Monthly Archives: March 2016

“I feel like I could … take on the world!”

Update: After I wrote this yesterday, a member of the Facebook group I’m a member of A Streak of Geek posted it, talking about his love for the old Lucasarts games. Reading it made me realise that I’ve also played Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Dig, Loom and Ron Gilbert’s The Cave. How could I forget that I played those. Thanks Peter from A Streak of Geek for reminding me!)

For some strange reason, I never played the original Day of the Tentacle.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered_20160330194408I say strange because I played some of Lucasart’s other great point-and-click adventure games: Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island (I still own disc copies of Grim and Full Throttle)  but DOTT passed me by. I’m not sure why that was but I’m making up for that now, thanks to Double Fine’s remastered DOTT on PlayStation 4, PC, PS Vita and Mac.

I pre-ordered the game on PS4 ($23, I think) solely so I could download it onto my PS Vita as well – and the point-and-click game play is perfectly suited to the smaller form factor of Sony’s handheld, and while some of the text might be a little harder to read with my ageing eyes than on a 55-inch TV, Day of the Tentacle just feels right on the Vita.

DOTT has players control the three main characters – Bernard, Laverne and Hoagie – as they attempt to stop Purple Tentacle who drank some toxic sludge behind the mansion of Dr Fred Edison. The game involves different time periods and the solving of puzzles to try to thwart Purple Tentacle.

 

Players interact with items in the gameworld using actions such as “use”,  “pick up”, “open” in an attempt to solve the game’s puzzles.

Like other remastered Lucasart’s games, you can either play it in the new remastered graphic style, which looks really nice,  or – at the touch of a button on the Vita and a press of the touch pad on the PS4 controller – it reverts to the game’s pixellated art style. I found myself flicking back and forth between the two styles, but it really shows how much work Double Fine put into modernising the game’s visuals.

Here’s some video from the PS4 version (no spoilers, I don’t think). The first one shows Bernard in the game’s opening moments exploring Dr Edison’s mansion 

while the other shows Hoagie exploring the time period he finds himself trapped in after one of Dr Edison’s Chrono-johns malfunctions

Some of the puzzles are stumping me but I can see me spending a lot of time with Day of the Tentacle Remastered, and that’s a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PlayStation VR pricing announced

At GDC today, PlayStation showed off and announced pricing for its entrant in the Virtual Reality race, the PSVR, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how much PlayStation’s entrant is going to cost: $629.95.

Project-Morpheus-GDC-2015I think that price shocked a lot of people, actually. I mean, $629 is still a lot of money but I was expecting it to be around the $900 to $1000 mark, to be honest (and remember how much consoles cost when they first launched).

PlayStation VR is due to launch in October (which is my birthday, by the way, if anyone wants to buy me a present) and for $629.95 you get the VR headset (which offers a resolution of 1920x 1080), the external processor unit, a headset connection cable, an HDMI cable, a USB cable, stereo headphones, an AC power cord and an AC adapter.  What PlayStation hasn’t mentioned (at least, I don’t think made noise about) is that what isn’t included with the PSVR is the PlayStation Eye camera that you’ll need for the VR headset and Move controllers, which will be needed for some games. Expect to spend another $100 or so to pick up those (it goes without saying that you’ll also need a PlayStation 4).

The system will launch with 50 titles, including Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, a VR version of Eve Valkyrie and a special VR version of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront.

I think the price of the PSVR will make many gamers consider Sony’s offering ahead of Oculus and HTC’s VR headsets but while I’d love to be able to convince the Home Office that I need to buy one (that is a mission in itself requiring military precision and when I mentioned it initially she laughed, which, to be fair, is probably fair enough), it’s unlikely that I will at this stage.

I’ve never been one of those people who must have something on the day of launch, especially hardware.  As much as I’d love to have a PSVR sitting in my hands come October, I rather wait to hear feedback from people on how they found the experience using the headset and, importantly, whether they thought it was worth it.

At the end of the day, it isn’t going to make any difference in my life whether I get a PSVR on launch or two, three or six months later.

There’s no doubt that Sony’s pricing of the PSVR is going to appeal to a lot of people but for me, at the moment, I’m just going to watch from the wings and see what others think after it’s hit the market.

Heavy Rain Remastered reviewed

HeayRainEthan

Heavy Rain’s Ethan Mars.

Gamers have strong opinions on French game maker David Cage, but his film noir game Heavy Rain is undoubtbly his best, offering an engaging narrative about the lengths that a father, Ethan Mars, will go to find a kidnapped son.

The game first appeared on the PlayStation 3 and while the narrative was what made it worth playing, the 2010 game was hampered by poor voice acting, a boat load of quick time events and walking controls that frustrated more than delighted.

In Heavy Rain, the player controls, at various points, the four main characters (Ethan, Paige, FBI agent Norman Jayden and PI Scott Shelby) whose paths cross after Ethan’s son is kidnapped by The Origami Killer, a child abductor who leaves origami figures at the scene of the crime and always appears when the city is in the midst of persistent torrential rain. It’s a bleak, depressing setting, which adds to the game’s dark narrative.

Heavy Rain has now been remastered for the PS4 (the major upgrade seems to be the resolution has jumped from 720p to 1080p) and while graphically the game looks brighter and sharper than the original, none of its major faults have been fixed, which is a real shame. I didn’t experience any graphical glitches in the remaster but quite often the audio would cut in an out and when a character did an internal monologue it sounded as if they were standing in a tunnel.

Private Investigator Scott Shelby.

Private Investigator Scott Shelby.

The quick time events in Heavy Rain are plentiful – often requiring dexterity to press a trigger and two face buttons at the same time – and combat is often a flurry of button presses and stick movement: from time to time I missed a prompt because it disappeared so quickly.

A lot of the QTEs are mundane, too – changing a baby’s nappy, taking a morning toilet stop, opening car doors or a fridge – but it’s Cage’s attempt to get players to a connection to the characters, and I think, for the most part, it works: It’s just a pity that other aspects of the game just don’t stand up in 2016’s gaming landscape.

The voice acting is decidedly average, though, especially from the children (they sound stilted and wooden), although a couple of the main character voice actors do a decent  job in making their characters more believable despite some of the cringeworthy and cliche-riddled dialogue.

Sadly, the frustrating movement controls are still here, too, requiring you to press R2 and the left analogue stick to navigate whatever character you’re controlling around the environment. Add in a camera that frustrates things as well, and it’s not uncommon to find a character smacking into a wall rather than going through a door or spinning around a table because the controls are so sloppy (and don’t get me started on the bloody frustrating “Guide Ethan through a glass-littered tunnel” sequence where the controls continually frustrate)

Despite the wonky controls and wooden voice acting, the Remastered Heavy Rain is still worth a look if you haven’t played the original but if you have played it before, I wouldn’t recommend forking out the money a second time: There isn’t enough to warrant it.

While the narrative is still engaging, it should come as no surprise that Heavy Rain no longer has the impact it did when it first came out and, sadly, it hasn’t aged well. I wonder whether it really needed a remaster at all …

Note: Heavy Rain Remastered has been bundled with another remastered David Cage game, Beyond Two Souls, which I didn’t like nearly as much as Heavy Rain.

Unravel review: The journey of a character made from wool

unravel1280jpg-b7ace3_1280wMeet Yarny.

He’s the lead character in Unravel (EA, multi-platform), a side-scrolling, 2.5D platforming game.

He’s made of wool – or yarn – and must use his yarn to help him solve puzzles, traverse the game world and avoid dangers.He’s small, too, so the game world looks massive around him.

To help him traverse the game world, Yarny can make bridges using his yarn – but as he moves around the yarn unravels, meaning if he travels too far he runs out of yarn that can only be replenished by balls of red yarn dotted about the game world. It’s a nice mechanic that makes you think about the right path to take to reach an objective or solve a puzzle.

Another nice touch is that if you find that you’ve travelled the wrong way or to the wrong point, Yarny can pull on the yarn and get back to a previous point.

Unravel_20160130214434

Unravel_20160130214434

Yarny is definitely the star here and he has a cuteness about him that is hard to ignore. Unravel is also a game that attempts to tuck at your heartstrings but falls a little short of the mark as I didn’t emotionally connect with the old woman who appeared at the beginning of the game. As Yarny progresses through the game, the old woman’s memories are revealed through a photo album sitting on a table.

The puzzles aren’t particularly taxing in Unravel – many of them are physics-based or basic logic – so there won’t be any controller throwing or tantrums while you play and Yarny is a cute character that will bring a smile (it seems, though, EA have abandoned the Unravel trademark so there might be a question mark over any potential sequel).

unravelI know the developers tried to create an emotional story about love and memories but I just didn’t form an emotional attachment to the old woman at all or her memories (maybe I’m heartless but unlocking more memories wasn’t a driving factor for playing this).

That said, Yarny is a cute character that can’t but help make you smile and Unravel is a nice diversion that might not always obey the laws of physics but it’s a game that is perfect for when you want something cutesy and won’t tax you too much.