Category Archives: Sony

Thimbleweed Park Interview W/ Ron Gilbert

Just a few weeks ago at PAX West i had the privilege to interview one of my gaming idols: Video game legend, Ron Gilbert. We talked about his most recent game, Thimbleweed Park, and it’s upcoming release for the Nintendo Switch. If you haven’t played it yet, do it! We thought it was a fantastic game!

Kris: So we’ve been big fans of your work for a long time one of my favorite earlier gaming memories is playing Day of the Tentacle which I know you’re a writer on.

Ron: Actually I wasn’t a writer on Day of the Tentacle…

Kris: Oh you weren’t a writer?

Ron: I wasn’t a writer, no. I think, I think, like, Moby Games has that wrong. Yeah, I was not a writer.

Kris: Okay, so were you like a creative…

Ron: I was, you know, obviously Gary and I did the original maniac mansion and then it’s, like, right at the beginning, I think… Gary and I said, “Hey, do it about time travel!” and that was like, that was it.

Kris: So, Tim Schafer gave you the…

Ron: Well, Dave [Winnick]

Kris: I didn’t know that, now I’ve learned something! But where I was going with that, too, is I remember playing Maniac Mansion, inside of Day of the Tentacle, and it being kind of hard for me at the time but still like being blown away by how creepy everything was and really loving it. So, one of my question is, “What got you into creating video games back thirty years ago, or however long it’s been?” Now, probably more than that.

Ron: Yeah, more than that, cause I started doing games when I was in junior high school, and what really got me into it was my dad was a physicist and so he had access to these like very early microcomputers before anyone could even dream of having them at home and I was really enthralled with them and I wanted to learn how to program, and I think when you’re a kid it’s like, you want to learn, you make games… you don’t make accounting software.

Kris: “Right?”

Ron: “…you get a game so I just started, you know, doing that and I would, you know, I’d go down to like the local pizza place and I’d play the arcade game then come home and I tried to replicate them on my computer so that’s just how I got started doing it.”

Kris: “Yeah, very smart too to think, like, let me go here and play this and then try to recreate it, that’s awesome. So out of all the years you’ve been making games all the different games you’ve made, what would you say is one of your favorite projects? Would it be Thimbleweed Park?

Ron: I think my favorite games to work on were actually the adventure games that we did for kids at Humongous Entertainment.

Kris: Yeah, Spy Fox?

Ron: Yeah, Spy Fox and Putt Putt and Pajama Sam. I think in some ways those were like the most fulfilling games to make because, you know, they were real, true adventure games and, you know, just going after that kid audience, I mean kids just just devoured those games.

Kris: I remember playing them, as a kid, and actually I was at that age where I may have been a little too old. Like, I didn’t need the “Welcome” aspects of it, but I still enjoyed it.”

Ron: Yeah

Kris: It was still fun, it wasn’t dumbed down because I was a kid.

Ron: Yeah, that was very important to us. They’re kinda simplified, but they’re not dumbed down.

Kris: That was fantastic. Because nowadays it seems like a lot of games that are made for kids are just dumbed down, it’s just so boring like “This is what you do…”

Ron: Just tap, tap, tap.

Kris: It makes me sad, cause in the 90s a lot of the games I grew up on… weren’t. Like, even Nintendo and stuff, sure they made it family friendly but they weren’t easy.

Ron: Yeah, exactly, they were actually very hard.

Kris: So that makes sense. I’m sure for many kids, myself included, we grew up on those, they even came out on the Wii, like 10 or 11 years ago.

Ron: I think I think more people, far more people have played, you know, Putt Putt, Pajama Sam than have ever played Monkey Island. I mean, we sold literally millions of copies of those things, yeah, and so I mean I have no doubt that more people play that but it’s like I’m known for Monkey Island even though far more people play these other things, y’know?

Kris: I guess I can see that and now as adults that’s what we think about more. Ron Gilbert. Monkey Island. It makes sense though, that it would hold such a fondness for you. But, I mean, moving on to Thimbleweed Park. What made you decide that that was your next project after all the other stuff you worked on?

Ron: Well, Thimbleweed Park, you know came about because Gary Winnick and I, you know, we did Maniac Mansion together. We’re just sitting around we’re talking about the charm that those little games have. You know a lot of modern adventure games are good and I enjoy them but they’re missing that weird charm that those games had and so we were just talking about what is that charm? What made those charming and then thinking about well, you know, what if we made one of those games again, kind of like we made them back then, could we figure out what that charm was?

Kris: Yeah

Ron: and that’s where it kind of all started and, you know, of course Kickstarter is a great place to go for that kind of stuff and you know we’ve gotten a lot of money so I think there were a lot of other people that were also interested in that.

Kris: I would agree, I know, as I mentioned Monkey Island… not Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle was one of the first games I ever played. I grew up on Space Quest and eventually it evolved. Space Quest was like my first point and click game. And one of the first games I ever played with one of my best friends. And then that evolved into, we played Monkey Island, we played Codename: Iceman, and, y’know, we played all these other point and click games. But it seemed like the genre had died in the 2000s especially. But the last couple years it’s kinda seen a resurgence. And Thimbleweed Park is like that perfect throwback to that time…

Ron: Oh yeah, very much.

Kris: Because those games didn’t take themselves too seriously, but yet they were serious and fun, and I feel like Thimbleweed Park is that.

Ron: Oh yeah, very much so, it is a very, very serious story, kind of. But that’s true even on Monkey Island, and if you look at the story of Monkey Island, it’s a very serious story, it’s just that it’s just kind of comedically told and there’s these comedic elements that ride on it.

Kris: It made it easy to stomach as a kid, I guess. You know you can look at the darkness, but it’s so funny! So, having used Kickstarter for Thimbleweed Park, is that something you’d do again in the future?

Ron: Maybe. You know, I think that Kickstarter… I mean Kickstarter is not like a solution to all your problems and so, you know if you get money from say a publisher, you know there’s a lot of upsides to that… there’s a lot of downsides to that. And when you get money from Kickstarter there’s a lot of upsides to that… lot of downsides to that. If you pay for the game yourself out of your own bank account lotta upside to that, a lot of downside to that

Kris: A lot of give and take.

Ron: yeah, and so you kind of gotta to decide and I think, you know, whether I would use Kickstarter again would probably depend a lot on what the game was I was building. Yeah, is it the kind of, you know, story that I can tell to Kickstarter backers to kind of get them excited?

Kris: That makes sense. So I know your first console that Thimbleweed Park was released on was Steam, PC, Xbox – what pushed you in that route first and then Sony and Nintendo later?

Ron: I think the thing that pushed us to Xbox first was, you know, we had went around to Sony and we went to Xbox and we talked to them and Microsoft just seemed really, really excited about it and they were really willing to really promote the game when it came out and a lot of stuff so it really was was just kind of their excitement for the game that’s kind of what kind of pushed us to them first but we’re out on Sony now, we’ll be out on the switch next month.

Kris: I appreciate hearing that too, about any of the “Big 3” when they’re actually easy to work wit, and they want your game there.

Ron: It makes it a lot easier.

Kris: Yeah, I can imagine.  So skip over Sony a little bit and go to Nintendo. Has it been easy working on the switch? Porting it over?

Ron: Yeah, from a hardware standpoint the switch is like really easy for us. then we’re using a custom engine, you know, we’re not using unity or anything and so getting all that over to Switch was really not that hard at all and we had started the iOS version and so I had written all of the code to deal with touch controls.

Kris: Nice!

Ron: So getting all that over to the Switch was all fairly easy.

Kris: That’s kewl, yeah I know I’m excited to play it on the Switch so I can play it everywhere I go. That’s what I love about my Switch now is how easy and accessible it is.

Ron: I don’t think my Switch has been in its dock more than, like, 10 minutes since I bought it.

Kris: Right? I put it in my dock at night, and then charge it and take it – it’s with me right now.

Ron: Yeah, just to charge it.

Kris: Another thing about the new Thimbleweed Park you can tell playing the game there was a heavy influence from shows like that X-Files and Twin Peaks,what other influences? That is correct, right? Those are a couple of the influences?

Ron: Yeah, mostly Twin Peaks. Yeah, I mean the fact that, you know, Agent Ray and Reyes look like Mulder and  Scully that was actually kind of a shock to us.

Kris: Oh really, so it wasn’t planned?

Ron: Yeah, because no it’s like we, you know, create those characters and we put the Kickstarter up and I swear like the second comment on the Kickstarter page was “Oh, they look like Mulder and Scully” and I went “oh shit” it’s like  I did not even think of that, you know, and so yeah I mean I didn’t really even watch the X-Files, you know. I mean I’ve seen some episodes and stuff but I was never really a fan so I would say far more influences has been Twin Peaks and David Lynch.

Kris: Yeah, it has that vibe. David Lynch is […?]

Ron: Yeah, he is. Have you ever seen Eraserhead?

Kris: I haven’t.

Ron: You HAVE to go watch Eraserhead.

Kris: I’ll do that.

Ron: It is the bizarrest thing…

Kris: I can only imagine, because Twin Peaks and I watched Mulholland Drive, and I’ve never been so confused than after watching Mulholland Drive. I’m still confused by it. Would you say, what other influences did you draw from?

Ron: Well… when I when when we were putting this putting the Kickstarter together and first like plotting everything out I was also watching True Detective right and so there’s the whole… there was, at least the first season there was a really kinda nice… there was an animosity between the two leading characters.

Kris: I haven’t seen the show but I’m familiar with it.

Ron: Yeah there’s a lot of animosity between them. There was a lot of mistrust between them and, you know, we wanted a lot of that to come out in the way Ray and Reyes kinda see each other. Whereas Mulder and Scully, I mean they’re friends right?

Kris: Well they slept together.

Ron: You know one of them’s a skeptic, one of them, whatever. I mean they’re friends, right? And we wanted there to be a little more animosity and also, uh, Stephen King was a big influence because you he does a really good job of writing these very kinda creepy stories that all take place in these small towns where there’s a whole lot kind of going underneath you know everything. I think those are really our three big influences.

Kris: And you can see that! True Detective I haven’t watched to truly get that.

Ron: Watch season one, ignore season two.

Kris: That’s the one with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey?

Ron: Yeah

Kris: I’ve heard its good and the second season isn’t good – i’ll have to watch it. Now that you’re pretty much finished with Thimbleweed Park, I know you’re finishing with the porting, are you going to make another Thimbleweed Park?

Ron: Yeah, I don’t know, I don’t tend to think about my next project until I’m totally done with my current one and had some time off, so as soon as these two ports are done, I’m gonna go, like, actually what I’m gonna do as soon as these ports are done and I’ve had a little vacation I’m gonna like download the Unreal Engine and because I’ve never played with it and I’m gonna spend like a month just understanding the Unreal Engine.

Kris: yeah?

Ron: I mean nothing may come of it but I just, I want to understand it. So that’s kind of my vacation in a way.

Kris: And as a programmer I’m assuming that that’s fun in itself.

Ron: Yeah, it is, yeah. It’s been more fun than laying on a beach.

Kris: Yeah, I agree, I mean I don’t program but anytime I’m playing with anything electronic I have more fun than laying on a beach. So I hear you. One final question for you: Who was your favorite character to create in Thimbleweed Park?

Ron: Probably Ransome the Clown.

Kris: ‘Cause he’s the best!

Ron: Yeah, he’s kind of an asshole.

Kris: He’s fantastic. He’s what you want a clown to be. An ass, and not a creepy happy clown!

Ron: I think the thing with Ransome that I really want to do with him is I wanted to make sure he had no redeeming qualities, right? And you’d look at, like in the Simpsons you know there’s Krusty the Clown and he’s kind of a jerk, but you can tell he’s got a heart.

Kris: He has redeemable qualities.

Ron: Yeah, he does! I want to make sure that Ransome is just an asshole. Period. That’s all he was.

Kris: And you’ve succeeded.

Ron: (laughter) Well, thank you, I think, I think thank you.

Kris: No, it is a success! Because he’s laughable, in a good way, in a bad way-good way. Well I appreciate your time – very much, it really is an honor to meet you. I know, not just myself but a lot of us grew up on your work and this is why I like doing this is the hopes to meet people who created my childhood and my adulthood.

Ron: Right.

A Major Minecraft Update Is Being Crafted

You have to love being able to load up Minecraft on your Xbox (PS4, PC, iPhone…) toss your friend a controller and work together with your buddy to survive those seven minutes of night time / build a neighborhood / castle / dig a hole. But what about when your other friend texts…

You’re about to invite him into your virtual world and set him to work, when you remember he’s a Nintendo Switch Fanboy! Different console versions of Minecraft will never play together, why that’s a disgusting level of cross play that just can’t be allowed. It’s unheard of! Without precedent!

That is, it was, until 2017.

The “Better Together” Update is in the works! Soon they’ll do away with most of the separate versions and unify Minecraft console, mobile, and Windows 10 versions into one shiny, yet blocky and pixelated, version: Bedrock Engine. Soon you’ll be able to create, mine, dig, build and discover on massive servers with your friends no matter what platform they’re using… almost!

The developers of Minecraft are still trying to convince Sony to jump on board, and start building in the shared biome, but as of yet there is no confirmation.

Look for it Autumn 2017!

Update: The Beta is available for Xbox

Links:

Minecraft: Bedrock FAQ

Sonic Mania Review

“Sonic, he can really move! Sonic, he’s got an attitude! Sonic, he’s the fastest thing alive!” Every day before elementary school I would get up early enough to catch the back to back episodes at 7:00 AM to hear that theme song! I loved Sonic. So much so that I begged my parents to make chili dogs just because it was his food of choice! Bigfoot and I would play Sonic 2 all the time, and it was great. But since the Genesis era we’ve all been clammering for a Sonic game to recapture that feel of speed, and it’s true they struggled with it. Is Sonic Mania the Sonic game fans have been longing for?

The Good:

  • Sonic can really move again. The game has the proper speed of a Sonic game for the first time in what feels like forever.
  • The graphics are a wonderful recreation of the Genesis era, and looks beautiful running at 1080P and 60FPS on the Switch docked, 720P and 60FPS undocked.
  • Being able to play as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles or Sonic & Tails gives added reason to replay the game.
  • The new levels are great additions and the old levels and music are still fantastic.
  • The bonus areas are a fun challenge to unlock extra bonuses.
  • The homage to Dr. Robotnic’s Mean Bean Machine was a wonderful addition.
  • at $20 it feels like you are really getting more then your money’s worth.

The Not So Good:

  • 10 minutes just doesn’t feel long enough on some of these rather long levels.
  • The bonus stages, where a nice challenge, come up too often, and somewhat take away from the speed of the game at times.
  • At the time of this writing, the Switch version has some weird issues. Not game breaking, but not convenient.

Is Sonic Mania worth your hard gathered Rings? Yes.

If you are even reading this it is almost definitely because you are a fan of either old school Sonic the Hedgehog. The game is a perfect homage to the old games in the series and it gives me a lot of hope of what may be to come as far as the 2D Sonic games go. Flying through the levels continues to be a blast, even on my third play through.

Thimbleweed Park is coming to the Switch-a-reno!

It’s been four months since we reviewed Thimbleweed Park… time flies, and that body is probably still left to pixelate alone, under the Thimbleweed Park bridge. Have you had the chance to play? If not, we have great news to share – it will soon be available on the PS4 (8/22) and Nintendo Switch (TBA)!

I’ve already had the chance to play it on the PC, but love the idea of being able to take point and click adventures on the go. Why should you be tethered to your desk if you want to enjoy a good P&C adventure?

Viva la adventure games!

 

Old Time Hockey Review

Here’s the thing about Old Time Hockey, it’s very true to it’s title. It is a game about Hockey, in the kinda “old time” setting of the 70s. Now that was before my time, but I still expected the game to be more like the 50s or so. But nonetheless, it really does capture that feeling that I assume is what hockey in the 70s looked like. It is to be commended for that.


Were you a fan of the Arcadey sports games in the 90s/00s? Then I can see you loving Old Time Hockey. The game definitely is reminiscent of the old NFL Blitz and even more so, the NHL Hitz series. It does a pretty decent job or recapturing that feel, all well making sure to do it in it’s own unique way.


The things the game does well, it does exceptionally so. The Career mode is rather clever and well done. I found the creation of the Bush Hockey League and the fact that they didn’t hold back on content to ensure an E rating refreshing. And the collectible cards in the game of its fictional characters were a neat addition. There was just something missing for me as I played, and for me I think it was the controls. There are 3 different control settings: two button, advanced, and beer mode. I played mainly with the two button. It did simplify the controls enough to help me have a more enjoyable experience. As far as the advanced controls, I never got the true hang of them.. maybe I’m just not advanced enough.

The graphics and character design are to me, a bit lacking. Sometimes I found them exceptionally hard to look at. I know it was what the game was aiming for, and they do hold true to their old time feel, which I respect a lot. The game also never toted that it was a graphically impressive game. But I just found the look hard to stomach sometimes.


What impressed me about Old Time Hockey is that the things the game does right, it does exceptionally right. I love the callback to old school couch co-op that the team at V7 Entertainment used as a focal selling point for the game, and said multiplayer does work. Plus the inclusion of the beer mode control scheme I mentioned earlier, made specifically for you to be able to hold a beer in one hand and play with the controller in the other, was ingenious. The career mode and creation the Bush League Hockey work well in this game. And frankly I love that they made this game very real, and the mature rating sells that point.

Old Time Hockey may not be my favorite game or my go to sports game, but when looking for a fun multiplayer game that’s rather easy to pick up and play, it will be added to the list. Especially if we’ve had a few beers! It’s not without its flaws, but Old Time Hockey is some good old time fun.

Final Fantasy 15

Final Fantasy and I go back a ways now. I didn’t start playing as early as most, but at 13, I got my first taste. Bigfoot let me borrow his copy of Final Fantasy 7, and I was immediately hooked. All of a sudden I needed it all, I wanted to play the 6 before it and the new ones coming out (it was at 9 at the time). Ever since, I’ve been a fan of the series, even at it’s lower points. The question is, do I consider this a high point or a low point for the series? Whereas it’s not my favorite in the series, I definitely consider it a high point! Very, very high. The game has its misses, but all and all as the credits rolled I found myself satisfied! Here’s why:

First, brief spoiler-free synopsis. You play as the young Prince Noctis. The story starts as you are sent out on a road trip of sorts by your Father, the King, with your three protectors and closest friends. What ensues is part buddy road trip movie, part epic blockbuster. One of the fantastic parts of this game is how quickly I became attached to this group of friends and the bond that they forged on their adventure. The ups and the downs. The good decisions and the bad. They were there for each other like few friends are. They even got upset with each other and fought at times, just like real friends do. But they forgave each other. These were more then just characters in a game, these were friends. As someone who has had the same best friends since Kindergarten, this really hit home with me as something that I truly appreciate.

This entry is different then most Final Fantasy’s. It has a huge open world with a ton of quests. You travel to most locations in your car, the Regalia. Once you’ve been to a location you can fast travel from one point to another. But where is the fun in that? By actually just putting it on auto pilot and letting them drive from location to location you can gain AP, but even better, you can see a living breathing world that is just phenomenal to look at. To make things better, you can collect soundtracks from your favorite FF games, and listen to them while you drive. There’s something to be said about turning on the soundtrack to FF8 and just watching as they drive. Looking at the wildlife and the creatures as they cross the street. Night time is a different story though. At night, out come the real baddies. Being stopped on a long drive in the middle of the road as an Iron Giant comes from a portal in the road, is both frightening, and exhilarating. The side quests can range from being interesting and fun, to repetitive and cumbersome. Either way they also allow you to see a major part of this world you inhabit, adding to the overall scope of the game.

 

The battle system was fun, if not very different from past entries in the series. Gone are the days of turn based FF. these battles are very fast paced, active battles. The limit break can add for some nice strong attacks, but the link attacks you do truly add to the character growth in the game as you watch these characters loyally fight with each other, for each other. The really amazing thing about the battle system this time around are the summons. There aren’t many of them, and the qualifications for using them are a bit hard to achieve sometimes. But due to their scope and pure power, its easy to see why. I won’t go in to deep discussion on them but I will say, they are without a doubt the most epic of summons seen in a FF.

Is this to say this entry in the series is without its flaws? No. There were quite a few. For example, outside of the main cast of characters, a lot of the voice acting was not good at all. Like, I had to laugh out loud a few times when hearing the voice they used for certain characters. The quests can get extremely repetitive. Painfully so. If you want to do them all, expect to be doing a lot of backtracking and taking a lot of pictures. Catching frogs. Fishing.. Over and over again. But the thing I found to be the worst, was the pacing of the game. It was so easy to be distracted by side quests that once you get back to the main story, you forget what’s going on. And at that, personally, I thought the story happened so fast at times, that I didn’t always understand what was going on. Literally before I knew it I had reached the end game and felt like I needed more time and development. But that’s just me.

Honestly though, even though I do have some complaints, they are rather small in comparison to all the game does right. Even though I found the pacing to be off, the story was so epic in scope that I couldn’t help but marvel at what I was doing in game. And these four characters alone make up for a lot of the negative I could even find to say about the game. I grew attached to them and look forward to the future DLC and whatever expanded story may be added.

So is this my favorite entry in the Final Fantasy series? Personally, no. But it is now up there with what I consider the greatest in the series. And hands down it is the best title in the series for awhile there. If you are a fan of the series and haven’t given a try yet, I feel like you have to. The game offers too much to be skipped completely. It feels like Square Enix listened to the complaints from their fans from the last few entries and actually worked to fix them, and that deserves our respect. If you can find time, pop the game in and enjoy getting to know your new friends. You won’t regret it.

Stories: The Path of Destinies

When you first looked into this game, what was your initial impression? It’s got an anthropomorphic fox with an oversized sword, this sounds like something out of a cutesy Disney title, right? “I know how this story will end: happily ever after! I hope the gameplay is at least original…” Ok, maybe I didn’t sound quite that cynical. It was less than 5 minutes into the game [spoiler alert] when you’re chasing a young boy that you’re supposed to protect and he gets slaughtered by the emperors ravens that I discovered… I knew nothing about this wonderful title developed by Spearhead Games.


You control Reynardo, a fox with a sword large enough that it would make Cloud jealous. Another thing that reminds me of FF7? Gems can be equipped to increase your abilities. You’re also packing a Zelda-inspired hook shot, perfect for hopping from island to island via small, ornamental posts in the ground, and for pulling baddies over to you like some Mortal Kombat obsessed Vulpes, shouting “Get over here!” (Which the narrator does occasionally, a nod to Scorpion)


I don’t mention those references to lessen Stories any, or to downgrade it’s originality. Instead I want to highlight one of my favorite parts of this game: it’s full of fun, little pop culture references. I found several nods to Star Wars, Lord of the Ring, Mortal Kombat, Galaxy Quest and more. It really makes me appreciate the love the developers put into this game. Keep an eye out for them and let us know what your favorite was.

I found the battle system unique. One neat feature of it is that anytime you’re about to be attacked by an enemy, there’s an “!” above the head of the aggressive raven. If you move in that direction and attack just before it attacks, you freeze time for everyone else for a second or two. Just long enough to gather your thoughts and gain the upper hand. Plus, if you choose, you can engage your final sword’s ability to speed up your actions even more. Watching Reynardo dash around the screen slashing from bird to bird while they stand, frozen in time, makes you feel quite epic.


The real meat of this game is that instead of being completely linear you’re given multiple options of how you want to proceed. It’s laid out like a storybook with beautiful illustrations that fit perfectly. It’s wonderfully highlighted by a quote from the narrator, “Reynardo wondered if you could design a puzzle that would be different every time you played it… wouldn’t that be fun?” I feel like that was probably how the initial conversation began that lit the fire for this to be created. They did an amazing job at crafting a story that has high replayibility, in fact in the beginning you’re forced to replay the story in order to pick a different ending, but that’s okay! Each time you play through you keep the XP and items from previous runs, so that you keep getting stronger and faster.


The downside to this is if you’re trying to get the Platinum trophy. There are 24 different combinations each with a unique ending. Unfortunately each play thru uses the same 10 or so base levels, in different combinations, which eventually gets repetitious – like a Rubik’s cube having 43 quintillion possible combinations, but they’re all made up of the same 6 colors. On top of this you need to level Reynardo to 43 in order to get all his skills unlocked, which takes more playthrus than those 24 times, you eventually just find a good level and grind XP for the sake of grinding XP. Thankfully, the story’s twists and the humorous voice acting make it worth the extra time you put in.


In the end this is probably one of my new favorites. I’d definitely recommend playing thru it, I think the narration and storylines will keep you coming back again and again. We look forward to seeing what else Spearhead has to offer.

2016 Game of the Year

The Game Awards were recently hosted in LA. The gaming community rolled out the red carpet and a large group of games received the honor of a nomination. Some of the categories were pretty standard: Game of the Year, Best Narrative and Best Sound. Others were a little unexpected: Highest Impact and Trending Gamer. While one was a pretty new field: Best VR game. 

When it came to the game of the year, the judges decided this honor belonged to Overwatch, Blizzard’s highly acclaimed team-based FPS. That may be their choice but personally, I would disagree with that decision. 

So what game should have received the accolades? What game receives our prestigious* game of the year award? None other then:


I’ve made no secret of the fact that Naughty Dog’s farewell to Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, is the game that you need to be playing. If you haven’t played it, do it.
What makes me so determined that this is it? I won’t go into a full review, you can read Krispy’s coverage of that here, but I will say: it has everything… 

Controls

You start with an in-game tutorial that blends seamlessly into the narrative. I can’t say enough for developers that are wise enough to build the directions into the game so that I don’t have to sit reading a controller mappings list. But really, it’s barely needed. Some games I can start playing and constantly feel like I’m hitting the wrong button throughout the game because the controls don’t fit me. I know this can usually be fixed with some button mapping configurations, but in Uncharted 4 it wasn’t needed. Everything was just where it should be. 

Graphics

These characters are brought to life on the PS4 in such beautiful precision. The hard work put in by the artists on this team does not go unnoticed. The cut scenes were movie quality. Early on I found myself doing a double-take because I wasn’t sure if they used live footage. Little details like treads in the dirt and foot prints in the snow weren’t overlooked, neither were realistic movements as you parkour from ledge to ledge, or the fluidity of motion as swing from your grappling hook. Each of these things keeps you in the part of Nathan Drake. 

Audio

Along with the gameplay and the graphics, the third part of the trifecta was the audio. Naughty Dog did an amazing job tying it all together. It’s not just that each bit of sound was believable, but that the voice actors breathed life into their onscreen digital avatars. Nolan North received the award for best performance, and he definitely deserved it. 

Story

Just like Naughty Dog did with the fourth chapter in their Uncharted series, I’ve saved the best category for last. The narrative was both fun and moving. You can really get behind Nathan as you get to know him and his brother from an early age. It has action, romance, nostalgia, drama, treachery and more. Thankfully none of it feels forced, and you finish the game wishing it wouldn’t end. 

Conclusion 

Well that does it – those are a brief list of the reasons why you should be playing Uncharted 4 now, if you haven’t already. If you have, how did you like it? What game do you think deserved to be GOTY? Are you playing the multiplayer mode?

*Self proclaimed.

Grim Fandango

Every once in a while a game comes along with so many great pieces that you just know it’s going to be a smashing success – and then it proceeds to flop like that kid in your hometown community swimming pool. These games become cult classics. So many people know their names, but how many people actually played it? Not that many. Grim Fandango is a classic example: LucasArts was on a roll with their point & click adventures in the 90s; It was a brain-child of Tim Schafer (@TimOfLegend @DoubleFine); Grim Fandango had story, graphics, voice acting; Haven’t even mentioned the critical acclaim.  It was sure to be a slam dunk! Unfortunately, sales proved otherwise. 


Grim Fandango’s stage is set in a land that’s part film noir, part Aztec legend of the afterlife. You play the role of Manny Calavera, travel agent for the deceased. It’s your job to sell the dead an attractive travel package to get them to their final destination. The most virtuous get a golden ticket to take the short ride on a fast train, while the others… well, it might take 40 years and a journey fret with peril, but there’s always walking. 


The adventure revolves around your attempts to track down Meche, one of the newly dead who gets picked up by your office. A lady who’s life was so clean, she should’ve applied for being a saint. Not just that, but she’s attractive too! Surely, she would be a shoe-in for a golden ticket… only, you can’t find her information on your computer. Embarrassed, she sneaks away to begin her long walk, leading to you following on her heels the whole way. 

The voice acting is delightfully well done, and riddled with quirky quips that are bound to bring a chuckle. Often times these interactions aren’t required to move the story along so you may miss them if you’re not on the look out. 


The remastered edition features two types of controls, either “tank controls” where pressing up moves Manny forward, left and right makes him rotate like a first year ballerina, and pressing down makes him back up. (Hint: playing the whole way through using these controls will fetch a pretty trophy on the PS4) or a standard mode for the kids where you just press the direction you want to move. 

The puzzles are entertaining, but mind numbingly difficult at times, as there’s sometimes little to no instruction, and you’ll have to re-do things repetitiously in hopes of finding the right combination. A couple of the maps were more like mazes, as well. It’s difficult to find where you need to go because the path isn’t so clear (or is just plain hidden) I found myself referencing a walk thru at times so that I could enjoy the story. 

As mentioned, the PS4 comes loaded with opportunities for trophies which only go to further the point that this game is really difficult – only 9% reached chapter 2? – but for the completionists will give plenty of reason for a second playthrough. 

Overall I’d highly recommend downloading and giving it a shot. With the resurgence of point & click games hitting it’s full stride, it’s a great idea to go back and play one of the classics and as long as you don’t give up early, Grim Fandango is sure to not disappoint. 

Small Radios Big Televisions

The world is enamored with virtual reality these days, well what if you could store small virtual scenes on cassette tapes? A sort of time capsule for later generations who have long since destroyed such serene environments. Future generations – sitting in a factory, surrounded by air so putrid and laced with smog that nothing can live without artificial respiration – can pop a cassette tape* into their player and enjoy their 15 minute breaks in a fertile field or floating down a lazy river.

That is the premise behind this artsy puzzler developed by Owen Deery. There’s not a lot of depth to the controls in SRBT. You move a reticle around the screen, clicking on doors to open them, clicking on light switches to turn them off or on, and searching for tapes.


When you find a tape it’s automatically inserted into the TR-525 (portable VR cassette player) and you put on your VR glasses, getting transported to this virtual land in hopes to find a green orb in the cyber world, which somehow – though imaginary – transfers to your inventory to be used in unlocking doors.


There’s a bit of puzzler in that certain tapes don’t have an orb in them, they’re just pretty scenes. But if you have them on-hand when you turn on an electromagnet (which are scattered throughout the levels) the magnetic field warps the data on the tape. The next time  you use it the scene is warped like you’re on a bad trip, but sometimes this allows you to find the green orb you’ve been searching for.


This game is all about relaxing instead of being on-edge, and music plays a big part in the experience. Every cassette offers a different addictive riff to enjoy, and the free flowing 80s synth tunes transport you to a different time.

It may feel simple and shallow at first, but give it a chance, play through a few levels and sit back and relax. It’s an enjoyable ride that is definitely different from the status quo. Have you played SRBT? What did you think? Drop a comment and let us know!

* For all of you born in/after the 90s, a cassette tape is a magnetic storage device used primarily for music. Because of the way data was stored on the tape it could be corrupted if you put a magnet nearby. Cassettes were phased out when CDs took popularity. If you were born in the late 2000s and are unfamiliar with CDs, that’s the subject for another article.