Phaedrus' Street Crew
  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Merus

  1. Recently completed video games

    Yoku's Island Express: what a charming little game. This is a Metroidvania pinball game, and it's cute as a button. There have been games that have flirted with this concept, like Sonic Spinball and Metroid Prime Pinball, but Yoku's Island Express commits to the idea of using pinball as a traversal mechanic and not just building a pinball game that occasionally wanders off the table, so they've built an entire tropical island out of loops and gutters and drains and flippers and bumpers. It makes some smart decisions to marry the two concepts: there's honestly not a lot of traversal upgrades but you open up a lot of shortcuts, which is a genuine godsend when getting across a room can otherwise mean hitting a series of difficult shots; and instead of racking up a score, you earn fruit, which you spend to get further in the game (and have balanced carefully so you usually don't have to grind). I have been wanting to play a game like this for some time, and someone's done it and they've done it well.
  2. E3 2018

    The protein bars thing is interesting because I agonised over anticipating future consequences and the game was far less elaborate about it than I had anticipated. If I replayed the game, I'd probably just assign the other 3 bars to the three closest people on the way to Clementine. But I'd argue that the decisions you make in 80 Days are gameplay: they affect the long-term goal and your ability to make future moves. (I've realised that the biggest possible indictment of E32018 I can think of is that by page 2 we're talking about gameplay in narrative-focused games instead of whatever was announced at E3)
  3. E3 2018

    @eot I think you're defining gameplay far too narrowly, and in terms that not even linear narrative forms can imbue with narrative meaning without having to build the work around it. There are very few movies that make the act of driving into a narrative moment - it's almost always something the characters are doing in order to do something narratively important. Games that align their mechanics around things that can more easily support a narrative, like gaining and spending resources, unsurprisingly tend to do better at having narratives where the game mechanics help tell the story. (Then again, Nier Automata builds key narrative beats around its combat system and bullet hell minigame, but the game goes to extremes to encourage you to read metaphors into its gameplay systems.) I think this is also missing one of the big design trends since... probably Arkham Asylum? where instead of a mechanic having a 1:1 match to a narrative meaning, game mechanics are used in concert to invoke a complex emotional response. Arkham Asylum is a good example because it's easy to compare how Batman's supposed to feel based on linear narratives, and how you feel as Batman when in a stealth room, but you can also look at something like Cultist Simulator, and how it makes you feel like the antagonist of a cosmic horror novel who has realised they have made a fatal mistake meddling with dark forces beyond their understanding. The only thing that gives me pause here is that we've had several games where the big twist has been that what appeared to be separate narrative and gameplay elements were actually interrelated in a way that would have been clear had you expected narrative and gameplay to be working together, and it apparently hasn't stopped being novel yet.
  4. E3 2018

    I'd disagree, not lease because it's been only a console cycle since the existence of the fundamental tension between gameplay and storytelling has even been acknowledged. Games like The Walking Dead demonstrated how far you can get by just allowing players to comment on why their character may have taken an action, without any serious branching, and there's been some solid work done in the last few years in demonstrating how you allow for enough branching without creating a combinatorial explosion, by inkle and Failbetter. Just last year, Nier Automata used a extremely artificial gameplay sequence to conclude the narrative of its plot, and it worked. None of that is really coming through in AAA, but that's fine - people have been predicting the death of AAA for some time as the budgets get so unsustainable that they have to turn to gambling mechanics to prop them up (except for Sony first-party studios, apparently). If AAA collapses as predicted, there's plenty of interesting games to fill the gap. It's also clear that, at least for some genres, games have surpassed books and film as storytelling media - horror games effortlessly outclassed horror books and (until recently, with A24's budget approach) film, while I'd argue that very few fantasy films manage to touch fantasy games in terms of that genre's pleasures. Telling a story in a game is a lot harder, but it's a lot easier to make the audience feel fear, or present them with a world that exists on its own, when you're not shackled to a plot.
  5. E3 2018

    Excitingly, I've followed that link in the tweet and I've opened up a tiny, tiny copy of the Waypoint website the size of the original tweet, which I can't scroll
  6. E3 2018

    I'm hoping that Doom Eternal is More Doom 2016 because that's pretty much all it needs to be. Too much elaboration and you tarnish the pure simplicity of Doom 2016. It's not a game that needs loot. It doesn't need roguelike elements. It'd probably even be fine if it was a real throwback and was a mission-pack sequel, although saying 'double the demons' implies more variety in the bestiary, which will definitely help.
  7. Movie/TV recommendations

    I thought the plot of the first one was fairly poor - taken up by a large and tedious flashback and mostly a way to string scenes together. This one felt like there was a bit more logic to the scene order.
  8. Red Faction: Guerilla

    I'm a bit conflicted, because the original song was a critique of the game's paper-thin justification for running around and breaking shit, and using it as trailer music completely neuters the critique. It's like Republicans using Bruce Springsteen songs at campaign rallies, or the Dove Real Beauty campaign. There's a real critique there, and turning it into advertising lets the company safely dispose of it. On the other hand, it's a remaster of a nearly decade-old game, and it's no longer as acceptable for new games to ride roughshod over their own fiction in the same way, due in part to games Idle Thumbs hosts have worked on. So maybe the critique of the game isn't potent any more. (You can tell I don't think much of culturejamming.)
  9. Recently completed video games

    Some games: Gravity Rush HD: This is a port of a PSP game about a young woman who can decide which way is down, and decides to become a superhero in an industrial revolution-era fantasy town bolted on the side of a world-tree. It's this weird melange of fantasy and superheroics. It's pretty typical open-world design from the era - you have a series of story missions, some collectibles that serve as currency for upgrades and unlocking challenges, and some scattered collectibles, here a scientist and his wife uncoupled from time (so their conversation with you is non-linear). It's honestly kind of striking, which is why I'm kind of annoyed they didn't really do more with it - the plot likes to dangle intriguing ideas in front of you, but almost none of it has any kind of payoff, emotional or otherwise. The combat system is a bit weird, too: your flying kick is significantly more powerful than your ground attacks, so you have a strong incentive to get up in the air and doing flying kicks, but there's this whole vestigal ground combat system and you don't really have good enough feedback to fight in the air - enemies that can charge you are very, very dangerous. Not a fan of the character design, either: Kat's default costume is a little sketchy but the game has a bunch of alternative costumes that all seem to be someone's fetish, and one of the early antagonists appears to be wearing half a leotard. It's an odd duck, but it was one of the best regarded PSP games (which tells you something about the platform) and it's nice to see it on the PS4. Beglitched: I finished it! This is a match-3 puzzle game with a computer hacking filtered through an aggressively cute aesthetic. The basic mechanic is that every board is a fight against a hidden hacker, whose cute animal avatar is on the board. You can click on a bomb square to attack anything hidden in its range, and use compass and computer squares to narrow down where the hacker might be, but you have a move limit to contend with and only a limit amount of energy to use the items on the board. I really like this; it's by far the best puzzle-combat hybrid system I've seen, because the position of items on the board matters, and a lot of these systems, particularly the ones based on match-3 games, tend to be very swingy. This isn't: you're the only one making moves; cascades, at best, give you some turns to waste; and matching 3 is a means to an end, while the real goal is to get the hacker close enough to a bomb tile that they get caught. The framing is that you have found the Glitch Witch's computer, a playful master hacker (the notes she leaves for herself have a distinctive oversharing quality that feels true-to-life to me), and she asks you to take her place and take care of some networks. A good part of the game involves finding clever ways to deal with the obstacles on these networks, and each has a gimmick of varying quality - I think the game would have benefited from cutting some of the worse ones entirely and being a smidge shorter. Still, I'd recommend it. Tacoma: The moral of the story is that maybe it's better for everyone if China and the EU administer space rather than America It was alright but after hearing about how clever the intermingled voice recordings are, I was expecting something a bit more to it than people having a tightly-timed discussion. There's maybe one instance where the two discussions happening simultaneously matter, and it's just 'there was a bang/these two people banged into the wall'. Honestly, the big important thing is how useful having controls to manipulate the voice memos is. It was nice that the moral ambiguity over the actions of the Australian networking engineer was conclusively resolved by the plot because I was 100% on her side and it was 100% based on her accent
  10. Movie/TV recommendations

    I joined a film club and I saw some films. Right now in cinemas it's a pretty limiting selection, but: Deadpool 2 is basically what you'd expect after Deadpool 1; it's an R-rated superhero-themed comedy. Its plot works a little better than Deadpool 1's, it's not quite as fresh but lordy it's trying, and they've got a budget so they can have more than a couple of locations. I imagine you'll have the same reaction to it as you did to the first one. I got what I paid for. I would have liked it if they'd been a bit more ambitious than 'superhero movie but with some lampshade hanging' but then I'm basically always in the mood for satire and I'm not sure how far you could go with a satirical Deadpool before it stops working. Solo is basically a Star Wars film except nothing that's happening is as exciting as they think it is. It's not really a heist film in the way that Rogue One was a war film. It's like the prequel trilogy except with a decent script: you know where it's ending up, and it doesn't have the room to surprise with its characters or the inclination to tell its own story. (It also has this obsession with beating you over the head with call-forwards, so when they fuck with the continuity a little it's more of a bother than if they had been a little more independent.) I want these films to tell new stories and borrow Star Wars iconography, but Lucasfilm want to tell Star Wars stories that masquerade as something else and I think it's time I accept we want two very different things here.
  11. Yeah honestly it feels like a weird culture fit given what we know of Jake and Sean (and Nick and Chris) through the podcasts. Campo took a concrete stand against Pewdiepie, and to go to work for a company that is very, very willing to give neo-Nazis a platform is really... weird. Anyway I'm looking forward to selling black-and-white film in the Steam store for 9c a pop
  12. Modest Tech: The NX Generation (Nintendo Switch)

    I mean at least it has a wishlist *glares at the PS4*
  13. Recently completed video games

    I... never actually finished The Last of Us, and I realised, in what is apparently pretty close to the end, that I wasn't having fun. I found myself unable to stealth everything, but then when you got discovered, it was really easy to flail around and die in a way that that I never did with Uncharted. It reminds me that I almost never leave enemies be in stealth games unless there's some way that I can guarantee I can't be caught from behind.
  14. Id's Rage

    I'm hoping it is primarily an FPS with a light bit of open-world spackle, although you don't hire Avalanche to make an FPS. But of course, it's Bethesda, so odds are high that Bethesda will stiff them on milestone payments then buy them up for cheap when they're desperate for cash, so let's hope they haven't put all their eggs in one basket. (Bethesda has form with this technique.) Odds are, though, that this is Mad Max 2 except they couldn't have the license again.
  15. The Big FPS Playthrough MISSION COMPLETE

    The bit in the middle with the Vox Populi, where the game draws a moral equivalence between the oppressed and the oppressors by essentially having the Vox Populi act exactly the same when they get the upper hand, complete with charismatic leader who cannot be negotiated with. I found Dan Golding's article particularly persuasive but it appears to have succumbed to linkrot.
  16. Books, books, books...

    It's interesting how little Snow Crash feels like a parody now that the zeerust is setting in, the internet and the culture that Stephenson was drawing from has begun to influence real-world culture, and we've got a better idea of Neal Stephenson's sensibilities re: momentum-killing infodumps, wild mood swings, creepy sex shit and abrupt endings. Of course, it also exposed the fault-lines in cyberpunk as a genre, to the point where people can say 'clockpunk' with a straight face. If the rest of the world's collapsed, but the hackers are doing okay, can you really say they're the punks?
  17. Recently completed video games

    NieR: Automata It's good. It ended up being a bit smaller than I thought, in part because I anticipated the mysterious elevators I kept finding were going to reveal the rest of the world, but no, it's just DLC hooks. I appreciate that it's a game that is nihilistic and existentialist and works extremely hard to actually earn it rather than undercutting its world accidentally or being nihilistic to be edgy. No, it actually wants to talk about a world where no possible purpose could be left, and what happens next. And it comes up with an answer! And expresses it through gameplay! I did not need the female android whose carapace damage looked suspiciously like she was running around in a nightie and garters. #givea2aponcho Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy it's a good remake... I think. I'm honestly not that impressed, Crash 1 in particular has some quite poor levels, and they're really not levels built for analogue controls, so there's been sections where I haven't been having all that much fun. I don't know if the remake needed to make tweaks to make it feel like the old game should have been, or if the remake changed something (internet scuttlebutt says they did accidentally make certain platforms a lot less forgiving because the old games faked collision). Still, I like how secrets build on top of each other in these games. You complete a level without breaking any boxes, and get a gem that makes a platform in a different level that lets you do a different path, and in that path if you run into a particular enemy then you get taken to a secret level which incidentally shows you the three levels that have alternate entrances you'll need to use to break every box. Edit: I did some research on this later, and it turns out that my instincts were right. The 3 Crash games have slightly different physics. Vicarious Visions implemented something pretty close to Crash 3's physics, except using modern practices for analogue controls (e.g. the character doesn't speed up by 40% when running diagonally), but ported the original levels faithfully - which means that several levels in Crash 1 were not designed for the playable character. For most levels, it doesn't matter very much, as the original game's pretty forgiving in terms of lives and they've also ported Crash 3's assistance mechanics back to Crash 1, so you might die unexpectedly a couple of times but you'll get a free mask or a checkpoint and can cheese through it. But some levels, particularly Native Fortress and the two rope bridge levels, have tightly tuned chains of bouncy platforms that were built for a character that could stop and start on a dime, and the physics of Crash 3 do not let you do this. There's small instances of this all over the place.
  18. Movie/TV recommendations

    Yeah, there's basically no reason to watch Season 1 of Parks and Rec. Early Season 2 is still pretty bad, but they're clearly righting the ship. I'd suggest starting with season 3, and if you like it, going back to season 2, tolerating the bad episodes, and enjoying the build-up to the events that kick off season 3. One of the advantages to the disastrous Season 1 was that they established that the show's premise evolves. One of the show's iconic sequences, the ice rink campaign launch, isn't even remotely compatible with the premise of the show established in season 1.
  19. I mean the sex goddess bit is pretty egregious and I'm not defending that. But I think the framing device is intended to be in the back of your mind: Kvothe's an unreliable narrator, and to an extent every story in this world is a distorted telling of events. Part of how it'll be received overall, I think, is how much the chronicler is going to push back on some of the inaccuracies in the story in the pointy end.
  20. Missions that made you quit

    I feel like the post-game area being hard isn't really the same thing as a mission that made you quit; stuff like Hell in Cave Story is explicitly something after the point where the game is happy for you to quit, and to even unlock it, you have to do a fairly obscure series of actions that wouldn't occur to you unless you were intentionally trying to squeeze more playtime out of the game. Hmm. There's a boss fight in Radiant Historia that I simply can't get past, and I definitely ran into a wall there.
  21. Books, books, books...

    I read The Poisoner's Handbook. I liked it a lot! It's a very readable but still very detailed account of the early days of toxicology in New York, and how much of the era was reflected in the way people died.
  22. The thing that bothers me about smart characters being painted as wish-fulfilment is that if I wrote down things that I did, in my own life, and ascribed them to a fictional character, I get the feeling they'd be painted as wish fulfilment. No-one's just born knowing French. No-one's that good at something they've never done before.
  23. bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

    I mean, I think it is a bubble but I also think it's fundamentally unworkable. It's like Rapture: like, it's an incredible technological achievement and hats off to the insane dude who managed to create his own parallel universe, but I still don't want to live there.