December 31, 2016

The Psycho Mantis Video Game Awards 2016

Keeping that Glass Half-Full With Video Games

Honestly, I'm already sick of people saying 2016 was a terrible year, but my god was 2016 a terrible year. Disasters seemed to keep piling on in both the personal and political realms. Artistic icons passed away, revolutions were drowned in blood, and tragedies just kept piling on for me and the people I care most about.

It's with some bitter irony, then, that I note just how amazing this year was for video games. I thought 2015 was good, but man if 2016 didn't blow it out of the water. Whether indie or AAA, action or story driven, PC or console, game developers put out some of their best work this year.

Of course, none of this makes up for the terrible things that happened. No amount of amazing video games is worth one Aleppo. But if there's anything to take from this year, it's the power of art and entertainment to help people deal with the hardest of times, and I hope this post shows that video games are continuing to prove their place as the foremost medium in both fields.

Now we just need to get rid of all of that human misery and make sure that everyone can enjoy them.

For the Record: No Fee-To-Pay

You Mei notice that one game that can be found in many, many GOTY lists is missing here. It's a game that has been a Bastion of enjoyment for me, having played it for around 300 hours now, and I doubt I'll stop anytime soon. When I played its open beta, I couldn't wait to get my Hanzo on it, and I've been enjoying its biZarya charms ever since it hit the Roadhog.

It's also a full priced game that had the gall to include microtransactions, and what's more, only allowing you to buy random lootboxes that are mostly filled with Junkrat. It's a real Reaper-off, and although it's not a pay-to-Winston system, it's scummy all the same. 

This year we are faced with the Sombra realization that ever more scummy business practices are finding their way into the premium games market. It's a fact that has affected me on both a personal and professional level. You may find it Anal, or argue that I'm going too Pharah. Still, as Reinhardt as it is, and as much as I'm Torbjörn about this decision, I can't just be Zenyatta and let it go. This is how industries Widow and die. And so, I cannot consider this game - at whose identitiy I will only very, very subtly hint - for GOTY.

Some will say this is hypocritical, since other games with DLC and season passes are featured here. However, there's no Symmetra between games with significant, well-defined expansions and those with endless, random microtransactions.

I am under no IlLucion that this will change anything in the near future, and I know it makes me look like a bit of a D.Va, but I believe everyone needs to follow their McCreed, and so, there can be no Mercy in the matter.

Of course, the same is true for any other game with similar business practices. This is an issue that may have Mankind Divided, but I have no doubt where I stand.


The Psycho Mantis "Reckless Person" Award For Worst Video Game, 2016

About a month ago, Steam Spy revealed that almost 40% of all Steam games came out this year. With the platform increasingly filled with utter garbage made by people who could only jokingly be referred to as "developers", it might seem questionable that any game with a decent budget or effort put into it could be the worst game released this year. However, reception is always relative to expectation, and there is very little to be gained from critiquing Steam's dumpster fires.

With that in mind, the worst video games released in 2016 are...

Street Fighter V

I'm not one to yell "you killed my childhood" at someone who made a bad movie or game. As far as I'm concerned, if your childhood is the sum total of the entertainment you consumed growing up, not much is lost by it being taken away. Still, Street Fighter has always had an important place in my heart. My grandmother used to watch me play SFII - even though she didn't like that it was violent and preferred it when we played Mario - and one day we even sat down to write what happens in each character's ending. That note still hangs on her fridge, last time I checked.

And so, when SFV came out, my good judgement and apprehension towards AAA gaming went out the window, and I ended up getting it on launch day. Imagine my surprise when I found out the game's story mode consisted of three incredibly easy fights for each character, and that it took upwards of 6 minutes to find a game online. Since launch, an extended story mode came out, but it's as boring as the original, and while online matches don't take quite as long to find, it's still well beyond what should be acceptable for a fighting game. 

Laughably touted as a Street Fighter for fighting game pros, Street Fighter V is barren and dim-witted, a stain on what is still my favorite fighting game franchise.


On paper, Shadwen sounds great. It's a stealth game where, just like in SUPERHOT, time only moves when you do (although in Shadwen, time completely stops instead of just passing very slowly), set in a world that looks and feels a lot like that of the first Witcher game. 

Sadly, all Shadwen does is prove once more that good ideas don't mean much on their own. The game constantly crashes, platforming (which this game has for some reason) is awkward and finicky, and the guards are practically blind, making stealth trivial and dissatisfying. 

Despite my best efforts, the game broke me pretty early on, when I was presented with a choice on whether to kill a guard or sneak past him. Or I would be, if a bug didn't force me to take a lethal approach either way. Even when, digging through the game's Steam forums, I found an exploit that allowed me to sneak by, I was still accused in the following cutscene of killing the guard. When a game gives you a choice and then ignores completely the one you took, what's the point?

I still say Shadwen's concept has a lot of promise. Here's hoping someone manages to capitalize on it in the future.


Never before has my utter contempt for a game been so accurately captured by a couple of screenshots.


Contrary to what this list might have you believe, I rarely go out seeking bad games. I take no joy in playing them. All they is make me bored and irritated. If I do seem gleeful when taking them down, it's only because it's the only thing I can gain from my time with them. But Bombshell really looked like one of those rare so-bad-it's-good games, a game where you can really enjoy the awfulness.

Sadly, no. If you think Bombshell can give you over-the-top action-movie stupidity, you're in for a disappointment. If anything, Bombshell is weirdly understated, with a distinct lack of audio-visual feedback that makes all the shooting and explosions feel empty and complete lacking in impact. One turret section - because apparently the year is 2009 - was so quiet that I started wondering if I'm being pranked.

When it's not trying to kill by being dull in look and feel, Bombshell tries to torture you with its humor. A cursory look at anything I've ever written will make it very clear that I have an idiot's sense of humor, and even I found Bombshell's jokes to be assaults on the very idea of humor. There actually a weapon in this game called a Maxigun - get it? Because Bombshell is a woman? For fuck's sake.

Back In 1995

Almost forgot about this one, and I haven o idea how I could! The glitches, the awful writing, the poo monsters - everything about Back In 1995 screams style over substance, trying to capture in painstaking detail the looks and controls of old survival horror games - up to and including an option to turn on CRT effect, no thank you - with no understanding of what made them great. As I wrote about its conscious attitude to some of its mechanics as "gimmicks" at the time, 

"...that could be said about practically anything in Back In 1995: it's all a gimmick. Resident Evil had turret controls because the first PlayStation didn't have dual analog sticks. Silent Hill had fog because the PlayStation wasn't powerful enough to render the large environments Team Silent wanted to use. Why does Back In 1995 do anything that it does? Just because. Just to make you think of the old horror games you liked, in the hopes that maybe you'd like it by-proxy."

I didn't, and that seems to be general consensus. With a new Resident Evil touted as a return to the series' survival-horror roots and at least one Silent Hill-throwback game planned for release in 2017, let's hope the future is a bit kinder to classic survival horror.

Worst of the Year - Knee Deep + Virginia

There are game developers who borrow heavily from film, using cinematic techniques to enhance their writing and visuals. Then there are developers who prefer to tell stories in a way that is more uniquely available to video games, including especially the metagame narratives we've seen more and more of following the success of Undertale and Pony Island. These two trends in video-game storytelling both have their merits, and the differences and interplay between them deserve a more thorough analysis than they have been given so far.

One category of games that get entirely too much attention, though, is that of games that try very hard to convince that they are something else. The foremost representatives of this category I've come across this year are Knee Deep and Virginia, the former trying to present itself as a play, the latter as a movie. Lucky for them, they are, in fact, video games; otherwise, they would be shred to pieces by any self-respecting critic in the media they try to ape.

Knee Deep has you play a reporter, and the interactivity reduces to the way you decide to write your stories. You can be "Cautious", "Edgy", or "Inflammatory", but no matter what you choose, the result will be some cringe-worthy blocks of text or dialogue. Theater prides itself on wit and depth, two qualities sorely missing from Knee Deep.

Virginia is so overflowing with pretentiousness that it actually replaces the Play Game option from the main menu with Play Feature. It is so desperate to be like a movie that it recommends that you play at 30 frames per second, as if that's going to make its terrible character models or barren environments look any better. It still gives you an aiming reticle, though, because video games.

The problem with Knee Deep and Virginia isn't in technical aptitude, although there's some real uncanny-valley stuff going on in both games. The problem is their basic design philosophy, which seems to argue that in order for video games to grow as a medium, they need to become something else. They represent a sinister trend in game design, with a massive cognitive dissonance between the way they view themselves and what they end up achieving. 

Fortunately, I believe these to be the death pangs of that trend. It's been a while since anyone went looking for gaming's Citizen Kane, and hopefully, in the future, games like Knee Deep and Virginia will be dealt with the sort of bemused scorn they deserve. We have too many good developments in video games for them to get anything else.

Also, what's with the way they drew hands in Virginia?

Jesus Christ.

Well, that's the crap out of the way. On to the good stuff!

The Psycho Mantis "Prudent Person" Award For Best Video Game, 2016

Honorable Mention - Downwell

Although a 2015 game technically, Downwell got its Android and PS3/4/Vita versions this year, allowing me to sink unthinkable amounts of time into it on various platforms. If you still haven't tried this one, I urge you to do so now. It really is one of the finest platformers ever made, brilliantly designed, beautiful and most importantly, incredibly fun.

Honorable Mention - Slain: Back From Hell

Slain is a game I was really excited for when trailers first came out. A retro, heavy-metal swords-and-sorcery platformer sounds right up my alley. When it came out, however, it got a very cold reception due to a very basic combat system, a lot of missing audio cues, and an all-around shoddy presentation and feel. Disappointed, I decided to forget about the game.

Luckily, Slain fell into the hands of a much better team, and Slain: Back From Hell was released as an apology to those who were so disappointed in the end product. The result is a game that, while not revolutionary in any way, is a whole bunch of fun and, by all accounts, is far better than the original.

It's bad practice to give awards to games that patched out problems after release, which is why Back From Hell shouldn't be considered for GOTY. However, it gets a mention because it is a positive counter to that commonly misused Shigeru Miyamoto quote about delayed games: here we have a game that was bad, but won't be bad forever. Here's hoping the people who got it that way will get to make a new game from the ground up. Whether it'll be a Slain 2 or an entirely new game, they certainly deserve credit for the respect they have shown their audience and the medium.

Also, the dialogues between the protagonist and the crone are amazing.


Firewatch has the distinction of being the first walking simulator I truly enjoyed. To this day, when I think about it, I remember its lovely art style, the quiet ambience of the wind and water, the animals you see along the way, and how good it feels to just move around the world and take in its beauty. While some of its trickery is apparent and jarring - like when two distant characters are represented by stick figures and the game thought we wouldn't notice - it just works so well most of the time that these issues are easy to forgive. 

I only played Firewatch once so far, which is unfortunate. This is one walking simulator where your choices actually have an effect on the story, and the developers even included dialogue for a set of choices few players are likely to take up, where you simply ignore dialogue options altogether. The silent exploration leaves so much space for you to think about what's going on and what you want to say and do next, and it never feels like you're railroaded into treating characters a specific way just because the game wants you to. Plus I liked the ending, so there. 

Oh, and you can play with turtles!

Many turtles.

I only ever found one, though.


I wasn't massively impressed by Dark Souls III. In general, I find the Dark Souls games are the least enjoyable of the Soulsborne games, and while III is probably the best of the trilogy, it doesn't even approach the level of quality of Bloodborne. I also didn't like how it referenced the first game - to me, a lot of the fun of playing From's games is in trying to make sense of the alien world I have been put into, and when I know so much of the world already, that sense is completely gone. And so, sadly, Dark Souls III isn't one of my favorite games of the year, but thanks to DarkMaus, it's not even my favorite Souls-like game of the year. 

DarkMaus' premise is simple: a top-down adventure game with a Dark Souls-style combat system where you play a mouse. However, the devil is in the details here, and what DarkMaus truly succeeds in is in creating the sort of bleak world atmosphere that is integral to the series that it's aping. There's secret areas, madness, brutality, cruelty, betrayal - all the arcane mystery and danger that make these games stick with players so much. 

And it even has a dodge system that isn't a broken mess, so that's nice.

Uncharted 4

This one was not expected. I hated Uncharted 3, and am one of the few people on the planet who found The Last of Us very meh, because I'm not a sucker for hype I just didn't think it was mechanically all that interesting.

However, Uncharted 4 is legit. It's a loud, dumb action game, but it has real soul to it. It is finally a Naughty Dog game with interesting characters and an actual point to make, a story about siblings - which I'm always a sucker for - and the way they balance their desire to make each other happy with their own happiness. And while I didn't much care for the actual shoot-outs, I really liked the platforming sections, which is surprising because that's hands-down what I hated the most about 3. I also think the multiplayer must've been pretty good in those first few weeks before it completely died.

Uncharted 4 is so good that it's pretty high on my list of games from this year I want to replay. Naughty Dog finally made a game I love, and I couldn't be happier.


5 minutes in, I was gearing up to hate Oxenfree, with its typical cast of obnoxious douchebag teenagers you're supposed to want to see dead. Not too long afterwards, though, Oxenfree got its hooks in me. The characters became more interesting, the atmosphere got truly dark, and I got more and more interested in uncovering the story beyond the funny radio noises. 

Horror is at its best when it is accentuated by silliness, and Oxenfree uses this in its favor with great proficiency. Humor is used to great effect, endearing characters to you and making the moments where you have to make tough decisions about them all the more effective. If you were turned off by the first few scenes of the game, I urge you to reconsider - there's depth to this game, even if it comes off as initally as typical horror schlock.


2016 saw a whole bunch of games released whose point was to completely shatter the fouth wall, to the point where this risked becoming an annoyingly-overused concept for a while. Pony Island, Calendula and SUPERHOT all had uncooperative menu screens and creepy texts trying to get in your head. 

However, to me, IMSCARED stands above all those other games in successfully playing on the player's fears, to the point where I actually don't want to say any more about it. Just go play it. It's dirt cheap, scary as hell, and amazing. It got to me on a basic, almost technical level, but I can't say more without ruining something so just Go. Get. It.

Kathy Rain

Grant us eyes, grant us eyes!

Kathy Rain's Android version was released on a week when I was suffering some serious leg pain, to the point where I had to stay in bed. Good thing, too, because once I picked it up, I couldn't stop. 

Kathy Rain is a retro point-and-click game, of the kind that has been having a bit of a renaissance lately, no doubt due in part to Jay Tholen's excellent Dropsy. Rain is a college student and a budding detective who one day finds out that her long-estranged grandfather has died. After his funeral, she reconnects with her grandmother and starts to investigate the mysterious circumstances of his death.

Point-and-click puzzle games are notorious for their obtuse, moon-logic puzzles, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised by Kathy Rain. The puzzles are challenging, but upon finding out the solution, you never feel like you lucked out or just combined items until something worked. Despite there being a bit too much going back and forth between places to my taste, it always feels like there's a logic to the solutions, even when it isn't necessarily apparent. The result is that the process of coming up with a solution is so enjoyable that you're never frustrated by being stuck, something very few puzzle games manage to accomplish.

Aside from solving puzzles to progress through the story, Kathy Rain also gives the player the chance to connect the dots between the many plot threads in the game, exploring themes of corruption, insanity, abuse, friendship and family, among others. It's a beautifully crafted story, with many touching and funny moments, with an ending that's effective in a way that I unfortunately can't say more about without spoiling it. Suffice to say, it's one of the most satisfying stories I've seen in a while.

So I really hope that sequel baiting ending was legit, because I'd play the shit out of a Kathy Rain 2.

1979 Revolution: Black Friday

There's very little I can say about 1979 Revolution that I haven't already said in my review, but I believe this part sums things up quite well:

"Banalities are never in short supply when one tries to discuss the popular uprisings of the past: "revolutions devour their own children", "violence begets violence", "absolute power corrupts absolutely" - such platitudes are often all people feel the need to say about events that have had enough books written about them to fill up a library. When they take place in a Middle-Eastern country, the racist idea that Muslims, left to their own devices, can only replace a pro-Western dictatorial regime with an even worse, Islamic regime, is all the more tempting to those whose understanding of the region has been heavily colored by post-9/11 Islamophobia...

With such heavy subject matter to tackle, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday's triumph in interactive storytelling is all the more significant. By having the player character take an active role in the revolution as well as exposing players to its social, cultural and political backdrop, it can be said with no hyperbole that it has won an important place in video game history."

Unforutnately, I believe recent events make this statement all the more pertinent.

Best of the Year - DOOM

No surprises here. After years of grey military shooters, the king is back. DOOM manages to take the level design of the first Doom and the fast paced shooting galleries of the Doom II and mix them up into something that isn't exactly like either of those games, but instead a new, superior product. I've written about the brilliance of DOOM's mechanics, the way they complement each other and contribute to the game's sheer adrenaline rush of a pace; slightly better known gaming media people have spoken about the genius way it characterizes its protagonist; but what's truly amazing about DOOM is that none of that analysis is really that necessary. 

Don't get me wrong, it's fun to analyze DOOM as much as any great game. But a lot of media becomes better or worse upon reflection. But DOOM's qualities are so obvious and distinctive that it seems so much easier to let it speak for itself. A lot of game design is concerned with having the player realize how to play the game without telling them explicitly how to do so, and in that sense, DOOM is a masterpiece of game design. It is by no means easy - on Nightmare difficulty, it's quite a challenge - but the difficulty always encourages adjustment rather than repetition. 
DOOM could have easily been a very bleak game, constantly trying to shock players with the sheer horror and misery of hell. There is some of that in the game, of course; but it also knows how to be colorful, almost cartoony, respectful of its past without having any of what it does feel like gratuitous fan-service.

It's also such a beautiful game. I mean, look at this flower jar.
That flower jar...
A lot of people complained about the multiplayer, but I actually like it quite a lot. I have put more time into certain team-based, objective-driven games that shall remain nameless, but as far as mindless run-around-shooting games, this is the sort of multiplayer mode I've always wanted. It's fast and tactical, the complete opposite of Call of Duty's hope-you-see-the-other-guy-first style, and most importantly, you can turn into a demon - including, after some recent updates, a Cacodemon. 

You can be a Cacodemon, people. 

How could this ever not by GOTY?


Well, that's it for 2016. It's December 31st, and it's time for my yearly tradition of playing Metal Gear Solid alone in my apartment and wondering why no one likes me SEE YA'LL NEXT YEAR! 

November 27, 2016

Even the Ocean Review - Unbalanced Energies

I expected November to be a rather busy month for me new games-wise. Between Owlboy, the new Call of Duty, Dishonored 2 and Watch Dogs 2, it looked like I'd have my plate full for a while. But Owlboy bored me, Infinite Warfare looks underwhelming, and I'm still waiting for Dishonored 2 and WD2 to have functional PC versions, because modern gaming.

It is under these circumstances that I happened across Even the Ocean, an indie game that apparently had some hype behind it, but whose unfortunate release date made capturing the attention of the wider gaming public nigh impossible. Indeed, the game seems to have sold poorly, not least due to the fact that as far as I can tell, there have been no professional reviews of it. Even consumer reviews have not been that plentiful, with only 2 reviews on GOG and only 21 on Steam at the time of writing.

That's a shame, because for all of its flaws, Even the Ocean deserves to be played. In these days of Trump getting enthusiastically Sieg-Heiled into power, a game that not only has a cast overwhelmingly made up of people of ethnicities, sexual orientations and body types that we rarely see in video games, but which also effectively tackles some of the regressive social attitudes these people face, is a beautiful thing to see. 

No less importantly, Even the Ocean innovates in a field so few games experiment with anymore - gameplay. Though it can be a bit on the nose, and despite losing steam considerably by the last few levels, Even the Ocean deserves far more attention than it has been getting.

Even the Ocean's protagonist is Aliph, a power plant technician on her first field mission. Power plants have been malfunctioning all over, and Aliph and her supervisor Cassidy have been sent to see what's up. But when things go awry, Aliph is left to fend for herself, and must work her way through her first job all on her own. 

It is at this point that players will get to experience Even the Ocean's unique gameplay mechanics firsthand, but only if they want to: Even the Ocean's developers made efforts to accommodate gamers of all ability levels, allowing players to do away with specific mechanics or even do away with the pure gameplay sections altogether. Playing the game the standard way is recommended, but lack of dexterity should not deter anyone from giving it a chance. 

Having said that, thought has clearly been put into these mechanics, and it is highly recommended that players at least give them a chance. The world of EtO is ruled by two types of energy, light and dark, and the need to maintain the balance between them as well as their supply to the main city of Whiteforge is what much of both the setting and gameplay revolve around. Interestingly, Aliph has no health bar that indicates death upon emptying. Instead, on missions, an energy bar appears on the bottom part of the screen, showing a proportion between green Light energy and purple Dark energy. If the bar fills up completely with either type of energy, it is, as the game eloquently put it, "curtains for Aliph". Thus, the need to avoid damage altogether is replaced with the need to essentially balance out two different types of damage.

Like all great gameplay mechanics, it's a simple idea that opens up tons of possibilities. Sometimes soaking up energy of one kind is unavoidable, forcing players to plan ahead and soak up the opposite energy before such a phase. Sometimes objects giving either type of energy will be spread around abundantly through a narrow passageway, forcing players to make sure they hit a similar number of objects of either type to make it through. Sometimes you have to activate a switch requiring energy of one kind while being chased by an enemy giving you energy of the opposite kind, putting you at increased risk.

But you won't always want your energy levels to be balanced. Each type of energy is also associated with an axis of movement: light energy with vertical movement and dark energy with horizontal movement. If your energy bar is almost completely green, you'll be able to make very high jumps, and if it's almost completely purple, you'll be able to clear larger distances when jumping. This allows greater movement versatility, while also requiring caution, as bumping into an object which gives you energy of the same color as that which you've already soaked up so much of could lead to Aliph's demise.

The final basic piece of gameplay is Aliph's shield. As in many games, it can be held in any direction to block incoming projectiles. However, it also functions as another way to control your movement, both boosting and moderating environmental effects: for example, holding it upwards as you are being elevated by a geyser will cause you to be propelled higher in the air, while keeping it perpendicular to the direction of the wind will cause it to have less of an effect, making it easier to get past. Combined with charging up on one kind of energy, this makes for very clever puzzles in the latter parts of the game.

With these tools in her arsenal, Aliph makes her way through the plant and eventually returns triumphant to Whiteforge. Having done so well despite her lack of experience, Aliph becomes something of a hero to the people of the city, and has to contend with both the expectations this creates as well as resentment towards her success, not least from those who ascribe it to "political correctness". While not wholly original, the way Even the Ocean deals with these themes is subtle and effective, not to mention brave. Aliph's relationship with Yara, Cassidy's girlfriend, is handled especially well, as their increasing closeness is threatened by Aliph's growing need for affirmation and a resulting lack of empathy.

If this sounds complicated compared to the sort of character development we usually see in video games, it is, and it's pretty admirable how much EtO manages to cover during its fairly short runtime (6-8 hours). However, the attempt to stuff what is a rather complicated and nuanced story into such a short duration is one of the game's major problems. Character development is given, but is never fully explored. One can extrapolate a lot from the dialogue and interactions with different characters, but very little of it is fleshed out, resulting in a lot of potential plot threads that ultimately go nowhere. Worst of all, the game ends with a rather silly twist, involving a predictable and yet confounding Deus Ex Machina that renders everything accomplished by Aliph over the course of the game meaningless. 

If the writing has the problem of trying to do much with too little time, the gameplay has the opposite problem. Hardly any new mechanics are introduced after the first level of the game, and evolution is substituted by a very mild increase in difficulty over time, meaning that only the very late parts of the game present any sort of challenge. Even the few interesting ideas introduced early on are employed sparingly: for example, overcharging Aliph with one type of energy is really only crucial in one or two instances. In fact, platformer veterans could probably bypass the intended route of entire rooms with some skill and clever timing. The attempt to make a game anyone can enjoy is admirable, but those who chose to take on the mechanics in full should be given more to do with their time.

It's not uncommon for games to feel too long or too short, but this is the first time I've played one that felt like both at the same time. It almost feels like there could have been two separate games here, one a deep and thoughtful interactive story, the other a smart, short, mechanics-focused platformer, without detracting anything from the experience. The ability to completely ignore either aspect of the game only serves to strengthen that impression. Indeed, Even the Ocean's biggest problem is probably that it couldn't decide which of those two games it wanted to be, and decided it has to be both because that's just the way games are.

It's a shame, and it's a trap a lot of games fall into. Our medium will never truly evolve until it realizes that plot should be inseparable from mechanics, and if the two are indeed so easily separated, they probably don't belong together. 

That's not to say that the time spent with the game isn't worth it. If nothing else, the variation in settings, the fantastic art design and friendly interface all make for a very pleasant gaming experience. It just might be more enjoyable in smaller portions, with enough breaks to help one forget that you are essentially doing the same puzzle for the sixth time or so. As of now, despite the game offering a quasi-New Game Plus mode, I doubt I'll ever put the time into it. 

And I take no joy in saying that. In fact, I think I know why so many people have been loathe to review this game. It's a labor of love with many great things about it, and having to be so critical of it makes me feel like I kicked a puppy that just wanted to play with me.

Except playing with a puppy doesn't get old that fast.

Even when the puppy does.

I like playing with dogs of all ages, is what I'm saying.

Score: 7/10

Final Verdict; Still a hell of a lot better than Owlboy.

November 19, 2016

New Song - Evolution With Courage

Ah, what's that smell? It's some metal to put into your ears and shred away your brain!

I uh, guess that doesn't sound too tantalizing. Maybe I should just quote the SoundCloud description:

"My first ever instrumental track, a warmup routine that developed into a full-fledged track. Especially proud of this one, as it's the first track I recorded after taking a course in sound engineering and found out that I came a long way on my own, but benefited immensely by learning for others.

Nothing to be ashamed of, of course. After all, evolution without courage will be the ruin of our race."


September 18, 2016

New Song - Heading Out to the Highway (Judas Priest acoustic cover)

Got a live one for ya. This is a cover of Heading Out to the Highway, a song I absolutely love for both the lyrics and the absolutely beastly vocal performance by Rob Halford. At least, that's true for the live version - I've only recently listened to the studio version and I think the vocal lines are done much better in the live one.

Anyway, obviously I couldn't play the exact solo from the electric version, but I believe I've preserved the spirit of it, and that beautiful harmony at the end is still in there. All in all, I think the Metal Tyrant would approve.


September 3, 2016

Robbing a bank, Adam Jensen-style

As we all know, banks are important, respectable institutions that perform an important function in our modern capitalist economy, and do not at all parasitically suck on the livelihoods of working people and the middle class alike. As such, robbing them is morally wrong, certainly a worse offense than rape or killing innocent Black people / children according to most courts.

However, had we lived in a different world - say, the world of Deus Ex - where banks are cruel, greedy institutions whose main function is to facilitate the transfer of money and property from the poor to the rich, you could think that robbing them would not be such a terrible thing, and might even be an entirely legitimate way of rebelling against the vile plutocracy to which the world has descended.

I cannot stress this enough, especially if you're with the US State Department and might reconsider that Visa you gave me: you should never rob a bank in real life. It is wrong, and you will get caught, and you'll blame me, and I don't need that in my life. But if you wanted to rob a bank in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, you've come to the right place.

So you're at the bank you wanted to rob and what do you know, there's a security camera, a guard and a receptionist. This isn't going to be as simple as you thought! What should you do next? You might think you should go ahead and do this:

But you see, shooting up the place is a bad idea, because then this will happen:

Instead, opt for the silent approach - break into some offices!

Problem: some civilians are hanging around and will alert a guard if they see you trying to hack the keypad. What to do, what to do? Eh, I'll go get a drink and think about it.

What to do, what to do...


I've got an idea.

Get those vending machines and place them between the civilians and the pad...

And get to work!

Of course, try not to accidentally hit bystanders with the vending machine, or they might realize something's not quite right.

When you're done, just move the machines to the next spot until you find an access card to the vaults, and voila! Everything in the bank is yours, and you didn't even have to fire a single bullet.

Keep digging, though, for a bank's true treasure lies not in its vaults, but in the finite wisdom of its management, often shared during meetings. Stick around, and you lower-class slobs might just learn something.

Yeah, I wouldn't cross that security breach off the wall just yet.

Please don't take away my Visa.

August 27, 2016

Adam Jensen's apartment proves he's a vain dick

The Deus Ex series is often lauded for its conspiracy-laden plot and the wealth of options to approach its gameplay, and rightfully so, but it also deserves praise for an oft-overlooked aspect: its fantastic world-design. Some of the best moments in any of the DX games, including the unjustly-maligned Invisible War, happen while idly exploring their various hub locations, finding secrets and stumbling on side-missions.

Most of the things you'll find during exploration are helpful, but not terribly important - an extra item here, a conversation fleshing out the setting there. Every now and then, though, something truly brilliant will happen. The first game is probably still the best in this regard: a thorough exploration of the New York City sewers nets some mind-blowing foreshadowing, and arriving at a well-traversed location from a new direction in a way that makes perfect sense while still being completely unexpected provides the sort of mind-blowing "aha!" moment that the Soulsborne games have become famous for.

Having put around 10 hours into Mankind Divided, I feel like it has built incredibly well on this proud tradition, with areas larger than ever before and spaces that feel even more detailed and lived-in than those of Human Revolution. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the game is freaking beautiful, with some furnishings detailed to the point of photo-realism.

However, none of these locations and spaces are more important than the apartment of beefy protagonist Adam Jensen, not because of the amount of time players will spend in it, but because of what it reveals about our hero: namely, that he is a shallow, vain man, obsessed with his image and with proving his significance to everyone around him.

Our journey into the self-important mind of Adam Jensen begins inauspiciously enough. Like all of us, Adam keeps something to read in bed, as well as a box of tissues for when you gotta have that morning wank. Or night-time wank. Or mid-day wank. Everybody wanks, is what I'm saying, even dour hunks like our man Jensen.

Actually, how does Jensen wank? I know it's gauche to ask about the intimate habits of oppressed people, but I really gotta wonder. Even us naturals have all bruised our intimate parts at some point just by rubbing it too hard, and I've seen Jensen punch through concrete walls like they were made out of cardboard. Even if you get around the problem of bruising your johnson by getting it caught between your mechanical hand's moving parts, you still have to contend with the fact that climaxing could see you popping your ding dong's head right off like it was one of those squeeze toys. Choking the bishop, indeed.

But this is where it all goes off the rails.

Oh, you're reading Let It Go: A Book About Learning, are ya, Jensen? Oh, you're so intellectual! Look at Adam Jensen, everybody! Look how smart he is, learning to learn as he does! And are those... are those fucking candles and letters in 2029? Trying to look like a big romantic, are you, Adam my boy? Oh, we're all so impressed. We're all so impressed with the candles and letters that you definitely use.

And yes, of course Adam Jensen has a mirror in his room. He couldn't go a moment without looking at his own abs, reaffirming to himself how attractive he is. Joke's on you, though, Adam - Eidos forgot to program a reflection for you to look at! Have fun flexing in your bedroom now, you dick.

This is another great example of the attention to detail in this game. Not only does the table look great, the CPU here is so detailed and realistic that I could mistake it for a picture of an actual card. I have no idea why Jensen is tinkering with it, but he's probably just trying to make us think he's so smart and good with his hands that he just leaves stuff like this lying around.

What? Don't you write down Maxwell's equations on post-it notes and hang them around your room? Well, you're clearly not as smart as Adam Jensen! And yes, Adam, I know this is one of Maxwell's equations, but at least I'm not being an arrogant cock about it. Jeez.

I take some comfort in knowing that even a badass android cop needs to make meaningless, stupid graphs that'll just end up in a trash can as part of his job. This is the real Adam Jensen here, folks: a boring guy who makes boring graphs. What a stooge.

Hey, I'm Adam Jensen! Look at all my books! I've read "Life and Regrets" and "Orpheus Slain"! I'm so complicated! But I'm also fun - just look at this one book I've read called "General Tao: the Man Behind the Chicken"! That's not a serious book! Ha ha ha! HA HA HA! HA HA HA!

Well tell me this, Jensen. If you're really such an avid reader -

If you really care so much about books, tell me -


Here I can sympathize with Adam. I dig the hell out of Absinthe, and any fellow member of the wormwood fan club will have experienced that moment where you've had a bit too much and found yourself hugging the kitchen trash can.

Thing is, Adam, you don't need to be so pretentious to get people interested. Just show us some of DAT ASS, man!

Oh boy, I bet we're going to see his bits and pieces!

Ah, you fucking tease.

So as you can see, I was very cross with Adam. Unlike most people, I actually really like both the character of Adam Jensen as well as Elias Toufexis' portrayal of him. For all the criticism of his growly, monotone voice, I find the gruff and terse delivery to fit the character perfectly, and it makes the occasional moment of wit or genuine humanity that much more effective. Serious as he is, Adam Jensen has made me laugh quite a bit - a lot more than characters in other games that were supposed to be funny or charming.

No one is as cruel as a lover scorned, and looking at his apartment, I felt personally - PERSONALLY - singled out and scorned by Jensen. Until I saw this:

Yes, Adam Jensen had a doggie dog, and no dog owner can be that bad a guy. Maybe he can be redeemed. Maybe I can still fix him. So, Adam, if your'e reading this, here's some tips on what you can do to make sure your apartment does not reflect poorly on you.

For example, how about a singing fish? They're cute. They're fun. They say, "hey, look at me, I can be a fun guy. I don't just walk around punching people doing an impression of Christian Bale all the time". (This particular singing fish, sadly, does not actually sing.)

Also, how about folding towels into swans? It sends the message that you're a clean boy, but also good with your hands and possessed of a softer side.

Finally, I know I said I like Absinthe, but having it out in the open does make you come off like a bit of a junkie. How about some Amaretto instead? It's tasty, sophisticated, and if you mix it equal parts with coke, you get an alcoholic Dr Pepper. For real!

Of course, there are some things to avoid.

First of all, elaborate modern art with a name trying to sound poignant just makes you look pompous. No thanks.

Also, avoid using these outdated internet memes. Portal came out 22 years ago, for fuck's sake. And no, it's not funny to say you used to be something until you took an arrow to the knee, either.

Well, that's it for now. We took quite an emotional journey, from loving Mankind Divided, to thinking Adam Jensen is a dick, to thinking maybe we could change him. Only time will tell if opening our hearts and taking a chance will pay off. In the mean time, we can all enjoy playing the game, which is what I could have been doing instead of writing this stupid post.

Hold on, though, is that...

... is that on Xbox?

Yep, definitely an Xbox.