Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain’s promise of “interactive drama” sure sounded interesting to a gamer like me, who appreciates great story and characters above anything else in a game. I knew that the gameplay would be comprised mostly of quick-time events, a much-hated feature of modern gaming, but I knew they could work well in such a setting. And they do. It’s not a conventional game and should not be expected to be such. It’s mostly about decision-making and quick reactions, but, at the end, the outcome depends fully on your actions, just like any other game. The many different endings available and the fact that any misstep from your part can change things drastically are the main draws of the game. It reminds of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book – or rather, movie.

Heavy Rain Cover

Game: Heavy Rain
Developer: Quantic Dream
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2010
Territories: All

Above all, Heavy Rain is a unique experience – even that fact alone sets it apart from most modern games that tend to borrow from and influence one another heavily. The whole setting and the way events unfold heavily remind of a blockbuster thriller movie, and that is an effect the developers have deliberately aimed for. Despite the fact that there are some details that don’t make much sense, most of the time the suspension of disbelief works fine, and the game often has you at the edge of your seat, anticipating what will happen next. The quick-time events, of course, also contribute to the feeling of pressure and anxiety, which all the more connects you to the characters you control on your screen, as they’re desperately trying to prevent another murder of the Origami Killer, but are running out of time.

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

The first Uncharted was pretty cool, and the second one was even better. I expected the third game to be as good as its predecessor, but I also knew that there really wasn’t that much room for improvement for the series. Uncharted 2 had pretty much reached a peak, which would be a tremendous challenge for Uncharted 3 to overcome. But credit must go to Naughty Dog – they tried. The third game introduces some new and exciting details that make it seem more polished. It comes even closer to the blockbuster movie feel. But there were also several aspects where it couldn’t live up to the high standard set by Uncharted 2.

Uncharted 3 Cover

Game: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2011
Territories: All

Uncharted 3 is a fun game, definitely a pleasure for the player. There is pretty much never a dull moment, even more so than in the first two. There are exciting new environments like a London pub, a shipyard, a cruise ship, a desert…, further showcasing Naughty Dog’s talent in the graphics department. The relationship between Drake and Sully is further developed, with some most curious episodes. The villain is, unfortunately, rather lame (like in the first game), but Drake’s group of friends gets a pretty cool new member in Charlie Cutter. The story, as a whole, is nothing special, and the lack of a strong villain presence makes it less impressive than the second game that at least had that. Overall, however, the game will impress you with its numerous breathtaking moments.

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Video Game Music of the Week – 27.08-02.09.2012

In line with my recent adventure game review, this week’s theme comes from Hideo Kojima’s thrilling adventure Snatcher – my favourite adventure game to date. As usual with Kojima games, it’s all about the plot – the man shows his talent yet again, even though it’s in a more futuristic setting than Metal Gear. The song plays whenever Gillian, the main character, finds out something important during his investigation. Since Snatcher was released on many systems, with slightly (sometimes massively) different-sounding soundtrack on each, I have picked my favourite one – the SEGA CD/Mega CD version, which is conveniently also the one version with an official English release of the game.

Composers: Akira Yamaoka, Keizo Nakamura, Masanori Adachi, Kazuhito Imai, Masanori Ouchi
Game: Snatcher (SEGA CD/Mega CD)
Song:  Pleasure of Tension

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

Recently, I got the opportunity to review a game for a bigger game site for the first time since I started “Between Life and Games”. The site is Unikgamer, an awesome gamer collaboration site where people rank their favourite games in many categories, and a total ranking is formed and regularly updated. The game is Cherry Tree High Comedy Club – a quirky Japanese indie adventure game, apparently created by the small team 773, consisting of just one full-time member and several contributors. Now, you know me, one of my principles about “Between Life and Games” has always been that the site would be built around my gaming activities, not vice versa (at least until I go professional, hehe :)). So I’d just play the games I want to play, and then write about them. And CTHCC does not contradict that – just looking at the screenshots and short YouTube video available, combined with its apparently modest length, already convinced me that it would be a blast to play it right away and then review it.

CTHCC Title

Game: Cherry Tree High Comedy Club
Developer: 773
Platform: PC
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

As a script-heavy game that is just so Japanese at its core, the localisation effort was what would make or break Cherry Tree High Comedy Club for Western players. Nyu Media and Tezuka Productions, famous for their fabulous work localising the Phoenix Wright games, have done a very good job in that regard, preserving jokes from the original script that would be recognised by non-Japanese, and replacing the ones that were just “too Japanese” with references to material we would be familiar with, like Star Wars. Dialogue is really a major part of CTHCC, and whether you enjoy the jokes and the tone will greatly determine if you’ll enjoy the game as a whole. Despite being (even) more light-hearted, the game does remind of Phoenix Wright’s overall feel, which can only be a plus.

The gameplay is quite simple – you’re the energetic senior student Miley Verisse, and your goal is to recruit at least three people for your club by the end of April (the game starts on March 22nd). To do so, you must first identify your targets and then befriend them enough so that they agree to join the comedy club. For that, you’ll need to gain expertise in subjects they enjoy, like Video Games, Sports, Politics, Fashion, History, Pets, etc. It’s all about stat-building, gaining money to increase your stats, and of course putting those stats to good use by talking to the people. All that in a rather limited time frame. It makes for a rather frantic adventure, spiced up nicely with the story and likable cast of characters, each of them with their own ambitions and problems to take care of, and Miley willing to help them. Last, but not least, there are multiple endings, depending on how well you do!

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

After beating the first Uncharted, I immediately jumped on the second one. It’s the one widely considered the best in the series, with the highest scores from both fans and critics and all, so my expectations were higher than the ones I had from the first game. Suffice to say, Uncharted 2 delivered. It improves on the first game in many ways, the most obvious one being graphics, while keeping the tight adventure gameplay which, if a bit linear, keeps you on your toes pretty much constantly. Drake’s second adventure is a memorable experience, adding some much appreciated polish to what we saw in the first game.

Uncharted 2 Cover

Game: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2009
Territories: All

Uncharted 2 is a marvellous game, and this is a case where this adjective is used in its full meaning, rather than just thrown in for good measure and in attempt to appear more literary. The PS3’s graphical capabilities are pushed to their limits (even though I’m yet to play Uncharted 3, so who knows…), Naughty Dog proving themselves to be masters in this department once again. There are some clear improvements over the first game, such as an increased amount of different environments and the introduction of stealth attacking. Of course, there are also some things from the first game that are not present in the second, such as aiming grenades or balancing with the Sixaxis, and the brutal combo, which was “replaced” by the dubious counterattacking. There are also no jet ski stages, quite likely a case of fans’ complaints getting through. 🙂 But these are just details – at the end, the overall package is very satisfying.

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

When it comes to gaming, I’m usually behind the times a bit (as you may have already noticed). My backlog is just quite massive and there are few contemporary games that interest me as much as older gems I haven’t played yet. Nevertheless, I recently decided to finally play through Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series – the biggest franchise born on my favourite current-generation console, the PlayStation 3. I went in expecting a fun adventure game with a simple, movie-like story and entertaining gameplay. Something like Tomb Raider (a franchise where I’m actually yet to beat a single game, but that’s another story). The first game largely met my expectations.

Uncharted Cover

Game: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2007
Territories: All

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was one of the early PS3 games, and a huge reason to get one already back then, at the startling launch or near-launch price. I can see why it made the purchase worth it for many people. The game is very cinematic and the graphics are really beautiful, which is particularly impressive, considering it came out so early in the console’s life cycle. Even though they are obviously surpassed by the latter two entries in the franchise, I am sure many people were captivated by them in 2007. Add to that the nice beginning, showing the protagonist Nathan Drake on a boat with the pretty Elena, and the action starting immediately, in the middle of a short conversation between them, and you’ll be able to see why Uncharted was a huge system seller.

The game’s premise is intriguing enough – you are (or at least claim to be) a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, and, after finding an important clue left by your ancestor himself, you set off in search for El Dorado, the legendary City of Gold. It’s really a lot like an adventure movie – those influences are easy to see and are spoken of by the developers themselves in the “Behind the Scenes” videos included on the disc (Tomb Raider is never mentioned, of course :)). The story never pretends to offer any more or less than uncovering the mystery of El Dorado. The gameplay follows suit – it doesn’t try anything complex (mostly 3D platforming and third-person shooting), but does quite well at what it strives to do. An interesting thing to note is that there are no boss fights. Overall, the game is entertaining, it’s standard length for the genre (12-15 hours), and it offers nice challenge without ever becoming too frustrating.

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