Tag Archives: XBox Game Pass

Little Kitty, Big City

I’ve been playing Jedi Survivor, but then I saw that the game I recommended for my wife looked a little more low key and fun for the week, and thusly I instead invested a few nights into Little Kitty, Big City. See, you’re this cat living a highrise life, when suddenly disaster strikes!, in the form of gravity. Now you’re on the ground, surrounded by people and dogs and birds and, by far worst of all, by puddles of water. How will you get home?!

Well, by completing quests[1], and collecting various bits and bobs, and avoiding all the beings who wish to do you, if not harm, at least a series of unpleasant wettings and/or barkings at and/or chasings away. And by knocking things over, let us not ever forget.

It’s basically Untitled Goose Game, but with more of a plot, and a lot more teleportation and reverse causality. At six or eight hours[2], it does not wear out its welcome, and if the graphics are a little below top of the line, and if the controls for some of the jumps can be a little janky, well, that’s how indie games go, y’know? Nothing that drove me away, although it’s fair to say a little less jank might have resulted in me chasing a few more achievements,

[1] Sample quests including jumping in all five boxes, or sleeping in all five A+ nap spots, or taking the ducklings home
[2] and then only if you’re trying pretty hard to do a lot of the things; I spent hours after I reached the point of “you can go finish now if you like” before I actually proceeded to try to finish.

The Quarry

Did you ever want to take the movie Friday the 13th, put it in a blender with a choose your own adventure novel, and put the resulting mash into a not-quite walking sim video game? I mean, I hope you wanted to. Who even are you, if you didn’t?!

The Quarry documents the events of the night after the last night of summer camp at Hackett’s Quarry in upstate New York, in the summer of 2021[1]. All of the kids have returned home, and the counselors are cleaning and packing up to vacate the premises themselves (other than the two counselors who never showed up for the summer, after vanishing ominously in the prologue). Of course, nothing ever goes quite as planned when you’re high school on the cusp of college-aged summer camp counselors in a horror movie, does it?

The gameplay is a mixture of walking sim while looking for clues and things and the choose your own adventure interludes I mentioned, either interrupted occasionally by fairly forgiving quicktime events[2], timed CYOA decisions, wildly infrequent gunplay, and occasional exercises in hiding and trying to decide when to stop holding your breath. Oh, and also interrupted by chapter breaks when a creepy fortune teller attempts to influence your path. If this all sounds like mostly minimalist play in which the actual story is the real star, well, there’s a mode where you can have it just show you the movie with randomly determined outcomes, if that gives you an idea of what you’re in for.

All that said, I’m leaving out the piece of the game (aside from the actual story) that I found the most compelling. You can’t just go back and fix the decisions you regret. No take backs! I’m not sure why I’ve never envisioned such a possibility in interactive fiction before, but I haven’t, and it seems nobody else had either, since this is the first time I’m finding such a thing. It’s especially well suited to a horror movie, where people that you wanted to survive die tragically all the time, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.

I need to let some time pass, but I very much want to play this again, and that is not something you will catch me saying very often, anymore. Strongly recommended, unless you hate horror movies on the face of it or will feel really bad when the characters die and it’s your fault. But honestly it’s not very scary, even though it is occasionally shocking and definitely violent as all get out.

[1] Or 2022, I forget. Like it matters. This is not a game world that experienced COVID, y’all.
[2] Example: I think I managed to catch multiple of them even though I had set the controller down for a moment

It Takes Two

Over the past month or so, Mary and I have been playing It Takes Two, from the same people who made A Way Out. This time, we actually played on the same couch together, which was fairly successful. What’s weird is, aside from the structural premise that the games are meant to be played together and do not support physical distance, from a screen real estate perspective, these two games could not be farther apart.

It Takes Two is a family drama about parents of a young daughter who have begun to resent each other and are on the verge of divorce. Only the daughter overhears this decision, and using a weird couples’ counseling book accidentally puts them under a curse where they are body-swapped into instantly regenerating clay and twiggy fabric bodies of insectile proportions, and the personified book leads them through fantastical versions of their home and their past, trying to teach them how to reconnect and start working as a team again.

Will it work? Depends among other things on how good you are at combat platformers.

But honestly, it was a sweet, heartfelt game about a plan that would almost certainly fail in real life, and I have to recommend it to anyone who likes to play a game with other people. It’s too bad it isn’t easier to curse people on the verge of divorce into having no choice but to trust each other and work together and have the kinds of experiences that form lifelong bonds, and find out whether that would work or not.

Beacon Pines

So walking simulators are a thing, right? Although I’m always leery of using the terminology, because am I trying to say “it’s like a game, but you don’t have to have any gaming skills to play it,” and more importantly, is that extra judgy / gatekeepery? I think I’m overthinking it, especially since I like both kinds of games, and others for that matter. Anyway, all of this to say that Beacon Pines is sort of that kind of game[1], but with a choose your own adventure twist.

See, you play as a tween elk/llama-looking semi-orphan in the titular town, with a best friend and a treehouse and a mysterious corporation and a dark past. Well, I got mixed up a bit; the kid has the first two, the town has the latter two. …although there’s some bleedover. Only, all of that is not exactly right, because what you actually play as is the reader of a book, except the book has a personality and is in search of a satisfying ending. Maybe even a happy one?

Anyway, easily recommendable way to spend 8 or 10 hours, unless you are allergic to anthropomorphic animals or implausible pseudoscience.

[1] which Wikipedia Pete helpfully calls a “narrative adventure”, which is probably a better name anyway

Golf with Your Friends

So here’s an idea that I think should have happened a long time ago, but either never did until now, or else I never noticed. Mini-golf, right? People have made video games about mini golf that defy, if not physics herself, at least what a non-billionaire could spend on fancy courses. But if anyone has made the video game equivalent of that, and also you and your friends are the only people at the course and you’re drinking and playing hurry up golf where you’re all just constantly hitting the ball as fast or as slow as you want (but there’s a timer) and if your strokes happen to run afoul of each other as you play, oh well it happens!

That stopped being a sentence at some point. But my point is, if anyone ever made the video game equivalent of that before now, I missed it. Golf with Your Friends is exactly that, by which I mean, yes, it’s what I just described, but also, it’s exactly what it calls itself. At least, it’s that for me, when I get together with my friends of a Tuesday night and play things for a few hours.

A plus, would putt again.

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).

Supraland

Supraland is falling off Game Pass in a few days, which means acknowledging to myself that I’m not going to find the rest of the secret stuff I had been unrealistically holding out for before I wrote my review. The fact that I wanted to do all of the secret things well after the end of the plot is probably a good sign as to how I felt about the game, so I will say it has a lot of weird glitchy spaces in it that make it hard to tell when something is hard because it’s meant to be hard and when it’s hard because something isn’t working right. There are flaws!

That said: man, I don’t think I’ve invested in a 3D platformer this hard since Super Mario 64[1] in the ’90s. You the character are the prince of the red people, who live across the sandbox from the blue people, over which[2] very occasionally presides The Boy. And you are sent on a quest to resolve the red kingdom’s suspicious water shortage, with only your trusty wooden sword against the hordes of skeletons that for some reason infest the long, barren space between the kingdoms. Lots of fighting, lots of puzzles, lots of powerups. It’s a collector’s paradise out there, and slightly buggy or not, it’s easy to recommend to anyone who likes the genre.

[1] At somewhere in the 90-105 out of 120 stars range, I loaned the cartridge out, and my save game was deleted, even though there were empty saves available! (At least I’m over it, right?)
[2] Over the sandbox, that is, not over the blue people specifically.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Someone, who I am married to, likes to scavenge the lists of what is leaving Game Pass when, and then freaking out taking special notice of what is about to leave that she’d like to play. Which is how I ended up doing a shared speed run[1] of the first volume of the Plague Tale series[2], Innocence.

Of course, this also means that unless it comes back to Game Pass, this review does nobody any good, since while it was more than good enough to play, it was less than good enough to spend forty dollars on. (Unless you are suddenly really concerned about the sequel I suppose, which I then hope for your sake is worth more than sixty dollars. …or it will be on Game Pass as a day one release, so.)

The game is a probably faithful (in tone if not in detail) romp across Middle Ages western France, wherein a fifteen year-old daughter of nobility along with her five year-old brother become refugees fleeing the Inquisition, and the English invaders, and the omnipresent plague-ridden rats, most of whom are more than they seem. It starts as a sneaking and hiding game, but as the siblings continue to survive (thanks, checkpoints!), they gradually learn the skills needed to survive at a better than “on the run” level.

Too bad, then, about Hugo’s unresolved chronic disease.

[1] When I say “speed run”, I don’t mean a seventeen minute glitch fest, I mean like 20 hours because we both want to find all the things in an otherwise 12-15 hour game and are only so skilled on top of that, but also we can only play violent games at night, in our limited sleep time, so that was a lot to deal with in like a week. I’m still exhausted.
[2] Was there a planned Plague Tale series? I have absolutely no idea. But there’s the name scheme for it, and also there’s a sequel coming out in October, so, signs point to yes.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

The first thing that happens in Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is… well, it’s rather predictable, is what it is. You wake up one morning and have a letter from the mayor that you owe property taxes, and you[1] rip up the letter, and boom: you, sir, are a tax evader.

And now, you are on an epic quest to… well, honestly, even saying what the quest is for feels a little bit like a spoiler, but what you are for sure on is an epic quest to do whatever Mayor Onion tells you, since he owns your greenhouse through the powers of lien-holding or whatever. Along the way, you will fight vegetarians, learn your backstory[2], and live out what is, ultimately, a love letter to anarchy.

It’s silly, short, and if not exactly easy, also not exactly hard. My only regret is that the XBox version apparently has bugs preventing me from get the last 100 gamerscores. Lame.

[1] I should pause here to note that you are one Turnip Boy, esquire
[2] Why don’t you already know your own backstory? Listen, don’t think about it too much.

Prey (2017)

For all that it’s five years old, Prey is one of the best games I’ve ever played, and certainly the best one I’ve finished in recent memory[1]. (I need to get back to Pillars of Eternity. And also Horizon Zero Dawn.)

It is approximately like, what if Half-Life, but extremely modern and therefore with the ability to have and track quests and side quests, and the survivors you meet are actually able to, on occasion, take care of themselves a little bit instead of solely serving to keep you in a somber mood. You can play guns blazing, or extreme stealth, or anything in between, while being as kind or cruel or unconcerned as you prefer. In a different world where I didn’t have an infinite number of massive games I wanted to play, nevermind the smaller ones, I might be inclined to play this again with a different focus. I happen to know there are things I never saw because I played differently than what would have allowed me to see them.

As far as the plot: go in as blind as you can. All I knew was a) praise and b)… actually, I can no longer swear what I knew about b), so it would be unfair to say anything, wouldn’t it? But the game starts off on your first day joining your big brother in the family business. Wake up, get ready, fly across town in a helicopter while the credits roll, then take the evaluation tests you need to pass to go up to the space station where the real magic (by which I mean science) happens. Only, the tests don’t really make even a lick of sense? And why is that table running around, and why are the alarms going off? And then things get weird.

In conclusion, I liked it really a lot. The plot twists never really stopped, no matter how far into the game you think you’ve gotten. I am uncertain about the expansion? But I would play the hell out of a sequel.

[1] “Okay, but what about Hollow Knight?” It’s like this. They are both exemplars of their respective types of game, but Prey has the better plot. HK has the better mood, if that makes you feel okay about things.