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Exo One (XSX Game Pass)

I don't know what to make of this. Very high production values, the graphics, music and the way it runs is A grade. The story is a bit confusing, largely because of the way it's delivered.

The game play is essentially you controlling a ball that can roll and glide and dive to build up energy. And you can increase gravity to build up energy on downhill slopes as well. So it's sort of a flight sim traversal game, and all you do is get from where you are dropped onto a planet, to a light pillar waaaay off in the distance. That's it. Get to the light pillar and you transport to the next planet.

As stunning as it looks, I got bored before the end, despite it being only a few hours long. The only sort of puzzle is of the traversal type. One particular planet was very tedious. Everyone has played Skyrim by now. Remember what it's like to climb mountains in Skyrim? You think you can climb a slope only to get 3/4 the way up and slide down, so you work your way around and try another slope...same result. Well take that concept and make an entire level out of it, where you're a rolling ball, and that was the worst level in Exo One. At least it was different, and at least it didn't take too long.
oh man you are god level. Hahah
Ghost Recon Future Soldier (XSX)

Unfortunately this game went full Hollywood. Gone is any semblance of giving your squad commands, mainly because you're not even the squad commander. It's just go from place to place, cross a line on the ground and trigger a scripted sequence or an ambush. The enemy now targets me, even when the other squad members are closer. It's basically 3rd person COD Modern Warfare. It's really disappointing that the game dropped all the things that made the Advanced Warfighter games good, but on the other hand...I'd still say this was better than any COD I've played, much better than any Medal of Honor and about on par with the better Battlefield single player campaigns like BF4 and Bad Company.

This would have been even better as an action shooter if it wasn't for the terrible timed action sequences that happened too often, with very strict time limits that make you take ridiculous risks through enemy positions or instantly lose. So if you want a modern military tactical shooter this is not it, play the earlier games. If you want some Hollywood war movie style game, it may still give you some pleasure.
Post edited November 26, 2021 by CMOT70
Kirby's Dream Land. Kirby is one of those characters/series that I just barely missed when it originally came out. This is a relatively easy platforming game. You attack by sucking enemies into your mouth and spitting them back out at other enemies, or you can just suck in air and use that. You can fly, too. A nice touch is that you can't swim underwater if you're full of air. It's got that smoothness that is so commonly associated with Nintendo's first-party offerings. I usually don't think too much about goofy video game concepts, but I have to admit that Kirby's voraciousness is sort of weirdly disturbing. I guess he's not that different from Pac-Man in that they're both relatively circular characters that exist to eat everything in front of them.

WWF Betrayal. A Gameboy Color game by WayForward, back when they were mostly just a studio for hire on licensed games. This is a simple beat-em-up starring WWF wrestlers. I'm surprised we didn't see more of this kind of thing, considering how goofy wrestling stories get, especially back then. You could easily adapt various characters to different genres than just in-ring wrestling games. Anyway, in this one, you have a choice of playing Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, Triple H, or the Undertaker (biker version). Stephanie McMahon has been kidnapped and Vince McMahon begs you to rescue her, so you beat up what look like a legion of referees and other random goons, and occasionally face one of the other wrestlers in a boss battle. There's a "twist" at the end, but if you're familiar with WWF Attitude Era storytelling, you can easily guess what it is.

The graphics are alright - I realize it's a small screen but it's hard to tell who the different wrestlers are just by looking at them. Especially since they went with lanky Bop'n Rumble/Bad Street Brawler style characters. The animations are a bit off. Playing as Austin, I kept thinking he was giving everyone DDT's but it was only after really studying the image that I realized he was indeed doing the Stone Cold Stunner on people. Weirdly, if you charge up your meter, you do the Lou Thesz Press, not the Stunner *shrug* It's mostly an easy game (I beat it on my first try), although you can get stun-locked to death in certain situations.
Post edited November 27, 2021 by andysheets1975
Prince of Persia - The Sands of Time (XBox)

PHEW after I don't want to THINK how manty years I finally finished Sands of Time on my somehow still working original XBox - just in time for the remake to come out, no doubt!

I appreciate everything it did for the 3D parkour genre but It's a fiddly, frustrating kind of masterpiece I'll say that! The door on a timer and the combat that features never ending hordes of zombie bad guys were the worst parts and the length between some of the save points wasn't the best either!

The block puzzles and the puzzles of how to navigate the breath-taking (even now, or maybe I'm just easily pleased) environments were the best parts, especially when it let you take your time and didn't hurry you along

Full 2021 list here
Fear in Hospital

LOL what was THAT - weird silly, very short Unity trashware thing for free on Steam where you run around with a flashlight and look for keys in toilets while getting hassled by flat shadows standing in the corner, poltergeists with a thing for wheelchairs and in patient ladies who like running in circles, but none of them actually hurt you, you can run out of charge in your torch, technically, if you somehow miss the batteries that are literally everywhere!
I mean I THINK I finished it - I looked up if you could avoid ending up in the kill room at the end but every playthrough I saw ended up stuff there so I guess that's the ending?!
Very silly, very bad, good job it's free really!

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Post edited November 28, 2021 by Fever_Discordia
Mortal Shell (XSX Game Pass)

A smaller and shorter take on a Dark Souls style of game. It does have a few interesting mechanics to mix things up, like having a "harden" feature that you can use on a cooldown timer- this gives you immunity to one hit as a sort of "get out of jail free card" and it can be used at any time, even mid swing of your weapon. The harden feature more than makes up for not having a shield.

It was a really decent game. The world doesn't have the FromSoft level design though. Mortal Shell uses a confusing and dangerous hub world that links to the three dungeons required to complete for the story. The dungeons are mostly linear.
The boss fights are nothing special, the dungeon bosses are easy and can all be defeated by spamming jump attacks and harden. Except the final boss who is a total ass, and as far as I can tell simply required a good run with luck.
There are 4 classes which are the "Shells" that you change to at anytime within your home base, or in a dungeon using a limited item. I played out the game as the Scholar, who is a well balanced Shell.

I've started NG+, but not sure yet if I'm going to finish the second play through- I'll think on it over lunch. Overall it's a good Soulslike that does a few things of its own, plus its even available on GOG. Edit: I did finish NG+ as well.
Post edited November 30, 2021 by CMOT70
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, Dec 2 (GOG)-What can I say about this game? It was so short and incomplete it felt almost like a tech demo. The interactive sections/QTEs were a little clunky but I get that it was developed for Kinect and those may have been fun there. Most of the content of the game felt like a huge useless collect-a-thon with endless filler. Was there any need to included hidden costumes for a game that takes less than 5 hours to complete? The story itself was interesting but rather baffling and over before it got started. I'm still not sure what was happening exactly. Was David going back in the past and changing things or recovering his own memories? Overall, the game has an interesting premise with gameplay that was dull but not enraging unlike Deadly Premonition. I'm interested in the next part of the story but the game wasn't impactful enough for me to worry about never seeing it. Oh and why the heck did David call his wife "Little Peggy"? That's a weird nickname for a spouse.

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Just beat Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on Vita. I actually started playing this one two years ago or so on PSP but I think I then stopped playing it because my battery died. Thanks to hacking my Vita I was able to transfer my actually legitimate copy of Chinatown Wars there. Because so much time had passed since I last played it I just decided to start over, though.

Chinatown Wars is a very interesting entry in the series as it's a top-down GTA game released after GTA IV. So at first glance it looks like the original two GTA games but is in many ways far more similar to the 3D GTA games. From what I understand they made this one because they wanted a GTA game on the DS but that one couldn't handle a third-person GTA game (like the earlier Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories released on PSP). And then they released this one on PSP too, giving the PSP a solid library of three pretty good GTA games.

Anyway, Chinatown Wars tells the story of Chinese triad member Huang Lee who is supposed to deliver a sword required in some ceremony of succession to his uncle in Liberty City. Also, his father was murdered. When he arrives he is almost killed and the sword stolen. From then on Huang is of course pushed around by senior triad members and pretty much everyone else in the city while he's trying to recover the sword and avenge his father. For the most part it's actually a pretty decent story that got me more invested than most plots in the GTA series. I liked Huang a ton because, even though he looks like a total moron, he's witty as heck and perfectly aware of how everyone else is an ignorant asshole. He's easily the protagonist I could identify most easily with in the entire series due to how much his perspective aligns with that of the player. And the mystery of who stole the sword and why was pretty interesting as well (though the ending is pretty abrupt and cliched).

However, while Huang is a really cool character and the story quite okay, the writing in this game is pretty darn weird. The dialogue often feels like it drags on forever and not for exposition but mostly for not-so-well written pointless exchanges riddled with expletives, insults and usually terrible puns. I guess they might feel better in animated and voiced cutscenes (but even then a lot of the dialogue would be awkward, I think) but here you only get subtitled still images which kinda sucks, especially since the PSP is capable of a lot more (I guess the limitations of the DS are to blame for this format). The game starts out really rough in this regard but either the writing gets better over time or I just got used to the format eventually. And some of the more ridiculous moments actually made me laugh out loud.

As for the gameplay: it's for the most part pretty good. The driving is good and Chinatown Wars may in fact have the best wanted system in the entire series. Rather than depending on pickups and Pay 'n' Spray shops here you get rid of cops by crashing their cars during chases. The higher the wanted level, the more patrol cars you have to crash before your wanted level resets. Often the cops crash on their own as you just keep moving but you can also execute a bunch of manoeuvres in order to push the cops into obstacles, other vehicles or just crash head-on into them. The physics are a bit unreliable and often it felt to me like a cop car didn't crash when it should have but all in all the cop chases were more satisfying to me here than perhaps in any other GTA game, if a bit easy. Also the mission design deserves some praise. Like in pretty much all GTA games they offer a lot of variety and often come with unique gimmicks like having to operate a train or having to triangulate a wi-fi signal. Some missions are of course turds, as is always the case, but generally they are rather good.

Quite peculiar features of Chinatown Wars are mini games based which are often based on gestures, like tattooing gang members or filling up molotov cocktails at a gas station, and the drug trade. Throughout the entire game you only get peanuts for missions (you will usually literally receive only between 50 and 200 bucks for completing missions here!) but you can easily make a fortune with drugs. It's a basic trading game where you discover dealers all over the city who offer different deals depending on their gang affiliation and sometimes you receive an email that informs you about a short-lived special deal from a specific dealer. There isn't much strategy involved here, you can easily make a fortune just by reacting to emails right away and the only risk is the occasional two-star wanted level after buying or selling drugs. Oh yeah, and there's a limit to how many drugs you can carry around so you put them in a stash that can be accessed from any one of the purchasable safe houses all over the city. The drug trade really does not involve much strategy if any and soon becomes more of a chore than a fun activity but still, it's not bad and it's super satisfying to make a crapload of money with a single good deal.

Now, there are two pretty massive flaws in this game. One of them is that you will be using the PDA a lot which allows you to set GPS coordinates, read emails and also order weapons from AmmuNation (which I didn't do all that often) alongside a few other things and in the PSP version of the game there's several seconds of loading whenever you switch screens within the PDA. It's honestly super annoying (and apparently that's one thing the DS version does not suffer from). The other thing are the combat controls. Honest to God, handling weapons is a nightmare in this one. Even though Chinatown Wars is for the most part two-dimensional the controls are somehow even worse than in the console versions of the old 3D GTA games with one of the most awful lock on systems I have ever seen. I eventually kinda got the hang of it but it never felt remotely okay or reliable. Luckily there isn't all that much shooting in this one but still, gunfights are easily the worst part of the game and a friend of mine actually rage quit the game for this reason.

But still, it's all in all a very cool "small" GTA game that I've enjoyed more than I thought I would and ironically it has aged much better in my opinion than many other older GTA games, largely thanks to how basic it is. Also the graphics are bearable and the soundtrack pretty good. Whether you want to play another GTA game in the vein of the top-down originals or want to experience another story campaign in the style of the third-person GTA games, Chinatown is a pretty great choice.
AI: The Somnium Files (XSX Game Pass)

It's a VN, a very highly rated one. It doesn't really fit the visualization I have for a VN, in that it is definitely not just turning pages of text with pictures. Up until now I've only played a few VN's that I obtained in bundles with something else. I never finished any of the others because they were totally boring. But not this one. First of all, it's classified as a VN, but it is fully animated and voice acted (excellent acting at that). Whilst it may be a very elaborate CYOA, unlike CYOA, this one requires you to do all threads to understand and fully resolve the story. It's very long, over 20 hours to fully resolve, so that's like several seasons of TV series worth of content. Also Somnium has game play puzzle segments, though they are the weakest part of the package- often just being trial and error.

I really enjoyed it, the story, acting, characters and overall production values are high grade- as they should be since it's a full priced product (if you don't rent it). You play as Date, a future detective who has a classified AI intelligence installed in his fake left eye ball to help him solve a serial killer case. He also has access to a secret police technology called the Pync Machine which allows him to enter peoples dream state to gain clues. "Somnium" is latin for dreams apparently. The final true resolution ending ties everything up in the complicated story, yet the game gives you more than enough to work it out before you get there. Even your characters somewhat obsession with porn is explained by the story in the end.

Not only was this well worth the experience, in its own way it's one of the best games I've played this year.
Post edited December 06, 2021 by CMOT70
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (played on PS4)

Replayed this oldie but goldie and still holds up. Basically Assassins Creed stealth/traversal + Batman Arkham combat system in a Middle Earth setting. Its main selling point is the nemesis system, a system where the enemy (orcs) gain rank and power if they kill you, making it easier for them to kill you in another encounter and becoming your "nemesis." Its interesting in this game but is significantly improved upon in the sequel.

I purposefully nerfed myself to give myself more of a challenge (none of the later abilities, only 12 abilities, no health increases) and it was challenging but still fun. Even with these nerfs, you are still pretty OP by mid-game which is what the game intends so its not a bad experience. Also really shows how important runes are in making or breaking your build.
Stealth Bastard Deluxe, Dec 6 (GOG)-A very difficult, unforgiving platformer. There's probably an average game here if you're a glutton for punishment but I think most players will get frustrated by its difficulty and bored by its simplicity. I completed the minimum number of levels to get to the credits and played a couple of the DLC levels and have no desire to ever go back or play the sequel. The game was also wildly inconsistent in difficulty. I could spend 30 minutes struggling on a level, watch a couple walkthrus, and still not progress and then when I finally get past it I would finish the next 5 levels in 10 minutes.

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Sumatra - Fate of Yandi

Had my eye on this AGS point-and-click adventure from Cloak & Dagger games for a while now and finally got it with's current World Land Trust bundle. I played through it within two evenings, but I didn't track the time; maybe 2-4 hours, all in all? The only reason why I didn't finish it in one go was because it was getting late. Otherwise I would just have played on and on, because I would have wanted to see what comes next. It features a comparatively uncommon setting for a videogame (Sumatra, as the name says, with the main character being Indonesian), is very focused on story-telling, but also has a range of puzzles - mostly easy, no moon logic, and while occasionally I had to ponder on what to do next, I never truly got stuck for long, I didn't need any walkthrough and the pace was just right for me, a good mix of simple puzzle solving and cinematic story-telling. The game does have a message which makes it fit with the bundle's theme, I guess, and it does provide a bit of local color, but there's also some action survival and mystery thriller fiction in there. I enjoyed it very much, and I look forward to playing their next game, Incantamentum, the demo of which I played earlier this year and also liked a lot.
Waking Mars - 4/5

First of all, thank you to the person who gifted me this game roughly eight years ago. Sadly, I cannot remember your name, but if you're reading this - thanks.

This is the kind of game that you play and think "why aren't more games like this?" Waking Mars is a slow-paced, exploration/puzzle game where your primary interaction is planting seeds to alter ecosystems.

Sadly, the game lacks in visual presentation. Sure, there's some good individual art assets, but it lacks any real cohesion. And that's not even mentioning the clunky animations.

The game makes up for it though in the audio department. In terms of music, there's some excellent trip-hop/ambient tracks that fit nicely with the game's atmosphere. And the voice acting (specifically the dialogue between the two main human characters) is top notch; the dynamic between them feels natural and believable.

Overall, I'd say Waking Mars is something unique and fresh - despite coming out in 2012. So, if you're someone like me who's this sitting in their library for close to a decade, maybe consider installing it and giving it a go. It's definitely something worth experiencing.
Alice: Madness Returns (XSX Game Pass)

Sequel to a very underrated shooter that I played back when it came out, and which I remember having difficult platforming. Madness Returns is a pretty good game overall, but has a few annoyances- just as the first game did. First of all are the annoying micro cut scenes that interrupt you after many fights...right when you're about to pick up health drops or about to do something- it just interrupts the flow of the game and is mostly unneeded. It's done to highlight where you need to go next, but the levels are quite linear anyway.

The biggest annoyance though is the move from being a regular shooter (though 3rd person not 1st) of the original to using a lock on system. In one sense it's even good in that it works much better for melee, which is a big part of combat. But for shooting it's hideous. It continuously locks onto targets you don't want and switching targets is still very hard to get the one you want. There is a free aim ability, but it makes you really slow and unable to dodge- and is really more for puzzle solving. The real problem with the lock on is that the developers actually decided to exploit it with their encounter design! Many fights having tiny constantly spawning enemies that are easy to kill, and just there to make it impossible to target the thing you want.

Despite the above, it was still a good game. The platforming plays a huge part in progression, but it isn't as frustrating as I remember in the original- at least here you don't have enemies placed to deliberately knock you off platforms. Here you tend to be either platforming or fighting and not both at once, as that was what I remember being so hard about the original.
The story is also a very dark take on the world of Alice In Wonderland. One of the darker and more disturbing stories in video gaming. But when you think about it, even the original story is not really a kiddie story when you delve under the surface.

Unfortunately, I believe the PC version can only be bought on Origin now. I've heard it has some issues too. The Xbox 360 version is okay, it has no enhancements for the newer consoles- but at least it's readily available and runs and plays fine on newer consoles, and that's better than nothing. It also comes with the full version of American McGee's Alice as a bonus, well the digital version does- not sure if you get a second hand disc if it would work? I assume PS3 and PC also come with the original as well. Because of that, I think I'll take the opportunity to replay the first game some time soon.
Post edited December 09, 2021 by CMOT70