LTTP: Gris [NSW]

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“For those who liked games like LIMBO or Journey…”

OpenCritic summary

I had some expiring Nintendo points and was compelled to buy something and so I picked up Gris which I heard good things about. That was at least 2 years ago. I finally decided to play Gris after finishing Mario + Rabbids: Donkey Kong Adventure DLC because I figured it would be a good palette cleanser.

It was beautiful, tranquil, and I could see how this game could be encapsulated by that OpenCritic summary. I loved LIMBO and Journey. The puzzles and intrigue were executed very well in LIMBO. Journey excelled at delivering a tranquil, beautiful, and emotional experience. Gris tried to combine both elements of those two games, but form often took precedence over function and that lead to an unnecessarily frustrating experience. 

I haven’t played a 2D platformer that just didn’t clearly communicate which platform could be jumped on. There wasn’t much challenge this game, but there were collectibles which encouraged taking a leap of faith or two towards what any reasonable person would presume to be a platform. Unfortunately, many times, these “platforms” were merely part of the background and I would have to slowly make my way back to where I left off. This happened at least half a dozen times which increasingly made this game a chore to explore.

I didn’t resonate with the story or imagery presented, but I appreciated its beauty and detail. There were some very clever touches with the visuals and character interactions. Curiosity with what they would come up with next drove me forward. That and the hope for more additional puzzles or powers to be introduced.

I was relieved when I saw the credits roll. The gameplay loop was wearing out its welcome and I felt they were struggling to maintain the pace of cleverness that they exhibited in the middle third of the game. My takeaway from Gris? I think it was pretty and forgettable and I don’t think I would have been worse off if I had completely forgot to play it.

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

Spider-man 2 Review

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Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-man was a revelation for the web crawler in the video game space. Miles Morales was a great campaign, but that city and its open world design began to wear out its welcome quickly. Marvel’s Spider-man 2 had big shoes to fill. I wasn’t concerned about the story, set pieces, or combat, but I had concerns for the open world. They needed to do more than just fill it up with even more collectibles or things to chase down. 

From a pessimistic view, they did just add more things to collect, more things to chase down, and more sites to clear out. Adding gliding as an additional traversal element was a significant and enjoyable spice to the open world mix, but if I were expecting more interesting activity types to tackle in the open world, I would have been very disappointed. They added different activities, but the repetition throughout the different districts of New York City pulverized any semblance of novelty quick.

Aesthetically, the city evolved as I progressed through the main story line. The epic battle with Sandman left its mark on the story early on with additional visible transformations to the city occurring towards the end. I expected prettier buildings and lighting to reflect the time of day transitions, but I didn’t expect the city to be affected by the story at such a scale. The unfortunate side effect to these wide reaching alterations was the lack of urgency reflected by the citizens of the city. They say nothing stops New Yorkers from getting to where they need to go, but I think Marvel’s Spider-man 2’s citizens took it too far by their non-reactions to an epic brawl involving a couple of Spider-men and a crowd of goo monsters. 

I was a big fan of how Insomniac enabled seamless transitions between Miles Morales and Peter Parker. Sometimes I transition in mid-swing and other times, the other Spider-man was just idling playing with their Spider-robot or drinking a coffee. It gave both Spider-men independent and occasionally integrated lives. Each Spider-man had their time with the main story missions, but I was glad to see each of them have their own meaty side missions to follow through with. 

One of the side missions called back to the DLC content from Marvel’s Spider-man which I overlooked and forgotten existed. I had to dig up some info on the events of those DLC chapters which made me realize that the DLC content was actually quite important in the grand scheme of things.

The set pieces were bigger than ever with increased scale and dynamism afforded by technical enhancements since the 2018 game. The rapid transitions into completely different spaces were reminiscent of Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, for example. 

New abilities and gadgets refreshed the combat a bit, but it was familiar for anyone who’ve played the previous games. The symbiote abilities were an attempt to catch Peter Parker up to Miles Morales’ flashy venom powers, however, I found Miles Morales more entertaining to play as. His ability to instantly go invisible and chaotic look of his electric powers made for more frenetic and exciting fights. 

Further explorations into the personal lives of both Spider-men made created earned tension points in the story. I really felt the divide in responsibilities between the two lives that each of them lead. Their closest loved ones knowing the double lives they lead didn’t make things easier for them. I don’t know if the Mary Jane stealth sections needed to make their return, but what else can one do to give supporting characters more interactive game time?

Exploring the classic Spidey villains as humans who broke badly and had their own reclamation arcs was also something I didn’t expect from a video game. Second chances and how people dealt with them the prevailing theme throughout the game and now more than ever, we need to be mindful of that. Reformation of criminals is a complex topic to cover in daily life let alone in a video game, but I felt Insomniac Games did a great job.

Marvel’s Spider-man spawned story threads leading towards the this game, Spider-man 2 also laid out foundational elements and hints for even more Spider-man related goodies in the future. After wrapping up the game, I couldn’t help but look forward towards the future of this franchise. I initially ignored them, but I just had figure out when the next Spidey hit was going to land. According to that awful ransomware attack, Insomniac Games has a Venom game planned for 2025 and Spider-man 3 in 2028. Very long waits, but I’m sure it will be worth it. 

Verdict:
I liked it

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart [PS5]

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Insomniac Games have made a lot of Ratchet & Clank games. I was introduced to the franchise on the PlayStation 3 with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. I followed up with Quest for Booty and then the excellent A Crack in Time. I skipped the rest of the PlayStation 3 entries before checking out the remake, Ratchet & Clank on PlayStation 4. That brings us to Rift Apart which I kept my eye on since its release in 2021.

A lot has happened to Insomniac Games since their 2016 remake; their excellent Spider-man and its follow-up, Miles Morales, propelled them to new heights of popularity and recognition. I was curious what lessons they learned from their time with Spider-man and how it impacted their staple franchise, Ratchet & Clank. 

Evidently, its impact was not as transformative as I hoped. For better and worse, this felt like a Ratchet & Clank game. I am certain their were significant playability improvements from their 2016 game that I forgot about, but in my mind, this still feels like Tools of Destruction to me. Combat feels slightly disconnected with no real punch behind shots; no amount of haptic feedback or DualSense trigger tricks made these larger than life weapons feel powerful. The melee combat felt like it always did; flat and nothing like landing the punches in their Spider-man games.

The Ratchet & Clank games were always known for the inventive arsenal, but Rift Apart felt lackluster in that department. Each of the weapons had neat DualSense trigger modes, but those gimmicks quickly wore off and left with what I can only describe as the standard weapon archetypes. 

Multi-dimensional hijinks is all the rage these days, so it was fitting to see it take video game form. Aside from the ray tracing, the big claim to fame for Ratchet & Clank was how quickly we were able to transition from one world to another. It was impressive on a technical level, but when the rapid transitions were just part of a larger rail grinding set piece, I couldn’t help but view it as elaborate sky box changes. It 100% wasn’t the case, but it felt like that. I was actually far more impressed with how quickly I loaded into each level.

The story seemingly took advantage of the fact that you may have watched a movie or two about multiverses because it handled the meeting of Ratchet and Rivet quite clumsily and quick. It felt like they wanted to get on with the game and just have you play through the game with the two of them as quickly as possible. Functionally they behaved like reskins of one another with weapons and ability progress magically transferring between the two of them. Personality and story wise? It felt like they didn’t know how to make Ratchet’s contributions meaningful. Rivet had the benefit of origin story and exploration of their home world and dimension, but Ratchet felt like a bit of an afterthought.

Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart didn’t reach the heights of A Crack in Time, but that’s alright. It’s a solid game for newcomers and like all the previous releases, one of the more visually accomplished titles of their generation. It is a looker, but as a long time fan, I was hoping for a bit more than just the discovery of another Lombax from another dimension.

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

Humanity [PS5] Review

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I started playing Humanity after reading some positive impressions and wanting to ensure I didn’t miss its time on PlayStation Plus Extra. I just subscribed to the service and missed out on Stray because I thought it was going to stick around for longer than it did. The trailer featured an amusing style, Enhance Games were involved, and it featured a Shiba Inu which might be my favorite dog breed. 

The conditions for a good time were present and if it wasn’t for the music, I may have enjoyed it a lot more than I hoped.

I never played Lemmings, but I am familiar with its concept of guiding as many followers towards a goal. As the ghostly Shiba Inu, it was up to me to guide these humanoid figures towards the light through different puzzle rules. One set of puzzles of asked me to place commands on the ground in real-time, while the next set of puzzles asked me to plot out the entire route ahead of time. Additional variables such as switches, golden collectibles, and hazards were thrown into the mix to challenge and elaborate on established rules. 

A few puzzles held me up for quite some time, but I was often able to overcome most puzzles through trial and error. The snappy resets and fast forwarding removed a level of frustration that may have discouraged me from finishing it. I’m glad they were so liberal with these aids; they even included a solution video which I never actually clicked on. I imagine it would have shown me how to solve the puzzle.

What really irritated me was the music which I found increasingly grating as I played. I had to quit levels to select a different track at times because some of those default choices were so grating. I had the benefit of sometimes getting lost in a puzzle and not even noticing an annoying track, but my poor wife who wasn’t paying attention often lamented on what she heard coming out of the game. 

I ended up liking the game. It took me longer to complete than I originally anticipated though. I was close to dropping it several times after trying to have extended sessions with it, but I eventually settled to playing one or two levels per day. That cadence of bite sized Humanity made it much more palatable. 

Verdict:
I liked it

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