So I’ve Finished Owlboy, Her Story, The Room, and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

I’ve been less than diligent in continuing this series on games I’ve played and my thinking thoughts I have about them. So here’s a short grab-bag of some recent and not-so-recent completions.

Owlboy

It was a while ago I played this, but what I remember about this shooter-platformer was its charm, its easy climb up the difficulty curve, how pretty it was, and how smoothly it ran. It was exactly as long as I wanted it to be, the characters were fun and empathetic, and I only had to repeat the final boss four times. (I am not the best at video games)

I vaguely remember that there was a completionist percentage mechanism for collecting coins or something that I didn’t enjoy (I went through an area several times and couldn’t find the three coins I was missing), but that didn’t detract from the experience.

Her Story

Mystery video games are often like point-and-click adventures. Try everything everywhere until you progress, then repeat. Through the necessity of giving you what you need to tell the video game you’ve solved it, you can accidentally spoil the mystery for yourself. And if you’ve solved the mystery, but don’t have the one piece you need to prove it to the game, it’s frustrating. Mark Brown covers it in this excellent episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit:

Her Story gives you a database full of interview clips chopped into pieces and indexed by the words the interviewee speaks. Type “murder” and you get all the clips where the word “murder” is mentioned. Through listening for key words and repeated phrases you can dig through the database and watch these clips to piece together a complex story of who murdered whom and why.

It’s ingenious, but imperfect. How do you then prove to the game that you’ve solved it? How, other than by not ending, can the game explain to you that you missed something?

There’s a mechanism in the game I didn’t experience where, after watching enough of the clips, a chat window pops up and gives you the last piece of the story before it ends. I didn’t experience it because I already thought I had it all worked out.  And then I checked a wiki and found out I was right… but the game didn’t know I had it. And I couldn’t prove my knowledge to it.

An interesting piece of art, this game. I look forward to seeing what refinements the follow-up “Telling Lies” will have when it arrives (if it arrives).

The Room

A point-and-click puzzle box game. Far shorter than I thought it’d be, and far less interesting. I’d recommend Windosill over The Room: it has a much more approachable and appropriate-to-the-mechanics tone… and most crucially its toy puzzles are far more rewarding to tease apart (it reminds me a lot of The Manhole, of all things).

So, uh, yeah. Play Windosill and The Manhole.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

A worthy successor to the first game, this is a charming JRPG romp with a fiendishly-diverting kingdom-building mechanic. I do love to watch those numbers go up.

It is comfortably easy on Normal, the hardest thing about it is the grind in the postgame. I don’t mind it, though, as the atmosphere is aided by it.

On the negative side is the sadly-mandatory squad-based strategy portions. Uneven difficulty and underwhelmingly-undeveloped mechanisms made for a shallow experience. There was also the Tactic Tweaker for weighting how much money vs loot you get from battles or whether you’re stronger against fire or ice enemies… but it was introduced and then abandoned, so I mostly just forgot it was there.

All in all a lovely way to spend some dozens of hours, with visuals that maintain a Studio Ghibli style without just slapping a cell shader on the GPU and calling it a day.

Next:

I’ll probably pick up the demo to Octopath Traveller as it’s right in my wheelhouse… though its similarity to I Am Setsuna might make it a game my wife plays instead. (and its price might make it something we wait to buy in any case).

I tried to start Tacoma, but my computer refuses to play past the intro without seizing up. Come to think of it my computer had problems with The Room, too, but mostly in the performance angle, not stability. Maybe something’s up on my PC.

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