Tuesday, September 27, 2011

October Nights 2

Yup, October is nearly here again, so I will be posting 31 reviews in the 31 nights of October. Well, they'll be posted anytime during the days or nights of each day. Some may come down to the wire because of my schedule, but I've already written some of the reviews and I should be well ahead of falling behind.

Anyway, I'll be reviewing various media of horror related things, mostly movies, to be sure, but also video games, and books. Expect some Stephen King movies to be looked at as well as some of his books as well. I plan on doing a movie or more from John Carpenter, David Lynch, and David Cronenberg because they are some of my favorite directors, and if I have the inclination I may also do some of Hitchcock's more or less famous horror.

I may change these up as I go along, but I play on doing, at least, a retrospect of Fallout: New Vegas, which has some fantastically creepy DLC that I'd like to explore, as well as some of the other Silent Hill games that I didn't get to last October. Expect some psychological horror as well, with movies like Session 9 (which I think I mentioned possibly reviewing last year). Also, I plan on reviewing some of my most favorite books, movies, and video games (with the exceptions of Jacob's Ladder, 1408, Silent Hill 2, Stay, and Half-Life 2, all of which I reviewed last year).

I'm looking forward to this and have been looking forward to this since last year. I hope all of you who read my blog (I have no idea how many individuals actually read it, but there are a lot more who read it than I would have ever thought possible!) really enjoy the reviews I put out over the next month! Anyway, I'll be starting on October first, so keep your eyes open and enjoy the month of horror I'm going to give you!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Video Game Assessment: Portal 2 (2011)

Portal 2 is a game that I've been wanting to review for quite some time. I finished it for the first time way back in April, but being busy and kind of forgetting about doing a review for the game really pushed this review months back. I hated to not do it and I've been thinking about writing it up every now and then, so here it be, men and women, boys and girls, here it be. I really like this game and I'm not saying it's forgettable at all, so don't get me wrong about that or I will have to go a little crazy. Blame the schedule, not the game. That's what I've been doing.

Anyway, this game is purely outstanding. It is stellar in every way that a game can be stellar. It is a puzzle game, much like the first Portal, but has more puzzles, more humor, more levels, more complexities, more gameplay, and even a co-op campaign to boot, which makes this game twice and long and even better to play. I mean, there is so much amazing content, from the old stuff like the weighted cubes and the turrets, to the new content like laser death beams, broken turrets, spring platforms, light bridges, and much, much more. The gels (orange gel that makes one go faster, blue gel that lets one high jump, and white gel that works as a portal sticker) deserve particular mention because they are just so awesome.

Do I see any downsides? Not really and even if they are they are tiny flaws, nothing worth complaining about. Some of the maps and puzzles can be a little difficult if you think about them a lot like I do, overcomplicating them, but once you know what's going on, the game is a piece of delicious cake. Har har har... I hate myself for writing that, I really do. I apologize all of you reading this. It was not my fault. I had an insistent voice in my brain telling me to do it. It was the voice of a Wheatley speaking in my brain.

Speaking of Wheatley, the voice acting is nearly flawless with the characters coming alive from the game itself. GLaDOS returns and is as awesome as ever, albeit in different ways from the first game. The other two, Cave Johnson and Wheatley are also so well done as to be superb. Every single one of their lines is full of quality, humor, and fantastic storytelling. The story of the game is sound and fun, and the gameplay, like always, is superb.

A special mention deserves to go out for the basement of the facility and the old training course. They are easily the best maps in the game and have the best aesthetics. They are absolutely fantastic to simply look at, and I don't ever want to stop thinking about the quality of these levels.

This game is easily comparable to Portal and, in my mind, even surpasses the first game. Yes, Portal had a fantastic atmosphere and was really well polished all around. Yes, it was a sleeper hit and a meme goldmind. And yes, it was an excellent game all around. But Portal 2 is longer, funnier, much more explorable, and full of life and zest where Portal was full of creepy air. Again, I love the first game, and usually creepy would sell it to me every time, but with the added play time, the co-op game playing as robots, and the overall fun and intensity of the game, I can't say that this game is worse.

Anyway, I'm not going to say much except this is a superb game and should be played by everybody. Go and pick it up and play the hell out of it. That's my advice and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Video Game Assessment: Psychonauts (2005)

Psychonauts is a very good game in almost every way and a very clever game regardless of its other characteristics. It is underplayed and underrated in a way that is criminal. Even though every single reviewer I've ever read seems to think it is one of the better games they've ever played (and a lot of gamers besides that feel the same way), it is a game that most know only in passing or by name. Calling it a great game is something that can only come while playing it, and you know something? It is a great game.
Sure it has flaws, but so does every other game. No game is absolutely perfect. Sometimes it's one thing that can scar a game up, like the camera like Kingdom Hearts or the gameplay like Deadly Premonition. Well, the thing that hurts Psychonauts more than anything else is its platforming. It's bad in some places. Historically bad. Nearly unplayable bad. I know there are many people out there who've probably played the game a million times over and know every trick, but for me it was a test of patience not to throw my controller through the television at points in the game, especially at the end, which is a notoriously difficult section.
Another complaint is that the story moves along at a weird pace as well. It almost rushes a story out without thinking about its own pacing, creating a game that thrusts the character and the player into it before even really get a chance to get used to controls or even simply the universe. It's not bad exactly, just strange, feeling like the story is smacking one in the face rather than gently moving along.
The voice acting can go from amazing to less than stellar at points, with certain characters sounding more annoying than interesting, but that is a small jab, and not something that really detracts from the game.
Each level in the game is a unique world of a different person's mind, and traveling through the worlds feels kind of neat and a bit like a symbolic soup. You get to see what makes people tick and what really is the interior of what different people from different places think about. Special mentions go out to a level that is a cube with gravity that acts like a planet's own gravity, a city of lungfish in which the player character is likened to Godzilla, and being a player's piece in a game reminiscent of Risk or similar strategy board game. There are other levels as well, Meat Circus comes to mind as well as The Milkman Conspiracy which is arguably the best level in any game, and every single last one is unique and different, with gameplay and style changes throughout.
What I'm saying is that the levels are incredibly solid, and I could go on about them and praise them up and down again and again. For this game type, a platformer, the level variety is outstanding and wonderful. The collectibles are fun and interesting. The enemies are well done and psychological.
And using that word, "psychological", well, that's the perfect word to describe this game. It is a fully psychological game, one that takes each and every character and really focuses on what it means to be that character. There are so many amazing and well-written characters in this game and they all have a reason for being the kind of character that they are.
So, both characters and visual levels are fantastic in this game. There are some things wrong with it, like I said, the platforming elements leave much to be desired and, I think, the gameplay itself which is fairly generic and hard to control. That being said it does have its appeal, but, to me, that appeal is the psychological nature of the game, the well-written qualities of it, and the fantastic level design and wonderful and unique visuals.
I am not going to be as hard-lined about this game, unlike many reviewers who will be upset if you never play it, but it is a solid game that can be frustrating and any and every fan of video games should at least attempt to play it at some point.
It is a beloved game to the video game community for a reason. So, check it out if you get the chance.