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.

taking in the sigh(t)s

I’m taking a brief respite from the 360/PS3 post; I just crossed the 4,000 word barrier (!) and yet most of the draft is still in bullet-point format (!!), so there’s a lot yet to write.  On top of that, my desire to make sure I’m not forgetting anything is making it difficult to keep everything organized; I’ll be reviewing older posts looking to fill in nominee slots for a certain category and then suddenly I’ll stumble across a mention of, say, Viva Pinata, and suddenly I’m off chasing yet another rabbit hole…

…But I’m also heavily caffeinated right now and I need to keep on typing, so, here’s whatever this post is going to be:

1.  I’d bought Papers, Please a little while ago but somehow it got lost in the shuffle.  Last night I finally gave it a spin.  It’s hard to explain what’s so engaging about being a passport agent at a vaguely Soviet-European border crossing in 1982, and so I won’t bother to try.  And really, the thing that hit me the hardest isn’t even the game itself, but rather how emotionally similar it is to my actual, real-life job.  I should probably keep quiet about that comparison, being that this blog is public, but still; if you’ve played the game, then you’ve felt the stress of trying to process as much work as possible while trying to make as few mistakes as possible (though you will inevitably make a mistake and receive one of those little passive-aggressive notices that pop up informing you that you’ve made a mistake, but it’s just a warning – this time), all the while knowing that your family is depending on you and that you never have enough money to have all the things you need.  After the second or third day of work I returned home to a message saying that my child was sick and needed medicine, and of course I thought of my own son, and I kinda had to stop playing for the night.

2.   I also played about 30 minutes of Burial At Sea, Part 1, the new DLC for Bioshock Infinite.  It is incredibly weird (and also very, very cool) to be back in Rapture in its heyday, filled with people not-yet-fucked-up from Plasmid/Vigor overuse.  I probably spent more time taking screenshots than I did actually paying attention to the game.  All the reviews I’ve read say more or less the same thing – the first half is magical, but the second half is where it falls apart (coincidentally, it’s when you start shooting) – and so, for the time being, I’m content to take my time exploring and taking in the sights.

3.  I think I mentioned this already, but it bears repeating – if you haven’t yet picked up Rayman Fiesta Run for your iOS device, please do so immediately.  It’s gorgeous and fun as all hell.

a trip through the archives

Before I get into whatever this post is about, I must make mention of three excellent iOS games that I’ve picked up this week.  Firstly, there’s Rayman Fiesta Run which came out on iOS last night.  It’s absolutely fantastic, and probably somehow better than its excellent predecessor Jungle Run, and if you have $2.99 lying around you should pick it up.

Secondly, I should also mention that Tiny Death Star is out, being a Star Wars-themed version of Tiny Tower, and I’m kinda glad that I burned out on Tiny Tower so that I don’t have to succumb to Tiny Death Star, even though it’s adorable, and I need to remember to adjust my iPhone’s notification settings or else I’ll never see my loved ones again, even if we’re sitting in the same room.

Thirdly, I’m also kinda heavily addicted to the new (and free) Deadly Bullet, which has an art style very reminiscent of Hotline Miami and which has you playing as the titular bullet, mowing down gangsters, and using a control scheme that takes a bit of time to master but is quite engaging once you get the hang of it.

 *     *     *

I’m now officially working on my “farewell to this console generation” post, which will most likely need to be broken into at least 2 posts, because I have a lot of navel gazing to do as far as this generation is concerned, dammit, and I intend to do it.

Anyway:  in preparation for this epic post, I’ve been going through my old Gamespot blog, which is where this blog originally lived (back in 2004) (?!).

I’ve always gotten a little kick rummaging through my blog archives, even though the writing was worse than it is now (which is not to say that my writing now is where I want it to be).  Those old entries remind me not just of forgotten games, but of who I used to be and what I used to think about.  They tell me where I’ve come from, which also helps me figure out where I seem to have gone off to.  (They also show that I’ve probably started at least 80% of my posts with apologies for not posting, so I clearly haven’t changed all that much.)

I’m a little bummed, though, because there’s an unexplained hiatus between 2005 and 2006, and so it seems that I never wrote about the purchase of my (first) 360.  But I did find my original reactions to that Chuck Klosterman piece about the lack of a Lester Bangs of video game criticism, which can be found here (1, 2).  It would appear that I’m still in disagreement with good ol’ CK, even if my reasons have changed.

I do miss those Gamespot days.  I was part of a tight community there, and I made a lot of great friends in the forums, and it’s where I started figuring out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.  I haven’t really found anything like it in the years since I left, though it’s not for lack of trying.  I’m happy to be an independent voice, for sure, but I miss the feeling of being in a community.  To be sure, there’s a number of great WordPress game blogs that I follow and engage with, but WordPress doesn’t quite do the “community” thing the way a dedicated game site does.  I suppose this should be my call to arms to start a WordPress game blog group, though I suspect I’ve probably got the smallest audience out of the blogs I’d want to court, and so who am I to lead?

Anyway, I’m suddenly full of nostalgia for the mid-00’s, which is a weird era to be nostalgic for, and so that’s what’s going on with me.  I have no idea when this farewell post will go up.  It seems silly to me to feel like I need to rush it out, though, considering that I’m not buying a new console until next spring, and I want to make sure that it’s not redundant with my Best of 2013 post, and I kinda also want to make sure that Assassin’s Creed 4 isn’t the best game of the generation before I start making lists and such.  (Oh, did I forget to mention that I directly contradicted my previous post, and ended up pre-ordering the PC version?  With a Season Pass, to boot?  Have I mentioned that I have no willpower?)



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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