Review: Mutazione

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I have trouble writing about games I actually like. My excuse–yes, it is an excuse–is not wanting to spoil the experience by too much thought. Mutazione is one of those games for me, a game where I’m like, “Yeah, that was good.”

Mutazione‘s Steam page describes developers Die Gute Fabrik’s game as:

A mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural. Explore the Mutazione community as Kai as she cares for her ailing grandfather. Discover magical gardens, new friends & old secrets. They can survive an apocalyptic meteor strike, but can they survive their small-town drama?

Mutazione is a chill adventure whose story ruminates on loss, love, and finding a way forward from past tragedy.

I enjoyed running around the island, listening to the subtle wind chimed soundtrack.

I loved seeing Kai’s relationship with her grandfather blossom over time.

Sure there are some soap opera-like elements that I did not like, or at least, I did not feel rang true for me. But beyond those drama bits, the story’s supernatural and mysterious threads propelled me forward–much like Oxenfree did… but this is totally different than Oxenfree–.

Mutazione captures those slow summer days. Days spent with family, friends, and magical gardens? More so days spent:

  • Collecting seeds / gardening
  • Enjoying conversations, with friends, that last late into the night

Mutazione is a game about healing; a game about moving on from the past. Moving forward with new hopes, dreams, and most importantly, new friends.

5/5 – I loved my experience with Mutazione via Apple Arcade.

Title: Mutazione
Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, macOS
Reviewed On: iPad / Apple Arcade
MSRP: $19.99

Review by Bryan Hall

The Concert
Up in the trees.
Mutazione - Boat Trip
Floating
Mutazione - Meteor
Secrets
Mutazione - Saying Goodbye

Press Start – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All

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This week, I picked up the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch. Tab and I love this courtroom drama series filled with over the top characters and entertaining word play. We decided to start with the second game in the trilogy, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, as Tabitha had already completed the first game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS), long ago.

Last night, we completed Episode 1: The Lost Turnabout.

Phoenix Wright himself.
Phoenix Wright, doing his thing.
The witness.
Just a typical courtroom.
The Prosecutor.
The Judge.
There are worse crimes than murder...

Note how the witness reacts when accused. Nothing abnormal to report here.

This first episode turned out to be a sad story of someone being killed just because of their uniform. Spoilers. 🙂

A Case of the Mondays

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“What are you doing?”

“Cleaning. If I don’t clean this space now, I won’t get to it for awhile.”

I had a co-worker leave on Friday. After putting in his two weeks and serving them with a smile, he left Friday never to walk into the office again. I didn’t know him too well; he didn’t know me too well either. Perhaps we could both feel that his term, in the office, was going to be temporary? Either way, he left, ready to start a new adventure.

My co-workers old space

I got thinking, what would you do, Bryan, if you could do anything? If money wasn’t an object, what would you do? The longer I work in my office, the harder those questions are becoming to answer. I know that I want to make more money. That I want to feel more engaged throughout my work day. I get tired of working in a role that is 75% administrative assistant and 25% office manager.

Stayed up late thinking I was almost done with a game. I ended up playing through the climax and resolution to the game’s story. Only to find out that there was another chapter to the story… saying goodbye to the cast of characters. I decided it would be best to go to bed about then.

Just as the adoption path has been silent, so has my search for a new line of work. I was driving back to work from lunch the other day, and I saw a sign that advertised x-amount of money for working on an assembly line at a local business. For a moment, I considered that job. It paid more than what I currently make per hour. But then you start to think about vacation time, having to work weekends, general hours, and one starts to talk themselves out of such things.

I know that God has me where I am for a reason. That He has grown me, changed me, and molded me into a totally different person than I was when I first started working here. In the twelve years I’ve worked here, I’ve become:

  • A dad
  • A homeowner
  • A Sunday school teacher
  • A deacon
  • A father waiting to become a father again, through adoption

The time that I have worked here, in this office, has not been wasted. I feel like God has been teaching me to find my fulfillment in Him, not in my job title or what I do 7 days a week. But I wonder what else there is… I wonder what other challenges await. I wonder how far we’ll have to go–will we have to move?–to find such prospects. I want to work again in a place where I am friends with my co-workers. If anything, the Coronavirus has shown me how alone I feel at work.

I am ready for something new.

Time for some more coffee.

Q: When was the last time you stayed up late trying to finish a book, movie, or game? Was it worth it? 🙂

Video Game Mechanics That Need to Go – Quick Time Events

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Rushing into a bunker, I found myself surprised by a soldier wielding a knife. I quickly think, “Gotta press the square button just right to defend myself.”

Oh no, I failed!

Quick time events, like the one from Call of Duty: WWII above, need to go. There has to be a better way to create player tension than mashing a button/performing a swipe of the joystick perfectly.

From Across the Net – “Final Fantasy XV, Joy, and the Pandemic”

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Final Fantasy XV is one of the only Final Fantasy games I’ve ever beaten. I loved this bro-trip so much! Reading this piece on Final Fantasy XV, Prompto, and joy makes me miss spending time with these guys.

One of the ways that Prompto expresses his joy is through photography. He snaps pics of Noctis comically falling down, goofy faces of the crew, and moments he and his friends are the happiest together. Right before confronting the final boss, knowing that there’s a good chance that none of them may survive, Noctis asks to look at these photos one last time and takes one with him. I like to think that he needed that photo to get him through the roughest bit.  We don’t often realize how valuable joy is until we’re in the darkest of times, but that’s when it shines brightest; joy reminds us what we’re fighting for.

You can read more here

Press Start – Celeste

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Hidden in the mists of gamer hobbyist culture, the Temple of Git Gud was known as a place of brutal honesty. If a new convert could not make the cut, they were immediately told to, “Git good and try again.”

Over and over, a new convert would be beaten into submission with those words.

Life by life.

Death by death.

Level by level.

Until one day one progressed further than before, only to die again. In failure, those dreaded words would be uttered once more, “Git good and try again.”

There seems to be a genre of difficult games. Games built upon dexterity and perfection; games built upon imprinting moves into muscle memory. Ori and the Blind Forest was one of those games for me. Celeste, developed by Matt Makes Games, is another game of this genre. A genre built upon not just seeing the solution to the platforming puzzle but being able to execute that solution with perfection.

Git Gooder

The developers of Celeste try to frame death as a learning device, not a penalty. A subtle shift in thinking for games of this genre.

And yet, everytime you load up the game, there is your total player death count staring at you. (Ignore the photo below, I have far exceeded 386 deaths by now.)

I struggle over my lack of progression in Celeste. I can spend 10-15 minutes on a single screen. Where I can see the solution to the platforming puzzle but lack the dexterity to pull off the required moves.

Is challenging myself with continual punishment fun?

Is fun even a part of the equation anymore?

I press on in Celeste, pushing myself to git good but questioning why.

What do you do when you feel beaten down by a game?

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I kept playing through the same sequence in Ori and the Blind Forest the other night. There were times where I would make significant progress; there were times were I would explode in a ball of light instantly. No matter what though, I couldn’t make it through this particular sequence.

So I did the thing that I had long fought against doing, I lowered the game’s difficulty from normal to easy. Filled with stupid shame, I battered my platforming skills against Mount Horu once more. But changing the difficulty only made the enemies easier! The platforming was still stinking hard! I felt mad. I felt angry. I felt ashamed for lowering the difficulty. Someone with my level of video game experience, at this stage in my life, shouldn’t have issues like this.

In my discouragement, I realized that I was super tired. I could feel the wave of emotions wash over me from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So much uncertainty… no one sure of what is going to happen next. I tweeted out asking:

What do you do when you feel beaten down by a game?

No answers. But I know the answer to this question: You Quit. You put the controller down. You try again another day.

I played Ori some more the next night. I breezed through the section that had been giving me trouble. My skills were intact! Weird to have a video game discourage me enough to confront my emotions. Thankful for the reminder that sometimes we need to quit, rest, and tackle things again another day. I will beat this game. We will get through this crazy virus situation, toilet paper shortages and all.

From Across the Net – “When Parents Feel Like We Are Mostly Failing Most of the Time”

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Appreciated this piece from Tim Challies. Especially liked his list of principles, he has been pondering, towards the end of the article.

As parents in this digital world, it’s like we have planted ourselves and our families on a beach. Though the water is rising, we have convinced ourselves that we can somehow hold back the tide. But inevitably it just keeps creeping higher and higher up the beach until our best plans, like feeble little sandcastles, are swept away. There seems to be a kind of inevitability about it, that before long we’ll all always be staring at our devices. In fact, it seems like our devices have wills of their own, and this is exactly what they want. They want to dominate our lives. They want to be our main thing.

You can read more here

Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

On My Radar – The Red Lantern

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This looks fantastic! An adventure with Aloy (Ashly Burch), some doggos, and the wilds of Alaska. Check out the trailer below.

All I can say is if a bear does indeed try and touch one of my dogs, my fury will come forth as a raging volcano. A fury that will not just end with one bear’s death, but all the bears deaths… for all time.

From Across the Net – “Interview with GG| Developer: Charles Watson”

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This is funny, I was just thinking the other day that there needs to be a Goodreads for video games. I wasn’t sure if something like that existed. Thanks to The Reformed Gamers for this interview. Going to have to check the app out.

“I want Goodreads for video games”. And that was it. Being in the TRG facebook group as I was starting to get back into gaming, there were so many recommendations flying around that I couldn’t keep up with. No one likes spreadsheets so I wanted a really nice, simple app that I could use anytime. I started the first bit of Code on July 4th weekend in 2017 and released the app at the beginning of December that year.

You can read more of the interview here

On My Radar – Maquette

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I love how video games can bring about that sense of wonder. That moment where you are reminded of past game experiences. And then have your mind blown as those past experiences (Myst in this case) are layered upon new mechanics. Graceful Decay’s Maquette looks incredible!

I love the games Annapurna chooses to publish. Games such as:

From Across the Net – “Ori and the Blind Forest – Walkthrough Part #4”

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I’ve been stuck in Ori and the Blind Forest for awhile now. Videos like this one from GamersPrey make me thankful for the modern era we live in.

Turns out I mis-read the level design and was supposed to progress where I thought I was being blocked. Silly me.

In the Shadows of Fortnite

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Last November, Tabitha and I were struggling through the Fortnite craze with Wyatt. At the time, I penned a blog post that opened with this:

“I feel caught between being a parent and a gamer. Caught between my son loving Fortnite and me seeing the game for what it is, exploitative. I find myself fighting the urge to erase the game from my house. To pretend that Fortnite does not exist and funnel Wyatt towards games that are not built upon:

  • The addictive free-to-play foundations of games such as Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. Games that are built to encourage consumers to spend real life money to advance/keep playing. Pay-to-win, children!
  • Female characters designed to be objectified/sexual eye candy.
  • A non-stop gameplay loop.
  • An in-game store that creates an artificial need to buy skins (think: clothing/costumes) and items that will expire within an arbitrary time limit.

I can feel my parents surging within me, screaming, “JUST PULL THE PLUG!” But I’m trying to push through that deep rooted feeling. I’m trying to like Fortnite for my son; I’m trying to parent through it.”

I wrote much more than what I’m sharing above. The Fortnite post was up, on this site, for a couple of hours until I removed it. Not that I disagreed with anything that I had written, but I realized that the game had changed.

There comes a point, in parenting, where you need to work through things on your own. I realized that I was painting myself, as a parent, into a corner. Failing to realize:

  • That my attitude towards Fornite might change in the future.
  • That one day Wyatt might discover my blog and read what I have written about him.
  • That I want to be careful with how I represent my son online.
  • That some things are best worked out as a family. Privately.

Yes, we struggled as a family through Fortnite. I know many of you did. But me writing that unpublished blog post made me re-think how I blog about myself and my family. Not everything that happens in our homes, with our kids, needs to end up online.

How Night Terrors Forced My Family To Unplug

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You never forget the moment where you wake up to your child screaming. The bleary-eyed rushing to their room only to find them awake but not awake. The early night terrors Wyatt experienced were full of him:

  • Tracking objects, with his eyes, that were not there… but if you watched him, you’d think there was something.
  • Shivering, teeth chattering to the point you’d think that they might break.
  • Pure terror.

Night terrors make a parent feel helpless as it is hard to convince someone, who isn’t awake, that there is nothing trying to kill them.

Tabitha and I started to notice a pattern though. Looking at our bedtime routine, we were watching TV, specifically playing videogames, up until the point Wyatt went to bed. So we re-evaluated our evening routine and turned off the television. 

For me, being the dad who loves sharing gaming with his kid, this killed me. KILLED ME! The effort it takes to read a book aloud or play a boardgame is far more than turning on the TV and playing a game. Call this being a lazy dad at the time, I admit it now. But our evenings changed for the better. The night terrors, which seem to be caused by a combination of electronic stimuli and tiredness, slowly faded away. Over the years, with each book we read aloud, each boardgame we played, we slowly learned to interact more as a family in the evenings.

Today, I can’t say everything is perfect. The night terrors like to rear their heads on the occasion (but are more infrequent). We still watch TV shows before bed, but we have learned that certain TV shows don’t seem to trigger the night terrors as much as others (I think it has something to do with the amount of blinking lights). Our family reading time has segued into Wyatt having his own reading time at night.

My Little Scythe

Smart parenting often requires sacrifice. In our case, that has meant moving any gaming time away from bedtime (we’ve noticed that an hour buffer works). I’ve learned that I can still game with my son but that often it is good to shake things up with no screens. The battlefield of the Chess board, the trophies of My Little Scythe, all work together to make non-screen memories and keep the night terrors at bay.

Refresh My Muscle Memory, Please

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I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for a couple of hours the first week. The second week, life got in the way, and I didn’t get a chance to play. By the time I picked up a controller the third week, I couldn’t remember how the game controlled.

I’m not sure about you, but I come across this problem quite a bit. Modern AAA games feature complex controls that require the memorization of many buttons. Which works out fine as long as you play consistently. As an adult though, I go through periods where I’ll start a game and then come back to it weeks to a month later. This is a game killer for me.

My Odyssey boat has been dead in the water for a few weeks now. I’m stuck on a mission where I have to sink some Athenian vessels blocking a harbor. I’m good with the boat controls but things go south once I try boarding. I can’t remember how to block, my muscle memory draws a blank when it comes to the rhythm of combat.

Duh, I’m not sure what to do.

Sure, I could look up the controller button layout diagram and try and figure out how to parry/block. In fact, I did! Last night, I tried the boarding party portion of the mission again and failed. FAILED! At this point, I’m frustrated with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey just as I was with Batman: Arkham Knight (another game with complex controls that doesn’t look kindly on players taking a break from it).

Game developers need to include some sort of quick gameplay tutorial. A five minute run down that helps the player re-acclimate to controls and remind muscle memory of a games particular rhythms. I wonder if player retention and player percentage of completion would go up with a refresher tutorial feature?

As my gaming time stands, I find myself gravitating towards games with simpler controls. Controls that I can pick up quickly and get into the game faster with. Unlike a good book, which is easy to drop in and out of, most modern AAA games are a pain to take a break from. I want that pain to be eased, and I’m sure game developers would like that too. So I’m asking developers for a simple feature, refresh my muscle memory, please.

No Man’s Sky

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I won’t ever forget the first time Wyatt and I came across an alien creature in No Man’s Sky. I wanted nothing more than to feed the creature and be friends. Wyatt had other plans. Once he got a hold of the controller, he blasted the creature with a death ray. ZAP! Moments later, the creature was gone.

The other alien animals around us started to run. We had blood on our hands.

“Why did you do that!?!”

Wyatt giggled, surprised that I was so angry at him for blasting the creature.

Quit Game? Yes, please.

No matter what type of game developer Hello Games promised to deliver, No Man’s Sky was a dream waiting to implode. Early trailers hinted at space travel that would allow the player to:

  • See a planet
  • Fly down to said planet’s surface
  • Land / Explore gorgeous environments brimming with life
  • Take off
  • Do it all over again

A blackhole of expectations soon formed in the gaming sphere. Hype morphed No Man’s Sky into the second coming of space simulators. The greatest space exploration game ever made.

Expectations are savage beasts. Release day revealed No Man’s Sky to be a survival game with heavy resource collecting. Disappointed gamers didn’t know what they were playing on their TV screens. Hello Games had failed gamers, everywhere, or so the Internet said.

50 First Dates

After our initial creature disaster, Wyatt and I stayed away from No Man’s Sky for months. In the meantime, Hello Games continued to release patches for the game. One of the patches added a Creative Mode. MineCraft is all about Creative Mode, No Man’s Sky should be just as fun, right?

Creative Mode presented us with options to build any of the game’s units. We first built a space base with twisting and turning corridors. There was no logic to our design, we were having fun. After we tired of base building, we discovered that we could build vehicles. Oh yeah! We drove the various rovers as hard as we could, launching them off of cliffs and trying to blow them up. The Creative Mode was fun while it lasted.

The Update

Months passed. 9 months to be exact. I heard about the Atlas Rises update changing the game for the better. Wyatt and I popped the disc in once again. Outside of prompts telling the player what to do next and a text log story, not much had changed. The core pacing is still the same. Which means the pacing is slow. Travel, whether on foot or in a ship, takes too long. The sprint feature exhausts too quickly. If space is this boring, I can see why the United States hasn’t returned to the Moon in decades.

Wyatt’s Thoughts:

I liked:

  • Exploring the planets.
  • Flying around in the spaceship.
  • Shooting the asteroids in outer space.
  • Trying to get the plutonium, other minerals, and stuff.
  • In Creative Mode: That I could drive around in vehicles.

Bottom Line:

My friend Josh has viking funerals, for games, all the time. He’ll delete the game from his hard drive and then remove the game from his house. I’m there. In fact, I’ve already gotten rid of the game.

In the end, I applaud Hello Games for embracing such a massive and ambitious concept for their first game. All the bones of a good game are present. But Hello Games shot for the Moon with No Man’s Sky and missed. Here is hoping that they learn to let go and try new things. Game patches do not always make perfect.

wavesplinter1/5 – Don’t waste your time.

Wave SplinterTitle: No Man’s Sky
Developer: Hello Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $39.99