Aug 13, 2017

12.: Getting Insane

Think about Digital Distribution for Video Games what you whant, the fact that it is much cheaper for smaller Studios to self-publish their games and therefor cut off the big Publishers is amazing. Hellblade: Senua´s Sacrifice is the perfect example for this. Because developer Ninja Theory self published this game they where able to really make the exact game tghey wanted to make without any compromises to any publisher what so ever. And Hellblade truly is a game that could only be realised without someone telling the devs what they could and couldn´t do with their game because it deals with a very sensitive topic. Senua, the main character, suffers from a mental illness known as Psycosis. This is a condition that can take various forms, in Senua for example see´s and hear´s things that aren´t there, and you as the player has to deal with that too. Almost all the time you hear various voices around you, some talking you down for you stupid your actions are, some encouraging you, some giving you hints and helping you in combat. To really surround you by these voices Ninja Theory decided to use a Binaural Audio System instead of traditinal 5.1 Sound. Binaural Audio is a System Audio Recording system that allows to position and hear audio from all directions using only Stereo Headphones, and it is really incredible to hear. If you never experienced Binaural Audio yourself search Google for the "Virtual Barbershop", put your Stereo Headphones on and be amazed. Now Imagine hearing various Voices thoughout a videogame. And the more the game progresses the more you begin to wonder if the things that happen to Senua on the screen are really happening to her or not.

Gameplaywise you are solving puzzles, fight against enemies and try to stay sane yourself. The Puzzles are usualy a matter of finding rune shapes in the environment, however this can sometimes be a tricky task because you have to get to the right spot to be able to do this and simetimes it isn´t very clear where or what makes the shape. In general these puzzles are fairly good though since most of them require you to change the landscape around you a bit by finding gates or using masks. The other major gameplay element is the combat system. While it is not very deep it still manages to feel overwhelming at times, especially during Boss fights. Enemies are always stronger than yourself and more often than not outnumber you. Senua has to evade their attacks or block them before she can land some hits on her foes. You can take a look at the controls in the menu, everything else you have to figure out yourself. There is no Tutorial, no on-screen help, no HUD, only the voices in your head give you a hint from time to time. Voice acting is top notch, but that´s to be expected considering the topic Hellblade deals with, the Soundtrack takes a backseat for the most part, but that´s actually a good thing here. Not because it is bad, but because it really shouldn´t be the focus of the sound since music could easily distract and get in the way of the voices. Unreal Engine 4 is really showing what it can do here, Hellblade looks like a big budget game from a big studio, if not better. 

I love Hellblade for everything that it isn´t and doesn´t have. It is not a Dark Souls clone, it has no Skill Trees and no unlockable super weapons, it isn´t a Action RPG and isn´t a large, epic journey like Enslaved was. But I love it at least as much for everything that it is. It is a unique Story set within the very interesting northern mythology, it is an insane trip into the mind of young woman suffering from Psycosis that just whant´s to save her love. It is dark, brutal and unlike anything else you ever played before. At this point I can´t even tell you if the Permadeath feature is real or not. I can just tell you that I dies multiple times during my first playthrough and I didn´t fall victim to a Permadeath, however I don´t know if it really is there or not. It might as well just be something Ninja Theory uses to to play with the mind of the players. Hellblade is well worth the money, it´s a roughly 8 to 10 hour long game, and considering that some games that cost you twice as much are sometimes shorter than this you can´t really complain. Just do yourself a favour and play it with headphones, even a 5.1 Speaker setup would ruin half the experience.

Aug 2, 2017

11: Fast and Furious - The Game

Back when the first Fast & Furious Movie was the hot new shit in cinemas it suddenly became cool to seriously rice out. Let´s just hope that this trend will never come back. EA being EA of course decided to use this sudden horrible taste in car modification and combined it with their most popular Racing Franchise and the result was Need for Speed: Underground. And I love it. Why? Because it is a frikkin great game once you managed to llok beyond all the rice. The heart of the game is the Underground Mode where you are presented with 111 Events that you have to win in order to unlock better cars, more and more tasteless mods, performance upgrades and money to buy all this stuff. When your start the game you get a short, 2-Lap Chance to drive something faster, after that you have to buy something much more boring like a Dodge Neon or Golf Mk4 and with that you have to win illegal races in the fictional Olympic City. Even though the city has a network of roads, many tracks even sharing the same bits and pieces, you can´t drive around the city freely. On the other hand this allowed the developers to put much more details into the surrounding world and as a result the visuals somewhat still hold up today, the fact that the entire game is at night and on wet streets only helps to keep the visuals from looking too boring. Racing is done either and circuits with multiple laps or on point-to-point tracks with variying amount of traffic. Other than that you get Drag Racing wich forces you to use manual shifting and similar to the races you have to deal with random traffic. Drift Races are done on clodes off circuits, so you don´t have to bother with traffic, even your opponents are only represented by their score and not on the track itself. Every once in a while you get the chance to win special, unique parts in a time trial, in these you have to beat a certain time on one of the point-to-point tracks.

At least in the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the game you don´t have to worry too much about your actual opponents since they only get challenging closer to the end of the game. That´s at least if you are like me and you play a lot of racing games. The rendom Traffic can cost you few races though since these bastards can come out of nowhere and sometimes are even placed in a way that you will hit them no matter what when you follow any sensible racing line. Being a Need for Speed game the handling model is very Arcady, but it is always controlable and if you like you can turn off a stability control wich allows you to drift much more easily outside of the actual drift events. The Soundtrack is great mix of Hip-Hop / Rap, Rock / Metal and Electronic Music and you can decide wich tracks you whant to hear and if you whant them in Races, Menus or both. Overall it is a great game and still worth playing even almost 15 years after it´s original release, but you really have to either for whatever messed up reason like all the rice in this game or you have to be able to just ignore it, using the bumper view helps a lot with the later. And before someone asks: I am one of the few people that actualy thinks that the Original Underground was better than the 2nd one, mostly because I think that the open city in the sequel felt a lot like filler content between the races, especialy since all the visual and performance upgrades where spread across 4 different shops. The Original just feels much more Streamlined in many places.

Jul 9, 2017

09 & 10: A Double Pack of Wii Shooters!

I decided to not bother with the so far usual Photo to proof that I have beaten the games mainly because I´m too lazy to copy them from my Phone to my PC. Abd with that out of the way we jump straight into todays main meal: The Conduit and it´s sequel Conduit 2 for the Wii, a pair of First Person Shooters. You take control of Agent Michael Ford who works for an Agency called "Trust". Ford is send into Washington D.C. to recover stolen Trust technology from a terrorist organization led by Prometheus. However once Ford did everything Trust whanted they turn against him and Prometheus becomes his new best friend. At this point he has deal with his former employer while fighting off an Alien Invader called the Drudge. The Story is neither great nor memorable, heck, they even forgot to give it a proper ending or at least a true boss fight at the end, it kinda just ends after you fought off a few waves of Drudge at the end while trying to open a Conduit (that´s what they decided to call Portals) to escape from Trusts Headquarter / Drudge Factory (Oh, yeah, Drudge are manufactured or something) because that facility is about to self destruct. You never get a chance to to fight John Adams, the Boss of Trust and the very man that tried to ditch you a while earlier. Gameplay wise The Conduit is a solid FPS with nothing too special about it. Weapons are a mix of SMG´s, Shotguns, Pistols and Drudge weapons wich are mostly energy based and IMO more fun to use. Since it´s a Wii game you have to use Motion Controls, though they are fairly good and considering the game doesn´t support the Motion Plus feature it is actualy fairly precise. After the first few levels I didn´t mind pointing the Wiimote at my TV anymore and I began to really enjoy the game. Soundwise there is nothing to complain here, weapons sound like you would expect, voice acting is good, but nothing too special and the Soundtrack is at least not annoying. Back in the day The Conduit was praised a lot for it´s visuals and while it does indeed look rather good for a Wii game, however for the most part, even in outdoor areas, it´s just a bunch of corridors with a few larger rooms in between, but they are at least varied enough to keep it from getting boring.

Conduit 2 picks up right where the first one ended: On the other side of that Conduit-Portal that you used to espace from the Trust Headquarter. You are now on a Oil Platform and right away you start to hunt down John Adams. After defeating a giant sea monster Ford is taken to the Atlantis, the very ship that brought Adams, Prometheus and the Drudge to Earth. There you first get a fancy suit of armor and then awaken Andromeda from her Stasis. She then reveals that whoever is wearing that armor has to destroy The Pathfinder, who just happens to be John Adams. A wild hunt around the world and a few bossfights later you finally get your chance to kich Adams Drudge-Ass. While the story for Conduit 2 isn´t anything special either the game itself takes itself less serious than the previous game. The Weapon selection is similar, but you still get a few new toys to play with and control wise you can now use a Wii Classic Controller (Pro) instead of the Motion Controls, the latter now support the WiiMotion Plus feature. For some wierd reason you can´t use the Classic Controller when Motion Plus is activated in the Options Menu. For the sound departement I have the exact same thing to say as for the first game, the graphics however are greatly improved and I would go so far to say this is probably the best looking Wii game period. You get much more varied levels visualy wise with some of them even having a much more open feel to them than anything the first game had to offer. Sadly Conduit 2 ends on a Cliffhanger with former US Presidents from Outerspace, and I somehow doubt that we will ever see a Conduit 3, wich is a bummer considering the 2nd game made a lot of right design decisions and it had the potential in it to become a bigger franchise than it is. Since you can pick both games up for a fairly low price there is really no reason why you shouldn´t at least give them a chance.

Jun 15, 2017

Wild Animal Kingdom

Can a Wildlife Park with a selection of older Fairground rides be so good that it´s worth visiting despite your time required getting to the Park and back home equals or even surpasses the time you are able to stay at the Park itself? At least for the Serengeti Park here in germany I would say yes without even thinking too much about it. The Park is located in North Germany between the cities of Hannover and Bremen near the town of Hodenhagen. It opened in 1974 under the name of "Wild Animal Kingdom" as a series of Wildlife parks all around the world, all of wich shared the concept of presenting exotic Animals in a Safari-Style environment with a few Attractions added for good measure. In 1982 the american parent company filed for bankrupcy and Paolo Sepe, who ran the Park in germany, took the opportunity to buy the Park and since then it is owned and operated by the Sepe Family. In 1983 they began renovating and expanding the Park. In 2004 they recieved permanent recognition as a zoological garden in accordance to current EU-guidlines and north German nature preserve law. Today it is home for over 1.500 animals living on over 200ha of space. The animals live in large, open spaces and where possible multiple species share their space. Of cause predators like Lions and Tigers have areas for themselves. With a few expeptions, wich are for the most part the monkey´s, you can´t reach the animals by foot. Like mentioned above the Park whant´s to give it´s visitors a Safari-Style experience and because of this you need a vehile to see most of the wildlife. You can either do this with your own car at your own pace or you pay 5,50€ to take a guided 1-hour tour in one of the double decker busses, as a bonus the driver will explain a few things about the animals you see. They even have a area with smaller, harmless animals that acts as a petting zoo. During this Safari trip you get to see Giraffes, Rhinos, Lions and Tigers, both in regular and white flavours, Flamingos, Elephants, several variants of Antilopes and many others. Like already hinted at most of the monkeys are not part of this Safari since those are in a seperate part of the Park and you can get much closer to them than you would on the regular Tour. Some of them are on seperate, man made islands without any fence or cage around them what so ever since they wouldn´t cross the water anyway, some other species have a large fence-like structure around them, however you can enter those areas by foot and get very close to the animals.

The Theme Park portion is for the most part nothing too special and not really worth the visit just for the rides. You get common Fairground stuff like Bumper Cars, a Ferris Wheel, a Top Spin, a Break Dancer and a Log Flume. The Highlight of these was, at least for me, the nowadays very rare Condor from Huss named "Senga". Even their Roller Coaster "Chura Racer" is just a plain, old Zierer Tivoli-large model like many others around the world. In addition to these rides you get a few playground areas for the kids, rowing boats and even a ropeclimbing parcours. And while the later is already something special, the remaining attractions are indeed very unique. All of them are centered around somewhat unique motorized vehicles. The "Jungle Safari" seats guests in the back of an Off-Road capable Truck, the first part follows a different path through some of the Wildlife Areas than the regular tour and then enters a forest-area wich is home to some Animatronics and special effects. The Second is called "Quad Safari" and like the name suggest guests take a seat on a larger Quad, two of these seats are mounted in a backwards position, and the driver navigates you through a special Off-Road course filled with Animatronics.

For me the real stars of all of the Attractions are the two Water Based Vehicles. The first one is "Black Mamba" and it features Jet-Boats capable of spinning around in tight circles. Sadly I wasn´t able to ride this one myself. The other one is the "Aqua Safari" and I did ride this one, it would have been crazy to not do this one. The vehicles here are Air Boats used most famously in Floride. These things are essentialy large steel pans with a few benches screwed on top and 500 BHP V8 Engine in a cage on the back attached to a large propeller. The first part of the rides takes you slowly through a narrow canal featuring scenes of destruction caused by King Kong. Once you reach the more open lake the boat get´s accelerated to full throttle, wich is an insane experience. That V8 in your back is screaming so loud that no matter how hard you try, no one would be able hear you, not even yourself. After this incredible high speed part the experience ends with a large King Kong Animatronic and a few Light and Water Effects. To my knowledge Serengeti Park is the only place in Europe, if not the entire world, that features these boats as a Theme Park attraction.

And the best part is that all of these Rides are included in the very reasonable Ticket price of currently (2017 Season) 32,50€ for an Adult. The only thing you have to pay extra is the guided Bus Tour, doing the Safari with your own car is free, just like parking. I visited the Park in April with my niece and she enjoyed every minute of it at least as much as I did, if not even more. The fact that it was a weekday resulted in somewhat low visitor numbers resulting in short waiting times for the rides. The only things with wait times even worth mentioning where the four special rides mentioned above. If you like to visit Zoo´s and Wildlife Parks the Serengeti Park should be on your bucket list for sure! The entire staff was very friendly and highly motivated, the animals all looked healthy to me (I´m no expert though) and I really love that they try to keep the animals in a much more true to nature way than most Zoo´s do.

Please excuse the mostly poor quality of the photos I took in this park, but I forgot my camera at home that day and when I realized it we where already almost at the Park, but like someone probably more famous than myself once said, the best camera is the one that´s with you and in this case that was my entry level Smartphone.

Official Park Website:
For more pictures of this and other Parks visit my Flickr Account:

Jun 14, 2017

08: So sweet that you get diabetes from it

As already mentioned in a previous post that I most likely won´t be able to beat the 52 game challenge and to be honest I don´t care too much about it. I play video games for the fun of it and I don´t whant to force myself into playing games only to beat a self-imposed challenge. However, and this is still something good, I get around to finally play some games I had lying around for a while and / or are on my bucket list anyway. It might come as a surprise that in my entire life I never really played any of the Kirby games and therefore Kirby´s Epic Yarn was my first real expirience with the pink fluffball outside of the Super Smash Bros. Franchise. And boy did I enjoy this one! The unique and colorful visuals with absolutely everything made out of yarn, cloth and everything that is diretly related to these two things gives the game a look like no other game. The entire thing just looks right and allows for some creative gameplay elements like the ability tu pull certain parts of the level to you or to change shapes depending of what you whant to do, i.e. instead of running Kirby transforms into a car to move faster. The fact that Epic Yarn is a 2D game helps the visuals a lot, I´d bet my ass that this artstyle would look terrible in 3D.

As with a certain other Nintendo Franchise centered around an Italian Plumber the Story can be written on a piece of toilet paper. Kirby eats a tomato that belongs to Yin Yarn, an evil wizard, and get´s sucked into Patch land where he is turned into yarn making most of his abilities useless while granting him new ones at the same time. In order to get back home Kirby needs to help Prince Fluff to find seven pieces of magical yarn that held Patch Land together. And that´s all we got for a Story and that´s all we really need and it is presented in well narrated Cutscenes, Besides the visuals the other stars of the show are the gameplay and music, the former features super precise controls and enough variation to keep it interesting, it even features a few Shmup-sections for good measure. The music is some of the best I heard in any video game ever. It varies from very catchy tunes to some epic scores that wouldn´t sound out of place in a Starfox game. Well done Nintendo! My only real gripe with this one is the low difficulty, heck, I would even say that it´s too easy for kids since it doesn´t even have a failure state what so ever, a optional, harder mode would have brought this one to absolute perfection.