Last Week’s Gaming – February 17th, 2020

One Deck Dungeon Phone Support

Well one game got me really suckered in this week

It looks like another Video Game heavy week, but I played about 9-10 hours of One Deck Dungeon this week! It definitely helped with my ‘Play 250 games’ progress this week! Just look to the right for how that is tracking 🙂

Enough of all that though, on to what I have been playing!

One Deck Dungeon

I have been meaning to get to One Deck Dungeon for a long time. A lot of people have told me how great a solo game it is, but I always had something else to play. Well I fixed that this week, and I played it a lot. Fifteen times, to be exact.

It’s a solo dungeon crawl experience that plays with some tokens and a deck of cards. I played a few times with the physical version, and a few times on the Steam copy I have had for a while.

Now that I know how to play it properly, I will probably solo it on PC. There is a lot of shuffling and turn order things to keep straight, and the digital version handles all that. But beware – the first few run throughs are tough. Expect a full review soon.

One Deck Dungeon - Dragon run complete!
This was a hard slog, but my two adventurers won through

Onitama – Android

As usual, I played some Onitama again when I had a bit of downtime during the day at work. Against the hard AI, I usually win about one third of the time. Last week I was dreaming for a win at all.

This week went much smoother – three games, two wins. Vindication!

I love Onitama as a game. You will see this pop-up in games played pretty consistantly because of this. Onirim is another favourite, but I didn’t get around to it this week.

Why do I love Onitama? Check out my review for more info!

Onitama
VINDICATION! After last week's whooping, getting a couple of wins was great

Halo – Xbox

I am running a bit of a tight rope this week. One of the reason I have trouble finishing video games is switching between games. And this week, I started two other games!

That didn’t stop me from making some progress in Halo this week, but I need to keep old habits in mind. I have gotten up to the Flood, so I’m in the ‘real’ game now I guess?

One thing that did strike me is how little Bungie level design has changed. Halo is almost 20 years old now, and yet I saw a lot of empty areas for loading like I did in Destiny 2. That’s not a bad thing as such, but it’s interesting to see how much some developers stick to what they know.

Halo
I didn't get much further in this week, but I am aiming to finish Halo before any of the other games I started

Marvel’s Spider-Man – PS4

So this week I picked up my DualShock 4 back button attachment. I was going to test it with Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order. I didn’t, as I was worried about getting sucked into it and ignoring Halo.

Ooops. Instead, I got sucked into Spider-Man. The first thing that hit me is that the official Marvel games are not using any of the MCU actors faces. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does ruin some of the immersion for me. I don’t feel like I am playing in the Marvel universe at all.

Another thing that works for Spider-Man but also against it for me is that combat. It plays like the Batman Arkham games, and I spent way too long hitting triangle to counter. This is not a move in Spider-Man!

I think I can finish Halo in a dedicated weekend, so once that is done I will be returning to Spider-Man straight away.

Marvel's Spider-Man
The photo mode is a lot of fun. How could I resist?

Resident Evil 0 – Switch

With the various eShop sales, I have been slowly building my Resident Evil collection on my Switch. Obviously it will be missing the new remakes, but for historical plays I like the idea of taking the collection with me.

Story wise, it takes place before the original Resident Evil, hence the 0 numbering. I have heard lots of mixed reviews about the game, and wanted to check it out for myself.

It has a lot of game innovations that I already appreciate, such as controlling two characters at once. That said, I am early into the game so that may be a negative later.

I don’t intend to hit Resident Evil 0 hard, but it’s a different enough game to the others that I shouldn’t get genre burn out. A couple of hours a week means this will take a long time to get through, but the puzzles so far have been challenging enough that should be enough.

Resident Evil 0
So I beat the first boss. And I did it with a knife! Out of necessity, not skill 😛

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

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

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