Closing Thoughts – Saints Row IV: Re-Elected

It’s a rare treat when I can make the time to replay a game I’ve already finished. It’s even rarer that I return to a game like Saints Row IV, which at release, I completed 100% and earned all of the Xbox 360 achievements. Somewhere along the line my opinion of SRIV soured a bit — perhaps because of its admitted rough edges — but returning to it on PS4, with barely a graphical upgrade to justify the replay, I found myself having a blast with it. Yes, the game is glitchy beyond the intentional glitches in its Matrix-style simulation world. Yes, you can find moments where the awesome super powers feel hastily bolted onto the existing Saints Row 3 engine. And yes, some of the mission design is a little half-assed. That said, the adventures of my personalized boss and his crew are as charming as ever. Even better, SRIV might have one of the most satisfying open world gameplay loops and traversal mechanics in the genre — even a second time around.

4/5

Closing Thoughts are reviews-in-brief, meant for games I play that are either too old or too small to write a full review for. That, or it’s the only part you would have read in a full review anyway. The world may never know.

The Undying Allure of Gaming’s All-story

In the rush to assess Battlefield: Hardline’s depiction of police in our modern state, little has been done to examine the game on its own terms — as a video game among other video games. That’s not exactly a surprise, but it’s a bit disappointing. For whatever damage Hardline’s nonsense take on police work may, or may not (probably will not) cause, I fear it’s the overlying narrative that’s far more damaging to this medium.

What follows are spoilers for the end of Battlefield: Hardline’s campaign and Dead Space 3… Continue reading The Undying Allure of Gaming’s All-story

It Follows – Film Review

The creature at the heart of It Follows is a testament to the power of a well-realized terror. The rules are established early on — passed along through sex, the creature can assume the form of anyone, and it will follow you relentlessly until it gets close enough to kill. It’s also invisible to everyone else, making it difficult for even the most understanding of friends to believe or even help. It’s that Terminator-like relentlessness combined with the isolation of an invisible killer that makes for a potent cocktail of horror. Continue reading It Follows – Film Review

Titan Souls – Game Review

Titan Souls fails to understand the games it is inspired by — namely, Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus.

With a focus on high stakes, one-hit kills on both sides of its series of boss fights, Titan Souls offers a steep challenge, but it isn’t the kind of challenge that makes the “Souls” games so beloved. In Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1 & 2, and Bloodborne, the challenge is in learning from mistakes and executing on those lessons to achieve success.

It’s rare that you will learn anything while playing Titan Souls. Continue reading Titan Souls – Game Review

Closing Thoughts – Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest sits at the edge of perfection, looking out at a small gathering of “instant classic” games before choosing to stubbornly sit in place, leaving me with the thankless job of criticizing its one pervasive flaw. Combining the hardcore platforming of Super Meat Boy with the non-linear exploration of Metroid, Ori’s unique abilities are not only useful for both the platforming and exploration, but remain engaging throughout a perfectly-paced, 6-to-8-hour experience. The visuals are jaw-dropping, providing an alternate reality where 3D games were never invented, where developers just iterated on the lessons of the 16-bit era. But those visuals are also Ori’s worst enemy, as the richness of the environment leads to confusion and unfair, unwanted deaths. A foreground threat may look like an innocent background bit of ambiance, and vice-versa. Meanwhile, what should be fast and precise combat is made into mindless button-mashing by visual noise that obscures the action. Behind the flash is a brilliant, must-play game with a story that punched me in the gut more than I’d like to admit, but that one flaw keeps it just short of the highest possible recommendation.

It’s still a 5/5, though

Closing Thoughts are reviews-in-brief, meant for games I play that are either too old or too small to write a full review for. That, or it’s the only part you would have read in a full review anyway. The world may never know.

Closing Thoughts – Ryse: Son of Rome

Coming hot off of my playthrough of The Order: 1886, Ryse is an odd beast to play now. It’s hard to imagine a more cynical showpiece game than The Order, and the reception for Ryse back in 2013 left me expecting a similar experience. Needless to say, I was surprised to find a game largely devoid of pure QTE sequences, with a combat system that tries something new and very nearly succeeds. The end result is an imperfect spectacle that looks amazing, plays decently, and feels like an odd amalgam of character action games and a Call of Duty-campaign.

3/5

Closing Thoughts are reviews-in-brief, meant for games I play that are either too old or too small to write a full review for. That, or it’s the only part you would have read in a full review anyway. The world may never know.

Closing Thoughts – Costume Quest 2

This sequel’s time-travel plot starts on uneven ground, but the experience quickly coalesces into something more enjoyable than the first game. Costume Quest 2 is a Western take on JRPG tropes, and unfortunately, like the first game, it can’t quite keep those tropes entertaining throughout the entire game. While I found the costumes and kids adorable, and the story endearing, I once again found it a bit hard to praise a 7-hour RPG that overstays its welcome. When a game like Persona 3/4 can keep it’s turn-based battles engaging for dozens of hours, it’s easy to see that Costume Quest 2 falls short.

3/5

Closing Thoughts are reviews-in-brief, meant for games I play that are either too old or too small to write a full review for. That, or it’s the only part you would have read in a full review anyway. The world may never know.

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