Reviews by Elfangorax
BeautifulElfangorax | Oct. 17, 2014 | Review of The Undergarden
This game strikes a great balance between simplicity and stimulation, wherein it manages to maintain the player's interest without demanding a strenuous amount of concentration. It is in this way that it achieves the state of zen for which it strives.
The clear and dynamic impact the player has on the environment makes it feel truly organic. The sound effects which go along with these visual changes are complemented by the atmospheric music, which in itself can feel as much a part of the game world as the plants.
The control scheme can take some getting used to. It feels, to me, as though great pains were taken to minimise the number of inputs required to play, which resulted in some slightly uncomfortable overlap. The tutorial prompts could have been contextualised for the input method to alleviate this, rather than having the player pause to check what "Grab" means, how "Boost" works, etc. This is a small gripe, however, and is far from a show-stopper.
In conclusion, The Undergarden is a lovely experience, well worth a play.
Well-executed adaptationElfangorax | June 29, 2014 | Review of The Thirty Nine Steps
The digital interactive novel is still a medium in its infancy, piggybacking on the video game as its nearest cousin in the entertainment industry. The Thirty Nine Steps shows that there is great potential for the medium to spread its wing and achieve legitimacy as a distinct form of entertainment.
The presentation of the events in this piece is simply stunning; everything from the artwork to the music to the way the text appears on-screen is always true to the tone of the moment.
The story itself is rather good, too. Many of the characters are absolute delights to see interacting, and the voice work for them is really top notch.
As long as you go into this expecting not a game, but a dynamic and mildly interactive retelling of a classic story, I am sure you will be pleased to play/read/watch it. (Incidentally, we really need a new verb for this.)
Decent time-killerElfangorax | May 27, 2014 | Review of Flock!
This game is as much of a mindless distraction as it appears. However, as mindless distractions go, it's rather good.
There is a respectable degree of variety in the gameplay. It will likely grow tiresome eventually, but not so soon as to feel a wasted purchase. The environments don't feel too re-hashed over the 55 single-player levels and the animal noises manage not to become overly annoying. The co-op mode and level editor also add a lot to the game's longevity.
I wouldn't go so far as to recommend Flock, but if it looks reasonably appealing to you, I imagine you will get some enjoyment from it.
Also, little PSA: It should be noted that Steam is not the only DRM attached to this game; it also utilises SecuROM.
The reason RPGMaker existsElfangorax | May 14, 2014 | Review of 3 Stars of Destiny
This is an RPGMaker game, but don't for a minute let that put you off. This is sort of game is what RPGMaker was created for -- a deep, exciting tale with tons of combat variety to keep it interesting.
The game is a visual delight and this is complemented masterfully by the wonderful music.
Another important aspect of this game is its length, and the description's claim of "80 hours of playing" is no exaggeration. The main story is plenty long itself, and the side quests serve up a lot to sate the appetite of those keen to explore.
Overall, this is a well polished game which any fan of old-school RPGs will adore.
Great valueElfangorax | March 12, 2014 | Review of Square Enix Hit Pack
This pack brings together four of this developer's biggest games. There is a good balance of style here in terms of gameplay, storytelling, and visual aesthetic.
A common thread among these games is that the protagonists are all forced by their circumstances to face their humanity and find themselves. It is a joy and a thrill to see these characters develop and to be along with them for the ride.
The studios of Square-Enix have been going from strength to strength in the action games department and it really shows with these. They are polished, affecting, and exciting.
One thing that is worth noting, however, is that this pack (at the time of writing) does not offer any discount on its contents. The pack price is the exact sum of those of the four games, down to the penny. This is why I have given it a relatively low rating, as I feel that the primary purpose of grouping several items into one is to offer them at a lower aggregate price. As it stands, all this pack does is save the buyer a few extra clicks.
In conclusion: while the constituent games are well worth the price, this grouping of them doesn't really serve any purpose.
The best in the seriesElfangorax | Feb. 27, 2014 | Review of Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 has had many iterations, due in no small part to how genuinely unique a game it remains to be. As but one entry in a lengthy series, this is no small feat in and of itself.
In terms of plot, the game's main strength is that it takes place all but outside the realms of the series proper, with only the occasional nod to the mess that is its continuity. This gives it a freedom that no other Resident Evil game enjoys, which it at times uses to comical effect: from the creepy travelling salesman to the Napoleon-esque boss, there is a degree of tongue-in-cheek humour throughout.
Mechanically, there is nothing to fault. The weapons are varied, with their upgrades as a nice touch; the balance in difficulty never feels off; and the puzzles are well-placed. The game's grid-based inventory is a particularly nice feature, wherein the player is forced to prioritise their resources (weapons, grenades, recovery items, etc) based on the space available. While deliberately limiting, this also affords the player a great deal of flexibility in how they wish to approach the game.
Resident Evil 4 is a shining example of its generation in gaming, and remains a fantastic game to this day. I cannot praise it enough.
A game you will want to loveElfangorax | Feb. 4, 2014 | Review of Teslagrad
The environments, music, and visual storytelling of Teslagrad are absolutely beautiful. Most of the puzzles are also very well integrated into the flow of the game, rarely feeling contrived. The only issue I encountered was that, unfortunately, some of them do.
The majority of the puzzles are quite straightforward -- neither dull nor hair-pull-outingly difficult -- but occasionally the player will encounter a sudden spike in complexity and/or precision requirement, which will swiftly diminish again until the next spike. Had the difficulty gradually increased over the course of the game, it would have felt much more comfortable; as is, these much harder puzzles stand out awkwardly from the rest and do quite a number on the player's immersion.
Frustrating thought that may be, I can do naught but recommend Teslagrad. It is not flawless, but its shortfalls are mere cracks in an otherwise shining veneer.
You will lose yourselfElfangorax | Jan. 30, 2014 | Review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition
Skyrim is one of the most immersive virtual lands I've ever had the pleasure of exploring. From the people to the places, from the dragons to the insects, everything the player encounters reinforces the sense that this is a living, breathing world where anything is possible.
The degree of freedom the player is given is almost overwhelming. Once the prologue has ended, there aren't really any restrictions, and it's a vast land that's ripe for the explorin'. Everything in the game looks great, but you will occasionally stumble upon something truly magnificent; and the developers have done a fantastic job spreading these out enough to prevent the spectacle from growing stale.
Of course, the freedom is not just in where you go, but in who you are. With a wide range of races, skills, moral choices, and activities, you genuinely can forge for yourself a unique character, whose impact and feelings on Skyrim will differ to those of any other.
With a slew of content, including the three DLCs, you can be practically guaranteed never to run out of things to do, quests to fulfil, or places to explore. You will have the time of your life in Skyrim, and chance are you will spend a lot of your life in it.
A surprising gemElfangorax | Jan. 29, 2014 | Review of Binary Domain
If you're looking at the screenshots for this game and thinking, "This looks like a bare bones FPS with absolutely no character," let me tell you: you are only a little bit right.
The environments are this game's biggest letdown, being rather plain and uninspiring. Beyond this, though, everything really shines.
The characters, while at first glance seeming one-dimensional, become surprisingly likeable. I found myself becoming rather attached to them by the end.
The feel of gunning down the robotic enemies and seeing their parts fly hither and thither is utterly visceral. We have the game's gorgeous visuals to thank for this.
If you can get past an occasionally-cheesy story and somewhat banal environments, Binary Domain has a lot to offer.
A story worth tellingElfangorax | Jan. 25, 2014 | Review of Beyond Two Souls
This game is a visual masterpiece and puts this to great effect in taking us through the extraordinary life of Jodie Holmes. The actors, coupled with the graphical fidelity of their performance, really help bring the story to life.
Unfortunately, that story is told in a rather unwieldy fashion, jumping back and forth along Jodie's timeline, which has a jarring effect on the tone. There is a narrative reason for this, which is alluded to in the Prologue and spelled out in the Epilogue, but it doesn't make the approach feel much more fitting.
The degree of agency the player has over the events of the game can impress or disappoint, depending on expectations. As in most games which offer choice like this, several of those choices ultimately count for naught, and it can be frustrating to never see the payoff for a decision deemed important at the time. On the other hand, the number of small decisions -- dialogue choices; objects to interact with; etc -- can enrich the story and really help the player to shape what kind of person Jodie is. A particular sequence in which a teenage Jodie has to decide which of her childhood mementos to keep allows the player to speak volumes about her feelings, without using any words.
In spite of its flaws, this game is a wonderful example of the kind of "interactive experience" that Quantic Dream specialise in. It is a unique and powerful work that belongs in your PS3.
A brave step forward for video gamesElfangorax | Jan. 23, 2014 | Review of Dear Esther
As you will likely have read elsewhere, Dear Esther really stretches the notion of what is traditionally called "a game." This is a very good thing. This work is a real boon to the argument that video games can and should be considered a form of art. It is anything but pedestrian, and that is what makes it so special and so well loved.
Dear Esther is visually astounding. Journey deep into the island's caves and you will be utterly in awe of the beauty therein. The music is also noteworthy, always appropriate in intensity for the situation, and never overwhelming it. The semi-randomised narration contributes significantly to the player's emotional state while traversing the island. His rantings and musings, his rage and his despair, all help lend colour to the landscape, and keep the player firmly rooted in the world before them.
Whether you would define Dear Esther as a game or not, it is without a doubt an experience you will not regret.
A decent time-passerElfangorax | Jan. 22, 2014 | Review of Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory
This game does everything it sets out to do correctly, but fails to do anything spectacular with them. The tile-flipping mechanic is at times put to interesting use and this is the game's one saving grace from complete mundanity.
It all has the unfortunate feel of something one would play when nothing else is to hand. This game would perhaps be better suited to mobile devices and tablets for use while commuting or somesuch.
This is not to say that it is a bad game; just that there seems to be potential here which was never quite met. It is quite enjoyable in short bursts, and for the price it is certainly worth purchasing.
Incredible improvement on the originalElfangorax | Jan. 19, 2014 | Review of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
This game takes most of its mechanics and its core philosophy from its predecessor, Demon's Souls -- this being a game which understands the distinction between being plain difficult and being challenging. What it adds to this foundation is something to behold.
The environments are every bit as deadly as the enemies therein, but are also fantastically designed in a visual sense, always evoking the right emotion for the situation.
The bosses are also sublimely well designed, ranging from the grotesque to the beautiful, always fitting the situation and often feeling truly at one with their environment.
With the inclusion of the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, this game is absolutely worth playing. It's a superb example of game design done well.
An almost unerringly focused experienceElfangorax | Jan. 19, 2014 | Review of Batman: Arkham Asylum - Classics Edition
Everything about this game is tight -- the controls; the camera; the story; the skill progression; the costume... ahem.
In all seriousness, it really does hit the nail on the head in all those areas and more. With the number of corridors on offer, traveling from area to area should feel limiting and linear, but instead it feels focused.
All in all, I'd say the only thing detracting from my experience with this game was the collectibles. They're obviously optional, but when I see one all I want to do is work out how to get it, which detracts from the game's otherwise impeccable focus. This particular point is very subjective, though, and if you like the sound of the occasional plot-extraneous puzzle then these will likely add to your experience, rather than detract from it.
Without a doubt, this game is definitely worth playing.
A fun classicElfangorax | Jan. 13, 2014 | Review of Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain
I think the greatest praise I can give this game is that it has managed to not age too badly. Kain's character has some excellent dialogue, and the game's setting has a surprising amount of depth, given its linearity.
The combat can get a little rinse-and-repeat, but the the series's staple use of enemy weapons can keep things reasonably fresh. The puzzles are also quite straightforward, but I felt they were there more for pacing than to provide a real intellectual challenge, so in that sense they work well.
I would say for the price it is going for these days, this game is good value for money, and worth your time.
Absolutely worth itElfangorax | Oct. 10, 2013 | Review of PlayStation Plus Card - 90 Day Subscription
The most significant advantage to purchasing a PlayStation Plus subscription is access to the Instant Game Collection: an ever-growing selection of PS3 and PS Vita games including the likes of InFamous 2, Hitman: Absolution, and Far Cry 3. You only have access to those games which enter the Collection while you have an active subscription, so the sooner the better!
While not all the games will be to everyone's taste, the selection is diverse enough for there to be something for everyone. The value of those games far outweighs the cost of the subscription. Additionally, along with the Instant Game Collection you will receive access to game trials and betas.
There really is no downside, apart perhaps from ending up with too many games to play! If you think you'll have time to keep up with the constant flow of games, PlayStation Plus is definitely for you.
A true fantasy epicElfangorax | Oct. 9, 2013 | Review of Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins is one of those rare games which profess to offer a deep, meaningful degree of choice and then truly deliver on that claim. Here you will create your protagonist and forge a clearer picture of just who they are with every decision they/you make.
But they won't be going it alone. A handful of diverse companions will become available as you progress, each with their own agendas and intricacies. The campfire conversations had with this bunch are among the most memorable in the game.
The gameplay is also worth noting. The selection of abilities available as characters level up means that two of the same class can be made to suit very different roles, allowing multiple playthroughs to feel genuinely unique. Combat against large numbers of powerful enemies can result in some very satisfying use of the tactical options to achieve victory, particularly in the higher difficulty settings.
The story's central conceit -- a shattered kingdom under siege by a great and powerful darkness -- is incredibly well written, and sets up countless opportunities for the protagonist to make defining moral choices.
To summarise: Dragon Age: Origins is absolutely not one to miss.
A delightful little distractionElfangorax | Oct. 9, 2013 | Review of DLC Quest
While not quite the satirical gem it has at times been made out to be, DLC Quest is filled with humorous little allusions, which serve well enough to carry its two-to-three hours of somewhat lacklustre gameplay.
A decent, genuinely amusing game to blitz in a single session, but not a lot to be getting one's teeth into beyond that.
Simple geniusElfangorax | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of The Binding of Isaac
This game will infuriate with death after death and, just like the "good old days" of video games, it will fling you back to the very beginning every time. One of the real strokes of genius here is that the selection of powerups available increases as you continue to persevere, making each playthrough less arduous than the last.
Eventually, you will triumph over Mother, and it will be a sweet victory. Buy this game.
Mad, crazy, whimsical funElfangorax | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Just Cause 2
This game knows what it wants to do and does it really damned well.
Deep, meaningful storytelling? "Pah!" says this game. Heartfelt character development? "Not on your life!" But fun? "Oh, oodles of it!"
Just Cause 2 truly encapsulates the idea of a sandbox: a large (albeit defined) space in which to do as you please, when you please, with whatever you please.
The only area in which it lets itself down is its inability to stay fresh. It has been my experience that this game is best enjoyed in bursts, as it can otherwise begin to feel stale. The missions lack significant diversity, and attempting to collect all there is to collect can become very "rinse and repeat".
So pick it up, have a blast, then leave it for a while; you can't have ice cream for every meal.
A refreshing challengeElfangorax | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Demon's Souls
In spite of its infamy, Demon's Souls is not an inherently difficult game. It is, however, a challenging one. I think it is the game's recognition of this distinction that makes the player grind their teeth through to the end.
Do not misunderstand me: you will die many, many times. But there rarely, if ever, comes a point where a level or a boss feels as though it has an unfair advantage. Much of the forumla to surviving Demon's Souls is in anticipating the many dangers lying in wait -- where the enemies reside; how they move; how many of a particular attack it will take to slay them. This is all very reminiscent of the NES era, and it is testament to From Software's skill that they have managed to take such an aged approach to gameplay and make it feel fresh.
I cannot recommend Demon's Souls enough. The sequel, Dark Souls, is certainly an improvement, but that makes this game no less worthy of your attention.
A superb idea, marvelously executedElfangorax | Oct. 7, 2013 | Review of To The Moon [Playfire]
This game blends the futuristic technology and roles of the two scientists witnessing and influencing the memories with the events of the memories themselves so incredibly well; the visual aesthetic never lets you truly forget that you are witnessing an artificial representation of a dying man's memories, and yet you can't help but want to get lost in the story of his life.
And it is a story masterfully told: we know the end from the off, but every step backward lends more colour to what we already know, reinforcing the theme that the journey is just as important as the destination.
This game is a joy to witness.
(On a personal note, I delighted in all the references to my childhood favourite book series!)