Category Archives: games

Puzzle Games

I really enjoy puzzle games. Here’s a list of some I’ve enjoyed:

  • 3D
    • Antichamber
    • FRACT OSC
    • Kairo
    • Portal (2)
    • The Talos Principle
  •  Platforming
    • Braid
    • FEZ
    • The Swapper
  • Pure
    • Hexcells (Plus / Infinite)
    • Picross 3D
    • Slitherlink
    • SpaceChem

All of these are well worth buying.

Gone Home

Gone Home peaked my interest when I saw the trailers and reviews on its release but the asking price seemed a tad high, so I put it on my wish list and forgot about it. A few days back, it popped up in a Humble Store flash-sale and I went for it. In retrospect, I would’ve been happy paying full price, but it’s not as if waiting did any harm.

I really, really enjoyed it, but I can see why people dislike it (or think very little of it — in game terms). It uses many of the usual “tricks” for evoking emotion (great voice acting coupled with musical “riffs”, strong nostalgia, …) but despite knowing these things were used on me, they worked just fine and affected me. (As an aside: I also played The Stanley Parable, which seemed like it tried too hard to be clever, then you realise it actually is cleverer than you gave it credit for, but it remains an entirely left brain experience — sort of the opposite of Gone Home.)

Gone Home is like a puzzle game where you slowly assemble pieces of the story in your head from hints scattered around the house. While the main thrust of the plot is very “in-your-face” (but still well done), you might miss entire side-stories in the puzzle, but they’re there for you if you pay attention (and they make the game better by providing a more complete, internally consistent picture). The developer commentary is also interesting, especially how they’re coming from the “1st person interactive simulation” school of game design (e.g. Looking Glass’ classics, * Shock, Deus Ex, …).

I recommend it highly, but I’m not sure how much of my enjoyment of it stems from 1990 nostalgia of my own teenage years, so buyer beware.

Tomb Raider (Re-reboot?)

I received my copy early and have been looking forward to playing it over the last few days a whole damn lot. I ended on 91% completion, then came back and got 100% (which I do rarely – two challenges are a real bitch (Mine Sweeper and Sun Killer)).

Really enjoyed it, and it looks awesome (especially considering how old the 360 is by now). Combat feels good for the first time in a Tomb Raider game, but I’d still prefer more tombs / temples / puzzles. When I got the achievement for “All Optional Tombs completed!” I shed a little tear, because reviews said later tombs were better and I expected a few more, but they were all short single room deals. I could also do with less semi-QTE scrambling across disintegrating bridges / burning buildings / whatever. Leave that to Uncharted.

Somewhere between an 8/10 and a 9/10.

Antichamber

I quite enjoyed this. I think in parts it tries a bit too hard to be ‘artsy’, but it is a compelling, mind-fucking first person puzzle game. The art mostly screams ‘coder art’, but it kind of works.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose the progression path and (re-)find the place where you’re expected to progress now, and I’m sure I completed some puzzles by accident (or because of bugs) that I wasn’t meant to be able to complete yet.
Also, controls can be iffy due to the first-person nature (e.g. distinction between drawing into the ‘away from you’ direction and up/down).

Took me about 16hours to reach the end (without having completed everything obviously). 9/10 for me.

Halo 4

Some thoughts on the single-player campaign (because fuck paying for Xbox Live Gold with the amount I’ve been playing the Xbox recently):

  • Great art and rendering technology
  • Impressive engine cut-scenes (especially characters and skin-shaders / lighting)
  • Difficulty was manageable but quite frustrating on Heroic (yes, I’m terrible). After switching to Normal I actually had some fun. The shield scaling for Heroic feels slightly off, everything just takes way too many hits to kill (I’m looking at you, Watchers). Also, it feels as if the AI cheats and moves enemies as soon as I have a nice shot lined up. Heroic and Legendary would probably be fun in coop though.
  • I never thought I’d say this, but I feel that there’s too many weapon options. Human, Covenant and Prothean versions of pretty much everything. Of course there’s subtle differences between them all, but a lot feel rather pointless.
  • The levels themselves were not particularly memorable, but the reconfigurable geometry was a nice idea (although I’m not sure it really added anything). The Forerunner architecture reminded me of the style of P.N.03, a game I still dearly miss a sequel to. Too often the flow degenerates to “Go somewhere for some reason that only makes sense if you played all games 5 times and read all the books, and then do the same thing 2 to 3 times to progress” (go through portals, push buttons, activate light-bridges). Mostly push convenient buttons / Cortana insertion points.
  • As alluded to in the previous point, it feels to me as if the story is getting worse and worse with each game (ODST and Reach sort of aside): Halo 1 and 2’s was fine, simple Humans against aliens (with the Flood sort of popping up) and some mystery as to the forerunners / Halo rings. Now we have all sorts wawa that feels more like Matrix 2 and 3, instead of 1 (Reclaimer, Mantle, Composer, Didact, Librarian, …). All this Jesus-complex, 1000s of years leading up to Master Chief (and his armour!) and then on-the-spot gene-manipulation bullshit just went over the top. The mystery (and awe) is sort of gone.

In summary, an above average single-player game with a convoluted story that grasps higher than it can reach, with slightly repetitive level design that is saved by excellent tech and me wanting to see the next cut-scene (even if it is mostly gibberish). Nonetheless, I still hope there’s more Master Chief (and Cortana). 🙂

Dear iPhone Developer

I’m sure all your existing customers really appreciate the incremental upgrades and new features you’ve integrated into your app over time. What started out as a simple thing is now a veritable feature-fortress.
But please, keep in mind the new-user-experience, for dudes like me who discovered your app 6 months later and who didn’t scrutinize the change-log from upgrade to upgrade and have no clue what the “Smooth” option in the menu actually does.
Go back to your introductory user experience / tutorial and make sure it actually does cover all the cool stuff you added in v1.1 – v1.3.1 instead of being eternally stuck at v1.0. Discoverability and help / documentation is a big deal for every release, even if it is at times difficult to have to ask Art Guy to come up with a new design instead of simply shoving a new, tiny, undocumented button into that free space on the bottom-right corner.

Sincerely, me.