After experiencing the three titles that make up the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix compilation in quick succession last year, I needed a break. It was a desire to join in on the zeitgeist surrounding the release of Kingdom Hearts III that prompted me to finally jump into the series, though truth be told I’d always been interested. I started itching to get back into the series while playing the F.E.A.R. games last year, if anything to experience something a little more uplifting. First up: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. Continue reading Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix [PlayStation 3] – Review→
It was a brief comment in Dave Halverson’s review of Dragon Quest VIII from the November 2005 issue of Play Magazine, and not especially relevant to the full review, but it’s stuck with me ever since: “…given the detail, that the lead character is not dynamic to steps and slopes does take a bite out of the realism.” I wouldn’t say I’ve paid attention to the functionally irrelevant detail of characters walking on stairs in every game I’ve played since, but sometimes I notice. In Shenmue III for instance, whenever the protagonist Ryo walks up or down a flight of stairs, his feet hit every step. Every. Step. I know relatively little about the rigors of game development, but it seems ludicrous to offer such attention to detail for something as banal as navigating a flight of stairs. And yet, Shenmue III is in many ways a game about embracing the banal, for better or worse. Continue reading Shenmue III [PlayStation 4] – Review→
As was the case with History 2048, one of my main motivations for purchasing Miniature – The Story Puzzle was its appealing art style (it didn’t hurt being on sale, either). The screenshots posted on the game’s eShop page highlighted neat little dioramas, not dissimilar from History 2048. Both games were developed by purpleElephant, so the shared design aesthetic makes sense. It was a good looking game, but there just wasn’t much to it.
Each stage of Miniature told a story across five scenes, represented by changes in a diorama. For instance, one stage told the story of a deep sea dive. Early scenes had the diver getting ready aboard the boat and entering the water, while later ones highlighted the discovery of treasure and threat of a shark. I cycled through the scenes randomly, moving the diorama around, zooming in for clues, in an attempt to put them in the correct order.
There were about a dozen stages to play through, which altogether took less than a half-hour to complete. The controls were the most puzzling aspect at first, but once I figured them out, I was off to the races. Conceptually, the gameplay of Miniature was enjoyable, and the presentation was neat! But, there wasn’t much to the package. Although I don’t think the game is a particularly good deal (even on sale), it’s probably the perfect length.
Adding more puzzles could’ve improved the value proposition, but to prevent the game from getting stale, I think the developers would’ve had to increase the scenes per stage to up the difficulty, or expand the gameplay in another way. Miniature was enjoyable, but it seems better suited as a novel minigame in a larger game.
I mentioned in my review of Pokémon Sword how much that game has captivated me, perhaps more so than any previous installment in the series. Yearning feels like too strong of an adjective to describe my daily thoughts of playing it, but it’s truly become an obligation to pop into the region of Galar and make headway with breeding or just complete a few routine tasks. This borderline need to play Pokémon Sword hasn’t taken priority over my desire to start new games though. Unfortunately, with regards to my recent playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, I found that I was unable to devote the attention necessary to really enjoy anything else while Pokémon seemed to beckon me. Continue reading The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening [Switch] – Review→
It’s January 2020 and I think I’m hooked on a Pokémon game more than I ever have been, which is kind of wild considering I was obsessed with the series when it was all the rage in the late nineties, and from 2013-2017 I played nearly every iteration in the series as part of a “grand ambition” to, literally, catch ‘em all. Pokémon Sword and Shield, the newest entries and the ones I find myself wanting to play every night, are just fantastic. Their foundational mechanics aren’t all that different from previous games in the series (a blessing and a curse) but Game Freak has introduced engaging new features and implemented smart quality of life improvements. The games aren’t perfect; performance and network issues bog down some of the cooler features for instance, but on the whole they’re masterfully refined and endlessly addictive. Continue reading Pokemon Sword and Shield [Switch] – Review→
In retrospect, I read the title History 2048 both too literally and with little comprehension. When I first happened upon the game, browsing the Switch’s eShop, the name struck a chord. Paired with an appealing visual style and what seemed to be board game influenced gameplay, I was intrigued enough to make the purchase. It was on sale for only a couple of dollars, after all. Not once did I read the description on the game’s store page. If I had, or gave the game’s title a little more thought, I would’ve realized it was simply a 2048clone with an attractive veneer. Continue reading History 2048 [Switch] – Review→
Last year was the first time I really dedicated myself to playing the games in my backlog I always wanted to play. I didn’t receive a terminal diagnosis or have a loved one die, but I realized my time is limited, so I needed to make my game time count. This year ended with another respectable batch of games crossed off the to-do list, many of which are mentioned below. On the other hand, the last quarter of the year was dedicated almost exclusively to a pair of new releases, and well worth it!
A couple of months after starting F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon in an effort to play something spooky around Halloween, my experience with the series is now complete. Although I’d always wanted to play that game, I didn’t think finally doing so would take me down the rabbit hole of playing every entry. But here we are. F.E.A.R. 3 brought the series to a close with the return of the Point Man, his evil brother Paxton Fettel, and their strained relationship with Alma Wade. The shifting trend of the series, to a more action-orientated horror affair reached its culmination with new gameplay mechanics, which made this the most enjoyable entry. Continue reading F.E.A.R. 3 [Xbox 360] – Review→
With F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, I thought Monolith Productions developed a sequel that was more focused on action than horror. It was a fine game, and enjoyable for many reasons, but I still found it somewhat disappointing compared to the original. Unsurprisingly, the expansion F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn continued down this path. Released on September 3, 2009, roughly seven months after the base game, Reborn had a novel premise but was too brief to serve as anything other than a narrative introduction to F.E.A.R. 3.
Instead of controlling the Point Man, or another member of F.E.A.R., I was actually put in the shoes of Foxtrot 813, a Replica soldier. This offered a unique perspective since the Replica soldiers were one of a few groups of “bad guys” I had faced off against. With a runtime of about an hour though, there wasn’t much time to explore this role reversal. On a routine mission, Foxtrot 813 was telepathically coerced by Paxton Fettel to turn on his squad. Fettel, of course, was one of Alma’s offspring and an antagonist from the first game. He didn’t really feature in the second game, but following his commands, Foxtrot 813 eventually made it to his puppet master. Fettel then assumed Foxtrot’s body and was, ahem, reborn.
There were many differences between the first and second entries in the series, but one I failed to mention in my previous review is the way gunplay was handled. It was an FPS released in the wake of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and it showed, specifically when aiming down a gun’s sights. Pulling the right trigger to look down the sights with an enemy in the vicinity locked me onto that enemy, quickly and efficiently. This allowed for more precise gunplay, but offset with limited aiming speed adjustments and the plodding movement speed of my avatar, I couldn’t fine tune the controls to find a sweet spot that felt “right.” I made due, continuing to fiddle with the controls every now and then, but to no avail.
Between F.E.A.R. 2’s insane ending, Fettel’s appearance, and Alma’s attempts to prevent his return, I’m interested to see what happens in F.E.A.R. 3, the final installment in the series. Reborn, while offering a novel role reversal, brought little else of note to the series. The brief campaign had new environments and some exciting gunfights but was merely a proper explanation of Fettel’s return. At ten bucks, it’s hard to recommend to anyone other than zealous fans or achievement hunters.
As I engaged with allies, enemies, and explored the first few missions of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, I couldn’t get over how good it looked. The visual detail present in character models and environments floored me. It was a remarkable improvement over F.E.A.R. and its two expansions, which released upwards of three-and-a-half years prior. Monolith Productions developed the first game during a transition period between console generations, while this entry was put together firmly within one, and it showed. That further familiarity with development tools and the platforms of release resulted in visual improvements isn’t surprising, however. But, personally it was a reminder of how good games of the previous generation could look, and how much improvement had been made in just a few years. Continue reading F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin [Xbox 360]- Review→