Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What I'm Playing - 3/24

Murdered: Soul Suspect

I loved this game. I had really low expectations going in. Reviews mentioned a terrible stealth aspect, which seemed like the sort of frustrating gating element that makes me give up on a game. In practice, the stealth wasn’t horrifyingly difficult as much as it was just boring and mildly tedious. It was present occasionally but not constantly. That left me pretty free to enjoy the game.

The setting turned out to be very cool. It’s the ghost of the older city superimposed on the present day, lending it the appropriate feeling of inhabiting two places at once. A present-day graveyard has the memory of a plague hospital grafted on top of it. Modern city streets have old buildings collapsed onto the sidewalks. Just as you walk through walls, living humans will walk right through the city’s history, completely unaware.

The plot was enjoyable and the player-solved mysteries were the right balance. With games like Phoenix Wright, there’s sometimes a bit of Adventure Game Logic you need to go through before you can reach the totally obvious conclusion. In Murdered, you tend to reach the conclusion through a small dose of consequence-free trial-and-error, but you can move on as soon as you figure out the answer without needing to get coached through every minor step of logic. Plus, there’s a Sassy Teenage Girl Sidekick and you can possess cats to jump up ledges. The final confrontation was a little anticlimactic, but the joyous reunion promised at the start of the game came through and left me with a nice sense of closure.

Disney Tsum Tsum

I’m not a big fan of Disney cartoons, but that doesn’t stop me from playing Tsum Tsum obsessively. I guess “Tsum Tsum” refers to some new toy line featuring the cute disembodied heads of Disney characters, because the game is a Match-3 featuring those characters heads. Like Marvel Puzzle Quest, you can collect more characters to up your score, and’ as you use those characters they gain XP, boosting your score even more. Unlike almost every match-3, the board is not a strict grid and is a loose collection of circles that shift around and fall unpredictably. It’s a nice change of pace, but by the time you’ve screwed up another match chain because it was ambiguous which pieces are “adjacent” to each other, you’ll probably understand why most games settle for the boring grid.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What I'm Playing - 3/13

I'm not doing very well at keeping a weekly cadence up on these posts...

Sunset Overdrive

This isn’t a good game. Well, it’s okay. There are moments where the writing and cutscenes are genuinely funny. But by the end of the game, it relies so heavily on breaking the fourth wall to acknowledge “we’re in a videogame” that it’s easy to forget some of the actual jokes told hours earlier. It pokes fun at itself occasionally, but still settles on a wildly traditional structure, right up to a three-part final boss battle with a heavy sequel tease at the end. There’s an impressive horde of enemies onscreen, but 90% of the time it’s better to skip the generic, boring combat in favor of moving the plot along. The city itself isn’t completely forgettable, but there’s nothing particularly memorable about it either. Every neighborhood is colorful, but they are all colorful in the exact same patterns. Moving around the city by grinding on power lines and bouncing on cars and rooftop garden umbrellas is unique, but the power lines and garden umbrellas are so ubiquitous that traversal never really gets changed up.

On top of all that, there’s a truly useless combat upgrade system. You get “badges” for doing things, which can be turned in for 1% increases or 5% increases to damage. You can collect items throughout the city that create weapons mods that do 10% more damage when grinding.

I finished the campaign and didn’t feel any need to do the endless sidequests that popped up.

Capitalist ADVenture / Feed the Monster

By coincidence, I happened across two iOS Cookie Clicker style “idle” games. As per Cookie Clicker, you tap to gain currency. Currency is used to buy upgrades so you can grow currency faster. In Feed the Monster, currency grows your monster larger and larger until he resides in the stars. In Capitalist ADventure, you periodically “cash out” of all your investments to gain “angel” investors, who give you additional upgrades so you can gain all the money back and more.

I find both of these games soothing. I often fiddle with my phone during meetings, and having something relatively brainless to tap on while others are talking keeps my hands occupied so my mind can focus.


This game got a lot of press for its art. It’s a pared-down version of one of my favorite games, Ski Safari. The art is, indeed, gorgeous. However, the day/night cycle is implemented such that it’s almost impossible to see what’s going on if the sun isn’t out. That doesn’t seem intentional.

Guild Wars 2

I finished all the games I wanted to play on the Xbox One for now, so my evenings have gone back to spending a bit of time in Guild Wars 2. I am playing World vs World, where my server competes against two others. Our server works together to capture towers and keeps from other servers using siege weapons we construct with supplies from captured camps. Mostly this takes the form of “zerging”, where we swarm in a mindless mass lead by a single commander. It’s fun to cooperate with others and test our luck against the other servers. One commander is quite good at outflanking enemy zergs to ensure victory, which lends a bit of strategy and variety to an otherwise low-key activity.