull security cards from wall-mounted units and collect floating spheres scattered about. An optional challenging puzzle required Faith to reprogram video screens, and sometimes this was an exercise in both logic and precise jumping skills. Although all these various tasks could get monotonous when you failed, you could try alternate routes to improve your overall finish times.

The actual parkour is pretty smooth and you can upgrade your skills by doing the various side missions and earning credits. For the first time, I actually got a little nauseous with the first-person view when Faith had to climb higher and higher, looking down below. The graphics engine does an incredible job of keeping everything in perspective.

Per the story, you have just been released from a stint in juvie, and your previous handler wants you to come work for him again. Along the way, you’ll find out more about your own personal history, what happened to your parents, who the good and bad folks in the City are, and how to navigate through the City’s diverse districts.

Catalyst does require Faith to engage with guards throughout a variety of locales – some who are unarmed, some armed with guns and rockets, and some with electro sticks. You cannot pick up a weapon so each of these foes requires a specific way to disarm and knock them out. Some of these instances feel like arenas with guard after guard coming after you. But nothing feels so good as when you jump off a wall and plant a foot right in their face, breaking their helmets or stunning them into unconsciousness.

Catalyst provides an engaging world, fun and thrilling side tasks, and gorgeous graphics to back up a lengthy story. Definitely an improvement on the original, and I hope they’ll consider a third. 8.4 out of 10