Try-It Tuesday: THE TOWN OF LIGHT

With Halloween a week away, I decided to try the psychological horror game THE TOWN OF LIGHT. Developed by LKA, it was released for PC in February 2016 and for consoles earlier this year. The setting is based on an actual mental hospital in Tuscany and the protagonist, Renée, is based on medical files read by the developers.

I usually avoid scary movies and games like the plague, but from what I saw, it lacks jump scares, monsters and blood splatter. The real horror is what human beings do to each other. The most frightening shadows are those within us.

I liked THE TOWN OF LIGHT more than Murdered: Soul Suspect, another story game aka “walking simulator” I played recently. I like first-person POV much more than third-person, but I think it’s more than that.

THE TOWN OF LIGHT felt mature and engaging in a very visceral way, with better storytelling — not just better writing, but the way the environment created a narrative with lighting, sound effects, object placement, and camera angles. Like comparing an Alfred Hitchcock film to Ghost Whisperer. Both enjoyable, but one’s on another level.

I’ve heard that there are four possible endings, depending on choices made in the game. I’m really interested in seeing more than the free demo.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: METAL GEAR SOLID V

I’d never played a Metal Gear Solid game before, so when Playstation offered the 2015 METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN free for PS+ members, I decided to try it. From a few Youtube videos, the game looked like an open world military stealth adventure with really good graphics and a few weird elements, such as hiding in cardboard boxes and capturing things with balloons.

Well, based on the hour-long totally over the top tutorial level, the game is even weirder than that.

As the protagonist, “Snake,” I woke up in a hospital to discover I had no left arm, been in a coma for nine years, and contained over 100 pieces of shrapnel, some of which were other people’s bones and teeth. Then an assassin killed my doctor and nurse with a wire, and a guy without pants (or underwear) helped me escape. We were chased by the X-men’s gimp on a flying flame unicorn, an army, Pippi Longstocking, and a helicopter-eating red whale, but were saved by a cowboy. And, no, this wasn’t a dream sequence. Then I picked flowers and went on a mission to return a man’s sunglasses.

If that makes any sense to you, maybe you’ve played a Metal Gear Solid game before. Honestly, the whole thing felt like someone watched a 10-year-old boy playing with a box of old toys at a yard sale, and then turned that into a video game prologue.

None of it seemed to have anything to do with the actual gameplay, which — once I got into it — was pretty much like DISHONORED without the corpse-eating rats, lore books, bath salts, and crumbling Victorian architecture: Sneak around, kill people, hide bodies.

From what I understand, if I continue playing, I’ll have my own secret base where I can kidnap soldiers to work for me, punch them for morale, and ogle at a woman who is medically required to wear a bikini.

The Phantom Pain also used this amazing song, written by David Bowie, which somehow I’d never heard before.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE DEADLY TOWER OF MONSTERS

Today I sampled a 2016 retro sci-fi game called THE DEADLY TOWER OF MONSTERS that pays humorous tribute to such classics as King Kong, Flash Gordon, Planet of the Apes, Forbidden Planet, and the stop-action animation of Ray Harryhausen.

This top-down shooter plays like a 1970s B-movie that’s been re-released on DVD. A “director’s commentary” offers gameplay narration that lampoons video game and sci-fi cliches, while we “watch” (play) the adventures of space explorer Dick Starspeed and the mysterious Scarlet Nova.

I’m not usually a fan of isometric button-mashers, but as someone who grew up with science fiction movies and who writes science fiction, I loved this game. The demo was free on PS4 but I may have to buy the full game, which is available on PS4 and PC. Rated “T” for teens. Price: $14.99 (as of 10/10/2017).

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: MURDERED

My first Try-It Tuesday game for October is the ghostly MURDERED: SOUL SUSPECT developed by Airtight Games and published in 2014 by Square Enix.

Ronon O’Connor is a detective who must solve his own murder from beyond the grave in Salem, Massachusetts. This is a third-person mystery story game that mixes a bit of Ghost Whisperer with The Crow and Dick Tracy.

It felt a lot like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story without any actual choices. I would have enjoyed MURDERED more as an open-world action-adventure game with fewer quicktime events and cutscenes. Supernatural powers, like poltergeist and possession, were cool concepts but underused.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Billie Lurk returns in DISHONORED: Death of the Outsider

DEATH OF THE OUTSIDER is the latest game in the Dishonored franchise, developed by Arkane Studios, published by Bethesda Softworks, and released September 15, 2017, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

In this installment, former assassin Billie Lurk rescues her mentor Daud, who asks her to kill the Outsider — a supernatural being who spreads chaos throughout the Empire. But is the Outsider really to blame for evil? Or is he just a convenient scapegoat for the dark urges within us all?

I concluded the story in eleven livestreaming sessions, which are available for viewing on my Youtube channel.

I was really stoked to see Daud and Billie again in DEATH OF THE OUTSIDER. When I played the original Dishonored and its expansions, Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches, I liked Daud more than Corvo, and I liked Billie more than Emily in Dishonored 2.

DEATH OF THE OUTSIDER did not disappoint me. I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed Dishonored 2. The levels were well-designed, challenging and engaging, and the writing exceptional. I cared not only about Billy and Daud, but about the minor characters, too. I listened to every recording, and read every note and every book I could find. Mad props to Hazel Monforton and Anna Megill.

Game review: Dishonored aka What Thief Should Have Been
Game review: Dishonored DLC shines like a rune in the void
Game review: DISHONORED 2 as Emily Kaldwin in High Chaos

Farewell, Daud.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: JOB SIMULATOR

For this weeks’ Try-It Tuesday, I not only tried a new game, I tried the PSVR for the very first time with JOB SIMULATOR by Owlchemy Labs.

In JOB SIMULATOR, it’s 2050 and robots are fascinated by the lives of the humans they’ve replaced. Players can experience amusing “re-enactments” of what it’s like to be a chef, office worker, convenience store clerk, and auto mechanic. I couldn’t use the PSVR for very long without feeling nauseous, but I still had fun.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE CREW

Starfish central gaming joined me from the UK via PS4 party chat for this week’s Try-It Tuesday livestream of THE CREW, an action-driving game developed by Ivory Tower and published by Ubisoft in December 2014.

I barely scratched the surface, but THE CREW seems to be a fun combination of story, mini-games, vehicle customization, and open world exploration from coast to coast across the US, with landscapes and landmarks that offer a vivid road trip simulation.

The game can be played alone or with a crew of friends. And, unlike other MMOs, there doesn’t seem to be much of a chance for players to harass or grief each other.

THE CREW 2 is scheduled for release in March 2018.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: UNRAVEL

This week I tried UNRAVEL, a side-scrolling puzzle platformer made by the Swedish company Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts in February 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. As of this writing, it’s on sale for $9.99, or $7.99 for Playstation Plus members.

This is a very sweet game with a soothing soundtrack that reminded me of Journey and Flower. Similar to Little Big Planet, you play as a little doll. This one is made of yarn, aptly named “Yarny,” who unravels as you travel through the world. Yarny’s yarn is an important part of the experience, used to lasso, climb, pull weeds, swing, and build bridges.

My 13-year-old fell in love with it right away and we are planning to livestream the entire game in the future.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: Disney’s FROZEN Free Fall: Snowball Fight

My youngest daughter joined me for Try-It Tuesday on my Youtube channel this week. We played Disney’s FROZEN Free Fall: Snowball Fight, a two-player puzzle game available for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC, that promised to turn our living room into an “epic puzzle matching battle.”

Think head-to-head Bejeweled or competitive Candy Crush, with each player’s game board taking up about 1/2 of the TV screen. After you make crystal combos, characters throw snowballs at each other — or water balloons if you choose the summer environment instead of winter — and additional combos can result in a block or a dodge.

The game is free to play, so long as you only want to be either young Anna or young Kristoff. Grown Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Marshmallow or any other characters, require in-game purchases. Single-player mode also available, with 195 free levels.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Game review: DISHONORED 2 as Emily Kaldwin in High Chaos

* * * SPOILER WARNING* * *

In August, I finally played DISHONORED 2, the 2016 sequel to the 2012 title, developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. I live-streamed my entire playthrough, which is archived on my Youtube channel.

I chose to play as Empress Emily Kaldwin, rather than her father, Royal Protector Corvo Attano, the protagonist of the first Dishonored. High chaos, all the way, which meant less stealth, more killing, and many, many more bloodflies.

I enjoyed the original game and absolutely loved add-ons Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches. Which, c’mon, given the return of Delilah as Emily’s antagonist (or aunt-agonist?), and the upcoming return of Billie Lurk and Daud in the standalone Death of the Outsider, those “add-ons” should have been considered the sequel, and DISHONORED 2 should really be Dishonored 3.

Game review: DISHONORED aka What Thief Should Have Been
Game review: Dishonored DLC shines like a rune in the void

I love the Dishonored franchise and DISHONORED 2 is not a bad video game, in general, but for me it fell a little flat.

I imagine it’s incredibly difficult to design a game that may be played with — or without — a plethora of possible power combinations, so my hat is off to the folks at Arkane Studios for their hard work. But I had a really tough time getting into this game and almost ditched it after the second level (or third level, if you count the tutorial), if not for my viewers promising it would improve.

It did get better, though the levels still felt uneven and lacked a sense of progression from “engaging and instructive” to “intense and challenging.” DISHONORED 2 was all over the place. Too short, too long, too difficult, too boring, too little, too much.

There’s an awful sense of urgency yet so many sidetracks. The empire’s fallen! Emily’s “WANTED!” posters are plastered everywhere! Guards attack her on sight! Now… stop to collect useless bonecharms, recover a body for a tattooed gangster, rob black markets, loot a sculptor’s flat, visit dad’s birthplace, and steal bath salts.

Lots and lots of bath salts. It became such a running joke that I did a bath salts giveaway for my viewers.

I’d been kinda meh about her father in Dishonored, but I downright disliked grown Emily. So disappointing, after all she’d been through as a child, to see her become an indifferent ruler, smoking a hookah with her secret lover, self-absorbed as any other noble in Dunwall or Karnaca. Her desire to retake the throne seemed, to me, to have nothing to do with concern for her subjects and everything to do with entitlement. Abuse of power is one of the main themes of the franchise, after all, but it might have been nice to see more growth, as a person and as an empress, throughout the course of the game.

Favorite mission: “A Crack in the Slab.” Returning to the present, after altering time, to see Stilton Manor, Meagan with her arm again, and the Dust District a better place for the miners.

Least favorite mission: “Death to the Empress.” After learning so much about Delilah, I didn’t want to kill her, but the nonlethal option seemed to be glitched, so I had to kill her to end the game.

In spite of my beefs, I don’t regret playing DISHONORED 2. I’m looking forward to the next game, Death of the Outsider, and I would watch the hell out of a movie version like this:

~ J.L. Hilton

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