REVIEW: Rime (Nintendo Switch)

    • Released: 2017
    • Played on: Nintendo Switch
    • Also available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
    • Time to get into: 2 Hours
    • Time to complete: 8 Hours
    • Multiplayer: No

 

When this was originally released in mid-year 2017, I thought it looked great and it was receiving some praise in reviews. However, I forced myself to wait for it to come out on Switch, due to my ‘policy’ of not playing a game that I can play on Nintendo‘s multi-purpose console, on a console that is chained to a TV. As it turned out this was an error on my part for two reasons: firstly, it took absolutely ages for the Switch port to arrive (it was finally released in mid-November) and secondly, when it did, it brought with it a few technical problems that almost ruin the game. It’s the first time that fixating on the Switch version of a game has backfired on me and it ran well enough for me to still be able to experience the two things Rime offers: puzzles and story.2018011613274200-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Puzzles
Although you are running around an island exploring, the reality is that Rime is a puzzle game. If you’re the kind of person to go after collectables then there might be some value in checking every dark corner but the main thread of the game is; solve puzzle – move to next puzzle – repeat. There is no real threat in the game – those that do exist, like falling too far or getting snatched up by a massive bird (don’t ask), don’t do you any harm and you immediately get put back where you were just stood to carry on. Essentially all the other aspects of the gameplay are just window dressing on top of the puzzles.2018011214471200-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Those puzzles are decent enough though. Most of the puzzle mechanics here have been seen before in video games but overall Rime uses and combines them well. You are asked to do things like move blocks to certain places, block light from falling on things, collect keys to open doors etc. One thing I did like though is the use of shouting – one of the buttons causes your character to shout out which can be used to activate things – usually lights. In truth it’s not really any different than any other button press but it impresses in two ways. Firstly simply as something a little different. It’s enjoyable when a few shouts are needed in fairly short order to just run about shouting at everything – let’s be honest, we all want to do this in real life from time to time! Secondly the fact that a shout can carry a short distance, rather than another form of activating something like pressing a button or standing in a certain place, means that you can use it to activate things you can’t reach, or activate more than one thing at a time. Without giving anything away, Rime finds a few clever uses of this and figuring out these puzzles are some of the most rewarding in the game. Overall, the puzzling is good – difficult enough to be interesting without ever becoming frustrating.2018011717411700-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Story
There is no dialogue in Rime and the story is revealed to you very very slowly indeed through semi-interactive cut scenes. As always on this blog, I will steer very, very clear of spoilers but there are two things worth noting. Firstly, this is not a deep and multi-layered story. It is more about mood – as it the whole game, not just the cut scenes. Rather than weave a narrative, Rime focuses on feel – it’s is an emotional journey taking in aspects of beauty, horror, fear, loss and determination. Secondly however, Rime doesn’t seem to be able to quite decide which of these aspects – story or puzzle – it wants to be most. In many ways it reminds me of Old Man’s Journey¬†– that game has the same type of slow-burning, heartfelt story as Rime but where that game is happy for the gameplay to take backseat to the story, Rime is less willing to commit. Perhaps fearing that their story wasn’t as strong, perhaps trying to be more, to satisfy a full console release compared to mobile, one way or another the developer¬†Tequila Works hasn’t fully committed to either and both parts suffer as a result. Neither the story or the puzzling are strong enough to stand up alone, it’s them in combination that holds Rime together.2018011813271300-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Problems
Which would be fine, if the game ran solidly. Unfortunately it does not. In general it astounds me that the Switch is clearly capable of running a game as beautiful as Breath of the Wild and yet here we have Rime – which just looks bad by comparison. It feels like your eyes are tired and you can’t see properly. I was regularly blinking, only to discover that it didn’t help – Rime just looks fuzzy. On top of that, those lousy graphics aren’t even solid. You can tell when the game is loading something in the background because the frame rate slows to a crawl for a good few seconds. I guess this is the result of it being ported to the Switch, rather than built for it, but it is close to being ruinous to any enjoyment of the game.2018011717550100-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Conclusion
Rime is fairly close to being a great game. The puzzles are never dull and often fun and satisfying. The mood and the story are powerful and well realised across the game as a whole. But I just can’t recommend you play it on Switch. Unless you only play it in docked mode – in which case, what’s great about the Switch version is lost anyway. Basically play it – but on another device!Review3

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REVIEW: Hue

  • Released: 2016
  • Played on: Xbox One
  • Also available on: PC< PS4, PSVita
  • Time to get into: 10 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 6 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

Early on in Hue you get the impression that melding its interesting take on puzzlers and platformers with a simple but intriguing story can take it up to the heights of the recent history of indie games. Ultimately, however, it’s imaginative gameplay – like so many good ideas – can’t quite carry it’s ambition. In the last couple hours the story ends in a lacklustre way and the puzzle solving becomes a little stale. That said, it is an enjoyable distraction and definitely worth a look if its main gameplay mechanic interests you.25-11-2017_08-15-19

All the colours
That mechanic is the ability to change the colour of the background of the game. When the background colour and the colour of certain in game objects are the same, they disappear. For example, can’t get past that yellow wall? Make the background yellow and the wall fades into the background, allowing you to continue on your way. It’s a great idea and it’s implemented well. The left stick moves the eponymous character and the right stick changes the colour. The vast amount of the time this mechanic is just used for puzzle solving – traversing an area by getting rid of obstacles or moving a box of a certain colour onto a switch etc. Where it really comes into it’s own though, is when there is a time demand on the colour change. For example, you have to start a jump in one colour and land it in another – this extra tension is when the colour changing dynamic works best.25-11-2017_08-12-15

Story good…
There is also a small and simple story to back up the gameplay. As always on this blog, I will studiously avoid spoilers here but it’s told in an interesting way, slowly unfolding as you collect letters written to you. Early on the developing intrigue keeps you interested – always looking to complete the section so you can hear the next letter. Unfortunately this is one part of what eventually lets Hue down.25-11-2017_08-11-37

… story bad.
In the end you come to realise that the story was only ever a facade to place on top of the game – it carries no weight of it’s own and I found that rather disappointing. It’s not that I expect these short puzzlers to have great stories but if anything it does itself a disservice by pulling you in early on. There’s nothing to back up that early promise. Even when the tone changes slightly towards the end and I thought it was about to kick up a gear… it fades away.25-11-2017_08-11-20

Are you still here?
The other let down in Hue is that we have about 4 hours of gameplay in a 6 hour game. By the end I really was just going through the motions to get the game done. As above, this is a real shame after the early promise. I would have been happier with Hue had it simply been shorter. By the end everything that slowed me down – whether just another repetitive puzzle, or my own mistakes trying to solve them – got very frustrating. But if we ignore those last hours when the game has run out of new ideas the gameplay is absolutely loads of fun.25-11-2017_08-11-55

Verdict
In the end, Hue is a good game, but no more. Despite how it overstays it’s welcome it would be harsh to say it was average as it’s main idea – the colour mechanic – is full of imagination and fun. Equally, it doesn’t have anything else going for it in the end. The decision of whether you should play it really comes down to how intrigued you are by that gameplay device – whether that imaginative idea has captured your imagination. If so, then you’ll be able to look past the rest – if not, don’t get sucked in.Review3

REVIEW: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: PS4, plus others in Japan only
  • Time to get into: 5 minutes
  • Time to complete: 10 hours
  • Multiplayer: yes, both local and online

My main question coming into playing Puyo Puyo Tetris was whether or not a puzzle game – even a mash up of two puzzle games – could possibly be worth the price of entry. The game is priced as a full title, the same as Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Could it justify it? The answer is emphatically: yes! This game takes two good puzzle games and them great by adding competitive play and combining them in different ways. Not all of those ways really work but it’s enough to keep you entertained and engaged for a great many hours.

2017072608415800-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FFusion
As the name suggests, Puyo Puyo Tetris brings both Puyo Pop and Tetris into one title. There are myriad ways to play – from playing one of the games alone as a challenge through to full on Fusion mode (where both types are played at the same time on the same board) versus someone else. Each different game type can be chosen in Arcade mode and there is an Adventure mode that throws each type at you as you go through the story.

2017072708201300-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FAdventuring
Adventure mode was where I spent most of my single player time. This mode is a lot of fun gameplay wise. I can make no comment here on the story or the characters – I found the cut scenes that are before and after every level so insufferable and so easy to skip that after not too long I didn’t really see another one. What I did see was a continuing stream of different game modes and challenges. The learning curve is mostly well handled, although there are the occasional levels that are either far harder or far easier than those around them. All in there are 70 levels split into 7 chapters. I think it’s a good length – it certainly didn’t outstay it’s welcome but I wonder how much further they could have repeated the different games types and kept it from being too repetitive. The only flaw here was Fusion mode. I enjoyed all the other combinations of modes – Puyo vs Tetris or the swap mode where you have one board from each game on the go at the same time and swap over every 30 seconds. Fusion mode puts both Puyo and Tetris pieces on the same board and this doesn’t really do anything but dilute what it good about each. The main aim with Tetris is keeping your lines clean and organised and the main aim with Puyo is long chains that fall into place. Fusion mode doesn’t allow you to focus on either of those things but doesn’t replace it with anything further goal. In the end in Fusion mode, I was just trying to survive the level, rather than trying to finish it.

2017080114372200-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FOn The Line
After playing through the Adventure, I didn’t feel the need to spend much time in Arcade mode – I felt I was ready to go online. How wrong I was! Real people are even more brutally difficult than the hardest levels of the single player game. I think part of this is the seeming lack of proper matching. I was repeatedly matched with experienced and very good players even when I was just getting started – thus I was totally destroyed on a very regular basis. This is odd to say the least – matching players based on their ability is a standard component of online multiplayer games. Perhaps the game just isn’t that popular online and there simply aren’t enough players to avoid this. Regardless, if it had not been for my desire to write this review, I might well have given up online play very early on. The other reason for that is that the game plays out in the exact same way online as it does against the cpu. Most games change their character when you go online – humans simply react differently than AI. But here, given that the gameplay is so restricted anyway by the rules of the puzzles, it’s hard to know if you’re playing online or offline – it feels identical. There is nothing wrong with the online play – it’s easy, quick and smooth – it’s just not that exciting.

2017080114324700-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FVerdict
Ultimately Puyo Puyo Tetris is held back from perfection by the Fusion mode and the slight lack of excitement of the online play. But not many games are perfect and this is still a fantastic title that will eat up hours of your life and keep you coming back for more and more. The desire to play faster and faster doesn’t get tired and the varied modes keep it fresh for ages. It really transcends the ‘puzzle-game’ tag – this is just a really good game, full stop.

Review4

Click here to purchase the game on Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the game on PS4 from Amazon.co.uk:

First Impressions: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

I’ve got to confess that I didn’t expect to enjoy a Tetris game again! Tetris feels as old as the sun to me. It was one of the first, if not the very first, games I ever played and I have had it (or clones of it) on countless consoles and mobile devices. At the end of the day it hasn’t really changed – or not for the better – over all those years and I thought my time with it would be done.
Additionally, I also have to confess that I’ve never played a Puyo Puyo or Puyo Pop game. I was vaguely aware of their existence but didn’t know anything about them. Thus the combination of Puyo Puyo and Tetris didn’t particularly appeal to me.
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However, this was one of the few games out there these days that had a demo, so I thought I’d give it a go. I am pleased that I did! Outside of the Puyo Puyo being new to me – and at this stage I’m still enjoying the Tetris more – the game injects another dimension into the Tetris by being really going all in on the competitive play. You can just play a normal game of Tetris by yourself but the main bulk of it is playing against the CPU, playing against others locally or playing online.
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The demo gives you a good idea what to expect but the full game adds Adventure mode. I can’t tell you anything about the story as the ‘cut-scenes’ quickly became insufferably long and cringe-worthy. What’s great about it is that it constantly throws different challenges at you, across both Puyo and Tetris and a huge host of game modes. The steady stream of different games is, so far, keeping me fully engaged.
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I’ll do a more full review when I’ve completed Adventure mode and played more in the other modes too. For now, I’d recommend it if you can find it for a good price. In the review I’ll answer whether it is worth the high price of entry for a puzzle game.

Click here to purchase the game on Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the game on PS4 from Amazon.co.uk:

REVIEW: Old Man’s Journey

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Android
  • Also available on: iOS, PC, Mac
  • Time to get into: 5 minutes
  • Time to complete: 1.5 hours
  • Multiplayer: No

The idea of paying for a mobile game up front can seem odd these days. The vast majority of games on the Play Store and App Store let you get started initially and then either demand that you pay up to continue or put regular road blocks in your way and make it clear that paying money would make your life easier. Old Man’s Journey acts more like a console game in this aspect, expecting you to pay just under ¬£5 before letting you download. Don’t let this put you off – this is very much a ‘mobile’ experience but it’s very much worth the money. There are two aspects in play here – the gameplay and the narrative – and it’s mainly the latter that takes this from brief distraction to great experience in it’s own right.

Screenshot_20170628-223718

Gameplay
The game is very simple at it’s core. Most of the time you are altering the landscape to allow the eponymous Old Man (we never learn his name, or those of the other characters) to travel from one side of the screen to the other. This involves working out, for example, how to get sheep to move to another hill to let him past or joining up train tracks to allow his train to keep moving. Whilst it is all very basic the game retains your interest by a combination of gentle guidance and simple charm. Anything that needs to be clicked on is usually moving or lit up slightly or something else that let’s you know to interact with it without taking you out of the experience. If you ask your Man to walk somewhere he can’t get he’ll react with a sort of ‘huh?’ with a question mark over his head – letting you know you’ve done it wrong without actually saying that or punishing you at all. In terms of charm it drips from every pore of Old Man’s Journey. Even aside from the storyline, the cute graphics, the endearing body language of the Old Man and the wonderful soundtrack all add up to a well made and engaging game.
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Narrative
The gameplay is really just a vessel in which to place a delightful and meaningful story and tell it in a subtle and wonderful way. I’d venture to say I’ve never come across a mobile game with such emphasis on the story – certainly not one that does it so well anyway. I don’t want to give anything away here in order to not ruin it but if you’ve seen the Disney movie Up then you’ll know the kind of tender, bittersweet storytelling you can expect. If not you’ll just have to trust me that it’s wonderful and you should experience it without any preconceptions!
Screenshot_20170704-134907
Verdict
Without the fantastically engaging narrative Old Man’s Journey would probably not have enough gameplay to stand up. However, that gaming is in fact the perfect compliment to the most wonderful storytelling I’ve come across on mobile. Totally worth the price of entry.
Review5