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Video Game Review: Observer

August 26, 2017 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off
ObserverFuture’s so bright ya gotta wear…. a, um, a colander?

It’s no accident that developer Bloober Team pegged Rutger Hauer to play the lead role in its newest release, Observer, as the game features the same type of story-based sci-fi as Blade Runner, which starred Hauer opposite Harrison Ford decades earlier. It isn’t the first game to ape aspects of Ridley Scott’s classic, but it does so quite well.

CONTROLS (4.25/5)

With a heavy focus on investigation and only a few moments where you need to move with anything resembling haste, Observer just needs its controls to be competent, and they are. Most of your time will be spent toggling between your two enhanced vision modes: Bio and EM. The former allows you to see and scan organic material while the latter looks for electronic signatures to examine.

Our only issues with those are related to visual clarity, and the rest of your options are straightforward as you can sprint (albeit at a fairly leisurely pace), crouch and interact with various objects. There’s a mini-game found on in-game PCs as well where you’ll escape spiders and collect treasure. It’s primitive but turn based so there are no issues there, either.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (2.75/5)

We’ll give an approving nod to the world design and unsettling nature of your dives into the minds of various people, but at a nuts and bolts level Observer is ugly. Nearly the entire game is spent poking around a dark, grungy apartment complex or the truly bizarre “flashbacks” you encounter when you jack into a subject’s consciousness.

Making things even worse is that you’ll need one of the two filters on for a substantial chunk of your time, and they muddy up an already bleak and seemingly monochromatic world. At a practical level it works alright since items to check will glow, but straining to see what’s going on becomes exhausting at some level the longer you play.

Hauer leads a pretty solid group of voice actors that help lay out the game’s dark story. There’s a good number of people to talk to (through apartment doors) and stories to hear, and the dialogue is generally well written. The soundtrack is unremarkable.

GAMEPLAY (3.75/5)

Set in Poland circa the late 21st century, Observer casts you as Detective Lazarski (Hauer), who conducts his work by hacking into the minds of suspects/witnesses via the Dream Eater. Augmentation is the new norm in this futuristic world, which has endured both war and a digital plague, allowing a company known as the Chiron Corporation to take root as the region’s de facto government.

While sitting in his patrol vehicle, Lazarski gets a bizarre phone call from his estranged son, Adam, and decides to investigate the source of the call: a dilapidated apartment complex. Upon your arrival you discover a crime scene with a dead body, though it cannot be positively identified. After a lockdown is triggered, you have no choice but to investigate what happened, and hopefully find your son.

Outside of a few moments there is no action to be found. This is a psychological thriller/mystery that tasks you with unraveling its ever-expanding story. It’s interesting and well told, but the actual investigating would’ve benefitted from a better interface as the filters and constant digital hash that accompanies your desynchronization eventually becomes wearying.

It’s a pretty claustrophobic experience as well, in that the vast majority of the game takes place within the same dark apartment complex with its narrow hallways and repetitive door clusters. There are times where it’s atmospheric and creepy, but eventually you figure out nothing is going to happen in the real world and it loses its edge.

Hacking into the minds of the victims — a practice that’s strictly forbidden — creates some totally bizarre trips through dream worlds. It’s completely abstract, showing collections of images or weird locations rather than straight memories of previous events, though there are nuggets to decipher within. They also play host to most of the game’s creepiest aspects.

At times, some of that creepiness is accentuated by the grainy visuals and frequently changing locations, but at others it becomes more of a distraction where the sequences drag on too long and feel too disconnected from reality. While we don’t want to dwell on the graphics, we keep circling back to the feeling that a little more clarity would’ve really helped.

Beyond the main case there are a few secondary objectives you can investigate, and you’re free to talk to a number of residents, though you’ll never see them, to flesh out the world. There’s also a fairly clever mini-game found on the various PCs you come across. Both help pad out the game’s length and are worth pursuing.

OVERALL (3.75/5)

Observer tells an interesting story, building toward a satisfying conclusion, but it would’ve benefitted from cleaner graphics and more diversity in the locations.

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Video Game Review: Thimbleweed Park

August 24, 2017 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
You’re either going to love or hate Thimbleweed Park. It’s a point-and-click adventure with some obtuse inventory puzzles that require taking notes and working through them. For some people, that will be fantastic. For others, it’s frustrating and rage inducing.
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Video Game Review: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

August 21, 2017 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off
As an unnamed hero you end up shipwrecked on Gemea, an island inhabited by friendly folks and critters that are being intruded upon by a mysterious fog known as the murk. In the broadest sense, it’s your quest to discover the origin of the murk, learn how to eliminate it and then go about assembling and/or repairing the devices necessary to do so.
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Video Game Review: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

August 17, 2017 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
While Final Fantasy X’s remaster — and indeed, a number of remasters from the PS2 era — suffer from the scaling process to HD, FFXII is fortunate that it came late in that console’s cycle and its models pushed the graphical power of the PS2. Because of that, the game looks exquisite.
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Video Game Review: Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two, Episode 2

August 16, 2017 | by Herija Green | Comments (0)
As has become a staple of the series, the moment one foe falls another rises in its place, and to that end we’re (re)introduced to the Admin, who now inhabits a different body but is no less powerful. He’s playing almost a watered down version of The Joker throughout much of the episode, making light of your friends and your attachment to them.
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