Tags: review

Touched and went our seperate ways: The Journey Review

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When I was in the desert first getting my bearings I had a stranger run across the sand and signal for me to follow him. I was new here and lost but he looked just like me so I went.  Thus we not only started thatgamecompany’s new psn exclusive “Journey” we also began our own; and it was a voyage I won’t soon forget.

Like much of thatgamecompany’s work it can be hard to know what or how or why the game is. I know it seems like I review only artsy games but “Journey” is something everyone should try go experience. They go more for the emotional side of games to propel you through the storytelling. “Flower” had an interesting environmentalist story but the way it made it matter from from the beauty you brought from spreading your flowery joy. “Journey” takes something that feels like a mythic quest and puts you smack in the middle of it and doesn’t give you a princess or a carrot like that. It’s more open to interpretation through the short cut scenes and it really doesn’t matter because everything that happens along the way feels so magical.

Who you are isn’t explained exactly either. You are a cloaked person of sorts that has no arms who just begins the adventure. For controls you have two buttons that do anything; the circle button will let out a chirpy piano tone while x is a jump. These end up being the two main mechanics.  Jumping isn’t something you can just always do though. Jumps are collected in the world by using your speak at certain ribbon like objects and the world. There are other ways to get them and this is where my friend comes in.

Besides just for rudimentary communication the “speak” button gives back the other player jumps. Which makes working together an added bonus. There isn’t much that you can’t do without another person but as the world changes and as new challenges come up I liked having someone come along with me. It made the jumping puzzles easier and kept me on track with where to go. Again with this being the most game like game developed by thatgamecompany there are power ups that when using the speak button near makes your scarf grow longer allowing you to accrue more jumps. This of course all makes much more sense in the world when it organically is explained to you. That’s why this worked for me things felt so organic. There wasn’t the sense of “Now its time for the stealth mission or turret sequence” things that happened felt it was the next step on my voyage to fulfill some sort of destiny.  “Journey” just really nails that sense of discovery. When you work together and repair a bridge and see the world come to life it feels astonishing, when the world changes for the darker you feel the dread

More so though rather than trying to cobble together the story or worry about where or why   we are going “Journey” is best enjoyed for what it is. The graphics look beautiful (the sand effects are really something) the music is fitting and at times minimal. But what was special was going through this world with someone else, learning to talk to them through non verbal means and try to make it to the end together. I finished it in about 2 hours in one sitting and I recommend anyone else do the same. Try to remember too, its not about the destination…

 

Under the Crying Moon. A To The Moon Review

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It’s finally happened! Alex has gained access to Adam and Tigs’ fortress of solitude and man does it smell funky in here. Now without further ado here is my Shortwave premiere, a review of To The Moon for PC! Thanks Adam and Tigs.

If you saw me when I was done playing To The Moon from Freebird Games I would have claimed I was cutting an onion or I just stubbed my toe while thinking of the end of Old Yeller. OK maybe it isn’t all waterworks but it is refreshing how the PC indie devs can find ways besides detached action or flashy graphics to pull one in to a game and this is a gem of an example of that.

Again the term “game” still has to be used lightly. What designer / composer Ken Gao did was create a tableau for the story and all the weepy feelings associated. The elements that can be construed as gameplay for most of the experience are point and click pixel hunt style for the exploration with very few puzzle elements.

But it comes down to the story and that’s what matters. You follow two employees of the quasi futuristic Sigmund Corp Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts. One is uptight the other is a video game referencing slacker! Uh oh! OK that premise could be a terrible ABC sitcom but in reality together they do a mix of reverse Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with a twist of Eternal Sonata. In layman’s terms they take someone who is dying and make their last wish come true at least virtually in someone’s noggin. So these virtual make a wishers journey into the head of a dying man named Johnny to fulfill his dying dream  to (ready for it?) go To the Moon! Over the rest of the 4 – 5 hour long journey you have to figure out why and how that’s going to happen. Working backwards through his life you piece together the puzzle and what comes is something I found truly unique.

A sad old man and a lighthouse, now lighthouses will make you cry

The art and music really help tie the package together. It’s presented similar to that of a mid 90s pixilated RPG with drawn scenes used occasionally for some key plot moments. They all look great and while there is no voice acting it would probably feel out of place with the retro look. Music plays a big part throughout the story with reoccurring piano pieces punctuating scenes. I found myself revisiting the soundtrack over the following days and meditating on those particular moments in the game. They are very pretty and from my untrained eye well composed for the situations to bring us in the sadness party.

Not everything is perfect. What puzzles do exist are not challenging, really at all. This way there is no barrier between you and the story but I think having more of a feeling of agency in what happens or making things happen could have made it even more rewarding. An element of choice besides what character you control in specific sections could have been a possible route to take but again this was their story to tell and that’s what they did, with little other frills.

That option to "pass" with the soccer ball is not as active as you think it woud be.

If you are looking to go into a game and have guns blazing this won’t be the right experience for you. To The Moon resides somewhere special for me though. Sure it ends up little more than a pixilated movie. But it’s a good one. It has the rare ability to care about the characters and want to accompany them on the journey.  Just pack a hankie.

B+

Buy To The Moon direct from Freebird Games!

http://freebirdgames.com/to_the_moon/

Keep Barrel Rollin, Rollin…: Star Fox 64 3D Review (3DS)

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Star Fox 64 3DI have a deep dark secret. Multiple in fact that keep awake at night, haunted by the ghosts of dead…well never mind, the point is I never played Star Fox on the SNES nor did I ever play Star Fox 64. In fact the only Star Fox game I had previously played was Adventures on the GameCube, which means that this recent re-release and upgrading of Star Fox 64 is the first time I have stepped into the cockpit with Fox McCloud.
Star Fox
            Originally released on the Nintendo 64, Star Fox 64 (or Lylat Wars in Europe) served as both a reboot of the series and a remake of the original game, with plenty of new features including some straight from the never released Star Fox 2 for SNES. As Fox McCloud it is up to you and your group of mercenaries to save the Lylat System for the devious, fiendish and down right evil Andross.

Star Fox Asteroid

Q-Games, best known for their PixelJunk series, has done an incredible job making this 14 year old game look fresh. They didn’t just slap a new coat of paint on the game; they have taken great care into rebuilding the textures and animations flying this game straight into the new millennium of video games. The original voice actors were even rehired to re-record their dialogue. Now that’s devotion.

Star Fox Boss

The game flows beautifully for the hour or so it will take you to complete your first run of the story. It looks, feels and plays like it was a brand new IP. You can choose to control Fox using either the circle pad or the 3DS’ gyroscope, both of which work incredibly (and surprisingly) well. However if you’re going to use the gyroscope controls I recommend turning 3D off because it is a difficult task to keep everything in focus while tilting and turning the system. This is a shame because the 3D is truly breathtaking. The depth and dimension that it adds to the game play is phenomenal, similar to the deep endless blue sky of Pilotwings Resort.

Multiplayer Star Fox

The multiplayer is Download Play, so only one of your friends needs to have the cart for up to four of you to play the game, but it’s over far too soon. Also limiting the multiplayer to local play only is a bummer and a missed opportunity to blast this game off into ‘must buy’ territory.
More Star Fox
While the game is only an hour in length there are multiple branching paths that can only be opened by completing specific tasks in the game. The first three times I played through the game I ended up in different parts every time which only makes me want to replay it more. You may not even fight the true final boss on your first trip through, that’s the kind of game this is. It almost demands multiple play throughs since you can see all of the planets you can visit on the solar system map immediately upon starting the game and are only left to wonder what they could be like and how to access them.
Star Fox Montage
However, the game is only an hour in length with no discount in price to reflect this. It’s a steep barrier to entry that seems to be catered to the nostalgic crowd who has disposable income and archaic to newer generations. A few new planets could have been added, or even just stretched out the campaign with the planets already present. While the updates and additions are great, some of them, such as the original voice actors, seem too much like they’re trying to capture lighting in a bottle for the third time. This might be a running theme amongst Nintendo games, but rarely is it this transparent.
Star Fox Crew
Star Fox 64 3D is a good game, any fan of the original will feel comfortable and happy with this port and the updates they made to it. The price point, lack of online multiplayer, and shortsighted game redesign due to nostalgia keep this from being a great game and even a system seller.
Grade: B-