Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Cut (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’d read in a lot of places, and the screenshots didn’t help, that Q.U.B.E. was a poor man’s Portal. Aside from the first person view and the clinical environments, it really isn’t. Mainly because there aren’t any portals, and so the puzzles rely on other quirks instead. Mainly, making use of coloured shapes that do various things – extend, act as a trampoline, create blocks, and so on. You do this to hit switches, move cables, or direct balls, and after each section of the game (of which there are seven) new elements are added, such as being able to rotate parts of the room or direct lasers.

OK, so it’s still a little bit like Portal.

Apparently for the Director’s Cut, they added a story. I’m assuming this is the one sided conversations you listen to on your radio in the game, and if so, before they added them it would have been a very quiet, rather pointless affair. The plot is that you are on some sort of spacecraft made of cubes, and by simply solving puzzles which exist for some reason, you’re destroying the spacecraft. Which is on a collision course with Earth or something. A woman tells you who you are (you’re conveniently suffering from amnesia) and praises you, but then you start getting messages from someone else who says this woman is a liar and you’re going to die. Who do you trust?! (Spoiler: you have no say in the matter).

Anyway, it’s not too difficult (although I did accidentally pass a few of the puzzles without realising), and certainly I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s a classic or anything.

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Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

I was 100% certain I’d played the original game before. I can clearly remember some parts of the game, some of the puzzles and characters, some of the events from when I originally had it on my Amiga. So imagine my surprise that I actually recognised very little of the game at all, and it turns out there never was an Amiga version. So why did I have the bowl, Bart?

Even more confusing, is how now that I’ve established I haven’t played it before, I remembered the solutions to some of the puzzles and part of the ended. Which is even more baffling as I know I’ve definitely never completed it.

Anyway. In a sort of reverse comparison, I’m going to mention The Secret of Woolley Mountain here as I’d compared that to Day of the Tentacle erroneously so it only seems fair to do the reverse now. In it’s favour, DOTT has much higher production values, but then you’d expect that as it also had way more staff and money. The graphics in particular have moved away from the functional style of the original Maniac Mansion to some really very good cartoon characters and backdrops. Sure, some of this is down to it all being HD and not pixelated like the non-remastered DOTT, but it’s still a world away. The voice acting is pretty good too.

However, as I mentioned in my Woolley Mountain post, the puzzles in these older point and click games are often a bit obscure. They’re not as bad in Day of the Tentacle as they are in Maniac Mansion or something like Grim Fandango, but some are obtuse. Take the use of “Booboo B Gone”, which is suggested by the name it’s some sort of cream or ointment for cuts and bruises rather than actually being Tippex. How you use it on a cat is then also a bit of a reach even knowing that.

That said, it’s well put together, hasn’t aged at all, and was a lot of fun. And very funny, of course.

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Sparkle 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Sparkle 2, or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Zuma” was a free PS+ rental that I’ve been playing off and on for a few months. It’s not taxing, it’s not hard, but it is fun in the same way Zuma was. It’s just 91 levels of shooting balls at other balls, but it does it well enough and I enjoyed it. Not sure what else there is to say about it, really.

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Iconoclasts (PS4): COMPLETED!

This is something I’d had my eye on for a while (nice looking pixel Metroidvania, so of course I have), and then, just when I was thinking about actually buying it a little while back, it popped up on PS+. Normally, that means it won’t get played at all, but since I’m letting my PS+ subscription expire (it’s just not worth the money now they’ve halved the number of games per month) I decided to give it a go before I can’t play it any more.

And it’s really good! It has interesting game mechanics, not least the literal mechanics of being an actual mechanic with a big wrench, looks wonderful, has a strange but enjoyable story, and is just a lot of fun to jump around in. And that’s the important thing in this sort of game – it has to be a lot of fun to jump around.

Also a big plus, is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as Hollow Knight. Sure, I love that game but it’s punishingly hard. Much too hard. So hard it’s verging on torture rather than enjoyment. But this is possible for mere mortals! It’s true that some bosses took a few attempts, but other than that, it was pretty easy and a lot more fun for that.

Aside from that “hide and seek” boss, of course. That was pants.

Anyway, here’s me playing it all:

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Iconoclasts (PS4): COMPLETED!

This is something I’d had my eye on for a while (nice looking pixel Metroidvania, so of course I have), and then, just when I was thinking about actually buying it a little while back, it popped up on PS+. Normally, that means it won’t get played at all, but since I’m letting my PS+ subscription expire (it’s just not worth the money now they’ve halved the number of games per month) I decided to give it a go before I can’t play it any more.

And it’s really good! It has interesting game mechanics, not least the literal mechanics of being an actual mechanic with a big wrench, looks wonderful, has a strange but enjoyable story, and is just a lot of fun to jump around in. And that’s the important thing in this sort of game – it has to be a lot of fun to jump around.

Also a big plus, is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as Hollow Knight. Sure, I love that game but it’s punishingly hard. Much too hard. So hard it’s verging on torture rather than enjoyment. But this is possible for mere mortals! It’s true that some bosses took a few attempts, but other than that, it was pretty easy and a lot more fun for that.

Aside from that “hide and seek” boss, of course. That was pants.

Anyway, here’s me playing it all:

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King Oddball (Vita): COMPLETED

Imagine a cross between Peggle and Angry Birds. You can’t? Well just play King Oddball instead.

The aim (ha!) is to chuck rocks at tanks and helicopters, so as to destroy them all. Of course, there are more things to blow up than you have rocks, so you need to rebound them or make use of other objects to drop on them instead. If you manage to bounce a rock back at your head, or hit one than three baddies in one throw, you get a bonus rock.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s some variety in levels, with different layouts, and sometimes tanks need two hits rather than one, but very few are taxing and those that are can mostly be fluked. Still, it was enjoyable in a Peggle-y sort of way.

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Burly Men At Sea (Vita): COMPLETED!

I was going to buy this for the Switch on a number of occasions, but never got round to it. And then it appeared on PS+. My Vita came out of retirement, and after twice as long updating it as it took to play the game, I’d completed it.

And then completed it again. And again. And again.

You see, this story about four bearded sailor brothers is somewhat short, but that’s only part of the point. At various points in the story you can make a choice (although it isn’t always obvious there is a choice!) and the story takes a new direction. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll end up back at the start ready to begin a slightly different adventure.

I really love the art style, and the text is humourous. There isn’t much in the way of puzzling or gameplay of any kind, really, but it’s an enjoyable set of sea tales nonetheless.

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Yakuza 5 (PS3): COMPLETED!

I know it has been some time since I completed Yakuza 4, but I’d forgotten just how bonkers it was. Playing through Yakuza 5 reminded me, but then took it further. So much further. Warning: very minor spoilers follow, although I’ve avoided any details.

For a game which is essentially a man punching game with some city exploration, the amount of time you can spend not punching men is astounding. Within minutes of starting out, I’d already found a Sega Club in which I then collected every item from all the UFO Catchers, played a few rounds of Virtua Fighter, and then had a go on Taiko Drum Master because why not. Bad things are going down? Pff.

Eventually, I took Kiryu off to progress the story and then was sidetracked again with noodle making mini-games and street racing. When I tired of the side-quests and managed to push on properly, I found the gritty violence and twisting story somewhat at odds with the whimsy of the rest. That’s the Yakuza way, though. Finding out why the Tojo Clan chairman had vanished, and what treachery was involved, peppered with giving a TV chef a gastronomic tour of the city. Of course.

After Kiryu it was time to take control of Saejima who briefly pottered around Kamurocho before giving himself up to the police and getting sent to jail. What felt like a retread of his story in the previous game soon morphed into Monster Hunter. I’m not even joking. Sure, it’s foxes and bears not dinosaurs and dragons, but it felt and sounded so much like Capcom’s series it absolutely had to be intentional. Now with a prison-issued crew cut instead of his long sweaty locks, Saejima has to try and find out who killed Goro Majima – his sworn brother and long-standing Yakuza series character. Or is he really dead? Before it’s clear it’s time to genre swap again…

To Haruka. Kiryu’s adopted daughter is now All Grown Up ((C) Daily Mail) and about to break into showbiz in that legitimate Japanese stereotype – the teen girl idol. Yep, Haruka’s story mostly involves rhythm action style dancing and singing, with street dance battles replacing the “hey guy nice clothes I’m going to fight you” fracas the other characters endure. When things turn upside-down, everyone’s favourite plum-suited moneylender Akiyama steps in, as he’s money invested in (unknown to him) Haruka’s future success. He doesn’t get a full story of his own, having to share Part 3, but he breaks up the dancing nicely.

After discovering some of What Went Down at Haruka’s talent agency, the next part of the game focusses on Shinada. He’s a new playable character, as washed up ex-baseball pro with a cashflow problem. Although he’s quite likeable himself, his story is dull as anything (being baseball linked doesn’t really help) and I couldn’t gel with his fighting style either. His plot involves his loan shark (Takasugi – who is a great character), and finding out what really happened 15 years ago when Shinada was kicked out of baseball for cheating.

The final chapter, as expected, brings everyone together and eventually explains how all their individual stories are just small parts of some massive plan to, well, that’s a spoiler. There’s twist after twist after twist along the way there, though. Imagine an episode of Scooby Doo, only after taking the mask off the monster it just reveals another mask and another under that. Then another. There’s even the now traditional finale atop the tower in Kamurocho, only it’s not because there’s another twist.

In all, it’s Yakuza. The serious organised crimelords at war juxtaposed with singing contests and taxi driving. Men in suits executing other men in suits alongside baseball practise and playing darts. Punching a huge beast of a man who just won’t stay down followed by a drink with a pretty lady in a hostess club. It’s ridiculous.

And it’s the best. Sure, there are a few slight plot holes. A couple of MacGuffins. A sometimes problematic camera and invisible walls a-plenty. There’s asset reuse, occasionally wonky animation, and product placement everywhere but none of it matters. It’s a great story with a weighty game attached, and sure – I can’t understand most of the words, but the voice acting is *kisses fingers*. Will I be playing more Yakuza games? はい、そうです。

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Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

What a fun puzzle game this turned out to be. It was a free PS+ rental and I only really started it on a whim, but it ended up being actually quite enjoyable.

Click to view slideshow.

I’ve still a fair amount left to do, in terms of side missions and collecting more stars, but the main levels are done and so is the story, such that it is (basically I got pizza, it seems).

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Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

What a fun puzzle game this turned out to be. It was a free PS+ rental and I only really started it on a whim, but it ended up being actually quite enjoyable.

Click to view slideshow.

I’ve still a fair amount left to do, in terms of side missions and collecting more stars, but the main levels are done and so is the story, such that it is (basically I got pizza, it seems).

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