LTTP: Statik

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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

Into the Breach [Switch] Review

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I never mentioned Subset Games’ FTL before but it’s one of those games that I visit and revisit every so often. I bought it first on PC but I felt it was a better fit on a portable device like the iPad. Fortunately, I didn’t need to double dip with their second game, Into the Breach. It’s available for PC and the Nintendo Switch but I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger for the portable option when it went on sale. 

Into the Breach may resemble a strategy game like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics but it’s very much a puzzle game with rogue-like mechanics. It’s intriguing, unexpected, and a natural fit for the studio who brought us FTL.  

A squad of high powered mechs punching giant bugs sounds gratifying but that’s superficial compared to the gratification of a well-executed setup. Pushing an enemy into the path of another enemy and watching it get annihilated by its own ally’s attack makes me feel like I just pulled a fast one over the bugs.  

It’s not readily apparent at first but thanks to limited reset options, increased familiarity with the game, and a lot of trial and error, opportunities for those kinds of setups began to surface. Different squads (unlocked with an in-game currency) offered different playstyles and ways to subdue the giant bugs threatening innocent lives. My favorite included a jet that smothered enemies with a cloud of smoke that prevents them from attacking. I eventually won with this killer squad in large part to this one unit. 

In my quest for that first win, I strategized and optimized my way through all the islands. I found early islands more tricky than the latter and eventually found a path towards victory. Sometimes, a few hundred innocent lives need to be sacrificed in order for me to get that upgrade point. The fate of humanity’s future was in the balance. 

But once I attained that victory, the desire to push forward and unlock new squads for new challenges drained away from me. I was elated by the victory, I enjoyed pushing giant grasshoppers into the water, and disintegrating beetles with electric clouds. But despite the good times, I didn’t feel the need to jump to another timeline. Saving one future was enough for now. 

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee

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Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee was made for people like me. People who only played the first couple of games and believe the original 151 are the most memorable Pokemon to date. I’ve tried Pokemon Sun/Moon but found it too slow and too talky for a Pokemon game. All I wanted to do was to drop in, set out, and catch Pokemon. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee gave me that and then some. 

I felt it was a satisfying remake of the first generation Pokemon titles (Pokemon Yellow specifically), it evoked the classics while making smart improvements along the way. The most notable alteration was replacing the random wild Pokemon encounters with Pokemon Go styled catching. Catching them required me to run into them in the world, sedate them with berries before using the right Pokeball and throwing technique to catch them. Fortunately, there were still a handful of Pokemon which required the classic style of weaken before catching.  

I found the visuals to be simple but very charming. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to not push the Switch to its limits but I and the Switch’s battery welcomed it. Playing the game in portable just felt right. It was nice to see the game hold up on the big screen but Pokemon will forever be a portable title first for me. It was also strange that the Pro controller wasn’t a viable option. I get the appeal of playing one handed with a single Joy-con but sometimes I just want to relax with a proper controller.  

New features like two on two battles, categorized bags, and expanded stat pages were welcomed additions. I don’t know if those were taken from the recent games but they didn’t overcomplicate or deviate too far Pokemon Yellow. It’s that smart blend of old and new that made Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee a joy to play.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII PS4 Review

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I took a two year break on Call of Duty multiplayer. I enjoyed Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III and didn’t see the need to play Infinity Ward’s take on that formula. As much as I enjoyed Sledgehammer Games work with Advanced Warfare, I just didn’t find the idea of revisiting World War 2 appealing. Now I’m back into the thick of it with Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. 

I normally would split these Call of Duty reviews into multiplayer and campaign reviews but I don’t have to for this year’s installment. Black Ops IIII doesn’t have a campaign and while it’s a bit of a bummer, my confidence in Treyarch to deliver a fantastic campaign was shaken after their last outing.  

Black Ops IIII was multiplayer centric but it still has three pillars including classic multiplayer shenanigans the series is known for. I spent most of my time with in this mode which feels good to play. It’s reminiscent of Black Ops III’s multiplayer sans wall running. The “story justification” for the regression was that this game takes place before Black Ops III. If I cared enough about the story, I could go into the Specialist missions and play through some matches with A.I bots to unlock cutscenes.  

I have little to no interest in that. I also have very little interest in the Zombies mode and the brand new Blackout mode. I’ve tried Zombie modes for years now and I just don’t enjoy them. I tried Treyarch’s Blackout mode but I just don’t think I like battle royale games regardless of how it plays. I just don’t like how these modes have relatively long match times compared to the traditional multiplayer.  

I keep coming back to the multiplayer trying to improve and learning to love Nuketown after all this time. (I find it okay now) The regular shuffle and mixing of featured playlists kept multiplayer relatively fresh. I personally love the Kill Confirmed and Team Deathmatch Mercenary playlists when I’m playing solo.  

I found the spawning and maps in this game solid. The number of times that I’ve spawn into an instant death is so few and far between now. The maps seem varied and flowed very well. Scorestreaks did not dominate their overwhelming firepower unless a match was already completely lopsided. In fact, the number of close matches that I’ve experienced in the Mercenary playlists should be a mark of pride for Treyarch’s matchmaking.  

The introduction of manual healing added much needed nuance to the flow of Call of Duty combat. Couple that with the slight bump in health, firefights feel like it’s more than just who shot first. Tactical retreats have never been this viable before. After I’m wounded, I can now flea heal up quickly and not need to spend time waiting for my life to eventually regenerate. Knowing that a person can be doing the same, I can rush them down and catch them mid-heal. That is if they didn’t choose to use the faster heal equipment. Making healing a tactical decision was brilliant.  

Here’s an unpleasant realization that struck me immediately after my first match: Black Ops IIII was an ugly game. I found this game’s visuals stylistically and technically ugly. I felt every single asset (except for the guns) sported some very muddy textures and some of the most lame character designs to date. I think the guns are the only things that I didn’t have issue with. On top of the built-in shortcomings, users are putting together some of the most garish and gross design combinations on these character models. This is such a far cry from the relative realism of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I don’t blame Treyarch for enabling personalization (it probably leads to people spending money) but it just kills any semblance of narrative cohesion.  

The audio mixing seems to require headphones to appreciate because on my surround sound system, it is very poor. Unless it’s a gunshot hitting something, I cannot distinguish what’s going on. Even more disappointing? Black Ops IIII’s menu music which is probably the weakest selection to date for Treyarch. I miss Adrenaline (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLYpYoXkWw) and Ignition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NxjraldwE). 

Unlock weapons, build classes, string a series of scores together to unleash annoyances, rinse, and repeat. On paper, this loop was like any other Call of Duty title but this one is thematically relevant to my interests. Treyarch created a very refined version of their Black Ops formula. They’ve given people what they want in a variety of ways and while I may not partake with the Zombies or Blackout modes, the multiplayer itself was more than enough to justify the price of admission for my brother and I. It’s good to be back. 

Verdict:
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

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