A Little Rundown on the Videogame Exhibition at the V&A London

It was with great joy that I heard the Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) in London was holding an exhibition entitled Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, and even though I was fortunate enough to obtain guest tickets, the price for admission is quite reasonable, I feel, at £18.

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I would say book tickets in advance and get there early for sure; this exhibition is a bit outgrown for the space it occupies in terms of how popular it is, and if you leave it until later in the day like we did you will definitely feel like you’re walking around in an eternal queue at first, unable to properly appreciate the work on display.

The exhibition opens up on all the meatiest content first, with an impressive towering screen showing clips from thatgamecompany’s masterpiece Journey accompanied by its breathtaking musical score. An entire wall is then dedicated to displaying the developers’ sketchbooks, research notes and video footage taken on sand dunes, giving a fascinating insight into the thought processes and, well, journey that the game took during its development.

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image © thatgamecompany

Further detailed ‘behind the scenes’ of games being exhibited include, but aren’t limited to, work from Bloodborne, The Last of Us and Splatoon. Also of note is a display from Tale of Tales, a studio that I am a big fan of and whose work I have always found to be extremely thoughtful and well presented. They are most well known for their Red Riding Hood-inspired jaunt through the woods called The Path, and their showcasing of arthouse-worthy game The Graveyard is a brilliant illustration of what they’re all about.

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image © Tale of Tales

Subjects that are most concentrated on in the exhibition are supporting artwork behind the games on display, development of different technical processes such as prototyping through to finished environments and characters, and exploration of videogames as an artform, by acting as a platform on which to make statements on politics, society and the wider world around us.

Further areas to discover are a hall showing off the world of Esports, and an interactive room full of modern arcade cabinets and several experimental games making use of physical objects, one example from Australia being the front half of a real car being used as a controller.

As a finishing touch, the shop at the end of the exhibition has a selection of game memorabiliaclothing, accessories, jewellery, and posters and prints, including signed limited edition Journey prints (if they’re still in stock that is!).

Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt is overall a fascinating snapshot into the world of videogames today, and a brilliant opportunity to see them in a multitude of lights as diverse as the people who make them.

The exhibition is running until 24th February 2019, and more information can be found at vam.ac.uk/videogames. Tickets are £18, or free for members of the V&A.

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I Played Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) And Am Having An Internal Conflict Over Whether It Is Good, Or So-Bad-It’s-Good

A short time ago, I bought a game for around a pound called Fahrenheit in a GOG.com sale. My word, what an experience that was.

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Cover art © Quantic Dream

What is it?

Fahrenheit (known as Indigo Prophecy in North America), released in 2005, was Quantic Dream’s second game after Omikron: Nomad Soul. More recently, they are known for Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human. As with the company’s other titles, It is written and directed by David Cage.

As I’m just discovering now, the version of Fahrenheit available on GOG.com is “uncensored and uncut”, so this whole article applies to that version. It has nudity, blood, sex, all that malarkey.

What’s it about?

New York City: You are Lucas Kane, very much a Regular Joe, who becomes possessed in a diner toilet and murders an innocent stranger. He’s shocked at what he has done when he comes to, and sets out to discover who or what is really behind the murder.

 

 

Conversely, you are also stern-and-smart-but-scared-of-the-dark Carla Valenti and comic-relief-yet-also-sometimes-serious Tyler Myles, two police officers on the case of the diner murder. They must discover evidence to prove who and where the murderer is.

 

On rare occasions, you also assume control of Lucas’ brother Markus Kane, a priest and overall swell chap.

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Depending on what actions you choose and dialogue trees you follow during the game, different outcomes can be observed. However, these all eventually converge to result in the same overall story arc (albeit with three variations on the ending).

An important aspect of the game is the mental health bar (or “mental ‘ealth” as Cage himself tells us during the tutorial). This applies to every main character, and ranges from maxed out at “Neutral” to hitting rock bottom at “Wrecked” which can, but not always, result in a game over.

The mental health bar is affected positively and negatively by certain events, eg. Drinking coffee or using the toilet increases it a little while many main story events will negatively impact it by a large amount.

Is it good?

Hmm! The short answer is yes, and I’d definitely recommend it, even if it is now quite dated. It is, if anything, very interesting to see the origins of a lot of mechanics behind Quantic Dream’s later titles. The long answer though? Read on!

The QTE conundrum

Firstly, I need to point out the Quick Time Events (QTEs). These are rampant in Quantic Dream’s games, and in later titles I actually find them to work quite well in instilling a sense of urgency in tense scenes. In Fahrenheit, however, I found them to often be a hindrance.

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Difficult to learn, easy to master.

They take the form of two simultaneous Simon Says visual cues, where you must push the correct colour that corresponds with the one flashing up on the screen. They’re used not only for action sequences, but also during slow-moving cutscenes in order to unlock extra parts of it. It does get a bit tiresome, but once you get the hang of it it’s generally tolerable.

Mocap madness

Fahrenheit makes extensive use of motion capture technology, which was very ambitious at the time and using the movements of live actors helped to convey Quantic Dream’s intention for the game to be presented as an “interactive movie” rather than a standard “video game”. I commend this, it was a great way to make the game feel more accessible to a wider audience than what was seen by the public as the stereotypical “video game” audience, and an excellent way of presenting a narrative-focused experience. All good. Good job.

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But when you look at Fahrenheit from now in 2019, when technology in games has advanced exponentionally since 2005, the high detail mocap animation applied to low polygon characters and objects looks quite comical at times. I don’t think this necessarily detracts from it; it is a product of its time and we need to appreciate it as such. But it can be pretty funny.

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There are mega spoilers for the story below including the ending, so be warned.

That story, though.

After the murder, Lucas flees to his apartment and tries to resume normal life. He goes to work, but it is clear something is not okay because he starts hallucinating that giant lice are chasing him around the building.

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Of course, his coworkers can’t see them and after the chase it cuts to Lucas writhing around on the office floor with his colleagues wondering what the hell is wrong with him. As am I, lads, I think to myself.

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We alternate between controlling Lucas struggling with evading authorities and trying to find out who the “real” killer is, and Carla and Lucas trying to find him. There’s even a scene where a witness at the diner has to construct an E-fit of Lucas, and it is incredible.

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I really like this aspect of pitting multiple characters under the player’s control against each other. It works well in inciting conflict in the audience over what is right and wrong, and what outcome do you really want. There are successful examples of this being used in Detroit: Become Human, for example (spoiler in the following video link) a decisive fight scene between two opposing protagonists where the player is put on the spot to choose who succeeds.

The thing is, the entire time I was very much rooting for Lucas to get caught.

He kept demonstrating to me how unlikeable he was, be that boasting about how many times he’s read a Nietzsche book, being dickish to his priest brother Markus, oh yeah and KILLING a man at the very beginning.

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I hate you so much, Lucas Kane.

The game just couldn’t prove to me that Lucas was not in fact responsible for the murder no matter how much it tried. I constantly thought, All of this, all these hallucinations and being possessed, it’s all in his head isn’t it? He’s had some kind of mental breakdown and this is the result. I mean, the game does place certain emphasis on mental ‘ealth, after all.

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OH HOW WRONG I WAS

Things started to get weird for me and my sister, who were playing the game together, when we had to endure a scene with Carla avoiding patients in an asylum who get free from their rooms. It’s not often that I feel a deep sense of disturbance playing a game, but the whole time me and my sister kept looking at each other going, what the actual hell is this scene! I suppose the developers felt they needed to inject some drama into the chapter but this sequence was completely unnecessary to everything!

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Okay, I have to admit I had to go back and remind myself of what exactly happened after a certain point, because it just got so completely insane that I don’t think I took it all in when I played it for the first time. I’m not going to run through every single event in the game, but I’ll try and summarise as briefly as possible. Even though it was a struggle to collate everything together into a digestible chunk, the crazy ending is worth it.

Forewarning: it is a bit mad.

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Lucas ends up being the suspect of another murder – that of Agatha, a blind old lady / spiritual medium who helped Lucas find out who possessed him— a man in a hooded coat— by putting him into a trance. He sees Agatha’s spirit and on her advice visits a specialist on Mayan civilisation called Prof. Dimitri Kuriakin.

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After questioning Dimitri under the guise of a journalist, Lucas realises that the murder he committed in the diner, by cutting his victim’s heart arteries (hearteries, heh), was a Mayan sacrifice. Dimitri said that back in the day, a Mayan Oracle would possess another person and perform a human sacrifice through them, disconnecting the victim’s heart by cutting the arteries. Murdering via proxy allowed the Oracle’s soul to remain “pure”, or something. Ergo, the bloke in a hooded coat who possessed Lucas was an Oracle and is the true murderer. Still with me?

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The Mayan Oracle, aka Bloke in Hooded Coat.

Good. *Heaves huge sigh and continues*

Dimitri says that the possessed person then committed suicide after the sacrifice. Lucas didn’t, however. THE PLOT THICKENS.

The Oracle lures Lucas out of hiding by tying his ex-girlfriend Tiffany to a roller coaster in an abandoned theme park. Lucas rushes to her rescue, but ends up getting both of them killed by falling off of the roller coaster (good job).

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Zombie Lucas. Yup.

Lucas is brought back to life as what I will refer to henceforth as Zombie Lucas by a group of AIs called the Purple Clan. The Purple Clan reveal that they were the ones disguising themselves as Agatha’s ghost earlier on.

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An AI from the Purple Clan, who gained sentience via 80s internet networks. No really, that’s their actual backstory.

The entire game so far has been punctuated by seeing homeless blokes around the city. It’s New York, so OK. BUT ACTUALLY it comes to light that the homeless people are part of a secret underground organisation called the Invisibles that is monitoring the Purple Clan, and the clan that the Oracle is a member of which has secretly ruled the world for centuries (the Orange Clan).

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The secret underground hobo spy base.

Both clans are trying to locate a little girl called the Indigo Child, who is a pure soul that has never been incarnated before and holds the secret that will grant whoever hears it immense power. The Invisibles are trying to make sure that the Indigo Child doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Got it?

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The Indigo Child (this isn’t going to look good in court, Lucas.)

SOMEHOW, Lucas manages to convince Carla that all of the above is true. He’s so convincing that she loses all powers of critical thinking and respect for herself and when they’re in the Invisibles’ secret underground base they have unprotected sex on a hobo’s mattress.

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I’m telling the truth, see!

By this point, Tyler (remember him?) has noped the fuck out by either moving out of state with his girlfriend Sam, or staying behind in NYC to help people affected by the freak cold weather (you decide). He is the wisest person in the entire game.

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Tyler doesn’t need any of this.

Lucas, as it turns out, has special power called Chroma which resists the powers of the Oracle. This is why the Oracle was unable to make him kill himself after the murder in the diner. He got this power from being exposed to some magical sciencey artifact in a military base that he lived on when he was a child, while he was still in his mother’s (a scientist at the base) womb.

WE ARE NEARLY THERE.

Lucas kidnaps the Indigo Child girl from an orphanage (actually this happens before the hobo base bit but I’m putting it here for ease of explaining things) and takes her to the military base to learn the secret from her and gain immense power. He then battles the AIs and the Oracle, and depending on your performance during the last chapter of the game you get one of three endings, only one of which we experienced:

We got the “Good” ending, where the freak winter ends and everything is looking rosy, and Zombie Lucas and Carla are expecting a magical Chroma Indigo Baby or something that will save the world. I’ve got to admit I lost the will to live at this point.

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The “good” ending.

It took me a few days to digest all that happened towards the end of Fahrenheit, but eventually I came to some conclusions.

I can’t bring myself to believe that anything after the abandoned theme park scene happened at all. You know the game’s emphasis on mental health? I don’t think it would be too far fetched to say that Lucas was always mentally unstable and imagined all of the supernatural events up until he dragged Tiffany up to the top of the roller coaster HIMSELF. I think that he survived the fall but either completely lost his mind or entered a comatose state, and everything that happens from this point onwards was a completely invented construct by him.

I think that there was no possession in the diner whatsoever. There was no Mayan sacrifice cult, that Lucas warped what the Mayan specialist told him to fit around his own deranged ideas, and above all he was just an unfortunate victim of some sort of psychiatric disorder.

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Markus tells it how it is.

This also makes me feel better about the ending, for both me and my sister were just floored by everything – the underground Hobo organisation, Zombie Lucas, zombie hobo mattress sex with Carla, zombie Indigo child baby with Carla after knowing her for three months … Just, no. I refuse to believe any of that was real. You intended me to feel this way, right, Cage? Right?!

This game is amazing.

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Afterword

My, this was a long one! I thought it was just going to be a quick jaunt about how crazy this game was, but it ended up being full blown therapy for me to work through what the heck it was all about and to get my brain back into alignment really. Thank you for sticking it out to the (insane) end!

Fahrenheit is absolutely a good game in many ways, but there’s definitely a certain badness to it that evokes a similar feeling to certain bad/good movies I’m a fan of— I’m thinking of the works of Tommy Wiseau or Neil Breen, where they take their projects seriously but the end result demonstrates unintentional hilarity. I’d be very interested to find more good-but-possibly-bad games to add to my collection!

As a final-final little thing, on my travels I discovered this fascinating blog post from back in 2010 by unseen64.net which showcases beta images from Fahrenheit.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is About a Superhero. And it’s the Saddest Free Game I’ve Ever Played

Before I start, I want to iterate that Captain Spirit is a free stand-alone chapter set within the Life is Strange universe, and as with any narrative-rich game, is best experienced firsthand before reading about it! If you want to continue, story-related spoilers lie ahead …

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Welcome to the world of Chris Eriksen, the 9-year-old protagonist of this miniventure. The setting: It’s Saturday morning, and he can do whatever he likes! The Playbox console isn’t working (Dad said he’d fix it… yeah right), but that doesn’t matter because he, *~Captain Spirit~*, has a world to save.

But first he needs to finish his costume.

The element of choice, as with the original Life is Strange, is once again prevalent in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. From the get-go we can choose what Captain Spirit’s appearance will be like—mask or helmet? Light or heavy armour? Are his team colours dark or bright?

The henshin sequence where Chris transforms into his full CS garb is particularly good at outlining how powerful childhood imagination can be, complete with scribbly explosions and an awesome theme tune, before throwing us straight back into his mundane garage. This is personally my favourite part!

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Wooo cosplay!

Captain Spirit can do anything, and here is where the tale takes a bit of a sad turn. Two years prior to this fine Saturday morning on which Captain Spirit is given life, Chris’s mother was killed in a hit and run incident, leaving his father, Charles, a widower and alone raising his son.

Needless to say, it has been hard for both of them. It is apparent that Charles’ drinking has become more out of hand as time has gone on, and Chris ends up suffering for it both physically and mentally. Through Captain Spirit, it is clear that Chris is projecting his feelings surrounding the loss of his mother where he is unable to elsewhere; his “super powers” allowing him to right the wrongs that occur (one example: being able to choose to stop a hit and run using a toy shark car and a doll).

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But you start to question: is it all make-believe? Or is there really something more to his superhero games?

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a brilliantly built little package which I thoroughly enjoyed exploring, and a superb addition to the Life is Strange universe. I look forward to the next installment of the series and how, as this demo self-proclaims, the return of Chris and his choices made within this chapter will come into play.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is free to download on PS4, Xbox One and Steam. As of writing, Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 is now also available, which is exciting!

Two Point Hospital, from a Theme Hospital Veteran’s Perspective

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From the moment I first heard about Two Point Hospital during its E3 presentation, my heart leapt with joy.

Let’s backup a little bit to give some context:

A long time ago in 1997, a little game called Theme Hospital was released on the PC by Bullfrog Productions. The premise was simple: build and maintain your own private hospital, improve your reputation, cure as many people as possible and make as much money as possible to become the best hospital around.

It received worldwide critical acclaim , and a somewhat cult following has continued to enjoy it to this day thanks to mods such as CorsixTH. When I think about it, Theme Hospital has been a part of my gaming life on and off for over 20 years!

What has made it such a tough runner for so long is its brilliant mix of being easy to learn, difficult to master, as well as being unpredictable and hilarious with its wacky fictional diseases, natural disasters, emergencies to deal with, rats to shoot … ahhh, so good.

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I’m unsure of the original source of this image, but it sums up TH nicely.

Now its spiritual successor Two Point Hospital has been released, and—although I have only played for a short time so far—it is definitely a match for, and perhaps may even surpass in many ways, its master.

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Firstly, it looks gorgeous. The art style is adorably cartoonish and yet realistic enough to make me believe it can be set in some mid-Atlantic county (both this and Theme Hospital have this interesting hybrid American/British culture going on in them). It shares a lot of design points with the previous game, such as nearly identical character designs and colour palette, and yet at the same time developing upon them to appear more contemporary and refined.

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May the Soylent Breen Foundation live long and prosper.

With regards to the controls, initially I had to keep reminding myself that, no, this isn’t Theme Hospital mechanics-wise. The muscle memory and conscious areas of my brain were fighting for dominance as I tried to learn the ropes of the game, to the point where I ended up customising the control options to reflect Theme Hospital‘s a bit more (I am so grateful you can do this, seriously cheers).

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Hmmm, it’s getting a bit busy around here. Pantastic.

From the offset, the original’s dry humour is apparent in Two Point Hospital. There is an opening pre-rendered video, much in the style of Bullfrog’s old games, where a slick doctor/possible salesman introduces us to our new world of running hospitals, and how great it is at Two Point (while fires burn everything in the background and the ghosts of all the dead patients haunt the corridors).

The introductory tutorial is simple and succinct. It has us place the basics of a small health centre—reception desk, GP’s office, pharmacy, as well as introducing us to the basic functions of the customer assistant, doctor, nurse, and janitor. Everything else you will come to know builds upon these basics, and the whole tutorial is pretty much identical to that in Theme Hospital, which is a good sign that more advanced methods of play will be introduced equally well.

Playing further, every new menu/game function etc. that you encounter is accompanied by a short pop up description box detailing the essentials about it, along with a tip or two. Small and often while you’re playing is the best way to learn!

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Here are a few more points I noted while I played:

  • There are some great management tools for overseeing staff, patients, and which diseases you can treat;
  • This might be a moot point for anyone but me, but I love that unlike in Theme Hospital, this time all staff and patients can be male or female;
  • Rooms can be made to any shape, within a grid, as long as it’s big enough for its function. It doesn’t restrict you to purely square and rectangle rooms;
  • The Awards Ceremony event is a great incentive to better your playing methods;
  • You can engage Steam friends in online challenges where you compete to reach goals before each other. Theme Hospital had a similar function over LAN, but as with here was always lacking a true multiplayer option. It would be interesting to be able to play with others on the same map, vying for control over the hospitals dotted across it and trying to out-cure/out-moneymake each other. Perhaps send an undercover patient into your rival’s hospital to sabotage?
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One day I shall win Janitor of the Year, by gum!

In Summary

For both veterans of Theme Hospital and newcomers to Two Point Hospital, I feel as though this game would be very easy to pick up and learn how to play. As opposed to being a pure sequel to the former, Two Point is more like a re-imagining of the same idea, with a bunch of added extras. Plus, it is a blinkin’ lorry/ambulanceload o’ fun!

So suspend all expectations, and just go wherever the hospital bed may take you.

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Even if it flings you off into the unknown, like what happened to poor Dr. Solomon here when I edited the room she was in

Two Point Hospital is out now on Steam. Go go!

If you’re so inclined, I’ve just noticed that Theme Hospital is 99p on GOG.com at the moment! Worth a punt? You can always use CorsixTH to run it in HD …

Yes, Forgotton Anne is Like Being in a Side-Scrolling Studio Ghibli Film. It’s Also Pretty Great.

I played a curious and very charming game recently.

That game was Forgotton Anne, developed by indie studio Throughline Games and published by Square Enix collective in May 2018, for Steam (PC/Mac), PS4 and Xbox One.

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I remember seeing it being shown at EGX last year, and it piqued my interest but I was unable to go and give the stand a proper visit due to needing to go elsewhere and queue (and those queues can get very long!) I have a feeling that seeing it in an exposition environment wouldn’t have done it proper justice, anyway, as it often the case with quieter and heavily story-driven games at gaming shows.

As it turns out, I added it to my Steam watchlist afterwards, then forgot about it for a good while (ha!) before receiving it as a gift for my birthday at the end of July.

To my astonishment, it doesn’t seem to have a lot of feedback from the public online (at the time of writing). There are only a handful of ratings and reviews on Steam and PSN (with the US PSN having even less), which is shocking for a game of this quality. YouTube has a fair few review/playthrough videos, however, and the feedback the game has had are generally very positive.

I have a feeling that this low uptake is in no small part due to poor marketing on behalf of Square Enix, because from my first-hand experience this game is definitely deserving of much more praise.

It seems that Anne really has been forgotten.

So, I’m going to contribute by doing my best to give a fair review based on what I have personally experienced of the game!

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Oops, sorry mate!

What is it?

Forgotton Anne is an adventure/platforming game with puzzle elements where you assume the role of the protagonist, Anne, who lives in a fantastical city in another realm where everything that goes missing from our world ends up, and lives as a sentient being. Lost a sock in the wash? It’s probably one of Anne’s neighbours.

After the power goes out and Anne sets out to turn it back on, events start snowballing as she begins to uncover mysteries surrounding the city she calls home, and her own existence.

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Things I like

1) Wearing its influences on its sleeve, the art style is reminiscent of the work of Studio Ghibli, incorporated into a side-scrolling adventure/platformer.

2) The cutscenes are well spaced, and the cinematography further enforces the feel of being part of a Ghibli-style film.

3) The animation quality is outstanding. I appreciated all of the details, such as Anne’s skirt animation while running up and down stairs, and when she is climbing and jumping the action really feels like it has weight to it. All of the supporting characters have had equal attention paid to their unique animations also.

4) The voice acting is remarkably good and made me believe in the plights of the characters with the actors’ excellent portrayals of the emotions involved.

5) Character development is undertaken well, it doesn’t feel rushed and relationships between characters are believable and don’t appear forced.

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6) Being able to choose dialogue options gives more dimensions to the characters’ emotions and personalities portrayed through the story, although in the long run the story often goes in the same direction no matter what choice you make. However, your choices can reveal several wildly different dialogue paths in the long run, resulting in different unlockables at the end of the story. Having only completed it once, I have the need to go back and see what I can do differently to see the other dialogue trees, so it has a fair bit of replay value in that respect.

7) There is a certain element of exploration encouraged throughout the game, and discovering new secrets that reveal deeper levels of the story is an exciting incentive.

8) The story is twisty, turny, and unpredictable enough to surprise me several times and keep me invested in it to the end.

9) There are some great moments that put a smile on my face, both comedic and heart warming.

10) The character Mr. Fig. Need I say more?

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Seriously, he’s the best.

Things I didn’t like

1) I’m not sure if I feel comfortable spelling “forgotten” as “forgotton”. I know this is a really minor issue and correct me if I’m Englishing wrong, but it just looks wrong to me!

2) There is one particular point in the game where it isn’t entirely clear what you need to do. I don’t want to get to spoilerific but it involves a white room in a dreamlike sequence, where you can’t see a lot of detail and it is very easy to miss one of the many items you need to interact with in order to continue the story. Cue retracing your steps and tearing your hair out.

3) You cannot skip in-game cutscenes. A pain if you’re trying to unlock everything in the endgame, or if you need to replay a section more than once for any other reason (i.e. if you want to witness a different dialogue path!) Being able to skip the cutscenes would prevent them from becoming stale, so enhancing the player experience not only now but in the future if you want to play the game through properly again without skipping anything.

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Yes, Anne, I feel the same after seeing this scene about six times.

In summary, I loved playing through Forgotton Anne. It became something I looked forward to at the end of a long day, and gave me a rewarding experience in every play session. Now that I have completed it once, I want to get right back to uncovering the remaining dialogue that I didn’t yet hear, although I might wait a little while before doing so in order to make it feel fresher when I replay it.

Definitely give this one a go if you are a Studio Ghibli fan and enjoy some light platforming and puzzling, as well as a jolly good storyline full of heart and a whole host of lovable, quirktacular characters!

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The Witcher — No I Will Not Kill Stray Dogs!

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I have been delving into my gaming backlog recently, and decided that it was a riple old time to start finally playing The Witcher (2007).

I had no idea what to expect from this series, but even though the first game is now quite dated, I find the mixture of point and click and action-oriented battle interfaces refreshing at the best of times (mildly irritating at the worst so far!). The story is intriguing and often philosophical in nature, and I feel like I am just starting to get into it properly.

I’ve managed to get to Chapter II so far, which has me running around town trying to solve a murder mystery, P.I. style. As well as the main story quest chains, you can also initiate and follow side quests by interacting with certain characters in the world. One of these is a request by the gravedigger to cull off stray dogs and collect lard from them.

Nah, man.

I’ll make Geralt of Rivia do many questionable things for money, but ending the virtual lives of innocent 3D models shaped like dogs? Got to draw a line there, mate!

This got me thinking: pets, especially dogs, are a sore point for western culture in general when it comes to killing them off in media. A quick jaunt online reveals that I’m not alone in my discomfort with this quest. It picks at a raw nerve that many have, and despite not being real dogs and real killing thereof, leaves me with a moral quandary. And this reflects itself in the actions I make Geralt take to solve it.

After avoiding the quest for as long as I could, I happened upon a way around obtaining the dog lard which didn’t involve killing dogs. This was to raid houses on the off-chance there will be some in a container, or kill members of the Salamandra criminal group who attack you in the streets at night, and there is a miniscule chance they will drop a jugful when they die. It’s a slow process, and I have just one more jug of lard to get but it’s taking forever … I could just … but no, Fido, I will not resort to … I can’t bring myself to do it!

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Give me your dog lard, you scoundrel!

Afterthought: This solution to the dog lard quest also, in a way, reflects the neutral personality of Geralt as I see it to be. As I play the game and am presented with one moral dilemma after the other, I make Geralt take the most neutral way out of it as possible, while still solving the problems presented.

By not killing the dogs, Geralt maintains his moral position regarding being the killer of only monsters, and upon this I am imprinting my own position of not killing innocent animals where they pose no threat. However, he also solves the initial problem by obtaining the required item for the quest giver, thereby making everyone happy. Including me!

5 Games That Got Me Hyped During E3 2018

While E3 was going on last week, I was delirious with a fever and confined to bed rest, without the energy even to go on online and watch the conferences as they were shown!

On Saturday, even though I was still nursing this summer cold I managed to sit down and catch up with all of them apart from Nintendo, which I’m watching as I write this just in case there’s anything that happens to catch my eye.

So, with out further ado, here I’m going to list five games shown over the course of E3 that got me hyped! Get your bottoms ready:

 

1.  Beyond Good and Evil 2 (Ubisoft, release date TBC, platforms TBC)

I picked up the first game on a whim several years ago and within minutes I was captivated. There was a brilliant mix of well-crafted battles, stealth puzzles and a gripping storyline following the adventures of a young journalist, Jade, and her best friend/father figure Pey’j, who happens to be a giant pig. It was a beautiful title that left a lasting impression on me for years. Needless to say, ever since the open world prequel (yes, it’s a prequel, despite the title currently being “2”) was announced I was VERY EXCITED.

The trailer at this year’s E3 featured Pey’j, and we see him exclaim “Jade?!” when he sees a shadowy figure emerge from the darkness of an enemy ship, who happens to look a lot like Jade indeed. I am unsure as to how far in the past from the first game this one is set, as I have heard it to be “a few generations”, but I’m sure all will be revealed in time (preferably when I play it)!

So far, we know that as well as being set in the past, this title will have players create their own unique character as opposed to playing as anyone from the previous title. It won’t be released for a while yet, but I for one can’t wait to create my bottom-of-the-social-ladder alien pleb and get stuck in.

That reminds me; I have an untouched copy of Beyond Good and Evil HD installed on my PC…

 

2.  Kingdom Hearts III (Square Enix, releasing 29th January 2019, PS4/Xbox One)

Kingdom hearts III finally has a release date! As to whether it is honoured is yet to be seen, but what’s a few days/months on … over 12 years *cough* … Ahh, it’s not been all bad, I’ve enjoyed most of the interim games (Birth by Sleep is possibly my favourite title of the entire series).

I’m not going to write a whole lot about this one, other than I’m very much enjoying the visuals of the new footage shown at E3 and can’t wait to play!

 

3.  Two Point Hospital (Two Point Studios, release date TBC, PC)

When the trailer for Two Point Hospital was shown, I instantly thought of Bullfrog’s Theme Hospital (1997), and discussion of the game afterwards continually mentions it. Now, I still play Theme Hospital to this day (CorsixTH, anyone?) and having not heard of Two Point’s game before, I immediately sat up and took notice.

I have seen attempts at creating hospital games in a similar format to Theme Hospital on occasion, but never has anything projected the same energy that the original did. It seems running a hospital isn’t exactly a fun experience on paper (or screen?). Two things that Theme Hospital did brilliantly, and really made it shine, were the dry British humourmanifesting in fictional diseases and curesand the art style, which was quirky and cartoon-like, but at the same time avoids being childish.

I have since discovered that Two point Hospital is being worked on by some of the original creators of Theme Hospital and is in fact considered to be a spiritual successor, which has given me the “Of course!” moment of why this is making me pay a lot more attention than similar hospital-themed games in recent years. I have a lot of faith in the creators to do a great job based on both this, and on what I witnessed of the gameplay during E3 and on Steam.

And the monobrow infestation weirdly creeps me out!

You can visit Two Point Hospital’s official website at www.twopointhospital.com

 

4.  Sable (Shedworks/Raw Fury, releasing 2019, Xbox One)

One of the titles revealed by indie publisher Raw Fury was Sable, a Journey-esque non-combat exploration game set in a desolate desert world populated by bones, ancient ruins and fallen spaceships.

I’m very much drawn to the art style of this game, which is inspired by “the clear line style of French and Belgian comics”, and also Japanese animation such as those created by Studio Ghibli. I think it looks absolutely gorgeous and am intrigued by the premise of exploring this world to learn all about it.

The soundtrack is being crafted by the band Japanese Breakfast, and judging by the trailer it compliments the visual style perfectly.

Sable‘s official site: www.shed-works.co.uk (special mention to their excellent “About” page, which aptly states “We are shedworks. we work in a shed”).

 

5.  Sea of Solitude (Jo-Mei Games/EA Originals, releasing early 2019, PS4/Xbox One/PC)

When creative director Cornelia Geppert was opening her heart to the E3 audience about her real life experiences informing the story of this game, I must admit it brought a jolt to mine.

Sea of Solitude explores the raw feelings behind loneliness, anxiety, and a whole host of negativity which one experiences during the darkest times of their lives, and manifests them as a world in which they take physical form. The protagonist has been overcome by such thoughts, and it has literally turned her monstrous. The game will follow her journey back from that dark place, to find what it is that will make her human again. I’m getting tearful from all of these metaphors. This will be a title to keep an eye on, definitely!

Jo-Mei’s official site: jo-mei.com

 

So many games…

This was just five of the games that particularly grabbed my attention during E3, but there were so many that I didn’t mention here which looked incredible and that I will be following the progress of. I mentioned a fair few smaller-name indie titles in this post, but there were also some other AAA titles, such as The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog) and Death Stranding (Kojima Productions), which look like they are going to deliver outstanding gameplay and narrative experiences.

So many games, so little time!