July Video Games Report

Lucky reader, you get (at least) two posts today!

Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (4 hrs) – I finally started playing Ass:Rev nearly 7 months after I got it as a gift. I’d been putting off playing it because it’s a lot easier for me to play computer games at night than it is to play with the Playstation at night. I was able to play 2 two hour sessions over two subsequent weekends. I’m….just not quite as into Assassin’s Creed as I was after completing Brotherhood. The gameplay and story elements were a huge jump from the first to the second installment. Even Brotherhood brought along the new play style involving your recruited assassins. Revelations just isn’t quite as innovative. It’s not a huge shock since the series was annualized; there was no way for Ubisoft to continue the pace of innovation. Still, the story of Abstergo and how the Templars were affecting everything in society was a fun tale. I loved solving the puzzles in AC2 and Brotherhood that had such creepy moments as when someone called about seeing his vitals in his cable channels and then his implied death.

I can’t tell just what it is that has soured me on the game, but I can point to two potential sources. First of all, it’s been over a year since I played Brotherhood; nearly two years. I know with other series when I’ve waited a long time to get to the sequel the fire has died. I’m pretty darned sure that’s what happened with me and the Final Fantasy series. I had loved the SNES versions so much that I bought up all the Playstation versions in college when they were going on sale as fewer folks bought the Playsation One. But I didn’t really start playing until after college and by then it’d been too long. Second, all I’ve heard over the past two years was the Giant Bomb guys pooping all over Ass:Rev and AC3. And it was their impassioned talk about AC2 that led me to jump into the series. I already know that the story doesn’t really get progressed in Ass:Rev and I play the games more for the Assassin v Templar storylines and the fun historical fiction than I do for the chance to murder fools. Although I do get a perverse pleasure in sneaking up on dudes and sticking them as I walk the rooftops – most of the gameplay involving spatial puzzles or fighting large groups of baddies doesn’t excite me.

As I write this I can think of at least one more reason – 30 hours of gameplay is getting harder and harder to fit in each day. Between Scarlett’s needs and my huge desire to spend time with her doing stuff she finds fun – playing the game is just too much of a chore. I’m sure these games’ll be more fun when she’s old enough to essentially watch it as an interactive movie, but for now it’s a bit of a chore. Still, I shouldn’t complain too much; I’m still in the tutorializing phase so perhaps the game will open up and become fun once I get deeper into it.

Thomas Was Alone - Observations
Thomas Was Alone – Observations

Thomas was Alone (4 hrs) – This game is the antithesis of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Assassin’s Creed is the pinnacle of what technology has allowed us to achieve in terms of video game graphics and crowd AI. It has dozens of weapons and play systems. Thomas was alone is a simple platformer with rectangles. Assassin’s Creed is around 30 hours long and I finished Thomas was Alone in 4 hours.

Thomas Was Alone - Up and To the Right
Thomas Was Alone – Up and To the Right

I bought this game as part of a Humble Bundle that had Super Meat Boy or Dear Esther (or both?).  I wasn’t even intending to play it, but the name kept tugging at me. Who was Thomas and why was he alone? And how could a game with these primitive graphics actually convey that sense of being alone?

Thomas Was Alone - New Theory
Thomas Was Alone – New Theory

Thomas Was Alone (herein referred to as TWA) is part of a trend of games I have found myself increasingly in love with – games that deconstruct the platformers of my youth. I would include Braid in this category. I know I have played others which currently escape my mind, but also included on this list would be Super Meat Boy and Fez. They’re all exploring the mechanics of what made games like Super Mario Bros so amazing. In the case of Braid it’s a deconstruction followed by a reconstruction – going back to the basics and then building it back up to something new.

Thomas Was Alone - Who is this 'Thomas'?
Thomas Was Alone – Who is this ‘Thomas’?

TWA is a complete deconstruction – it is platforming at its most elemental. Your character is just a shape – it doesn’t even animate while it moves. Just the simplest sprite there could be. There are platforms you need to climb until you get to the spot where your character can exit. This involves simple puzzle-solving. Of course, there is some reconstruction – introducing elements that obey a different set of physics, but in a way, this is just an extension of what was already there.

Thomas Was Alone - Background info
Thomas Was Alone – Background info

Already I’ve checked off two great things about this game: It’s short and it evokes the platformers of my youth. But what made this an awesome game – what made me play this game for two nights in a row until way too late into the early morning was the story.  This game walks a fine line in for my story-telling tastes. On the one hand it gives you little hints in the form of quotes that give background into what happened before and after the game’s timeline. On the other, there is an awesome British narrator that allows you to know what the different shapes are thinking. I think it gives just enough information where you can piece almost all of it together. I rather dislike finishing a story-telling work of art and being left with more questions than answers. So this worked quite well. Also the thoughts of the various shapes, as you can see in the screenshots I’ve chosen here, are humorous without being too corny. If it does seem corny, know what the narrator’s delivery (which won him an award!) is a key part of what sells the emotion that the characters can’t emote.

I know Dan wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I was, but this is a potential game of the year for me. I recommend it, especially to anyone who is in their 30s and spent a lot of time with Mario.

RPG Maker VX Ace Lite - Eric and Dave talk
RPG Maker VX Ace Lite – Eric and Dave talk

RPG Maker VX Ace Lite (2 hrs) – For a few minutes during the Summer Steam Sale I almost bought RPG Maker VX Ace. But right now I don’t have the time nor the discretionary money. Although I didn’t have the story-telling skills that I have today (which are still nothing amazing) and probably would have made a pretty sophomoric Final Fantasy Parody, it’s another bit of software that I was was around when i was a kid. Still, it was used to make To the Moon, and I do still have a soft place in my heart for the SNES JRPG, even though I no longer have the time to play them. I grabbed the free version and it ignited my passion to make a game for fun and (maybe?) for profit. We’ll see if I’m in a better financial place the next time a sale comes around or maybe someone gets it for me for my birthday or Christmas. Here’s the demo I created with the free version – RPG Maker VG Ace Lite – Demo1. This is as far as I could go because it has an event limit and events are used to create NPCs. I actually made it so that Dave does different stuff based on whether you speak with Dan first, so it’s pretty neat what you can do in just a few hours.

Costume Quest - Grubbins on Ice
Costume Quest – Grubbins on Ice

Costume Quest (1 hr) – I finished Grubbins on Ice, the Costume Quest DLC. It was a cute and a fun little add-on; mostly more of the same. I was correct in my assumption that it was the length of one “level” in Costume Quest.

Air Forte (10 minutes) – This is an educational game that asks the user to fly a plane over the answer to various math problems. It’s ok and I’ll probably have Scarlett play it when she’s older. I didn’t spend much time with it.

One response to “July Video Games Report”

  1. I don’t dislike Thomas Was Alone, I just thought it wasn’t that hard/challenging as a puzzle platformer.