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09-02-14 - Chains

Finished this yesterday. Somewhat nice simple little puzzle game. I hate when puzzle games have too many random elements, like this one that had bit too much of it.
After months of tries, I have finally been able to finish Sanitarium!

"Why months"? You could ask, and that would be a good question. For me, the game was absolutely unplayable and bug-ridden, so a few months ago I dropped it... then, I changed my graphics card (I was forced to run with the integrated Intel one due to a long RMA process for my defective nVidia one, and the game didn't even start) and after many weeks I decided to give it a try once again. Luckily for me, the game worked perfectly until the last two chapters - the Aztech one being a crashing pain. Anyway, the wait was definitely worth it.
Sanitarium is an adventure game with isometric view not different from the Infinity Engine games, in which you take control of an amnesiac inmate of the hospital, recent victim of a car crash. Everybody seem to think that that you are mad, yet a few re-emerging memories and disturbing details make you think the contrary. What is the truth? Are you really crazy? Why since the beginning do you have this strange feel you hold the key for something very important you cannot remember? Those are just a few of the questions the tormented protagonist will pose to himself, while wandering a world where the real and the surreal are not clearly separated and defined. I will not say anything more about the story, since it would undoubtedly be a spoiler, but be sure that the masterful exposition -with its attention to every detail, each one more meaningful than it might seem at first- will keep you hooked to the screen from start to finish. The dark, creepy and nightmare-ish art style, along with am excellent soundtrack, help in crafting an unforgettable and unique atmosphere.
The puzzles are well balanced, neither too easy nor too complex, and pose a good challenge to the player while never allowing frustration to arise.
I have several concerns about a few technical aspects, though: the movement does not follow the standard point-and-click method we all know and love, but forces you to drag the mouse in the direction you want the character to follow... too bad his walking is extremely slow and he is haunted by one of the worst pathfindings I ever encountered (you need to always stand directly in front of something to interact with it, but moving around can be really, really painful due to the very inaccurate controls).

In any case, the quality of the game makes up for all its technical issues, bulding a memorable experience you really wouldn't want to miss if you appreciate the adventure genere. Once again... recommended! Enebias' seal of approval! ;)
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. I'd beaten this years ago, and I think I did it that time with a hint book. I vaguely remembered solutions to many of the puzzles, so it's kind of disingenuous to say I throttled the game this time without resorting to a walkthrough, but I did beat it without looking online. For the most part I think the game does a reasonable job of hinting at what you're supposed to do, but I hate the whole bit with the zombies.

The story is entertaining, and the voice cast is genuinely impressive even after years of games full of voice acting. Mark Hamill does an especially good job, but I think my favorite is Leah Remini as Grace. She hits just the right balance between snarky and sympathetic (I'm planning to play the second game soon, but I remember disliking the new actress in that one). I also like that the game acknowledges the New Orleans water table and then completely ignores that reality a little while later.
Finished Shank 2 which was pretty good. Not very long, but enough for me. It was definitely better than the first one for the difficulty.

Full list here.
Finished Hero of the Kingdom
This is an extremely casual game. I'd call it a point and click adventure meets where's waldo mat gathering. It took me four hours to beat and that includes getting all the achievements/completionist. The game is nothing to write home about, but for some reason it is really addicting. I honestly don't know why. You point and click to gather mats, go buy tools to gather more, then go point and click fight enemies or hunt. Storyline is nothing out of the ordinary. The replay-ability is nil unless you need to go back to get all the trophies. The music is good and the settings pretty. I'd buy it, but only if on sale for a few dollars at most.

Demo is available on Steam and it gives you a nice feel for what the game is like as a whole. 7/10
Post edited September 03, 2014 by Crewdroog
I ... think I'm going to call Mr. Bree+ "finished." I didn't collect the collectables or beat the levels they unlock, so I didn't get any sort of satisfying ending, but I beat the "Returning Path," and I think that's about as far as I was ever meant to get with Mr. Bree. I know there's a lot of complaining on these forums about how games today "hold your hand," and sometimes that's true, but being smugly, self-congratulatory "hardcore" isn't necessarily the way to go, either. Worse, I never got the sense of satisfaction that beating hard challenges allegedly gives you. It was too hard for that. I'd die literally a hundred times in the course of two minutes, but I was dying and respawing so quickly that dying stopped feeling like a punishment for doing something wrong, and more like the natural order of things, and then when I did beat a challenge, it didn't feel satisfying at all because of course I'm going to beat it if I try hundreds of times, that's nothing to be proud of.

Probably if the Slaughterhouse levels were unlocked naturally I'd try to power my way through out of some sort of misguided gaming pride, but having them be unlocked by collecting puzzle pieces is just the excuse I needed to say "screw this."
BadDecissions: I ... think I'm going to call Mr. Bree+ "finished." I didn't collect the collectables or beat the levels they unlock, so I didn't get any sort of satisfying ending, but I beat the "Returning Path," and I think that's about as far as I was ever meant to get with Mr. Bree. I know there's a lot of complaining on these forums about how games today "hold your hand," and sometimes that's true, but being smugly, self-congratulatory "hardcore" isn't necessarily the way to go, either.
I beat all the unlocked levels, and actually found it less hard than the latter Light World Super Meat Boy levels, though of course I still died many, many times :)

Speaking of Hard, I just beat Bravada on Normal and then quickly learned that Hard was too Hard for me :). Very fun and addicting game, but the interface could use a bunch of polishing/improvements.

Edit: And now I finished it on Hard :)
Post edited September 06, 2014 by kalirion
Trauma - Interesting "point-and-click" adventure, it feels underwritten as you're clicking around the environments in the game, without really knowing what you're looking for.

Red Faction - This game was one I was interested in for awhile, and just picked it up this weekend. However, the game doesn't have a lot going on in it. You trek forward continuously shooting similar enemies over, moving through similar looking Martian tunnels. On the whole, the game is average despite the potential of the GeoMod destruction (which is rather cool, and squandered in the game - I only leveraged this aspect twice).

So far:
Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
Alien Shooter + Expansions
Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death
Waking Mars
Far Cry 2: Fortune's Edition
Splinter Cell
Mirror's Edge
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol
Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut
Metro: Last Light
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies
Sniper Elite V2
Sleeping Dogs
Another World
Serious Sam: The First Encounter
Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded
MANOS: The Hands of Fate
Red Faction
I just finished Zodiac Tournament, a DLC for Sleeping Dogs. It's short (I spent maybe an hour on it) and it's a bit easy (granted I started it after completing the main quest and the two major DLCs) but I enjoyed it. Story (and gameplay wise) it's just a little tribute to Bruce Lee and old kung fu movies.
I re-completed Call of Duty as the first part of my WW2FPS-athon.
I have no idea what the people over at howlongtobeat were playing. I finished it in just under 4 hours (and that was with a lot of deaths and re-loading.) It sure seemed like a longer game 11 years ago.
I still had a decent amount of fun, but in my opinion, it doesn't hold up nearly as well as MoH:AA does.
Finished Back to Bed. A nice little puzzle game in which you have to "help" a sleeping man to return to his bed while avoiding obstacles and holes. I didn't play the nightmare mode levels as they are the same as the others except that you have to get him to the key before driving him to the exit.

Full list here.
Just finished Painkiller. I had already played it 10 years ago when it came out, but i had never finished it until now. It's just as good as i remember. Too bad Jowood (now Nordic games) milked the series with horrible "sequels" after the original and its expansion.
BadDecissions: I ... think I'm going to call Mr. Bree+ "finished." I didn't collect the collectables or beat the levels they unlock, so I didn't get any sort of satisfying ending, but I beat the "Returning Path," and I think that's about as far as I was ever meant to get with Mr. Bree.
Anyone knows if there really is a satisfying ending? I completed all levels (including the slaughterhouse) and just missed one puzzle piece (not sure if it was a bug, because I tried a hundred time with different strategies and there seemed no way to get it) and the ending was still very sad. Seemed more like a "To be continued..." than like a real ending to me.

Very frustrating twitch platformer (though there's no actual platforming since you freely float about instead of jumping) game, but I still had fun beating it (no I did not collect all the Kreds.)
A New Beginning


Beautifully made and satisfyingly long adventure game with tons of puzzles of varying difficulty and only one puzzle that is too coo-coo for its own good. German voice acting is great. Full recommendation and worth it even at full price. 5 stars for the German version, only 4.5 for the English version because the English voice acting is poorly done.

Longer explanation about why I think the game is underrated:

Somehow, this game only has an average rating of 3.5 stars, not just here on GOG but across the internet. I checked a lot of reviews and read a bunch of them to see why this game is so lowly rated, in some cases getting only 1 and 2 star reviews and a whole lot of 3 star reviews. Such low ratings are not justified in my opinion.

One major criticism was the story. People complaining about the moral agenda of the game regarding the global warming topic. I beg to wonder, which part of "entertainment" is so hard to understand? This isn't an edutainment title, it's purely fictional and pure entertainment. Whether the writers intended to make a political statement or not and whether there is anything to human influence on global warming or not should be irrelevant when playing and reviewing this game. It would be a bit like downrating Indiana Jones because it has Nazis in it, or downrating Thief because the main protagonist is a criminal, or downrating Doom because killing is the only answer in that game.

I feel like most people didn't get some of the subtleties here, for instance how the game pokes fun about eco-activists.
Very reminiscent of real life where a lot of hypocrisy can be found. I'll give you an example: There are activists here in Switzerland who camped out in front of one of our nuclear power plants in tents to protest but they took showers at home, using warm water heated with power from the very power plant they were protesting against. Further more, they use nuclear power to load the batteries of their i-macs and i-pads. They did have portable solar panels lying around the camp but those were only used to recharge their i-phones. But If you told these people about the poor environmental and social policies their beloved company Apple has, they simply won't hear of it. Complete denial and confirmation bias, no chance for reason to get through.
Everybody knows that nuclear power plants are a huge safety hazard and that they must be replaced asap, however simply turning them off right now is no option. Not if you have a basic understanding of how the electrical grid works and how much time and money it costs to decommission a nuclear power plant. We need alternative energy and we need it urgently but please don't be a hypocrite about it and please don't downrate a game because its plot is built around a future environmental catastrophe.

Other player criticized the story of A New Beginning by how it was told. That's more viable criticism. The story involves time travel which is always problematic because it is inadvertently paradoxical. But it's well done in this game and made sense within the logic of the story which has a nice arc and never fell into a boring slouch, always presenting new scenery, new characters and new challenges. I'm surprised that a game like The Longest Journey is super popular even though its plot is all over the place and the dialogues are often a complete bore, especially in the first chapter, while as the story in A new Beginning is seen as "making no sense". I found the story to be cohesive and the actions of the characters are believable, even if they are over the top at times. With the exception of the two main characters whose actions and behavior are perhaps a bit surprising. Fay, the female lead, seems oddly at peace with being transported back into a time unknown to her. Her voice acting (German version) is on the spot though, she is an unassuming and almost childlike character and the voice actress captures that perfectly.
Bent, the elderly main lead, is surprising in the opposite way. Coming out of deep depression and living by himself in a remote place, he is suddenly thrust into an adventure full of action and it seems he is adapting unusually quick. This does make sense though because he used to be a go-getter when he was younger, so it is in his nature to get stuff done, he just needed to be pulled out of his slouch by force.

Another point of criticism were the stiff animations, I agree that the walk cycles in particular aren't as well done as let's say Broken Sword 1 and look floaty. In a more cartoony style like Deponia where walk cycles are equally flawed it's less noticeable but A New Beginning has a more mature and very detailed style so the walking animations do look rather poor. The character art itself and the backgrounds are top of the line though. All the backgrounds are wonderfully detailed yet never cluttered, bested only by other Daedalic games like the Dark Eye series which have even nicer backgrounds but make no mistake, A New Beginning is impressive and beautiful to look at.

Music and sound effect are great, didn't see much criticim about those so let's move onto the puzzles:
I got terribly stuck early on but it was my own fault, I had the right idea but due to being tired used the right item on the wrong hotspot. After that failed, I spent about 1.5 hours trying all kinds of nonsense and was strarting to loudly curse until I came back and try the same thing but this time on the right (equally named) hotspot. It frustrated me that even though I instantly had the right idea, I failed due to lack of concentration. Not the game's fault.

There was only one puzzle where i got stuck and used the "fast forward" button to skip it, a most ingenious feature that allows players to continue the story! Once I finished the game, I reloaded at that spot and finished the puzzle in all peace, and without being stressed I was able to solve it fairly quickly, in less than half the time I had spent on my first attempt. It was a classic bomb disarm puzzle, nothing too hard really but when you're tired those puzzles will swamp you, I'm general not a fan of this type of abstract "minigame filler" puzzle and prefer the ones where you have to combine items and use the game's environment. There a TON of those puzzles in A New Beginning, it's the purest joy. Most are easy but just tricky enough to keep your attention and some are quite challenging. Overall a very good mix.

There was only one puzzle which in my opinion required too much lateral thinking, I'm talking the annoying Sierra kind you'd never figure out, not the slightly less unfair LucasArts kind of lateral thinking. In classic adventures where there is only exactly one solution, it's not a very good idea to make the stretch so frustratingly "stretchy". I got lucky because I solved the puzzle by accident without having intended to set things up that way, I'm not going to spoil anything though so you go find out which puzzle i meant on your own :) I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have figured this one out on my own if I hadn't solved it accidentally. But don't worry, it's nothing like the infamous Mosley mustache puzzle, the one I mean in A New Beginning actually makes sense but it's a big stretch.
By the way, all the puzzles in this game are item/logic based, there are no conversational puzzles like in e.g. Monkey Island. In a way, this adds to the serious atmosphere of A New Beginning because dialogue puzzles are by nature rather bonkers, it breaks immersion if you have to go through dialogue trees repeatedly and only works in funny games like Monkey Island, other than that it's just plain awkward. In some rare cases it works with more serious games, the word battles in The Shivah being a good example.

Last but not least, a comment about the game's length. It took me about 16 hours to finish and I was surprised to see that most people finished this game in plus/minus 10 hours. Not sure if I'm just slow and possibly not as smart as I'd like or if people don't savor the experience enough, or if they are just BSing about the time. I thought it was a long and satisfying game, very long and full of actual content for a point & click. Must add that once I progress in-game, I like to save often and reload to try doing things in all the wrong ways to see if there is a way to break the game and find dead ends. It's also fun to purposely try wrong item combinations etc just to hear the comments from the characters. This extra diddling around extends playtime in a fun way, for me at least. Plus I don't have to replay adventure games that way because I try out all the different things during my first playthrough, and it also helps with reviewing.
Post edited September 05, 2014 by awalterj