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Monday, March 23, 2015

Shelter 2: Impressions



Shelter 2 put you in the role of a mother lynx doing her best to take care of her baby cubs. It features amazing aethetics and a great sound track. The concept is interesting and the visuals are great, but is that enough for a fun game?

The visual design is something close to what you'll see in paper mache art. It's stylized and well conceptualized. It's a gorgeous game with a look that can inspire. The sound design is equally impressive. The SFX help immerse the player into the woodland environment and the music is very pleasant on the ears with it taking highs and lows as the situation requires it. From a purely aesthetic perspective, I have little to no complaints.

When you jump into Shelter 2, you'll quickly discover it's not like most other survival games you've played, infact I wouldn't even call it a survival game. You don't have to feed yourself, theres no crafting, the only thing you have to be concerned about are your cubs. Chase rabbits and deer to keep them well fed and explore the landscape. It's pretty simple, maybe a little too simple. There's not really a huge amount of variety in the gameplay. You just run around catching prey and avoiding predators and other environmental dangers. You'll be doing this over and over again with out much else. It is fairly repetitive.

There's also no real mechanical punishment for losing a cub either. The game wants the player to feel emotionally connected to your family and tries it's best to have the impact of losing a baby as the punishment itself, but I feel like it fails in this. Let's take the games Brothers a tale of 2 sons, or This War of Mine as examples of games that successfully instilled emotional responses from the player. In both of those games, when you lose some one both those games will communicate sorrow through visual cues, the characters will cry, show signs or remorse, etc. You'll get a tiny bit of that in shelter 2 as well, but because none of the cubs show any personality traits that separate them, it diminishes any potential emotions from the player. Also the 2 games I named as examples amplifies the intended emotional response from the player through mechanics as well. In Brothers, you literally lose half of your controls, in This War of Mine characters become unresponsive to your commands. In Shelter 2 it does nothing. In fact, if you lose a cub, the game actually (intentionally or not) rewards the player from a mechanics perspective. You still have your full abilities and control, and the game gets easier as there's less mouths to feed. Games aren't movies or books. You can't drive home emotional responses from the player simply through narrative or visual cues. It needs to be reflected in the mechanics as well, and Shelter 2 falls flat on this.

Overall Shelter 2 is a gorgeous looking and sounding game with an interesting concept. Unfortunately it seems to forget that it's still a game and it needs to be fun. With repetitive and uninspired gameplay, mechanics that fail to instill the intended emotions. At best, Shelter 2 is an interactive experimental art piece, at worst, it's a boring game with mechanics that are simpler than games you'll find on web browsers or mobile.

Pros:
- Great looking aesthetics and sound design
- Easy to pick up

Cons:
- Fails as instilling the intended emotions
- Extremely simple and repetitive gameplay
- A far shot from being a "survival" game
- limited content



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Shelter 2 on Steam
http://store.steampowered.com/app/275100/

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Screencheat: Quick Look


Remember back in the day, when people played multiplayer FPS on the same screen locally and on split screen? Remember how there's always that one person who's looking at your screen to find where you are? Well Screencheat is made for that one person! Except this time around, the game promotes each player to screen cheat and every one is on equal grounds!

The gimmick behind Screencheat is that every player is invisible with only each other's screen as indicators to where s/he might be. As a player, you must manage your own screen so you know where you're going and shooting, while paying attention to every one elses, so you know where to aim. It's a very simple idea that's executed very well.

Graphically the game isn't much to look at. It's more functional than it is pretty. Luckily for most, this is not the type of game that people will care too much about the aesthetics, rather the mechanics. As mentioned above, mechanically this game pulls off it's goal with success. It is a pretty basic FPS when you strip away the multiscreen / invisible player gimmick, but in a game like this, simplicity is probably for the best.

The game is very fun, especially if you have a soft spot for old time local play FPS feel, even if it does support online as well as local. It's nothing too special to look at, but it is something special to play with friends!

Pros:
- Frantic micro-management of multiple screens
- Very interesting concept
- Easy to understand and jump into

Cons:
- Aesthetics are some what weak
- Might be too mechanically simple for some



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Screen Cheat on Steam:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/301970/

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hotline Miami 2 Wrong Number: Impressions


Before I start I want to mention that I've never played the first Hotline Miami, so this impression will be from some one who's new to the series, and have judged it under the game's own merit.

Hotline Miami 2 is a top-down perspective action game. If you've played the classic GTAs, you'll be quite familiar with this. Unlike GTA, the game isn't so much open world as it is mission to mission. You'll be brutally gunning down or beating up your enemies. But it's not quite as simple as holding down a trigger and win. The game is challenging where all it takes is one shot to end your game.

Hotline Miami's visual is of some of the best I've seen in pixel art. It's similar to what you might of seen from the 16 bit era, but refined to great detail. The game is brutal, violent, and gory, and it takes a lot of skill to represent that degree of grotesque in 16 bits, as the resolution doesn't leave the artist much room for error. The visuals are vibrant and all cohesively themed in an 80s retro style. It's gorgeous! The audio is of an equal quality with one of the best OST in recent memory.

Though a game like this, that feel quite arcady, can often get away with little to no story. Hotline Miami 2 takes the high road and offers an engrossing narrative that goes much deeper than a simple crime drama. With out spoilers, it goes into the delusional, and I'd compare it to the psychological thriller genre. But do be aware, it also explores some extremely dark and adult themes. This is not a game for children or those who are easily offended.

There's much to love about Hotline Miami 2, but it doesn't get away with out flaws that's worth pointing out. The game does have some bugs, not many, but some and when they appear, they're noticeable. Also the enemy AI, though passable, could be improved on, as they're not always reacting realistically.

Overall, Hotline Miami 2 is a great game that's worth every penny it's asking for. It's challenging, looks and sounds amazing, and brutally honest in it's story telling. I can not recommend this any more!

Pros:
- Great visuals and audio
- Challenging and skillful gameplay
- Engrossing story
- Varied player classes to mix things up
- Addictive and satisfying

Cons
- Some bugs
- AI can react unrealistically at times





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Hotline Miami 2 Wrong Number on Steam
http://store.steampowered.com/app/274170/

Monday, March 9, 2015

Soul Axiom: Quick Look



Impression written and recorded on version: UPDATE #08

Soul Axiom is a first person puzzle adventurer that is shrouded in mystery. The game features wonderfully designed visuals and inventive puzzles.

There isn't much of a written narrative, rather the story unfolds through a series of events. You'll be going from level to level once you gain access to the game's main hub, and each level is almost like it's own puzzle. You have multiple powers to help you through your journey, and they vary in abilities. One allows you to disintegrate and reform objects, and another allows you to move and freeze objects in place, while more abilities will be coming in later versions. With these simple powers the developers have created some very inventive puzzles from what I've seen, often requiring creative thinking and a combination of all your powers to solve.

The game is a looker too. It's stylized very well, features great lighting and a color pallet that is easy on the eyes. The sound design is of equal quality as well. As far as Aesthetics is concerned, I have no complaints, it's simply a great looking and sounding game.

Soul Axiom is currently in Early access. I find this type of game kind of awkward as an early access. There is a lot to like about Soul Axiom already, but since this game has a start to finish, narratively speaking, it is noticeably incomplete. As you start immersing yourself into the wonderful atmosphere the developers have created, you'll reach a point where the game just stops, telling you to wait for the next update. An abrupt and immersion breaking reminder that, this is a game... an incomplete game.

Overall Soul Axiom shows a lot of promise with great visual design and intriguing puzzles, but because of it's incomplete state, I would suggest waiting for this game to be out of early access before making the purchase. Playing so far and having the game abruptly end until the next update almost feel like a spoiler to what otherwise, a very enjoyable experience.

Pros:
- Great visual design
- Excellent atmosphere
- Inventive Puzzle design

Cons:
- Feels noticeably incomplete currently
- Puzzle difficulty vary wildly




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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Savage Lands: Early Impressions


Savage Lands attempts to blend RPG with open world sandbox survival. You'll be struggling to look for food, shelter, and assorted materials for crafting like most other survival games, but within an RPG setting. You'll be facing off against dire wolves, skeletons and dragons just to name a few.

The concept of melding RPG with survival seem so obvious, and being a fan of both genres, I'm happy to see Digital DNA taking a shot at it. The survival mechanics would be something I would compare to The Forest, chopping down trees, and crafting your own little village while fending off monsters. It pulls it off quite well, even at this early state of it being on Early Access. There are plenty of things to craft and a fair amount of wild life and monsters to hunt. While the survival aspect is done relatively well, the RPG elements that it tries to fuse does leave the player wanting. There's no XP to gain, not many stats to min-max, no story to speak of, or characters skills to customize. Basically if you're looking for an RPG experience, you might be disappointed. The best way to look at Savage Lands is to think of it purely as a survival game in an RPG setting.

Visually it goes with a realistic aesthetic. It's not overly unique looking, but does the job. It does show a degree of graphic fidelity, as the landscape is well populated with foliage, and at certain time of the day, the lighting can impress. The game also shows a weather system and a day night cycle that's done pretty well as far as visuals are concerned. It's nothing too memorable, but it's not too hard on the eyes either.

Overall, Savage Lands shows potential and is already quite playable. Mechanically it might not be the most original game in the world, but it is very competent in what it's trying to achieve. Don't go in expecting an RPG experience, instead, expect a survival experience and I think many would enjoy what it has to offer.

Pros:
- Survival gameplay in an RPG environment can be very interesting to explore
- Stable, playable, and enjoyable from right on launch
- Lots to craft

Cons:
- RPG elements are weak
- Combat uninspired

Savage Lands: Early Impressions (Early Access RPG sandbox survival, gameplay and review)

Savage Lands is an Early Access open world sandbox survival game with some RPG elements. How does Savage Lands compare to it's competitors? Is the RPG melding of Savage Lands enough to set it apart from other survival games of the genre? We take a look at all of that and more in this Savage Lands impression!

The "Impressions" series is created to analyse and critique games to let you folks know what it's all about, and if it's worth the asking price. We record our commentary live, and feature full, unedited footage to give you a natural, and honest perspective into the game.

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http://www.savagelandsgame.com/






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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Resident Evil Revelations 2 - Episode 1 - (PC): Impressions (Survival Ho...


Resident Evil Revelations 2 is the second entry to the Revelations series. This time around you'll be taking control of Claire Redfield of RE2, and Barry of RE1. Unlike other Resident Evils, this one is episodic and this first episode will run you around 2-4 hours depending on how you'll play. Both campaign of Claire and Berry are relatively similar in length.

While playing as Claire you'll also be joined by Moira, Barry's daughter, and while playing as Barry you'll be joined by Natalia, a mysterious little girl who he runs into. Both campaigns you'll be playing as 2 characters at once, allowing the player to switch when ever s/he wants. Berry and Claire will be the offensive characters that will be doing the majority of the shooting, while Moira can provide support through locating hidden objects with a flash light, as well as blinding enemies with it as well. Natalia will serve the purpose of getting into smaller areas and the strange ability to locate enemies through walls. Though it's an interesting idea to play as 2 characters at once, the game has some issues executing this mechanic well. The AI controlled partner isn't all that smart, often times taking hits unnecessarily, or at worst, standing around doing nothing at all. Couple the poor AI with the fact that the game didn't launch with online co-op and we have some frustrating moments. The partner system in this game is something I kind of wish they didn't include.

The game is also riddled with technical problems. Frame drops, raid mode not loading for some people with out switching Steam to offline mode, assorted bugs, odd AI behavior, it's sort of a technical mess to be honest. Luckily these issues can be patched out, and hopefully in the near future Capcom will address these serious issues with the PC port.

For fans of the first Revelations who enjoyed the simplification of it's mechanics, bringing it back to how it felt in the RE4 days, Revelations 2 may disappoint. It suffers some of the same issues as RE6, in that the game feels much too actiony, and a lot less like the classic REs. It's like Capcom forgot why people enjoyed Revelations 1 in the first place, and is repeating the same mistakes made in RE6.

Luckily for us it's not all doom and gloom. There are aspects of RE:Rev2 that is very enjoyable. The story is one of the better ones to come out of the Resident Evil Series. Moira is a welcome addition to the RE cast of characters, as she's a flawed, innocent, young girl, who was in unwittingly thrown into a dire situation. The game explores the personal conflicts of each character, especially Moira and for the first time in a long time in RE, the series shows some real character depth in it's story. The game's raid mode, though a bit buggy at the moment, is very enjoyable. It'll feature an enjoyable progression system that's almost Diablo-like where you'll be grinding for XP, skill points, and random loot. It has a ton of potential for replay and it also includes a bunch of enemy types and maps that are exclusive to just raid mode. It's a fun distraction from the main campaign, and you can clearly tell the devs have sunk a lot of time and love into it's design.

Overall I can't recommend RE:Rev2. There simply are just too much technical hitches, couple that with the lack of online co-op, and a partner system that feels more like a chore than fun, I feel this is a flawed entry into the series. It pains me as I write this as I am a huge RE fan, and have been looking forward to this game for a long time. Let's hope for a better second episode.

Pros:
- Good Story, welcomed new additions to the RE cast
- Raid mode is fun (if you can get it working)
- Cheap price of entry (if you only want the first episode)

Cons:
- A laundry list of technical flaws, from frame drops, to raid mode not launching
- Poorly implemented partner system
- Does not capture the same spirit of Revelations 1
- Repeats problems that RE:Zero and RE:6 has

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Resident Evil Revelations 2 on Steam
http://store.steampowered.com/app/287290/

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dead Effect: Impressions


Dead Effect is what many would consider "that generic zombie fps", but that doesn't automatically make it bad. You get tossed into an arena based level, full filling the objective listed in each mission. Before you head out the game offers you the opportunity to purchase and upgrade your weaponry. It's a very arcady FPS that knows exactly what it is and makes no illusion to it's identity.

I wouldn't go into Dead Effect expecting a full narrative experience from games like Bioshock or Wolfenstian last order. The story is pretty bad, and the voice acting even worst, but where the game shines is it's excellent feeling run and gun gameplay. There is a fair variety of firearms to use, and they all feel great! Excellent visual and audio feedback on each shot, classic and challenging difficulty scaling, it's generic FPS done right!

Dead Effect has it's origins in mobile tablet gaming and the Steam version is basically an upresed version of the mobile original. They've done a pretty good job of upresing, as the texture quality is quite good, as well as the lighting, showing a good amount of visual fidelity. Where it takes a hit in the visuals is it's lower polycount models used, due to it being on mobile originally, and the menu screen has too much left overs from it's origins, with big unnecessary buttons. As far as visuals are concerned, it does a passable job as a PC port.

Dead Effect probably won't be the very best FPS you'll ever play, nor is it very original, but what it does it does very well. It's gameplay, though generic, is designed well for maximum entertainment in shorter burst play time. At it's price of $5 there's not too much to complain about. If you're looking for an entertaining but cheap action FPS, and don't mind it being some what flawed in comparison to it's competitors, Dead Effect is a very viable choice.

Pros:
- Excellent feeling run and gun gameplay
- Multiple game modes to play
- Brings FPS back to it's roots of run and gun
- More than fair asking price

Cons:
- Unoriginal
- Terrible voice acting
- Left over Mobile UI




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Dead Effect on Steam
http://store.steampowered.com/app/286040/