Review: LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4)

Swoop

Swoop

My first encounter with LittleBigPlanet was a few years ago when my then-boyfriend and his friends bought it on a whim. I walked into our lounge room after work to find four grown men laughing like school children. “What are you playing?” I asked. “LittleBigPlanet. It’s great fun! What’s the time?” My boyfriend asked. I told him it was just after 6 o’clock.

“Oh, we’ve been playing this for about 5 hours. We should probably eat something.”

LittleBigPlanet is one of those games you can get lost in so easily, especially when you’ve got company but sadly, I don’t think that LittleBigPlanet 3 (LBP 3) is a game I’ll spend much time in.

After you’re convinced (by the wonderful voice of Hugh Laurie) to release three evil Titans (based loosely around Greek mythology) into the Sackworld of Bunkum, your Sackboy navigates the land enlisting new characters to undo the trouble you’ve caused. The new characters, named Toggle, Swoop and Oddsock add an interesting new element to the puzzle-solving side of the game with new weight and height challenges.

Introducing our new Sackfriends:

OddSock: A sackdog who can wall jump and run faster than your average Sackboy.

Toggle: Toggle can transform himself into Big Toggle (who can weigh down platforms or switches) or Little Toggle (who can run across water or fit into tight spaces.)

Swoop: A sackbird who can fly and pick up light objects and other characters (except for Big Toggle.)

Toggle

Toggle

Gameplay hasn’t changed too much with the inclusion of the new characters or items. Although things like the hook hat present a fun challenge when you’re racing along a zipline then fling yourself into some fire, which I did numerous times and generally while playing the game in front of my mum. Then she proceeded to mock me.

Get from point A to point B and collect all the things! (All of them.) Along with stickers, random point bubbles and outfits (the best part of LittleBigPlanet, let’s face it.), you’ll also collect bells to pay for things. The only things I’ve bought with these bells are more outfits, so I’m not sure what else they’re actually used for. It’s much of a muchness.

A lot of the game feels like a grind. Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop aren’t automatically unlocked, and you need to find three marbles to unlock each character. The levels are varied enough to keep you interested for a while, but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough of a pay-off to continue to unlock the other characters. Whether it’s because the game focuses on a multiplayer experience (areas in levels are only unlocked by playing with two or more people), or just a lack of pacing in the levels, the repetitive nature of unlocking your new Sackfriends makes them feel a little more like Sackenemies.

Oddsock

Oddsock

This isn’t my biggest issue with the game, though. LittleBigPlanet 3 has repeatedly failed to load or crashed my console. During initial installation, the first level after the tutorial failed to load three times and required me to reboot my PlayStation 4. The other games that I’ve played on my PS4 (Dragon Age, Grand Theft Auto, Sleeping Dogs) don’t cause this kind of malfunction with my console, nor do they freeze during gameplay. Too many times have I given up and either stopped playing LittleBigPlanet or just stopped gaming for a few hours because of the crashes.

The Stephen Fry-narrated game, with its gorgeous art-style has changed a little too much for my liking. While Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop offer an interesting new take on the puzzles, the game stops me in my tracks when it comes to enjoying it. It’ll be one of those games that I keep around when I have friends over and we wanna screw each other over. If the game doesn’t wanna screw us first.

daI-cover

Rade Reviews: Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4) Spoilers maybe?

My opinions of Dragon Age have been coloured a very murky shade of awful by the mess that is Dragon Age: Origins. In fact, just thinking about that game makes me want to go screaming into the night. Dragon Age: Origins felt like it was punishing me for not being a die-hard Dragon Age fan and nothing I did or said could make that better.

It’s surprising, with all that being said, that I’m enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition so much. There’s the recurring theme in my gaming that I don’t really enjoy the first RPG I play in a series, but get into the second instalment I pick up (please refer to my Skyrim addiction for further evidence.), although I don’t quite get what’s going on.

When a peace conference between the Templars and mages ends with a large explosion opening rifts between the human world and the Fade, the Chantry’s senior cleric, the Divine, and several mages and Templars are killed. The only survivor is your character.

When your character is discovered coming from one of the rifts with no memory of what happened, but a mark on their hand with the ability of closing said rifts, you’re enlisted by former associates of the Divine to establish an Inquisition to find out who created the Breach, close it, and establish order between the Templars and the mages. Not that any of that means much to me. I’m too busy picking flowers and being killed by Dragons to pay attention to any of the lore. That’s where I think Dragon Age really has me pegged though.

I’m not someone who has all the lore stored away in head for easy access, or always knows what’s going on, but it’s not affecting my experience in the game at all. I’m happily playing through the missions with a somewhat minor understanding of what’s going on and that works perfectly fine for me. There’s plenty of well-crafted scenery for me to explore.

Gameplay is very RPG-esque. Although the formula isn’t something you can really change. You can go through your party and select what perks and skills you’d like them to have or you can auto-level them up with the single press of a button, something which I now rely on after accidentally giving my archer a skill which requires her to use daggers. Probably should have paid more attention to what I was doing, but oh well.

Combat gameplay can go two ways. You can just go in arrows blazing, which is generally the way I play. However, you can use their tactical planning mode where gameplay pauses. In this mode you can command each character in battle and decide how they attack, defend and move. In larger battles with more enemies, this mode can be vital. Playing around in this mode in some of the smaller fights to figure out how to use it could come in handy.

Customisation is where you’ll spend an obscene amount of time. Although, I found that the character making screens took a little getting used to. You start with four races to pick from: Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Qunari, then from there on to your class: Mage, Rogue, or Warrior. For reference, Rade is an Elvish Rogue, because she’s a boss.

After you’ve picked out who you’ll be, you can choose what you’ll look like and the only real limit is your imagination. You’ve got sliders and colour wheels for days. The only thing I regret doing with my character is giving her bright purple eyes. She’s kind of pretty, but has these really bizarre purple eyes which ruin everything.

Rade’s weird purple eyes can’t ruin her scripting though. BioWare’s David Gaider once again writes some very excellent dialog for all his characters. When you’re going to spend hundreds of hours (don’t give me that look, this game is going to dig its claws into you and you’re doing to play this through several times) playing this game, crafting out well written characters is important. Each character shouldn’t feel two-dimensional and it’s something that BioWare excel at.

However, it’s a BioWare game, so it doesn’t come without a bug or two. I haven’t come any myself just yet, but a few of my friends have posted on their social media floating books, some hilarious clipping issues and rendering issues. These aren’t as bad as a few other games *cough* Assassin’s Creed *cough*, but these can get frustrating and for a game that looks as polished as Dragon Age: Inquisition, it’s disappointing.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m surprised I’m enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition as much as I am. Dragon Age: Origins causes me physical pain and it steered me clear of Dragon Age II. The only reason I picked up Dragon Age: Inquisition was sheer curiosity, and it paid off. It’s pretty to look at, I’m invested in the characters and I don’t have to be overly invested in the over-arching lore to understand the story. It’s the perfect game for die-hard Dragon Age fans or people just looking for something to invest their time in.

 

2014 Gift Guide!

beth_christmas_2007_topper

It’s that time of year again! With Christmas on the horizon, the difficult task of buying gifts becomes obvious. Being the well-skilled shopper that I am, I find buying gifts for my game-orientated friends the worst. It’s like buying shoes for someone without knowing their size.

So in the spirit of the up-coming season, I give you my guide to buying the perfect gamer gift.

Gift cards are the easiest solution for the picky gamer or someone you don’t know very well. Your friend can pick what they want without the risk of buying something said gamer already has or doesn’t want.

Games are a great gift if you know what your friend plays. Steam has a ‘wish list’ system that is a fantastic indicator. Games are ranked in the order that your friend wants them and they show up-to-date prices. If you’re buying a game for the console user, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network Store and the Wii store offer a range of games that be purchased using a credit card or a point-system.

As far as the consoles go, Xbox One and PS4 bundles are a great choice. EB Games have Xbox One without Kinect + 6 game bundles going for $529, Xbox One with Kinect + 7 games for $599 and their PS4 bundles are just as good. Several different game bundles with the black or white PS4 console available for $598. Other retailers like Big W or JB Hi-Fi will have similar bundles available, so shop around and see what you can get.

Nintendo released brand new 3DS consoles this year and they’re going for $250, gifted along with the new Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby, Super Smash Bros or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you’re going to make any gamer happy.

Big name AAA titles like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4 have been reviewing well. If your gamer hasn’t picked up one of the later year release titles, they should definitely be something to check out.

If your gamer doesn’t play video games, try to find your local tabletop games shop. The staff are generally very helpful and friendly. Check out the Youtube series Tabletop, hosted by Wil Wheaton, for some fun board game ideas. Tabletop has given my friends and I some great games to play, including Gloom, Zombie Dice and the friendship-ruining card game Munchkin. If your tabletop gamer like RPG-style games, buying the miniatures they want or a set of really cool dice will get you some quality brownie points.

If your nerd has a game in mind, but it hasn’t been released, offer to buy the pre-order for them. Some pre-orders are quite cheap and you still get some decent loot with it. If they already have a pre-order organised but haven’t paid it off yet, offer to pay the rest off. Some collector’s editions can be upwards of $150 price wise, so buying it or paying it off is always a good idea and who doesn’t want a shiny new figurine for Christmas?

I Picked The Wrong Next-Gen Console.

I picked up a PS4 a few months ago when Destiny finally launched as a full game. I was excited about Destiny after playing the beta with friends on my Xbox 360.

A white PS4 with Destiny and The Last of Us: Remastered from Dick Smith (where I work) for cheap? It was too good to be true. I’m starting to regret my decision, now.

My first console was a PlayStation. Many hours were wasted on 40 Winks, Crash Bandicoot, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and Spyro. I moved on to the PlayStation 2 and the brilliant library that came with that console.

My love affair with the Xbox started with a second-hand Xbox when I was 13 or so. I can’t remember why my Mum bought it for me, but I got Halo 2 and a few other games with it in a deal EB Games had going at the time.

It was instant, life-long love and I’ve never really looked back. My first Xbox 360 was so well “loved”, that the disc drive failed. A common fault, but for a relatively old Xbox 360, surviving the 7 years that it did was a great feat. My second Xbox is slowly gathering dust until I can be bothered to connect it to my bedroom TV. Its place in the lounge room was replaced by the PS4.

The Destiny hype suckered me into buying the PS4. My friends suckered me into buying the PS4. The price I got from work suckered me into buying the PS4.

It sits quietly on the shelf above the TV, making friends with the Blu-Ray player I bought my parents a few years ago. My PS4 is unloved. I think my PS4 was a brilliant investment, don’t get me wrong. It’s something that I think will get plenty of use in the future, but looking back on my choice, I would have waited and picked the Xbox One.

I own the Titanfall Xbox One controller, I’m considering picking up the Halo: Master Chief edition without owning the console because my dedication to the Halo series runs so deep that I’m pretty sure my blood is khaki. I want an Xbox One, but spent my money on a PS4.

Giving up the PS4 isn’t an option with plenty of quality games coming out on it in the future, but in the present, all I want is an Xbox One, Halo, Sunset Overdrive and a weekend off so I can play video games until my hands form Xbox One-shaped claw hands.

paxaus-590x535

PAX 2014 Round Up

The sad reality of things is that it’s the day after PAX and PPD (Post-PAX Depression) has already set in. I woke up this morning with a bit of a broken heart because I couldn’t take the 20 minute walk from my hotel to the Convention Centre and hang out with the coolest people I know.

So, in a vain attempt to combat the PPD blues, I thought I’d do my write up of the weekend and the mind-blowing things that happened.

The major change between 2013 and 2014 was the venue. For those who couldn’t attend PAX Aus 2013, it was held at the Showgrounds in Melbourne. Because of the more “outdoorsy” venue, moving between theatres and halls could be troublesome. Forgiveable, considering it was the FIRST PAX being held in Australia the organisers listened to the complaints and moved the event to the MCEC.

Such room.

Much success.

Wow.

But seriously, the new venue is a major improvement. While the queueing is still an “issue” (tens of thousands of people trying to get into one place? THERE’S GOING TO BE A LINE.), the larger theatres and rooms made sure that if you waited in line, you were going to get a seat. It was a great improvement over last year.

Friday.

keynote edit

Pete Hines – Meat Shield

Friday was Rade-Sim day. By that, I mean that I was in civvies with a plumbob headband. My take on “casual cosplay”. Friday was spent exploring the convention, meeting people and attending panels. The first two I checked out were the Keynote (hosted by Pete Hines) and the Q&A by the ever hustlin’ Mike and Jerry, creators of Penny Arcade. Pete Hines had an insightful look into what PR in video games industry is like. His keynote was full of stories from his career and all the ways that Bethesda has grown. Oh, and horse armour.

The format for the Q&A was different to last year and I’m thankful for that. Robert Khoo picked out questions from The Internet for Mike and Jerry to answer, and were categorised by the type of question that was asked. Red envelopes were for more “serious” questions and white envelopes for “light-hearted” questions. A running joke of the panel was that white envelopes were a lucky dip of serious and light-hearted questions. But it meant that some guy couldn’t go on for 10 minutes about his telescope (check out the Q&A from last year) and bore everyone to death.

I got to spend time hanging out with my friend Tehkella (who writes good shit. Check it). She lives far away, which makes me sad but PAX brings us together. Which is what PAX is really all about.

With that major block of panels out of the way, I checked out the rest of the expo. The first place I headed was to was the Walk-Thru Walls booth to see the guys there. I met them last year and they’re cool kids. They also let me review for them, so that’s awesome. Then begun the wandering.

Wandering around the Xbox booth, through to the Cards Against Humanity area and just… around. I got lost in the expo hall. Listening to outrageously loud dance music, wondering how the fuck you get an enormous tank into the middle of a expo hall (no, seriously. Magic?) and just admiring all the fantastic cosplay. I’d managed to kill a few hours, but I hadn’t destroyed enough minutes to make it to the next panel. Cue the return home to my hotel and a quick costume change for my next panel. Little did I know, the next panel would be the highlight of my… month? Year? Probably writing career.

The panel was “The Realities of Writing About Games.” 5 people were about to destroy the dreams of a theatre full of people. It was a learning experience about what the people I want to work for want in your work. I found out I need to improve a bunch of my skills. But the best was yet to come.

The highlight for my PAX weekend was meeting Mark Serrels. He’s the editor for Kotaku AU and porridge enthusiast. I got to tell him about how he messaged me after an article (and subsequent comments) about some horrible shit at E3 and told me that I shouldn’t listen to the horrible people and keep going. This is something that has stuck with me through everything. This industry isn’t kind, but knowing someone believes in you is something to cling to, especially in the desperate times.

I told him this at the end of the panel, and he was just gobsmacked. Or, I think he was. But apparently I’d struck a chord with him because he wrote about me in a Kotaku article. [ insert fangirling here. ]

Everything after that was just… a bonus.

Saturday.

Cosplay day 1. I spent the morning wandering again, but this time dressed as a buzzaxe-wielding psycho. Had a few photos taken, screamed about poop at the top of my lungs (worth it!) and just doing normal con junk.

I decided to head off to a panel about Fake Nerds, featuring my friend Jimmy and hosted by my friend Jessica. Unfortunately, Jess’s schedule was all screwy and she couldn’t attend. But the panel was fantastic and by the packed room, it was clearly a hot topic.

Walking home after the panel, I hit the post-spring carnival race crowd full of drunks and then found one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Pro-tip to everyone reading this: Don’t call the cosplayer wielding a buzzaxe fat. The temptation to smack your face with it is NEARLY overwhelming.

Saturday night made up for drunk, asshole guy because I got to hang out with some friends at a really creepy restaurant and a really cool bar. Lots of drinking and impromptu karaoke.

Sunday

Whee~ Sunday! Sunday was the day I was looking forward to. After a late night and a VERY early morning, I headed to my friend’s hotel room so we could get into our Borderlands gear and go to the Gearbox panel.

After a superb Gearbox panel (free games, woo!) and a huge Borderlands cosplay group photo, we headed off to the Gearbox signing and got to meet the Gearbox crew and a photo with Randy Pitchford.

groupAfter that, we stopped at the Smithe booth so Maya could drop her bag off for work later and photos at the Xbox booth and 2K booth in front of their “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel” wall panel… thing and trying to find the massive cosplay group shot. There were like… 60 of us at least in this photo and that was just the people who’d found out about it in various Facebook groups or word of mouth.

I met people I’ve been stalking heavily investigating on Facebook and take photos with them and scream about meat bicycles and junk. It’s the most amazing feeling to growl “I LIKE MY LOOT LIKE I LIKE MY BABY STEAKS… RAAAAAARE” with another dude and immediately become friends because of it.

PAX Australia is one of those things that you wonder about what it’ll be like and have all these expectations and then when you get there, you see a sign that says “Welcome home” and that’s what it feels like. It’s home. There are 30,000 cousins in this family who enjoy the same stuff you do and you all bond over that, it’s the best feeling ever.