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Half-Life (with 25th Anv. update), since I haven’t got powerful PC when it was released I started with Half-Life 2 which is great game. First game is simply bad in my opinion. I had several problems with game control and based on many forum threads all around Internet I am not alone. Moreover story is not interesting and I was thinking whether I should even finish it. From the same era I recommend approx. one year ago re-released Chasm: The Rift (incl. addon) which is absolutely different level of game experience.
Post edited December 01, 2023 by IXOXI
Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren’t so Frightening, absolutely charming, a nice little point and click adventure.

I have mixed feelings. Initially, it looked like a cozy little game to me. Interesting new concept (learning about characters by unpacking their life when they move into new environments), beautiful pixel art, calm music. There is no goal other than clearing out the moving boxes and giving everything its place in the new home, and you are relatively free in doing so, except that you aren't allowed to leave stuff lying around on the floor, and occasionally the game will complain if it thinks something was put in an inappropriate spot (this rule is also used as a narrative device sometimes which I thought was cool). But it's pretty lenient, and the game is not really a puzzle, more like a sticker album / sandbox with some narrative elements to it. And I didn't mind at first, it was rather relaxing and cute.

But then the game overstayed its welcome for me, because it didn't do enough to change things up. There was some environmental storytelling through the new apartments and changes in the things you unpacked, but the new things you learnt were minimal compared to the time you spent doing the same things over and over again. I fear I might now remember the game not for its story but as that one game that kept on making me sort a character's socks and underwear. And I also ended up wishing for a functioning garbage bin where I could get rid of all the tacky knick-knacks that person was collecting, just so that I didn't have to unpack and place them another time, in the next apartment. Which is unfair to the character and storytelling, I guess, but also proof that the gameplay did not work in their favor, for a game of this length (3-6 hours, depending on how thorough you are?). In the beginning, even though there were no rewards but achievement stickers, I took unpacking seriously and tried to make the places look nice, but after a few places I stopped caring about that and just wanted to get it over with. It also didn't help that the places grew bigger, had more and more rooms and there was more and more (but seldom more interesting) stuff to unpack. The last level truly felt like an end boss (and I hate bosses ;P). For a game that seemed relaxing and cute at first, everything ended up feeling like a tedious chore. Mind you, I only ever decorated one place per session and took breaks in between, which I highly recommend doing, but that wasn't enough. And if you take longer breaks, you risk missing the little changes that make up the story.

So if the intent was to hold up a mirror to the player, make them ponder about materialism, teach them to let go of their superfluous stuff or their OCDs, it partially succeeded with me. But I fear instead the gameplay just celebrates our attachment to trivial things, to such an overwhelming extent that it causes me as player to react negatively to it. And while the little story bits are interesting to notice, all in all I didn't think the story was interesting enough to offset all the tedium in the second part. Maybe I'm being too hard on this game, it seems to be loved by many. But I guess that's because I'm kind of disappointed that it didn't manage to live up to my initially positive impression and ended up too much of a one-trick pony for its length, too confident that repeating this trick over and over again would be enough to keep things interesting and entertaining. A pity.
Post edited December 01, 2023 by Leroux
American Hero (Gog)

Played on the SDeck using ProtonGE. One game from the Atari Jaguar that it never was released. The game is a fmv filmed like a old 90's action movie. You can die and choose several options during the game and the story follows or ends.

The restored content is ok, maybe it need a better interface reworked, and deffinitelly subtitles, not only in the thoughts of our hero. The story id ok, typical, a hero, a villain, a girl in danger and a lot of explosions. The budget in general was high. You can spend a pair of hours playing it. I will replay it again when i buy the Unrated version.
Post edited December 02, 2023 by argamasa
Splinter Cell: Double Agent (XSX)

I played the 360 version on XSX, which bumps the resolution to 4K. There were two distinctly different versions of this game- the OG Xbox version that was the basis for PS2 and Gamecube versions and the 360 version which was used for PS3 and PC. Same overall story, but different levels and method, so quite different games- made by two different developers. I haven't yet played the OG versions, but many people say it is superior to the flashier 360 one. Anyway, both versions are still for sale and playable on modern Xbox consoles and both are enhanced.

I really like the basic story and premise of this one, it's uncommon ground for video games. Instead of being an elite agent sneaking into enemy zones, this time you are an undercover operative and have to maintain your cover whilst keeping your handler happy. There are trust meters for both factions that you have to balance, though it's not really difficult. Some of the levels were quite good.

The only issue was similar to the first game (I still haven't played Pandora or Chaos Theory) in that the controls are overly finicky. Doing things that should be simple and intuitive, such as climbing onto a drain, can take several tries. Sometimes I'd try to jump and grab something 10 times and have no luck, so I'd think it isn't the way forward and look around. Eventually I'd come back and try again, and it would work...even though I did nothing different. The activate zones around things were just too hard to hit sometimes. This is the one area that Conviction and Blacklist both improved, though they are different types of stealth games.

It's definitely a game worth playing for its different stealth premise. Unfortunately, it seems the PC version on Steam is really buggy and crash prone on modern systems. So, the 360 version on a Series console is probably best unless they fix the PC version.
Post edited December 02, 2023 by CMOT70
Halo 4, Dec 3 (Xbox Game Pass)-Last game of the Master Chief Collection. I had long ago lost the plot but I guess that's not really why I'm playing this. I think I liked it best of the mainline games solely due to the fact that you finally encounter different enemy types and have different guns. Would have been nice to see that before 6 games in because fighting the same 3 enemy types with the same dozen weapons got old after 2 games. Overall the MCC was fun even if all of the games except ODST and Reach blended together in an indecipherable mash.

Full List
Stasis: Bone Totem - 4/5

Probably the best of the three Stasis games. They definitely succeeded in making this as disturbing and unsettling as they possibly could - and in no small part due to the incredible purple prose flavour text; a staple of The Brotherhood games.

One of my favourite examples from the game: "visible knots of quivering organs and viscera pump crimson liquids and meat clumps though a digestive maze, slowly processing it into jaundiced slime."
Thief 2. Another classic from Looking Glass, although I think that even with some of the refinements made for the sequel, I still prefer the first one overall. This one is more focused on just having you sneak around, without the occasional attempts to nudge you toward combat or at least faster movement, but the downside is that the game feels a bit drier and flatter than the original, where you'd have levels of burglarizing mansions, then you'd be dealing with burricks and zombies in crypts, then the bug men in the later levels, and that really weird Lewis Carroll-like Constantine mansion. This game adds steampunk robots, but they're basically just deadlier guards and usually not too difficult to outmaneuver, and if they're really in the way, it's not hard to hit them in the butt with a couple of water arrows to wreck them. Otherwise, you spend a lot of time cracking Benny in the skull with your blackjack. It does have some great levels, very large, sometimes with goals that change midway, so in that sense it's very well-designed.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (XSX Game Pass)

Who thought the Yakuza series was finished for poor old Kiryu?! No way can the poor guy be left alone that easily. Here he is again. This time the story runs in parallel to, and sometimes crosses, the events of Like a Dragon. If you've played LaD you will probably see where things are going to end up quite early on.

It's good. All the same things you know from earlier Yakuza titles return- good and bad. So, if you love the series, then you want to play this to see where the story goes. If you hate the series and cannot tolerate being jumped by thugs one more time, then you may want to miss this one. Oh yeah, this traditional Yakuza real time action combat, not turn based JRPG like LaD.

The first thing that immediately struck me with this game was the graphical improvement. The game takes place almost entirely in Sotenbori, and it's never looked better- especially with HDR lighting. It's the best nighttime city scape I've seen. It also runs perfectly and didn't have a single technical issue the entire game. It is also shorter than most Yakuza games. I did all the story, all the Akame side stories and a lot of side stuff, all under 25 hours. The main things that I didn't do were the Slot Car side campaign and the Four Kings side story.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. I've always played the Yakuza games in Japanese with English subtitles. I did that here as well. I suggest anyone else do the same so that you can avoid Yong Yea's English voice dub! Especially his Karaoke.
Post edited December 07, 2023 by CMOT70
Just beat Aliens: Dark Descent on PS5. I was very interested in this one as soon as I heard about it and a recommendation by a friend was what prompted me to finally give it a go. Well, this one's a mixed bag if there ever was one.

How the game generally works is that you have a tactical mode where you control a squad as one entity in real-time. There are very strong survival elements throughout the whole thing and for the most part you're actually encouraged not to engage the aliens because not only are the encounters themselves generally rather risky but supplies like medkits and ammo are limited, every time you fight aliens your guys' and gals' stress meters go up (resulting in temporary debuffs and eventually even persistent traumas) and also the hive becomes increasingly aggressive. So most of the game is actually about avoiding aliens using the motion tracker and you only engage in fights when you fail to maintain stealth or the mission forces you into combat (sometimes unexpectedly out of nowhere, which sucks). For the first couple of hours I found this pretty fresh and interesting. Avoiding enemies that you only see as blips on a radar and only fighting them as a last resort is super suspenseful and really captures the essence of Aliens. Cool.

Then you also have a turn-based base management metagame that mimics XCOM almost a bit too much but is also very humble by comparison. Characters have to rest after missions, when injured they have to spend some time in medbay, sometimes they level up and you have to promote them, thereby unlocking classes and abilities. You also unlock better gear and research new tech which grants optional bonuses for tactical missions (which you have to pay for every time you use them, though). But while the dude and dudette management is totally XCOM, you don't get to build or manage facilities and unlocking gear or doing research does not take time, it only costs resources (and there are relatively few items to unlock and they aren't particularly interesting to be honest).

So, I do have some serious problems with the game and I imagine so did the developers. The tactical layer is a perfectly linear series of far too long missions (typically like 2.5 hours each) featuring an equally linear series of main objectives (as well as some optional ones) while the metagame is a systemic loop. The game is also overloaded with "survival" mechanics like the aforementioned limited resources, the need to rest or get healed in medbay, permanent traumas (which you can remove by putting guys in therapy) as well as a doomsday counter that presumably leads to game over and a separate counter that keeps making the game harder. To me the result is a very incoherent package that is mostly quite uncomfortable to play and it feels like much of the "survival" stuff was only shoved in to force the player into returning to base once in a while and make them play the XCOM-part of the game.

And the game is riddled with paradoxes and annoying stuff. Stealth does get pretty repetitive pretty soon but you're really discouraged from fighting by some parts of the economy, like the stress and hive meters. But: you also level up your characters more quickly through fighting and also fighting is unquestionably a bit more fun. But the fighting also suffers from some frustrating stuff like too much dependence on RNG and the classic of Aliens games: that once an alien is close, there is no way out that won't result in additional damage to your guys from the alien's acidic blood - oddly enough apparently even once you have tech that is supposed to keep you from taking damage from acid (though it may be a UI issue - not sure). But the combat also generally isn't great, actually. Eliminating a swarm of aliens by placing sentry turrets and doing some other preparation like laying down suppressive fire, placing a flare, putting chokepoints on fire is as good as it gets and it is satisfying a few times but that's basically all you can do in this game, aside from shooting an AoE attack that may are may not hit because the aliens are fast as heck and your troops respond to commands with a delay - there is a substantial slow-down and optionally even active pause but even that can do only so much. Sadly the game mostly fails to introduce meaningful game-changing stuff over the course of the game or create an addictive "arms race" loop between you and the enemies the way XCOM does.

Oh yeah, and there's combat against humans here and it sucks. That's all I have to see about this.

There is ONE serious gamechanger in the game and that's the silencer for the Recon class which you will probably get in the early mid-game and that one just feels broken on so many levels. With the silencer you suddenly gain the ability to silently kill enemies without triggering a hunt and without spending any ammo which just completely breaks the dynamics that defined the game up to that point. Not only does this option feel out of place (and mechanically kinda unsupported as even humans don't respond to allies suddenly dropping dead), it also creates a new and shitty gameplay loop that's the optimal way to play. For a moment it's super satisfying to suddenly become able to kill aliens without too much effort and without triggering a hunt but it's usually super finnicky since you can't precisely position individual characters and generally there's a pretty tight time limit to make the shot before being detected. So in the end one tiresome repetitive loop becomes replaced with another tiresome repetitive loop that also feels broken.


I still enjoyed the game quite a bit! It is pretty fresh, it's intense and suspenseful and it just oozes love for the franchise and offers a surprisingly captivating story with some strong characters - it's what kept me going even when I had to replay 20-30 minutes of a mission because of a random freak accident or a glitch. In the end my main complaint is actually that it suffers from pretty awful pacing, with some missions lasting up to 3 hours, and to me it just brutally overstays its welcome with a campaign clocking in at ~30 hours (given the limited gameplay variety).
Post edited December 10, 2023 by F4LL0UT
Grand Theft Auto 3. I had an itch to replay Vice City, but I decided at the last moment to replay this one instead since it had been a while. A lot of chatter about the game today usually damns it with faint praise or just dismisses it for being "too primitive" or something, but I think it's held up quite well overall. The controls can be pretty awkward, true enough, and occasionally it can screw you over with bugs or something, but the city hits a great balance between being complex enough to provide some meaningful exploration but it's small enough that it's easy to learn and navigate quickly. The game still manages to provide the sense of a theme park made of your favorite crime movies, which the later games would build off of a great deal.

The best thing about the game is that it's genuinely open to letting you accomplish your objectives how you want. It might not count as an immersive sim, but it's got a little bit of that philosophy to it. There's usually something you can do to make even the most frustrating missions a cakewalk, like setting things up ahead of time, using back door routes, or recognizing the trap the game has laid for you and neutralizing it before stepping into it. Even when the game tries to tell you where you should be, you don't necessarily have to do it that way (races and timed missions excepted of course). It is unfortunate that the game has a pretty lame soundtrack. The original songs are decent pastiches but not really fun to listen to, and the Scarface soundtrack on Flashback and the Chatterbox guests can only take you so far before you start getting bored of them.


Primal Light. This is one of those games the developers have apparently submitted to GOG multiple times to no response. It's a retro-action platformer, similar to stuff like Ghouls and Ghosts or Ninja Gaiden, with a fantasy theme. You control a humanoid guy named Krog who finds his village destroyed and one of the few survivors asks you to defeat the "dark god" who did it. That's about the extent of the story - you almost expect the game to give you a cutscene whenever you face a boss but it never does, so if you play games for story, you definitely won't want to play this.

You run and jump and gradually pick up moves like double-jumping as you go along. You attack with a sword, so you have a short-range, although you can attack upwards with it. It's very difficult, even on easy mode. Like a lot of the games that influenced it, the difficulty mostly comes in the form of enemies that knock you backwards while platforming, sending you to instant deaths. Also, maybe it's just me but I found that the bosses got easier as the game continued, not harder. Some of the earlier bosses had tough patterns for me to recognize and beat, while the last few were relatively straightforward and the extra moves you gain make it easier to play defensively.

The pixel art and animation are very nice, and it's got some good music. I wouldn't say it's an amazing achievement, but it's pretty good for what it is and worth checking out if you're particularly into games like this.
Finished a few ones since last time:
10/25 - Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle: An interesting puzzle game.
10/26 - Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle - Lockdown: Same as the previous one with a different setting and a few variations.
10/29 - Beholder: A disappointing game which made me think there was several ways to finish the game. However there are some specific actions that need to be taken at specific times if you want to "good" ending.
11/21 - The Curse of Monkey Island: A classic but the two last acts have very disappointing puzzles.
12/12 - Ghost of a Tale: A highly recommended game with some infiltration.

Full list here
The Caligula Effect: Overdose - There's no cats in this game. Technically they do exist as there is a single intermission where cats get mentioned during the dialogue, but that really isn't the same as having them show up. Anyway, I'm mentioning this game for an entirely different reason.....

If you don't like tracking spreadsheets with your RPGs, this game isn't for you.

The issue is that there's 524 NPCs spread out all over the game world. While it isn't a particularly large world setting, you really do need a tracking spreadsheet if you want to have any hope of finding and making contact with them all so that you can complete their optional quest.

For example, here's the one that I made:

Anyone marked locked on the spreadsheet is someone that you can't talk to by default. You need to find someone linked to them first, talk to that person which unlocks anyone they are linked to. This means that you eventually need to go back to areas to find the people you previously couldn't contact. The only way to do feasibly do and not feel like you're just running around aimlessly is to have a tracking spreadsheet.
Unreal Gold (main campaign, played with Oldunreal's 227 patch and HD textures)

Of all the classic or retro-style FPS games I've played this year, Unreal is the one that I liked the least, or rather, the only one I did not really enjoy that much. I played it more or less for the first time, at least without any nostalgia goggles on, and the atmosphere and graphics (modded to HD) were pretty good, sometimes quite impressive even. I also liked that you could choose your own character, even if it had little impact on the game (most obvious one was male vs. female voice doing the grunt, sighs and cries of pain, but even that seems pretty special for a FPS - probably thanks to the MP component). All in all it was certainly interesting from a historical perspective to note the differences to other games in the genre, the progress or development, addition of new elements etc. But I didn't have as much fun with it, gameplay wise, and I think in part precisely due to these differences.

The first reason is probably a skill issue. I'll readily admit that I play these games for the thrill, the exploration and atmosphere, and not because I'm a skilled player or interested in 'getting gud'. Unreal ramps up the difficulty of hitting enemies in making them behave less predictable than in games like Doom and Quake - they jump around and dodge your bullets and projectiles just like a player opponent would, and I guess technically that was quite a step forward back then. Combined with making the enemies bullet sponges that can take a lot of hits, also just like a player, that means that even in PvE you can't just go in guns blazing but have to be patient, persistent, learn to aim better and try to recognize more complicated movement and reaction patterns, also paying attention as to which weapons work better against which opponents, while hectically jumping around, and you have items on top of it that you have to select and activate (with keys that by default are far away from where your fingers are during the action), and all of that together was just a bit too much for someone like me who just wanted to unwind with a bit of brainless action. Still manageable and all, but you and your weapons just don't feel as powerful, and combat was a bit more tedious and frustrating for me. I can see though why others might like Unreal especially because of this.

The other, for me even worse reason is the level design. I've often seen players complain about the labyrinthic structures and colored key mechanisms in old Doom-like FPS games. But I never had as much problems with those as I had with not knowing what to do and where to go in Unreal. I suppose it was a big innovation at the time that these simple FPS games started using objectives more involved than finding keys (I've already mentioned that in my recent review of Quake 2), and Unreal goes a step further and replaces direct orders with optional text messages strewn around the level that hint at your objectives and are supposed to guide you through them more subtly. But IMO, Unreal is not very good at telegraphing what it wants the player to do. There were so many instances where I just wandered around aimlessly through the same corridors again and again, wondering what I could have missed, and despite reading everything, I still often felt like I was on a wild goose chase, desperately looking for that one thing that made another thing do something that more or less randomly opened another door somewhere and so on until I could finally escape the maze and enter the next level. Sometimes it almost got as bad as playing a point and click adventure with moon logic. And I actually had to peak into a walkthrough from time to time in order to progress. It seems as if masking these same old labyrinthine "key" searches as something story-driven that's supposed to make sense (but often didn't) made them way more frustrating, at least to me. But maybe it's just that the levels and objectives aren't designed in a way that make you understand them intuitively, and Unreal doesn't bother much with showing you what pressing a button here actually does somewhere else and such. It also didn't help that the game works a lot with darkness, especially during the last levels, forcing you to use (depletable) flares and flashlight, which is another mechanic I didn't much care for.

And last but not least, to me the main campaign seemed to go on forever. It actually has 38 levels or so, and if I had known this beforehand, it might have discouraged me from even trying to finish the game. Admittedly, some of these are just transitions, only a few seconds or minutes long, but others are the vast, sprawling, frustrating labyrinths of darkness and confusion that I talked about above (I think my favorite levels were the ones with outdoor areas, much more so than all the dark industrial and tech levels indoors). I'm not among those who think longer is always better, I prefer games that end on a high note instead of wearing out their welcome so that you feel relieved when they're finally over. I thought Unreal did not really offer enough variety and fun for its length, and too much frustrations. But I guess I got kind of stuck in this sunken cost fallacy and wanted to finish it regardless. Not sure if it even makes sense for me to try and play Return to Na Pali ... Definitely not this year anymore.
Post edited December 15, 2023 by Leroux
Leroux: Unreal Gold (main campaign, played with Oldunreal's 227 patch and HD textures)

I want to continue my playthrough but got tired of not finding my way through the underwater labyrinth. Drowning over and over again is not fun. Any advice how to? Were you just lucky to find the path soon enough?

That patch is excellent by the way.
Post edited December 15, 2023 by Themken