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Winter Wrap-Up

January 11, 2016

In the last couple of weeks of 2015, I burned through a good dozen games, neglecting my usual habit of writing a couple of paragraphs about each as I went. I figured I should catch up on that:

Silent Hill: Origins (PSP)
It’s no Silent Hill 2 or 3, but I still enjoyed… enjoyed? Is that the right word?… another trip to everyone’s favorite vacation spot. I’ve still not played the original PS1 Silent Hill, so I didn’t really get the impact of the ending, but it FELT like more of a Silent Hill game than 4, at least. Having a weapon degradation mechanic but no weight limit led to an absolutely hilarious inventory by the end of the game; the designers made up for the fact that weapons would break with use by showering the player with opportunities to pick up new ones, so by the end of the game I was carrying around a dozen or so portable TVs, gas canisters and toasters, presumably in the same bottomless pockets that held the three IV drip stands and the assortment of fireplace pokers.

Teen Titans (PS2)
An amazingly forgettable brawler that probably would have been way more hilarious if I’d played it a few years ago, when I was actually watching the show on a regular basis. It had a pretty amazing twist ending but I’m not sure I could recommend anyone sink six hours into punching bad guys just to get that far.

Gamera 2000 (PS1)
Far better than it had any right to be, a mix of Panzer Dragoon-style shooting, Return of the Jedi-inspired hoverbikes, and unbelievably cheesy live-action cutscenes.

Touch My Katamari (Vita)
The original Katamari Damacy was goofy and mindblowing, one of the most charming games released for the PS2. This was, well, just kind of tired. Some of the music was good?

Cotton Original (PS1)
A nostalgia trip for me – the TurboDuo version of Cotton was my introduction to cute-em-ups, but I could never get very far in it at the time. 20 years later I did a little better, though I confess to abusing save states on occasion to make it through to the end.

Jumping Flash! and Jumping Flash! 2 (PS1)
Being mostly polygons, these two benefit dramatically from the upscale options in modern emulators. They’re also really sharp games with a vertigo-inducing unique gimmick; the sense of launching yourself into the void with only the vague promise that there may be a platform there to land on when you get there is something that I haven’t seen done in other 3D platformers.

Daytona USA (PS3)
OK, there’s no real way to “finish” Daytona, but it does have a set of 12 trophies and I played it long enough to get all the trophies. When this was live in the arcades I would happily drop a dollar a play, and 20 years later it’s still probably my favorite arcade racer.

Trapt (PS2)
When “Deception” came out in the US, I was gobsmacked that it had gotten localized; the whole thing is about setting traps to gather the souls of adventurers to fuel the rebirth of a demonic lord. Trapt was the fourth entry in the series, and is pretty much just as dark as that original game. A short game, but the last level has a difficulty spike that goes through the roof.

Sakura Santa (Mac)
A touching story about Santa. Or a story about touching Santa. The romance storyline is even more contrived than your average “Sakura” VN, but there were some fun bits regardless.

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit (Vita)
Actually I wrote a longform post about this one.

NEKOPARA Vol.0 and Vol.1 (PC)
A VN with adorable character designs where you and your two catgirl companions move out of the house and start a bakery. It tries its best to be super charming and cute and might have succeeded if it wasn’t so focused on pointing out how most of the characters in the game are pets at best and slaves at worst.

Nightmares from the Deep 3: Davy Jones (PC)
I really enjoyed the first two entries in the Nightmares from the Deep series, and the third was a pretty good way to wrap things up… at least until they find a reason to crash YET ANOTHER haunted pirate ship into that poor museum. The non-hidden object puzzles were either way simpler than average, or I’ve just finally seen enough interlocking-rings puzzles to get the patterns down. The hidden-object puzzles were top-notch though.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PC)
Like an Elder Scrolls game, but with WoW-like stylized graphics and some genuinely enjoyable combat. The “lore” bits just kind of blew past in a flurry of weird fantasy names, but I enjoyed the heck out of the questing and gathering bits to craft some frankly ridiculously-overpowered weapons to take on the final boss fights. Also, I wound up owning my very own castle, which is a pretty good turn of events. On the downside, there are gnomes and you can’t actually kill all of them.

Batman: Arkham City (PC)
The first time I tried Arkham City, I got bogged down by all the open-world nonsense and lost interest. This time, I stayed focused to the main storyline and found a much better game that way. I should feel a little guilty about all of the mugging victims I blissfully ignored along my way, but, well, Gotham’s a dangerous place. In an absolutely bizarre design decision, there’s a major boss fight AFTER the ending credits, and I’m glad that I actually sat through the intolerable scroll to discover it.

Satazius (PC)
A rare non-bullet-hell shooter, with an emphasis on not running in to obstacles while blowing stuff up. It took me a few tries to get from point A to ending credits, and a lot of the deaths along the way were of the “And now you get destroyed by something that you had no way to see coming” variety, but it never got really FRUSTRATING. On the other hand, mapping “ESC” to “close the game immediately without a confirmation prompt or saving progress” is another one of those weird design decisions.

Puzzle Agent 2 (PC)
The first Puzzle Agent had an off-the-rails crazy story about lawn gnomes and eraser factories in the frozen north. This sequel was… somehow not QUITE as weird, but still pretty insane. Both games are definitely worth playing through, and won’t take more than a few hours each.

Deadlight (PC)
I don’t normally like games with hard platformy bits that you wind up repeating until you finally get them right, and I’m dead tired of zombie games, but the two make a good combination. Minus several thousand points for technical issues (if you want voiced cutscenes, the solution is “go hunt down this version of binkw32.dll from one of your other games, and replace the version in our install folder), but I dug the visual style and the soundtrack.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (WiiU)
I love the Fatal Frame series and consider them all to be must-plays, so I’m not the person to come to for an objective opinion. I will say that it had a tendency to stick you into VERY close-quarters combat with very aggressive ghosts at times, more so than usual, but it showers you in healing items and high-powered film to make up for the extra fighting.

DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition (PS4)
My first Devil May Cry game, so I’m not sure how it compares to earlier games in the series, but I liked the combat and platforming a lot, while disliking virtually every character in the game. It came off as a bit of a poster child for making things “Edgy”, and I might have actually set it aside without finishing it if I hadn’t spent Serious Money (OK, a hair over 20 bucks) on buying it in the first place.

Capsized (PC)
Sort of like a puzzle platformer in low gravity, with lots of combat. Fantastic (in the proper sense) visuals and really atmospheric music. The control scheme was… challenging, and I never quite felt comfortable with it, but I managed.

Wow, that was a lot of words, and I didn’t even touch on the two or three games that I tried and gave up on. On to 2016!

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