Category Archives: PS4

Game Review: Okami HD

Readers from the earliest days of this blog might recall a rare rant post on how the Wii’s motion controls sucked & clearly weren’t intended for calligraphy writing.  The game in question was the Wii version of Okami.  Thanks to the HD re-release on current consoles, including an upcoming release on the Switch, I purchased an entirely new copy in the hopes that using a regular controller would make the game easier.  And shock of shocks, it actually did, thus continuing to prove motion controls are little more than a gimmick to entice new gamers.  Not only did I breeze through levels that had previously given me trouble, but I was able to complete the game.

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In Okami, you take the role of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess, incarnated as a wolf.  Your job is to vanquish the darkness that has taken control of the land of Nippon with the help of your Celestial Brush, allowing you to literally draw on the canvas of the world.  Initially your task focus’ on slaying the eight-headed dragon Orochi, who was mysteriously released from his prison & demanding human sacrifices.  But later you uncover that Orochi was the just a pawn to something much darker.

Okami’s game style is very much inspired by The Legend of Zelda games, where you travel through various locations & dungeons earning new ways to advance.  But whereas Link picks up new weapons & items, Amaterasu unlocks new brush techniques.  The Celestial Brush is your primary tool in the game, allowing you to pause the world to draw various designs, resulting in different effects.  For example, you can slash foes by making a short, straight line across them, or you can creating a massive fireball by drawing an infinity sign.  As you travel, you’ll bring light & life to the dying world, earning Praise by creating miracles & leveling up your Godhood.


Narrative: Despite being heavily rooted in Shintoism, foreknowledge isn’t required to understand & enjoy Okami.  The game does a good job at building its world, so even if you don’t know a thing about Japan it won’t matter.  It essentially functions as any other fantasy realm.

okamiI’ve heard many claim that the game feels twice as long as it needs to be, & while I do understand where they’re coming from, I felt that the actual ending of the game is much more satisfying.  You defeat Orochi about half way through the game, only to learn there’s something bigger on the horizon.  Some people might find that frustrating, as up until that point there’s been no indication that there was something more, but the further you progress, the more you realize there are answers to questions you didn’t realize were there.  The closest thing I can compare it to is in the first Mass Effect game when you spend most of the game chasing after Saren, only to realize that he wasn’t the most dangerous threat.  Only Okami finishes its story in a single game.  In the end, all the characters have a proper conclusion.  And the ending nicely concludes the overarching themes of vanquishing darkness & restoring humanity’s faith in the gods, which was ultimately what lead to the problems in the first place.

All the characters are nicely quirky & memorable, & I felt the plot, for all its bouncing around, paced itself very nicely.  It felt like things unfolded at a nice pace.  And while Amaterasu is a classic silent protagonist (being a dog & all), I have to give Clover Studios credit for managing to give her a personality despite literally not being able to speak.

Overall, while a bit it may seem needlessly long to some, I felt the story was very engaging, characters were interesting, & the conclusion was satisfying.

Score: 5


90a30a48860806e141f3c2c1dba0716b1510147048_full-1Mechanics: The biggest unique selling point of Okami is the Celestial Brush.  Back when I played the game on the Wii, I found the controls a bit frustrating given that the brushstrokes need to be fairly accurate to accomplish what you want.  And while I did still experience some issues with the game registering my strokes, I am happy to report that it worked a million times better using the traditional PS4 controller than the Wii-mote.  On paper you’d think the Wii would be better, but using a regular joystick worked sufficiently well.  The process is actually simpler than it sounds, as bringing up the canvas pauses anything going on in the world to give you time to find the right angle.  It’s a lot of fun to see basic shapes create massive changes in the world or damage enemies.

Combat as a whole is pretty fun & fast-paced, & best of all sometimes avoidable.  Some encounters you can’t escape, typically when they’re introducing a new type, but in most of the overworld encounters are indicated by “demon carpets” floating around the level that you can just avoid if you’re not in the mood.  You can also attack with weapons, as your ink isn’t unlimited, & while there are only three styles of weapons, you’ll find yourself using all of them depending on the encounter.  That leads to another aspect I enjoyed, which was the boss fights.  I liked that they all played out differently, with specific strategies revolving around the brush strokes you have at the time.  Just learned how to create wind?  Here’s a flaming skeleton cow that you can only hit once you’ve put the fire out.  Just learned how to harness lightning?  Here’s a boss who will obligingly hold a metal sword in their mouth while storm clouds dot the sky.

However, I did have two main gripes about the combat.  One is that, for a lot of the bosses later in the game, fighting them is a waiting game.  You end up just dodging their attacks until they do the one thing that leaves them vulnerable.  I know this is how a lot of bosses work in these Zelda-style games, & usually this only applies for the first stage of the boss fight, but it’s still a little frustrating.  Secondly, the combat only really works when you’re facing a few enemies at a time.  Generally this isn’t a problem because most fights are one-on-one or up to three.  But the demon gates… oh the bane of my Okami existence.  The Demon Gate Trials are an option side mission where you must defeat several ways of ramped-up enemies in a succession of fights.  It gets very chaotic very quickly, especially in the later levels when most enemies have only specific weaknesses.  Or, y’know, they pit you against multiple ramped-up versions of a boss.  Granted, these fights are entirely optional, but you have to complete them to earn stray beads to get an item for New Game+ that’s essentially turning on God Mode.  I guess I would say it’s less a problem with the combat itself, & more just hating the trials.  They get ridiculously hard, & you can’t leave the arena to get more supplies or you’ll have to start from the beginning again.

Other than that, I enjoyed most of what the game had to offer.  I liked how you level up your Godhood by earning Praise by helping out people & creating miracles.  The side missions are varied enough, though I disliked the races & digging champ minigames, though with some strategy (& eliminating the Wii-mote) they were tolerable, optional, & not numerous enough to be more than a momentary annoyance.

Overall, while later enemies can be a bit cheap & tedious, & Demon Gates are suitably demonic, I found Okami’s gameplay to be a refreshing take on an old formula.

Score: 4


Okami_HD_ScreenshotAesthetics: I really, really love the style of this game.  The art direction in phenomenal.  The art style is a unique mix of woodcut, watercolor & cell-shading.  It looks like a moving ink painting, which fits the themes of the game perfectly.  Personally, I’d rather use a game like Okami to showcase what HD should be rather than something more realistic.  It’s an absolute treat to watch the world turn vibrant with each bit of progress you make, truly making you feel like your restoring beauty into the world.

The music is also very nice, fitting the Japanese themes.  I liked that all of the main characters you interact with have their own themes, which all fit their personalities perfectly.  And while I can’t speak to any voiceacting, as everyone speaks in meaningless noises, the animations do a good job of showcasing what the character is tying to emote.

Score: 5


Replay Value: Moderate.  It’s entirely possible to see everything there is to see in Okami in a single run, but it’s definitely the sort of game that can be enjoyed multiple times.  Once you beat the game the first time, you unlock New Game+ which brings over all your experience & most of your items.  There’s also the challenge of finding all the stray beads to earn the String of Beads, which when equipped grants invulnerability, unlimited ink & 10x damage, meaning I’m going to have a lot of fun stomping enemies the next time around.

Score: 4


Breakdown

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Overall Score: 4

Final Word: Although there are a few annoyances later in the game that prevent it from being perfect, Okami is a tragically underrated game that shines as an example of being uniquely beautiful & compelling.  Hopefully with all the HD re-releases, adventure game fans will give this one a shot, though preferrably without motion controls.

– GamerDame

Title: Okami HD
Console: PS2, PS3, PS4, Wii, Switch, PC, XBox One
Rating: T
Developer: Clover Studios
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: April 20, 2006
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Filed under 4, Action, Adventure, PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, Reviews, Switch, Wii, XBox One

Game Review: The Fall

For some reason, science fiction has never really interested me as a genre.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s a reflection of my pessimistic nature — I fully expect we’ll have killed each other out of pettiness or overpopulation long before space travel becomes a thing.  Maybe that’s why, when I do decide to check out a sci-fi game, it’s usually of a dark or dystopian nature.  Something that illustrates a potential danger if we don’t keep ourselves in check.  I think that’s why the trailer for Over the Moon Games’ The Fall caught my attention.

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In The Fall we take the role of the artificial intelligence program ARID (Autonomous Robotic Interface Device) after crashing on an unknown planet knocks her human “pilot” unconscious.  ARID’s programing requires her to protect the pilot of the combat suit she inhabits, & thus she begins to search for a means to save them in the rundown factory they’ve mysteriously landed on while dealing with droids a bit too invested in following their programing to the letter.  In the end, the player will find themselves questioning if the enemies are the ones who have gone crazy, or if ARID has.

The Fall is best described as a side-scrolling puzzle/adventure game with a touch of combat thrown in.  For the majority of the game, you’ll be trying to find ways to overcome the next obstacle standing between ARID & the medical facility she’s ultimately trying to reach.  But as she progresses & continues to show signs of aberrant behavior, you’ll have to contend with the facility’s defense droids in short shooting sections.  However, these sections play out on a slower place, with ARID hiding behind cover or using her cloaking program to wait for the right moment to pop the droids in the head.


20170130175245_1Narrative: Although short & ending somewhat on a cliffhanger, obviously setting up for the next chapter of the game still in development, I felt that The Fall had a tightly contained, complete story arc.  While getting help for the pilot is ultimately the main goal of the game, the story focused less on that & more on ARID’s evolution in sentience.  As an AI, there’s obviously a rigidity to the way ARID thinks & problem solves, which in turn puts her at odds with the AIs in the facility who are blocking her from her prime directive.  I appreciated that it wasn’t your standard rogue AI story like I expected in the beginning.  None of the three personalities in the game have gone “crazy”, per se, as it is them following their programing to the most logical, if extreme, conclusion.  Their outcomes are all understandable, even predictable.  ARID, for instance, is understandably frustrated when she has to appease the domestic droid protocols to receive clearance to reach the medical facility to save her pilot.  Not only does this hinder her prime directive (the very thing she was programmed to do), but as a combat unit she isn’t “made” to carry out such menial tasks.  It’s an interesting evolution in her psyche where she has to learn behaviors that aren’t things AIs are supposed to do (such as lie).  In a way, The Fall illustrates the potential pitfalls of relying on AIs without beating us over the head with it.

And in the end, we get a nice conclusion to this part of ARID’s story even while it sets up intrigue for the next chapter.

Overall, while short, The Fall has an interesting classic sci-fi story that maintains a tight, contained focus on its story & characters.

Score: 4


HeadShotAimingMechanics: Overall, I felt The Fall’s controls were simple & effective.  Right Mouse Button pulls up the aiming mode, where you can switch between the flashlight (explore) or the target sight (for shooting).  It was easy to aim at enemies or places in the environment, although I did notice when I would enter aim mode the direction would frequently default to the right regardless of which direction I’d previously been facing.  I’m also not a huge fan of having to hold down the buttons to stay in aim mode, but I didn’t see an option to change it to toggle.  However, this is more a personal preference than one that affected gameplay, as the combat was slow enough that I didn’t have a problem aiming while holding down the mouse buttons.

Cycling through the inventory was simple.  However, I didn’t really care for having to be in aim mode to interact with the environment.  I also frequently got stuck behind cover.  I’m not sure if this was a game problem or an error on my part, but I found rather than pushing E again exit cover, I’d have to move in the opposite direction to exit.  As with the aiming, it was more an annoyance than a problem.

Being a puzzle game, I found the puzzles generally interesting, & many of the solutions very amusing.  The game definitely has a dark sense of humor at times.  For example, a big portion of the game is ARID having to achieve merits to reach the medical facility by acting like a “proper” domestic droid & doing chores around a fake house & community.  A few of my favorite solutions were offering a rotting human head (stolen from a giant slug) to a child as a protein-packed meal, quieting a crying baby by sucking them into the vents, & attaching a cable between a tire axle & a flying jenny which resulted in sending the child flying into the distance.  At times the solutions seemed pretty opaque, but I found that if I explored as much of the area as I could, picking up everything & trying each combination, I would find something that made sense.  You can’t use the wrong item.  I never felt completely stuck.

Overall, while I had some personal issues with the control scheme, the controls were well implemented with some fun puzzling.

Score: 4


20170515134755_1Aesthetics: I thought The Fall had a very nice, bleak presentation that suited the themes & setting excellently.  I think the lighting is the best part, helping to cast an eerie glow over the levels.  The entire game just felt creepy to run through.  Those cardboard cutout people were the worst.  Even though the player can only operate on a 2D plane, the backgrounds really gave a sense of depth an ambiance.  I felt the sound designs was well-done, as well, mostly sticking this slow, droning tone suited for an old, crumbling factory, but occasionally picking up with some techno music during the brief fight scenes.  The voiceacting, for all three characters in the game, were well realized & portrayed.

Score: 4


Replay Value: Average.  While nothing in the story itself really changes, there are different options a player can take, such as letting the Caretaker live or not, or deliberately failing the tests.  And once you know the puzzle solutions, The Fall is a fairly short game, clocking in at a few hours, making a second playthrough conceivable.

Score: 3


Breakdown

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Final Score: 4

Final Word: Though a bit on the short side, & ending on a “To Be Continued…”, The Fall is a fun little indie sci-fi game that takes a focused, measured look at the potentiality of AIs & the troubles such programs might pose.  Personally, the regular price is a bit high for the length for my tastes, but if you can snag it on sale I definitely recommend checking it out.

– GamerDame

Title: The Fall
Consoles: PC, Wii U, PS4, XB1
Rating: T
Developer: Over the Moon Games
Publisher: Over the Moon Games
Release Date: May 30, 2014

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Filed under 4, Indie, PC, PS4, Reviews, Wii U, XBox One