Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s a perfectly good sneaky-stabby 2.5D platformer. On the other hand, it’s a terribly disappointing Assassin’s Creed game with a feeble story that weakly continues on from Ezio’s trilogy.

Initially, it feels a lot like the original 2D Prince of Persia game with obvious technical improvements. The more I played it, however, I realised it was really much closer to the Shinobi game on the Nintendo 3DS, only with a bit more emphasis on staying hidden rather than killing everything.

There’s nothing actually wrong with the game, aside from a couple of “endless runner” sections with their trial and error flaws, but it’s not good enough to make me want to play through the other two games in the series (India and Russia). I’m impressed that not being fully 3D worked a lot better than I was expecting, however.

The final boss was rubbish though. After a couple of proper boss fights with Prince of Persia style swordplay – parrying and stuff – you literally just walk up behind him and press a button. Oh, spoilers, sorry.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4): COMPLETED!

I have said before that I’m not a big fan of first person shooters. I’m not totally against them, and there are many I have enjoyed over the years, but they’re largely ignored. Wolfenstein: The New Order, however, has a plot that interested me, got praise from a lot of people (some of whom also wouldn’t normally play FPS games), and is a followup to the original Wolfenstein 3D from way back when – which I really liked.

Then, thanks to cheap credit and offers, I picked it up for less than two quid on PSN. Definitely worth a go, right? And oh god yes. It’s brilliant.

Like the original (and probably the sequels and reboots since that have passed me by), you play as virtually indestructible soldier BJ Blazkowicz. A man who shrugs off gunshot wounds and being stabbed, and is capable of carrying round several tonnes of heavy weaponry at all times. The game opens in 1946 as you and your allies attempt to storm Deathshead’s castle, but things don’t go well and BJ ends up with shrapnel in his brain following an explosion. He’s treated in a Polish mental asylum for 14 years, drifting in and out of conciousness, until the Nazis come and shut the place down (and kill nearly everyone) where he “awakens” and escapes.

So begins the game properly, with BJ in 1960 trying to find the last remnants of the allied resistance, and then helping them strike back at the Nazis – and ultimately Deathshead himself. It might have an alternate history premise, but the plot is utterly insane. The resistance are hidden under a fountain in Berlin itself. There’s a guy tainting the Nazi “super concrete” (that they built all their cities with after the war), who is some sort of Jewish sage with the key to an ancient store of advanced technology (some of which the Nazis have already made use of – hence winning the war). The store? Under the sea, of course. So BJ has to steal a U-Boat, by hiding in a torpedo.

And then he goes into space.

Look, it all makes sense in the game, but the important thing is that as mad as the story gets, the gameplay is just perfect. It’s not all shooting Nazis with increasingly bigger guns, although that’s obviously a big part. There’s stealthy bits, fences to laser through, items to find, and completely over the top set pieces. Car chases, mechs, bits where you’re stripped of all your weapons. It never gets dull.

My only complaints would be that ammo seems to run out far too quickly, and there are a couple of sections (one on the bridge in particular) which are inordinately harder than the rest of the game. But that said, it’s still fantastic and I’ve the prequel – The Old Blood – lined up in preparation already.

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What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4): COMPLETED!

Spoiler free bit:

Firstly, there are some great toilets in the game. I feel that needs to be said because although there was an inevitability I’d buy the game anyway, I was tipped off about them and it just made me want it more. One of them even features in a most unusual way. More of this sort of thing.

What Remains of Edith Finch tells the story of Edith Finch, returning to a really quirky house where she used to live, after the death of her mother prompts her to discover “family secrets”. The main one being the open secret that the entire Finch clan seems to be cursed and everyone died in unusual circumstances, leaving Edith the last of the line.

It plays out as a narrative discovery experience, and feels a lot like Gone Home and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. There’s no actual paranormal stuff, like in Ethan Carter, but there’s more mystery than the story and house in Gone Home, so it fits somewhere between the two.

As you explore the house that you’d lived in for years but was never able to freely roam (as relatives died, their rooms were sealed off), how each person died is revealed and some of the mystery surrounding them explained. Edith discovers the conflict between Edie (her great-grandmother, Finch matriarch and oldest surviving member of the family) wishing to embrace the family “curse”, and her mother wanting to hide it from Edith and leave the house which she believed would save them.

Gameplay is sparse as you’d expect from this genre of game, with little more than operating handles and latches. As you read messages left by your relatives before they died, or letters, poems or even comics written about them, parts of their stories play out. It’s here where more control is given, such as chasing a bird, swimming in a bath, or flying a kite.

It’s only a couple of hours long, but Edith Finch is interesting. I didn’t get answers to every question (and seem to have missed how Dawn and Sanjay died completely), but perhaps that’s not the point.

Spoilery bit:

I’ve a complete playthrough video somewhere but Twitch seems to have eaten it. Never mind.

I just wanted to make some additional comments that you really shouldn’t read until you’ve played the game yourself. So if you haven’t, look away now!

The main thing I wanted closure on, was Milton. Like Walter, he just “disappeared”, but whereas Walter’s somewhat bizarre life was eventually revealed, complete with his ironic death, Milton’s never was. Even his gravestone only actually shows his birth. When you enter his room, and it shows his flickbook, it seems to imply he painted a door, went inside, and disappeared. There’s even a painted door in the room.

Of course, this would mean some sort of magical or supernatural element is needed, and although this is implied a few times, it’s possible to explain all of the deaths rationally as just accidents. Aside from Lewis’ mental health effectively causing suicide and Barbara’s apparent murder, anyway. There’s no curse as such, just a lot of terrible coincidences. Isn’t there?

Also: What was moving in the garage at the beginning? That was never explained.

Finally, a point about Edith herself. Her “arm warmers” change from the opening on the boat to when she arrives on the island, so it’s clear she’s someone else. Very early on it’s obvious she’s pregnant, but it would have been nice for this to have not been made quite so clear before the “reveal” at the end. About an hour into the game she even narrates she’s 22 weeks pregnant. As an aside to this, the whole game is her son reading her journal in which she reads other journals or notes which then play out. It’s a bit… Inception.

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 3 (PS4): COMPLETED!

I can’t say much here, because even some of the basic plot points are massive spoilers.

What I can say, is that oh my did the story twist and turn there. Everything I thought I knew was wrong, and then that was even more wrong.

And that’s the story done. Some parts don’t quite fit with how Rachel was portrayed in the first game (she was much more… promiscuous there than she seemed here), but how close she and Chloe became makes that scene in the original even more horrible.

On the whole, it was a great game. I wish, in a way, that it actually came before the first game rather than be released afterwards. I know that was never going to happen, but my suggestion to people who haven’t played either is to play this first. Why? Because the first game builds on this one rather than the other way round. It’s deeper, more important, more epic, and you’d gain a time travel power rather than feel you’ve lost one.

There’s another chapter coming soon – with Max in it – and I’m looking forward to that, especially to see how it fits in with the rest now. I think it’s supposed to be set before Max moves away? We’ll see.

Here’s the massively spoilerly playthrough, if you’re interested:

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 3 (PS4): COMPLETED!

I can’t say much here, because even some of the basic plot points are massive spoilers.

What I can say, is that oh my did the story twist and turn there. Everything I thought I knew was wrong, and then that was even more wrong.

And that’s the story done. Some parts don’t quite fit with how Rachel was portrayed in the first game (she was much more… promiscuous there than she seemed here), but how close she and Chloe became makes that scene in the original even more horrible.

On the whole, it was a great game. I wish, in a way, that it actually came before the first game rather than be released afterwards. I know that was never going to happen, but my suggestion to people who haven’t played either is to play this first. Why? Because the first game builds on this one rather than the other way round. It’s deeper, more important, more epic, and you’d gain a time travel power rather than feel you’ve lost one.

There’s another chapter coming soon – with Max in it – and I’m looking forward to that, especially to see how it fits in with the rest now. I think it’s supposed to be set before Max moves away? We’ll see.

Here’s the massively spoilerly playthrough, if you’re interested:

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Things have ramped up a bit.

OK, so it’s still low-key compared to the original Life is Strange, but the story is compelling now. There’s been a major twist (that I won’t spoil) which although nowhere near the scale of the cliffhangers from the first game, is still a must see.

Chloe and Amber shared a kiss too. I made them. Genuinely, it seemed like the best option, and instead of being pervy or voyeuristic it was really sweet and romantic and lovely. So well done to Deck Nine for dealing with that in that way.

Overall, and there’s another chapter to come next week so things might change (although that’s unlikely), I can’t say Before the Storm lives up to Life is Strange’s legacy yet. There’s not enough to it, it doesn’t have the sci-fi pull, and Chloe’s new actor pulls me out of the game too much (she’s great, but she’s not Chloe). The story, however much “less impressive” than the other one it is, is still excellent though.

Here be spoilers for the playthrough, if you’re interested:

 

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 (PS4): COMPLETED!

A spoiler free, hopefully, entry in my diary here because I know how important no spoilers are in this series. Which is why when I was streaming it I was a bit annoyed to have someone send me a message containing a massive spoiler. Luckily, I didn’t check messages until after I’d passed the reveal but still… why do people do this?

Anyway. I was back in Arcadia Bay! Literally before the storm, but in fact before Max came back and before Rachel Amber disappeared. We know how that ended up, and Chloe didn’t, so I’m not sure where the story is going to go here.

In Episode 1, Chloe and Amber first become friends, but very little of seeming importance happens (bar the spoiler). Chloe goes to school, plays a bit of D&D, skips school, winds up her mum’s boyfriend, stays out late and generally is the embodiment of angst. Without Max’s rewind powers, the game’s gimmick instead involves Chloe’s mouth – she can get her own way by smacktalking people using a mechanic not unlike the fights in Monkey Island. It’s a bit jarring at first but makes sense after a few.

Unfortunately, they’ve replaced Chloe’s voice actress with someone who isn’t bad, but absolutely isn’t Chloe so the whole game feels wrong. The music isn’t a patch on the soundtrack to the original game either, and it was just as important as the story there. There’s also a bug where the HUD is mostly off the screen so can’t be seen, and there’s no way, as far as I can make out, to fix this without buying a new TV.

Thankfully, although it took a while getting there, the story has taken off in Before the Storm and I’m on board for the rest and really want to see how it pans out.

So far then, it’s a B-Team Life is Strange, but I went in pretty much expecting that. If the story stays good, then that’ll be more than enough to justify its existence. Let’s hope so!

Spoilers follow in these two videos showing my playthrough:

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R-Type Dimensions (PS3): COMPLETED!

Well that came out of nowhere and has now gone whence it came very soon afterwards.

R-Type Dimensions is one of this month’s PS+ titles, and since my daughter stole the Switch this evening I thought I’d have a look. And I looked, and played, and completed it.

It’s R-Type, as in, the original arcade game. Only you can press R1 and swap between original graphics and music, and new graphics (a new art type, if you will, oh ho ho ho) and music – much like how you can with the Monkey Island remaster and Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap. As it’s just the original game, it’s short and it’s impossible.

R-Type was always too hard for me to complete, but it’s one of a relatively small number of games in the genre that I enjoy. Thankfully, you get infinite lives here, and I needed over a hundred of them to complete the eight levels. It was fun. Some of the baddies are impossible to hit. And that’s that.

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Virtua Fighter 2 (PSP): COMPLETED!

Sort of prompted by the Virtua Fighter article in the current issue of Retro Gamer, when I opened up Mega Drive Collection for the PSP – on my Vita – I decided to play this.

It’s crap.

No, it’s really pretty awful. The animation is terrible, the controls are unresponsive, and the implementation of the game on the Vita/PSP is woeful, with horrendous slowdown and sound syncing issues.

It looks nice. But then everything moves and you wonder what the hell Sega were thinking when they thought the Mega Drive was a good fit for a Virtua Fighter 2 port. It didn’t have the oomph to push enough polygons, so they rendered the animation frames with sprites instead. Leaving a poorly animated version of the game and awful sprites that are laughable beside Street Fighter II or even Eternal Champions.

I completed it as Jacky, by the way.

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Virtua Fighter 2 (PSP): COMPLETED!

Sort of prompted by the Virtua Fighter article in the current issue of Retro Gamer, when I opened up Mega Drive Collection for the PSP – on my Vita – I decided to play this.

It’s crap.

No, it’s really pretty awful. The animation is terrible, the controls are unresponsive, and the implementation of the game on the Vita/PSP is woeful, with horrendous slowdown and sound syncing issues.

It looks nice. But then everything moves and you wonder what the hell Sega were thinking when they thought the Mega Drive was a good fit for a Virtua Fighter 2 port. It didn’t have the oomph to push enough polygons, so they rendered the animation frames with sprites instead. Leaving a poorly animated version of the game and awful sprites that are laughable beside Street Fighter II or even Eternal Champions.

I completed it as Jacky, by the way.

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