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HelenBaby

What game are you currently playing?

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Well, I had been intending to push on with Etrian Odyssey Nexus (3DS), not least with another Etrian Odyssey spin-off in Persona Q2 (3DS) looming on the horizon... but my N3DS suddenly developed a fault where download games could no longer save, and I've had to send it off to Nintendo for repairs.  I only got the digital version because Atlus once again massively undershipped the physical version...  But, with that being the case, I instead decided to push on to the finish with a game I'd intended to chunk with other titles:

Baba Is You (Switch) - There's another review of Baba Is You further up the page, so I won't go into too much introductory detail for what is at face value an enormously self-explanatory game - a block-pushing game where the blocks include text defining the rules for object interaction in that same level.  From this simple premise comes a vast puzzle game centring around bizarre transformations and transferences of properties, starting off basic but quickly escalating to the point of devilish intricacy and unimaginable ingenuity.  Baba Is You is an excellent game; it's also one of the hardest games I've ever played.  But it's a form of difficulty which requires no skill and no reaction times; it's almost turn-based, in a way.  So it's fair and accessible; which it uses as a platform for logical brutality.

My theory of Baba Is You difficulty is that it essentially comes in three flavours:

  • What to do: Being able to anticipate the winning end state for a level.
  • How to do it: Being able to anticipate the process that will result in that winning end state.
  • Execution of it: Being able to mechanically perform the series of transformations or pushes in what is often only just enough space.

In other words, there's a certain amount of mechanical and spatial difficulty, but quite often the real challenge is one of pure thought and logical process... or beyond that, leaps of intuition.  There will be levels which you look at and simply can't imagine what you could possibly do.  And while that's great, what I think is arguably a problem with Baba Is You is that later processes lose that instantly intuitive and accessible logic, and become more like game mechanics you have to figure out - processes for which the nature of how they work is very much down to a developer decision which could have been completely different.  A further form of difficulty comes in the increasing accumulation of mechanics to remember; and, often, to anticipate how they interact.  By the endgame, puzzles often depend upon bizarre interactions which in any other game would be a weird exploit.  It's legitimate, but it definitely contributed to an increasing sense for me that I just wanted the game to be done; and while I'm proud not to have looked up too many level walkthroughs, most of the ones I did check were indeed solutions I'm simply not sure I'd have arrived at on my own.  We all have our blind spots; and I actually think the best way of playing this game might be alongside a friend who's already finished it.  I can't imagine what a hint system for this game would look like, but you won't have to look far online to find substitutes.

For all the difficulty, though, I applaud the game's vision and ambition.  As insane and impenetrable as the levels get, it's truly a pleasure once the game starts getting really meta with it.  I don't want to spoil anything, as it's both delightful and terrifying the places this game will take you, but there will come points where even traversing the map is a challenge in itself, while basic level victory is frequently just handed to you because secondary objectives are the actual point.  And I definitely had fun - with the countless "wow, I can do that?" moments, the one time I won a level with a method I know is an exploit because it was subsequently patched out, and the game's surreal hidden endings.  The game currently has 225... WINs, let's say.  If you like puzzles, that's a lot of fun.

Coming up next: Do I immediately jump to another block-pushing game in BoxBoy + BoxGirl! (Switch), or play something completely different in SteamWorld Quest (Switch)?  Decisions, decisions...

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I'm trying to clean up my backlog now that I finished DMC5 so what game am I playing now?

A visual novel called World End Syndrome and oh boy its a dozy. Its about a new transfer student aka the player character (you get to pick the name) who transfers to a rural town where he gets the chance to date 1 of 5 girls. There' Maimi the tomboy, Saya the rich girl, Hanako the girl who's actual an idol incognito (but its pretty obvious who she is), Yukino the writing workaholic, and Miu the quiet girl who's more than she appears to be. Sounds good and all but there's more to it than that. It turns out Mihate Town has its own history that plagues it, namely the legend of the Yomibito curse where once every 100 years someone comes back from the dead to bring misfortune to all. And to make matters worse one of your school mates is found dead and there's so many secrets the town is hiding.

I actually really like this setup. Yeah the dating sim part of it is the whole game but I really like learning about Mihate Town. From playing the game you start picking up little hints and clues to the bigger picture. The dating sim scenarios are actually pretty fun too; nothing you would expect but it does take interesting routes at times. If you're wondering who's my best girl well I'm leaning towards Saya since I actually have a thing for blondes but I also really liked Hanako's/Rei's route but since I haven't finished the game yet so it might change. And as another positive thing to note is that I do like how you can go places on a map and aren't really railroaded too much, at least until a certain point. There's also Missions to take up too which can net you bonuses but some I just can't figure out like Ryoko Ryuzaki's weird requests. Still there's slightly more freedom than most VNs.

If there's any criticisms well I will say I don't like how if you go to a destination you're locked into it. This can be kind of annoying when a character says "oh yeah there's something going over there! Why are you even here?" Because of this I had to restart my file a lot to find events going on so its mostly trial and error. Oh I should mention that there's also a "aura" chart where you can see how much a girl likes you which increases how much you see her outside of events. However the stats will stick for every playthrough but I don't know if this will have an affect on gameplay yet because I'm working towards beating it. It might because when I was doing another girl's route my character was dreaming of the other girls in his sleep at random. And because I was trying to start Miu's route by trying to interact with her, she ended up having the highest aura stat and which lead to a somewhat extended dream. I also don't get the importance of the white auras you get from meeting other characters other than the main girls. I'd assume its for all girls but I didn't notice any change in stats. I kind of wish there was slightly more clarity on the system.

Overall I am pretty hooked into this one. It feels nice to go into a VN blind since it came out recently. I like the mystery to it and want to see where it will go from here. I still have a few unanswered questions about the game but I have to beat it first so we'll see.

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My backlog is down to 4 games! I haven't had a backlog this small in the past two years.

Unfortunately, a lot of it is due to the past few games I've purchased, all indie titles, not being enjoyable enough to finish. On the other hand, others have been fantastic. Here's the rundown:

Ms. Splosion Man- Looked like a fun little 2D platformer, but man, it's downright fantastic. You'd think a game as wacky and ridiculous as this would be subpar in the gameplay department, but the platforming is pitch-perfect down to the smallest detail. It's fun, frentic, and fast-paced enough to give Sonic a run for his money. Plus, it has probably the most insane, hilarious ending I've ever seen in a video game. You really have to see it to believe it. I can't believe this game is almost 10 years old and took this long to come to a Nintendo console.

Mechstermination Force- I'm not good at run and gun games, but I figured a run and gun based entirely around boss battles (and from the makers of Gunman Clyde) would be right up my alley. I was wrong. I still suck. A shame, because the game has some great bosses with some epic cinematic moments. If you're a fan of games like Gunstar Heroes or Contra, don't let this slip under your radar. As for me, I just found it too overwhelming for my tastes.

Venture Kid- Not gonna lie, this game is basically a Mega Man clone without robots. And that's not a bad thing. It has all the tight gameplay, great level design, and catchy chiptune music as a classic Mega Man game, just with a different coat of paint. If you're a fan of classic NES Mega Man but are looking for something a little less hair-pullingly difficult (actually, the game is downright easy, but I don't mind), this game will likely be right up your alley.

Giga Wrecker Alt- The creators of Pokemon finally give us their latest original game on consoles: a puzzle platformer with cute anime girls. Sounds great on paper, but unfortunately, the game falters in way too many areas. The physics-based puzzles feature way too much trial and error, the characters on screen are so small that you can barely see them, and it's incredibly easy to get lost because the map system is subpar at best. The only major plus, to me, is the story. The characters are extremely likeable and interesting, and it's worth trudging through the mediocre gameplay to see what happens next in the story--or, as I'm planning to do, quit the game and just watch a playthrough on YouTube to see where the story ends up.

As I said, my backlog is down to four: Evoland, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Splatoon 2, and Monster Hunter Stories. We'll see how quickly I can knock them out before Super Mario Maker 2 hits in about a month.

 

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So I was chosen to take part of the Code Vein closed beta because I signed up for it a couple of weeks back. Normally I don't like Dark Souls type of games but I actually didn't know what this game was about until I saw the first visual of it.

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I really liked the whole anime goth in a post apocalyptic look to it and it looked interesting to me. It turns out that it actually has a vampire theme to it and if you know me well I absolutely love vampire fiction so this immediately clicked with me. I just didn't know that it was a Souls styled game but I actually had fun with it.

Firstly I absolutely love the character creator in this. I had so much fun planning out how my character looked and you can surprisingly get away with a lot here. Its probably THE highlight of the game if I were being honest. I just kind of don't some of the clothing options for the guys but they at least did their best to keep the goth look as much as they could. I did manage to make a guy who looks like a girl as possible which is something I usually end up doing to test the limits of the character creator and this one passed, clothes choices be damned.

The gameplay is typical of a Souls game. Its a hack and slash but you have to plan out your attacks because of the stamina system. I'm not too familiar with these kinds of games since my only experience is actually Nioh of all things so I'm not sure how much this differs from the rest of the genre. I will at least say they did their best to make it feel unique as there's multiple classes that have different stats and playstyles. I actually stayed to the tried and true swordsman style because I was at least killing things since I didn't know what I was doing. There is a way to play ranged but it looks too difficult due to managing resources to even use spells, or even fire your musket. I guess there's a preference for everyone and for me I like using the big sword. I did notice there's also super moves that both the player and enemies can use and it took me a while to get used to using them. However its hard to use on the bosses since they need to be launched in the air first. And there are backstabs but seems like it rarely works since I hardly get them and when I do its completely by chance.

Overall even though this was a beta test I'm actually interested in what happens next. I again really like the vampire theme, even if its more akin to like say Tokyo Ghoul down to similar powers. I'm liking the lore and I want to know what happens next in the story. There a few things that could be polished but I did think the game played fine, even if I'm not familiar with the genre. I just hope they announce a release date soon because I'm hooked to this game and really want more.

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BoxBoy + BoxGirl! (Switch) - The unexpected fourth title in the series, and the first for the Switch!  The 3DS trilogy dragged a little in the middle, but was great overall, and this new title carries over the best elements.  As ever, on its most basic level, it's a minimalist-aesthetic block-pushing puzzle platformer, but the presentation, side-material, and number of gimmicks manages to keep the game fresh even over a pretty large number of levels; and for long-time players there's the extra challenge of S-ranking, playing each level in as short a time and with as few boxes as possible.  And then there's the story - but we'll come to that.

There are a few changes overall, the biggest being that the game this time is split into three campaigns - a classic single-player A Tale For One, a two-player co-op that can comfortably be played single-player in A Tale For Two, and at last the ability to play as the bizarrely-shaped third character in the trio in the postgame A Tall Tale.  ATF1 openly declares itself the main story, and as such is the longest campaign and the one with the most gimmicks.  It's also the mode which I felt was strangely unnecessary.  If the series has one flaw, it's that the games can recycle too many gimmicks, and so the campaign at times can feel like a bit of a level pack, slowly reintroducing all the old themes yet again.  But there are some new tricks this time, too; a few new gimmicks, some more exploitable than others, and even fresh abilities - which I don't feel are classics, but which I think were worth experimenting with, though I won't cry if they're gone by next time.  Notably, not all gimmicks or abilities appear in the other, shorter campaigns, perhaps because the developers thought they'd reached their limits with them in single-player; but this is a bit of a shame, as I think it's the different gameplay offered in ATF2 and ATT that really make this game stand out.

There are a few overall changes, such as completion now ranking you according to how many crowns you collected and a target number of boxes, rather than boxes and crowns being interlinked; each rewards you with a separate currency allowing you to buy in-game items.  These items now include cheap assist items, which can do things like increase your speed and box limit - cheats, essentially, ones which I won't use but some less able players may need, so that's fine; also the customary music and comics, and the expected bonus challenges, here tasking you with using your abilities to pop balloons within a time limit.  Costumes are now split into head, eye, mouth, and body parts, and doled out by a pachinko machine; there's an enormous amount of stock, but not being able to choose your rewards may rankle.  Currency carries across between campaigns, costume currency stacking up exactly to how many costume pieces there are, the other currency coming in at well in excess of what there is to spend it on.  S-ranking is now based on a single overall score for each level derived from completion time, boxes used, and crowns; this can be rather an annoying change, as it's not always clear whether you need to improve your time or your number of boxes used, but it does help to make clear that you do need to do everything to earn that precious S-rank - and there are ample opportunities to be every bit as devious as you could in previous titles (yes, there are still levels you can complete with zero boxes used!).

One thing that hasn't changed is the surprisingly involved story and intricate lore associated with the series.  It's not something you'd expect from a minimalist-aesthetic Nintendo puzzle platformer - but it is by the Kirby developers, after all; and there are sufficient developments in this title that it's actually necessary to formulate theories to understand how the game fits into the series overall!  This is a real reward for long-time players - and doubtless a big surprise to anyone new to the series.  In fact, if you finish all three campaigns and play close attention to all the clues scattered throughout the game, you may even reach awareness of a rather exciting secret...

So there we have it: BoxBoy + BoxGirl!, the minimalist-aesthetic puzzle platformer whose generic surface elements belie a genuinely fulfilling experience on all fronts.  I had my doubts once, but now I'm fairly sure we'll see more titles in the series in future; and this installment gives me every cause to hope for the best.

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Timespinner (Switch) - The first thing anyone ever says about this game is that it's a good rip-off of Order Of Ecclesia, and who am I to defy convention?  Mechanically, that is true; you could tell me that Timespinner was literally built on the same engine and I wouldn't bat an eyelid.  But the broad brushes are a lot different.  Whereas Ecclesia's story focussed on only a handful of characters and its plot beats were drawn with a very broad brush, Timespinner spins a fantasy/sci-fi tale about revenge, war, and the fate of worlds; it's a bit front-loaded on lore but with everything sliding together towards the end, and builds much stronger relationships between its well-developed protagonist and its various main and secondary characters.  The visual design lines up with the story in being rather on the gritty side, tending to go for dark, muddy palettes and with a liking for brown caves and functional corridors; it suffers from a real lack of life and vibrancy here, and takes until more or less the end of the game to really pick up.  The map design is at its best in tight, wriggly little towers and corridors, but an awful lot of it is long, flat expanses, resulting in a fast-travel map that only just fits on your screen, and scrolling in map screens that could have been avoided with a little more verticality; it's also a little disappointing that the game's time-travel mechanic has been interpreted as resulting in two very samey maps, often easy to confuse.  The music definitely has a Castlevania vibe and is good, but fails to reach OoE's heights.  So there are highs and lows.

Deriving mechanically from OoE means the game plays very nicely - but it has a few flaws, some of them inherited directly from OoE itself.  The familiar system, for instance, which gives you a variety of monster pets to help in battle, is essentially redundant; they start off weak and stay that way, and their slow as molasses attack style means they're unlikely to pick up much experience.  The game's RPG level-up system feels redundant, too; you can find upgrades to your health, magic, and time stats out in the world, and equipment to boost the rest of your stats, so it's not clear whether a level-up system is really necessary.  Compounding this is that your weapons also have a level-up system, so even your damage is partly dependent on two different level-ups.  Weapons having a level-up system feels particularly unhelpful; the game gives you a fair number of them, but the fact that they need levelling to be useful discourages focussing on any but a select few - though the game does give you a three-slot quick-select, and it genuinely is very helpful to be able to switch between attack styles on the fly (another inheritance from Ecclesia, of course).  Technically you can mix up to two weapons per slot, and each weapon comes with a magic spell and supplementary ring that can be swapped; but they tend to work best in their original sets.  Probably the saddest real flop is the game's signature time stop mechanic, which is enormously easy to simply forget about, required largely for a few mandatory jumps on falling objects.  I think the intention was for it to be an option in battle rather than mandatory, but combined with the fact that attacking isn't possible in time stop and it's purely a mobility power, it's definitely underused; and it recharging through attacking enemies is something which might have been better replaced with a cooldown, too.

There are other points I could discuss, but what they boil down to is that Timespinner is solidly okay.  Its themes come together and there's only really the one heavy-handed exchange, its story feels like it's told in the right amount of time, the gameplay is functional and fun, and it's generally nice to look at and listen to.  Could it have been better, yes; but it's also a Kickstarter game, and so I'm aware it has some limits that mainstream releases might not - including those of the creator's vision.  They made it their way, and I respect that; and I enjoyed playing the result.  Frankly, I hope they make another, because I feel that with lessons learned they could craft

Coming up next: Despite both my New 3DS's microSD card slot needing a replacement, and my microSD card itself being corrupted, I have somehow arrived in a reality where I managed to preserve my Etrian Odyssey Nexus (3DS) save; the good news is that I can keep on playing it, but the bad news is that I have to keep on playing it.  Fortunately, for a very long game it's also very chunkable, and I'm planning on slotting it in at a stratum between everything else I play.  I've been putting off SteamWorld Quest (Switch), and it has to be said that I haven't heard as much buzz for it as with Dig and Heist, but I definitely want to see what Image & Form have come up with; Gato Roboto (Switch) is another shorter Metroidvania that I've heard enough about to grap; and lurking in the distance is a second Etrian Odyssey crossover title, Persona Q2 (3DS), though from what I've heard it's shorter than the average EO rather than (much) longer.  That'll see me for the foreseeable future; and then maybe I'll get my hands on that other big-name Metroidvania that came out recently...

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Dreams on PS4. The game’s still in early access, but I’m really enjoying it so far. A lot of the content creators can make some really creative games and homages to other franchises. It’s a bit mechanically complex for me to make really anything of substance on it, but it’s still really cool. I’m really hoping the community ends up growing soon, especially since it’s such an improvement over LBP3 (which MM had barely anything to do with, but I digress.) 

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