Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Archive for the tag “iOS”

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.

voezFB.png

Day of the Tentacle Remastered for PS4, PS Vita, PC, OS X, Linux and iOS

When it comes to adventure games, I’m a LucasArts man through and through. The first two Monkey Islands are a pair of my favourite games of all time and I really love Sam and Max too, but there are a lot I missed. The Day of the Tentacle is a very well renowned game which I missed first time around (I was two to be fair) so I was happy to see it pop up as a free PS+ game.

The Day of the Tentacle is actually a sequel to Maniac Mansion, one of the earliest Lucasarts games. That said, a few references aside I really didn’t feel like it held back the experience. The game opens with a sentient purple tentacle drinking the toxic run-off from the mansion of scientist Dr. Red Edison. This causes him to mutate, gaining massive intelligence and a desire to conquer the world. The nerdy and hapless Bernard, along with two friends, is summoned to the mansion to stop Purple Tentacle. The three set out in Dr. Red’s time machine to stop the Purple Tentacle from drinking the sludge, but a malfunction sees the three split up across time. Bernard remains in the present, the laid back roadie Hoagie is sent back 200 years to the signing of the United States Constitution and the deranged Laverne arrives 200 years into a dystopian future ruled by the tentacles. The three must work together across time to end the Purple Tentacle’s plans.

The whole thing is suitably silly and deranged for a Lucasarts game. I didn’t feel that it quite holds the cleverness of the Monkey Island games, particularly the cerebral and strange Monkey Island 2. It’s a lighter game, a more-pure comedy lacking in some of the genuinely heartfelt moments some of the other games have. The writing is vintage Tim Schafer, but I’m not sure if it carries the depth and humanity present in much of his other work. The Purple Tentacle itself isn’t quite enough of a presence throughout the game to come across as a genuine threat, but he’s still silly and over the top enough to be enjoyable. I liked the characters, particularly Laverne, a brilliantly unsettling, macabre and twisted figure.

This is a LucasArts SCUMM adventure game and so has all the strengths and flaws that entails. Controlling three figures across time, which can be switched at will, is a neat twist and leads to some interesting puzzles. Items can be freely swapped between the three, with the time travel element allowing events in the past to influence the future. Some of these time meddlings are amusingly clumsy, such as altering the US Constitution to ensure that there is a vacuum cleaner in the basement in the present or changing the US flag to create a tentacle costume. There are some brilliantly clever puzzle solutions, although it is naturally saddled with your classic ‘adventure game logic’ problems. The Day of the Tentacle contains one of the most ridiculous and obscure puzzle solutions I’ve seen since The Longest Journey’s ‘rubber ducky/subway key.’ I have no shame in saying that I freely used a guide whilst playing; I don’t have the time for the insane level of experimentation which would be needed to solve some of these puzzles.

The Remastered version for consoles actually works surprisingly well, with dragging the cursor around being way less irritating than I expected. You can freely switch between the remastered version, with updated visuals and music, as well as a cleaner interface, or the SCUMM original in all its glory. Call me a nostalgia bitch, but I preferred the SCUMM version. The new visuals are just a bit too clean; I liked the jagged edges of the original and seeing how expressive and vibrant the world and characters are with the limited technology. It really is a wonderful looking game in its original form, but if you’re not familiar with the SCUMM engine it may be a bit off putting. The music is really great, although again I preferred the original versions to the remastered versions. The voice acting is good too, hammy and over the top with not a degree of subtlety or nuance, as well it should be.

Without a nostalgic frame of reference, it’s difficult to talk about The Day of the Tentacle. I ran into a similar problem when I played the remaster of Grim Fandango. I just don’t have the time or inclination to play these games as they were meant to be played anymore, but even with regular usage of a guide I still enjoy them. The next LucasArts remaster is supposedly Full Throttle, another one I missed and I look forward to passively enjoying that one with a walkthrough too.

 

18

Minecraft: Story Mode for PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, OS X, iOS and Android

So…this was a weird one. I have no particular love for the Minecraft brand; I’ve dabbled and I have huge respect for it as a game and learning tool, but it’s just not for me. Telltale’s brand of narrative games are almost as far from the huge freedom of Minecraft that you can get, but I fancied a narrative game to play over 5 episodes and thought what the hell. I bit off a bit more than I could chew because it wasn’t long until the series was extended to 8. Last year I was surprised to find myself enjoying Tales from the Borderlands much more than Game of Thrones despite massively preferring the latter franchise and this year I’ve been surprised to find myself enjoying Minecraft: Story Mode far more than Telltale’s Batman.

Minecraft: Story Mode is split into two distinct arcs across the first and final halves of the season. The protagonist is Jesse, male or female, who alongside his friends and trusty pet/bestie Reuben (a pig) enters a building competition in his home town. It isn’t long before Jesse is pulled into world changing events as maniacal genius Ivor releases a ‘Wither Storm’, a huge creature which grows continuingly, destroying the land. Jesse and his friends set forth to find the Order of the Stone, legendary warriors who slew the Ender Dragon many years earlier for their help in stopping the Wither Storm. The second half sees Jesse and his friends expelled from their world and unable to find their way back, wandering between a series of strange alternate worlds on their quest back home.

Recent Telltale games have struggled with openings and Minecraft: Story Mode is no exception. The tone is oddly dark and portentous; I had been expecting a lighter and breezier affair. The whole Wither Storm arc doesn’t really work; the general aesthetic doesn’t match a bizarre sense of impending doom the game aims for and the characters are too broad to carry this sort of emotional range needed to support this kind of story. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the characters, but most never get beyond that point of likeability into being something more interesting. There’s a general feeling that things just aren’t as funny as they should be. There are some heartfelt moments towards the end of the first arc when I realised I was genuinely invested in what was going on, but it just takes too long to get there. There are some great moments in this first arc, but it is in the second that the potential for this series comes into its own. Seeing Jesse and his friends travelling to a new world each episode opens up the range of scenarios that can be explored and the most interesting moments can be found here. From a murder mystery pastiche in a mansion to a rogue AI to a Hunger Games style tournament, there’s a feeling of looseness and fun in the final four episodes somewhat lacking in the earlier ones. If Telltale choose to do a second season (and I would be surprised if they didn’t) I hope that this is the approach they stick with.

Minecraft: Story Mode is a Telltale game and plays as such. There are some nods towards the normal Minecraft experience; there are crafting tables and you will sometimes have to…y’know, craft things, but this is very limited. You are essentially just arranging the items you will have picked up automatically to advance the game in a particular order. There’s nothing more to it than that. There are hints towards a more full-fledged combat system than the usual QTEs, but it’s not particularly fun and drops off towards the end. If ever there was a time to get out of the comfort zone and open up the experience a bit, it was here, but Telltale played it safe and stuck with the formula. It’s one that worked well, but it’s hard not to feel that diminishing returns are setting in, or perhaps already had set in a while ago.

The blocky look of Minecraft works surprisingly well, particularly in the character models which are much more expressive than you would expect. The voice acting is to a high standard as it has to be for this sort of game. I normally choose female characters in games, but I had to go for the male this time so I could hear Patton Oswalt, who I’m very fond of, as Jesse. He does a great job and the supporting cast do too although I struggle to think of any truly stand out performances. Telltale games are often unforgivably janky, with low framerates and dodgy textures. Minecraft: Story Mode doesn’t really have this problem, probably due to the simpler art style and runs as well as a game like this should. The music was surprisingly good too, with lots of keyboard and synths making action scenes genuinely exciting.

Minecraft: Story Mode does very much feel like Telltale on autopilot but is a decent enough experience despite all that. I enjoyed the hour or so a week I played with my fiancé, an approach which perhaps softens some of the flaws. This is far from the best Telltale game and doesn’t come close to The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us or Tales from the Borderlands, but it’s still likeable enough anyway.

maxresdefault-5

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.

TTG_GoT_Logo (1)

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. 

tales-from-the-borderlands-logo-screen

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)

Valiant Hearts: The Great War for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC and iOS

There’s a reason the First World War is rarely done in games; it’s very difficult to extract anything fun from one of the most nightmarish conflicts in history. From a purely gameplay standpoint, the prominence of trench warfare would make an FPS a difficult proposition. Valiant Hearts opts for a different path, presenting us a moving and emotional tale of bravery and sacrifice as an adventure game.

Valiant Hearts takes place from 1914 to 1917, a year before the end of the war. It follows a group of characters from both the German and Allied sides whose stories intertwine and separate throughout the course of the game. Karl is a young German man living in France with his wife and young son who is deported at the start of the war. He is drafted by and sent to the Front. Emile is Karl’s father in law, and the main protagonist of the game, who plays a large number of roles from chef to sapper to prisoner of war. Freddie is an American man who joined the French army after his wife was killed by German bombs. His sole purpose is to take down the German General Von Dorf, who was responsible for the raid that killed his wife. Finally we have Anna, a Belgian nurse who seeks to rescue her father who was captured by Von Dorf.

Valiant Hearts conveys very well the utter horror of war in the best way I’ve seen since Spec Ops: The Line. The story is told largely without dialogue, but with a narrator orating to us the plot. The cartoonish art style conveys the emotions of the characters vividly, with a plot that is genuinely emotionally engaging. There are also scraps of information to be found which detail real events of the war, often crossing over with what’s happening in the game. The biggest issue with Valiant Hearts is its tone; despite attempting to humanise both sides of the conflict, Von Dorf is a ridiculous villain and some moments are laughably over the top. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with moments of levity in even the saddest of stories, but Valiant Hearts doesn’t always get it right.

This is an adventure game by and large and a fairly simple one at that. Everything takes place on a 2D plain, with the main gameplay being the solving of simple environmental puzzles. There’s no inventory stuff, with the solution to each puzzle always to be found in the area that you’re in. Some puzzles involve throwing objects and many involve your canine sidekick, who can be ordered to squeeze through gaps and pull switches and the like. There are also some more action-y moments, some which work well such as frantic dashes through No Man’s Land and some which are a bit silly, such as a boss fight against a tank. There’s not much to be said for the gameplay here, it’s simple but clever enough and a good vehicle for what the game wants to say about World War One.

The art style is gorgeous, with characters human enough to convey the horror of the conflict but cartoonish enough to be accessible. The music is also quite lovely, but Valiant Hearts is also capable of conjuring a really hideous soundscape on the battlefield as we hear the crashing of explosives above the moaning of the injured. Once again, the UbiArt engine may struggle with substance, but it can more than make up for it in style.

Valiant Hearts taken purely as a gameplay experience is a rather bland experience, but Ubisoft do deserve credit for attempting to tell the stories of those who bled and died in the First World War. The story telling is uneven, but when it works is really works. I like that Ubisoft are also putting out smaller games alongside their blockbusters and will continue to follow the UbiArt games with interest.Valiant_Hearts_Key_Art

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

Bit.Trip.Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien for Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, PC, Mac OS, Linux and iOS

Well, this is a game as fun as its name is long. I haven’t played any other Bit.Trip games, but if they’re all as fun as this one I certainly want to.

Runner2 does have the semblance of a plot, enthusiastically narrated by Charles Martinet, the voice actor for Mario and Luigi. I didn’t really follow though, as hard as Martinet sells it. The whole thing has a goofy Saturday morning cartoon vibe which is nice, but this isn’t a game you’ll be playing for the plot.

Runner2 is…well, an endless runner. You move from left to right, jumping and ducking to dodge obstacles, as well as putting up shields to block projectiles and kicking down barriers, all to a relatively simple beat. In fact, simple is the operative word; Runner2 is simple, but so much fun. There’s not a lot to say about a game like this; it has its simple mechanics and then builds a series of levels around challenging your reflexes and rhythm. That’s all it does and it does it very well.

The game is good value too, with loads of levels spread across five worlds. There are tons of secrets and unlockables, such as extra characters and skins. Runner2 is a great example of a game which opts to do a few things well, rather than being a jack of all trades.

Runner2 is, in many ways, a rhythm game, with much of the dodging and jumping taking place to the beat of the music. The music is therefore very good, pleasant without being too distracting from the gameplay. The visuals are also charming, but necessarily uncluttered; too much going on would make a game like this very difficult to play.

This is a short review because this kind of game is very easy to review. It’s mindless, fun and charming; unless you crave complexity, this is worth a go.runner2

The Wolf Among Us for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS and OS X

As long as Telltale keep making games, I’ll keep buying them. Although I kind of miss their earlier games which were actual point and click adventures, the new interactive storytelling approach started with The Walking Dead is still very welcome. Happily, The Wolf Among Us is easily just as good. As with The Walking Dead, I decided to hold off and look at all five episodes together.

Adapted from the Fables series of comic books, The Wolf Among Us takes place in ‘Fabletown’, a borough of New York City containing ‘Fables’, the characters from fairy tales and folk stories, who have fled their magical homeland many years before in a mysterious exodus. The protagonist is Bigby, aka. The Big Bad Wolf, who now works as the sheriff of Fabletown. Following the murder of Faith, a young prostitute, Bigby is drawn into a mystery which spreads much further than it initially seems.

So, with a Telltale game the plot comes first and foremost, and The Wolf Among Us certainly succeeds there. The plot is twisty and turny, and all of the cool supernatural elements would amount to nothing if there wasn’t a cool mystery at the centre. It reminded me a bit of Jasper Fforde’s Nursery Crime books in this regard. Bigby is a great protagonist, slightly less of a blank slate than Lee was back in The Walking Dead, and the supporting cast of heroes and villains are instantly memorable. It does a great job of using the famous characters and tropes of fairy tale and myth in interesting and unexpected ways.

Of course, there is a bit of a missed opportunity here. Where the survival theme of The Walking Dead leant itself well to a focus on quick decision making and Quick Time Events, a mystery solving storyline like The Wolf Among Us would naturally lend itself to a slightly more cerebral, puzzle solving approach. This never manifests, and in many ways The Wolf Among Us is even less gameplay focused than The Walking Dead. One massive area of improvement is the combat, which whilst still being entirely based on QTEs, feels visceral and exciting. Sadly, one big issue with The Wolf Among Us is simply how horribly it runs, at least on the Xbox 360. The frame rate is appalling, the glitches persistent and the loading times egregious. It’s a bit odd, as it’s not necessarily a technically ambitious game. For the first time, I feel that Telltale’s episodic structure has meant that many episodes of this game have been rushed. Perhaps they’re just stretched too thin, with The Walking Dead Season Two as well as work on the upcoming Tales of the Borderlands and Game of Thrones.

It’s a shame that the technical issues are so irritating, because The Wolf Among Us shows glimpses of being a beautiful looking game. The cel-shaded style from The Walking Dead returns, but with an interestingly dark style, with plenty of 80s style synths and strong dark colours. The character designs are fantastic and the voice work, of course, flawless. The potentially brilliant style is infuriatingly marred by the technical issues, and turns a brilliantly designed game into a mediocre looking one.

Technical issues aside, The Wolf Among Us is another brilliant turn from Telltale, and most importantly of all, a damn good story. Now it’s all here, it’s absolutely worth going for.images (1)

Post Navigation