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

Metroid Dread Review

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11 years. That’s how long it took Nintendo to release a new 2D instalment in the Metroid franchise. It took them a long time to find someone else to pick up the mantle after the disappointing Metroid: Other M. The Dread project was given to MercurySteam after they proved themselves with the awesome Metroid: Samus Returns.

Metroid Dread played like a very refined Metroid: Samus Returns. Samus’ parry ability and 360 free aim returned, but she also developed the ability to slide under openings that were previously only accessible with the Morph ball. Additions like that and the wall climbing made her feel more versatile and nimble while staying with the confines of the game’s structure. She still required the staple of abilities like the Morph Ball, Space Jump, and Power Bombs to unlock the map.

The flow of the game did not deviate much from the Metroid games before it. There were little wrinkles like teleporters that brought Samus from one area to another to cut down on back tracking, but progress was still gated by abilities. 

The big “disruption” to progress were the E.M.M.I. encounters that offered a change of pace. I liked the idea of being hunted by an indestructible robot foe, but I didn’t like the punishment for getting caught. I might as well just skip to the Game Over screen because having to guess the right window to parry and escape the killer robots’ attacks was not fun. Samus would eventually obtain the ability to cloak and hide, but that would just delay the inevitable if she took the wrong turn somewhere. I found myself focusing on running away or kiting the E.M.M.I. through long winded paths just to buy Samus time to make her way to her destination. I would have preferred if the E.M.M.I. just sapped large chunks of her life away when Samus got caught.

Taking away health would have forced me to a bit more careful with platforming. The bosses kicked Samus’ ass, but the fodder enemies were easily dispatched thanks to the heavy reliance on the parrying mechanic. It’s not a slight against that mechanic, but perhaps one shot killing every enemy after a successful parry was a bit much.

I played Dread entirely in handheld mode which is made me consider picking up an OLED model. I found the game to look very nice on the original Switch’s LCD, but I know all those colors would have popped even more on an OLED. I only wish the game didn’t struggle to maintain its silky smooth framerate; there were a handful of areas where there were just a few too many X parasite thingies to render.

It’s been a long time since I thought about the X parasites and Metroids squaring off. Their introduction in Fusion brought a substantial change to Samus that I found functionally interesting, but aesthetically cringy. Making Samus more biomechnical was an interesting idea in Fusion, but I didn’t enjoy the path they went down in Dread. By the end, Samus became stupidly powerful and wouldn’t look out of place hanging out in the Kingdom of Atlantis as some kind of crustacean themed dark knight. It didn’t resonate with me at all. 

Weird suit transformations and other tiny misgivings aside, I really enjoyed my time Metroid Dread. It nearly convinced me to pick up a Switch OLED. I had such a good time playing through the game, and unraveling the map like a good one of these games should do. It took Nintendo a long, long time to add to the Metroid franchise, but they finally did and it was worth the wait.

Verdict:
I liked it

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

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

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  1. Excitement
  2. Accomplishment
  3. Plateau
  4. Drop off

Every Animal Crossing player goes through the same steps at their own pace. I’m on step 3. I invested over 125 hours into Animal Crossing: New Horizons and I still feel good about checking in on a regular basis. I am not making the headway that I expected nor is my island anywhere near as pretty as I hoped it was, but I’m okay with this. Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed at just the right time and has given me and many others a sense of routine and progression.

There’s technically a built-in goal that triggers the rolling of credits, but there’s still a lot more game to enjoy and experience. I wanted to build more bridges, arrange more landmarks, and furnish my multi-story house with weird and wonderful furniture.

My criticisms of Animal Crossing: New Leaf still ring true with New Horizons. The menus could be friendlier to navigate, repetitive dialog continues to plague players, and the general flow of everything is still as deliberate and plodding like it always is. New additions like crafting and terrain customizations give Animal Crossing big shakeups but all these features will be worn down by the Animal Crossing ethos. 

The lack of interactivity may not be a new gripe for long time fans, but it’s quite strange when there’s absolutely no interaction with certain objects. I can dive into the ocean after the July 2020 update, but I cannot do a damn thing with this hot tub that I just crafted. 

I was okay with the fact that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a game about gathering items in the service of decorating. I decorated my island, my house, and my character. The real time aspect of the game continues to amuse me for days, weeks, and even months. Nintendo already released regular events and patches that introduced new content and functionality. Unfortunately, while they all satisfied the definition of new content, they don’t always satisfy. Re-adding the ability to swim and dive in the ocean is amusing, but taking photos for a pair of llamas? Not so much.

There are no surprises in Animal Crossing: New Horizons; players will know whether this appeals to them or not. How long before you reach the drop off point will depends on your level of patience. My fiancée went through all four steps within three weeks. There was so much excitement that she even considered getting a Switch of her own. I’m still puttering away on the island for the both of us. It can definitely be better, but at the same time, I also like it for what it is.

Verdict:
I like it

Ratings Guide

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