Why I Write Game Reviews

I consider myself open-minded when it comes to games, however, I found that the chance of me liking a game increases when 1) the music is good and 2) if it’s visually attractive. I appreciate good illustrations. But I wonder if that statement is true or if I am just being simple-minded. For instance, while many folks enjoyed Nier Automata, released on February 23, 2017 and developed by PlatinumGamesVirtuos, I still don’t like it as much as the first installment nor do I prefer Nier Replicant, developed by Square EnixToylogic Inc. to Nier Gestalt, released on April 22, 2010 and developed by Cavia.  It’s a mystery why I like certain things or maybe it’s not all that mysterious: I prefer certain game developers over the other. This may explain why some games speak to me more than others–and why my mental state does not always have an effect on my enjoyment as I initially believed. Perhaps, my likes and dislikes are embedded in my conscience. Some things never change–like my soul. For instance, I tend to enjoy dark humor and horror since I was a kid, but I don’t consider myself mentally unstable. Most of my peers (a.k.a. “nice girls”) don’t like horror. So why do I like it? I have been trying to probe into my own psyche to learn more about myself because that’s what introverts do! Surprisingly, I learned recently why I enjoy the survival horror genre after watching the horror film: The Witch, directed by Robert Eggers which was released on February 19, 2016 (I did not enjoy the outcome because it has a horrifying political statement). Have I ever mention in this blog about hating politics? I don’t think so. I may write something about it in the future.

After dropping Scarlet Nexus, developed by BANDAI NAMCO StudiosTose, released June 24, 2021, I picked up Zero Time Dilemma, developed by Spike Chunsoft which I purchased a few years ago, I am finally getting around to playing it. Yes, this game was released in 2016 as the third installment of the Zero Escape series. If you were to ask me, I am currently enjoying it a lot despite what some folks have mentioned about the game in the past as a lower tier compared to the first two installments. As I mentioned in one of my reviews, I love puzzle games and gameplay does matter to meThe gameplay and the story go well together in this game. In defense of this game, most likely there will be a review/analysis in the near future. I find that it’s easier to write when my emotions are pleasant. Unpleasant ones turn the writing process into a chore. In the past, I have already volunteered my time freely to write these game reviews which could use a little improvement:

No surprise there, they are all horrifying games, but they all have potential. It’s hard not to critique them when I spent time playing them. However, I learned that if I don’t have anything kind to say, I won’t say it at all because writing politely about a game I don’t like took a lot of energy out of me, and it does not serve any real purpose other than to blow someone’s ego (I don’t know why gamers feel attacked when someone doesn’t like their games), although an indie game developer did thank me for a solid game critique writing of their game. This took me by surprise because I always thought I am writing into the void. If there is anything I learned from blogging about the games I’ve played is that my passion for games have not died. It’s just that “bad games” do exist, and I am not going to like everything I play and that is okay.

P.S.

Games don’t have to be epic or difficult for them to be good. It just got to have some sort of sense to it. At the end of the day, I sure do like games that feel good and rewarding.

I Couldn’t Follow Through

I hate dropping games, and most importantly failing to keep my word. I am just not as addicted to Scarlet Nexus. According to Howlongtobeat.com, the game takes about 25 hours to complete the main story. I have already clocked in 21 hours and I am still not done with Kasane’s story. There are just way too many talking and character-bonding episodes. It’s not bad for those who enjoy anime and story-driven games. But it just feels so staged and generic. I started this game up a few times. Last year, I tried and I tried again this year. It’s just not for me.

The gameplay is flashy and pretty. It makes you feel good when you defeat an enemy, but at the same time, it feels like button mashing. On top of that, the color red is too intense for me, although I did find some areas pretty to look at:

I am going to drop this game. I want something more mellow and relaxing. Yes, I failed but at least I could say, I tried.

Fatal Frame IV: Blossomed Death

When you think of a horror game, you think scary. Not this game. It’s beautiful. The concept, the plot, the characters, the music, the sound production, the colors, etc. Even one of the ghosts is quite fashionable! Okay, I am being overly enthusiastic about the game. The game is good but it’s not cosmetically perfect. Recycled ghosts, cheesy jump scare moments, and frequent wraiths spotting sort of destroyed the horror atmosphere. However, what the game did right is making a horror game feel and look beautiful. I can only imagine those who enjoy this game tend to lean toward their “feminine side,” the emotional side. If I could describe this game in a sentence, it’s feminine all around just like the moon, and like the sea, it tugs and pulls you in.

Music helps one recall a memory as to the Moon that helps give us shape and form

I am going to confess. I think the order of the story can be confusing. The order of story starts with Misaki and Madoka exploring Rogestu Hall. They were lured to the island by the cause of their friends’ death, believing that the island had something to do with their past. According to the synopsis, 5 girls went missing on the day of the Karuga Rogestu festival which occurred every decade on Rogestu Island. Three out of the five missing girls: Misaki, Madoka, and Ruka went back to the island to solve the mystery that caused their amnesia. While investigating the Rogestu Hall, the girls discovered they were part of an illegal clinical experimentation that attempt to cure the Moonlight Syndrome which caused the people on the island to lose their memories and their sense of self. Their only relief is to head toward the Moon where it gives them some of sort relief (I like how the Moon is used to describe light–a soft light that guides the living because death as we know is presumably and utterly darkness). The incurable disease Moonlight Syndrome caused a mass death on the island which then resulted in the abandonment of the island altogether. But how did this Moonlight Syndrome come about? The answer lies in the Karuga Rogestu ritual dance. In the dance, the maiden wears a mask, acting as a vessel surrounded by five girls called the organs. Each plays a different instrument. Because the mask was not perfect it caused the ritual to fail and the face of the maiden to blossom death. Anyone who sees her dies. If you were to ask me, the story makes more sense if it begins with Detective Choshiro Kirishima, but that would defeat the mystery and suspense parts, and I wouldn’t be able to find joy trying to piece the story together.

Perhaps, I am just a natural detective

When I take a step back and look at the story, what I find so poetic about this concept of this story is the notion that people are made of a tune. Each and everyone have a different tune. When there is no tune or noise–we called it death. Also, the moon is a metaphor for memories that makes up the soul. The Rogestu Karuga ritual also known as the Rite of Descent in ancient times is a spiritual dance where the “living souls meet the dead.” Why perform such a horrific dance? Well, we learned that Rogestu Island is the gateway to Hallow Realm where the dead reside. The dance is meant to ward off the dead from reaching the moon (the living realm). To do that, a ritual is performed by a maiden and girls who have high spiritual potential. They must be in tune with the Moonsong that pacifies the dead back to their graves.

What a gloomy game

There are more details to the story that I left out, but I believe I got the main point out of the way. The story can be a hit or miss with some folks who prefer a linear story. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the abstract idea and the metaphor: The soul is an orb, a light, the Moon that houses one’s memories. One without a soul becomes void. Hence, blossomed death. This game is pretty abstract like a messy painting but it all seems to come together at the end.

Note: This is just my interpretation of the story. I may update and correct information in this article accordingly.

Fatal Frame Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Review: Not A Walk in the Park

As the title suggests, this game is hard to platinum and get an ‘S’ rank. I flunked this old-school survival horror game. I cleared the game with a ‘D’ rank! I still don’t know how the grading works, but boo hoo, I have no shame in sharing my score because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about life is that we become better through failing: All babies learn how to crawl before they even learn how to walk. It’s this childlike optimism of mine that keeps me going because this game is no walk in the park, but I sure love the challenge.

As a horror fan, there’s no surprise that I am a fan of this franchise. I still remember those youthful days when my younger brother and I bought Fatal Frame on the whim simply based on the cover and because it’s a survival horror game. We played up to the third installment but did not get to play the 4th installment for obvious reasons. North America did not get its release. Like most survival horror fans, I tried to find ways to play the game but gave up on it many years ago. Glad I did not spoil myself because I enjoy playing the remastered edition, released on March 8th 2023 for the first time. It reminds me of the PlayStation 2/Nintendo Wii era. It feels like a Wii game with trophies. I am not sure if that is a good thing. Sometimes wanting to do many things in one playthrough can get overwhelming as I found with most PlayStation 3 games.

There is a reason why it’s called a blind playthrough…Attempting to collect everything in one playthrough is impossible.

Because I like to play games I enjoy at least twice, I started with Normal Mode but then went quickly back to Easy Mode. I know several people selected Normal Mode because they don’t want the game to be too easy, but the wiser decision is to play on Easy Mode to experience the story. Plus, when you are starting out, defeating enemies can be difficult since the Camera Obscura (your weapon) is at its basic. I found that playing on Easy Mode on my first playthrough was harder than playing on Normal Mode. The second time around, defeating ghosts becomes a breeze when items are no longer scarce since upgrades and items are transferrable over from the first playthrough. You can also trade in your spirit points by defeating ghosts for items that can aid you by accessing the Save Point menu in the game.

Speaking from my own experience, I can only speculate that the 2nd playthrough is when the player knows how to play the game. So, completing Ghost List which consists of taking pictures of Wraiths, Specters, Revenants and Hozuki Dolls was just an additional fun gameplay factor. I am not sure if the Ghost List was originally part of the game or whether it is a new addition to the game. All I know it’s a good way to make players play the game multiple times. So far, I completed the Hozuki Dolls. There are 79 of them by the way and they are not easy to find. If you ask me, I enjoy the hunt and the thought process. Some of the doll hiding places are purposely hard to locate and can be quite funny too.

It was right on top of me all along…

On the downside, modern gamers might find the controls quite frustrating. The controls sometimes are not very responsive. But then again, with a little practice, it is possible! Yes, you need to learn how to do a quick turn (press L3 and R on the PS5 controller) to avoid ghosts in battle and snap good pictures, which can be a terrifying experience for those who are easily spooked out, but for me not so much. When I am in “hunting mode”, trying to defeat ghosts by taking pictures becomes less scary since I have some form of control over my environment unlike in films where I am a passive observer. But that’s beside the point of what I am trying to make. The controls can be quite annoying. I failed to snap a good picture of the specter several times for it to show up in the Ghost List, which is part of a trophy. In order to capture the picture, you have to take the picture at a certain angle so that the blue circle lights up in the frame shot. I found myself attempting to reload saved points over and over until I get the perfect shot! One of them took me an hour!

I was so happy getting this one!

Then there is the part where the item meter glows but there’s no item to be found until you swing your flashlight back and forth until something eventually lit up. Talk about a great way to kill time. I believe all of these factors contribute to my low score. As I mentioned, the game is no walk in the park. It is, after all, a horror game. Did people expect it to be an Animal Crossing experience? So, I am not too harsh on the controls and the slow movement of the characters. But I do recommend playing the game on Easy Mode on the first try for a seamless gaming experience.

Despite my frustration with the gaming mechanics, I am getting better at snapping pictures. I found that it’s easier to defeat ghosts on my 2nd playthrough on Normal Mode than Easy Mode. That should say a lot about the game. Players are encouraged to play multiple times. As a result, progressively, the player will get better. Now I am on my 3rd playthrough. The entire game can be finished in 11 hours or less (The most time-consuming part is trying to complete the Ghost List). Each phase (chapters) is not too long are drawn out. So, finishing a phase feels manageable. There are 4 characters total that you can play, but I will go more into that in my second game review (in essay format) which I will cover the story and its prominent metaphor, the moon.

For what it’s worth, players will get a lot from this game: good story, good soundtrack, attractive characters (great selling point for me because I like dolls). Overall good pacing. It’s a shame I don’t have a hard copy to add to my small horror video games collection. At the same time, just being able to experience it is more than a dream come true so I can’t complain too much. Like its song, this game is going to linger with me for a very long time.

Goetia Review (PC): I’m A Nice Ghost

Old habits are hard to die. Like black coffee, video game is one of the things that get me out of bed. Here I am talking about it when I said I will keep the hobby to myself. One nice thing though is that I did not rush to write a thoughtful review after I finished the game. Instead, I took my time to write here and there when I can without feeling the pressure to meet deadlines. This blog is supposed to be fun, and fun it should be.

Someone once told me a decade ago, if I want to play games for the story then I should sign up for Steam. And so, I did. However, I can’t say I played enough indie titles to abandon AAA Games entirely. While I enjoyed games such as Cat Lady, I wish I could say the same about Goetia. The story wasn’t all that interesting enough to keep me on my toes. If you were to ask me to summarize it, it would require some painful backtracking because putting the story together feels like a chore. I didn’t think it was necessary to throw in some excerpts from books to help flesh out the story. Most of the time I asked myself what am I reading? How does this item tie in with the story? On top of this minor annoyance, the font style in some letters made it hard to read.

My eyesight is not bad, but typically I do wear glasses when I play games. There’s a problem with the font if I have to squint to read the pretty letters.
Does this book have something to do with the actual story other than just a place to hide a clue?

This brings me to gameplay: The puzzles were difficult but not in a good way. For instance, if the character is not good with music theory why include a music puzzle? There’s a difference between being challenging and being sadistic. It rubbed me the wrong way. All in all, I had to follow a guide for this game. And I learned that I am not the only one who felt this way! Talk about incohesive gaming experience. Not good. On the positive side, the game excels at atmosphere, although I can’t say I was scared playing as a ghost named Abigail! Should I be frightened of myself?

floating orb near scary statues
I am the floating orb in the game…

It’s a shame I wasn’t demonic. Instead, I was a nice ghost, which made me realize even if you were a demon or a ghost, you will always be in the right! That means smashing the dishes, slamming doors, and screaming are all justified (I hope I am not the only one who thought this was funny). On a serious note, the sound production in this game is soothing. I can see how this helps those who suffer from anxiety. This game is great with a cup of tea. You can check out my short playthrough to know what I mean.

Overall, it was a relaxing game. The greatest part about this game is learning a new vocabulary. I guess I am not demonic or gothic enough because I didn’t know what Goetia is before I played the game. Well, now I do! I noticed there is part II, but I didn’t like the game enough to want a sequel so I am going to pass. An explorative horror game with a lot of free agencies to roam is just not my cup of tea, but I sure love the ambient, horror theme!

PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo Review–I Found A Good Soap

One of my favorite pastimes is exploring the Steam store page. And it just happened that I stumbled upon PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, which is developed and published by Square Enix, and released on March 8, 2023.  It’s an adventure, visual novel, supernatural horror game. Instantly, based on the cover, I knew it was going to be a quality game. Was I right? Well, it’s no masterpiece but it’s quite entertaining.

If there is one thing I learned from this game is that men are still afraid of women, especially those who have the face of a smiling Buddha (Uh oh, is the game pointing at me?).

I wonder if the evil business lady is the source of inspiration for this horror game because it got me cackling up like a witch. I have always admired business-oriented women, but I know some can be a total b*tch.

After all, it takes a lot of skill to regulate one’s emotions to appear pleasant and attract customers–because people sure respond better to an attractive face. So it wasn’t a surprise to me to learn that the main protagonist, Shogo happens to work for a soap company which belongs to an ambitious, aging woman who is obsessed with eternal youth. At first, I thought I smell sexism. But then I realized there are other villains in the game such as the low-life perverted English teacher who looks down on his student; the chubby general shop owner by Sumida River who abducts high school girls; and the conceited occult researcher who is passionless about teaching. Just to name a few. I suppose the soap is a metaphor for cleansing and purging the ugliness that one may feel about themselves. All of the societal crimes are caused by the characters mentioned above. They are just rotten to the core and they hide their stench pretty well. But that’s just my reading. I am, after all, actively fishing for metaphors. I may very well be taking things out of context. Nonetheless, the plot sounds crazy. Hence why this game makes a perfect, entertaining horror story.

Namigaki is a lonely college student. Life can be tough for rich kids too who are often neglected by their busy parents. They often seek validation from an emotional, abusive lover.

Despite the notion of evil women, I think this game has good intentions. It speaks to teenage and college students who are having a hard time navigating life alone. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have loving parents or guardians to guide them to the right path. Clearly from the dialogues, the intended audience for this game is targeted toward the vulnerable youth population. However, I can also see mature audiences appreciating the game as well for its craftsmanship.

Michiyo's looking vengeful
Good girls tend to hide things pretty well at the expense of their happiness. If you noticed your friend is quiet and distant, you should check on her.

I won’t go into any further detail about the plot since this game is relatively new. I do hope you will check out this game. The story can be dramatic to your liking and will appeal to those who enjoy reading and learning about the detailed world revolving around The Seven Mysteries of Honjo. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the art style is pleasing to the eye. In terms of gameplay, there are some memory tests, which are a good way to engage with the player. Also, this game encourages players to think outside the box. In doing so, you can get a good ending!

So, if you are up for a good supernatural story with a touch of humor, this game is for you! Trust me, I laughed more than I expected even though the game indirectly called women like me evil! Yes, ambitious artistic women can be so selfish. It is even eviler when we tried to retain beauty for vanity sake. Tsk tsk. I don’t think some men can ever understand why it’s important to keep up with one’s appearance. We all can benefit from using good soap. It’s just basic human etiquette.

P.S.

If I have to choose a favorite character, I would say it’s Mio. I don’t see a chubby short girl in a video game that often who has an interesting role.

The Last Guardian Review

I remember I sort of looked over The Last Guardian despite the fact I have played ICO and Shadow of Colossus and enjoyed them very much. Somehow, I was distracted by Dark Souls III, which was released earlier that year and unfortunately I did not enjoy it as much. Also, I remember I was anticipating the release of Nier Automata in Feb. 2017–that too I didn’t enjoy as much. I think I was just burnt out from work and personal life to enjoy games despite my best effort to play them. If I were in the right mental state, I think I would have picked up The Last Guardian on launch day.

Patience is really a virtue. The game took 9 years to develop and it did not fail to meet my expectation. In fact, I love it so much more than ICO and Shadow Colossus. They were great games but they didn’t deliver an emotional punch like how this game did to me: 1) I love puzzles; 2) I love animals; 3) I love exploring; 4) I love ancient civilizations; and 5) I love the solitary atmosphere. But most importantly, it’s in its execution that made this game an overall powerful experience. I sympathize with the beast-like creature, Trico! He is the ultimate pet. Sometimes he reminds me of a dog,cat,bird,ferret,duck, rat etc. He is a special creature indeed.

Tricois free from shackles
We are free now! Not really….

You can already tell that my review of this game is already heavily biased. So, instead of writing a traditional review where I review “objectively”, I will write a review in response to the AI’s review for this game using the AI experimental paragraph:

The Last Guardian certainly stands out from the crowd, and it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most talked about games of the year. It’s an emotionally engaging experience and one that doesn’t provide a “gaming experience” as much as provide a narrative journey. The game follows the young boy, Trico and his unlikely ally, the guardian from a long-forgotten civilization. Together, they must make their way across a ruined world filled with obstacles, puzzles and danger. Even with its narrative strengths, The Last Guardian sadly has more than its fair share of faults. The most glaring of these is that it is a puzzle game at heart and the player must often spend more time working out how to make their way through the game’s puzzles than they do actually playing it. The puzzles themselves are often creative and interesting, but the lengthy process of trial and error can become tiresome at times. Additionally, while the later sections of the game are visually impressive, the game as a whole cannot compare to other adventures in the genre in terms of cinematography, visuals or sound.

The story of The Last Guardian can be credited for being extremely well written, as the main characters, the boy and Trico, go on a journey through a beautiful yet dangerous world along with the help of their new-found bond. With the boy being mute, the game does an amazing job of conveying the inner motives of Trico and vice versa. The puzzle-solving element of this game is also enjoyable, though at times it can be a little difficult, with some solutions seeming quite unreasonable or overly-complicated.

I must say I am pretty impressed with the AI’s review, but did the AI really play the game? I could have just left it there for the AI to do all the work but that defeats the purpose of this blog. I enjoy writing and crafting blog posts. Plus, the AI don’t speak for me entirely on how I feel toward this game. For one, I don’t see this game as inferior to other cinematic, adventure games. While I enjoyed the Last of Us and Until Dawn to some extent, I am not all that into cinematic games because I find them lacking in the gameplay department, which is an important factor in a video game to me. Secondly, I did not find the puzzles in The Last Guardian tiresome, complicated, or lengthy. The pacing of the game was quite nice and seamless (if you know how to solve the puzzles). Compared to Shadow of Colossus, this game is quite generous. In Shadow of Colossus, you have to know when to push X and R2 to grab onto the colossus on top of the fact you have to know how to get to its weak spot. The only challenging thing about The Last Guardian gameplay I can think of is executing the command to Trico. Sometimes he doesn’t always follow through. There were times when I got motion sickness from moving the camera to find clues on where to go next, and there were times I simply had to take a break because my mind couldn’t think clearly (I noticed when my mind is recharged, the puzzles are easier to solve). Despite that, it’s not entirely a bad experience. In fact, I found myself smiling and being charmed by Trico more than feeling frustrated. So, when the game did end, I did cry. It was hard to part with the beast-like creature who gave me a memorable, fond experience.

So, to celebrate some special moments with this game, I am attaching some pictures from my playthrough which don’t even do justice to how great the game is. If you haven’t played this game, give it a try. or if you don’t have access to Playstation, you can also watch someone stream on Youtube. The game is a masterpiece. Now, I am looking forward to the developer’s next project. Hopefully, during the time of its release, I won’t be too distracted by other major titles and that I am in the right mental state. I believe all creative works derserve careful attention. Well, as a blogger that is what I would like from my readers.

Boy on rope while Trico staring up from below
Boy blasting eye glass while standing on top of Trico's head
Boy and Trico in pretty light shimmering
Trico trying to save boy
Boy clinging onto Trico's tail
boy sleeping next Trico
boy building a bond with Trico

AI: Somnium Files Review

I enjoyed AI: Somnium Files developed and published by Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. It’s a visual novel with a strong detective murder mystery with some science fiction elements. Yes, like any typical game, there is a lot of saving to do because young girls do need help even when they are bratty and acting all tough! After all, being killed by a sadistic rapist is the worst nightmare that can happen to any girl! You can’t expect a psychopath to have empathy? Do you?

Misuki praying
Poor Mizuki who is only 12, tried so hard to be strong when she is actually mourning for the loss of her mother.

Story

First off, I want to warn readers that I don’t recommend this game to those who don’t have a healthy sense of humor and who are quick to slap anything that has to do with sexuality as misogyny. Quite the contrary, the game is not even misogynistic. The sexual jokes are mild compared to what I see on Twitter and from the former U.S. president. Despite my defense for this game, it doesn’t mean I accept locker room talk. But the jokes are there to poke fun at the protagonist’s singleness. After all, you are playing as the nice, perverted guy who is possibly bi-sexual.

Date looks like a girl
C’mon, look at Date’s face (the protagonist). He can pass off as a pretty woman.

I think that is why I could laugh at the part where Date hit on the 36-year-old receptionist who looks like an idol but is too old to be one. I say as long you can afford anti-aging creams and live comfortably then you are set for life. The average women care more about their appearance and health than they actually would admit as the motivating factor to why they work on top of the fact no one wants to end up homeless. But of course, there are exceptions. So more power to the receptionist for learning how to enjoy life in the moment (as long as you live responsibly that is). It takes a lot of soul searching to find contentment.

I used to work with an older woman who said if she had big boobs she’d flaunt it off. Not to attract men, but for her own liveliness. She was drunk when she said it though.

But I do see how someone would call this game misogynist. I suppose when you analyze a piece of creative work, you got to learn how to put things into context. So don’t dismiss this game because of its humor. On a serious note, there are a lot of heavy subjects around the concept of dream, reality, and AIs and whole bunch other stuff. And what I noticed is that there is a sense of optimistic, progressive thinking about the future of society, or a sense of acceptance on the writer’s part. It’s not just the topic of AIs I am talking about, but also the LGBT community in general.This game is a product of its time.

Aiba looking content
Aiba, the AI who is Date’s detective partner, agrees that human intuition is good from time to time, which is something rational, logical AIs lack.
Mizuki at Marble Bar
Mizuki is accepting of the LGBT community but still shows a sign of uncomfortableness.

I think the balance between seriousness and humor in the game is well done, and that is what I look for when I rate a good game. Even when I completed the game (there are multiple endings) there are still many mysteries to solve and once you solve the remaining mysteries of the story, everything just blows up in your face like fireworks. Overall, the pacing of the story is nice just as much as the colorful cast. Great game for mystery fans.

Gameplay

I played the demo on PS4 so I knew what to expect when I bought the game for PC. There are some differences in terms of user experience obviously. I played with mouse and keyboard but you can also play with a controller. I just stick with mouse and keyboard. I also noticed the game on the PC tends to glitch out occasionally, but it doesn’t happen frequently when I changed the graphic setting. I don’t know what it’s like for PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

While solving a case…this happened. It’s kind of artistic!

Gameplay wise, it did great at creating urgency but can get annoying because it does not reward you based on your skills to solve a case in 6 minutes. It did however, reward you on basic arithmetic skills! You have to select Timie to save seconds from being used on the top left side of the screen. Failure to select Timie correctly and the correct choices will penalize you for using seconds in real time and some of them take big chunks!

I had crossed eyes or something when I was playing the game because I mistook TIMIE for TIME. For awhile I kept proceeding without selecting the TIMIE on top center of the screen.

I found myself several times retrying and restarting the case due to running out of time. Some cases can get pretty tough especially if you are trying to solve it within 1 second remaining to obtain one of the trophies. If that sounds complicated. Do not fret. It will take trials and errors to get it right. Getting all the trophies was worth it.

I pride myself on my determination. I did it!

Overall, I thought the mix of shooting, investigating and solving puzzles were interesting. Not one moment was I bored. The concept of pyscning into someone’s dream to uncover hidden clues seems pretty high tech and futuristic. Is it ethical? Not really! I already feel invaded by tech companies collecting my data. It’s like exposing your underwear for strangers to see. Ugh…

merc staring at underwear

Sound

I realized I don’t write much about sound production and voice acting. But they do make a difference in the quality of any video game. At the beginning of the game, I kept switching from English to Japanese language to see which voice cast I prefer to listen to. Eventually I stick with the Japanese voice cast because I prefer Aiba’s Japanese voice over the English voice because ironically she sounds more natural. Believe it or not Aiba is an evolved AI who has a personality of her own and who has the free agency to think for herself. It makes sense to personify her a bit even though she lives inside the protoganist’s eye and she is just an AI. She is also Date’s alter ego. But I won’t go into detail behind my reasoning. That will be another post for a different time if I decide to write about the eye metaphor.

Lastly, the soundtrack composed by Keisuke Ito is decent and the sound effects are seamless enough that I don’t even recognized the music sometimes. It’s great because I felt immersed in the game, but I can’t say I am all that into idol pop culture music though. So the soundtrack didn’t stood out to me as much as other quality story-driven games. However, I do enjoy the Ikume Shrine theme because I just like all things zen.

Conclusion

This game is far from boring and simplistic. It has good soundtrack, good story, fun gameplay and good humor. Who doesn’t enjoy laughing? It’s a great way to release stress. Time is well spent when you are doing something you enjoy especially if it is also thought-provoking.

The Evil Within 2: Not My Cup of Tea

The spooky month is here. The world is ending. Just kidding! Looking through my blog, I thought why not revive an old blog post? I remember I was so excited to play this game that I published a review without finishing it. To my disappointment, I spoke too soon. So I revised the entire blog post a couple of times and re-published it. The game has potential, but unfortunately, it wasn’t what I was hoping for. 

I am a stickler when it comes to survival horror games since it is my favorite video game genre. I believe the concept more than the scare factor plays the most important role in developing an engaging horror game. For instance, Silent Hill 2 will always be my favorite survival horror game because the developers know exactly how to define horror and create a game that still haunts me to this day. When I see fog, I think of Silent Hill. The game is that memorable. All thanks to the game’s art direction and the superb original soundtrack (The people behind the game are quite talented). There are so many juicy symbolisms I got to get my hands on. But this post is not going to be about me ranting and analyzing the Silent Hill franchise and what makes it great. I’ve seen a couple of those insightful articles and videos about the game, so I don’t need to provide further input, or should I? This is about The Evil Within 2 and my thoughts about it. Please keep in my mind, I am not a fan of cinematic games (oddly most games are inspired by movies). So, of course, there are going to be some biases.

With any artistic medium (I think some video games are a form of art), it’s wise not to imitate even if you are under the spell of nostalgia. I am not a fan of imitation, but I am okay with inspiration. You can admire a classic game that haunts people after they are done with the game, but reinventing the same thing doesn’t frighten people or set the game apart. Why? Because the player already walked the same path before.

“If there is no suspense, there’s no horror.”

I quote myself, Halsdoll, a survival horror junkie

The Evil Within 2 feels like a confused horror, amusement park. It cannot decide whether it wanted to be an action or horror game. What disappointed me about the game was its strong opening. The game introduction was atmospherically scary. Yes, there was a little chase here and there. Fun for a bit, but then it got sloppy as soon as all the suspense got dispersed, and the story reached its climax. From there on, I found myself playing a cheap thrill. If the gameplay is lacking then I expect a decent story, but this game has neither of them. The Evil Within 2 felt like someone was forced to make a horror game. He knows all the ingredients for making a horror game but doesn’t know how to improvise it to make it uniquely his signature dish. Why recycle boss enemies once it has been defeated? Why do I need to level up my skill trees to make the game a bit more fluid? What purpose does it serve? Why is the black man evil? Oh no, I hope this game is not racist. I started asking myself, “Why am I playing this game? Let’s just hold our breath and just beat the game already.”

I would have enjoyed the game more if Juli Kidman was the protagonist but then the game would not appeal to gamers who are dads themselves or to the large gaming male demographic.

Juli Kidman, posing in white blouse
Juli Kidman-pic source

The story about trying to save the daughter is a classic tale. But I wonder, aren’t there enough survival horror games with a similar plot? Why didn’t they just make a movie instead of making a game? I would have enjoyed it as a movie. Well, at least the trailer is enjoyable to watch:

White Knight Chronicles (PS3) Review

I still remember back in 2010, I know nothing about this game. I was at the gaming department of the store and I thought the cover looked cool and I am going to have fun with it. So, I bought the game on a whim. Subconsciously, I already know that it’s a high-quality game. After all, if you are a fan of Rogue Galaxy developed by Level-5 and Japan Studio, it has that same adventurous charm. I didn’t play the game as soon as I bought it. At the time, I was a college student who was overwhelmed with intense writing courses (whoever said writing is easy should think twice). I waited until summer break to the play game. As I mentioned before in my previous blog post: Fashionable JRPG Video Games (PS3), the game has a high learning curve, and I didn’t feel like sitting hours learning the gaming mechanics when my time was occupied with school work. This is not the game you can play with a breeze if you want to enjoy the game to its max, especially for someone as thorough as me. It is a hit-or-miss game to some folks.

Initially, I thought the story of this game is generic. To some extent, yes, but I didn’t mind it so much playing the second time around. The male protagonist, Leonard is a shiny white-knight armor who has come to rescue a princess named Cisna who happens to be a reincarnation of a queen from an ancient civilization. He later learns that he is one of the 5 knights who was chosen during infancy for an ancient war that never did get resolved. I think I said more than I should about the plot but the game only takes about 30 hours to complete if you just focus on the story. It’s not so long for a JRPG and this is where it might turn off some JRPG fans who emphasize the story. Keep in mind though, there are three parts to this series: White Knight Chronicles II and White Knight Chronicles Origins (available only on the PSP). However, unlike Tales of Arise, which I thought has a mediocre story, the game has so much to offer in terms of gameplay and stage designs, which often go unnoticed by video game reviewers because most people review games from a player and not from a creative perspective. Some of the stages reminded me of going through a maze. It’s pretty massive for those who love to explore. It’s a puzzle in itself. Its biggest selling point, however, is the ability to create your hometown and upload its online server for other players to visit, join and create quests. For someone who doesn’t play MMORPG, it was exciting. I get to meet other random players.

I have never played Monster Hunter, but it is sort of similar to that. You grind to get rare drops to enhance your armor or weapon, and oh boy when you do finally get the rare drop from so many attempts, you get that adrenaline rush. I wonder is that the same feeling that gamblers experience? Anyway, you can see how addictive the game is. Sometimes not for the better. I had to say NO to online games because of this game, which apparently, I didn’t play many of them beforehand, but it only takes one to let me know if it’s the type of game I want to invest my time in. Also, the social part of the game can be quite entertaining because we all know that players are more unpredictable than playing with an AI. The downside is that time is precious and I got other games to complete, which is why I tend to stick with single-player games.

For some JRPG fans, this is a terrible game, but for a few of us–this game is really fun. It’s a hybrid game: half single-player game and half-multiplayer game. It’s an interesting concept for the Playstation3 that offers a seamless, relaxing game experience. The combos and moves are pretty fun to execute. It also has an excellent soundtrack. On top of that, the cutscenes are far more charming and impressive than in Tales of Arise. I hope someday, this franchise would return. It has a lot of potential and it’s a work of art.