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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Game Play: Alone In The Dark Demo (PS3)

This is almost an exact duplicate of the post I just made.

I really wanted to root for this game, and for the first brilliant five minutes of the demo I was totally rooting for this game. It felt like a tight gameworld that might be capable of telling a story that I was actually feeling like a character within. I kept blinking, and blinking alone made me feel part of the scene - a brilliant use of cinematics and controls. This continues with the walk to the stairwell, and even the "realization" of the third person perspective.

Then it was like I was playing a completely different game. Then I was playing some Resident Evil knockoff (and no, you do not need to email me to remind me that Resident Evil was originally something of a AITD clone). The controls were lousy and when I died it felt like the game was fighting me more than some horrible nightmare in the dark.

What I wonder is - what would this rendition of Alone In The Dark had been if it had stuck to more traditional adventure genre roots? What if the gameplay had followed the first five minutes? The puzzles could have been logic, not twitch, based. What if this game had taken cues from The Seventh Guest more than Resident Evil 4?

Coulda, woulda, whatever. Hopefully other game designers will at least play this title to riff off of, but I don't see myself doing the same.

Game Play: Soul Trapper (iPhone)

I would love to recommend this game. It's basically an audio adventure title, replacing the basics of classic text adventure/Choose Your Own Adventure with audio clips. The writing seems pretty decent, as is the voice acting and the sound effects are really pretty damn good.

The gameplay itself needs another round in the cooker, though. On the second chapter, I was first intrigued by the "heart puzzle", where you are listening to the sound of your heart and try to control by pressing a single button. It's quirky, unique and potentially the kind of immersion that would really sell this kind of story.

Problem was - ten minutes later I'm still just listening to the stupid heart. I had no idea what I was or was not doing correctly. No clue as to how close I was to potentially solving the puzzle. Worse, when I backed out of the chapter - the game forgot I had completed the first chapter. So if I want to get back into the game, I'm starting from scratch (thankfully it was only the second chapter that tripped me up).

The game could benefit from a demo so that players could see if this kind of thing is for them. I appreciate where this game wants to go, but at $7 my experience with it doesn't really lend to a recommendation.

Why Exactly Does Netflix Hate Blu-Ray So Much?

OK, so I already complained about the tax Netflix has levied for renting Blu-Ray movies. They're more expensive, it's more manpower to sort, it requires yada yada yada whatever. Don't care. Paid it.

But why did they have to break the setup on their site? When I first set my account up for Blu-Ray, it offered and then subsequently updated any film in my Popcorn profile to the format. Perfect. Simple and easy. Was happy as a clam.

When the tax hit, they removed all the preferences. Everything reverted to DVD. I tried to update the profile, but was told I had to do it in the master account. I did that, and told the master account to choose Blu-ray over DVD.

Not only did this decision not descend down to the profiles, but the profiles were automatically set to "let me choose the format". Which I could not actually do since there was no dropdown to do just that. So then I went into the profile itself and was now able to tell it to choose Blu-Ray instead of DVD - which it also did not do. Instead, now I got the drop down where I could chose the format - but that format defaults to DVD.

Excuse me - I'm paying extra so that I can have worse service than I was getting for free. Anyone want to send the clue train over to Netflixville? I think it missed the stop.

It does at least now add new movies in Blu-Ray, but still - annoying.

Truly annoying.

Game Play: Fallout 3 First Impressions

I didn't get a lot of time with Bethesda's latest, but I got through the tutorial and (I don't think this exactly constitutes a spoiler) out of the Vault. My impressions so far are almost universally positive, I think everything from the interface to the voice acting feels solid, VATS seems like a great concept for mixing up FPS and RPG style combat, and the world (sorry doubters) feels like Fallout to me.

I know there will always be some dissenting views on it, but just like there were people walking out of Jackson's Lord Of The Rings thinking it just wasn't exactly like the book, sometimes we'll just have to agree to disagree.

I'm willing to guess that this will be Bethesda's best so far, but its still very early in the game for me, so give me a week or so to beat on it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TV Watch: Heroes, Villains

I was not, in general, a fan of this episode.

While I agree with The Girl that seeing past moments interwoven with each it often a pretty neat idea, and in some parts this works pretty well in this episode - the only real meat here feels like the scenes with the Petrelli family. Everything about Sylar just feels a bit surreal and potentially unbelievable. Why would The Company risk keeping him out "in the wild" when their entire reason for being is a deep paranoia about the potential dangers of the superpowered? It kinda undercuts all those "can you imagine letting Generic Example X walk around freely" moments when you know someone was thinking "let's keep psychokiller who steals powers off the hook for a while". It was clearly a forced setup to get more Gabe and Elle time.

It was nice to get more depth on Ma and Pa Petrelli, though, as it gives them some added weight as the prime motivators for the plotline. I would have liked to have know more about the experiments, the "artificial" heroes versus the "naturals" as it were - but I get that they have to save stuff for later.

I do think it's interesting that two of the most overpowered characters are the clinch of the cliffhanger...

Game Play: Mirror's Edge Demo

With NaNo about, I don't have much time for either blogging or gaming, but I thought I'd get a quick note about EA's much anticipated Mirror's Edge based on the brief demo that came out recently.

In short - I found the tutorial portion of the demo to be incredibly frustrating. It's a toss up for me, actually, which was more of a pain in the ass - "balancing" on the stupid pipe or executing the run, turn, kick as specifically as the computer wanted. In the first example, the mechanic just seems insanely poorly tuned - for someone as capable and balanced as Faith seems to be, to fail repeatedly at the task felt like a break in immersion and a ridiculously tedious exercise. In the latter, I kept managing to make it to the point I was going for - only to have the game pull me back because I didn't get there in the prescribed arc or something.

Some redemption kicks in when the story starts up and absolutely - the art design and use of first person perspective is unique and engaging. It's just that that jumping mechanic means that the game is in part at least a first person platformer and brings in some of the weight that genre implies.

I'll have to wait for a full review on this one to see if the "jumping, exploring and fighting" parts outweigh the "stupid balance beam, missed timing and potential jumping puzzles" parts, because as it is I'm not too sure.