A Wish for Two Player

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.  

Eldest said, “It’s a save spot, come and take a picture!”

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.  

The Last Guardian

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. 

You can climb on Trico to reach new areas, by your feet or his

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!”

Cutie little gooberhead

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.  
He took those arrows for you

I hope the developers keep making many more games.  These are the games we play for. 

My Thoughts on No Man’s Sky

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.”  

Ico/Shadow of the Colossus 

If you or your kids have never played Ico or Shadow of the Colossus, you might want to consider acquiring the collection edition (remastered, high def, blah blah blah).  Here’s a nice handy link to the games on Amazon, but if you can locate it at a GameStop it’s cheaper.  These games are beautiful.  Stunningly beautiful.  The games are worth playing for the art alone, but the storylines are fantastic.  True to Japanese story telling, you are dropped into a story without much explanation and when the game is done you will have unanswered questions.  But the experience is rich and you will find yourself bonded into the experience.  

Ico is one of the only games where I do not mind the escort part of the story, which, really, is most of the story.  Early on in the game you find a girl locked in a cage.  Having just been imprisoned himself, the boy you play doesn’t want to leave her behind nor be alone.  Together you try and find a way out of the building that you have been locked in.  But she won’t move on her own, and some shadow creatures are trying to recapture her through the game.  You have to physically hold her hand to move her, help her up walls, and yes defend her from the shadow creatures.  For those of you who rolled your eyes while thinking, “OMG, another story where the girl is useless and has to be rescued,” the way she is happens to be essential to the story.  There are some things that only she can do or move.  And you definitely get the sense that the girl, whose name we learn is Yorda, is not all present in this world.   She’s faded and glowing, while your character is full color.  

While Ico is an action/puzzle/platformer, it requires you to develop your sense of bravery as you are often forced to leave Yorda alone to clear the path ahead for the two of you as she cannot go through all the obstacles you can.  You have to calm your sense of panic that the shadow creatures are going to find her the longer you are away from her.  They will find her, it’s just a matter of time, so you have to think quick to solve the puzzles while dealing with the stress of a timed event and the fear of loss of the girl, which will only get stronger as you become more attached to her.  By the end of the game, you will have bonded with Yorda. 

Shadow of the Colossus, while having the same stunning artwork, has a very different style of gameplay.  The director of the games,  Fumito Ueda has himself said that the second game was made for gamers.  There are some platforming elements, but the game is mostly known for being a boss battle, followed by a boss battle, followed by a boss battle.  

This game is more quick thinking fighting strategy, where Ico was more quick thinking puzzle solving.  Finishing Shadow of the Colossus is one of those geek badges that gamers carry around inside them.  It’s a mark of respect to have earned the ending. 

Whether it is you or your kid that plays this game (side note: these games are fun to watch someone else play, but you may find it hard to resist chiming in solutions or strategies as they are so engaging), I would be remiss if I did not let you know that some will find the endings sad.  Don’t let that stop you from playing though.  Let yourself become attached to the characters and fully immerse yourself in their stories.  You’ll be better for the experience.