Fall Gaming: MGS V, Lara Croft GO, Super Mario Maker, and more

As of last Wednesday, fall is officially upon us (or at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere).  I can already feel the summer heat beginning to chill, and my mood has turned with it.  Consequently, this will be a somewhat lazy post with lots of rambling and little focused commentary.  When I was much younger, I actually really enjoyed the fall.  Where I grew up, the cool of fall was often a welcome relief from the hot stickiness of summer.  But somewhere along the way I’ve come to find the fall chill to be rather dispiriting, and the older I get, the more I feel like I’ve become a creature of spring and summer.  But the good news is, video games tend to be great in the fall, so at least I have a lot of games to look forward to, and that brightens up my mood.

Metal Gear Solid V

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Right now, I’m deep into Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.  I actually picked this up on launch day, but only began playing this last week.  Someone told me it was best to play Ground Zeroes first, and fortunately, I had that from PS+ on the PS4.  Man, I knew that game was short, but I don’t think I fully realized that it was that short.  If I did, I would probably have beat it a long time ago.  Unfortunately, I’m playing Phantom Pain through Steam, so I’m not sure if I can pull through my Ground Zeroes save file through Konami’s servers and get the goodies that come with that.

I’m about 10 hours into Phantom Pain and really digging it so far.  I’ll be honest, I lost interest in the MGS series after Guns of the Patriots, a game which I really hated.  That game just wasn’t fun to me.  They were trying to evolve/modernize the gameplay of MGS beyond the original top-down games, but I just don’t think what they came up with was very fun to play.  It also doesn’t help that they took the convoluted ridiculousness of Sons of Liberty and cranked it up by an order of magnitude.  With Peacewalker, they took that new formula and tweaked it a lot (and added Monster Hunter style boss fights), and while I didn’t hate that game, I didn’t like it enough to finish it.  I think finally with Phantom Pain they’ve created a truly modernized MGS game that is really fun to play.  As an open world stealth/action game, the result is something that feels very different from the first 3 MGS games, but it’s so well-designed that I don’t mind that much.

MGSV has gone a long way to restore a lot of my excitement for gaming.  I was really looking forward to Arkham Knight this summer, and the awfulness of the PC version left me really disappointed.  I entertained the idea of buying the PS4 version, but I was just so annoyed about the whole ordeal that I swore off the game completely.  Part of the reason I wasn’t really all that excited for MGSV was because I expected it to launch in a severely broken state, especially around all the calamity that has been going on with the team behind the game.  But this seems to have actually been a very smooth release.  Even more so exciting is how well the PC version has come out.  I don’t think I expected so much from a team that appears so inexperienced with this platform, but the PC version runs very well.  Long story short, this game has gone a long way to restoring some of the faith I’ve lost in major releases.

Lara Croft GO

Lara Croft GO

I just finished Lara Croft GO.  I had heard good things about the game, and the real thing did not disappoint.  I’ve always thought turn-based and grid-based games were a good match for mobile and have been a bit disappointed that more console game translations to those devices don’t use such a structure.  These types of games work so much better with a touch screen interface than games that try to use a virtual controller.  

Lara Croft GO kind of reminds of a GBA game in a way.  Back then handheld gaming was a lot more technologically cruder than console gaming, with handhelds still focusing on 2D gaming and console focusing on 3D gaming.  Consequently, designers had to get really creative with the ways in which they translated their big 3D console games to a 2D handheld game.  Lara Croft GO is similar as it plays nothing like a standard Tomb Raider adventure game, but rather it takes the elements of those bigger games and converts them into a form that is more friendly to the mobile platform.

In Lara Croft GO, essentially all the elements of Tomb Raider, combat, puzzle solving, and platforming, are converted into a turn-based puzzle game with grid-based movement.  Lara takes a turn to move from node to node in a level, and after she moves, the enemies and traps in the level take their actions.  So the turns work sort of like how an old-school roguelike RPG works, the player takes their turn and then the dungeon takes its turn.  Maneuvering Lara safely to the end of a level takes some puzzle-solving.  For instance, if you walk onto a space adjacent to an enemy, they will attack Lara.  But if she’s on an adjacent space that the enemy isn’t facing, she’ll be okay, and in her next turn she can move onto the enemy space and kill it.  Some enemies will chase Lara if she crosses their line of sight, and this is sometimes needed to lure them away from blocking the way forward or to get them to step on a switch that needs to be activated.

I had a lot of fun with Lara Croft GO, and I highly recommend it.  The game is $4.99, but there are no microtransactions needed to win the game.  The only in-app purchases  are additional costumes, but you can also unlock more costumes by picking up collectibles strewn about the game.  In addition, you can pay for “solutions” to each level if you’re stuck, but I never found this necessary.  The later puzzles are far from easy, but it never got frustratingly difficult.  I would say it’s actually one of those rare games that is just “perfect” in difficulty.  And besides, if you do get stuck, I’m sure you can just YouTube the solution rather than paying for it.

Super Mario Maker

SMM6

I continue to play Mario Maker from time to time.  I’m not quite as enamored with it as I was that first week, but it’s become a pick-up-and-play game for me.  The perfect game for when I only have a small amount of time to play.  I haven’t posted any new levels since my last post, but I’m working on two that I hope to finish very soon.  I feel like these might have a little better difficulty tuning than my previous designs, but, of course, I have no way to judge that beyond my own feelings.

One other thing, I’ve started watch this game on Twitch a little.  I’m not usually a big Twitch watcher, but I find that SMM streams often show off little things about designing levels that I didn’t know before.  

Games I look forward to playing 

With the year winding down, we’re starting to get into the big release season for games.  Or at least this used to be the big release season for games.  There’s been a growing trend for a while now of Jan.-Mar. being the big gaming season, since so many games targeted at holiday release get delayed to these months.  

MGS V is mainly on my mind right now, but I hope to play the recently released Until Dawn soon as well.  Going forward I believe the two biggest games for me for the rest of the year are going to be Fallout 4 in November and Just Cause 3 in December.  These three open world games (MGSV, F4, JC3) are probably going to keep me occupied for a long while.  Most big releases right now seem to be really long open world games in the 30-50 hour range.  It’s strange how not that many years ago, during the middle of the 360/PS3 generation, there was some controversy that arose regarding how short games were getting.  Most of the big-name action games were averaging single player campaigns in the 5-8 hour range.  Now it seems like games are starting to get a lot bigger again, like what many of them were in the PS1 and PS2 generation.  Maybe it’s just a sign of how competitive the market for games has become.  If you’re a company wanting to sell games in $60 boxes, then you really need to pack a lot of content in there to stand out and capture gamers’ attention from your competitors.  

I may also pick up Triforce Heroes in October.  I really liked A Link Between Worlds, but I’m not so sure yet about this co-op focused game.  But lately I’ve realized that I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to Nintendo games, so I have a feeling I’ll probably cave in if it gets decent word of mouth.  There’s also Fatal Frame V on the Wii U.  I first got into the Fatal Frame series last year, and I’m a little curious about this new entry.  But the game has been out for a while in Japan, and I’ve heard no word of mouth about it either way, positive or negative, so I honestly have no idea if it’s going to be worthwhile or not.  It also doesn’t help that it’s a full priced release that’s going to be digital-only, and I’m fairly hesitant to spending that much money on downloadable games from Nintendo’s outmoded online storefront. 

Well that’s all I have to say for now.  Other than the new releases I’ve mentioned above, I plan to play a few older horror games for the Halloween season, but hopefully I’ll be able to write more about that in the future.  

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Posted on September 28, 2015, in Essays and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I have Ground Zeroes thanks to PS Plus too. I wasn’t willing to pay for something that isn’t much longer than a demo.

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    • I actually pre ordered Ground Zeroes and picked it up the day it came out. I was oblivious to the fact that the game was just a short mission for Phantom Pain. The GameStop employee warned me it was going to be short, and by the time I brought it home I wasn’t even really excited to play it anymore. In fact I let a friend borrow it later that day and I still haven’t gotten it back haha. Thankfully it came with Phantom Pain as a pre order bonus on Steam, and I spent the entire night before the release of MGSV playing Ground Zeroes and I was actually pretty satisfied with it. The main mission was fun, and did a good job of setting up the story, but all the side ops and stuff were actually really fun for me. Surprisingly I was able to clock in a little over 10 hours, and I got some bonus goodies (including Hideo Kojima as a Mother Base staff member!) which was pretty cool. All things considered, I consider the purchase justified, but had I not enjoyed the post game content, I would have been pretty bummed…the GZ mission was really damn short lol.

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      • I liked GZ well enough. Not as much as I’m liking Phantom Pain, but it was good for it is. Sort of wish I had preordered on Steam so I could have GZ there. I guess I just find GZ to be such an odd product, and I’m curious what the thinking was that went into making it. When it was first shown off, it seemed like it was going to be a much bigger game, and it was only till right before release that it seemed like people realized that it was “demo-sized.”

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  2. I am having so much trouble beating your Mario Maker creations haha! They’re all great though, I think I finished crawling caverns….or came close if not. I’m compliling a list of great SMM stages to share, and that one will be on there for sure! Sad to hear it’s lost a little bit of it’s luster…I’m currently glued to it haha, but I bought a game called Jotun off steam today, was thinking of taking a Mario Maker break.

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    • Ewww, didn’t realize they were so hard. Sorry about that. Are there like any specific points that are creating trouble? I dropped a new one a few days ago, a “haunted forest” level, which I tried to make much easier than my others. The advice I’ve seen getting posted a lot around the internet is to take your level when finished and then make it 50% easier, since as the level designer, you perceive it as easier than actual players will. Of course, I always run into the fear that I’m making my level too easy, and thus it’ll be kind of boring. So it’s a hard balancing act. Anyways, I’m still enjoying the game, its just I only pick it up on nights when I’m not in the mood for MGS V.

      I’ve seen some buzz on Jotun, as well, and dropped it in my Steam wishlist. I would be interested to know how it is once you’ve played it.

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      • Oh no, I think it’s awesome! I’ve been playing mostly on my game pad and my crappy 19 inch TV from 4 years ago lol, we were robbed a few weeks ago and I’ve brought all my consoles (which I thankfully got back from a pawn shop….we got a really good police officer!) In my bedroom, but I switch over to the spare TV when my gf gets home from work. I am bringing my other big TV in my room tonight though, I’m just to blind for the old one and it’s impossible to play platformers on haha. I’ve had a few people play my first level, but it has a low completion rate 😦 I had to spice it up after watching my gf exploit all the stuff I thought would be a challenge and I made it too hard I think 😦 Going to pick up MGSV on ps4 today though!

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      • Sorry to hear about that. When you say you got it back from a pawn shop, do you mean they found the actual consoles that were stolen from you? That’s very lucky.

        I just remembered to finish your Mario Maker level. I especially liked the part at the end with the clown car flying through the saw blades.

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      • Ugh. It’s a long story…I left my house and walked across the street at about 11AM to grab some caffeine, the sun was shining! When I came back about 15-20 mins later my door was wide open. My first thought was oh my god, the cats, and then I noticed my TV was on the ground, my xbox one, wii u (except the power supply that got left behind) and my ps4 were all missing…it looked like they were in a pretty big hurry though. After I made sure my animals were safe, I walked outside to see if I could at least get a look at the guys, and there was already a police officer out there who told me to put my hands up!…I then had to tell him what happened, and gave him my best description of all the vagrants that sleep in the abandoned building on our block. Sure enough they caught the guy trying to pawn my xbox and my ps4 down the street a day or two later – with my ID no less. (he took my wallet off the table too) I didn’t get my wii u back, I assume he wasn’t able to get money for it without the power cord, but I did get my xbox one & ps4 back! Kind of a horrible way to figure out that our loc was broken, but thankful no one was hurt. My gf replaced my wii u for me right away, which was awesome. All things considered I got SUPER lucky. I’m thankful the neighbors called the police too – the guy who responded ended up being pretty cool, we talked about Mario Maker and Halo 5 lol, he promised he’d help me get my games back, and I’m grateful he actually followed through. We’ve been wanting to move, but now I feel like we HAVE to move. It sucks, this is such a great neighborhood, but that building is dangerous and I don’t feel safe leaving my stuff here anymore 😦

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  3. I am interested in Metal Gear Solid V and Lara Croft GO. I enjoyed Metal Gear Solid 2, 3 and Twin Snakes, but never played the fourth one. As a result, I do not know how the story ended from the second game or how the third game links to the others (other than it features Big Boss, a central, though unseen, character from the other games. I am also interested to see a handheld Tomb Raider game. The description to the game seems different to the other entries in the series and turn-based action may be enjoyable.
    I was interested to read you opinions on the length of games. I found there was a time when games were shorter. It seemed like the games could be completed within a few weeks, rather than the longer time needed to complete slightly older games (but not much earlier games, which did not use saves and seemed to be designed to last a hour or so). This was illustrated by Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. A remake of the first Metal Gear solid game, this game needed two discs to fit the story, while other games of the series were available as one disc.

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  4. To be honest, MGS V isn’t that heavy on story, which is kind of odd for a Metal Gear Solid game. Or at least it hasn’t been so far. And it’s a continuation of Big Boss story, taking place in the 1980’s, so I don’t think knowledge of the 4th game is really all that critical.

    I’ve never actually played Twin Snakes, as I didn’t have a Gamecube at the time. I didn’t realize it came out on multiple discs.

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  5. I loved Lara Croft Go. Such a fun little title. I have played Super Mario Maker, but haven’t dug into the creation aspect yet. Not feeling creative I guess. I will have to try your levels though.

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  6. Super Mario Maker’s on the christmas to-play list – can’t wait!
    I’m also really interested to see how No Man’s Sky takes off (pun indubitably intended); sounds like it’s promising a lot that, if done well, could be a landmark in gaming. And grand fun.

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