Review – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a surprisingly sweet and challenging little game. I’m afraid to say that when I first decided to give the game ago, I was not expecting much. What I instead ended up experiencing was a game with a great amount of character and heart and some gameplay that always kept a refreshing and fun angle too it.

When you first sit down to play Two Sons the first thing you’ll notice is the unique style of gameplay. In the game you control two brothers at the same time, one with each joystick. This decision is a little disorientating at first but once you get the hang of what you need to do the gameplay can actually be pretty rewarding, especially when you complete one of the games many challenging platforming moments. I don’t think the game would have been as enjoyable if Starbreeze Studios had decided to go with a common gameplay choice and have the player just switch back and forth between each brother (Lego game style) its these creative decisions that has made this such  a stand out game.

The story and characters in Two Sons are once again an interesting situation. All the characters in the game speak no language that exists. They speak in the same vain as Sims (Gibberish). This decision once again adds to the game in a charming and unique way and because of the lack of understandable speech, you as the gamer will be left to interpret the story for yourself. Though it isn’t a story that is too difficult to understand it’s still an enjoyable little ride with an ending that caught me off guard and stuck with me long after finishing the game.

Another notable point of Two Sons is the world itself. The world that you travel through is so diverse and at times genuinely stunning, also aided by the game fully endorsing its fantasy setting you will get to explore areas that almost feel like a character in its own right.

One complaint I would have with the game is the price, for how long the game takes to finish (3hrs 30min) and how much it costs £12.99 the barrier for some people is the whole bang for your buck situation. Many people may not want to buy Two Sons because of the onetime experience that it is and the game time does not necessarily compliment how much you’ll end up paying. This is a shame because Two Sons didn’t do stellar in sales and anything that would help in getting the game into peoples library is a plus.

I would very much recommend this game to anyone. It was an experience that kept me engrossed from the opening to the end and the journey that you go on over the three and a half hour span was an unexpected treat. Two Sons is a unique and joyful little experience and I can’t wait to see what more will come from creative lead ‘Josef Fares’ and the team at Starbreeze Studios.

The Games That Mattered to Me in 2013

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With top 10 lists and top 5 lists being so prevalent at this time of the year I though it only sensible that I throw my hat into the already overcrowded cloak room of lists of games that stuck with me over 2013. I’m not sure if I’m going to pit these games in any particular order just because all of them in their own right are stand out titles that everyone should make the effort to play.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

The first game that I want to talk about is Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Now please bear with me because I know that this isn’t a game that stands out as one of the talking points of 2013 but anyway. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was a game that was on my radar from the second it was announced, for clarification I loved Far Cry 3 (2012) it was a game that I had low expectations for but after I played and finished it I was blown away by how much of a success this game was for me. So when Ubisoft announced a short downloadable game with an 80’s undertone and its set in the world of Far Cry 3, well let’s just say this was a game I wanted to play.

So yes now to what made the game something that stuck with me through 2013. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was a game that humour running through it that made the game fresh and from a tone stand point very different. When you first go through the tutorial that leaves you giggling long after it’s done is just one example of how the game continually makes mundane moments in other games, a constant joy in this game.

The only thing that is slightly lacking for Blood Dragon is decent gameplay. It takes from Far Cry 3’s gameplay and the only evolution that is made it is an arm mounted laser and super human powers. These additions make the game a silly type of fun but the lack of evolution leaves something to be desired.

But away from the negatives, Blood Dragon was an extremely fun, witty game that I played for much longer than I was expecting to and I hope that short little action games like Blood Dragon are continually noticeable in 2014.

The Stanley Parable

The next game on my list is one that seems to very much divide people. When people play and finish The Stanley Parable, they either think that it was great, fun and worthwhile game to play while others think the game to be a pretentious thesis on games, meaning it can’t be considered a game. I am very much in the first camp; I felt that The Stanley Parable was some astute commentary on games but also a witty and fun to play game that by the end left me with a smile on my face.

I think that games like this need to exist. When you look at other forms of entertainment, you will always find ones that hold a mirror up to itself and say look here’s where we are right now and it’s up to you to decide if what you see in the mirror needs to go away or is just where things need to be. With the Stanley Parable I think it shows that where games are just now is maybe not great. With the annualisation of games and a dumbing down of content, things have certainly gone down an unfortunate path. But in a weird inception like way the industry is better than ever because of games like The Stanley Parable which we weren’t getting to play 10 years ago and if they did crop up, either no one knew about them or even cared them.

So it’s existential reasons like this coupled with a game that delivers a fun and witty story, some interesting characters and gameplay that  makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play.

Bioshock Infinite

Now Bioshock Infinite is a game that has had an interesting trajectory over the last few years. From first being announced back in 2010, to showing up on store shelves in March of 2013 this game was delayed multiple times, it had game mechanics and levels that never ended up being in the final product and for a while it seemed like one of those games that would end up in development hell indefinitely. Late march of last year it finally came out and everyone seemed to love it; I mean it had everything from wonderful characters, to a beautifully imagined world and a story that still sticks with me today.

But since its release the mood on Infinite has changed and this love and praise that so many were given it has disappeared and has turned into a constant barrage of gripes ranging from: hating the gameplay, to finding the story too difficult to follow etc. So now I’m entirely sure where this once beloved game rests for a lot of people.

I know one thing though, and that is that I absolutely loved this game. Bioshock Infinite was a really special game and with the forward thrusting power that is Ken Levine behind it, this game was a true stand out of 2013 for me. The writing in this game, the beautiful world of Columbia, the characters that were filled with so much life, a story that left me gob-smacked by the end everything in this game just worked. This was a game that, when I finished it I just wanted to talk to someone about it because I loved it so much.

Gone Home

Now Gone Home is a game that I kept hearing about for the longest time, every time I visited a news site, watched a video or listened to a podcast that was related to gaming, Gone Home was always one that people brought up. So of course I had to check it out and Wow.

When I first started playing Gone Home I thought it was going to be another one of these jump scare games that you always see someone playing on YouTube. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Gone Home is a game in a house where you interact with no other characters, you don’t vault over cover, and you don’t save the planet. You just experience a story. A story that for a video game is very different and it’s a story I don’t want to spoil any of, I just want people to experience this game. There isn’t much else I can say about this game without giving away the brilliance of some of its moments, all I can say is that this is definitely a stand out title for 2013 and it’s little indie games like this that keep the industry evolving and fresh.

The Last of Us

The final game on my list is a game that I felt was truly special and that game is for me and I’m sure many other people a game that blew them away. So far I’ve made the effort to not put these games in any specific order, that’s mainly because I think it would be unfair to rank these games as all of them are stand out games on their own but when it comes to the Last of Us this is a game that I will probably continue to put at the top of lists that I end up forming.

The Last of Us continued to exceed my expectation the longer I played it, with a beginning that kicks the players straight in the gut from the word go, to story and gameplay that keeps you enthralled and challenged the whole way through, this was the swan song of the previous generation for me personally.

I think that this game has proven that a story of such intensity, coupled with fun and engaging gameplay can be done and can be done very well. The Last of Us delivered a story to players that never faltered, it just continued to live within the beautifully created world and the two in tandem worked so well in causing me to lose myself in the world. But this world and story would not have been as great as it was without it being populated with some brilliantly fledged out characters that very much elevated the story and gameplay.

I think you can clearly see from how much I’m gushing about this game that for me The Last of Us was a truly special game and I don’t seem to be the only one. The Last of Us has continued to pick up every award that it has been nominated for (quite deservedly).

The next year of games is now really exciting because with this great calibre of games we had in 2013 I’m very excited to see what is coming next.

Review – The Walking Dead: Season 2 – Episode 2

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When I reviewed the first episode of season 2 of The Walking Dead game I was happy that Telltale had been able to keep up the high standards of Season 1. Also that they were able to build upon it by having a completely new character who is 11 years old and not have that aspect cause story or gameplay to suffer. Unfortunately with Episode 2 I don’t feel that Telltale has been able to keep that consistency up.

When I reviewed the first episode of season 2 one of my main complaints with it was the technical hiccups that I kept running into (screen tears, loading issues). I’m happy to say that with episode 2 it seems that Telltale have made the effort to irradiate these problems. During my play through of the episode 2 I didn’t seem to encounter any major technical issues that removed me from the experience and my entire time with the game seemed to run smoothly. Now I could be in the minority in that situation, there may be people out there who ran into problems with the game and I was just lucky to not have any, further time with the game or finding out how others peoples experience with the episode went shall of course clear that up.

So yes having the game run smoothly and without issue was a plus when playing though the game, where this episode faltered for me was the characters and the story, two very important aspects when it comes to these games. When I finished episode 1 I was interested in the varying dynamics between the characters and I was looking forward to seeing where the story was going to go. When I finished episode 2 I was left feeling confused and disjointed by the way in which characters were going and a little disinterested by the direction of the story.

My main issue with the second episode was our main character, Clementine. Apart from some forced gameplay moments, Clementine felt like an afterthought in this episode, someone who was of no real consequence to the events that were happening. I understand that it is important to build up your supporting group of characters but I don’t think it’s a good idea to do this at the expense of the main protagonist, especially the one you are controlling. To give an example of what I’m meaning, the episode has a situation where a secondary character makes a major decision within the episode, with this decision you have no say in the playing out of this scenario, you have no way of stopping it and it is resolved with almost no input or say from you. The entire story line takes place while you just seem to stand there and watch it happen.

Overall I felt disappointed with this episode, even with the improvements on the backend this episode seemed like filler, an episode that was just setting up things, things that you didn’t have a say in having. I do hope that the next episode returns to what has worked so well previously. It’s definitely strange how polar opposite the review of this episode was compared to episode 1.

Review – The Walking Dead: Season 2 – Episode 1

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The reception that season 1 of ‘The Walking Dead Game’ received was surprising and deserved. The game was adorned with such achievements as Best Adapted Video Game and Best Downloadable Game. So as you can imagine, expectation and hype for season 2 was high and with the game taking a clear risk by having the protagonist of the story be an 11 year old girl there was also some trepidation.

I think everyone will be happy to see that Telltale didn’t let us down with season 2. Playing as Clementine has added a whole new feel to the game, where before you were a six foot man who could contend with the best of foe you now have to completely rethink how you are going to play out a scenario. This new dynamic to the gameplay has now refreshed the gameplay and definitely upped the fear factor. One thing that still unfortunately persists with the gameplay is some fidgety controls that are time sensitive and if you miss one of these quick time events then it will of course result in the death of Clementine and you going back a few seconds before the event. Despite these sometimes problematic controls the game doesn’t suffer from moving you forward to the next event too much.

The strongest point of The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1 is Clem herself and the story that she is very much thrown into headfirst. With this season having its character being an 11 year old girl, I stupidly expected this season to not be as intense or gut wrenching, I find it important to say now that this new season does not hold back at all and within the first few minutes of starting the episode, you as the player are very much slapped with the hardship of the world that Clementine inhabits and the hardships you as a player will be playing through.

Now at this point it’s important to add that this game doesn’t come as the perfect package. This is a Telltale game and with that means some unfortunate technical issues that seem to plague the game throughout. Too often did I find myself encountering screen tearing or jolty loading issues that too often took me out of the experience, these technical issues that so many of Telltales games seem to be plagued with (The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead Season 1)  is becoming concerning. If it wasn’t for these issues, The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1 would be brilliantly crafted experience.

Now it’s important to note that the game can still be played and enjoyed and I would very much recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the first season of the game but it would certainly be a much smoother experience without these jarring technical issues.

Review – Infamous Second Son

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So the first big exclusive title to hit PS4 has finally arrived and it is one that many people have been waiting with baited breath for. Unfortunately Infamous Second Son doesn’t live up to the hype that has been placed on it for the past few months.

Infamous 1 and 2 were both very well received games on the PS3. The games had engaging gameplay, an interesting story and a group of characters that were easy to invest in. With Infamous Second Son most of these positives seem to have been overlooked for reasons I’m still wondering. Now don’t get me wrong the gameplay in Second Son is extremely fun, you are given a decent bulk of your powers early on and so because of this you are able to fly and blast your way around Seattle with ease and you don’t ever feel like you are being punished for not haven been given a decent assortment of super powers. The powers that our lead character Delsin Rowe has throughout the game are a fun and varied assortment that you gradually gain over the game, the varied powers help create some slight changes in how you tackle certain situations but after a while all slowly blend together until there is not really one better than the other. Unfortunately once you have had your fill of the gameplay (which I’ll reiterate is a lot of fun and definitely an improvement on the last two games) there isn’t much else I would say that stands out, especially with this being touted as a next generation experience.

Where Infamous Second Son begins to fall apart is primarily with its story and its characters. To highlight a specific moment that occurred for me 4 or 5 hours into the game was when I found myself doing one of the main story missions and I suddenly stopped and began to question what my purpose as Delsin Rowe was in Seattle, why was I chasing this supposed evil women why was I leaping over roof tops in search of another power and then it hit me, there was no real driving force for what I was doing, not one that I cared enough about anyway. This is what disappointed me the most about Second Son, the lack of purpose or the want/need to move forward in the game. With Infamous 1 and 2 you had tightly woven stories that kept me wanting to play, with Second Son there was a simple, poorly written, uninteresting story. Also to top off the distinct lack of story there is a distinct lack of characters development, most characters though look impressive visually bring absolutely no real substance to the game, even the lead character Delsin with the masterful voice work by Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us) wasn’t enough to make me have any real connection or intrigue in what will happen to him.

One of the last points I want to make about Second Son is the visuals and the setting in which you game within. Firstly Second Son is an impressive looking game, not jaw dropping but still the game has genuine moments of highlighting just what the PS4 is capable of and it excites me to see how much better it’s going to get. Why I feel that the visuals are perhaps not as stunning as I was hoping is because of the city of Seattle itself. No offense to people who live in or appreciate the look of Seattle but when considering it in the context of the game it is a very uninteresting city to play in. Filled with bland looking buildings that more or less all look the same I feel the decision to set Second Son in Seattle was a disservice to the game over all and perhaps if they had done what they did for the previous Infamous games we may have had a more interesting place to inhabit.

Overall I was disappointed with Infamous Second Son. Yes the gameplay is really fun and engaging but that’s pretty much it when Second Son is concerned. If you already have a PS4 I would say that this game is worth picking up if not just because it means you have something to play on your PS4 but I would not buy a PS4 just to play Infamous Second Son, it is not a game that will hold your attention for long.