Try-It Tuesday: BURLY MEN AT SEA

Alright, I’ll be brutally honest, the title is what got my attention. BURLY MEN AT SEA. Actually, I got as far as “Burly Men” and I was in.

BURLY MEN AT SEA is not what this dirty old lady had hoped, but that’s okay. It’s a sweet little pick-a-path point-and-click adventure game, released in 2016 by husband-and-wife team Brain&Brain, available for PC/Mac, mobile, PS4/Vita, and Switch, rated “E-10+” for “Everyone 10 and up.”

A band of bearded brothers embark upon journeys that include whales, nymphs, mermaids, seals, giant jellyfish and meeting Death himself. BURLY MEN AT SEA is a storybook come to life, with bright, simple graphics and human-generated sound effects, as if the tale were being told by a loving parent to a child.

One of TIME’s top 10 games of the year, this charming adventure reminded me a bit of Flower and Journey. And if anyone is wondering, my favorite is Brave Beard, the redheaded one.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: DARK ARCANA the Carnival

Time for another Artifex Mundi treat! In this 2012 point-and-click puzzle game, DARK ARCANA: THE CARNIVAL, a detective searches for a missing woman in a colorful amusement park and its creepy magical mirror realm.

I tried the free demo on PS4. The full game is available for PS4, Xbox One, smartphone and PC. Rated “T” for “Teen” due to violence and blood.

If you like fortune tellers, monkeys, carousels, and hidden object games, as I do, join me in October when I plan to play through the whole thing! It will be perfect for Halloween.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: ROCK OF AGES II

When I found the free PS4 demo for ROCK OF AGES II: BIGGER & BOULDER, I couldn’t wait to try this silly game that’s part Monty Python and part mini-golf.

ROCK OF AGES II is a “giant rocks rolling through historical/artistic ages” tower defense racing video game developed by ACE Team, an indie studio based in Santiago, Chile, who also created another clever comedy game I tried back in October, The Deadly Tower of Monsters.

The sequel to Rock of Ages (2011), ROCK OF AGES II was released in August 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Game content is rated E10+ for everyone ten and up. There is single-player or two-player local co-op. For PlayStation, the online multiplayer requires a PS+ membership.

ROCK OF AGES II is currently $14.99 on PSN and Steam. Learn more at RockofAges2.com.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: BLOODBORNE

BLOODBORNE is a 2015 third-person action RPG developed by FromSoftware and published by Sony Computer Entertainment as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It’s free this month for PS+ members.

The delightfully decrepit and gothic town of Yharnam is overrun with a plague of monsters and madness. You are a Hunter, armed with pistol, blunderbuss, axe, threaded cane or saw-cleaver. It is possible to customize the character’s gender, body type, hair, eyes, features, skin color and more, but I couldn’t seem to get mine to look like anything other than the lovechild of Jessica Jones and Stephen Colbert.

There are single-player and multiplayer versions of BLOODBORNE, and procedurally-generated dungeons filled with traps, beasts, and rewards, to explore and conquer alone or with others.

BLOODBORNE was awarded the 2015 Game of the Year by several video game review sites, named 2015 PlayStation 4 Game of the Year from IGN, and nominated for eight Golden Joystick Awards, of which it won Best Original Game and also PlayStation Game of the Year. In 2017, Game Informer ranked it #11 on their Top 100 RPGs of all-time list.

Rated “M” for “mature,” due to violence, blood and gore.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: CAT QUEST

CAT QUEST is a 2017 single-player, open-world, action RPG, developed by The Gentlebros and published by PQube, available for PC, PS4, iOS, Switch and Android.

I played the free PS4 demo this week and enjoyed it so much, I bought the full game for $12.99. I plan to livestream my playthrough after I finish BioShock: The Collection.

CAT QUEST is inspired by Skyrim and Legend of Zelda, full of puns, and rated “E 10+” for everyone age 10 and up. My 13-year-old daughter, who loves cats, and is already up to level 30.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: ABYSS the Wraiths of Eden

I wanted to try ABYSS: THE WRAITHS OF EDEN this week because it sounded similar to BioShock. From developer Artifex Mundi’s website:

The utopian city of Eden, located at the bottom of the sea, was once a haven of peace, harmony and beauty. Constructed in secret by a group of enlightened people who treasured noble ideals, knowledge and new discoveries, it blossomed into a harmonious, peaceful society. However, their insatiable curiosity led to Eden’s downfall…

Both creepy underwater cities of Eden and Rapture have an Art Deco style, but BioShock is a first-person shooter rated “M” for mature, and ABYSS: THE WRAITHS OF EDEN is a casual point-and-click, hidden-object and puzzle adventure rated “T” for teens.

~ J.L. Hilton

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BIOSHOCK INFINITE: First Impressions

I started playing BioShock Infinite this week. I recently reached Battleship Bay, which is the fifth of sixteen levels. Overall, I’m enjoying it. Amazing visuals, great music, intriguing airship city. I loved entering Columbia and exploring the fair. I spent two hours just ooh-ing and aww-ing.

But I do have a number of questions, observations, and, yes, criticisms. Some will, no doubt, be addressed with further gameplay. We’ll see!

Watch BioShock: The Collection on my YouTube channel

At first, I thought the carnival booths were a clever way to offer a tutorial while not really feeling like a tutorial. But, when shit got real and I actually had to fight, I felt woefully overwhelmed and ill-prepared, fumbling and frustrated. Instructions flashed briefly onscreen and I didn’t have time to read them because, you know, I was busy trying not to die.

Unlike previous BioShock games, there’s no map, no way to carry health kits or salts (the equivalent of EVE hypos) in one’s inventory, and no weapon wheel, so I can only carry two weapons at a time. A vigor called “possession” replaces hacking, while doubling as a way to turn enemies against each other, but it’s unpredictable. Some turrets I possess remain friendly to me forever, others switch back to unfriendly within seconds. So, no, not really like the hacking mechanic in previous games.

Why are there “vigors” at all? In BioShock, the plasmids were invented by scientists who moved to Rapture to be free and unfettered in their wild pursuit of technology, thanks to the libertarian ethos of the city’s founder, Andrew Ryan. In BioShock Infinite, having weird powers doesn’t seem to fit the apple pie, Americana, right-wing religious ethos of Columbia. One of the citizens on the beach of Battleship Bay talked about Darwin and was told to keep his voice down. Yet, they embrace science when it comes to mechanical horses and vigors? Is a half-naked she-demon bottle of Devil’s Kiss meant to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the society, or is it just sloppy storytelling?

I’m not sure how I feel about the voiced protagonist, which is new for the BioShock franchise. There’s something about being inside someone’s head, especially when they have an interesting personality and their observations are integral to the plot. For example, I loved Daud in Knife of Dunwall and Billie Lurk in Death of the Outsider. I also liked Garrett in Thief. But, so far, I don’t feel like Booker’s “holy shits” and game prompts (“I should use that skyline to reach monument island”) are terribly interesting, insightful or necessary.

I’m super frustrated with the stealth mechanic, or lack thereof. My attempts to sneak were dismal failures. Crouching seems to be designed for ducking behind cover when bullets are flying, not for sneaking up on enemies. There no indicator to tell you if you are hidden or not, other than the game constantly flashing a reminder to “press O to stand up.”

Not loving the save system. The game automatically saves, seemingly at random, and overwrites a single slot every time. It may be possible to reload “chapters” and play a level again, but if I have to quit in the middle of a level and the game hasn’t saved in awhile, I’m required to replay 10 or 15 minutes next time. I’d appreciate being treated like a Big Girl and allowed to choose my own saves, please.

And utterly ridiculous is the tendency for enemies to shout out that they’re reloading during a gunfight. As if to say, “Please run up and shoot me in the face right now!”

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT

I’ve got a LOT of issues with the rescue of Elizabeth from Monument Island, aka Indiana Jones saves Disney princess from the KKK.

1) I shot a shit-ton of cops in town, and Comstock set fire to his own zeppelin to stop me, but then told his army to “stand down.” Why? I met no resistance at all, entering and moving through the tower. WTF?

2) Too many cutscenes, before and during my arrival on Monument Island, entering the tower, eventually finding Elizabeth and then getting out again. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d watch a movie.

3) How does Elizabeth know where to go, during the escape? She’s surprised to discover that she’s being watched, so she’s never been through those tunnels before, yet she’s saying “this way” like she knows what’s what?

4) How is it helpful to have a ginormous mechanical bird who looses its shit and rips the place apart when it’s supposed to be protecting her? Did the bird wreck the Columbia statue, the bridge and other parts of the town, too? Why?

5) Why didn’t my bullets harm the bird’s glass eye, but being underwater made it crack?

6) Why didn’t Booker break his neck when he hit the water?

7) I spent hours trying to locate Elizabeth, only to have her disappear and be told to find her AGAIN. Really? Yeah, yeah, I get it, she’s innocent and free-spirited, caged bird and all that. Whatever. I really don’t like plots that revolve around dumb young women. I swear, if she says the phrase, “I can take care of myself,” at any point, I’m going to leave a flaming bag of poo on Ken Levine’s doorstep.

8) Elizabeth’s dress and hairstyle reminded me of Belle, and the semblance is reinforced by finding her in the library, which was an important location in Beauty and the Beast. Even the way she dances and sings is reminiscent of a Disney princess. Is that intentional or unintentional? Homage or satire? Either way, it’s the tired old “damsel in distress” trope that I find irritating rather than endearing.

In BioShock 2, the story revolved around rescuing Eleanor (who was also called a “lamb” and was an unwilling object of a religious cult — why did they recycle this same plot?). But BioShock 2 did a great job of subverting that “damsel in distress” trope. Eleanor rescues her rescuer and kicks ass. And Subject Sigma’s survival was tied very literally to hers, because of their pair bond, and emotionally because he was her “daddy.” Booker has no tie to Elizabeth. She’s a job, nothing more. At least, far as I can tell — if he knew more about her, wouldn’t he say so, since, y’know, he’s a voiced protagonist?

Based on the brilliance of BioShock, BioShock 2, and Minerva’s Den, I’m still eager to play BioShock Infinite. Though I have a bad feeling I might end up with a verdict similar to Thief — really wanting to like it, but not being able to look past its glaring problems. I hope I’m wrong.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: KNACK

I tried KNACK this week because it’s free for Playstation Plus members during the month of February 2018.

KNACK is a button-combo beat-em-up platformer, released in November 2013 for the PS4, with a sequel, Knack II, released in 2017. “Knack” is also the protagonist, a sentient golem powered by mysterious relics in an alternate reality where goblins attack humanity with tanks and Knack may be our only hope.

Based on the first few levels, it plays pretty much like a Lego game – smash everything in the environment, collect bits, watch cutscenes.

With two-player co-op, it would be a good game for family fun or a child’s sleepover. KNACK is rated “E10+” for “Everyone 10 and up” and seems geared toward young (or young at heart) players.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: CHILD OF LIGHT

One of my Patreon patrons asked me to play CHILD OF LIGHT on Try-It Tuesday, so I downloaded the free demo for PS4 this week and dedicated the livestream to them (thanks, Counterserum!).

I don’t know much about the storyline, since the demo dropped me into chapter four, “The Deep Dark Well,” but apparently the protagonist is a girl with wings named Aurora, and she is searching the land of Lemuria for the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars.

Aurora’s blue flame friend Igniculus can be controlled by a single player or is available as a multiplayer option. Other characters join her party and participate in battles against giant spiders, flaming hounds, and boar men. Combat is turn-based.

CHILD OF LIGHT is a 2D side-scroller with beautiful, watercolor-style artwork inspired by Studio Ghibli and Yoshitaka Amano. The dialog is written as a sort of nursery rhyme or poem, in keeping with its fairy tale theme.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, this game is available for PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Wii U. Rated “E 10+” for Everyone age 10 and up.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE FORSAKEN BRIDE

Time for another Artifex Mundi adventure! This week, I wanted something with a love story, for Valentine’s Day, so I played GRIM LEGENDS: THE FORSAKEN BRIDE, a point-and-click puzzle-solving story about a sister who attends her twin sister’s wedding, only to have the bride kidnapped by a bear!

The game seems to be set in an alternate 18th-century, with magic, broken hearts, puzzles, ancient forests, legends, dark secrets, puzzles, hidden objects, charms, a cute little kitten, and did I mention puzzles?

GRIM LEGENDS: THE FORSAKEN BRIDE is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Rated T for Teens.

I lost power and internet, so the livestream is broken up into two videos on my YouTube archive.

~ J.L. Hilton

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