Tag Archives: Simulation

Hohokum (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Honeyslug & Santa Monica Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony

Artist – Richard Hogg

Producer – Zach Wood

PEGI – 3

Hohokum, created with the assistance of British artist Richard Hogg and six years in the making, is an art game developed with the purpose of offering players a more relaxed gaming experience than what is considered to be conventional. Personally, it didn’t work for me for a multitude of reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

The best thing about the game, by some distance, is the direction of the visuals taken in the game’s design. Making use of many different colors and abstract surroundings and environments, it certainly speaks of art in this respect. It actually reminds me of the work of Sanna Annuka, who designed the cover art for the album Under the Iron Sea by one of my favorite bands, Keane. The difference being is that Annuka’s work is much more provocative than Richard Hogg’s.

Gameplay – 3/10

The objective of the game is to interact with certain elements of the in-game world to give them color, and thus moving the player on to the next area until the game is finished. Though it was made with unconventional goals attached to it, I failed to get much enjoyment out of what I was doing the whole time and became bored of the game quickly. It was made with the intention of relaxing players, but personally, that’s not part of what I look for in a good video game, and wouldn’t want to have in one.

Controls – 7/10

The control scheme seemed to me as being far too convoluted, since there are quite a few functions, but no use for the majority of them. The basics can be mastered within a small space of time, and getting a general feel for how the game plays out is easy enough, but the entire thing seemed far too complicated in this respect.

Originality – 6/10

I can appreciate the fact that the developers were clearly trying something new, and making an attempt to defy many conventions that have been perpetuated over the years. But the problem being is that the game is different for the wrong reasons, and in this respect, reminded me of Proteus; an aimless experience unlike any other. If there is some kind of grand design behind this game, I couldn’t interpret what it was, and after having played it, I’m very much disinclined to try again.

Angrii

Angrii

Overall, Hohokum is one of the weaker indie gaming experiences that Sony has ported to their consoles in recent years. The fact that it took six years to makes also compels me to think that many drastic changes were made during its development cycle; most of them seemingly for the worst.

Score

23/40

5.5/10 (Below Average)

Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Quantic Dream

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – David Cage

Producer – David Cage

PEGI – 18

Released in the middle of 2010, one of the most exciting years in the seventh generation of gaming in my opinion, Heavy Rain was a game developed in very much the same vein as a prior Quantic Dream game named Fahrenheit, containing multiple character narrative and a string of moral choices, which affect the events throughout as well as the ending. For me, this game was a sign of the times; that many developers were choosing to allow stories in video games to take precedent over gameplay. Ever since, games like The Last of Us, Journey, and Outlast have been met with overwhelmingly positive critical reception, and I think Heavy Rain can be seen as a catalyst for this trope; one that I think the industry would be far better off without.

Graphics – 8/10

From a technical standpoint, the game’s visuals are top-notch. It’s easily one of the most realistic looking games of the seventh generation, making use of motion capture technology, extremely effective use of lighting, and flawless textural details. The game also does an excellent job of establishing a truly morbid and dark atmosphere in stark contrast to the upbeat premise that the game begins on. The most outstanding criticism I would levy against the game’s presentation is how during every load screen, the character’s faces are displayed close-up as if to beat players over the head with how advanced the visuals are.

Gameplay – 2/10

The game plays out pretty much identically to Fahrenheit, and by proxy, it feels just as empty and dissatisfying to play. The only incentive on offer to people who play the game multiple times is through different endings, artwork and developer commentaries, which to me, says a lot about how much effort the developers put into this aspect if they felt the need to go to as great a length to convince people that the story and visuals make up for the lack of gameplay, when it clearly doesn’t.

Controls – 7/10

For an action-adventure game that isn’t particularly action-oriented compared to many other games, it isn’t surprising how much the game’s control scheme adds to the dullness associated with playing this game. The controls feel extremely stiff, and although there are a few context-sensitive sequences, reminiscent of God of War, they don’t last long enough in my opinion, and there are also too few. It’s why I’ve always dreaded to think what the PlayStation Move edition of the game is like. I’ve always found the idea laughable.

Lifespan – 3/10

One playthrough of this game can be made to last merely 6 to 7 hours, which is quite typical of how long mainstream games have been made to last for a good number of years now. Although this game was clearly designed to be played multiple times, It’s easy enough to figure out how to get the best ending the first time around, and after that, there’s not much cause for playing the game again anyway.

Storyline – 7/10

Undoubtedly, the best thing about this game is the story. It centers mainly around a man called Ethan Mars, who after the tragic death of his son Jason, is divorced from his wife and living alone with only his second son Shaun to care for. Shaun then goes missing, and it is assumed that he has been taken by an infamous criminal going by the pseudonym of the Origami Killer. Ethan resolves to find Shaun and is put through a series of trials by the killer in order to test his commitment to his son. The story is also told through here additional characters; an FBI profiler named Norman Jayden, a journalist named Madison Paige, and a private detective named Scott Shelby. The story is extremely dark and at times downright depressing, but it can end either well or poorly depending on player desire.

Originality – 2/10

In my review of Fahrenheit, I commented that the only positive hint of uniqueness the game had going for it was its combination of action-adventure and point and click adventure gameplay. But now that the idea has been done before, Heavy Rain has even less going for it, since it incorporates an identical style of gameplay, and only having a good story to keep things even remotely interesting throughout. This to me, is much more of a negative thing, since the story clearly came before the gameplay in the developer’s eyes, and made for what was in my opinion, an extremely dull experience overall.

Angrii

Angrii

To summarize, Heavy Rain is most definitely one of the worst games I played throughout the seventh generation, since the majority of the effort was focused on the wrong aspects, and the most important aspects were neglected greatly. Quantic Dream has managed to impress a lot of gamers over the years, but they have yet to impress me at all.

Score

29/60

4.5/10 (Mediocre)

Dragon Forge (Xbox Live Arcade)

Developer(s) – Digital Candy

PEGI – 3

Dragon Forge is an extremely obscure game ported to the Xbox Live Arcade some time ago that revolves around the simple premise of having to destroy as much as possible with a player-controlled dragon. It plays out almost identically to Lair, except it is indeed far worse in every single aspect.

Graphics – 1/10

Aside from looking like something that could possibly run on Nintendo 64 hardware, containing very primitive graphics and minimal textural detail, there is also next to no thought put into the conceptual design, with only a black dragon and a few splashes of scenery. It’s a distinctive shame since I think the primitive-looking visuals could have even been forgiven if the developers had put a bit more effort into making the game than they did.

Gameplay – 1/10

The game focuses on an extremely monotonous and uneventful premise, that makes for one of the worse video game experiences of all time. If the seventh generation had developers and games that made next to no impact and remained rightfully obscure, like most games developed by Color Dreams on the NES, then I think Digital Candy and Dragon Forge can be best described as their equivalents.

Controls – 1/10

To the people who have played Lair, and thought that game was impossible to cope with, you’ll be even more insulted if you ever come to play this monstrosity of a video game; the controls are stiff, buggy and aiming can feel like an almost impossible task at the best of times. To the people who have played neither Lair nor this, keep it that way.

Originality – 0/10

I think the only way that this game stands out among others is how little there is within it. Magnavox Odyssey games had more to it than in this, and I think a game like this would be an embarrassment from the point of view of either any developer or gamer.

Furiious

Furiious

In summation, Dragon Forge may very well be one of the worst games I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across and is a strong contender for the worst game of all time. It leaves a very dark and distinct stain of the gaming industry, as well as empty CVs for its respective developers

Score

3/40

0.5/10 (Beyond A Joke)

Don’t Starve (PC & PlayStation 4)

Developer – Klei Entertainment

Publisher – Klei Entertainment

PEGI – 12

Don’t starve was first released on PC last April, and has since garnished a lot of critical and commercial success. The game is a very compelling blend of action-adventure, real-time strategy, and survival horror, which was interesting from my perspective, as I’ve never been the biggest fan of the survival horror genre. My gripe with these kinds of games is that developers seem to deviate away too much from gameplay, which is the most important aspect of any video game, and concentrate more on making the game as scary as possible, creating an uneven blend of both aspects. It doesn’t matter how scary a survival horror game may be from my point of view; I believe it’s inherently more important than the quality of the gameplay is should be what makes up the majority of any game’s appeal. Don’t Starve, for me, has the balance right, and is quite honestly the best game with survival horror elements I’ve played since BioShock.

Graphics – 7/10

One thing to remember about indie video games whilst critiquing them is the fact that many of their developers operate on a budget. Indeed, co-founder of Klei Entertainment, Jamie Cheng, had to sell his shares from THQ and borrow a further $10,000 from his brother in order to establish the company. Consequently, the visuals were never going to be overly stunning. But what this game lacks in cutting edge graphics flawlessly makes up for in excellent scenery and style. Areas, where berry bushes and carrots grow, look vibrant and colorful, the forests look moody and imposing and the areas where the most dangerous enemies in the game reside look dead and lifeless. Overall, the game’s visual approach gives it a very atmospheric feel, which will be felt by players. Jokingly, even one of the supposed loading processes described in the game’s loading sequence is “reticulating a keen sense of despair”, which theoretically could be felt if the player is lost and doesn’t know exactly what needs to be done.

Gameplay – 8/10

The game’s basic premise is essentially in the title. The concept of this game is to survive for as long as possible in a randomly generated open world, which the player’s character is thrown into. The key to survival is to maintain the character’s hunger, health, and sanity, which are all displayed as meters on the screen. These meters are kept full by eating food so as not to starve (hence the name), establishing campfires in the night, as spending too much time in darkness will result in an instant kill, effectively fending off against hostile livestock across the land, and collecting flowers to prevent the character from going insane. Eventually, a permanent settlement can be established and players can build research machines in order to create more equipment and thrive rather than survive. Of course, the longer the player survives in the world given to them, the more challenges are presented as enemies increase in numbers, and testing winter periods also comes along.

To sum this game’s play up, I would describe it as challenging, yet extremely addictive. It can be frustrating when players are starting out and troubles are unexpectedly sprung on them, with themselves having little knowledge of what should be done, but at the same time, an overwhelming sense of satisfaction can be had the longer a player can keep his/her character alive. The game functions very similarly to Minecraft, another very popular indie game, but I happen to think that this game is better than Minecraft. When I played Minecraft, even with a tutorial, I felt as if events were moving far too slowly, and I very quickly lost interest. But with Don’t Starve, whilst it will inevitably take some time to get into (especially as there is no tutorial), events move a lot faster than Minecraft once players get the hang of it, and there’s much more urgency about it in the beginning, as it’s considerably harder to survive; especially in the early portion of a single-player game. The fact that terrain is randomly generated also offers a very decent amount of variety. Experience points are earned in the game by making characters survive for as long as possible, and additional character types are unlocked the more the experience points are earned by players, which adds even more variety, giving the game an almost RPG feel to it. It’s the first PlayStation 4 title I feel as if I’ve been able to thoroughly immerse myself in. I would highly recommend people play it.

Controls 10/10

Although people may argue that it might be better to play this game on a PC, as was originally intended, that to me is splitting hairs. This game’s control scheme has been very well attuned to work on the PlayStation 4 and does make decent use of some of the new controller’s features. For example, the touchpad is used to bring up the map, which thankfully isn’t overly complicated, like some game maps have been in the past. Games like Blasto and Dark Storm spring to mind.

Lifespan – 10/10

Another marvelous thing about this game is that it lasts as long as either player’s interest in the game or player’s level of skill. There is no average time in which the game can be completed; it’s just one of those games that can be picked up and played for however long the player wishes, be that twenty minutes or twenty hours. Although it essentially falls in the same genre as Dead Island, open-world survival horror, it’s far superior to Dead Island in terms of gameplay, and it’s even scarier and more atmospheric in my opinion, too.

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s narrative mainly follows a gentleman scientist called Wilson (possibly a reference to the film Castaway, which largely focuses on the subject of outdoor survival), who after failing an experiment is offered knowledge to build something that works by a voice in his radio, which he hastily accepts. With this knowledge, Wilson builds a strange wooden contraption. The voice commands him to throw the switch to activate it, and it transpires than the voice is actually that of a demon of sorts called Maxwell, who has tricked Wilson into building this machine, which transports him into the randomly generated world in the game against his will. It is then up to the gentleman scientist (or whatever character the player selects at the start) to pit his wits and will against this land in order to survive.

Although the game’s story is pretty unique, and a very decent way to set the wheels of the game in motion, I find a few aspects of it a little disappointing. For example, I wish they could’ve incorporated the other characters into the narrative in some capacity, as there are a lot of seemingly interesting personalities among the character roster. There also seems to be a lot in the story left unelaborated on, such as why Maxwell has done what he’s done, and what he gets out of it. But maybe it’s left like that to leave it open to interpretation. As I said, it is a decent way to set up the game, and it shouldn’t really lose too many marks because of it; it’s still very much worth playing, after all.

Originality – 8/10

Taking into account that this game has some very obvious influences in terms of gameplay (Warcraft III, Empire Earth, and Minecraft off the top of my head), it combines elements of all these games, but at the same time, adds something very different to the mix. It’s also original for the fact that the combination of intense horror and brilliant gameplay is very well executed, which is not done often enough in survival horror games, in my opinion.

Happii

Happii

To summarise, although it can take some time for players to immerse themselves in, it’s definitely worth taking the time to do so. Players will feel satisfied learning how to effectively play this title, and it will make for hours of fun and challenging gameplay. I can’t recommend this game enough.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD No 2 & Monolith Soft

Publisher – Nintendo

Director(s) – Isao Moro & Aya Kyogoku

Producer – Katsuya Eguchi

PEGI – 3

The Animal Crossing series is somewhat similar to Harvest Moon, involving the player character moving into a town, and living there, whilst performing various jobs to earn money in order to buy items from shops and to renovate their house. One major new addition to the series that comes with New Leaf is the gameplay feature of mayoral duties, whereby the player character can start out as the mayor of the town and perform duties to satisfy the town’s citizens. In my opinion, it all makes for a fairly decent gaming experience.

Graphics – 6.5/10

The franchise’s visuals rely heavily on cartoonist cel-shaded visuals, somewhat similar to the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The best thing I can point out about this game is how the player can customize how an in-game world can look. I think one of the best examples of that has to be Aika Village; a creepy little town portraying a very twisted back-story open to a lot of interpretation. So how a town looks in a game is subject to the player’s imagination, and by that logic, the game can present an infinite amount of ideas and intricacies from a conceptual point of view. Graphically, however, the game is a little bit simplistic in design, and I think by that token, it doesn’t make the game overly appealing in terms of visuals.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

I found that it did take some time for me to properly get into this game and enjoy it for what it was. I don’t think too much of games which leave players next to no idea of where to begin; indeed, I’ve had that problem with Minecraft as well as Terraria. But once I did get into it, I found it to be fairly enjoyable. In particular, I like the side quest involving digging up fossils from the ground and donating them to the local museum. It’s also pretty satisfying to catch fish and insects and raise as much money as possible; as well as gaining additional side quests from other NPCs throughout the game in the process whilst talking to them. The fact that players can also visit other player’s towns also offers even more in terms of gameplay I find, since it presents a very huge open world in that respect.

Controls – 10/10

In my opinion, the fact that Nintendo has incorporated such a control scheme is not just this game, but in the whole Animal Crossing franchise, would suggest to me that they would never have had any kind of problem in terms of controls, as the same control scheme had been employed in so many other Nintendo games over the years, including Pokémon and EarthBound. And from what I can dissect, there are no problems.

Lifespan – 10/10

As there is no fixed lifespan, players can spend as much time as possible on this game. It can potentially make for hundreds of hours of gameplay if players are immersed enough. This is an aspect that is found in many of the best video games ever developed, and that can only bode well for this title. I didn’t expect I would enjoy this game as much as I did, and this is one of many reasons why I did.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

A rule of thumb that I have whilst reviewing video games is that they must never lose marks on something that they didn’t need to have. The most common aspect fitting this category is the story. Not every video game has a story, but a lot of these games never needed one in the first place. Examples of which I can think of are the likes of Tetris and Rollercoaster Tycoon. Animal Crossing: New Leaf doesn’t really have a story, but only a basic premise on which players can establish stories. But this game didn’t need any kind of fixed storyline to it, and it shouldn’t lose marks for not having one, as it does nothing to hinder the overall quality of the game.

Originality – 6/10

Though I think a lot of comparisons can be drawn with the Harvest Moon franchise, I think Animal Crossing overall is a fairly unique concept, and it’s all kept fresh in New Leaf with the introduction of so many new features in the series and how there would inevitably be so many different town designs from so many different people from around the world coming with the feature of being able to visit other people’s towns.

Happii

Happii

Overall, behind the cutesy and innocent exterior of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, there lies a thoroughly enjoyable game with tons of side quests, plenty of gameplay value and many other extracurricular activities to keep things interesting.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)