Just A Quick Go: Dead Cells

After my 20-25th death in Dead Cells, I thought I’d take a break and explain why I keep chucking myself at deaths cruel embrace. I’ve had my eye on Dead Cells for a while now but always been hesitant to fully jump on the hype train. The graphics looked amazing, the combat looked fluid and fast. It looked like a fantastic game but I kept hearing that word being thrown around, which kind of put me off it. That amalgamation of two brands, Metroidvania.

Before you brandish the pitchforks, I don’t hate those games. I prefer Metroid Prime to the 2D games though. I tend to fall off the 2D Metroid games at a quick rate. Except for Metroid Fusion, that was a brilliant game. Castlevania I haven’t really played except Castlevania on the N64 which, even in my 10 year old mind, I knew that was a dud rental. After that I never touched it again until the DS games, which I liked. But with both series there is always a point, where after hours into their respective labyrinths I think ‘Where do I go now?’. These games are designed so that you’ll find a pathway but will need a certain tool/key/skill to go that way. The problem is I always end up forgetting where that was and I just lose interest fast when I’m finding dead end after dead end. Dead Cells alleviates this issue for me by not only having a map that has pictures for my dumb brain but also by being a rogue-lite game. A fantastic one at that.

In Dead Cells you play as……….I’ve no idea actually. You are a blob that rolls into a corpse, controls that corpse and then heads off on his adventure. There isn’t much in the way of story here. It’s mostly filler text, scribblings on walls and observations your character can make. These help to fill the world but so far I don’t really know what this world is. Does that matter in a rogue-lite? Not really. There may be a story I’m missing or a reveal at the end but I’ve not even beat the game yet so I can’t explain the world. But that works in Dead Cells favour. As you control this blob controlling a body (I’m a bit of a blob myself so I know how that feels), you venture through different areas on an island, fighting your way through people and abominations. On your travels you will gather a bounty of resources including better weapons, stat boosts, blueprints for new gear, traps, money and the all important cells. Cells are the name of the game both figuratively and literally. Sure on your quest you may find a fantastic sword and astonishing bow but as soon as you die though, you lose all your gear. Cells however, are used to make your next journey easier.

Dead Cells Jars 3
The more you play, the more these blueprints will fill the jars. It’s a visual treat at the start of each run, to see how much you’ve progressed.

As you progress and slay enemies, they will sometimes drop cells. Once you reach the end of the area you are currently in, you go to a hub between areas. Here you can retool your gear, refill on health, enhance your character through mutations (more on that later) and most importantly; spend cells on eternal upgrades. For example, on your previous area you found a blueprint for a slick looking bow. On arrival at the hub space, you speak to a character who trades cells for game wide permanent buffs. Say I had 40 cells and the new bow blueprint I found costs 30 to create and to put into the game’s rotation. I put my cells into that and unlock the bow. Now that bow can appear on all my future runs. Consider it an investment. Now I have 10 cells left. I’m sure you didn’t need me to do that math for you but there it is anyway. What to do with that spare 10? I could put it toward a sword that poisons enemies, an extra health flask on top of my other 2, a perk that allows me to carry over 3000 of my gold to my next run upon my death. There are tons of ways to increase your arsenal and better your odds on your next go. There are lots of ways to increase your chances as you play. You will come across shops, find chests with goodies inside, find cursed chests that offer tantalising surprises for those who are willing to risk it for a biscuit, secret areas and be able to utilise up to 3 mutations.

Mutations are basically buffs for that individual run. When you first start playing Dead Cells, you have a dozen of so to choose from. As you find blueprints though, you will expand that list of possibilities. Do you go attack heavy and increase your damage for 15 seconds after an enemy kill? Go defensive and increase your HP? Increase your damage when you deploy bear traps, turrets or any of the other throw-able tools? The choice is yours but the best of players will choose a mutation that combos with the gear that they have.  All the above is why Dead Cells works for me. I don’t need to retain map data to know where to go. Dead Cells has branching pathways but you will always find an exit you can use. As you progress through the game you will encounter foes that once defeated, will leave a new power up for you which, will help you enter previously unreachable areas and will carry over after you die. It’s this continually satisfaction that keeps me coming back to Dead Cells. When I first played it, I couldn’t do the first area. Now I’m lasting close to an hour before getting my butt kicked. But even when I die, I know that all those cells I collected in the other areas, have all gone towards my goal of beating the game. It doesn’t matter that when I died I lost 26 cells because through the other areas I must have put over 100 cells into permanent upgrades and weapons. The more you play, the better you become. Not only that but your understanding of how the enemies fight improves. And on top of that! For all you speed runners out there. In a lot of the levels you will find doors that are only accessible if you get there within a certain time limit. Through the door you will find a stat increase, money and a stash of cells. So you always have a choice of going through the game at your own pace, or bombing it through the level like a mad man.

DeadCells Ramparts
Ramparts is my favourite location so far, There a very Prince of Persia feel to it when fighting enemies on the rooftops. It looks amazing too.

I realise I’ve written over 1000 words and barely said how I feel about the game. I’ll give a quick summary here but hopefully you found what I’ve described as interesting. This is a great game and thoroughly recommend you check it out. Besides its lavish environments and addictive gameplay, the one thing I love about the game is how it plays. It flows so well. It’s hard to describe except just to say that it plays really good. To compare it to another game, I would say it plays as good as Super Meat Boy. By that I mean, the sense of control and precision. The movement and combat in this game is on that level. Even when things are out of control on screen, I never feel out of control. Besides one or two times when I meant to jump down a narrow gap between two ledges. My character kept grabbing onto the ledges and pulling itself up. I died there which was annoying but on a mostly randomly generated game like this, that stuff is bound to happen. But that was a minor incident in my hours of game time. It didn’t stop me from immediately starting another run. If you’re looking for an addictive, expansive and combat heavy side scroller, look no further than Dead Cells.

Just Switch The Controller on, Hollywood!

This isn’t a story just a minor rant. So say I, a film lover, goes to the Pictures (Cinemas for non-Brits) to see the latest hit that’s raking in millions. And it has to rake in millions because the budget spent was also in the millions. I’m sat there and I’m in the world on the screen. I’m engrossed, even the bored sprog previously kicking my seat is silent and along for the ride. The film cuts to a kid on a couch with a PS4 controller in his hand and……the controller isn’t on.

To most people that wouldn’t be an issue. Most viewers wouldn’t know if that controller was on or not. Never mind the erratic button bashing and weird hand composure the kid is utilising, he could just be a bad gamer.  However, there is no excuse for the controller to not even be switched on! The director or producer has consultants and experts readily available on set. You have millions in funding and months of pre-planning and production meetings. You have hundreds and thousands of staff on hand, some of which will be avid gamers. The controller was bought for the film! Read the manual! Slap a blue sticker on it! Put some effort into it, maybe!

Gaming isn’t a niche, nerdy hobby any more. According to a recent US study (Linky Link), around half the US population has a console at home. It’s inexcusable for the production team to think that nobody would notice if the controller is on or off. I’ll accept it on adult entertainment, if you get my meaning. Because, that doesn’t make sense usually. Girl orders pizza, driver arrives with pizza, the driver and her go upstairs and they let the pizza go cold. Yeah, OK! In reality: demolish half that pizza first, then sexy saxophone time and lastly have cold refreshing pizza. On a big budget film though, all you do is ruin my immersion with laziness. Small details create a believable universe. It’s why in John Wick, when he runs out of ammo or counts his bullets, those details are hailed by film fans and respected. Unfortunately this isn’t a new thing, I remember seeing films where kids were playing on Gameboy’s without a cartridge. This is also something that will not go away immediately. It’s not even a big deal but it’s something so small and minor that it is easily fixable in films. It’s how I imagine an expert in their field feels watching a film scene, involving their expertise. A doctor for example, baffled by bad medicine terminology. It is something that can easily be researched or consulted on.

But, as I’ve said, it’s not a major detail. I don’t switch off the film if I see it happen but when I do see it, that is all I see for several seconds. It’s distracting and in this day of internet access, there is no excuse for authenticity for something as common as a PS4 controller or gaming device. Hollywood if you read this and I’m sure you will. I’ll be your gaming consultant! Or I’ll print out thousands of blue stickers for you. I only cost 1 Squidillion dollars an hour. Give me a call sometime!

Overwatch Endorsement System: Is Fake Kindness A Bad Thing?

Overwatch is a game that I play a lot, generally at least an hour every other day. I’m a console pleb with a mediocre laptop so I can’t speak for the PC Overwatch community. This view is merely from a PS4 position so take that with a grain of ‘this guy doesn’t know it all’.  Overwatch, for those that don’t know, has a basic communication wheel in game. You press some buttons and your character and a little text prompt, for your team to see, will pop up and say ‘Thanks’, ‘Hello’, ‘Understood’, ‘Group up’, ‘My ultimate is (number)% ready’ and the infamous ‘I need healing’. Basic but it can get the job done. Of course you can use mic’s but if you’re like me, a bit shy and you can’t be bothered to listen to background trashy music or mic technical issues then this communication wheel is all you need.

When put to good use, a team of strangers can co-ordinate a winning move! Or in the hands of a sore loser, can be a minor annoyance. Similar to Rocket Leagues spamming of ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’, when a bad player blames others for his death, a torrent of ‘Thanks’ starts appearing on screen. Like a persistent moth batting against a light bulb. It’s not a big deal but it’s damn distracting. Constant inputs incur a couple of seconds ban which helps the droning of suicidal Genji’s but the next death usually brings on another tirade of blame. It is an issue that since launch I’ve got use to but never over. Like a mild rash, without the satisfying itch. Then arrives the endorsement system.

Endorsement

The endorsement system is a simple feature that was added to Overwatch. At the end of a quick play or competitive match you are given the chance to praise your teammates or  a respected enemy. These praises are ‘Shot Caller’, ‘Good Teammate’ and ‘Sportsmanship’. You can only give out 3 endorsements per game. As, you receive endorsements you receive rewards. Or that is my understanding anyway. The system has only been out for a short time and I’m only at a level 2 endorsement level. So far though, I haven’t been showered with gifts or whatever the reward scheme is. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed a sharp decrease in message spamming. I still see ‘I need healing’ and ‘Thanks’ pop up a lot but not as much as I did before the new system.  A lot more ‘Understood’ and ‘Group up’s have been rearing their pretty heads. Much to my joy. A team that communicates in a team based game? Hold on, we may be onto victory here. It’s a nice surprise and I’m sure Blizzard was hoping that this new system they’ve introduced to their game would quell a vocal minority. You can’t shut up everyone that’s unpleasant but a start is always welcome.

This new niceness has raised the question though: is it all fake? To be honest, yes some of it is. But why care? Negativity in a team game can quickly spread. One person spams ‘Thanks’ on death and then after the 3rd time this repeats, someone spams ‘Group up’ back at them. Then a 3rd player may join in on that and then suddenly half the team is bitter and eagerly awaiting the match to end so they can find a new team. It creates a bad aura that brings the energy plummeting in matches. I know because I’ve spammed ‘Group up’ before. I shouldn’t have as that makes me no better, I’m still causing distractions and providing no useful or tactical information. And so, if Player A is seething with rage in a match of Overwatch, yet he chooses to say ‘Thanks’ when healed and ‘Group up’ and actually does it, is that a bad thing? Would you rather he is honest and let his emotions unleash on ‘Thanks’, or would you prefer he plays nice for brownie points? I would rather choose a positive atmosphere to my matches than an honest moan session. I’m British, I love a good moan but not in a team game. Fake kindness wins over unpleasantness any time for me. Not only that but positive reinforcement is always better than negative reinforcement. If the nasty player sees that their pleasant disposition leads to more victories, they are more likely to continue that act.  Combine that with the fact that habits grow the more they are repeated, which means that subconsciously this nice behaviour could stick to the individual, naturally.

It’s almost like a paradox. Is a player a good teammate, if they are secretly a bitter Overwatch player that keeps their whining to their self and is courteous in game for fake badges? I think if it leads to a better gaming experience for everyone in game then cheap tricks are fine by me.

Trivia Time- Kung Fu….Turtle?

We all now know Sonic and Mario exist in the same universe. I mean, they compete in the Olympics together. But does Po and the Kung Fu Panda universe also share the same space? The answer…..is no. Of course they don’t. That’s a shame as this article would be better if it did.

I’ll leave my fantasy aside for now and explain the connection. So in the Mario Kart 8 level Ribbon Road, the racetrack takes place in a kids room. As in, Mario and crew are racing on a child’s toy race track in a room that suspiciously looks like Andy’s room from Toy Story. There’s a lot I could write about here, like where are these giant humans who built this? Are they even humans? Calm your brains. Today, none of that matters. What we’re after, is a poster. A poster with a very similar image to a real Kung Fu Panda poster.

Instead of the titular panda demonstrating his moves, we are treated to a Lakitu striking a fighters’ stance. More than likely the design team decided to do a joke poster on a film they like but I prefer a different idea. I like to imagine that in this universe, the Kung Fu Panda series exists and that Lakitu is like the Wayan’s brothers of the film industry and is the star of spoof films. Other classics include The Incredible Lakitu, Lakitu by the Sea and my personal favourite, 12 Angry Lakitus. Lakitu’s one man film, it’s like The Nutty Professor but, you know, good.

My Top 5 Games of 2017

Ignore the date! It is NOT late March and therefore this article is NOT long overdue.

5. Puyo Puyo Tetris

Puyo Puyo logo

I’m actually surprised this is in my top 5, but looking back over all the games I played of 2017, this one I’ve kept coming back to. Puzzle games aren’t even a genre that I have much love for compared to others but Puyo Puyo Tetris is just so easy to love. Tetris is universal, I don’t need to explain that as anyone having an interest in gaming and reading this knows how Tetris works. Puyo Puyo is something I’d never played before and when I got the game I figured I would just play the Tetris modes and that’s it. Puyo Puyo is similar to popular Facebook and mobile phone games. You have colours, you line the colours up and score points and clear space. Setting off a chain reaction of disappearing Puyo’s will grant more points and space as well as obstacles for your opponents.

The game does a great job of explaining the gameplay mechanics of both modes and it’s Frankenstein of a mode where they merge the two. What follows is a simple concept but hard to master package that has a mode for everyone. The chaos that ensues when four people play against each is hilarious especially with modes like Swap, where each player has to play Tetris for a set time and then swap to their own Puyo Puyo game and the pattern continues until a victor remains. A great game with a lot of replay value and perfect game for a Nintendo Switch as the portability is a huge bonus.

4. Stardew Valley

Stardew valley

I own this on 3 platforms. I’ve put over 100 hours across all 3 and yet I still haven’t finished a single playthrough. It’s one of those games that I’m sure everyone has experienced. You start it, you play it for hours a day, you spend dozens of hours getting the result you want and rather than finish your current run, you decide to start again. Not due to boredom or unhappiness with your current run. But due to that simplicity and addictive nature of the beginning of the game. The thing that enraptured you in the first place.

Achieving an ideal farm and a peak routine that yield’s the most profit and productivity is fun. It’s great fun and very therapeutic. On the other hand, a simple basic farm has my pitiful mind brimming with potential. Do I focus on animals? How should I organise my crops? Do I want a cat or dog on my farm? How do I improve on what I did previously? There is so much choice in this game that I think I’ll be playing it for another 5 years before I finish a run. And I am completely okay with that.

For more on how I feel about Stardew Valley and a more in depth look at an average 20 minutes on the game, feel free to check out a feature I wrote a while back. Here is the shill….I mean, link! Shill

3. Mario Odyssey

mario

This is a fun game! It gives me a warm, happy feeling when I play it. I know that sounds all touchy and overly sentimental for a game but it’s the truth. Mario games in the main series have always held that power over me but Mario Odyssey might be one of the prime examples. Everyone and their gran knows what Mario is and how it plays so I’m not going to explain that.

Mario Odyssey has what makes a video game a classic. It’s beautifully colourful, has fluid gameplay, an amazing soundtrack and has many moments that planted the stupidest smile on my face. This game is a stand out in Mario’s long history. From the beginning to the end of this adventure, humour and nostalgia are injected into every corner of this game. Nintendo set out to make the most fun and Mario filled Mario game and I believe they done that spectacularly. Sheer fun on a cartridge.

2. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath-of-the-Wild

Breath of the Wild has spoilt me. Why can’t I climb all mountains in all other open world games? I’ll be the first to admit that I have an issue with open world games. There is usually too much to do and the world in question is a lot of the time, devoid of personality or enough personality to fill its scale. Breath of the Wild laughs at that problem. I loved exploring this world. There is so much to find and see that I never tired of climbing mountains. Not only is Hyrule a treat to traverse but the actual traversal mechanics are a delight to play.

This Zelda is a tricky one to place. It’s number 2 on my list and I believe it deserves that spot. Saying that though, it’s one of the weakest 3D Zelda games in my eyes. I always loved Zelda’s dungeons and bosses and this game lacks in that area severely. On the other hand though, it still deserves the number 2 spot and is still the best realised open world game I’ve played. I think this is an amazing game and an amazing series. Even when Zelda is at its weakest it is still head and shoulders above most of the video game industry. So even though I just said this is a weak entry in the series, I still recommend buying this game 100%. A superb game.

My game of the year is………..

1. Persona 5

Persona 5

For me this was the clear winner. I loved the others on this list and when I wrote down my preliminary top 10, Persona 5 was placed at number 1 and it stayed there. Others I swapped and ummed and ahhed about but not Persona 5. That speaks volume to me and hopefully to you about how I feel about this game. This was a stellar year in gaming but this quirky high school sim/JRPG/heist game takes the grand prize.

I’m not a stranger to the Persona series or even the Shin Megami Tensei series. I remember buying Persona 4 for £10 for my PS2 back when PS2 games were no longer the key market. The next gen had come along but I saw this strange game with these fantastic reviews and gave it a go. My mind was blown. It is still my high point for JRPG’s, a genre that I’m not the most proficient in besides the odd Final Fantasy game.The Persona series is like no other series I’ve played. It’s tone and weird nature are enveloped by solid characters, unique storyline’s and a combat system that I care for with a passion. It’s essentially Final Fantasy turn based combat with Pokemon chucked in. There are so many aspects of this game that I could write paragraphs about.

In the end though, it’s style that is all over this game that I love immensely and the reason it is my number 1 of 2017. The look, the music, the character and Persona design. Even the menu screen is a joy to view. It has pizzazz all over the place and it’s not a style over substance game. The world and the characters that fill the world are rich in detail and care. Every aspect of this game took time and consideration. If you haven’t played or seen footage of this masterpiece then please go on YouTube and have a look. Just at the menu screen or the end screen of a battle. To me the end screen of a generic battle is a classic. It’s up there with the Final Fantasy victory fanfare (the one that you just sang to yourself). That is only a small detail of this game but that flare and flourish is cascading through this game.

There is nothing else like it at the moment in my opinion besides other iterations. Persona 6 can’t come soon enough but I’ll gladly accept Shin Megami Tensei on the Switch till then.

Trivia Time- Deadly Premonition, Tell me Your Secrets, License Plates

So to end my Halloween Trivia Time marathon, I thought I’d end on a high note. And what better high note than Deadly Premonition. I will be talking spoilers in this article so read on at your own peril. This game is a masterpiece. Not in gameplay or graphics, you’d have to pay me a lot to say that, Swery. Swery being the creator of the wonderful world of Deadly Premonition. The game centres around Detective Francis York Morgan. Although he prefers to be called York, everyone calls him that apparently.  He is a film loving detective who has been assigned a case in the middle of nowhere. A little town called Greenvale, where a local woman has been found murdered.

Francis
Who wouldn’t want this guy investigating a murder.

Mystery and intrigue ensue and York must uncover the mysteries of this town in order to try and put a stop to a string of gruesome murders. It is a very strange game filled to the brim with quirky characters. There in lies the beauty of this game. It is unbelievably rough around the edges and a slog to play at times but the world and its absurdity are unlike anything I’ve played since. The town is full of weird people and you’ll get to know these people very well. As you play through the game, you’ll see different characters going about their own lives. Each character has a daily routine that you can follow and keep track of. You’ll see them in a diner or at a shop, perhaps at a bar or more commonly you’ll see them whizzing down the road and full on driving into your car. Remember, I said this game was janky. But as your fellow neighbour drives off your bonnet you might notice a strange combination of letters and numbers. The license plates of these residents not only form words, but also a trait synonymous to them or even a clue or two about their involvement in the murder mystery.

Deadly prem license plate

The basic patrol cars around Greenvale have the license plate ‘VIDGMES’, which considering you’re reading a video game article, I believe I don’t need to solve this riddle for you. Nick Cormack, the local diner chef has ‘GR8COOK’, which is very boastful and also a plate that made me do a double take because of my filthy mind. Perhaps the most on the nose plate though and the most damning in a game about finding a murderer is George Woodman’s license plate. George Woodman, for those who haven’t played the game, is the local rugged cop who helps York in his investigation into the murders. But, this whole time George wasn’t who he seemed and in the end, we find out that George was involved in the killings. Not only that, George likes to flaunt his murderous ways to the whole town for all to see. Not only is George revealed to be a late game bad guy, but his license plate was laughing in our faces about it. His license plate reads ‘HESTHE1’, which in case you’re struggling, reads as He Is The One. You smug so and so, George.

Trivia Time- I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, Un-achievable Ending

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a game based on the short story of the same name by Harlan Elison. It is a point and click adventure game by Cyberdreams and was released in 1995. The game is takes place in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has been wiped out by a diabolical computer called AM. The story of the game revolves around the last five people in existence. These people exist because AM wishes them to exist. For the past 109 years, AM has been subjected these individuals to pain and torture for its own amusement. These people cannot die as AM doesn’t allow it and so to save of its own boredom it cruelly tortures them and plays mind games on them.

It’s a very dark story.  Each of the five characters has a character flaw or weakness that AM continuously and methodically exploits and tortures them with. For instance Benny, a handsome man turned into an ape like human by AM’s doings, is a starving man but AM has constructed a reality where he struggles to eat food. Ellen was a woman who was a rape victim and associated her harrowing experience with the colour yellow. So AM sets her in an Egyptian setting where the colour yellow is very prominent. Nimdok is the character that I want to talk about today. Nimdok’s story has Nazi themes and takes place in the confines of a concentration camp. Understandably this setting is a rough subject matter. All 5 stories are but some more than others. Due to this storyline the entire Nimdok section of the game was completely removed from the French and German releases of the game. The section wasn’t replaced with a different story or setting and so Nimdok was a character that the player never played as.

Nimdok

This caused an issue with the best ending of the game. And by issue I mean, it was unobtainable. The French and German version’s exclusion of Nimdok’s chapter means that you can’t do the certain actions required to activate the best ending. And this was in 1995. If these situations happen today we can just go to YouTube and watch the ending but back then there wasn’t much you could do. For those intrigued by the story, I highly the game. I didn’t play it but I watched an LP of it and it is a wonderfully bleak setting. Fun little side note to end on, the author Harlan Elison helped on the development of the game. He wrote most of the dialogue and even voiced the evil computer AM. He did a great job too, giving AM’s voice that contempt for mankind that was ever present in its actions.