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Reviews | The Gamers Blog

stanley parable

It is nearly impos­si­ble to explain what The Stan­ley Para­ble is about. It is a game about the nature of games, how a player inter­acts with the world, and what hap­pens if the antag­o­nist is the game itself.

At it’s core, The Stan­ley Para­ble is a first per­son explo­ration game. All of the inter­ac­tion comes through choice. Choos­ing a door to walk through, choos­ing which but­ton to press, or even choos­ing to do noth­ing at all. You play as Stan­ley, an office worker who may be asleep, crazy, bored, and every­thing in between.

To reveal any­thing about the game­play expe­ri­ence is to ruin that expe­ri­ence for you. It is very much a nar­ra­tive dri­ven game, with the major­ity of the enter­tain­ment value com­ing from the nar­ra­tor, given life by the incom­pa­ra­ble Kevan Bright­ing, and his inter­ac­tions with the player. If you are sen­si­tive and can’t take con­struc­tive and not as con­struc­tive crit­i­cism, you may want to stay away. The nar­ra­tor will hurt your feel­ings and make you feel worth­less but, to be fair, you do the same to him mul­ti­ple times.

In tech­ni­cal terms the game is fine, with ser­vice­able graph­ics that never get in the way of the expe­ri­ence. The game is still based in Source, so the physics that come along with that engine work well (even with a dearth of inter­ac­tive objects). The music is fan­tas­tic and hugely var­ied. It only shows up every so often but when it does the score will com­mand your atten­tion. The con­trols will be famil­iar to any­one who has played a first per­son game, save for the lack of one usual input vari­a­tion that leads to a hilar­i­ous achievement.

I had issues start­ing up the game upon first install, but upon rein­stal­la­tion the issues ceased. Besides that there were no bugs that I per­son­ally have noticed in my ten hours or so with the game.

Mind Control

What really stuck out to me was how The Stan­ley Para­ble reflects on the absur­dity of game mechan­ics and sto­ry­telling. We do it all for a weird sense of self grat­i­fi­ca­tion, the accom­plish­ment of the objec­tive. Be it an actual scripted objec­tive like every mis­sion based game, or the “I’m going to steal a heli­copter and try to jump out onto a bus” self gen­er­at­ing objec­tives in an open world game, it’s all there to give the player a sense of accom­plish­ment. The Stan­ley Para­ble decon­structs this to the point where one sec­ond the objec­tive could be to press a but­ton so that some boom­ing voice will say “Eight!” over and over and the next the objec­tive is to fig­ure out what the game wants you to do. In the end, the game doesn’t want you to do any­thing. It’s a game. And The Stan­ley Para­ble knows that.

You can com­plete The Stan­ley Para­ble in about 15 min­utes. Your first play through will prob­a­bly take about half an hour. But there is so much to explore within the crazy world that Galac­tic Cafe thrusts you into that it could eas­ily eat up much more. Not for twitch gamers or peo­ple who want to get to the top of the leader­boards, but if you value nar­ra­tive then I implore you to check this one out. At least get the demo off of Steam. If any­thing, you’ll get a chuckle out of just how ridicu­lous it all is.

In its purest essence, The Stan­ley Para­ble is a com­men­tary on rou­tine, achieve­ment, the gov­ern­ment, video games, and life itself. I love get­ting lost in it’s world and los­ing myself within it. Every­one needs to play this.

 

 

When look­ing over my notes for this game, I came to the deci­sion to review this title as a pack­age, not a new stand­alone game. The orig­i­nal King­dom Hearts was released over 10 years ago, a lit­tle late to review a game based on its mer­its as a new title, despite my first play through of the title, though I am no stranger to the fran­chise. I do want to, how­ever, go over the changes made in this HD col­lec­tion and will judge the title based on what it is, an HD col­lec­tion. Over 40+ hours with the title, I had ups, downs, and a new bar at which to set HD col­lec­tions at.

King­dom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix is com­prised of three titles, King­dom Hearts: Final Remix (was a Japan exclu­sive), King­dom Hearts Re: Chain of Mem­o­ries, and 358/2 Days (pro­nounced 358 over 2 Days). The first two titles are in their entirety, but 358/2 Days is just re-mastered cut scenes with no game­play to speak of, which was cut due to hav­ing to take the time to rebuild the game( it was a DS exclu­sive), but there is still plenty of value here for your money. I com­pleted King­dom Hearts Final Mix, with­out obtain­ing every item and did not fin­ish every side quest in about 33 hours. The rest of the time was put into Chain of Mem­o­ries and watch­ing about an hour’s worth of the videos from 358/2 Days. Let’s break the title down.

 

King­dom Hearts was orig­i­nally released back in 2002 for the PlaySta­tion 2. It was a crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess, though it did have some prob­lems. The ver­sion that is included in this col­lec­tion is the Japan­ese exclu­sive “Final Mix”. The title fol­lows Sora, Don­ald, and Goofy on their adven­tures though orig­i­nal and Dis­ney inspired worlds to stop Ansem and defeat the Heart­less. Accord­ing to the games direc­tor, Tet­suya Nomura, most of the orig­i­nal game assets were lost over time, so most of this title has been rebuilt. The biggest changes have been to the cam­era and to the visu­als. Despite some weird mouth tex­tures here and there, this has set the bar for visu­als in an HD col­lec­tion. The games art direc­tions pops off the screen in great 1080p res­o­lu­tion and could eas­ily sur­pass some titles that were made more recently. Best of all, unlike some other HD col­lec­tions the full motion videos have also received the HD treat­ment, mak­ing them a visual treat. The cam­era sys­tem has been reworked from the shoul­der but­tons in the orig­i­nal game to the right thumb stick to mimic the cam­era from King­dom Hearts 2. While this is a great update, the cam­era can still be erratic and made some jar­ring move­ments dur­ing com­bat and other seg­ments. Plat­form­ing with the new cam­era made it more tol­er­a­ble, but the weird float­ing physics still kept it a chore. All of the music has been redone with live com­po­si­tions, instead of the syn­thetic based tones found in the orig­i­nal. I wish I had a set of head­phones for my PlaySta­tion 3, this game would have ben­e­fited from a bet­ter out­put than my T.V.’s speak­ers; the music is fan­tas­tic. The orig­i­nal voice work is still there, with per­for­mances by Haley Joel Osment, Billy Zane, David Bore­anaz, and James Woods. The voice overs are hit or miss in their act­ing abil­ity, but serve their pur­pose well. This is the meat and pota­toes of the col­lec­tion and as an HD re-master it is hard to fault. The game is beau­ti­ful, sounds great, and plays great. There are some design issues I have with the game, such as the lock-on being iffy at times, and the hunt for what to do next in some lev­els; but this is things that are a decade old, and are moot at this point. See­ing and hear­ing how great this title is now in the HD era, was a real treat, gripes aside.

 

Re: Chain of Mem­o­ries is a PS2 remake of the Game Boy Advanced title. The game plays dif­fer­ently than other titles in the series, with bat­tles using cards, instead of the typ­i­cal action com­mand sys­tem. Chain of Mem­o­ries takes place imme­di­ately after the first King­dom Hearts and has Sora and com­pany explor­ing the Cas­tle of Obliv­ion. The Cas­tle bases its rooms off of Sora’s mem­o­ries so expect a lot of recy­cled envi­ron­ments from the pre­vi­ous title. The card bat­tle sys­tem takes some time get­ting used to, and I still feel I don’t have a well enough grip on its intri­ca­cies. The game is much shorter than King­dom Hearts but is expected to be played through twice, so after two plays, you should clock in around the orig­i­nals run time. The game is much nar­rower in its scope and feel, and lin­ear by nature. It is a fun dis­trac­tion if you are look­ing for more to do with the 1.5 Remix after you have fin­ished King­dom Hearts, I would not by the col­lec­tion just for this title.

 

358/2 Days has zero game­play. It is a col­lec­tion of videos, play­ing out the story for the DS exclu­sive title. The col­lec­tion of videos spans almost 3 hours and while some are bet­ter than oth­ers, it can feel a bit drawn out and dull at times. It seems like a weird omis­sion to not include new game­play; this does com­plete the story line up until King­dom Hearts 2. As far as the chrono­log­i­cal order is con­cerned, these three titles line up one after another. In the grand scheme of things, if there is to be a King­dom Hearts 2 HD com­pi­la­tion, any new com­ers to the series would be caught up to speed with the over­all story arch, out­side of the PSP pre­quel, Birth by Sleep. While I am sure the game­play was cut for the sake of time and money, it is kind of a dis­ap­point­ment that it wasn’t included. The videos were made from the in-game engine and do include the beau­ti­ful updated visu­als as well as voice over work. There are tro­phies to unlock with the videos, which was a weird choice, though some maybe gru­el­ing for tro­phy hunters, be pre­pared to watch a lot of videos.

 

If you are a fan of Square Enix or the King­dom Heart series, then you already have the col­lec­tion. For those look­ing to get into the series, or some­thing a lit­tle light­hearted and dif­fer­ent, this is the col­lec­tion to buy. For $40, you could have received less con­tent, but Square Enix was very gen­er­ous in this col­lec­tion. King­dom Hearts, like I stated above, is the main course of this col­lec­tion and should be pur­chased as such. Chain of Mem­o­ries and 358/2 Days should be treated like DVD extra fea­tures, they are good addi­tions, but if you skip them, you are not miss­ing out on much. As a HD col­lec­tion, it is fan­tas­tic. I thought I had seen the pin­na­cle of these col­lec­tions with the likes of the ICO, Metal Gear Solid, and Sly Cooper col­lec­tions, but Square Enix has sur­passed these. While the oth­ers have included more sta­ble frame rates and higher res­o­lu­tions, most of King­dom Hearts Final Mix was rebuilt with this col­lec­tion in mind. It may be lack­ing in the amount of games offered ver­sus other col­lec­tions; the out­stand­ing reworked visu­als and audio place this at the top of my HD col­lec­tion list. The pack­ag­ing is one other pos­i­tive going for this col­lec­tion. I post an arti­cle about the art book pack­ag­ing on Tues­day, and if you are think­ing of pick­ing up the title go for the art book case if you can. I love the idea of pack­ag­ing being an art book, hint­ing at the ever pos­si­bil­ity of games as art. In clos­ing, come for the beau­ti­ful King­dom Hearts Final Mix; though be aware some game­play ele­ments have not aged par­tic­u­larly well. Chain of Mem­o­ries and the 358/2 Days the­ater are after din­ner mints that can be taken as you please, or you can ignore alto­gether. As an HD col­lec­tion, it sets a new bar for audio and visual re-mastering. I hope Square Enix put this much love into the upcom­ing Final Fan­tasy X/X-2 HD Collection.

 

+ A plethora of con­tent for $40

+ Beau­ti­ful visuals

+ Reworked audio is a treat

+ FMV’s have HD resolution

+ A great pack­age for new com­ers to the franchise

+ Art­book pack­ag­ing is fantastic

+ Despite cam­era issues and some cheap deaths, the game is still a blast to play

+ PS3 dynamic themes as unlocks

- The reworked cam­era is a nice addi­tion, but is still awful

- 358/2 Days was deliv­ered as a 3 hour movie

- Tro­phy hunters have to sit through the three hour movie

–Chain of Mem­o­ries can be a lit­tle repet­i­tive and the com­bat takes some get­ting use to

Final Score — 8.5/10

King­dom Hearts HD Review

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Yep, it’s Saints Row all right.

 

Saints Row has a long rep­u­ta­tion of being one of the finest, if bug­gi­est, GTA imi­ta­tors. Beat­ing Rockstar’s titan to the pre­vi­ous next-gen plat­forms with its 360 debut, Saints Row was a bit of a buggy mess that still had great amounts of fun to be had. Its sequel, Saints Row 2, was shipped just months after GTA IV, bring­ing the same flawed but fun game­play to the table, rival­ing its chief com­pe­ti­tion. Finally, in 2011, Voli­tion found they had nailed it with their next at-bat, Saints Row: The Third. After crush­ing most bugs, game-breaking and minor, they had pro­duced and insanely high-polish title that was  a clear cham­pion of the open world genre, pro­vid­ing non-stop laughs and incred­i­bly fun game­play the entire ride. Now Volition’s back with a full game extended out of planned SR3 DLC fea­tur­ing an alien inva­sion and a Matrix knock­off, and they’ve pulled out what few stops were left.

Read more ...

I’ve been around the gam­ing indus­try for a long time and one of the pre-conceived notions I’ve had as it’s grown and changed over the years is that new games should have amaz­ing graph­ics and they should get bet­ter with each install­ment. With that said when I first saw Hot­line Miami on Steam I sim­ply ignored it.  I didn’t even con­sider it until CABXYZ told me that I should give the game a shot.  At his sug­ges­tion and my insa­tiable need to get my Sum­mer Get­away 2013 badge on steam I decided to pick it up.

Firstly I want to say that at $2.99 it felt like high­way rob­bery… of the devel­op­ers.   Even at the $9.99 price tag I feel the devel­op­ers are under charg­ing for this title.  I would of gladly paid $20, $25 maybe even $30 dol­lars  for it and that’s say­ing a lot con­sider that it’s an 8bit over the top shooter.

Graph­ics – this doesn’t really apply here but that doesn’t mean the pre­sen­ta­tion can’t be cool and enter­tain­ing.  If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s not to judge a book by its cover and that’s what I did sadly with Miami hot­line.  Half the bat­tle is mak­ing a solid pre­sen­ta­tion with every­thing from the smooth menu, solid game­play, and inter­est­ing ani­ma­tions.  Every­thing from the blood spat­ters to the inter­est­ing cut-scenes make the whole pre­sen­ta­tion complete

Sound – This is one of the top high­lights of the game.  We at TGB absolutely loved the sound track.  I loved it so much I actu­ally went and pur­chased the sound­track.  It was that good and it’s one of my favorite in a game in recent his­tory.  Obvi­ously this isn’t a 5.1 sur­round game but the sound­track is def­i­nitely the winner.

Game­play – since this isn’t a high-powered game it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be… ultra smooth.  The game plays smoothly and it has a vast array of weapons to use rang­ing from your fists to guns and throw­ing knives.  I played the game with Mouse and Key­board but you can also play it with a con­troller on the PC ver­sion or you can get it on the PS3, Vita and Xbox360.

Story – if there was a weak spot there it’s prob­a­bly the story.  It’s not bad by any means but it was slightly con­fus­ing and mildly absurd but then how many games aren’t.

Value – I played through the game in about 8.5 hours.  So for the measly $2.99 I paid for it I got a hell of a deal.  This game has a ton of replay value as well as some of the achieve­ments will require you to play sev­eral mis­sions over and over again and to boot they are a blast to play.

Chal­lenge – This is some­thing I gen­er­ally don’t cover because I feel that most games are designed to appeal to the masses and not to the ‘hard­core elite’ of games and thus they are designed to be sim­ple, easy and some­times mind­less.   I’m thank­ful to say that Miami Hot­line does not fall into this trap and it’s very refresh­ing.  There were more than a few times that I actu­ally wanted to throw the key­board out the win­dow.  Miami Hot­line saves are really what drive the chal­lenge.  They aren’t annoy­ing but they are sim­i­lar to older games.  If you die at ANY point dur­ing one of the stages you start all over again.  Most of the mis­sions have 2 – 4 stages to fur­ther that every­thing is one hit kill so if you get hit or shot even once… you start over.  You will die and die often… there is even an achieve­ment for it.

In short Miami Hot­line is a must buy and is one of my favorite indie games to come out since Mount & Blade.  If you are a fan of the Super Nin­tendo or con­sider your­self a gamer period this is a MUST have game for your library.

Rat­ing: 9/10

 

Vio­lent video games and movies cause vio­lent behav­ior!”  I’ve heard this say­ing thrown around a lot lately and I’ve said noth­ing because  I find that state­ment une­d­u­cated but as this has been tossed around a lot in main­stream media lately I thought I would add my two cents and yes I love to chal­lenge peo­ples beliefs.

To give you a lit­tle back­ground on myself for those of you who don’t know my hob­bies.  I’ve played video games *of all types from Chess, Mario to Duke Nukem* since I was eight or nine years old.  Once I hit 8th grade I started play­ing numer­ous mul­ti­player games includ­ing Project Vis­i­tor, Counter-Strike, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Half-Life, Team Fortress, etc.  Most of which would be con­sid­ered vio­lent games.  I played them so much *10 – 12 hours a day* on a reg­u­lar basis that I started play­ing some of the com­pet­i­tively and semi-professionally.  I’ve also been deeply involved in the gam­ing com­mu­nity and mod­ding com­mu­ni­ties since before I can remem­ber.  I’ve played and beat almost every major game from Myst to Bat­tle­field 3.   So in short my back­ground in the gam­ing indus­try has been… lengthy.  So given this child­hood steeped in epic vio­lence how would you expect me to turn out?  Main­stream media would have you believe that I would grow up to be a pimp and smack hoes on the street while mow­ing down inno­cent pedes­tri­ans with my auto­matic weapons.  What am I really though?  I’m a Sys­tem Archi­tect for a major med­ical hard­ware and soft­ware man­u­fac­ture and in my spare time *when I have it* I still play games and work on my cars.  I’m also mar­ried and live in the mid­dle of sub­ur­bia.   So how did I turn out this way?

The “video games and movies are the prob­lem” response is as about as silly as the “NRA kills chil­dren” state­ment.  It has no basis in real­ity.  Just like gun own­ers the major­ity com­pet­i­tive video game play­ers are not sui­ci­dal mani­acs bent on destroy­ing the world.  There was a study done awhile back that said “[C]ompetitive video game play was cor­re­lated mod­er­ately pos­i­tively with aggres­sion. In con­trast, the cor­re­la­tions between non­com­pet­i­tive video game play and aggres­sion were small and mostly neg­a­tive. Com­pet­i­tive gam­bling also was cor­re­lated mod­er­ately pos­i­tively with aggres­sion, whereas the cor­re­la­tions between non-competitive gam­bling and aggres­sion were small and pos­i­tive.” So let’s take a look at what this says… if you are play­ing a com­pet­i­tive game you’re more likely to be aggres­sive.  This has noth­ing to do with the vio­lent con­tent but it has every­thing to do with the com­pe­ti­tion.  When you are com­pet­i­tive you’re going to be more aggressive.

But Brad I know some­one who plays video games 16 hours a day, he’s got no social life and he gets aggres­sive and vio­lent when you try to take him away from it!  You have no idea what you’re talk­ing about!”  Hmmm but is that the vio­lent video games he’s play­ing or the non-ones for that mat­ter?  Or is it the addic­tion to those games that causes the aggres­sion.  I’d chal­lenge every­one to look at many forms of addic­tion that do cause this same behav­ior such as sports, alco­hol, soda, cof­fee, food, etc.

So by that logic we should just let lit­tle chil­dren play Grand Theft Auto and let them watch vio­lent movies!”  No… quite the con­trary.  I don’t believe chil­dren need these types of things in their lives as they should be spend­ing time learn­ing and play­ing out­side.   While I don’t believe vio­lent images are the direct cause of vio­lence in adults I do believe they have a small impres­sion on lit­tle chil­dren, espe­cially those that don’t receive proper par­ent­ing on what is real and what is not.  Or have par­ents who prop­erly man­age their time.

That is the real prob­lem though isn’t it?  Just like the vio­lence in our soci­ety.  We like to blame the gun, the game, the movies, the drugs, every­thing but our­selves.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got to get in line to pur­chase a game when I’ve seen a mother come up with her five year old child with a copy of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty and have the store clerk ask her “Ma’am you know this game is rated Mature right” and she says some­thing like “yeah I really don’t care”.   If par­ents don’t care what their chil­dren watch then they prob­a­bly don’t care what they are doing either.

See as soci­ety we like the blame the symp­tom and not tar­get the prob­lem.  We want an easy fix, we want to think that if we donate so much money here, or go to church this many times, or leg­is­late this or leg­is­late that the prob­lems will go away but that’s just tar­get­ing the symp­toms not the problem.

Hav­ing said all that are there some peo­ple who are influ­enced by vio­lent media? Of course there are but they are a small minor­ity com­pared to the vast major­ity of us who aren’t.  The choice to watch that media or play those games is theirs to make not yours or mine *unless they are your children*.

 

 


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    Warning: Unknown: open(/home/content/51/5318551/tmp/sess_rlbp0015v1li8jj56s5pom0191, O_RDWR) failed: No such file or directory (2) in Unknown on line 0

    Warning: Unknown: Failed to write session data (files). Please verify that the current setting of session.save_path is correct () in Unknown on line 0