Wednesday, December 22, 2021

パラパラ Spiderman

Not so long time ago I started recording Para Para videos again. This time around though I dance in VR. Today I was having some fun recording Spiderman. Enjoy!

There are more videos on my new Youtube Channel and there is even a Para Para playlist.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Beat Saber

If I say 'light saber' many people will imagine a sword with energy beam blade from Star Wars. Many of us at least once wished to wield this weapon and just slash around with it in the dark. Well, now thanks to Beat Games you can.

Beat Saber is a VR rhythm game. You'll be standing in a rather dark place, color blocks will fly towards you and you will be cutting them in half with your virtual light sabers in time with music and spectacular lighting effects. Notes, the flying blocks, are blue or red and come from one position of a 12 square grid. Depending on the color you have to either use your left (red) or right saber (blue) to cut them. The notes also have directional arrows (8 possible directions) on them and that's how you have to slash through them.

While you are supposed to hit the notes on beat it's not actually what the game is about if you want to get a good score. The thing that makes Beat Saber more fun and more challenging is the fact that your slashes are not evaluated on the timing but rather how well you cut the block. Your swing has to be quite big before reaching the block and after you cut it in half. How close to the center you hit is also evaluated. You get a certain score for that and if you don't miss any notes you will start getting a score multiplier that goes up to 8. When you miss it resets. Each miss or a bad cut (when blue saber hits a red note or cuts the correct note in a wrong direction) will cost you life or some kind of energy that you can see in front of you under the flying notes area. When this bar reaches 0 you fail the song.

There are also modifiers in game that you can use to tweak the game play. The ones that will make the game harder will get you a higher score multiplier. For example playing with Faster Song and Disappearing arrows would give you a 0.15 additional multiplier (1.15x thus). Modifiers that make the game easier will give you less points per cut but can make it more enjoyable to play - for example you can turn off obstacles, or turn fail off.

Apart from notes there are obstacles in the game. Those are walls that sometimes you need to avoid as they will come right at you. You just step aside (move your head) or crouch. There are also bombs, spiky mines that you need to avoid with your sabers. Hitting either of these obstacles will break the combo so it is better to avoid them (actually it probably takes some of your life as well). These are mostly decorative thought and not many maps use these in a way that would make you move well with the exception of FitBeat in the original game. As for custom songs there is a mapper named Alice who makes good wall maps (see Oyasumi video below).

Hitting flying blocks in general is very easy. We all can do it. Concentrating on hitting them correctly and in the correct direction is not that easy and needs to be learned. Beat Saber has a nice learning curve. The learning curve in this game even on the official songs is good though so in the long run this game is more beginner friendly than other rhythm games (that are though often way better for initial experience).

The music is often important for those that play rhythm games and here we have a variety of music if we count all the DLCs. The base game contains mostly songs by Jaroslav Beck. There are some extras which may be songs you know already like Crab Rave, Pop/Stars or Angel Voices. For free you also get a whole Camellia song pack which I personally find great but it's also clearly the odd pack out of all the base songs. He's mostly known for hardcore and speedcore songs which may not be to everyone's taste.

Currently there are these DLCs released in this order Monstercat, Imagine Dragons, Panic! At the Disco, Monstercat X Rocket League, Green Day, Timbaland, Linkin Park, BTS, Interscope Mixtape, Skrillex, Billie Eilish and Lady Gaga. It looks like Beat Games and Facebook is providing the mass player base their favorite artists. I'm not into this kind of music even though Panic! At the Disco was a new discovery for me which I enjoy and Interscope Mixtape contains good oldies.

As for mapping, it was mainly done by one mapper who breathed life into Beat Saber and we can thank him for that. It is not an easy task to come up with a way how to make good, different and fun maps using 12 possible positions of blocks. Rhythm games were around for years though and many of those playing them figured out what they like in their maps. Nothing of that could be found in Beat Saber in the early days but that slowly changed as the community took over and figured out what works in Beat Saber. Anyway back to the official content. The oldest content is very bad. The first two DLCs while still really bad have shown some kind of a good progress. The following three DLCs got slightly better and I found some maps there that I enjoyed. Timbaland is a DLC I would not recommend to anyone. Linkin Park is where it got better. BTS has some really good maps. Interscope Mixtape is a wild, wild west but has a lot of good stuff going on. It looks like mappers tried to see what people can withstand in terms of patterns. Skrillex is more coherent and compact. The last two DLCs look good. I believe the DLCs will only get better in terms of mapping since more good mappers joined the team.

Compared to other rhythm games this game doesn't offer much of a good free content. There are several very good songs (OST4 and Spooky Beat) but otherwise the content is pretty bad. DLCs are currently mostly bad but with each new DLC there will be good content.

Beat Saber offers different modes of play. The most common one is Solo - a single player standard mode where you use two sabers. Some maps have one saber maps or 90 or 360 degrees maps. 360 degree maps are great but unfortunately no one focused on them long enough and we lack good maps. There is also a campaign mode which is more of a tutorial and information on how to play the game rather than something meant to be challenging. From 1.12 there is a multiplayer which you can either play in a private lobby with friends or join a public lobby. For some this may be the best way to enjoy the game.

The game has a big modding community and mappers who create lot of mods and custom songs which makes Beat Saber a really great game since the base game is rather lacking in some aspects. There exists Scoresaber, the biggest leaderboard for custom songs. There are ranked custom songs that will earn you certain amount of performance points based on some criteria and this way you can also try to reach the top of your country's leaderboard or the world one. The mods can do many things from searching and downloading songs, getting it ready for streaming, being able to play modded maps, showing all kinds of stats, using custom avatars or sabers, new game modes etc. People are very creative and I'm sure you will discover a good combination of mods to make the game very enjoyable for you.

Verdict: There is something Beat Saber excels at - it has very good mechanics and score system. The base game content (even with DLCs) though is rather subpar. If you are looking for a game to be played as is without you modding it, where you will pay once and get good content than this is not the game to buy. If you plan on modding the game and playing custom songs, a whole new world will open up for you, a world where you will surely find something you will like. There's many bad maps but also ones that are very good and also look spectacular. Scoresaber makes it a good game even for competitive players because the ranked songs will certainly challenge you at some point. Ranked songs also get better and better in terms of mapping. After all Beat Saber has the biggest community that makes the game great. I would recommend Beat Saber to players who want to get more invested in the game and are willing to mod it. Those that are looking for a good casual experience from time to time or a game they can show to new players I'd advise to buy a different game.

Thanks for reading

Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Muse Dash

Since rhythm games first emerged in late 90s many games were produced for different platforms. With the rise of mobile devices using a touch screen this game genre got even more popular. Finding a good rhythm game became harder and in order for a rhythm game to be good it has to stand out even more than in the earlier days. Muse Dash is one of those games that stands out with its art style, catchy tunes and simple but great game play.

Muse Dash developed and published by PeroPeroGames is a side scrolling rhythm game which makes you press two buttons or tap the screen at two different places in time with the music's beat. On your screen you'll see one of your chosen characters running, attacking enemies and avoiding obstacles. The enemies and obstacles, the notes following rhythm of the song, come at her in two lanes. In order to attack or avoid these you have to press one or the other button in time. You can map those yourself, but the default for keyboard is D, F for ground level and J, K for the upper level. Apart from notes that you simply hit, there are also sheet notes that you have to hold and (mini)bosses that require you to punch them many times in a very short time. The character has hit points. Whenever you run into an enemy or an obstacle the character will lose some life and points. Sometimes, in a chart, you'll see a heart. If you run through it you will regain some life and gain extra points.

The game is very simple but the very lively graphics and animations make it a great playing experience. On the other hand, sometimes this can be difficult to read. Some notes will come from unlikely places and won't correspond to the blue/pink color the regular notes have. While this may be a bit of a challenge to sight-read it is very satisfying to hit all the enemies.

There is over 50 default songs that you can unlock. After each stage you will gain some experience. With each level at first you will unlock one song. At higher levels it will take longer. Leveling up will also give you more items that you can use to get more sexy girls and cute support animals. Each of the characters and elfins have certain abilities that can either help you survive songs or get higher scores etc. So you can find a combination that suits your playstyle, skill or current motivation you have for playing (getting full combos or getting the highest score etc.).

Getting the highest score possible will depend on your ability to use a special feature in the game named Fever. While under Fever score received will be higher. Finding the best moment to use Fever in a song will lead you to getting higher score, considering that you can full combo the song already.

For Asian rhythm game players the music won't be anything new. I can name a few, from my favorites creating nice chill instrumental tracks like M2U, a_hisa, Ayatsugu_otowa to pop songs with vocals to very well known artists like Camellia, REDALiCE, t+pazolite, USAO which are known for their hardcore music. While it may not seem from my examples, the music in the game is very diverse and I honestly think that anyone can find something they will like.

As in many rhythm games, the songs have different difficulties - Easy, Hard and Master. Master difficulty needs to be unlocked and as in other Asian games you need to get an S on the easier difficulty (in this case Hard). That means getting 90% accuracy or higher. See each enemy hit is judged either by Perfect, Great if you are a bit too early or late and Miss if you miss the note. Obstacles can be missed (usually meaning you run into them and take damage) or passed (jumped over).

The game has leaderboards, that are filled with people who got 100% accuracy and even the highest score. There are also many achievements that are either song based or just game based. There is so many of them that you will most likely get some each time you play. It adds to the replayability of the game or the songs themselves.

The scores are transferable from mobile to PC and vice versa, but the DLCs you have to buy for each platform. The 'you get everything' DLC for Muse Dash costs 30 EUR. It is definitely worth all the money. The base game itself is very cheap - 3.49 EUR - and for that price offers hours and hours of fun.

If by a chance side scrolling feels odd to you, you can always turn the monitor sideways!

Muse Dash is a very cute looking, lewd and nicely done casual rhythm game. Game play is very simple but that also makes it great for beginners and casual players that just want to enjoy an easy game. The aesthetics of the game and animations make playing the game a great experience and make you want to come back and simply play more. The replayability is also helped by many achievements and special abilities by your character and its elfin. The music is diverse and the charts feel fun and not too straining for your fingers. In overall this a very solid and cheap game no matter if you play it on mobile, Switch or PC.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Until You Fall

When I heard the name of a game named Until You Fall I had no idea what kind of a game to envision. If it weren't a VR title I might have actually figured it out. The thing is, Until You Fall is a rogue-like game. Now the name makes sense! After you put on your headset and start the game you will become an unnamed last remaining rune knight who is the only one who can fight the horrors that ran over Rokar, once a magically advanced civilization. Equipped with one or two melee weapons, you can cast spells, dodge attacks, and hack and slash through magic monsters until you fall or after you defeat all the enemies and successfully run through the available campaign. Since this is a rogue-like game you are more likely to die many, many times before you defeat the final boss. The run consists of enclosed relatively small areas that are connected to each other. After you defeat a batch of randomly generated number of enemies in each area you will be allowed to pick a reward that will last for the remainder of the run. You can upgrade your weapons with abilities or you can upgrade your own abilities, or you can recover health or gain additional health. The last possible reward is Aether, a magical substance that works as a currency in the game. After you die, you appear in a hub where you can spend the Aether and let a runesmith forge you new weapons or spells or you can also let her upgrade them. The upgrades done by the runesmith are permanent. The weapons gain levels, their stats increase, their abilities get better. They also have a special ability that needs to be charged and then it can be used.

The actual combat is more of an arcade experience rather than mindlessly hacking and slashing at virtual enemies. There are two ways how to damage your foes. You can either hit them when they do not block which will slowly chip away some of their shield 'life' or you can block their attacks to destroy their shields for a while and then unleash a deadly combo that will deal huge amounts of health damage, the wider the attack the more damage. In order to combo off you need to align the attack with a line that will show up. After your maximum combo attacks end the enemy will become invulnerable for a while and will start attacking again. Before a foe attacks a blue bar will show up where the attack will land and it will start filling up with color. When it fills up the attack will land and will hit you unless you put one of your weapons there to block. Some attacks are slow but some are fast and can also come at you in quick succession. There are other attacks that will require you to dodge in a given direction, so you will need to be prepared to dive or tilt (or step out of range). You also have the ability to dash in any direction. You can either use this to avoid AoE, attacks with bigger reach or ranged attacks. You can also use this as an attack because it deals guard damage and can help you break the shield faster. There is a limit to how many times you can use it, but it replenishes quite fast. You can decide how to use this kind of an ability and upgrade it in a way that suits you. Similarly you can choose and upgrade the weapons you'll use in combat. The lighter the weapon the faster it moves. A dagger or rapier will simply follow the movement of your controller or tracker and thus are great for blocking but heavier weapons like a mace or axe will lag behind but can deal huge amounts of damage. Pretty cool feature for a VR game.

First few runs you might be a bit lost about how the game works. You will have to figure out the pace of the combat, when you can and can't attack (at some point enemies are invulnerable), and what weapon combination you want to use and which temporary upgrades will be the best for that combination. At first you might just want to go as far as possible just grabbing aether, buying all the weapons and testing them out (and upgrading those you want to use).

The key of survival is fighting enemies one by one or in smaller groups. When you fight one foe another might come and start attacking. You might see a exclamation mark show up and then hear the attack so you can turn after that sound, block the attack, and continue fighting either of the enemies you battle.

The world of Rokar is a very colorful place with neon glowing flora, magic and crystals. While it gets darker and darker the further you get it still has a great contrast. The particles, special effects and atmospheric effects make it feel even vibrant. The soundtrack suits the pace of the game and makes you want to stay active hacking and slashing at enemies to the rhythm of the songs. Sound effects are great and the spatial sound will help you orient in battle without the need to constantly look around, being afraid of an incoming attack.

The game can be played seated even though I wouldn't recommend it if you can stand on your feet. While you don't need to move around physically (you can use thumbsticks for that) it is often better to move in real life than to fiddle with the game's locomotion following your headset in the middle of a battle.

The locomotion and turning is the only downside of the game even though you may not need this that much while you play the game.

Until You Fall is very polished VR game that allows you to choose the way you will fight and offers you an environment in which you can become better and explore everything the game offers. It shows that there is a fun and efficient way how to approach melee combat in VR games. There is depth, complexity and freedom - you can just simply mindlessly run into the fray or carefuly study the game mechanics and enemy attacks first. The game has great visuals, effects, sound and music, quality of life features and great menu. It is a great game and experience.

Thank you for reading,

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle is a puzzle game with a story that asks philosophical questions about being human, life, death and eternal life.

You will wake up in a garden and hear the words of Elohim, god-like creature claiming to have created you, guiding you one of his children to a temple and telling you to pass different kind of tests.

You will learn that you should be collecting Sigils to progress. Each of these is at the end of a spatial puzzle. Each of the puzzles is taking place in a closed area that can often feel like a labyrinth. You will have to deal with forcefields, sentinels (some explode when you walk closer to them), laser guns, closed door etc. For that you can use one or more tools you will get on your journey. For example, one tool will allow you to redirect laser beams, other will disable a forcefield or stop a sentinel in its track. There is also a cube that you can use in various ways (climb, or use to put pressure on something) and a fan that allows you to get to difficult to access places for example. One of the weirdest tools is a recording device (when you need two people to solve the puzzle).

The Sigils you will be collecting have a form of a tetrimino and are used to unlock doors. You will unlock a way to other very distinct worlds. In each world there is a hub from which there are doors leading to other parts of that one world. There you have the individual puzzles rewarding you with the Sigils. The Sigils have different colors and the difficulty of the puzzles is also reflected in that. You will start with collecting Green and Yellow Sigils mostly and these puzzles are quite easy. The green ones are good introductory puzzles, yellow ones are about testing what you learned from the green ones. In the later stages of the game all you will be collecting are red tetriminos and it is where it starts to get complicated. While exploring the worlds and solving puzzles you might come across golden stars. Those you can also collect and will take you through a hidden door to other puzzles. In order to get a golden star you will have to think outside of the individual puzzles, you will often need tools from different puzzles. There are different ways how to solve these and are very fun. Actually sometimes you won't even see the star itself, you will just encounter something that's not supposed to be there and after you get there you will discover a star. All the puzzles are very satisfying to solve and the star challenges were really brilliant and often breathtaking. The names of the puzzles are something to pay attention to, especially if you get stuck because they will give you a hint.

One of the great things is also the fact that you don't need to do any of the puzzles in a certain order but you do need to collect specific tetriminos and certain amount of stars in order to open doors. It gives you freedom and also won't frustrate you if you get stuck. You can just go do different puzzles and come back (to realize how simple the solution was). All the puzzles are very well designed and while some need you to stack objects in a certain way you will mostly be thinking about how to effectively use the tools at your disposal since you've got a limited amount which is lower than the number of obstacles.

While exploring you will encounter QR messages from other children, audio logs, and (beeping) terminals. This is where the story part of the game takes places. When you hear a beeping sound and go closer you will discover a terminal on which you can read messages and articles from a corrupted archive and this way you will learn that something went terribly wrong. You will start asking yourself questions and later you will start a conversation with conscious artificial intelligence. It is here where most of the philosophical questions will be asked. This being will start questioning you and you will have to think hard how to answer. Your point of view will then be questioned and it is up to you whether you change your mind or not. The thing is, you are a robot while you think you are a human being, but are you?

You will start to think about mythology, eternal life, God, technology and (trans)humanity. Maybe you'll start pondering about your own future and the future of today's society. You will always be given a lot of time to ponder about all these questions and doing puzzles in the meantime. When you hear the next beep, you will most probably be ready for next encounter.

The conscious in the computer system will start making you doubt your creator - Elohim. You will most probably start questioning Elohim (hopefully because than the game will end prematurely) and start wondering what's at the top of the Tower which he forbid you to visit and will remind you of it whenever you start climbing up. If you decide to climb the tower you will learn even more and will still be able to decide what the outcome of the game will be.

I'm not entirely sure how to write about all that is going on in the game, I'm not that good of a writer. The experience is very unique and personal. The story is very deep, poses very important questions and everything is very well written. In all that there is even room for humor.

Even though I wanted to end the review here, I should also comment on graphics and sound. The game is very beautiful. The environments are large and I spent hours just walking around enjoying the view, the atmosferical effects and even tried to reach different places to see the environment from different point of views. This sometimes resulted in me stumbling upon a golden star. I had no problems with performance in VR and enjoyed a crystal clear and sharp textures all the time no matter how fast I moved or how close I was a wall. I was actually surprised how well the game looks on Rift because many games don't that great compared to Index. I would have never guessed this game is from 2014. Music and sound is excellent. Music is a delight and I'd just stand on the beach, watch the setting sun and listen to the music. The little voice acting there is, is impeccable - in terms of it makes you feel emotions and not many games I played achieved that.

I bought this game for the puzzles but very soon realized that it is not about the puzzles. While the game can be played just as a puzzle game, and very good one, you will miss a lot if you ignore the story. The story is philosophical, thought-provoking, well written. The game has a very good learning curve, is also well structured and offers even more challenging puzzles to hardcore players. The game environments are distinct, beautiful, breathtaking and simply serene. The music is soothing for the soul. In overall it is a perfect game.

Thanks for reading

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Room Three

The first The Room game I played was the VR title named The Room: Dark Matter. I enjoyed the game very much (review here) and that is why I decided to buy the previous games that existed at the time. After playing The Room One I was very disappointed with it (review here) and was not sure if I'd play the following games. I suffered through The Room Two - too ambitious project Fireproof Games didn't seem to know what to do with - and then just gave up. 11 months later I decided to play the third game in the series. To my surprise the game was different than the previous two games.

The Room Three is a mix of point and click adventure and a puzzle game developed and published by Fireproof Games for PC in 2018, three years after its original iOS/Android release. The game is about still unnamed protagonist from the previous games who gets kidnapped and imprisoned by The Craftsman on an island everyone avoids. The protagonist's task is to prove himself to the Craftsman and that is how the adventure begins. What you need to do is power up rooms or buildings, open a hidden door and solve a series of puzzles to get a pyramid. After collecting all the pyramids you are allowed to go to the final stage of the game and reach one of the several endings. While on your adventure or rather escape you learn more about the mystery about the Null - mysterious alien creatures/energy - through notes left by the Craftsman and his prisoner.

The Room Three is different compared to the previous two games mainly because the game takes place in one building complex where you have to walk around and backtrack to find and solve puzzles. For me it breathed more life into the game and gave me a sense of immersion that I didn't have in the previous games. The environments are beautiful and walking around would be simply wonderful if you could do that, instead there is one place you will simply appear after a rather long animation of getting there. The game is still linear and won't allow you to roam freely most of the time while you are 'locked in' a chapter. You are actually locked in a certain part and can't leave until you finish the chapter. After finishing the game for the first time you will be able to 'Change your fate'. You will be back in the old manor and you can try to walk around and solve certain puzzles to reach 3 more different endings. This time the objects you are looking for can be anywhere and can be used on something being totally elsewhere. Once you get all the needed objects you can go to the final stage of the game, solve the same puzzles over and over and get the different endings. In a way, we can be happy not to replay the whole game, but 'solving' the puzzles again certainly feels bad.

As for the puzzles, similarly to previous games, I wouldn't really call them puzzles. The game is more of a 'find an object, insert it into another object, move this and that, get a new object'. This time the order of puzzles is actually logical even though you still don't need to use your brain to solve them. As in the previous games you'll be clicking around, finding things that can be moved or pressed. If you played the previous games you won't need to click around that much since you might already look at a drawer from all angles in anticipation of a switch or a button at an unlikely place. When you get a new object you'll try to think where it could fit. I'd say the complexity went down in this game but I don't think it was a bad decision. The puzzles and menial tasks you have to do are not confusing which makes the experience good. Thanks to the eyepiece that shows hidden things you can also enter small places - see Alice in Wonderland - and thus operate some things from the inside. I liked this very much even though it wasn't as cool as in VR.

There are still hints in the game. If you get stuck you can click on a lit up question mark and get a hint. There might be more hints for one puzzle and there is a timer when the next one becomes available. There are no hints for puzzles needed to be solved for the alternate endings.

The graphics is beautiful. The textures are beautiful and seem to be of high resolution. Lighting is great. The only thing that's weird are the Null tentacles which seem to be rather low poly compared to other models and moving at half framerate. I haven't played the game on mobile but the PC version truly feels like a game meant for a computer unlike the previous games that tried to run in a mobile phone resolution and whatnot.

I can't comment on sound or music because I turned it off (due to certain sound effects irritating me in the previous games so much).

As for the controls it felt similarly awkward as in the previous games. If you can avoid playing this game with a mouse I recommend doing that - either a touch screen or tablet. On the other hand due to less creative and complex puzzles you don't need to be moving objects in a really strange way so you should not struggle as much as in the previous game.

The Room Three feels more like a PC adventure game rather than a mobile puzzle game. It is a point and click game and that's about it. The previous games focused solely on the puzzles, the first one on single objects, second one on various objects within a room. The Room Three takes it a step further which may not work that well for a mobile device but works on PC. On the other hand this game is very limited in terms of exploration and this way feels rather lacking. While many animations felt more smooth and faster than in previous games, the one most important animation - movement from one place to another - takes a very long time.
The graphics are way better and make the game a very enjoyable atmospheric experience (with several horror elements).
The controls are still as clunky as ever but the puzzles themselves require less object manipulation which results in less frustration. On the other hand the game is rather buggy and often there are certain layers of graphics that do not align and that make operating the game or solving puzzles more frustrating.
I finished the game in 6 hours including the alternate endings which makes it longer than its predecessors and provides more on the story as well.
I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone, but if mindlessly clicking is your thing you can give this game a try.

Thank you for reading

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Prince of Persia review and walkthrough

Prince of Persia is a platformer developed and published by Brøderbund in 1990. It is one of the first PC games I got to play and as such it was the game to teach me how to use the keyboard to control the prince, survive and eventually, many hours later, save the princess for the first time.

Most platformers I played around the time were rather action related. You were running around avoiding weapon projectiles, shooting enemies while trying to get from point A to point B often jumping across gaps, traps and moving platforms. When playing game like that you had first discover what is possible and what is not in terms of jumping, falling, avoiding or shooting. There was nothing that would hint that. It was up to you to figure that out by trial and error. I was pretty bad at this and I knew that spending money on these arcade games was a recipe for disaster.

Prince of Persia is a different kind of platformer. The game looks realistic compared to other games of the time, that is primarily because it is realistically animated. The intro shows Jaffar and a princess. The interaction between the two characters shows movement that made me see these characters as living people. I also enjoyed the colorful graphics and the rather unusual point of view in 2d platformer games. When the game begins we see prince being thrown into a dungeon. When he landed on the ground I realized that this character would walk, run, jump and fight like a human being - not a floating 2d sprite that hardly had any legs. I was right about it. The prince's moves were all animated. The animation felt real even though one would question the efficacy of the movements.

Starting in the depths of a dungeon, you need to find a sword first to defeat your first enemy and then go up to the highest level and save the princess. You have 60 minutes to beat the game. You'll be running around the level trying to find a way to another door leading up to another level. There will be gaps you'll need to jump across, blades you need to avoid, environmental puzzles to solve (usually just involving different platforms to step on or avoid), enemies to kill or avoid etc. The prince moves in a way human person would, meaning he can't just unrealistically far or high. He can make a step, walk, run, crouch, climb up or down, jump (over something), do a running jump. All these follow the same rules so knowing them you will need to figure out how to clear a level. The prince has 3 lives at the beginning of the game and there are potions that can be drank to either get additional life (hidden at places that won't take you closer to next level), cure a life or lose life (these are blue). The prince loses life when hit by a sword, or when he falls two floors down, or when a platform falls on his head. The prince will die when he falls lower than two floors, is stabbed in the back or gets caught in a deadly trap be it blades or something else. After dying the level restarts with the exception (level 3 where there is a checkpoint).

As for combat, the fighting is also more realistic than other arcade platformers. When prince gets near an enemy he draws his sword. The player can either attack, black or sheath the sword. Parrying is not necessary to use against most enemies but two Jaffar himself and one of his best guards. The enemies are harder and harder to beat and even have their own fighting style.

The game doesn't feature in-game music, just intro and outro music which I enjoyed. The sound effects are ok. At that time though, how many of us had sound cards that could actually produce good sound?

This game is a must play for any gamer. Prince of Persia is a game that started a new genre of games and set the bar quite high. The game has very good graphics and atmosphere. It has great animations that breathed life into the game. The gameplay is good, it requires some skill in controlling the prince but it is something anyone can learn to do. The level design is great and it forces you to explore while being wary of the remaining time since there is 60 minutes to complete the game.

For those that would find the game too difficult for some reason, you can type 'prince megahit' to run the game which will unlock cheats. Pressing + will give you more time, K will kill any enemies on screen, R will resurrect the prince etc.

Thanks for reading

Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Friday, October 1, 2021

Red Matter review and walkthrough

If I should describe Red Matter, then I would describe it as a first-person puzzle adventure game. Red Matter immerses you in a mysterious Cold War story that takes place on Rhea, Saturn's moon, and an abandoned Volgravian base.

Volgravia, is a soviet-like country, that was researching some kind of red matter on Rhea. You, an Atlantic Union agent, venture there and go to the now evacuated Volgravian base to find data about research that was left behind. While exploring the base you will start discovering dreadful clues about what happened. Volgravian language needs to be translated using a translator. Any cyrillic-looking text will be translated if you scan it. The scanner is a tool you will need to proceed in the game. Scanning and translating is something that makes the whole experience more immersive. You also have access to a flashlight and claw like hands on your suit which you will use to handle objects.

The immersion is not even broken by locomotion. The moon has lower gravity and you hop in your suit from place to place. This means that you can also hop quite high and reach places you wouldn't be able to on Earth. You can also hover in any direction or just walk around which I had the tendency to do the most and I had to remind myself that I was in virtual reality and not the real world. The speed can be adjusted which is good for people like me - who get motion sick. While in air (if there is any atmosphere?) you can just look around and enjoy the environment that is very well done.

While the game's graphics is nothing that would make us awestruck it is very good in making us feel like we are truly there. The design is simple but works very well and is perfect for the Volgravian base. Textures are of high quality and very good (and bump-y!). There's nice lighting and reflections. Nice is an understatement, it makes the game seem look realistic. Also there are many details, especially in the habitat section of the base. While some graphics elements feel a bit out of place it is mostly very coherent and atmospheric. There are more things that make you feel inside the game, there is a moment where you have to move slowly in order not to lose charged and unstable matter. Moving levers or opening door manually is something that feels like it needs physical effort. I enjoyed all these details.

Red matter has a mysterious story and many people could think about it as a horror story. VR seems to be the best for delivering horror stories but this game shows how a story can be told without the need of jump scares, brutal violence, or hide and seek. There is a tension that will be getting higher and higher during the game and it can spook some people. The story is mainly told through objects you find, or rather you get clues about what happened. It is up to you to divine what actually happened. You'll also learn more about the crew making the story even more real. The story also has plot twists and will make you think about what was possibly going on all the time and rethink all this once again when you reach the final stage of the game. This is something I did not expect from a short VR game.

The sound is very well done and it will certainly make the tension even higher. A subtle strange sound can get some people startled. There were times I wished to turn around and run away or at least grab a crowbar. The thing is, there are no weapons in the game and thus no combat. No need to run away or fight which makes this game ideal for everyone.

The puzzles are not some out of place puzzles but are part of the tasks you are supposed to do. Sometimes they are very straightforward - just read instruction and follow them, but sometimes there are things you need to figure out on your own. They won't make you feel like you are doing something totally meaningless in order to advance in the game unlike some other games.

There is one thing that was breaking my immersion and that was the grid on which you could teleport. The game is also rather short. It took me less than 2 hours and I was scanning every object I encountered and listened to everything while also taking screenshots, enjoying the environments, models and textures.

Red Matter is a short story driven game that will make you experience something that feels very real even though it takes place in an alternative universe and abandoned space outpost. The immersion is where the game shines and for that alone I would recommend the game to anyone who wants to have a good VR experience. If you have Quest and want to show how a good game can look like or feel this is the game to play.

Ren (you can follow me @stsungjp on Twitter)

Saturday, September 18, 2021

DEEMO -Reborn-

DEEMO is a mobile rhythm game from 2013 that features beautiful piano music and became popular through the years. In 2019 a game titled DEEMO -Reborn- came out. This game is indeed a Deemo game but is not only a rhythm game but also a point and click adventure game. You can play it in a traditional way on Playstation, Switch or PC, or you can enjoy it in VR on PSVR or PCVR.

The game starts with an elegant black almost stick figure creature, named Deemo, playing the piano. Then we can see a bright light and a window opening above the piano. Little girl falls down from it and is caught by Deemo. From there on the little girl - Alice - tries to find a way home. Alice discovers that a tree grows when music is played on the piano. Meanwhile Alice walks around what seems to be a magical castle. There she finds sheet music Deemo can play to make the tree grow taller. In order to get sheet music, it often requires Alice to solve puzzles. She also discovers different clues about its inhabitants and everything seems strangely familiar. You get the feeling that something is really wrong about the whole place.

To advance in the game you will have to play different songs which is the rhythm game part of the game. Once you click on the piano to play, you will be taken to a new environment. Notes will scroll down to you and when they arrive to a target line you will have to use your hands (if in VR) to press an imaginary piano key below where the note lands on the target line. In TV mode you will play the game either on keyboard using S, D, F, J, K, L keys or Left, Up, Right, Square, Triangle, Circle on a controller. The keys cannot be rebound which may annoy some people who are already used to play 6-key mode using different keys (it's one key off from DJMAX default setting which turned out to be a problem for my hand). The D/K or Up/Triangle notes are black and the rest shows white. The songs in VR have 2 difficulties while there are 3 in TV mode (Easy, Normal, Hard).

While VR is not particularly great for this kind of play, the difficulty of songs seems to be balanced for VR play - there are VR charts and they are not difficult. The controls are a bit finnicky though because it is rather difficult to know when a hit registers (it also registers when the keys are hit from the bottom) and it is very easy to 'miss' by accidentally hitting the piano keys. Slide notes are ok to play in VR as you can just swipe with your hand in the correct direction. On the other hand the TV controls may be problematic for those that do not have prior rhythm game experience. While I find 6 keys to be enjoyable it may be confusing to new players. Slide notes are being confirmed by pressing and holding spacebar which does not feel particularly fun.

The adventure part of the game is very beautiful. The game is played from third person perspective. In VR this is rather odd (there are fixed camera angles) but it is still a very nice and rather unique experience. The environments are gorgeous especially in VR. The story is something each player should experience on their own so I won't tell you more. Note that the story is rather deep. The game is pretty much point and click puzzle game even though this is primarily how it is in VR since otherwise it was meant to be played on a (dualshock) controller (which I find rather difficult). Some puzzles are logical and some may require some trial and error or memory, and lastly one room has musical 'puzzles'. While these are no hardcore puzzles they are still enjoyable.

DEEMO -Reborn- is stunningly beautiful game with mysterious and sad atmosphere. Visuals are gorgeous and the music is beautiful and soothing. Alice's voice is a voice of a child lost and it adds a lot to the atmosphere and I'm glad it stayed in Japanese and wasn't dubbed. The story is rather deep and made me feel really uneasy. The puzzles were nice in design even though they weren't difficult, easy enough to be enjoyed without frustration. As for the rhythm game part. At first I struggled to hit the notes and I didn't understand why some notes are white and some are black. When I set the speed to 8x I finally managed to hit the notes correctly and could fully enjoy the music while happily stepping around and waving my hands to hit the notes. The song list is rather limited compared to the mobile version but there is still way more songs than I expected (over 60?).

I bought DEEMO -Reborn- for the rhythm game aspect but the good short story game mesmerized me. The rhythm game aspect is not that great but what can you do when you are trying to port a game from a mobile touch screen? I love the music though. I can recommend the game to everyone who enjoys a good story and puzzles and won't suffer on trying to play a casual rhythm game. I find it well done and beginner friendly (but I'm also a hardcore rhythm game player so my perspective may not be accurate).

Ren (you can follow me @stsungjp on Twitter)

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Festering Desire 3d model

Was thinking about creating another 'saber' for Beat Saber and couldn't come up with an idea so I tried creating a model of Festering Desire which I might port later to see how it looks in VR.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Paper Dolls 2

Review of Paper Dolls: Original (includes a walkthrough).

Paper Dolls 2 is a sequel to Paper Dolls: Original. It is a horror game from a Chinese studio named Litchi Game. Paper Dolls 2 is very similar to Paper Dolls: Original and I would suggest to play that game before playing this one.

The game starts where the first game ended, on a second floor of an old abandoned Yin mansion. Yang Mingyuan mysteriously appeared in the mansion after a car crash where he tried to find his daughter and his search continues in this game too.

You will explore the mansion at crawling speed while collecting clues, journal entries, and dialogues from the past. You will also need to solve puzzles to advance, unlock locked or sealed door and interact with spirits. The game introduced combat system. At the beginning you will have to hide or run away from the spirits but when you acquire weapons you will be able to defend and attack. Each spirit has several lives and thus needs to be shoot several times. The spirits have weak points when they attack, so if you shoot them at that time you will just need to shoot them twice. Otherwise you'll need to shoot 4 times. There are jars of wine scattered around which you can use to your advantage as they will explode and take down a spirit/paper doll nearby. There are boss battles in which you will have to take down one spirit several times before you will be able to seal it away. These can become frustrating depending on your skill at defending or attacking at a precise moment. The good thing is that you now have one additional life, so you can take one hit. There is a way to cure yourself, which may be needed during boss battles.

The game also has autosave feature but it's not that great. It will autosave before a major event but only once during the playthrough. The game won't save after that event so if you die right afterwards you have to start all over again.

The puzzles were a disappointment for me in this game. It may be because I got used to the style from the previous game and did not find most of the puzzles intriguing or fun. There was just one puzzle that I enjoyed (mirror room one). I solved half of the puzzles by trial and error and half by just following instructions. Most of the puzzle clues seemed irrelevant to me (if the talisman is confusing to you, all you need to do is set it to characters that are written on the seal).

The game is longer because the play area is larger (two floors). I was afraid it would have negative impact on the game but I found it well balanced. You won't need to be running around like crazy searching for something since what you need is most of the time close to the location where you need it. Later on, it won't be that way, but you will also know where to go with the item you received. It won't take you that long to reach the place. I'd still recommend saving the game close to the location you are going to visit next and memorizing the plan of the floors.

As for graphics and sound. I found both good. They are better than in the Paper Dolls: Original. The environments are more detailed and even more atmospheric. The sound is better, primarily due to the fact that you won't be going through door that often and because the voice acting is done in Chinese. I wouldn't say it's great but it keeps you immersed in the game. Music is great once again.

Verdict: The game has nice feel, graphics and sound. I'd enjoy just walking around the mansion in VR. The larger map may be upside or a downside, but I found it well done. Combat is something that frustrated me through majority of the game. I spent 3 hours running around the mansion and 9 hours in combat. Spirits have different behaviors but once you get them you shouldn't have much problems with them. The puzzles were disappointment as I did not need to use my brain (mostly used it for fights in which I terrible died because I'm incapable of controlling the protagonist). I wouldn't recommend the game to anyone, but if you enjoyed the first game you will most probably enjoy this one too (I didn't but still finished it for the story - the Yin family story concludes in Paper Dolls 2).

Note: There are cutscenes in the game and they can be skipped by pressing Escape and E.

Thank you for reading
Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Monday, July 5, 2021

Subject 264

Since the game is quite difficult and there doesn't seem to be a guide, I decided to write a quick one - Puzzle Solutions

Subject 264 is a VR horror puzzle game developed by Virtual Guys. I never heard of either but the game was a very nice surprise and I'm thankful I came across it.

You wake up in a room with no memories of your past and all you can hear are creepy sounds. The surroundings are also very creepy. You look around and you don't see a way out. It is up to you now to figure out how to get out of the very first room with 'Subject 264' written in blood on the wall. You will explore your surroundings and interact with different kind of items and you will have to solve your first puzzle. When you do, you will be able to go outside this room and reach another room where you'll have to figure out what to do next. While trying to escape you'll be uncovering your own past and start wondering if what is going on is real or some kind of an experiment or something just in your head.

The game is very atmospheric and I fully immersed in it which also made me tip toe around the rooms and corridors and my immersion was broken only after I ran headfirst into a real life cabinet or table. The feeling of something being totally wrong will stay with you throughout the game making occasional jump scares even more scary.

The puzzles are not particularly easy. While there is logic in them it may not seem like it at first. I went through the first part by trial and error. If you get stuck on a puzzle and you are in the correct room you will hear (your) voice giving you a hint. They are mostly helpful (there was one hint I totally didn't get).

Graphically the game is nicely done, offers different environments to enjoy. There are relatively well preserved rooms like the one you start the game in, ones that are less preserved (the following one) and then ones that are very creepy and scary. Some areas are very dark but you don't need to venture there unless there is a flashlight nearby. In that case there might be some key items in the dark.

Sound is good, there is some tense music and background noise and voices. The voice acting is not bad and it is easy to understand. The sound effects do not break immersion and actually make it better.

The not so good about the game is the fact it was designed for Vive and therefore the controls for Rift are not ideal. It does not seem to like Knuckles either. The game requires 360 degrees tracking and tracking at the floor level since you will be forced to pick up items from the floor and you need to actually grab the objects (can't grab them from distance). There are two types of locomotion - normal joystick one and teleportation - but both are rather slow.

Subject 264 is very atmospheric psychological horror puzzle game that will immerse you in the story and dark past of subject 264. The puzzles are unique, well designed, and not very easy to figure out which makes the game relatively long (5 hours). Graphics and sound are also very well done. There is lot of detail and variety in environments and many objects one can play with which makes the game great for exploration. I'd highly recommend the game to anyone who likes more complex puzzle or escape rooms. Since the game is rather serious, dark and very grave I wouldn't recommend it to people who are struggling with deep depression or unhandled traumas.

Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Me in Beat Saber

It's been a while since I painted anything and since I lack any kind of imagination I decided to go for me playing Beat Saber even though it's more of a 'me posing for the camera in Beat Saber'.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Ren's Home World

Some time ago I decided that I want a home world, my own place where I could just relax. I didn't finish the project but I might in the future.

If you want to visit it you can search for Ren's Home World or use this link ->

Friday, June 25, 2021

Assassin's Creed: Escape the Lost Pyramid

I wanted to go to an escape room for a long time. I always want to. Unfortunately, I'm also not the best person to find others who'd like to join me. My flatmate is one of those that would gladly go, but we never managed to find the time. We finally went to one which required covid testing and venturing outside. While I wanted to try traditional escape games I was also intrigued by VR ones. After playing the The Room VR I wanted to experience more. Unfortunately the other games I played on Steam were of questionable quality most of the time. So I wondered what a game meant for escape room experience for anyone would look like, how it would play and how it would be controlled. There are four 'expeditions' we could go on, 2 from the world of Assassin's Creed, one from Prince of Persia and the last one from Alice in Wonderland. I wanted to experience AC: Escape the Lost Pyramid first. It is the first project of this kind from Ubisoft and I have to say they've done a great job at it. I believe the following Ubisoft ones will be even better and maybe a bit harder.

We arrived few hours early and asked if we could play because there wasn't any reservation for that time. Someone else had a similar idea though and came earlier as well. We were still allowed to play early but we had to wait before the other two people would start their expedition and a computer was prepared for us. The two were being given instructions while we had a nice chat with the lady behind the counter. Some time later we were told that we can also hop in.

They took some neat photos of us. Then we were told that the game requires cooperation and that we need to communicate. Since I was recognized as one of the Beat Saber tournament players from earlier that week we didn't get much of a tutorial before hand and were allowed to proceed with the game. The headsets put on our heads were Rift S which might not be ideal if you are playing a game requiring fast movements like Beat Saber but good for first VR experience. Then I was given a left controller to my right hand, so I put it in my left and grabbed the other. We heard Animus speaking to us.

Welcome to the Animus. February 1928. An expedition led by Sir Beldon Frye disappears somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula. A team of four and a dozen local porters were looking for the Lost Pyramid of Nebka... Or more precisely, "something" that should have been there. They were never seen again. Using the simulation reconstructed from their DNA memory, your team will put themselves in the shoes of the explorers. Find out what happened to the expedition. And more importantly, locate what they were looking for.

Before we began our adventure we went through a short tutorial how to move (it uses teleportation as locomotion) and how to get some hints (raise hands). Then we could choose an avatar and customize it a bit (stare at a mirror) and then the game could start.

Animus sent us to the lost pyramid Nebka to search for a piece of Eden. I materialized in what seemed to be a chamber even though it wasn't as it turned out later. It was mostly dark so all I could see was a lit torch nearby. I grabbed the torch and saw hieroglyphs on the walls. I noticed a fireplace so I lit the wood and put the torch back. Then I looked at the first puzzle with a puzzled look. I was just enjoying the little enclosed space around me and when my friend advanced into another room I decided to join. So I used my hand to move things around and appeared in the same place which was a nice experience. There we stood for a little while not really communicating but solving next puzzle. Just looking at it, it was clear it would require a cooperation so we did that and then got stuck for a bit because physics in a VR game is not the same as in the real world.

After finally realizing that I can't walk with an object in each hand and that objects don't fly the way my brain is used too I finally fully immersed myself in the game. We were on a platform somewhere at the bottom of the pyramid and it was clear that in order to escape we would need to go higher and higher. This is something that's impossible to experience in real life, since it can't be easily built and would be dangerous. The grandeur of the place put me in awe and I just looked around to absorb everything it. At one point I moved close to the edge of the in-game platform while I also reached the edge of the platform I stood in real life, I almost fell and this was a way too realistic feeling and got me scared for a second (I disabled the guardian before playing, I do not recommend doing this). For a bit I wondered if I would just jump down but decided not too since I didn't know how respawn was handled in this game (I don't like falling nor heights).

We continued on and we had to cooperate more, each of us doing something else so we could advance. The game features nicely done archery and climbing. Everything felt quite natural even though it probably was meant for people who are on average taller than me.

After finishing the game we were shown our clear time. The time was 42:00 which we found pretty neat. After that several photos were taken in-game for us to keep as a memory.

Escape the Lost Pyramid is a well crafted escape room from the Assassin's Creed: Origins settings, that can be completed easily within one hour while you still have time to enjoy the environment. The atmosphere and immersion is great. The game presents the players with easy puzzles that are interesting and have a purpose - showing the power of virtual reality - and feel rewarding enough. Archery, a very common in introductory VR games, felt natural and was used well. Climbing is also one of the things you can experience in various games and the difficulty is something that can vary a lot. In Escape the Lost Pyramid it wasn't straining or difficult, just enough for us to get a feel for this kind of activity in VR.

There are two points that I could possibly see as a negative. Teleporting is something that can break the immersion. I do not know how much space is normal to have available at VR facilities, this was my first time venturing into one, but I think the game could easily be played with just free movement. Instead of forced teleportation that could be used for standing play. The second thing I got stuck the longest time was when I entered a 3d model I couldn't get out. It showed me the direction in which to move but there was a real life wall and it took me a while to figure out the game still worked the same. Not being able to see any (broken) graphics and just standing in the void didn't suggest I was still able to teleport (that didn't show up either when I tried to move).

Apart from these minor two things this escape room felt like an ideal introduction to VR. I highly recommend this to anyone who'd like to see what virtual reality can offer or experience a nice escape room in VR.

S'Tsung (stsungjp on Twitter)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls is a story-rich game from Quantic Dreams studio starring one of my favorite actors Elliot Page and Willem Dafoe whom I'm fond of too. It tells a story of Jodie (Page), a girl that was born with a 'gift' - an invisible entity named Aiden. Being special with such an entity around her, it's no surprise that she was experimented on and it was the government that wanted to use her and find the connection to the world from where the entity belongs to while she just hoped for a normal life. It seems obvious to me that the story was created to make us ponder about what lies beyond death but it seemed to miss the mark (for me at least).

The game is scripted which is no surprise since it is more of an interactive movie that was directed by David Cage. Cage has wonderful ideas but turning then into a masterpiece probably needs a bit more than one single great mind. You, the player, can play as both Jodie and Aiden. The game asks you in which way you want to experience the game, either chronologically or the way it was originally intended - that is what I chose. Here Jodie tells us that she doesn't know how to start and she may as well begin here. We then get to see a scene where we see her at a police station where a sheriff is trying to find out what happened to her. SWAT team storms the station. We don't see what happens, but we get to see how they all end up - dead with the exception of the sheriff who was kind and tried to help.

After the prologue and this chapter we start to see more from Jodie's life. Each chapter shows a life event from anywhere from her life between the age 8 and 23. The chapters of her life are very different and of a different kind of gravity. While this is something I'd expect, it is also something that made the game very incoherent story wise. I was once at a birthday party being a total clueless outcast and then on a CIA mission. Part of the game seems like a slice of life game, then turns into a drama, horror and then sci-fi.

As for gameplay. Well, there isn't much of it. Most of the time you'll probably watch cinematic scenes. When not, you will be asked to do simple tasks like stand up, grab something, walk or shoot a man. There are no puzzles or things that would stimulate the brain, all you have to do is follow a white dot somewhere on the screen. The other part are quick-time events that are happening during the cutscenes. There is also some combat. The game will slow down during a combat and tell you what button to press or where to move your mouse. It's very hard to say what you are supposed to do, so choosing the right direction is quite a guesswork. No matter how beat up you end up, the game just progresses on. Can you even die since Aiden can heal people?

The controls is something I wouldn't normally comment on, but this game is ported from Playstation and as a PC user you are to use a keyboard and mouse. Moving Jodie was rather difficult since the camera seems to have life of its own and often decides to turn in the opposite direction resulting in you turning twice and watch the camera move just to end up in the same spot you started walking from. When the game goes into slow motion you often need to move your mouse in time to a certain direction as I described before. That alone is quite a mess and if it made actual impact on the story (as in Detroit: Become Human) I'd probably be more negative about this. You move Jodie with A, S, D, W keys but are often asked to press and tap one of the 1,2,3,4 keys which to me felt rather awkward. Moving Aiden is much easier since he can just fly through everything and it switches to first person view. On the other hand using his ability requires you to either align two points at another one, place the two points somewhere specific or just 'charge' the action. When in fight you can get confused about what you are supposed to do. For the first 5 hours I was more or less fine with this, but with each hour that passed it was getting more and more annoying. Especially in sequences that seemed to be timed and you were running for your life.

Aiden apart from flying and going through walls, he can move objects, kill people, control people, heal and protect. Thanks to Aiden Jodie can go through places a normal human being wouldn't be able to which also means that Aiden is the game's Deux Ex machina. Aiden's abilities would be great if they would be the same throughout the whole game since you could count with that and use your logic to solve problems. Unfortunately, that's not true. Sometimes you can roam free and explore a large area, the next time you just can't even go through the first door that is a step away. The fact that you are still always led to a certain action doesn't help it either - there's not much freedom in using Aiden.

Dialogues have choices which is nothing new and is expected in a story-driven game. Your choices can affect the outcome of the story but not much as in Heavy Rain or Detroit: Become Human. There doesn't seem to be much variety in terms of paths throughout the game - the game will simply gravitate towards one similar ending that is not even satisfying since it brings even more questions than it answers. The revelation that you can just simply let go off the controls and just let the game flow made me wonder why this was even produced as a game. It would made a great short TV series. Or a 3 hour movie (8 hours if not edited and released just as it is in the game).

The story is what makes the game and honestly I'm not entirely sure what to think about it. The story is one huge mess that just drags Jodie through her life in which she wants to become normal but is not allowed to. There doesn't seem to be much of character development and many of the situations and dialogues seemed to be forced. The game was probably supposed to provoke deep emotions in us and make us think but unfortunately I couldn't fully immerse myself in the game. Jodie simply wasn't a believable character to me, no matter how great job Elliot did. I couldn't attach to her in any way because everything just screamed - a lie. The controls didn't help it either, the QTEs that felt futile or the frustration with the actual 'game' parts was something that was breaking the story apart too. It broke the tension and flow of it. I could just passively watch while being detached from everything going on in the game. Maybe it was also partly because I wouldn't choose any of the options in the game if it were me in Jodie's position.

As for visuals, the game is stunning. The motion capture they use is one of the best and the graphics is awesome. We get to see different environments, in some we can even roam free for a bit, and that is something great. Unfortunately all we can do is just look at the scenery and walk from given point A to a given point B without any detours. Exploring or interacting is simply not there. The animations and lighting effects are great. The game is one long interactive movie and many of the scenes are done in a way we'd expect from a movie. This makes for a really great scenes that makes us feel emotions we probably wouldn't from a more traditional approach game. The acting is excellent and Elliot Page did a really great job at breathing life into Jodie. Willem Dafoe played well too and even went out of his comfort zone at the end of the game. Unfortunately, the relationship between Jodie and Nathan somehow lost all kind of chemistry, it felt like the actors weren't even present at the same scene when it was shoot. It left me wondering if either of them cared about one another at some point?

This game was one big disappointment. As a movie-like game I expected a very strong and coherent story where every decision mattered, instead I got a very linear and clichéd messy story where I could not even make the decisions that seemed logical and the ones I could choose didn't change the narrative. There was one decision I was allowed to make that I liked - leave everything at the base and leave the past behind. Unfortunately, there was a hop into the future where the items were present again! I also coldly turned Ryan down at every occasion and would actually slap him in the face and to never see him again. Instead the game throws a decision at me stating 'Kiss' at the end (the possibility of taking his life would actually make sense but that option was not there).

From the game play view, this game could be described as follow the white dot or find a blue dot and do something with it. I did not pay 20 bucks for a game in which even walking is a tiresome task. I learned from other games that QTEs can be rewarding or satisfying but in this case they do the opposite most of the time because while they are easy to execute, they are difficult to read. 95% of the times you can just let the game go on without doing a single action (note I mean during the time when you are supposed to play the game), in those 5% that it matters, the decision itself won't matter much.

The story itself is actually good if it would be told in a different way than the two possible ones and would make for a great series or a movie. There is nothing that ties all the memories together and your decisions in the past do not change the outcome of the game (with maybe one exception, Ryan). The controls are so bad that will make you feel frustrated and distract from anything that actually caught your interest or engaged you in the story.

The camera is also something that could use some work, it moves when it shouldn't and there are moments during which it just simply shakes to add some dramatic effect. Unfortunately it made me sick and also made it more difficult to move.

The presentation of the game, graphics, visuals, animation, sound and soundtrack are truly stunning. Same goes to Elliot Page's acting. Without Elliot the game would be most probably lifeless. While I enjoyed the acting of other characters in the game, the characters weren't written in a way that would make them believably human from my point of view.

Obvious plot holes, and the fact I couldn't make decisions or feel like anything I did mattered just made me passively watch the game, not giving me any motivation to attach to the characters, story or even just play the game.

While I managed to find reasons to recommend games I didn't like to other people I just can't find something worth recommending here. It failed me in terms of story and emotions and even in terms of the little game play there is.

Thank you for reading,
Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Sunday, June 13, 2021


Writing a review for VRChat is difficult because, VRChat will be anything you want it to be.

VRChat is a social platform where everything is possible. That's where my review could pretty much end. On the other hand I could also write many pages of what VRChat is. So let's try to keep it within the 8000 characters limit on Steam.

In the past when I wanted to socialize with people online I joined a channel on IRC. People there already shared an interest or a hobby which made it easier to start a conversation. Sometimes when I felt 'lucky' I entered the wild world of Yahoo chat rooms where you either ran into horny men or ordinary people trying to find other people to talk about something. If you started a conversation with someone you needed to talk to them not knowing much about them which meant the conversation was reflecting a real life conversation more often than not. From these days I have many friends around the world that I later met IRL and we hanged out together.

Nowdays there are many ways how to socialize online and it's not limited to text form. VRChat is a place where you don on an avatar and venture into 3d worlds. You can run VRChat either in desktop mode, playing it in a traditional way, or you can launch it in VR. When in VRChat you can visit different worlds created by the community. These can be anything from a small recreation of someone's room, an art museum, a recreation of a game be it a VR title like Beat Saber or a traditional game like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a dance club, a pub, or a totally original world or game. While many of the content will be reflecting the real world, there are different limits to what is possible in virtual worlds. For example you can FLY!

The name VRChat implies that you should chat with people but there's way more to that and you don't necessarily need to engage with others if you don't want to. When you log in you can start exploring worlds or find a place you'd like to hang out. You might want to go to a pub to meet people and chat, but expect people to get drunk! Or you could go to a karaoke bar to sing or listen to others singing (quite an experience - due to internet delays), there are various clubs where you can dance, there's even a big rave scene in VRChat. You can also go to an art museum, or find a place where you can paint yourself. If you feel like just watching a movie, you can find a theatre to your liking, be it on the moon or in medieval world. You may want to exercise, be it squat challenges with other players, yoga or dance exercise.

Then there are worlds that are more interactive. You can go play some games. Capture the flag is an option for example, but there are also climbing worlds, escape rooms, dungeons you have to clear or worlds that are more like a full fledged game (see The Devouring).

There are also events in VRChat, they can be small - a class for learning Japanese, slightly larger - a dance party or huge - virtual convention. There are meets, cons, shows, panels, and concerts in VRChat. Anything is possible.

VRChat is also a platform that will allow you to explore your own self and it might start with a custom avatar you'd like to represent yourself. After a certain time of playing VRChat you will be given the possibility to upload a custom avatar. People can create whatever they want but you will most often run into anime girl avatars (with animal ears and tails) that are in fact men in real life. This is a VRChat reality and might take a while for you to get used to. Apart from anime girls you can meet any kind of avatar be it a furry, avali, Alien or a (talking) tank.

There is one more thing you might want to be prepared for - mirrors. We all know what a mirror is and use it to check if our hair is not a mess or our clothes fit well. In VRChat you will be encountering many people staring into a mirror all the time. They might be chatting, dancing but mostly just staring. Don't ask me why.

None of what I wrote will probably prepare you for your first VRChat experience because there are no limits to what VRChat can be and since people are different and play the game for different reasons, literally anything can happen. This also means there is a dark side to VRChat. In public worlds, you can encounter toxic people or those that will want to crash you (especially if you are streaming). Sexual harassment is an actual thing, if you are a woman you might want to be prepared for that. One of my first experiences is entering a public world in a female lolita avatar. A group of other avatars encircled me and started touching my avatars boobs. When I greeted these people (I seriously had no idea what to do) they dispersed with 'oh another dude' and it was over.

If you have a VR headset I would highly recommend visiting different VRChat worlds, because those are works of art. There are places that are truly amazing. There are many activities you can do, even in VR, with others and enjoy them even more. You can meet many great people and find friends. Together you can visit worlds together, play the games there, as they are mostly multiplayer ones. You should also be prepared for a culture that may be known to those who ever set foot at an anime convention. You will meet many horny men, in anime girl avatars with big bouncing boobs and bouncing butt cheeks, often playing with these body parts or doing some erotic role play with another man in a similar avatar. If not this you may listen to conversation that requires a knowledge of memes old and current, making you wonder if you actually live on the same planet. If you are loooking for extraordinary experiences and you are ready for anything that can happen, go try VRChat since it is free.

Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)