Frivolous Waste of Time

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Archive for the category “Android OS Games”

VOEZ for Switch, iOS and Android

I’m a bit of a sucker for rhythm games, even rhythm games where the music is mostly Taiwanese indie EDM and dubstep. VOEZ is an unsung and unhyped member of the Switch launch line up, but one which rounds out a deceptively strong group of games very well. The Switch is, ultimately, a high powered handheld, and VOEZ is the perfect handheld game to pick up for a couple of minutes here and there.

VOEZ uses the touch screen exclusively, meaning that it is to date the only Switch game that cannot be played on the TV. Some have said that this dilutes the Switch brand, but anything that broadens the range of games which can come to the system is ok in my book and I hope that VOEZ leads the way for more high quality tablet ports onto the system. Essentially, you’re just touching a screen to a beat, but the sense of style and synergy VOEZ oozes is captivating. The key press inputs are simple presses, flicks and drags across the screen, but it gets pretty intense and the difficulty really ramps up. Pulling off a tricky series of taps feels incredible.

In terms of soundtrack, VOEZ isn’t particularly interested in giving you a bunch of favourites to tap along to. I didn’t know a single song in the game and that’s ok, I quite like the fact that this is a cultural artefact not targeted towards my demographic. I generally preferred the more poppy songs, such as it’s pretty delightful main theme and was generally less keen when the tracks were more EDM or dubstep focused, but this is purely a consequence of my tastes rather than any reflection of quality.

There is a story, with particular challenges earning pages in a visual novel narrative about a group of teenagers forming a band. It’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but my interest was brought to a screaming halt by some bizarre difficulty spikes and troughs. One chapter requires you to get a decent grade on the hardest difficulty and then the next on easy. After playing on harder difficulties easy seemed boring so I just stopped. The visual style is very clean and clear, as rhythm games should be, but it’s still delightful to look at, filled with colour, with the lanes for the track themselves shifting to the beat.

VOEZ is, so far, the best Switch game I’ve played to spend a couple of minutes with here and there. I definitely want the Switch to keep up console level releases, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more high quality tablet style games on the system to. VOEZ proves that the Switch can pull it off.

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Titan Souls for PS4, PS Vita, PC, OS X and Android

Titan Souls originated from a game jam, with the original prototype created in merely two days. Although expanded from these humble beginnings, the purity of vision which shines through Titan Souls demonstrates its origin. With the name Souls in the title you’d be forgiven that this is simply something riding on the coattails of Dark Souls, and whilst it was certainly a clear influence it’s still very much its own thing.

The plotting is very minimalistic, with the player simply taking control of a figure who must travel through a strange, empty land, along the way slaying the deadly ‘titans’ he encounters. These monsters don’t attack, in fact they will only fight after you’ve attacked them first, raising some interesting questions about who the real hero is here. This is a common enough theme, but the closest to a narrative hook the game can be said to have. The overall look is very simple but effective, primarily in the design of the titans themselves. An effective soundtrack also helps elevate the experience beyond its humble beginnings.

The core mechanics are incredibly simple. Played from a top-down Zelda style perspective, the player can dodge, sprint and fire an arrow. It is an arrow since you only have one, after firing it you must hold a button to pull it back to you to be fired again. The game is simply a series of boss fights. They’re deadly, fast and aggressive and a single hit kills you. In the game’s most interesting twist, the same applies to them. It only takes one strike on a boss’ weak spot to take them down, but getting a shot in on that weak spot is a hell of a challenge. This means that winning fights are usually over in seconds, but you’ll die over and over again getting to that point. You can’t move whilst firing or retrieving the arrow, so placement in the environment is key. These boss fights are brilliant, frantic and brutal and often seemingly impossible at first, until you learn their rhythms and how to manipulate them. They feel like a boss fight in Dark Souls or Bloodborne, whilst being mechanically nothing like them at all. The euphoria rush of taking down a boss you’ve been throwing yourself against is amazing. If my entire game time had been spent fighting these bosses, Titan Souls would be a perfect game, but there a couple of drawbacks, one not so serious and one more so.

The first drawback is the environments between fights. Clusters of fights are found in certain areas, but you’ve got to explore a decently sized environment to find them. The problem is that this exploration simply isn’t fun or satisfying. This is a fine looking game, but the environments aren’t interesting from a visual or design standpoint. Removing these sections entirely and reducing the game to exclusively a series of boss fights would have tightened up some of the flab. The bigger issue is the checkpointing. After dying you will wake up at a checkpoint near the boss arena. Sometimes these are right next to the boss room and sometimes it’s further away. The boss rooms are never more than 10 seconds from the checkpoint, but when you die as often as you do in this game it adds up. I think it’s trying to capture the bonfires/lanterns from the Soulsborne games, but those are different games. Titan Souls has a more arcade-y ‘just one more go’ feeling than those games, which is undermined by this delay. It may sound like a petty thing, but no one likes the feeling of their time being wasted and I felt that this really did. Simply respawning the player straight in the boss room would have been so much better.

Titan Souls is a very good game which falls short of greatness due to some frustrating issues. I liked it very much and the core concept is so strong that I hope they make another one, but more cut back and streamlined rather than more expansive as sequels generally are.

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The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna DLC for PS4, PC, OS X, Linux and Android

As soon as I finished The Talos Principle I jumped into Road to Gehenna, the DLC. Although I was only able to complete about three of this expansion’s couple dozen puzzles without a guide, the story and some interesting interactions made this experience worthwhile for me.

Road to Gehenna sees you playing as Uriel, a much more defined character than in the main game. With the artificial construct in which they reside falling apart, Elohim, filled with regret over his actions, sends Uriel to rescue a group of intelligences he had banished due to their questioning nature and willingness to challenge his word. Uriel arrives in this section of the construct and finds that the minds there have, through their terminals, created Gehenna, a platform to allow them to share their works of art and form a community. This creation has staved off the madness of boredom for the AIs residing there, but Gehenna isn’t quite as utopian as it seems.

Gehenna is a pretty fascinating concept and the game does a pretty great job of imagining the kind of art that would be created by minds with all the empathy and intelligence of humans but none of the real world experience. As with the main game, most of the story is told through terminals as you gradually find yourself rising through the community of Gehenna. The whole thing reminds me of nothing so much as a much nicer, more meaningful reddit. The different minds have clearly defined personalities and watching them react to your arrival is pretty interesting. Probably my favourite part of the DLC were a couple of short text adventures which appear on the Gehenna terminal, all of which generally stand in as a metaphor for what is going on around you in the meta story. Road to Gehenna doesn’t quite have the same broad scope of philosophical thought that is seen in the main game but is instead more focused, primarily upon the idea of art and creation and, perhaps, their role in the age of reddit and content aggregation. I liked the story of Road to Gehenna just as much as I liked the story in the main game.

The puzzles are presumably not impossible, but to one with my mental capabilities they really were. I found almost all of them insanely difficult and unfortunately had to spend almost the entire thing following guides. It’s hard to blame the game for this to be fair and it didn’t actually impact my enjoyment as much as you’d expect. I’m still not going to talk too much about his element of the game because I don’t have a huge amount to say. They seem like they’re well designed but to be honest I can’t really tell. The environments still look nice, although they’re mostly recycled from the main game.

It’s pretty crazy that, despite not really engaging with the entire core mechanics of this DLC, I still liked it as much as I did. It shows that, for me at least, good world building conquers all in my enjoyment of a game. Road to Gehenna is a worthy addition to an already great game.

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The Talos Principle for PS4, PC, OS X, Linux and Android

I picked The Talos Principle because I had nothing to play and just looked at the Metacritic top rated PS4 games and went with the first one I hadn’t played. I was initially worried that the puzzles would hit a difficulty wall which would just infuriate me and well…it did, but despite me being an idiot and relying on guides for the final quarter the interesting story and unique way it is told carried me through.

At the start of The Talos Principle you awaken with no memories in a beautiful garden filled with decaying Grecian architecture and art, when a booming God-like voice identifying itself as Elohim tasks you with completing a series of puzzles to ascend and join him. When you first reach a computer terminal and see your robotic hands, it becomes very clear that this is not a story to take at face value. Elohim isn’t the only person communicating with you, dotted terminals scattered around the world drop hints about the nature of the world you inhabit, whilst an AI masquerading as a library assistant program hides out from Elohim and fills your head with thoughts of rebellion. At the centre of the world there is a tower which Elohim forbids you to climb but…that’s not going to stop you is it?

The Talos Principle is a game with extremely lofty narrative ambitions and genuinely hits almost all of them. It’s very concerned with philosophy, specifically the point where philosophy and technology intersect. If The Talos Principle can be said to have a central argument, it is that the musings of the great philosophers about the nature of humanity are in fact more relevant in our technologically advanced world rather than less. Artificial consciousness raises the question of the soul and the right for humans to assume dominance over other intelligences. Compared to something like the recent Deus Ex games, which explore similar themes with all the subtlety of a claymore, The Talos Principle takes a musing and thoughtful approach and doesn’t offer any answers. The most interesting parts of the game are your discussions with the library AI Milton, who questions you about your assumptions about the world and relentlessly challenges you on every point you make. It’s not a conversation, obviously, but it does sort of feel like one. If you’ve ever got into an argument with someone and realised half way through that there’s no way you can win because your opponent just knows more than you, you’ll know what talking with Milton feels like. If any criticism can be given it is that the gameplay and narrative don’t necessarily feel particularly well entwined, but the two separate elements are so strong individually it’s hard to be too upset by this.

So, the puzzles. There are dozens of them and all see you collecting little Tetris pieces called sigils which are put together into keys to unlock new areas or give access to new tools. The satisfaction of completing a puzzle and unlocking a new area is really lovely. The puzzles themselves are largely based around energy gates which must be kept open a variety of ways, from simple pressure pads to jammers to guiding lasers onto panels. By the end you have around six items available for use in the puzzles and it gets properly, ridiculously, difficult. The satisfaction of success is massive though, from creating a complex laser grids to using items in a less obvious, more ‘outside the box’ way. The game forces you to consider every use for your items; to give a simple example, just because your item is for channelling a laser beam doesn’t mean it can’t weigh down a pressure plate and maybe channel a laser at the same time. The Talos Principle forces you to consider your environment in a way I hadn’t really done since Portal 2; in fact, this game has a fair bit in common with Portal, perhaps with a dash of Myst thrown in. The mechanic which caused me the most grief was one which lets you create time loops to duplicate items for a short amount of time. It’s almost as difficult to explain as it was to use and I felt my heart sink every time I walked into a puzzle and saw the time loop machine there.

Alongside the main sigils are bonus stars which can unlock a new ending. If you thought the main puzzles were obscure these are ridiculous. As intricate and clever as the main puzzles are, they do at least simply require you to work within the individual puzzle room. Some of the stars actually force you to cleverly use elements from other rooms. I only picked up three on my first playthrough and the thought of how long it would take me to get the rest makes me feel a little sick. Still, I massively appreciated the way the game offers extra challenge without the blunt tool of different difficulty modes. I got a very reasonable amount of time out of this game but some people will get dozens and dozens of hours trying to get all those stars.

As much as I liked it, by the end I hit an intelligence wall and found myself grinding to a frustrating stop with every puzzle. This isn’t really the game’s fault though and I still found myself persevering with guides to follow to the end of the story which, by this point, I was pretty in to. I liked The Talos Principle a lot and it still probably isn’t my sort of thing; if you’re majorly into puzzle games I’d imagine that this one would be unmissable.

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The Walking Dead: Michonne for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, OS X, iOS and Android

I’ll confess straight up that I’ve never watched The Walking Dead TV show or read the comic and so went into this with no idea who Michonne was. My experience is likely very different to someone who is familiar with the character, but I approached this as a fan of the games and Telltale in general. That said, The Walking Dead: Michonne made me more interested in watching the show than anything else has previously.

Michonne, a lawyer before the zombie apocalypse and now a machete wielding badass, has found herself with a group of survivors on a ship. When following a distress beacon, Michonne and Pete, the captain, find themselves taken to the floating settlement of Monroe. It isn’t long before things start to go wrong as misunderstanding and distrust begins to descend into violence.

There’s a feeling in the first episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne that it is going through the motions slightly. I felt like I was seeing a lot of familiar stuff and I’ve only ever played the games, much less watched the show or read the comics. There’s a frustrating predictability in how everything descends into chaos but things improve greatly in the second half, as the narrative focuses and becomes much more tense. When the cast narrows down in size and the stakes shrink this game provides some great examples of the unbearably difficult decision making this series is known for. One of the most interesting elements is Michonne’s haunting by the spectres of her (presumably) dead children. This builds throughout the episodes to an intense emotional climax at the end. In some ways the visions of the dead is a cliché, but it’s hard to complain when executed this well. All said though, Michonne grabbed me far less than Season One or Two did simply because none of the supporting cast interested me nearly so much as those from the other seasons.

There is little to discuss mechanically or visually, with it essentially playing the same and looking the same as The Walking Dead season 2. If you found the interactive story/gameplay-lite focus of previous Telltale games grating you won’t like this either.

The Walking Dead: Michonne is, for better or for worse, exactly what it says on the tin. I love playing these games with my fiancé so much that I almost always enjoy them despite their flaws. I’ll only stop playing when Telltale tell a genuinely bad story, which has yet to happen.

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Game of Thrones for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, OS X, iOS and Android

I can’t describe how excited I was for this game. I love Telltale and I love A Song of Ice and Fire, so this seemed a match made in heaven. The reality hasn’t quite lived up expectations, with Game of Thrones having been overshadowed month after month by the vastly superior Tales from the Borderlands. There are some great moments, but fundamentally the Telltale Game of Thrones takes the flaws of the show and blows them up hugely, whilst doing the same with the Telltale games.

Game of Thrones takes place between Season 3 and 4 of the TV show and picks up in the midst of the Red Wedding. Lord Gregor Forrester is killed and survived by his squire Gared Tuttle. The Forresters are a minor Northern house of Stark Bannermen, important primarily for their large forest of Ironwood, a material very useful for the creation of weapons and armor. For years, the Forresters have feuded with the neighbouring Whitehills, but this conflict was kept in check by strong Stark leadership. With the Starks destroyed following the betrayal at the Twins, the Boltons have raised to ascendancy in the North and rule with none of the diplomacy and honour which defined Eddard Stark.

Game of Thrones follows several characters, as with the books and show. The first is Ethan Forrester, the new young lord of the house in their home of Ironrath who must contend with the increasing arrogance of the Whitehills as well as the unpredictable wiles of the newly legitimised Ramsay Bolton. Next is Mira, a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell who seeks to use her position in King’s Landing to support the fortunes of her house. Gared Tuttle was Lord Gregor’s ward, who follows his master’s dying words to ‘Protect the North Grove’, a mysterious location which sees Gared sent to the Wall and beyond. Finally there is Asher, who was banished across the Narrow Sea several years before and is now working as a mercenary. When he hears of the danger befalling his family, he seeks the help of Daenerys Targaryen, positioned outside Meereen, to sail back to Westeros to save his family.

There are some truly outstanding moments in Game of Thrones, particularly in the first few episodes. There are scenes which are as visceral, shocking and upsetting as the moments the show is known for, but some begin to feel contrived as we move on. One of the biggest problems with setting this game during the show’s timeline is that everything could feel irrelevant, like a sideshow to the main event. Cameos from the shows cast actually make this much worse; it’s difficult to accept that Tyrion and Cersei Lannister were chatting away to a minor Northern handmaiden in the days following the death of Joffrey, or that Jon Snow was gabbing away with a young squire before heading to Craster’s Keep. The only show character used well is Ramsay Bolton, due to him being such a wildcard that every moment he is on screen feeling like its about to descend into chaos. The Forresters are clearly meant as analogues for the Starks, particularly Mira as Sansa. This makes them fail to come alive as characters in their own right, with the notable exception being Asher, whose hot headed arrogance sets him apart from any of the other major Stark characters.

From a gameplay point of view its business as usual, although there are some thrilling combat encounters towards the beginning, which begin to shrink and get less interactive as the series trundled on. The glacial release pace didn’t help matters, with an unacceptable four month gap between the penultimate and final episodes. In that time Telltale somehow managed to get out two Minecraft: Story Mode episodes, which suggests to me that they got greedy. The biggest issue is the utter failure of the illusion of choice; the lack of meaningful choice in Telltale games has been known for a while, but it feels far more naked and exploitative here than it did in games like Tales from the Borderlands or The Wolf Among Us. The need to set up the announced second season means that this Game of Thrones lacks any sort of satisfying resolution. The only Telltale game with two seasons so far (I’m not counting Sam and Max) is The Walking Dead, but the ending of season one was a genuine conclusion, just with the door left open for a sequel. Tales from the Borderlands is in a similar position, but Game of Thrones leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Game of Thrones does look nice; the handpainted art style has been a bit controversial with some, but overall I like it. Take into account that every other Telltale adaptation has been from a graphic novel or stylised videogame and the art style of Game of Thrones seems like a reasonable compromise. The voice acting is good, although there aren’t necessarily any stand out performances. The music is a pleasant surprise, with a distinct theme for the Forresters being a recognisable musical motif which recurs throughout the story. Nothing can beat when the Game of Thrones TV theme kicks in though.

Telltale’s Game of Thrones isn’t a disaster and, based on what I’ve played so far, seems to be stronger than Minecraft: Story Mode, but it is the first time I’ve felt the Telltale fatigue kick in. Tales from the Borderlands was so good that it can’t help but reflect poorly upon Game of Thrones; hopefully the second season is an improvement, with some characters left in some interesting places, but my hopes aren’t particularly high.

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Tales from the Borderlands for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, OS X, iOS and Android

I wasn’t particularly excited for this one. I love Telltale games, particularly playing them with my fiance, but I only ever liked the Borderlands universe rather than loving it. I was much more interested in the Game of Thrones adaptation, but here I am, waiting for the final episode of Game of Thrones and barely caring whilst I cannot stop thinking about Tales from the Borderlands. This is Telltale’s best game, beating out The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us.  
 
Tales from the Borderlands picks up following the death of Handsome Jack at the end of Borderlands 2 but with Hyperion still floating ominously above Pandora. Down on the planet a mysterious stranger with a shotgun has taken two people hostage and is interrogating them to discover their story. There is Rhys, a Hyperion middle man who betrays his company and his jerk boss to come into possession of an incalculably valuable Vault Key. The other is Fiona, a Pandoran con artist who takes part in a con involving a fake Vault Key. The two worlds collide on Pandora as Rhys and Fiona, alongside a wide cast of allies, work together to find the Vault and gain the riches they crave.  
 
I love when media refuses to abide by a single genre category. My favourite TV shows tend to be dramas which make me laugh and comedies which make me cry and Tales from the Borderlands is the first Telltale game to achieve this tone. The writing for the Borderlands games has always been on a teensy bit obnoxious for my liking, but the comedy is immediately smarter and more character driven than anything seen in the main games. The first episode was mostly played for laughs and I couldn’t really pinpoint the moment when the balance shifted and I was genuinely emotionally invested in these people, but I really was. The writing is genuinely top notch, with even seemingly straightforward characters exhibiting emotional depths and genuinely moving moments. A few characters from the main games appear; some of these appearance feel natural and vital to the story, such as an AI Handsome Jack and Athena, a character from a Borderlands 1 DLC and the Pre-Sequel. Some others feel a little shoe horned in, including some Vault Hunters from Borderlands 1 and 2. Overall though, the writing in Tales from the Borderlands is up there with Telltale’s best. 
 
There’s little in the way of gameplay differences in Tales from the Borderlands, but for whatever reason this was the most fun I’ve had with the actual mechanics of a Telltale game. There’s something about the choreography of the action scenes, particularly in the utterly joyful final episode, that makes you feel more involved than normal. I mean, it’s all an illusion, but it’s a mostly successful one. There’s a neat mechanic introduced earlier on involving kitting your Loader Bot out for battle which doesn’t make enough re-appearances towards the end and Tales from the Borderlands mostly abandons its new ideas as it goes on, which is a shame because it was aiming for something a little different. Let’s be honest though, no one is playing these for the mechanics.  
 
Congratulations Tales from the Borderlands, you’re the first Telltale game which isn’t a weird technical disaster! Sure, there’s the odd visual glitch, but this is easily Telltale’s nicest looking game ever. It helps that the art style of Borderlands transfers without a hitch over to Telltale’s signature style, but they also feel more expressive and human in their facial expression and movements than has been the case in the past. As you’d expect, the voice acting is outstanding; I have no criticisms and so little of interest to say there. The use of music is really interesting here, with some incredible intro sequences supported with some really interesting and effective music choices.  
 
Tales from the Borderlands may very well be Telltale’s best. Even if you’ve never played a Borderlands game I’d recommend this one; the storytelling is genuinely top notch with a story which varies compellingly between comedy, action and drama. This is not one to miss. 

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Thomas Was Alone for PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, PC, OS X, Linux, iOS and Android

I’m an unashamedly emotional consumer of media; I watched pretty much the entirety of How to Train Your Dragon 2 through misty eyes. Games have made me cry, but they have never brought on that unending cascade of emotions some film, TV and books have…until Thomas Was Alone. I spent the final third of this game feeling intensely emotional and I DON’T KNOW WHY OH GOD SOMEONE GIVE ME A HUG.

Thomas is a red rectangle who jumps on stuff. He’s also a newly emergent AI who is just discovering sentience. He’s a curious and affable fellow and is soon joined by a group of other coloured quadrilaterals who use their different abilities to discover more about the world which contains them and, maybe, find a way out.

In a way, Thomas Was Alone tells two different narratives; one is a cosier and whimsical story about the AIs and the relationships they form on their adventure and another in a meta-narrative which lends everything context. It’s a bit like Assassin’s Creed in a way, but done so much better, with each element of the narrative supporting the other beautifully. Thomas Was Alone manages to blend an intimate and personal narrative with an epic context. The wonderful narration from Danny Wallace imbues each coloured shape with a distinct personality. These squares and rectangles are some of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in a game recently. I can barely remember the conflict between the Kyrati freedom fighters in Far Cry 4, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever forget yellow square Chris mellowing out from his grumpy beginnings through his love for the pink rectangle Laura, or the high jumping John’s newfound humility. This game almost feels like an experiment in empathy, as if someone asked ‘is it possible to make people care about a four sided shape?’ Well, the answer is a conclusive yes.

The actual mechanics are really solid as well. It’s a puzzle platformer, with the objective of each level being to get into the portal at the end. Although early on you just play as Thomas, who has no particular abilities, in later levels you are introduced to more and more friends who all have different abilities. For example, Sarah can float in water which kills the other shapes and Laura provides a surface which other shapes can bounce on. Switching between the different shapes and finding out how to get all their abilities to work together to reach their portals is hugely satisfying, although never particularly challenging. It also reinforces the theme of teamwork which suffuses the game, a great example of using the actual mechanics of the game to tell part of the story. The controls are a bit frustrating and I had my fair share of unfairly missed jumps, but Thomas Was Alone never frustrated nearly as much as many indie platformers with floaty controls.

The graphical style is very minimalist but highly effective. In a few years I think it may even be considered iconic. The real star though is the music. You know how I mentioned that I spent much of this game in tears? The music played a pretty massive part in that. A beautiful blend of real instruments and a laid back chip tune influence combined into something entirely unique but supremely effecting. I honestly think Thomas Was Alone may have shot up to join Braid, Banjo Kazooie, Ocarina of Time and Mario 64 in my favourite ever videogame soundtrack charts. I’m listening to it now as I write this and beginning to tear up again and oh God I can’t stop. David Housden is a composer I’ll be keeping a close eye on.

Between them, Mike Bithell, David Housden and Danny Wallace have created a live write straight to my emotional core. I played this game when I was feeling quite down and Thomas Was Alone provided a catharsis and left me feeling moved and saddened yet optimistic. Thomas Was Alone is a triumph.header (1)

The Walking Dead: Season Two for Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, PC, Ouya, OS X, Android and iOS

Ow, my emotions. For most of its run, I’ve felt the second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead to be overshadowed by The Wolf Among Us. It’s certainly not as consistent as the first season, with a fairly meandering plot and far less direction than the original, but particularly in the final two episodes everything came together, culminating in scenes as tense as anything else Telltale has created, and they have created some tense scenes in their time.

Whatever your choice at the end of the first season of The Walking Dead, Lee is gone and Clementine is out in the world all by herself. Set a couple of years after Season One, Clementine has grown both physically and emotionally. She is no longer the adorable and naive child of the first season, with her natural kindness tempered by a streak of pragmatism and much stronger survival instincts. Clementine comes across a new group, with new conflicts and dramas, and with them sets out to continue the long trudge for survival.

That description probably sounds quite vague, and that’s largely because for much of Season Two the plotting is rather meandering and unfocused. It’s not boring or anything, Telltale’s characterisation is strong enough to carry it through this, but there’s little sense of building tension and stakes over the course of the episodes, compared to The Wolf Among Us which did this really well. Episode 3 onwards begin to show a massive improvement however, but the central fascinating conflict which shapes the finale only really begins to manifest itself in Episode 4. Don’t get me wrong, I was thoroughly gripped by Season Two, but there’s a strong sense of making it up as it goes along. When it works though, it really works, with some decisions almost bringing me to tears of tension and frustration.

Season Two plays, well, much like Season One, in that there isn’t much in the way of gameplay. The action scenes are better, more in the vein of The Wolf Among Us, but there’s even less puzzle solving. That’s actually a good thing though, the one or two times Season One tried to be a real adventure game were clunky and broke immersion. Season Two is an even further development in Telltale’s movement away from adventure games to interactive storytelling, and that’s really not necessarily a bad thing.

The art style still looks nice, but as with The Wolf Among Us it runs fairly badly. I really hope the move to the next generation consoles fixes a lot of this, as it’s ridiculous that fairly low-key games like these run so horribly. Still, the character models are better than the first season’s, and the voice acting is still absolutely fantastic. Despite the tiff character models and unconvincing facial expressions, the performers manage to sell us these characters as real people with only their voice, something very hard to do.

The Walking Dead: Season Two may not quite have the impact of the first season, it’s nonetheless an absolute must play. Clementine is one of the best characters in gaming, and spending more time with her cannot be a bad thing. Bring on Season Three.the-walking-dead-game-season-2-walkthrough

Little Inferno for Wii U, PC, iOS, OS X, Linux and Android

Well, this is an odd one. Little Inferno is certainly unique, I’ll have to give it that. From the creator of World of Goo comes the next logical step…a game about burning things in a virtual fireplace?

So, Little Inferno comprises almost entirely of burning things in a fireplace. You receive a series of catalogues, with later ones needing to be unlocked, filled with products that can be burnt, often producing particular effects. Burning creates more money, which is then used to buy more stuff to burn, with a wait period in place for new orders. The burning itself is accomplished by controlling the fire on the touch screen of the gamepad, and is curiously cathartic and fun. The main meat of the gameplay comes from finding ‘Combos’, combinations of items which are hinted at through clues. The first combo is called ‘Bike Pirate’, simply meaning you burn a bike and burn a toy pirate at the same time. They get pretty clever, and are needed to unlock new catalogues and proceed through the story.

Ah yes, the story. The ‘Little Inferno’ fireplace, a new product marketed at children by the ‘Tomorrow Corporation’ has been installed at the home of our protagonist. The world is gripped by cold, and burning these items is marketed as both fun, and the only way to keep you warm. You’ll receive periodic letters from a handful of characters who fill in the gaps and give the player snippets of information about this deeply strange and disturbing world. Little Inferno isn’t quite apocalyptic; it seems like a world on the cusp of an apocalypse, with everyone gripped by an unspoken foreboding about what’s coming. It’s also really funny, and has an ending that truly blindsided me. Little Inferno is a game which sticks in the mind not for its mechanics, but it’s truly disturbing world and darkly funny characters.

The style of the game is reminiscent of World of Goo, with lots of buggy eyes and cartoony visuals, but put through a black and white Victorian lens. Everything is exaggerated, and the effect is oddly creepy. The fire effects are good, they would very much have to be in a game like this. The music is excellent too, with a memorable and evocative main theme as well as an amusing jingle selling the Little Inferno fireplace.

Some have quibbled over the ‘value’ of this game, questioning the light gameplay. I suppose if what you’re after is raw gameplay, fair enough, but I actually sunk a reasonable amount of time into this game and found it genuinely really rewarding. I got it on sale though, so perhaps I’m feeling warmer towards it for that reason. Get it? Warmer? I’ll show myself out.

Anyway, Little Inferno is certainly unique, and whilst it’s gameplay isn’t particularly complex (but it is oddly compelling), it’s creepy atmosphere and dark sense of humour comfortably make up for it.little_inferno_kids

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