Fallout 4: A Nuclear Family

If, for some reason, you’ve been living underground in a bunker for the past decade you may not have heard of the Fallout franchise. If this is the case, I am sorry. I urge you to bust open that Vault door, step out into the light, and grab hold of Fallout 4. Fallout 4 follows the same trends that the established franchise has always experienced: vast open-world experience, exceptional story arcs, and riddled with enough bugs to make a radroach colony jealous. I say this to preempt this review, because I want people to understand that just because a game has flaws, doesn’t mean that it’s not a magical, fun experience that should be enjoyed.

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First off, let me start by saying Fallout 4 has so many complexities, so many side quests, and so much of well – everything, that I can’t begin to cover it all in the scheme of a single review. This game will eat up hours of your life, but you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Even with the technical hiccups that sprinkle themselves throughout the coding, like a frosted doughnut, Fallout 4 is just too good to put down.

As in all Fallout games you become the unnamed citizen who escapes the fallout of a nuclear explosion by securing yourself within a Vault, an underground bunker designed with the soul purpose of protecting citizens. In Fallout 4, you are a survivor of Vault 111, finding yourself staggering about the future in search of your family. This is about as much as the game gives you initially, and it’s the perfect way to start things off. The more vague the initial storyline is the more enjoyable an RPG game, such as this, can become.

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You feel like you have a sense of choice and decision making in Fallout 4 that I hadn’t felt in previous renditions. Fallout is know for giving exceptional player agency, and this is no different, but the method in which they go about it is. The stat system: S.P.E.C.I.A.L, and the massive Perks chart allow for endless possibilities of playthroughs. If you’ve never played, but want to have a specific style I recommend checking out FudgeMuppet on Youtube for specific builds.

The biggest change in the Fallout system is V.A.T.S. The “Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System” has been around in previous renditions, but accessibly, this new version falters where it’s predecessor succeeded. V.A.T.S used to pause the game entirely, which made the game more accessible for players with mobility based limitations to play it. The ability to be able to time your attack and prep where you want to shoot is a necessity to some players. Bethesda has removed this from the game and instead V.A.T.S. now slows down time, instead of fully pausing it. It functions all well and good, but many of the Fallout 4 enemies have faster A.I. and response times than the V.A.T.S has time to slow properly.

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The actual mechanics of shooting and moving around the vast environment are a rise above that now makes Fallout 4 a less clunky and more like a streamlined shooter. The crafting system in the game is massive, and I mean, MASSIVE. Each and every single piece of gear you can equip can be altered. It is a beautiful thing to behold. Now, no matter what gear you have, know you’re going to experience death – a lot. Fallout 4 doesn’t shy away from making the wasteland of the Commonwealth a beautiful, challenging death trap. If you can bear with the fact that there is key remapping, a requirement of precision skills in lock-picking, and lack of V.A.T.S. pause – you can get through Fallout 4.

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The soundtrack is beautiful and the dialog between characters, while sometimes expected, is quirky, exceptional, and keeps me coming back for more. The subtitles didn’t always play in certain parts of the game, and often times, would overlap one another if I had a radio signal on. The audio cues and subtitles don’t take away from the accessibility of the gameplay though, so you can finish the game without sound. Visually, it’s the most stunning game I’ve seen to date. The sprawling world of Commonwealth, combined with the lush NPC’s you can experience, gives such a depth that I couldn’t draw myself away.

Bethesda has really attacked the visual market by allowing for HUD, subtitle, and menu colors to be adjusted for ease of use. The color pallet for the game is varied enough that it shouldn’t affect colorblind players. I can’t speak to it, because I’m not colorblind myself, but there was nothing jarring or off-putting as I walked around Fallout 4. The subtitles can sometimes be difficult to read, but you can easily get past this by adjusting the color to something you can see from afar. If you can move past some of the jarring visual bugs and crashes, then Fallout 4 will wrap you up in it’s post-apocalyptic beauty.

Wrap Up:

Fallout 4 has one of the most well written and entertaining worlds I’ve ever experienced in a game. The Commonwealth is littered with people, and not just wall flower NPC’s I casually interact with. These companions, characters, and even vendors have such a depth that I wanted to play with each one of them. I wanted to experience their life stories, goals, and ups and downs, as much as I wanted to craft my own. They became a part of my family. I grew eager to see what would happen next on this journey. I now see what Fallout fans have been clamoring about for years. A beautiful world with such character you can’t help but be caught up in the chaos – and spend days exploring every facet of it.

It may have it’s hiccups from time to time, and Bethesda could do more to make the game more accessible in future iterations, but this version is quite refined. Fallout 4 gives the player so many options to experience the story however they wish. The crafting systems and settlement building feel like a whole separate game in and of themselves, and I could spend hours just altering my homestead. I haven’t touched the DLC yet, but from what I’ve experienced, I can’t wait. I want to get lost in this world again, and again, soaking up new stories of the Commonwealth like radiated Nuka-Cola.

  • Mods fix a lot of the problems in the PC and XBox One versions, but I wasn’t able to experience these first hand. The review is solely expressed with my PS4 journey, which doesn’t currently allow modding. 

No Man’s Sky: Far from Hyperdrive

There, before the grace of man, go the infinitesimal cosmos that stretch out before us. We yearn to step out into the great beyond, and as the cockpit opens up with a hiss from the airlock, we step out into the great unknown. This was the anticipated mood that No Man’s Sky built up. In the past few years I’ve been eagerly anticipating this game, like a kid waiting with his parents to watch the first moon landing. I was on the edge of my seat, and now that I finally have it – it’s far from the hyperdrive I was expecting.

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Hello Games promised a massive undertaking of a open world system that was seemingly endless. In every trailer I ever saw the set pieces were sprawling and beautiful, lush with foliage and fauna that would make any biology lab blush. They achieved a technological feat that has not been seen in games before, an algorithm to procedurally generate planets. Now, while that may sound amazing, it’s the implementation that matters. All the hyperdrives in the world don’t get you anywhere if you can’t deliver that sense of scale you promise.

Hello Games manages to deliver that sense of scale, but in doing so they faltered in delivering the other aspects of gameplay. The games control system is very limiting, and so players who may have mobility issues can’t adjust the control scheme to fit their needs. Each task is assigned to a specific button, which makes it difficult to achieve certain tasks. There is no tutorial in this game either, which essentially throws the player out into the wilderness and expects them to survive. Now, for able bodied players this may take some time to learn, but it’s still achievable to meander around aimlessly, learn a few buttons and play the game. The thrill of experiencing that first few hours of the game is at least worth something.

No Man’s Sky would certainly benefit from some sort of guided tutorial, especially when it comes to crafting and inventory systems. The game provides you with objectives, but doesn’t really give you any means of understanding how to accomplish them. It’s like throwing an astronaut out into the vastness of space without a spacesuit. The lack of explanation to some of the gameplay mechanics, especially crafting and advancing weaponry and upgrades, is a real downfall for the game as a whole. Players aren’t one to ask for you to hold their hand, but at least having a furthered tutorial would give players a better sense of how the world functions.

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In regards to functioning, let us break down the main core gameplay of No Man’s Sky. In the hours I spent playing the game, I found that there was a distinct pattern to every quest line which, within a few planets, became monotonous. You gather materials, you craft new supplies, you travel to a new planet, you repeat the process. It seems like fun, in theory, but the end result becomes this massive quest of scavenger hunt that has no real payoff. In addition to this, the game was riddled with functionality bugs which made what gameplay there was, difficult to cleanly experience. Crashes, crafting menu issues, freezes, and in a game that has no autosave functionality – that’s heartbreaking.

I enjoyed what time I did manage to spend in the world, but once I felt I had experienced all that No Man’s Sky had to offer me, I felt lost. What do you do when a game offers you no real end goal? A countless, endless sandbox with almost Pokemon Snap picture archiving of new world items, with only the reward of monetary units to draw merit? No Man’s Sky does have an end goal – to arrive at the center of the universe, but it’s so vaguely depicted that I just felt like I was running my own game. The visuals weren’t enough to keep me entertained, and what I did manage to see was not user friendly.

The color schemes are vastly jarring and often similar from planet to planet. I’m not colorblind, but I have friends who are, and this color pallet is composed of a lot of reds and greens. It doesn’t help that the actual HUD that is present is fairly small and fairly transparent, making vision impaired users lives much harder. FOV sliders apparently were provided in the coding for the PC version, but with the PS4 version had no such functionality. It would be more optimized for users if players could have change the color of the HUD to make it more visible from a distance.

There was fun hidden in this gem amongst the stars, but the spaceship wasn’t entirely accessible. I had fun when I didn’t do what the game directed me to do, when I went off into the vast frontiers and just explored. I got caught up in dogfights with space pirates, and got to see vast galaxies. In truth, while they may have been similar, I did have fun during moments. The soundtrack is phenomenal and there are hours and hours of visuals to explore. It’s hard to have fun though, when you’re so bogged down by programming issues, crafting requirements, and a combat system that seems like it favors the AI over the user. A universe that seems endless, yet contains only a handful of similar alien NPC’s for me to briefly interact with.

Wrap Up:

No Man’s Sky feels like a game that got released while it was still being built. They launched it without the full mission in mind, and thus, the passengers began to dial S.O.S. back to Huston and request a do-over. I know the struggles of being a designer and wanting to provide a polished, finished product on a time table, and so I want to commend Hello Games for what they did with No Man’s Sky. They accomplished a beautiful set of tools that they can be proud of. They delivered a set piece that would make most movie studios drool. The next step is to allow a gameplay system that functions with accessibility in mind.

The team is already hard at work cleaning up patches to fix the glitches, but they also need to be aware of everyone in their audience. A few settings changes are desperately needed: An Accessibility menu, a colorblind filter that crafts colors to fit vision concerns, and an optimized lock-on system for enemies that isn’t linked to an upgrade that’s hours invested into the game.

I desperately want to love No Man’s Sky, because I feel like it’s the game I’ve always wanted as a child. I can’t though because, in the words of Robin Williams, No Man’s Sky has given me:

“Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty-bitty living space!”

All the tools in the world can’t magically craft gameplay to be a fun experience. I hope they get all of these aspects sorted out and No Man’s Sky becomes fantastic in the coming months, but for now, I think I’ll just stay grounded until those tools are more refined.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Years ago, when I was a kid, I would have given anything to be Indiana Jones.

I was enamored with the world of archeology and that sense of adventure. When Naughty Dog released Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in 2007, I immediately gravitated to the franchise and Nathan Drake’s journey. Nathan became a staple of my gaming life, and I went on each Uncharted experience yearning for my childhood sense of adventure. Naughty Dog captured it all, and made me love what gaming could do on an emotional and personal level.

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End brings about all of the past joy and fun I had, while expanding on the narrative and making nostalgic and meaningful choices to Drake’s journey.

If you’ve never played a Naughty Dog game, the studio prides itself on making story-driven narratives that leave the player lingering on dialogue, enamored with setting, and emotionally drawn to the characters. They fulfill all of this in Uncharted 4 to a spectacular level and even bring in new mechanics that make the game more accessible for players.

You follow Nathan Drake on his last adventure, and in doing so, the studio has taken ample strides to really showcase that this is the end. There are no bits of treasure left undiscovered, nor maps to be followed. This is the end, and it feels refreshing to see a studio who acknowledges this and gives us the most heartfelt send-off to an iconic character. Uncharted 4 displays it’s usual sense of adventure and intrigue, while showing us that Nathan is not an invincible video game icon. He is human, he is flawed, and he is, as always, that quick witted hero – now facing the realities of his decisions at the twilight of this journey.

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It wouldn’t be an Uncharted game if you didn’t start with a cliffhanger [ quite literally in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves ]. In Uncharted 4, we’re given a glimpse into the life of Nathan Drake that we haven’t seen before. His personal life comes under a microscope, and it’s an emotional wave of happiness, sadness, and struggle. We get to see Nathan engage with Elena, Sully, and now his brother, Sam, in a way that past Uncharted games didn’t give.

They strip away the mysticism, the folklore, and the over-arching paranormal that usually pervades the Uncharted series. They give us a meaningful story about the people Nathan loves, and the chemistry between all of the characters is impressive to say the least. The journey this time isn’t some paranormal means of finality, but they simplify it to a simple search for buried treasure. That’s it. A lost city of pirate treasure,  begging to be discovered by Nathan’s long lost brother, Sam, thought to be killed 15 years ago.

Uncharted 4 explores what it means to be drawn into a passion with unbridled obsession, enough to even make a man forget what is truly important in life. Are you still going about ruins and exploring exotic locals, laying waste to countless mercenaries on your way to an undiscovered treasure? Absolutely. Are there still tombs and puzzles for me to solve? No doubt! Does it mean more, and are the relationship deeper than before? Yes. They are. What matters is that Uncharted 4 really provides depth where past iterations were merely scratching the surface of what it means to be Nathan Drake.

 

Mechanically, the game functions just as beautifully as it’s past predecessors. It focuses on that stealth cover and shootout gameplay that veterans of the series will love, but they’ve made the mechanics and ease of use seem simplified.  It felt more fluid than ever before to be Nathan Drake, and with small additions to mechanics, it didn’t overbear the user with a whole new set of tasks to undertake. In fact, Uncharted 4 gives the player a list of options to make ease of use and access to entry much easier from an accessibility stance.

Upon opening the game, beyond the opening music that always gives me chills, I investigated the Accessibility Options menu. Yes, the game has it’s own Accessibility menu. I was blown away by the plethora of options that gave more ease of use, even to players who have full functionality. If it’s modality you’re worried about when asking yourself, “Can I play Uncharted 4?” the answer is, “Yes. You can!” They’ve identified trouble areas from past iterations such as:

  • Repeated Button Presses – Player to hold button vs. pressing in QTE’s [ Quick Time Events ]
  • Camera Lock On – This allows you to use the Lock On function with just one stick.
  • Aim Lock On – This allows for the gun to snap to an enemy automatically.
  • Vehicle and Camera Assist – To allow ease of use by moving the camera around the player.
  • Subtitles – Detailed subtitle settings for deaf/hard of hearing players.
  • Colorblind – Minor changes in color setting for Multiplayer teams.

All of these features made the game accessible, and even for an able-bodied player like myself, I found them useful and helpful in regards to experiencing the journey at it’s full potential. I got to experience new mechanics, like the grappling hook, without feeling overwhelmed. I wasn’t bogged down with mechanical hang ups, which allowed me to focus intimately on the story that unfolding in front of me. I laughed, I cried, I shot thugs in the face – and it was magical.

Wrap Up:

My journey with Uncharted 4 has been a long one, but one that I feel has come to one of the most satisfying conclusions in the history of my gaming life. There are countless fan service easter eggs tossed about this journey, and the fact that Naughty Dog went about making it so that these moments could be accessible to more than just the able-bodied community is a blessing in and of itself. Thank you Naughty Dog. Thank you Nolan North. Thank you to everyone who has been a fan of this series, and who has been given the opportunity to be the most bad-ass, charismatic, and memorable treasure-hunter since Indiana Jones.

There are no cheap sells of a half-assed prequel or sequel on the horizon. Naughty Dog gave a memorable story, combined with accessible use, exquisite storytelling, and characters that breathe. They actually have goals, fears, obsessions, and for me – that’s what sells a game. A game where I can FEEL the story. A game where I’m not restricted to my real life, and I can view myself as Nathan Drake for at least a few hours more… and that’s all I can ever ask for.

Thank you Naughty Dog. These past few years have been a blessing. I look forward to the next story you write, as I watch Nathan Drake fade away into treasure-hunting retirement.

I am fulfilled, satisfied, and damn it – I want to go treasure hunting now.

Game of the Month: That Dragon, Cancer

Cancer.

It is a perplexing demon that seeps into the lives of even the most innocent. A tar-like dragon that rears its maw, and devours our hope. It attacks the ones we love the most, and it tears us from them, unceremoniously. In a year that’s already started off with many of our beloved musicians and actors succumbing to cancer, I wanted to take the time to share a game that truly evokes the challenges that cancer brings with it. I hope that the personal story of developers, Ryan and Amy Green, touches you and moves you to be inspired as it has me.

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I had been following the developers of That Dragon, Cancer since they started their Kickstarter campaign for the game back in 2014. I was immediately drawn to the personal story and emotional love letter that the Green family had created for their son. It tells the emotional journey of their family as they dealt with the devastating news that their son, Joel, was diagnosed with AT/RT. An aggressive form of brain tumor that would require tireless hours of care to try and combat, when he was only one.

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In March of 2014, Joel passed away. In the wake of this tragedy, The Green Family made it through with faith and hope. They decided that the best way to honor their son was to share with the world their personal journey: the joys, the falls, the faith, and the feels. It’s all present, and I can’t even begin to express how beautiful I think this game is. It’s not just a game, and so I can’t rate it as I would others.

This is a family’s journey.

A way to give hope to those who are also dealing with these ordeals in life.

A look at faith, family, and much more.

I could go on and discuss the game mechanically, visually – the surrealist artistry of how you take this journey through a series of emotional mini-games, but I won’t. I can’t say enough about this game. It’s breaking the boundaries of what we consider “classic” game motifs. That Dragon, Cancer, defies AAA titles and states that games can be far more evocative than developers had ever imagined. Ryan and Amy, I am honored to have played your game and it brought me to tears. Your devotion and faith is astounding and That Dragon, Cancer should be seen/played/heard by as many people as possible.

In an era where cancer is devouring, you are bringing faith and hope back to people. Your family is showing that, even in times of deep distress, faith can change anger into hope.

God Bless you Green Family!

I highly recommend you pick this game up. It was released on January 12th, which would have been Joel’s 7th birthday. It’s currently on Steam, PC, and Ouya for $14.99. It’s one of the most beautiful expressions of love, hope, and faith that I’ve ever seen in gaming and I hope that, through their testimonial, we’ll be able to finally shed light unto that Dragon’s lair – and end cancer, and it’s hoard, once and for all.

That Dragon, Cancer: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/preorder/

Family: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/our-family/

Blog: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/thatdragoncancer/

 
Now, I’m going to eat pancakes in honor of Joel, as I wipe my tears from my face.

Tech Talk: An Eye on the Ouya

Well, I took a vacation from posting – as some of you may have noticed. It’s the summer though, so you can’t blame me for getting out there in the ‘world‘ and living a little. Among the things I missed out on covering, one of the most thrilling pieces of news to come out of this was:

The Ouya

With a plethora of gaming consoles already on the market, and mobile gaming making nearly every phone in the world into a mobile gaming mecha, the prospect of new technology always intrigues me. Last week the Ouya was announced via a Kickstarter campaign, and it practically made my ears pop off with intrigue. If you’ve not heard of what the Ouya is I’ll detail it for you in brief, and I’ll include the nice shiny trailer video too:

Now what does this mean for the future of gaming? Well, in my opinion, it just means to make the gaming world more impressive. I don’t think the intention is to wipe out Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo. Those companies are megaliths of the industry, so I highly doubt it’ll put a dent in their revenue streams. The idea that the system is going to be using a ‘free-to-play’ and mobile business practice model is entirely up my alley!

I think I had a dream like this once… so glad it’s coming true!

I love hearing the word ‘developers’ used when discussing consoles. I think often times there’s so many hurdles to jump through to get a game onto a modern console these days. Developers feel intimidated by the high cost of publishing rights and the loss of artistic freedoms vs. company control.It’s no wonder that, in this day and age, mobile game development and the Android market system look so appealing.

The Ouya business model looks promising too:

The company will take a 30/70 percent split for any game you produce and want to port to console. This, to me, is fantastic. Here’s why. You get to craft and develop  a game for Android software, which is a highly accessible marketplace. As a developer, you’ll be pulling 70% back in revenue towards any sales of your game. This blows my mind folks!

Considering that there’s no manufacturing fees, no hardware fees, etc. because all of the games will be digital download/free to play streamed it makes so much more logical business sense from a development stance. If you cut out certain expenses, you can reduce the size of fees, and increase the productivity and quality of development. The specs don’t look remarkably fantastic, which is a bummer.

Sleek, refined, and shiny – seriously what else do I need?

If you’re a developer hoping for some Sony PS3 style next-gen graphics engine, then you’ll probably want to stand in line waiting for a publishing house to clear you. If you’re like me though, and a newbie developer, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’ll give me a chance to bring designs into folks homes, rather than porting them to flash computer sites.

Here’s the Ouya’s specs:

  • Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB Flash Storage
  • HDMI input that supports up to 1080p HD
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • USB 2.0
  • Wireless Controller w/ standard controls + touchpad
  • Android 4.0 

Now while I’m infatuated with the idea, of course I’m still skeptical. Any new technology is going to make a person nervous before they can actually see it in action. I’ve been hearing rumors that Valve may be releasing their own Steam Box console for homes as well and, if that’s the case, we many have a battle on our hands. The Steam market is already highly prolific and loved by many gamers and devs alike – so Ouya is going to have to claw to prove that their product is superior early on. My biggest suggestion to the development team would be this:

Includification.

Mark Bartlet, President/Founder of the AbleGamers Foundation, coined this term two days ago in an article he wrote for their site. I couldn’t be more in agreement with his statements, and if you want to read the full article you can. Essentially, Barlet discusses the term of ‘accessibility’ and sometimes how that term can make development seem difficult, frustrating, and down right hard. He decided at a recent conference that he’d try and devise a different approach to how developers look at games and coined this term.

Includification means:

1. Making sure content includes everyone, regardless of ability. 

2. Design so that everyone can enjoy and appreciate the fruits of creative labor.

In the case of the Ouya, I see tons of potential here to be played with. The idea that the entire system is open to tweaking and hardware reconfiguration, peripherals can be toyed with, etc. It’s like a game developer’s LEGO set! I think if the Ouya staff, and future developers for the console, focus on the idea of includification the console will succeed. The games, and hardware, need to be versatile – flow with the accessible punches so that it doesn’t become an ‘exclusives’ war like the major console brands.

If I were designing for the Ouya, I’d be design for kids like him. Inspiring!

Gaming should be for everyone, and if developers and hardware designers can work together I don’t see why games can’t include ALL types of players. I can’t wait to see what comes of this system, and you’ll bet I’ll probably own one at some point. The price point is set at around $99.00 at the moment, and that’s a wonderful price for the plethora of games they wish to display near launch time. There seem to be tons of major developers in support of the project, and so I can only say I’m one of the indies waiting to get my hands dirty with this new IP.

Developer Profiles? Well that just makes it all the more impressive!

Here’s to you Ouya! You’re shaking up the status-quo and I hope that it brings game development to new levels! You’ve already raised up past $5 MILLION dollars with 3 WEEKS to go – so RUN with these funds and MAKE it happen! THIS DEVELOPER would love to see it in his living room – that’s for certain. If you believe that the Ouya is the future of in-home gaming – feel free to stop by their Kickstarter and dump a little love to their console dreams!

Sincerely,

Chad K. aka Gastrogamer

E3 Impressions: The Unfinished Swan

Imagine this:

You’re a young boy tossed into a world that’s devoid of color. You’ve found yourself chasing after this white swan in this white devoid environment. You find yourself having to navigate your way and feel your way around by creating silhouettes via splashing black paint on the blank canvas environments. You’re thrown into a kingdom you don’t know anything about, with puzzles and a journey ahead of you that you can’t possibly predict.

If just on this premise alone you’ve become intrigued by this concept, then you’re probably going to be a huge fan of Giant Sparrow’s IP:

The Unfinished Swan.

I would love to finish this storybook!

Developed originally by Creative Director, Ian Dallas, the game started off as merely a grad student experiment. Four years later Giant Sparrow has come together via Sony Santa Monica to produce this marvelous, ethereal looking journey for gamers. I can’t even express how excited I am for this game, but what you should know is that it is a PSN Exclusive at this time. The game will also be compatible for Playstation Move and basic Dual-shock controller functionality. Now why is this game so amazing to me? Well I’ve thought about it for a while and I think I’ve come up with a solution.

The Unfinished Swan is a tale all it’s own, and it gives gamers a brand new experience I’ve never witnessed in games. I’ve seen other games before that have experimented with paint physics [ Epic Mickey comes to mind ] but never have I seen such a lush and innovative take on the genre. The first person perspective gives players a sensation that I don’t think any game in recent years has given to players. There’s a sense of adventure, mystery, and intrigue for players as they blindly have to feel and craft their way around the vast blank canvas. I truly believe that this game will not only captivate people with it’s simple narrative, but also the gameplay seems extremely accessible.

Sure a game where you play as a boy splashing paint around trying to apprehend a swan doesn’t sound like much at first glance, but when you factor in the puzzle mechanics and story driven gameplay you truly see something far greater. Dallas and his team have managed to take a monochromatic color scheme and make it into something fantastic. I loved watching as the paint splatters coated each new object, and how it felt to discover if an object moved, or if a door would open. The Unfinished Swan has so much potential for greatness, that it’s definitely one I’m going to put on my Must Play for 2012.

This is gorgeous. Simple, but one of the most gorgeous ascetics I’ve seen!

Here’s what I’m seeing so far:

  • The Unfinished Swan seems to have very little dialog, and when it does there’s text associated with it.
  • The monochromatic/soft color scheme seems perfectly suited to fit any gamer.
  • Colored markers have been placed throughout to provide gamers with long term goals.
  • Control mechanics seem simplistic and easy to use [ would love to try this first hand. ]
  • There seem to be multiple chapters within the game, some with color and some devoid.
  • Dallas mentioned something about enemies within the game. I would love to see some form of combat or puzzle solving involving enemies.
  • There also seems to be environmental puzzles which seem to make a player feel like a part of the creation of the world as they navigate through it. I think this is a fantastic idea.
  • Audio cues seem to pop up when a player completely coats a silhouette. Could this actually allow blind players to play the game? A thought perhaps.

Overall The Unfinished Swan seems to be a vast transition and stray from the norm of the market right now. It’s for this reason alone that it’s grasped me so veraciously. Giant Sparrow seems to be onto something that may very well change the way I look at Move technology entirely. I can’t wait to get my hands on the full experience some time soon, and you can bet when I do I’ll let you all know how my quest for The Unfinished Swan goes!

Till then, I’ll just have to keep exploring visible kingdoms I suppose…

Game of The Week: Choice of Zombies

Well, as I work hard on trying to get my Zombi-U impressions together, I figure I should actually give you folks a game to play today huh? It’s been a while. Well I’m kind of in love with the idea of text adventures right now. I know. They may not seem like much but, truth be told, they’re the building blocks of many of your favorite games you play today. Text adventures employ one fundamental game design technique that’s necessary to all games:

Choice. 

Look at how the pretty choice bubbles float around my head!

Choices. Choices. Choices. Ok – umm THIS ONE!

Providing the user choice over their actions gives a sense of meaning and interactivity to any action that players take within the game. It allows game characters to become more life like and real, stories to become more emotionally tense, and gamers wanting to continue with each passing moment. So without further adieu, considering I’m in a zombie mood, I present to you: Choice of Zombies

Note: I haven’t played through the whole thing. They’re rather extensive [which is nice.] but folks should be aware that it does contain some language and of course violence in this piece, so just use caution when playing.

“Brrrraaaaaaaiiiiinnnnssss”

It’s a text adventure game that drops you into, well an infected zombie world. You wake up  one morning and discover a human leg in your kitchen, and then it’s up to you how to react to the scenario. The game is entirely multiple choice and incredibly easy to play, but what I love is that it’s kind of addictive. You start with one question, but find yourself thrown head long into trying to figure out when everyone started becoming zombies, trying to survive, etc.

One little, two little, three little zombies… four little… fiv-grraah!

There are plenty more games designed by a company called Choice of Games. They have a plethora of multiple choice text adventure titles to choose from. They even have an open source text adventure script that can be used to design your own text adventure games in the future. You can write your own story and Choice of Games will even help you host it on their site.

So, if you’re interested in text adventure games, if you long for the days of Zerg, and you just happen to have an affinity for zombies I’d give this game a look. Between Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Zombi-U, and Resident Evil 6 on the horizon there’s plenty of zombies to look forward to – I just figured you all could use a little bite to tie you over. Enjoy my minions!