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Just finished two games within two days, Layers of Fear on PS4 and Assassin's Creed III: Liberation HD on PS3.

Anyway, Layers of Fear is... stupid but good. Some things are fundamentally wrong with the game and yet it manages to be a pretty exciting and often-times mindblowing. First off, the two things that are just wrong: It is a walking simulator that kinda pretends that it is not. It's pretty obvious from the start that there is no fail state in this game so regardless of how shocking the imagery and events may be, you get so adjusted to the fact that things are shown to you but can't possibly hurt anything you, that any genuine sense of horror is just gone. Secondly, it becomes too obvious too quickly that nothing you see and no places you visit are real. I mean, if you know that the place does not ever adhere to any sort of logic you stop to even try to make any sense of it and thus all the impressive mindfuckery that the game pulls off becomes pretty worthless. That's exactly what Silent Hill did pretty much perfectly: you are walking through the real-world or some twisted version of it, the stuff that happens matters, your job is to figure out how the world around you works and when it suddenly breaks the rules it's quite a hit in the stomach. That just doesn't work when the entire game makes no sense from the get-go and you're not even required to make any sense of it.

That said, this game's mindfuckery is technologically and artistically remarkable to say the least. The level geometry just keeps changing all the time. You're in a room and can't figure out where to go, eventually you look up and BAM, turns out that this small room goes on forever. You enter a little square chamber with four doors, all of them turn out to be locked, including the one through which you entered, so you want to try another one again and it's gone, no doors, you're locked up in a little square cell, you keep turning around until eventually a door appears, you open it and there's a solid wall behind it. Add some crying ghosts and crazy doll shit and whatnot and you get a pretty impressive and chilling experience. But as I said, there's no actual challenge to the game besides very few puzzles which almost feel out of place considering that like 99% of the experience just require you to go on and on through this twisted stuff. The only challenge the game provides is informal, namely to figure out the plot and I admit, while it's not brilliant it's interesting and unlike anything in the game mechanics and mindfuckery the dosage of information concerning the plot is pretty good, just enough to have you guessing and asking for more answers until the very end. Alas, when it's all said and done and things become clear the big question remains: what the heck was all this horror shit about? I know the answer and will not write it down here but it isn't satisfying and is what makes the game conceptually quite stupid.

And the sad thing is that all these impressive things the game does would have been a million times more impressive if there had been any game mechanics behind them that make you struggle for the answer to what the hell is going on. As it stands the game is not even a rollercoaster, just a museum - a pretty impressive one, though.

Oh yeah, also: the game starts with a popup informing you that it's a "personal experience" that adjusts to everything you do. Frankly to me that's quite pathetic. It's not enough to have me replay the game and it only harms the immersion if I read that kind of thing before playing the game. There's a reason why Silent Hill 2 and 3 had obscure factors affect the outcome but never bothered to officially inform you about that.


As for Assassin's Creed III: Liberation HD: it's pretty mediocre by the series' standards. I don't see the fact that it's a port of a handheld game as an excuse for anything other than maybe the weirdly paced cutscenes and universally short missions. And I'm not sure how many of the game's problems are design-issues or technical ones. Anyway, the progression is totally off, whether it's missions, "economy" or equipment, the game has you spending time on the wrong stuff and it never really makes you look forward to anything. That said: the story is actually pretty decent and Aveline is thus far my favourite protagonist in the series. She has a nice backstory and a more interesting combination of warmth and badassery than Ezio or Connor. The writing feels worse than in most entries in the series and also a big twist towards the end failed to impress me but oh well, I wasn't really expecting more from a spin-off. As for the gameplay: the combat and climbing is pretty much the same as in any other AC game, no surprises here, other than the game feeling a bit more glitchy and less responsive than other titles in the series. The only really interesting mechanic is the ability to switch "personas", basically the ability to use different disguises which have quite an impact on what you can do and how you're treated by the world's inhabitants. Switching personas is a bit tiresome at times but it's a pretty cool mechanic that makes the game distinguish itself from other entries in the series and as a bonus it's interesting social commentary that can actually make you think. So, some nice surprises but all in all disappointing, especially if you've played AC3 from where the game borrows heavily (including a guest appearance of that one's protagonist). In the end I'm actually grateful that it's a condensed AC game with a smaller world and less playtime. It ended just about the time I began to seriously grow tired of it.
I've just finished Half Life 2 - Episode 2
This is the first time I've finished Half Life 2 series, and now I can finally see why is everyone so upset over not getting HL:(EP?)3. That huuuuuge cliffhanger. Quite bloody well written if I may add. It's a shame we probably won't see the ending any time soon.
Just finished Rack n' Ruin
Cleverly written with a whole bunch of self-aware humor. You play a demon lord defying his master. A good hybrid of the earliest Zelda games / Binding of Isaac, minor RPG elements and bullet-hell action games. Great soundtrack and incredible artwork. A very enjoyable 13 hours. Hope GOG gets this game someday.
Broforce
A gift from adamhm, thanks again!

It took me quite some time to finish the game. Does it mean it's very long and hard? No, it doesn't. The game can finished in one single day and the difficulty is just right - nothing really hard but sometimes you'll die. Sometimes a lot. So why did it take so much time? Because I really wanted to enjoy the whole game so I was playing it in small portions. The devs didn't try to reinvent the wheel - they took all the best things from 2D arcade shooters, added a nice touch of ever-changing bro-characters and here it is: a very good 2D shooter that you cand spend some time on it, have fun and continue another day when you are in a right mood. It worked perfectly for me, so I really recommend the game to every 2D shooter fan.


Full list
Firewatch

I got this game as a gift from a Goglodyte who prefers to remain anonymous, so thanks you-know-who! ;)

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. So much, in fact, that right after beating it for the first time I immediately started it all over again, but this time around with the developers' audio commentary turned on. This is something that's become a habit for me with narrative-heavy games: not only it offers me an insight into the devs' intentions and motivations, but it also usually makes me see and experience parts of the story that I would've missed otherwise.

In case you don't know what this game is about, it's basically the story of Henry, a guy who tries to escape his inner demons by going into the Wyoming wilderness to work as a fire lookout during the summer. It's hard to imagine a duller and more uneventful prospect for a game, as the story takes place in the 1980s and your only means of communication is via a radio link with your direct supervisor Delilah, who's stationed in the nearest watch tower. Some exceptional writing and voice acting more than make up for those a priori limitations, though. You'll soon develop a special relationship with Delilah, which can go one way or another depending on how you answer her questions and reply to her comments. Her voice is so omnipresent that it's entirely possible to finish the game without realizing that, a pair of distant encounters notwithstanding, you haven't actually met any other human being during the whole story.

The game world is pretty big, but not so much as it may seem at first sight, and it looks gorgeous with its cartoony, Pixar-ish graphic style. Plus, it ran pretty well with almost everything maxed out in my limited hardware. Most of the time you'll be walking or running among trees and cliffs, but the scenery is varied enough as to not look samey. Each playthrough took me about 5.5 hours to complete: the second time around I knew exactly what to do and I was way more familiar with the map, but on the other hand I spent a lot of time listening to the aforementioned audio commentary, so one thing kind of balanced out the other.

Gameplay-wise, even though the story can get pretty intense at times, it's not an action-packed game at all. Plus, the choices you make by talking to Delilah won't modify in the slightest the events that take place. Instead, and as explained above, those choices will only shape your relationship with her and how Henry will end up looking at the issues in his life. So anyone expecting anything else, or more, than a 'walking simulator' with a strong narrative and some adult themes, will probably end up greatly disappointed. Otherwise, chances are you'll enjoy it as much as I did.


PS: As much as I liked the game I'll explode if I don't say this, as it pissed me quite a lot. At least in Day 1, and I'd swear that in some other days too, the sun is setting in the north-northeast. WTF? I thought Wyoming was in the Northern Hemisphere, isn't it? With the enormous care and attention to detail that the devs put into it, I cannot believe how can this bug still be present in the latest version of the game... unless of course I have discovered the key to a totally new and deeper meaning to its world and story? :P


My list of finished games in 2017
I backed the third and final chapter of The Journey Down on Kickstarter, so on the release day I promptly received a DRM-free copy via Humble Bundle (sadly I didn't qualify for the GOG release as I only pledged for the 3rd chapter and not the whole trilogy). It was a long time since I had played the first two chapters, so I decided to go through them again in order to freshen my memory before tackling the new release. I ended up playing the whole trilogy in two days, and here's what I think of each part:


The Journey Down: Chapter One (replay)

As is usually the case with most first parts of episodic games, Chapter One is unarguably the weakest of them all. It's extremely short, with basically a single big puzzle to be solved, but some of the required steps and side-puzzles are quite difficult or unintuitive, so you won't beat it in a breeze.

If the whole game was a movie, Chapter One wouldn't take more than the first 10 minutes of screen time, as it only serves as an introduction to the characters and the main plot. Enter Bwana and Kito, two former street urchins who run a gas station and seaplane charter company founded by their adoptive father Kaonandodo, after the latter left them without notice many years ago. They lead an easy-going and relaxed life in the outskirts of the St Armando metropolis until they meet Lina, who will take them on an adventure to the mythical Underland... and maybe to their long lost father?

Visuals are between OK and great, with 3D models and cutscenes being the highlights of the show, but the sound department is a mixed bag. Voice acting is all over the place: some voices are great while others are rather bland or have some recording issues (uneven volumes or general bad sound quality). On the other hand, the music is excellent.

All in all, an adventure that wouldn't stand its ground as a game on its own, but which acts as an interesting enough opening chapter of a bigger story.



The Journey Down: Chapter Two (replay)

After the experience of the previous chapter, the guys at SkyGoblin did a way better job with Chapter Two. It's longer, better structured, has a more complex and interesting story, and above all it manages to get a perfect 'noire film' vibe that I liked a lot.

Technically, it also supposes a marked improvement with respect to the previous chapter: character models and backgrounds (some of them 3D-rendered and others hand-painted) are much better, and so is voice acting. The soundtrack in Chapter One was pretty good, but here the composer Simon D'Souza outdid himself and delivered a truly masterpiece. It's a real pity that he died during production and thus he wasn't available for the final chapter.

This time around the action takes place in Port Artue, a run-down coastal city that has seen better times, where our heroes end up on their way to the Underland. The main goal of this chapter is to get out of there, while learning as much as possible about Kaonandodo's mysterious past, the Underland, and why does the Armando Power Company try to prevent anybody from reaching it.

Overall, a big improvement with respect to the first chapter. I liked the story as well as most of the new characters, and the puzzles make much more sense this time around. My only complaint, which is also applicable to Chapter One, would be that the dialogs are too 'hard-wired', in the sense that they don't adapt to what you've already learned. I know it's no easy task to take into account all the possible scenarios and variations but it kind of felt like a letdown, specially after playing a game like <i>Firewatch</i>, which goes to great lengths to cover all possible dialog eventuality.



The Journey Down: Chapter Three

After replaying the first two parts, I dived into the uncharted waters of Chapter Three. And the first thing I noticed I didn't like very much: most of their accumulated experience and their (no doubt) bigger budget seemed to have gone mainly to flashier visuals and much less to create a compelling story and interesting puzzles. As I progressed in the chapter my suspicions were further confirmed: the game looks better than ever, with highly detailed scenes and longer cinematics, but it lacks the plot depth and the pace of Chapter Two. The story is divided into multiple shorter acts, most of them with only a few simple puzzles to be solved, and at times it feels rushed, particularly near the end.

After finally reaching the Underland, the three explorers discover the sinister plans of the Armando Power Company and resolve to stop them. To that effect, the party gets separated with Lina staying in the Underland, and Bwana and Kito returning to St Armando. This enables us to not only play as Bwana but also to control Lina for a while. Both parties will meet some new characters, but Bwana will also run into some old friends from Chapter One.

Voice acting is good as usual, but I found some volume equalization issues again. The soundtrack, despite D'Souza not being around anymore, manages to keep up the level. And graphically, as pointed out, is the best chapter by a clear margin. But in the end, I still think Chapter Two is the best overall. Which, if you take them all together as a single game, it's quite on par with most point'n'click adventures, isn't it? I mean, the beginning usually acts as a short introduction, the middle part is where the meat of the game can be found, and the ending tends to get rushed until it culminates in a somehow underwhelming final confrontation against the villain.


My list of finished games in 2017
Eventide: Slavic Fable

The main game is a mixed bag. I quite enjoyed the narrative part of the story. Likewise, some of the interactive puzzles had a neat design and aesthetic effect, even if the puzzles themselves weren't that hard.

Several elements of the navigation, however, were frustrating. For one, each map "location" is really a bundle of locations. And two, a number of the interactive landscape features in this game don't really have any apparent logic to them. Unlike other games where you might find a desk key, and remember that the desk is in the office, which is in the house, here you're just kind of wandering around from space to space trying to remember what random object is in whatever non- to semi-sensical space.

It feels quite like it's this way either a) because they were lazy, or b) to cover of the lack of content, in what is otherwise a very short game.

But that said, I still on the whole enjoyed it because of the artwork and the story line, and give it a reserved thumbs up for fans of the genre.


The bonus chapter, OTOH, is somewhere between bad and forgettable. As the joke goes,"the food was terrible, and there wasn't enough of it!"

All told, this was a very short game. Between the main story and bonus chapter, I finished in about 3.5 hours, vs. a more typical 4-5 hour experience, and while bonus chapters are always short (and usually inferior) to the main game, that's especially true here. The bonus chapter is completely skip-able.
Knights of Pen & Paper 2

Once again a rather short game that took me almost a year to finish. Why? Well, because I was playing it on my mobile and only during traveling, toilet sessions etc. ;) This is one of these games I don't see a point to play on PC - it's just a time sink. Colorful, fun but a time sink. The game is so "meta" that youd don't need to bother about anything. Plot, progress, quests... everything is so simple yet entertaining. My advice is not to grind too much because then all fights will be too easy. If you are about the same level as the current quest you may need to use a bit more elaborate tactics to win (not too much elaborate but still). All in all the game is good to spend some time on it and forget later on.


Full list
Whispering Willows

The game is about a girl who tries to find her father in a haunted mansion. The girl has a special power - her soul can leaves her body. In this form you can see and talk to ghost, fit in narrow passages and sometimes posses certain items. The atmosphere of the game is quite nice, even though I've played it on a mobile. I really enjoyed the game but I also have a feeling it could have been so much better. The story is as cliched as it can be. It's nicely presented with a lot of ghost to talk to - you won't get the full story of all of them, which was nice to build the atmosphere - but the main plot is dull and predictable. The potential of body-leaving-soul is also wasted, as the game is linear - there is one path to follow, each puzzle with a single solution. Even so the game is quite enjoyable.


Full list
Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville

It's not a bad game, but somehow the campaign mode feels like an afterthought of the developer. The maps, missions and events are too similar and after you've played a few of them, there's hardly anything new to discover.

It seems I still missed an event (no idea how to trigger it), because in the end I got an mediocre ending. Couldn't cure zombieism, but at least the evil faction didn't survive as well.

Complete list of finished games in 2017
The Last Door: Collector's Edition

Really great game. For the current price it should be must-have for horror fans.

+ succesfully built atmosphere of horror
+ a few really scary moments (it's hard to achieve such effect in point&click)
+ creative use of point&click convention (playing some interesting scenes from different perspective, as different characters, being forced to make something you don't want to do etc.)
+ great sound effects and outstanding music
+ beautiful 8-bit graphics with really nice light effects (I was impressed, how well it works, really)
+ logical and clear puzzles (don't worry, no pixel-hunting here! active cursor works perfectly)

- oh, man, catholics seems to be that bad guys again... :|
- I'm not satisfied with ending and how the misteries are exlained
- Linux native installer available on Steam, but not on GOG
- game was build on Adobe AIR technology

List of all games completed in 2017
Finished Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing. I finished all missions and won all tournaments. I did not unlock everything (2 pilots & 15 musics left), I'll probably unlock them later. The racing is fun and easy enough for me. Some missions were really difficult though.

Full list here.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 (Xbox One)

Another game played through my free month of game pass. This is very much like the first game, except longer and the characters waffle on even more. All the original characters come back just like a school reunion. The art, graphics and acting is to the same standard as the first game.

Whilst it has charm and humor (some is funny and some a bit flat), I felt this time it went on for a bit long...mainly due to most characters just never seeming to know when to shut up. But I never wanted to risk clicking through conversations in case I missed something important in among all the blah blah blah.
The puzzles are okay and mostly make sense or at least can be solved by going back and forwards and re-talking to everyone. But in the end I lost patience and used a walk through for about the last quarter of the game whenever I got stalled for more than 10 minutes, just to speed the game up.

Story was okay, similar to the first game...with one weird oversight- the game completely fails to explain what happened to one major character. In fact, the ending does a bad job of tying things up to be honest- almost like a direct sequel is still meant to be coming.

It's decent, but I liked the first game better.
Post edited October 29, 2017 by CMOT70
The Interactive Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizzaboy

I didn't like it. The game has charming hand-drawn graphics bringing to mind the golden era of point&clicks, but I didn't like a few aspects of the gameplay:
- sense of humour is not exactly compatibile with my own (however I appreciate some abstract jokes and a lot of fantastic references to pop culture themes, characters and creations)
- wordy and tiring dialogues
- a lot of pixel hunting (very detailed artworks make finding something you don't even expect to find quite complicated; in general I'm fine with that, but there were items inside other items or being part of them, in case of which active cursor is useless)
- I've also found a lot of puzzles hard or illogical, but it may be the consequence of my distraction and skipping part of reading
- some actions need to be performed in very specific moment - I hate such solutions, because sometimes it's almost impossible to figure out (without a walkthrough) that you need to make something if making that thing is possible e.g. only during 1 sec...

List of all games completed in 2017
Post edited October 29, 2017 by ciemnogrodzianin
Detective Grimoire

OK, that was nice, however it offers absolutely no challange. Just a casual point and click adventure designed for tablets or smartphones. I've played Steam version (the game is unavailable here on GOG, AFAIK) for Linux desktop and it worked almost fine. The game is short - it took me about 2-3 hours to complete the story (hard to evaluate due to a lot of distractions).

List of all games completed in 2017