Saturday, June 27, 2015

Life Is Strange Episode 3 Review

The third episode of Life Is Strange, Chaos Theory, lives up to its name with a chapter that really shakes the formula up.

The school is reeling from the events of the end of the last chapter. Max and Chloe are determined to get to the bottom of the corruption in the town, so they decide to conduct their own investigation. This leads to some revelations, some character building moments, and then chaos comes into play, spinning their entire world on its head.

There are some fetch quests and inventory puzzles here, which is to be expected in an investigation. Naturally, Max's powers to rewind time also come in play, allowing Max and Chloe to to be more devious in their investigations than they would without them.  The rewind power is also actually used as a puzzle itself in this chapter, where Max must use stealth and her powers in order to avoid being caught.  It's a fantastic twist on the usual mechanic of this game, and it is implemented quite well.

The story is simply fantastic in this chapter, and the awkward slang has been successfully lamp shaded.  It's attributed as a quirk of one of the more outlandish characters, and, in that light, strangely, in retrospect (awkward as it still is) it sort of works.  The voice acting continues be top notch, working well in tandem with the fantastic script, and the understated music once again complements the voice acting.  The new locations are all interesting, as are the new characters.

This ended up being a short review, but don't take that as a sign of a lack of quality.  It's actually far from it, as the review is brief as to spoil as little about the episode as possible.  This episode simply needs to be played, as everything about it, from the story, to the voice acting and music, and to the characters and locations are excellent.  The game's finale is the crowning achievement of the episode, and of the series so far.  It's worth playing just for that portion of the game alone.

Final verdict:
 
5 out of 5

Friday, June 26, 2015

Game Jam For Gay Marriage

The Adventuress celebrates gay marriage with a game jam in celebration of the historic United States Supreme Court decision that the constitution protects the rights of everyone to the legal right to marriage, regardless of sexual orientation.

The Jam runs from the day of the decision, June 26th 2015, until the United States Independence Day, July 4th, 2015.

Life Is Strange Episode 2 Review

The second episode of Life Is Strange, Out of Time, finds Max discovering the limitations of her powers, making the choices she makes in this episode matter much more than ever.

The episode begins where the last left off, with Max finding a confidant in Chloe.  The two decide to test Max's powers, at which point Max discovers that her powers have more limitations than she had previously thought.  To save more lives of the people she cares about, Max must push her powers past their boundaries.  In doing so, however, she'll have to use her own natural powers of persuasion, as she finds that she can't always rely on her new-found abilities.

The limitations present a different feel in this chapter than before, as, while most of the decision making is leisurely, once her powers reach their limits, Max will have to make decisions on the spur of the moment without the ability to rewind.  Luckily, the decisions aren't quite as spur of the moment as those in Telltale's games, as there isn't a timer forcing Max to think quickly.  The decisions can still be made at a slower pace, however, once they're made, they're set in stone.  This adds a much more emotional impact to those decisions that can't be changed, as they seem much more real now that the ability to change them on the fly isn't present.  There are also puzzles in this game, although some are a bit tedious, as they revolve around recovering a specific number of items.

The dialog still has some awkward moments of slang usage, but, like the first chapter, the rest of the story is excellent.  The voice acting continues to be supurb as well, with the actors getting a chance to really show a range of emotions here.  The music, once again, is subtle, but helps to set the tone of the game excellently.  There are quite a few new locations in this chapter as well, and they are all interesting, and fit within the art style of the rest of the game.  The new characters we meet in these new locations are equally as interesting, and are all voiced as well as the returning characters.  There are invisible barriers in this chapter, but they are handled much more realistically than simply restricting the character's movements.  They're reminiscent of those in the L.A. Noire crime scenes, as the player character in both games will comment that they don't want to leave that area, for reasons that fit in both games.  It's a simple solution to the invisible barrier problem, but it works well.

The second episode of Life Is Strange has given the series a bit of a shakeup, with limitations to Max's powers that make some of her choices much more finite, and thus seemingly more meaningful, than those in the previous episode.  The occasional moments of awkward slang in the dialog reappear here, and some of the game's puzzles are tedious, but the rest of the game makes up for it.  Max's choices are beginning to have visible consequences, the voice acting is excellent, and the music still remains a wonderfully paired with the vocal performances. The story of the second episode ends on an exciting conclusion, making this episode feel fulfilling on its own.  However, one can't help but wonder how the next episode unfurls.

Final Verdict:
 
4 out of 5

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Life Is Strange Episode 1 Review

Dontnod Entertainment advances the choice and consequences formula made popular by Telltale Games, with an interesting time rewinding mechanic, set around an interesting story about power, corruption, bullies, and a mystery surrounding an impending disaster.

The first chapter of Life Is Strange takes place at a private high school named Blackwell, where an art student named Max discovers that she has the power to rewind time when she witnesses a confrontation in the girl's bathroom.  This is the crux of the story, but things delve deeper when she discovers that the incident was only the tip of the iceberg, and violence is a common occurrence at Blackwell.  However, she finds that due to the corruption of the school and the town, it's hard to make any permanent changes with her new found powers.  Some of the dialog is a bit weak, especially the forced use of teen slang that is quite awkward, both in the written form and when spoken by the voice actors.  However, the story itself is fantastically written, and the violent atmosphere surrounding the school feels all too real, which definitely offsets the few moments of awkwardness in some of the dialog.

The real shining gem of this series is definitely the rewind mechanic, which is put to good use here. Max can rewind time at any point, to do anything from catch bits of background activity that she might have missed to making a new choice in a major decision that is presented to her.  The choice and consequences system is laid out much like Telltale's games.  Max is presented a variety of options in a situation, and she must make her choice.  The choices affect events later in the episode, as well as in episodes that happen later down the road.  The Telltale influence extends into the user interface as well, as gamers are informed via a graphic that her choices will have consequences.  The rewind mechanism makes things a little more relaxed than in Telltale's offerings however, as choices don't have to be made on the spot as mandated by a timer.  If the gamer wants to have Max make a different decision, the decision can be rewound in the episode itself, rather than having to be done later via the menu, which also means that the remainder of the episode doesn't need to be replayed if the choice has been changed.  However, once Max leaves that location, her powers can no longer extend to that choice, and any choice made will be set in stone.  The game also deviates from the most recent of Telltale's games in that it contains environment puzzles.  The puzzles aren't any more difficult than those found in The Walking Dead, but like that game, they work well within the game's world, and work well with the rest of the game mechanics, as opposed to feeling tacked on for the sake of the genre.

The voice acting is excellent, and the voice actors do a great job showing the seedy underbelly of Blackwell at work.  As mentioned before, some of the dialog is clunky, and the voice actors can't overcome this, however the awkward slang is pretty sparse, and every other line delivery by the voice actors is top notch.  The music works as well.  While it's not memorable, it sets the tone of the game, and frames the voice performances quite nicely.

Chrysalis is an excellent start to an intriguing entry into the choices and consequences genre.  There are some environment puzzles, although they aren't very challenging.  However, the rewind mechanic far overcomes any qualms about easy puzzles.  It's a great addition to the genre, and works well with the choices and consequences mechanic.  The story is intriguing and well written, with the exception of some clunky slang which feels forced.  The voice acting and the music are also top notch. Overall, the first chapter is a great start, and is well worth playing.

Final Verdict:
 
4 out of 5

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sony Is Providing Marketing and Publishing For Shenmue 3

Update: The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter has posted an update explaining the outside funding the game will have. Shibuya Productions is also helping with Shenmue 3. Sony will also be providing some publishing support, which makes sense as, alongside PC, Shenmue 3 is also slated for a PlayStation 4 release.

Sony revealed that they teamed up with Ys Net to help make Shenmue 3 a reality and then stated that they wanted to gauge fan support of Kickstarter to gauge the interest in the game.  At face value, that seems like an unethical use of Kickstarter.  It has been revealed, however, that Sony's role in the project isn't quite what it seemed.

The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter was updated on the second day of the campaign with an entry on their frequently asked questions section that stated that there are multiple sources of outside funding available to the team, but Ys Net can't reveal them due to contractual obligations.  It seemed that one of these multiple investors was Sony, since they showcased Shenmue 3 on their stage at E3 and confirmed that they are helping with the game.

However, according to Sony Vice President Adam Boyes, their involvement in this game was simply to provide a platform to advertise the game at E3 and to help with marketing.  So, their comments about wanting to gauge fan reaction to the Kickstarter aren't unethical, as they simply have to do with how they market the game for Ys Net, and that's a perfectly reasonable approach toward the Kickstarter campaign when your role in the project at that point is simply as a marketing firm. Sony is not even contributing money towards actual development costs of Shenmue 3 at this point.

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 3 Is Out Now

Telltale's third episode of their episodic series, Tales from the Borderlands, is out now for PC and Mac through their store. It will be out for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, as well as on Steam and GOG.com for PC and Mac later today. Then it will release for Xbox 360 and Xbox One tomorrow, and for iOS and Android on Thursday.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dreamfall Chapters Book Three Coming June 25th

The third chapter of Dreamfall Chapters, the third game in The Longest Journey series, is titled Realms. In this middle chapter of the saga, Zoe and Kian's paths will finally converge. It will be released for Windows, Mac, and Linux on June 25, 2015.