All posts by Rick. H.

In Honor of Superbowl Sunday

Gridiron Solitaire continues in the long tradition of solitaire variations having an over-exciting name for a game primarily played with a deck of cards all by your lonesome.  Whereas Yukon is nothing like the snowy north where one might discover Wolverine and Windigo, and Spider does not summon eight-legged hellspawn to your hands while playing, and accordion does not make you tap your beat to the latest polka jam, Gridiron Solitaire actually captures some of the essence of its namesake.

Basically, through simple opposite-color sequence tricks, you simulate a game of Football.  The more tricks you complete in a given turn (or, down, fittingly enough) the more yards you produce on offense, and reduce on defense.  Along with the tricks, you have an opportunity to call on a “big play” which either nets you another card, or a text event that may or may not be of benefit to you.

If you think it sounds simple, that’s because (at least on the surface) it is.  If you have a basic understanding of cards, you’ll pick this up quickly.  And indeed, when I saw the art style of this game (which I actually quite enjoyed) and the basic idea behind the gameplay, I thought it was silly.

But after just one game, the depth became really apparent, and after a few hours, I found myself thinking about the game when I wasn’t playing, both about the strategy involved in it, and maybe ways that the game could be made even more complex, and simulate more actual football scenarios.

Undoubtedly this is the same sort of fretting that caused the simple fun of Techmo Bowl to walk down the path that eventually led to the dry simulation of Madden.  I do think that any sequel should feature some sort of direct gameplay for special team plays, but to get more complex than that would probably ruin what’s enjoyable about the game.

And the game is very enjoyable.  It might be because, being someone who grew up with few friends, I played a lot of solitaire growing up, or it might just be that I find the gameplay to be interesting.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that everything from the art style to the music is deceptive; simple on the surface, with a lot going on once you really look at it.

Whatever the reason, I’ve already played a lot of this game, and will probably play a lot more, because it’s the perfect game to play while watching television.  Or maybe the game to play if you’re over all the “I just watch for the commercials LOL” hype and want something else to do while the big game is on break.

If I do have a problem with the game, is that sometimes I actually wish a bit more of the card-iness (for lack of a better term) was exposed.  I want to see stacks, and I want to see face cards and suits.  Plain cards get kind of boring.  Also, I would like to be able to save & quit at anytime, not just the half.  But those are minor quibbles.

My initial attraction to this game was “ok this is going to be some silly shit that maybe will be worth some irony.”  But no, my official review of this one is “Play it.”

Rick’s 2013 GotY Thing

Games I wish I played (or played more) in 2013: DMC: Devil May Cry, Gunpoint, The Typing of the Dead Overkill, Antichamber, Cart Life

 Most Overrated Game of the Year:  Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons: I guess the best thing you can say about this game is it’s bad in the same way that a lot of “art” films are.  That’s a big step for the world of gaming. That doesn’t mean I have to like this, though.


Game I Would Have Liked Even More If I Had Friends Of the Year – Divekick:  Man I enjoyed the hell out of Divekick.  Too bad it’s hard to find an opponent of equivalent skill.

 

Biggest Disaster of 2013: Sim City: No brainer.  

 

2013’s Old Game Of The Year: Mass Effect 3.  It’s weird to say this about a Mass Effect game, but the multiplayer is really one of the best online experiences I’ve ever had.  It’s simple but full of variety and you can be successful doing it a lot of different ways.  The support through the first half of 2013 kept me addicted to this game until early summer.

 Now for the Games of the Year: 

10. SteamWorld Dig is a GuacaComplex-style 2D throwback Dig-Dug game in which you dig, and dig, and dig some more, into depths almost as deep as my soul..  Except instead of finding pain and sadness as I find when exploring my own inner-self, I found joy in finding the various tools and loot that allowed me to reach the bottom.  It’s short, but that’s probably good since my hand was pretty tired from all that digging.

 

9. Resogun moved up and down my list a lot while I was trying to put together this list.  On the one hand it gave me moments of absolute pure joy and accomplishment. On the other hand, it just didn’t really stick with me long term the way these types of games usually do.  It’s basically up-ressed Defender, which, is pretty great (some people have said “Defender on a Cylinder but Defender was always on a cylinder, idiots).  The shared video of this game caused my aunt (who had an Intellevision at home that I always played when I would go to her house)  to admire my skill, which, was a nice feeling.  I have low self-esteem and need the reinforcement. 

 

8. Rogue’s Legacy zapped hours of my life away.  It was always so tempting to just try one . . . more . . . life.  I didn’t always like the controls and in the end the wasted-runs started to get frustrating but overall, awesome stuff.

 

7. The Last of Us managed to tell an interesting story about one of the most boring, overdone things in media right now: Naughty Dog Gameplay.  Damn the first 30% of this game is a major chore to play through.  By the end, the gameplay does occasionally get fun (once you have access to enough tools and they aren’t in the mood to strip the tools away from you), but I nearly quit long efore I saw that; only the interest in the story managed to keep me going.  I’m glad I did though.  Yeah, it’s a zombie story.  But it’s a good zombie story, with strong characters that the game made me care a lot about.  I’m not a big graphics guy, but the people come pretty close to looking like people, and the detail in the environment is crazy.  I was never able to get over Naughty Dog’s problems in Uncharted, but Last of Us made me finally respect them.

 

6. Assassin’s Creed IV is dumbbbb.  The missions get worse every game in the series, and the puzzles have gone from fairly intricate codebreaking in Assassin’s Creed 2, to a shitty version of frogger in Assassin’s Creed.  But damn did I enjoy playing this game. Piracy is a lot of fun, and I sunk hours into it.  After the debacle of Assassin’s Creed 3, I probably would not have bought this game if I wasn’t desperate to have any game to play on my PS4, but I’m glad I did, the series was totally renewed for me.

 

5. Ni No Kuni makes me want to say “fuckkkkk everyone who loves Drippy.”  Drippy was the most annoying thing in the game, and the part where you have to visit his town made me want to cry.  It made me feel like less of a human being when I was aware of the fact that people were non-stop raving about how funny and quirky this character was.  Giving a dude a welsh accent and making him grumpy doesn’t make him funny.  What the fuck is wrong with humanity?  Anyway, Ni No Kuni is a lot of fun.  The earnestness of the story is appealing, and it’s proof that video games don’t have to be dark and brooding to tell a meaningful story.  I love turn-based RPG, so that was fun, and it’s cool that in 2013 people are still doing new things with that, and the gotta catch them all nature of power recruitment is very satisfying.

4. Grand Theft Auto V would’ve been the game of the year many other years.  The faithful recreation of Los Angeles (where we all live) warmed my heart and made me home sick.  I thought Rockstar did a pretty good job with the stories, and splitting the narrative amongst three people was smart; some of the things that other people hated were the things I loved, which is not something you can usually write about a game.  Also, spreading the story amongst three people helped stave off the Rockstar Late Game Malaise right up until about the end.  The online isn’t that interesting, but, whatever, I don’t play these games for multiplayer (although, it is a bit of a surprise how uninteresting it was after Red Dead and even GTA IV managed to do it better).  The biggest knock on this game is “it’s not GTA: SA” but I really don’t think that’s fair.

 

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds initially seemed like it was going to be an up-ressed version of Link To The Past, which I would have played, and would have loved, but Nintendo wasn’t satisfied with that.  Naw, they somehow worked Tom Nook into the game, which managed to completely shake up the formula, making the game feel both original and nostalgic.  The items and the exploration are all fun again, and all feel like they have a purpose; I just couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t rescue all the Maiamais.  My only complaint is that most of the dungeons were dead simple.  Maybe it was time to go back to basics, though.

 

2. Bioshock Infinite is a game that a lot of people have spent a lot of time trying to justify why they like it this year.  But they shouldn’t.  I’m not going to apologize for liking this game.  The combat isn’t as intricate as Bioshock 2, and gets a bit repetitive because of that, but I can’t think of any other problems I had with the game.  One play-through wasn’t enough, and as soon as I was finished I had to go back and beat it again.  That just isn’t the type of thing I normally do.  Booker and Elizabeth’s song beneath the saloon, some of the things you find in tears, and the ending were amongst the best moments I’ve had in gaming this year, or other years.

 

1. Animal Crossing: A New Leaf is inarguably my game of the year.  They talk about games like Gears of War with giant muscle dudes as being Wish Fulfillment.  But naw.  Naw, this is my wish: to be a cutesy, over-sized headed boy who lives in a town of animals suffering from the entire spectrum of the DSM V in the most inviting way possible.   I’m not afraid to admit that I am the type of dude who plays Farmville.  Even while playing some mothafuckin gangsta shit games, I’m still often in need of some game that involves mindlessly pointing and clicking every day.  Animal Crossing gives that mindless pointing and clicking purpose.   I guess it’s true that it’s still fundementally the same game it was on Gamecube, but I don’t give a fuck.  The few minor tweeks they made from the last game has turned this from something I played a month to something I’m still playing every single day seven months later.  I love this game more than most people I know.

 

 

Review: Bravely Default Demo

Yeah it’s that time of year.  The time of year when even the virtual shelves are sparse with new games.  So I guess it isn’t surprising that I somehow I found myself downloading and playing the Bravely Default Demo, in hopes of finding something, anything new to play.  What was surprising was that I found myself sinking nine hours into the game.

There’s not a lot of story, the demo explicitly states that the events takes place outside of a the main game’s story, and your reason for combat is just a bunch of glorified fetch quests.  But, there is a lot of fun gameplay if you like turn-based jRPGs with job systems.  Which I do like quite a bit.  There isn’t a whole lot of fundamental difference between the job system and combat between say, Final Fantasy II.  But the game doesn’t pretend that a couple decades haven’t passed since that game has been released.  Success in the game requires some thoughtful managing of the various job roles in any given party.  The one original feature  of the game(which they named it after for some reason; maybe something is lost in translation?) is the ability to “brave” (take two turns at once) or “default” (defend and bank a turn for later).  This doesn’t seem all that interesting in the early stages of the demo, but you soon run across enemies that force you to use these systems well to succeed.  And, the enemies play the same rules, so you have to plan for enemies that might take a couple turns, or they might not.  It’s interesting.

There also is the promise that you’re going to carry certain parts of your progress in the game over to the main one.  I don’t know how that’s going to work out but it seems like a nice reason to play the demo.

There were other features that I just couldn’t comment on, but was curious about.  The game has several different social hooks that allow you to really take advantage of having friends who play, as well as encouraging you to street pass with other players.  But despite the fact that this was a free demo, I don’t have any friends playing and have been unable to streetpass with anyone so I have no idea if they work or not.

All in all, a pretty good experience for nothing.  It made me want to get the main game.  But it’s not in any stores and not in the E-shop yet.  So instead of getting my 40 bucks, now Square has to just hope I remember to buy it before I get something else.

 

If We Lived and Were Good, God Would Permit Us to be Pirates

Assassin’s Creed 4 is a silly game.  All Assassin’s Creed games are a little silly, but this really takes it up a notch.  For the most part I’d like to think it’s intentional.

Years of Ubisoft press conferences at various E3s do make me question that a bit.  It is completely within the realm of possibility that Ubi earnestly wrote themselves into their series about a century-spanning world-encompassing conflict between the Templars and Assassins that have driven all the major events of the world because they think it’s all real.  Because I like the game, though, I’m just going to choose to believe that it’s ironic.

Regardless of intent, the inherent goofiness of the out-of-animus  portion of the game made those sections of the game rather enjoyable.  Sure, the hacking games ranged from dumb to terrible, but the cockeyed look at the mythos of the Assassin’s Creed series was refreshing and actually managed to get me interested in just what the heck Abstergo and whichever God or Goddess they serve (I lost track two games go) is up to.  And the overall comedic tone of the material caused some of the more serious parts of game history you stumble upon to be almost poignant, as they hit you out of nowhere.

Unfortunately you can’t say the same thing about the main storyline of the game.  It’s really dumb.  I thought Edward was a pretty good character who had some neat moments, and even most of the side characters are interesting, complex characters in a game that oftentimes has a tendency to draw very distinct lines between heroes and villains.  But strong characters alone can’t make up for nonsensical plot.  I never cared about what was going on at any given time in the game.

Which might be why I have to say that I ultimately enjoyed playing it so much.  I could spend hours on side missions and random encounters and never feel the guilt I usually have in games when I’m not progressing the story.  I felt free–oftentimes even in the middle of story missions–to do what I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it.

Sure, the combat has been scaled back signifigantly from its peak in brotherhood.  That needed to happen, though.  While there was quite a bit of fun to be had in forming literal piles of bodies at Ezio’s feet, or solving each battle with a series of gadgets as Conner, combat got very tedius in those games.  The simple rock/paper/scissors style of combat in AC4 at least sometimes put you in danger.

And sea battles–though repetitive at times–were a ton of fun.   You often fluctuate from the bully who rolls through gunships and schooners to the tiny insurgent taking on frigates and man of war ships with mortars from afar in the same conflict.  And the online/second screen component of the game helped make those battles justified, as you had a motivation to capture a wide variety of ships to add to your fleet (and thus earn you easy money to upgrade your ship even further.  Even though I’m done with the game, for the first time ever in Assassin’s Creed, I’m thinking about playing again just for the joy of the raiding ships.

All in all, Assassin’s Creed IV is a game you can play and enjoy without giving too much of a fuck about the actual plot of the game.  And the goofy out-of-the-animus bits work to actually justify this indifference.  I’m not sure what that means for the future of Assassin’s Creed.  And I’m not certain Ubisoft has a clear picture of that future either.  They centered the game around a fun mechanic that they’re probably going to have a pretty difficult time shoehorning into future games, while at the same time reducing the impact and playability of the story missions we’re much more likely to see in future games than ship combat.  The fact that they ask you to rate every mission seems like an acknowledgement of the fact they no longer are certain what it is players love about the game.

Oh well, that’s speculation for another day.  On Los Angeles Game Reviewers’  Play/Don’t Play/Hate Play scale, this game earns an “Ironic Play” the hidden 4th option.

I promise you, dear reader, that reviews won’t usually be this long.  This game just left me so conflicted that I just had to try to get a handle on the whole thing.