Minesweeper Genius Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch (reviewed), Android, iOS, PlayStation, XBOX, Windows
Publisher Blowfish Games (Website)
Developer Mother Gaia Studio (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Puzzle
Deductive Logic

Far from a new game, but it’s new to Switch, so I nabbed it. It’s not the Minesweeper I remember, but it’s not a bad evolution either.

As an older computer geek, I have had a soft spot for Minesweeper for decades. It used to come bundled with Windows, all the way back from Windows 3.1. It’s only Windows 10 that stopped that little tradition, but you can still get it from the Microsoft Store.

It’s far from the greatest game in the world. But it is a satisfyingly frustrating logic puzzle, and if you just want a little bit of a distraction, it fit the bill fine. Not a game for everyone, but it was free and it scratched an itch.

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through the Switch eShop, and I saw Minesweeper Genius for something like AUD$1.20. So I thought what the hell and gave it a try.

Minesweeper Classic
I almost grew up with the screen. Such a simple concept should not be so hard!

Since when does Minesweeper have a story?

One of the first differences you see from ‘classic’ Minesweeper is that you control a character called Aristotle. You have been captured by aliens or something, and you need to solve their tests.

Honestly, the story isn’t essential or even necessary to understand. I have yet to hit a cutscene or anything along those lines, so you just jump in and play.

So the only ‘story’ you have to deal with is that you need to complete a variety of different puzzles and then get to the end.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Levels
The early levels are very simple - at least, for someone that has already played a lot of Minesweeper

Puzzles? It’s Minesweeper, isn’t it?

Yes, but with a small difference. When you play Minesweeper, you need to clear all the non-mined squares. In Minesweeper Genius, you need to guide Aristotle through the level. It’s a small functional difference, but it is a difference.

What makes me put Minesweeper Genius more into the puzzle category than deductive logic is the fact he can’t backtrack. You do need to find the one path to the level exit.

The initial levels are very simple and let you get a feel for how to play the game. If you judge Minesweeper Genius from the first few areas, you would think it was a ridiculously simple game with little challenge.

Minesweeper Genius - Level Select
Each area is split into 10 levels of the same difficulty level

There are a few unique tiles that allow you to jump a square, or move rows/columns in a direction. As you get into larger areas, more indicators are placed within the level itself, not just the number of mines in a row or column. These take a while to get to though. So there is a bit of ‘stick with it’ for Minesweeper veterans.

Once you get through an area, you unlock the advanced puzzles. Early on, these ramp up the difficulty significantly. So if you are looking for more from the game, this is a good way to keep you interested as you get through the lower difficulty levels. If you are learning, you can come back when you have a better grasp of the game.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Advanced Level
The advanced levels ramp up the complexity nicely

So I just look up solutions online. What’s the fun in that?

So when you play, if you get through a level without dying, you get a 3-star rating. So if you complete every level with 3 stars, I am guessing that’s your completion goal?

I made a few mistakes at an early level, but Aristotle’s body was a grim reminder a mine was there. So I thought I would retry the level now I knew the layout, and keep my scoring streak going.

Reloading the level, it had changed entirely. So no walkthroughs are available – you have to complete the randomly generated puzzle!

This actually made me excited. Once I find an area I can just jump into and play with the difficulty I am looking for, I can play an endless amount of levels. So this isn’t a ‘one and done’ run through, which I appreciate.

So should I buy Minesweeper Genius?

If you are interested enough to look for this review, probably. Especially if you pick it up for sale like I did for only a couple of dollars.

Looking around, it has been released on almost everything. You could get it on your phone, PC, PlayStation and Xbox. Personally, I think mobile and Switch make the most sense, maybe on PC.

Minesweeper Genius is a game you pick up for a few minutes at a time and forget about until you next want a quick diversion. I couldn’t see myself firing up my PlayStation or Xbox for a few games. I have been firing up my Switch while something is playing on the TV though, and it’s been fun.

Minesweeper Genius - Progress so far
The best praise I can give is that I actually want to finish all the levels

Overall Thoughts

Minesweeper Genius is an evolution of the classic Minesweeper game. Straightforward and challenging, it’s a great way to pass a few minutes while keeping your brain engaged.

The music is repetitive, and the visual style could use some variation. Still, Minesweeper Genius is a solid game and a great new take on a classic game.

If you are a Minesweeper veteran though, you will need to spend at least 15 minutes clearing the ‘easy’ levels before getting to a real challenge though.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Clean (if bland) visual style
  • Very accessible and easy to pick up
  • Good challenge difficulty curve for beginners
  • Random puzzle generation leads to infinite playability

Cons

  • The soundtrack can be annoying
  • More suited to mobile gaming than dedicated play sessions

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The Outer Worlds Review

The Outer Worlds Cover Art
The Outer Worlds Cover Art
Released 2019 (Switch 2020)
Platform Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Windows
Publisher Obidian Entertainment (Website)
Developer Obidian Entertainment (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Open World (Hub World)
Adventure
RPG
Sci-Fi

Bethesda doesn’t like it when you call The Outer Worlds ‘Fallout in Space’. That will be because The Outer Worlds isn’t a Bethesda game.

Last year, I wrote about The Outer Worlds in a few Last Week’s Gaming articles. I inhaled this game. As a fan of the Fallout games, I was keen on seeing Obsidian’s take on a new world to explore.

This review was delayed partly because I played The Outer Worlds on Xbox with Game Pass, and my plan was always to buy it on Switch upon release and do a review. Launch delays, and the game coming to Switch just as I started getting busy work-wise, meant that this is a review long in the making.

Before I talk about the game, I am going to get the Switch comparison out of the way.

Like The Witcher 3: Complete Edition, there are visual sacrifices. The Switch is an impressive piece of hardware, but it’s not in the same class as the ‘proper’ consoles in terms of raw power.

There are texture popping issues, and frame rates dip when a lot of characters are in an area. A fight with about 8-10 enemies (which happens a couple of times in the first world), my guess is about 15-18 frames per second in handheld mode? I can only estimate from feel, but the dips are apparent, and if you are in melee combat, this will make things harder than ranged combat.

That said, I am now about 40% complete on Switch, and I have played almost exclusively in handheld mode. Yes, I have had to reload because of the fights I have lost. But I had to do that on the Xbox One S as well. General exploration and gameplay have been fun, and everything works well overall.

The Outer Worlds Sign Not Loaded In Properly
It looks worse when on a big screen, but the sign is only 'half loaded' - this is an example of texture popping

My biggest complaint is the ‘fuzziness’ of the screen when playing in handheld mode. The game is compensating for lower performance by dropping the resolution. When exploring the open world, it’s almost impossible to tell a tree from a human enemy at a distance. It’s not game-breaking, but I was using my gun scope to look at trees a lot!

I also have not seen any of the ‘loading circles’ mid-game other people complaining about at any time. I don’t know why. I have the eShop (downloaded) version, but I do have a slightly overkill for Switch SD card. The exact card from Amazon is: Samsung 512GB 100MB/s (U3) MicroSDXC Evo Select Memory Card with Adapter (MB-ME512GA/AM).

I am not trying to say this is the best card for Switch or anything like that, but if your using a slower card, maybe that is part of the problem? A lot of information needs to be loaded into the world, and a slower card may cause these pauses in play. But because I didn’t experience the issue, it’s a semi-educated guess.

Switch SD Card
This card is overkill normally for the Switch, but I got it on sale. Maybe my game isn't waiting for loads?

So should I play The Outer Worlds on Switch?

It’s a hard one. I am going to finish The Outer Worlds a couple more times at least, playing with different skill builds and faction responses. 

This week, I had an in-person meeting. The drive had the potential for a lot of traffic, but it was a good drive, and I got there pretty early. Being able to pull out my Switch and do a couple of quest steps and put it away was great.

Again, like The Witcher on Switch, being able to play wherever I am in short bursts like this is the primary benefit. The longest session I played continuously was about 3 hours, and I had to plug the charger in.

If you only have a Switch, you will enjoy playing The Outer Worlds. If you primarily want to play in docked mode and have a PS4/Xbox One (or a gaming PC), I would stick to those versions. The experience is better, but the gameplay is identical.

The Outer Worlds Ada is dissapointed
The humour is present throughout the game, often much more subtly than this

OK, so what is The Outer Worlds?

The Outer Worlds in a lot of ways is a typical RPG adventure. You play a character and become the hero to some and the enemy of others.

The story begins in a way I really enjoy. Short version, two colony ships were sent into the far reaches of space. Everyone was cryogenically frozen for the trip, and the idea was that a new solar system would be terraformed and inhabited.

Things didn’t quite go to plan, and one ship (The Hope) didn’t quite make it. All of the colonists are still in hibernation, and instead of being frozen for 10 years, you are woken up 70 years later.

The Outer Worlds Phineas Welles
You are 'rescued' by fugitive scientist Phneas Welles. Help him, or turn him in - it's up to you

From here, you set out to explore the new worlds. You can try and save everyone from the greedy corporations, or join them and make life very comfortable for yourself. The choice is yours.

Because your character is coming in effectively 60 years late, asking why the world works the way it does makes sense in the narrative. On my first playthrough, I asked everyone everything I could to learn about the world. The second time, I knew which questions to ask, and skipped asking about the corporations or who certain characters are.

The Outer Worlds Opening The Hatch - Switch
The first glimpse of a new world, as shown on the Switch. Now, it's up to you.

What The Outer Worlds isn’t.

It’s not Fallout. Obsidian developed Fallout: New Vegas, a game that on launch I couldn’t play. It was so full of game-breaking bugs I just had to stop. Over time, all of these issues were fixed, and New Vegas became so polished, too many it’s considered the best Fallout game to date.

There are very similar mechanics though, so the comparison for Fallout players is unfortunately natural. You can slow time instead of using the V.A.T.S. system, some conversations lead to side quests, and those quests can end in different ways with the choices you make.

While there is a lot of combat in the game, it’s also not a shooter or first-person combat game. You can solve a lot of problems with violence, but you can also talk your way through a lot of situations. If you have science skill, you can also use that to help/hurt people (and yourself).

The Outer Worlds Time Dilation
When you use Time Dilation, everything slows down and you get some extra tactical information

Fallout was built on 7 character statistics – the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. The Outer Worlds has expanded the character customisation, but also made it still streamlined for a baseline experience.

But what do you do in the game?

Here is where it gets tricky. On the first world of Edgewater, you need a power regulator to repair your ship and leave the planet. Everyone does this, and it’s why I concentrate on only showing this world.

But even with this seemingly linear opening act, you can choose very different ways of reaching your own goal. You can help the people there or make more money supporting some more selfish characters.

You can help the settlement overall, or you can help a single faction for short term goals and let the colony suffer in the long term. Things you set in motion at this early stage can open choices later in the game – or close them.

The Outer Worlds Edgewater Summary
This is how my shenanigans in Edgewater ended. How will yours look?

Oh no, I don’t want an early choice to ruin the game for me!

It won’t. Unlike some adventure games I have played, there is no ‘critical’ choice you can make very early on. You will see the options being laid out, but it will be at least 8 hours in before you can commit to a path.

Character creation follows this methodology as well. You are presented with a screen full of statistics, but until you hit a level of 50 in a branch, you upgrade all skills within. From there, you can choose to specialise in particular areas. For example, you can increase ranged weapons to 50, but then decide to specialise in handguns. You can still use the other weapons without handicaps – you just don’t get any bonuses either.

The Outer Worlds Character Creation
It looks like a lot to keep track of, but the charcter system is very simple and helps you experiment

OK. So why would I want to play The Outer Worlds? You haven’t talked much about that.

It’s tough to talk about The Outer Worlds in detail without either a) spoilers or b) talking about potential story areas you might not see.

The Outer Worlds has a lot of humour to it, but it also has a story that can be as deep as you want it to be. The overall story is about corporate greed, but how you explore this storyline is up to you. You can play the game ignoring the lore, or you can explore deeper and form bonds with your crew and NPCs.

Bottom line, if you enjoy sci-fi and open-world RPGs, The Outer Worlds is a game that should be on your radar.

The Outer Worlds - Loading Screen
I love the style and humour in these loading screens

If you have a PC/Xbox and Game Pass and are on the fence, grab it on Game Pass. You don’t need a ‘great’ video card to play The Outer Worlds on PC, so even if you try it out before buying it for PS4/Switch you will have a great idea of what you are getting into.

Overall Thoughts

Take all the best elements of playing Fallout: New Vegas, and move it into a new environment. Multiple quests, character stats that allow you to play differently, faction relationships – it’s all here.

The Outer Worlds still isn’t perfect. For example, defeated enemies can disappear, making quests impossible to complete. Some of the choices you get are very black and white – not every storyline has nuance.

But if you enjoy a semi-open ended adventure, The Outer Worlds is a fantastic start to hopefully a new franchise.

Best play experience order – PC (mid-high tier graphics card) > PS4/Xbox One > Switch. That said, The Outer Worlds is enjoyable on every platform. The Switch version has the most visual sacrifices, but you can play it anywhere – it’s a pretty good trade-off.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Solid (if cliched) story
  • Plenty of player choice in story and upgrade system
  • Great atmosphere overall
  • Combat isn’t deep, so don’t need to be great at shooters to do well
  • Replayable for different endings/character types
  • On Game Pass if you want to try/play that way

Cons

  • Not a lot of enemy types
  • Hub style open world – lots of loading screens
  • You can get quest breaking bugs, especially when enemies you need to loot vanish.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The PlayStation 5 Reveal Event Thoughts

PlayStation 5 Lineup

Yes, I am a PlayStation fanboy. And this morning’s reveal was worth the wait.

So at 6 am this morning, I got out of bed and set myself up to watch the PlayStation 5 event. I have never tried to hide my loyalty to the PlayStation platform, but I am also not blind to things Sony can do better.

So like most of the internet, I thought I would share my thoughts and reactions to the PlayStation 5 reveal this morning. What I am excited about, what I am curious about, and what I wish I knew now.

The PlayStation 5 Consoles

Yep – consoles. There is a version with a drive, and one without. I have heard a lot of talk already about the digital version having a larger hard drive. I honestly think this is wishful thinking.

Why? The drive lets you load games sure, but to take advantage of all the new tech in the PlayStation 5 you will have to install everything to the SSD. This means if you buy Horizon Forbidden West physically or digitally, you install the same amount of data on the SSD. The disc is just your proof of purchase.

So, really the difference will be the cost and if you are willing to pay extra for the drive. If you get the digital-only version, you won’t be able to watch movies. In Australia, you also won’t be able to buy the games cheaper from JB and EB Games compared to buying from the PlayStation Store.

PlayStation 5 Consoles
The disc version looks like it would be more stable as well

Personally, I think the new PlayStation looks great. There have already been a lot of people complaining about the new look. This is ultimately down to your personal taste.

As I said to Rabbit before the reveal, as long as I didn’t need a special cabinet to hold it, I didn’t care what it looked like as long as it works well.

On the front is a ‘normal’ USB port and a USB C port. What I really want to know is what’s on the back. For PlayStation 4 backwards compatibility and saving that premium SSD space, Sony has already said to play games from an external HDD. I don’t have a problem with this as long as there are ports on the console to support everything I want to plug into it.

A problem (depending on how you look at it) with the PlayStation 4 is you pretty much had to buy a charging station for your controllers. You couldn’t plug in 2 controllers to charge, PSVR and the dongle for your wireless headset all at the same time. There just aren’t enough ports. This was all before you plugged in an external drive to expand your storage as well.

PlayStation 5 Horizontal
The new PlayStation still lets you choose vertical or horizonal configuration

So until I get a look at the back of the console, I still have a few questions. But a few of these things seem to have finally been addressed by Sony. This is an excellent step in the right direction.

The accessories

They may seem like small things and are often forgotten about when people talk about console pricing. Still, accessories can make or break a system.

Proudly on display is the controller charging stand. I have little doubt this will be an extra purchase, but it’s nice to see Sony providing one at launch rather than waiting for third parties to make one.

It seems strange, but I seem to replace charging stands more than I change controllers. This isn’t great, and it’s nice to have a stand that matches the console aesthetic. Charging stands also makes charging your controllers so much easier.

PlayStation 5 DualSense Charging Station
Why has it taken to now for an 'official' charging station?

Next, the media controller makes a triumphant return. Only a few people will be excited by this, but I am one of them. Being able to just hit the pause button during playback again is great! Let alone fast-forwarding/rewinding something I am watching without having to remember what buttons do what (and from what menu).

It’s a first world problem to be sure, but I miss just being able to pick up a ‘remote’ and make selections. I am really glad that Sony has listened and reintroduced this peripheral.

PlayStation 5 Media Remote
Rewinding or title selction with a controller is such a pain

The Pulse 3D headphones should take full advantage of the new audio systems Sony is talking about. Still, they have made fabulous headphones in the past. I am just hoping you don’t need a USB dongle this time.

Also, the new camera caught me by surprise. I thought the PS4 camera would be coming across with the PSVR until PSVR2 (or whatever it will be called) is announced.

This started questions running in my head. Is it just the same camera in a new colour scheme? Does this mean that PSVR might get a bump in tracking performance with a better camera?

Time will tell!

PlayStation 5 HD Camera
It looks smaller than the current camera, but I really hope the optics have been upgraded

The accessory I am most curious about is a small but apparently vital one. The images released show that you can have the PlayStation 5 vertically or horizontal, but both options seem to need a stand. I really hope that Sony includes both in the base package rather than having to try and track one down for a change.

The performance

Here we go. Deep breath. Did we see the performance today? Don’t confuse marketing videos with real-world performance. Every game I saw today looked terrific in their own way. There was a lot of games across a lot of different genres. Some people will be stoked about some games others didn’t really get into.

What I did see was what I was hoping to see from the hype and specs revealed. I didn’t see anything that caused me to be concerned about performance. But at the end of the day, today’s reveal was a marketing tool.

Why take a deep breath to say all of that? Because a lot of people don’t really understand what the performance of the system means. Performance means different things under different conditions. 

So what are the performance promises?

The PlayStation development ‘Road to PS5’ in March made me excited for the possibilities of what the PlayStation 5 can offer. While I appreciate that this was made public, it really wasn’t for everyone.

As I have a hardware and software background, I understood what Mark Cerny was saying during the presentation. The catch is the entire talk was about what was possible, not what was done. Because there was no end product to point to, a lot of people probably missed the more delicate nuances on what was being discussed.

PlayStation 5 Road to PS5
This was a wealth of information - just not for the general public

The internet is already full of Xbox Series X vs PlayStation 5 tech comparisons, and almost all of them fall into one trap. They compare a couple of arbitrary numbers and declare victors based on them.

Here we go – fanboy mode engaged.

Not at all – but I know a lot of readers will be thinking it. 

Just to be clear – I don’t think you can go wrong owning either console. Both will be great to play games on, and people can enjoy their experience. I don’t think my Xbox One S is ‘worse’ than my PlayStation Pro 4, I just prefer playing the PlayStation exclusives.

So without going into a lot of technical minutiae, one thing that has me excited about the PlayStation 5 is the architecture around the super-fast SSD. Having a fast drive is only part of the equation – the rest of the system has to keep up. This is why Sony is talking about custom controllers and the like – they have made how the system works more efficient than any PC on the market today.

PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X
Which one is better? Both will be great for playing games

This is where the often misunderstood ‘No Loading Screen’ part of the marketing comes into play. I promise – I am going somewhere tangible with this next part. Stick with me here.

There are no loading screens because the drive is that fast, right?

Sort of. People that already understand this part will point out some inaccuracies of what I am about to say, and they are right. I am going to quickly sum up a process, so the intention and outcome are accurate – but the details are glossed over.

When you load parts of a game, you load a lot of information to the system memory. The most significant part of this is usually graphics. Getting things to look that pretty takes some pretty large texture files. Multiple gigabytes large. These files are copied into the video RAM. This process takes time. 

Just think about how long it takes to copy 6GB of files on your computer to another drive. With the new PlayStation 5 architecture, developers can essentially load graphics into the Video RAM while you play straight off the SSD. No need to wait for x amount of gigabytes to load in while you wait around.

Next Gen Comparison
My favourite of these comparisons 🙂 Teraflops aren't everything

This isn’t just due to the insane drive speed, but because all the other parts involved can talk to each other that quickly as well. Now, this is all in theory. We need to wait until we see it in action to see how well it works. But today, we might have gotten a glimpse of it all working already.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart may have been the most important reveal in the entire presentation.

Usually, when you play a game with different worlds, you have loading screens between them. This is because everything looks so different, that all of those assets need to be reloaded.

During the reveal of Ratchet & Clank for the PlayStation 5, there were yellow ‘local’ rifts/portals to within the same world. There was also an extended sequence where the duo fell through purple rifts that took them to multiple other worlds.

When they went through these purple portals, they were pulled from the world they were in, and ‘fell’ through a void before appearing in the next world. It looked amazing and set a frantic pace for the action.

Assuming this was actual gameplay and not just trailer magic, these voids were potentially the next world’s assets loading into memory. Let that sink in for a minute. Those falling through the void sections could actually have been ‘loading’ screens. And they lasted no time at all.

This all needs to be verified, of course. Until people actually get their hands on the console and games, it’s speculation on my part. But it’s a practical example of what the potential of the PlayStation 5’s real power is being touted as.

This is what Mark Cerny was saying during that ‘boring’ Road to PS5 talk though. Makes more sense when you can see it in action.

So you are saying PlayStation is better than Xbox!

Nope. I am not even trying to say the PlayStation 5 is as good as it claims it can be. We haven’t seen one running, have we?

Also, developers will need to explicitly code for these features most likely. I suspect this means that most games will just get the benefit of loading from a faster disc, putting Xbox and PlayStation on a pretty even field again. But it does mean that games don’t have to be rewritten like in the PlayStation 3 days. Bad multi-platform experiences are hopefully behind us.

While it looks like Microsoft was more forthcoming than Sony with specs and feature information, Sony was trying to get across high-level developer concepts publicly. This is where Sony may have made a mistake, as it went over many heads. And where I say Microsoft is playing a propaganda game. Higher clock speeds don’t always mean better performance.

Will the Xbox Series X load games faster than the Xbox One X? Absolutely. Will they be able to replicate the potential loading saving of the PlayStation? Who knows. Microsoft hasn’t come out with that kind of technical detail, so I can’t even guess at a final performance comparison.

Keep in mind, with all the new information coming forth over the next few months, everything will be on a ‘case by case’ basis. Just like some games run better on different processors, some games will run better on PlayStation, and some on Xbox. Now, that is mainly in the hands of developers.

Wait until people start being able to play the consoles themselves rather than looking at straight numbers and/or video footage before deciding which console is right for you.

For me, I still intend to order the PlayStation 5 for day one. Everything I saw today lines up with the talk up to now. But I will always be reading and watching reviews of people lucky enough to play with the final version before it launches.

Wait, what about the games? You only sort of talked about one!

The games are indeed the most important part of gaming. The equipment to play them on is necessary, but only part of the overall whole.

Apart from this already being a pretty long piece, I am skipping talking about the games in detail for a simple reason. We weren’t given any real information about the games.

I am excited about quite a few titles, though. Hitman 3 caught me by surprise. I have meant to get into the ‘new’ Hitman games for ages, but time is a thing. 

Resident Evil 8 was rumoured, but I jumped up when I saw it. I hope it gets the same PSVR love that Resident Evil 7 got – that was amazing! Likewise, I enjoyed the glimpse at Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. While I haven’t gone back to finish the original, what I have played has already convinced me that this series has great potential.

A new Oddworld game is coming as well. I loved the original on the PS1, but the others not as much. New and Tasty was a remaster, so seeing a new game coming with Abe back in the protagonist role has me very happy!

Horizon Forbidden West took me by surprise. Not that a sequel was coming – like Spider-Man, I put down Horizon Zero Dawn until I could dedicate time to play it. No, what caught me out was the fact I started tearing up when I saw it. It looks glorious, and the potential of a video game telling a grand story looks like it is going to be fulfilled. People that say video games can’t be an art form needs to look at games like this.

Other titles caught my eye for one reason or another, but like the design of the PlayStation 5 itself whether you will be excited about them is subjective. There were only 2 games that I looked at and though pass. Not because I didn’t like the look of them, just they didn’t seem to be games I would enjoy.

This is something you really should experience yourself though. If you haven’t already seen the reveal, check out the video below!

The one thing I wish they did reveal today

You probably know what’s coming here. Microsoft and Sony, it’s a universal request – prices please. To me, this is more important than the final release date.

These consoles are going to be expensive. PlayStation 3 expensive at least. You don’t get next generation hardware that hasn’t made it to PC yet and massive system customisation without a cost. I don’t know about you, but I want to know how much I will have to save for either console.

Do I think the PlayStation 5 will be worth it? Absolutely. The perfomance you will be getting will be better than a AUD$2,000 laptop. This justifies a jump in cost. The only real question to me is how much is that jump?

What are the titles that you are most excited about from today? Can you guess what games I am not overly enthusiastic about? What do you think about the new consoles?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

How a PlayStation 5 rumour could ‘fix’ PlayStation Now for everyone

But PlayStation Now isn’t broken? Or is it? No, it’s just not out yet. But is it? WHAT IS THIS!

With the next generation consoles looming on the horizon, gamers everywhere are looking at what could be. Rumours fly around at an insane pace. Some are presented as such, some are clickbait. It would be best if you never put your faith in a rumour until the company in question confirms it.

And I am going to semi-break that advice while I cross my fingers and hope for new features in an existing service. It’s only semi-break because I am not counting on it happening, just “Wouldn’t it be cool if”.

Everything I am outlining is dependant on one rumour being true, then Sony making individual business decisions. This is an “I wish” discussion, not a report on what Sony is doing.

Anyway, now that’s all clear, some history.

What is PlayStation Now?

Short version, PlayStation Now is Sony’s version of Google Stadia. That came out first. To get around the complaints of the lack of backwards compatibility, Sony introduced the service in 2014 for North America. Within 18 months, access was added to the UK, then Europe and finally Japan.

For a monthly fee, you can play PS2, PS3 and PS4 games on your PS4 or PC. As the games are streamed to your device, all you need is a compatible controller. You can even use an Xbox controller for most games if you like.

For a couple of years, Sony pulled a ‘Vita’ and just let it languish. Not many titles, coupled with a pretty hefty internet requirement, meant it was still a niche product.

Don’t you pay the fee and play? Why can’t you use it?

PlayStation Now is only available in a few countries. Even in those countries, if you don’t have an excellent internet connection, good luck. This is a big part of the backlash over Google Stadia as well.

This doesn’t stop me seeing a bunch of ads for the last 6 years telling me to try it. Sony, you localise so much, maybe stop asking Facebook to ask me to try it for free?

Microsoft is going in pretty hard with streaming with the Xbox Series X as well. Here in Australia, while we are lucky to have Azure datacenters close by, the state of the internet infrastructure is a joke. That didn’t stop Microsoft coming up with a simple for everyone solution.

How Microsoft is paving the way for streaming while attracting new customers

Microsoft Game Pass is the first attempt foundation of consumer acceptance of XCloud, their own streaming solution. Want to try a whole bunch of games for one low price? Here’s Game Pass! Just click the title, and you can be playing it in a few seconds via XCloud.

It doesn’t work this way right now. Since 2017, Microsoft has been adding to the number of Game Pass subscribers. Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of gamers all now used to access to ‘free’ games.

Game Pass PC Store
This is the new additions for PC. Xbox has even more choices!

How it works today is you download the games locally to play them. You need just enough internet to prove you can play it (basic account check), then off you go. Yes, you have to wait for the downloads and update them yourself, etc. People don’t worry too much, as that is how digital store purchases work already.

What has any of this has to do with rumours and PlayStation Now?

I promise I am getting there.

Nothing can help lousy internet. No matter how many settings you tweak or subscriptions to different tools you buy, if your line can’t handle it, that’s it.

Microsoft got around this brilliantly with Game Pass. Can you stream? Great play away! Internet not playing ball for some reason? Download the game and play on your console. Problem solved!

The reason Microsoft can do this is simple: Xbox has backwards compatibility. Put in an Xbox or Xbox 360 title, and you are good to go. Put a PlayStation 3 disc in the PS4, and watch the console get very confused.

But what if the PS5 has backwards compatibility?

Oh, I think I see where you’re going.

The statement from Sony is that the PS5 will be PS4 and PSVR backwards compatible. The rumour is that the PS5 will support all of the numbered consoles. Quietly I am hoping that the PSP and Vita can get in on the action as well, but that is extra fingers crossed territory.

If this feature is indeed real, Sony could pull a Microsoft and let you download the games to your PS5. No streaming required. Open PlayStation Now up to all PSN territories, and let that sweet subscription money start rolling in.

If you can stream, great. Instant game access on multiple devices is definitely the way to go. No waiting for downloads or updates, pick a title and play. I believe streaming content like this will be the norm at some point, just not today.

If you can’t stream, that would almost be better for Sony financially. Hosting the download files only is a lot cheaper than the cost of streaming infrastructure and would offset these costs. Especially as more people globally would be helping pay for it. Even in the areas PlayStation Now is available, only a percentage of players can use the service.

Metal Gear Solid 4
Metal Gear 4 I can't play again as my PS3 died. I could if I had PlayStation Now though...

Pull a Microsoft. Get everyone wanting to be a part of the service, not just the select few.

So your big ‘fix’ is to copy Game Pass. Why would they?

Why wouldn’t they? Sony couldn’t do offer this for various compatibility reasons in the past, but if that is fixed – why not? The setup is so good, I bought an Xbox. Two, technically. I don’t regret upgrading my preowned first purchase for the purple beastie 🙂

With one exception Rabbit bought for me, I have yet to buy a single Xbox game. That one game was Red Dead Redemption, and yes I know the sequel is prettier and everything but I try and judge a franchise from its roots. I haven’t had to. My games come with Game Pass.

The Purple Beastie
The Fortnite Xbox One - my Purple Beastie. Enzo loves it too, as you can see from the fur :p

Games suggested retail pricing is around $110-$120 in Australia. We usually pay less than this (just), but no one is going to slash the prices on launch titles. Say the PS5 is $100 less than the Series X, you lose that advantage in just one game purchase. And you will need that one game (at least) to justify your shiny new console. Online multiplayer? Do you have PlayStation Plus? That’s another $12 thanks. This does give you access to some free games, so that’s a bonus. But it’s a choice of 2-4 depending on the month, and you might not like any of them.

“Ah, but what about the games for Xbox? They still have to buy games as well!” I hear you say. “Both Xbox and PlayStation need all that extra stuff!” Well, yes and no. Yes, Xbox uses pricing tiers for different services. No, because you are getting more for you money from Xbox these days.

For AUD$16, you can buy the console AND Game Pass Ultimate access for one month. Play what you want. Play online straight away. Even get a couple of free games with Gold. Wanted to play that exclusive launch title? If it’s Microsoft Studios (which it probably will be on launch), it’s already included with Game Pass. Console cost + $16 to play over 100 games including new releases? Done.

PS4 Starter Pack
Starter packs are a great way to save a little money, but you still spend more

Well, I wouldn’t say I have been totally bought across. I am still Team PlayStation, I just appreciate what Microsoft is building. If it’s not on Game Pass, I will probably look at PS4 and Switch versions first. But they have my attention, and I will look. That’s more than they had from me 12 months ago.

The only way for Sony to combat this is to offer parity with Microsoft. On the surface, they do with PlayStation Now. But it’s not the same. With the service only available in certain regions coupled with no fallback option if things aren’t great internet wise, it’s chalk and cheese.

Xbox One S Starter Pack
Xbox has starters and the digital only console. Every saving has some form of extra price.

Are you trying to say buy Xbox?

Gaming is expensive. You pay a lot upfront, but hopefully over the next 7-8 years that cost overall evens out. Doesn’t help that initial splash out though.

I will always say game on what works for you. Microsoft has given players ways to maximise their gaming cheaply (and legally) compared to the limited market PlayStation Now has. It has even used this low cost of entry early to bring across PlayStation fans like me.

I am really hoping that if the backwards compatibility rumours are indeed true, Sony launches PS5 with the new PlayStation Now that allows game downloads in ALL regions. If this is the case, and Sony undercuts the Xbox pricing, it would actually be an attractive saving for the consumer. Not just the superficial save that costs you more in the long run.

I really want streaming to work. Not just for the convenience as a gamer, but environmentally as well. Data Centers use huge amounts of power, which still isn’t great, but companies are doing everything they can for effeciency and plenty of centers are now being built to be powered by renewable energy only. Steps are being made, and each step forward is progress.

And like every complicated chain, that’s one part of the puzzle. Because people will be using lower powered systems to run games, they will use less energy as well. Without buying so many discs and cases, the amount of plastic created and thrown out is affected. Think Video Tapes and Music CD’s. Thanks to services like Netflix and Spotify, less of these are being made while the product itself reaches a lot more people.

Streaming makes sense in the long run, it’s just I don’t think we are there yet. This new generation of consoles will hopefully be the last generation that uses the digital download/play locally model, and I hope Sony takes advantage of this.

If they don’t? They may as well hand the next generation victory to Microsoft, similar to how Microsoft handed it over with the launch of the Xbox One.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Review

20190102 AstroBot
20190102 AstroBot
Released 2018
Platform PlayStation 4
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment (Website)
Developer Japan Studio (Website)
Homepage PlayStation.com (Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality
Platformer
Collectables

The little bot that could

One of the first ‘games’ you get (or should get) with PlayStation VR is called The Playroom VR.  Essentially a few mini-games showing off the VR tech, The Playroom VR is a great introduction to different nuances of VR gaming.

One of these mini-games is Japan Studio’s Rescue Robots.  The idea is simple – you control a single robot through a 3D world and try to find all your missing friends through the level.

The catch – you are actively in the game.  Your avatar is a (relatively) huge vacuum looking robot that floats through the level on a set path.  Your controller is visible on the screen at all times, as it is part of the game.  You can shoot out a rope and grappling hooks to create tightropes and pull down walls.

It was a very immersive experience and a highlight of the package.

Robots Rescue PlayRoom VR
Rescue Robots was definitely one of the most popular Playroom VR mini games

And now Rescue Robots is all grown up

Now, Rescue Robots has evolved into its own game – Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

The basic gameplay is almost identical, but a bit of polishing has happened.  On starting a new game, you get to see the Bots and their sentient mothership attacked by an alien.  The ship is ripped apart, and the alien makes off with the ships PSVR visor.

So you control Astro, captain of the ship, and set off to explore five different worlds and find your friends.

Story-wise, this will never win awards.  It’s all a thin premise to get you where you need to be for the platforming, and that is where Astro Bot Rescue Mission shines.

On the surface, it’s a very straightforward platformer.  Control Astro and explore the stages, collecting coins and finding your missing crewmates.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Opening
The more of your crewmates you save, the more greet you on the opening screen

Some crew are out in the open, some are hidden in various ways.  The great sound of the game lets you hear the bots cry out for help, and the 3D sound makes it easy to home in on where you should be looking.

What it doesn’t do is home in on how you should be looking – and that is a great element of Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

If you think of yourself as a camera moving around on a dolly, that would be fairly correct.  But you aren’t fixed in your seat.  There will be times you will want to stand and look ahead or behind you for secrets and hidden paths that your initial view hid with perspective.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Exploring the World
So the little guy looking up is Astro, the guy up inm the air is one of your crewmates, and the big huge thing in the screen is you!

And that’s just part of it.  Some of the bots are hidden, but not all of them are calling out for help.  Some are quietly lazing around, minding their own business until you knock something or turn around to see them.

This kind of thinking is slowly introduced through the levels of the game.  In the first level, the fact that a bot in it that is lazing next to an enemy subtly teaches you that just because enemies came from there, doesn’t mean that a crew member can’t be around.

Then you get into the environmental controller bonuses.  Some levels give you different ways of interacting with the world directly.

The first tool is the grappling line, similar to Rescue Robots.  Create tightropes or pull down walls to make Astro new paths.  Shurikens are another bonus, allowing you to embed them in certain walls to make platforms.  Another is a water hose, letting you grow plants and vines as paths in the Garden levels, or cool lava to make a path in Volcano levels.

And of course, there is the old fashioned mini-gun ball launcher, to knock over everything in your way 🙂

Astro Bot Rescue Mission New Item Unlocked
Trouble from above? Mini ball blaster unlocked! You have to play yourself, it's not all on Astro!

But it’s not just the gameplay

Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a great traditional platformer with not so traditional twists.  And as I have said, the story isn’t going to win any real prizes.

But the characters.  Initially, you think ‘Oh cute’.  But I actually started caring about not only the Bots but the ‘enemies’ stopping me and the others that help you along the way.

Having Astro look at you and wave as it makes its way around the level was fun, and a few times I actually found myself waving back!  This is a world that you don’t think about when you start playing, but truly pulls you in completely.

The cutesy graphics style may make Astro Bot Rescue Mission look like a kids game, but don’t let that fool you.  There is a lot happening here, and the simpler graphics not only establish the world but let it play smoothly on the PlayStation hardware.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Cute little game
There is no way you can say the characters don't have personality

On the whole, the controls worked great.  There were a few times that I would go ‘out of field’ with the headset, but just moving back fixed that and it never happened at a critical moment, only when I was physically walking around exploring.

Once you put the PSVR on, you are in the world of Astro Bot Rescue Mission, and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

So what’s wrong with it?

Honestly – not much.  The controls have a little bit of a learning curve, as the direction you push to send Astro is relative to where you are looking.

The biggest complaint I would have is the game length, and even that is a relative complaint.

There are five game worlds, each with four levels and a boss.  Once these are cleared, there is one ‘final’ boss – the alien from the start.  This is a pretty short game to get to the end overall.

But there is a lot more to do.  Each level has a chameleon you have to find, and finding these unlock challenges.  This adds 26 extra levels to the game, adding a couple of hours overall.  It’s a welcome addition and requires skill and practice, but unfortunately, it also feels a little like padding.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Challenge Levels
Just when you thought you were done...

There is also a ‘grabber’ mini-game where you spend your coins.  This lets you rebuild levels inside the mothership to play and explore in.

Grab a bomb, waste some coins.  Levels can be replayed to farm coins, so it’s not a massive issue, but the mini-game is more for novelty than gameplay value.

That said, I have put Astro Bot Rescue Mission on the ‘I am going to Platinum this’ list for 2019 – and hopefully before the end of January!

Astro Bot Rescue Mission In The Mothership
When you get the grabber items, you get pieces for fun mini levels in the Mother ship. Ride an abducted cow anyone?

Even though the game is relatively short (a dedicated day to finish everything is my guess), it is a lot of fun to play and well worth the price of admission.

As long as it’s on sale.  AUD$55 is a bit much I think for the amount of game you get, but the AUD$31 until 19/01/2019 is pretty much spot on.

But there really is no better way to understand Astro Bot than by playing it yourself.  And while it’s not as good as having the controller in your hands, below is my first video of 2019 – finishing the first level of Astro Bot Rescue Mission with all the secrets!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Astro Bot Rescue Mission

Final Thoughts

It’s fun, immersive, and has that ‘one more go’ factor that makes great games great.

In small doses, Astro Bot Rescue Mission might even be a good trainer for getting your ‘VR legs’ if you experience motion sickness in VR.  Either way, a heap of fun and another great game from Japan Studio.

MORE PLEASE!!!

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  Lots of fun
  •  Great use of VR systems
  •  Great start to a potential new franchise
  •  Friendly learning curve

Cons

  •  Can cause Motion Sickness
  •  Relatively Short

Beat Saber PSVR Review

Beat Saber Feature
Beat Saber Feature
Released 2018
Developer Beat Games (formerly Hyperbolic Magnetism)
Publisher Beat Games (formerly Hyperbolic Magnetism) (Website)
Category VR Rhythm Game
Light Sabers!
Homepage beatsaber.com

Beat Saber is now ‘Official’!

A few months ago I did an early access review of Beat Saber, played on an HTC Vive setup.

On the whole, everything I said then holds up now, even on a new platform – PlayStation VR or PSVR for short.  Simple, accessible gameplay with great music and well-designed levels coupled with easily the most completely immersive physical experience in VR makes for a fantastic game.

And now the ‘full’ version is out, and first on PS4!  PC users don’t panic, Beat Games has confirmed an update to PC in the next few days, but with even more features like Expert+ (for all you freakishly good players out there!).  Expect to hear more about that when it’s released. 🙂

What is the same

Donning the VR headset and being transported to a TRON like world with your definitely not light sabers because trademark at the ready, you feel instantly badass.

Then you do the tutorial, and the helpful voice tells you how to play. Slicing through the block, the slight feedback from the controller feels satisfying.  It’s what you thought cutting through an object with a plasma sword would feel like.

You may miss a cube, or mix colours up, but you finish the tutorial.  You feel amazing – and it was only a handful of cubes.

Beat Saber Campaign Challenge Complete
It's not the tutorial, but a campaign challenge just completed. Those fireworks are so satisfying!

Then you drop into the game and start swinging to the time of an amazing soundtrack.  Now I am a Jazz and Blues fan primarily, I don’t like Dance or Techno as a rule, but I love the Beat Saber soundtrack.  It’s infectious.  You pick up when to swing from the timing of the beat, and you can feel from the tempo when things are about to calm down or go crazy.

The soundtrack is conveniently also up on Spotify!  I have made a playlist of all the ‘official’ songs, and there is a link at the end of the review if you want to have a listen.

No matter what level you play, going through a couple of songs you start to sweat a bit.  You aren’t controlling a fighter doing moves with a button press – you are carving up the notes.  You start to notice the weight of your sabers – they aren’t controllers anymore.  Five minutes in and you are starting to work out how to flick your wrist in time with a shoulder turn to get the saber back for a new swing.

You start to play on Normal and get new challenges like more walls and cubes coming in tighter groups.  A flurry of information flying at you, there is only one course of action – swing.  End those cubes and watch your score soar.  The first time you finish a song with an S rank you feel unstoppable.

Beat Saber Obstacles and Challenges Increase
Walls, Ceiling Blocks to duck, Mines to avoid, and then insane levels of blocks all mix in on the higher difficulties

Penny Arcade did a strip that describes the feeling of playing vs how you look perfectly, and you can see it here.  People that haven’t played before may look at you strangely, and people that have played smile knowingly and cheer you on.

I cannot imagine anyone looking as awesome as they feel playing Beat Saber without the PC tech that lets you film yourself ‘inside’ the game like you see on YouTube.

This player is really quite good – but imagine how she would look just throwing her hands around in the air without the benefit of seeing what she sees in game?

But when you play – you honestly just don’t care.  It’s amazing, it’s satisfying, and it’s something you want to play again and again.

The Changes

So the core gameplay is the same.  It’s amazing and wonderful and a great time.

But that doesn’t mean that new features haven’t been added as well.

The most obvious change to start with is the Campaign Mode.  It’s optional, but a great way to begin playing and challenging your skills.  The Campaign mode is simply a series of levels that unlock as you complete them, with the ‘standard’ songs on offer but with modified gameplay enabled.

You start playing with a song on easy – probably like you would if you went straight to the ‘standard’ free play mode.  Experienced players will fly through it, but if you are learning it’s a good place to get a feel for the game.

Beat Saber Gameplay Modes
Choose your play mode! Freeplay is where I have spent the most time, but that will be changing

Finish the level, and you are normally presented with two options to progress.  You can see what is coming up before committing to the level, and so far I haven’t found an ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ option – just different challenges.

A couple of stages in, you have to start getting a minimum score that is fairly easy to obtain.  I’m not trying to say you should blast through the level on your first try, but if you can get to the end of the level you should hit the score.

I haven’t hit any yet, but I can imagine near the end of the campaign I am going to need minimum scores that require SS ranks to pass – the highest level in the game awarded at perfect play levels.

Then as you progress you get a maximum number of misses or bad cuts you can make.  These aren’t too bad for me, but again new players will have an achievable challenge laid out before them.

Beat Saber Campaign Layout
It's a kind of 'Choose your doom' feeling when you first see the campaign mode, but multiple paths and challenges let you find your own way through

The ones I am on at the moment and is presenting a challenge is Disappearing Arrows.  Up until now, each cube has shown an arrow with the direction to cut in.  This still happens, but after the cube is ‘locked’ the arrow dissolves forcing a memory aspect to kick in.

Now, this may seem a little too much especially early in the game, but to me it’s also a great teaching tool.  Just like in chess, you want to be thinking three cubes ahead, with the pattern worked out for the one you are slicing and the next few.  Disappearing Arrows forces this kind of thinking, and I think is an amazing way to help players improve.

These ‘modifiers’ aren’t just in the campaign either.  You can activate them in the Freeplay game mode to make your life easier or more interesting.  Depending on what you enable, you will also receive a score modifier to match.

Mastered Hard, but Expert is just that bit too much still?  Speed up Hard and get a score bonus, or slow down Expert and take a score hit.  I know I will be doing this with a few of the expert songs initially to give me that slight breather while learning the patterns – I think it’s a great idea!

Beat Saber Modifiers
Modifiers work both ways - you can make it harder if you mastered the level, or easier while you are learning it

The Tech and how Beat Games mastered it

So this is a weird one.  I have said (and maintain) PSVR is great for putting VR in an affordable price bracket – but this means compromises were made.

The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have great tracking technology, and the Vive also has a wireless adaptor coming soon.  This is going to be the best way to play Beat Saber hands down.  The downside?  This kind of setup will set you back around $3,000 even with the ‘old’ Vive assuming you need to buy the computer as well.  Also, you will need a large open area to play in.

But Beat Games has tuned Beat Saber on the PSVR to work well even in ‘sub-optimal’ configurations.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it all comes down to set up.

Without going too far into it, there are some golden rules you should try and follow.  You should have a wide and clear area – move the coffee table full of reflective items out of the way.  You should also set up a VR camera about 10-15 cm’s above the players head and point the camera down slightly.  This will allow the camera to see your entire body and feet.  This means you also have to be a certain distance away from the camera as well – if you are only 45 cm from the camera, you are in trouble.

A lot of tracking issues can be traced back to camera placement, and that isn’t exactly the customer’s fault.  There isn’t too much detail in the PlayStation manual on any of this, other than ‘change the position and see’.  There is also the little issue of even putting the camera on top of a large TV, some people are still taller than this setup, leading to a cone where controllers regularly move out of.

Beat Saber PlyaStation Camera Setup Guide
PlayStation's setup guide works for games you sit and play like Moss, but not for anything you stand up and play

For various reasons, not everyone can have this optimal setup though.  For some, the distance they need to put the camera to maintain area and angle is too far away for the camera to pick up properly.  For myself certainly, if I drop my hands too far (in a normal ‘hands at side’ position’) tracking is lost completely.

Beat Games has managed to not only track within the cone relatively high speed changing movements, but instantly re-acquire ‘lost’ sabres.  This is the sort of care and design I wish all VR developers could put into their games, and definitely explains a lot of the wait for the PlayStation version to come out.

Most games on PSVR I am resigned to saving and restarting every hour or so because of tracking glitches.  Beat Saber has none of these problems, and I am throwing my hands around 10x more than any other VR game out there.

There will always be compromises with a single camera VR system – I’m not trying to sugar coat a problem.  But Beat Saber is by far the best tracking implementation of a game I have played in PSVR bar none, and extensive work has been done to minimise the impact of any technical limitations of the hardware.

So if you have a reasonable space in your living room (which most of us have, to a varying degree of reasonable) Beat Saber will work well in your play area.

Beat Saber Best PSVR Setup
Job Simulator actually has the best image I can find, but if you can see all of yourself in the 'Check Your Environment' Screen that's the goal

Those compromises I spoke of playing in PSVR?

The Move controllers are also just that little bit to… something?  The feeling of holding and swinging them isn’t quite as good as the Vive controllers, but way better than the Rift.  I also find with my right hand especially, I keep knocking the X button pausing the game mid-swing.  With more practice holding the controller this should get better, but I have only done it a couple of times on the Vive ever.

The other issue is the PSVR headset itself.

The first PSVR unit has a cable that pretty much has to run in front of your body – you can’t turn your back to the camera to have it flow behind you.  This is annoying occasionally as you feel the cable hit into you, but dropping the cable behind you to come back out between your legs helps with this.  This is where the cable runs in the second unit, but the cable still gets in the way.

The Vive headset feels more comfortable with better weight distribution.  The PSVR also isn’t great for people with long hair – you need to spend the extra time pony tailing up to keep everything out of the way and gripping correctly.

PSVR Comparison
The cable and headphone position may be slight, but it is a marked improvement

Each of these is a minor annoyance though and given the cost difference between PSVR and Vive very easy ones to live with.  Purely because of my house setup, Beat Saber is going to see significantly more play on PlayStation than Vive going forward – unless I want to play at the same time as Rabbit, then I will be sent upstairs to the desktop 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Beat Saber

Final Thoughts

I love Beat Saber.  It’s a great game that gives you a sense of immersion and total satisfaction that very few games can match.

Platform-wise, I prefer the Vive BUT I will definitely be playing it more on PSVR.  The ease of setup and room to move outweighs the technical improvements of the Vive in this instance.

Beat Saber is a huge amount of fun, and it’s not something I can show just by telling you it’s great.  There are VR around in major cities now, as well as a dedicated Beat Saber Arcade machine now – seriously, if you are even a little curious, hunt one down if you don’t know anyone with VR and try it.  But be warned – you may become hooked!

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  Who doesn’t want to swing swords at things?
  •  Music and level design is incredibly appealing
  •  The game is what you want it to be – change it to suit you
  •  Physical Activity without going to the Gym!

Cons

  •  VR is expensive. Hardware outlay (even PSVR) is an investment.
  •  Needs a lot of space
  •  Not a ‘group’ party game (e.g. Mario Party)

The Soundtrack link I mentioned?  You can listen to the player here or follow this link to open up the playlist in Spotify on the web.

PSN Name Changes are real! It only took 13 odd years, but hey

PSN

Soon you can undo some past decisions – sort of

Online ID.  Gamertag.  Screen name.  Different names, same theory – the name you show to the world when you game online.

Most services allow you to update your screen name over time, but there has been one major player that has resisted – Sony.

When I first created my account on my shiny new fat PlayStation 3, I misread the screen and made my email address my PSN ID.

I thought to myself ‘I don’t play online – what’s the worst that can happen?’

As a plus to that thought, the amount of spam mail I got really puts gmails spam filter logic to the test these days 🙂

Now Sony has posted all kinds of reasons not to allow users to do the change, some technical and some philosophical.

PlayStation 3
When I bought one of these in 2007, my PSN ID was locked in forever.

Stopping people from griefing and bullying someone and then quickly changing their ID sounds reasonable.  However, if there was a good audit trail in place this wouldn’t be a real concern when people are investigated.  Yes, you report a User ID, but the report should go and check against the unique identifier that is attached to the screen name, not the name itself.

Now I don’t work at Sony, but I work in IT.  It sounds like there was basically a flawed design that has been left to be for over a decade, and now there are problems with fixing it.

The problems come in the form of some games having problems with the ID change.  No real details are available for what these bugs could be, but I am guessing potential account issues with online play as a primary concern.

Sony is working with developers to minimise this, and testing will begin soon with some lucky testers.  But while all this is being worked out, the rest of us will have to wait for sometime in 2019 before we can update our names.

Will you be changing your ID?  It will be nice to have all platforms call me JohnHQLD again 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

PlayStation Classic coming this December!

PlayStation Classic in hand

Because apparently, I am a retro geek sucker

When Nintendo announced the NES Classic, I jumped onboard.  I was a Sega lad on the whole, and the mini console let me play a whole bunch of games I knew I had missed.

Same with the SNES Classic.  Not as many games I really wanted to play, but enough to make it worthwhile.  The C64 Mini was a no-brainer – it was essentially my first computer, and I was ready for that trip down nostalgia lane.

And then last night, this happened.

Final Fantasy VII, with the original no-stick controllers.  The memories are flooding back like crazy, and that is from just one title.

This was when I took console gaming ‘seriously’.  Sure, I had the Master System and a couple of handhelds, but until the PlayStation, if the game wasn’t on PC it just wasn’t worth buying.

We know the console will have 20 games preloaded in total, with only Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms confirmed.

PlayStation Classic in hand
Another retro console is about to join my shelf. Well, I am pretty sure it will.

The other 15 games will be revealed over the coming weeks, but I am really enjoying the quick turnaround between the announcement and on the shelf.

Looking for a retro gift for an older player?  Maybe you aren’t old enough to have tried the original console?  This is a great gift idea for either!

Just like the Nintendo and C64 mini versions, everything will run via a USB micro a cable, but no power supply is included.  I know a lot of people complain about this, but honestly how many spare USB adaptors are in a house these days?

It also looks like Sony has gone with Standard USB ports for the controllers, so cable extenders and possibly Dual Shock controllers could be plugged in.  Wireless adaptors maybe?

Either way, with the current popularity of classics such as Crash and Spyro, the timing is great to get gamers back into retro PlayStation gaming.  And on a Sony Platform. *cough Switch envy much? cough*

PlayStation Classic Front and Back
The classic style, but with modern conveniences

If you only have a current gen console and don’t have access to PlayStation Now, this is a great way to play some classic games.  I have mine locked in.  I am going to have to build a mini-console shelf soon!

In Australia, the PlayStation Classic will set you back $150 and you can preorder from EB Games here.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Sony begins it’s Days of Play with the announcement of Tetris Effect

Tetris Effect Feature

The tetromino’s are coming – and in VR!?!

Sony will be making an announcement a day in the lead up to E3 next week.

Wow.  This E3 will either be full of even more amazing announcements or devoid of surprises.  If it’s the latter, I hope a lot of lucky people attending will get some hands-on with some of these titles.

Today’s title is Tetris Effect.  I could describe Tetris, but I think everyone knows you like up blocks to make lines until you can’t.  Really, that’s Tetris.  It’s almost zen-like when you play, and I bought Puyo Puyo Tetris for the Switch just to play Tetris on the Switch.

But Tetris Effect will likely be something even more unique.   From Enhance Games and headed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Tetris is essentially going to get the Rez treatment.

I can try to explain this, but watch the reveal trailer to see and more importantly hear what I mean.

I will be getting this on PS4.  How could I not?  Even an old semi tone-deaf Jazz and Blues fan like myself can’t help but be impressed with the gorgeous soundtrack and visuals.

PSVR though?  On one hand, I am glad to see Sony continuing to commit to the platform, as there will be more VR announcements in the lead up to E3.  I just can’t see how VR would improve the experience.  That said, the few people I know that have played Rez Infinite in VR said it’s an amazing experience, so maybe I just need to try it?

I won’t have to wait too long – Tetris Effect has a release window of Fall 2018.  Hopefully, it comes out before Beat Saber on PSVR though.  That way I can jump around with Beat Saber, and relax with Tetris Effect afterwards!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Batman Ninja – Not the movie I expected, but it was a whole lot of fun

Batman Ninja Blu Ray Cover

Batman Ninja.  If you’re a fan, you’re already in.  Oh, and NO SPOILERS!

Last year, a friend of mine sent me an innocent Facebook message.  It was a link to the Batman Ninja trailer.  And it was AMAZING.  I could go on about it, but instead, I am just going to put the trailer below.

Now, I love the DC animated movies.  These are what I compare to the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of the Justice League movies.  There have been misses – what franchise doesn’t? – but on the whole, these are both the stories I want, with little twists that have made it all worth it.

So, this little preview piece will sound fairly vague and out there, but it’s being done on purpose.  If I mention anything specific, a lot of surprises will be spoiled and could dampen your enjoyment of the film.

That said, this is not the movie I expected.  Looking back at the amazing talent involved, I can’t see why I didn’t expect the movie we got, but there you go.  So really, this is a piece on not to expect the movie you probably are.

Batman Ninja 01
A little different from Gotham

Now, I am a diehard Batman fan.  Growing up, seeing a normal human whose superpowers were forward planning and determination were inspirational.  Of course, being a billionaire to fund his activities didn’t hurt, but at that age, money was the thing you asked your parents for 🙂  And as previously stated, I really enjoy the DC Animated Universe.

I think this combination of fandom lead me to believe this would be a ‘serious’ film of a Batman in Feudal Japan.

Bottom line – no.  No, it’s not.  This is the most over the top anime take on any western property I have ever seen, and I love it.

Why should I have known this?  Because the creative forces behind some of my favourite anime are involved in Batman Ninja.

They were all in the original trailer, but some of the anime influences include:

  • Afro Samurai
  • Gurren Lagann
  • Kill la Kill
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
  • Psycho Pass

If you have seen any of these series, then you know that the common thread for all of them is an incredible lack of subtlety, and that is continued in Batman Ninja.

Batman Ninja 02
The Bat Family. And Catwoman.

Once I realised how to watch this movie, probably about 45 minutes in, I really got to enjoy it.  It’s not an alternate DC Batman movie, it’s just an alternate Batman movie.  I know that sounds almost the same, but once you see the film, you will know exactly what I mean.

One thing I really enjoy is the characters are themselves in this movie.  Joker is Joker through and through.  Batman is as stoic and brooding as ever.  While they have been ripped from the streets of Gotham, they are still themselves in this strange new world.

So what didn’t I like about Batman Ninja?

There is one flaw in the English sub that a lot of animated Batman shares – the voices of Batman and Joker.  Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are the animated voices I grew up with in Batman: The Animated Series, and are definitive performances in my opinion.  As such, for me, not having these voices is a constant niggle whenever I watch an animated version.

With this in mind, the real annoyance of the film to me is the English dub.  The voice acting by itself is fine, and it’s far from the worst dubs I have seen.  The story matches, the timing of the animation is good, it just feels wrong to me as I watch it.

Batman Ninja 03
Some things will always be the same

For me, the best way to watch this is with the Japanese audio with English subtitles.  This may be a touch purist of me though.

One thing for sure – I watched both versions back to back, once in English and once in Japanese, and I enjoyed both versions, so it really is up to you how you enjoy the movie.

Bottom line, if you are a fan of anime and would like to see Batman in a very different light, this is the film for you.  If you are after a continuation of the previous DC animated Batman films, this film probably isn’t for you.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD