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Archive for April 7th, 2015

Operation: Backlog rumbles on, and I’ve run into a point or two I forgot earlier.  I’m going through my Steam list alphabetically, picking up games I own but haven’t played to see what’s there.  15 minutes each is all I’m budgeting, but I reserve the right to get sucked into a cool game.  Some I’ve played already, though, so I’ll mention them in passing here and there, giving them a rating like the other games.

I’ll be giving each of these Backlog games a rating of sorts, as follows:  Regret (uninstall and forget), Remember (uninstall but wish for more time), Revisit (leave installed for later) and Recommend (wish for more time to play this right now).  This is a squishy continuum of sorts, and deliberately imprecise.  This isn’t an in depth survey-and-review, it’s Spring Cleaning of my video game backlog.

First up this time is AVSEQ

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This is a weird little game.  It’s a puzzler of a sort, but more of a reflex clicky thing.  It doesn’t seem to have much depth, but maybe it opens up later.  The 15 minutes I had with it were, well… clicky.  As in, I clicked on a lot of stuff, but didn’t feel like I was making many decisions or planning strategies.  It was more reactive than anything.  That’s not a terrible thing, but when I’m in the mood for a puzzle-ish music-based game, I’ll play AudioSurf (Recommend), Chime (Revisit), Lumines (Revisit) or Symphony (Recommend), all really great games.  AVSEQ is just sort of there.  I’m giving it a Regret rating, but it’s really more of a “forget” than a regret.

***

Then there’s Back To The Future: The Game

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This game really scratches the nostalgia itch, with voice actors, music and incidental sounds that just nail the feeling of the movies.  Sure, it’s sort of a weird cartoon version, but this is Christopher Lloyd we’re talking about, and he’s something of a living cartoon, so it works.  It starts off with some serious callbacks to the first movie and its era, gives a sense of the conversation mechanics, and sets up some weirdness that ol’ Doc Brown has become mired in again.

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Biff gets a little more depth (he’s still a peon in George’s presence, but a punk to Marty), you get to explore Doc Brown’s house a bit, and a new mystery fires up with Einstein arriving suddenly, alone in the deLorean, with a mysterious message from the Doc.

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The characters are appealingly stylized, the voices are great, the visuals capture the time of the movie… all in all, it certainly seems like a love letter to the movies.  I didn’t see a lot of the story, so maybe it falls apart, but the first 15 minutes of the game really got their hooks in me, and I want to play through all 5 chapters at some point.  This gets a Revisit rating as a result.  I’m not itching to get back into it right now, but I like it.  A lot.

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***

Speaking of a game I do want to play more right now, though, we have The Banner Saga.

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Oi, I was right.  15 minutes isn’t nearly enough for this game.  In that time, you barely get through the worldbuilding intro and the first tutorial fight, then a conversation movie or two.  It proceeds at a stately pace, weaving together some interesting fantasy lore and Norse flavored Eyvind Earle vikings.  Oh, and a stationary sun that throws everyone off, and has for months.  Yeah, it’s a bit weirder than I expected, but that’s a nice twist.

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It really, really wants to be, well, a saga, a big story, presented in a beautiful old Disney Sleeping Beauty style.  It’s packed with lore and characters, many of which are quickly appealing.  For crying out loud, your main character is an old, vaguely grumpy scribe-tax collector, one of the “Varl”, the horned giants.  That alone gets bonus points in my book, since it’s not just “plucky band of teens save the world”.  I do love my Final Fantasy games, but The Banner Saga aims for something different and more resonant.  I like that.  A lot.

It throws a lot of worldbuilding stuff at you and expects you to keep up or shrug and expect that it will all make sense later.  Sometimes that doesn’t work, but I liked it here, as I appreciate worldbuilding.  I can see that it might throw some people off, but I like it.

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The tactical game play is pretty solid, though I’m still getting a handle on the best approach.  There’s enough there that I want to do more, though, and that’s a good sign.  There are some subtleties afoot, which is really good.  The interface is a little… tiny.  That’s not terrible, but the designer in me would have liked to do things a little differently.  The art style is great and consistent, I just think the UI could use a little more usability work.  I do give bonus points for a really nice world map.

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I give this game a Recommend, though, like other games with significant depth, that’s qualified somewhat because I haven’t played through the whole thing.  What I have played, though, that’s great stuff, and I want to play more.

So, in passing, this episode goes by AudioSurf, noted above as a Recommended game, and the other 4 chapters of the Back to the Future game.  All in all, this was a pleasant week, with two of three games being ones I really like.  Would that I had more time to play, but the Operation moves on.

Next time, I’ll dig into Birth of America (no longer on Steam, perhaps, or maybe changed to this one that the site’s search engine gives me?), Blackwell Deception (whee, an adventure game!) and Cargo Commander, with more than that mentioned as drive-by “played already” games.  See you then!

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