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Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (XSX Game Pass)

I finally decided to give one of these games a try, since I have so many of them from GwG on Xbox over the years- I have pretty much every game from the 360/PS3 era and never played any of them. Well, this one turned out to be a lot of fun. It sort of feels like Family Guy Star Wars, except without adult humor. It is still funny, just for all ages funny. The Skywalker Saga covers the story of all 9 movies in abridged form and plays mainly as an action-adventure game, swapping between on foot action and space flight scenes.

Finishing the story line is quite easy, as it's intended for all ages to be able to enjoy. However, the game has multiple layers beyond just doing the story. You have challenges to chase if you want more difficulty, plus all areas can be played in free-play mode outside of the story to unlock all the characters and abilities. The story can be done for all 9 movies in around 18 hours, hltb says 85 hours to do full completion- I have no interest in doing that.

It was a lot of fun, way more than I expected- so I definitely want to play all of the older titles I have at some point. But for now, I think I'll take advantage of the Lego Harry Potthead Collection that was added as a PS Plus game a few months back.
Post edited February 06, 2023 by CMOT70
Expeditions Rome, Feb 6 (Xbox Game Pass)-I liked the first game well enough but don't remember too much about it now. Rome I liked quite a bit. The writing and voice acting were excellent. The plot followed some major historical events but allowed the player to shape their outcomes as they saw fit. I liked the variety of the different missions your group could undertake and the added difficulty for pacification missions with only one of your companions and a group of scrubs. Also, the multi layered missions at the end of the acts were difficult and a lot of fun. The overland exploration parts had some fun vignettes that reminded me a bit of Tyranny.

The empire building sections of the game were not as fun. They felt very basic and tedious. There was probably a detailed tutorial I missed that explained how they work but I mostly just chose legion actions that resulted in few casualties for me and more for my enemy. Was I supposed to try to achieve a certain level in each of the 4 categories instead? The whole legion combat and garrison development felt like it needed an overhaul. I also did very little crafting but I did use most of the other buildings.

Overall it was quite a fun game. I liked how there were meaningful differences in the story depending on the gender of the main character. Also, while I probably won't go back and replay the final act, the ending sequences hinted at several other possibilities that could have played out.

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Post edited February 06, 2023 by muddysneakers
As Dusk Falls, Feb 7 (Xbox Game Pass)-This was a really good choose your own adventure style game. It was like playing Telltales The Walking Dead for the first time again. However, the choices in As Dusk Falls felt a lot more difficult and the narrative a lot more complex. I often found myself picking between two terrible options. The voice acting and writing were superb. The plot made me feel terrible. The entire game felt like the natural evolution of these types of games. I'm tempted to replay it with different choices to see how they affect the narrative but I feel like that might cheapen my experience somehow and I'm not sure I want to peak behind the curtain that much.

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The Wheel of Time. This was pretty good. I haven't read the books but this basically plays like a fantasy take on Unreal with some interesting mechanics in terms of variety of offensive and defensive spells you can use. Also some creative level design with some light puzzle-solving, not just a kill everything FPS.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (PS5 PS Plus)

A pretty decent game. It does show its age compared to the Skywalker Saga that I just played - it doesn't have any voice acting for example, just that Sims like babble language. That means the story isn't as well told and the humor is more limited in comparison, though I'd say this older Harry Potter game has more actual gameplay. Like probably all Lego games they can be played by any age group. You can just play for story completion or fully unlock everything if you're really serious about it.

The modern console version that I played is actually a remaster and ran perfectly without any bugs at all. It is actually two totally separate games packaged together with separate achievements- Years 1-4 and 5-7. I'm going to play Years 5-7 layer. The one and only real annoyance for me was controlling some of the platforming. Most levels are in a sort of 2.5D side scrolling style, this causes problems with lining up the angles on some jumps that should be very simple but aren't because of the odd camera angle. Or maybe I just suck. Anyway, I'll definitely be playing more of these games when I'm not in the mood for anything too serious.
Thronebreaker, The Witcher tales - 3/5

Collectible card games aren’t usually my thing, but I liked the gwent minigame in Witcher 3 enough to give this one a shot. The first thing I noticed is that this gwent is much, much different from the one in Witcher 3. It’s much more complex, for better and for worse.
At times it felt like an advertisement for the Gwent multiplayer game, since I was collecting cards and banners that are only usable in the multiplayer (which I have no plan of trying out), but for an add, it has a surprisingly huge amount of gameplay in it.
The story is a basic, but very well told war tale and most of the characters (at least the ones that matter) are appealing enough.
My criticisms would be the slow pace and uneven difficulty (I realize that this one hugely depends on the cards in my deck, but still, most of the battles were a joke, few were annoying and only two or three required me to remake my deck)
Pentiment (XSX Game Pass)

Here's something a bit different, a western historical narrative adventure. Yes, you do walk around 2D landscapes- but all the game play consists of talking and reading, so it's closest to being a VN. It has great art style, right down to the different fonts used by different characters when they talk. It feels like it's set when it is.

For me the only problem the game had was the slow start. For the first hour I was just walking around wondering if anything was ever going to happen. Once it got going though, I really had to keep playing it to find out the true story- who the thread puller was. I'm quite proud of myself for actually deducing the correct person very early on- the game does give you enough clues to actually work it out. As the player, you never know anything that your character hasn't learnt for themselves. The choices you make don't seem to make much difference either- I suspect they alter the nature of the story, but not it's major plot points or its conclusion.

When Obsidian was purchased by Xbox Game Studios I remember people being concerned they would just end up making Halo spinoff games for console. What they've actually released is Grounded, Pentiment and Avowed being worked on- three completely different types of game. If anything, the MS coffers seemed to have enabled these devs to make their little pet projects like this game without worrying about how ultra profitable it's going to be. I hope it continues.
Just beat the Resident Evil 2 remake on PS5, playing as Leon on standard difficulty. All in all it was a great experience, but I must say, I'm almost shocked that the reception of this game is not polarised at all.

I never played the original version of RE2 but I did play RE1 and 3 back in the day, found them dumb, then I beat RE1's remake on PS4 a few years ago and finally understood what this "true survival horror" gameplay was really about and what its appeal is. In the old RE games the combat was rudimentary - it wasn't particularly skill-based, much was based on random rolls and ultimately the gameplay was about managing resources which was mostly done by choosing which monsters to ignore, navigating the world wisely (which worked because there was a lot of backtracking through a growing and increasingly open world), picking the right tools for the job and learning a bunch of mechanical nuances like how to pop heads or use the knife. I suppose the developers knew that they are unable to create good skill-based combat with those static camera angles and clunky tank controls so they cleverly put the core gameplay elsewhere and it worked. Honestly, to this day I do not quite understand how such a demanding and surprisingly strategic formula managed to turn the series into a mainstream success but it did.

So, not having played the original RE2 I don't exactly know how faithful to the original the remake really is but I fancy a guess that it's actually shockingly faithful because I can feel the DNA I described above in every single detail. Don't let the third-person camera and manual aiming fool you: it's still that resource-based gameplay in claustrophobic mazes. I foolishly thought that if I keep landing headshots 90% of the time I will be fine... and then I almost completely ran out of ammo and actually had to load an earlier saved game. I'll be honest, I despaired and had to look up a few hints like that I should deliver single knee shots and just run past the stunned zombies or that I should use (degrading) knives to "test" whether dead zombies are really dead. And like in the original RE games there's still a shitload of RNG - even with perfect aim downing a zombie can take anywhere from one to a dozen bullets which I just find bizarre in a game about managing resources.

I'm not gonna lie, to me the result is kinda grotesque. Even though superficially everything, from the graphics to the controls, is telling you that this is a modern game, you basically have to forget everything that action and horror games from the last two decades have taught you. Veterans of the original RE games will have a much easier time than hardcore RE4 players. For a while RE2 felt pretty much broken to me because of that dissonance but eventually it finally clicked - my brain went full old-school Resident Evil and suddenly the game became, well, not quite enjoyable because it's still a pretty stressful experience, but engaging and satisfying. And the cool thing is: I think the Resident Evil 2 remake is the first game that has managed to make zombies actually kinda terrifying to me since I played Alone in the Dark while going to elementary school. The game still feels a bit bizarre to me. The world feels kinda puny from a third-person perspective, it's silly that monsters will usually just refuse to follow you through doors (even open ones) and the movement actually feels pretty damn slow and stiff for a game that is more about evading monsters than shooting them but well, it works. It really is an intense and satisfying experience that will make your heart burst once in a while.

Then there's of course the thing that the old RE games were absolutely goofy by modern standards with dumb as shit dialogue, crappy voice acting, cartoonishly colourful graphics and soap opera music and I must say that the remake, even though it's telling the same story, has managed to update all of this appropriately for a modern AAA game. Sure, it's still a bit campy - you push gems up statues' asses to open secret passages inside a police station, there's a femme fatale dressed like a whore and the story is riddled with clichés, starting with the fact that Leon is a police rookie fighting zombies on his first day in a town that's actually called Raccoon City. But: they've somehow made it work. With modern dialogue and professional voice acting, a really dark and serious presentation and good overall direction I actually managed to take the game seriously and care about what happens next. The occasional cheesy line that makes Leon sound like an idiot and the gaminess didn't bother me in the slightest.

So yeah, all in all I'm really impressed by this game. Probably not so much that I will do additional playthroughs anytime soon (especially since a friend has warned me that the differences between the different playthroughs are disappointingly small and you mostly replay the exact same thing including the same puzzles) but enough that I will definitely also grab Resident Evil 3 sooner than later. And if anything I'm just super happy that I can experience the remaining portions of the Resident Evil universe in a modern AAA format.
Post edited February 13, 2023 by F4LL0UT
Paradise Killer, Feb 12 (Xbox Game Pass)-A weird and wonderful game. As many others have stated, it plays a bit like an open world Ace Attorney or Danganronpa. The main difference being you can stop investigating and start the trials at anytime rather than when the game wants you to. And I believe if you have enough supporting evidence you can convict any character of the crime and change the ending, truth from facts and all that. Also, it doesn't have annoying trial mechanics/challenges like Danganronpa. The world and cast and plot were bizarre and fun. Unraveling the mysteries layer by layer was great especially when characters and events started contradicting. My only real quibble is getting lost so often due to only a basic map of the island. I'm not sure how I would feel about a sequel because so much of the enjoyment was the strange cast of characters some of whom won't be joining us in the future and its pretty hard to top the crime to end all crimes.

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Luna's Fishing Garden

Short little farming and resource gathering game in a 2D side-scrolling style for a change, and with a cute anime pixel art look. I took my time and finished it after about three and a half hours, almost in one sitting because it was so addictive. Gameplay was simple and casual but fun due its atmosphere and because I was curious about what would come next. I really liked some ideas involving funny animal helpers and those alone made it worth it. It was a good game to play on the laptop, too, since it wasn't resource hungry like other games and I could play it quite comfortably by using keyboard controls only. (You can also play with mouse or gamepad, but it works well without them, too).

Some minor nitpicks: The balance seemed a bit off, especially between the resource farming and the fishing. The productivity curve and automation in farming went up pretty quickly, to insane amounts at the end, but the slight tedium of fishing stayed more or less the same, and so fishing side quests felt more boring and pointless to me than the rest. You can choose whether the fishing mini game should pose a little challenge or not, and I picked the former at first, but upgrading my fishing equipment barely seemed to make any difference in difficulty or efficiency and at some point, the mini game just got too annoying for a casual game, so I switched to "simple fishing", which just felt like a waste of time, because there was no challenge at all, but it still took several seconds and interactions each time. Still - it's nice to have such options at all.

And some things could have been explained better, e.g. what fishing upgrades actually do. Also, at first I had no clue how to activate balloons (it sounded like you could use them for quick travel between faraway islands, but that's not their purpose) and I never noticed that you could actually remove plants again (which was not an issue for me in my playthrough, but I can see how you could paint yourself into a corner if you create monocultures without knowing how to remove them if need be, because space is very limited). On the other hand, to some extent I also appreciated that not everything was spelt out for you, because it was more satisfying to discover the game mechanics by myself, without having to go through any tutorials.

All in all, I really enjoyed the game.
Post edited February 13, 2023 by Leroux
Driver - Parallel Lines

The game lives off of its great driving / chasing / racing and the 70's atmosphere but fails whenever it tries too hard to be a GTA game, the shooting is horrible, the story forgettable, there's not much to do on your feet and the attempts at humour fail too often.

It also has a lot of oddities - some minor ones like gangsters that you escort leaning out of the window and shoot at nothing because they're scripted to do so no matter if it fits - cringy but amusing. Other are more serious like the fact that nitro is not only assigned to the key you assign to it to but also (and hardcoded!) triggers whenever you double press the acceleration key.

Despite its shortcomings I had quite some fun with the game because the core game works and is fun but I have to admit I often wished I could be playing a 70's themed GTA instead. 6/10
Arietta of Spirits

Short and simple little Zelda-style game (4-5 hours) with pretty pixel art graphics and neat music. Even though the story had quite a few "been there, done that" tropes in it, it was still quite well told and also had some moments of originality in it, even opportunity for a good laugh, at least once. At first I thought it would also be a good game for kids to play, but while it remains sympathethic and hopeful throughout, the themes also get rather dark later on (fine for teenagers, possibly disturbing for younger kids though).

I had fun playing it on my laptop with keyboard only controls, even though "Normal" difficulty was very, very easy compared to other games and only the last boss battle was somewhat challenging at all. You can constantly fill up your health again by finding hearts in shrubs, and the less hearts you have, the more likely you are to find them. Not that I minded too much, personally, but if you do, you'd best choose highest difficulty instead. And I don't understand why "Extreme Difficulty" has to be unlocked by finishing the game on an easier difficulty first, because I think only a very small group of players will even be tempted to replay it. I also thought the quest to search for 20 spirit cubs was pointless, because to complete it you need to find them all and it's easy to miss some. Areas are big, there is no map, and the game is very linear, plus there is no post-game tying up loose ends, so if you search for cubs and only find 19/20, you will have wasted your time.
Include me.

1. 2022-12-21 - 2023-02-15
Include me.

1. Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (classic) | post | Dec 21, 2022 - Feb 15, 2023 | time unknown | Quick review also on blog

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Incomplete 2011 list. Add Tropico 3 Gold Edition (finished: Dec 16, review on blog and MobyGames) to it. Also played Forsaken World for a while earlier that year (review on blog and MobyGames), and briefly poked at Perfect World International again after the Genesis expansion launched.
Post edited February 16, 2023 by Cavalary
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (classic)

This art style doesn’t get old and works well for such games that don’t take themselves too seriously, but the animations are too slow and George should be able to run, to speed things up a little. However, the audio quality is poor in a few places, some lines seem recorded at different times or even by different people, some dialogues or events don’t quite follow what happened earlier, and you may miss some dialogue options if you don’t select them in a specific order. And the cutscenes that don’t have subtitles may be a problem, though at least the long one does have them.
But the most important aspect of an adventure game are the puzzles, and those tend to work well enough, though I could have used a journal. There were a few places where I tried pretty much everything until I accidentally stumbled into the solution and it’s a good thing that you can’t leave the Baphomet site in Paris, because I’d have never figured out what to do there and would have looked for a solution elsewhere otherwise, but I’d have managed to get through the game without a walkthrough if not for the infamous Goat Puzzle. And what’s frustrating is that I had just about figured it out, but only tried it the other way, and that was after having tried pretty much everything else, so I was thinking that I had hit a bug and checked. The toilet chain is probably a bug though, since it’s not used anywhere and then vanishes from inventory.
Otherwise, the return to Paris from Ireland is rather jarring, the first part from Spain and that from the train seem rushed, and the latter also struck me as unnecessary, and I definitely wondered how did George and Nico reach their destination after that. Plus that the romance is forced, and Nico’s too much of an unknown quantity. In fact, I was thinking early on that I’d have liked to at least be able to actually look around her apartment, to at least get some background information in that manner.
Kentucky Route Zero, Feb 15 (Xbox Game Pass)-I didn't like it. This game had something to say but I'm not really sure what it was. Disjointed vignettes and snippets of random conversations. To paraphrase a scene from the game its like reading a book starting in the middle and after every sentence you start a new book. Despite beating it in about 9 hours it still felt too long especially Act 3 and 4 which just never seemed to end.

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