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Sprite Machine

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  1. I've got through some short ones so far this month but that should change soon. Previously... 4.) Untitled Goose Game - Switch - 2019 Completed all the To Do lists, including the timed ones, and got the crown. I've had my eye on this since its first reveal trailer and it did not disappoint. A delightful little sandbox of AI characters, stealth, trinkets and experimentation that combine to make hilarious moments that make you feel like a right horrible... well, goose. When you get away with some sneaky little trick or time an escape perfectly, it's so satisfying. Great visual style and spot-on goose animations. HONK! (The two-player co-op mode is a nice addition and adds some new tactics, but because it's on a shared screen you can find yourself getting stuck at the edges.)
  2. Previously... 3.) Superliminal - PS4 - 2020 (2019) Played through once in a single sitting (3 hours). Somebody recommended this in last year's thread - I think it was @Darren. If so, thank you for the recommendation! I enjoyed this a lot. At first, it feels like a game that desperately wants to be Portal, as you progress through test chambers and an emotionless AI congratulates you. But it starts to do its own thing and, by the end, it's a very different game. It actually started to remind me more of The Stanely Parable, with all the repetition through cubicles and weird level design loops. But this uses the pretext that everything is a dream and therefore perception is reality. The puzzles all involve 'perspective', whether it's playing with size or angles or duplication or teleporting. It's got loads of ideas and it keeps throwing new ones at you. There were a couple of times where I felt the solution was overly fiddly (I'm thinking of the 'keyhole' room with the two movable portals) and the game doesn't really explain anything if you get stuck, you just have to keep trying things. But it's really fun and fascinating to just play around with some of these 'toys'. There's some really clever stuff going on that I can't even begin to imagine how they designed it! By the end section, I was lasping (laugh-gasping) every few minutes as each new weird thing happened. Definitely check this out if you liked Portal, The Stanely Parable or just atmospheric and clever first-person games. I'm enjoying games like this where you can run through the whole thing in an evening. Do we have a topic for 'one-nighters'? Maybe get a list going.
  3. Previously... 2.) What Remains of Edith Finch - PS4 - 2017 This was pretty heart-wrenching! An excellent piece of interactive storytelling, one part first-person walking simulator, one part... I dunno, multi-genre thing. A very 'directed' experience, pushing you towards the narrative at all times (literally following the words around, in fact). So much so that at one point I accidentally 'broke' the game by trying to go back through the house in the pitch black, then when I got back to where I was supposed to be, the next scene wouldn't trigger. Ended up finishing the game in two one-hour sittings, but if you can get through it in one, I'd recommend it. Don't read any spoilers, and maybe bring a tissue. It's lovely. Reminded me of Gone Home but weirder. Game of the year so far.
  4. 1.) Lego City Undercover - PC - 2017 (2013) Completed all the story levels in about ten hours... then spent another thirty or so hours attempting to 100% everything. Gave up around 90% because, my god, it becomes a slog. I don't know why I keep doing this to myself with Lego games - I think it's because there's no well-defined cut-off point where you stop seeing new and clever level design and just get to the tedious collectathons; it's all mingled together so you never know whether to stop or keep looking for the next thing. I had to stop, it was sucking the life out of me. Lego City Undercover answers the burning question of "can a Lego game still be good even if it's not based on a film or franchise property", and the answer is... "nyeeaah... sort of". It gets a pass for having a stonkingly good script that's actually really funny while still being kid-friendly. The jobs/disguises aren't as memorable as donning a superhero suit or playing as a Jedi/wizard, but they're fine. Just to navigate in interesting ways, you end up with weird shit like a farmer who can float using a chicken. It's a bit stop/start, there's too many little unskippable animations and cutscenes, and the co-op mode has obviously been put in as an afterthought as you play a duplicate of the main dude. But I enjoyed it a fair bit before it started getting tedious. Probably the biggest and most 'stuff-filled' Lego game I've played, although I've got a few newer ones still to try.
  5. If it supports all the existing software and it gets ports like Half-Life Alyx, I think I'll get one. I've still got loads of PS4 VR titles to get through first (I can't play them for long, I get nausea) and I would obviously need a PS5, but still... interested! One USB cable would be a massive improvement over the V1 kit I'm still using.
  6. OK, this is really it now. Previously... 44.) Spec Ops: The Line - PC - 2012 Completed on Combat Op (normal) difficulty, 6.5 hours. This was a recommendation from aaaaaages ago. I had it in my list as "run of the mill shooter with interesting story" and that's pretty much what I got. It starts out like it's gonna be your typical hoorah American war game, but gradually the characters start to question their mission and the player starts to question reality. It culminates in some pretty good twists, although I did struggle to follow the plot at certain points (too many character names being shouted while I'm trying to focus on shooting things). As a third-person cover shooter, it's nothing special, and in fact sometimes it's quite clumsy and frustrating. It's not as accomplished or elegant as Gears of War or Uncharted but it feels a little like both and it's not a bad looker either. It's even got Nolan North doing the lead voice, because of course it has. I don't think I'll be finishing any more games before tomorrow night, so that's surely gotta be the last one now. A respectable 44 games completed in 2021. Not quite the 56 that I got through last year, but that was an unprecedented year!
  7. Oh, there's just time for one more. Previously... 43) Finding Paradise - PC - 2017 It's been nearly nine years since I played To The Moon, and I had forgotten just what a good storyteller its creator Kan Gao is. Once again, this sequel deals with some pretty weighty issues of regret, of love and loss, and memories, wrapped in a sci-fi concept that's not unlike Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and runs non-sequentially like Memento. Clearly, cinema is a big influence, and it's almost a shame that these stories are contained within creaky old RPG-maker game engines and cutesy little character sprites, and unlikely to find wider audiences. There's beautiful music, nicely-written dialogue, some surprisingly good imagery within the confines of a 16-bit style game world, and even the odd bit of genre-busting fun-poking at itself. Get drawn into it and it's quite an emotional five hours. Is it as good as To The Moon? To be honest, I can't actually remember, but that game was certainly a surprise, whereas this is... more of the same? Although Finding Paradise is a self-contained story, it carries over some plot strands and characters, and leaves some breadcrumbs for the next game, so bear that in mind. It's also worth mentioning that it's a pain to get the thing running correctly, as I had to drop my monitor resolution and force it into 4:3 mode just to get a non-stretched aspect ratio. There's also no controller support. (Oh, it's coming to Switch - problem solved, get that version.)
  8. Previously... 42) Grow Home - PC - 2015 A delightfully different platform adventure from Ubisoft Reflections. You control your little robot's hands individually, using the analogue triggers to grip onto things, climb up surfaces and make a giant plant grow up into space. This is one of those games that relies heavily on its physics engine, a game that treads a fine line between control and chaos, much like Octodad, but here chaos is not the point and the robot B.U.D. is not supposed to be drunk or malfunctioning, so his inability to walk in a straight line and not fall off of cliffs is a bit incongruous (if not sometimes quite funny). It's definitely fun, and it's got some of the best climbing mechanics I've used in a game - creating genuine fear from hanging half a mile in the air on a floating asteroid. Another clever feature is how the plant growth is player-controlled, so huge parts of the level are essentially designed by the player as you get higher and grow more of the shoots. It's quite a sight from the very top, really impressive stuff. The game is over quickly, but there's more to collect and discover beyond the key objective, so long as your hands aren't tired from gripping those triggers. Even if it's a bit on the frustating/chaotic side, I've certainly never played anything else quite like it, and that's worth a recommendation from me.
  9. Previously... 41) Super Mario Odyssey - Switch - 2017 I finally got around to playing this and it's pretty bloody great! The inventive new mechanics for this one (hat-throwing and body-hijacking) work really well, as you would expect from Nintendo. Mario is nimble and fun to control. The levels are beautifully designed, it's full of imagination and variety, the environments are gorgeous and it's the kind of game you can just sit and play and not realise the hours have flown by. Some gameplay modernisations have slipped in - some welcome, some less welcome. The removal of lives was long overdue (replaced by a coin penalty when you 'die'), but the amount of Power Moons in the game seems ludicrous, leading to doing the same challenges multiple times in each Kingdom, repeating bosses, or just finding the damn things lying around. Granted, the majority of them are optional unless you're very obsessive, but it feels kinda cynical and cheap. A focus on quality over quantity would have done the game a world of good. I also have some reservations about the suitability of motion controls in handheld mode, but they're pretty minor. Better than Sunshine, not as good as Galaxy. My final tally (at the point of giving up) was 533 moons and I got through the (final?) Darker Side level by the skin of my teeth. Fun times!
  10. Winding up the year with some shorter games. I don't think I'll fit many more in now, this might be it. Previously... 40.) The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux - PC - 2015 (2014) Completed all mysteries and got the full ending... I think? I had to use a walkthrough a couple of times. It's a first-person detective, mystery, horror, walking-simulator, puzzle game... thing. It's set in a reasonably open-world environment, a small mining village and surrounding areas. As such, you need to go off the beaten path to find things, but the game doesn't hold your hand and pretty much expects you to just look everywhere. It doesn't do a particularly good job of directing you towards things you might be missing, and in fact I spent a lot of time looking for objects of interest. At one point, I even knew exactly what I was looking for because I read a walkthrough that told me where it was, and I still couldn't find it for ages. Aside from that, this is an interesting game. It's got an ambiguous story and lots to reflect on. There's no danger or enemies in the game (except for one section, technically) so you just walk around solving puzzles by finding items and interacting with supernatural things.. often in very strange ways. It looks absolutely beautiful, too. The landscapes are stunning, and the lighting, textures and foliage look superb. Apparently, some sort of photogrammetry was used to make it look so good, and for this 'Redux' edition, they re-built the game in Unreal Engine 4, which makes the lighting look nice and glowy. I don't know what else to say about this, really. If you've got 4+ hours to spare and don't mind a bit of semi-aimless wandering accompanied by a moody noir-ish horror vibe, this may tick the right boxes. I kind of enjoyed it overall, but I felt like I was forcing my way through it a few times.
  11. Well, that was fun. Glad I avoided spoilers!
  12. I did not, maybe I will! (I've already read about the secret ending.) EDIT: And done. Marvellous.
  13. Loved the former and will definitely check out the latter! Previously... 39.) Inside - Switch - 2018 (2016) Played through twice, just because it was so damned good. Indie developer Playdead's successor to Limbo follows in a very similar vein to that monochrome puzzle/platformer. You play as a young boy in a strange place, but instead of this being the afterlife, it's a rather more bleak reality, in which grown-ups and dogs are chasing you, people are being herded into trucks and then... well, I don't want to spoil it. I had no idea what the game was about going into it and that's the best way to experience it. It's 3 or 4 hours of absolute magnificence, going from rural forests, through farms to factories and beyond. It's haunting, evocative, moody, the soundtrack/soundscape is incredible. It's genuinely the most strikingly beautiful game I think I've ever seen. Forget Unreal Engine, this is absolute art. Once again, you generally walk from left to right in a 2D plane, but Inside uses 3D graphics to build its world and uses that extra depth to great effect, often using the background as the source of a pursuer or showing some important information or storytelling. Like Limbo before it, the controls are very simple but very intuitive and tactile. You learn through play and experimentation, with no dialogue, cutscenes, tutorials, on-screen prompts or anything else to take you out of its world. The game doesn't linger on any particular puzzle mechanic for long, it doesn't drag an idea out to breaking point. It teaches you what you can do and then gradually changes things up. There is a little trial-and-error, learning through dying and repeating sections in the style of Another World, but these usually give you warning and there's no real punishment for getting killed. To say the game gets kinda weird at the end would be an understatement... but it's so, so good. Playdead have a style and formula that has me hooked, and I will definitely be checking out whatever they come up with next. Inside has rocketed into my favourites of 2021 and quite possibly taken the top spot.
  14. Previously... 38) Firewatch - PC - 2016 Took about four hours to get through once, and then another six to get through again listening to the commentaries. I really enjoyed this. You play as a forest ranger in a lookout tower whose only company is a voice on the radio, and strange things start happening. I suppose it's a 'walking simulator' as you can't die or get hurt. At its core, it's a story about relationships and the two leads are likable and believable with some really good performances. The game is set in a single large environment with gated off areas that require new items to bypass, and so the game does play out in a fairly linear way, but the choices you can make in conversations and your actions influence the storyline somewhat. It's not too long that it gets boring and I was pretty much hooked until the end. Very much worth anybody's time, I'd say.
  15. First post updated. Episode 5 is now online and can be watched here: A playlist of all episodes to date is available here. This series has obviously taken a lot longer to make than we initially imagined. Some of this episode was filmed a decade ago! But there's one more to go after this and then we're done. Phew!
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