January 28, 2013
Firstly, some necessary meta-news to report: the aforementioned apartment drama might very well be resolved, which is, as you might imagine, a HUGE weight off of my shoulders. I’m reluctant to say anything further, as we haven’t actually signed any leases or anything, and I don’t want to jinx it. But the point is that I’m pretty sure we’re OK, and that the logistics of the move itself would be the easiest and least costly move we could possibly undergo, short of actually not having to move at all.
And so, in the midst of continued purging of apartment stuff, and the various frantic callings and emailings and textings of assorted realtors and landlords and such, I found that I needed to blow off some steam. And so I dabbled in a bunch of games.
First off: I finished 1 playthrough of The Cave, Ron Gilbert’s long-awaited new adventure joint with DoubleFine. (My playthrough was with the Knight, the Time Traveler, and the Adventurer.) Considering the pedigree of those involved in its creation, I feel a little cheap reducing my opinion of it to a 7-word sentence, but what follows sums up the experience pretty accurately: it is equal parts charming and tedious. The writing is certainly humorous but very rarely laugh-out-loud hilarious; the puzzles are, for the most part, straightforward and free of old-school obtuseness, but they can be exceedingly tedious to execute, requiring you to move three characters independently, all of whom move just slowly enough for it to become annoying after a while, especially when a puzzle requires frequent backtracking. I still found the experience worthwhile, and I’m sure I’ll get around to seeing the other characters’ individual stories, but it’s a hard package to heartily recommend.
On the console front, I played a few levels of Devil May Cry. I don’t really know how to talk about it; I’ve never been much of a DmC fan, and I don’t really know anything about the franchise or the character or the legacy or how radically different this particular reboot is. I’m not necessarily all that good at these kinds of games, either; I rented it purely based on the review scores, which have been, more or less, exceedingly positive. But what I can say is that, if nothing else, it features some rather astonishing visual design – some of the levels seems straight out of a Terry Gilliam fever dream, and I mean that as one of the highest compliments I can bestow. So while I don’t particularly give a shit about what’s going to happen next, I do very much want to see what happens next, if you know what I mean.
I also reconnected my PS3 to my living room TV* so that I could get some time in with Ni No Kuni and The Unfinished Swan, the latter of which is currently only $3 or $4 on PSN for Plus subscribers.
Ni No Kuni is very charming, very beautiful, and very much a JRPG, with all the good/bad that goes along with it – the bad, in this case, specifically referring to a certain pet peeve of mine. Lots of Japanese games do this particular thing, by the way, not just JRPGs, but JRPGs do it the most – where every single movement of a character, no matter how arduous, is vocalized. You can be climbing up a mountain, or simply running along a shady lane, but every step of the way is grunted and oomphed and aahed and it’s very distracting and weird. That aside, the game is as lovely and charming as you might expect a Level 5 / Studio Ghibli collaboration to be. I can’t yet tell if the battle system is overly complicated or not; there appear to be a lot of mechanics that you need to be paying attention to at any one time, but the game does a rather wonderful job of showing you how it works. I’m only an hour or two into it, but I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with it, especially during this pre-baby, slow-release-calendar window we’re currently in.
As for The Unfinished Swan, I’m not sure what to make of it. It’s an astonishingly well executed visual trick, and I certainly appreciate the attempt at an engaging narrative. That being said, I’m currently in the blueprint level, and I’m a bit stuck; the controls are kind of terrible, all of a sudden. I wonder if it’s because I’m not using a Move controller; I certainly hope not, because up until this point the game was controlling just fine.
I’m also sort-of still dabbling in Hitman Absolution; I’ve started to figure out how the game is supposed to work, even though I still find myself getting impatient. I also find the game rather distasteful; all the characters are horrible (on purpose), and the world is really seedy and disgusting, and it’s a hard world to want to stay engaged in. I can really only play for, like, 10 or 20 minutes at a time before I need to turn it off and cleanse my palate. It makes me feel unclean.
* Because my wife was a recent Fringe fan and needed to binge very quickly on the first 4 seasons to get caught up for the current (and last) season, we’d had to move the PS3 into the bedroom and our other Blu-Ray player over to the living room, as the other Blu-Ray player didn’t have a wi-fi connection. Suffice it to say, I hadn’t really missed the PS3 in the interim until this week.