Saturday, April 5, 2014

Three new reviews and a brief summary of a game that made me physically ill

Let's just do this in chronological order, then, yeah?

You know how the passersby are always getting their heads in a whirl about review scores while the critics themselves argue that the scores are beside the point? Here's why: Cloudbuilt. I impulsively bought it last weekend based on a colleague's praises and this video, wherein TotalBiscuit dismisses his ability to critique the game fairly due to the fact that he's embarrassingly crap at it. I kind of had the same experience - I eventually hit a wall wherein I was physically incapable of performing the feats that the game was asking me to perform. I wound up giving it a 6/10. What does that mean? Nothing. I don't like Cloudbuilt because it's beyond me, but it's also kind of spectacular if you happen to hit within its target audience (that being the speedrunners).

My review is here. And since I don't want you to see the score and immediately dismiss Cloudbuilt outright, I'll also point you toward Joe's more official review, which went up at precisely the same time and complements mine nicely. Different sides of the same coin, these are.

Even if you decide that Cloudbuilt isn't for you, though, I'd still urge you to check the game's soundtrack, which is absolutely extraordinary, as some presumably savvy and sophisticated individual is quoted saying right on that page. Seriously: If you know me, then you're well aware of my adoration for music, so when I say that I literally cannot recall the last time that I purchase a video game soundtrack for casual, anytime-anywhere listens, that should clue you in on just how special Jacob Lincke's work here is. In particular, the track "Aerial Walkways" is perhaps the sole reason I was able to stomach one especially nasty segment of the game.

The second review of mine posted this week was for a game called The Castle Doctrine over at GameCritics (in what I certainly hope will not be the last thing I write for those guys). Gonna be honest, here - the reviews I've done for GameCritics tend to be written long before they actually go live, which means, in this case, that I barely even remember anything about the game in question. It's an intriguing but ultimately kind of disastrous idea, a game that, and I quote, "asks too much of the player and offers too little in return." To do anything in The Castle Doctrine means putting all of your hard work thus far on the line, and for what? To push your way up the leaderboards and make yourself a bigger target, thus putting all of your hard work thus far on the line? It's a game in which the only possible outcome is to lose, unfairly and with nothing gained.

On the other hand, though, I can at least respect the fact that it's original. I believe that video games are art, and as such, the games historically most apt to offend me are the ones most artistically empty, cynical nonsense like Too Human and Knack that could very well have been made by machines for all of the inspiration that they house. The Castle Doctrine at least attempts something new, and while it fails, I admire the risk. Although the creator is reportedly kind of a buffoon, so maybe I should stay my tongue there.

Finally, I've at long last gotten around to reviewing Titanfall, after Dark Souls II devoured all of my time during that particular release week. I absolutely love the game, as expected from the considerable amount of time I spent with a beta a month or so back. You can read my thoughts here, and I do very much hope that I'm not overselling it. I know some people are upset about Titanfall's lack of a single-player campaign, but I've already gotten a couple dozens hours out of this thing and I can already tell you that it'll be my multiplayer title of choice for the foreseeable future. It's a big toy box full of awesome things, to heavily simplify the message.

I should have a review for Infamous: Second Son done by the end of the weekend. I have a weird compulsion in superhero sandbox games to do everything, even when the game in question is on PS4 and I couldn't care less about trophies. Since there's actual purpose behind the side quests in Infamous games (clearing out the city), catching spies, spraying stencil art and basically doing anything other than the standard story missions has been the order of business so far. My save file tells me that I'm at 75% completion, and that's without even having found the third set of powers yet. I don't know what it is with me and these games.

It's not even that great, honestly. Especially coming after Titanfall, the controls feel sluggish, and 30 frames per second is kind of the pits these days, eh? Superhero sandbox games are an easy sell for me, but they're also open to some potential pitfalls that Second Son embraces with big, beefy arms. I loved the first Infamous, but now, following titles like Just Cause 2 and Saints Row IV, the series just isn't tight or exciting enough to propel itself beyond the status of being typical genre fare: passable, sufficient, diverting, fine. I'm glad that my PS4 is finally getting use, but a killer app this ain't.

By the way, I also checked out TxK on Vita over the weekend, as per the recommendation of... someone. I don't know. I keep a list of 2014 releases I still need to check out - because I'm serious about pursuing this as an active line of work and that means being an expert - and TxK made it on there. It's unique because, with no history of epilepsy or motion sickness, this is the first game that I am physically unable to play. Some combination of the tunneled perspective, rapidly changing colors and techno-trance music is just too much for my body to handle, because picked up nausea and a raging headache after maybe 30 seconds with the game.

TxK seems cool, and I don't hold the developers responsible for this; like I said, this is unusual for me. Unfortunately, this means that I'll have to permanently cross TxK off my list. It's gotten good reception otherwise, but if you're interested, be warned about that. 

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