Backloggin' Fool BigBlueWolf’s profile

Taking a short hiatus

During the next 4-6 months I’m re-directing more time toward in-person social activities, baking, and board gaming. Also, I got married last month! My partner is a gamer as well but with different interests – mostly sims, RTS and simpler games on tablets. We are still figuring out where to go on a honeymoon. We also are trying to find a larger place than the cramped 2-bedroom we share.

During my hiatus I will be watching the news closely as several titles are rolling out in the near future. In particular I’m eager to see the reviews for Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Cyberpunk 2077.

And I’ve pre-purchased The Last of Us, Part II which comes out in mid-May. ;)


Taking a short hiatus

During the next 4-6 months I’m re-directing more time toward in-person social activities, baking, and board gaming. Also, I got married last month! My partner is a gamer as well but with different interests – mostly sims, RTS and simpler games on tablets. We are still figuring out where to go on a honeymoon. We also are trying to find a larger place than the cramped 2-bedroom we share.

During my hiatus I will be watching the news closely as several titles are rolling out in the near future. In particular I’m eager to see the reviews for Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Cyberpunk 2077.

And I’ve pre-purchased The Last of Us, Part II which comes out in mid-May. ;)

Have fun, everyone!

Batch 28 finished

So this is the last of the Telltale games in my backlog. It’s a shame the studio folded, but I’m glad I’ve finished with their games from my library on such a positive note with the Batman series!

Batman - The Telltale Series

Batman - The Telltale Series

Completed

7.5 hours, 8.5/10
30 of 30 achievements
Telltale Crusader
Beaten: 10-Nov-2019

Well... damn. That was good!

I have to admit going into it I thought I would be underwhelmed. That was put to rest even within the first episode which got things off to a rousing start. Compared to the last entry of The Walking Dead that I played just before this one, Batman has a faster moving and much more exciting plot. And I played the last three episodes in one sitting.

The story focuses early in Batman's career. While definitely not in the main DC comic universe, you are introduced to the Dark Knight already making inroads with Lieutenant Gordon's trust, but the main villains haven't surfaced yet. Catwoman is a person of interest. The Penguin is simply Oswald Cobblepot and former childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. Harvey Dent is still Gotham's D.A. Very shortly life for everyone is careening through city-wide chaos, and even if you are a knowledgeable Batman fan the story has many surprises. The writers took character histories and wrote them in a way that while staying mostly true to their comic-book counterparts, differ enough to make for unexpected plots twists and introductions. It feels like a parallel dimension Batman story where so much is familiar and yet key elements are strikingly different.

It's a fun ride. The quick-time button presses are fast and well-balanced during combat sequences. You also get to do crime scene analysis by discovering clues and linking them together to reconstruct events. There are several points where you must choose where you are going, leaving the other choice an unknown quantity or an event without your presence. Of course it's Telltale so ultimately nothing is at risk by making a "wrong" choice, but it adds a bit of weight to how you want to play the character and you can view how your choices affected things by the end.

Good game. Play it!
Batman - The Enemy Within

Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series

Completed

9.3 hours, 9/10
30 of 30 achievements
Bat-tastic story
Beaten: 16-Nov-2019

Played this one immediately following Batman - The Telltale Series and it proved even better, earning a half-point higher on my overall rating!

Building off the choices from the previous game, Batman/Bruce Wayne now has new problems and complications hitting him from all angles. The plot gets thick quickly, and I don't want to give away key details. Suffice to say this definitely ranks of one of Telltale's top games.

The story also continues to present its own version of characters and their re-imagined histories. It works well in the context of this Batman universe and helps to keep the surprises coming as Batman comes to rely more on outside help to give him the advantage over new and more deadly enemies.

The quicktime combat is even better than the previous game, with many more options and cinematic moves and actions. Unfortunately there was less of the crime analysis this time around, but that was more a function of the story.

If you have these two games in your library, they are well worth playing!
Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2

Beaten

36 hours, 9/10
39 of 50 achievements
Second time is a bone-charm
Beaten: 1-Nov-2019

In playing the second round of Dishonored, I have to admit that I was wondering if they could top the previous game. And I would say that yes, they did, and a damn fine job of it as well. It makes me wonder then why the game didn't get as good of reviews as the original.

The story is fairly straight-forward and picks up about 15 years after the events of the first game. Delilah, a previously unknown elder sister of the late Empress Jessamine shows up to claim the throne from the now grown-up Princess Emily, and with surgical precision launches a coup that quickly incapacitates one of the main characters and leaves you (your choice as either Emily or Corvo) conscious long enough to escape the palace and then figure out how to stop her. This immediately takes you to where most of the game is played out -- in the southern city of Karnaca where Delilah put together her plot along with several co-conspirators. Karnaca is just as corrupt as Dunwall, and soon you are moving through the back alleys avoiding guards and gangs, gathering clues and targeting those responsible.

The choice of character means having a slightly different set of powers granted once again by the Outsider (or a "no powers" run). For the record, I chose an Emily/high chaos play-through. But the really striking thing about this game is the level design. It's magnificent, with two missions that stand out in particular -- the Clockwork Mansion and the Stilton Estate. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of creativity in level design before, even on Arkane Studio's newest title that I also played in this batch, Prey. Of course like the previous game you also get tons of agency to approach any mission depending on how you spec your abilities, gadgets, combat vs stealth, lethal vs not, mixing in confrontation or going full ghost, and simply what choices you decide to make as the plot unfolds.

Combat is solid, should you chose to use it to solve your problems. Moving around with the Blink power can still be a little wonky at times but nothing that interrupts game flow. Also you get the new ability to craft bone-charms and runes if you invest the skill points to do so. You still have to acquire bone-charms and destroy them to add them to your menu of craft-able traits, but with the appropriate skill you can apply the same trait multiple times to a charm, creating yet another powerful way to customize your character build.

I'm not sure how much more praise I can add without delving into plots details. If you liked Dishonored don't hesitate like I did. This sequel is well worth it and boasts character choice that can give a different flavor to second play-through. Highly recommended!
Prey

Prey

Beaten

36 hours, 8/10
38 of 58 achievements
Imitation isn't flattery
Beaten: 21-Oct-2019

If you're looking for a good sci-fi game, you can't go wrong with this high-intensity action/thriller for at least one play-though. Prey brings several elements together in the form of in-depth story, stealth, FPS and skill trees in a high-tech space setting similar to BioShock and including the art deco design flair. The game manages to balance these elements quite well while never fully delivering a wow-factor on any of them. But it gives you freedom to approach situations with different strategies depending on how your character is spec'd.

You play as Morgan Yu (male or female, your choice), a principal investor and researcher of TransStar corporation, who is caught up in the midst of an alien invasion of the Talos I Space Station in orbit around the Moon. Neuromods (like plasmids/vigors in BS) can give you enhanced human abilities at first and then alien abilities a little later. Acquiring alien abilities has consequences that will force you to adapt your gameplay and can effect the final ending. For my playthough I chose to go the full human route (for which you get an achievement) and played with the alien abilities (again for achievements) after making saves I could reload to continue my chosen path. This gave me what I thought we be as close to a horror experience as possible keeping the aliens as "them", but I don't think this really bore out in the overall end result.

Part of the problem with playing this as a horror game is that the aliens are not that horrific. They are mostly blobs of black goo that sprout appendages as needed. But for all that the mimics (the first Typhon type you run into) are actually cool and dare I say somewhat cute. I often thought it would be great to have one as a pet. The fact that they can turn into ordinary looking objects ignores their incredible usefulness. The other side is that when you gain mimic ability via Neuromod that enables you to also turn into a coffee cup at will, there's an element of unintentional comedy that subverts the horror aspect of the game. If I was playing this again, I'd totally go for seeing how funny I could make certain situations by trying to sneak past enemies disguised as random objects.

There are non-alien enemies to contend with as well. Without giving away spoilers, there's a point toward the end where enemy robot assistants spawn repeatedly from indestructible machines that are never too far away from your location. This led to various complaints about the game being too hard toward to the end. I found this to be true even playing on easy mode and only having human abilities. Even if you avoid getting swarmed, these never-ending waves are a huge drain on ammo which you constantly have to loot from the environment or make from raw materials at fixed locations, so playing on normal or hard would make this phase incredibly challenging. It probably pays then to play with alien powers toward the end that allows you to avoid detection or kill at a distance as long as you have psi point healing packs.

The primary fun of Prey for me was the exploration. Talos I is a huge place with lots of interesting rooms and areas plus the environment outside the station which can be used during non-plot moments to get to different sections and also loot for floating resources. If you follow side-quests like I did you'll have a lot more reason to poke around these spaces trying to discover their secrets.

Overall, it is a fun game and worth playing if you are inclined.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season

The Walking Dead: The Final Season

Epic Gamestore
Completed

10 hours, 7.5/10
No achievements
Everything dies eventually
Beaten: 6-Nov-2019

Note: This game is listed on Steam but currently only available for purchase on Epic.

I've reached the end! Both sad and glad I finished.

It's hard to discuss this game without spoilers since Telltale games are all plot and choice-driven.

On a technical note the improved graphics are really nice, but the new "movement freedom" caused more trouble for me than in previous games. So much so that I often found myself getting impatient as I failed five or six times before getting things right to progress through the story.

Part of the problem is that the enemies will often home in on you and you have to maneuver so that you can kill or slow one down temporarily without getting mobbed by the others. But the space you can do this in is limited and has invisible walls, and turning the character is different directions is stiff. Also half the time you move at a leisurely stroll in these moments when if real life you'd be moving much faster to avoid getting trapped. Oh, I died again! I preferred the older method of just needing to react quickly with button presses or mouse clicks.

But back to the story... I would definitely say the it is worth polishing off the series if you want more Clementine. The worst of the series is Season 3. But thankfully there are no direct tie-backs here to Season 3, so you can skip from Season 2 to this one and not miss anything other than a short sequence around how Clem and AJ re-unite after being separated for a short time. Still, IMHO I liked Season 2 better than this one.

I'm not going to include spoilers, but don't read past the warning it you want to retain the element of pure surprise or avoid having my opinions color your own judgment before playing.

-- YOU'VE BEEN WARNED. ---

I think the writing team was correct to avoid another "bad town" narrative. They don't quite escape it here, but instead push it to the margins. However, the overall arc of the final season felt like they picked a setting that posed a difficult hurdle to creating a good story.

This time around the community Clem and AJ join up with is a group of teens and younger kids in the remains of a school for troubled youth. It's hard to write good depictions of kids who are naturally in the process of developing emotional maturity and experience. It's also hard to believe that such a dysfunctional and unskilled group would have lasted over five years in the post-apocalyptic aftermath when other more capable groups have fallen apart so quickly. The few adults that are featured in the story are generic bad guys you mostly use for target practice when you aren't fighting off walkers.

The game's relationship focus is squarely on Clementine and AJ -- and that's the good part. It's well-developed over the course of four episodes even though it lacks the touching nature of other parent-child relationships earlier in the series. But the secondary characters are flat. There are no equivalent major supporting characters of the same stature as Kenny and Jane or minor roles like Luke and Rebecca where you feel like they are contributing something to the narrative that makes them important. So the kids come across as stereotypes instead of fully developed human beings, and that causes a massive drag on the story in the parts where you have to personally interact with them to explore who they are. It made it difficult to agree with Clem's statement that the school and the kids "felt like home".

I went nearly two months between playing episode one and two because the story and supporting cast wasn't compelling to me. It picked up in episode two -- once past the majority of forgettable teenage emotional turmoil. The best episode was three when the stakes became important. And lastly the first part of episode four has frustratingly obvious set-ups for "something bad is going to happen" that seemed like they were created to fill out time rather than critical to the plot. After that the game found it's glide path for proper closure.

I didn't cry like I did in the first two seasons. All in all, I was satisfied with the conclusion, but those moments of da feelz were few and far between. It's not a bad game like the third entry, but it felt dull a lot of the time due to the lack of engaging characters apart from the leads.

Batch 27 - The “Not Steam” Batch … Mostly

I’ve been spending a lot of time away from Steam the past few months. Here’s what I’ve been keeping busy with…


The Walking Dead: The Final Season

Borderlands 3

Epic Gamestore
Beaten

50 hours, 7.5/10
No achievements
Fan of meat bicycles
Beaten: 28-Sept-2019

So it finally arrived after so many years of waiting, and my impression is... it's OK.

First a couple of caveats. I've logged more hours into the Borderlands franchise that any other set of games. Played all them and all the DLCs that had story content. Also played and loved Tales from the Borderlands.

On BL3 they've done fantastic improvement to the guns and how the gun-play feels. Multiple choice action skills for PCs is great. The graphic details to the environments and characters are richer. Instant ammo purchase and fast-travel from anywhere are nice if softer upgrades. The game's story is crap. I rank it below Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

BL3 shipped with a lot of bugs. Not game-breaking bugs (although there are scattered reports of those), but pretty annoying ones that still affect all platforms nearly a month after release. But bugs can be patched and these problems will likely be fixed by the time the game releases to Steam.

For the record, I did my playthrough as Zane.

Here There Be Story Spoilers. You Have Been Warned!



My main problem is the story and the cast.

Despite the sometimes choppy writing, Borderlands 2 had a great story, to say nothing of the Telltale Games outing. I was hoping the game would give us a story at least as good as BL2 or even better. Sadly, the Gearbox writing team wasn't up to the task this time around. The story didn't do any service to the now galaxy-wide scope of events set in motion by the Crimson Raiders. Lilith is the commander but she has no troops -- except you -- a very odd choice that doesn't logically follow for being the paramilitary outfit known to have opened two vaults. What follows is just running from planet to planet to open more vaults and fight a few more bosses without any over-arching reason other than to stop some boring new villains from getting control of them. Intersperse a bit of history about the adventurer who opened the first vault and that's a wrap.

This actually makes perfect sense given the shallowness of Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary. That DLC plot was incredibly thin and lacked a central, critical narrative to be a bridge story to BL3. It turns out it didn't matter. There's nothing in the DLC that contributes to BL3 in any direct way. Which means it was probably the same writers at work.

So let's talk (briefly) about the good stuff.

Zane is actually a great PC. One major improvement is that each PC participates in the mission/story dialogue with other characters. Zane's banter is exceptionally well done.

Then there's the NPCs. Lilith and Tanis are the primary characters now and do a good job with the thin material that is offered. Ellie, Moxxi, and Marcus are all back in their traditional roles. Zer0 and Vaughn (from Tales) each get some nice time in the story. A completely new face, Wainwright Jakobs, is the primary mission giver on Eden-6 and hands in a great performance, albeit at the expense of Sir Hammerlock who let's his other-half do most of the talking.

Unfortunately that's where the good stuff stops.

Starting with the most obvious, the Calypso Twins are crap. Trying to follow up an act like Handsome Jack is tough, but whereas he was an intelligent, charismatic meglomaniac with surprising depths and resourcefulness, the twins have about as much personality as several of the standard mid-game bosses that have been cranked out over the years. That's because they are annoying, self-absorbed hipsters with a YouTube channel -- and the plot keeps endlessly rehashing this point as if it's supposed to be funny. So unless you've managed to avoid being on the Internet for the last five years, this stereotype was the worst choice to try to exploit for laughs much less depth. It might have been interesting to do a humorous spin on the the dark side of social media and how people like the twins with evil intentions could do really heinous things with it, but that was apparently beyond the skills of the writing team.

Despite their prominent inclusion in the trailers, Brick, Mordecai and Tina only show up for a single mission in the game and don't take up residence in Sanctuary following its conclusion. What?! These are some of the most beloved characters of the series!

Claptrap wasn't nearly as funny as he was in the previous games. Nothing to do with the new voice actor. But with all of Claptrap's antics being central to all the games plus two of the highest-rated DLCs, I had hoped he'd be in top form here. The writers mostly ignored him this time around by creating a parts-hunting challenge spread across all the maps where he'd comment if you found a component he could use.

Ava is a new teenage character and an apprentice to Maya. Maya is briefly in the game and for awhile it feels awesome, but then she is killed suddenly and Ava takes her place, whining the whole time like some teenagers are prone to do. It feels completely pointless because by the end of the game Ava has not been given anything to do that Maya could not have done herself. So it feels like Maya is sacrificed solely to give the villains an obligatory "oh-look-how-evil-we-are" moment.

Contrary to some critics calling Ava a Mary Sue character, that's incorrect. Mary/Gary Sue's are impossibly perfect characters who are good at everything and trotted out to skim through impossible situations that major characters need resolved but can't spend time dealing with. Ava is a stand-in supporting character with no real purpose in the story.

Rhys is featured in a huge part of the Promethia chapters, but he doesn't come across like the Rhys portrayed in TftB. It isn't the fact that a different actor is doing the voice. It's simply like they ignored the character's development and just returned him to the "company man" wuss personality he is at the beginning of Tales. We get no explanation about what happened to him and Fiona in the Vault of the Traveler. Oddly enough, he and Vaughn never interact in the game. There's a lame picture in the credits showing them fist-bumping, so presumably they re-connected later -- but, another opportunity lost.

Axton, Gaige, Salvador, Krieg, Fiona, Sasha, and Athena are all absent from the game and their current whereabouts are unknown. Apparently none of them even merited being Lilith's second-in-command. Except for a brief hint of Rhys talking about Sasha, none of them are mentioned by the other characters.

Zed's got all-new recordings at the health vending machines, but doesn't show up in-person. It's a minor nitpick, but with all the space available on Sanctuary it seems weird that Tanis gets installed in the med bay instead of in her own lab. Maybe the team didn't have enough side missions created to put Zed on the ship?

In the end, I suppose the writing team had to cut characters and chose their focus. And maybe the ones we haven't seen yet will show up in DLC. But being unable to deliver a good story with the characters they chose to work with is a pretty bad sign that the whole effort to give us more Borderlands was still primarily about competing with games like Destiny 2 since mechanics was the only significantly improved aspect of the game over previous installments.

Oh well. It's still fun to run around and shoot things which is largely the point. But given how many hundreds of hours I've already spent doing exactly that, I can't say upgrading that experience alone will compel me to give BL3 the same amount of time and attention without any other hook. I played each PC in BL2 to level cap, Mordecai in BL1, and Claptrap and Nisha in Pre-Sequel. For Zane I played through the main story and several side missions, but so far I have no great desire to do the whole thing again with him or any other character.
God of War

God of War

PS4
Beaten

30 hours, 8.5/10
0/2/9/21 of 37 trophies
Boy! Pay attention!
Beaten: 9-Aug-2019
Platinum/Gold/Silver/Bronze trophies earned


I finally broke down and bought God of War during the last Playstation sale. I passed on the initial hype because I felt somehow it wasn't a game I'd really get into, but finally thought it might be worth half-price. And to its credit I enjoyed GoW a lot more than I thought I would; the game had fantastic elements that drew me in.

The starting plot point: playing as the titular Kratos and having left Greece behind many years ago, he is now older, a father and a recent widower, living in anonymity in the Norse realm of Midgard. But for reasons to be revealed, the Norse gods become suspicious he isn't the mortal he's been pretending to be, and what starts as the desire to spread his wife's ashes turns into a journey with his son that brings them into direct conflict.

Technically the game is very well put together. The graphics are utterly amazing and there are no loading screens. Armor and weapons and all their assorted upgrade-able parts replace the concept of character progression, and that is gated by money and rare crafting ingredients that you collect while exploring. The menus for handling all of these are clean, intuitive and easy to follow.

The combat keeps you on your toes. In order to fight effectively you have to learn defensive moves (dodge, parry, block) and powerful attack combos. Your weapon for the first half of the game is the one-handed Leviathan Axe that is used for melee and ranged targets and which flies back to your hand upon pressing the triangle button. You can also have skill trees for hitting your enemies with both fists and your shield. Oddly enough you can't do normal attacks with the axe when your shield is up, only special "runic" cooldown attacks are available.

You also have command over Atreus, Kratos' son and traveling companion. He comes equipped with an upgrade-able bow and its invaluable for ending fights quickly because in addition to damage his shots often have a stunning/slowing/distracting effect on enemies that move too fast to hit or can block your frontal assaults. However one criticism is that by late game his chained-lighting shots are so powerful that it's often possible and faster for him to clean out an entire area while Kratos simply dodges uninterruptible attacks. Atreus can aggro enemies but is immune to death, so there's no real danger (and no real challenge) in letting him handle things from time to time.

Turning to the story, the plotting and pacing is quite good and the dialogue is keen and interesting. I don't want to give away spoilers, but the game explores the relationship between Kratos, a father out of his element who is ill-equipped to parent, and Atreus who is a sweet and charming eleven-year old for the most part, doing his best to please dad but developing a rebellious streak like most kids his age. This is developed through exploration of various exotic locales and meeting other characters while learning a lot of their relevance to Norse legend. Quests all stem from the hub -- "The Lake of Nine" --- which you can explore first by boat and later with fast-travel gates.

Both of these elements, however, I felt were outclassed by other popular PS4 exclusives. The character-building side doesn't reach the excellence of the father-daughter dynamic of The Last of Us, and the much larger lands of Horizon Zero Dawn are more amazing to explore. So for that reason I felt it came in behind those titles. But not trailing distantly.

God of War is a great game and definitely worth picking up.
Thief

Thief

Won on SteamGifts
Abandoned

23 hours, 6.5/10
13 of 37 achievements
Sneaking is fun, until it isn't
Abandoned: 11-Sep-2019

It's been a long time since I abandoned a game because I lost interest in it.

Initially I liked Thief and was having fun. But once I got through the first two chapters it became apparent that the only focus of the game was to grab loot. The story, what little I managed to uncover, had an interesting set up at the beginning but had barely dropped any plot points after getting halfway through the game. As a result, I was getting a bit bored with just sneaking around to swipe the same objects (silverware, candlesticks, coin purses) from the same cabinets, drawers and chests found in every location. And avoiding enemies had become pretty easy to figure out.

Maybe I'll pick it up later, but for now I have a bunch of much more interesting games I can spend time on.

How Much Have I Enjoyed the Games I’ve Played?

Apologies for the long post.

I haven’t been playing much of anything new for several months now. However I thought upon reviewing my list of played games that I might try a different way of rating them. Mostly when I slap a rating of 1-10 on a game it’s a combination of enjoyment plus how well I feel the game is designed. That way I don’t pan a good game that doesn’t personally appeal to me.

So I took my list of beaten games and rated them solely on enjoyment on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest. I also marked my SteamGifts wins .

There were a few surprises in each category. “Dust: An Elysian Tail” in the lowest group. “Papo & Yo” and “Stacking” with only a 2. “Never Alone” and “Valiant Hearts” with a 3. “Hatoful Boyfriend” with a 4. And “Dark Dreams Don’t Die” and “Dead in Bermuda” with a 5.

For reference, I also track the games I abandoned out of lack of fun or interest: My Abandoned Games

Do you find yourself playing games you don’t like but seeing them through anyway instead of abandoning them?

Rating 1 - Can I have these hours of my life back?

A New Beginning - Final Cut Call of Duty: Black Ops Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Deadlight Dust: An Elysian Tail
Five Nights at Freddy’s Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 Human Resource Machine
Maize Mars: War Logs N.E.R.O.: Nothing Ever Remains Obscure
Rolling Sun Subject 13 The Journey Down: Chapter One
To the Moon    

Rating 2 - Meh…

A Bird Story Animal Lover Blameless
Broken Age Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons Collisions
Cross of the Dutchman Epistory - Typing Chronicles Fire
Grey Cubes Hexcells Plus klocki
Layers of Fear LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
Masochisia MIND Path to Thalamus My Name is Mayo
Nihilumbra Pandemic: The Board Game Papo & Yo
Particulars Project Temporality Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut
Scribblenauts Unmasked Stacking STASIS
STORM VR Strata The 39 Steps
The Cat Lady The Fall The Silent Age
The Stanley Parable The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Toby: The Secret Mine
Universe Sandbox Vanishing Realms Windward
Zenge    

Rating 3 - Pleasant Distraction

Alan Wake Among the Sleep Amphora
Batman: Arkham Knight Between Me and The Night BioShock 2
Blockwick 2 CONSORTIUM Contrast
Dear Esther Euclidean Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series
Glass Masquerade Goat Simulator Gone Home
Hexcells Infinite Hive - Complete Pack Kentucky Route Zero
L.A. Noire Little Nightmares LYNE
Mass Effect 2 NaissanceE Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)
Obduction Of Orcs And Men Portal Stories: Mel
Refunct Remember Me That Dragon, Cancer
The Bridge The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed
The Novelist The Swapper The Talos Principle
The Town of Light The Walking Dead: Michonne Typoman
Valiant Hearts: The Great War Year Walk  

Rating 4 - Enjoyed

ABZÛ Alice: Madness Returns Borderlands
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Botanicula Braid
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Dishonored Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West Eufloria Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Half-Life 2: Update Hand of Fate Hatoful Boyfriend
Hero of Many Hexcells Hook
Journey Kona LEGO The Lord of the Rings
Life is Strange: Before the Storm LIMBO Little Inferno
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Paws: A Shelter 2 Game Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire realMyst: Masterpiece Edition RiME
Spate Spec Ops: The Line The Banner Saga 3
The Unfinished Swan The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Thomas Was Alone
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End  

Rating 5 - Loved

Alien: Isolation Bastard Bonds Bastion
Batman: Arkham Asylum Batman: Arkham City Batman: Arkham Origins
BattleBlock Theater BioShock BioShock Infinite
Borderlands 2 Child of Light Cities: Skylines
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Dead In Bermuda Deadpool
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Firewatch Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2: Episode One Half-Life 2: Episode Two Horizon Zero Dawn
INSIDE Life is Strange Mad Max
Mass Effect Mass Effect 3 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metro 2033 Redux Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Mini Metro
No Man’s Sky Ori and the Blind Forest Oxenfree
Portal Portal 2 Quantum Break
Rise of the Tomb Raider Saints Row IV Shadowrun: Dragonfall
SOMA South Park: The Stick of Truth Tales from the Borderlands
The Banner Saga The Banner Saga 2 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Last of Us The LEGO Movie Videogame The Room
The Room Two The Walking Dead The Walking Dead: Season Two
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt The Wolf Among Us
This War of Mine Tomb Raider Transistor
Trine Tyranny Valley
What Remains of Edith Finch    

June Update

I haven’t been playing new games lately so much as revisiting older ones. My last update was going back to the Arkham games. This update only has Pillars 2 as my first new game in awhile.

Hope everyone’s summer is off to a good start!

No Man's Sky

Borderlands 2 Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary DLC

Beaten

7.2 hours, 8/10
5 of 6 achievements
It's free!
Beaten: 12-Jun-2019

I'm a big Borderlands 2 fan. It's one of a handful of games that I've spent an embarrassing amount of time playing. I've pre-purchased 3 on the Epic Games store. So naturally when I heard we were getting a free DLC to help bridge the plot between them, I downloaded it the moment it became available.

While the action is great, the level cap is now 80, there's a new raid boss and a new weapon class ("effervescent"), the actual story is a bit of a let down. There are the usual cheeky moments of trademark humor, but beyond the loss of Sanctuary and the vault key (and it's map), there's practically nothing here that sets up any known plot/locations/characters that we've glimpsed so far in the trailers and reveals of the third game. Maybe this is just one-half of the bridge and the new game will pick up where this DLC leaves off? We'll only know in September. For now the question of how we get from Pandora to a starship named Sanctuary 3 is as much a mystery as it's always been.

We do get to see Vaughn from Tales brought in and how he's introduced to Lilith and crew. But it's a plot point almost barely worth mentioning as he is quickly assimilated into the group and becomes a quest giver centered around his status as a bandit leader. He doesn't mention the other main characters from Tales or give any hints as to what might be going on with them.

Get it because it's BL2 and enjoy it for the new stuff it brings. But come September and beyond I doubt many people will be talking about it.
No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky

Beaten
Screenshots
Extra Playthrough

100+ hours, 8/10
26 of 27 achievements
Explore a universe
2nd Playthrough Beaten: 7-Jun-2019

I recently dove back into NMS to do a different play-through in "survival" mode. It basically means you are a lot more squishy, enemies are a little tougher, hazards more damaging, and aggressive sentinels are much more common on the planets you visit. The ultimate goal of the in-game story is still the same -- get to the center of the galaxy. And starting up was more difficult as I died three times and lost all my stuff early on. Most of the time it was from getting attacked by wildlife that can take you out in two hits if you haven't upgraded your shield. But after that rough start things got a lot easier, apart from having fewer safe planets to land on.

In the end I made it to the final Atlas interface and then chose to go to a new, lush galaxy called Eissentam. That meant leaving behind the galaxy where most of the player base is located (Euclid), but with more relaxed security it seems like a good place to continue that game save in the future. Haven't decided yet if I want to do the last achievement which is reach the center in permadeath mode.

I'm looking forward to the next update this summer that will include three major changes -- true multiplayer, VR, and a third unrevealed one as yet. Whatever the faults of the original release, this game has certainly come into its own as one of the best relaxing space exploration games out there that doesn't require a massive learning curve.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

KS Backer
Beaten

100+ hours, 8.5/10
47 of 55 achievements
Swords and sorcery at sea
Beaten: 30-May-2019

I waited a full year to play this even though I got my copy as a KS backer when the game released. I have no regrets as the game went through several patches and with 5.0 they seem to have reached that steady-state point where I had almost no issues with playing and only two or three CTDs during my (so far) 132 hours of running the game. I still have two DLC and a couple of alternate endings to complete.

Deadfire improves on most of the game play of the original PoE except that now instead of chasing a mysterious priest who can suck souls out of people you are chasing a massive statue inhabited by a god on a mission to "save the world". As the titan moves across a tropical archipelago full of swaggering pirates, suspicious island folk, dishonest trading companies and lost ruins, you get to play pretty much like any CRPG, but with an amazingly diverse cast of characters and societal politics instead of the usual western European model of fantasy setting. It's a refreshing difference, all the while keeping with the same game engine that feels vastly improved.

Once again you get a select choice of followers including the return of Edér, your best bud from the first game who can be spec'd as a fighter, rogue or something in-between. I played again as a cipher and has a great time charming enemies to get them to temporarily fight for me. The group dynamics and banter are good. The quests are interesting and there's a TON of background lore to get deep into. Criticism? The main quest line is relatively short and can be completed well below level cap. But completing the main quest ends the game, so I'm sure this has more to do with re-play value by combining the four separate faction quest lines with a selection of different side quests for a different experience each time.

A big difference from the last game is that your castle -- a fortress that had numerous uses -- is now replaced by a ship for travel among the islands. While the ship serves as a home base of sorts and you can purchase bigger ones, it's primary purpose was to also be involved in combat with other ships. But ship combat was only ever realized a mini-game that many people found dissatisfying and a detraction from the core game mechanics. So the latest patch allowed you to bypass it and go straight to a combat "boarding" option where you go head-to-head with the enemy crew like any other battle map in the game. The practical effect of this is it makes buying the various expensive ship upgrades pointless. It's a real shame as it seems the team either didn't have the time and money to develop a truly engaging ship combat system. I would have been happy with something simple like from the game Windward, but the normal combat system for boarding was a good enough compromise.

If you are a fan of CRPGs and this series in particular I give it a satisfying thumbs up.

Briefly Back to Arkham

I finished the main story line for both of these several years ago, but after playing the hot mess that was Batman: Arkham Knight last year, I got to yearning for a simpler and better game in the series. It was then that I realized I had skipped the Harley Quinn’s Revenge and Cold, Cold Heart DLCs for these titles. The latter one is the best of the two, and I personally love Mr. Freeze in these games.

Boy, it brought back good memories. I got the platinum trophy for AC on my PS3, having done all the original challenge maps. Not my intention to repeat that here as it would take a lot of practice to get good again. But I still managed to throw in a few combat challenges here and there.

Playing also got me in the frame of mind to try to pick off some of the left over achievements that were within reach without an entire play-through. It was during this I realized that Origins was a much better game that I remembered. Yeah it’s a little flaky around the edges, but in retrospect it’s a solid Arkham experience, great boss fights, and a superior story to Knight. Not to mention the blessed absence of the Batmobile. It’s a shame it got so much flack. One thing it probably could have done without is the online multi-player. I never heard much good about it and the servers shut down a few years ago.

Eventually I want to go back to Arkham Knight and play its DLC too.

Batman: Arkham City - Game of the Year Edition

Batman: Arkham City Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC

Beaten

58 hours, 9/10
52 of 64 achievements
Beaten: 24-Apr-2019

Batman: Arkham City - Game of the Year Edition

Batman: Arkham Origins Cold, Cold Heart DLC

Beaten

68 hours, 8/10
42 of 60 achievements
Beaten: 26-Apr-2019

Batch 26 is done!

ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West

ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West Premium Edition

Beaten
Steam Review
17.8 hours, 7.5/10
40 of 58 achievements
Not enough freedom
Beaten: 5-Apr-2019

Click the "Steam Review" button!
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series

Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series

Completed

12 hours, 8/10
48 of 48 achievements
Valar morghulis
Beaten: 19-Apr-2019

It seemed appropriate to play this now that the final season of GoT has arrived.

This game elaborates on the plight of a minor noble house only mentioned in passing in the novels. House Forrester of Ironwrath are Stark bannermen who control large swaths of ironwood supplies and must contend with the loss of their lord at the Red Wedding. And to make matters worse the Boltons tend to favor their arch-rivals, the Whitehills, to produce weaponry for their armies despite being inferior in their wood-working skills. This sets up a four-pronged story where you deal with politics and deadly games of rivalry between castles Ironwrath and Highpoint; the role of the dead Lord Forrester's squire, Garret, who is sent on a dangerous mission to get help from a mysterious location; King's Landing where one Forrester daughter is a handmaiden of Margaery Tyrell, trying to navigate the backbiting politics of the place to get help for her family from those in power; and lastly to Essos where one Forrester son has been exiled and is called home in hopes of bringing fighters that can help defend Ironwrath.

I give a lot of credit to the writers on this. The game is good despite not interfering with any key events of the HBO series. It draws on the likenesses (and voices!) of the show so the guest performances by GoT regulars are a nice touches during the occasion scene where you have to interact with them -- even if they mostly remind that you are playing in the wings of the theater. The script captures the harsh essence of Game of Thrones and it's often wrenching themes of honor and loss, particularly when your characters suffer for trying to do the right thing. I even had a good cry at one point over the horribleness that followed in the wake of my choices.

However some of the story threads are better than others, and it works best when not trying to be ambitious. Ironwrath and King's Landing are where the real heart of the conflict plays out in brutal power struggles. The squire, Garret, is a neat character whose story often feels too far removed from the others. Exiled son Asher is a charming sellsword whose story is more on the pure adventure side. You could say that's a good thing though, otherwise the entire game would be grim even for a seasoned GoT fan.

What's especially hard is that this season ends with a lot of dire circumstances clearly intended to set up the next game. And unfortunately for House Forrester Telltale Games no longer exists, so any plans that there might have been for another series are dead and gone. The game has also been pulled from Steam's store so it's potential audience will further dwindle.

Based on that I'd say play it if you love the series, but be warned that the ultimate fate of the family is in your imagination. It was a noble effort. Not one of Telltale's best, but engaging enough for this GoT watcher that I would have easily bought season two.

"Iron from ice!"
Grey Cubes

Grey Cubes

Completed

5.8 hours, 8/10
13 of 13 achievements
Chip off the old block
Beaten: 19-Mar-2019

I grew up with an Atari 2600 console and the infamous Breakout that was the classic brick-breaker game of its time. This genre has not seem many modern iterations, but Grey Cubes takes the formula and offers up some interesting variations across 60 levels. In addition to eliminating bricks you get power-ups in varying forms (not so original) but also indestructible barriers that move and hinder access to some parts of the field, roaming teleporters that move the ball in mid-flight to another part of the screen, exploding bricks that send others flying, bricks stacked on top of each other in the depth plane (knocking out the lower ones causes the stacked ones to tumble and spill across the screen. Trigger plates that when hit will affect the play-field, such as turning the bricks indestructible. Also the bricks often aren't a wall but arranged in patterns or just dumped haphazardly by a machine depositing them on the screen. One notable addition -- a magnet that you can occasionally use that will send your ball in a curved arc toward whatever bricks are left. This is really helpful for getting the last couple of bricks when the ball isn't cooperating. All in all a fun game that will keep you entertained for a few hours. There is one minor and annoying bug that sometimes will leave the last brick on the level unable to be destroyed and will force you to restart. But aside from that it's a solid game that would have been nice to have more levels.
Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero

Completed

6 hours, 8/10
No achievements
Take the road less traveled
Beaten: Acts I-IV -- 9-Apr-2019, Act V -- TBD

Marking this one as completed because it's completely linear.

Kentucky Route Zero is pure interactive fiction told through it's scenery and text dialogue -- a visual novel in the truest sense. No mini-games, puzzles or multiple endings, just a point-and-click system to move around, dialog choices, a great artistic look, and a story to tell. Like most stories, you'll either get it and be drawn in, or it won't appeal to you and you might think the game a waste of time. KRZ is not for everyone. But if the idea of a slow-simmer plot in a world of magical realism with overtones of David Lynch is your thing, you might want to give it a try.

You start the game with Conroy, an older man in a truck trying to deliver antiques to an address he can't find in rural Kentucky. As he tries to gather information about where he needs to go to finish the job, he is pointed in the direction of "the Zero" by an old man at a gas station and a young woman, Weaver Márquez, who may or may not be dead. The Zero is a mysterious road winding through the caves beneath Kentucky only some people are fortunate -- or not -- to travel on. He's eventually joined by new characters that become a loose group of traveling companions. As the narrative focus flows between them, either directly or by filling in the blanks with your own choices, you are treated to some sublime and often strange encounters and stories along the way.

The good news for fans of this kind of thing is that the game is really well done even if there are moments when the pace could be a little quicker. The bad news is that the devs are taking their sweet time churning out the chapters. The story is "A Play in Five Acts", but the first four took several years between releases with short "interludes" from the game web site you can download and play locally. The three-man dev team's last post in Oct 2018 indicated that they are really eager to show off the conclusion, but they don't have a solid delivery schedule. Thus Act V will only arrive when they deem it ready.

I've enjoyed the game so far. It's a welcome change of pace. I think I would have been annoyed if I had waited like many fans through the slow process of getting the middle chapters.

Some might not call this a game, but that's OK. It's doesn't exactly pretend to be one. It's there for you to experience and hopefully enjoy.
Nihilumbra

Nihilumbra

Beaten

5.5 hours, 7.5/10
17 of 24 achievements
Out of nothingness
Beaten: 6-Apr-2019

This is a casual 2D puzzle-platformer where you play a kind of disembodied spirit traversing the world while trying to elude a darkness called "The Void". The game is only mildly challenging in normal story mode with easy to understand controls. You traverse five world segments, each one giving you a new color/power that is strategically spray-painted on the environment to help you navigate obstacles and enemies: blue for sliding, green for bouncing, brown for sticking/quiet movement, red for fire, yellow for electricity. If you want a greater challenge then a harder mode is unlocked after the conclusion that really tests your skills and quick-switching between colors to solve each section. This is a decent game, short, and the platforming element doesn't contain any surprises. The narrator's declamatory style becomes a bit annoying after awhile. But overall it's an interesting experience.
Papo & Yo

Papo & Yo

Beaten

4.1 hours, 8/10
9 of 10 achievements
Familiar demons
Beaten: 30-Mar-2019

Papo & Yo is a casual puzzle adventure game where you play the role of Quico who must navigate the dreamy, maze-like town of his youth along with Monster, his huge imaginary friend. But Monster is a bit of a conundrum. He's content to sleep and only pay attention when he can eat apples, but he's irresistibly drawn to eating green frogs that make him angry and a danger to Quico who then must stay out of his reach or else Monster will hurt him.

The metaphor here is fairly obvious to anyone who has a passing familiarity with the game. What sets it apart from many indie titles is its approach to sensitive subject matter, the beautiful artistry of the settings, and the perspective of the protagonist as a young boy growing up in the poor area of a small Brazilian city.

The game is easy and relatively short at about 3-4 hours with an optional second play-though to get all achievements. There's no goal other than to experience the story while engaging in light puzzle-solving along the way. Released in 2012, it is starting to show its age but is still entertaining.
Quantum Break

Quantum Break

Completed
Steam Review
19 hours, 8.5/10
42 of 42 achievements
Let's do the time warp again
Beaten: 15-Apr-2019

Click on the "Steam Review" link!

Backlog Update - Batch 25

I finally got the itch to delve into my library again and hauled out several titles that I’ve owned for many years and well as a few recent purchases.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation

Beaten
Steam Review
30 hours, 8.5/10
46 of 50 achievements
Everyone's expendable
Beaten: 2-Mar-2019

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Cross of the Dutchman

Cross of the Dutchman

Completed

3.4 hours, 6.5/10
31 of 31 achievements
Giant history lesson
Beaten: 16-Feb-2019

This is a short game based on the true story of 'Pier Gerlofs Donia', a towering man (~ 7 ft/2.1 m) who led a rebellion in the Netherlands to protect his people and family. That being said it's definitely a light version of the early part of his story, follows a linear chapter sequence of goals, and the game mechanics are pretty thin. Basically talk to people to get the story and move around with a mouse and attack with either left (sword) or right (melee) clicks. Attacking is not precise, but easy to get the hang of. The game is not challenging in any respect although there's a few points where you might get overwhelmed running into a crowd of soldiers. I wouldn't recommend this to serious gamers. But for easy-please types and cheevos, it's a mildly amusing way to spend a few hours.
Deadpool

Deadpool

Beaten

11.8 hours, 8.5/10
28 of 50 achievements
Super smart-ass
Beaten: 16-Feb-2019

If you know the character and loved the movies, this game is for you. While it pre-dates the films, everyone's favorite costumed smart-ass with a case of the healz is in top form here. You, "The Player", get to be a part of Deadpool's videogame that he has sorta blackmailed a Hollywood producer into helping him create. Along the way you get to kick -- and shake, and slap -- some serious booty in Arkham-style combat while living out some of D's fantasies including bitch-slapping Wolverine, trying not to be bored by Cable, rescuing a damsel-in-distress (Rogue) and thwarting the evil plot of Mr. Sinister. You are accompanied by swords, guns, grenades and the voices in Deadpool's head trying to keep him from getting too far off track. The results are hilarious. I don't think I've had a superhero brawler make me bust out laughing as many times as this game did.

The unfortunate punch line is that Deadpool is not available in the Steam store any longer, so you only get to catch this joyride if you already own it. And if you do, what are you waiting for? The world needs laughter these days. Play it now!
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Beaten
Extra Playthrough

10.1 hours, 8.5/10
18 of 19 achievements
Super dad-blast
Beaten: 12-Feb-2019

When it comes to visual novel/dating sims it's probably a good idea to be unusual (think Hatoful Boyfriend) to interest would-be players. So what about making a gay-themed sim that doesn't lean heavily on stereotypes and features heart-warming, feel-good wish fulfillment without being crass, pretentious or boring? That would be this game, which manages to take you and the best daughter you could ever imagine through a series of fun-filled social engagements.

You are Amanda's dad. And you've just moved into a home in a cozy cul-de-sac neighborhood that has several other single dads looking to make friends, hang out, and maybe more. In between unpacking and dealing with your daughter's teen-age senior-year anxieties, you cross paths with the guys in a variety of activities aimed at getting you out of the house to have fun. You also cross paths with the other dads' kids as they scope you out and decide if they like you or not. The intersecting plots here aren't terribly deep, but each of the dads has distinct personalities and interests. What could be an opportunity for two-dimensional portrayals and over-the-top sappiness is instead full of remarkably well-written characters with nuance and at times unexpected depth. They are definitely idealized and don't ever allude to the difficulties real gay and bi men face in public -- but hey it's part of the fantasy. And while it's definitely an adult game, it plays like a light-hearted rom-com; the banter between the characters is charming with some wonderfully funny twists and cultural references and zero politics or other heavy subject matter.

Also to be found: various silly and super-easy minigames. A few hidden possibilities of dying in embarrassing ways. A secret (non-canon, horror movie!) ending that you can unlock -- check the guides for it. The game is also full of more dad jokes than you can possibly imagine, but that's a good thing!

Yeah, it was fun. I played through each ending and was not disappointed by any of them. :)
The Fall

The Fall

Beaten

4 hours, 7/10
15 of 17 achievements
You will comply
Beaten: 24-Feb-2019

An interesting action/puzzle adventure. You are an intelligent combat suit attempting to protect the unconscious human inside you after crash-landing into an unfamiliar base where the other AIs appear to be malfunctioning. Short but with good voice-acting and visuals, the game has really odd, clunky controls. While there isn't a lot of combat, when it happens these controls make it a sub-par experience and the big boss fight at the end really hard to manage and thus artificially difficult. But the overall story is pretty good. It will require two play-throughs to get all achievements.

Good short game if you are looking for something quick and can get it on sale.
Hexcells Infinite

Hexcells Infinite

Beaten

8 hours, 7.5/10
6 of 7 achievements
To three and beyond
Beaten: 24-Feb-2019

Yes, it's the third installment of Hexcells, that re-imagining of Minesweeper but much more strategy-focused. The only caveat is that this outing didn't grab me the way the first two did because there wasn't anything new beyond the random puzzle generator (the "infinite" part of the game), and many of the advanced puzzles forced me into guessing. That made the game frustrating. In the previous titles I think I only ever had to look up a solution once, maybe twice. In this game once into "World Three" and above it was very common to run into a situation where there didn't seem to be enough clues available to predict the position of a cell.

Still fun. Just a bit of a letdown. Also there is a new achievement. Play 60 of the randomly generated games. I played a few but ... nah.
klocki

klocki

Completed

1.5 hours, 7.5/10
1 of 1 achievement
Puzzle line up
Beaten: 15-Feb-2019

A short and interesting little puzzle game that isn't terribly challenging once you get the basic goal down for each of types you are presented. Basically, flip and move different pieces on the face of an object until all lines or shapes are connected and contained within its surfaces. Neat concept. Could have been much more challenging.
Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares

Beaten

9.2 hours, 7.5/10
15 of 22 achievements
Creepy, kooky, spooky, ooky
Beaten: 23-Feb-2019

This horror title delivers big on visuals and atmosphere, even if it's short and relatively easy. The story isn't exactly clear as to why the little boy(?) you play is in this hellish place, but it is clear that survival is the top priority or risk getting killed by the other inhabitants or environmental hazards. The puzzles here are mostly about figuring out how to get to the next area or the right sequence of actions to avoid getting caught when pursued. But where are you trying to get to? And what do you hope to do once you get there? Those questions never really come up. That puts the game in the same narrative space as titles like LIMBO and INSIDE.

This can be a lot of fun when the game is offering a combination of puzzle solving and stealth to remain unobserved. But when there's a lot of "mini-parkour" action or precisely timed jumps the controller actions feel sloppy. The alignment of the camera in the 2.5D space makes this worse by distorting perspective in ways that can make you think you're moving directly toward something you need to interact with and then miss the critical timing to interact with it because your depth perception is off. This mars the experience by failing at something that seems like it should be simple. Re-spawning is also problematic. If you die you'll be sent back to the start of the room you are in, but quitting to the menu and then continuing the game can set you back several rooms you will then have to re-play. I'm not certain what purpose this serves. About the only place you know you won't lose ground is the beginning of each chapter.

If you aren't put off by the controller issues, this game is a great distraction for a few hours.
The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle

Beaten
Steam Review
33 hours, 8/10
37 of 40 achievements
Is it human to rebel?
Beaten: 15-Mar-2019

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone

Completed

5.7 hours, 8/10
35 of 35 achievements
Be there and be square
Beaten: 20-Feb-2019

It's a platformer, yes, and a short and mildly challenging one at that. But the intriguing thing about this game is how the well the narrator brings to life to the thoughts and feelings of this motley assortment of rectangles. Thomas may start off alone, but as he encounters other denizens of his spare, digital world they form bonds and together mature and find a purpose for their existence. It's a charming and funny story with hidden depths... and lots and lots of jumping. Definitely a surprise favorite.

Batch 24 Complete!

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Beaten
Steam Review
14.3 hours, 7/10
17 of 26 achievements
Old West arcade
Beaten: 15-Nov-2018

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
Glass Masquerade

Glass Masquerade

Completed

3.8 hours, 9/10
31 of 31 achievements
Delightfully paneful
Beaten: 26-Oct-2018

This is a very casual puzzle game of assembling pieces to complete stained glass clock faces. Fashioned with a "countries-of-the-world" theme, the artwork is gorgeous. There's no penalty for taking your time, just sit back and enjoy working on pretty pictures. It's beautiful, low-key fun!
Hexcells Plus

Hexcells Plus

Completed

10.9 hours, 10/10
6 of 6 achievements
Hexalicious!
Beaten: 17-Nov-2018

This is a great puzzle game, the second in a series, that pits the player against various boards that can be solved with deduction and patience. The game format is similar to Minesweeper, except that instead of avoiding certain cells you are trying to locate and mark them appropriately. The clues are also much more varied giving indications of not only the number of adjacent "pattern cells" but also how they are distributed across lines and area fields. If you haven't tried any of the Hexcells series, they are well worth the effort.
Human Resource Machine

Human Resource Machine

Completed

4 hours, 7/10
16 of 16 achievements
Some assembly required
Beaten: 4-Nov-2018

As a game based around programming in assembly language (low-level machine code) Human Resource Machine actually does a clever presentation of puzzles as the mind-numbing efforts of a wage slave trying to please bosses who are corporate tools. But the interface isn't that great, with programs often taking up a lot more space than is visually available and the decision logic being a mess of arrows that often go off screen because of the limited view. This makes the harder puzzles a lot more difficult than they should be because it's already challenging to keep track of each program's flow. I feel like I also had an advantage over the average player because of my programming background. For the last third of the game I mostly used a guide because the aforementioned limitation plus the subject matter made the effort too tedious.

Given that 7 Billion Humans, the next title in the series, promises more of the same thing I'm not planning on buying it.
LiS: Before the Storm

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Completed
Nov '18 Theme Steam Review
10 hours, 8/10
34 of 34 achievements
Subject: Chloe Price
Beaten: 9-Nov-2018

Click the "Steam Review" tag!
LiS: Before the Storm

Metro 2033 Redux

Beaten

18.1 hours, 8.5/10
44 of 49 achievements
Apocalyptic transit pass
Beaten: 20-Nov-2018

An incredibly atmospheric FPS! I finally got the itch to play this, and I wasn't disappointed. You are immediately sucked into the world of post-nuclear war Moscow where the citizens live in fortified subway stations and travel through the underground rail passages. The controls handle well on a keyboard and mouse. Only a few odd glitches, such as aiming throwing knifes seems to have hit boxes that are slightly smaller than the humans you need to take out. But nothing that affects the overall difficulty or enjoyment of the game. Although there are no skills trees here, you can opt to play in "Spartan" or "Survival" mode -- basically run-and-gun or stealth -- and choose your difficulty level for either. To prevent you from going full Rambo in Survival mode, ammo and supplies are supposed to be a lot more limited. I played Spartan as it gave the most options for achievements.

The story is enjoyable albeit not terribly complex. Excellent voice acting (except for the children -- seriously bad) and some interesting people you cross paths with. The characters do a remarkable job of keeping the tension wound tight with nervous banter and attempts to make jokes that fall flat because they can't alleviate the brooding sense of doom. If there was only one nitpick it's that the story leaves a huge question unresolved. Perhaps that will be answered in the next game.

For those who are thinking of jumping into this series, this is the game you start with. Last Light follows. And then it's on to Exodus next year :)

Batch 23 and Spooktober Update

Hey hey! Finished all my monthly challenge games a little early. Might squeak in one more before Halloween. Hope everyone is having a great month! :D

The Cat Lady

The Cat Lady

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8.2 hours, 8/10
25 of 25 achievements
How to use nine lives
Beaten: 7-Oct-2018

Despite being released in 2013, this game looks and plays like a 2D, side-scrolling adventure that was released on Windows-95. The "choose-and-click" interface only uses the keyboard. However it's strength is the story, which is why this game gets such high review marks. You play Susan, a reclusive, suicidal woman who feeds the neighborhood stray cats. But suicide doesn't quite work out, and a supernatural entity enlists her to deal with several murderers who prey on the people in her run-down London neighborhood.

Despite the sometimes lengthy exposition, the psychological tension and horror elements hold together really well, even if there are some unanswered and dangling questions left by the end. Susan is a likable protagonist and is joined later by another likable character. And even though the graphics occupy a weird space mixing hand-drawn, photo-realistic and pixel art, the imagery is incredibly creepy and disturbing. It makes me wonder how much better the game would be if it had a modern graphical front-end on it. It would probably be considered a must-play title of the genre.

On the down side, the game locks out use of your mouse in the Steam overlay, and alt-tab'ing to the desktop will crash the game most of the time. If you need to interrupt play it's best to save the game and exit properly. You will be frozen out of tapping the ESC key to get to the game's options menu for really long stretches, so it's good to save after these points when you regain control. This is critical if you are replaying a chapter for achievements. Otherwise you may find yourself having to repeat these stretches as there's no "fast-forward" key like in some visual novels, only the spacebar that allows skipping character dialog turns but won't affect parts where characters pause, don't speak or perform cutscenes. Its native resolution in 800x600 with no option for windowed mode, but there are some forum posts about getting to it to look good on an HD or 4K monitor.

If you're looking for a good story-driven horror game and don't mind old technology, definitely consider picking this up.
Deadlight: Director's Cut

Deadlight Director's Cut

Oct '18 Theme
Beaten
Steam Review
8.2 hours, 6/10
29 of 32 achievements
2D zombie apocalypse
Beaten: 17-Oct-2018

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Layers of Fear: Masterpiece Edition

Layers of Fear Masterpiece Edition

Oct '18 Theme
Completed
Extra Playthrough
Steam Review
15.6 hours, 7/10
27 of 27 achievements
Make mad art
Beaten: 8-Oct-2018

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STASIS

STASIS

Oct '18 Theme
Completed

8 hours, 7.5/10
27 of 27 achievements
In space no one can hear you sleep
Beaten: 5-Oct-2018

A man named John wakes up from stasis aboard a derelict spaceship and proceeds to uncover the unspeakable things going on there. This point-and-click bears some similarities in tone and style to SOMA but is shown from an isometric view. It's technically solid even if the interface is dated. The game play focuses on carefully examining your surroundings to find, combine and use objects to proceed to the next area or chapter. A handful require you to gather codes or info for data entry. Clues are found in various PDAs or displays scattered about, forcing you to read more of the story as told by the observations of the now dead crew members. There were only a few places I got stuck and needed a hint. But despite the gruesome visuals and tense pacing, the story seemed a bit derivative and much of it was predictable. If you are looking for sci-fi horror though it's not a bad way to spend a few hours.
Styx: Master of Shadows

Styx: Master of Shadows

Won on SteamGifts Oct '18 Theme
Abandoned
Steam Review
29.2 hours, 5/10
23 of 33 achievements
Alas, poor Styx ...
Beaten: n/a

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