When I read about parents who are hesitant to let their kids play video games…well there are a LOT of things run through my mind, but usually the starting point is why wouldn’t you give them a new way to activate and expand their minds. Shortly after that we come to this idea:
One of the saddest trends in games is the lack of couch co-op games. Yes, there are games out there that allow for two or more players to sit on the same couch and play a game together on the same system (Mario and Sackboy being two good options), but there seems to be a trend, with the underlying smarminess of greed, that is pushing towards not being able to play together without owning two different systems.
When we heard at Brothers was coming out, my littlest got very excited. To be able to play a game with his big brother is always one of his favorite things. To be able to play a game with his big brother playing a big brother and him playing a little brother is near perfection to him. Sadly, this game is a one player game, where the brothers are controlled by separate joy sticks on one controller.
I got the game for them anyway. It has excellent reviews and looks to be clever in terms of puzzles and plot. In the game, the brothers set out to find the water of life for their sick father, and must work together through their individual strengths to find it. For example, the little brother can squeeze into places the big one can’t, while the big brother can swim and boost the little one to high places.
While the boys are having a blast with the game, it has been hard on the kids to have the game not to be two player. The eldest said the game would play great if it was two player, but is resigned to play alone. The littlest, on the other hand, is convinced that they could play the game together. On one controller. Smooshed up against each other, elbow to elbow, left-hander and right-hander each controlling one joy stick.
I received The Last Guardian as a preorder for my birthday. It was actually the reason we bought a PS4. As a parent and a mom, I do not go out and buy every game or console when it first comes out. Some yes, but most of the time I wait for the cost to come down and, when it comes to consoles, the selection of games to be bought as used copies to be large. As it happens, there was a good deal on the PS4 for Black Friday so we grabbed it.
Like most people who had played and loved Ico/Shadow of the Colossus, I had been waiting for this game. It kept getting pushed back, but we were patient. And I can say it was worth the wait. This is a linear companion game, so don’t expect it to be expansive or long or full of mindless level grinding. Instead you will find this game to be beautiful, challenging, compelling, and bonding. You wake up as a boy trapped in a cave with a chained beast, known as a Trico. You free him and he creates a path forward out of the cave and eventually out of the valley you are both stuck in. You must win his trust, and for all of his size, he is afraid of you. More accurately, he is afraid of the master of the valley and it’s minions, whom to his eyes you resemble at first. You will have to find a way to defeat what scares him and in return he will defeat the enemies who try to harm you. As you gain his trust you will be able to call him, direct him, and encourage him. The game’s beautiful art is highlighted in marvelous scenes you are rewarded with each time you gain more of Trico’s trust.
While the game is a visual puzzle, you will not be left without clues. The retelling of the boy’s story from his adult self will provide clues when you reach a new area if you wait long enough or seem unsure of what to do. Trico will also sometimes behave as if he is a cat and you are a a smaller and stupider cat, which can be hilarious. This acts as your second clue system. At one point Trico sat batting at a chain that I knew I need to do something with, I just hadn’t determined what yet. It was as if he was not only fascinated with playing with this thing, but also saying, “Hey! This. This is what you need. Yes. Over here. This thing. Don’t you see it? Hey!”
Still the best part of this story, and it’s a really good story, is the bond you create with Trico. You will learn why he is there, why he was chained, who brought you here and for what purpose. In the end you will both fight for each other, sacrifice for each other. When enemies appear, he will protect you. When he gets hurt, you will help him. When barriers appear, you will remove them. And then all to soon, you’re free. Please watch through the end of the credits. Keep watching even when it seems fully over. The last cut scene is so worth it. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until it started.
I hope the developers keep making many more games. These are the games we play for.
I noticed something while the kids were playing games this weekend. The cold weather plus rain made for a perfect time for the youngest to finish Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time and the eldest to work on LoZ Skyward Sword. And of course with us being all social with our games, we watch each other play. Even though sometimes each of us wanders off to do something else, we always wander back to encourage the player, laugh at the game’s humor, and simply enjoy the plot of the game being played. Mostly I watch without comment, though if I asked I may give a hint, or not, depending on the skill level of the puzzle stumping the player and on whether it’s just a curious kiddo who wants to know what they would find out by playing the game. Then there’s the boys. Eldest encourages the youngest and vice versa, but they also do this other thing. When the eldest is playing, I have to tell the youngest, “no spoilers!” so he doesn’t wreck a puzzle or the plot development for the eldest. And when the youngest is playing? I end up having to tell the eldest, “no backseat gaming!”
I willingly admit I am not good with FPS (first person shooter for the uninitiated). The first time I tried to play Halo I shrieked and tossed the controller sideways when an alien popped up in my vision. I have gotten better at it. I learned how to operate the look control separately from the walk control. Learned how to aim better. Learned to shoot while backing away from the thing coming at me, or strafe, or simply turn tail and run. But it’s still not really my style of gameplay. I much prefer third person with the camera backed out so I can see what my character is doing. And I also tend to prefer non realistic weapons or magic if you got it. But despite all of that, I got curious about a game. A game with a cutie cartoon mascot and a post-apocalyptic world: Fallout 4
This is not a game for the kids. Nor is it a game to play when the kids are around. I’m not even sure I should be playing it. I definitely yelped, jumped, and what have you as I played it in my house…alone…in the daytime…on a dark, grey, winter’s day….
These are the texts I sent my husband yesterday on my second day with the game. The game is eerily set in my hometown area.
- I just discovered Walden Pond.
- I am so fucking lost. I just found Lexington.
- And I just screamed out loud.
- No no no no
- This game is terrifying.
- I’m lost. I don’t know how to get home to my good armor suit thing.
- Corpses chased me.
- I am being a total chicken and waiting for the storm to end and the sun to come out before I go after new enemies.
- Fuck I just got bombed.
- Got an achievement for that too. “Touchdown.”
Today I found my map function. Looks like I’ll keep trying to make my way to Fenway, or as it’s called in Nuka Cola world, Diamond City.
No Man’s Sky had a very bad year last year. It ended up garnering the top spot for “Most Disappointing Game” on lots of game of the year lists. A quick google search will explain what went wrong. A small indie company with a great idea for a game which was picked up by a larger gaming company. When the gaming community as a whole found out about the concept for the game, their imaginations went wild. A storm of expectations followed and when the game came out it did not live up to the hype. Some individuals felt that the trailers that were shown to them were outright lies compared to the game that was delivered. There are lots of articles out there on the causes of the disappointment, including a particularly good one where the writer pointed out that the biggest disappointment is that with the game falling so far short of expectations it becomes all that much harder for a large game company to take a risk on a new style of gameplay or on an indie company. And believe me when I say that is bad. It’s hard to find the new and creative in a market that is built so solidly on games that are vetted and styles that are known to sell well. I mean who would take a risk on a Katamari style game when they could just produce another shooter and rake in the money.
We bought No Man’s Sky for one of our kids for Christmas. I was looking for a game that fit his interests and his style of gameplay. We checked the reviews for the game and saw the mediocre scores and we asked one of our trusted Gamestop managers (we have two) what her thoughts on the game were. The game reads as space exploration. Which seemed to hit the nail on the head for a kid who likes science and, well, exploration. This is a kid who wants to complete everything on a level. Giving him a game where he can infinitely search and there is always more to discover, with the added bonus of science, really seemed like a win. The manager we were talking with confirmed that there were some hiccups when the game came out, but the company seemed responsive and there was already a patch for the game to help make up for some of the initial concerns. So we brought it home.
I think that it helps that we really had no expectations for the game. We didn’t expect it to be something grand and unattainable. We weren’t expecting an action adventure. We didn’t really care if he met and communicated with other explorers in the game, at least not to start. We thought it would be cool if he could explore to his heart’s content. And really, this is what he got. The algorithms that make up the game, so far, have not had a whole lot of variation in terms of what each planet looks like or what the creatures on each planet looks like, but he’s been having fun harvesting plutonium and carbon and various other items to repair his ship and build his space station. It’s very zen. And for him (and me – I got to have an account, too) it’s engaging and enjoyable.
So here it is. I recommend the game. I think it’s fun and so does boyo number 1. If you have a kid who likes space or exploration or even just science, I would give it a shot. Be prepared for a calmer gaming experience. There is danger from the risk of the wildlife and hostile ships killing your character, but for the most part it’s harvest, mine, build, walk, discover, walk some more, fly through space, “Ooo look a new planet! I shall claim it for my own.”