Jackbox Party Pack 6 Review

Released 2019
Platform PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, XBox, Switch (Reviewed), Amazon Fire TV, iPad, Apple TV, Android TV
Publisher Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Developer Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players Usually 3-8 plus audience – recommend at least 5 players
Category Party Games

Sometimes, all you want to do is sit and mess with your friends. And Jackbox Party helps you do this ;D

I have plenty of party type board games in my collection, but most share a common flaw. They are all niche in some way. Geek trivia, Pop Culture, Dexterity or ‘gamey’ games. Whatever the niche, you are setting yourself up for just that game for a while.

None are bad games, but there are usually people that don’t want to join in because they feel they can’t win. The other issue can be the judging of answers. Even going with the written response, people can argue because there is a person to contend with.

This is where the Jackbox Party Pack shines. There is a central app that controls a series of different games, so any rules disputes are typically written off as ‘bugs’. It’s incredible how much this changes the focus of the group, and makes organisation and hosting game nights a breeze.

So it’s a trivia game? Pass

Like so many simple games, it sounds too simple to be any fun. But that isn’t where the Jackbox Party games shine.

Yes, there are trivia games. Word games. There are even drawing games. Each set features a unique host that has a series of jokes and quips that gets laughs as the game continues. The games each feel unique, even when using tried and true mechanics.

Having a host or forcing a player to get up and read a bunch of questions can make or break a games night. We have all been there. A great host can elevate Even a standard pub trivia night. Here is where Jackbox shines – you genuinely want to know what is going to be said next.

Yes, my friends were trying to skewer me for a small cash bonus. What a group :p

But why would I want to play a video game with a heap of people? No one has that many controllers!

One of the great features of Jackbox Party Packs is that almost everyone already has their own controller.

You need a device that ‘hosts’ the games sure, and in a party environment this works brilliantly on consoles as everyone can see the game on their TV. 

The players need a web browser to join in. And as almost everyone has a smartphone these days, everyone gets to play on a device they are already comfortable using. No mixing up XBox and Dual Shock buttons here!

OK, but how does this help with people that don’t want to play?

Say you are playing a game where you need to come up with clever wordplay. Some people do not enjoy this, and wouldn’t want to participate.

A great feature of Jackbox Party Packs is the Audience feature. You can have a few players competing, but everyone else can still be a part of the game by voting on the winning answers. Everyone always gets to play, and the audience has a vital role to play in picking winners.

The Audience feature is great for everyone at a party, but it has another bonus. If you are into streaming, you can stream your Jackbox game and have the room code as a part of the stream, including all of your viewers as well.

What can I say - I have a weirdly awesome group of friends to come up with words like this 😀

Playing like this has made the Jackbox panels at PAX Aus one of my ‘must-do’ panels each year – it’s so much fun watching the panellists playing, while at the same time participating in picking winners.

Well, that all sounds alright, but what do you play?

Each party pack comes with about five mini-games, each unique in their way. As you can tell from the title, this is the 6th such collection of games, with new packs coming out every year.

There is never the same type of game in each pack. As with every compilation, some that are gems, and some that aren’t.

Dictionarium

Dictionarium is a fun and fast word game. Players are given a word, and then everyone comes up with a definition of their device. Once everyone is finished (or the time is up), everyone, including the audience votes on their favourite.,

Round 2 has players writing a synonym based on the winning response. Once again, everyone votes for the winner.

The final round has players then using their synonyms in a sentence. Once again, the winner is voted for by everyone. Finally, you end up with a definition and usage of a completely new word!

Dictionarium is a great quick game that can start the night or a quick reset between some of the bigger games. While fun, it’s not a game I would want to play multiple rounds of back to back.

Role Models

Role models is a great game for a group of friends or at least people that know about each other. Players vote on a category (e.g. Olympic Sports, Heist Jobs, Girl Scout Cookies), and everyone chooses who in the group would suit roles in that category.

When everyone finishes voting, the votes are counted, and a player is assigned that role. If there is a tie for the part, a mini-game between the players plays out to pick a single winner.

‘Correctly’ guess the player for the role, and you can win the game! But really for party games like this, the end score is usually an oversite.

While this is a fun diversion, I think its more fun when players know a bit more about each other. Most of the fun is seeing peoples reactions to what the group thinks of them. For example, why am I better suited to Curling that Synchronised Swimming? You need to know the people to get the most out of this. Randomly assigning players because you have to isn’t as fun.

Joke Boat

For all of those aspiring comedians out there, Joke Boat is here to let you shine. It is also a great way to get a room of people laughing at Dad jokes 😀

There are three rounds in total, with each round mostly sharing the same steps. First, you have the brainstorming round. Enter a bunch of subjects for people to write a joke about.

Next, players select a setup that includes the topics from the brainstorming. Finally, you write the punchline. Simple, right?

Players get to deliver their joke, and players vote on the best. Do all of this twice, with the final round having players trying to write a better punchline for other players jokes.

Joke Boat sounds like a lot of fun, and it was enjoyable, but again not a game you will want to play over and over again.

Push The Button

Push the button is a different Jackbox game in that it doesn’t include audience participation. Every player is a player, and each round is a different mini-game on its own.

The setup of the game is relatively standard social deduction fair. Players are all crew on a space ship, but some players are aliens in disguise. The humans must work out who the aliens are and eject them to win.

The time limit is worked nicely into Press The Button as well. The aliens have uploaded a virus into the ships AI and will delete it entirely in 15 minutes.

Each round, a different player takes the role of the captain and picks a mini-game and crew members to participate. Most of the games have the same kind of setup – answer a question. The catch is the humans get one question, and aliens get a different one. You need to look out for the outlandish answers and responses to determine who the aliens are.

As the game progresses, aliens also get the ability to hack the games and can give the humans ‘alien’ answers, or aliens ‘human’ answers. Because everyone is on their phones, it leads to some exciting experiences.

Anyone can vote to ‘Push The Button’ at any time to vote out aliens. The player that pushes the button then nominates who they think are aliens, and everyone not being accused votes if they agree. If the vote passes, the unlucky players are ejected into space!

If one alien remains on the ship, the aliens win. By far the most complex Jackbox game I have ever played, but one of the smoothest social deduction experiences I have ever played.

Murder Mystery Party 2

Murder Mystery Party is probably my favourite of the games in this pack. It’s a typical trivia game, but with a very dark humoured twist.

Players are guests at a spooky hotel, and the host happens to be a serial killer. Each round, players answer general trivia questions for cash prizes. Get the questions right, and everyone continues.

Get the answer wrong, and the host will get to have fun with you with fatal consequences. ‘Losers’ get to play a random mini-game with the host and safe players/the audience. For example, losing players must drink from a goblet. The catch is the safe players have added poison to the drinks!

If you lost the mini-games, you are not out of the game. You become a ghost and continue playing, so no player elimination in the real sense.

When there is one player left, you can then try and escape the hotel. This is done by answering more trivia questions, with each correct answer moving you closer to the exit.

The other players are still playing, and the higher their score, the closer to the exit they are. There is another catch – if you are in the lead, you can only choose two of the three choices, giving the others a better chance of catching up.

With congratulations like this, is winning really worth it? 😀

If you take the lead as a ghost, you steal the life force of the other player and then everyone is against you. Also, just reaching the exit isn’t quite enough. You have to answer the final question perfectly to win.

Murder Trivia Party 2 was by far our most favourite game of the pack.

They all sound pretty good, what is the downside?

Overall there isn’t too much wrong with any of the games. There were some localisation issues as the questions have a significant US bias, but that increased the ‘us vs the game’ mentality of the group.

On the Switch, there were also a couple of times that I had to close the game and start again. Far from the end of the world, but when trying to change games, having it hang was a bit jarring.

Overall though, if Jackbox Party Pack sounds like something you would like to try, grab one of the older packs for cheaper and give it a go. Each iteration has had a standout game for me that has made the cost worth it!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pandemic is coming to XBox One and Switch August 1st!

Pandemic can now be installed almost anywhere

I really enjoy Pandemic. Anyone that has played with me or seen my collection knows this to be true. If you would like my thoughts on the game, you can see me review here. Short version though – I consider Pandemic a classic, and a game everyone should play.

A few years ago, I grabbed Pandemic for iOS. It was fun to be able to pick up my phone and play a game or two with no setup times, just the core game experience. Like most digital board games, it was a quick solo distraction that was fun, and back in those days it was also a rare treat – it was a good digital version.

It was a lot of little things that made the digital version so much fun. Hitting new game for the first time on iOS bought up a choice for how much help teaching you Pandemic you needed. It even has the rulebooks (albeit in a simple point form) of the board games to let you see what it’s doing in the background!

I got a few of my friends into it as well. It was surprising how much the tension built with the music in the background. Even the simple animations built excitement and terror as you watched outbreaks spread out of control!

The iPad version, the first time you hit new game.

When I went from iOS to Android, I didn’t pick up Pandemic on my new phone, but I did grab it on Steam on sale and have a game or two on my iPad when I need to take it somewhere.

It wasn’t because I don’t enjoy playing Pandemic, it was because a lot of board game adaptions had been getting better and better so I had more to choose from. Plus, I prefer playing Pandemic with people – the cooperative nature is half the fun!

That said, that busy outfit Asmodee Media announced today that Pandemic is coming to XBox One and the Switch August 1st!

It looks like it will be just the base game initally, with the On the Brink Expansion coming in September.

Nothing against the XBox, but I think this will be a great fit for the Switch. Being able to play party type games already on the go, being able to play Pandemic in a hot seat mode with the Switch seems to be a great fit.

Who will you choose to help you save the world?

There is also the easier nature of the touch screen with the Switch. Playing on mobile and PC, I definitely prefer the tocuh method to using a mouse, so using a controller I don’t think will be as good.

That is of course assuming that you have to move a pointer around the screen with the left stick or similar. Until I see how the control method on XBox works, just keep it in mind as something I am wary of rather than a blanket statement of bad controls.

If you already know Pandemic, you already know exactly what information is being shown

Pandemic for XBox One and Switch will be priced at USD$19.99 – a little more expensive than the iOS, Android and Steam versions but if that includes the On The Brink expansion then it is a bit of a better deal.

Asmodee Digital also released an announcement trailer this morning, as they have been doing with Catan and similar releases in the past. I have linked the Pandemic video below, but be warned – it’s a nice attempt to try and make Pandemic look and sound cool, but it makes me miss 80’s TV!

I don’t think I will be rushing to get Pandemic on the Switch. I already have 2 digital versions, plus every physical version of the game, so I think I am pretty sorted.

But if you would like to play the original Pandemic and digital is a good choice becuase of price/storage/players/whatever, I highly recommend the digital version to play.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Two games I want are out today – but the Steam Summer Sale is coming

One game that’s semi-free, and one I can play in VR freedom

So Tuesday I wrote about Void Bastards and how I was looking forward to giving it a play.

This morning, I checked Game Pass before coming in to work and there it was! I don’t see it on the Microsoft store, so playing on XBox it is.

It is available on Steam for AUS$43 (alright, $42.95) so if you want to play it on PC that’s the way to do it right now.

From everything I have seen so far, this is a title I am hoping will make it’s way to the Switch – but I will wait until I have given it a play before confirming that wish.

You can grab it now as well! Included in Game Pass, and on Steam.

I do think I will prefer Void Bastards on PC with keyboard and mouse, but if the controls work well having it handheld sounds amazing.

Either way, all going well I will give it a try tonight.  This weekend for sure.

And if I can finish setting everything up properly, I might even capture some video of my playing 🙂

The gangs all here. Oh great. All of them? Really?

Another title that is now available on Steam (coincidentally also for AUD$43) or AUD$45 on the PlayStation Store is the heart attack inducing Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted.

I really want to give this one a try.  I went through the first three Freddy games back in the day but started to not throw myself at them for everything else.  Combination of time and stress I was already under.

I am a little torn with FNAF VR. It’s going to be stressful, and jump scares are an integral part of the franchise.

But I just got my wireless Vive adaptor, so no cables to trip me up.

What do you think FNAF fans? PS4 for the Platinum, or Steam VR for the wireless freedom?

Either way, I don’t think I will be making any Steam purchases for four weeks.  Traditionally, the Steam Summer Sale is just before Australia’s end of financial year.  Even though both games are new, some dollars off is some dollars off – which can be used to buy more games!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Void Bastards is coming this week – this could be frustratingly fun

Not all shooters are run and gun affairs.  Why back in my day…

I love it when a title in a random email catches my eye.  Yesterday, it was a game called Void Bastards, described as a mix between FTL and System Shock 2.

How could I possibly not check it out?

So have a look around I did, and I was met with this trailer:

So a lot of positives happened immediately to make me look forward to Void Bastards.

Firstly, the narrator is Kevan Brighting, the same wonderful voice that saw you through The Stanley Parable.  That’s a giggle right there.

Secondly, when you met up with a bad guy and got blotted, the whole ‘Client Expired’ scenario definitely had me looking for even more of the humour in the trailer. And it’s there. This looks like a game that will be fun to watch being played at the very least.

But while there is a lot of humour evident, I can’t help but think that will be to offset the potential frustration of the game.

Cartoony graphics and jokes aside, this is a fully strategic, plan your attack style game like the old Rainbow Six games. The small amount of gameplay I have watched keeps the old adage alive – no plan survives contact with the enemy.

The impression I have so far is you will have to learn the rules and plan well for a variety of situations.  A rougelike generation of ships and levels means you will need to learn what is happening for your particular game, and no two games should be the same.

You will need the right tools for the job. I just never expected a job where I needed a robot kitty.
I am trying to figure out if that's a good sound or not...

Void Bastards is definitely a game I want to check out, but I was a little disappointed that Steam shows it as coming on the 29th of May (so not long to wait!) but no price.

Then I had a bit of good news – Void Bastards is coming to Game Pass on the same day!  So tonight I will update my XBOX and prep for tomorrows release.

I am hoping this is going to be one of the Microsoft ‘Play Anywhere’ titles though – I have a feeling I will prefer playing this on PC, but a free game (with Game Pass) is nothing to complain about!

I don’t know if Void Bastards will be a nice diversion or a deceptive time sink, but I am expecting the latter. Either way, I am really looking forward to firing it up and giving it a good look.

It also doesn’t hurt that Blue Manchu games, the developers of Void Bastards, is headquartered in Australia. I always enjoy seeing our games industry make a splash big enough to come to my attention, especially when I am not looking for it.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

John Wick 3 is coming, as is John Wick Hex

Ahh, Mr Wick. It’s always a pleasure to see you. If you aren’t working, of course.

I am so excited about John Wick 3 next week. As a series, it just keeps delivering. They are movies I can watch again and again, and continually do.

The story is simple and straightforward, but also has many subtle twists and openings that I appreciate on many levels. When my biggest story gripe is calling John ‘Baba Yaga’, who is most certainly not the Boogeyman as the film states, it should be a lot of fun.

And the small plot elements – simple in execution, but hint at a depth yet to be touched. How much is a gold coin genuinely worth in that world? Even the marker system, a convenient plot device for John Wick 2, is a subtle treasure. The marker must be honoured, apparently even when the presenter is excommunicado.

I will be doing my best to see this, all going well. If all goes to plan, I will be doing a vlog on my thoughts on the franchise as a whole in the coming weeks, where such things will be discussed in more detail.

But yesterday, there was another John Wick announcement that made me excited, and it wasn’t the release date for The Continental.

John Wick Hex

Imagining John Wick as a video game protagonist is a no-brainer. A one-person unstoppable force overcoming ridiculous odds is what games have been built around of for decades.

Someone else that apparently has no trouble imaging this is Lionsgate Games and Mike Bithell. Mike was the director of indie hits Volume, Thomas Was Alone and Subsurface Circular.

I haven’t played Volume, but it is highly regarded as a stealth action title. In Thomas Was Alone, I became emotionally attached to a square. Yes, a square. If you have played Thomas Was Alone, you will understand.

Together, they are bringing John Wick Hex to PC, Mac and Consoles. A turn-based (real time with slowdown maybe?) tactics game, it should allow players to plan and execute the amazing combat runs we watch onscreen.

It already looks incredibly solid:

We can already hear Lance Reddick is onboard for voice work. Ian McShane is the only other voice actor confirmed at the moment, but more “being revealed later”.

Later will hopefully be in a few short weeks, as John Wick Hex is a part of the Devolver Showcase at this years E3! I will be watching for peoples reactions to playing it from the show floor.

There is a bit of ‘Epic Store Exclusivity’ happening for the PC/Mac side of John Wick Hex, but with the well-publicised developer cuts Epic is offering who can blame them!

From the little bit of teaser footage, I am thinking I would play John Wick Hex on the PC or the Switch.  If it’s turn based, it makes the Switch perfect for pick up and put down play.  On PC, the more precise mouse/keyboard controls would be the go I think.  I have played X-Com and similar on PS3/4, and console controls just aren’t as natural a feel for me.

Now, if someone could make a good version of John Wick for VR, maybe along the lines of Superhot, that would be the final icing on the cake!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Donut County Review

Donut County Title
Donut County Title
Released 2018
Platform Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4, XBox One, iOS, Steam, PC, Mac
Publisher Annapurna Games (Website)
Developer Ben Esposito (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Puzzle
Physics-Based
Diversion

Who would of thought playing as a hole could be so much fun?

If someone says a game is a puzzle game, you usually have a good idea of what to expect.  There could be deduction puzzles such as Access Denied (reviewed here).  There could be more 3D type puzzles, such as the Portal games.  You can even have adventure games with convoluted solutions to getting past a goat (Broken Sword!).

But a puzzle game where you are a hole?  It took me a while to warm up to the idea.  Even the trailer doesn’t really explain the game in such a way that you ‘have’ to try it.  Check it out:

But I bought it on Switch and it has been sitting there until I had time to sit and play it.  And with most of my gaming all packed up and a tired brain, it seemed like a good time to try it.

And I am really happy that I did 🙂

Don’t let the ‘puzzle’ aspect of Donut County put you off – this is a fun little experience.  The goal is to almost always just to drop everything on the map down the hole.

You start each level as a small hole, and as things are dropped down the hole it gets bigger.  And bigger.  Eventually, you will be consuming entire buildings!

While you need to work out how to get to some parts, at no point does the game put you in a state where you will lose.  Just keep at it, and you will get through the level.

Donut County Gameplay
How do you reach those high up chickens?

Because Donut County is so simple, there really isn’t much more that can be said about the gameplay itself.  It’s a game you knock over in an afternoon, with a semi-traditional ‘boss battle’ at the end of the game.

Eating everything on the screen and seeing how the hole interacts with things though is calming.  It’s got a similar zen state as Tetris in this way, and there are two levels in particular I can see myself replaying just for this feeling.

Even though you can drag the hole around the screen with the touchscreen, I used the Switch Joy-cons and it behaved pretty well.  For really fine movement the analog sticks moved a little too much. The end result was normally a fun flick of something across the screen, so it wasn’t frustrating at all.

The real fun of Donut County is hidden in the humor and story of the game.  Everything you have eaten ends up at the bottom of the hole, and between levels, the story slowly unfolds as to how everything has come to be.

It’s far from an epic tale of intrigue and suspense, but almost every story put a smile on my face and made me want to see what happened next.  There is even a little redemption arc for BK 🙂

Donut County Story
Between each level, you find out a bit more of what's been happening

Another fun little part is the Trashpedia.  Between levels, all the trash you have collected in the hole gets an entry added to this tome.

Reading the descriptions of the items from a Racoon’s point of view is really fun, and worth the minute or so to flick through the new entries 🙂

Even some of the level design has elements of humor to them – but I will let you discover those ones for yourself 🙂

Donut County Trashpedia
Bet you never thought of a snake like this!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Donut County

Final Thoughts

Donut County is a fun little diversion that I can see appealing to a lot of different people.  The new elements are introduced in a logical manner, and I never felt frustrated with the game at all.

I enjoyed this on the Switch, and it felt like the best platform for it.  I can see it working well on mobile, but the required touch screen controls I think would work against it overall.

On PS4 I just looked up it has a Platinum trophy as well.  I don’t think I will rebuy it just for that, but if that is something that would sway you think about it 🙂

Basically, playing Donut County for an afternoon where I was physically tired was a fun experience, and totally worth it.  It’s one of those games that I will most likely play again just because of how good it feels to gobble everything up with a hole!

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  •  A fun light little diversion
  •  Cute art style
  •  Good difficulty curve

Cons

  •  Short
  •  On a phone, you would block what you need to see with your finge

Access Denied Review

Access Denied Feature
Access Denied Feature
Released 2019
Platform Steam, PS4 (reviewed), XBox, Switch
Publisher Stately Snail (Website)
Developer Stately Snail (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Logic and Deduction
Escape Room-esque puzzles

When you want to exercise your mind instead of your trigger finger

While I have been playing some action-oriented games lately, I do enjoy logic problems. Getting a puzzle and working it over and over until a solution is found is an incredibly satisfying experience.

So a few weeks ago when I saw Access Denied on the PlayStation Store, I thought “Why Not?” and spent the AUD$8 on what looked like a promising little title.

So I one afternoon when I was working from home, I started playing. I thought it would be a good thing I could pick up and put down as I was waiting.

What I didn’t expect was to finish after about 2 hours. And that was a distracted 2 hours. But more of that later – let’s talk about the good stuff first.

What Access Denied does well

Access Denied doesn’t hold your hand. You start the game with a control panel and some great rain sounds. Clicking start raises a box, and then you are pretty much on your own.

You can rotate the device before you, and change the viewing angle. The first puzzle is straightforward, but you still need to work out what you can interact with.

When the puzzle is complete, a little hologram orb appears, and the next challenge rotates in. Simple, straightforward, and satisfying when you complete a puzzle.

The difficulty curve I thought was about right as well. New mechanics are slowly introduced, and I never felt stumped. There was always a path I knew I could try.

All in all, it’s a generally smooth experience that allows people new to puzzle games a safe entry point.

Access Denied Level Complete
When you are finished, the game shows you so very clearly

And what could Acces Denied improve?

I have only played on the PS4, but the controls aren’t great. Maybe the touchscreen would be better? Moving the reticle and clicking isn’t too bad, but you have the problem of moving too much or not enough with the analogue stick. A way to adjust the sensitivity of the movement would be nice.

And dials. They are terrible. Using the dials was genuinely frustrating for me. They made straightforward puzzles unnecessarily annoying.

My only other real gripe is the length of the game, but at less than $8 (on PS4) I don’t expect a 40-hour game.

Access Denied Dials
There is a trick to it, but it's still REALLY annoying to turn dials

And then there are the trophies…

On PlayStation and Xbox are the trophies or achievements. Earning them increases your score or level on your platform, and is something either sought after or ignored generally.

For PlayStation gamers, trophies come in four ranks and are awarded for specific tasks in a game. Bronze for small achievements, the backbone of the system. Silver for harder tasks or hidden goals, recognition of extra work. Gold for outstanding in-game actions. Get every other trophy in the game, and you earn the platinum trophy signifying your mastery of the title.

Kingdom Hearts 3, my first platinum since Resident Evil 7, has 46 trophies in all. 32 bronze, 10 silver, and 2 gold – plus the platinum.

Batman – Return to Arkham: Arkham Asylum has 48 trophies. 28 bronze, 18 silver, 1 gold plus the platinum.

The Telltale game The Walking Dead: Season One also has a platinum trophy. It is generally regarded as an ‘easy platinum’ as you only need to finish all of the episodes. Each episode is essentially a mini-movie with the occasional choice, so they aren’t considered ‘hard’ games. The Walking Dead: Season One has 41 trophies over 5 episodes. 30 bronze, 5 silver, 5 gold and of course one platinum.

JohnHQLD Trophy Sample
Day of the Tentacle doesn't count as a short game - I have played it at least once a year on PC for years!

Among these titles, you now have an idea of how trophies usually are shared out in a game. You are given a semi-secret score for each trophy you earn, all of which add up to your gamer level.

What struck me as odd was how much my PSN level jumped when finishing Access Denied. Sure, I had earned platinum which is worth a lot of points, but it still didn’t seem right. Plus it was only 14 trophies; things weren’t adding up. Then I looked at the trophy distribution. 2 silver, 11 gold, and the platinum. Not a single bronze trophy in sight.

For $8 and a couple of hours of my time, I had bought a platinum trophy and more gold trophies than three ‘full’ games. Not going to lie – this left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t consider myself a trophy hunter, but this feels like an artificial sales incentive for Access Denied.

Want to get a lot of trophies quickly? Buy Me!

Access Denied stands on its own merits.  If I had just finished the game with nothing but a few bronze trophies, I would have been happy.  On PS4 at least this trophy grab incentive cheapens the game in my eyes.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Access Denied

Final Thoughts

If the biggest problem I have with a game is a perceived marketing ploy, it really can’t be a bad game.

Even the controls I could work around.  Access Denied is a game you pick up and play in short bursts normally.  Working around issues like that for a short time, especially for the price, is forgivable in my eyes.

If you are new to video game escape room type puzzle games, Access Denied is a fine game if you know it’s shortcomings.  If you have more experience, you can still grab The Witness for free on PlayStation Plus for a couple more days.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Solid introduction to video game puzzles
  •  Challenging puzzles
  •  Cheap

Cons

  •  Frustrating Controls (on PS4 at least)
  •  Short gameplay overall

Resident Evil 2 – 1 Shot Demo Review

Resident Evil 2 Cover
Resident Evil 2 Cover
Released 2019
Platform PS4 Pro (Reviewed), XBox One, PC
Publisher Capcom (Website)
Developer Capcom (Website)
Homepage Website
Players 1
Category Survival Horror

One more time around the block has taken on a whole new meaning

I am a Resident Evil fan – to a point.  The series kind of died for me after Resident Evil 4.  The more ‘run and gun’ style of 5 and 6 just didn’t quite do it for me, but Resident Evil 7 definitely took steps to bring me back to the fold.

And so it has been with great interest I have been following the news on the Resident Evil 2 Remake.  Remaking a game that pushed so many boundaries with a technically impressive engine was always going to have my attention.

But something other than just a new shiny coat is being applied to Resident Evil 2.  We are getting a true remake of a masterpiece.

The roots of the game are more or less identical, but the details are being tweaked and new puzzles and mechanics introduced.  Things that just couldn’t happen in 1988.

The police station is being expanded, story elements are being cleaned up, and the puzzles and paths will be new.  If you think you won’t have trouble because you have mastered the original game, think again!

Resident Evil 2 That Timer
30 minutes. It sounds so long, and then you start playing.

So what is the 1-Shot Demo?

It’s more or less exactly what it sounds like – a demo that you can play once.  For 30 minutes to be exact.

Now there are plenty of workarounds to this, mostly consisting of starting up with multiple accounts, but there really doesn’t seem to be too much incentive to do this.

You can’t save from what I can work out, so nothing is going to travel across to the ‘real’ game.  There may be a way to get an item as a bonus in game, similar to the dirty coin in Resident Evil 7, but I don’t think so.  The Resident Evil 7 demo was a long drawn out evolving experience, this is 30 minutes on the eve of the formal release.

But I could be wrong.

So I start the demo and instantly miss the booming ‘Resident Evil’ as you start.  Ahh well, it is only the demo I suppose.

Playing the Demo

There is a way apparently to ‘finish’ the demo with both Leon and Claire but I came nowhere near doing this.

I was having way too much fun exploring the police station instead of trying my best to ‘solve’ the game.  That said though, I played enough to be excited about the full game coming out on the 25th!

The demo opens at the front desk of the Racoon City police station.  Immediately I was enjoying the light work and feeling of the building, just like I did at the start of Resident Evil 7.

Resident Evil 2 Demo Begins
Ahh. Raccoon City Police Department. The years have been kind!

The controls were the same more or less as 7, so I started running around and exploring immediately.  On-screen prompts began appearing, so if this was your first time playing a Resident Evil game you would know what you were doing pretty quickly.

The updated controls were definitely welcome.  The old ‘tank’ controls were a staple, but that doesn’t mean they were great to play with!

Moving around and looking at everything in the over the shoulder view was amazing, and instantly removed a lot of the fixed camera angle frustrations we all had with the original games.  Want to look behind the screen?  Move behind the screen and look – it’s that simple.  No more ‘walk behind and click like crazy hoping you hit the right spot’ shenanigans of the old days.

Resident Evil 2 Whats behind the desk
If you can see it, you can probably walk to it. The footprints also may be a clue someone can walk there.

Wandering around the foyer, I was taking my time and slowly examining everything.  I was enjoying the graphical treat of my eyes, and even playing with the sound coming from my TV I could hear nuances in the footsteps that made me smile.

In the middle of the area, a huge statute with three circular impressions was clearly visible.  I wonder what needs to be put in here?

And this is where some people lose it with Resident Evil.  Why are there three medallions needed to open a secret chamber in a police station?  Why is everything protected by items that require backtracking and weird logic?

Because.  It’s not a great answer, but it is the best I can come up with – sorry.  If these sort of puzzles annoy you, don’t play Resident Evil, at least the earlier ones.

Resident Evil 2 What Goes Here
Location for 3 empty collectable pieces. It's either a secret passage or a big reward.

Later titles seemed to have easier puzzles overall, but the insane security and inventory management is a series staple – you can either roll with it or go mad trying to work it out.

At this point, I smiled.  I got a warm feeling inside, and I stopped for a minute.  This was indeed taking me back to the Resident Evil I fell in love with, and I was only a couple of minutes into the demo.

My brain had already fallen back into the old style of thinking.  I was actively looking for the clues and areas that just don’t fit to find the medallions I needed for the secret passage I already knew was there, even before the story told me about it.

I found what I knew would hold one of the three medallions straight away – a shield with a curiously round central area and a combination lock. conveniently close to the central area.  Again, this is a staple of the series – multi-part puzzle?  The first piece is right next to you, but you will have to go elswhere to work out how to unlock it!

Resident Evil 2 What could be found here
I need round things, and this obviously has a round opening. Could it be connected?

And where would you go?  To the big door that says ‘Keep Out’ obviously.  True, this is partial knowledge from trailers and other players talking about their experience.  But really, if you have finished any Resident Evil game, you know what to do.

And from here I will stop explaining what I was doing and thinking as I worked my way through the game.  If you are smart, you won’t spend the first seven precious minutes looking around the first room of a timed demo like I did.

But I loved every second I spent doing it!

Resident Evil 2 Now where should I go
Keep Out. Good advice. No one would ever leave anything in here I would need later.

What was right

The controls were great and felt even more responsive that Resident Evil 7.  Audio, as I mentioned, was fantastic barring a couple of hiccups I am hoping are demo related.

There was an area of wet floor that you splash as you enter, then have ‘normal’ footsteps in water up to your ankles.

As I said, hopefully it was just demo related, but playing Resident Evil 2 with the PlayStation Surround Sound headphones is going to be amazing if Resident Evil 7 is any indication!

Graphically the series has never looked better.  I enjoyed the look of Resident Evil 7, but the same run-down areas got a little boring after a while.  Looking through one floor of the police station, each office and room had its own particular feel.

Sometimes it was visual, like the administration area or locker room.  Sometimes it was the audio again – wooden floors vs tiled for example.

Also the zombies – oh the Zombies.  In Resident Evil 7, while characters looked great the Molded all looked very samey.  Here, each Zombie so far has had a distinct look that has been interesting to watch.

Resident Evil 2 Exploring the Station
You may wonder what is so amazing about the graphics here. Play it and see - trust me 🙂

There are also some new mechanics and tricks I either don’t remember from the original or have been added.

One such trick is you can now board up windows in the Police Station to stop Zombies from breaking in.  I am assuming this will come in handy later in the game, helping to create choke points so you don’t get overrun.

Not all changes help you though.  For example, your combat knife – a required tool to get past that otherwise indestructible yellow tape – know can break.  Yep, weapon destructibility (at least for one weapon) is now a part of Resident Evil.

I don’t mind a challenge, but items breaking is rarely something I appreciate.  It’s not enough to put me off at all, but I know players that won’t play Breath of the Wild because of items breaking.

And end game shenanigans remain in full force apparently!

Once you finish the demo, you get to see some new trailers.  One such trailer confirms Hunk returning, otherwise known as the 5th survivor.

This was a harder mode where you played a smaller story with all of your items given to you at the start of the game.  While you begin well armed, you need to keep your items close as you can’t pick anything up during the story.

If you can beat this mode, there is also one of the most ridiculous and hardest modes I ever remember playing – the Tofu survivor.

Resident Evil 2 Tofu Survivor
The toughest piece of soy product you will ever meet.

This may be a joke scenario and character in a lot of ways, but this is the hardest mission in Resident Evil 2.  Basically a replay of the 4th survivor, but you have only a combat knife and a few herbs for the whole game – only the best can finish this mode.

I was never one of them in my youth.

But everything I played in this demo confirmed my hopes and soothed a lot of my concerns.  Resident Evil 2 2019 is on track to be an amazing game for series veterans and newbies alike.

There is still plenty of opportunity for Resident Evil 2 to let me down.  You can’t rate an entire game on a 30-minute window of playtime.  But almost all of my concerns have evaporated.  I am truly looking forward to playing Resident Evil 2 again.

Resident Evil 2 Good Tidings
Such a happy place to come back to after all these years

I just hope Square Enix is taking note.  Want to rebuild a fan favourite?  Looks like Capcom has nailed how to do it.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Resident Evil 2 - 1 Shot Demo

Final Thoughts

It’s a free demo, available for another couple of weeks.  You can grab it on Steam for PC, or the PlayStation Store/Microsoft Store for PS4 and Xbox respectively.

If you are unsure of what a Resident Evil game is, grab yourself a copy of the demo.  If this doesn’t grab you, neither will the full game – that simple.

But for me, I still have one major regret.  Why does Resident Evil 2 have to come out 4 days before Kingdom Hearts 3?  Too many great games coming!

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Demo shows not just a nostalgia cash grab
  •  Taking an ambitious project to new heights with modern tricks

Cons

  •  30 minutes flies by
  •  It’s a Resident Evil game – not for everyone

Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. dates announced – and it’s really early access?

Fallout 76 Feature

Everyone ready?  “TAKE ME HOOOME”…

So during E3 2018, there were so many bits of video gaming news dropped.  One that had my (and the worlds) eyebrow raised was Fallout 76.

Leading into E3, there was only a masterclass troll reveal.

As a recap, Bethesda tweeted at the End of May with the instantly fan recognisable ‘Please Stand By’.

Fans were standing by for a 24-hour Twitch Livestream of the TV and a PipBoy Bobblehead.

Yeah, it was as hard to watch as you think.

But in the end, the teaser trailer was made available.

Then during E3 2018, Bethesda’s Todd Howard dropped the first gameplay reveal trailer and confirmed something I thought was a great move.  Preordering Fallout 76 got you access to the B.E.T.A. – The Break It Early Test Application run of the game.

So early access for preordering isn’t new, and a test phase for any online game is a great idea for a lot of reasons.  But given Bethesda’s past Fallout day one efforts, this was a move to give fans the confidence to pay up sight unseen.

Fallout 3 had some… I will say interesting glitches.  On PlayStation 3, there were some bugs that stopped quests – OK.  Then it deleted saves.  Wow.  PC had it’s share of issues as well don’t get me wrong – but if you went in on launch it was hard to play.

Fallout New Vegas I tried to play straight away, and I just couldn’t.  It was REALLY broken – there is no other way to put it.  Now I still own it all and by all accounts, it’s a great game now it’s all fixed.  I will go back and play it, but it put me off.  Fallout 4 I own and got to the first ‘build this settlement’ stuff and I just thought nope and never reloaded it.

So with this kind of history, Bethesda acknowledging the issues and (admittedly charging for) the chance to jump in and test this pre-launch for an online game was a smart move.

And late last week, the dates were revealed 😀

My first thought was “So nope.  I will be at PAX!”.  Then I realised the first date was for XBox.  OK, a lot of the announcements etc. have been made during Microsoft events, there is obviously a push happening there.

But then I twigged that at best this is all happening 3 weeks before launch.

Now my background is IT – it’s my full-time job, and software releases are just something I do.

If I was putting large-scale testing of two similar but distinct systems into effect two weeks out – I would be worried.  Historically, Bethesda has had issues on PlayStation – over and above the issues with game releases on the whole.

The cynic in me sees a board meeting in Bethesda which goes something like this:

“We need to get people to buy our game upfront.  People keep waiting for us to fix it then buying it.”

“Tell them we hear them and give them slightly early access, but call it a beta test.”

Now as I said this is the cynic in me.  I’m not 100{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c} on the new Fallout game, but this is a series that is close to my hear.  I still have my preorder from EB Games, and I think my B.E.T.A. code is good.  I say I think because I have no confirmation from the Fallout site, but if I try to reregister the code says it’s used.

What about you guys?  Anyone lined up waiting to play Day One, or are you waiting to see how it goes?

But to not end this on a negative note, the in-game intro is now available to check out as well.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the gift that continues to give

Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice VR Edition Feature

Almost a year later, PC VR users have just got a free update

Last years Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice from Ninja Theory lit a fire under many gamers.  Self-described as in independent AAA title, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a unique game for many reasons.

One of these reasons was a central narrative point of mental health. Without going into spoiler territory, a central element of the plot was Senua’s increasing psychosis.  As the player, you see everything from Senua’s perspective, and you also have to decide what is ‘reality’ and what isn’t.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a strange one in my game collection.  I have played enough of it last year to know I want to play all of it, but I am well enough into the story to believe I have a handle on everything that’s happening and am content.

My idea was to grab it on sale when I had a weekend to dedicate to it, probably on PS4 so I could play it on the couch.  Also, the voice effects from the controller are an incredibly immersive touch.

But then while I was looking through GoG.com and Steam to buy a completely different game (I will tell you about that one Monday), something caught my eye.  There is an update for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice a year after launch.  But it’s not DLC, or performance tweaks, or additional story.

Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice Screen
Even reviewers that didn't like the gameplay mechanics agreed that the story driven focus of the game was stellar.

Simply put – Ninja Theory have put the finishing touches on playing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice in VR on PC, and it looks amazing.

The announcement trailer is shown below:

Talk about an immersive experience.  The amount of messing with the player that can occur in VR is almost limitless.  And unlike other games that have been essentially rereleased in VR mode, Ninja Theory have elected to make an almost standalone game experience completely free!

So much for my plans on waiting and spending quality time on the couch – it looks like I will be sitting upstairs on my PC in VR!

Even if you don’t have VR, this is potentially a game worthy of your time.  By all accounts, it is an amazing experience on every platform even though I have only played about 3 hours on PS4 Pro.

Just look at the praise it has received to date – not to mention a BAFTA-winning game to boot.  Well, five to be specific: Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, British Game, Game Beyond Entertainment and Melina Juergens winning the Performer category for her role as Senua.

Hellblade Senuas Sacrifice Accolades
A game made by 20 people shows you don't need multi-million dollar backing to make a great experience

Playing a game you have finished in VR may not sound like much to a lot of people.  I can tell you after playing Resident Evil 7 in both VR and 2D modes that it really does make for a different experience entirely.

If you are interested in getting Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice for yourself, you can pick it up from the following places:

PlayStation Store AUD$44.95, but on sale for $26.95 until 9/8/2018.  Ninja Theory has confirmed no PSVR Support will be coming, as it is ‘designed for high-end PC’s’.  It does include PS4 Pro support though.

XBox AUD$44.95.  Also includes XBox One X Enhanced support, but also no VR.

Steam – USD$29.99 (Approx AUD$41) including free VR update.

GoG.com – AUD$33.99 including free VR update.  This is probably the best deal (excluding PSN sale pricing) if you have a higher end gaming PC, even if you don’t have VR.

If I get around to playing it in the next couple of weeks, I will let you know how it goes!

Until Next Time,

JohnHQLD