WOTH: Platinum #30 – The Order: 1886

I recently decided that it was finally time to get this game out of my backlog. It wasn’t that I delayed it because I’d heard it was terrible – in fact, I’d heard it really was something of a spectacle on the PS4, really pushing the boundaries of the hardware’s graphics. It was actually the infamous trade-off that had made me give pause; the sacrifice of gameplay or freedom so it could show off the fancy graphics and lighting.

After completing the short 6 hour main story, and allowing another 3 or so hours to be the addicted completionist I am, I came to the same conclusion that most others had. I saw The Order: 1886 like a scenic bullet train ride through rural Japan – absolutely captivating, but pretty short, and confined to staying on the rails.

It’s not like the story is bad, though. You play as Sir Galahad, a member of the Round Table, which is a slightly modern take on the medieval tale founded by King Arthur. The year is 1886 (obviously), and with the help of the other Knights, and a tinkering young Nikola Tesla, you keep the public safe from various Lycan and Vampire groups. But… there’s a mysterious plotting afoot! Action ensues, but the end-game reveals are kind of predictable.

It’s kind of a pity that there isn’t all that much action, but you can see where the company’s time was invested – in the stunning visuals. Each chapter plays out in a breath-taking area; from the crowded slums of London, to the boughs of a high-flying airship (who the hell thought a gun-fight on a massive blimp was a good idea??). So, if you’re up for a great looking game fit for a movie, then this is certainly for you.

Given that the controls get taken away from you so often, at times you feel it may as well be a movie. It’s very easy to know what’s about to happen, because the game basically foreshadows everything. A big shootout about to go down? Guns and ammo everywhere beforehand. Lengthy cutscene looming? Let’s slow you down and make you put your weapon away before you enter a room. There’s no allusion to freedom most of the time – once you strip away the beautiful scenery, The Order: 1886 amounts to little more than a cover-based shooter. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that – just don’t go in expecting much more.

The platinum trophy was not difficult at all to get here – if you focus on getting the collectables on your first playthrough, then the total time including clean-up should take little more than 8 hours.

 

Advertisements

WOTH: Platinum #29 – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Sometimes, you just need to take a break from the frantic and fast-paced games that flood the current market. After shooting aliens/robots/other humans in the face, or racing at 200 miles an hour with dirty dubstep music in the background, you tend to get exhausted of it all. Maybe you just need to take a slow, meditative walk…

And The Chinese Room (the company behind Dear Esther) have delivered yet another answer for this feeling, with the incredibly poignant first person adventure walker Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.  This time, you find yourself alone, overlooking a beautiful English countryside at sunrise, next to a small road, leading towards the quaint county village of Yaughton. Straight away, you’re overcome with deep orchestral music as you take it all in. As you make your way to the town and beyond, you find the whole place completely deserted – only a few odd balls of light, zipping around with seeming personality, are there to guide you along the path.

While following these entities, tied to certain intriguing members of the county, you will encounter “light-signatures” – recorded conversations and pivotal moments of the townsfolk represented by casts of light. It’s an incredibly smart way to learn about the various fates of all the people in the county, and why they’re no longer around – especially since the concept of light plays such a big part here.

The event that encapsulated the town initially appears to have very strong religious ties, until you begin to dig deeper, learning a bit more from each major character’s thread, finding out the true nature behind the mass disappearance.

The dialogue and voice acting you uncover is some of the best I’ve ever heard in a video game. Even if you can’t differentiate these “light-signatures” by appearance, the characters sound so utterly real in their discussions with each other. They each have distinct personalities, and you soon care very much about their fates – which makes for very emotional reveals as you progress. To make matters even more emotional, the haunting choir-inspired soundtrack by Jessica Curry cranks the feelings up to 11. Each time you reveal a pivotal moment in a character’s story, the orchestral music swells and envelops you. I can’t help but still listen to the soundtrack, even long after I’ve finished the game.

This is one of the very rare games which has affected me long after finishing, and I simply need to keep listening to the soundtrack. It now sits alongside Journey and To The Moon for that experience.

For these reasons, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an experience you cannot miss out on. You need to go into it blind – do not read up on it, or look at any guides. Only do so after the first playthrough. For like-minded platinum trophy hunters, it won’t take long after this – maybe 5 hours.

If you have any recommendations similar to this game, I’d love to know what they are!

Humble Book Review: The Colorado Kid

“It was that kind of story. The kind that’s like a sneeze which threatens but never quite arrives.”

That quote there, from The Colorado Kid itself, basically sums up my feelings for the book – slowly gaining momentum, but never reaching any kind of payoff.

The story revolves around two very old Maine men in the newspaper business – the founder and a long-time editor. They recall their most elusive mystery in their careers to a new but eager woman on the team. Slowly, we learn the circumstances leading up to the discovery of a lonely dead body on the beach of their small island decades ago – and how the evidence had lead to nothing but apparent impossibilities.

This is King’s first foray into using Hard Case Crime as a publisher, which is fairly different from his normal style. It’s more the ‘damsel in distress’ detective noir label which, to me at least, King was fumbling around in the dark with. When he did find his footing, it was on the steady ground of ‘human connections’, which he is much better at writing on.

However, I think dear King has been listening to the collective online grumbles regarding the opinion that he can write amazing books, but can’t write an ending to save himself.

Well, I imagine he said, halfway though writing this book, if people don’t think I can write endings at all, then I won’t even try!

And so that’s what he did. You’ll find no resolution, no happiness or sadness; just a case of literary blue balls as you realise the book has suddenly ran out of pages.

So I would have given it a lower rating (3/5), but you know what? I did read it all in a day – it had held my attention pretty well, so that must count for something.

WOTH: Platinum #28 – Day of the Tentacle Remastered

1993 was a glorious year for video games. Doom was first released, becoming perhaps the most iconic FPS of the genre’s early days. Super Mario All-Stars was released, the collection of former Mario games that proved it was the only game you needed. The graphic adventure puzzle game Myst was also released, which turned out to be one of the best-selling PC games of all time.

But there was another little graphic adventure game released in 1993, by the not-so-small company LucasArts; Day of the Tentacle. It was brilliant – it had the jagged and quirky art style LucasArts was well known for, it had great moments of humour with multitudes of possible interactions, and the puzzles had a great level of challenge that would not frustrate you too much – after all, this was before the days that guides on the Internet were so prevalent.

21 years later, one of the lead developers of the original game (Tim Schafer) decided to remaster the entire game and release it on the PS4 and PS Vita under his current developer Double Fine Productions (the company behind Psychonauts, Broken Age, and Grim Fandango Remastered, just to name a few).

The story is deliciously absurd; a sentient tentacle, former created slave of a mad scientist, has drank toxic water, and now has the power of increased intelligence, self multiplication, and – ARMS! So the world looks like it is doomed. Luckily three friends – Bernard, Hoagie, and Laverne – are called to assist the scientist. The only way he thinks you can solve the problem is if you go back in time to yesterday to stop the tentacle, but unfortunately, the portaloo-time-machines malfunction! The three friends are split up into the past, present, and future, and must now work out how to reunite and also rid the future world of the tentacular takeover.

As a newbie to the game, I found the humour to be great and a little bit refreshing. So many terrible jokes thrown in the dialogue – just the way I like it. You’ll click on many different items in a room to see if you can interact with them, or you’ll try to use items from your inventory on the environment. But I didn’t find it to be too taxing, as for the most part, you can follow the very subtle hints you’re given to be able to solve the many abstract puzzles throughout. I won’t say there are no points of frustration but there are a few. Some are just so far out there, you might need to quit, and try again another time with a fresh mind.

I decided to do the first playthrough blind, to get the best experience, which admittedly took a while. Then, tried a couple more playthroughs to get the Platinum trophy, which was a little taxing. If you want to get the platinum much quicker, there are guides out there and you can get it in as little as 5 hours. Really, that’s not how a point-and-click puzzler is meant to be, so make sure you try much of it on your own, first.

Have you played Day of the Tentacle Remastered? What did you think? And what similar games would you suggest I take on next?

 

Humble Book Review: A Brief History of Time

Wormholes, time travel, the Big Bang… these are all things that have been touched upon by many science fiction writers, each with their own take on the many mysterious concepts. But the initial concepts weren’t plucked out of writers’ imaginations to captivate readers; they were theorized by a long line of philosophers and scientists, trying to piece together the universe as we know it, and to come up with an answer for all the greatest questions ever posed.

And with A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking summarises as best he can the current state of the largest mysteries ever worked on, such as; Is the universe expanding? Can we travel back in time? What happened before the universe was created?

I’ll admit that even though it is quite a popular book, being a best-seller for many years, I’m not quite sure who his target audience was. I have a bit of a scientific background, but about two thirds into each of the chapters, I was completely lost and couldn’t follow the threads of thought. Those deep in the scientific community might not enjoy this due to the short time spent on each massive topic, needing a better breakdown. Those laymen of the world (myself included) might struggle to even follow the first premises given in the first few paragraphs.

Basically, I found myself nodding absently every now and then, with the voice murmuring in the back of my head saying yeah, seems legit or I guess so.

Because of the prevalence of science fiction in recent decades, I’ve encountered many of the topics in sensationalised form, so at least I didn’t come into this book completely blind.

It’s great to see the humility in admitting that we are still a very long way from understanding the way the universe ticks and that we may, in a few more decades, come to know just a little bit more in the search for the one universal explanation that ties everything together.

WOTH: Platinum #27 – Color Guardians

In my college days, I was utterly fixated on a certain little 2D running platformer by Gaijin Games, known as Bit.Trip Runner. In it, you ran endlessly to the right of the screen, dodging obstacles and gaps that relentlessly approached you. There was a deep rhythmic mechanic where you could time your moves to the 8-bit soundtrack, which got more and more intense as you progressed in a level.

Color Guardians is a similar running platformer, with a few new twists – instead of one lane to run along, you can move between 3 lanes to dodge obstacles. And instead of rhythm, the major mechanic is colour (yeah, there is a “u” in colour ya dang Americans). To successfully collect all of the coloured orbs in a level, you need to make sure you match one of the three available colours – which you can swap to at any time. The amount of orbs you collect will correspond to a certain rating out of three stars at the end.

Yeah, this is yet another game using the gamified 3-stars award system, like nearly every other game following Candy Crush. All games will use it soon… boy oh boy, I can’t wait until the new Civilisation game gives me a 3 star rating for talking to Gandhi about trade routes.

Regardless, you’ll pretty much get a base 2 stars every level, unless you get all of them, earning you a third. Lucky for you, the trophies in this game only require you to get at least 2 stars on every level! And maybe a 3 star rating on one or two, bit you can grab those on easier levels.

It’s a visually charming game, but not particularly challenging. There are 5 major areas with 10 levels and a boss battle in each, which you can get through pretty quickly. The boss battles are nearly all identical, so you’ll more likely get bored of repetition. That is, until the last boss encounter which seems like a massive difficulty spike for some reason!

It’s an okay game, and it’s largely unfair to compare it to Bit.Trip Runner, but it really does pale in comparison. I wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t one of the monthly free games with my Playstation Plus subscription. It’s saving grace for Trophy Hunters is that it is quite easy to obtain the platinum trophy – nothing really stands out as particularly difficult, other than having to defeat the final boss with each playable character.

Humble Book Review: From a Buick 8

On the outside, King’s From a Buick 8 might seem like a sequel or spiritual successor to Christine. But once you navigate through the chapters, you find that really there isn’t much in common at all, other than the picture of a car on the cover.

This novel follows the history of a collective secret kept by the troopers of Barracks D in Pennsylvania. Back in 1979, a man shrouded in mystery parked his Buick Roadmaster at a gas station, and was never seen again. The troopers impounded the car, but from the first moment they laid eyes on it, there was a deep sense of unfamiliarity – like this “thing” was a very poor imitation of a car at all, and not of this world. No sense of symmetry, made of materials never encountered, and with dashboard gauges that served no function.

Things only got more strange after it was left in a shed at the barracks, warranting the troopers to keep a watch over it, and to keep it hidden from the public. It had a tendency to produce inexplicable events, such as blinding light shows coming from inside the car, as well as spitting out otherworldly objects from it’s boot – and if things could come out, could others be drawn in to this other place?

It is told through a series of stories by the now older and wiser barracks, informing the son of one of the main troopers why his father was so invested in this secret. The boy can appear impatient and only wants answers, but often the troopers don’t have answers, only a weaving and mysterious narrative that brings them to the present day.

I did enjoy this novel, even though it’s one of his books that are so easily forgotten. The mystery of the Buick Roadmaster is grounded in reality – in the sense that the troopers could only react in fear and poor attempts at logic when these events took place. As it is written in a style of remembering the past, the action is few and far between, and perhaps doesn’t reach the heights like many of King’s other paranormal novels. But what it mainly does – recounting a collective secret of the unknown – it does well.