Weekplay 202227

I'm still continuing my play-through of The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition (SD) in short bursts. However, the more I play, the more Special Edition’s graphics seem to bother me. At times they’re great, but at others you bump into a display featuring a hideous font that is not only horrible, but also very, very badly cut out.

Maybe that’s just a trait of Special Edition itself becoming quite old, but it certainly adds another notch to the “this is quite ugly” vibe. I can however most heartily confirm that I have most certainly been practising my insults. Onwards!

OK, so playing through episode 1 of DOOM (PS4) was really satisfying last week, so here I am - again - playing through episode 2: The Shores of Hell. Providing an almost poetic sonic backdrop to Hell’s front porch, is my phone playing a terrifyingly amazing podcast about the gigantic fuck-up that is the design, planning, construction, and maintenance of Berlin’s BER airport.

DOOM and BER. Like peanut-butter and jelly.

Last week, Gato Roboto managed to puppy-eye me into finally completing it after staring at me from the home menu of my Nintendo Switch. But oh dear, there’s a lot more where that came from in the Library menu. Enter Touhou Luna Nights (NSW). Yet another metroidvania I left on the back burner, in lieu of playing - no joke - Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth. Which is the follow-up to Luna Nights made by the same team. I blazed through the last couple of Luna Night's areas and completed it for good measure.

While Wonder Labyrinth drew a lot of inspiration of Symphony of the Night and… ehr… Outland? Ikaruga? Both? Luna Nights seems to stay just a tiny bit closer to its Touhou Project source material. This game is an intriguing blend of metroidvania and shmup buzzing/grazing: the action of very closely approaching enemies and bullets without getting hit to earn rewards.

Here that means you can replenish your HP by grazing enemies and/or projectiles. Likewise, your attacks cost MP, which you can replenish by stopping time and then grazing enemies and/or projectiles. The result is very satisfying, even though it means you’ll be abusing your ability to stop time at every corner.

Another feature is the gems that enemies leave behind once defeated. They act as currency for various items, but hoarding them also provides minor stat boosts, to the point that they can really add up if you don’t spend them at all. A notion that emphasises the hardcore shmup theme of the game.

It’s only in the post-credit area that the game starts introducing more interesting puzzle-type barriers, that you can instantly trace forward to the creation of Wonder Labyrinth.

Despite all these mechanics, the game still feels slightly hollow for most of its runtime, which is mainly due to a nonsensical story (at least, for non Touhou Project fans) and a very predictable pacing. Something Wonder Labyrinth also suffered from. A recommendation, if only for the mechanical prowess at display.

Completing my tiny metroidvania mop-up on Switch, here's a replay of the last 25% of Axiom Verge 2 (NSW). I completed this at launch on PS4 by way of PS5, and I never picked up the final pieces on Nintendo Switch.

Nothing more then, than a short run up to the finish collecting some last bits and bobs to defeat the final boss. A boss which went down rather quickly as I knew exactly what to do based on my run last year. Not bad though, as the trickery involved reminded me of some of the best cheesy boss battles from Super Metroid.

To top it off, I ventured back to Night City in Cyberpunk 2077 (PS5). This time, the game really got its claws into me as I focused less on the theme park aspects and just went with the flow doing a bunch of cyberpsycho and NCPD alert side missions.

These are fine. Nothing special per se, but they do have some nice set-pieces and flavour texts surrounding them. Curiously, I do seem to recognise a “no budget” approach to storytelling here; one we also employed during the development of The Chronicles of Spellborn. Without any means to do grandiose stuff, we created many small missions using minimal means and oodles of text to fill in the nooks and crannies, that were otherwise left untouched by the main story arc.

While this is effective, it also demands a lot of the player in terms of attention. Cyberpunk 2077 plays like an action game in its conflicts and asking the player to stop and read pages upon pages of text, will probably be met with a perfectly on-brand cybernetic shrug. For those willing to dig deeper, there’s a lot to read through and I do appreciate CD Projekt RED making sure there’s some meat to the bones.

Something completely different that did keep bothering me: it’s frustratingly unclear if you can kill enemies or not. Sometimes they are non-moving and obviously dead, other times they just seem to move and groan on the floor after being shot or stabbed. When does one trigger either state? Is it story based? Is it chance? I can’t seem to hack adversaries into surrendering, so is there a non-violent way of disposing enemies? There is the non-killing grab-and-takedown move, but then there’s a side mission where doing so berated me for actually killing my adversaries. Then yet another mission asked me to keep someone alive, but the only proper response was gunning the person down, which then promptly was confirmed as them being “unconscious”.

Seriously, I’m at the point that I really don’t give a shit any more and just start mowing down anything that moves as soon as things start attacking me. Which is a bit of a shame from a role-playing perspective.

On a way more positive note: I finally bought the double jump and yes, this is a superb addition to the game. It frees up your movement and matches the game world’s design a bit better. Making you explore the vertical alongside the horizontal makes for better stealth approaches and zany combat maneuvers. Kind of wish the game could give you a form of sustained running speed (a la Aria of Sorrow’s Black Panther soul) so you could ditch vehicles completely.

To top it off, I also bought myself a cosy little apartment on Northside, and as the game mentions: it’s “hygge!” Might even function as a reference to Count Zero’s quarters. But… maybe that’s just wishful thinking.