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!

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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!

How I Fell in Love With NieR

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Source: zerochan.net Artist unknown.

In early April of this year (2018), I was aware of the game series called NieR, had heard of its popularity and acclaim but knew nothing else about it.  Fast-forward to June and I am now a devout worshipper. There are probably many others who are currently in the same mind about it as I was two months ago (ie. never really thought about it), but who would love it as I do if they got into it. So, below I am going to try and list what exactly made me turn, in some sort of chronological order. How did I become a NieR convert?

1. I watched a playthrough of Drakengard

Drakengard is the game series that NieR is a spin-off of, and by pure chance I happened to watch a playthrough of the first game towards the end of April. It started off quite tame, if a little dark. However, once I had witnessed the final alternate ending (the one which is canon for the beginning of NieR), and had gotten over my flabbergastedness over it, I felt as though I had sampled something special and wanted more.

2. I familiarised myself with NieR: Replicant

Following on from Drakengard, I started watching a playthrough of the first NieR game, as I am a little late to the party and it is now very difficult to get a hold of a copy. There are two versions of this game (bear with me); Replicant, which is a Japan-only PS3 release, and Gestalt, which was released on Xbox 360 in Japan and released in the west as simply NieR, on both PS3 and Xbox 360. The two games are identical story-wise, apart from the main character of Replicant being a teenage boy/young man and in Gestalt he is a middle-aged man.

‘This all sounds very confusing!’ I hear you cry.

Again, bear with me. Because of the nature of how the narratives Drakengard and NieR are structured, they deal with multiple endings and simultaneous realities. Gestalt and Replicant are both equally valid in their interpretation of the main character of the game, because in my opinion they should be looked at as simultaneous, alternate realities of each other.

The main character “Nier” in Replicant is the older brother of the young girl character called “Yonah”, whereas in Gestalt he is her father. This alters the relationship dynamic between them in subtle yet significant ways between the two versions, and also gives a different point of view to the player of certain story elements.

The main point I noted was in the tragedy of the main plot point; trying to save Yonah from the deadly disease she has. “Father” Nier gives the aura of being physically strong and capable of protecting the people he cares about, and obviously Yonah’s protector as  her dad, yet is powerless against the disease that is attacking her from the inside. You can pretty much feel his failure, and it’s bloody painful.

“Brother” Nier is just a child himself in the beginning of the game, and is having to cope with the burden of finding ways to survive for both of them in the absence of parents, along with locating a cure for Yonah. In this manner, Brother Nier and Yonah have a more equal relationship, as even though Nier still plays a protective role it isn’t laid out as obviously to the player as it is with hulking Papa Nier. This results in the feeling of a different sort of tragedy, as young Nier’s powerlessness is like a constant barrage coming at him from all directions.

I chose to watch a playthrough of an unofficial translation of Replicant mainly because it is the version I would never be able to playbeing in Japanese, a language I don’t speak, and never being released in the west. And if I ever do get a hold of Gestalt, it’ll at least be partly a new experience.

You can watch the playthrough I saw here. Note, however, that it is patched with the English script. It has been tweeked a bit, but you have to use your imagination in several places to change references of Yonah/Nier being daughter/father to sister/brother. A minor flaw compared to the rest of the experience, trust me!

3. I read Grimoire NieR

Another Japan-only release, Grimoire NieR was a book that detailed a lot of aspects from NieR that weren’t completely covered in the game itself. Backstories for characters, concept work, game guides, information on items; much like the Ultimania guides available for Square Enix titles. Too bad it was only ever published in Japanese.

But!! Luckily for us, a fan translation into English exists of many parts of the book. This entertained me for a good few train journeys, and gave me so much insight into the world and characters of NieR, that I think it formed the final cog in the mechanism that got me hooked on the series.

As well as the extra story segments, often shocking (including a particularly sad one that alludes to a certain character prostituting himself to get by), the interviews with the creators give some very interesting insights into the thought processes behind the game. I’m even satisfied with the explanation behind why the tritagonist, Kainé, runs around in her knickers the whole time. Okay, maybe it is a little tongue in cheek. But that is what makes it great!

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Not subtle enough? Okay 😛 I’m still trying to find the original credit for this image. Unfortunately I don’t recognise the artist’s signature!

4. I listened to the soundtrack

No, hang on. I lied. The final cog that locked me into the machine that is NieR was in fact the OST. It is beautiful. I was tempted to buy it on vinyl a little while ago, even though I don’t have a record player.

Here is one track I enjoy (out of many. MANY. This was a difficult decision to only put one, but I think it’s gotta be this one):

So there we go. After all this, I went on to inevitably purchase NieR: Automata. And it was the best darn game purchase I could have made at that point in time. Would I have enjoyed Automata if I hadn’t have done all of the above? Most likely. A huge chunk of the overall game sales are probably people who haven’t made this same journey, and I bet most of them love it all the same.

But am I glad I took this route? YES.

Part of what I enjoy about a series (any series, be that book/TV/film/game), is getting into the world around it, the characters, how everything works; the lore. If I had dived right in with Automata, I would have eventually gone back to research all of the above if I hadn’t already seen it, simply because it is part of my personality to want to know all I can about a series I’m interested in.

By becoming familiar with NieR beforehand, I was able to recognise references made to various aspects of the lore, be they subtle or not, in Automata. A piece of music here, an entry in the Weapons Data there, some rather odd-familiar-terrifying-looking giant spherical objects way out in the desert …

It might be a bit late for this, but long story short, experiencing what Automata was built upon helped me to enjoy it all the more. And if you haven’t yet looked into it but are at all interested, please do!

emil head

 

 

 

My Case for Turning off PS4 Notifications (other platforms also available)

PS4 Notifications

Back in Ye Olde Days, the video games we played were just thatyou put the cartridge or disc/k in, turn it on, and you’re away.

Fast-forward to now, and there are all sorts of features which punctuate the average gaming experience: screenshots and video capture, voice features, multiplayer and other network features, trophies/achievements, community-created content and DLC, and so on. It can get quite noisy.

Most, if not all, of these extra features have developed slowly over several years, driven by the demands of the gaming community as a whole. They can all be useful, and are all capable of enhancing the experience of whoever decides to pick up a controller. Some features, like screen capture, are indispensable for, for example, humans who have gaming blogs they need to make look pretty ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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Pretty. The trophy notification is necessary for this blog post.

Along with all these additional features comes the need to keep track of them all. This is where “notifications” come in. Usually in the form of a small message box which pops up in the corner of the screen for a few seconds, they tell us when our friends have come online, when we’ve managed to collect every item in the game, or whatever else has happened in our virtual vicinity that isn’t directly within the game itself. On the PS4, which is what I will be concentrating on here, they are literally called notifications.

Now for the drawbacks, at least in my experience.

It’s all very well and goodincredible, even to do all of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT want these features to be gone! However, I find it impossible not to become sucked into engaging with every notification that pops up while I’m trying to enjoy a game and become absorbed in its atmosphere. Message in my message box? Hold on a moment while I push the PS button. I’m then distracted from concentrating on the events leading up to a particularly poignant scene in [artsy fartsy game name here].

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You just finished a really good scene in the game. I SAID, YOU JUST FINISHED A REALLY GOOD SCENE!

Which leads me onto trophies.

Ever since I first encountered the concept of achievements on Steam, I’ve gradually become more obsessed with them. They help to encourage you to play games in ways which you wouldn’t necessarily on your own, and often lead you to discover its most deepest secrets. They are a mostly good thing, in my opinion.

When I first obtained a PS3 and was introduced to trophies and the elusive platinum trophy most games have for getting all the others, I slowly started becoming more motivated to get as many trophies as I was able to.

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The typical (if particularly relevant) Plat. I platted this game. Witness.

And then in rolls the PS4, whose trophy notifications come with a screenshot of what you were doing at the time the trophy “popped”, and also the ease of looking at your own and others’ trophy collections mid-game via the Quick Menu. Cue inevitable obsessions with trophy collecting!

I soon found that I was trying to collect as many trophies as I could during my first run through of any given game, often using guides to do so. And upon reflection, I realised that this was detracting from the main aspects of games that give me enjoyment; a sense of discovery, and the element of surprise (through plot, or as a result of discovering something unexpected in the game world). It was all too easy to run into major spoilers, and turned the game into a chore rather than an exciting unknown to explore and enjoy.

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My screen capture gallery is full of these trophy screenshots which are just a black screen.

I tried to ignore the trophies, and just focus on the games themselves. But it was just too tempting to check on my trophy progress whenever one popped up. It was almost an automatic reaction.

So came the decision to just turn notifications off. At first it was the whole lot, but now I think I’ve figured out a happy medium.

When I’m playing a game for the first time, particularly a story-focused game, I turn off all notifications. No distractions. I find this helps to revive the enjoyment I used to feel before the days of video game “extras”, like achievements. I can discover the game on my own terms, make my own mistakes, enjoy the story, and when I complete it I feel satisfied.

Then, if I choose to revisit the game to hunt trophies (as despite my prior obsession and frustration at such, I still stand by them being something that can enhance our gaming experiences), I will turn on as many notifications as I think I need, this often being trophies and chat.

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Post-game trophy hunting is the best kind.

Now, if I have a gaming session approaching I will no longer be thinking about how I’m going to get this-or-that trophy and will instead be pondering the storyline and which way it might twist next. When something shocking happens during the game itself I will be left with my mouth agape, my emotions high and my mind racing, and no “ding!” will suddenly interrupt to tell me I’ve just finished chapter 7.

Sure, I might miss out on certain trophies because I wasn’t setting out to get them from the beginning, but in the end I have realised that my enjoyment of the storyline and the gameplay itself is more important to me than being a completionist. Note that other humans may vary.

I definitely think this is the right setup for me. If you’re also finding that trophy hunting and its subsequent notifications are dampening your enjoyment of video games, I strongly urge you to try it too!