Author Archives: Gamejunkienz

Judgment’s Komurocho in selfies

Judgment might have its roots based on Sega’s wonderful Yakuza series (games I’ve been playing since the days of the PlayStation 2 & with the purchase of Yakuza Kiwami 2 last night, my collection is growing even more) and lawyer Takayuki Yamagi might not be as well known as the Dragon of Dojima Kazuma Kiryu , but Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio’s legal thriller is the perfect reason to revist Komurocho.

The game follows Yamagi, a former lawyer turned private detective, as he investigates a serial murder involved a high-profile Yakuza captain.

This isn’t a review of Judgment – I haven’t played it for enough hours yet to justify a review – but I thought I’d document my journey through Kamorucho using Yamagi’s mobile phone, in a series of selfies. That’s the modern way to document life, right?

Enjoy.

Observation review: “I’m sorry, Emma, I’m afraid I can’t do that” [PC]

It wouldn’t surprise me if the team behind sci-fi thriller Observation – were fans of movies Alien, Event Horizon and 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The game opens aboard the international space station Observation which is above Earth’s orbit after suffering a catastrophic event. The ship’s medical officer Dr Emma Fisher eventually manages to reboot the ship’s AI Sam [System Administration Maintenance] but Sam receives a strange transmission telling him to “BRING HER”. Fast forward a bit and after a second event, the Observation finds itself above Saturn, Sam’s core functions compromised and the rest of Observation’s crew missing. Emma tasks Sam with finding out what has happened.

Sam reminded me a lot of HAL 2000, the ship board AI from Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey [a movie from 1968  that most young gamers, sadly, will know nothing about]. In that movie, HAL 9000 is the sentient AI on a spaceship heading to Jupiter [there’s also a mysterious black monolith discovered by apes, but that’s a story for another day]. HAL turns rogue, responsible for uttering the chilling line “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”.

Controlling Sam, you’re initially tasked by Fisher to assess any damage the ship has suffered, accessing the on board cameras to survey for problems. Sam opens hatches, when requested, provides feedback on ship-wide alerts and can possess remotely controlled drones which give a rather satisfying degree of movement around the ship’s tight confines.

Hints of Event Horizon started to appear for me early in the game when it became clear that all wasn’t as it seemed and Sam started becoming self-aware. When the words “BRING HER” flashed on the screen and a strange floating artifact appeared, I got chills down my spine. For some reason, the Observation itself reminded me a lot of Alien’s Nostromo and while there are no jump scares and it’s not scary, Observation’s atmosphere is tense enough to keep you on your toes.

I started playing Observation with mouse and keyboard but soon realised it would be easier using a controller, especially when it came to some of the puzzles requiring inputting codes using the left stick. The puzzles tend to be either drawing schematic patterns of the Observation’s old-school wiring so Sam can unlock hatches between the four arms of the space station or are inputting “Simple Simon” type patterns to rectify hardware issues such as jammed external clamps or to activate ship-wide protocols.

Despite being set in a futuristic space ship, Observation actually made me go old school, again, and I found myself falling back to my old trusty red notebook, scribbling down patterns and notes and the schematics needed to unlock and lock hatches [hey, my memory isn’t what it used to be]. I took photos of things I considered important. I scribbled down words like “launch codes”, “strange artifact”, “protocol” and “space station”. I sketched weird symbols and patterns that flashed up throughout the game. Observation is one of those games that you may well find yourself jotting down schematics on a piece of paper.

Look, I loved Observation from start to finish, eager to find out what the strange alien artifact was all about and intrigued to see whether Sam would go full HAL 9000 by the game’s conclusion [I actually stayed up till 1am on a school night to finish the game].

I thought the ending was a little too cliched but a twist about the 3/4 mark was a nice touch that turned things on its head for the better. The ending also leaves the door open for a potential sequel. Maybe.

Observation is a great first effort from a new studio. I’m interested to see where developer No Code goes from here with its next game.

Late in the piece while writing this review I learned that some of the members of developer No Code were actually on the team that made The Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation so, yeah, I guess they are fans of the movie Alien. 

Thanks to Devolver Digital’s Australian distributor for the review code.

My Friend, Pedro review: bloody acrobatics & a sentient banana [Nintendo Switch]

If I can make one suggestion when you fire up Deadtoast Entertainment’s side-scrolling shooter My Friend Pedro, it’s this: Do so wearing a decent set of headphones as it has a soundtrack that your ears will thank you for.

Based on an Adult Swim Flash game, My Friend, Pedro, the sound track is driving and relentless and fits perfectly into the on-screen carnage as you (our hero) shoot, pirouette and tumble your way through a 2.5D world, goaded on by … a talking banana. Yes, you read that right: A sentient, talking banana. That banana is Pedro and he offers advice on what to do.

My Friend, Pedro is described by publisher Devolver Digital in its marketing as a “violent bloody ballet about friendship and imagination” and it’s the perfect description: A twin-stick shooter, the game delights in slow motion acrobatics (think Max Payne’s bullet time) as you bound off walls and catapult off weighted doors, kicking 10-gallon drums (and eventually body parts) into foes & dodging automated turrets as bullets fly and heads explode in clouds of of red mist – all punctuated by that marvelous soundtrack (notable pieces are being Requium for Rose & Junkyard King).

This is a game that celebrates forward momentum, too, rewarding you with inventive moves and speed – then scoring you at the end. Every now and then an image of Pedro’s face (actually, do banana’s have faces?) will subliminally flash onto the screen: If Pedro’s smiling, he likes what he sees. If he’s frowning, he’s not impressed so you’d better do better.

My Friend, Pedro is also the sort of game that is perfect for the Switch’s portability and one that you can play in bite-sized chunks when you’ve got a bit of spare time in the evenings, thanks to the size of the levels, but the controls did take a bit of getting used to, as I felt I had to contort my fingers at times to do pull off some manouevers.

Devolver Digital is impressing me more and more with its support of quirky, indie titles [another excellent title is BroForce, which also plays perfectly on the Nintendo Switch]  and with My Friend, Pedro, Devolver has another winner on its hands.

Bite sized news & reviews, June, 2019

God of Waaaar tops June games

Santa Monica Studio’s PlayStation 4-exclusive God of War has topped the games charts in New Zealand for the month of May, according to price aggregation site PriceSpy.

Despite being released over a year ago, the game staring angry Kratos and his son stomping around Norse mythology, beat out Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4), EA’s Anthem (PC) and Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4) for the top spot. That’s a pretty impressive effort. given the game came out early last year. Coincidentally, you can just happen to find my thoughts on God of War here

God of War originally launched with an RRP of $120 and according to pricing insights from PriceSpy, it can now be picked up for just $48, 60 percent less than 15 months ago.

If you haven’t played it, then I  politely suggest you give it a go. It’s very, very  good.

“They’re not loot boxes. They’re surprise mechanics,”  says EA 

Spotted on Eurogamer this week, EA and Epic Games got a grilling from Britain’s Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee on a few video game related issues. One of the topics of discussion was loot boxes .

The response from EA’s vice president, legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins will become the stuff of memes: “We don’t call them loot boxes – we call them surprise mechanics … People like surprises. We do think the way we’ve implemented these kinds of mechanics is quite ethical and quite fun. They aren’t gambling and we disagree that there’s evidence that shows they lead to gambling.”

Eurogamer reports that the “thorny” issue of loot boxes and gambling was also brought up, but EA, which makes hundreds of millions through the sale of a virtual currency that’s then used to buy packs of cards in FIFA Ultimate Team, believes the two aren’t linked.

There’s not really much else to say on that, is there?

Total War Three Kingdoms & Shakedown Hawaii reviews

I’ve started writing for Australian-based website Koru-Cottage so here are a couple of recent reviews I did for the site: PC game Total War Three Kingdoms and PlayStation 4 game Shakedown Hawaii. Enjoy.

‘Tis the season for E3, hear ye, hear ye … trailers & videos incoming!

As my Twitter feed keeps reminding me, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3, for short) is underway in Los Angeles this week, when [most] of vidya game’s biggest  publishers and developers showcase the games they’ve got coming out in the next few months [and over the next year or so].

A notable absence this year is PlayStation: It decided to forgo E3 for reasons.

I suspect they’ll have a strong presence at the Tokyo Game Show later this year and Gamescom in Germany, which makes sense, to be honest, especially focusing on the TGS which is, after all, in Japan.

OK, so all the major players had their pre-show press conferences yesterday and today [Xbox, SquareEnix, Bethesday, Devolver Digital, Ubisoft and EA], but rather than dissect them frame by frame, announcement by announcement, I’ve had links to trailers and conferences emailed to me … so I’m going to let you do the hard work [is that lazy??]

CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher series, revealed a new trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 & while it didn’t reveal any actual game play [which is a little annoying], the release date [April 16, 2020] was announced at the show by none other than Bill & Ted star himself Keanu Reeves [who seems to be the “it” guy right now]. He’s also featuring in the game. Here’s the trailer. Keanu appears at the end.

Xbox announced it had acquired Tim Schaefer’s Double Fine Productions [you’d still better look after the backers – including me – of the Fig campaign that actually funded the game, Tim!], the beta version of Game Pass for PC, which I signed up for given I’m a born-again PC gamer, and at $NZ6.95 a month, it seems incredibly good value for money, and already hads a pretty good line-up of games so far [Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein 2, Football Manager 2019, Void Bastards], and like its Xbox counterpart, more games will be added as the service grows. It also revealed Project Scarlett, it’s next next-gen console that is apparently going to be “4 x more powerful than the Xbox One X” [and, according to one Xbox Twitter account it would be the most powerful console it had ever designed, but it did say that about the Xbox One X, right?] Details were light on the ground on Project Scarlett, though, given it’s not releasing until the end of 2020. It also showed a cinematic trailer for the next game in the Halo series.

SquareEnix showed off its Final Fantasy 7 remake, and it looks pretty impressive – and I’m not a fan of the series. Here’s the battle system in action:

It also announced Outriders, a new game from development studio People Can Fly [the company behind the very good Bulletstorm], and a Marvel Avenger’s game, which will come out next year. Here’s trailer for those two, too.

Bethesda showed off, among other things, more of Doom Eternal

Wolfenstein Young Blood

Ghostwire Tokyo

Phew, I’m tired after all that. I don’t have anything about EA or Ubisoft but Ubi announced a new Watchdogs game set in London & another entrant in the Ghost Recon franchise, and EA showed off Respawn’s Star Wars game The Force Unleashed 3 Jedi Fallen Order.

Anything catch your eye?

Update, Wednesday, June 12: Ubisoft have sent through a shite load of emails today but here’s some of the key titles it showed.

Watchdogs Legion 

Assassin’s Creed story creator mode

and God & Monsters

Bite-sized review: Hellmut The Badass from Hell

What is it: Hellmut Badass from Hell is a twin-stick shooter rogue-like which, according to Slovakian development team Volcanicc , has you play as a collection of “improbable creatures and slaughter furious demon hordes”. I looked at it on Nintendo Switch but it’s also available on PC and console.

So, what’s it all about?: Hellmut uses the currently popular 16-bit pixel art style of graphics that a few developers are favouring at the moment, and it’s one of those games where you move with the left stick and aim with the right as you fight your way through increasingly tougher enemies until you die – then you respawn and start all over again.

If you like games like Dead Cells and Hollow Knight, Hellmut will likely appeal to your gaming sensibilities (conversely, if you hate games like Dead Cells and Hollow Knight, you’ll hate Hellmut). It has procedurally generated levels and nice touch is that Hellmut (who seeks imortality from a demon so is reduced to a floating skull and spine) can transform into two other nightmarish creatures (the rat king and the stitchmonster), both with different abilities. The game really looks great on the Switch’s screen, too.

So, anything about the game that grinded your gears?: Well, it’s a rogue-like so, yeah. I frustrate easily with rogue-like games and so it was with Hellmut (and with Dead Cells and Hollow Knight before it). You have to have incredible patience and stickability with games like this and I’m not sure I have the patience to see them through to the end.

Verdict?: Hellmut Badass from Hell has a nice little sense of humour running through it and I liked that, but the bottom line is, like all rogue-likes before it, if you find games like Dead Cells – where when you die you restart from the beginning – frustrating then this isn’t the game for you. That said, if you love games where the odds are often against you and you love the challenge of learning from your mistakes, you’ll love this.

Thanks to the publisher who provided me with a Nintendo Switch game code.

A Plague Tale: Innocence in pictures

A Plague Tale: Innocence, from French developer Asobo Studio, has come out of nowhere, really, with little fanfare and hype, and so far, it’s the sleeper hit of 2019 for me.

I bought it the other day on PC (true story: I got the conversions wrong so thought I was paying around $NZ45 for a $US37 game but actually ended up paying $58) and I’ve been blown away from the moment I started playing. After about two hours playtime, I’m still blown away by the game.

Set in France during the time of a devastating plague (I’ve no idea what time period), Amicia and her brother Hugo must escape the British Inquisition soldiers hunting down Hugo. To make matters worse, swarms of rats are a crucial element that Amicia and Hugo have to survive against.

This isn’t a review of the game, or even a preview, it’s really just to show just how jaw-droppingly good looking this game is on PC. I get the odd hitch every now and then but I’m playing on Ultra graphics settings with an AMD RX580 GPU and it just looks phenomenal.

Chances are I’ll post some thoughts when I’m done with A Plague Tale: Innocence. So far, all those thoughts are incredibly positive.

 

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