Posts Tagged ‘ Video Games ’

Diablo 2

So in an effort to keep these posts fairly regular, I’ve decided to write a little today about some stuff I’ve been playing recently. To avoid repeating myself, I’m gonna concentrate on Diablo 2 as that’s the only thing of note I’ve been playing in the last week or so. I haven’t had an awful lot of time on my hands recently in between job interviews, worrying about my future and visiting friends so video games have taken a bit of a back seat. Nevertheless I did manage to get some ARTS (Action Real Time Strategy; a nothing term and genre but the best way to describe these types of games without saying ‘Diablo-like’ or ‘like an RPG’) action with Diablo 2 although I’ve not played a huge amount of the game I wanted to write about it nonetheless.

Diablo 2

The second installment in the popular Blizzard franchises is often regarded, at least from what I’ve seen, as the strongest game in the series. I’ve got the impression from various forums and online communities that Diablo 3 was seen as a little weak in some departments and ultimately failed to live up to the hype it generated. It can’t have been helped by the catastrophic launch, insistence of ‘always online’ and the real money Auction House. Anyway, I’ve never actually played Diablo 3 due to PC limitations (I have a very poor laptop) so when I got a strange ARTS itch me and a friend bought Diablo 2 a few years ago. The results were, well, pretty great actually. To start, the game looks extremely dated despite being only 14 years old. However that doesn’t change what the game is. A fun ARTS with exactly what you would expect; lots of enemies, lots of clicking and lots of stat and gear comparison. The classes are all fairly varied, I haven’t manged to play a whole lot of the game but I’ve played Paladin, Barbarian and Sorceress whilst a friend I played co-op with went Necromancer so I have experienced most of the classes available. I must say, I had most fun probably with the Barbarian. Jumping about using my massive strength and vitality to hit things in the face was very rewarding. I usually go for caster types in RPGs so I tried the Sorceress initially but in my experience playing sorceress involves a lot of running backwards as most things will kill you very swiftly. I feel the Sorceress would benefit from increased ease of spell switching. Changing spells in combat is fiddly and can easily get you killed, making this easier would allow Sorceress to be more usable in my opinion. You could use ice to slow enemies before blasting them with fire, for example. Paladin is also pretty cool, kind of like the Barbarian but with more focus on abilities. He has a lot of auras as well, which is why I picked him to use with my friends Necromancer in co-op. Overall the classes have their unique aspects which make them individually attractive depending on your preferred playstyle.

I will say one thing, this game is pretty tough. Some enemies will completely murder you and even the smallest of enemies can be threatening in large numbers. In fact, me and my friend never got past Duriel (the Act II boss) on Normal difficulty in co-op. After some reading we discovered that Duriel is considered the hardest boss on Normal difficulty to his massive melee damage, freezing aura and cramped dwelling where the fight takes place. We were unprepared for the Duriel Pain Train and got totally wrecked again and again. After reading that the only way to progress would be to ‘grind some cold resistance gear’ we promptly lost motivation for the game. Not a great indicator but this is an older game and back in the day you learnt from your mistakes. We’ll get back to it one day probably, we shall defeat Duriel yet. Meanwhile I have been playing a little more recently on my own, and it’s going pretty well so far. Maybe I’ll finally beat that goon this time round, I’ve been watching out for cold resist gear specially.

Of course Diablo 2 is not without its faults. Like I have already said, the graphics are very dated although this isn’t a huge issue. Enemy models are consistently reused within Acts with a simple palette swap and more HP being used in place of enemy variety, which is a little problem. Duriel presents the need for some balance tweaks as he is probably a little hard to have so early in the game. Other than this though, there are no glaring faults with the game. Diablo 2 is a game that rewards a great amount of time being put into it. Being more leveled will make the game a little smoother and completing quests with the bare minimum of enemy killing will lead to slow progression through the large ability trees. There are a lot of abilities available and choosing where to spend your points can be a tricky decision and you want to accrue as many levels as possible to fully explore the ability trees to their fullest potential. I probably haven’t put the required amount of time into Diablo 2 yet to reap it’s fullest rewards but I sure am enjoying the journey so far.

In short, I would recommend Diablo 2. It’s a bit of a classic these days and it’s always nice to play a game considered a classic for the first time and see what you think of it. Diablo 2 lives up the hype for me, it’s a solid ARTS from Blizzard with the opportunity to sink hours and hours of your life into it. Be warned, Diablo 2 could consume you.


The Start of Something New?

My poor blog, woe is it that its creator should be so consistently useless. I’m in slightly strange place right now, currently stuck unemployed with no future at my parents’ house and really struggling to make any headway in any direction; be it the job market or any kind of creative or leisurely outlet. Anyway, I will be once again trying to get my blog back on some sort of track, I was thinking maybe weekly or biweekly posts but I haven’t decided yet. It will probably depend on whether I’ve been playing anything interesting lately. Maybe I’ll write about some stuff from my fitfully dull everyday life so that no one can read that either. Well now that I’ve mustered the motivation to write something I may as well continue. Please enjoy the round-up below. Feel free to leave any feedback, it would probably make me want to write on a more regular basis if you did.


I mentioned this neat little 2D MOBA in my last post and I would like to precede any discussion on the game with a hearty recommendation. I’m not entirely sure of the price tag but I am pretty sure I picked it up for cheap in a Steam Sale and have certainly got a lot of enjoyment out of it. The game has not been forgotten by it’s developers and receives regular balance tweaks and updates to keep things fresh. There is also DLC, which I have not yet bought, which introduces some new characters. DLC also comes in the form of skins for characters, which are thankfully purely cosmetic.

A character with invisibility in a game with no way of detecting him? Balance concerns? What are you talking about?

Awesomenauts is a game I don’t take too seriously and that is possibly why I enjoy it so much. For my competitive games I already have Super Smash Bros. Melee (I play in tournaments) and Dota 2 (which I watch a lot but struggle to play due to my woeful laptop) so Awesomenauts does not need to be competitive for me to enjoy it. I know there have been tournaments for it but I have remained blissfully unaware of any results or meta-game so have been able to enjoy the game in a casual capacity. Awesomenauts combines platforming with great 3v3 2D action. You can upgrade your abilities with ‘solar’ (gold) which is earnt through killing enemy droids ‘creeps’, ‘turrets’ (towers) and of course the enemy. This game is League of Legends streamlined even further. It’s short, minimalist MOBA fun and there is certainly opportunity to do some fancy stuff with some ‘Nauts allowing for a higher skill ceiling than you might expect.

It’s not all good though, lack of dedicated servers can make for some unfortunately laggy games and I have heard complaints that the new DLC ‘Nauts are a little OP. This could change with a patch though so no need for that to dissuade you from a purchase. Overrall very fun, especially with friends. Good for short, multiplayer bursts of fun. Can be frustrating in the same way all team based games can be. Worth a purchase

Depression Quest

This is an odd one. Not so much a game as a particularly, well, depressing ‘Choose your own adventure’ sort of thing. The game was originally meant to follow a shareware model but is now available on Steam for free in a tribute to the incredibly tragic loss of acting and comedy legend Robin Williams through apparent suicide. Williams had previously struggled with alcohol and drug problems as well as depression. The experience is certainly a little harrowing and indeed may be a little too painful for anyone having recently experienced or currently trapped in the throes of depression. A Warning: Don’t play this if you’re feeling low, it can’t do you any good.

In short, the game puts you into the shoes of a depressed man. You make his decisions for him, if you make ones that lead him further down the path of mental illness your choices become fewer and fewer. Make too many wrong choices and you will have ruined the protagonists life. An uncomfortable experience due to its hard hitting emotional qualities and this could be considered a teaching tool for those looking to learn more about the illness. The writing does a good job involving you with your protagonist and does well to effectively convey the completely crushing feeling of depression. Overally this is hard for me to form an opinion on as it’s hardly a game, it’s an interactive story. If you’re looking for an emotional experience and are interested/have a connection to depression that you want to explore this may be for you. It’s free anyway, so give it a go anyway. Maybe you’ll take something important away from the experience.


I think that’s it for now, any other game I want to talk about I could probably write a full piece on and I don’t want this already lengthy text post to drag on any longer than it needs to. Well there you go, hopefully I can keep this up for a little longer this time around. I will endeavour to keep this regular as it’s really the only thing approaching a creative outlet I have at the moment and it’s probably important I do something other than my full time activity; nothing. I am still writing for Gamer Headlines so feel free to check out my articles there, it’s mostly news stuff but if that interests you give it a look.

Thank you to anyone reading this/following this blog. I’m sure no one actively follows me since I can barely regularly update it but if anyone has taken the time to read this posts then I am very grateful. Hopefully I can keep this up.

Weekly Post: A New Beginning

If you ever read this blog, and your probably don’t, you may notice that my posts are far from frequent. I have decided I want to change this. So from now on I shall be posting weekly posts about what games I have been playing.

Sometimes these posts will be very short and contain a lot about Super Smash Bros. Melee which is a game I play a lot of. As well as this I play this game at a reasonably high level so I may get quite technical. For a quick summary the deeper aspects of SSBM watch this video by popular speedrunner Cosmo, who explains it all very well. Other times the posts will be lengthy, like this one, as I will have played a lot of different games.

So my last post was quick discussion of Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time and since then I have been playing a lot of stuff. So prepare yourself, here it goes.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

A housemate was excited for GTA:V and was delighted when I told him I had a copy of this lying around that I hadn’t played. So we busted out and played it to near completion. We haven’t done the last mission and that’s it, it barely feels worth it completing it now since the last mission is pretty tricky. First things first, this game is pretty tricky. There are some missions where I’m not sure how possible they would be without cheats. One particular mission sticks in my head, you had to flee from the Police in an already damaged van. If the van blows up, you fail. If you get out of the van for too long, you fail. The Police cars are faster than you and will ram your van into walls. You WILL blow up, I don’t really see how you can avoid the police cars for long enough, as they are limitless and there’s very little you can do to defend yourself. Thank God for cheats allowing you to lower your wanted level and restore the health of your car. Overall the game is pretty good a bit of a GTA classic. The shooting is pretty awkward, the only way to hit people is to stand perfectly still and fire at them whilst they do the same to you. There’s no real strategy involved and it can quickly get very irritating with multiple enemies. I’ve heard complaints that the map is too small but it’s a pretty good size. It’s not as big as San Andreas but it is also older. It’s not that bad really, could be bigger but it’s alright. The game has it’s share of interesting missions and has that Rockstar sense of humour that permeates their games. Worth a play I think, especially as a nostalgia trip.

Grand Theft Auto: V

A recent one for a change. Grand Theft Auto V enjoyed widespread critical praise for everything apart from the Online. This is one I don’t want to take about too much as I am still considering writing a full post about it. I don’t actually own this one, my housemate does but I did play through a significant portion of the game with him. Overall impressions are very good. Huge game world with plenty to do, you can have enough fun stealing cars and punching people to keep you amused for a few hours. I like the three characters, all with their separate specialties and personalities and I also like the attributes aspect. Gives a sense of progress that isn’t always apparent in Grand Theft Auto games. The missions are very fun for the most part and a colourful collection of supporting characters combined with Rockstar’s sense of humour (which is running rampant in this game) make for an amusing experience. This game has it’s problems but it’s a barrel of fun and has enough content to keep you amused for a very long time. Definitely worth a pick up, this is what ‘next gen’ games should be like.

God Hand

This is one I will be definitely be writing about in the future. Probably when/if I finish it. Traditionally God Hand is looked upon a hidden gem and this is for good reason. This game was panned when it first came out but is actually very very good. It is hard though, very hard. If you do better and avoid enemy attacks your level increases, when your level increases the enemies get tougher. However, you can dodge everything any enemy throws at you. The game also has a build-a-combo system that allows you to play the game your way. The game’s camera (which is fixed behind you) can work against you, which is the only time the game is actually frustrating. Not gonna say too much now as a full post is coming, I may also be writing an article about the game for a University publication so I’m keeping my ideas to myself for now.

Dota 2

I do play some Dota 2 every now and then. It’s my ARTS of choice (mostly because it’s based on my favourite game, Warcraft 3). Not gonna talk about it really because there are hundreds of places you can go to hear this game being talked about more intelligently than I could.

Sonic 2

Only played a bit of this one. Seems better than the first one overall. More interesting level design and an opportunity for co-op, even if it is poorly implemented. Probably gonna write about this one as well and I’ve barely played this so I’m not gonna say too much.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Again, gonna wait to talk about my weekly Melee activities because I could gone on for hours about this one. I will announce that I finally got to play with people at my University’s Computer Games’ Society and got invited to a mini ‘Smash Fest’ at someone’s house this Sunday. The guy hosting is pretty damn good, better than me for sure. I hope to improve by playing with people instead of the CPUs. Judging by CGSoc, most of the guys are at a similar skill level to me and I may be a little better than a few of them. But there’s definitely things I can learn and I’m always trying to improve with all my characters.

So that’s it then! The first Weekly Round-Up is complete! This is a long one because of the time since I last posted but most of them will be a lot shorter than this I promise. Hopefully you’ll stick around and come back, maybe read them every now and then. That’d be nice.

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Majora’s Mask or Ocarina of Time?

When it comes to the Legend of Zelda series there are a few questions that are always asked. When is the next one coming out? Will Nintendo ever make another side-scroller like the Adventure of Link? Which is the best in the series? What possessed them to make those CDi games? What the fuck were they thinking with that timeline? And finally… Which is better: Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask?

With the several different formats that Zelda games have used over the years, it is often hard to compare the true gems of the series. You can’t expect Link’s Awakening (SNES) to have the graphical niceties of Twilight Princess (Wii and GC). But the two easiest games to compare are probably Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Both released on the same system, relatively soon after one another and both having countless similarities. Of course this is because Majora’s Mask was intended as an expansion to the incredibly successful Ocarina of Time, however Nintendo decided they would release it as a stand alone game making use of the N64’s expansion pack for more blast processing or something. The comparison of the two games was, and still is, inevitable. They are similar in all the practical ways and yet different in a hundred subtle ones. Having played through and given my thoughts on Ocarina of Time in a previous post I thought it was best to play through Majora’s Mask as well. I would like to take this opportunity to state that this ‘comparison’ will probably focus mainly on MM as OoT has already been discussed, as linked above.

I would also like to state that I played Majora’s Mask on the Gamecube version that is contained on the Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition disc. This has some known problems like frame-rate issues and some musical errors, so i won’t mention any occurrences of that. Also, I won’t be taking about graphics because they’re the same as Ocarina of Time, literally identical.

So, to begin with, let’s start with the negative points. Firstly and perhaps most glaringly, the game is quite short. In OoT there are the 3 initial dungeons to get the precious gems to get through the Door of Time. There are then the 5 dungeons to get the medallions and then a few mini dungeons spread throughout, all topped off by Ganondorf’s Tower which contains 6 mini, mini dungeons as well as having enemies to fight within. Majora’s Mask has 4 dungeons with a few mini dungeons scattered around. The Clock Tower can’t even be called a dungeon. There are the mini dungeons that you need to complete in order to get the Fierce Deity mask but those are completely optional, unlike the mini dungeons in  Ganondorf’s Tower. As well as this the world of Termina feels smaller than Hyrule by quite a large margin. This does subtract somewhat from the feeling of being a child, setting out to topple insurmountable odds. A feeling commonplace in most Zelda games. What we have here then is a lack of content. This is clearly because MM was intended as an expansion. It’s not only clear in the identical visuals but in the shorter length of the game. I would probably cite this as a bad thing and for this reason I feel like it is necessary to consider MM as an expansion, otherwise the lack of game to play would be nigh on unforgivable.

Whilst talking about the downsides of Majora’s Mask, I want to talk about the bosses. Bosses in Zelda games are always a highly anticipated feature and there have been some very memorable ones. From Ocarina of Time I thought the fight with Ganondorf and Ganon was very memorable, as well as enjoying Volvagia, Twinrova and Bongo Bongo. The mini-bosses were also very good, a highlight being the return of Dark Link, who first appeared in Zelda II. However, the bosses in MM are memorable for all the wrong reasons. I shall give a quick run down of each of the 4 main bosses and reasons why I hate them.

Odolwa: A forgettable boss fight. A giant Jungle warrior with a sword. Probably too easy whilst also talking a while to kill. The least to say about this one

Goht: A mechanical goat. The most gimmicky boss fight here, but a good idea really. Roll after him in Goron form and kick the shit out of him. Also very easy, but a good idea nonetheless.

Gyorg: Frustrating unless a specific strategy is supplied. Doing the dolphin jump out of the water in Zora form is the only way to ensure not taking damage each cycle and that can be tricky to do when you’re close to the centre platform. This fight can even feel unfair at times, with Gyorg recovering from damage quicker than you can safely retreat.

Twinmolde: Insultingly simple and controller breakingly frustrating in the same breath. Hit the two giant snakes on the head or tail. Use the Giant’s Mask to become huge and attack them. (WARNING: This is going to be a long one because I hate this boss and found it very hard for a variety of reasons which I will elaborate on). Firstly, when you are wearing the Giant’s Mask, Link fills the centre of the screen, making it hard to see what the fuck is going on. The hit boxes seem to be a bit off for the Kokiri Sword meaning you have be very close to score a hit but the animation for Twinmolde taking damage is for the hurt appendage to flail around slightly. This causes Link to take damage 9/10 times he damages the boss. The use of the Giant’s Mask constantly drains your magic. More magic can be found in pillars in the arena, hit them with your sword to break them. If you are too close to the pillars the hit won’t register. Not all the pieces of the pillars drop magic. The magic is incredibly hard to see when you’re wearing the Giant’s Mask, making it hard to pick up. You may also have heard that the blue snake is weak to fire arrows and the red one to ice. Well these also cost magic and hitting the tail/head with arrows is incredibly difficult and most of the time you’ll get run over from behind before you even see the snake that’s hurtling towards you at a million miles an hour. On top of all this clusterfuck that this boss fight is slowly shaping up to be, you take more damage when normal sized as well. Basically, if you run out of magic, you have to hang around near a pillar, which may not even contain any magic, and hope that the snakes don’t deal you massive damage with their enormous hit boxes you can’t possibly escape. In short, fuck Twinmolde. Possibly the worst thing about this is that the boss is completely trivialised with two sidequests. Simply upgrade your sword fully and defend Romani Ranch to get Chateau Romani and the fight becomes trivial, You hit 3 times as hard and you never run out of magic, which was pretty much every problem to begin with. I hate this boss fight so much.

Having said all this, it should be stated that the final boss fight is actually very good and a little odd, perfectly reflecting the tone of the game. Some of the mini bosses are great as well, King Igos being a particular highlight.I do however feel like the larger bosses in this game are very underwhelming and only memorable because of frustrating aspects. Twinmolde is probably not as bad as I’ve made it seem but I do think the fight is mechanically flawed. I can’t think of a boss in any other Zelda game that frustrated me as much as Twinmolde did.

Now that is most of the negative things out of the way, it’s time to consider the positives. Firstly, and the most often cited argument for MM superiority, is the atmosphere. Atmosphere is quite hard to describe but I’ll give it my best shot. So the whole plot of the game is a big ass scary moon is about to crash into Clock Town. The game takes place across 3 days. One the first day everything is fine and dandy, on the second people begin to talk to you about the moon. How it’s getting closer and how this scares them. On the third day Clock Town is nearly empty. Those who remain tell you that the others have fled, you can see the despair in many characters and even the acceptance of their inevitable demise. These are dark themes for a Zelda game, ones that MM conveys well. The third day in Clock Town is one of the most unnerving places in any video game. It’s not scary like a horror game, but it’s filled with despair that feels almost real. I mentioned earlier that the atmosphere pervades into the final boss fight and this is certainly true. The 3 versions of Majora’s Mask are reasonably challenging with the second form, Majora’s Incarnation, being quite unnerving. The final boss, although made ludicrously easy by the Fierce Deity’s mask (which is optional), fits the game very well.

Other advantages over Ocarina of Time include a wealth of better  and more varied side quests, the Romani Ranch series being a particular highlight. There is also a large array or better characters. Clock Town is filled to bursting with them, something that Ocarina of Time was severely lacking. In OoT it sort of felt that you, Zelda and Ganondorf were the only real people in Hyrule. I personally liked Darunia a lot and there’s also Saria who, whilst important early on, does fade out as the story progresses. Meanwhile Clock Town has tonnes of personality bursting from it. A particular favourite is the story of Anju and her missing  fiance Kafei. In an interesting, time specific, side quest you re-unite the couple and leave them, ready to accept their death together. Clock Town feels alive, this is helped a huge part by the time specific events which add a sense of urgency and realism that was severely lacking from OoT. This is, along with the atmosphere, the greatest plus point of Majora’s Mask and it is not one that should go unconsidered.

Overall then we see that Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time basically succeed where the other fails. Ocarina of Time was criticised for it’s empty feeling over-world, a problem that Majora’s Mask solves. Whilst Majora’s Mask has mostly lacklustre dungeons and bosses, an area where Ocarina of Time excels. Here then we have a problem, I don’t feel entirely comfortable calling one game superior to the other. I feel that maybe Ocarina of Time is the better game whilst Majora’s Mask is a better experience. Truly the only solution is to play them both, MM is canonically a direct sequel to OoT and you should take this rare quirk of the Zelda timeline as an opportunity for a cohesive story to develop over two games. Both should be played, you will enjoy both. But which you prefer is entirely down to you.

Hotline Miami

To begin with I should probably retell about how I came across Hotline Miami. I was pretty broke, as a student such as myself often is, but then the Great Overlord Gabe Newell saw it fit to bless Steam users with the annual Steam Summer Sale. A bonanza of bargains of varying quality. I like the Steam Sales particularly because it gives me a chance to pick up the ‘Flavour of the Month’ indie game for usually under a couple of pounds. Last snatch was The Binding of Isaac, a great little title that I thoroughly enjoyed playing. Although I didn’t get too far, something I intend to eventually fix. However, in the Summer of 2013, that is this Summer, this title was Hotline Miami. A trippy and violent retro flashback to the 80s, a decade that I was not born during so of course I know nothing about, but I’ve been assured it’s accurate…

To begin with, as usual, the visuals come up for discussion. Being an indie game Hotline Miami doesn’t even the graphical ‘quality’ to think about such words as ‘high definition’. The graphics to me looked very ’16-bit’ and were very stylised, again as indie games often are.  However, this isn’t bad in any way. Some gorgeous pixel art exists and most of it is from games from the ’16-bit’ era. Games like Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, Link’s Awakening and the SNES Final Fantasy games have graphics that have only matured like a fine cheese. Hotline Miami taps into this and the game looks nice. The thing that jumps out about the graphical style is the colour. The colour is vivid and intense and wonderful and fits wonderfully to the hectic, murderous, drug fueled rampage that comprises the game’s story. Truly a visual style that is appropriate and pleasant, a combination any game should strive for.

Since I mentioned the game’s story, I guess that should be discussed next. I’ve heard it said that this game’s story is not to be taken too seriously and that the aim of the developers was to prove that story is not required for a good game. But I’ll try and give a plot summary anyway. You play as ‘Jacket’, who is a man, with a jacket. He wakes up and there are messages on his answering machine telling him, in a series of heavy euphemisms, to murder hundreds of members of a Russian gang. During the respites in Jacket’s blood spattered rampage he is accosted by characters wearing the masks that Jacket himself wears on his sprees and grill him on various aspects of his new found life. The questions helpfully voice the players own wonders about what the shit is going on.  You follow Jacket’s efforts to uncover what the hell is going on and murder hundreds of people gleefully along the way. Meanwhile these is a couple of prologue chapters that reveal a little more but there is a lot of aspects, such as ‘what the fuck was going on?’ and ‘did any of that actually happen?’ and ‘seriously what was going on?’. So yeah, the plot isn’t that important.

Meanwhile, what is important is the gameplay and the gameplay is very good. You control Jacket from a top down perspective and you go around killing hundreds of enemies with a satisfying varieties of melee weapons and guns.  The controls are simple and effective. I feel like it’s best played with Keyboard and Mouse for the record, it feels more natural and allows for quick changes of the way Jacket faces. The satisfying crunching noise of crowbar hitting face, the graphic death animations and the small penalty for death (press R to Retry) will have any player eager to jump back in to the face-crushing, Russian-slaughtering action. Really, there’s not an awful lot to say. I can tell you that you will try levels multiple times, it’s all about finding the correct timings and order in tactics with which to slaughter anyone who stands in your way. The aforementioned masks add some pleasing variety as well, each mask with a different bonus that vary from having your unarmed attacks be lethal to having the entire level dimly lit, reducing enemies’ cone of vision. More than anything the masks add tonnes of replay value to a game that already has loads of replay value simply through the virtue of being incredibly fun.

Hotline Miami has, overall, not a lot to talk about. It’s very simple but in doing so is awesome. I have often harked on about how simplicity is often a merit to games, allowing the player to be quickly involved and to immersed more easily. That isn’t to say that games that are complex are bad, in many ways a complex game is better by rewarding players for putting more time and effort into the game meaning that the player feels more rewarded upon the games’ completion. Having said all this, the visceral, bloody simplicity of Hotline Miami goes a long way. The game is simple to play and relatively difficult to master. Some areas of the game can be challenging and the feeling that you get when you run through a house smashing the shit out of a platoon of Russian gangsters has few rivals. I would rank Hotline Miami as a must get if you can. I was lucky and got it on sale, but the game is still pretty cheap even off sale and certainly less than the typical AAA game that is being constantly peddled these days. Hotline Miami is simple, fun and more importantly it sets an example for the future. People in the games’ industry need to see that these types of small titles are much better for the consumer than the constant excretion of the same bloated entrances to the same old series again and again. Hotline Miami is the cure to that disease.

Hotline Miami is a fun game that you should all buy. I liked it at least, I hope you will.

The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time

I am currently finding it impossible to sum up how I feel about Ocarina of Time. I can certainly start by saying that this post will not so much be a review, but instead a chronicling of my thoughts and feelings on the game and it’s place in the Legend of Zelda series and the world of video games in general. Ocarina of Time is one of those games, like Half Life 2, which is consistently placed under a banner that reads ‘Best Games of All Time’. The reasons why OoT is considered so highly have been explored hundreds of times in hundreds of different mediums, so to do so again would be simply regurgitating what has already been said.

Critically, the game is great. This is a game I played a bit when I was younger when it was first out and got stuck in the notorious Water Temple about two thirds of the way through the game. This time however, the game was a breeze. There were a few bosses that gave me some trouble, Phantom Ganondorf in the Forest Temple being one particular thorn in my side. But most bosses I found completing easilyafter a few attempts at the very most. The puzzles were all fairly simple but not enough so to make them feel insultingly easy. The story line was reasonably engaging and I felt pretty involved. I felt like the Hero of Time that Hyrule needed, going around beating the shit out of stuff with various tools and backflipping all over the place.

A few comments about the game’s difficulty are necessary here I feel. To begin with it must be said that this game is not difficult. What it can be is obtuse. Like all games with puzzles, you can spend hours on a puzzle only for the answer to be staring you in the face the entire time. Whilst this can be frustrating, it cannot be deemed hard. Some of the bosses are a little tricky, but that trickiness usually comes from knowing how to defeat them. Once the strategy is known, the execution is usually easy enough. For instance, I mentioned earlier that I had some problems with Phantom Ganondorf, this is because in the bosses second phase you are supposed to hit his magic attack back at him with your sword. However, the game is not very forthcoming about this. The only thing you have to reflect back at enemies are the missiles of the Deku Scrubs, an action you complete with your shield. Navi’s helpful hint tells you to ‘return a magic attack of your own’, which sounds like you have to use your own offensive magic to defeat him. This is not the case. Through trial, error and wasted arrows you will eventually discover how to defeat Phantom Ganondorf and then curse the game for not just hinting at that somehow. What makes this more enraging is the fact that the boss of the Spirit Temple requires you to reflect magic with your shield, although this is the Mirror Shield so it is a million times more obvious. This is am example of an obtuseness that is a consistent theme throughout the Legend of Zelda series. I challenge anyone to try to make any progress in the first game without at least a map of the overworld, if not a basic guide. That is not to say this makes the game bad, it just makes it a little frustrating at times. However, I urge anyone to not simply turn to a walkthrough unless you’re reasonably desperate. Beating things without outside help is just so much more rewarding, despite the occasional frustration.

Now on to something slightly different. Ocarina of Time’s effect on video games. I feel that OoT’s resounding success and critical reception has shaped Nintendo’s direction in regards to most of her major series. Ocarina of Time meant a change in format, from a top down view like the original, Ocarina stepped into a brave new dimension on the N64. The second Zelda game, The Adventure of Link, had side scrolling elements that were condemned by fans of the original. The SNES Zelda game, A Link to the Past, went back to the formula of the original, despite the capability of the SNES to render basic 3D as proved by games like Starfox. Nintendo went for a richly detailed 16 bit world instead of basic 3D, a wise move. However, OoT was such a success that all forthcoming Zelda games on console were in 3D, not counting the awful ones for Phillips CD-i. As soon as technology allowed it, handheld Zeldas made the jump to 3D as well. This proved that Nintendo had great faith in this format and the question arises whether this would have happened had Ocarina of Time been received poorly. Nintendo walked a fine line, many N64 games were simply awful (see Superman 64), their application of 3D causing only problems. Ocarina of Time was successful and forever changed the format of one of Nintedo’s best selling series.

Ocarina of Time also takes a pivotal role in the recently released Legend of Zelda timeline that is contained within the ‘Hyrule Historia’. The game is the point at which the timeline splits into 3 alternate timelines. Anyone who knows anything about the Legend of Zelda know that Nintendo have recently pulled this timeline out of their arse and to pretend that they always had this in mind is something that carries very little weight. Ocarina of Time takes a central role in the timeline and I would argue that this is because the game is the most famous and well received of the entire series. Many people prefer ALttP or Majora’s Mask over Ocarina of Time, but this does not change the fact that Ocarina of Time is probably the most well known. OoT’s central place in the timeline also allows for Nintendo to perpetuate their ‘three timeline’ bullshit for longer due to the centrality of time travel in the narrative. A concept that practically asks for confusing and nonsensical plot holes.

Now it comes to the point where I must conclude this ‘review’. The fact that I have rambled on for over one thousand words is, perhaps, a testament to how much enjoyed the game. It is true to say that I had great fun playing and completing it. I am certainly considering a replay and trying to learn some of the glitches that allow you to complete the game in under half an hour. Or the series of actions that allow you to get the Hover Boots early and stroll through the earlier Temples. However, I have also yet to find everything in the land of Hyrule, so maybe I’ll just play through it again and endeavor to discover everything about the game. The very fact that I am considering this should tell you what I think of the Ocarina of Time. I usually end these ‘reviews’ with a recommendation or lack of one, so this particular post is no different. You should play Ocarina of Time. Be it on the N64, the one that comes with 3 other Zelda games on the Gamecube or even the reboot on the 3DS. Ocarina of Time was a breakthrough when it was released and, whilst it’s individual achievements have been surpassed many times in the 15 years since it’s release, it’s still fun to go see what all the fuss was about it. It’s worth it.

Dishonored – High Chaos or Low Chaos?

Dishonored is one of two modern games that I’ve played in a long time. It is the one I enjoyed more and have actually played it to it’s completion. Whilst I have completed the main story of the other game (Skyrim) as well, the radiant quests mean that the game can never truly be completed. At least, not technically. Dishonored is very different from Skyrim, and not just because of the lack of useless and unfulfilling radiant AI quests. Despite the fact that the game’s are so different, there are actually developed by the same company, Bethesda. Famous for developing a slew of critically acclaimed games such as the newer Fallout games and the Elder Scrolls series, Bethesda scored another critical hit with Dishonored. The game is worthy of high praise but that is not to say it is entirely without fault.

To begin with, the game looks good. It doesn’t look great, but good. Graphically the game is fine. There’s not really a lot to say, photo-realism is clearly not the intended outcome. The NPCs are slightly stylised and cartoony and look fine. There are some occasional textures that don’t look great but apart from that the game looks nice. I was playing it on an Xbox with an AV cable instead of HDMI, so there’s a possibility the game looked better in HD or on PC. However, there is an argument that I play a lot of old games and therefore think anything modern looks great compared to counting the pixels and polygons in my SNES, Mega Drive and N64 library. That’s really all there is to say about the graphics of this title; nothing special.

Another aspect in which the game succeeds but does not particularly excel is in the story. You play as Corvo, the Lord Protector of the Empress of Dunwall City. A whaling city set in a Steampunky Victorian era. A plague has befallen the city and Corvo is sent around the other cities of WhereverLand inquiring about a plague cure. Corvo returns and the Empress is, rather predictably, murdered and her daughter is kidnapped. Corvo is then blamed and taken to prison, you escape the prison and join a revolutionary cell to reinstate the Empress’ daughter. I prefer to think of the revolutionaries as terrorists trying to unbalance a regime that is simply trying to stabilise in times of plague. This way, when enacting a supposedly noble cause by slaughtering innocent guards, I get to feel gloriously dirty. Anyway, Corvo goes round slaughtering a variety of targets and there is a twist that, whilst not quite expected, was not unsurprising. Overall the story is reasonably enthralling, you do feel involved and the emotional attachment to the Empress’ daughter Emily is enough for you to care about her and her relationship with Corvo. Having said that, the use of a vulnerable young girl does seem like an easy option from a writing perspective and you don’t really care about any other characters, apart from maybe the guy that boats you to and from missions. However, to reveal why would be to unveil spoilers. That sentence in itself is probably a spoiler but come on, the game came out last year.

There is, however, one place where the game does shine through. The gameplay. Corvo scales buildings and sneaks through Dunwall in an incredibly satisfying way. Guards can be hunted down and dispatched easily whilst dealing with a group of guards is challenging. So sneaky individual pick offs are the best way to go say. Having said that, I never worked out how to deal with guards with dogs taking out either one would alert the other, who would then alert others etc. I always tended to avoid them and sneak past them, the fact that I could do that is a point in the game’s favour. The freedom within the mission levels is perhaps the greatest thing that Dishonored offers. It’s so hard to find a game that genuinely gives you a degree of freedom these days, games have a tendency to focus on linear levels. They set the player down in a corridor pointing toward the objective and tell them to go nuts. Dishonored places you in a field filled with boxes and other debris and tells you the objective is in that direction and leaves you to it. The player also gets the choice of nonlethally completing all the objectives which is usually more interesting and slightly more challenging. However, this does eventually lead up to perhaps the games’ most fatal flaw. The game does provide you with magic powers and there are some upgrades to these powers, that are given to you by some kind of deity or something (it’s not really explained at all, they should have just made Corvo a wizard), which I have seen being referred to as ‘token RPG mechanics‘ but I don’t think this is a valid criticism as there are only a handful of abilities and half of them are passive anyway. On top of this, collectables are needed to increase these powers and, whilst the game does effectively tell you where they are, some are still pretty hard to find. This way of upgrading powers actually encourages exploration of Dishonored’s levels and accruing enough collectables to fully upgrade everything is a hell of a task.

The aforementioned fatal flaw is something that really tarnishes the game for me personally. The choices you make throughout the game effectively decide on whether you get the ‘High Chaos’ or ‘Low Chaos’ ending. A pathetic attempt to disguise what is effectively a good or bad ending cutscene and final level. I am also unaware of whether the ending depends on the killing of henchmen or just the completion of objectives or, if both, how heavily they are weighted within the game. I found myself altering my gameplay when the game informed of this moral choice system, however I probably would have taken this route anyway, seeing as how combat was very simple and I only alerted a lot of guards when trying to do a nonlethal takedown which didn’t work for whatever reason. On top of the fact that the moral choice system seems unnecessary the in-game consequences don’t even make sense. For some reason; the bloodier the toppling of the tyrannical regime is, the more riots there are and the plague is more abundant. How exactly does killing more guards and assassinating the targets cause there to be more plague? Are the guards secreting and anti-plague aura that prevent the spread of the bacteria? When I read this on a loading screen I could feel my immersion being slowly dragged under a moving car.

That aside, Dishonored is a game I liked. I would recommend this to someone looking for something a little different from most modern games. It’s easy to enjoy the freedom and choice that Dishonored’s levels give you and if you don’t get to caught up on the moral choice system or just don’t care about getting the good or bad ending, it can be thoroughly enjoyed. The game’s flaws can be overlooked and even if that is too much of a challenge for you, the gameplay (the most essential part of any game) is solid enough to earn my incredibly prestigious recommendation. Play this game, it is a good game, you will enjoy it. If you don’t, you should think very hard about why.