Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

Going into this game, I knew it was going to be something of a psychological trip. I cannot believe it is nearing four years since its release. I feel like just yesterday I was avoiding YouTube playthroughs and critiques. (Guess that goes to show how backed up my list is.)

Even though I went into this game knowing Senua was experiencing psychosis from personal loss, what I got was something way beyond my expectations. The game begins in a boat fit for one, but you quickly realize there is more than one mind aboard. The narrator is one of the many voices in Senua’s head that talks pretty much all the time during the game.

I feared that the constant talking from these voices would grow annoying rather quickly, like they were for Senua, but I came to appreciate their presence once I discovered their purpose to the player. I heavily advise playing this game with headphones so you can hear everything they say, as they can often help you. They’ll give hints to some of the puzzles you come across, and they’ll also make you feel good when you figure something out. However, there is one downside. The voices often also reflect Senua’s self-doubts and lack of confidence. Sometimes they’ll tease her and put her down, but that grows less common as you progress and gain confidence. I was deeply impressed by what this one element of ambiance gave to the overall experience.

I was also shocked (but in that good new way) by this game’s attempts to make me have a panic attack. You quickly realize the game does not give you a tutorial. You do not know the button commands until you pause to look at them in the menu. Most of the controls are obvious to experienced players, but to someone who may prefer more story-based games, I imagine they would be panicking when the first bout of combat takes place.

The game forces Senua to die once and explains how every time she dies, the rot on her arm would grow larger. It threatens that if the rot grows too much, you’ll have to start over and lose all progress. Man, did that freak me out. I think I died about a total of five times, and each time my heart stopped as I wondered if I’d have to start again. I actually didn’t learn until after beating the game (thanks internet) that the game will not punish you, no matter how many times you die. The rot slowly progresses no matter what, and the game only said that to scare you. Holy crap. Thanks.

Bringing things back to the voices, they also like to provide you with false bouts of unneeded anxiety. I recall when exploring a dark temple, the voices at one point said something like, “Oh no, she touched the walls!” which immediately made me stop and think, and freak out. What was going to happen because I touched the wall? I imagined everything from beasts racing down the halls to kill me, to the floor below me turning into quicksand and swallowing me whole. Want to know what actually happened? Nothing. This sort of doubt seed was also planted in a different area of the game where you needed a torch to keep something from chasing you in the dark. If you were holding onto the same torch for long enough, the voices would start to scare you by saying that it would go out soon. Yet again, no matter how long I waited (once I was in a safe place), the torch never went out. Oh my god, game, stop it. (But please don’t.)

The voices are connected to Senua, so it made sense some of her worries and doubts were communicated to the player through them. She could have feared for a moment that the torch would go out, so the voices repeated that to us.

You spend the game defeating demon-like enemies and bosses, each a bit more challenging than the last. The Norse theme plays heavily in their design, and you can learn more about the inspiration for the world by listening to the Norse stones that are placed throughout the game. Some tell of Norse legends, some of Senua’s past. I recommend listening to each one you find because it does nothing but add to this already fantastic atmosphere.

I did find the ending a little lackluster, but it didn’t take anything away from my overall experience. I felt happy about Senua’s story ending the way it did and wouldn’t dream of taking that from her. This sort of game is about the journey, not the end. *Hint, Hint* If you collect all of the Norse stones, you receive an extra clip right before the last battle, which is considered the ‘true’ ending.

If it wasn’t obvious, I immensely enjoyed this game. For me, it was a shining 10/10 experience, which I cannot say happens often. However, one note of disclosure is that I would not play this game if you find yourself at a low point or are easily influenced by anxiety. You should be in a good mental position if you want to play this. Also, there is one boss fight that contains a lot of strobe light effects, so I’ll slap a huge seizure warning here as well.

Hitman Complete Playthrough Review

I mean, usually, I’d write in all caps “SPOILERS” in the title, but for this game, there isn’t much to spoil. Luckily for Hitman, the story is not what makes the game the gem that it is, so I will not be discussing the “plot” at all.

I’m a bit guilty. I forgot I even had this game since I picked it up for free a while ago, so it’s been sitting in my library this whole time, untouched. It wasn’t until the recent release of Hitman 3 that I finally remembered that I owned the first installment.

This game was a ton of fun right from the start. I played the tutorial level many times over to complete all of the challenges and get accommodated with everything I could do. There are always various creative (or up-front) ways to assassinate your target. I laughed so much while playing this, and I can say a game hasn’t made me do that in a while.

I’m not sure if I have a preferred way of killing, but I tried everything I possibly could before pulling out a gun. Being sneaky and fooling NPCs with disguises felt great when met with success. I’d have to say my favorite kill was while dropping the lights at the fashion show while wearing the masked vampire outfit, then escaping through the cellar. Very dramatic.

Honestly, the only downfall of this game is the repetition. After a while, even though the game provides new levels and unique ways to kill, it gets old fast. I found myself enjoying the smaller maps more because I spent less time wandering around and more time killing. Some of the maps were huge, and I know I didn’t find everything that could be done.

Hitman is the sort of game you may not want to play all the way through at once. If I pick up the second installment, it would be something I’d play in between other games. I’d play maybe two maps and take a break, then come back later. This would break up that feeling of repetitive play. I feel like if I had played like this initially, I would have been more open to explore those larger areas fully.

I still may come back to this one periodically and try to complete more challenges. This is a game that is very easy to jump back into. The controls are simple and can be relearned in a matter of minutes. I have what I call “sick” games, a collection of titles I’ll play when I’m not feeling well. Hitman fits into the category perfectly because I already know what to do, and the playtimes can be short if needed. Other games I put into this category are Sims, Minecraft and Zoo Tycoon.

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

I admit when I saw Final Fantasy X HD Remaster on sale in the Xbox store during the holiday season, I absolutely lost my mind and purchased it immediately. I’ve heard so many good things about this game, and the reviews in the store were also favorable. It’s a personal goal to play every Final Fantasy game eventually (although not in order) so this was a great score… at least, until I played it.

I’m going to come out and say this right from the beginning, and I know A LOT of you will disagree and defend this game to your grave, but it is the lowest ranked game on my blog to date and the worst experience I’ve had with any Final Fantasy game. Typically, I save the rating for the end, but I want to make it clear right now that I only felt this game deserved a 4/10 score.

I’m not even going to bother going into the plot of this game, mainly due to how long and convoluted it is to those who have not played the game before. As an example of what I mean, there are roughly 11-12 hours of cutscenes. That’s right, at least 11 hours that you are not playing the game at all. Generally, I might not have minded this if these scenes felt important or well done, but the vast majority were cringe-worthy conversations that added nothing to neither the plot nor character development.

I’m not sure if I noticed this because I’m trained to, or if the other people who have played this game didn’t mind kicking back and watching cutscenes while doing nothing for 20 minutes. Being an English major has ruined games for me in this way in the past. In my field, we are taught to recognize what a useless segment looks like and to cut it out of a work if it does the story as a whole, no justice. I think it’s safe to say that this game didn’t need anywhere near this much cutscene time to get the point across.

Something that would have made the cutscenes easier to deal with would be the option to skip them. I couldn’t believe a game with this many scenes (and boss fights) didn’t allow a skip, even if you’ve already viewed them once before. I’ll always watch a cutscene fully the first time. But it was a drag dying from a boss and being sent to my last save, only to experience the long cutscene again before I can even get to the fight. Not only did this feel like a waste of time, but it also made those particular scenes less impactful.

I do note that a Japanese company made this game and that the game did have to go through translation. It almost feels like the voice actors were given the lines but had no clue what tone to deliver them with. However, many games made around 2001 didn’t have the best voice acting in general, so I’ll let that bit slide.

For the majority of the game, what kept me going was the combat. I love a good turn-based combat that allows you to maximize strategy, and that is precisely what this game delivered. I found myself dreading the next cutscene because I knew it would be a while before I got to jump back into combat again. After leaving the city of Luca, I felt a massive relief as the game finally gave us a long road full of enemies.

You might ask why I even finished this game since I gave it such a low rating. I was mostly waiting for IT to happen. You know, the part that would make me go, “Oh! So this is why people love this game!” Only, that never happened. At 10 hours in, I thought maybe it gets good at 20 hours in. At 20, I thought maybe 40, and so on.

From ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com

I want to be clear that I did enjoy the characters themselves and the plot of the game. Everyone felt unique and essential to the story. The core of this game isn’t bad; it’s just the delivery that killed it for me. (And don’t even get me started on the absolute disaster that Blitz Ball was, I could write an entire essay about that on its own.)

I honestly feel like I would have enjoyed this game more if I had the opportunity to play it when it was initially released. I was seven years old at the time and didn’t have a PS2. I know that back in 2001, this must have been high quality compared to other titles. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience it until 20 years later. But that does not go to say that I dislike old games. I’ve played a few Final Fantasy titles older than this one and enjoyed them much more.

It also seems that the remaster added things into the game that were not there in the original. Towards the end, you have the option to travel back throughout the map to either collect things you’ve missed or to obtain the celestial weapons. If you learned that you missed some collectibles, this is a good time to look up their location and backtrack. However… the remaster added dark aeons. Aeons are the beasts your companion Yuna can summon during battle. Dark aeons are extremely powerful versions of those summons and can have one million or more health points. They like to sit in areas where collectibles are easily missed and hinder your chances of obtaining them.

These are beasts you cannot defeat without having Limit Break (beyond max damage) and HP Break (beyond max health). Obtaining these things are extremely hard to get, and in the end, it didn’t feel worth the trouble. The dark aeons prevented me from unlocking and enjoying other parts of the game that should have been a part of the basic experience, much like it was before.

I’m sad to say that this game let me down. I clocked in at around 80 hours and was left feeling a void in my chest for a good JRPG experience. I actually bought a few other JRPGs after finishing this because I suddenly had an itch that needed scratching. If anything, I hope that this review could put into perspective why some people may not like this game despite the vast number of people who do. It’s a fan favorite, just not with this fan.

The Outer Worlds Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

I’ve heard talk of this game for some time and was glad to see that it was next up on my gaming list. The Outer Worlds was made by the creators of Fallout, which I think many players would suspect even without knowing that bit of trivia.

It has that same sort of rustic future theme, but with its own universe and unique lore. It is also more simplified than Fallout titles, so it is easy to get a quick handle on things. Long story short, things are going to shit and with your involvement, you could possibly help make the future suck a little less. Food, clean air, survivability and politics all are issues doomed to fail in a matter of months.

What I found great about this game was that it makes these issues very clear within the first few moments of exploring the first town, Edgewater. No one is happy, everyone has problems and none of their basic needs are being met. They live off saltuna in a can, and only get one or two cans per day. If you ask the right people the right questions, you learn that saltuna isn’t even tuna. Its literally animal parts mixed with garbage, in a can. No wonder most of the settlement is sick!

The magic of this is that sure, you can choose to try to help everyone, or, if you’re feeling rather murderous, kill them all. I mostly played the good guy and helped everyone to the best of my ability. However, that didn’t stop me from saving, shooting an NPC because of their rude behavior, and then reloading again. While being murder crazy is an opportunity you’re more than welcome to take, you get much more experience by actually helping and doing their missions. (Although I suppose you could kill them after helping too, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

There are six different factions that people generally belong to, and depending on how you play, you gain either negative, neutral, or positive reputations with them. I gained a negative reputation with factions that represent the government or the controlling businesses, and took favor to those trying to break away from the corrupt system. This game makes it plain as day that the politicians are working with (or own) big-name companies to keep their workers and citizens under tight control.

The company titled Space’s Choice is particularly nasty, handing out fines for the most ridiculous things, like throwing a rock into a river. That’s unlicensed terraforming, how dare you! Basically, the overlord companies pay their employees, but have so many rules and fines that its impossible to hold onto any income. More or less, everyone is working for free and doesn’t realize it.

Along your journey you’ll run into six NPCs that you can turn into your traveling companions. As soon as my companions started talking to me about their personal problems, I had a feeling that each one would have a special mission. While I was correct in that assumption, it wasn’t exactly what I expected.

Photo from Fandom Outer Worlds Wiki page

Some companions, like Parvati and Nyoka, had personal quests that required completing various tasks on different planets. Their quests contained an important story for us to be able to understand them better by the end. Vicar, Felix, and Ellie, on the other hand, had quests not even a quarter of the length of the other two. They required maybe two or three quick actions on your part and that was it. Lastly, there was the cleaning robot SAM, who did not have a personal quest at all. Ironically, he was my favorite.

It was strange that certain companions and their problems were made to seem more important than the others. Parvati, in particular, seemed to be the shining star of them all. While I did enjoy her character, I found myself wishing they had put the same amount of effort into the others. I don’t know if they ran out of time while working on them or were playing favorites, but it wasn’t balanced. Also, as a warning for those of you out there who love games with companion romances, you will not find anything like that here. They’re your friends, and they work with you, that’s all.

Aside from my thoughts on the companions, I did vastly enjoy all of the other elements of the game. The combat was easy yet fun, the plot was well planned, and the lore is interesting. The planets themselves were beautiful and I enjoyed fighting a variety of enemies from each.

The game actually wasn’t that long (by an RPG player’s expectations) but it felt right for the kind of story it wanted to tell. My first playthrough took about 40 hours, and my second was only 20. It’s a nice experience for those who may not want to invest their time into a 100-200 hour game. Overall, I’ll give the Outer Worlds an 8.5/10.

Maneater Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

New year, new me. There are some crazy new year resolutions out there, many of which are advertised towards trying out new diets. If you’ve ever wanted to try out a diet that pertains to consuming massive amounts of human flesh, then this game might be for you. Maneater was released back in May of 2020 and had fans of Jaws Unleashed (2006) waiting at the ends of their chairs.

Since I’ve never had the pleasure of playing Jaws Unleashed, I was able to swim into Maneater as an excited new player in the murderous shark genre. The game took to a comedic atmosphere as I realized that I was the star of a shark hunting TV show, narrated much like the crab fishing show, Deadliest Catch. The only difference here is that the camera follows both the hunters and the shark.

In the beginning, you have a simple encounter with a famed shark hunter named Scaly Pete. Unfortunately, this is just the introduction. The shark you currently play as is caught and killed by Pete, and while he was cutting the shark open, a pup (baby shark… do do do) eats his hand and wiggles its way to freedom.

This is where the real game begins, as a tiny, level 1 shark. You quickly gain the idea that the more you eat, the more you grow and suddenly become obsessive with consuming every creature smaller than you. The narrator has followed this shark into its travels, and we now know the plot of this game is centered around revenge. Eat, grow, become strong, and take on Pete at the height of your ability. Can you imagine being consumed with the desire for vengeance from birth?

It was fun being something other than a humanoid creature for once.  I enjoyed how it felt to whip and glide through the water in the way that sharks do. Sometimes it felt peaceful having nothing but the sound of water around you. However… most other times, it was a smarter idea to be aware of your surroundings.

In the first section of the map that you explore as a pup, you’ll soon come across an enemy much bigger and stronger than you. Alligators. They are everywhere you need to go to gather your collectibles and progress the story. Soon you realize, oh, I need to fight my way through this. While it was a good way to get the player used to the swimming and combat mechanics quickly, I struggled and died several times before I could kill and consume my first gater. It isn’t until you age into a teen shark that they before less troublesome, so don’t expect your life as a pup to be easy just because it’s the beginning of the game.

Full Bone set – image from IGN.com

There are five stages to your life as a shark. You start as a pup, and from there, you’ll grow into a teen, adult, elder, and finally, mega. Along the way, you can also acquire mutation upgrades that turn your shark into something of a sci-fi creature. The upgrades are either bone, bioelectric, or shadow parts that attach to your shark. Bone parts upgrade your defense and ability to damage boats in combat. Shadow parts make your shark elusive and quick. Bioelectric parts allow massive amounts of damage. The appeal to mix and match is tempting to get a little bit of everything, but your shark is going to look really, really weird. Once I collected the full sets, I ended up going with the complete bone look.

By far, I found the humans the most difficult to deal with. Even after growing into a mega-shark, the last few fights with the humans were tricky and required utilizing all of your skills as an apex predator. I only wish they had explained the more complex boat combat a little better. As your notoriety level rises from killing humans, they will send increasingly difficult hunters after you. The most difficult hunters have an electric force field around their boat, which you need to break before eating the people inside. However, the game wasn’t straight forward on how to do that. I was tossing the bombs the boat dropped back at them, which worked. But then my husband mentioned the force field generator is on the bottom of the vessel and is destroyed a lot fast when you hit that directly. Typically, while fighting the humans, I’m exclusively above water, so I felt a bit dumb about this.

While the game’s atmosphere was purely comical, it was a constant reminder of where humanity is headed if things don’t change. In most sections of the map, your poor shark is swimming through garbage and discovering strange relics that the humans have dumped into the sea over time. This also explains why the shark can develop mutations. No wonder this shark has come to hate humans so much. It suddenly becomes justifiable to murder every human you see out of the rage and irritation of what they have done to your home.

I thoroughly enjoyed this game and only experienced a small number of visual glitches. A few times in the deeper areas, the ocean floor textures disappeared, appearing as an ominous, endless void. While a bit intimidating, this only happened a total of three times during my 18-hour playthrough.

If you consider yourself an explorer or an animal enthusiast, this game will appeal to you. Exploring underwater caverns and sewer systems stimulated my imagination about how things could look in all the places of the Earth that is near impossible for regular human travel. From my experience, I rate this game an 8.5/10. Just remember, be mindful of where you throw your trash, and don’t piss off the big things that live in the water.

A Plague Tale: Innocence Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

As I come the end of my gaming playlist of 2020, I found myself in the mood for a shorter game after playing longer RPGs. Sometimes its nice to sit back and enjoy something with a heavy plot and simple mechanics. A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019) delivered that much desired craving.

This game looks absolutely stunning. You play as Amicia, a fifteen-year-old noble girl in 14th century France. In the beginning you walk as Amicia through a vibrant forest with her father and I found myself purposely walking extra slow. I love this feeling when a game seems to look more beautiful than nature in real life. Unfortunately, this beautiful scenery didn’t last long as the story turns dark and many things around Amicia begin to die. When a strange group of inquisitors break into their villa in search of her brother, they kill everyone these children hold near and dear. Her and her brother, Hugo, manage to escape, but not for long.

Hugo is only five, so for the vast majority of the game your task is to keep him safe. It brings along a sort of familiar stress, like trying to keep a toddler quiet in the grocery store. However, this is much more dangerous as the Inquisition follows their trail, and they often need to be avoided in nearly every chapter.

There are two groups of villains in this game. The first is mentioned above, and the second appears when they are finally safe from the first. Let me tell you, I personally don’t find rats to be gross or unsettling animals. They are very misunderstood creatures and actually make fantastic pets. But the rats in Plague Tale are different. They appear in giant heaps, eating up all flesh that they come into contact with. They are hungry and organized, and will do whatever they can to get to you.

Image from Steam Store

The rats are what introduce the fire mechanic to the game. They will not come near you if fire is within your vicinity. In the words of the Survivor TV series host, “In this game, fire represents your life.” While it may be true for those actually on Survivor, this is also true for Amicia and Hugo. There are many things you can do with fire to save yourself. Some of the solutions are obvious, but there will be situations in the game that require clever problem solving.

This brings us to alchemy. Amicia learns various alchemical mixtures along the way, and many of them assist in utilization of fire. The story heavily revolves around alchemy and more often than not you will be using it to traverse the chapters over combat. Killing rats or inquisitors is possible, but it requires a lot of materials. The alchemy materials are also used for leveling up your gear, so it becomes more beneficial to avoid enemies instead.

For those worrying that this game may not interest them because it seems to revolve around escorting Hugo, it’s not as bad as you think. Many of us hate escort missions, so I’m sure that an entire game sounds draining. Hugo is attached to you hip, and will not wonder around attracting unwanted attention. All you have to do is make sure the way is safe, and hold his hand when it’s time to move.

[Huge Spoilers Ahead]

The only thing about this game that I didn’t like was that the plot is often inconsistent and contradicting. For the first half of the game, you’re running around trying to figure out how to make a medicine that will slow Hugo’s mysterious sickness. After he takes it there appears to be no change in his condition. By the end of the game, he is urged to learn how to embrace his sickness because it comes with powers to control the rats. My question is why were they trying to slow it in the first place? The rats consumed many innocent lives, so it would make sense to try to hurry it along in order to get the rats under control. The mother seems to have full knowledge that he would be able to do this, so it felt strange that she would want him to be in danger of the rats for longer than needed.

The strange story aside, I had a ton of fun with this game and its unique puzzle driven playstyle. While the gameplay was easy, the atmosphere held my attention well and I came to genuinely care about the small cast of characters in this game. If you’re looking for less complex game with gorgeous graphics, give this one a shot. I rate it an 8/10, and I only take points away for the odd storyline.

South Park: The Fractured but Whole Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

Before you I present a game that is not for the faint of heart. For anyone who is easily offended or likes to keep their humor clean, this is NOT a game for you. However, if you are at home with vulgar, dark and self-aware comedy, this may spark some interest. All fans of the South Park show are guaranteed to have a good time with this game.

South Park: The Fractured but Whole (2017) is a sequel game that directly follows the events of South Park: The Stick of Truth. I highly suggest starting with the first game. It is not necessary to enjoy the second game, but why not take the opportunity to get more laughs out of this series?

You start the game as the new kid in town and get to customize your character’s appearance. The options are limited at first, but you will have the chance to unlock more cosmetic options throughout the game. I really enjoyed this because you could wear whatever you want without it affecting your power level. All clothing, hair and accessories are free to be mixed and matched to your liking with no penalty.

The game is a turn-based RPG, and you level up by creating or finding artifacts that you sync into your DNA. I thought this was a clever system, considering the theme of the game is superheroes. As the new kid, you want to join the other kids for a chance to be in their superhero franchise, Coon and Friends. To do this, you need to prove yourself by helping citizens (and other heroes) around town and taking selfies with them to prove your popularity.

When you start your superhero journey, you can pick from one of three classes. The options are Brutalist, Speedster, or Blaster. The titles are exactly how they sound, hard-hitting, fast or ranged. For my character, I went with Blaster and thought it was a good match for the sort of classes I generally enjoy in RPGs.

As the game continues, you can choose more classes to layer on top of your original class. Eventually, you have access to all classes, but you are limited to having a maximum of four equipped at a time. I loved this because you were able to dabble in everything within the first playthrough. There are ten classes altogether, and I decided to go with Blaster, Elementalist, Psychic, and Plantmancer. The other class options available are Brutalist, Speedster, Cyborg, Assassin, Gadgeteer, and Martial Artist. Again, from a glance, it’s not hard to imagine what each class consists of.

During combat, you can choose up to three other characters to fight with you. I was a ranged healer, so I had Mysterion (Kenny) and Call Girl (Wendy) on my team for offense. I also used Human Kite (Kyle) for defense as he could throw shields on others. It proved to be a well-balanced team when those characters were available. Depending on where you are in the story, certain characters are not available for a given amount of time. Again, it’s effortless to experiment around and figure out which characters you like having in your party. You can switch at any time.

I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about this game, which is rare. I did not encounter any glitches, and the graphics are at the same level as the show. Ubisoft did an excellent job at mapping out the town of South Park into an interactive exploration experience. The game highly rewards players who love to explore, so going everywhere in town multiple times is highly recommended as the game progresses.

Certain areas will not be available until you progress in the game and/or learn fart magic from Morgan Freeman. (Yes, fart magic.) Freeman will teach you a total of four fart abilities that you can use to access hidden areas and find rare items. In this way, the game also satisfies players who enjoy puzzles.

Enjoy the feeling of being ten years old again while fighting strippers at the local gentlemen’s club and beating on the police cult. You fight everything from drunkards, crab people, 6th graders, ninjas, and more. Many battles will require much thought and strategy.

I consistently had a smile on my face while playing this game, to the point where my face hurt. The comedy is non-stop and provided a refreshing sense of relaxation compared to more serious games. I enjoyed this game so much to the point that when I finished it, I started another game right away to collect the remainder of achievements I had left. I give South Park: The Fractured but Whole a 10/10 rating on my user experience. This title is a must-have in your collection as a fan of good quality comedy and good quality games.

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