Kenny

The Walking Dead (game) – Seasons 1 and 2 review

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Please excuse me whilst I….wipe away these tears and….DAMN IT WHY COULDN’T I SAVE EVERYONE?!

DISCLAIMER – All these images I use in this review I took from various Google searches as I was SO ENGROSSED with the story that I forgot to take any…

TWD-game-the-walking-dead-game-telltale-gamesTelltale Games’ The Walking Dead takes inspiration from Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name, the same which The Walking Dead TV series is loosely based on. You may recall, if you read my blog often (pft, of course you do) that Telltale games has popped up before in my The Wolf Among Us Review. Well, The Walking Dead follows the same basic structure – it’s essentially an interactive story, where your actions and choices affect how the game pans out. As with The Wolf Among Us, the overarching story is always the same; your decisions just determine how you get there. This game is an emotional rollercoaster that had me close to tears on several occasions. It’s won over 90 Game of the Year awards, and here’s why.

zmobie-leeThis is a review for both Season 1 and Season 2 of The Walking Dead games. Lots of my comments will be generalised and apply to both – they are essentially one big game – but I will be specific too. Both games are episodic. Season 1 was released in five episodes between April and November 2012, with one DLC episode, 400 Days, following in July 2013. Season 2, also comprising of five episodes, was released between December 2013 and August 2014, so it’s still pretty hot off the press. The 400 Days DLC bridges the gap between Season 1 and 2.

twd_203_hoardThe driving point behind The Walking Dead games is the incredible character development. Whilst the setting is indeed a zombie apocalypse, the game focuses more on characterisation and action, as opposed to action – to quote Robert Kirkman. That isn’t to say that zombies don’t play a pivotal role in the game – because they do – but the focus is really on how people band together and survive in times of such hardship, not just go gung-ho shooty crazy a la Left 4 Dead.

Walking_dead_telltale_game_dialog_screenshotSeason 1 focuses around protagonist Lee, a convicted murderer, who is caught up in the outbreak on his way to prison. After a narrow escape, he encounters eight year old Clementine, who serves as the deuteragonist (what a great word!) throughout the game. Thus, their story to survive begins, meeting various colourful characters along the way…many of whom’s fate is down to the choices that you make…so good luck with that. Each character is realistically flawed, and when the inevitable dissent among the group begins, you must really consider hard (in the short time that you have to decide) everyone’s arguments. Do you think of the group’s best interest? Or side with a favourite character whatever their decision? Or play the middle-man? There are a plethora of decisions that left me filled with regret and angst…resulting in various outcomes, adding that key word of “replay value” to the game. Like, so much. The characters are so well developed that you really do begin to empathise, sympathise and care for them. Which makes watching their struggle even more difficult. But overall it’s Clem and Lee’s relationship that really gets ya. It’s beautiful. It could be argued that these games are a commentary on how quickly children seem to grow up nowadays, and asks whether this is a good or bad thing? After all, we live in a pretty messed up world – should our children be protected in a bubble, or face the harsh realities? These are questions that characters are constantly battling with, and that you, as Lee, must face. Outside of dialogue, you’ll be faced with various quick time events and small explorable areas with several items that you can interact with. The QTEs are all pretty enjoyable and rarely feel stale, although some failures result in immediate death and game over whereas others effect the continuing story. The explorable areas are aight, but sometimes (in Season 1 more than 2) I found myself unsure of what exactly I was supposed to be doing…leading me to wander around aimlessly for a lot longer than I maybe should have.  All of your actions have an impact, and if you so choose to, you can load up a Season 1 save file in Season 2 to see how your decisions affect the second season. Mass Effect did a similar thing in that you could load up your older character to essentially continue the story as a whole. It just makes the whole game a lot more immersive and connected…and might make you think twice about rash decisions. The last episode of Season 2 can end in one of six heart-string-pulling ways, but definitely leaves you wanting more. Thank God that Telltale have confirmed that a Season 3 is in the works…! In fact, as a result of that, I’m going to go back and get a different ending….

2378979-the_walking_dead_game_episode_2_achievements_screenshotAs mentioned, 400 Days bridges the gap between Season 1 and Season 2. You briefly play as six different characters, living parts of their lives during the apocalypse. As you may have guessed, your actions in this DLC also have a number of effects on how Season 2 plays out – from determining which characters you may meet, you minute details such as whether you encounter a certain body. I found, however, that I ended up disliking many of the 400 Days characters I played as when (if) I encountered them in Season 2. Especially Tavia. Fucking Tavia.

Visually, The Walking Dead utilises that same animated-esque style that various other Telltale games use, like The Wolf Among Us. Season 2’s graphics are that slight bit better, and the interface is more developed, but there isn’t that much difference. Character models are well animated for the most part, but sometimes can look a bit like they have been filmed using stop-motion, but I suppose that’s all part of the style. There are some issues with clipping that I noticed, or a character suddenly jumping forward in a lagtastic kind of way, but none of these are game breaking and, surprisingly, don’t break the immersion. And there is a lot of immersion. Oh, the immersion!

I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into The Walking Dead, but that’s largely because I was constantly comparing it to The Wolf Among Us, which, aside from its appearance and gameplay style, is very different. It’s like comparing something like Fallout to Call of Duty…although I know which one I would pick… I also, for whatever reason, went into The Walking Dead thinking that it was a comedy. It is not. Jesus this game knows how to make a man (nearly) cry. After I completed Season 1 I felt addicted and needed to go on and start Season 2…but I had to take a break. I just couldn’t handle it! If you’re into games with good story telling, then this is for you. I wouldn’t exactly class it as a horror game, despite its subject. There are a few jumpy, tense moments, but I’d put it more down as a thriller. There’s a Michael Jackson joke in their somewhere.

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Both The Walking Dead Season 1 and 2 are currently on Steam for £18.99 a pop, which may seem a lot, with each season lasting about 10 hours each, but that’s kind of like buying a box set for a series, with 5 two hour episodes or ‘summit. Even still, I think that it’s well worth the money, partially for that good ol’ replay value. The games also allow you to go back and replay specific chapters of episodes, so if you wanted to see how making a different decision affects the story, you can! The Walking Dead is, or will be, available on pretty much every gaming platform including Android, iOS, PS3/4, Xbone, 360, PC and Vita. So go. Go! GO NOW! RUN! GO!!!the-walking-dead-the-game-20120408020037548_640w

South Park: Stick of Truth – Full Review

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Stick of Truth - ninja
I was a Valkyrie Horse-lord Crab Thief by the end..

Further to my previous post, I have now finished South Park: Stick of Truth. Hence, for your reading pleasure, here is a review. Freshly baked, may contain nuts. I will start off by saying that this game is fantastic, funny, but not without its flaws. I won’t dawdle (what a great word) on the points I made before – instead you can read all of the new and exciting opinions that I have concocted whilst playing the 11 hour campaign!

Let us begin with the story. It’s pretty much what you would expect from South Park – starts off all innocent, and then becomes something much bigger. The story isn’t going to leave you scouring the internet for tinfoil theories, or make you sit back in your chair and respire a “wow”, but it’s South Park, and you’re getting what you’ve paid for. It will, however, make you squee at the epicness of some scenes, and, importantly, laugh out loud. This is without a doubt one of the funniest games that I have ever played – up there with the likes of Portal, Borderlands or Fallout. The humour is, obviously, somewhat controversial, but what would you expect from a South Park game? One aspect of the story that was lovely to see – without giving away any spoilers – is the fact that throughout the entire game, the children of South Park are just LARPing (look it up), despite the madness that is going on around them. I’m reminded of past South Park episodes such as “Towelie”, “Lil’ Crime Stoppers” and the more recent “Black Friday Trilogy” – episodes in which something much larger than the children is at stake, but they just continue playing their games, somewhat apathetic to what is going on around them. The main body of the story beautifully incorporates a classic fantasy tale intertwined with the goings on about town: a unique blend of genres that makes Stick of Truth a one of a kind game. The ending, whilst epic in places, did feel a bit rushed at times, with no real reveal as to what actually happens to the game’s main antagonists. But overall, if this were an episode of South Park, it would be up there with the greats, and at the end of the day, isn’t that all we really want from this game? Well, kind of: “what about gameplay?” I hear you cry from your computing chairs. Well, on to that now!

Stick of Truth - Mr Slave
Just your average day in South Park.

As stated in my “Initial Thoughts” review, the game has you wandering around a sandbox style map, engaging in turn based RPG fights. The map itself is a fair size, with a couple of new areas opening up as you journey through the game (the visit to the kingdom to the north was absolutely brilliant #nospoilers). You often find yourself returning to areas that you have already explored, but with new enemies popping up and new out-of-combat abilities unlocked, there is always that teeny bit more to do. There is the option to fast travel which, when crossing over the entire map, does help – but the map is relitvely easy to traverse on foot, and interesting, so I rarely found myself using it. Still, it’s nice to have the option. Thoughtful. The town of South Park also has a lot of explorable buildings too – buildings that contain loot and goodies and hilarious people to listen to and fart on. In fact, your first hour or so of the game will probably consist of going around opening everybody’s garages and seeing what you can steal.

Stick of Truth - Mr Hanky summoin
There aren’t many worse ways to go.

Combat is initiated by hitting (or being hit by) an enemy in the over world: unlike classic JRPGs of yore, Stick of Truth features no ‘random encounters’. Unfortunately, combat gives very limited XP, but considering I reached the maximum level cap of 15 quite a bit before the game’s climax, I can kind of understand why. When engaged in battle, you are taken to the combat screen. As mentioned, the battle system revolves around turn based combat. Generally it will go you, your buddy (more on that in a bit), then enemy A, B, C etc. However if you think that you can just lay back in your chair and apathetically press ‘A’, boy oh boy are you wrong. Stick of Truth’s combat system requires you to be on the ball. When an enemy attacks you, you have the option to execute a perfectly timed block and counter attack. When attacking, you must engage in a quick time event to perform your move correctly. This could be as simple as pressing ‘X’ at a specific time, to inputting Guitar Hero-style commands. Whilst fun at first, it soon grows quite tedious, as QTEs often do. I got very bored of wiggling the L-stick on my controller…and usually I love wiggling my stick! Throughout the majority of the game, during combat, you have a ‘buddy’. Whilst each buddy is unique and offers a different approach to battle, I found myself sticking with the same ones – Butters is good early game, with Kyle and Cartman being your go-tos later on. Kenny is pretty good all around (and revives if he is killed!), whilst Stan and Jimmy are both very average. Your character as two weapons – ranged and melee – which you can customise to inflict elemental damage, syphon life or penetrate armour. He also has at his disposal class specific abilities. These are the only things that really separate one class from another, and whilst I used my thief’s backstab ability countless times at the beginning of the game, by the end my melee attack was so OP that I just stuck with that. Your other method of attacking is, surprise surprise, farts. Farts, however, require mana. Mana requires specific items. As a result, I never really felt the need to faff around with this, and didn’t utilise my farts to their full potential. Heh. You can also acquire summonable characters. There are four of these, and each one instantly defeats all enemies that you’re currently fighting. However they cannot be used against bosses, and can only be used once per in-game day. Whilst funny to see for the first time, their limited use is only really beneficial if you just want to end a battle quickly. ‘Normal’ enemies are also relatively easy to defeat, and I never really felt threatened enough to use a summon.

Goodness, I have exceeded 1000 words. I should wrap this up.

Stick of Truth - Kenny QTE
Oh boy, QTEs!

A final note on collectables and replay value. If you’re an achievement hunter, you’re going to want to play through this game several times, or at least have multiple save files. Apart from that, there isn’t really much reason to replay Stick of Truth, asides from the fact that it’s a fun game. Once you complete the main story, which isn’t too long, you do enter a free roam of the map…but I’m not too sure how much you would get out of this as there isn’t too much additional stuff to do. There are 30 Chinpokomon to collect and 120 Facebook friends to find, but you will probably grab most of these as you play through the story anyway. A note of caution, however – despite the game giving you freedom to continue playing after you finish, there are many areas that become inaccessible, meaning if you missed a piece of loot or a Chinpokomon, you’re screwed. This happened to me. 29/30 Chinpokomon, which meant only 119/120 Facebook friends (you get one as a reward). As expected, I am very upset and am seeking counselling, m’kay.

All in all, Stick of Truth is not only a faithful adaptation of a great series, but also wonderfully incorporates key RPG elements, making it a fun, hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable game. The campaign does only last 11 or so hours, so if you can afford to wait to play then I would maybe suggest holding off until it comes down in price. And take your time. There’s no point in blitzing through.  Whilst no DLC has been formally announced, there is an option for it on the main menu…so fingers crossed that the developers are concocting a new story for us to tackle, and aren’t just going to release some shitty alternate costumes…!

South Park: Stick of Truth – Initial Thoughts

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In my first few hours of playing Stick of Truth, I have done three poos, seen boobs, caught a man masturbating, and rooted through Mrs Cartman’s drawers, stealing her dildos.

When I first heard about the Stick of Truth, I have to admit that I was sceptical. More often than not, games based on films or television shows are just…awful. Many times they are just churned out as a quick money maker, with a few jokes and references slapped into the mix for fans – just look at the recent Family Guy game. But Stick of Truth is something different: something better.

I have only played the game for a couple of hours so far, but I enjoyed every second. This is a true adaptation – a fantastic effort of transforming the wondrous, ingenious world of South Park into an interactive campaign.

My guy...super cool.
My guy…super cool.

As with many RPGs, the first thing you must do is create your character. You can choose skin colour (ranging from white to Jersey style spray-tan), hair, clothing and accessories. As you progress through the game, you find more and more items for customisation – many of which are references to previous South Park episodes – so you will probably end up creating a very unique character…the irony being, of course, that 90% of South Park’s child characters all share the same face model. About 20 minutes into gameplay, you choose your character class. These include RPG classics Mage, Warrior and Thief, as well as the addition of the Jew class. Naturally, I chose Thief, enabling me to use unique abilities to back stab enemies. One gripe I have with this character class system, however, is that it appears that any class can wield any weapon or armour. Whilst this, again, adds to the uniqueness of your character, I don’t think that there will be much of an incentive to replay the game – at least, not where character creation is concerned. Anyway, I have digressed. So yeah, you make your character, who is the new kid in town, and you’re flung straight into an epic conflict between the elves and humans over the legendary Stick of Truth. Of course, as with a number of the events that occur in the small Colorado mountain town, this is just a kids’ make-believe game taking place in the back gardens and streets of South Park. However I can only assume, true to the show’s nature, that as the story unfolds it will become a lot bigger than just the kids. World threat and all that. And that’s one of the things that makes this game so enjoyable – it’s full of references. Good references. References every season of South Park, not just the recent ones. Pretty much every item relates to a previous episode. In my short time of playing, I

Cartman's wardrobe, full of memorabilia from past episodes.
Cartman’s wardrobe, full of memorabilia from past episodes.

encountered Romper Stomper, a poster for Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld, Faith +1 CDs and many, many more. There is also a wonderful amount of pop culture references, alluding to franchise such as Grand Theft Auto or Game of Thrones.

The combat system follows traditional 90s RPGs a la Final Fantasy (that is to say, turn based combat), which just emphasises how well this game has been researched. This game has been created for a specific audience, and they know that audience well. Aesthetically, this game is beautiful. To quote a recent IGN review that I read, “it’s

A billboard just brimming with references!
A billboard just brimming with references!

the most beautiful, crappy looking game out there”. The animation looks like an episode of South Park. It’s uncanny. Apart from the occasional frame rate issue or clipping, you could be mistaken for thinking that this was one big ol’ episode. The detail that has gone into creating a living world really pays off. Characters go about their daily business, and no one is every just stood still. This may sound like a mundane thing, but characters that blink and move their bodies whilst idle really helps create an immersive environment. Overall the writing is brilliant too. As stated the script made me laugh out loud quite a few times. The most recent series of the show was a bit hit and miss, I found, but if that’s because Trey Parker and Matt Stone were focusing on writing this, then I can totally forgive them. It’s funny, crude and everything that you would expect from South Park. It’s also self-aware – I noticed Cartman making various remarks on how ‘this is a video game’, which only adds to the humour.

My final point is about the amount of stuff that there seems to be able to do. The map is pretty big – this is the first time (if I remember correctly) that the town of South Park has been geographically mapped out – and full of areas to explore, people to talk to, and collectable such as Chinpokomon to find.Stick of Truth - South Park backyaard

I’ve only scratched the surface of this game, but I cannot wait to explore more. Fans who have followed the show for years will inevitably get more out of it than the more casual watcher, but that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. If you’re planning on playing this game, then you know what kind of ride you’re in for, which, so far, has been brilliant. Now we just wait until this game gets blamed for all the wrong that is in the world…