Come on April!

Excuse the lack of updates, I feel like this page is in a serious need of a heavy makeover + I’ve not been playing anything major recently, just shoving my backlog under the blanket/carpet pretending it does not exist.

HOWEVER, there is something that might change things a wee bit and that is …

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This time next week I’ll be happily indulging into the world of Final Fantasy Type-0, Final Fantasy XV demo, Bloodborne and all the other good things. Honestly the easter break couldn’t come soon eough!

Shadowy Traces of an Admirable Effort

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Welcome to Salem, Massachusetts. Airtight Games virtual interpretation of the real world location, which is notorious for its supernatural folklore and infamous witch trials. The player finds themselves in the shoes of Ronan O’Connor, a misunderstood felon turned brazen detective who plays by his own rules. An abrupt run-in with the local serial killer culminates with Ronan departing the world of the living. Hence our investigation into our very own murder begins.

Ronan travels across several distinct locations ranging from the local police station, to a psychiatric hospital and even a demon-infested church. Generally these environments are very compact but they are also quite detailed. So whilst there isn’t an awful lot of scenery to poke about in, the developers have made a respectable effort at crafting a rich atmosphere with plenty of affairs to stick your nose in and drizzling heaps of trinkets to hoard. These areas are tied together by a cumbersome town hub, populated by a plethora of night-dwelling folk who strangely seem to all have your recent murder on their mind. It would appear that news spreads quickly in Salem.

Murdered: Soul Suspect suffers from several bugs and glitches, the worst of which caused the game to crash on three separate occasions during a single playthrough. This is one of several events that trigger a reoccurring impression that Murdered: Soul Suspect had a lot of potential that was unrealised to due to exhausted resources. One of the most horrifying facets of Murdered: Soul Suspect is its combat. The combat mechanics can only be described clumsy, tedious and quite frankly, tripe.

One of the strongest aspects to the game lay with its side quests. Between key objectives Ronan has the opportunity to solve the mysteries pertaining to the deaths of various lost souls in Salem. It was fascinating to investigate the secrets surrounding the demise of these people and help them pass on to the afterlife. These side quests are few and far between, which is unfortunate as they add a great deal of depth and enjoyment. The plot is serviceable as is the manner which it is told and what little soundtrack that exists is entirely forgettable. Ronan himself is so-so, but some of his dialogue is toe-curling, which admittedly isn’t half as bad as his insufferable nuisance of a sidekick.

Airtight Games had more ideas and passion than you could shake a stick at. They also lacked the resources and to some extent the skill to capitalize upon those qualities. This leaves Murdered: Soul Suspect in a state of limbo. The player is constantly tantalized with what could have been, only to be dragged back to earth and reminded that this is the best you’re going to get. Whilst there are certainly better titles to spend your hard earned cash on. Murdered: Soul Suspect is a unique experience that is worthy of a discounted purchase, particularly among the more adventurous gamers.

Have you played Murdered: Soul Suspect? What did you think of it?

-@BradBraddington

RE: My Top 20 Favourite Video Game Tracks

Since Noa @CritiqueQuest tagged us all in her Top 20 Favourite Video Game Tracks I thought I might as well make a full-fledged reply mainly because (1) I have way too many favourites to be crammed into a one sentence response and (2) I adore her channel. (and I promise you will too so please hurry up and subscribe/follow!)

Here is my top 10 + honorable mentions.

A Love Suicide [Rule of Rose] The only track we both have in common. I remember having it on repeat for weeks, and it looks like I’m in it again.

Can’t Say Goodbye to Yesterday [Metal Gear Solid 2] As much as I love Snake Eater I think it’s the weakest in the soundtrack department. Too much Bond oriented for my taste, I like to pretend the theme song never happened. Son’s of Liberty’s ending theme however is a different story.

God and Man [God Eater Burst] This game has been painfully underrated, the OST in general doesn’t necessarily stand out but this song is probably one of my highest rated vocal tracks. Also, it did take me a while to realize it’s Donna Burke singing.

Memories of the City [Persona 3] Choosing a favourite track from the Persona games is nearly impossible but this one fits so well with the ending events in the third game I thought I would pick it over Signs of Love which had been my most-loved for a long time.

Null Moon [Silent Hill 2] A list without a Silent Hill 2 OST would be wrong, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t really matter which track it is though since they are all equally beautiful, very sombre and dreamlike. Null Moon in particular stands out a bit more than the rest.

Pillow Stains [Deadly Premonition] The OST in this game might be hit and miss but whenever this song plays (does it actually play in the game?) it adds volumes to the atmosphere.

Temple of Drifting Sands [NieR] Even if you have not played this title you surely must have heard of the soundtrack. It’s as good as everyone says it is. There are no duds here, each and every piece is beautifully composed whether it is Ashes of Dreams, Grandma or Shadowlord.

Time’s Scar [Chrono Cross] Classic. A classic title I have yet to play (probably not going to happen), this composition however is a thing of beauty.

Salt Flats (The) [Final Fantasy VIII] Both that and Seeking Power from XII do an amazing job at fitting into the background of snowy landscapes. It’s hard to decide which one is better but I’m picking Salt Flats because let’s face it VIII is a better game.

You Were Here [ICO] Another stunning piece that deserves a mention.

* Here are the extras since clearly I could go on forever …

Distant Memories Folklore, Prologue- to the Ancient Land [Shadow of Colossus], A Deus [Grandia 2], Please love me … once more [Silent Hill 3], Empty Loneliness [Valkyria Chronicles], Agni Ratha, Imperial Capital [Xenoblade Chronicles], Coastal Thailand [Tomb Raider: Underworld]

What are your most-loved tracks?

Is this Mass Effect for people like me? #StarOcean

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At the minute my backlog is getting out of hand my favourite activity is either starting a new game I have no intention of finishing, telling myself one step at a time or browsing through old titles I might have missed out on. There usually is plenty.

Just recently I reattempted to give Mass Effect yet another try mainly because outer space travel themes are my weakness. I usually stop a little bit after I create my character. But because this time around I did not even make it to the battlefield, I think it’s high time to get comfortable with the fact that me and Mass Effect will never get along.

However, scrolling through the old-ish titles in the RPG section I came across Star Ocean: The Last Hope and took a second look. Outer space? Vibrant enviroments? The standard, as unrealistic as possible character design? YES please. I do not want to say it just yet but it does seem like it ticks all the boxes. So the question is; have you played The Last Hope (or any other title in the series) and what have you thought of it?

Life is Strange |first impressions

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I have never been a fan of episodic releases. Partly because I’d rather have an instant access to a whole picture and decide on the pace of the progress myself but also because I have not found one I could get into. However, having spent a couple of hours with the first episode of Life is Strange last night I’d be willing to say I might have found the one.

As soon as I was given the control of Max, the main character, I found myself intrigued by the amount of details and strikingly charming visuals. Both add volumes to the exploration therefore I ended up happily snooping around the Blackwell Academy campus and other people’s houses and belonging finding out more about the characters, their secrets and the initial plot. At the end of episode I was heavilly engrossed by the events and the hearfelt writing.

Life is Strange has a good selection of characters, even though initially they might seem a wee bit cliché quickly you are soon to discover a lot more depth to them. Although I do not find Max relatable personally it does not make the experience less enjoyable. I still find her likeable and, as much as I dislike the word, believable.

In general, I am more than happy with the outcome; the setting, the characters and the script in particular and I look forward to see how the story unfolds.

Have you had a chance to try the title? If so, let me know what you thought in the comment section below!

Silent Hill

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Silent Hill has always been one of a very few series I hold dear to my heart. I stumbled upon it accidentally while picking up Silent Hill 2 copy back in my early Playstation 2 days when gaming magazines and demo discs were my only source of information. Even though I had known very little about it I vaguely remembered a video teaser that pigued my interest. I quickly became obsessed with the story, setting, characters, themes, soundtrack and level design. Hence I hurried to purchase all the remaining titles at that time right away (the original Silent Hill, and then 3 and 4: The Room) and I ended up playing them for hours until there was nothing left to explore or unlock. Even though they were all great it was Silent Hill 2 that in my opinion has been one of the most complex, clever and thought provoking titles out there. When I think of my second favourite The Room might be the one. Eerie is the right word to describe the atmosphere best. It might differ a lot to the think and heavy undertones in Silent Hill 2 and it does take a contrasting approach to gameplay mechanics and storytelling but it somehow manages to preserve the Silent Hill vibe. Nevertheless I always feel like it does not get enough recognition for what it is.

When it comes to Origins I remember having mixed feelings towards it. I think it took me two playthroughs to eventually admit I adored the game. While I still think the protagonist, his personal journey and the overall plot itself take a major backseat, many other aspects like level design, puzzles and gameplay are done incredibly well. Areas like sanitarium, motel and plenty of others are fun to explore and the combat is challenging and rewarding. Breakable weapons did not bother me since there is always a good deal to collect and use so if you are an obsessive hoarder you will enjoy it.

The issue I have had with Homecoming is that I find it forgettable. There is not a lot to the game that would make me want to replay and/or discuss and certainly the infamous Scarless boss battle everyone always seem to mention (as I do too because it definitely is a highlight) is not enough. I found it overly straighforward, lacking mystery and ambiguity. It did gameplay better than the first two or three games yes but I did not see it as a huge advantage. I would rather have the quality of the plot and characters rivaled instead since this is where I aways my attention on. The level design is the most bland and lazy out of the whole series in my eyes so I found it very disappointing in comparison to the distinctive design of the early games and after a suprisingly detailed Origins. For instance, how painfully flat and vacant Grand Hotel is when compared to the Lakeview Hotel interiors?

Shattered Memories is an odd title and I still cannot decide how I feel about it. For a long time I had refused to take it seriously. I could not see the point of following a what-if path of events that never took place. However, I kind of like it now. I grew to appreciate the bizarre or surreal atmosphere and interactions with the characters. If it was not for the dreadful chase sequences that do not add anything to the game other than frustration and a very weak way of implementing psychology I would have praised it more.

Finally, I have been seeing mainly tons of positive feedback in regards to Downpour. I would say it is actually getting slightly too much credit for what it is and in my opinion is the weakest in the series. I was not a fan of the gameplay. I did not mind the weapons but the inventory was frustrating. Healing yourself while being chased or in battle is a pain, map could have been more accessible and I lost count on how many times I accidentally launched my weapons in the air. That however is not the main root of the problem. What’s more important is the plot and characters being less than engaging. It almost feels like there is a decent beginning and an ending while nothing fascinating is going on in between. In consequence it did feel like a chore and for that reason I never bothered to replay it.

Overall I really have not been impressed nor fully satisfied with the quality of the recent Silent Hill titles. As you may know a new entry has been announced and I both wish and hope for it to craft levels with more care and style and not neglect the plot in favour of the gameplay. Judging by the playable demo (PT) from last year it might be likely to come true at least in the atmosphere department.

How do you feel about the series? What titles are your favourite and why?

2014 in retrospect //@BradBraddington

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2014 has come to an end. So what better way to introduce the New Year than recounting my video games experiences from the past 12 months. I feel it would be most fitting to begin with my most anticipated game from 2014, Dark Souls 2.
I was a late starter with the Souls franchise, my first delve into the franchise began with Demons Souls in 2013. I found myself sucked into the vivid world of Boletaria, the engrossing lore, the phenomenal soundtrack and of course Maiden Astraea who gave me one of my most beloved moments in gaming. The highly anticipated release of Dark Souls 2 came in March. I would spend the following week entirely absorbed by Dark Souls 2 and ultimately I found myself returning to the real world battle hardened and with a feeling of glowing gratification. I recall being astonished at the beautiful sun soaked cliffs and forgotten shacks of Majula. I was satisfied with the tweaks to the character stats to avoid previously impractical stats such as resistance and in general Dark Souls 2 provided more of the unforgiving but ultimately rewarding gameplay that I had come to expect from the talent at From Software. On the other hand I felt that the level design of Dark Souls 2 lacked the originality and genius of previous iterations. This trend continued with the boss fights as well. It is no secret that many of the boss fights were re-hashed and in some cases almost directly ripped from Dark Souls, it left the overall product feeling rushed and soulless at times. Dark Souls 2 was by no means a blunder but I could not shake the feeling that it could have been more.
Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within. Those five words filled me with a manic eagerness that lingered with me right up to launch day. Which was only logical as Resident Evil 4 is my most beloved game of all time and the similarities between the two were undeniable. Much was promised, the return of survival horror by the godfather of the genre himself was just one such promise. Following the chaotic and explosive finale I slumped back from the edge of my seat with mixed sentiments. I found the gunplay to be a joy to handle, the atmosphere was genuinely nerve-racking and the game world and its repulsive inhabitants were designed wonderfully. The Evil Within was certainly not without its flaws. The stealth sections felt half-baked and I found the black borders to be very tiresome and redundant. My biggest gripe however was how paper-thin and dull the characters of The Evil Within were. This issue only accentuated the rather lackadaisical storytelling. The term ‘Diamond in the Rough’ fits The Evil Within perfectly, a terrific title hindered by some glaring snags.
The first season of the Walking Dead championed as my Game of the Year 2012. Telltale Games delivered an unforgettable tale of survival and sacrifice and in turn it was only natural that I had extremely high expectations for the second season. I was thrilled by Telltale’s decision to use Clementine as a leading role. I found her to be an adorable yet mature and intelligent character who I found myself emotionally invested in much like her makeshift guardian Lee Everett from the first season of The Walking Dead. Even under the lofty expectations that I, critics and fans worldwide had set, the team at Telltale Games flourished and delivered a superb tale with fantastic characters. From the gripping rhetoric between the characters to the harrowing scenarios that would each leave young Clementine more desensitized than before, The Walking Dead: Season 2 delivered an unforgettable journey marred only by the occasional graphic and audio bugs and as such I award it my Game of the Year 2014.
I would like to finish with a quick observation of some other great titles I had the chance to play last year. P.T was the brilliantly out-of-nowhere teaser for Silent Hills. The Silent Hill franchise has been on a dishearteningly mediocre streak since Silent Hill: Origins but I was absolutely astonished by what Kojima Productions delivered. P.T offers a truly terrifying experience with phenomenal visuals and simply ingenious game mechanics. If you have not yet played it, please do so as soon as possible. Continuing on the Kojima hype train, I also had the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Although disappointingly short, Ground Zeroes treated me to some superb visuals and stealth gameplay not to mention more of the engrossing storytelling and characters I have come to expect from the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I have only just begun playing Aliens: Isolation. Early impressions consist of panicked screams and muffled sobbing, review to follow soon. Last but certainly not least. Hatsune Miku Project Diva f 2nd was a sweet Christmas gift from my lovely lady friend. It has since taken over both our lives and I don’t know how much longer our thumbs or our controllers will survive.
So what was your game of the year 2014?
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed, and please come back again soon.

@BradBraddington

#PSP Heroes

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Playstation Portable has been the system I would reach for rather frequently these past few years. Not only because it has been perfectly handy to game in bed or on the go but also due to a great number of titles I fell in love with and played regardless of the time and place. 2015 will likely be the year I upgrade to Vita (mind you, my wishlist is already quite hefty) therefore here’s a roundup of the games I found remarkable.
1. SMT: Persona 3 Portable
I always do mention it no matter the occasion or context. It still remains an all time favourite of mine (together with Silent Hill 2 & Final Fantasy VIII/X, it is tricky to choose one as they are so different). It’s a ridiculously addictive blend of an exhilarating battleplay, complex story and multidimentional characters. You will be hooked I promise, even if RPGs are not your cup of tea.
2. God Eater Burst
A treasure within the library. Challenging enemy fights, rich customisation, likable characters and a plot that does not dissapoint. Online mode makes it even better especially because the boss battles might be a bit problematic while in a single player mode. A sequel has not been announced for the West sadly.
3. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Set in between Portable Ops and Ground Zeroes timeline. Another quality title in the series with heaps of replayablility, online features work like a dream making the battles even more exciting. Don not let the ‘tiny’ screen fool you, this IS a proper entry to the saga. A must have for any MGS fan.
4. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
This one might seem a bit generic at the first glance and the first hour into the game but it did manage to grow on me. I would say it’s perfect for the jRPG newbies because it’s so well-balanced and not overly lenghty or complex. The generous dose of charm makes it stand out from the crowd.
5. Valkyria Chronicles II
A brilliant follow up to an already amazing predecessor. Gameplay is more layered this time around and an online mode adds a lot to the fun. I spent weeks working on my squad, growing fond of my team members and mastering the scores thanks to the great cast of characters. Excellent soundtrack as well as you would expect from Hitoshi Sakimoto.
What are the titles you have enjoyed playing on the PSP?

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd

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I had never imagined I would want to play it in the first place but seeing all the fun and excitement in the room whenever it has been on I decided to give it a go myself.

The closest I have ever been to experiencing a rhythm game was Patapon 3 on the PSP if I remeber correctly and I very much liked it. Hatsune Miku though is a whole new world of entertainment. It consists of a vast number of tracks to master across four diffuculty settings and believe me they all can be equally challenging, customisable characters and the interior plus online features. It is more than enough to keep you both occupied and satisfied and quite possibly addicted. It is fun, the only problem is I struggle a lot.

In case rhythm games are not your thing or you are, like myself, hopeless with them, at least watch someone else play it instead. I promise you will be singing along in no time even if you claim Jpop is not something you would listen to voluntarily, you might make an exception for those immensely catchy tracks.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland |the gaming edit

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As you all know I value a good level design so much I am practically obsessed when it comes to that feature. Whenever I play something new, or let’s be realistic here-most of the time old, I will take a great pleasure from exploring the scenery and the backgrounds with my magpie eye leaving the mains for later or last. For this entry I originally thought of making it Christmas oriented but eventually settled for a selection of winter themed landscapes I have had the most fun investigating.

If there is anything that stands out in Eternal Sonata it has to be the Baroque City. To me this is the ultimate winter area every RPG seems to always feature. It is definitely one of the most detailed areas in the game, it almost resembles landscapes you would find in an old picture book from childhood.

A very similar one that comes to mind would be Yule from Ni no Kuni, a village covered mostly in ice rather than snow where the aurora is easy to spot. It oozes with charm but so do the remaining levels to be honest.

Final Fantasy XII might not have been the title I had fallen in love instantaneously with but when it comes to level design it had a great and plentiful amount of scenery to offer. The variety of the wilderness in particular was quite remarkable and possible one of the strongest across the series. Paramina Rift might be a lenghty section but it is a pleasure to explore not only due to its beauty but also its theme seeking power. It also serves as one of the best grinding spots in the game.

And finally the mighty mountains combined with the icy tibetan caverns in the Mountaineering section of Uncharted 2 stood out for me as one of the nicest backgrounds for puzzling and platforming.

What are your most loved winter levels?

New (Old)-in //RPG

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As you might know RPG is the genre I invest most time into and gush over the most on these pages. Seeing as we are already more than a half way into December I think it’s safe to begin the pre 2015 chats and discussions as to what we will be playing next so here’s a few titles I will be looking forward to try the most next year.

1. A brand new title in the SaGa series was announced a few days ago which instantly piqued my interest mainly due to the art direction, obviously, and the fact that I remeber being once fascinated by the SaGa Frontier images while scrolling through the old classics checking on what I have missed out on over the years. The game will be playable on the PS Vita.

2. Persona 5. That one’s a given eventhough the updates and news have been rather sparse ever since it has been announced. I will gladly accept anything to be honest and I’m pretty sure so will the rest of the community. Persona has become insanely popular for many reasons. Although the first two titles suffered in the gameplay department, I have always found it painful to digest in comparison to the plot, the 3rd and the 4th game managned to balance the battle system and the story incredibly well. I see them as the ultimate RPGs for grown-ups.

3. Suikoden I and II will be coming to PSN. I have been unsure whether to include these since they are basically repackaged old classics BUT having not played them/knowing very little about/seeing as they are both generally accepted as the must-plays in the genre I am willing to purchase and see if the series is worth it.

4. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD might be the one I am the most impatient to try. It has been around for years and I have been dreaming about it since the day it came out. Next year it will finally be playable for the western audience and in HD. Persona aside, I might be an even bigger addict in this instance so this list would not be complete without a Final Fantasy title.

RPG wise what do you look forward to in 2015?