The Unfinished Swan (PS3): COMPLETED!

That was both different to, and shorter than, I was expecting. I’ll admit, I’d not read much about The Unfinished Swan, so knew very little outside of “you throw paint on walls”. Turns out that’s just the first ten minutes of the game and the entirely white walls/floor/everything premise is mostly ditched afterwards.

Instead, you get water to spray around, vines to grow, dark areas to brighten, blocks to build, and so on. It’s surprisingly varied with each particular skill lasting only ten or fifteen minutes before you move onto the next one. Yeah, I was done in 90 minutes. I was expecting at least another hour.

Not that there was anything wrong with that length of game, of course. It’s full of more cleverness than most 20+ hour games, and the story, which is fairytale in nature, is good. The reveal at the end was quite unexpected too.

Hohokum (PS3): COMPLETED!

tumblr_no2q32unk11svmpf2o1_1280I suppose, technically, this is a half Vita, half PS3 completion as I played it a bit on each platform (it’s cross save, you see), but since I reached the end of the game on the PS3, it gets the attention. Sorry Vita.

tumblr_no2q0ytz1v1svmpf2o1_1280How to describe Hohokum, then. You are a snake who has lost all his snake friends (all with incredible names) across various bizarre and surreal areas, each filled with things to trigger and puzzles to solve, and all with a strange fascination with eyes. Sometimes you have to bump past things in order, or carry creatures to something, or find all the… things… or make everything dance, sing, fly away, disappear, combine or burst. Do all these things, and you might (you often can’t tell) find a snake. Or open a new door. Or something funny, strange or baffling happens which doesn’t actually further the game.

There’s rarely any way of knowing what to do until you’ve experimented, driven your flying snake past, round or into everything. I’m certain several “levels” (they’re just locations really, rather than levels) were only completed or past entirely by accident and a few of them just triggered the “win” without me realising I’d actually done anything.

tumblr_no2q2qmyjs1svmpf2o1_1280The vagueness doesn’t matter, though. Every event is like some clever or cute little story, a comic strip of events. There’s no communication or exposition, past the odd cave drawing or carefully arranged pile of rocks, but some of the creatures you encounter are full of character, and their actions and noises tell a brief tale. For example, in an area full of white circles, you find that flying over them makes then burst into colour. On a sort of island in the middle of this is a sort of man stood next to what appear to be four slots. You can pick the man up, and the slots change colour, prompting you to ferry the man around so he can scoop up the smaller circles of the colours shown. Take him home with his collected ingredients, and he feeds each disc into a slot, which causes his machine to create a colourful and ridiculous hat for another man. All nonsense.

tumblr_no2q2adukd1svmpf2o1_1280It’s an odd game of whimsy and art, with situations that can only come from the head of a person with kangaroos in the top paddock. Mostly it works, but sometimes you are totally lost, not knowing if you’re actually making any difference or working towards a goal. Even the odd “Saving” icon that appears doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something – often you’ve merely accidentally triggered one of the 150-odd hidden eyes in the game that don’t appear to serve a purpose. On one screen there is a massive circle made up of hundreds of smaller circles. If you fly over them, they vanish. Was I supposed to get rid of all of them? Surely not. That would take ages! Twenty minutes, in fact. But yes – you had to get rid of them all.

Despite that, and the fact you often can’t tell if there’s even anything in a particular area you need to do, let alone must do because there’s a hidden snake, it’s a fun, relaxing and incredibly pretty game. It’s just very weird and abstract, but in a much better way than, say, Proteus, or the Mega CD game Panic! (which for some reason this reminds me of) is. You can’t die, you can’t run out of time, and even when you make a mistake you’re not penalised. It’s just a bit baffling that someone came up with it at all, really.

 

Yakuza 4 (PS3): COMPLETED!

Wow. Somehow, the plot just got better and better. So many twists, turns, betrayals, reverse-betrayals, reveals, surprises and revelations. Most of them in the last two hours. Two hours of mainly cutscenes, I noticed.

In the lead up to the finale, Kiryu joins up with Tanimura, Akiyama and Saejima as they all realise they have a common enemy and goal. Of course, they’re not entirely sure who the enemy is, so they set a trap to lure him out. Or them. Spoilers!

The final chapter was all exposition, bar the obligatory boss fight(s), but I didn’t find them too hard. What was helpful, was that I’d stumbled across Naomi’s Place (again – Tanimura goes there in his part of the game), and some weird buy in a clown suit, called Bob, gave me loads of really useful items – weapons, armour, healing drinks, and so on. I went into the endgame well prepared, and soon beat those I needed to, leaving a lengthy set of videos, credits, and more videos.

In all, it took about 22 hours. I’ve obviously not done much in the way of sidequests or activities though, as my stats show my completion rate at just 12.78%. That’s barely started!

Hopefully Yakuza 5 will be out here sooner rather than later now, although that said it took me over three years to get round to Yakuza 4 after Yakuza 3, despite saying I wanted to play 4 right after 3. Maybe when it’s cheap then…

Things I’ve been playing recently

Roundup!

Mega Man 7 (Wii U)

Precious_memoriesIt’s been a few months since I started Mega Man 7. I think, after ploughing through Mega Mans 1-6 I may have had a bit of Mega Man burnout, and I was a bit disappointed with 7 anyway as it didn’t feel right. Anyway, I’m back on it now and have taken down the first lot of four Robot Masters. I’m enjoying it, and it does feel more like the NES games than it did a few months ago. Perhaps I just needed to give it some time?

StreetPass Zombies (3DS)

Nintendo released two more StreetPass games! In this one, your passes equate to weapons that you use to see off the (cute, Nintendofied, egg-headed) zombie hordes. It’s a lot of fun, and actually quite difficult.

StreetPass Fishing (3DS)

And this is the other game. Passes translate as different bait types which you use to catch different fish. There’s a sort of RPG element as you can level up and improve your rod (and get other rods), and a lot of “gotta catch ’em all” with the fish. Really enjoyable.

Pokémon Rumble World (3DS)

tumblr_nmxy9tydoi1svmpf2o1_400Another Free-to-Play Pokeymuns game from Nintendo, this time based on (read: almost exactly the same as) the Pokémon Rumble series, which despite being repetitive, I’ve had fun with in the past. This one has a real money mechanic where you can only attempt so many levels before your hot air balloon mode of transport deflates, and you have to wait or use jewels to re-inflate it. And jewels cost money. I’m open minded though – Pokémon Shuffle had jewels too and gave away so many for free it was unnecessary to buy any.

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

I’ve progressed a little further, moving onto Kiryu’s part of the story. Another incredibly unlikely coincidence occurs (another character washes up on Kiryu’s doorstep) and then another (Kiryu goes to the police station and happens to bump into “Lily”), and then some fighting. I’ll just say this: that head prison officer bloke from Saejima’s prison is pretty much immortal, isn’t he? No mere man can be smashed to pieces that many times and not only survive, but actually come back stronger!

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! (Wii U)

Food_is_where_the_hearts_are_A few more levels finished on this in co-op. It’s a bit shallow, but is essentially Gauntlet, so I’ll let it go. The only real annoyance that I have, is that you can only quit the dungeon and save the game every five levels, meaning you really don’t want to die in that time or you have to do it all again.

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

WarioooooooooooooThe new tracks that were available this week are fantastic. Ribbon Road, in particular, goes way above a simple reimagining of the original GBA track by being probably the best looking part of any game ever made ever. Ever. I’ve not unlocked the new 200cc mode yet, so had to put in a bit of work to do that by improving my scores on some of single player mode. Never a chore, mind.

Bernband (Mac)

Screen_Shot_2015-04-12_at_14.51.37Technically, I’ve completed this. I’m not recording it as completed though, as there’s no real goal – you just explore a purposefully low-res alien city, see the sights and hear the sounds, and that’s it. There’s not even all that much to see, and I took the lot in in well under an hour. There’s no interaction, nothing to collect, no items to collect or anything like that. Still, it was funny and absolutely well worth a wander around. Download it for free here.

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

I’d not touched Yakuza 4 for a month or so, because various other games happened, but I’ve been playing it quite a bit in the last week or so and have been making a lot of progress.

Unlike Yakuza 3, you have more than one protagonist. So far, I’ve played as Akiyama – the ethical loan-shark who owns a hostess club – and kicked a lot of people in the face. Akiyama doesn’t go in for punches that much, it seems. Most of his story centres around protecting “Lily”, who he loans a massive sum of money to, and for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense, training her up as a hostess. All while trying to track down a guy who murdered another guy outside his office, and collecting locker keys.

After him, I played as Saejima – a prisoner on death row who escapes and tries to find out why his partner didn’t turn up for the murder spree 25 years ago that he got sent down for. As he escapes (plunging into the sea, injured), he’s told to find Kiryu, and in the most ridiculous turn of events ever, somehow literally washes up on Kiryu’s actual doorstep. He heads to Kamurocho to find ex-brother Majima, and along the way he helps two poorly cats, takes part in a  fight to the death (in which neither combatant dies), spends far too much time at a massage parlour, and hangs around with homeless people in the sewers a lot. And goes bowling. And collects locker keys.

Currently, I’m playing a slightly bent cop Tanimura who is also trying to protect “Lily” (who turns out to be Saejima’s sister) because she knows something about why his dad, a detective, was murdered in relation to Saejima’s crimes, while both protecting illegal immigrants and taking “look the other way” money from their employers. While doing his police duties and additional vigilante work. And fighting random people, carrying “Lily”‘s money about in a steel briefcase and smacking a lot of Yakuza in the face with it. And collecting locker keys.

And that’s where I’m up to. I’ve just saved Tanimura’s Asian chums in Homeland from Katsuragi’s goons, and some police chief has turned up and wants a chat.

Basically, it’s quite complicated.

Things I’ve been playing recently

Roundup time!

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

It’s been a while since I played Yakuza 3. I did really enjoy it, but never got round to picking up Yakuza 4, probably because it was a PS3 game and I don’t really like playing PS3 games, however good they are. However, for reasons I won’t explain, I got a PS+ subscription and with it came Yakuza 4.

I’m a few hours in, and have spent most of the game so far watching cut scenes, playing with UFO Catchers, opening lockers, and buying clothes for girls. And a few fights, but not many. It’s good, but so far it seems to just be Yakuza 3 with a new story and no mobile phone camera. The asset reuse is high with this one.

tumblr_nl4ekp2aky1svmpf2o1_4003D Shinobi III (3DS)

When 3D Outrun was released this week, a few older 3D ports were reduced in price. I picked up Altered Beast (I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry) and Shinobi III. I was pretty sure I’d played Shinobi III before, but it appears not. I don’t recognise any of the levels so far, aside from seeing screenshots in magazines. It’s great, and not as hard as I was expecting (Revenge of Shinobi was virtually impossible, I seem to recall). The levels disjointedly follow on from each other with no obvious link, but that’s par for the course for games of this age, I suppose. I’m only a few levels in, but really enjoying it so far.

Pokémon Shuffle (3DS)

Still playing this off and on. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve completed the game, but I do return to have a few goes at the special stages or to try and capture a few missed pokeymens.

tumblr_nkwzzkxtr71svmpf2o1_1280The Swapper (Vita)

I’m not sure if I’m enjoying this. I sort of like the setting, but the way you generate clones and can transfer into them feels slightly too vague to control. Also, some of the puzzles are such that completing them feels like you’ve kludged it or brute forced it rather than actually found a solution. I also don’t like how you have to turn your man around by using the on-screen pointer rather than just pressing the opposite direction like in almost every other game ever. Still, it’s a free PS+ rental so I’m not too bothered if I don’t play it again, although I suspect I will.

How_do_I_get_up_to_the_chains__t_httpt.cobVSTh02HMeCastlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum)

Someone made a Castlevania game for the Spectrum. Oh my. And not only that, but it’s polished to within an inch of its life, it plays flawlessly, looks fantastic, and even – somehow – fits into the normal Castlevania timeline. At least, until Konami rebooted it with Lords of Shadow, anyway. I’ve beaten two bosses, collected the double-jump artifact, and am generally loving it.

Various Crap Games (Spectrum)

Somehow I have become involved in the comp.sys.sinclair Crap Games Competition again. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, as I’m having to play some terrible, terrible games. Intentionally terrible games too. I think they’re driving me a little bit mad. Take a look here.

Papo & Yo (PS3): COMPLETED!

I renewed my PS+ subscription and upgraded my (full) PS3 hard drive, so picked this up for a rental. Thought I’d give it a try as I’d heard good things, but had no idea what it was about or the type of game it was.

As it turned out, it was a sort of platform puzzler where the events of the game are actually some sort of dream (or something) metaphor, where the main character has what appears to be an alcoholic father who has killed someone by running them over. Or something. That’s what it seemed to me, anyway.

It’s set in what appears to be a deserted Rio de Janeiro shanty town, with chalk cogs, keys and other items that you can activate to open areas, move buildings and make other absurd things happen. Your dad is seen as a lazy, but benign monster, who you convince to move around by tempting him with coconuts, and using his fat belly as a trampoline when he falls asleep.

Sometimes, the puzzles will involve giant frogs, which you can pick up and throw against walls to get rid of them. Or let the monster eat them which will cause him to turn into a flaming demon who hunts you down and flings you round like a ragdoll. The frogs are obviously a metaphor for drink, you see.

None of the puzzles were especially difficult, but some were a bit frustrating due to the difficulty of making some of the platforming jumps. Could I not quite make the jump because I was doing it wrong, or was it that I shouldn’t be able to make the jump and I need to find a different route? It wasn’t always clear. Some platforms which appear to be reachable are actually behind an invisible wall, and twice I fell down between two walls and was unable to escape. There was a puzzle early on which stumped me, because somehow not enough coconuts had spawned, so the monster wouldn’t go to sleep. Reloading fixed it though.

Papo & Yo was a short game, clocking in at under three hours, but was interesting and arty. In many ways, it reminded me of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It’s definitely worth a play, but you need to ignore some of the roughness and dodgy collision detection. Thankfully they don’t detract too much from the experience. Might want to bring some tissues with you, though.

Destiny! Destiny!

There is no escape for me!

 

Anyway, I caved and bought a next-gen console (in addition to the Wii-U -.-). Usually, I need a critical mass of games I really want before I’ll splurge on a console, and I never got there with the PS3. So far, though, must haves on the PS4 for me are Shadows of Mordor, No Man’s Sky, The Evil Within, Alien Isolation, Silent Hills, The Last of Us Remastered and, of course, Destiny.

So, I’m about a week in and I’m in love with the game. I can see where the next-gen-ness comes from. Not just the graphics (although ultra-pretty, ultra-smooth-framerate and huuuuuge draw distance is nice) but in the AI. The enemies are just fecking sneaky. The game itself is all kinds of awesome and is constantly surprising me with just how huge it is. It’s ticking all the right boxes for me, especially in the “if you can see it you can go there” stakes.

So, in short, very happy. Currently running a warlock at level 14 and getting more engrossed every day.

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD (PS3): COMPLETED!

It seemed very hurried towards the end. Years were skipped. Very little story exposition happened. Events just occurred in quick succession, and I realised how linear this Assassin’s Creed game actually was.

I’d started to suspect a twist at the end, and by the end of Sequence 7-ish I’d realised what it was. The ending threw me, until (spoiler), and the Citizen E thing happened.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad game, but it’s probably the worst Assassin’s Creed title in a long while. Even without the boats. It’s just a shame that it was so short, so linear, and so disjointed, as the actual assassining was enjoyable. The PS3 pad didn’t help either, I suppose.

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD (PS3)

On the PS3, you say? Am I mad, you ask? Yes, and possibly yes. In my defence, I had a load of PSN credit and it was on sale. And I’d been playing and enjoying Assassin’s Creed IV. So it made a bit of sense.

Currently, I’m about half way through the game (just returned from Mexico, for those in the know), and I’ve noticed that the game seems about half finished. No, those are two different things. What I mean is, it’s ugly and broken and they forgot to include a load of stuff. Missions are disjointed, with little reason or backstory (bar the odd loading screen info box). There are so many bugs where events don’t trigger or targets vanish completely, making progression impossible and a reload necessary. The graphics are muddy and blurry, like this is a Wii version of an Xbox 360 game.

Yes, I know it’s a port of a Vita game, but it’s supposedly an enhanced port with HD graphics. What they seem to have done is upscaled everything and applied a blur filter. Aveline’s three personas are unnecessary and stupid, and making one of her first missions literally a trip to buy a dress from a shop? Team AC don’t like women, do they?

Still, there aren’t any boat bits (well, no driving boats anyway, unless a canoe counts) and I love the modified return of the rope darts. I can’t really cope with the PS3 pad though, especially QTEs (this is not a new issue for me, though) and holding up on the stick for more than three seconds physically hurts. I’ll be glad when it’s all over, frankly.