Checkpoint: Banff Edition

Here I am watching episode 3 of Neon Genesis: Evangelion in a hotel in Banff. It’s an older hotel that radiates old wealth. I can see appreciate it for what it is but it isn’t my idea of an impressive hotel. I like my hotels modern.

At least I have adequate complimentary Wi-Fi to entertain me during the down time. The down time isn’t much but it’s enough to catch an episode of Evangelion on Netflix or Billions.

Banff is a sight to behold. Being completely surrounded by mountains and trees should be awe inspiring but there’s something about its abundance that I find conflicting. I feel like it’s unnatural to humans like myself. This isn’t where I belong. I somehow find a small piece of green space carefully curated by man to be far more fascinating than the vast forests and mountain ranges stretching across the landscape.

There’s also the clash between all this nature and all these people milling about trying to capture epic vistas for their social media pages. At least in a crafted garden, the touristy reality of the spot is apparent — I felt those spots were more honest to their nature. I find there’s a lack of authenticity to Banff. Many of the locations were operated by foreigners who hailed from other Commonwealth nations. All of this feels like I am paying a lot of money to breath in cleaner air and have beautiful background for me to wake up to. I’m neither fascinated nor engrossed by any of it.

Canada Day is coming up and there’s still much more to see. Maybe there’s still something out there that will make the hours of driving worth it.

LTTP: Overcooked (PS4)

Ghost Town Games’ Overcooked was a good time for 2 players. It may be a great time for 3 or 4 players but I didn’t round up a group of that size. Not that I would want to considering how inconsistent the performance and controller response was on the PlayStation 4 Pro. The experience was so poor that I wrote off getting the sequel on consoles.

My fiancee and I had a great time three starring the early stages but as soon as precision was required, we were grinding against the sluggish controls during some of the trickier and flashier stages. We eventually figured it all out but not without a bit of frustration.

My fiancee loved the frantic pace while I enjoyed trying to dissect, distill, and optimize our workflows to solve each level. After perfecting all the base game’s levels, we tried out the versus mode which didn’t appear to have a 1 vs. 1 option whatsoever. Even if it did, I think it 2 vs. 2 would have been preferable. Playing solo seems to be antithetical to what Overcooked was all about.

We loved the idea of Overcooked and we would gladly play more of it. Thankfully, we still have the free holiday DLC and a sequel to play through. Unfortunately the PlayStation 4 release carried some technical flaws. I may have gotten this game as part of my PlayStation Plus membership but I would gladly pay for a more performant release.

Verdict:
I liked it

Ratings Guide

Apex Legends Review

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S Battlegrounds looked intriguing albeit too janky for my liking. 

Fortnite didn’t tickle my fancy either. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII’s Blackout caught my attention but didn’t manage to hold it beyond 3 matches. 

It turns out I was waiting for Respawn Entertainment and their take on the battle royale genre. Apparently, I wanted classes, teamwork, polish, and mobility options. And now that I have all those things in Apex Legends, I cannot put it down.  

It’s the first free to play non-mobile game that I sank both time and money into. I didn’t need the battle pass and what it offered but I felt obligated to pay for the excellent game they hot dropped onto the world.  

Call of Duty: Black Ops III introduced Specialists with abilities reminiscent of other hero shooters like Overwatch. These Specialist abilities were impactful but they didn’t turn the tide of battle like Overwatch’s. Apex Legends’ calls their heroes Legends but they’re essentially Specialists. Certain abilities like Lifeline’s healing bot or Caustic’s debilitating gas traps were useful in specific scenarios but they couldn’t guarantee a win. The same could be said with the Ultimate abilities which will require a bit of an adjustment period for anyone who’s used to Overwatch’s bangers. 

The level of polish and refinement on various aspects of the battle royale experience made Apex Legends very comfortable to play. I wasn’t awkwardly fiddling with menus to manage inventory or equipment. I felt everything was just a simple press away and the entire experience felt frictionless.  

The game wasn’t much of a looker on PC let alone a PlayStation 4 Pro. Performance was also generally sufficient with only the occasional dip below 60 FPS. I wanted better on both fronts but battle royales require a lot of horsepower and that these consoles just aren’t up to snuff. 

Polish, class abilities, and proficient technical chops can only get you so far, so what did Apex Legends do to get its hooks into me? The feel. It feels good to play and it that’s very important. I like the engagement distances in Apex Legends. This game plays at my kind of range. Most firefights take place in the mid to close range with the occasional long range affair to keep people on their toes.  

The brilliant “ping” system enabled a rudimentary but crucial communication between teammates. I feel like it should be in every multiplayer game from here on out because it’s so easy and effective to highlight enemies, suggest destinations and highlight loot. Voice communication is still superior but it is also greatly enhanced with the inclusion of the ping system.   

Apex Legends will likely end up being my most played game this year. Part of it is the battle royale hooks, but I feel a lot of it is the quality fundamentals. I have no idea how they will fare against Fortnite or other games in the genre but I’m firmly behind Respawn’s take on it.  

Ratings Guide

Verdict: 
I love it 

LTTP: Statik

I bought Tarsier Studios’ Statik on the strength of its demo. I thought it was extremely clever how they transformed the DualShock 4 controller into a puzzle box for me to manipulate and figure out. I enjoyed the Portal inspired aesthetic as well. The demo set very high and positive expectations for which the full game did not live up to.  

While the demo showcased a brilliant use of the controller, it did omit one of the more annoying uses from the full game. Using the DualShock 4 controller as wand substitute was awkward and cumbersome. It’s not as accurate or as comfortable as it needs to be. Statik would have benefitted by not including those awful puzzle piece assembly intermissions.  

Portal comparisons ran rampant throughout my time with the game. It’s unfair to compare every game set in a sterile lab environment to Valve’s puzzle platformer but I am and Statik compared favorably. The inspiration was clear but it felt like they merely borrowed the Portal aesthetic as a vehicle to deliver their clever handheld puzzles.  

I genuinely enjoyed all the puzzles. The solutions were often felt out by fiddling with buttons and switches while observing the surrounding environment for clues. A few were tricky to piece together but overall, they were easier than the ones found in Valve’s Aperture Science centers.  

The motivation to finish the puzzles was to discover why I was stuck in this place trying to solve puzzles. I wasn’t expecting a tremendous pay off and I was right to do so.  

I was drawn to Statik for its puzzles and I ended up only enjoying it for its puzzles. On the plus side, it’s ¾ of what this game has to offer. The puzzles are engaging and rewarding to solve. The dressing and everything else surrounding it did not match the quality of said puzzles but it shouldn’t discourage those who enjoy a bit of puzzle solving in VR.  

Verdict: 
It was okay 

Ratings Guide

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