Final Thoughts on Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

If you’ve played on a PlayStation system since the PS2 era, you’ve probably heard of the Ratchet & Clank series. They’ve had a number of titles out over the course of the PS2 and the PS3. They are some of the characters that would come closest to mascots of the PlayStation. I’ve played most of the games, and today I’ll be looking at Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.

Story

Ratchet and Clank All 4 OneThe story isn’t all that different in basic structure from other Ratchet and Clank adventure. The game starts with Ratchet and Clank escorting Captain (err… President) Quark to an awards ceremony. The ceremony turns out to be a trap laid by Dr. Nefarious, but the trap backfires and all four are caught up in the trap. Upon getting out of the trap all four characters are caught by someone collecting powerful alien life forms across the galaxy.

This predicament requires all four characters, despite their former antagonism, to work together, figure out how to get home, who captured them, and maybe even save a planet or universe in the process.

Gameplay

The Ratchet and Clank games have all been action based 3D platforming games and All 4 One does not change that. The bulk of the game will be about running, jumping, and using gadgets to get through the level while blasting any enemies that get in your way.

The most significant difference between All 4 One and other Ratchet & Clank game is that All 4 One focuses on being a co-op game above all else. The majority of the other games in the series have been single player experiences, but All 4 One allows for up to four players to fill the shoes of Ratchet, Clank, President Quark, and Dr. Nefarious. Even if you play alone the computer will play as a second character for areas where you need another player to proceed.

While this does change a little of the Ratchet and Clank formula, it doesn’t change that much. You still get cool weapons that you get to level up and cause lots of damage with. Only with the co-op you get a damage bonus if you’re both using the same weapon on the same enemies. Also certain gadgets will require both characters in order to solve certain puzzles in order to proceed.

Other stalwarts of the Ratchet and Clank series also make an appearance. The regular bolts as currency that allows you to buy weapons and weapon upgrades. There are large collectible bolts that are color coded for each of the characters you play. These unlock different costumes for the characters. You will also discover critters that you can suck up with one of your new gadgets. Critters allow you to unlock test chambers. The test chambers are tests that upon completion will unlock a part of the RYNO VI, which in this iteration is a giant robotic armor.

Themes

The obvious theme throughout the game is teamwork. You can find this theme both in the story of the game and in the game play. Teamwork has really always been a part of the Ratchet and Clank games, focused largely on the teamwork between Ratchet and Clank. All 4 One expands on that a bit added the need to work with the sometimes villain, sometimes hero, but constantly bumbling Captain Quark and the super villain Dr. Nefarious. This adds a different layer to the teamwork theme, as it is not just friends working together, but friends and enemies who have to put aside past animosity and work together.

Teamwork is also evident in the gameplay. The game is much easier when you work together well with those you play with. While not a particularly hard game, working together and communicating well will make the game easier and more fun.

Other than teamwork, there aren’t any other major themes that I remember. It’s a fairly lighthearted game, with a few exceptions, built around the ideas of saving the world and battling villains.

Positives

  • Personal Favorites – I’ll be honest, Ratchet and Clank are probably my favorite mascot duo from the PS2 era. I’ve always enjoyed the banter between the two characters, the gameplay, and the varied and unique weapons. This game is more of that even with the different gameplay elements.
  • Intergalactic Humor Award- Ratchet & Clank games have always had a decent amount of humor and this game continues in that vein. I’ve always enjoyed the humor and this game provides more of the same.
  • Fun with Friends – The co-op is fairly well done and was enjoyable to play with other players. While I do think there were some things that detracted from the choice to go co-op, as a co-op experience it was a lot of fun.

Mixed

  • Paper Weapons – While the weapons came in a fun variety of styles for this game, I felt that many of them lacked the power of previous installments. I wondered in part if this was due to the co-op focus. It seemed that the weapons on their own were not as powerful due to the need to use them in tandem with your co-op partners. I could be wrong, but that is how it seemed to me.
  • Weaponized Clank – While Clank has punched and smacked people with a staff in previous games, I don’t remember him ever packing heat too often. If he had the ability to use Ratchet’s weapons all this time, why is he just now getting in on it?
  • Willing to Try Something New – While I have mixed feelings on the turn to co-op, I have to say that it’s nice to see them try something new. Not that I’m particularly thinking they needed to mix things up, but still instead of following the formula they were trying to branch out in different directions which can be a good thing.

Negatives

  • Doesn’t Quite Live Up to Previous Titles – While I enjoy Ratchet & Clank and even enjoyed this game, it still wasn’t quite as good as most of the other games in the series. It reminds be a bit of Deadlocked in the PS2 era. A good game that simply isn’t as good compared to previous installments.

Overall Impressions

I enjoyed Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. While it had its flaws, my family had a lot of fun playing it together. While it was not a game I could recommend at a full retail price of $60, at its current price (which is around $20 as of writing) I would. It is a very competent co-op platformer. The main downside is that it isn’t as good compared to previous installments. It doesn’t make this a bad game, it may just leave you wanting a bit more than you received.

Final Thoughts on Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

This week I would normally be giving my thoughts on a book, but since I haven’t finished a new one yet (I’m close to finishing both the books I’m reading now, but not quite there) I’ll simply move on and look at a video game. The game I’ll be looking at had quite the mouthful of a title. The full title is Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, but often it is shortened down to Runner2, or as I often call it Bit.Trip Runner2. So what kind of game is this rather long title? Let’s jump in and find out.

Bit Trip Runner 2Story

There is a bit of story to Bit.Trip Runner 2, but that’s not really the core of the game. Basically you play as the hero of the Bit.Trip world, Commander Video, who is sucked into another dimension by his nemesis Timbletot after being hit by a fusion beam. In this new dimension you seek a way to get back home and defeat Timbletot. Between worlds you get a bit of plot narration through a cutscene, but the story is pretty much along the lines of early console platformers. You play the hero progressing through levels to defeat the villain. It’s not a deep story, but as I’ve already said, the story isn’t the primary focus.

Gameplay

While the story is not the primary focus, the gameplay is. Bit.Trip Runner2 is a platformer for those who want a bit of a challenge. The game always seems fair in the challenge though.

The game drip feeds you new moves, particularly in the first world, in a way that tries very hard to not overwhelm. That and the moves themselves aren’t very complicated. You learn various moves like jumping, sliding, and kicking which have their own buttons. While later in the game there are more complicated moves combining these basic moves, liking having to kick while sliding or jump while sliding, these moves are typically only added to the mix once you’ve had plenty of time to get the moves down.

Unlike many of the platformers of older generations, Bit.Trip Runner2 has you automatically running through a level. So all you have control over are the moves you learn. This does add to the challenge as you have to have good reflexes or play until you have a memory of the level to know what is coming up next. If a level is too difficult there are three difficulties that you can play the levels at (easy, medium, and hard) so you can always adjust to suit where your skill level is at.

During each level you, I’d say there are always four basic goals (some of which are more optional than others). The first is simply to get through the level without getting hit. The second is to collect the gold and multiplier upgrades throughout the level to complete a level perfectly. If you accomplish this, the third basic goal is unlocked which is to try to hit the center of a bulls-eye at the end of the level. This will give you a completion rating of Perfect+ for that level. The fourth goal is to try to score the highest amount of points for a level.

You will die a lot throughout the game, but the penalties for dying are rather small. If you get hit during a level you will either rewind to the beginning of the level, or if you have reached the checkpoint in the level, you will simply rewind to the checkpoint. There are no lives, and the level allows you to keep trying as much as you want to.

Throughout the levels there are also secret paths, golden cartridges, and treasure boxes. These collectables allow you to unlock new characters, alternate outfits, and bonus “retro” levels that go back to the style of some of the earlier Bit.Trip style of pixel graphics.

After progressing through a world you have fight a boss character. In many ways these boss fights are like any of the other levels, but simply have times where you need to kick the boss to damage it. The boss battles also have a number of checkpoints so you don’t have to restart the battle from the beginning every time you get hit, which is nice.

Themes

With a story that is rather limited in scope, the themes that are within the story itself are fairly limited as well. You get a fairly basic good vs. evil tale that isn’t really developed too much.

Beyond the story though, I think you could argue that Bit.Trip Runner2 can promote other themes, like persistence, pattern recognition and memorization skills. These may be silly things to think of as themes, but so much of the game is about being able to know what action to do when faced with a particular challenge that I don’t think it is too much of a stretch. Add in a fairly limited punishment system that seems to promote memorization and retrying and it’s a pretty convincing case. Maybe theme would be the wrong word to use, but they are certainly things that the game promotes, even if unintentionally.

Positives

  • Let There Be Color – Bit.Trip Runner2 is a colorful and fantastical game. It does a fairly good job of displaying whimsy and fun parallel to danger and gloom. It just creates a rather unique and fun environment to run around in.
  • Energetic Soundtrack – The music also helps create the whimsical feel to the game. It is catchy and rightfully so, because you’ll probably be hearing some of the songs quite a bit.
  • Play it Again – Bit.Trip Runner2 has a decent amount of replay value for a smaller, indie game. You can go for the high score on levels, search for unlockables, or go after trophies by perfectly completing every level on all three difficulties.

Mixed

  • Easy to Learn, Hard to Master – As I said earlier the controls are fairly easy and responsive, however the game does get fairly difficult. Personally, I didn’t think that it was ever too hard especially after getting the controls down and practicing a bit. Some may very well disagree and find the game too difficult though. With an easy difficulty level this shouldn’t be too big of a thing, but I understand that not everyone likes a challenge.
  • Great for Short Bursts – While I enjoyed Bit.Trip Runner2 it was not always a game that I enjoyed playing for long periods of time. Sometimes I would, but it was often more enjoyable if I tackled a few levels and then moved on.
  • Repetition is Repetitive – A good portion of this game is about repetition. If you’re stuck on a level you will have to repeat it until you are able to pass the obstacle that is barring your way. Even if you don’t get stuck, levels can start to feel repetitive after awhile. This might be why I enjoyed the game more in short bursts.

Negatives

  • Shoot the Bulls-eye – One of the most frustrating aspects of the game for me was the Bulls-eye that showed up if you collected all the gold and multipliers for a level. There were times where I did really good at consistently hitting it, but then other times I was terrible at it. As I said it was the most frustrating part, and wasn’t all that enjoyable to me.
  • Running by the Scenery – This is a minor gripe, but the world of Bit.Trip Runner2 is so colorful and often so alive in the background, but because you’re constantly running the background has to be largely ignored. If you don’t then you’ll probably make a mistake and get sent back to the beginning. You kind of want to see all the stuff going on in the background because it is enjoyable to look at, but doing so typically results in messing something up.

Overall Impressions

Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien may be a mouthful, but I found it to be a highly enjoyable game. It is a challenging game, but I found it to be a fair and enjoyable challenge unlike some games. It rewards both natural skill and practice. It also places the challenge in a colorful and entertaining world. Throw in a decent amount of replay value and you have a game that will be enjoyable to play for some time, even if you may not play it in long sittings. It is definitely worth the $5 price tag for the PlayStation 3 and even the slightly higher prices for the Vita or on Steam.

I should also note that I played this game on the PlayStation 3, and a controller helps immensely. I remember trying the earlier Bit.Trip Runner on the PC with the keyboard and it was not very fun. So I do recommend playing with a controller for the best experience with this game for whatever platform you choose.

Final Thoughts on Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves

I know it’s been a little while since my last look at the Sly Cooper series, but I had finished a few games in between the second and third installment and figured I’d write about them first. I played Sly Cooper 3 as part of the Sly Cooper Collection that came out on the PlayStation 3 just like I did the previous two installments. This was the last Sly Cooper game for the PlayStation 2 and it took quite awhile for the series to gain another entry. Did this game fall flat or did it just take a break on a high note?

Sly 3 Honor Among ThievesStory

The story picks up around a year or so after Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves and starts us of with an assault on an island that houses the Cooper Vault, the vault of Sly’s family. Dr. M, who has put up defenses to protect the vault and keep it for himself, finds then and captures Sly. Sly then has a flashback and we get to play through the story to see how we came to this point.

We see that Sly learns about the Cooper vault from one of his father’s associates a man named McSweeney. After going to the vault and finding that Dr. M had turned the island it was on into a fortress to attempt to claim the vault for himself. Upon seeing this Sly need to get the Cooper Gang back together.

Sly and Bentley seem to still be working together despite Bentley’s injury he sustained at the end of the last game forcing him to be confined to a wheelchair, but Murray is not with the group. He blamed himself for Bentley’s injury and left. So Sly and Bentley seek to get the gang back together and break into the Cooper Vault.

As they do this though, they realize they’re going to need more than just the three of them to pull off this heist. So they wind up recruiting a group of thieves for this job, some of which are pulled from past enemies.

Gameplay

Largely the gameplay is very similar to previous Sly Cooper games, particularly Sly 2. It is still a 3D platformer that incorporates stealth and combat. Like Sly 2, this one includes the use of a health bar, ability to use Bentley and Murray, and upgradable abilities.

Of course there some changes and additions to Sly 3, but I’d say that not too many of them are too significant. With a larger crew you can also play as some of the other members you’ll recruit at times. Also with this installment, Sly isn’t the only one who can pickpocket. Bentley and Murray can also pick pockets, although their methods are a little different than Sly’s.

Some of the abilities are different, like disguises, and there are some different mechanics added, like airplane dogfights and pirate ship battles, that take place in some of the different chapters of the game. Another difference has been the removal of the clue bottles and vaults from the game that seem to be replaced with challenge missions and treasure hunting.

Overall though, this is still another Sly game and if you’ve played the first two, then you should have little trouble adapting to the gameplay of this game. Most of the things I’ve listed are fairly minor and don’t really make too much of a difference to the base game.

Themes

Like the previous games friendship and teamwork are a major theme present in this work. In some ways it seems like it is more developed as a theme than in the previous games. You see this through the rebuilding of the Cooper Gang, and also by the comparison that comes up later in the game between Sly and his gang and Sly’s father and the group he used to work with.

Behind this theme is the question of whether or not the Cooper Gang is a gang built on friendship or simply convenience. Each seem to have to wrestle with this at some point in the game. Murray does in coming to terms with Bentley’s injuries and the fact that Bentley doesn’t blame him at all. Sly has to face it in wondering if he is using his friends simply as tools or if they truly mean something to him. Bentley also has to deal with this, as Dr. M tries to convince Bentley that he is just a tool used by Sly and not a real friend.

One could also argue that there is a theme of knowing your limits. The Cooper Gang has been able to achieve some pretty impressive things before this, but with the task before them in this game they know they need more than the three of them. Now this could be more of a we need a reason to add more characters move than an intentional theme, but I’d still argue that it’s there.

Positives

  • Another Sly Adventure – The Sly games have been an enjoyable series to get into. Likable characters, fun locations, and grand adventures make for a fun series. Sly 3 continues that tradition and delivers more Sly Cooper goodness.
  • Tighter Experience – While for the most part Sly 2 improved upon the mechanics and flow from the first game, Sly 3 manages to make the experience even tighter. Some of the control issues I had with the second game didn’t make a reappearance in the third. Some things like automatically selling the items you pickpocket also makes for a little less unnecessary travel which is also nice.
  • It’s Personal Again – While Sly 2 had a story that had higher stakes, the way it was executed just didn’t work for me anyhow. With Sly 3 they somewhat returned to making the story seem more personal to Sly. While it doesn’t make the stakes very high, after all they’re just wanting to get into the Cooper family vault, I thought it flowed much better than the second outing.

Mixed

  • Too Many Characters? – I understand some of the reason to add new characters and everything too the mix, but I wonder if the addition of four new characters to the team was really necessary. They made it work, but when the theme seemed so centered around the unity of Sly, Bentley, and Murray it felt weird to have so many extras.
  • Don’t Have a Clue – For this game they removed the clue bottles and the vaults which I didn’t know what I thought about. On the one hand I welcomed it because trying to find them could be a bit tedious. On the other, it was kind of fun to find them all and use them to open a vault with some new ability. Doing that was more enjoyable and seamless to the world than the master thief challenges they added.

Negatives

  • Nothing to See Here – Honestly, nothing stuck out as being fully bad in this game. Overall it lacked anything that I didn’t like at all, just some things I was a bit mixed on.

Sly Cooper CollectionOverall Impressions

Even though I didn’t play through the adventures of Sly Cooper and his band of thieves until late they have all been enjoyable to play. Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves is no exception to this. In fact I might even put it as the best game out of the first three. It had a story that I’d say was almost as strong as the first, with smoothed out gameplay and tight control. It maybe got a little heavy on supporting cast, but I still think they made it work well. Even if the games may be a bit older, I’d recommend Sly 3 and really the whole Sly Collection for anyone looking for some nice E rated fun that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Final Thoughts on Contrast

It’s probably a bit funny that I’m talking about the first game I completed on the PlayStation 4 a little under a year after I purchased one, but that’s just how far behind I am in my writing. The first game I completed was the game Contrast it was one of the first PS4 games given out with a PlayStation Plus subscription and was thus one of the first games that I completed.Was my first experience positive or negative?

Screenshot

Story

Contrast‘s story is a bit odd. It takes place in a rather mysterious world that has a noir atmosphere. You play Dawn, who appears at first to be the imaginary friend of a young girl named Didi. The main goal of the story is rather mundane on the surface, as it is basically about getting your mother and father back together again.

This is accomplished in various steps throughout.To start you have to find out where your father went. You then have to help your father set his life right and out of the influence of the mob by starting his circus.Through the course of the game though you learn about Didi’s real lineage and also how Dawn is not just an imaginary friend, but one who gained the ability to shift in between worlds.

Gameplay

The gameplay is a mix of puzzle solving and platformer. The main mechanic of the game is to be able to use shadows as solid platforms to gain access to other areas. This can be done by the normal lights in the game or by turning on or manipulating lights in order to create shadow platforms to reach your desired goal. There are also various collectibles in the game that can be collected to help flesh out the world a little and give you a bit more information about the story of the game.

Screenshot

Themes

Easily the main theme of the game is family. Didi seems to want a complete family in her life. She is at the start of the game waiting for her father to come back home. However,she learns that her mother kicked her father out because he got in trouble for bouncing checks. So Didi sets out to get her parents back together again and of course needs a lot of your help to be able to do it. Didi’s desire to have a “whole family” is really what motivates the actions that you take as Dawn.

Positives

  • That’s Some Style – The style and art direction of this game is really appealing. It’s a shame that there wasn’t more of it to explore, but the noir atmosphere in its almost spooky abandoned setting was enjoyable to traverse.
  • It’s Called Contrast for a Reason – The shadow puzzles were a pretty clever mechanic and utilized fairly well. It made for a pretty fun way to climb up unusual platforms, like men playing saxophones.

Mixed

  • If I Ran the Circus – The story of the game was cute, but a little different. I did enjoy it, but it always felt like you were cleaning up after other people’s mistakes making their story a success rather than really engaging on your own story. It also felt hard to connect to characters that you never really got to see, so it made helping them feel even more detached.
  • How Does This World Work Again? – I felt that I really didn’t understand how the world worked by the end of the game. Dawn, Didi, and one other character are the only ones you get to see in 3D. Yet all the rest of the world is in 3D and people are obviously interacting with these 3D objects. My best theory is that there are two parallel worlds and Dawn in trapped in one of these which gives her the power to manipulate shadows. She is unable to see people who are in the other “world” except for their shadows. Didi and the other character are exceptions and can see people in both “worlds”. I could be horribly off base on this though.
  • Please Sir May I Have Some More – Let’s face it, the game for all the enjoyment I had out of it was very very short. The world is beautiful, but it has very few locations to explore. The story is kind of a strange cute, but also very short. In some ways this is only a bad thing because Contrast was enjoyable and you wanted more. In others ways it didn’t really feel like a completely realized game or at least a completely realized game world.

Negatives

  • Shadow Jumping – I noticed that sometimes it was somewhat difficult to jump on some of the shadows. It wasn’t anything huge, but was an annoyance sometimes. This was particularly true of the moving shadows while trying to move or jump on or off of them.

Overall Impressions

Contrast is a rather enjoyable, but very short game. It has a very artistic world and has a fairly unique game play mechanic. The story is also enjoyable, but may not be for everyone. Getting it as part of PlayStation Plus makes this game a definite must play in my mind, but I’m not sure I’d jump for the 15$ price tag it is offered for. Maybe at 10$ or lower I’d fully recommend, but otherwise I’d only recommend if the drawbacks of the game don’t discourage you. It’s enjoyable, but the shortness does detract enough to make me reluctant to recommend at full price.

 

Final Thoughts on Sly 2: Band of Thieves

I few weeks ago I gave my thoughts on Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus the first game in the Sly Cooper series of games. Since I played the first game as part of the Sly Collection that was released for the PlayStation 3 and includes the first three games of this series, I will now get to the sequel, Sly 2: Band of Thieves. Did it improve upon the first game or fail to reach the same level?

Sly 2 Band of ThievesStory

The story begins with the Cooper Gang breaking into a museum in Cairo to steal the parts of Clockwerk, the main villain from the first game. The trio wants to find and destroy the parts before they’re used again for evil. The problem is they’re too late as they are already stolen by a group known as the Klaww Gang. This sets up Sly, Bentley, and Murray up for a globe trotting adventure to recover the Clockwerk parts.

Gameplay

While much from the first game is retained, there are a number of improvements and changes that have been implemented for the sequel. One of the most significant of these is that you are now able to play as Sly, Bentley and Murray who all have slightly different play styles.

Sly’s style remains very similar to the first game and while there are some differences that I’ll get to later, in terms of basics though he’s largely the same. Bentley is armed with a sleep-dart gun and mines that he can use in an effective combo, he is also able to hack computers, which initiates a hacking mini-game. Murray simply uses his brute strength to pick up items and enemies and can also go toe to toe with enemies in combat.

Another significant change is the inclusion of a health bar in the game as opposed to the one hit death (two if you had a lucky horseshoe) from the first game. Associated with this is the removal of a lives system. You can just restart a mission if you run out of life. You also have an energy bar that you use to do any of the special moves or abilities that you obtain during the game.

This leads us to another major change in the game how abilities are obtained. In the first game you unlocked them by finding clue bottles scattered around a level. You can still find certain special abilities with this method in this game, but the majority of the abilities will be obtained by purchasing upgrades through ThiefNet at your safe house where you begin the level. This is the new use for coins, instead of gaining extra lives you buy upgrades for your characters.

The upgrades are a bit different than the ones from previous games. Sly gains abilities that add properties to his cane, or allow him to drop a smoke bomb to escape enemies. Bentley mainly adds upgrades to his bombs, but also has abilities to increase his speed or allow him to have a jet pack. Murray gains abilities that increase his strength and allows him to perform powerful new moves. So you get a variety of moves and abilities that are in tune with their own unique way of play.

There are a few other additions like levels being larger and more coherent as opposed to being broken up in the first game. You also gain the ability to pickpocket with Sly which comes in handy and is used either to steal necessary items off enemies or just to gain some extra coins. So while I’d say there is quite a bit of stuff carried over from the first game, there is also a good number of additions that update mechanics and add some variety to the play.

Themes

Like the first game friendship and teamwork is a major theme of the game. In fact I’d say it is ramped up in this installment because you’re now able to play as all three members of the Cooper Gang. This allows for more flexibility in seeing how important everyone is to each other when things go south. It feels like they actually work more as a team, even if Sly is the leader of sorts.

There is also the theme of protection from evil that the first game didn’t have. In the first game the main drive was revenge against the villains who killed Sly’s parents and stole the Thievious Raccoonus. In this game Sly, Bentley, and Murray are focused on preventing Clockwerk the villain from the previous game to be rebuilt and set loose on the world again.

Positives

  • More Sly – This game has more Sly Cooper. I really enjoyed the first game quite a bit so I also enjoyed getting to play as Sly Cooper and his friends once again.
  • It’s So Smooth – In terms of gameplay a lot of the more disjointed components of the first game have really been ironed out and makes the whole experience smoother. Locations are much more coherent. The inclusion of a health bar makes for a more enjoyable experience than just having one hit kills (even if I did kind of enjoy that from the first game).
  • Around the World – Levels are not only smoother, but they are also fun and take place all over the world. Over the course of the game you wind up in Paris, India, Prague, Canada, and an airborne blimp.
  • Kind of Like Candy – Sly 2 is not a difficult game. Some people may dislike this and call it too easy or too short. To me games like this are kind of the video game equivalent to candy. They’re easy, mainly marketed to kids, but are enjoyable.

Mixed

  • Watch for Falling Raccoons – While overall the controls in these games are well done, I felt that Sly 2 just had a few more issues than the first game. I found myself having difficulties every once in awhile on things that shouldn’t have been too hard. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like the controls weren’t as sharp in this outing.
  • Intriguing Story, That Ultimately Falls a Bit Flat – The story for Sly 2 takes a fair number of twists and turns, and they’re enjoyable for a good portion of the game. However, the reveal of the final boss just fell flat. It felt like it lacked any proper motivation for that twist and just didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me anyhow.

Negatives

  • Does Interpol Do Background Checks? – Members of the Klaww Gang are part of Interpol. How in the world does this happen? I mean have we never heard of background checks or anything?

Overall Impressions

This was another enjoyable outing for Sly Cooper and his friends. In total I’d say that it is an improvement over the first game in many ways. The only two places where it didn’t seem quite as good as the first was in story (mainly the last quarter or so) and the tightness of controls. Neither of these problems are deal breakers and I found the game to be fun, even if it isn’t too hard and can be completely relatively quickly. So I would definitely recommend Sly’s second venture especially if picked up in the PlayStation 3 collection of Sly titles.

 

Final Thoughts on Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

I often comment here about how behind I am in terms of video games. It seems that I rarely play something right after it releases. The distance between the release of a game and when I get to it varies wildly. I didn’t really get into the PlayStation 2 era until late so I missed a lot of games from that time. In the case with Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus I played it as part of the Sly Cooper Collection released for the PlayStation 3.

Sly Cooper CollectionStory

The story here follows the titular character, Sly Cooper. Sly is the descendant of a long line of raccoon master thieves. This line of master thieves has a book called the Thievius Raccoonus that has the accumulated knowledge of the Cooper family and would enable you to become a master thief.

Since Sly was the most recent Cooper he was set to inherit the Thievius Raccoonus from his father. However, his father was killed and the book was stolen by members of a group known as the Fiendish Five. Sly was then sent to an orphanage where he met his two best friends Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippopotamus. It with this group of three friends that Sly decides to seek after those who killed his father, bring them to justice, and retrieve the Thievius Raccoonus. In addition to the Fiendish Five standing in your way you also have to avoid the tenacious Interpol agent Carmelita Fox as she seeks to put Sly Cooper behind bars for his own thieving ways. All of this however is a very family friendly affair and is rated E for Everyone.

Gameplay

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is largely focused on 3D platforming with stealth elements. You control Sly Cooper for the majority of the game and you seek to infiltrate the five lairs of the Fiendish Five and put an end to their schemes. You do this both by sneaking past security systems, defeating enemies, and finding ways to get past obstacles using your special thief abilities.

You will also engage in combat during the game as Sly can use his cane to defeat enemies. However, Sly can be defeated in one hit, unless he has a lucky horseshoe that gives him an extra hit, so using stealth to sneak up on enemies is beneficial.

Each level in the various lairs also contain bottles with clues on how to open a safe that will include a unique move for Sly Cooper. There are also coins to collect in each level that will enable to you gain a lucky horseshoe after collecting 100 coins. If you already have this horseshoe you will gain an extra life.

In addition to playing as Sly you also have other missions where it allows you to play as or at least support either Bentley or Murray. Murray will drive in races, need protected by Sly on a turret while he runs to a particular location, or you’ll play as Bentley while he is hacking electronics in a cyber tank game.

Themes

There are a decent number of positive themes in Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. The most significant is that of teamwork and friendship. The team of Sly, Bentley, and Murray is tight knit despite there great differences. Sly is clever, cool, smooth and agile; Bentley is smart, no-nonsense, and nerdy; while Murray is strong, boisterous, and maybe not the smartest tool in the shed. All of their strengths are needed to accomplish their mission and it is the friendship between these three that remains a theme through the next two games as well.

You also have the theme of revenge, but it plays out here much differently than most other games. In most other games it is about killing those who are in your path, this is evident in the Assassin’s Creed games I’ve commented on elsewhere. With Sly Cooper you are defeating the various members of the Fiendish Five but ultimately you help bring them to justice and not doling out the sentence yourself. With only one exception the members of the Fiendish Five are all placed under arrest.

If there is one theme that may cause some case for pondering it is the fact that Sly himself is a thief. He is escaping from the law himself throughout the game. Sly is  a thief in the mold of Robin Hood, he steals from criminals or in order to find criminals. This doesn’t negate the fact that he is a thief, but does put a more positive approach to the whole thing.

Positives

  • Quality Family Friendliness – It seems that as the average gaming age has increased there has become a decreasing amount of quality games that you wouldn’t mind having your kids play. Even though this game is a bit old in its original incarnation it is still a nice family friendly game that is also a quality gaming experience and not just some cash in movie or television series tie-in.
  • Good People, Good Places – The world of Sly Cooper is a stylized version of our world with anthropomorphic characters and a fairly memorable cast of characters, particularly Sly’s group. The levels are fun and while they do wind up falling into some standard level categories they still manage to be well done.
  • Does Everything a Raccoon Can? – I thought that the controls for this game were pretty solid. New moves are added as you go on and it winds up being a rather satisfying platforming game.

Mixed

  • The Fractured Fiendish Five – For a group of criminals the Fiendish Five make for good antagonists, but also a rather disjointed story as well. They seem to be working together in their attack on Sly’s father and mother, but lack any kind of cohesion during the actual story. I understand why this is, so that the stage setup can focus on one particular enemy, but it winds up hurting the story a bit.
  • The Old is the New New – Do you remember the last platforming game you’ve played that uses a life system? Not many of them do anymore. It winds up being a fairly archaic mechanic, but it was one that I actually kind of enjoyed seeing. Sometimes it made for some frustration, but I also enjoyed experiencing it again.
  • Playing an Older Cartoon – Even with the HD upgrade, you can tell that Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is an older game. It has a great art direction, and the visuals haven’t aged that badly, but you can still tell it is an older game.

Negatives

  • Over Too Quick – Sly Cooper’s first outing is a bit on the short side. This isn’t that much of a negative though at least with the Sly Cooper Collection. It probably would have been a bigger issue when buying it on the PlayStation separately though.

Overall Impressions

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was an enjoyable game and I would highly recommend it. The game is a good 3D platformer, with fun characters, solid gameplay and is a game that you can purchase to let your kids play or not have to worry about them watching you as you’re playing. Considering the game is part of the Sly Cooper Collection there is little reason not to get the collection as you get the three PlayStation 2 Sly game’s for very little (Amazon has it for a little under 15 dollars as of writing).

Final Thoughts on Rogue Legacy

Growing up playing video games in the NES and SNES era of video games, side-scrolling platformers were a common type of game to find released. Over time as technology improved 2D games became rarer and 3D games began to become the norm. Today with the upsurge of independent developers 2D games have become very popular again. Some would argue that there is an over abundance of these type of games, and they may have a point. Regardless of that larger argument, I’m looking at one of these type of games today, Rogue Legacy.

Rogue Legacy Title

Story

There isn’t too much story here. The King is ill and one of your ancestors, the Knight Johannes (who you play as for the tutorial/flashback), goes to the Castle Hamson to find the cure for the King. You wind up playing as the descendents of the King and Knight Johannes to unravel the mystery of the castle and to try regain the previous fortune of your family that was decimated upon entry into the mysterious Castle Hamson.

Really there isn’t too much story to the game though. You’ll run into journals throughout the game that talks about the journey of Johannes through the castle, and it’s interesting and changes a bit of the implications behind going into the castle in the first place, but doesn’t really alter your actions at all.

Gameplay

Rogue Legacy is considered a roguelike platformer. The roguelike elements come out in two prominent features of the game. First, the Castle Hamson is randomly generated, the setup of the castle will not be the same unless you use the architect NPC to keep the castle the same for a fee. While this doesn’t change the types of monsters you’ll find it changes the layout and traps that make up the castle. This can make quite a bit of difference sometimes on how far you can get in the castle.

The second feature that draws from roguelike and is a backbone of the game is permanent death and the heir system of the game. When you die in the game, and trust me you will die, your character is dead for good. You then have to pick a son or daughter of the character that just played.

These potential heirs are random and come from a pool of different classes like knight, mage, or assassin. In addition to picking from various classes each heir will have certain traits. These traits could be useful like ADHD which increases your move speed, negative like Alzheimer’s which removes your ability to look at your map, or purely cosmetic like color-blind which changes the colors of the game to greyscale. There are a number of combinations and can make the game easier or more difficult depending on what you get.

Rogue Legacy UpgradesWhen you pick your character you have the chance to purchase upgrades, new weapons, armor, or enchantments with the money and blueprints you found in the castle on your last play through. You then have to waste all remaining money upon entering the castle paying the gatekeeper Charon.

Once you’ve entered the castle your goal is to stay alive as long as possible, collect money, blueprints, and enchantments, and defeat the four bosses of the castle so that you can proceed to the final boss and conquer the castle. You do this by attacking people with your sword, magic spells, and the special abilities of your class. This may sound simple, but it will be a difficult task as you face difficult bosses and harder enemies as you proceed through the castle.

Rogue Legacy Gameplay

Themes

The game doesn’t really have much of a story so the themes again are sparse. You can extend the gameplay mechanics of heirs into a woeful tale of family duty and mystery. One could ask why do the descendants of Johannes continue in their quest to unravel the mysteries of the castle after so many members of the family have met their demise, but it’s really a question the game doesn’t answer and is left to imagination.

Rogue Legacy Boss

Positives

  • Cruise Control – I found that the game had some very good controls. I played it on the keyboard for the PC and was able to do fairly well with the game. I can imagine that playing with a controller would be an even better experience. This isn’t a game you die from because the controls are tough.
  • Progressing on the Journey – There was always a good sense of progress through Rogue Legacy. A new weapon or piece of armor to find, the need to collect money for the next upgrade, or a new enchantment to unlock. All this allowed for a good sense of progress. Yes sometimes this involved some grind, but it was a lot of fun to do in my opinion.
  • Legendary Cameos – Okay this is just a bit of a nerdy point, once you find out the plot centers around the fountain of youth it is interesting to note that the bosses all are names of people who are connected with the legend of the fountain of youth. Nothing that really improves the game directly, but I thought it was a nice touch.

Mixed

  • Patience is a Virtue – This is a difficult game, if you try to rush right through it unprepared it will not be nice to you. At times it will be very difficult to progress without properly upgrading your abilities. This will mean gaining money and finding equipment. I did find it tough at certain points to gain enough money to progress further, but eventually you do break through these points as you get better at the game and get sufficiently upgraded.
  • Just One More Try – Rouge Legacy is one of those games that can keep you coming back for one more round. This is a good thing as it means the game is fun and keeps you coming back for more. It’s not good though because it means it can be hard to pull yourself away trying to chip away at the challenge.
  • Now For Something Completely Different – The traits that this game include for characters are pretty interesting. Having ways to incorporate traits like ADHD, Dyslexia, Near-Sightedness, and many others is an interesting way of approaching character traits. It also can be quite funny how some of traits are displayed in the game. Some of these traits though get old and you find yourself looking for your favorites at times and sometimes you don’t get any good setups when choosing your heir.
  • Class Division – It could just be that certain classes in the game are suited towards certain play styles, but I found that some classes seemed to do much better in the game than others. While I don’t think this detracted from the fun of the game, it did cause me to play certain classes more than others unless you got a particularly poor draw.

Negatives

  • Did We Need to Make Things Harder – The only real negative I can think of comes from the super hard Remix bosses that were added to the game later. I was initially looking forward to them quite a bit, I mean more Rogue Legacy is a good thing, but I found myself disappointed. I found them very difficult, and since you have to use a set character there is no way to make things easier. I’m sure they can be beat, but it just wasn’t the more Rogue Legacy I wanted.

Overall Impressions

I’m sure by now you’ve realized that I thoroughly enjoyed Rogue Legacy. It is a challenging game, but it is doable with patience and a willingness to collect money and upgrades. I found it to be a fun, well done platformer that kept me coming back. You may be turned off by the 15$ price tag, but I honestly think the game is worth it. If you don’t I know that you can find this game on sale at various points for the PC. This game is also coming out to the PS3, Vita, and PS4 later this month so if you’d rather go that route you’d be able to as well.

Final Thoughts on DLC Quest

One of the fairly recent developments in video games is DLC or downloadable content. It has been a development that has been met with mixed reviews to be certain. You can find games that charge absurd prices for cosmetic changes to the game, games that leave out content from the initial release to release DLC shortly after release, and you can also find reasonably priced DLC that is well done and worth purchasing.

What does this have to do with the game I’m looking at today? How about the fact that DLC Quest is a parody game pointed directly at the idea of DLC. In fact it goes pretty much as far as having every element of the game needing to be “purchased” including sounds, the ability to turn left, animations, everything. You don’t have to use real world money, but these “DLC packs” are purchased using in game coins.

DLC Quest TitleStory

Well let’s be honest, DLC Quest‘s focus is not story. It introduces itself as a basic go find the bad guy and rescue the princess kind of game. Story is not the focus here, it’s game with a joke about DLC and perhaps a grim vision of a potential future where every part of a game needs to be unlocked by some kind of DLC.

Gameplay

DLC Quest is a platformer, you jump and explore levels to collect coins in order to unlock more of the “DLC packs” so that you can continue on to the next portion of the game. That’s pretty much it. It’s not very complex. It’s running and jumping and finding enough money for the “DLC” you need to get past the most recent obstacle in you path.

DLC Quest Gameplay

Themes

With a threadbare story one would not expect this game to have any significant themes. Largely the only theme present is the joke that the game centers around, the idea of DLC being abused. It’s not that significant really, but it is the theme that this game is built around. You could potentially walk away from the game thinking about healthy and unhealthy business practices in regards to the gaming industry or in general, but I doubt that would be most people’s take away from this game.

Positives

  • Keep it Simple – DLC Quest is a simple, but fun game. It may not have the complexity of many games today, but it was still surprisingly fun.
  • Priced for What it is – Steam has this game for $2.99, which compared to a lot of the indie games that I’ve given my thoughts on here, is actually a price that fits well with a game of this length and complexity. It probably even goes on sale cheaper than this at times and would then even be a better deal.

Mixed

  • Over and Over Again – DLC Quest’s joke is funny. Poking fun of the video game industry and particularly DLC is an area ripe for some mockery. However, crafting a whole game around that one joke can get old. It keeps it interesting with amusing extra “DLC packs” like Canadian dialog, but it’s really the same joke over and over again. The developers certainly aren’t hiding this fact, but just be aware.
  • Where to Go – There are points in the game that what you need to do next isn’t entirely clear. These are rare, but I remember at least one point where I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. I eventually figured it out and all it took was being willing to explore a little, but it just reminded me of a part of older gaming that I don’t miss, the wander around hoping you’ll figure out what to do.

Negative

  • What Big Eyes You Have – I’m not one who nitpicks graphics too much. However, the characters in this game are pretty ugly. Don’t take this as I just don’t like retro graphics. I like them just fine. They can be done rather well and look nice even today, but this game doesn’t do it. The eyes of the characters are almost larger than their whole head and it just makes them look very strange. A minor gripe to be certain, but they are still ugly looking characters.

Overall Impression

DLC Quest is a fun little time waster. It’s a one joke pony, but executes it well enough. You are not getting a complicated game with an engrossing story or well developed themes. Instead it is focused on the main joke and trying to find as many ways to poke at the joke throughout the game, which can get old or annoying. The game is short and fun, but lacks in substance.

At $2.99 or cheaper it’s priced better than some games this length, but still may be one that lacks the pull to make you purchase. There are better platformers out there and plenty of other avenues to get the humor. I enjoyed it, but not enough to give it a glowing recommendation. It’s not a bad game, but just understand what you’re getting before jumping into it.

 

 

Final Thoughts on Lego Batman 2

If you’ve been reading my “Final Thoughts” on video games, you’ll notice that recently I’ve been doing a lot of indie games. Today I’ll be taking a break from that and doing a game that is a bit more popular, one of the Lego game, in particular Lego Batman 2.

Now if you’ve ever played any of the Lego themed games before Lego Batman 2 you know basically what to expect. While Lego Batman 2 does do a few things a bit differently, it is largely the same and you can probably stop reading here because you already know whether you like this game or not. If you haven’t played a Lego game before  or just enjoy reading people’s thoughts on video games continue on, I mean it’s not like I’m stopping here.

Lego Batman 2Story

Well let’s be honest. This is Batman geared for kids. The story is not going to be the greatest ever. However, it is worthwhile to say that I believe that this story is fairly original. Instead of seeming to loosely use frameworks of Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Returns, and Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever we’re given something a bit different.

In other Lego games like Lego Star Wars or Lego Batman you have the game split into parts for each movie it is directly or loosely based off of. You can access these pieces of story from a hub location, or base where the levels are accessed. Lego Batman 2 changes this and moves to an open-world environment with a continual story. What this means is that instead of having a main base where you access levels (although this kind of does still exist), you get to travel around Gotham City and have to travel to a certain locations to start a level.

The story focuses around Lex Luthor and the Joker as they team up to try to win Luthor the election for President of the United States. So it’s up to Batman, Robin, Superman, and other members of the Justice League to stop their plan. It’s a fun story, but remember this is a Batman story focused for a younger set. It’s going to be a little absurd. It has a weapon that destroys black bricks, a giant Joker robot, and maybe a Lex Luther that lacks a lot of confidence.

Gameplay

As I’ve said gameplay is pretty similar to other Lego games, but let me give you an overview. The basic concept behind the game is to get to the end of the level. To do this you’ll have to fight enemies, jump over obstacles, or use the particular skills of a character. Each character typically has at least one special ability or in the cases of Batman and Robin have suits that give them different special abilities. For example, Batman has a power suit that allows him to lift heavy objects (designated by orange handles), and shoot bombs that blow up shiny silver Lego blocks. Or take Superman who can fly, is super strong to allow him to lift heavy objects, has freezing breath that can freeze enemies or water, shoots lasers from his eyes that are used to melt gold Legos, and also has X-Ray vision which is used to see through certain walls.

If you’re expecting a game that is straight forward that only involves fighting bad guys and jumping over holes or something, this isn’t really what the Lego games deliver. They do have those things, but there is also a bit of a puzzle element to the games as well. These parts make you have to figure out what you need to do to get to the next area. Sometimes it is just destroying some Lego creations in order to uncover Legos you can use to proceed. Other times you have to figure out how to use a characters ability to get you past a segment. Maybe you need to blow up silver Legos with a bomb or melt some gold Legos to get to the next section.

This puzzle part of the Lego games is an even larger part of looking for the various hidden collectibles that are in the game. Because there are two ways to go through a particular level. The first is “Story Mode” which is how you have to play through first. This only involves the characters that are in the story, which is largely just Batman, Robin, and Superman, with some Justice League members joining much later. However, every level usually has puzzles and unlockables (like minikits which build a vehicle or item from the batman world, gold blocks which can be used to enable certain characters to be unlocked, or red bricks that unlock extra “cheats”) that can only be reached with abilities that the story characters do not possess. To get these unlockables you have to play in the mode called “Free Play” which allows you to play as any of the characters you have unlocked so far. This mode also allows you to rotate through a set number of characters that will include any character who have abilities you need to get the unlockables for a particular level.

There are three more random things that I want to note about gameplay. The first is that like any of the other Lego games this is a two player game, which is nice. You can have a second player join or leave the game at any time. Second, is that as I mentioned above the game now has an open world environment, this means that there is also a lot to find and unlock on the map itself and not just in the various levels. The third is that this is the first and only one of the few Lego games that actually includes voice acting. Maybe that’s more a point to place under the story, but I’ll stick it here. This means that instead of just pantomime you now have some pretty funny dialogue in the game.

Positives

  • More Lego fun – I’ve always enjoyed the Lego games. They aren’t exceptionally difficult games by any means, but they are loads of fun. Even more so they are games I can play that my young children can watch, and my son is now able to play.
  • Problem solving skills – I didn’t realize how puzzle centric the Lego games were until my wife and son started playing the first Lego Batman together. Watching them try to figure out what they needed to do made me realize how much this game really develops some problem solving skills. Admittedly, we’re talking video game problem solving skills, but still.
  • I Can Hear You – The voice acting being added to Lego Batman 2 was really well done and made the game even more funny than usual. The Lego games have always had a lot of humor in them, but adding the voices just added more character to it all. Whether it was Batman grunting answers back, Robin being the butt of jokes, or the news reports at the beginning of levels by Vicki Vale they all just accomplished things that previous games couldn’t.

Mixed

  • More Lego DC Than Lego Batman – In order to make the sequel even bigger and better, you know the character roster was going to increase. However, I really felt with both the direction of the story and the roster that this game was more of a Lego DC than it was a Lego Batman. In some ways it wasn’t, because Batman was still a front and center character throughout, but it neglected another element of Batman and that is his roster of villains. Besides the Joker they were more used as very minor characters than any sort of major players.
  • Who Needs Villains Anyway? – In connection with my previous point, I felt that compared to the first Lego Batman that the villains weren’t even all that useful to unlock in the game. The only ones that had purely unique abilities were the Joker, Lex Luthor, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler. I just felt it led to having more characters, but not really utilizing the characters very well or making them very unique in the process.
  • Rats in a Maze – There are some puzzles in the main map of Gotham City that require you to use particular Batman or Robin suits to obtain an unlockable. This makes it so that you have to use some of the costumes you might forgo when you can use some of the characters with flight to get anywhere. However, at the same time this really felt kind of awkward too. You have Superman who can do like tons of stuff, but then you have these puzzles that seem to be there simply as a counter to how badly Superman and characters like him skew the game.

Negative

  • Not Stronger than a Camera Angle – Some of Superman’s (or any other flying character’s) flying is just painful. Especially trying to get some of the Gold Bricks. You need to go into some crevice while flying with Superman only to be met with Superman veering off or the camera going nuts.
  • I Choose You Joker Goon – One of the things I’ve always wondered about the Lego series of games is the inclusion of fairly useless characters. These are characters that have no abilities and aren’t even characters with any real place in the universe other than nameless thug. So I wonder why they’re included. Are there that many people who want to be Joker Goon rather than the Joker or Poison Ivy Goon over Poison Ivy? They just feel like fluff. Characters to pad a roster in order to say that you have x many characters to unlock. I write this, but also have to admit that my three year old was at one point very excited about being able to be a random henchman, but if you’re going to have them at least make them be able to do more than just attack people. Otherwise to me it’s just a waste of space.

Overall Impressions

I’ve already said that I’ve enjoyed the Lego series of games. I’ve played both the Lego Stars Wars series and the first Lego Batman before playing Lego Batman 2 so it should come as no surprise that I enjoy and recommend Lego Batman 2. Is it taking the Lego series of games in a radically different direction? No, but it is a fun little game that can be enjoyed by old and young alike at the same time since it allows for two players to play at once. It’s not a game that has deep themes or anything like that, but it does work out your mind a bit as you try to figure out how to get through levels and try to find all the unlockables (if you so desire). It does have its annoying moments, but overall it’s a solid experience that I think most anyone could enjoy, although fans of the DC universe (or at least those with knowledge of it) will have a leg up.

These thoughts are based on the PS3 version, but it is also available for pretty much any current system out there however their may be some differences between these versions particularly between console and handheld versions.

Final Thoughts on Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone is a game that I didn’t really know much about going into. I believe I picked it up as part of a bundle. I only pick up bundles that I at least heard of one or two games included, but this often means that I get games that I haven’t heard of before to try. Thomas Was Alone was one of these games. So was this a game that I was better off not knowing about, or it is one that I think everyone should know about?

2013-07-12_00001Story

This is a game that is hard to really give the story about. In some ways you could say that it doesn’t have much of a story. In other ways it incorporates a story within a story. It can do this all while being rather ambiguous about one of the stories. Are you confused yet? Well don’t worry because it really doesn’t matter all that much.

The overarching story is that the game takes place in a computer mainframe and the characters you control are AIs that have gained self-awareness. This is mainly hinted at with quotes at the beginning of each chapter, but you can also get hints at this during the actual gameplay, it just isn’t necessarily as crystal clear.

The story that goes on in this framework seems much simpler. The AIs that you control each have their own personality and due to some fantastic narration, each AI has a unique personality and “interact” with each others personalities in interesting ways. We’re not talking grand story telling here, we’re talking about giving squares and rectangles personalities in a way that you didn’t think possible.

The ambiguous part is what the whole AI self-awareness really means and what the final result of your story is. It doesn’t really seem to give you this information. If you’re like me though, this doesn’t really matter. The personalities and interactions between the AIs/shapes were much more interesting to me.

Gameplay

Thomas Was Alone is a puzzle platformer. The main goal of each stage is to take your different AIs, each of which are a different size or shape, through a map and get them to a white outline of their particular shape. Each AI/shape is unique. Thomas who is the AI you start with is a smallish sized rectangle who can jump moderately high. However, there are many other AIs you run into. Each AI is unique, one is short and can’t jump very high, another is really tall and can leap high in the air, there is also a large square that can float in the water, as well as others.

2013-07-12_00002As the levels progress you’ll need to have your AIs work together to get to the goals. You may have to ferry other shapes using the blue square that floats. There are also stages where you have to use some of the shapes as steps to allow the smaller shapes to reach higher platforms.

Postives

  • Making Shapes Come Alive. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this game was how the shapes were given personality. Sure they’re fairly one dimensional personalities, but the delivery and interaction of these personalities were done well in my opinion. You will probably smile, and you may even laugh a bit at some of the narration.
  • Smooth Sailing. Sometimes games like this can get too complicated. They try to make the puzzles very hard and can make it pretty frustrating to get through. This game doesn’t do that. Some may complain that it is really too easy, but honestly games like this that are enjoyable and are more on a easy-moderate scale are nice to have sometimes.

Mixed

  • Personality Trumps Story. I’ll be honest, the AI aspect of the story was interesting, but honestly the overarching story was kind of lost compared to the personalities and interpersonal interactions of the AI. I put this as mixed, because well it makes me wonder what the main focus of the game is. Is it the personalities and interactions of the shapes or is it the idea of AI becoming self-actualized. Or is that just the backdrop to explain shapes with personalities? This mixed feeling didn’t really take away from the game, but it is there as I think and reflect on what the game was about.

Negative

  • The Switcheroo. About two thirds of the way through the game you change the group of AIs that you’re following. These AIs weren’t terrible, but I don’t know I just felt that they weren’t as enjoyable as the ones that you played during the bulk of the game. Maybe that’s just me, but they just seemed to lack something that the earlier ones did. Maybe it is partly due to the fact they didn’t have as unique of characteristics, which is mainly due to story and gameplay events for that last portion of the game. They seem to be meant to be more generic, but still I found these later AIs to not be quite as enjoyable as the earlier ones.

Overall Impressions

I really enjoyed Thomas Was Alone. It was fun, quirky, and an enjoyable little experience. My only hesitation in my recommendation is the price. It is the same price as Dear Esther and Proteus, which were the last two games I gave my thoughts on, at $9.99 on Steam. Personally I’d say this is a better deal than Dear Esther or Proteus, but Thomas Was Alone is still a somewhat short game. I’d say to definitely pick this game up if you find it on sale or in a bundle. It’s a fun little game, that isn’t too hard, but has loads of personality considering what it is.