Digital Design Studio II: Game Reviews?

I have a feeling I know the answer to this question is “Yes. You should be reviewing games all the time.”

I was probably going to do a couple of last minute, short game reviews but with the pathways being the focus at the moment there is a lot to think about. At the start of the year, I wanted to focus on game design. A little into the course I changed my mind and started thinking about visual effects. After the pathway introductions, I’m torn yet again. I want to use this post as a way to clear my mind and focus on what I want to do in the future.

The game I will be reviewing is Fallout: New Vegas. I have been a huge fan of Bethesda games since I found a copy of Morrowind in the warehouse in a sale. I never really knew what I was doing in that game but I loved it so much. The immersion is something I fell in love with, so when oblivion came out you can imagine how I felt. I played that game non stop for months. Long story short, I have always and will probably continue to love the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. The reason why I am reviewing Fallout: New Vegas instead of any other title is because this is the one I have been thinking about recently with the pathway discussions. Fallout New Vegas is such a big game with so much to do that it is easy to dismiss it and say that the game was not great, its just good as a distraction (An opinion I used to have of the game). It wasn’t until after I played the game with all the DLCs that I realized how much I love this game. These game tell hundreds of stories, about people, places and even weapons and its all just sitting there waiting for someone to read or put the puzzle together. This level of world building is what makes me passionate about game design and definitely the main reason why choosing visual effects is such a hard decision for me. The comforting thing I tell myself is that I will learn a lot in visual effects which I can apply to game design. I can learn how to make games on my own and I will continue to. I am sad that I have to choose however.


Game Review: Against all Odds  

This is another in a series of interactive story games which aims to educate people in societal problems. This one in particular has many different stories and aims to simulate experiences that are unpleasant for the player. This tactic of education is in my opinion rather brutish, but I cant fault it as it can work for some people. I personally was not moved by the stories in the game. This is most likely due to the fact that I am aware of these issues already. For someone who is not educated in what happens in countries where your rights are taken from you because of something you have no power to change, these games are so important. It raises the issues in the safety of a game platform where it is easy to simply disregard it as ‘not real life’. The game pushes past this by relating back to enforce the point that actually, this is real life. I enjoyed playing through the game and reading about all of the stories and I would recommend it.

Game Review: Lay Off

Lay off is a small game which builds on the simple yet popular mechanics of bejewled and candycrush. The game uses this to its benefit as the game is based on the idea morality and ethics being lost in the modern world. I thought the overall game was well thought out however it did not interest me. I like games that are narrative driven vs the mechanical focus of this game. Still, I can appreciate the message they are trying to convey.

Game Review: Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper light drifter is I game I purchased at the start of the year as a research example with my own game. While it is not a 2D platformer, it has solid mechanics and if I had more time I would have incorporated similar ones in my game.

The game opens up with a mysterious character, followed by a curious darkness. You are launched into a foreign world with a little direction on where you should start. The game is somewhat reminiscent of Darksouls which was a big factor in leading to my purchase of the game.

I was a little confused the first time I played the game as you are dumped randomly into a huge world. I did not realize the game had actually given me a clue as to which direction to take the first time. The combat system of the game was incredibly rewarding because it was simple, yet difficult. As I got further and further into the game, I found I was dashing around and through enemies, simultaneously shooting and attacking.

The music and art style is what made the whole game come together for me. There were tiny pockets of lore throughout the game.

Beautiful, yet Saddening: Coma Review

Coma is a short flash game that I would recommend to everyone. It is packed with excellent artwork and music that makes the player excited to be in this world however, the game is very good at creating sinister themes with silhouettes and silence making the player cautious as they progress. Something I particularly liked about the art work was its simplicity. The environment is never flat, most areas have background and foreground placements which create excellent depth within each frame. Before I continue with this review I want to mention that there will be spoilers. To avoid this, the link to the game is here:

The story behind the game is difficult to understand in some ways. The name and several hints throughout the game tell us that the boy that you play as is in a coma and your goal is to wake him up. An excellent article on the games plot can be found here:

As for me, I think the game is attempting to give the player an idea of how difficult the subconscious can be. I think it aims to educate the player on how people with anxiety or depression can feel like they are trapped in a dream or nightmare. The characters like the father and the bird push the player to free himself of the dream. I think that without this motivation, Pete would not be able to escape from this dream and that this piece of story line relates to the need for support when people struggle in life. Seth Blackwood, who wrote the article above, said ‘…the cause of the coma itself, the reluctance in Pete’s own mind’. I think this is an excellent line at explaining how people can feel powerless to escape these dreams/nightmares that are caused by a frantic subconscious.

A Game of Battleships

Tasked with changing the rules of the original ‘Battleships’ board game with the addition of one die, my original plan was to make the game more chance based. When ‘scanning’ for the other players ship, if the ship is discovered the player can choose to fire on it or end their turn. If the player decides to fire on the ship they have to roll the dice. Any number above and including 4 is a hit, while any number under and including 3 is a miss. This did make the game a lot longer, however I found that it gives each player a choice. Fire on the ship now and hope to sink it at the risk of losing a turn for a bad roll OR continue searching for another ship. I imagined this feature would add a dramatic element to the game. During my play test I had both winning streaks where the rolls would always come up good, putting pressure on the other player and having utterly terrible dice rolls where I lost a lot of turns while my opponent scoured the board looking for my ships unimpeded.  Overall I found this to be an exciting change to the game although at the cost of a lengthier play time.

A Review of ‘Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee’

To start, the story behind the game is clear and simple and is explained well enough in the intro cinematic. Oddworld is a world where corporations run by a race of aliens known as Glukkons, seek to gain huge profits through the exploitation of the environment, native wildlife and most importantly, the subjugation of other species as slaves.

What I liked in the game:

  • Story: The reason why I like the story behind this game so much is because its engaging. As a player you immediately see that what the corporations are doing is immoral and has to be stopped. The other side to the game is its crude humour aspect, where if the player decides they have no interest in the problems of Oddworld, they can still enjoy the game either through the simple challenge of the puzzles or mindless violence, usually involving meat grinders.
  • Challenging: This game is hard, not impossible, but hard. The game has received many criticisms because of this aspect but in this review I see the difficulty as a good thing. It challenges the player to try different strategies. Sometimes patience is the best way to complete a puzzle, others its easier just to run through and hope for the best. Either way, the game rewards the player for completing challenging areas with… another, harder area. This pushes the player to get better and better or else they won’t be able to complete the game, this gives the player incredible satisfaction when the complete an area and gives them a boost of confidence in the face of the next.
  • Excellent Art Style: Yes, this is an old game and the graphics are not by any means HD but, still the game remains an inspiration for me. One of the most notable features is how the game plays with both the foreground and background adding another level of depth to the game.
  • Soundtrack: The soundtrack is simple and engaging. Alarms sound, intense music plays and enemies chase you through halls and jungles and when you make a mistake and lose the chase, there’s the music again to remind you of your failure.

What I didn’t like in the game:

  • Save points: This is a big problem with this game. You can only save your game at certain save points and these can be fairly far apart from each other. There is no quicksave feature and no autosave leading to the occasion repetitive experience of failing to complete an area over and over again.
  • PC Version: This is a review of the PC version and not for either the original PSX/PS1 game or New and Tasty (The HD remaster). I want to start by saying I do not enjoy this game as much on the PC. The controller took a little while to map to the original controls and after that I was still having problems with using the analog sticks of my xbox 360 controller instead of the dpad. This lead to me moving one too many tiles forward or back resulting in a fast death either from falling or from electric fence. The keyboard controls aren’t as bad as I thought however, as you progress through the levels they get faster and faster. I found myself fumbling around the keyboard pressing the wrong buttons. This is probably not a huge problem for gamers who use their keyboards frequently.

Overall, I love this game. It has its problems yes but you learn to adapt to those making the game even more unique. I give Oddworld: Abe’s Odysee a clear 9/10.