It wasn’t even a case of not liking the game – Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is great! Early in the month, I played through the first two cases, The Fate of Black Peter and Riddle on the Rails, and I fully intended to get back to it.
But World of Warcraft has really devoured all my gaming time this month, and it’s not like December doesn’t have anything else going on. I just never managed to carve out 90 minutes or so where I could really get deeply involved with a story game after completing the second chapter.
That was, in fact, the only complaint I had about the game. I’m actually really glad it required thinking and paying close attention to the story, but that also made it nearly impossible to take an extended break in the middle of a case. More than a day or two, and I’m fairly sure I would have had to restart any given case. That said, carving out a couple hours to play through a case isn’t at all an unreasonable ask.
I loved that the game allows you to … well, it lets you totally drop the ball. Each case has a right answer, of course, but it’s also really easy to overlook something and end up accusing the wrong person (or the right person for the wrong reason). You also have the opportunity to make a moral decision at the end of each case, and that will effect the way the final scene plays out. As with just about any adventure game, there’s some tedious backtracking and some pixel-hunting, but overall, I found those things mild enough to not detract from the experience.
I absolutely intend to go back at some point and play through the remaining four cases, but this just wasn’t the time for me to play something so heavily story-focused.
I won’t sugar coat this – I fully expected MMM: Murder Most Misfortunate to be more annoying than enjoyable, but decided to give it a whirl anyway because of a single idea – you can frame absolutely anyone for murder and get away with it. Building a convincing murder mystery is hard enough; building one where it can be made to seem that all suspects are equally plausible is really a feat.
While this might not be the most compelling visual novel, in my opinion, it succeeds in what it’s set out to do. It’s a compact little story, with characters that are pretty one-dimensional, and with a fairly unlikable protagonist. You have the option of playing a timed game, but honestly, the 75 minutes you’re allotted is more than enough – I had seen everything the game had to offer prior to the alternate endings with more than 30 minutes left on the clock.
You play as Miss Fortune, a rather unpleasant woman who has been widowed nine times. Clearly, you’re not entirely uncomfortable with death. You are attending a society function in an old country manor in need of repair when your host winds up dead. Worse, the murderer has decided to frame you for the crime.
There is some investigation necessary in order to find the clues you’ll need to either unmask the true murderer, or at the very least, to pin the crime on someone else. However, the pixel hunting is minimal and generous – bringing your mouse anywhere near an object of interest will allow you to interact with it. You can talk with all the party guests from the start, but finding certain objects, or completing other conversations will open up additional dialogue paths.
The entire game is voice acted, which is a nice touch, and the story holds together, despite being a bit sparse. I didn’t have too much difficulty figuring out the “true” ending, but I made it a point to play through all the other options as well, as it required minimal backtracking in order to do so. All told, I playing MMM: Murder Most Misfortunate for about an hour and a half, and walked away satisfied with the experience.
When I was a child, choose-your-own-adventure books were the hot new thing, and I read gobs of them, over and over to see all the different storylines. I mention this only because it’s the closest parallel I can think of to visual novels. When they’re good, you absolutely want to play them over and over to see the results of all the possible choices you could have made.
Infer from this what you will, but if Aviary Attorney had been much longer than it was (I spent about two and a quarter hours on my playthrough), I probably wouldn’t have even finished it once.
It’s unfortunate, because the things it does well, it does very well. The artwork is lovely, and the sound design does a fantastic job of pulling together the serious with the silly. The writing, although a little pun-heavy for my personal taste, is inoffensive, and carries the plot along unobtrusively.
However, I felt that the mechanics of the game were at odds with the concept, and it really ruined the entire experience for me.
I certainly won’t claim to be an expert on the visual novel genre, and I realize that genre conventions as a whole are starting to slip away as developers continue to play with genre mash-ups, looking for the next hot combination. In this particular instance, I felt that the concept of tying the ability to make the “correct” choices in the VN portions to the adventure-game conventions of visiting the proper locations and successful pixel-hunting for clues detracted from the experience, and was an unsuccessful genre-blend here.
With everything being tied to a timer, if you missed something in a location, you either needed to reload a previous save, or be comfortable with the idea you might be missing a key piece of evidence when it was time to go to trial.
Some people might enjoy that the game allows you to make mistakes and the need to deal with the consequences, but I found it discouraging. In multiple cases, I knew the answer, but couldn’t prove it because I had failed to pick something up along the way. As a result, I was left blundering around for three attempts to choose the correct evidence, which I did not possess due to making an error in the investigation phase. I was not even give the option to back out – I had to progress through handing in three completely irrelevant pieces of evidence.
In a lot of ways, I felt as if Aviary Attorney intended to set the player up for failure, and while that might fit the darkly comedic narrative being presented, for me, it just didn’t feel good. Doing everything right in the first case was no more satisfying than doing everything wrong, and it just got worse from there. It’s unfortunate, because there was a lot of potential here, but it was wasted – too much time was wasted trying to be a point-n-click adventure, and it left me woefully under-prepared for the main course.
I finished the last main story episode of Alan Wake a couple of days ago, but I really felt like I needed to sit with how I felt about the experience as a whole before I could really talk about it.
You see, there were a lot of things about the game I really liked. The sound design was fantastic. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to point to anything in the atmosphere that detracted from the experience rather than added to it. Still, I overall found the whole package somewhat unsatisfying, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think I realized how underwhelmed I was until the very end.
Now, obviously, I don’t want to ruin the game for anyone who hasn’t gotten around to it in the past eight and a half years, but it’s actually a common complaint I have with fright media – the story is captivating, and then it’s over, and the ending either resolves nothing or is so far fetched, it cheapens everything that came before. I’m not going to tell you which type of disappointing ending this one was.
It didn’t help that – for me – I think this game would have been better as more of a walking simulator. Other than being story-focused, it often felt like the game wasn’t sure what it was trying to be. Although I could appreciate the theme of burning away the darkness with the flashlight before being able to take on enemies, I found the process to be rather tedious, and at the same time, more difficult than I expected while playing on the easiest difficulty. By comparison, the “puzzles” almost weren’t worthy of being called puzzles, they were so simple and obvious.
Most of the time is spent collecting ammunition and batteries, wandering around lost in the wilderness, and moving oh-so-slowly to the next story beat. I did like the idea of the special messages you could illuminate (and they helped me through a few map navigation challenges), but I already said that Alan Wake had the window dressing on lock.
My other major issue was with collectibles. I usually love collectibles. I love poking around and seeing what neat things I can discover. But when I’m basically being hunted, and dealing with limited resources and confusing maps, I’m not going exploring. I decided early on that if I spotted collectibles, I’d grab them, but I wasn’t going one step out of my way for them.
My final verdict on Alan Wake is this – it was a great concept, with great atmosphere, that was let down by some odd game design choices and an unsatisfying ending. There are two “bonus chapters” that I decided against playing because I found the last chapter so very frustrating that after the resolution of the main story, I had no desire to continue on. I spent a little over 8 hours playing the six main story episodes on the easiest difficulty.
I’m going to start out by admitting that I’m feeling just a little bit guilty on this one. For #FightingGameMonth, I may have adhered to the letter of the law by choosing Injustice: Gods Among Us as my game for the month, but ooh boy, did I tweak it to the point that I skipped out entirely on the spirit of the thing.
First off, although as far as I’m concerned, I completed the game (there were credits!), I only played the story mode content. I’m not overly experienced with fighting games in general, but I don’t even know that most of them have story modes. Then, I did this to the difficulty settings:
Yep, not just easy. Very easy. Do you know what happens when you play on very easy? You can finish the entire game without successfully executing a combo as long as you mash enough buttons. I was pretty attached to this plan already, but then I attempted the tutorial.
That’s right – I finished the game, but couldn’t get through the tutorial. Playing with the keyboard wasn’t too bad, except that it didn’t always register all my key presses – I assume I could have futzed around in Windows settings to make it so pressing three keys at the same time wouldn’t cause a problem, but I figured I’d try to play the game with a controller instead.
My oh-so-cost-effective controller that I bought despite not liking controllers, generally speaking.
Real talk: I was no more successful with the controller than I was with the keyboard, but at the difficult level I selected, it didn’t matter. Leaving the tutorial and entering the story mode proper was like rolling back down to the absolute bottom of a the difficulty curve. I turned a fighting game into a really basic hack-n-slasher.
And I enjoyed it.
I would say that story mode was probably 60% cut scenes, 30% fight sequences, and 10% weird little Quicktime-style events. The story was passable, even as someone whose knowledge of DC Comics is almost entirely based on a cross-media enjoyment of all things Batman. It really didn’t matter that I didn’t know much about the majority of the characters, especially since the story was focused on a parallel universe concept.
All told, reaching full completion of story mode took me just under four hours over two play sessions. Even on very easy, the last few fights were a little rough (and I had to retry a single fight after switching back to keyboard and putting my hands on the WRONG DAMN KEYS).
I’ve definitely played games I enjoyed less, but nothing about the story wowed me enough to want to figure out the game play, instead of just faking my way through it.
It’s a weird feeling to absolutely not be able to get into something that seems to be wildly popular. It’s even weirder when I know I’ve played (and really enjoyed) other games that are styled after more traditional JRPGs, such as the Siralim trilogy.
World of Final Fantasy was my second attempt a getting into the Final Fantasy universe by coming at it sideways. After trying (and failing) to get jazzed about the MMO so many of my friends absolutely love, I thought maybe dipping my toes into a cutesy Pokemon-inspired would be an easier introduction – I’ve enjoyed other critter battlers in the past, and let’s be honest, I needed something light after Danganronpa V3.
Well, I was right that it was cute, and that it’s a critter-battler. In World of Final Fantasy, your minions are called mirages, and from my (admittedly very limited) Pokemon experiences, the capture mechanic seems to be pretty similar. In fact, a lot of the mechanics seem to be similar, and I’m at least passingly familiar with how it all works.
I gave the game about two hours, and made it to the first boss battle. Part of me wants to complain that the game is needlessly complicated, but if I’m honest, I don’t think that in and of itself would have put me off from playing. I don’t mind a learning curve. I don’t even mind difficulty necessarily, as long as it’s of the “use your brain and maybe take notes” variety rather than the “smoosh buttons flawlessly and fast” variety. In fact, I though the little puzzle switches in the dungeons were perhaps the best part of the game I had seen yet.
I think the biggest turn-off, for me, is likely more of a port-to-PC problem than anything else. For someone used to mouse & keyboard play, the keybinds are terrible; the most egregious is probably the mapping of Pause to “B”. The pause screen is the only way to get back to the main menu. More traditional menu access keys (like ESC, Tab, or even F1) do nothing.
As someone who’s spent very little time with consoles over the years, I don’t use a controller for much of anything. I will break it out sometimes, but I’m not used to it, and I can’t indulge in extended play sessions while using it. While I understand the game was designed for consoles, and therefore needs to be controller-friendly, I’m not sure why it had to be quite so keyboard-unfriendly.
I also really disliked the “Active Time Battle” system – I was expecting something more classically turn-based, and felt like the combat was a lot of waiting punctuated by super-limited decision making. I understand that for all intents & purposes that early game combat is going to be simplistic, but the delay between turns felt like eons. There are different settings for the battle system, but after poking at all of them, I still found combat overly tedious to the point where I was hoping NOT to run into Mirages to battle.
For me, nothing was intuitive, and it just made it too hard for me to get into the game of the game, even though I thought that (at least so far) the characters were interesting enough and the story had potential. It looked and sounded good, but it played like I was being punished for playing it on the wrong system.
World of Final Fantasy was my last ditch effort to actually get into the meat of a JRPG for the Community Game Along. I didn’t have the opportunity to try out everything I had under consideration, but I did at least TRY to play a couple of other titles throughout the month.
Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure was another game that probably works better with a controller, and I just didn’t find it engaging. Knowing that I was up against action combat and not loving the controls made me step back from this one after about 30 minutes.
Lost Dimension was so close to being a success for me, and because of that, is a game I will revisit in the future. Unfortunately, it’s another game with a very slow start, and with combat that I didn’t hate, but wasn’t exactly excited about either. The combination of psychic powers and the find-the-traitor mechanic are two things that really do appeal, I just lacked the patience to get to the good part.
I think my disconnect from JRPGs – even ones that are pretty universally loved – comes down to a problem with patience. I find that as I get older, as my library grows more and more bloated, and as the time I can dedicate to gaming seems to keep decreasing, I just don’t want to spend two or three hours to get to the good stuff.
I don’t want to spend my evening fighting the controls, desperately searching for a save point, or just plain not being all that interested in what I’m doing. My tolerance for exposition is probably at an all time low, which is frustrating because I like getting invested in a good story. I can respect the slow burn, but then I really need the game play to feel good to hold me over until I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
I’m not yet ready to shuffle the entire genre off to the nope list, but I still haven’t found that JRPG that makes me say “Aha! Now I get why people love this!”
Racing games really aren’t my forte. There are genres I am … not so good at, but I am just downright dismal when it comes to operating a motor vehicle on a computer screen. My inability to (virtually) drive is the reason I never got very far in L.A. Noire, and the only reason I can tolerate driving in games like the Saint’s Row series is that there’s absolutely zero penalty for demolishing car after car trying to get from Point A to Point B.
Still, in the spirit of community, and due to the fact that I have a handful of racing games in my library from various bundles through the years, I decided to give it a fair shake.
I’m not sure why I thought this would be a super-casual, extra-easy-for-total-noobs racing game experience. Maybe because the it’s little toy cars, and how hard can that be?
Hard. The answer is hard, at least if you’re me.
There are six cars in the first race. Which means I came in dead last.
Now, I didn’t just come in dead last once. Nope. I came in dead last over and over, even after using the pity money to upgrade my adorable little truck multiple times. I was not getting the hang of this. Not with the keyboard and mouse. Not with a controller. Not for anything could I manipulate a toy car around this little itty bitty race track. It wasn’t even an overly complicated track.
I set it aside, figuring I’d go back and push through later in the month, but as usual, I got distracted. Since I picked this up in a Fanatical bundle way back in 2018, it doesn’t make me particularly sad to leave it mostly unplayed.
Yes, I fully appreciate the flying leap I took here. But I promise, it wasn’t my idea. I picked up XBox Gamepass for PC this month, and got a recommendation from one of the Community Game-Along organizers via Twitter.
Accessible. Accessible is good. Well, I turned everything all the way down to see how I’d do. If it was a cakewalk, I could always turn things back up.
Want to guess how many cars were in the race? Did you guess 12? If you did, you would be correct.
This is me. Taking out a stone wall. Clearly, this is going very well indeed.
In all fairness, Forza Horizon 4 is gorgeous. Given enough time, I probably could have started to get a handle on things with all the training wheels fully engaged. But I figured, if I was going to wreck stuff anyway, shouldn’t I play something where at least that was the point?
Carmageddon: Max Damage is … the ultimate antidote to racing games!!
from the Carmageddon: Max Damage Steam page.
Why I didn’t just start with a game that rewards me for driving badly, I will never understand. I’m still playing on the easiest difficulty, mind you.
I’m a fan of alternate win conditions. Especially ones that don’t require me to stay on the track. And first race in?
Yep. Crash into the other cars over and over to profit. This I can do.
Initially, I was a little surprised how much I was enjoying Carmageddon: Max Damage because it is still actually a racing game, and let’s be real – it’s totally cheesy. But it totally scratches my mayhem and destruction itch. Usually it comes via shooting things – a lot of things – but I also can do the whole demolition derby thing.
I will likely play this well into next month when I feel the chaos itch. I assume it will get harder and I won’t win every event the first time out, and that’s okay. It’s got a 15+ hour main story, and I picked it up in the dollar tier of a Fanatical bundle almost two years ago and proceeded to forget all about it.
Finding little nuggets of gold in the back of the library is why I have one, after all.
I picked up Distortions in a $4 IndieGala bundle back in March of 2019, added it to my Steam library because it looked cool, and promptly forgot all about it until I was looking for something to play for #MusicGameMay. Sure, reviews were mixed, but I can forgive a lot of rough edges on an otherwise lovely game. And watching the trailer, it looked like it was going to be absolutely lovely.
However, a little over two hours in, and I have to officially say I’ve given up. This was such an ambitious undertaking for a small indie studio (only four people according to the dev in a discussion thread on Steam), and knowing that, it’s not surprising that it didn’t completely come together. But what they did right, they did so very very right.
I was absolutely willing to trade a somewhat clunky character model for the breathtaking vistas you get throughout the game. I took so very many screenshots while playing because it was just that pretty. The music, and honestly, the sound in general, is also spot on, which made it easy to forgive the rough patches in the translation.
I went in being most concerned about my ability to keep up with the actual musical part of the game. I can’t sight read music, and my rhythm chops are … well … basically chop-less. However, once I overcame the initial awkwardness of the keybinds, even playing the violin felt good.
Unfortunately, not much else did.
Movement is mostly hindered by the constant perspective changes – from first person to third, then to top down, and occasionally even to 2D sidescrolling. The camera is adjustable, until it’s suddenly not, and control is wrested away (and given back) almost randomly. You can sprint when necessary, as long as it’s not necessary for more than a couple of seconds, because your character gets winded fast. It’s almost never clear where the game expects you to go next.
And yet, I wanted to keep playing. But as you enter into the second part (of how many, I cannot tell you for sure), all of a sudden, this linear adventure with light platforming and even lighter rhythm segments goes in a more open-worldy sort of direction, and I was lost.
I knew I needed to collect more music fragments to learn more songs, but I couldn’t figure out where I needed to go. Now, I have no sense of direction, so I fully admit this might be a me problem. I managed to navigate a section which I believe was the Shadowy Forest and unlock the ability to play notes in the wild to solve puzzles, but only narrowly. I bumbled around, eventually finding another song, but once I played it, I couldn’t figure out how to use the wall that it summoned. I was both flummoxed and frustrated and I knew I’d had enough.
Once I exited the game, I did something I almost never do. I went looking for a commentary-free play through. Sadly, I found that the same things that make Distortions un-fun to play also make it not terribly enjoyable to watch (not to mention, the need to pause the video when journal pages are discovered, since neither play through I found left them open long enough to actually read).
Usually, I have no qualms tossing a game a side when it isn’t for me for whatever reason, but this time, I’m doing so with a small measure of regret and disappointment. This could have been great – I think it would have absolutely found an enthusiastic audience if it were a more linear walking sim, maybe sprinkled with music puzzles. I want to read all the journal pages (and am actually considering picking up the reasonably priced DLC on offer to do just that).
I feel like the creators of this game had a very solid vision of how the story should be told, combining exploration, collectibles, puzzles, stealth, and platforming, but when it all comes together, it doesn’t hold up. It’s heartbreaking, because the art and the sound are so well done, and the story was – at least for me – compelling enough that I want to see it through, but I just can’t.
I will, however, keep an eye out for whatever Among Giants does next, assuming they don’t let poor reviews keep them down. And I may still watch the cutscene movie that YouTuber TheBlueDragon put together, and just relax into it and watch it an arthouse film in a language I don’t speak.
DMC: Devil May Cry has been sitting in my library for over two years – it was in the Pay What You Want tier of the Capcom Rising Humble bundle back in July of 2017. It’s the only game from the series I own, and although the plot is right up my alley, the type of game is quite a bit outside of my comfort zone. Although it’s far from being the first game in the series, it is an origin story, so it seemed like an alright place to start.
The start to finish of my save file was just over 8 hours, but it definitely took me longer than that – between all the times I got stuck in a particularly challenging combat sequence or failing to make a jump over and over and over again, and the multitude of times I was stuck rewatching cut scenes when the game crashed over and over, I’d estimate that I should add no less than two (and probably closer to four) hour to to that total.
(Incidentally, I was 3/4 of the way through the game when I figured out that if I closed both Chrome and Discord and killed all non-essential processes it wouldn’t crash during cut scenes. If I had anything else open, it was a crap shoot.)
The main character of DMC: Devil May Cry is Dante, and when you meet him, he doesn’t really know much about his past, but he does know that demons are real, and that Limbo exists, and that he can fight his way out of it. A young psychic named Kat shows up on his doorstep and he’s off on one hell of a dangerous adventure.
Even though I spent a fair amount of time frustrated with either mechanics or the crashes, it was compelling and I kept coming back to it after taking breaks (or rebooting my PC for the 800th time).
DMC: Devil May Cry is decidedly not family-friendly – it’s not a game you’d want to play around kids. It’s not just the gore and violence – it’s also full of foul language, nudity, and sexual content. The earlier boss fights were at the very edge of my capabilities, where the latter ones felt almost too easy by comparison. Mostly, I was sticking it out for the story – I wanted to know how it would end for the major characters.
Overall, I enjoyed DMC: Devil May Cry, but I’m not likely to seek out any other games in the series – the game play was just too far outside of my comfort zone. I’m much more patient when a game only has one mechanic that I struggle with – the combination of fighting game mechanics (all the button mashing, OMG) and 3D platformer mechanics nearly defeated me.
But only nearly.
I only completed 19/58 achievements, and I have absolutely no intention of going back to hunt down keys and lost souls and nerdpoints. I’ve had my fill, but I’m glad I gave this a spin during #CapcoMonth.
For the second time in only four months, the game I originally picked for the Community Game Along turned out to not be the right game for me. I’m kind of bummed about this one, because Remember Me looked so very very good.
Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely some good stuff here. The concept of being able to extract memories, and even to alter them, is intriguing. During my couple hours of play time, I kept going back and forth between “This is so cool.” and “Ugh, this is really irritating.”
I think if I had loved everything about it except the movement, I would have tried to dig out my controller and play that way, but I also found the combat to be pretty awful. You set up combos, but how to make the combos work wasn’t really clear, and I ended up turning the difficulty down to the easiest level after the first major fight.
I’ve played many other clumsy console ports over the years, and I’ve certainly put many hours into older games – I’m not sure why Remember Me rubbed me the wrong way as much as it did.
Still, the month is young, and it’s far from the only Capcom game in my library. I briefly considered replaying Dead Rising 2 or starting up Dead Rising 2: Off The Record (which is basically the same game with a different protagonist), but decided instead to play something new instead. So I went to Twitter with a poll:
So, the next game I will be trying out for #CapcoMonth is DMC: Devil May Cry, a game from the same era as Remember Me, but hopefully with far fewer annoyances.