And we’re back again. If you read last week’s article you’ll know how this all goes. Such a packed year simply means no time for more fleshed out coverage, so here’s something a little more compact to catch up on the year’s games and film.
Another film I’d fit under the “B movie with a budget” moniker that I gave King Kong last week, however in a less fun way. Honestly considered recommending this film the first time I saw it, but upon re-watching the cracks really start to show. If you’re at all unsure of what this film is, it’s Alien. Not much more to it than that really, Alien with a new look creature and some really fake looking zero gravity effects. And I mean seriously, they’re so clearly held up with wires it’s kind of embarrassing to watch. Couple this with inconsistent characters and some really dodgy science fiction writing and you end up with some total schlock on your hands.
I will say though, it’s not entirely a lost cause. See, one problem with just re-watching, remaking, or making sequels to Alien is that everyone knows what a Xenomorph looks like at this point. No sequel can quite recapture that initial experience of watching Alien not knowing what the monster was going to evolve into next. That entire concept of an evolving threat is novel and scary, because even when the monster appears once, it goes off screen again and you’re suddenly left wondering what terrifying form it’ll take next. Life does bring this concept back, even if it’s more left to the early parts of the movie. The creature’s first “kill” is a really creative setpiece, followed up by quickly establishing that the thing is growing. Once it happens, it’s taken off screen, leaving the audience with a bit of that initial wonder as to what it’ll look like next.
So I guess Life might be worth your time if it comes on Netflix or something. Put it on before bed, because if you fall asleep halfway through you really won’t miss anything important.
Now this is more like it. An interracial couple visiting their parents gone awry, Get Out is a thriller that ties its themes in with its driving plot incredibly well. On one level, it’s solid thriller direction. Slow building tension that consistently builds its way up to an absolute end of your seat climax. On another level is the excellent way the film weaves themes of racism into its narrative. I really admired the very confronting stance it takes on racism, choosing not to make cartoonish caricatures of racist characters, but developing a very grounded take on current day racists. As such, it almost feels like an attack on people that would very likely form a percentage of the audience of the film itself, throwing at them that their own actions and words are not as innocent as they seem. It’s bold, creative, well written and directed, and absolutely worth a watch.
A 2004 cult classic that has just been re-released on PC and Xbox One. I never played it when it originally came out, and after playing it I’m both sad and happy that I missed that opportunity. Sad because the game has aged from its original release from over a decade ago, and it would’ve been nice to play it in its age when its mechanics felt more fresh. But if I played it back on the original Xbox in 2004 I wouldn’t have access to the online features, which is definitely the game’s strongest suit.
To give a brief explanation, Phantom Dust is an action game where your attack moves are mapped to the 4 face buttons. By default you don’t have any attacks, but through three orbs that continually pop up at your spawn point, you pick up new moves that allows you to go out into the rest of the map and fight your opponents. There are also “aura particles” that level your character up, giving them access to more powerful moves the longer a fight goes on. The twist is the contents of the individual orbs are drawn at random from a “deck” of sorts that you build yourself. Thus, the game becomes a merger of an action game with something like Magic the Gathering.
It’s a neat hybrid, and so far my only issue is the 2004 clunk of it all. It uses a lock-on targeting system that uses a dedicated button to switch targets, whereas it’d be much nicer to flick the right analog stick to have a left/right target switch. They also haven’t upped the framerate beyond a 30 lock, which makes it feel more like a game running in an emulator than a proper update.
It’s still worth a shot though, especially considering Microsoft decided to drop the thing for free, with no features from the original game cut or altered, outside of the option to buy multiplayer card packs added.
If I did have more free time across the last few months, it probably would’ve been spent writing about 20 different thinkpieces on Nier Automata’s story. Hell, I probably still will write about the game’s story at some point, because it deserves it. This is the kind of game that should be studied for years to come. A brilliant deconstruction of games as a whole, with a main plot that is just pure, constant heartbreak. I’m including it here despite wanting to do a dedicated article, primarily because writing anything more specific will require spoiling the surprises this thing has in store. So all I’ll say is play it, and absolutely go for all 5 main endings. Don’t worry, you don’t have to replay the game 4 times to get all 5 endings. Only 2, with both of them having enough changes to justify the replay.
A game I never really intended to buy. I actually only picked this up because I screwed up the region jumping system on my Switch, and made another purchase just to avoid calling support over it. That being said I don’t particularly regret spending the money. It’s a nice platformer with an innovative control system and a very relaxed tone. You control a snake with snake physics, go do snake stuff. It’s also half the price of Yooka-Laylee with a very comparable amount of charm and entertainment value. If it’s on sale at some point, or you’re just in the mood for a chilled out bit of fun, it’s worth a shot.
Another game that should be right up my alley. Hotline Miami with teleporting powers, sign me up. But unlike last week’s coverage of The Sexy Brutale, my reasons for being put off by this one aren’t to do with the design. I’m actually eager to play the PC release, as my time playing it on Switch did demonstrate some great ideas, particularly in the level design that definitely stretches a lot of use out of a relatively simple mechanic.
The problem this time falls squarely on the performance. One of the great things about Hotline Miami was the simple art direction led to the game running at a solid 60fps on every system it was ported to. I know this doesn’t matter for some people, especially if you play more slow paced games. But the breakneck speed that Hotline Miami goes at means it’s absolutely necessary for a game to work. Mr. Shifty not only has a 30 lock on Switch, but it drops on nearly every level. Busier levels are just absurd, and this is in a genre where it absolutely makes a difference and can get you killed as a result. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that the game’s physics are tied to the framerare, so all those drops screw with the physics as well!
I’ll probably get some more complete thoughts together once I give the PC version a go, but as-is at least I can definitely say avoid the Switch port.
PUYO PUYO TETRIS
This is probably gonna get my award for cutest game of 2017. The gameplay concept is simple: merge together the Tetris that everyone knows and loves with Puyo Puyo, a game that Japanese people know and love. The result is an absolute madhouse of a multiplayer game, with a buttload of variety. It makes it a great buy for the Switch, as you’ll get a lot of fun out of a short timespan by splitting the joycons and playing with a friend.
But the surprise star of the show here is the campaign mode. It’s the Mortal Kombat form of storytelling, with a roster of characters and a bunch of cobbled together excuses for them to play Puyo Puyo and Tetris together. However where Mortal Kombat uses ridiculously outlandish plots to make this work, Puyo Puyo Tetris achieves it by giving you the best worst moe VN ever. It’s so corny and bad I should hate it, but it’s so cute I can’t help but love it. I mean we’re talking about the Puyo Puyo characters being a group of cute girls that use their ability to play Puyo Puyo to teleport to other words. It’s such a hilarious form of garbage it puts a smile on my face just writing about it.
Don’t let this one slide under your radar, as much as there is a lot of other good stuff out right now. I mean at the very least download the demo. It gives you a good taste of how it plays, and has some of the local multiplayer features included.
Phew, I think that should be everything. Expect some more fleshed out coverage soon.