Delays of Games: No Penalty, Just Breathing Room

Yes, it happens to the best of them, folks. While disappointing, game delays aren’t the end of the world other than setting one’s expectations for playing what one wants to back a bit. In almost every case, it’s a case where developers want more time to tighten things up and apply a final (well, pre-patch) coat of polish to products so they’re even better when they finally make it to market. This isn’t only a AAA thing, as you’ll see from these three examples.

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Red Dead Redemption II has slipped into October (10/26/2018), but I’m not at all concerned because it’s Rockstar Games we’re talking about here and they’ve very rarely steered gamers wrong when a product slides past an initial launch date (or second or third, for that matter!). Hell, if anything, the new date will keep a lot of people safe at home on Halloween and quire possibly all the way through the holiday season. I’m only half joking, by the way. I know I’ll be camped out in front of my TV until actual tumbleweeds roll past my bleary eyes.

 

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Review: Where Are My Friends? (PS4)

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WAMF_PS4Don’t let the childlike look of its hand-drawn visuals fool you one bit. Where Are My Friends?  ($5.99) is going to absolutely break those gamers out there who take it for a spin expecting an easy Trophy hunt. Between the wordless storytelling that requires paying full attention when exploring the game’s point/click adventure segments, to some insane platforming sections, this one’s a hardcore challenge well disguised as a more light, family friendly affair. Actually, it may take an entire family to complete some of the fiercely tough sequences here, so get everyone together and maybe even the family pet can even give this a shot after everyone else fails.

My own reflexes aren’t as sharp these days, so at one point after discovering the somewhat challenging (okay, brutal) platforming sections, I actually made a phone call, packed up my PS4 and hoofed it over to a friend’s place so his 11-year old kid could do what I couldn’t. Let’s just say that kid earned his free pizza after that, but he also wanted me to note (and I quote): “This is one of the most crazy games I’ve ever played in my life, and I’m only 11!  You should pay me more next time!”  Hey, kid? There won’t be a next time (until the next time I get a game like this), and you didn’t get paid, per se (don’t child labor laws prevent that sort of thing?) . You’re a ringer, pal – you’re supposed to do your thing, do it well and zip it. Well, I didn’t say that, but I’m thinking he’s now thinking he’s getting pressed into service whenever I need some game-related help.

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Review: Tiny Metal (PS4)

 

Console owning fans of turn-based strategy games, specifically the late, lamented Advance Wars and similar military themed titles set in fictional scenarios really haven’t had too much to cheer about (well, other than still having the ability to go back and replay those older games whenever they like). PlayStation-only owners have a handful of games like this, but Area35’s very solid Tiny Metal ($24.99) is the coolest and closest thing to Intelligent Systems’ games you can get on the PS4. It takes inspiration from Nintendo’s series (which needs a new version one of these days) and adds a few nice gameplay twists to the formula that keep the battles past the early tutorial maps pretty engaging overall.

There’s a story here that basically pits an initially small force of troops and hired mercenaries against a powerful nation’s military after their president’s plane is shot down over enemy territory and the mission is to find out if he, along with a great military hero traveling with him are still alive. The game is set up so you’re going to get lengthy static manga cut scenes pre- and post-mission with the occasional mid-mission break when the story wants to nudge in some more dialog. There’s a lot of back and forth communicating here and everyone is suitably wrought to overwrought as they sell their lines in pretty melodramatic fashion. Interestingly enough, You can only select English for in-battle squad commentary – the cut scenes are all subtitled. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you (especially if you like your games in their native language as much as possible and don’t mind subtitles).

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Review: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

If Yakuza 6 (available April 17 on PS4) is your first trip to Kiryu Kazuma’s world, fear not. As an option on the title screen, the game can fill you in with rundowns of the previous five entries with a series of cut scenes taken from previous installments. These cinemas not only get you well up to speed, they’ll very likely make you want to track down the older games at some point (well, you’ll also need a PS3 for three or four of the older titles). As for this latest installment, it’s brilliant, bittersweet and worth the time investment for plenty of reasons.

Kiryu’s journey takes him from Okinawa back to his old stomping (and kicking and punching) ground of Kamurocho with an eventual journey to Onomichi Jingaicho in Hiroshima. Par for the course, the many plot twists and turns he’ll face range from melodramatic to absurd, but the main plot is quite serious stuff. After his former pop idol daughter Haruka goes missing, Kiryu tracks her to Kamurocho only to discover she’s been struck and badly injured by a car. He also finds out he’s a grandfather as Haruka was hit while protecting her son who Kiryu knew nothing about until he has to take care of him. With all this happening, the poor guy has to deal with a Yakuza and Triad gang war where both sides also want him taken out and a few other matters you’ll want to check out.

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Ni No Kuni II Demands Your Desire

 

Even with the up, down and sideways health issues happening, I’m still intent on diving into a bunch of games this spring. Right at the top of things to get to is Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, out NOW on the PS4 and PC. As a fan of developer Level-5’s games since the two Dark Cloud games, it’s been fantastic to see each new experience grow more and more polished. As you can see here and below, this game is absolutely packed with things to do including all-new kingdom building and RTS elements that seem very much like whole games in themselves.

While Studio Ghibli wasn’t part of the sequel, on board are former Ghibli character designer Yoshiyuki Momose and music composer Joe Hisaishi, both returning from the wonderful first game. Keeping that unique anime look and lovely sound is key to the experience and yep, this game nails it perfectly. In any event, get it digitally or get it physically (a walk to the game store counts as EXERCISE, folks!) – just get it and prepare to spend way too much time thinking about it when you’re not playing (well, that’s what I fully expect to happen to me given my past experience with Level-5’s other great RPGs).

-GW

Review: Beholder: Complete Edition (PS4)

Beholder_CE_PS4I’m not much of a good and nosy neighbor in real life, but in the past I’ve been the subject of scrutiny a few times by some pokey-snouted folks when I’ve either moved to or visited spots where they exist. A game like Beholder: Complete Edition normally wouldn’t even pop up on my to play radar, but here I sit typing out this review of a fairly solid yet depressing yet game experience. A mix of simulation, time management with a gloomy vibe straight out of Orwell’s 1984, the game may leave you with a jittery sense of unease because there seems to be no such thing here as a truly satisfying sense of closure.

Then again, when you’re forced by the state to spy on, harass and in some cases, have a tenant in the building you’re running bumped off, you kind of know you’re in for a weird time.

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Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms Is Eating My Free Time’s Lunch

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Okay, Idea Factory International, cut it out with putting out games that are too damn good. I’m still playing Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms on my Vita thanks to a few things like packed backlog and this follow up to Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds being such a solid visual novel that I’m trying to follow as many story paths as possible and failing miserably because they’re all so well localized. So, what should you do while you’re waiting for my verdict? Um, maybe read my review of the first game and get your wallets ready for more?

Well, that’s what I’d do, but I’m kind of predictable. Give me maybe two days, ladies and gents.

-GW

Review: Don’t Knock Twice (PS4)

DKT_PS4.jpegWales Interactive’s Don’t Knock Twice is an “all-in” game if ever there was one. While it can indeed be played without the PSVR headset and during the sunnier daytime hours, the game works best when you wall yourself (Amontillado or not) up all alone in the dark (heh) completely wrapped up in those goofy goggles and a decent set of headphones. Being afraid of the dark and having the additional fear of things that go bump in the night also go a long way in making this mild experience in terror a bit scarier.

On the other hand, if you’re one of those really jaded people who think all horror games need to be gory undead shooting galleries or have stuff jumping out at you every ten seconds, you may not totally grasp what the fuss is all about when the game finally ends somewhere about an hour to hour and a half later. Is the game perfect? Nope. Does it do what it intends to do? Yep. If you let yourself become immersed in the mood it aims for, it’ll get under your skin and make you a bit jumpy for a tiny slice of time. You’re not going to use the (overused) word “innovative” here at all to describe this one. You’re getting a short and creepy horror experience that’s not going to wear out its welcome when all is said and done.

 

 

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Review: Midnight Deluxe (PS4/PS Vita)

Midnight Deluxe PSA gentle “Fore.” with a sly smile is what you may find yourself whispering with a grin on occasion while playing Midnight Deluxe, Petite Games (ported and published by Ratalaika Games) sweet little indie, now available on PS4 and Vita. This is an initially simple on the surface but eventually fiercely challenging game where all you do is attempt to hit a cube-shaped fairy into a hole in each level.

It’s an easy enough to write description, but the fun and friskiness here comes from the “How the *hey* can I get that thing from here to there?” in increasingly complex maps where taking less than five shots seems impossible. Well, until you knock that fairy into the occasional well-placed hole in one or otherwise clear what you thought was a super tough stage under par.

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Review: One Eyed Kutkh (PS4)

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Charmingly abstract and somewhat brief, One Eyed Kutkh comes highly recommended as a game that’s just as entertaining for kids as it is for adults looking for a nicely non violent bedtime story experience. Developer Baba Yaga Games and Sometimes You bring their inexpensive Unity engine indie to the PS4 and it’s a winner despite that short play length. Hey, sometimes you just need a tiny bite late at night, as a big full meal can often leave you with a rumbly tummy afterwards.

The story’s a simple one (and yes, so simple I’m swiping this from the official site because the PlayStation Network page isn’t up just yet):

A single traveler on his way home crashes on a mysterious planet. To continue his journey, he’ll have to get to the ninth heaven, deceive the Sun and the Moon and steal their space-boats.

That’s pretty much it, except the game uses no words at all save for intentionally alien noises coming from a few characters.

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