June 28, 2022

Quick thoughts on West Hunt


A more formal review is coming eventually, but I wanted to get some thoughts down on West Hunt, the game I’ve been playing this past weekend.

I totally dig the look of West Hunt. The voxel art fits the game perfectly. The gameplay for West Hunt is easy to understand. The social deduction game isn’t a very social affair though. As a sheriff you need to look out for the bandits. As a bandit you have a list of tasks to complete. If you can complete the tasks before the sheriff finds you out you win, otherwise the sheriff does.

The gameplay loop is simple, but effective. As the sheriff you really have to be on the lookout for misdeeds. As a bandit you have a long laundry list of tasks to complete, but also attempt to look like an npc. The game gets intense the further into a round you get. When I only have one or two more tasks to complete is when the game truly gets interesting. As the sheriff this is when I begin to really worry.

All of the good feelings I get from West Hunt are undone by the matchmaking. There seems to be little to no player base. Anytime I try to enter into a 2v2 matchmaking game I have sat on the waiting screen for over ten minutes before giving up. I’ve had better luck with the 1v1 mode.

Right now West Hunt also feels very one-sided. The game seems designed for the sheriff side to come out on top. The laundry list of tasks for bandits is so long that I feel that I mess up at some point, making it easy for the sheriff to realize I’m the bandit.

I'm looking forward to trying West Hunt out with a full group of 4, hoping that this can become a go to party game for my online friends. 

The podcast episode for West Hunt comes out on July 19, giving me plenty of time to get more games in and see how I really feel after more than just a couple of hours.

June 22, 2022

Blake: The Visual Novel

Blake: The Visual Novel
is developed by Ori Mees and published by LegendOri Productions. It was released in September 2021 on Steam (PC Windows and Mac), and at the time of my review it has a Positive rating by reviewers on that platform, with a Metascore of 83.

I’m generally not a fan of visual novel games. I love to read, my go-to genres are fantasy, sci-fi, and thrillers. I also grew up reading comic books. I’m a huge proponent of story-rich games, but I prefer good gameplay to reading straight through a “game” with the illusion of choice. When this game fell into my lap(top), I admit that I rolled my eyes a bit at the notion of needing to slog through this type of game. Then I read a bit about the game, and the few non-spoiler reviews I checked out piqued my interest a bit. Few ratings in general, but almost all of them were positive. I rolled up my sleeves and stepped onto the ledge.

Blake: The Visual Novel is a story about a guy (named *gasp!* Blake) who works at a tech company in the unforeseeable future who gets thrown into a few strange situations beyond his control, seemingly related to a streaming serial killer. He has a recurring dream of standing on a ledge, and has more than a few dream-like incidents happen to him through the course of this story. He is surrounded by an enjoyable supporting cast that I found myself wanting to know a little more about as the story progressed. Some of them were fleshed out, others were left a bit more mysterious throughout the story. As with most visual novels there is the occasional fork in the flow of the story where you get to choose a path, or answer questions posed by those characters.

The art in Blake was reminiscent of a comic book, without all the panels. When a character is speaking, there are one to two different poses for them that show up in the game. Occasionally there is a panel that cuts in to show a milestone in the story, but then it goes back to the standard background and character layout. No cut scenes, no voice acting. It’s simple, but it works. The setting is in the future, and there are times where you forget that until they mention how things are slightly different in their world or if you look at the types of tech in their workroom.

The music is hypnotic and repetitive, but fits the narrative. No additional sound effects to speak of and no voice acting to criticize or praise. The focus of the game is the story.

The story is well done and was a great start, but I was disappointed at the open-endedness (is that a word?) of most of the revelations. I’m usually good at predicting twists or storylines, and I even got some of it right by the end. I’m hoping there will be more to this narrative with future iterations. I did find myself saving periodically so I could go back and make other choices throughout, especially near the end. Some choices caused a branching narrative and affected future choices and some simply were there to initiate a scene or mini game that was skippable by choosing the other path. I’m still determined to earn the right to pet Marv, but I haven’t succeeded yet!

It took me a little under 2 hours to finish this game, including going back and re-doing a few choices. Having finished this game, I’m still not a fan of visual novels, but I do find myself thinking back to this story afterwards. If developer Ori Mees brought out a sequel, I would gladly check it out to see what happens next and if my predictions are true in the long run.

Blake: The Visual Novel is worth a shot, for a discounted price. If you come into this game ready to read a neo-noir futuristic mystery with the occasional branching narrative, you’ll enjoy yourself if the setting appeals to you. If you’re expecting gameplay full voice acting, cut scenes, and action packed story sequences look elsewhere. I’ll play through it one more time and see if I can win the mini game and finally pet the damn dog.

Final Score: 7/10

I'm giving Blake: The Visual Novel a seven out of ten, mostly because of how short and open-ended it is. It's hard for me to score a game higher than that with limited-to-no gameplay, despite all the elements it does well in such a short run-time. I'm not a huge connoisseur of visual novel games, and Blake hasn't changed my opinions in the genre as a whole, but it was a good start to a hopefully longer running series with more innovation in the next iterations.

June 21, 2022

I can't believe I missed out on Limbo


I’m late to the Limbo party. Like, really late. I’ve played a handful of Limbo style games, some that are even inspired by Limbo. Because I was late to a game that everyone rants and raves about I was a bit hesitant to give it a go. What if the game doesn’t live up to the pedestal I’ve placed it on?

Luckily I didn’t have to worry for very long, as I fell in love with Limbo right away. The aesthetic, the puzzles, all of it. I was easily sucked into the game, almost instantly. At first I wanted to know more about the world I was playing in. Who were these people that were chasing after me, what’s up with the people hanging themselves in the background? I love how quickly the respawning is, how the load up system works, how simple the look is, unclogged. To make a game so compelling that only uses a joystick and two buttons is no small feat. The lack of sound and music suits the game well. Overall the whole atmosphere is fantastic.

That being said, I did find the lack of overall story or any real progression of what is going on to be a big letdown. It doesn’t help that the creator doesn’t really want to talk about the plot of Limbo. He’s gone on record as saying he’s disappointed so many people have come close to figuring out the plot that he wishes he had made it more vague than it already is.

Some puzzles just flat out suck. Early on I had problems with my first encounter with the spider. I understood what the game wanted me to do, but for some reason I just couldn’t move correctly. The second really frustrating issue I had involved two boxes needing to be stacked, moved, climbed onto, and then jump to a platform before a chainsaw cut the boxes. It needed pinpoint accuracy that I was unable to do. But dying in general did not bother me. The reloading was fast, and on top of that you would reload without having to trek all the way back to your body.

Overall both Chris and I recommend playing this game. At the time you could play it through Game Pass, it has since been taken off. I think it is still worth picking up at the $10 price point. If you can find it for under that and you are even a little curious I would suggest grabbing Limbo.

June 14, 2022

Apex Legends Mobile


Apex Legends Mobile released May 17, 2022, for iOS and Android is a first/third person shooter in the battle royal genre. Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. The game follows the same format as its big budget counterpart that has been released on multiple consoles and PC.  The difference? It's on a touch screen.

Even though the game feels familiar, especially if you sync a controller up to your phone to make it easier to play. There are still some major flaws with this version. Apex Legends Mobile  isn't optimized very well, when you get into later matches (ones without or less bots) you can tell a noticeable difference in the performance and lag. The popups for each event, battle pass, or deals gets tiresome. On the plus side the main menu is less cluttered than other games in the same genre, sadly that probably won't last as the game is still a fresh release.

I feel as though Respawn is late to the party with this game. All of the other big name battle royals have mobile versions and most have been out way longer. PubG Mobile dropped in 2018, Call of Duty in 2019, and even though it was pulled from both Google play and iOS store's Fortnite also came to mobile before Apex.

At the time of writing there are 11 playable characters (Loba not pictured) with one exclusive to mobile, Fade. Nine of the characters at launch are obtainable by playing the game, Fade is obtainable by reaching level 28 of the season one battle pass. Otherwise, they can be purchased with the in-game currency. Most other transactions are cosmetic or upgrading the battle pass just like it's console/PC counterpart.

As far as how I feel about the game, overall Apex Legends Mobile plays well, for the most part. It feels like Apex, but I felt like I had an advantage by using my controller. I ended up with a 17 KDA after playing for a solid two weeks. That is unheard of from me, ask anyone who has played a battle royale with me. The genre is played out and I think that the late release of this game may end up hurting it in the long run. I want to rate it low just because I'm sick of all the battle royals, but it's Apex. One of the best BR's that has been made. It's paved the way for mechanics in other BRs, even when some of them came before. So I'm going to give the game a 7. It's better than other BRs I've played and if they can get the lag optimization under control it'll be a solid game to play just like it's console counterpart.

Listen to our full episode on your favorite podcasting app or on our YouTube channel.

June 10, 2022

Rocket League Sideswipe


Rocket League Sideswipe developed and published by Psyonix on November 29, 2021 available on Andriod and iOS. Rocket League Sideswipe is a R/C car sports game that mimics concepts from multiple ball based sports games including soccer (EU football), basketball, volleyball and tennis, depending on the game mode. Based off the original Rocket League concept where you drive your R/C car to dribble and bump the ball into the opponent's goal, and use rocket boosters on the back of the car to propel yourself though the air while balancing the ball to accomplish scoring points. Unlike the original game which was 3D, Rocket League Sideswipe is a 2D side view of the field with only the ability to go side to side and up and down on the play field. 

Despite the differences in game play Rocket League Sideswipe stays true to the original concept. The game feels similar enough for anyone transitioning from PC or console will not have a hard time adapting; especially if they are already a master of the original's mechanics. This version is far easier to control and I felt that even my small brain was able to comprehend enough that I didn't feel dwarfed in skill to other players.

At the time of our review there was no paywall for the game. Cosmetics were all earned through playing and the store's in-game-currency could only be gained from actually playing. We struggled to understand why there were no in game transactions. We concluded that Rocket League Sideswipe is a gateway to Rocket League proper, perhaps targeting those who haven't played before. 

Overall the game is well polished, with various styles of game play. They do rotate game modes to include different variations to keep things fresh. When we started playing Rocket League Sideswipe included in the standard 1v1 and 2v2 modes, as well as a basketball variation. However, halfway through our playtime with the game the basketball mode switched to volleyball. It was fun to play though after we completed our review of the game. I wasn't really drawn back into the game like I was for the original Rocket League. Because of that I give Rocket League Sideswipe an 8.5.

Listen to our episode on our YouTube channel or wherever you listen to your podcasts.