Thomas Was Not Alone
Two significant things happened last night. First we went out to eat and dinner did not set well with me, causing me to want to go lay down for a bit. The second of which was that I decided to take my new Playstation Vita with me. Now I have done this before with other handhelds, but what was significant here is that thanks to Playstation Plus I had a smorgasbord of games that I could download and play that were already attached to my account. The first game I gave a shot was Terraria, which I have played a truly silly number of hours of on the PC. The game almost translates to the handheld, but not quite making it so much more frustrating of an experience especially when it comes to trying to build anything. When I decided to stop playing that, I opted to boot up a game I have heard so many things about from my friends.
Thomas Was Alone is this deceptively simple game about getting a series of different blocks with different properties through mazes. You start off with the red block Thomas, that can jump quite a bit and thanks to the magic of the narrator we find is a rather cheery fellow. You then add a series of blocks each with their own traits like the ability to float in water, or the ability to bounce other blocks higher that additionally have similar interesting traits that we learn via the narration. The game reminds me in a way of Bastion, in that the game itself is somewhat lackluster but it is the superb narration and voice acting that make it really pop out there. Thankfully this same narration is artfully displayed on screen at the same time allowing for the experience to translate hopefully to the hearing impaired.
Not A Bel Game
This game very much did not seem like a “Bel” game, as in there is no carnage, no body count… and I am forced to solve a series of structured puzzles to get through the levels. The funny thing is… I spent most of my night playing it and next thing I know it is 12:30 and I am forcing myself to stop on the above level rather than “play just one more”. There is something unbelievably charming about this game, and just doesn’t make sense when you approach it from its most simple parts…. that it is a game about a series of blocks. The game tricks us into using that most human of traits, and attributing personalities and feelings to inanimate objects. Even when the narrator is not necessarily talking from the standpoint of a specific character… as you move that block you imagine what that character might be saying in your own head.
If you are like me and a Playstation Vita owner, with a Playstation Plus subscription… I highly suggest you install the game and give it a spin. If you are NOT like me… then I highly suggest you purchase the game because even at $10 for a what is essentially a puzzle platformer… it is money extremely well spent. Nothing about this game makes sense at face value, that you should not want to care about a series of blocks on the screen in the way that you do. As you progress through the levels and are slowly being trained to face new challenges you truly do. The game does an amazing job at introducing concepts slowly and then building upon those concepts in each progressive level. Most of the levels will involve solving a challenge with a subset of blocks and each time there is an often poignant narrative that goes with it explaining how the blocks feel about being split up. I am shocked an amazed that I could feel this way about a series of abstract pixels.
Very Bel Game
The other game I played a significant amount of last night was once again Divinity II. At this point it feels like I am getting near the end, considering I am fighting through progressively larger and larger waves of mobs at a given time. This is honestly a bit disappointing, considering the early combat was extremely interesting and involved some interesting boss mechanics, and now the answer seems to be the old tried and true throw more bodies at the screen. That said I am still enjoying myself, but there are lots of things that end up frustrating me, like getting stunned by mobs that are halfway across the screen. As I have progressed through the levels, it feels like playing as anything but an archer is really a sub optimal experience. I’ve noticed that even the “Wizard” and “Healer” type mobs now fire nothing but a bow, and the overall gameplay experience at times devolves into a shooter.
I feel like maybe this is why Divinity: Original Sin did not return this game into the “behind the back” dungeon crawler. The throw waves of mobs at the player thing tends to work fairly well in a Baldur’s Gate type game, but it just feels childish when you do the same mechanic in a first person or over the shoulder style scenario. Thankfully there are still vignettes of smaller scale gameplay that work extremely well, and interesting puzzles to unlock… but the overall depth and granularity of the game seems to have decreased. There are entire zones that are made up of nothing but these giant flying fortresses that you clear first in dragon form and then can clear out on the ground. In all of them so far, it has been a focus on quantity of mobs not necessarily the quality of them. I am somewhat off the rails right now in my play through, but I am wanting to see it to the end.