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naveenwf's blog

I love Catherine
1:06 PM on 07.31.2014
Destructoid Robot on a yoghurt drink
12:03 PM on 10.04.2013
My first summer with the Playstation
6:02 PM on 08.27.2013
11 Reasons Why You Should Be Playing Gunpoint
12:46 PM on 06.06.2013
Kentucky Route Zero Act II Thoughts
8:59 AM on 06.01.2013
Videogames are the Artform of the 21st Century
5:09 PM on 02.15.2013





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About
Hi, I'm 17 years old and live in England, just outside London. I grew up in India, and grew up in PC gaming (as well as handheld Nintendo consoles) thanks to my older brother. The games I have fondest memories of were Worms, Counter Strike, Mortal Kombat and Pokemon. And Super Mario 64.

All in no particular order:

Favourite Music Artists
Pink Floyd
DJ Shadow
Tame Impala
XXYYXX
Led Zeppelin
Bob James

Favourite Movies

50/50
Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Inception
Mulholland Drive

Favourite TV Shows

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Breaking Bad
The Wire
Twin Peaks
How I Met Your Mother

Favourite games:
L.A. Noire
The Witcher
Dark Souls
Dishonored
Pokemon Crystal

Favourite game: Catherine

My promoted blog(s):

My 7th Gen: 7 most memorable moments
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naveenwf
8 hours ago - 1:06 PM on 07.31.2014

Hmm...I just realised that the title seems excessively profession-of-love-y. Nevertheless, I shanít hide this secret from the world. I†do†love†Catherine, and believe it or not, it is my favorite game of all time.

Iím well aware that no one hated†Catherine, what with itís flurry of 7ís, 8ís and 9ís from reviewers, but heads usually turn when I tell people that itís my favorite game, and somewhat understandably. Without having played it, the marketing for this game made it seem much more - even comically - sexual, infatuated with sex†in and of itself, and generally something that would be classed under oneís guilty pleasures. The reality is quite different, and whatís hidden underneath is an amazing puzzle game with gorgeous visuals, fantastic music and excellent writing.

At the end of the day, even if people didnít hate this game, I just want an excuse to write about it. Allow me this, won't you?



Let me start with Stray Sheep.

Youíll spend a lot of time here. The game is split into two halves: the nightmare sequences, where you frantically scramble up a tower of falling blocks in an abstract dream space, and waking reality, a bar named Stray Sheep where you hang out with friends, drink booze and piece together the mystery of what the fuck is going on in your weird-ass dreams.

There isnít actually†that†much to do here. You talk with your friends at the booth which you always occupy, you can go and talk to other patrons and the bartender, watch the news, play an arcade version of the nightmare sequences in preparation, and check and reply any texts from the titular character, Catherine. Yet even though there are only seven or eight interaction Ďhotspotsí in this small bar, as I returned to it each night, I became more and more familiar with it, as if it were†my†local watering hole, as much as it was protagonist Vincent's. This great thing happens, then, of knowing and understanding the layout of a small space, and walking around it with ease, as if it were oneís own house, school, or office.

The intricate layout of the bar is only strengthened by the gameís camera work, which the player doesnít control; instead, the camera is on an ever-so-slight overhead dolly, creating a constant tracking shot of Vincent, smoothly moving around, producing cinematic and elegant viewing angles. This, of course, allows the player to move around without having to constantly readjust the camera, as well as creating a very purposeful and stylish scene.



What I wanted to focus on is the mood and atmosphere of the bar. It simultaneously oozes nocturnal drowsiness and an ever-growing sense of dread. What these sections represent for the gameplay is clear: downtime, a chance to relax before the onslaught of the frantic meat of the game. For Vincent, the player-character, it represents a place where he can go to relax, but with the beginning of his nightmares, it also represents a safe haven of sorts, before the daily nightmare resumes. And as the game grows on, to itís 4th, 5th, 6th night, it feels just that. The structure of the game sets in, and Stray Sheep, for the player, represents a time to collect your thoughts, to stay up as late as possible before hesitantly returning home, and letting the nightmares continue. This is felt as the number of patrons dwindle, or as the†music†becomes slower and quieter, or as each of Vincentís friends gradually (and inevitably) turn in for the night. Eventually, so must you.



And fuck me, those nightmares certainly are frantic. Theyíre not necessarily scary, but itís fast-paced action; the image of hounds chasing and snapping at your heels at each moment wouldnít be far off from understanding the pace of these sequences. What stems from that, however, is exciting gameplay. You must be on the move at all times, learning to simultaneously be observing and recognising patterns, and deploying skills that youíve learned to scale those blocks. It only improves as the game progresses, with more block-types being introduced, as well as an array of obstacles. However, skill and improvisation remain at the heart of this, being able to assess the situation and quickly use the most efficient means to climb up.

One thing Iíve always hated about fighting games is the requirement to know specific button combos, especially those long and complicated ones. What†Catherine†uses is not knowledge of a series of button presses, but knowledge of tricks, of how to manipulate the environment and morph it into something scalable. If youíre smart enough, you can suss out how to do these Ďmovesí before theyíre taught to you in the game, as they are natural ways to move around. Theyíre not a button combo that is locked from you until you get to a certain point in the game, nor is it something that requires guesswork.


One of the first techniques you're taught in the game

In fact, many techniques are not taught-in game, and have been discovered and logged by the community, through experimentation and practice. And that is, in essence, whatís great about it. This very simple and elegant mechanic allows freedom of expression from the player, and thatís what, to me, drives the gameplay.

Needless to mention, too, are the slick graphics,†thediversemusicused,†and the well-written and memorable quirky characters that you interact with at the bar in human form, and their sheep counterparts during the dream (sounds kooky? It is!)

Perhaps it is†just†the time at which I played†Catherine, a thoroughly unique affair after having played the (relatively) straight-faced grunts that are†The Last of Us,†Uncharted 3, and†Heavy Rain. Perhaps it is†just†that Catherine came at a time, where it stood out from the crowd and dazzled me with its dashing personality and damn fine weirdness. Perhaps, though, it isnít†just†that.
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It seems I'm destined to find robots that remotely look like Mr. Destructoid.
In this case, though, it looks exactly†(only full body Dtoid robot I could find)†the same.
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After being convinced by Tony Ponce,†who said that there is no better time to buy a console than at the tail end of a generation (cheap price, firmware fixed, 7 years of exclusives), I decided to finally dish out the money and have a Station to Play on. I thought it would be interesting to have someoneís fresh perspective on the console, after most of itís exclusive titles had come out, so here are my thoughts on some of the PS3's many exclusives (as well as some not-very exclusives that I played first on a PS3 this summer).

The Last of Us



The Last of Us†was good, but it didn't amaze me. The gameplay was solid,†and at times really good, but it was nothing out of the ordinary or especially innovative. I enjoyed the non-linearity of some of the later areas, as well as exploring old record stores and long-forgotten neighbourhoods. Objectively, itís a 10/10, and everything is perfect about it - the writing and acting, the visuals and soundtrack, the gameplay and the general design. I just donít feel excited when I talk about it, and I donít pester everyone about why they should play it, like I do with†Dark Souls†or you do with†Ocarina of Time/†A Link to the Past/†Super Mario Bros. 3. It just doesnít do it for me.

Heavy Rain



I really donít want to talk about†Heavy Rain†for too long. The voice acting was bad,†the story was full of plot holes, and the camera and controls were awful. I canít forgive a game that has to lie to me for its plot twist to work. Still, it has a decent soundtrack, so I came away with something good.

Uncharted 3



I had actually played†Uncharted 2†before, when I stayed at a friend's house for a couple weeks, so I wonít talk much about that. However, contrary to popular opinion, I found†Uncharted 3†to be generally better than its predecessor. The story was deeper, the writing and voice acting was charming and wise-cracking as always, even dipping its feet into questioning-Nathan-for-being-a-mass-murderer territory. I must admit though, my favourite Uncharted scene still takes place in†2†- Iíll never let go of getting on in a lush jungle, and seamlessly being taken to the snow-capped mountains - it was one long beautiful section of platforming and gunplay mixed together. I am, of course, talking about the train sequence.

Catherine



I was always intrigued by the oft-talked about social aspects in†Persona 3, and†Catherine†seemed to have a lot of that, even if simplified a bit. I came to†Catherine†for the anime-story and the beautiful art style, but stayed for the excellent writing, challenging and addictive gameplay, and a†wideselectionofmusic. Iím so used to playing very similar-in-style and structure games, so†Catherine†came as a refreshing and unique game. From getting trivia about cocktails/sake/beer/whiskey to quickly rearranging and scrambling up falling blocks to the expressive characters at the bar and the wacky boss design,†Catherine†has it all. Even Troy Baker voicing the main character. He really is in everything.

On a side note, I enjoyed playing a meta-game where I tried to remember where I had heard different characterís voices before, since theyíd all voice-acted in various animes.

Journey



I actually played†Journey†a while ago on my own at my brotherís house before I had a PS3 for myself. However, this time, I played it with a friend who primarily plays†Call of Duty†and†Fifa, and it was really enjoyable for me to show him a really different game, a game that told such an emotional and wonderful story without words, which illustrates the connection you can have with another player, without knowing anything about them. The first time I played the game, I thought it was overrated and appreciated what it did but didnít truly understand it. After playing it again, I view the game as a work of genius. It does SO much, so well, in such a short time and all non-verbally. If youíre interested at all,†you should check out this talk that the gameís designer, Jenova Chen, gave at GDC 2013.

Shadow of the Colossus



Iíll be honest.†Shadow of the Colossus†had too much hype on it to ever succeed with me. Still, I never felt wondering ďwhat the big deal isĒ, I just didnít have as much of an emotional reaction as others did. I didnít, for example, cry at the ending, or when I felled the beautiful bird colossi that circled the lake. However, I still enjoyed the experience. I enjoyed riding around an empty - 16 colossi aside - and massive land, and the somewhat unclear map leading me to develop a relationship with the actual land (Ďthis is that waterfall I jumped down for the hell of ití or, Ďthis is that crevice that leads to Colossi 6í).†

And, speaking of the landscape, I would often ignore the way my sword was leading me, to see where a certain man-made or natural structure in the land led. Rather than exploring to find collectibles, I was exploring to find out more about the world and be rewarded with newfound knowledge or a beautiful view, something that more recently,†Antichamber†and†Proteus†did well.

Metal Gear Solid



Due to a lack of funds, I havenít gotten round to picking up the other†Metal Gear Solid†games, as I surely will, hearing great things about†Snake Eater†and†Guns of the Patriots, as well as wanting to catch up before†The Phantom Pain†is released. Nevertheless, I had a chance to play the very first†Metal Gear Solid, and let me tell you, it was great. The stealth, and even more, the controls, were quite modern for a game from 1998. This mustíve been one of the best looking PSOne games, because it looks superb, even today. By comparison, I canít bring myself to play†Ocarina of Time†in its original form due to how badly it has aged. I canít think of much else to say about this classic, but I will leave you with a question, ďDo you think love can bloom even on a battlefield?Ē

Final thoughts

Apart from the games themselves, I found myself liking how lightweight the PS3 controller was, and it felt strange holding the bulky 360 controller after a while away from it.

In general, the Playstation has impressed me. Maybe itís just playing all these stellar games in a short span of time, but the quality of these very diverse games simply amaze me. And donít worry, thereís still plenty more for me to play - I just havenít gotten round to it yet. Leave me a few suggestions of what I should consider picking up next - on my list are the remaining†Metal Gear Solidís,†Ni no Kuni†and†Valkyria Chronicles.
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In no particular order.

First and foremost, the game not only allows, but encourages creativity and experimentation.†You can go about problems however which way you like, and after the first few levels, once all the basic mechanics have been introduced, the game feels less like a puzzle game with one or two set solutions, and more like one where the open-ended nature allows you to come up with original solutions to problems.

There are enough things in the level and ways to make those things interact with each other and with the guards that youíll be coming up with new (and better) ways of dealing with situations.†And youíll feel crazy clever when youíre able to link the multi-colored circuits through one simple button press (or in the case below, just walking). For this example (illustrated below), I got both vault doors (they close after 3 seconds) to open simultaneously for me just by walking towards it:

I, the shadowy figure on the left hand side (on the lower floor), walk in front of the camera, which calls an elevator to the floor above.

Once the elevator arrives, the red signal opens the red vault door simultaneously as the blue noise detector (the elevator caused a noise) opens the blue vault door.

I get in, hack the computer, by which time the doors have closed, but thatís okay, because the camera on the right recalls the elevator, which reopens both the vault doors so I can exit.



Easy-to-learn level editor.†I tried it out and you can pick it up in a few minutes.

The soundtrack is fantastic. It quite perfectly reflects the gameís setting, predominantly jazz with, as it's in the near-future, electronic music mixed in, without becoming chiptune-y.

Despite not being the main mechanic of the gameplay anymore (it was early in development),†you feel like the biggest badass when you arrive on a floor from inside the elevator, walk out with your gun pointed at a guard, hack the whatever, and walk back into the elevator, with the guard unable to do anything for fear of death.

Iíve seen people complain about the gameís short length. I actually appreciate it more for this.†Thereís no bullshit in the campaign - each level is important and has interesting idea behind it.†Like†Braid, thereís no filler material, and unlike†Braid,†Gunpoint†has multiple ways to solve puzzles. Youíll find yourself coming back to the game for the 3rd, 4th, 5th time playing it in different styles (speed run, psychopathic run, pacifist run, etc.) and still finding new things about how the game works, and using how stuff works to your advantage in new ways.



The controls are spectacularly simple.†What couldíve been a fairly complicated endeavour was made incredibly easy and intuitive - scroll up or down to enter crosslink mode where you just drag lines to and from electrical components to wire them.

The autosave system works beautifully.†And itís not just a neat feature, itís so much more than that. It frees your mind from having to think about quicksaving so that if you die you wonít lose a bunch of progress. The autosave system works such that when you die you can load the game 5, 10, or 15 seconds before you, and thereís no wait time - itís an instant thing. Itís part of games like†Hotline Miami,†VVVVVV,†Super Meat Boy†and†Braid†- they respect the playerís time with instant respawns and no loading screens every time you die. This is especially important since youíll be dying a fair amount as you get to grips with the mechanics.



Leaping is done so well, and is so intrinsically enjoyable†once youíve upgraded it to the max. I think it stems from the idea that you know exactly where youíre going to land. It has this feeling of catapulting, holding the left mouse button until youíre ready to release, flying through a window and pouncing on a guy, throwing someone seven stories, or leaping from the high-security building into the subway just as someone is about to shoot you.

The writing is incredible.†It manages to be hilarious and light-hearted and easy going, whilst not getting in the way or compromising the gameplay. But man, Tom Francis knows how to write funny words.

There are 8 different ways to beat the boss.†Unlike†Deus Ex: Human Revolutionís bosses, which forced the players to play one way, contrary to the rest of the game,†Gunpoint†teaches the players its mechanics and systems and actually allows you to use that knowledge and freedom in the final level and boss.

Get it here.
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Kentucky Route Zero, for those of you that donít know, is an allusive and weirdly magical 5-part episodic adventure game.†Act II, in theme with the gameís tone, has been†secretly released overnight, with no press release or official launch trailer. To my delight, I found it sitting in the Steam version of†Kentucky Route Zero, whilst I was simply installing it and not at all expecting the second act to have arrived.

Letís get this out of the way - †I have a lot of good things to say about†Act II. Iíll be spoiling minor cool moments from†the Act†to illustrate why I love it, so PLEASE do yourself a favor and spend the hour that it takes to play this magical thing.



If you havenít heard of†Kentucky Route Zero, let me get you caught up. You play as Conway, a truck delivery guy, trying to get to 5 Dogwood Drive, which lies beyond the mystical†Route Zero, to deliver a package.†KRZ†is an adventure game without puzzles and is more laid back and relaxing, focused on telling a great story. You travel the roads of Kentucky at night with a woman named Shannon and your loyal canine buddy, named in†Act I. Conveniently,†Act II†doesn't rely too heavily on†Act I, and a newcomer could dive into it with little to no discomfort.†

Act II†resumes where†Act I†left off, not in narrative, as you begin with a short prologue giving an insight into the life of a clerk and a new character, Lula Chamberlain, but rather in style of storytelling - multiple pseudo-perspectives through which the story is told. After this brief foray into this new character, the game's first 'scene' goes back to Conway and Shannon, shortly arriving at the Bureau where Lula works. It's here where the game's slightly magical tone comes to place, with an office floor full of bears and a wall of TVs with interesting thoughts, such as that a well-lit elevator contributes to the lack of motion that a passenger should not feel during a ride.



As the act develops, youíll choose the words in conversation for Shannon, a little girl named Ezra (who by the way is fucking fun to control due to the simple fact that sheís youthful and can run fast), the aforementioned Lula and perhaps most interestingly, a couple of ghostly museum security guards conversing and describing as they watch Conway, Shannon and your dog (mine named Blue), as you, the player, control Conway around the museum.

Although the story and characters are intriguing in itís own surreal and beautiful way - a huge eagle that carries a brother and sister, who are more concerned with moving houses than finding their parents, for example - itís the way that itís told and presented which astounded me the most.†

The gorgeous and striking visuals (not to mention some great sound design) come together with some really ingenious writing in ways - ways I won't spoil - that must be played to be understood. Despite being, in a way, minimalistic, the small cast of characters come off as genuine and unique with down to earth personalities of their own, due to the eloquent and sometimes poetic writing.



The Second Act†not only matches the wonder of the first, but develops on ideas in new and exciting ways. Simply said,†Kentucky Route Zero†excels in atmosphere and storytelling, inviting you into it's bizarre and beautiful world, and you must†go play it†now.
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A moment ago Iíd been enthralled by this place, fascinated by how different and fresh it was, hanging on every word of these peopleís everyday lives. When I realized my next task was to ram a piece of metal into eight different people until they were all dead, part of me thought, sadly, ďOh yeah. Videogames.Ē
Tom Francis said this of Bioshock Infinite in the cover story of the February issue of PC Gamer UK. It's reassuring then, that when he asked Ken Levine about it, he said that it's "something that they attempt to confront at some point". Join me as I ponder the current state of game mechanics in the mainstream and wonder about the evolution of new types of games in the future.

Tom shared the sentiment that despite Bioshock Infinite being super interesting thematically with ideas of racism and capitalism and whatnot, the gameís gameplay is still killing people using different weapons and vigors in creative ways, which was a similar feeling that people had when Bioshock was released - the game that people pointed to as Ďsophisticatedí and Ďartisticí had gameplay that was primarily about killing people in inventive ways with all these awesome powers.

In my mind, there are two genres of mainstream games where the main mechanic isn't killing people: puzzle games and adventure games. Although Super Mario Bros., for example, isnít violent, itís still a game that has pretty much the same gameplay tones - there are enemies and you defeat them in some way or another. Even if it is a game like Dishonored, where they encourage stealth and even no-kill runs, the gameplay is thematically similar.



Since Anthony Burch famously said ďfun isnít enoughĒ, weíve had lots of games that are emotive and moving without having similar gameplay themes, such as The Walking Dead, recently. But still, if we compare it to another medium, we donít really get many romantic games or games that are not action/adventure, ignoring indie games. Although there will always be indie games that move videogames in different ways (for example, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a vulnerability fantasy rather than the common power fantasy), there really arenít too many mainstream games with differing gameplay themes.

It's tough to think about gameplay that is different to the norm and yet not a puzzle/adventure game (sure, exploration exists, but that's just walking around in a space rather than a gameplay mechanic which intrinsically offers something new). I guess games just arenít at the point where gameplay can be something different emotionally, at least from the mainstream.

Chris Hecker said in the Minecraft: The Story of Mojang (2 Player Productions) documentary that games are still really young, and that if you ask a developer to make a game about falling in love, they wouldn't know how to do that, because games arenít at that point yet (also referring to how in the early 20th Century filmmakers learned to edit movies or move the camera when filming, which slowly resulted in all those cinematic techniques and shots, such as 'deep focus' and 'long shots').


The Great Train Robbery (1903), one of the first multiple-scene, multiple-minute films

Although The Walking Dead is violent and does include killing people, thatís part of the story, and the main gameplay, if it can be called that, are choices that you make through interactive dialogue. The effect of feeling close to Clementine is accomplished through the interactive dialogue gameplay, and not through traditional gameplay. So I wonder if those feelings can be evoked through traditional gameplay (not interactive dialogue) - gameplay mechanics which at its core expresses itself onto players in new and different ways. It boggles my mind to try to just think about how really new gameplay mechanics would work because it is, to me, like thinking of a new alphabet - itís impossible, as it would just be made up of previous sounds that we know of and not a new sound.

One might argue that new ideas just evolve from previous ideas, but every now and then we get truly new ideas - such as making a game from the First-person point of view, or, as previously mentioned, editing a movie rather than just showing it in the order that it was filmed. I feel like Journey is the closest something has come to emotionally moving people through its gameplay - something that is exclusive to videogames - and not its cutscenes or dialogue.

The thought of being 16 years old and living for the majority of the 21st century excites me to no end, after it has been repeatedly declared that videogames are the artform of the 21st century. I can only wait to see how they will further reach their potential and evolve as the decades go by.
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