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Blackwell Convergence review

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The third game of the Blackwell series takes place six months after Rosangela met Joey Malone from Black Legacy… Oh no it’s Rosanela’s winey voice, quick cover your ears!!… (Listens it)… Did they just change her voice? Holy Crap they did! And you know what, she sounds human in comparison. I also forgot to mention that when Widjet Eye games re-released Blackwell Legacy on steam, they removed the voice-actress to originally voiced Rosangela and replaced her with current voice actress of the series, Rebbecca Whittaker. And for that reason alone, I change the score for Blackwell Legacy’s updated version to a 5 fingers out of 5.

Well, here’s the actual review on Blackwell Convergence, Roseangela and Joey have made their own business in spiritual intestigating. In the very beginning of the game, they spoiled the player investigating a ghost whose trying to jump off from his window, but already has committed suicide. Though this was just an opening of the game that had nothing to do with the plot, it actually shows Rosangela on where here life’s been since she knows that she’s a medium.

When Rosangela and Joey successfully put that lost spirit to rest, they went back home to find that they have an invitation from her neighbor Nishanti to the art show in a museum. There, Rosa starts to investigate a possible lead from a director at a film company. She soon finds out that an actor from their recent film has been murdered. Rosa also finds out about an old murder of a researcher whose work was stolen to benefit a rivaling corporation. Finally, on the gallery’s opening night The Countess makes an appearance and kills the artist whose painting are on display. You might remember The Countess from Blackwell Unbound as the main villain, and now she is a ghost which makes her more dangerous that even the victims can’t see her.

While the Countess is on her search for murder, Rosangela starts to feel that spirit world that’s in her head is starting to loose control. There, she encounters the hostess of the spirit world that gave her the medium power. Blackwell Convergence is actually gave the players the first time to witness what the afterlife is like and see what is the afterlife like through portal to the spirit world. We witness where do these spirits end up and was well understand how this whole rule works. But back in the physical world, you have the same formula of saving lost spirits like in Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound. It’s Rosangela’s duty to put these souls to rest, but more importantly stop the Countess from murdering any more.

The way that it works is that you must interview the people who actually know of the person who’s dead, find the actual location of the ghost, and try to convince them that they are dead, but most likely they’ll deny it believing that they’re alive (and not remembering of the cause of their death). Now in order to do that you have to investigate the cause of death, look at the ghost’s private property, talk to the people who know of the dead one to find out their weakness in convincing that they are dead and so much more. Since you have a great variety of ghosts, and different causes of death, throughout the series, this gives us so many opportunities of puzzle solving, locations to explore, and even a great variety of characters to interact with like any other adventure game.

Just like on the last game, Blackwell Convergence gives the player the opportunity to change characters to either Rosangela or Joey Malone as you’ll face puzzle solving that involves both of them. For those who forgot, this was introduced in Blackwell Unbound where Rosangela’s physical where she can pick up objects and talk to any one, Joey on the other hand can go through lock doors, pick up spiritual objects, change temperatures, and go to locations that Rosangela can not yet reach. However, Joey can’t pick up physical objects or talk to living people who doesn’t believe in ghosts, so that made playing as Rosa to be more important.

You can really see that the game has a higher production where WidgetEye Games actually gave Blackwell Convergence a graphical upgrade. I do prefer the old school pixelated graphics instead of this one because the high level detail has less personality in comparison. However, when you look up at the character’s avatar whenever you engage in a conversation, it really is better to look at than seeing character’s faces from the two previous games. In all seriousness, this installment of the series told a much better ghost story which makes it my favorite out of the first three of the series. Another big improvement is that the soundtrack is perhaps the best we’ve ever heard in the whole series because the jazz score really explodes right in front of your face thanks to the wondrous saxophone playing time to time. Also the animation and sound quality is unbelievably a huge improvement where it really suspend the player in disbelief. I mean, when I first heard the rain drops falling, it really sounded clear as crystal. I’m really impressed that this indie game managed to offer so much with limited budget just to show so much heart and soul were put in this game. It’s really inspirational to see that they were able to tell the story that they want to tell and yet will very little resource they have, they managed to make something this special. It’s titles like this that makes me want to support any newer adventure game out there and for Blackwell, it delivers!

The Top Lister’s score for Blackwell Convergence  –  5 out of 5

Blackwell Unbound review

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Now on the next game of the series, Blackwell Unbound. Usually when a new series released a game and plans to make another one for the series, it’s expected it to be a sequel, but for some reason, Widjet Eye Games made the second game of the Blackwell series not a sequel, but instead a prequel. This is the story where we go back to when Lauren Blackwell was doing the medium duty with Joey Malone. This was before Rosangela was born and before Lauren went in a mental collapse. Unbound was originally supposed to be a flashback sequence in the sequel for Blacckwell Legacy, but it grew so large that it became a game in its own right. It’s a risky move considering that not that many people know of this game series and for it to be a prequel right after the first game is quite something that hasn’t been done this early before. Usually prequels (regardless if it’s a movie, book, or video game), needs a lot of popularity or more sequels to even have a prequel. But since we’re talking about a game in the independent scene, anything can happen.

The time period of where this game takes place is back in the 1970s. The object of Blackwell Unbound is similar to Blackwell Legacy where you have to locate these ghosts who thinks they’re alive, communicate with the people who know of that are dead person, and find out a way to help them by first convincing them that they are dead. Both Joey & Lauren investigate two ghosts – a murdered saxophone player and a murdered women haunting a construction site of her old apartment building. While investigating the two seemingly unrelated incidents, Lauren discovers that both ghosts have been murdered by the same woman that calls herself The Countess. I won’t spoil anything, but encountering this character is absolutely creepy and having the plot revolve around this character’s actions well compelling. Like the last game, you have plenty of characters to interact with, varied location to explore, and puzzle solving. Unbound doubles the experience of Legacy, by making Joey a playable character.

Our new main character Lauren was something out of expectation, because Roseangela was a nerdy lovable caring character. Lauren Blackwell, the aunt, on the other hand, was a stuck-up woman who has a big attitude and a flirtatious voice along with it. Talk about the total opposite character in the Blackwell family. Joey however is the same lovable, gag cracking character that we know from the last game. The relationship between Joey & Lauren is a hilarious one, where Joey gives her the hardest time that it drove Lauren nuts. But what’s new to the series is that you can switch characters with either Joey or Lauren at any time. And like other games that have the character switching single player feature, both Joey & Lauren have their own pros & cons. Since Lauren is physical where she can pick up objects and talk to any one, Joey on the other hand can go through lock doors, pick up spiritual objects, change temperatures, and go to locations that Lauren can not yet reach. However Joey can’t pick up physical objects or talk to living people who doesn’t believe in ghosts, so that made playing as Lauren to be more important.

The tone and atmosphere of this game is much more atmospheric. Just when you thought Grim Fandango offered the best jazz soundtrack, Widjet Eye games added jazz music for the soundtrack just simply made it so breath-taking. The design for the characters wasn’t quite as well made compared to the last game, but it still was suitable for a game driven by a jazzy soundtrack. However my only negitive with this game is that this game was easier than Blackwell Legacy which affect some replay value and the tone and story-telling wasn’t as compelling as to the last game. Regardless I only recommed this game to those who really loved Blackwell Legacy. If you do you would already find yourself right at home to know who Roseangela’s aunt was and it unfolds the mystery that happened before Roseangela was born and it’s important know what’s going to happen in the next game of the series.

The Top Lister’s rating on Blackwell Unbound  –  4 fingers out of 5

Blackwell Legacy review

Insight

You know, let me tell you one of my all time favorite movies that’s a psychological thriller that deals with ghosts and loose spirits that weren’t exactly evil, but instead lost souls that have no idea that they are dead. And that’s The Sixth Sense. That film took the concept of seeing dead people in a captivating level where it focus heavily on character development and knowing that ghosts aren’t all evil, we just fear the unknown. This film could have been a ghostbusters knock-off if they made it all action and made the ghosts typically evil. The illogic thing about ghosts is why would good people who died all of the sudden turned evil? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As much as I love the Sixth Sense, I can’t really be demanding a sequel because M. Night Shyamalan’s movies today are terrible in both directing and writing screenplays. But what amazes me is that there’s a video game series that takes the similar concept & mythos of what the Sixth Sense started. So how can you make a game based on a movie that has no action, but instead has strong character development and a puzzling mystery? You sure as hell can’t do it in a FPS, you can’t do it on a Platformer, and you especially can’t do it in an action game. So it makes sense to make it an adventure game, and this point-and-click adventure game series is…

Blackwell Legacy

I love independent games, or indie games for short. This series went to a direction in games where there’s a lot of risk, but the independent developers who created this wonderful series has nothing to loose because for mainstream games to make an adventure game is a huge risk, due to the fact that the majority of gamers today just demands nothing in their games but action. Wadjet Eye Games & founder Dave Gilbert began the series back in December 26, 2006. I didn’t hear about this series until much later when I started to crave for adventure games and just hearing the concept of a person seeing ghosts and helping them that sound similar to the Sixth Sense and, most of all, actually goes above and beyond what the film left out all sounded fascinating to me.

Beginning this review on the series we go all the way back to the beginning of the series with Blackwell Legacy. Our main character of the series is Rosangela Blackwell. She’s a young freelance writer living a solitary life in New York City. Her one and only relative, Aunt Lauren Blackwell, have passed away. She was at the George Washington Bridge to fulfill her aunt’s wish in throwing her ashes to the river. Before her dying day, Rosangela had no knowledge or memory of her one and only relative, but the family secret will soon prevail.  The beginning of the game shows us the life of Rosangela, or Rosa for short, and how lonely and dark her world is. Rosa’s a hard-working freelance writer while a nice person at heart, she has a very dry personality at times, and she seems to have a hard time interacting with others. After her aunt’s pass, she only wished that she would know her more due to the fact that she’s been in a coma for 20 years. Fortunately she met her aunt’s doctor who tried to help her metal collapse before her pass. It turns out that her metal collapse was hereditary going on for two generations, beginning with her grandmother. As both of Rosa’s grandmother and aunt died from the same cause, it is of concern that it will soon happen to Rosa as well. What’s even more of a concern is that before both her grandmother and aunt died, both of them cried out “Joey.” The doctor said that they tried to find who Joey was for 25 years and there was no trace to any person name Joey who had any relation to the Blackwell family. But we will cover that in this review.

Rosangela would of try to solve this mystery but she has a job to do to write about a suicide in a college dorm. The suicide in college serves a huge part of the plot because as soon as Rosa knows what she’s made of, then she would solve this weird mystery of this student’s death that came out of nowhere, since the other students that known that person didn’t care about her. In the course of the game Rosangela develops from an independent person whose getting used to the social life in New York City into a brave and lovable character towards the end. You’ll be seeing a lot of new characters like Jim who’s overprotective of Rosa’s apartment, Nishanti the next door neighbor, to the ghosts who has no idea that they’re dead, to the witnesses and loved ones of the ghosts to interact, chat, or interview. Like all adventure games, interacting with your character furthers the progression of the game, and decides which choice of dialog in the conversation tree will trigger the correct response of the character you’re interacting plus access to new locations that you couldn’t reach. I thing I just noticed about many adventure games is that they have in-game notes to tell the player what did you discovered, questions you want to know based on what you’ve experienced in your game, or hits to your next location. But what Blackwell Legacy did with those in-game notes is to make it look your character’s actual notes rather than a thing that only exist to the player. This means that the note that you carry can be used them to interview people, since the dialog in your conversation tree can hold everything.  If you didn’t go into an event in the game which adds that to your note, then you can’t ask anyone that question of that event unless you witness it yourself. This adds a lot of encouragement of exploration in the world of Blackwell Legacy.

But where the game really starts to shine was when you’re introduced to a character that introduces you to the spirit world and make you start seeing actual ghosts. Around the part where Rosangela starts getting headaches, it’s causing her inner power to develop up until she meets, this whole mysterious Joey person that Rosa’s grandmother and Aunt Lauren cried out before they died. Joey Malone, in a matter of fact, is the Blackwell family’s spirit guide who protected them for three generations of the family. He appears to be this New York City’s private detective from the 1930s, 40s, or 50s. And I got to admit his first impression with Rosa was just plain hilarious… As it turns out Rosa’s grandmother was the first one to see Joey but she didn’t last long because she couldn’t accept that she’s seeing ghosts and went insane. Lauren Blackwell, however accepted that she’s a medium and helped Joey in helping these loose spirits spreading around New York City. Even though Lauren’s death remains a mystery (which I’m not going to spoil), it’s now Rosangela Blackwell’s turn to take over Lauren’s duty as a medium. A medium in the Blackwell series is a living person who can see ghosts and enter the spirit world, but this ability they must save loose spirits and guide them to the spirit world where they belong.

The way that this works is this, Joey has a tie that he wears around his neck and it’s the only spiritual thing that Rosa can literally touch. Once holding it, all she has to do is pull the tie, while the ghost is holding the other end of the tie which pulls the ghost in her head. Once entering in the head, they’ve entered the spirit world, well actually they’re inside her head, but inside her head is a spiritual way station which is a white light that leads the ghosts that Rosa rescues to enter infinity. Joey said it himself that he tried to enter the world but couldn’t because he’s the Blackwell family’s spirit guide which forbids him to enter the world beyond. But Rosa needs to work with Joey in saving these spirits is because if she doesn’t put a ghost through the gateway inside her head in a long time, then she’ll become insane like her grandmother and Aunt Lauren. But it’s not as easy as to just go up to a ghost and use Joey’s tie, tie them the ghost up, and pull them into Rosa’s head, they first need to know that they are actually dead and make them accept what they now are in order for them to even enter your head to the gateway.

Now this is the part of the game that gets really interesting because at this point of the game, it become the object of the game to find a ghost and make them go into your head and send them to the gateway. But as I stated before, it won’t work unless you prove to them that they are dead. So at this point of the game, you must interview the people who actually know of the person who’s dead, find the actual location of the ghost, and try to convince them that they are dead, but most likely they’ll deny it believing that they’re alive (and not remembering of the cause of their death). Now in order to do that you have to investigate the cause of death, look at the ghost’s private property, talk to the people who know of the dead one to find out their weakness in convincing that they are dead and so much more. Since you have a great variety of ghosts, and different causes of death, throughout the series, this gives us so many opportunities of puzzle solving, locations to explore, and even a great variety of characters to interact with like any other adventure game.

Well, I’m not going to tell you what kind of ghost you’re going to end up helping because that’s the fun part that I don’t want to spoil. Trying to help just one is very time consuming, because you’re going to have to know almost everything about them, but this kind of display of heroism is really unique because in terms of character development it adds a good degree of emotional level and envestment of caring for them.

In the Sixth Sense they only saved one ghost and the rest of the movie showed that they’ll save more leaving so many things unfinished & mysterious, but throughout the Blackwell series you’ll save numerous of ghosts to save in order for Rosangela to save herself from insanity for not helping them. Joey will always in company you where you go he provides you hints, helps out with the tie he carries in order for the ghost to get in Rosa’s head, and especially provide comedic relief throughout the series. Topic of people dead and trying to help out these ghost is a depressing topic, but with Joey around, he’s always there to make the funniest gags, dark humor, and flat out give Rosa a hard time and with that in mind, he simply adds so much charm to his character that it makes you smile every time.

Speaking of making me smile, I love how well crafted Blackwell Legacy is actually. You can tell that Dave Gilbert loves classic adventure games because the presentation of this game looks very similar to my favorites like Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, Beneath the Steel Sky, and the rest. It’s simply nostalgic to play through this game with an excellent varied soundtrack playing at each location you’re in. As for the story, I will have to say that the torn of this game is sad driven, but very charming and settling as you continue the game. This story is very well told and it’s somthing that I can really relate to. If I were a film maker, and had the opportunity of adapting a game into a film, I would want this game to be a the best game adapted into a film. I mean, there was so much heart put in this game that I can go on & on telling you why this game is so good, but it’s something that you need to experience yourself. I will say however that the only negative I have with this game is that the game is a little too easy and the voice acting is good with some performances like Joey, but there are some like Roseangela’s voice actress that does not sound natural. I love Eosa’s character but man, she sounds like she reading her script and wines whenever she speaks. If she wasn’t a caring character, I would of simply hated Rosangela as a character. Other than that, I sure as hell had a fun time playing this game & it was a special gem that’s very under the radar. My recommendation to adventure gamers out there, is a really recommended one.

The Top Lister’s rating for Blackwell Legacy  –  4 Fingers out of 5.

Top 7 The Sims Expansion Packs

I stated in my The Sims review that the Expansion packs really does improve The Sims Experience. It’s really interesting that in this day in age, almost all video game have Downloadable Content (DLC) provided through the internet and the expansion pack remains a thing from the past. However, The Sims series to this very day continues the Expansion pack tradition. I always enjoy buying an expansion pack from the Sims because it simply make the game a whole lot better! Another big possitive for Expansion packs over DLCs is that you literally keep the copy while nobody would ever predict when the developers would pull out the game from the market and abandon the DLC. Now these are the best Expansion packs that extended this life simulator into a better experience. What’s funny is the the Sims sequels kind of repeated the same thing with their own expansion packs. Now remember, this is just for the Sims 1, the other list of the best expansion pack for the Sims sequels are coming soon after I review them.

Number 7.  –  The Sims: Livin’ Large

Ah yes, the very first expansion pack released just for the Sims. Right from the get go, the developers knew that there wasn’t enough for the game so Living Large made the game so much more imaginative, goofier, and funnier than ever before. You have so many fun items to interact with such as the Crystal Ball, The “Concoctanation Station”, Genie in the Lamp (gamble to get wish granted), Vibromatic Heart Bed (that introduces sex in the game), telescope (hunt for aliens or spy neighbors), and so much more enjoyable items. There are also really cool NPCs like Servo (the maid robot), Santa Claus, Sunny the Tragic Clown, and the Grim Reaper. Since this is a game that introduces death, This NPC will come to fetch a Sim’s soul if he or she dies. If he is feeling generous, you can make any living Sims plea with him and play paper-scissors-rock with him to bring back the dead Sim. The Sims: Livin’ Large expanded the overall Sims experience with its holiday and mystical features, but it didn’t expanded as much as I hoped for in comparison to the other ones higher in the list…

Number 6.  –  The Sims: Hot Date

Part of psychology is also sexuality so why not making your Sims romantic life be more exciting by taking them out on dates? This expansion pack introduces Sims to have relationships with other Sims. This is the first expansion pack that actually gives player to bring Sims out of the house and venture to the new lots and attractions with the feature of Downtown. You’re able to buy presents, eat out in restaurants, more than 40 new interactions with other Sims, and so many romantic “activities” if you know what I mean. This is the expansion pack that turned this life-simulator into a dating simulator… almost. But if you really care for newer ways of interacting with other Sims (especially romantically) look no further than this great expansion pack!

Number 5.  –  The Sims: House Party

If you still think the Sims is boring then why haven’t you got yourself this expansion pack? This pack spared no expense with the huge number of objects offered her from electronic rodeo, DJ booths, dance floors and cages, campfires, better variety of costumes and so much more! The best part in this expansion pack is throwing a party. Once you call for a party at your Sim’s house then so many Sims from the neighborhood will come over and give your Sims a party of a life time! Mimes, Ghosts, Carters and party crashers are introduced to your party but the most surprising part of this game was Drew Carey‘s cameo appearance. Best surprise ever!

 

 

Number 4.  –  The Sims: Vacation

Oh, man this brings me back because this was my first Sims expansion pack and here I am still buying these things with the Sims sequels. While Hot Date gave players new locations like downtown, Vacation gave the player vacation lots from the snowy mountains, campy woods, or the sunny tropical beaches! This expansion pack is all about the wonderful objects that goes way beyond Living Large with the variety of objects that you can buy like Igloos, souvenirs, fishing pier, snowboard slides, carnival games, snowman, new interactions such as fishing, volleyball, and more. It also helps to have even mascots, like Marky Sharky, Archie Archer, and Betty Yeti, to bring a smile on your face whenever you reach the vacation resort. I do admit that I’m holding this game back because the hotel prices are ridiculous, but it was fun to get out of the damn house and do something exciting, finally!

Number 3.  –  The Sims: Superstar

Tired of living in the same style in the house all the time? Don’t worry, Superstar fame is the answer to your Sims’ life! Now you have brand new careers such as Supermodels, Acting, and Singing. There are so many objects in this game that only the upper class can own in real life. You can actually make your Sims more and more popular by raising your star-rating.  Sims who have above 3.0 stars are ‘A class’ stars; Sims who have 3.0 and 2.5 stars are ‘B class’ stars; and Sims who have under 2.5 stars are ‘C class’ stars. Only beginners with 0.0 stars have ‘Nobody’ status. All famous Studio Town townies are ‘Somebody’, while the non-famous townies are “Anybody.” You can make your Sim live like a rockstar and surprisingly enough, Superstar offers more celebrity cameo appearances than House Party did with Drew Carey.  You’ll encounter big names like Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol. If you’re rich enough and famous enough you can own a butler, encounter obsessed fans, get pictures from paparazzi, and so many things that only Hollywood has offered.

Number 2.  –  The Sims: Unleashed

We all love animals so it’s a no brainer to bring them to the Sims experience. You can own dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, and other wild animals to live right in your Sims household. All you have to do is visit the new lot called “Old Town” and adopt the pet that you so desire. You’re also given so many interactions just to play with them, teach them tricks, enter pet shows, and other interactions with your pet to be a lot more fun! There are more than enough items in this pack to make your pet suitable to live in you house. This game offered a lot more mascots/NPC than The Sims: Vacation had ever offered. One of the biggest selling points in this game is the new feature of including an inventory system for each of your Sims. This is incredibly helpful for bringing items to different locations and give your pets treats along with you. This could have been the best expansion pack if only we could had the privilege to control our pets just as we do to our Sims. Nevertheless, this is one of the biggest expansion pack just for the original Sims game.

Number 1.  –  The Sims: Makin’ Magic

There’s no doubt in my mind that the best Sims 1 expansion pack has to be the last expansion pack. This pack was loaded with tons of supernatural objects, collecting ingredients, create magic charms and magic spells, have a dragon as a pet, some of the most interesting NPC’s the game has to offer, and play at carnivals. Makin’ Magic has offered the best out of the neighborhood lot, Magic Town, that I never want to leave once I entered that realm. Everything offered in this game is so imaginative and addicting to further your Sims’ magic abilities. Hunting for ingredients in itself was some of the most adventurous in the entire Sim 1 experience that kept us out of the dull feeling of being stuck in your house after playing a certain point in time. Learning and casting spells was the most rewarding and funniest experience I’ve ever had in casting spells upon various Sims. Even if you’re not that much of a fan of The Sims, at least getting Makin’ Magic totally changes the experience! I personally played this expansion pack the least because the release of the Sims 2 was under a mile away when this last Expansion pack was released. It’s a shame that after all the Sims 2 expansion packs, that basically copied all the expansion packs from the Sims 1, it didn’t have a Makin’ Magic for the Sims 2.  However, Makin’ Magic was the expansion pack that kept going back when the Sims 2 was released because I was waiting for more expansion packs for the Sims 2. You can say that this expansion pack put a spell on me, but I loved Makin’ Magic with all my heart!

The Sims review

Just like regular games, nearly every video game has a goal. Whether if it’s reach from point a-to-b, destroy a certain number of targets, accomplish a mission objective… whatever, it’s all in a formulaic progression where the programmers/developers made all of their player go through the game. However, simulation games were the only video game genre that defied a certain goal and just let the player have their own goals in creating a game, placing objects to wherever they want, and so much more! Geniuses like Will Wright innovated the genre with the Sim series starting with SimCity. Throughout the Sim series he made all sort of simulation games like SimTown, SimFarm, SimHealth, SimIsle, SimPark, Simgolf... you get the picture; they were all self explanatory.  It took Will Wright over a decade making all of these Sim games and then he finally came up with… well… “The Sims.” The is the very first Life simulation game where you’re able to create people and control their own lives. For the sake that it was a game where we can create whatever we want, whenever we want, it grabbed both hardcore and casual gamers appealed and as a result it still remains as THE best selling PC game of all time! Now, this is my review on one of the best selling games ever.

Gameplay

Right from the get-go, this is a life simulator that uses the point-and-click gameplay that only computers are really good at. With the power of the mouse, you’re the god of this game and it’s up to you to make whatever you have up in your mind to be created with just a click of a mouse. When you start the game, you make the decision of playing an already own household and play already created Sims (which are what these people called) with their families, property, and house already built or you can start from scratch and create your own sims.

Of course, we all want to create our own characters and in this game you can only customize their head and clothes to put on your Sim. You are able to choose male or female, child or adult, color on their skin, give them their own name, write their bio (optional) and create their own personality to differentiate each and everyone of them from being the exact same Sim. You can set how playful/serious, nice/mean, shy/outgoing, active/lazy, and neat/messing each Sim are. You can see that this game was inspired by horoscopes and they are there to create psychology in your Sims which was so innovative in which has never been done in a video game before. However if you create a child, you can’t finish completing you creation without having an adult guardian in that household. You can create more than 1 Sim together in a household; making a family. You can have a total of 8 in your family. After finishing creating your Sims, it’s now time to choose a household. Now if you’re going to put them in an already built in house, you have to make sure nobody owns it and have enough money. Remember the more objects are in that household, the more expensive it will be. And considering that you’re starting a new sims family with only 20,000 you minus well get an empty house area and built your own house.

Now you can start playing the game. The game is going on the real game time where every minute is a second and every hour is a minute. It utalizes the night-and-day timezone the game has, but instead of having to wait for 12 minutes to a different time zone, you have the power to pause, fast-forward, and double fast-forward up the time. When all of your Sims in the household falls asleep, it automatically fast forwards until something bad is going on or they wake up and go back to regular speed. This helps a lot from so many wasted hours like level grinding in an MMORPG.

Speaking of sleep, you have to provide everything that your Sims need. Needs are a core factor for making your sims to be in a good mood and obey your every command. You have to satisfy their hunger, comfort, hygiene, bladder, energy (need of sleep), fun, social, and room. The only way you can do that is if you give them such objects that offers each need, just as we do in our daily lives. You have to make their Sims, cook, take a shower, socialize with other Sims, use the toilet, stay comfortable, and keep them in a healthy and suitable environment. For hunger – it’s obvious to have a refrigerator (that always uses up your cash each time you get something from the fridge) and to make better food you need a stove, microwave, grill, and/or counter to prepare that meal. You also need a place to eat, so get them a table and seats. For comfort – everyone need to relax and they need to sit or lie down on something like sofas and chairs. Bladder – obviously you need toilets to do the job. Energy – Sims need sleep and if they don’t get any how can they operate, so get them a bed to sleep on. Hygiene – Nobody wants to smell bad so get them a bath, shower, or a swimming pool to wash away that stench. Social – nobody can live alone so they need to converse with other Sims by encountering them face to face or give them a phone call. Fun – Nobody can last boredom so give them TV, games, music, and a lot of entertainment! And finally Room – Even though you have given them all of this stuff, they need the right placed in the right room because you don’t want a toilet being place in the kitchen or the living room so it’s up to the player place them all, but also more expensive objects can make the Sims feel more comfortable and happy being in such room. But also, rooms are to be seen, so you need lighting (like lamps, windows, and other lights) to brighten the atmosphere.

Constantly, the player has to command the Sims to do something and as time passes on each of the moods will decrease its meter and to keep them in obeying you, the player has to interact with another object and (if there isn’t anything blocking your Sims way) you click on the object, click on the action, and the Sims will directly do as you say. However the Sims can’t multitask so when you give them multiple commands, they only do them one by one. The player can also cancel a command by click on that action indicated at the top of the screen to take it away and the Sim will not do it. If you’re not giving a Sim a command, they will automatically do their own action themselves, whatever they feel like to.

But in order to provide those needs, the player needs to buy and built certain objects in creating such a lifestyle  for them. That’s why you have the “buy mode” and the “build mode.” In buy mode, it’s specifically objects buying off objects and it’s up to the player to place them where ever they want as long as it fits in that house/room and there’s no object that has already taken that spot. The player as can move object to wherever they want to place them. Some smaller objects can’t just be placed on the ground so you need surfaces like walls and tables/counter in order for that sims to keep that object like computers, microwaves, sinks, telephones and so much more! There are a lot of objects in buy mode and you can get much more of them from installing more expansion packs or downloading mods. In buy more, there are objects separated into different categories; appliances (fridge, stoves, and other kitchen stuff), comfort (chairs, sofas, and beds), decorations (paintings, plants, mirrors, ect), Electronics, Lighting (lamps, lights), and Miscellaneous (hobbies or skill building activities). There are so many variety of objects that come in different sizes and prices, but the more costly objects actually doubles the satisfactory of needs it can provide your Sims making it worth the price.

Build mode on the other hand are what makes the house a house. You can create, rotate, and place walls, staircases (to create another story house), roofs, pond, swimming pools, trees, flowers, rocks, windows, doors (only way for a sims to enter the door), fences, gates, dig holes or grow landscape, floors/rugs, and everything else that you can’t buy from buy mode. Build mode specifically creates what you want like how big or small your rooms are, how to enter a room, and so many more. You can also paint your room to actually create a different atmosphere for your Sims. You have a huge variety of wall-paint to put on your wall and it also gives your very own house (from both the inside and outside) to have it’s own identity.

You can make all of this stuff happen, however the catch is that you need enough money to make it all happen. That’s why you need to give your Sims a job (or use the cheat codes). You need a job to not only buy your stuff, but also pay bills, services, and much much more! There are careers that you can find from the newspaper (1 job offering a day) or search for one on the internet (3 job offerings a day).  You can have a career in athletics, business, criminal, entertainment, hacker, journalism, law enforcement, medicine, military, politics, and science. Once you get a job, your sims have to show up at work when the carpool arrives or face the consequences of loosing your job (if you don’t call in from being sick). You can even get even more jobs from installing more expansion packs. Now jobs will make you start from the bottom with low minimum wage, and you have to build your Sims up to giving promotions. And the only way a Sim can give a promotion is to:

  • Have a certain number of friends
  • Be in a very good moode (having all needs has to be above average)
  • Develop skills needed for this promotion
  • Occasionally a decision is popped up for you to make in your job and its a gamble to decide which works. This can get you an early promotion, demoted, loss of pay, or loss of skill

So what are these skills exactly? They are learning curves that helps your sim to have an ability such as cooking, charisma, body, creativity, logic, and cleaning. In order to develop skills is if you buy your Sims objects from the miscellaneous category. Like a bookcase that has all the knowledge your Sims can learn (like cooking, cleaning), exercise machines to improve body, painting to learn to be more creative, play chess to learn logic, and mirrors to learn charisma. Now, if you give your Sims time to develop these skills they will improve, but in reaching its maximum skill level, it will take a lot more time to actually gain more skill level so just use the fast-forward button from making it a waste of your time (or use the cheat codes).

Now social takes lot more effort because every Sims your Sims meets automatically becomes an acquaintance and it’s up to you to decide if you want to make them an enemy, friend, best friend, or just remain an acquaintances by not talking to them. It does take time for your Sims to know of other Sims so just communicate, invite them to your house, give them a call, and so much more. If they continue to react positively then they’ll become your friend, but watch out, if you don’t many any contact for a while then you’ll loose friendship. There are a lot of activities that you can’t simply do with another Sims and you don’t want to hug, tickle, gossip, and so much more without building a relationship with another Sim. You can actually develop a relationship but it has to be very paced upon building a relationship. You can’t just simply kiss, dance, and “woo-hoo” in just a first meeting, you need to keep developing that relationship in order to get rewarded for that big surprise. But be careful because a Sim can only have one relationship with another Sim otherwise he/she’ll be caught by the other love affair he/she is having and it won’t look so good at all.

And you do all of this just to have a promotion, get better pay, and a successful career. And the more money you’ll make, the more opportunities you’ll have in creating your dream lifestyle right in the Sims video game.

Level Design

Right from the get go, this is game is part 2D sprites and part 3D polygons. It blends very well with the high level pixels that matches to the quality of Polygons to make it look like they’re in the same universe unlike other games that has a painting background and 3D objects like Final Fantasy VII. The Sims themselves are rendered as 3D objects, but the house, and all its objects, are pre-rendered, and displayed diametrically. The game is viewed at an isometric view point and the player can zoom in and out in three different distances and is able to rotate the camera around, but not quite like how we all do it today. The player can also move the camera left, right, up, or down by placing the mouse at the edge of the screen or use the keyboards. Since there are a lot of walls in the way, your Sims can change how we can see the walls bottom left menu bar by putting all the walls up, put the walls down when the Sims are in the room that has a wall between the player and the Sim(s), or put the walls completely down.

Depending on what vacated lot you bought, the player is stuck with the limited space and to get a bigger amount of space is if your Sims family have enough money to actually purchase that lot. Some say that you’re stuck in that lot like a “prison” because you can’t see your Sims when they work or child Sims when they go to school while the player remains waiting for their return back home. But with the power from the later expansion packs, the player can take their Sims out in other locations on vacation, on a date, studios, haunted dimension and so much more if they have a phone call for a taxi to go out to another location. Then you’re at another “prison” but with a lot more activities that weren’t available inside your house like dining in restaurants, ordering a room in a hotel, and a lot more. There’s always something happening in the Sims whether you have a stranger knocking on your door, a burglar robbing your place, a wild animal intruding, a celebrity cameo appearance, fire, a ghost coming out of the grave, infestation, and so much more, it makes the player decide to take action or let the worse come to the family home. This is all the unpredictability that continues to excites the player each time they boot up The Sims.

This game does not give a free pass to the player even though this is a game that lets the player do whatever they want. There are always consequences around the player like if your Sims starve, they can die, if they don’t take care of the baby or child the social worker takes the family member away from you, miss work your job is at risk, ghosts coming out of the grave, really bad a socializing a social bunny appears, don’t play for the bill a repo-man takes your possession… there’s just so much that does happen in The Sims that makes it so fun to play. There are a lot of NPC (non-player character) appearing on the same lot/area that you’re in and they do whatever they want unless you command your Sims to do something to them.  However, I do have to complain that sometimes things happen so much that you can’t react to it in time; especially when your Sims’ needs reduces so fast that it irritates the player from doing anything with their Sims.

Back on NPCs, there are a lot of interesting variety of Sims where there are many that are happy, snobbish, lazy, shy, outgoing, playful, and more. This is what makes it so fun to see and encounter such Sims and see what they’re like. Since this game uses psychology I can see a lot of Sims that are different just like how I see people. The Sims, in so many ways, is quite educational for including feature that no other game has offered like psychology, needs, socializing, activities, and building, this game taught me, personally so many aspect of life. In itself that is really remarkable!

Since there are so many objects provided to the player, making the Sims interact with these objects are so fun and like everything in existence, they have a purpose. Like if your in a swimming pool you can make them swim in it, if there’s a TV Sims sit down at watch it, and so many more that I’ve mentioned already. Some objects require more than one Sims for social activities like bubble blowing, volleyball, and tons more. This make coming into the Sims world so enjoyable to keep coming back.

Presentation

Since this is a game that has that isometric view point and 2D objects matching very closely to the 3D polygons, this really takes me back to old classic PC games that didn’t need full 3D graphics to be good like Bulder’s Gate, Diablo II, and the rest. Everything has a friendly interface when playing and has that artsy-feel when witnessing its atmosphere (which I’ll get to later). I really like that unrealistic approach to the game where you’ll see characters acting so goofy that in itself becomes very amusing to watch. Since it’s really hard to actually put voice acting in the game considering that there are lot of topics that no ordinary Sim would keep saying again and again, I do accept the “Simish” language. Since they do repeat the same line at each reaction you can see word balloons above their heads and see a symbol to understand what are they talking about. I remember laughing at so many parts of this game that its worth coming back to again and again.

I really love the fact that there are a lot of items, objects, and decorations that belong in a certain theme like 1950’s diner, jazz clubs, rave club, art houses, medieval times, magic, country, and many more that actually does create its own atmosphere in the game. This is one of the reasons why there’s a “stuff” expansion packs in today Sims game that adds more variety to the game and people keep buying them for specific creations.

One of the most unique aspect that the Sims has that no other game has is the music. The soundtrack in this game is varied (with so many genres to go with it) and creates that artsy feeling that I described early. When you click on buy or build mode you can see a sudden different tone to the game. Buy mode’s tracks is all very classical music that actually does get the player to be more creative, while Build mode (oddly enough) has a really deep and emotional piano solo. I admit that it seems out of place for a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I felt quite emotional when listening to the magic piano song composed by Jerry Martin. It almost fits perfectly in a death sequence in a movie, but when listening to the artistry of The Sims, I start to wonder how precious life is when realizing what I was doing in this life simulator. I remember at a very young age I cried listening to the deep songwriting of Build Mode’s tracks that gets all of us choked-up when we listen to it.

Conclusion

There’s something about playing original The Sims that no other game has; the magical soundtrack, the wonderful point-and-click interface, the fulfilling artsy atmosphere. I admit that there were a lot of things that were heavily improved on the sequels, but The Sims does get better when you install more expansion packs to your computer. I’ll make a list of the best expansion packs for the Sims 1, but here are my overall thoughts. It’s very satisfying to keep playing and interacting with nearly everything you see in the Sims, but there were a couple of drawbacks that kept it from being the best. For instance, I really dislike the needs meter for your Sims runs out very fast and it’s even worse when you have a total of 8 Sims in your family that becomes a headache to fix their problems. Nevertheless, outside of the Sims series, there is no other game like original Sims. I still do find nearly everything about this game so appealing and there are so many aspects that the sequels didn’t do well in comparison to the first. There is now a Sims Complete Collection that includes all the expansion pack which is more recommendable, but if you were there when the original Sims was still in the market, it was always worth while waiting for another expansion pack to be released, we then buy it & install it to our computers, and spend so many hours playing the expanded game, just made it such a glorious accomplishment. Who knew that putting so many every day aspects in our lives could work so well into a video game? Will Wright was that man that knew it all! I understand that some may not enjoy the Sims like I do, but it has been some of my favorite memories of playing video games on my computer…

Things I love

  • Point-and-click gameplay has never made the player feel so powerful & fun!
  • The insane amount of objects to create and interact with
  • The feature of psychology, building, and lifestyles made itself educational to players
  • There’s something always happening in the game
  • The Sims expressions are so amusing
  • The music is absolutely magical
  • The game get SO much better each time you install a new expansion pack

Things I hate

  • The Sims “needs meter” shrinks so damn fast that keeps the player from doing that many thing with their Sims
  • When Sims are in a bad mood they take too long to restore that into a good mood
  • Children can’t grow up into Adults
  • There’s not enough space in cheaper lots and bigger lots are too expensive
  • Can’t control pets/animals in The Sims

The Top Lister’s video game rating… 5 out of 5

Bioshock Infinite review

On my review on Bioshock 2, I made a bold statement saying “It was indeed a worthy sequel and after Bioshock 2, who knows what other creative ideas is the series going to offer next.” Now  here’s a the next & daring step for the series. Irrational Games returns to Bioshock but surprisingly enough, Infinite isn’t set in Rapture anymore; instead it’s set in uprising sky floating city of Columbia with an entirely new characters. Most Bioshock fans were skeptical with this game for not being set in Rapture, but everyone else was dying out of curiosity to see what lies inside this up-in-the-sky new setting that has never been seen in a video game. The development for this game sacrificed a lot of delays making the whole video game industry desperate for this game to finally be released. Now since it has been released, here are my impressions on this highly anticipated game.

Premise

Bioshock Infinite is set in a different universe from the past Bioshock games and the story is all based on Booker DeWitt (the character we play as) where he’s a broken man who lost his family, had a huge drinking problem, in debt with many, & was on urge in committing suicide for the fact that he could have made a decision in life to commit to Christianity by doing baptism in and cleansed of his sins after his actions at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Since then, he has been a disgraced former agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The game opens up in 1912 where Booker DeWitt is taken by the Lutece twins to an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine; the structure houses a rocket silo which transports Booker to Columbia, with the mission from Luteces to “bring us the girl and wipe away the debt”.

Now arriving at the beautiful world of Columbia, Booker witnesses the paradise of this Christian built utopia and he began his search for the girl named Elizabeth to get out  of his debt. Booker’s presence in Columbia goes unnoticed until a citizen identifies the letters “AD” branded on Booker’s hand, a sign of the False Shepherd that Comstock prophesied would corrupt Elizabeth and bring about Columbia’s downfall. Booker since then started a massacre in Columbia and tries desperately to find Elizabeth and get her out of the city.

Gameplay

Just like Bioshock and Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite is a First-Person Shooter. You have weapons such as the Barnstormer RPG, Bird’s Eye Sniper Rifle, Broadsider Pistol, China Broom Shotgun, Huntsman Carbine, Paddywhacker Hand Cannon, Peppermill Crank Gun, Triple R Machine Gun, Pig Volly Gun and more. For the first time in the series, for every weapon there are two different type of  alternate models offering a different set of advantages and disadvantages. The two versions of the same weapon are similar in appearance only, as they have separate upgrades and ammunition; Heater, Burstgun, Repeater and Hail Fire. Each of them can be upgraded in Minuteman’s Armory vending machines.

But one of the most noticeable difference between this game and the other Bioshock games is that Infinite only allows the player to wield two weapons. It’s really unfortunate to see that Bioshock, as awesome of an FPS series that it is, just degraded the gameplay from wielding more than 4 weapons, different ammunition for various situations, and allows the player switch them at any time just took a step back in making the player hold only two weapons and if you really want to use a different weapon you minus well just give up one of the two weapons that you’re holding.  Another noticeable difference is that the player now has a shield seen above your health meter. Basically it protects the player from loosing HP so when your character lost its shield due to taking a lot of damage, the game forces you to duck and cover till the shield regenerated. Did Bioshock Infinite just “Halo-ed” the awesomeness of the Bioshock gameplay?

However the biggest feature Infinite introduced is the Sky-Hook. In Columbia this is used as a tool to travel on the Sky-Lines and it’s really neat to see that the players can travel at a fast rate of speed by traveling on Sky-Lines and decide (depending on what gear and vigor you’re holding) where they can land, turn around into the opposite direction if they want to, leap to hook-to-hook like a platform, and even cause instant whenever they want to land on an opponent. The only way anyone could stop you from traveling through the Sky-Line is if there’s a traveling crates that are on your way/blocking your path or the Handy Man (Big Daddy replacement) is electrocuting the line. Melee attacks aren’t done on guns anymore, instead the play can attack with melee with the Sky-Hook and when you hit an enemy their low health with this thing you can see a them decapitated, spilling out gashes of blood, when you strike them with such a tool. Bioshock Infinite can possibly be the most violent game of the series thanks to the Sky-Hook.

With the feature of the Sky-Hook, gameplay in Bioshock Infinite has been really intensified due to the fact that you’re able to make leaps so high up in the air and fall to the ground, gracefully. It’s such an amazing experience to see a game to travel so far up in the sky that it really feels unbelievable. Enemies as well have Sky-Hooks which makes them able to travel through Sky-Lines so when you’re on a Sky-Line you’re also able to wield out a weapon and shoot at them and travel very fast at the same time. This was all remarkable stuff and the best part is that you don’t have to worry about falling because you can immediately respond to the last step you took on foot if you fall off of Columbia. This was all necessary considering that Columbia is up in the sky and there was no doubt that anyone could just fall off.

However the player can get more abilities with the Sky-Hook by using the gears. There are various different type of gears that will give the player abilities for the hook like for example causing fire/electrocuting enemies when melee them, but there are also Gears for Boots, Hats, Shirts, and all over your body that gives the player a higher advantage with certain situations and different abilities. You get gear upgrades such as double the damage when your health is low, burn nearby enemies, recieve health the more you kill, and SO much more. Despite the fact that you can only carry a little number of gears, this game give the player much advantages than the last Bioshock games. However I can’t say the same for the powers.

Since we’re no longer in Rapture, that means there is no Plasmids, however there are still superhuman powers/abilities in Columbia called Vigor. Since I’ve already explained in long detail on where Superhuman powers from my Bioshock review, you should know how it works. There are only several Vigors that can be obtained such as the Bucking Bronco (which levitates enemies), Charge (cause to ram into the target from a distance), Devil’s Kiss (Throws a flaming projectile), Murder of Crow (summons crows to attack), Possession (Turns the targeted machine into ally and get money from vending machines), Return to Sender (Creates a temporary shield), Shock Jockey (Shocks the target), and Undertow (Throws all targets in front of the user back with a watery tendril). All of them can be  upgraded twice over the course of the game at the Veni! Vidi! Vigor! vending machines scattered throughout Columbia at a very high price.

And yet, I find the Vigor less satisfying and underwhelming in comparison to Bioshock 1 & 2’s plasmids that had the best powers the series has ever had. There wasn’t much variety and helpfulness when using Vigor powers that ended up as gimmicks that didn’t work as well as it might have. Plus there wasn’t any environment that could have put any of these Vigors into it’s full potential like how using the Electro Bolt on a body of water where it causes enemies to instant kill when they step on it. Seeing that wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped, I wished that the Vigors could have been more creative and was executed better.

But without a doubt the best feature in the game is the inclusion of Elizabeth to be on your side. Once you’ll find her, she’ll be at most useful to the player. She’s able to find any money and ammo and is willing to pass it to you when you’re running out of either one of them. Elizabeth is also skillful in using lock-picks to unlock doors and safes, depending on how many picks required to unlock the lock.  She never once was caught in a fight or a damsel in digressed making her a character that we, not once, have to worry about her (except whenever she’s apart from you).  She’s not just a character that just follows you around, she’s able to make objects from another dimension to appear in your world. These gray glowing holograms are known as tears and they are there for the player to look at it and tell Elizabeth to make that object to appear in this world. This is an ingenious idea of a gameplay feature so that players can have more advantages to create cover when there’s a lot of gunfire, create hooks to leap above the air, summon turrets for back-up, and get some ammo when the player is out of ammunition. The tears play a significant part of the plot and they should not be ignored when following this game’s narrative. And I’ll have more to say about my thoughts on Elizabeth.

Over all, I have to say that it’s a mixed bag of a gameplay where there are new features that weren’t in Bioshock but excited me as a player, and some old and familiar Bioshock elements that I felt it was downgraded in comparison to Bioshock 1 & 2’s gameplay.

Level Design

It’s obvious that since we’re in Columbia, we’re being held up in the sky. Again, with the inclusion of the Sky-Hook, Sky-Lines can be found anywhere when you step outdoors and decide when to get on the line to travel fast. The only way anyone could stop you from traveling through the Sky-Line is if there’s a traveling crates that are on your way/blocking your path or the Handy Man is electrocuting the line. Despite the fact that the setting of this game is being thousands of feet up in the air, not once does the player have to worry about falling because you’ll respond to where you last set foot on the ground.

Following the Bioshock formula, whenever you’re not shooting at enemies, the game gives the player the urgency to scavenger for money, food (health), ammo, gears, and more!  You can find them everywhere from corpses, barrels, crates, trashcans, safes, and the rest. New objects to be looking for are lockpicks which are there for Elizabeth to unlock safes and doors. Sometimes, when the player doesn’t haven enough picks to make Elizabeth to unlock the door/safe, it kinda requires backtracking in order to gain access to that secret. They are there to reward the player for scavenging and finding enough locks to unravel the secret that give the player more money, locks, valuable weapons, and Infusions. Infusions are these rare substance that will upgrade either your health, salts (power meter), or shield. Each time you find one Infusion you can only choose one of the three upgrades and they are needed in order to beat the more difficult challenges that lie ahead of the game.

Throughout your journey, you’ll be in such environments like churches, slumps, circuses, sky-deck, bars, graveyard, and other locations in Columbia. This is entirely a different setting from Rapture, but similar to Bioshock there are also plenty of waves of enemies that you’ll encounter in the game. However, due to the fact that there are only guards, beast (RPG foes), Firemen, Crow, Motorized Patriot, and Handyman (very little of them) there’s not much to get excited over with these foes. Most of the time you’ll keep getting so many of the same enemy types in wave, after wave, after wave it feels tedious to fight them off repeatedly. Whenever there’s a new enemy type, it feels like a breath of fresh air… until they keep using them repeatedly after numerous of wave. This is another downgrade from the past two Bioshock games because there’s not much creativity or backstory with each of these enemy types so we feel bored fighting these enemy types after a certain period of the game and it’s even much worse when we see them near the end of the game.

But like the previous Bioshock games, Infinite really wants the player to know so much of the backstory of Columbia. Again, you’ll be finding a lot of audio-logs, now called voxophones, from people who were there giving the player an understanding on what’s going on or what happened. To even give players a better explanation, there are also Kinetoscopes that give a brief video footage of the history of Columbia which is a necessary inclusion to the series considering that they’re using every technology, object, and style from the early 1900’s. The more you look into these Kinetoscopes, the more you’ll learn from the creation with Comstock’s Columbia.

There are segments in the game where you have to lay down your weapon and just explore further to the end of the segment to start combat again. There were a couple of them in the 1st half of the game where it’s part of the narrative of searching for something. A huge focus on the game is that there are moments where the player have to choose one or the other. Like for example when Elizabeth wants you to pick out a necklace for her you have to choose; the bird or the cage. She takes the one that you pick. However there is a moment in the game where if you throw the ball at the hostages in front of a live crowd or throw it at the host, it doesn’t give the player a different outcome because they were a result of the same outcome regardless. We all thought that these decisions are for changing the ending or the path of the game (since there is no Little Sister to decide what ending we get), but instead it just turns out to be a troll move where there is no alternative ending whatsoever. So why include it if there’s no consequences or any alternatives? This is like Mass Effect 3 all over again… -__-

Another big complaint I have is that there are only mini-bosses that aren’t that much harder to take down compared to regular enemies, but they’re there to change your tactics.   The problem however is that the game has so much action and backstory that it was a game that really needs to put us through the challenge by giving us “boss” fights. Sure we have the Heavy Hitters that acts like a boss but they loose that reputation down to being a mini-boss due to the fact that they become that wave of enemies that I find so annoying to face. Unfortunately, Infinite only gives us wave after wave of enemies that doesn’t feel as fun as it should. This really is the game that needed to put the player through boss fights and I’m not the only one who notices the lack of boss fights happening in video games today. Click here to read the article. Boss fights are necessary in every video game period because the whole point of going through level to level is to learn, train, and get better at playing the game and the boss fight puts the player to the test of their abilities and understanding of the game. And for the fact that this generation of video games doesn’t offer a boss fight, and final boss fights at the near end of the game mind you, is something I find lackluster in video games in being released nowadays…

What’s really awesome with the level designs is that the developers though of it through on the concept of tears and dimension warping. Since you’ll discover later in the game about Elizabeth’s ability to make tears, you’ll be seeing holographic gray objects that can be interacted with when you look at it and tell Elizabeth immediately what object you want from one dimension to enter to the dimension that you’re in. This play a significant part of the story, but it’s good for level design and gameplay because of the advantages the player needs in order to over come these enemies and for it being  at the right place at the right time.

Presentation

Second to none, it’s obvious that Bioshock Infinite is absolutely gorgeous to watch. I think it has to not only do with the art design, but how effective that everything the light touches is really reflective at the point that it’s mesmerizing. The first 20 minutes of the game is so great that I can rank it up there as one of the best beginning of a game like Final Fantasy 7. Speaking as a strong Christian man, I really loved the purity of the church’s atmosphere when we hear the “Circle Be Unbroken” song, like this is my paradise come true. Like Rapture to the mid 20th century design, Columbia uses every single detail to look like we’re in the early 20th century; from the American town, to the ghetto, the Church, circus, kinescopes, stores, bars, everything you name it! It’s taken our American historical pieces and turn it to a steampunk video game to show that video games can be taken artistically.

This game just simply offers one of the best atmospheres since the original Bioshock. Just like Rapture, the setting in Columbia is so beautiful that it has personality, in it where it has the wonderful feeling of seeing the bright sky with lovely looking clouds just shining everything in Columbia. There is a clear night-and-day difference between Columbia and Rapture, but towards to the end of the game, it gets that scary feeling. Despite how chaotic and dark Rapture was, I never once was scared playing Bioshock 1 & 2 and I never would thought the series could ever make me scared, until I played Bioshock Infinite and there was that one part of the 3rd act of the game that got me so terrified that it got me good. Personally, I’m a huge tied between liking Rapture or Columbia more because Rapture has a lot of emotion inside this crazy world corrupted by ADAM that has Little Sisters and Big Daddies who are in need and care for each other while Columbia has the purity of the American Dream and more than plenty of Christian references that would make Neon Genesis Evangelion put to shame!

However, I do have some criticisms with the overall design with Bioshock Infinite. It seems that Irrational games still has that issue of making their character to look like dolls like the Little Sisters from the original Bioshock. When you take a look at the character’s faces from Bioshock Infinite, they don’t even look real. In fact, many of them almost look identical from each other. I mean seeing a lot of women in Columbia look so identical that it become distracting. I understand that in video games it’s common to have copy and paste characters but it just ended up loosing the charm of Columbia.

At first, I was skeptical that I won’t care for the game as much because of the fact that the Little Sisters (who I’ve had an emotional attachment to) are not in this game, at least we have the best thing the game has to offer; Elizabeth. She was the main selling point with Bioshock Infinite’s marketing and the developers really wanted us to care for the realism of a female protagonist from her intelligence, voice, movement, and behavior. They, totally succeeded in with Elizabeth because she has so much facial expression that it feels just as refreshing to see like Alyx from Half Life 2. She looks purely like a Disney princess and not once was I irritated with her because she reacts to everything so perfectly towards violence, kindness, and so much more that you would see from a real woman. No doubt, that Elizabeth was the best thing that the game has to offer. I agree with most guys that she has powers so awesome that they want to play as Elizabeth instead of Booker, however if we played as Elizabeth in first-person we can’t see those wonderful expressions of her’s.

As for the experience I was just in love with the whole adventure of understanding the rules of parallel universes and the world of Columbia, yet it’s a harsh reality. Traveling on Sky-lines got me that feeling that I really was in a roller coaster. The feeling of seeing everything below the player, soaring up in the sky, and the accelerating speed of the wind blowing (though I couldn’t feel it) just seeing the whole thing really got me that feeling like I’m really there.

CONCLUSION

And we all just thought that Bioshock was just a game about blowing shit up in a city underwater and Bioshock Infinite was the same game over again, but this time up in the air in Columbia. I am mixed with some of the gameplay that this game offers, however I am completely satisfied with the game’s plot where no one could ever see it coming.  I haven’t been so fascinated with a plot this complex since Watchmen and Metal Gear Solid because it’s something that I have discussed and (probably) argued with fans’ theory of the game’s plot because it left a lot of mysteries and we’re still waiting for a huge DLC to give us a clearer story. I’m also wishing that a DLC could actually add a lot more than just explaining the plot because there are a lot of miss opportunities to make it a brilliant game (gameplay-wise). If only they didn’t downgrade most of the best things from the past two Bioshock games, I could easily say that this is the best Bioshock game of the series, but still the original Bioshock (and System Shock 2) still holds as dominate installment of the Shock series (Both Bioshock and System Shock).

But that doesn’t mean the gameplay is at all bad, it’s just because Bioshock 1 & 2 did is so much better that I wish that it was implemented better. Let’s not forget that Bioshock Infinite has given us the pleasure of railing on rails and have nonstop shooting and the ability to make holographic objects to be physical with Elizabeth’s ability to “tear” them into our dimension. And this is a game that focused heavily on the adventure and the plot that goes along with it, unlike Bioshock 2 that had miss opportunities and focus of a multiplayer which is unnecessary. These are all the things that we’ve never done in video games before and I’m happy that the Bioshock series still does bring brand new things to a genre that I mostly hate for its lack of creativity. In fact, I can go as far as to say that Bioshock is the only series that’s actually giving life to FPS. The series gave us an amazing plot, phenomenal and original gameplay, and a breath taking experience.

Things I loved

  • Elizabeth (one of the best female characters since Jade from Beyond Good & Evil)
  • The Christian references and the beauty of using it as art
  • The Amazing Story & the BEST culmination I’ve ever seen from a video game
  • Traveling and gazing at Columbia was beautiful as Rapture
  • Traveling on Sky-Lines is wild and exciting
  • This is the only Bioshock game that actually scared me

Things I hate

  • Only wielding two weapons
  • Vigor powers are not as satisfying as the Plasmids from the previous games of the series
  • Not a single Boss fight whatsoever
  • Enemies types are a bit underwhelming
  • Making choices in the game doesn’t even matter whatsoever

The Top Lister’s video game score…  1/2 out of 5

Bioshock 2 review

Sometimes, whenever we see a fantastic setting, like Rapture, we want to come back to it and explore it even more. Bioshock caused a huge impact to the video game industry showing that FPS’s can be taken seriously as art. Surprisingly enough, the sequel, Bioshock 2, was not developed by Irrational Games but it was made by 2K Marin so it was skeptical to see the series handed to another developer. This is a game that had different characters and a different story, but all the similar experience that we want to see from what was left from Bioshock. There was so much anticipation for this game because most people felt that there needed to be more for rapture, there was an inclusion of multiplayer, and you’re playing as a genuine Big Daddy. This is my review on the sequel of the most critically acclaimed video game.

Premise

Eight years has passed since the demise of Andrew Ryan, the creator of the underwater utopia called Rapture, and the city still remains the chaos and the new focus on the game is a story of a Big Daddy named Subject Delta and the Little Sister named Eleanor that he protects from this battlefield with the Splicers. We have a new villain named Sofia Lamb and she has taken position as leader of rapture, but ten years ago she develop a mind-controlling plasmid that made Subject Delta to commit suicide in1958. This was done in part because Delta’s Little Sister, Eleanor, is actually Lamb’s daughter. Lamb was originally brought to Rapture to help psychologically-stressed citizens of the underwater city cope with the lack of sunlight and used persuasion to entice her patients into a cult called “The Rapture Family”, and attempted to spread her altruistic ideals throughout Rapture. Andrew Ryan discovered this through his spy, Stanley Poole, and had Lamb thrown in prison leaving Eleanor in the care of Grace Holloway.

Ryan’s men kidnapped Eleanor and left her in a Little Sister’s Orphanage, eventually leading to her conversion into a Little Sister. Lamb later returned to the city, reclaimed her daughter from Delta, and gained control of Rapture after Ryan’s death. Lamb guided the development of the aging Little Sisters into more dangerous Big Sisters and sent them out to the Atlantic coastline to kidnap little girls for conversion into new Little Sisters in Rapture. In 1968, Eleanor, now a teenager, has gained control over many of the Little Sisters and uses them to revive Subject Delta at a Vita Chamber. Delta is drawn towards Eleanor by their past Big Daddy-Little Sister connection. Waking up, Delta’s only desire is to be reunited with Eleanor, so the player takes control of Subject Delta (one of the best Big Daddies) and must rescue the Little Sisters and stop the Big Sisters, Sofia Lamb, Splicers, and every dangerous thing left in the city of rapture…

Gameplay

Everything that was offered in Bioshock remains in Bioshock 2 plus more. Once again this is a first-person shooter survival horror, like in BioShock, the player explores Rapture and fights off splicers, the remaining psychotic human population of the undersea city, using a combination of the environment, weapons, plasmids, and tonics. You can wield weapons such as iconic Big Daddy weapon the Drill (uses fuel as ammo), rivet gun, machine gun, shotgun, launcher, and new to the series is a hack tool. This is a gun that allows the hacking of Security Devices and Vending Machines at a distance through the use of Hack Darts. This is a significant change were players can hack on a far away distance and also the minigame hacking mode is different than the original Bioshock. Instead of going for that Pipe Mania minigame to align the pipes to the goal before the water hits the end of the connecting pipes, here the mini game requires the player to stop a quick-moving needle one or more times in the correctly colored areas of a gauge. Stopping it within a green area progresses the sequence or potentially ends it; stopping in a blue area may grant a bonus to the hacking result, landing in a white area shocks the player (dealing a small amount of damage); and landing in a red area causes a security alert.

New to the series is melee attack, which is very useful when the player is out of ammo. I admit that it doesn’t cause as much damage as I hope, but it’s useful to give your enemy one last hit to cause their death. Another thing returning to the sequel are Plasmids and gene tonics which are these  special genetic-reencoding liquids that grants the user active or passive abilities, otherwords superhuman power, and include many of those introduced in BioShock as well as new ones. As expected shooting bolt of lightning, incarceration, insect swarm, telekinesis, and ice blast made their return, but new plasmids are introduced such as hypnotize (great to brainwash enemies), scout, decoy (to trick enemies that you’re there), cyclone trap, and the best plasmid of summoning Elenor to help you in battle (available in the last act of the game). Plasmids were always important for strategically handle your enemies besides shooting as the only way to kill enemies. I praised the original Bioshock for giving that variety of Plasmid powers to deal with enemies differently, but in Bioshock 2 it’s now easy to dual wield the weapon on the right hand and the plasmid on the left hand all at once. Before it always was one way or the other, but here it was easier to use both of them at the same time in combat making more natural and effective than it ever did before.

Just like the previous Bioshock, you can buy these Plasmid, gene tonic, slots, or health/eve upgrades from the Gatherer’s Garden vending machines which are still around eight years later since Ryan’s demise. You can’t buy these things off with money, but instead you have to collect ADAM from these Little Sisters. Just like the original, they are at least more than one in almost every level/area of the game and they’re protected by the toughest enemies of the game the Big Daddies. Once you defeat them, you have a moral choice to harvesting them (evil) or, for the first time ever, adopt the Little Sister.

Now in the first Bioshock, you’ll get more ADAM for harvesting them and rescuing them gives you half the amount of ADAM, which was disappointing to get less reward for playing as the good guy (except for getting a great ending). However in Bioshock, the game actually gives you a more of an accomplishment in not harvesting them but adopting them. Once choosing adoption, the Little Sister can lead the player to corpses from whom she can extract more ADAM. While she does this, the player must defend her from splicer attacks and other foes. Once the Little Sister has collected enough ADAM, the player can then return her to an escape vent, where the player must choose to either rescue or harvest the Little Sister. Rescuing her gives the player a modest amount of ADAM but also the possibility of beneficial gifts later; harvesting her yields a large ADAM boost. Once the player has either rescued or harvested all of the Little Sisters in each level, the player will be attacked by a Big Sister. The Big Sister’s agility and resourcefulness will task the player with a difficult fight before the player can proceed further in the game. Battling them were much cooler and threatening than facing any kind of Big Daddy.

Since we’re in Rapture, the game encourages the player to explore the city of Rapture by searching for health, money, EVE Hypos, more Plasmids and gene tonics that can’t be bought, ammo, new weapons, and food to restore to health. Unfortunately, just like the original Bioshock there is no inventory system and Bioshock 2 is a game that is in need for it after all the collecting we’ve done in our playthroughs.

One of Bioshock 2’s biggest feature is the multiplayer and it’s a story-driven multiplayer mode in which the player takes on the role of a citizen of Rapture. Set in 1959, just before the events of BioShock, the player chooses to take on the role of a splicer fighting in Rapture’s civil war. The player is being sponsored by the plasmid manufacturer, Sinclair Solutions, to test out their weapons, plasmids, and Tonics in a consumer reward program. As the player progresses through the multiplayer experience, new weapons, tonics, and plasmids will be unlocked (provided by Sinclair) in addition to the story of the Rapture civil war being told. There are several different multiplayer modes such as Survival of the Fittest (free-for-all), Civil War (team battle), Last Splicer Standing (team battle with no respawn), Capture the Sister (capture the flag but the Little Sister being the flag), ADAM Grab, Team ADAM Grab, and Turf War.

As the player progresses through the multiplayer experience, new weapons, tonics, and plasmids will be unlocked (provided by Sinclair) in addition to the story of the Rapture civil war being told. There are muliplayer exclusive plasmid powers & gene tonics, weapons to unlock, and character skins to customize that all can be unlocked the more you win multiplayer battles. You’re also given your own room in multiplayer mode to choose to customize character, choose weapons, and add or change plasmids and gene tonics.  This game was a very rich multiplayer experience, but to be perfectly honest, I was not all that interested in the multiplayer inclusion of this game. I’m only enjoyed playing it if I have a group of friends who are Bioshock fans who are willing to play it with me. Bioshock 2 gameplay didn’t really offer anything new on the table other than level designs from the campaign that made online FPS multiplayer at least refreshing, but the maps all look identical from each other.  I think the focus on multiplayer in Bioshock 2 is the reason why the story isn’t as great as the first game.

Level Designs

Bioshock 2 made the player travel to places in the city of Rapture that has never been explored from the first Bioshock. Mostly, Bioshock 2 is rinse-and-repeat process of the original. We’re able to see that 20th century design everywhere in Rapture; from the buildings, rooms, menu screens, and everything else. The best thing is that you’re not traveling in any of the same areas of Rapture seen already from Bioshock 1 making it a different experience despite the fact that we’re fighting in the same corrupted utopia. One big plus on expanding the experience in Rapture is being able to travel underwater. In here, you’re able to see what underwater feels like and are able to find some alien slugs that carries ADAM and other items to collect. Now the developers could of given the player combat underwater, but sadly it’s just for the player to see outside of Rapture and there aren’t that many.

There are sections of the game that are expanded enough for the adoption mode with Little Sisters to feel stretched out, instead of being crammed in when waves of enemies come charging in. While BioShock 2 has made some stellar improvements over its predecessor, there’s no doubt that some players will still find a few issues with its overall structure — after all, even with its streamlined combat, improved AI, and exceptional presentation, BioShock 2 is still very much BioShock at its core. The game’s mission objectives remain largely unchanged, regularly asking players to backtrack through previously explored areas in hopes of finding a key, pushing a button, or meeting a designated objective.

Presentation

The visuals and characters designs are a big improvement over its predecessor. The Little Sisters actually look like little girls with and without ADAM in them, the lighting and shadow effects looked more polished, and the pacing is just as fast as ever. You can actually adjust the visuals by going in to your options menu and actually speed up the frame rate, but the unfortunate thing is that it doesn’t look natural so I keep the frame rates  at normal speed. Since this game’s main focus is between Big Daddies and Little Sisters, I got much more emotionally invested by saving the Little Sisters because they actually look like a little girl with and without ADAM in them. I really bought into that they really need help and were more innocent than were seen the original Bioshock.

Yet, I never got the sense that this game was ever scary because just like the last game, Bioshock 2 made you so powerful and easy to resurrect that I had no sense of scares that others proclaim it to be. Bioshock 2 was made because nothing was resolved after other-throwing Andrew Ryan after the first Bioshock game only to see more enemy types and Splicers as mad as ever. It’s very nice to see that familiar feeling when playing Bioshock 2 that you wanted to go there, but also it’s downfall at the same time because Bioshock 2 didn’t really offer anything that we didn’t expect like the first one did.

Sometimes the game can get so dark (visually not figuratively) that it lost a little of its charm of that gloomy atmosphere with unique colors of light that was lost from the first game. Sure the dark effects is what creates that dark environment in the series, but can we ask for some more lighting so we can actually see a better view Rapture? Even on the highest brightness setting its still a struggle to see through the darkness we encounter that are few and far between.

Since we’re given the opportunity of seeing parts of Rapture that we didn’t see before, we’re also learning some more parts of the game that were even more corrupted by the lack of leadership from Andrew Ryan and Sofia Lamb. Audio logs make their return in this game where the voice acting is just as solid as ever; giving the player more of the backstory of Rapture. It’s really awesome to see other variations of Big Daddies (like the one we’re playing as) and have a different set of challenge. Playing a Big Daddy, I really got that feeling that I was actually playing as a real Big Daddy, unlike the first game at the last act you’re just wearing a diving suit and controlled as the player normally does. In Bioshock 2, you really can feel the movement, the heaviness, and even the feeling of being a Big Daddy with the sound effects of foot steps sounding like hard iron stomps, seeing the large glove your character is wearing, the power of using the drill that wasn’t available in the original, and the occasional roars your character makes. It totally succeeds in playing the Big Daddy that we Bioshock fans love!

Conclusion

Even though we were all expecting to learn much more of Rapture and have at least a surprising story like the original did, it’s kind of like how everyone expected The Lost World: Jurassic Park to be every bit as good as Jurassic Park, but we got more of the same. Same goes for Bioshock 2 to not be quite as good as Bioshock mainly because of the lack of surprises and good storytelling. Plus, Sofia Lamb as our main villain was nowhere near as memorable as Andrew Ryan. It’s really hard not to compare Bioshock 2 with its original because that’s the whole purpose of Bioshock 2’s existence.

On the plus side, we actually had better visuals, the connection between Big Daddies and Little Sisters were more believable and emotional, and the action with duel wielding weapons and Plasmids at the same time made it more action packed. Though, I never cared for the multiplayer, at least the main campaign of getting back to Rapture was something we’ve all desired to return to. I think after already seeing Rapture and had a better experience with it in the first, it’s understandable why people forgot about this game today. It was indeed a worthy sequel and after Bioshock 2, who knows what other creative ideas is the series going to offer next. Even though that the geniuses of Irrational Games weren’t working on the Bioshock 2 project, at least I’ll give 2K Marin credit for actually capturing that very essence of Bioshock.

Things I like

  • The connection between Little Sisters and Big Daddies have more emotional value
  • It’s more rewarding to save Little Sisters as you get more ADAM
  • The combat is improved thanks to duel wielding weapons and Plasmids at once
  • Hacking is a lot easier and simpler
  • Plasmid of summoning Eleanor is awesome

Things I hate

  • Not a single boss fight what so ever
  • Sofia Lamb is a terrible and unmemorable villain
  • Multiplayer is… meh
  • No surprises and lack of good storytelling as to the original Bioshock

The Top Lister’s video game score… 4 out of 5