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Recent reviews by WHAM

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45 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
4.9 hrs on record
"Oh my, it seems my family has a dark and secret history. If only I had more than three brain cells, I might have figured that out years ago!"

I kind of stumbled my way into this game. The screenshots on the store page looked nice and hinted at some puzzles, and the game had some faintly lovecraftian undertones I felt might be hinting at some hidden horror elements. Horror and puzzles? Count me in!

Let's just say right now: this game wasn't quite what I expected.

To get the obvious out of the way here: the game is pretty! From lush jungles and pristine beaches bathed in sunlight to wrecked ships in stormy nights to more, the visual side of the game is very nicely done.

At the time of writing the game suffered from a very nasty bug that caused the main menu music to play on a loop over the top of all other game audio, including the level music, if the options menu was ever visited. It took me a long while to realise this was truly broken (I just thought the music of the game was purposefully weird or lazily done). As such I can't say much on the music of the game, and will just call it passable. On a more technical level, the game feels weirdly heavy to run. My GTX 1080 chugged madly and in some areas I struggled to achieve a steady 60 FPS, with certain items, rooms or effects dipping me down to the low 40's. Considering the stylized and simplified visuals, this feels like a strange thing to be happening, and might be put down to lack of optimization and polish.

What presents a far greater problem than broken music or stuttering framerate, however, is our protagonist. The game recounts the journey of Norah, as she ventures out to find her missing husbands expedition, which went out to try and find a cure for a mysterious disease that ails our protagonist. Norah is, however, one of the most infuriating protagonists I have endured in a long time. While the voice actor is passable, the lines she is made to read during the game ruin both her character, as well as much of the immersion and even gameplay on offer. Norah has a terrible habit of narrating things she has no way of knowing, ruining revelations the player might have figured out themselves, and even revealing key information used to resolve puzzles, before the player has had time to study the puzzle themselves. She also constantly dismisses any idea that there might be grander revelations ahead in the story, and states the flat out obvious so many times I couldn't help but laugh out loud toward the end of the game. In addition, Norah writes notes in her journal constantly, including puzzle hints that outright reveal most puzzle solutions well before the player has had time to even have a crack at solving the puzzle themselves. This feels like an attempt by the developers to ensure that anyone can complete the game, but for a player looking to challenge their brainbox with intricate puzzles that take time to analyze and figure out, this game is definitely NOT for you! (I'd recommend looking into Quern or Obduction if that is the case)

What about the puzzles themselves? Since the game has very little gameplay beyond walking around and solving puzzles in a linear fashion to open up new areas and to move to the next level, the puzzles alone have to carry the games interactive experience. Sadly, the puzzles do not impress here. The tasks the player has to complete range from very simple 'find the barely hidden item' to 'organize symbols in a specific sequence' all the way to the age old copy of Simon Says. And as mentioned before, Norah is always there to tell you exactly which bits of information are important and how they are to be used. The only times I felt the game let me figure things out for myself were cases where I had a set of symbols and a clear order, but the game didn't say if I was to order the symbols in an ascending or descending order, leaving me to try both ways until the solution clicked.

Call of the Sea left me outright confused in the end. From the very opening moments of the adventure, the game lays out its cards plainly in front of the player, and despite the store page making no mention of Lovecraft or the Cthulhu mythos, the very opening cutscene reveals these influeces, while a little later the game goes out of its way to tell us that Norah has not-so-distant relatives in a little place called Innsmouth! The presence of lovecraftian horrors is in no way hidden or secret, but is outright shown to the player early on, and any attempt at a plot twist is watered down by Norah explaining each and every story beat and revelation to death in an omniscient manner, to the point where she is able to tell what people were doing and thinking weeks or months ago, based only on a few written letters or scattered items. Norah also manages to be the most immovable, carefree protagonist ever to set foor on a cursed island that drives people mad, which only serves to further dismiss any intrigue the game might have had. The story lacks any tension or threat, and the game outright points this out several times.

As far as I can tell, Call of the Sea is intended as something of a baby's first adventure game. Something a player more accustomed to casual hidden object games or mobile games might pick up and try out and find suitably easy to gloss over, perhaps providing a stepping stone on the path to more serious adventure games. For anyone looking for a challenge, I can only say: look elsewhere.

Playtime: 4+ hours (Single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 7
Audio: 4
Story: 5
Gameplay: 6
Overall: 5
Posted February 20.
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148.7 hrs on record (93.4 hrs at review time)
"The walls are shifting."

I was a huge fan of the first Spelunky, and while I never found all of its secrets, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Spelunky 2.

Now that I've had some time with the game, losing entire evenings to it in the process, I can safely say that it's a great game that both improves and expands upon all of the best aspects of the first game with only the most minor setbacks along the way.

In Spelunky 2, you take a spaceship to the Moon and begin to explore some eerily familiar caves beneath the surface. The story, as with the first game, is mostly meaningless for the core gameplay, but does give the game an excuse to flood you with cute dogs and cats and other lovely critters. Delightfully colourful art and characters, animated in great detail, will welcome you into the experience.

My biggest critique of the game comes from its music and sound. While the music of the game is passable at worst and good at best, it does get very, very repetitive. Especially with the increased difficulty and complexity over the first game, the average player will be hearing the pan flute music of the opening levels over and over and over again, to a point where sanity begins to fade and a certain kind of hatred for the music begins to form. I've yet to mute the music while playing, but I've been very close...

But what of the very core experience? How does it play?

Short answer: it's great!

Spelunky was always a game of skill and observation. Mastering the swift movement and controls, spotting threats and understanding the randomly generated levels and knowing how different traps, monsters and enemies will react and move are key to success. Rushing ahead blind, deaf and dumb will result in swift death, with slower, more methodical approaches gaining a player access much further into the game.

The player is tasked with uncovering a great mystery deep in the caverns, delving through mines, jungles, lava caverns and much more in order to reach the end. Bombs can be used to clear out troublesome pieces of randomly generated terrain and monsters, while ropes can be tossed up to gain access to higher areas, or to backtrack. These simple tools, along with fluid movement and precise jumping, ensure that the game is quick and easy to pick up by new players, but complex enough that the puzzle of managing your supplies and planning your movement ahead of time takes quite some time to master.

Spelunky 2 adds a whole host of new enemies and traps that make even the opening areas more of a challenge to play (I am looking at you, moles!), and opens up into multiple paths as you progress through the game, meaning there is more variety and options for more skilled players to experience over time. The game also adds expanded options for equipment and weaponry, with the Power Pack quickly becoming my favourite, as it turns the players whip attack into a fire attack, and supercharges the bombs so that they shred terrain and monsters (and careless players) alike!

The final new addition to the game comes in the form of liquid physics, though the thick, viscous water and lava feel a bit weird to me. They are also poorly utilised, appearing only in very specific areas of the game and in such low quantities that many runs might not interact with them at all.

And finally, just like the first game, Spelunky 2 seems chock full of secrets! Hidden areas, enemies and items abound! I cannot hope to find them all, myself, but every time I uncover something new in the game it just feels great, and that sort of discovery and mastery is what the game is really all about. Each new locked door opened, each new entry in the journal discovered, feels like a step towards something greater.

I can heartily recommend the game to both newcomers looking for a fine challenge, as well as Spelunky veterans hoping for more challenge and new experiences. For the latter group, however, a warning: the game is different enough that you will have to relearn a lot of skills you might have thought you mastered in the first game. Movement speeds, timings and more have been adjusted and altered, so that some skills learned in the first game will not quite work the same way here.

Playtime: 90+ hours (Countless runs, have not beaten final boss or found most secrets yet)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 9
Audio: 7
Story: 6
Gameplay: 10
Overall: 9
Posted January 7.
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44 people found this review helpful
13 people found this review funny
16.4 hrs on record
"Huge guts! Rip! Rip and tear! Graaa- wait, guys, does this sound cringe as hell nowadays? Like, is this supposed to be self-aware comedy or are we playing it straight here?"

I absolutely loved Doom 4 (2016). I loved how it looked and felt, how frantically it played and what little lore it saw fit to bring into the game was refreshingly well written, and the game had a quirky attitude towards its own story in the protagonist being visibly annoyed at exposition.

Doom Eternal, however, appears rather confused on this topic, as well as many others, but we'll get back to those in a bit.

First and foremost, Doom Eternal looks absolutely glorious! From textures to animations to the vast skyboxes full of dead daemons and titanic mechs and ruined cityscapes and more, everything about the game just looks absolutely glorious. And, as the game opens up, shooting daemons and seeing the animations and hearing the thumpy weapon sounds felt absolutely badass.

Then came the downward slope: out of ammo.

Doom Eternal takes a considerably more arcadey approach to the fast paced shooter formula. Rather than giving the player a selection of weapons and tools and letting the player choose how to approach different situations and enemies, Doom Eternal gives the player a very strict sequence of actions that must be completed perfectly, or the game will punish the player harshly. Light enemies on fire so they drop armor. Use the chainsaw to gain ammo, but not on THOSE enemies, that's WASTEFUL! Execute endless reptitions of glory kills to gain health.

The fact that the first weapon upgrade I got was the fully automatic shotgun, and the fact that one minute after getting it I was never again able to use it, despite thinking it looked and felt absolutely awesome, is telling. Certain weapon mods are nearly required to beat the game on higher difficulties, and suboptimal loadouts are simply unplayable. The grenade launcher mod for the shotgun is practically required to kill some enemy types, so bye-bye full auto mod. Besides, any rapid fire weapons become almost entirely useless due to the low ammo capacity even after maximizing it via upgrades.

To summarize Doom Eternals gameplay: I was more often angry when an enemy died, because it died the wrong way and I didn't get the supplies I wanted out of it.

I was upset that I killed an enemy. That I shot a daemon with a big gun and they exploded into gibs. In a Doom game. Because I felt like I was playing the game wrong. Because the game told me I was playing wrong.

With the core gameplay ruined for me, how about the rest? The game adds a hefty dose of platforming and wall climbing, most of which only served to pad out the runtime and to annoy me by accidentally triggering unwanted maneuvers and animations mid-combat, interrupting what little flow I'd managed to find. This platforming, combined with the semi-puzzle sequences that regularly break the flow of the game, often while the thumping electronic music fails to recognize we are no longer fighting enemies but are, actually, secret / switch hunting with zero combat taking place... It quickly became headache inducing.

The final nail in Doom Eternals coffin is the one-two punch of narrative and tone. Doom 4 had a foreboding feel to it, suitably following in the footsteps of previous games in the series, borrowing the best bits where appropriate and mixing in new ideas. Doom Eternal behaves like a confused fan project that was made into a full game. The game is absolutely stuffed with nostalgia bait, bits from other games, inappropriately placed nerdy jokes and nonsensical story that the game utterly fails to tell. Where in the previous game the protagonist would be upset with exposition, here he drops to one knee and listens in like a good boy, hauling story items without question or explanation, taking the lead on a quest the purpose of which the player is not privy to for most of the games runtime.

To drop a few bits of Doom Eternals nonsense on you:

The Doomguy (yes, that is what he is actually called in the game) now has his own fortress space station orbiting the Earth. No, the game does not explain why or how.

Techno Viking Ghost King tells you not to save humanity. I had no idea who this character was and he disappeared from the game soon after.

Someone called The Betrayer shows up for a few minutes. The game does not explain who he is, either.

The Doomguy has a secret mancave full of computers, electric guitars, Funko Pop figurines and comic books, because apparently that's what the developers thought was cool and made sense.

The Doomguy, who now has a voice actor and a face, actually says "Rip and Tear" as well as "Huge guts" unironically.

This, along with a host of named antagonist characters, is all thrown at the player with not even an attempt to explain any of it. Sure, you can always read the pages and pages of the Codex the game provides you. I'm sure the rest of the story is there, somewhere, but so many cutscenes and dialogue segments in the game allude to a story that it feels downright offensive how badly this confusing mess is conveyed to the player.

What most saddens me about Doom Eternal is the fact that, outside of the main game, you can see the ruins of a different game that could have been. When the original teaser for Doom 4 came out back in the day, showing a human resistance fighting a daemon invasion on earth, people ridiculed Id software for their ideas. Call of Doom, they called it.

Now, as I gaze at the vast cityscapes of Doom Eternal, at the dead soldiers, the battle-scarred streets, the towering mechs and read of seaborne armoured fortresses in which humanity has taken refuge while continuing to fight somewhere out of sight, I wonder if Call of Doom would have actually been a far better direction for the series than this. A game where you get to pilot a giant mech and punch Titan class daemon into skyscrapers. A game where squads of infantry fight desperately against seemingly endless waves of imps. A game where tanks crash through the streets to support an assault on a gorenest.

Oh well, maybe in the next reboot.

Playtime: 15+ hours (A single offline playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 9
Audio: 6
Story: 1
Gameplay: 6
Overall: 3
Posted January 2. Last edited January 2.
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43 people found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
26.6 hrs on record
"Okay, sir. Just a moment. I need to change shoes, and find some gloves, and put on my racist caricature hat before I talk to you."

You wake up in a trashed hotel room. One of your green snakeskin shoes is AWOL. In the mirror you face the horrible, indescribable *EXPRESSION*. Just the first room drips with atmosphere and implied details of not only who you are, but of the world around you.

Disco Elysium is essentially a conversation heavy point and click adventure game masquerading as a role-playing game. You roam the land, pick up every piece of trash, loose coin and seagull-excrement-encrusted piece of clothing you can, and try to find ways to connect the dots of a gruesome murder mystery that takes place in a city awash with racism, locked in low-key class warfrare and scarred by a war-torn past. Whereas your own character, a mutton-chopped amnesiac who is almost certainly a police officer, is stumbling along in alcohol-induced delirium, the characters around you all have their own interests and intrigue to consider, with some trying to help you, while others simply wish to help themselves.

To say that Disco Elysium is a story rich game is to put it mildly. The world it presents drips with atmosphere and detail around every bullet-hole riddler street corner and underneath every cracked street, and each location and character is imbued with some absolutely great art direction. The game is enveloped in a hand-painted look, crisp visual style and a unique faux 1950's electrofuturistic look. It invites you to explore, to seek out obscure details and to find out the true nature of the people inhabiting the world.

And then it kind of kicks you in the teeth.

The gameplay is governed by a skill-check system. You have a truckload of different skills to upgrade and focus on, and nearly every item, location and character will require you to pass a check in a specific skill to uncover something or impress someone. The skill checks are basically die rolls with modifiers granted by your actions in the game, your own set of skills and, funnily enough, the clothes you wear. However, a failed skill check may not be possible to try again, at least for a long time, so failure can feel outright punishing, and due to the front-and-center nature of the die rolls taking place, it is possible to lock yourself out of progress in the main game by getting a couple of bad die rolls back to back. This brings us to my first real gripe about the game: the clothes.

On a surface level the mechanic of your clothes raising or lowering certain skills is an interesting mechanic. Going into a conversation where you need to compound your authority while wearing what amounts to a circus outfit sans the squeaky shoes is obviously a bad idea. But a mechanic that makes sense at first glance falls apart in the execution. I repeatedly found myself examining an object or initiating a conversation, finding myself faced with a potential skill check, and hastily backing out so I could stand there, in the middle of the street, trying out different combinations of shoes, pants and sunglasses in order to maximize my chance of success. Since the "puzzle" has a single obvious solution, its success is still governed by a random roll, and the act of changing clothes on the spot feels absurd even for our alcoholic protagonist, this just felt frustrating to do. A fun idea in the design, certainly, but horribly executed and clumsy.

Sadly; for a game about Disco, I will also have to dock points for the music and audio. As the game begins the music feels weighty, atmospheric and important, but certain clips of music are repeated ad nauseum, and due to their powerful nature the opening tones of certain tracks began to elicit bursts of laughter or annoyed groans from me over the course of the game. The voice actors, also, range from excellent to hobbyist. A few characters even sound like their lines were recorded by a person wholly disconnected from the character (say, a 20-30 year old voice actor trying to sound hoarse to play the role of a 70+ year old man) recording their lines in their moms basement on a headset microphone, and the audio mixer even forgot to filter out the background hum of the room they were in.

I hear there is a deluxe version coming out, with more voice acting. I hope it also replaces some actors entirely, though for me, and the purposes of this review, that's a bit of a moot point.

All in all, Disco Elysium was a wonderfully enjoyable story full of memorable characters and moments, only hampered at times by quesitonable game design decisions and audio issues. I can heartily recommend it.


Playtime: 24+ hours (A single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 8
Audio: 7
Story: 10
Gameplay: 7
Overall: 9
Posted December 25, 2020.
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23.7 hrs on record
"I don't need to rush. I have all the time I could ever hope for."

The Longing is a curious and unusual game. At the onset of the game you are given your one and only objective: to await for 400 days, until your King awakens from a deep slumber. Atop the screen there is a clock, counting down in real time. The game tells you that the clock will keep counting down even if you are not playing.

And if you so choose, that is really all there is. Sure, you can roam around the Kings underground domain, collect things into your home to make it a little more comfortable. And maybe, just maybe, there is more to this game?

I guess it's not too much of a spoiler to admit there is. The game even hints as much early on, and does so repeatedly and more strongly as time goes on. I don't know how many endings there are, but I found mine after some 23 hours.

In fact, this is the only real issue I had with the game at all. I found an ending to the game almost by accident, without meaning to, and once you end your game there isn't really a way back.

Aside from the potential to accidentally end your game earlier than intended, The Longing is impeccably well made. The lonesome dialogue of the protagonist, the somber ambient music that envelops the Kings realm, the particularly lovely hand drawn art style and rich animations whene appropriate, it all serves perfectly to create a haunting, lonely feeling in which finding a shiny rock is truly a delight and a marvel!

This type of slow game is definitely not for everyone. There is no grand sense of progress, no action sequence to unlock. In fact there is very little to do, and it's quite telling of the games nature that you can read entire full books as part of the game. I did, though only some of the shorter ones.

There was surely still much more for me to see...

Playtime: 23+ hours (A single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 10
Audio: 10
Story: 8
Gameplay: 9
Overall: 10
Posted October 4, 2020.
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31 people found this review helpful
7.6 hrs on record
Too much of the game is locked away as paid DLC.
Posted September 12, 2020.
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5 people found this review helpful
9.6 hrs on record
"Half-genie down! Someone get a medic in here!"

So, before I get into why that thumb-icon there is pointing firmly downwards, let me say some nice things about Shantae and the Seven Sirens.

WayForward games nail the sound and colourful nature of a Shantae game once again. The music is a nice, swinging mix of beats and chip-sounds I couldn't help but jam to every now and then, and the colourful backgrounds, cute characters and bouncy animations are all peak Shantae! And good heavens the intro animation looks like something an 8-year-old me would have LOVED on Saturday mornings!

Sadly, beyond that sounds and visuals, Shantae stumbles and falls this time around. Gone is the level design and enemy placement that brought on challenge in the previous games, and gone are the bosses that could knock you down if you were careless. In their place is a loosely designed map with hardly any distinct features, where compromises and cracks seem abundant as the developers struggle to push the game into a more genuine metroidvania experience than the hub-based worlds of previous entries in the series.

In place of challenge, Shantae 5 seems to instead dive right into ultra-casual gameplay, where the game showers the player with gems, healing items and little rewards for virtually no effort. The entire latter half of the game was trivialised for me, by the over-abundance of healing items to the point where several bosses, including the very final boss, could be just tanked. No need to evade enemy attacks if you can just scarf down a few burgers or sea-critters for full health in the pause menu, and even if you forget to heal in time, the cheap auto-potions will bring you back up to NINE times! Sure, you can choose not to buy the auto-potions, but I ran out of things to spend money on around the halfway point of the game, so...

The game also seems to lose a lot of the charming details of the older games. For a game with a dancing genie-girl as the protagonist, we seem to have forgotten to actually add any dancing animations in to the game this time around. Previous entries had those, but instead of unique animations we now get seemingly unrelated pin-up pictures of characters/creatures I'm still not entirely sure were relevant to what was going on in the game. Why do I get a screen-sized picture of a glistening fish-girl whenever I cast the vastly overpowered thunder spell that utterly breaks the time-restricted portions of the game?

As for the story, there seems to be very little of it. We get a loose premise, then basically nothing until the very last half-hour of the game, and then it's all over. Familiar characters make appearances, bust out a few jokes and disappear again. The eponymous Sirens seem to pose little to no threat at all, and the old lady waving a little flag and dreaming of a suit of armour of her own was, by far, the most entertaining character of the game.

As a long-time fan of the series, I really hope Shantae can get back on form in some future entry, but I feel fans and especially newcomers to the Shantae series will do much better going for the older entries in the series than this.

(Oh, and I deducted a point from Audio for no Rottytops theme! FOR SHAME!)

Playtime: 8+ hours (A single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 8
Audio: 9
Story: 3
Gameplay: 4
Overall: 4
Posted July 3, 2020.
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1 person found this review helpful
13.6 hrs on record (13.1 hrs at review time)
"Subject is at low morale. Sending spikes!"

Hoo boy was I worried about this game. As a long-time Half Life fanboy, for years I'd been dreading that Valve had let the franchise die a silent, dwindling death. And then Alyx was declared as a VR only game!

Well, thanks to being a lucky bastard, I have an Oculus Rift and thus a relatively rare opportunity to actually give this game a proper go.

And while I can't tell you that a 500 dollar headset is a viable purchase just to play Half Life Alyx: if you already do have a VR headset, this game is absolutely worth getting into just to see what the genre and tech can really do!

The first thing that comes across when launching into the game are the visuals. The scale and scope of the games environments, the level of immaculate detail, the scattered little objects you can play around and interact with. It's incredibly to see what the tech can do, and more importantly: to see that a 4 year old gaming PC can run this thing!

The clutter and object density don't just serve to please the eye and to prove the developers chops, however: they serve a gameplay purpose here. Unlike in a mouse and keyboard driven game, in a VR shooter something as mundane as picking up ammunition or a grenade, or reloading a pistol, become processes unto themselves. Drop the empty mag. Pull out a new one. No, wait, I accidentally dropped it, too! Pull out another one! Slam it into the gun. Oh no, I can hear an enemy to my left. Turn around. Whack a window to shatter it. Lean out through the broken glass. Aim. Pull the trigger. Get a dull click instead of a bang because you forgot to pull the slide back! Oh no!

It all seems easy at first, but once the game starts to apply pressure and the enemies become increasingly aggressive, it is easy to panic and fumble even the most basic action, leading to increased tension as you try to pull off precision shots while trying to heal yourself and manipulate your environment, and once you master it and pull it all off, it feels excuisite! There is just no way to experience anything like this without the VR tech of today, and I can only imagine what the future versions of this tech, as things become lighter and easier to use, can do.

The tech, and the way it basically forces you to use headphones along with how your actual head movements alter the soundscape also serve as interesting mechanics. And there is a lot to hear! From sounds on the radio to distant conversations, to the moans of zombies and the hiss of headcrabs to the newspeak radio chatter of the Combine soldiers, all enveloped in a rich ambient soundscape that constantly reminds you of the decay and corruption of the world around you, as an entire city is slowly devoured by biomechanical monstrocities. It's Half Life 2, but more!

But enough of expensive prestige tech. What about the game? We know it's pretty and it sounds good, but what else is there?

Alyx is a solid full lenght single player game. In todays terms this means about 12 hours of gameplay, give or take an hour or two depending on how you play. Like all Half Life games so far it begins with a slow introductory scene that allows the player to immerse themselves into the game. In this case you play as Alyx Vance, Gordons sidekick from Half Life 2 and its episodes, in events that take place 5 years prior to the beginning of Half life 2 itself. You explore City 17s outskirts, and the Quarantine Zone encased within, trying to save lives and solve mysteries while fighting threats of alien, environmental and humanoid kinds. While the arsenal you get is quite limited, with only a pistol, a shotgun and a rapid-fire submachine gun, your arsenal is augmented by the gravity gloves that allow you to pick up objects at a distance and provide a critically useful gameplay function. Due to the limitations of the VR tech, picking up objects from the floor or from narrow spaces can be quite difficult at times, and the gravity gloves resolve that issue perfectly.

The game also toys around with its setup enough to cover all the bases and show off all the various ways a VR game can outshine its mouse and keyboard counterparts. The palpable sense of fear as a monster lurks around a corner and you accidentally nudge a glass bottle off a shelf and scramble to try and snatch it before it shatters onto the floor, drawing the attention of the snarling beast just around the corner, is amazing! Or cracking you knees as you duck to take cover from incoming fire. As Winston Churchill said: “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at with no result.” Once again I can't help but come back to how the VR tech makes this all so much more real.

I've avoided going too much into the story of the game, but suffice to say that after all this time, spent by the series fans waiting for a story conclusion: I'm not entirely happy. While Alyx has a perfectly solid story unto itself, it feels a lot like the writers of the Half Life episodes wrote themselves into a corner and are now hastily trying to write themselves out of that corner again. The ending of this game left me perplexed as to what Valve is planning to do next, but I can't help but also feel a sense of curiosity.

When it's all said and done, Half Life: Alyx is a benchmark VR game against which all past and future VR games will be compared for some time. From all the VR games and experiences I've tried so far, nothing has come close to what Alyx does, but I hope that the example set here will both drive competition to push the boundaries of the tech, as well as invigorate interest in VR tech itself so that we may see its future iterations become more accessible, available and widely adopted over time.

Even if you don't have a VR headset of your own: see if there is a local business near you that might offer you a chance to try it out and play a bit. For the right price, it might just be a worthwhile hobby!

Playtime: 13+ hours (A single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 10
Audio: 10
Story: 8
Gameplay: 9
Overall: 10
Posted April 4, 2020. Last edited April 4, 2020.
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16.3 hrs on record

I'm always suspicious of remakes or remasters of old games. I tend toward nostalgia, enjoying the old games for what they were and what they stood for and how they represent the period of time in which they were released.

Resident Evil, however, managed to surpass all expectation back in the day it came out on the GameCube. Seeing how well Capcom managed to pull off THAT remake, I dared hope they might pull off something similar with Resident Evil 2.

And they did!

The cinematic camera is replaced by an over-the-shoulder view, the target practice zombies are far more threatening to deal with and the atmosphere, visuals and audio have all received such extensive overhauls that the game feels truly new and exciting once more!

The first thing anyone will notice, especially if they have played the original game, is the gorgeous visuals. Models, textures and animations, as well as the environments and effects such as weather and light are incredibly well done. The Raccoon City police station, in all of its odd quirky designs explained away by the buildings past life as a museum, is rendered in rich detail all around, from the cluttered desks and makeshift barricades to the light bleeding through bullet holes punched through doors. The visuals serve well to bring the games oppressive atmosphere to life.

As for audio, the game also manages some great little twists, especially when it comes to certain enemies. Hearing the zombies clawing and banging on windows, moaning around corners, or hearing the thumping footsteps of the more dangerous enemies moving around you, slamming doors and pausing to listen to the players own sounds, all come together to keep the small hairs on the back of the players neck standing up.

As this is still a game effectively from 1998, I won't dwell much on the story in this review, as that has not been changed notably. Umbrella Corporation is up to its usual shenanigans, through incompetence releasing monsters and viruses and horrors onto the streets of poor old Raccoon City. Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, each with their own draw to the local police station, end up trying to survive the horror and uncover a way to get out of the city in the end.

The clever part of how the game is designed is its dual story. The player can freely choose which protagonist to play as on their first playthrough, and upon completion of that first playthrough, they will unlock an option to play again as the other character, with a slightly expanded experience that takes into account the fact that the player has already beaten the game once before. Little changes in how the map opens up, how puzzles are designed and how the story unfolds, make both playthroughs easily worth the time and effort.

Resident Evil 2 also provides options for playing the game either in a more modern fashion, or with the retro ink-ribbon based save system or even with hardcore options for item storage, forcing the player to roam around the station, facing its dangers, more.

Lastly, and this paragraph may well count as a SPOILER, so skip to the next one if you're deeply concerned by those:
hot-damn this game has done a good job of creating a memorable and terrifying antagonist in the form of a big hulking Mr X: a trenchcoat-wearing mutant crashing through doors and walls alike, turning nearly all of the game into a nerve-wracking game of cat and mouse as the player tries to slip through to their objectives while trying not to come face-to-face with this unkillable monstrocity.

-End of major spoilers-

All in all, I find it surprisingly easy to recommend Resident Evil 2 to both old and new players alike. Capcom has really shown us all, once again, how to build a great remake of an old game, and I have high hopes that they will be able to keep this up with the upcoming Resident Evil 3 remake, as well as potential future releases. Finally we have a proper example, standing up tall among the other "remakes", showing us all exactly how it's supposed to be done!

But seriously, screw that mini-puzzle in the library! And screw that one big guy for constantly getting in my way while I try to move these shelv- AAARGH!

Playtime: 15+ hours (Two playthroughs)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 10
Audio: 9
Story: 7
Gameplay: 9
Overall: 9
Posted February 3, 2020.
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3 people found this review helpful
7.4 hrs on record
"My sanity has gone."

A private investigator. A remote island community with underlying superstitions bubbling to the surface. A mysterious murder-suicide of an eccentric artist.

The elements are all there in the beginning, but the 2018 release of Call of Cthulhu just unravels after the first hour or two.

First and foremost: there is almost no game in Call of Cthulhu. Almost no puzzles to solve, no combat to challenge you, no deductions to be made. The story is set on rails and gets unveiled through clunky dialogue delivered by awkward voice acting and crudely animated talking heads, with the players progression occasionally restricted by a clumsily implemented experience system that never feels like it rewards the player for thinking ahead or being clever, but rather punishes the player for putting arbitrary experience points in the wrong pool at the wrong time.

Like its spiritual predecessor, Dark Corners of the Earth, Call of Cthulhu attempts to invoke Lovecrafts stories of madness and the tabletop games based on them by giving the player a sanity meter. This is, however, massively undermined by the player quite literally prompting the player with "Are you sure you want to open this book" when an optional opportunity to lose sanity and gain occult points is presented. What the player chooses to do with these seems mostly irrelevant, as even with highly conservative play the ending seems to give the player a plain "Do you want to be good or evil" choise at the end, resulting in one of a few cutscenes playing out.

Even the games strong points, the moments of investigating a scene of some crime or occult event, are undermined by the games mechanics. Where the old Dark Corners of the Earth let the player roam and examine things, with the protagonist Jack Walters providing insightful remarks into what was being looked at, the protagonist of Call of Cthulhu (whose name I already forgot, which might be telling in and of itself) regularly just grunts "What is that?" or "What is this?"

Well, with gameplay mechanics and combat and characters thoroughly bashed, what else is there? Music is forgettable and rarely even present ambient. The character models are clumsily and repetitively animated, with vigorous, unnatural arm and hand movements seemingly used to try and hide the general stiffness. The voice acting is of mediocre quality at best, and the output volume seems to jump wildly up and down (mostly down) between scenes, characters and cutscenes. On several occasions I had no idea someone was speaking at all, were it not for the subtitles provided.

The only area I can honestly give kudos to is the environment design. Some of the games areas, especially the mansion explored early on, have a distinctly interesting, lived-in quality that makes them enticing to explore and experience. The grainy, foggy little seaside town of Darkwater feels like an apt locale for a Lovecraftian horror tale.

Pity, however, that everything good in this regard is, once again, lifted wholesale from either the original tale Shadow Over Innsmouth with a few details nabbed from Dark Corners of the Earth.

A child drawing monstrous things that hints at dark secrets ahead? Check.
A venerated statue of a traditional figure defaced? Check.
A secret order working to subvert the town and its people? Check.

No matter which way I look, 2018's Call of Cthulhu just feels like a massive waste of time and potential on part of its developers. It reaches out to shove Dark Corners of the Earth off the pedestal of "the best Lovecraft adaptation in video games", but ends up going insane in the effort, whimpering in some dark, dank asylum as the older game retains its place, and rightfully so.

Next time we do this, maybe let's try going for some other Lovecraft tale than Shadow Over Innsmouth, yes? Maybe go for the story your game is named for: Call of Cthulhu, instead? That might even make more sense!

Playtime: 7+ hours (single playthrough)

Ratings (1-10)
Visual: 8
Audio: 5
Story: 4
Gameplay: 4
Overall: 5
Posted January 31, 2020.
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