Tag Archives: puzzle

Immortals Fenyx Rising

This review is seriously overdue, but in my defense I didn’t decide until I started the third game of the Season Pass[1] that I was going to review it separately instead of all together in one giant go.

Anyway, the thing about Immortals Fenyx Rising is that you have to get past the terrible name. You just have to. Imagine, if you will, that one of the titans has come back, and the fate of both humanity and the gods rests on the back of a lone mortal. Imagine further that the entire story is being told in recap by Prometheus to Zeus, in high snark, while Prometheus has as a fully visible “ulterior” motive to get Zeus to see just how awful of a parent he is. And that story is performed by you, Fenyx, the shield-bearer to (and story-teller for) a boatful of heroes who were all just turned to stone, along with most everyone else in the world.

Handling that little problem involves fighting infinite waves of monsters, leveling up your gear and powers, solving various and sundry puzzles scattered across the land, learning a great deal about Greek mythology[2], and constantly snickering at the narration.

People compare it to Breath of the Wild, the (for now) most recent Zelda game from a few years back. I will say a) that it’s easier, b) that it’s funnier, c) that it’s easier to get a handle on what’s going on, d) that it’s a smaller game, and e) that it’s probably not as good. That a) piece is honestly the only problem with this game. I am a completionist, and I tried to do most of the puzzles and things in advance of the main plot. The result was that for the last quarter or so of the game, I already had all my powers and whatnot maxed out, so other than puzzle-solving it was a little boring trying to get to the conclusion.

I mean, not when Prometheus and Zeus were talking, or any of the other characters. Just when I was fighting pushover monsters on my way to a chest with yet another reskinning of my fourth-favorite set of armor. But that means that I was meh on like 15 hours out of a 90 hour game. That’s not so bad. (Don’t check my math.)

[1] I still don’t entirely understand what a season pass even is. Does it mean that you get to play all future expansions (but not sequels, one presumes) ever? Just for this “season”? And if the latter, this brings me back around to having no idea what that means. What decides a season, other than the people who are charging you for its pass? I have a lot of questions about modern gaming, I guess.
[2] Mostly not the big obvious bits. I would say easily a third of the references, and maybe more than, were things I’ve never heard of (but that I have no reason to believe were made up, given how much I did recognize as accurate).

Donut County

The thing about Donut County is, it’s barely a game at all[1].

But if you can get past that, it’s pretty fun and funny. It’s approximately a knockoff of Katamari Damacy, but instead of rolling things up, you are a hole in the ground, and you are swallowing said things. Donut County is a county somewhere near alternate Los Angeles I guess?, inhabited by all manner of sentient animals and also for some reason this one girl. The only problem is that everyone and everything keeps disappearing into holes in the ground.

Who could be causing this? And why? And will you ever get to fly the sweet quadcopter that you can unlock if you reach level 10?

Anyway: as two hour games go, I definitely got my money and time investment’s worth.

[1] This is not entirely true. The last third adds more game elements, such that by the end, there’s some game there.

The Turing Test

Because I am extremely timely, have another review of a game that’s leaving Game Pass today! The Turing Test is a sci-fi puzzle game[1] in which Ava Turing wakes up from cryosleep above Europa and is tasked by her AI companion, TOM, to go to the surface and find out why communication from the crew has ceased. Not as in “why aren’t they answering anymore” (although that too), as in “why is the communication link down?”

Upon arrival, however, the mystery deepens when the rooms of the base have been repurposed into puzzles that require creative solutions to proceed deeper, apparently to keep someone (or something?) out. Whereupon follows 77 rooms’ worth of puzzles combined with an ongoing discussion between Ava and TOM on the nature of consciousness plus occasional clues as to what happened down there.

The puzzles are very occasionally ridiculous, but mostly the right amount of difficult[2]. The plot is deeper and ultimately stronger than I gave it credit for. On the whole? Pretty impressive game; recommended, even.

[1] If you’re thinking “poor man’s Portal“, well, that’s a fair comparison. Happily, there’s a lot of room to go downhill from Portal and still have an enjoyable and plot-dense experience.
[2] Well, for me at least, and not counting the rooms that were extra simple, just to teach you new rules.

Untitled Goose Game

I’ve been vaguely aware of Untitled Goose Game for some time, in the sense of, oh, hey, someone made another game like Goat Simulator, but for geese. Which sounded, you know, fine. At the same time, even though GS is on Game Pass, I have not really been itching to give it another try and finish this time, for whatever reason. Maybe I’m wrong? UGG is what was going to convince me I was wrong, if anything would.

So you’re this goose, right? Or, these geese, if you play multiplayer, as I did[1]. And you have a to-do list, some of which are things that might be fun for you and mostly harmless, but which really seem to annoy the humans around you, while others are, uh, pretty clearly designed to annoy the humans around you with no other particular benefit, except that it’s funny. Eventually your to-do list has an event that causes a new area (with a new to-do list!) to be unlocked. And so on, until you finish the game. Some of the bits are complicated to figure out, while others are complicated to execute, but it’s mostly a light puzzle game that you can breeze through in a few hours.

Which Mary and I did on Friday night, including the list of bonus to-do’s you can accomplish[2], some of which don’t even make sense to try until you’ve won once. And almost all of which are just purely mean, meaner than most of the previous mean things you’ve already done. …I did mention this is a game about geese, right?

Near the end of the night came the cruelest goose trick of all: even though we were both logged in on our accounts, Mary was not getting any of the achievements credited to her gamer score. This was especially painful because she was the one who wanted to cross off all the extra items in the first place; I had already been satisfied.

But I mean, it also ended up being fun, which is much better than if it had been grinding for points.

[1] Multiplayer is mildly annoying in that the screen only gets so big, so the geese have to stay together and can maybe get each other stuck. We played on a shared screen, but I assume that the same limitations apply to a remote multiplayer game. I also assume that remote multiplayer even exists.
[2] And not including the speed runs, which are all we left undone. I understand intellectually that some people are really into speed runs, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

Katamari Damacy

If I had to pick one game in all the world most likely to have universal appeal, Katamari Damacy would be it. There’s no part of it that has a downside. Well, okay, it’s perhaps too zany for some people. There is an undeniable zane element happening. And perhaps not everyone in the world likes Freddie Mercury. I’m willing to believe that’s true. But the King of All Cosmos is merely flamboyant, not actively gay. After all, he has a wife and a wee little son. So certainly the anti-gay lobby cannot complain here. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers might have a certain reasonable issue, what with all the stars in the sky having been destroyed. But nobody actually mentions alcohol so far as I can remember, and anyway, it’s not like anyone got hurt. Plus, the whole point of the game is to make it right again. So, basically, yeah. It’s the game for everyone!

Here’s what it has: a simple interface that anyone can pick up without ever having touched a video game in their lives, as long as they have working opposable thumbs; an engagingly quirky storyline following the crossing paths of a family of lego people and the family of the King of All Cosmos on a particularly fateful day; a brilliant Japanese pop soundtrack; and the ability to roll up things. This is both the simplest and the hardest to explain concept I’ve come across in quite some time. You take a roller ball, which we call a Katamari, and you roll it around the earth, where things that are sufficiently smaller than it will stick to it. Things sticking to it makes it grow, so that you can roll up larger things, which in turn make it grow faster, and so on. It may seem to you, the uninitiated, as though rolling up things is not a particularly interesting task. I am here to tell you that it is not merely interesting, but actively fulfilling in a way that allows for nearly infinite replayability.

That said, I have not made the North Star, and I find it unlikely that I ever will. But this is due to impatience rather than disinterest. Seriously, though: universal appeal. If you do not have it and either have or can afford a Playstation 2, get this game today, and then play it. A lot. (But then, having played it once, I feel confident that the ‘a lot’ is an inevitable outcome whether I specify it or not.)


A very long time ago, I spent a week in Southern California, right after the spring semester. Mostly hanging out on the beaches watching bikini babes rollerblading by on the boardwalk, right? Well, obviously not, because I’m me. No, a big part of that time, I played Road Rash on the Sega and Myst on the PC. However, vacation time ran short, and I did not quite have time to finish.

That would be the all too common end to the story, except that one of my friends hit upon the idea of buying the first three boxed together over this holiday weekend. None of us has ever touched Exile, I’ve never played Riven (except for the first ten agonizing minutes or so, after which I got bored and quit), and one of us had never played Myst. Also, none of us particularly remembered how to solve the puzzles, just pieces of the plot. So, we sat down and got to work.

And then, after about six or eight hours of gameplay spread across two days, we finished it. I learned several things from this experience. 1) Ten years down the road, a lot of games have incorporated this kind of puzzle motif, to the extent that what was new and unusual back in the day is now all to easy to spot and understand the purpose of. The paradigm has shifted, and this was certainly the game that did it. 2) Full-motion video has come a long way. 3) When I stopped playing, that early summer all those many years ago? Yeah, I was about 5 minutes from the end of the game.

What a sack of crap.