LTTP: Hitman (2016) [PC]

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I just realized I forgot to write this review. So it’s going to be a bit tricky having to dig back into the archives of the mind and fish out my thoughts on Hitman (2016). I had a positive experience with Hitman, but I think the episodic model would have forced me to engross myself with each level a bit more.

IO Interactive’s decision to launch the game in installments was met with controversy. I am not a big fan of the episodic model when comes to games; I waited for the entirety of StarCraft II, Life is Strange, The Walking Dead and others. In fact, the only episodic game I invested in early was the Final Fantasy VII Remake.

I essentially took a dip into each of the game’s seven levels, explored a bit, and then make my way to the finish line. I didn’t soak in these levels; I didn’t learn them or master them. I had no desire to figure out the inner workings of each one. I was content with eliminating the target in the way I wanted to and moving on. 

I don’t believe I was fully appreciating the work that went into each of those levels by playing through like that. I invested more time into that single level of Hitman: Sniper on iOS than I did with any of the levels of Hitman (2016). 

Hitman was a game of options. Options on how to play were present in every aspect of the game. The known Hitman qualities like costume changes, whipping a can of soup at someone to knock them out or just straight up sniping them with a high powered rifle were all here. The toolbox was wide and the sandbox was sizeable and intricate. To help navigate players through all of it, a hint system those who just want to see cool stuff happen a clear path to make that a reality. In order to lengthen my time with the game and force myself to explore the game’s levels a bit more, I chose not to rely on it. But once I had my fill, I got back to the beaten path. 

Options are great, but at the same time, I think the option of waiting for the entire game to drop was a mistake for me. I think I would have obsess over each and every level a bit more if I was following the episodic release. I still enjoyed playing through Hitman, but I didn’t love it or get to know it like those who committed to IO Interactive and followed them on their weird episodic Hitman game. Hitman 2 and the upcoming Hitman 3 fall back to traditional release models, which I think is preferable for most people. However, I cannot help thinking there’s something to drip feeding content.

Verdict:
I liked it

Ratings Guide

Astro’s Playroom Review

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Astro Bot’s Rescue Mission was an excellent demonstration of the possibilities of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR. A couple of years later, here comes Astro’s Playroom, an excellent demonstration of the PlayStation 5 and its DualSense controller. I wasn’t expecting an innovation in platforming mechanics or ideas; that’s now what these games are about. I played through familiar ideas with a few interesting sensations. 

Astro’s Playroom is a wonderful stroll through PlayStations’ history. I ran into classic PlayStation hardware, PlayStation themed callbacks, and just a deluge of all things PlayStation. It was cute, nostalgic, and done so well for a freebie title. 

Each of the four worlds highlighted one of the four PlayStations that passed us by, but that’s just window dressing to the real attraction which were the different ways they utilized the DualSense haptics, adaptive triggers, and other features that many probably forgot existed on the DualShock 4. Remember motion controls?

I consumed Astro’s Playroom in its in entirety. It was the perfect length and left me wanting just a bit more. It was a brilliant introduction to the DualSense controller and the PlayStation 5 hardware and software capabilities. Every PlayStation 5 owner owns it, it’s just a matter of whether they will find time for it and I firmly believe people should. It’s that good.

Verdict:
Must Play

Ratings Guide

Hades PC Review

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I played roguelike games before, but never in the action or platforming flavour. I recognized the Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells of the world as quality games, but I let them pass me by for other games. SuperGiant Games’ Hades would have been one of those passing games as well, if not for an aggressive sale on the Epic Games Store. For less than $10, it would have been silly of me not to partake. And after playing so much of it for the past four weeks or so, it may very well be my game of the year.

Hades’ greatest feat was its story and how it weaved the narrative tightly with the roguelike loop. I’ve seen the credits roll, I’ve sunk over 30 hours into the game, and I still want to see what else this game has to offer from a narrative perspective. There are just so many lines of dialogue for all the characters in the game; the sheer amount of it is the most impressive part of the game. Yes, they’re usually only handful of lines per run, but each one adds context and flavor on top of the ever growing Zagreus.

Zagreus, son of Hades, was driven to find out what happened to his mother. He lives in the Underworld and through his adoptive mother, Nyx, he was put in touch with his relatives on Olympus who want to see their own join them. The Olympians help Zagreus by sending him random Boons (power-ups). Zagreus needed all the help he could muster because these random assortment of levels designed to keep shades (souls) from escaping the depths of the Underworld are full of tormented shades who have been employed by the realm’s master to serve as guards. 

Every run takes Zagreus through Tartarus, Asphodel, and Elysium. Each area has its share of style, enemies, and bosses. And despite running through the same set of areas, and enemies, I still find enjoyment through each and every run. An average run takes about 30 to 40 minutes and I have no problem going through two per day. At the height of my Hades time, I was pulling off two or three runs per session. Hades has that addictive “one more” run quality that can turn 8pm to 11:30pm in a blink of an eye.

Greek mythology is well worn territory and yet Hades managed to carve out its own unique take on it. Each and every character appears to be quite likable despite their sordid histories. Much of it was their charm and relatively pleasant demeanors. As the game progressed, I started to see different sides to the Olympians and other characters. The trademark Olympian pettiness began to bubble to the surface; not a single one of them was above it. 

Supergiant Games’ knows action games. Their first title, Bastion, felt very good to play and Hades tops that easily. They don’t explain how/why Zagreus can dash through physical objects, but it felt good to easily move about without much impedance. It felt like was controlling a ninja at times; an unstoppable elemental force that can swipe through enemies with ease. 

I never got tired of it, and even now, over 40 runs later, I still find the time to do a least a run per day. I’m continually being rewarded with drips of story, and so far that’s enough to sustain me. Systems like the fine grain challenge system in the latter stages gave me the power to choose my poison. I’m glad it’s not just the same types of enemies with more hit points. Supergiant Games thought of everything and I am simply in awe of their thoughtfulness. It’s easily their best work to date.

Verdict:
Must Play

Ratings Guide

SM3DA: Super Mario 64 Review

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It finally happened! I finished Super Mario 64 courtesy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Nintendo Switch. I collected 71 stars and rushed towards Bowser so I can finally put this respectable but outdated game behind me. 

I was initially very impressed with Super Mario 64. Nintendo improved the user interface, increased the resolution, and steadied the framerate. They were appreciated improvements, but I eventually discovered that those improvements were not enough to make Super Mario 64 palatable in 2020. 

The lack of precise camera control reared its ugly head very early on. There were a number of options to cycle through, but there were numerous moments where none of those options were ideal. Early levels that didn’t feature many bottomless pits or a large number of moving objects were mostly fine. I would only need to make the occasional minor shift to the camera. However, it was a true test of patience in levels like Rainbow Ride where I was cycling through the motion of making jumps and flipping through less than ideal camera angles. 

When I was triple jumping and running around in the relatively gapless spaces of the early levels, the finicky controls did not bother me. As Super Mario 64 began to demand more precision and sticking Mario in tighter platforms with bottomless pits underneath, then the touchy controls began to annoy me to no end. Some state that this isn’t much of a problem with the N64 controller and if that’s the case, Nintendo should have done more to adjust the Super Mario 64 in this 3D All Stars collection. 

Even if the controls worked well, I felt that the developers went too far towards making a realistic Mario instead of a fun Mario. What’s the point of having Mario crawl? What’s the point of having him perform a U-turn when he turned around? Why did he suddenly decide to slide on his belly on steep inclines? Why did he even have punch or kick attacks with pathetic range? I felt these decisions were made because they could. Nintendo wanted to explore and experiment with Super Mario 64 which resulted in many lessons learned for future games. 

The castle serving as a hub was initially charming and twee. Jumping into paintings to enter different levels and spaces was a clever conceit that invited and rewarded exploration. All the good feelings evaporated away as I pushed deeper into the castle and bumped into the “game over” screen. Having to restart outside of the castle every time I restart the game was annoying. Having to catch the stupid Haunted House Boo every single time I wanted to play that level was even sillier. All these initially charming elements quickly got in the way of the fun.

I respect Super Mario 64, but I do not like it. I found it fascinating in spots, but was overwhelmingly frustrated by a majority of it. I wouldn’t miss this game if it suddenly deleted itself from the package because I do not see myself returning to collect the rest of the Stars. Perhaps I’m unfairly harsh, but this is the game Nintendo decided was good enough to put in a $79.99 package in 2020. They thought it was good enough to stand on its own without significant changes; I’m saying they were wrong.

Verdict:
I didn’t like it

Ratings Guide

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