Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A few words shared about Tomb Raider: Legend, Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers, Naughty Bear, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations, and a couple of others, too.

Another month and a half or so has passed without a single blog update from me. It's actually kind of strange. I used to spend an unhealthy amount of time on the Internet doing literally nothing in order to avoid doing something constructive in real life, yet these days when I would have actual things to do online I find myself avoiding the computer entirely. Might be I have a somewhat similar problem as Donald Duck did in one comic where he had a habit of falling asleep at work because of his subconscious need to avoid work altogether, and when his doctor told him he'd pay Donald just for going to sleep, Donald couldn't help but stay awake because sleeping had become work.

Last month I had my "Summer holiday", and I was planning to write a blog post before leaving but then remembered the cardinal rule of online posting: do no share information that could put you, your belongings, your pets (aside from cats), your friends or your family in physical danger. It's always safer to just refrain from posting anything even if you think there's no chance in hell you'd suffer for it, and I'm afraid I actually can think of people who could recognize me online, live in my area and know exactly where I live, and are unfortunately the type of people who might get the bright idea to try to break in just for fun if they knew for certain that nobody's going to be home for a long time. Whether they'd do it to actually steal anything or just for kicks is irrelevant. I believe everyone knows these kind of people if they just think hard enough.

I've bought a lot of games in the past 6 weeks, which shouldn't be any news at this point and I've apparently given up posting an update here everytime I have new games. Honestly, what's the point of flaunting around games I own when I can't even play them fast enough. I may collect games, but even I understand that gaming is about playing the video games, not hoarding them. I don't want to end up on that show where people's floors are covered in used toiler paper and their Teddy-bears move on their own due to the bugs. Those houses creep me out.

I finished Tomb Raider: Legend on PS3 and got the platinum trophy. It's actually a decent game, there's nothing to really latch on to complain about. The only real problem I can think of is that it's really not remarkable in anyway, it's really just your run-of-the-mill action-romp. Everything in it, from visuals to voice acting to level design is adequate, and that's both the positive and the negative.
Only other problem might be the availability of some costumes. In Tomb Raider: Legend you can unlock and wear different costumes for levels, and I don't think I would necessarily be too far off the trail if I assumed two of the most wanted ones, at least for the male Tomb Raider fans (which there seems to be less of than female fans), are the black bikini and the white bikini. They are the last ones you can unlock, but strangely enough they cannot be worn in the actual levels, only in the Croft Manor which you also have to finish in order to acquire the bikini costumes, leaving you nothing to do there with Lara in her bikini. Well, some sad git can probably think of something to do, but joking aside, it does make you wonder why they added in two costumes specifically for those perverts out there who then jerk off while trying to get Lara to perform cartwheels in the Manor.
My guess is that it was some really lonely developer who got an idea how to brighten up the day after everyone else had already gone home.

I also started playing Tomb Raider Anniversary right after finishing Legend, but before I even got through the first level I decided to stop and finally play Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers, a game I preordered on the same night it was announced and was released on the day I left for my holiday.

Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers is an indie game where you're a guy named Tiny, adventuring through old ruins in the desert, armed with a laser cutter and other tools to help you change the landscape, chasing after Big who stole your Grandpa's ancient underpants that give telekinetic powers to anyone who wears them... on their head.
The game does have some weaknesses. For one it's a pretty short adventure. There's six levels and even then a couple of them are pretty short and pointless, and all of them could be described as "easy". You also end up having basically the same boss fight with Big more than once, which I noticed has annoyed a few people. The humour is also a bit of hit and miss as the overall writing of it lacks good structure, and whether you think the game's plot is even slightly amusing depends on whether or not you think it's funny to wear underpants on your head.
But the game is quite fun. Being hit and miss means that the humour is good at least sometimes, the art-style is quite nice and there's some good music there. The act of cutting stone and wood with the laser, pulling pieces closer with the grapnel gun and sending useless bits flying away with rockets in order to progress is a lot of fun. In fact it's so much fun you'll probably spend two hours at the first half of the game doing nothing but slicing things into bits. You see, this isn't your usual mansy-pansy namby-pamby cutting game for sissy pregnant women and their babies where you chop a few small blocks into a couple of neat cubes, no. Here you can take a gigantic pillar and cut it into a hundred cubes for no reason other than that you can, and probably screw yourself by destroying the very object you needed to continue. Never fear, though, because the game does have a quick one-button retry option for all those times you slash everything you can into bits without even a hint of a plan, and the game does have checkpoints quite often, although occasionally not at the best possible points.
There's not that much to the game beyond cutting through the short story. There are some mini-arcade games you can find in certain places of the levels that you can try and beat with leet cutting skills and naturally you can also try to collect all the hidden collectibles and boring rocks, as well as open the games soundtrack that is hidden here and there as another form of a collectable. You may also replay levels and try to beat them faster and with fewer cuts, but personally I don't really care much for all that jazz. I don't have time to care, really, as I am at the moment looking at playing about 110 different games I own that I haven't had the chance to even try yet.
Honestly, Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers is worth it's price on no matter what negative things you may have to say about it, and everyone knows I absolutely hate paying too much for games. If you don't agree, then you're wrong, and I recommend you think back to all those times you paid twice this game's price for crappy DLC for an already overpriced game you only bought because everyone else did also. This game is the type of game that despite it's flaws, and partly because of it's flaws, demands a sequel, and if there's not a sequel coming, then screw you Black Pants Studio!
Oh, and guys, if you're listening, for the sequel I would like an option to loop just one song. I love Mr. Noone's Retro Blues, but the song is too short. Thanks.

After Tiny and Big I didn't feel like going back to Tomb Raider Anniversary, and instead started playing Naughty Bear for PS3.

Naughty Bear is basically a poor-man's Manhunt with teddybears, and all around it's the epitome of a budget title. The story of Naughty Bear is told in the style of a twisted children's show about the mistreated Naughty Bear who ends up murdering and scaring the other bears on the island to the point of insanity in each episode of the game. I can say mistreated despite the fact that Naughty Bear is a really naughty bear, killing and scaring others as he does, because most episodes begin with the other bears brutally mocking him and laughing at his honest attempts at making friends and helping others, and usually the main target of the episode is actually planning to kill Naughty Bear. This is the type of game in which the point where you're controlling a straight up bad guy in the context of the story is much, much further away than usual, and one DLC episode actually starts with Naughty Bear going to save another bear from what he believes to be certain death only to find that the other bear is actually not in any danger and is really planning to get Naughty Bear killed. Who is the bad guy, I ask.
This type of dark, twisted humour really works for me and find quite a bit of entertainment in the cutscenes, so much so that I bought the three DLC episodes solely for the "plot".

The gameplay is rather simple and eventually gets very repetitive. What you do is you hide from the other bears in the woods where most other bears don't ever go into, and wait until you are ready to wreak havoc by sabotaging items to get bears to go fix them and provide an opening for a context kill or a powerful BOO! scare, simply destroy items for good, place traps on the ground and sneak up on unsuspecting bears to scare them with your BOO! shout or simply smack them with any of the dozen or so weapons found in the levels, and slowly but surely make them all lose their shit.
The end goal is to punish, meaning either kill or scare, one specific bear in each episode while trying to gather points by causing mayhem in quick succession in as many ways as possible in order to keep up the multiplier meter and progress through each area in the episode.
Basically everything that happens because of you gives you points, whether it's a more hands-on attack by you or just the other bears witnessing another bear being nervous after he heard some glass breaking, and as you cause more and more destruction the gameplay gets more and more frantic and soon you'll be running all over the place yelling BOO! at bears trying to phone for help, smashing machinery, kicking bears in the nuts and watching them blow up on mines, flushing presents down toilets and curb stomping bears trying to escape the island by either car or boat.
It all sounds great fun and for the first couple episodes it does stay relatively fresh, but it doesn't take long to realize that this is first and foremost an arcade game where you play for points, not progression. There are only four different areas in the game, and these four areas are then repeated throughout the 10 episodes (7 in base game + 3 DLC) with only cosmetic changes made in order to fit them with the theme of each episode. For example, in the birthday party episode it's a sunny day with balloons and presents around, in the army episode everything's camouflaged and it's evening and in the undead episode it's midnight and there are gravestones strewn about. New types of bears, like ninjas, soldiers and zombies do also appear in new episodes, but the episodes all still generally play out the same way from start to finish. Ninjas for example are faster and will follow you to the woods, sure, but they will still be scared the same way and follow the same tactics as the regular bears, only they're slightly faster, so one episode doesn't really differ from another as far as the gameplay goes.
A couple of dozen unlockable costumes for Naughty and some "different" game modes do not provide any breath of fresh air either, sadly. The costumes, while each has different stats and some may even provide small extra abilities like silent movement, do not change anything about the way you'll handle the other bears, and the different game modes are just the base episodes with a small extra rule added, like don't get hit or make every bear go insane before killing them. So basically the game just repeats each episode five times, and when I was still trying to play them all, the modes started fusing together in my head and often I completely forgot which specific mode I was playing and forced extra rules on myself in the confusion. It really doesn't help the game's defense that actual new episodes can only be unlocked by beating a certain amount of these "different" modes of earlier episodes, so if you have low tolerance of blatant recycling of gameplay elements and artifically lenghtening the time it takes between starting the game and seeing the end of the final episode, you'll be sick of Naughty Bear fast.
Then again, if you do, why would you be playing a simple budget arcade title like Naughty Bear in the first place? What I really really do have against Naughty Bear no matter how good of a mood I was in is that it has often absolutely horrendous framerate and clipping issues. Also, the narrator is annoying. He's the only voice actor and he's annoying. At first it's funny how he's annoying in the way of a typical childrens' TV-show narrator, but soon enough you'll realize that joke's on you as you can't just change the channel.
Overall I can give Naughty Bear a careful recommendation IF, and only IF you realize that it's a very small game, a budget title, with a lot of repetition for the sole purpose of getting higher scores than the last time. Be warned that if you're the type of gamer who tends to just rent games for a short while and move on to get new experiences, don't even bother with Naughty Bear.

After I got tired of Naughty Bear I decided to play Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is little more than, say, a few AC2 DLC packs put together on one disc. It's a direct continuation of Assassin's Creed 2, and I mean DIRECT continuation to the point I wonder if the developers originally planned 2 and Brotherhood to be on the same disc. What Brotherhood adds to the mix is just a couple of new weapons and gadgets to use, the ability to build a Brotherhood of assassins and call them to help take out enemies at your leisure or send them on missions across Europe á la Evil Genius to get XP and level up, and... that's about it. Other than that it's AC2 in Rome, with a few more missions to do and a lot more Borgia flags to collect, video packages from 16 to unlock and shops to renovate for faster income all the while the game loads and loads and loads and takes forever to let you actually play. I'm not kidding, the loading is unsifferable... I mean, insufferable. The loading screens are long and in the case of some side memories they can literally take several minutes, and due to the fact that you can control Ezio in the loading screens and in some cases there is another person in there running away made me think I was supposed to catch the person because nothing was happening for such a long time. It's strange that the loading screens are as long as they are when the game also loads during cutscenes, making the option to skip cutscenes absolutely pointless as you'll then have to spend the same amount of time looking at the loading screen, and takes a decent amount of time installing crap on the harddrive before you can start playing for the first time. Furthermore, the game also often freezes momentarily when riding a horse fast, and it occasionally takes a long time loading people and textures. I once failed an escort mission's bonus objective because guards first took half a minute to load on the map and then eventually spawned right on me. The game is not flawless.
AC: Brotherhood's additions to the series are so insignificant and the plot is so irrelevant that I really don't need to say anything indepth about it, and no, I am not mocking the game. It's just an absolute fact that you have no business playing Brotherhood if you haven't finished Assassin's Creed 2, and if you have played AC2 all the way through already and still intend to play the upcoming Assassin's Creed 3, you are obliged to play Brotherhood as well. Consider AC2 and Brotherhood to be one single full game, nothing more and nothing less.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations is another story entirely. Gameplaywise it's the same as the previous games, same old gadgets return, the main character is still Ezio as controlled by Desmond and the only new additions to the series are the hookblade, crafting bombs and a fun little base-defense minigame you don't get to play enough even if you try (seriously, I got to play it only three times total and I made an actual effort to get it to start). However, I feel the story of Revelations has a different, a more mature feel to it and I honestly think it could be considered a shorter standalone game if it weren't for the beginning recap of past events in the series and a few little references to what took place in Brotherhood. I mean it, Assassin's Creed's overall plot is so strange and messed already, Revelations doesn't advance the on-going Desmond plot almost at all and Ezio's previous adventures aren't referred to apart from a passing remark regarding Caterina, and overall Revelations' bonus first-person puzzle-platforming minigames help shed about 10x more light on Desmond's life and personality than the previous three games combined. I have played standalone games that gave far less context for the story than Revelations does. Anyway, I think Revelations will still be played as part of the series by everyone who'll ever play it, so pointless of me to try and separate it from the other games. I'll just say it has the most class out of all AC games thus far.
To add to Revelations' credit it also managed to make me interested in replaying the original Assassin's Creed, which is quite a feat considering my... immense dislike of that boring, over-hyped, over-priced, often glitchy turd of a game. It's just that Revelations, with Ezio's quest to travel the footsteps of Altaïr and unlock the secrets of Altaïr's library gives some reason for the original game to exist.
Yes, I am thinking about recording HD walkthroughs of the entire Assassin's Creed series. Even the first one.

After AC: Revelations I think I bought Payday: The Heist, Terraria, Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne from Steam's summer sale.
Payday is the Al Pacino/Robert De Niro film Heat made into a Left 4 Dead style game, only the zombies are pretending to be cops. I know the Heat/L4D thing is something more than one person has said and I have already joined the choir, but it is actually the first thing that popped in my mind when I played it the first time. The game seems like it's fun to play with friends, but alone I did get somewhat bored of at least the first three levels in one day, and it only has six levels and I have no friends. None that have Payday: The Heist at least. I'll record it if I can find other people to play with.
Terraria... I didn't get hooked. I can see how it could be slightly addicting, but I just don't feel any need to play it myself. It also has LONG level-generation and loading times, and I also can't play it in higher resolution than 800x600 without a hit on the framerate. I can play Condemned on PC at max settings, at least until big special effects get splashed on the screen, but I can't play a simple 2D-platformer type of thing at higher than 800x600? Not that I honestly needed to, though, as the game only shows a larger area of black surroundings at higher resolutions, but still. Funny.
Max Payne, finished first eight chapters. Game has so far been every bit as good as people always say it is, it does deserve it's praise.
Max Payne 2, haven't played it on PC yet but I do own it and have almost finished it on PlayStation 2 and can say that the game is great, maybe better than the first, and I am looking forward to playing all the way through it with better graphics on PC.
I am planning to record walkthroughs of the two Max Payne games, starting sometime next month in fact, and theoretically I could do Max Payne 3 someday as well since my mother is planning to buy it herself and once she's done with the game it is then passed onto me. Don't know when she'll buy it, though, as she right now has Dead to Rights Retribution and Yakuza 4 under work and I'm certainly not going to buy it as it doesn't look as good to me as the original two and I am already overloaded with games to play as it is. Just earlier today I bought the two Witcher games from since they were on sale. You think I'll ever get to play them? Fuck no. I'll die of old age and my grandchildren will get to try them instead.

Wait! I'd first need to take time off to find me a woman and figure out how it works and make some children that will then pop out grandchildren before they can exist enough to inherit my collection... ... ... Never gonna happen.

That's it, this blog post is over so I can have the new super-secret special thing up and ready and then MAYBE I get to actually play more Max Payne. I left it on part 1 chapter 9 three days ago!
And yeah, yeah, I would've added images but I can't be bothered. You want images? Search the games on Google, that's what I would've done anyway, so there.

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