Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review

225080_20170314210219_1Developer: Starbreeze Studios AB
Publisher: 505 Games
Played on: PC
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Time Played (Steam): 3.1 hours
Played with: Xbox 360 Controller
Paid: $4.49

As a storytelling medium, video games are something of a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, their interactive nature has the ability to create far more visceral and engaging experiences for players.  However, this also brings with it some inherent drawbacks.  Budgets need to be allocated not just to production design, but also to programming, QA, and more.  Bugs and glitches may spontaneously occur, sucking up massive amounts of time and energy.  I bring up this comparison, because Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons stands as a prime example of both.  It is hampered in many areas by the restrictions of the medium, with bugs, technical problems, and gameplay issues taking me out of the experience on a number of occasions.  Despite this, it manages to feel like a near-perfect pairing of story and gameplay, where each is able to complement and enhance the other. Continue reading

Refunct Review

406150_20170319205821_1Developer: Dominique Grieshofer
Publisher: Dominique Grieshofer
Played on: PC
Release Date: October 16, 2015
Time Played (Steam): 25 minutes
Played with: Mouse & Keyboard
Paid: $1.64

Generally, when one game adapts ideas from another, it will expand on them. It will add variations and extra wrinkles to the gameplay that were impossible when the original game came out. Sometimes, it will even throw in entirely new ideas that profoundly change the way the core mechanics work. I therefore find it interesting to see a game like Refunct, which seems to draw inspiration from an assortment of free-running games, but particularly Mirror’s Edge. Now, Mirror’s Edge is a game that I played through quite a while ago, but I remember that some of my biggest problems with it were just how big it was. The levels were large and complex, often requiring complex sequences of actions to traverse effectively. There was a lengthy story mode, which meant that some missions felt padded with unnecessary combat sections and other irritating set pieces. It was a good game at its core, but there was just too much of it. Then there’s Refunct, which strips away all the complexity and leaves only the bare necessities. While this scaled-back approach may seem counterproductive at first, I feel that it actually elevates Refunct to be a far more enjoyable experience. Continue reading

ABZÛ Review

384190_20170311221002_1Developer: Giant Squid
Publisher: 505 Games
Played on: PC
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Time Played (Steam): 2.8 hours
Played with: Steam Controller
Paid: $6.59

Full disclosure: it is entirely possible that playing ABZÛ was very much a case of “right place, right time”, where this particular point in my life was the perfect moment for me to experience it.  Certainly, having a pleasant, zen-like gaming experience is not something that I’m opposed to at the moment.  With that out of the way, ABZÛ is one of the most wonderful video game experiences that I have ever had the pleasure of being immersed (heh…heh heh) in. Continue reading

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review

274170_20170301143000_1Developer: Dennaton Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Played on: PC
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Time Played (Steam): 9.6 hours
Played with: Mouse & Keyboard
Paid: $5.49 (Digital Special Edition)

Those of you who follow my work somewhat regularly know that life hasn’t really been the greatest as of late.  Without going into the unpleasant details, let’s just say that there have been many days where getting home from class has involved a dramatic flop onto my bed, an arm draped over my forehead, and a long, heavy sigh.  Surprisingly, though, I found something of a cure to this funk: horrifically graphic killing sprees.  Thankfully, not in real life (I’m writing this in a Starbucks, not a prison cell or a safe-house), but in the neon-soaked world of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.  Despite the fact that it’s been awhile since I played the first Hotline Miami, diving back into its world of blood and carnage seemed to be second nature.  Unfortunately, part of the reason for this is that Wrong Number is just a little bit too familiar. Continue reading