Tag Archives: ios

The Unique Aesthetic of Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2

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Monument Valley was a very interesting and aesthetically pleasing project when it released so it stands to reason that the sequel should and would be as well. Although there are several new gimmicks and ideas in play for all intents and purposes you’re looking at a continuation of the same game and same vein of design. This isn’t a bad thing at all.

What you may not be expecting is for me to compare the beautifully crafted visuals and puzzling gameplay of Monument Valley and its sequel to that of the monochromatic, dark and occult filled visuals of Wilson’s Heart. A virtual reality adventure and a downloadable game don’t always have much in common but starting today I’m making a connection between these two in particular.

It’s not so much that they have anything in common rather it’s the fact that both push the boundary of visual presentation in one way or another, or perhaps even in several ways in some instances. Functionality notwithstanding, each of these games is a thorough experience that relies heavily upon visual input and context. The ways in which you’re able to perceive specific stages directly impacts how you’re able to accomplish or complete them in Monument Valley 2 whereas the ways you’re able to react to and interact with the Lovecraftian occult setting and situations within Wilson’s Heart directly influences your experience as well.

Perception and reception are very much an integral part in the game making and game playing processes. Look no further than these two titles for confirmation of that one simple truth. Puzzle games are notorious for requiring players to adhere to a strict and often steep learning curve however this is all down based upon the expectation that if you show somebody how to do something and slowly walk them through whilst holding their hand, eventually they’ll be able to fly through the task on their own later. Continuing along that train of thought, if you see somebody place a blue and orange portal and then go through one and emerge from the other then naturally you’ll pick up how the specific mechanics perform in context as well.

How we perceive the world around us often differs with regard to specific stimuli in the environment and a whole metric plethora of other factors that may be involved from the womb until the tomb. There is no “one way” to perceive a situation or pick up on a particular aesthetic value or visualization as fate (and apparently science) would have it. And that’s why both Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2 are two of the most recent and most intriguing views into both perception and reception in terms of visual effect and resonance for me personally. Sure, I could’ve taken the easy way out and chosen a game such as the aptly named Perception or perhaps even What Remains of Edith Finch but then that would be cheating don’t you think? We knew all along that those two games would purposely distort reality and offer a surreal and uncharacteristically and aesthetically challenging adventure.

In many ways the visuals of Monument Valley and Monument Valley 2 on the whole just have this air of surrealism yet it’s presented in such a uniquely tangible way as well. You see beautifully rendered and colored backdrops and the simplistic yet ultimately complex and multifaceted levels of the castles and stages and they just make you stop and think and appreciate the art style for a moment or two. Wilson’s Heart on a more cerebral level forces you to think in much the same way but it has more to do with the monochromatic visuals and old, campy horror vibe than it does with the surreal Cthulhu vibes the game gives off for the duration of its screentime. Sometimes it’s simple ambiance and principle that give quality to a project or perhaps that render it admirable or even redeemable when it would otherwise be a loss in terms of gameplay and presentation.

On one hand we have Monument Valley 2 which is most definitely a game that I would consider to be both pretty and unique but on the other you have Wilson’s Heart which is something rougher around the edges and yet no less enjoyable that some other dark and unique tales such as Outlast or Amnesia. Wilson’s Heart may derive some success from the level of camp it attributes to old B-movies and old school monster flicks and yet it is also ultimately a visual and presented success due to the vibes it can tap into akin to independently developed horror projects of recent fame and fortune.

Sometimes it’s impressive what you can compare yourself to and not just what you can showcase in your own unique way. It’s about connections and perception just as much as quality and reception. Cheers.

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Pokemon Go: Gen 2 Update

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Pokemon Go is flawed at best but it is an endearing project that, similar to Bungie’s Destiny, has evolved over time into something much greater and relatively smoother than it initially was when presented. Over the past week (and potentially still going on) Niantic has been slowly but surely releasing new pocket monsters into the wild. Although not all Generation 1 and 2 Pokemon are in the game as of yet- many monsters of the legendary variety have yet to ever show up and be confirmed, this is definitely good for publicity as well as for adding content to the alternate reality simulation.

I was never personally big on Pokemon Go, but I recently started watching the original Indigo League again for old time’s sake- more on that later, as I was considering blogging about it and my impressions as well. Needless to say, this led me to want to scratch my Pokemon itch- something that I haven’t felt in a good long time, and rather than shell out the forty bucks for the newest game(s) I deigned it an appropriate time for the hefty download to my iPhone instead.

It’s only been a couple of days and I’ve played sparingly here and there between work and other responsibilities, but I’m finding that it is easily one of the most accessible titles, if a bit frustrating thanks to several glitches and bugs here and there. The most annoying aspects come from random GPS and server failures as well as the fact that the app takes about six or seven tries to even get started. Besides three moments where my app crashed right when I captured rarer monsters, it’s been fun and games so far. I’m a solid level ten and already have some nice second generation additions with over five or six hundred combat proficiency and power.

My basic impressions are probably pretty close to any and everything else you’ve heard about the game and the update in the past, however I still think some things merit credit or explanation where credit or explanation are due. The most recent update has added some other elements besides simple boosts to the roster and the mechanics. Pokemon now more actively and realistically try to evade capture- often knocking even well-aimed pokeballs away if you’re not careful in your timing. Several new items have been added as well to further expand the lore and the universe of Pokemon Go. All in all, the update itself lays a solid layer upon the shaky foundation of the game and actually makes it a little more balanced and playable even for its flaws.

Sure, it’s annoying as ever that some of the rarer Pokemon, no matter their level, will break free of most any pokeball and virtually ignore your berries and charms- I’m talking to you Togepi and Totodile. But all in all it’s a rich experience and one that, despite being limited to only some three hundred of the total eight hundred plus Pokemon now available in the known universe, is fun and encompasses the feelings I imagine Ash, Brock, and Misty must’ve felt in the original series. I’m interested to see where the app goes from here and hope that it gets the continued support it and fans deserve as well. It’s a worthy goal to want to meld interactive gaming and health benefits, after all.

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Hitman Go Review

[As Read on GIO.]

When I first heard the Hitman series and Agent 47 were coming to iOS devices, I was less than pleased. However, I did not expect it to appear in such a fashion as it did, and am glad that it worked out for the most part. Never in a long period of time would I have guessed that Square’s assassin would be able to work in a puzzle/strategy game format, but it nails some groundwork and base mechanics excellently. The only reason it doesn’t warrant a higher score here is the pure frustration some objectives can cause in their trial and error ways- not for lack of skills required. Obviously, I wouldn’t consider this mobile title as any canon of the series- it is essentially storyless and basically for fun and games only.

I particularly liked the style in which Agent 47’s exploits are detailed, shown as above to be a little board game set-up of sorts in actually beautiful detail for iOS devices as well. Not only do the crisp looks and models work well, but the base options and mechanics function properly the majority of the time as well, making it one of the best handled games in the series surprisingly. Of course, naturally things are a little more hectic and harder to control in an action title than a turn-based strategic one, but the control remains something of a certain degree of importance here as well, and it shows.

Each diorama shows enemies and other characters as models of various form- just as Agent 47 himself is represented here. The guards add to some of the strategic element as well in that there are multiple variations, each affecting strategy differently. You have multiple colors- blue, green, red, orange essentially, each representing a type of guard behavior to anticipate in the gameplay itself. Walking guards move in straight lines, blues are stationary, and others change directions almost at random every other turn. You can see the set paths so you aren’t entirely out of the loop when dealing with enemies, but that doesn’t make the game any less strategic or thought-provoking.

As simple as all of this might sound, and as simple as it really is in execution as well, it comes together in a complexity surprising for a mobile title. Everything about the game is simple save for the fact that you must avoid guards and nab your target, which on higher levels is a lot more difficult that even I anticipated. I know Agent 47 isn’t known for pushover challenges, and that he often faces difficult tasks, but some of these scenarios will really leave you scratching your head- and in this case, there’s no run and gun option viable for use. Which brings me to one of the disappointments of the game- the hints system. Like most mobile cash cows, you can buy hints for progression through difficult areas. Yep, you heard right.

Even a (semi-respected) company and developer such as Square wants to take your money even after getting a game of theirs. Classy- move aside EA and your micro-transactions. However, this is a minor gripe after all- if an annoying occurrence more and more commonly in games today, mobile or not. You of course are given the option of purchasing hints or not, and are otherwise not forced into purchasing anything outside of the title unless you choose to do so. Although that’s not to say the game doesn’t try to heavily persuade you into doing so sporadically throughout with suggestions…

The main element of strategy stems from deciding what to do during your one space move per turn, moving around carefully or making a beeline in between oblivious guards, hoping they won’t suddenly change directions in their patrol. In a set-up like this, it is obviously easier to actually see patrolling guard routes than a standard action game, and you don’t need to worry about visible weapons or any of that nonsense. Here, it’s as simple as being seen one space in front of a guard and you’re asked to restart because you’ve been caught. Come up behind a guard however and you can knock his piece off the board- effectively “killing” him.

I’ve heard several people compare the game to a simpler version of chess with noticeably less strict rules, and I concur. Although there are many differences between Go and the thinking man’s game, the base rules of movement (mostly) apply if you imagine Agent 47 as a king and the guards as pawns essentially, with the exception of the one space moving rule. It sometimes annoyed me that the larger boards were still limiting in their interconnected pathways, however this just added to the strategy and thought required of players so it wasn’t too much of a loss in most instances, although it would cause failure at times.

Don’t think the premise is simply to assassinate a target or to simply make it through heavily patrolled areas however, as there are several other elements in play beyond these basics. Later on in some levels there are extra items that can be used as distractions or better weapons, such as a sniper rifle or a brick or similar heavy object to throw. While these items change the pace a little bit, the rest of the action and gameplay remains mostly unchanged, for better or worse, despite the fact that Square does a good job of pacing throughout the title and constantly introducing new features.

There are some bonuses to be earned in this particular adventure as well, as 47 can get kudos for completing the level in a certain number of moves, being a pugilist or pacifist (depending), or even collecting special pick-up items. As with the challenges of the normal games, this adds replayability and more overall fun to the title, as well as some extra strategic options for players already breezing through the base content. It probably helps that in order to unlock certain level sets/packs, you’re tasked with completing specific objectives before you’re allowed to continue, so it won’t always warrant entire play-overs.

While there are a good number of levels and several very creative ideas that I would like to see more of, there are also several bland, almost basic tutorial levels spread throughout the package that bring the others down. All in all, it is a moderately strong package and deal despite this fact, and the frustration is kept to a minimum thanks to introduction of new enemies and items as you progress, keeping an otherwise old experience fresh.

Concept: Change the action-packed and stealth-oriented assassination games of Square and IO into a strategic puzzle game experience and turn-based mobile title.

Graphics: The unique board set-up and crisp object and model looks are something that I would definitely like to see more of in mobile titles, and that could be incorporated in many ways into other games.

Sound: It’s mostly comprised of basic board game sounds of moving pieces, but there are a few easter eggs from the main series to be found at certain points as well.

Playability: You’re your own worst nightmare if you can’t get used to the finger swiping mechanics required, but most everything is so basic that it handles perfectly fine on any iOS device you can get the title on.

Entertainment: A lot of the strategy hinges solely on trial and error gameplay which can be frustrating, but when you do put together a stellar run there’s no feeling of accomplishment in a mobile title like it.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 7.5

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Monument Valley Review

[As Read on GIO.]

I played a game titled Monochrome or something similar thereto a few years back for PSP, and for all of its puzzles and looks, I’ve got to say that Monument Valley looks and feels very similar yet is definitely superior- if not in difficulty, in aesthetics and core gameplay. Essentially, Monument Valley is an adventure focused solely upon optical illusions and minor platforming elements melded into the uniquely fashioned levels. Each stage is relatively easy and most are short, however as the game progresses they gain more facets in design and you figure out new ways to keep old things fresh throughout, making smart use of the core elements and rehashes of established ones without growing stale. Each stage is essentially a puzzle although oftentimes there are multiple paths and similar solutions to the questions posed to players.

Make sure, whatever you do, that you don’t come into the game expecting our world’s laws to apply. Very much like Antichamber, the majority of those rules are left at the door and it takes a little while to get used to the new ballgame but it is well worth it once you do. All in all, the game isn’t too terribly difficult but the package is highly replayable due to both its polish and simplistic gameplay elements. Despite the fact that most so-called Indie titles look the part, Monument Valley could easily be mistaken for a more high-end title as it looks crisp, even if it is on mobile devices only at this point. The colors are surreal and mix well with the varied towers and palaces of the game’s princess-escape theme. Most gameplay takes on an isometric sort of viewpoint and the intermingled pathways overlap and further add to the ease with which you can traverse the seemingly complex stages- especially where switches are concerned.

Like something out of Hogwarts, staircases rotate, towers change directions they tilt, and different pathways open up as you progress further. The best thing about the game isn’t necessarily the puzzles themselves but the looks of the title, which really help to warp reality and bend your views of things. At most, the puzzles themselves- though the main function of the game, are of a medium difficulty. As much as this might seem like a problem however, I found it actually compelled me to dive further into the game, sort of like the mobile platformer Badlands- also a decently easy title to complete but a visually nice one to look at. New mechanics are introduced often enough that in combination with old ones, the gameplay doesn’t grow old- adding in new things such as movable objects to slide about and open up new areas.

There is a story, but I wouldn’t scratch my head over it too much, as it is pretty hard to grasp and very open to interpretation. Which actually works better for the game as well, considering it is very open to interpretation in more aspects than one- environment among them. I’m hoping there are expansions to the base content, as it is pretty slim, but thankfully the high replayability of the short story adds in more content, if some of the same. As mobile games go, this is definitely one you’ll want to check out and try your hand at. It might be confusing at first, but it shouldn’t puzzle you for too terribly long.

Concept: Optical illusions and princesses and palaces.

Graphics: Crisp and concise when it needs to be, the towers and environments are rendered with exquisite details.

Sound: The soundtrack complements the setting quite well in most aspects.

Playability: If you can move your fingers and click then you’re set.

Entertainment: It’s entertaining while it lasts, however it is very short- even if the game is quite replayable. You can only enjoy it so many times once however.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 7.5

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Milly Schmidt

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