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Video Game Review | Storm Boy

Although heartbreaking, Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy is such a sweet, sweet game.

Anyone familiar with the book the game is based on, will be familiar with the story of a little boy (Storm Boy) and a pelican (Mr. Percival) who become friends on a beach in Australia.

You play as the titular character, Storm Boy, and the story is told in text as you direct him through the game. The controls are simple, which is to be expected from an indie title with such a short amount of playtime. Storm Boy can be played from beginning to end in less than 30 minutes, which makes it a good game to play if you want to sit and relax for just a little while before making dinner or whatnot. 😛

From the opening scene, I was blown away at the art style in this game. It’s as if you stepped into a painting or particularly well-designed picture book and I can admit to having stood a long while just watching the beach grass blowing in the wind and listening to the sounds of the ocean.

Like I said, this is a pretty short game, there are a handful of mini-games where you get to dig up mussels, feed the pelicans, or play in the sand. They are both cute and fun to play as they help add an interactive element to what would otherwise be a plain (if gorgeous) walking simulator.

Now, if you’re familiar with the picture book, then you know that Storm Boy and Mr Percival become close friends, even though Storm Boy’s father advises against it. They spend their days together playing catch on the beach and enjoying the freedom of wide open spaces… because of their games, Mr Percival is even able to help save a group of fishermen during a storm!

He is a hero to them and to Storm Boy.

But, as many stories do, Storm Boy doesn’t get a happy ending. As you continue playing, a new type of character is introduced… hunters. Mr Percival, smart bird that he is, has a great dislike for the hunters and does his best to foil their plans. The bright pelican begins to warn the ducks when hunters are near, flying over them constantly and keeping the ducks away.

Eventually, one frustrated hunter shoots Mr Percival.

“And at nine o’clock Mr Percival died.”

It’s a heartbreaking moment for both Storm Boy and the player, even though you’ve only played for a short while, as you learn that there are cruel and stupid people in the world who care only for themselves. It’s a sad lesson, but one that everyone learns in life.

The end of this lovely, heartbreaking, game is just as beautiful as the rest. As Mr Percival’s spirit, you fly through the clouds towards the post he used to roost on and get to see Storm Boy as he remembers his friend…

Storm Boy is forever changed by his friendship with Mr Percival and the player learns that “…birds like Mr Percival do not really die.”


Stats and stuff…

Title: Storm Boy
Developer: Blowfish Studios
Genre: Adventure, Family
Platform: PS4
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Trophy difficulty: Easy

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Mass Effect (Renegade Play-through)

The Mass Effect trilogy of games is, hands down, my favorite video game series of all time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played it, either on PC or PS3, and I continue to hope that we will get a remaster or remake sometimes soon. However, in all my play-throughs, I had never played as a Renegade.

Having just completed a Renegade campaign, I can now tell you exactly why that is…

My absolute favorite thing about this trilogy is how the writing makes every play-through feel like coming home to friends and family. Each mission is like visiting a familiar place and each battle feels like you’re making a difference as you fight to protect all that you love.

Playing as Renegade Shepard felt like I’d effectively neutered the trilogy of this experience.

While most of the overarching plot plays out similarly to a Paragon or even a Paragade play-through (choosing between Kaidan or Ashley, working with Cerberus, getting the galaxy to band together), the moments that make the game so memorable to me were gone.

The moments that hit the hardest didn’t exist.

Helping Mordin in his personal quest to make things right for the Krogan and his involvement with the Genophage (a Salarian-made bio weapon that causes stillbirths); fostering Legion’s self-awareness and individuality, agreeing that yes, that darn unit has a soul; being the voice of reason that helps broker peace between the Quarians and the Geth, seeing Tali and her people regain their home world; and supporting Wrex as he unites feuding Krogan clans in the hope of a better future for his people.

All gone.

When you play as a Renegade, these beautiful character moments are all lost in your blind quest to defeat the reapers. Building relationships with the people and races you meet is no longer an option, as you ruthlessly put down any opinion that you don’t agree with, bully those weaker than yourself, and ignore the fact that your actions WILL have consequences.

I was forced to shoot Mordin before he ascended the tower. He knew that I had sabotaged the cure and because he wouldn’t stand for such an atrocity, he dies, dragging himself forward as he tries one last time to cure the Genophage. He fails, dying within an arm’s reach of the console.

I had to watch Tali commit suicide after Shepard allows the Geth to destroy the Quarian’s Migrant Fleet. Immediately after Legion sacrifices himself so that the Geth can know true freedom, Tali throws herself off a cliff, overcome with grief at the loss of her people and their only chance to return home.

And Wrex? Well, I got the distinct displeasure of a fight to the death when he confronted Shepard on the Citadel about the Genophage. Even after I lied about my role in the cure not being viable, he knew something wasn’t right, and so I killed him. He never has children, never gets to see the Krogran start families and rebuild their world. Without him or Eve (who also died), the Krogran have zero chance of surviving long enough to see the Genophage cured.

I’m not going to lie, I cried a lot during this play-through. In real life, I’m generally a nice person and that usually translates over into my style of gaming, so it was really difficult to be an asshole who didn’t give two shits about the people they were hurting.

I made the mistake of saving Ashley on Virmire during my Renegade play through and hated it.

As Renegade Shepard, you don’t really care about your crew or how they are doing. I never connected with Ashley about her family history with the military, her sisters, or even the way her views on alien species change over time.

When she was injured on Mars, I never even visited her in the hospital.

As such, I never re-connected with Thane (who is one of my favorite characters). His final prayer for Shepard felt like a desperate plea for me to see how far I’d fallen and how little I cared about those I claimed to be fighting for.

I really hate this because I had been excited to see Ashley’s growth as a character. Usually, I save Kaidan, because he’s always been more relatable to me, but I wanted to give Ashley the chance for redemption… I just shouldn’t have done it on a Renegade campaign, because you never get the chance to get to know her.

Shepard’s own body begins to show the effects of his actions.

The scars on his face are vicious wounds, red from (probably) infection and the rejected cybernetics underneath his skin.

In a nightmarish vision, his eyes begin to glow, visible in the dark and through his face shield in a way that leaves no doubt…

He is no longer a hero.

At the end of the day, Renegade Shepard is a thug and a bully. Does he still defeat the Reapers and save the galaxy? Yes, but for me the cost is too high.

While it was interesting to see how truly loathsome Shepard could be, I probably won’t play as Renegade again and I can’t say this one time was worth it.

The story deserves better. The galaxy deserves better. Shepard deserves better.

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Video Game Review | Seasons after Fall

I’m not sure what to say about Seasons after Fall, mainly because it was not at all what I thought it would be… and not in a good way.

After the first hour and a half, it began to feel like I was just following the same actions over and over again. The mechanics, which at first were interesting, quickly became clunky and annoying… after seeing the seasons change the first few times it no longer evoked any kind of awe in me.

There is one part of the game that was really interesting. You’re required to solve puzzles by blowing fog away so you can access new parts of the level. But this is only utilized the once and then it’s back to the same old actions.

Lookit this cute little sleepy fox!

The most difficult trophy for me to get was also the most annoying out of all of them. The worst part of the game is that you are doing the exact same things in the exact same locations to both progress the game and to earn trophies.

“A bird” bugged me the most because it requires you to happen to stop in the right location and SIT THERE for an extended amount of time.

Doing absolutely nothing.

At no other point in the game are you asked to pause and wait for something to magically happen, so unless you’re trophy hunting you probably won’t ever get this one.

A bird
Very Rare 12.9%
In the Woods of the Ancestors, listen carefully, find the bird and keep very still.

The story was weird and disjointed, which may have been what they were going for, but it didn’t help further the plot of the game for me. Rather, it felt like here is some random dialogue and there is a cut scene and now a different character is talking to you… but none of it felt connected.

Ultimately, other than the beautiful visuals and fun soundtrack, Seasons after Fall was kind of a disappointing waste of time. Honestly, it felt like it just dragged on for too long… maybe if they’d cut the last third of the game it would have been more fun, but towards the end I wasn’t looking forward to playing.

I’m really sad about how disappointed I am with this game, but I guess you can’t expect every game to be perfect for you. Maybe I just wasn’t the audience they were looking for?


Title: Seasons after Fall
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Genre: Adventure
Platform: PS4
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Trophy difficulty: Monotonous

review · video game review

Video Game Review | A King's Tale

After thoroughly enjoying my play through of Final Fantasy XV, when I heard there was a prequel in the PlayStation store I knew I would be playing it as well. And it was free!

Think of A King’s Tale as an old school arcade game and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the game play involved. It was certainly a trip down memory lane for me, as the graphics and combat system continually reminded me of when I was a kid playing games at the local pizza restaurant.

One of my favorite things about A King’s Tale is that you’re basically playing through Noctis’ bedtime stories, as told by his father, King Regis (hence the King’s Tale, lol). There are some throwaway lines that pay homage to Princess Bride and another that brings up a lesser known Astral, Carbuncle, who I think is the cutest thing to ever exist.

For the most part, earning trophies in A King’s Tale was a straightforward task, until I got to the last two I was missing…

To earn Combo King, you have to do all of the combos in one level. This trophy was difficult for me to earn, mainly because I kept forgetting what attacks I had already done and which ones still needed to be completed.

Sweet Dreams is truly an Ultra Rare trophy, with only 1.3% of players having earned it. The most difficult thing for me, as I worked on this trophy, was remembering to count how many enemies I had cast magic on, lol.

I enjoyed the story in A King’s Tale, even when it got a little silly… but you have to remember that this is a bedtime story being told to a child. Wouldn’t want to give Prince Noctis nightmares now, would we?

Anywhos, for a free game, you’ll get loads of enjoyment out of this title, especially if you like arcade or retro gaming.


Stats (for nerds)

Title: A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Action
Platform: PS4
Rating: ★★★★☆
Trophy difficulty: Difficult

review · video game review

Video Game Review | Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

First things first, I absolutely loved Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

Okay, now to review it…

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice follows a young Celtic woman as she travels to save her lover’s soul from the grasp of the Viking goddess, Hela, and release him to the Celt version of the afterlife.

What makes Hellblade so unique is that Senua suffers from mental illness. She experiences hallucinations, delusions, hears voices and more.

It is suggested that players use headphones so that they can hear the voices in Senua’s head. It is a suggestion that I fully support, as the experience is one you won’t soon forget.

There were times when I was playing that the voices just overwhelmed me. I couldn’t focus on the fight because the voices were too distracting to ignore. They were always with me. Every minute of the game, each step of Senua’s journey, the voices were there.

Towards the end of the game, I found myself relying on the voices, following their advice in battle and to solve puzzles. It began to feel as if they were a vital part of Senua’s mind and how she processed the world and of my journey with her.

Continue reading “Video Game Review | Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice”
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Video Game Review | ABZÛ

From the moment you find the Diver floating in this vast blue ocean, it’s hard to set the controller down. Not only because of the mesmerizing visuals and amazing score, but by the feeling of being something so tiny in a world so big.

Throughout the game, I repeatedly found myself getting distracted by the sheer scope of what I was experiencing. Which is not to say that ABZÛ is a very long game, because it’s not. I think, from beginning to end, it can be completed in about an hour and a half.

But that doesn’t matter because ABZÛ isn’t a game you play just to win, it’s really one that it’s meant to be explored and Giant Squid made the exploration so very enjoyable!

The sea is a desert of waves,
A wilderness of water.”

Langston Hughes

I really loved being able to see and interact with different kinds of sea life, from itty bitty anchovies to enormous blue whales and giant squid! You can even hitch a ride on the larger sea creatures and explore the ocean from their point of view. As someone who grew up watching Flipper and Free Willy, the idea of riding a dolphin or a whale or even a Great White shark is just magical.

The main objective in ABZÛ is to revive underwater ‘temples’ and bring life back to the ocean. You accomplish this by finding clues, solving puzzles, and unlocking new parts of this massive underwater world.

One of the things I really appreciated is that as you swim up to these temples you can see a clear delineation between the layer of water you’re in and another that is deeper and much more ominous. Our oceans have layers similar to this, where the further down you go the different, darker layers you encounter. You must swim into the temple in order to access this deeper layer of the ocean and be able to continue on your adventure.

Along the way, you’ll activate hidden pools of fish and release new and interesting species into the waters around you. You’ll find creatures such as the…

Icthyosaur

Possibly my favorite part of the game was finding the meditation statues in each level. These statues allow you to ‘meditate’ and while doing so, you follow different creatures around you as they swim, eat, and communicate with each other. It was so peaceful to have the soothing music and a serene underwater ballet playing on the screen… I could just sit there and watch it for hours.

The sound design for ABZÛ is really great, as well. It manages to somehow feel like you’re underwater without being suffocating (no pun intended), rather it’s like being wrapped up in a really thick, warm blanket and just enjoying being a blanket-burrito. If I could wrap myself up in ABZÛ all day long, then believe me when I say that I would!

These last few weeks and months have been stressful in any number of ways and it was such a relief to find a game that let me forget the real world for just a moment. ABZÛ pulls you right in, with it’s amazing music and scenery, and if you’re willing to just keep swimming, you might lose at least a few hours to it.


Now, I am a huge fan of Indie games, but there have only been a couple that have actual re-play-ability. ABZÛ definitely makes the list, as I’ve played it now three times through (with another play-through planned for live-streaming on my Twitch page). I feel like the game is more than worth the $19.99 PlayStation Store price tag.

Like Among the Sleep and Unravel, I think that ABZÛ is a game that players can return to over and over again and still be able to experience the wonder and enjoyment of it.

As for trophies, the most difficult trophy in the game was Collector. If the game wasn’t so enjoyable, I’m sure I would have gotten frustrated many times over as I searched for all of the very well-hidden seashells. 😛

Collector
Ultra Rare 2.6%
Add all secret shells to your collection.

With a total of twelve trophies in all, there’s a little bit of a challenge required to hunt down all of the seashells, hidden pools, and meditations spots. However, if you’re looking to earn a (fairly) easy platinum, you won’t find it in ABZÛ.

I wish I knew what the criteria was to get a platinum in a game, because I feel like there should be one for a game like this.

Three of the trophies require the player to both pay attention AND to explore beyond the main objective. It was suitably difficult to find all of the trophy requirements while the game remained fun and getting to 100% entirely doable.


Title: ABZÛ
Developer: Giant Squid
Genre: Adventure
Platform: PS4
Rating: ★★★★★
Trophy difficulty: Medium

review · video game review

Video Game Review | Old Man's Journey

There is no dialogue in Old Man’s Journey, no speaking, no subtitles, no nothin! But, in reality, it really doesn’t need it.

Old Man’s Journey tells us the story of yes, an old man, as he travels to reconnect with the family he left behind. Through memories and flashbacks, we learn what lead him to his little house on the seashore and, ultimately, what brings him home to his family again.

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Blog | Gaming in 2019

I’ve got to be honest with y’all and say that I really didn’t want to write this post. Mostly because 2019 was probably my least productive gaming year EVER… but I’ll let you see for yourself.

If you know me at all, then you know that I’m a big fan of statistics. I was very happy when Sony sent out my PlayStation stats for 2019.

I was surprised to see that I played nearly thirty different games in 2019!

Continue reading “Blog | Gaming in 2019”
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Video Game Review | The First Tree

The loss of my Grandmother still brings me to tears, even years after her death.

I began playing The First Tree knowing that it was going to be an experience dealing with the loss of a close loved one, but I didn’t realize just how much it would affect me.

The First Tree follows a fox mom as she searches for her kits and, at the same time, tells of how a young couple is dealing with the loss of the husband’s (Joseph) father. As you travel through the wilderness, you uncover memory fragments of Joseph’s youth growing up with his father in Alaska.

What helps this game stand out from other Indie titles is that it doesn’t shy away from the topic of death, instead dealing with this loss with dignity and kindness.

Losing a loved one is probably one of the most difficult situations a person will ever go through. My family has gone through a number of deaths in recent times and seeing all of the encouraging messages from across the world was almost cathartic.

You never stop missing those you’ve lost, but you will always carry a piece of them with you to remember them by.

I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack and this one is absolutely magical, enhancing the ever changing feelings of loss, hope, longing, and finally acceptance. The music in this game had me tearing up more than once.

The controls for the game were easy to grasp and I was quickly racing through each level, jumping to catch butterflies, trotting across grassland and through forests, and generally gallivanting around just to see the gorgeous scenery.


Stats (for nerds):

Title: The First Tree
Developer: David Wehle
Genre: Adventure, Third person
Platform: PS4
Rating: ★★★★★