The First Few Hours: Child of Light

As noted yesterday, reviews for Ubisoft’s highly anticipated Child of Light are a bit all over the place; they are generally positive, but some are much less effusive in their praise than others.  I tempered my excitement accordingly before firing it up last night.

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that it’s absolutely gorgeous, and in this I absolutely concur.  The game uses the same engine as the fantastic (and equally gorgeous) Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, and to great effect – every pixel seems to be lovingly hand-crafted and placed with delicate care.

Another thing that people seem to be noticing is that the game is told entirely in verse… and that the writing is not particularly good.  I also concur with this.  I’ve got no problem at all with a game or book or film told in verse, as long as the verse itself is artful and uses the form wisely and to its advantage.  Here, though, the writing is in verse ostensibly because it’s a bedtime story, but there’s no poetry in it – it’s awkwardly written and often seems forced.  After an hour or so of reading this crap, I came to the following conclusions:  either (1) an executive gave a note to the writers to make the poetry a bit less flowery so as not to antagonize dudebros and the writers basically threw their hands up in disgust, got drunk, and rewrote the script in about an hour before storming out of the office, or (2) the decision to go with verse took place at the very last minute, and the writers (or interns, or someone’s friend who had some free time and could work cheap) scrambled to put at least a first draft in place before the code went off for submission.  Or, alternately, what’s in the game is the first draft, and the subsequent revisions got lost in the shuffle.

It’s a shame, basically, because it’s so distracting from what’s otherwise a beautiful fantasy.  The game itself is a Metroidvania adventure-RPG with a sort-of turn-based timed battle system – you gain abilities as you progress and level up and previously inaccessible areas become open for discovery; there are treasure chests (though no real loot to speak of, at least not that I’ve yet come across); there also are some light puzzle elements.

I’m having a nice time with it, and I’m certainly curious to see more of where it’s going.  It’s just a shame that the writing is so dumb.

Weekend Recap: Trials and Tribulations

This was an absolutely perfect weekend, weather-wise; it’s true that I’d settle for anything after the winter we’ve had, but this was a beauty, and we were able to enjoy it to its fullest.

Of course, now it’s Monday and I’m utterly exhausted.  But I’ll still consider the weekend a win.

There’s not a lot of gaming happening these days, though; the Vita’s (finally) in the shop, I’d already gotten 100% completion in Infamous Second Son, and my attempts at playing side missions in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes immediately reminded me why I kinda hate that series.  I’m kinda plugging away at Rayman Legends on the PS4, and it’s fun and charming and also frustratingly difficult – though at least it’s not as intolerable as, say, Dark Souls II.

The one thing I’m playing with any sort of intensity is Trials Frontier for iOS, which I’ve been playing pretty much non-stop since its release last week.  I’m a huge Trials fan anyway, and I’ve already pre-ordered Trials Fusion for the PS4 (which I think comes out tomorrow?), and I’m pleased to report that Trials works about as well as you can hope for on an iPhone.  New to the Trials experience is an actual narrative, which (surprisingly) isn’t terrible.  It looks gorgeous and feels pretty good – I mean, I do wish I was playing it with a controller, and I must admit that my thumbs are kinda mushed from pressing them so tightly against the iPhone screen, but it definitely works, and you can more or less do the things you need to do without too much difficulty.  That being said, I think I’ve started to reach that inevitable point in any Trials game where the things I need to do are just beyond my abilities, so… there’s that.

Other than that, it’s quiet.  I’m getting my iPad loaded up for my upcoming vacation, which is at the end of this week; I’ve got FTL ready to go, and Shadowrun, and a very cute and charming puzzler called CLARC, which I’ve played a few levels of on the iPhone already but which I’d like to see on the bigger screen.

Finally, my first post over at Gamemoir should be going up later today, which is pretty exciting.  More about that in a bit.

weekend recap: patience and more patience

It’s hard for me to admit this, but I feel I must be honest; I’m starting to get a little squirmy for the new consoles, even though (a) there’s nothing on them that I need to play just yet, and (b) I simply can’t afford them.  My plan has always been to wait until the spring, when more (and better) games are due to arrive, and each console would have had their chances to get the inevitable patch-jobs that fix the many things that need fixing, and – most importantly – that I’d have enough information to make a definitive decision between the PS4 and the Xbox One (since, at this point, I can really only buy one).  See, while my heart is with the PS4 right now, I’m still a 360 fanboy, and I’d like Microsoft to get their shit together and make a more compelling case.  (To wit:  I’m gonna need more than Titanfall.)

In the meantime, I’m still working on the 360/PS3 farewell post(s).  I’d like to think I can get them up by the end of the week, although who knows; every day for the last week, a new category will pop into my head that’s mind-bogglingly obvious, and I wonder why I hadn’t already thought about it, and then my lingering paranoia rears its ugly head about this thing not being as comprehensive as I want it to be, and on and on.  Even so, it’s over 5,000 words now, and I don’t have an extra set of eyes to make sure it’s doing what it needs to do.

And as for games – I continue to plug away at Lego Marvel Heroes, which continues to be fun and frustrating in equal parts.  Also, Steam had Rayman Legends for 50% off this weekend, and I felt compelled to pick it up at that price.  (I’d very much enjoyed my time with it on the 360, but had to send it back to Gamefly before I was done with it in order to keep the Queue moving along).  The PC version looks and plays flawlessly, as you might expect.

All that gets pushed aside this week, though, because the PC version of Assassin’s Creed 4 will be at the top of my to-do list.  Oh, and I think that new 3DS Legend of Zelda game comes out later this week, too, and that’s been getting really great reviews.  And once I’m finished with those two titles, I think I can start putting together my 2013 Year In Games post – I don’t think there’s anything of any significance due to arrive this year (except maybe Walking Dead Season 2, which I’m not 100% sure I’m going to pick up – as great as the first game was, there’s only so much darkness I can deal with these days).

belt tightening

Last night, the wife and I had a tough conversation about money.

Our 3-month old son (that’s him in the site’s header image, by the way) had his first “transition” daycare visit this morning, and he starts going in earnest in 2 weeks.  And for us to be able to afford daycare – and keep ourselves in baby supplies, and pay the rent and the rest of our bills, and also eat – well, we’re already cutting it pretty close, and there’s not a hell of a lot of wiggle room.  I’ve also got some rather sizable debt to pay off, too, and while I’ve made considerable progress on that front I’ve still got a ways to go, which makes this all the more anxiety-inducing.

Something’s got to give, basically.

And after some online banking and some soul-searching (and a little bit of drinking), I came to the realization that the only thing I really spend any extra money on these days is games.

This kinda sucks, as you might imagine – I am a self-professed consumer whore – but the more I think about it, this is not the worst time to be a broke gamer.   If I’m truly honest with myself, there’s really only one game coming out this year that I need in any sort of non-negotiable way.  Steam will have having its Summer Sale any minute now, too, and I could probably see myself picking up one or two things on my wishlist if they’re discounted enough – but let’s be honest here, after all the previous Steam Sales, there’s really not all that much that’s left for me to buy.  And I can certainly pare down my Gamefly account to one game at a time, as opposed to three, to be able to handle the rest of the to-do list.

Hell, let’s look at that to-do list (aka my GameQ) while we’re here, and I’ll take this opportunity to debut a new feature I’m calling Keep or Cut:

  • Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS) – I don’t even know what this is, to be honest – I’d just heard some positive word of mouth, and I wanted any excuse to keep my 3DS busy.  Will most likely CUT.
  • Mario & Luigi Dream Team (3DS) – if I can finish The Last of Us quickly enough, I should be able to rent this close to its release date.  Since Mario Golf: World Tour got pushed to 2014, this is the only must-have 3DS game I can see for the rest of 2013.  KEEP.
  • Saints Row 4 – I’m a big Saints Row fan, but I’ve had my doubts about this ever since they first announced it.  I do not expect high review scores, though I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.  KEEP, but with reservations.
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist – this was always only going to be a rental.  Chaos Theory was the high watermark for the series, and everything since then has been pretty disappointing.  Haven’t seen any indication that I should revise my expectations.  CUT.
  • Rayman Legends – Assuming this is as delightful as Origins was, this is an automatic KEEP.  Though I really ought to go back and finish Origins first.
  • GTA V – I’m not sure why this is still on my rental queue, as I’m probably going to pre-order it as soon as I finish this post.  (Still hoping for a PC release, though.)  KEEP.
  • Beyond: Two SoulsIs this the PS3’s final swan song?  More to the point – do I care?  While I remain in awe of David Cage’s wild ambition, I never finished Heavy Rain and didn’t really enjoy what I’d played, either.  Still, I’m cautiously optimistic, so this gets a KEEP.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins – as far as I can tell, this is the last “big” release of 2013 for current-gen consoles that I have any real interest in, since I don’t care about Call of Duty and I’ve lost all my faith in Assassin’s Creed.   But we all know this isn’t a Rocksteady joint, and this game is starting to smell like a cash-in.  CUT.

Now, you’ll notice that there’s no next-gen titles on this list.  That’s because I probably can’t afford a next-gen console this year; but even if I could, I still haven’t yet decided between the PS4 and the Xbox One.  I’m obviously leaning towards the PS4, but if Microsoft continues its backtracking ways and decides to play ball with indie developers by putting a less-restrictive self-publishing policy in place, well, that might keep the pendulum swinging the other way.  In any event, the only real “next-gen” game that speaks to me in any meaningful way is Watch Dogs, and that’s also coming to PC – which is a platform that already speaks to my current gaming habits anyway.

And speaking of the PC, the other clear upside to being on an austerity budget for the foreseeable future is that there’s really no excuse anymore for me to not finally tackle the GIGANTIC backlog of unfinished games I have in my Steam library.  Hell, even if I only stuck to seeing all the stuff in Skyrim that I never saw on the 360, that would be plenty.  (Now I just need to get over my seething Skyrim rage, which I’ve never quite managed to quell.)

I kinda don’t feel so terrible about this anymore.  I’ll call that a win.

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