So – Easter, then. A lovely four-day weekend over here, which is nice.
But not for me! The ticklings of a cold that I felt coming on when I last posted on this blog developed into a full-blown work-impacting annoyance, with a cough that turned my throat into sandpaper and refused to let me sleep. Thus, I ended up taking another couple of sleep-dep delirious days off work, leading to a six day weekend and (fitful attempts to sleep notwithstanding) more than a few opportunities to get my gaming on.
But, at the end of the week, precious few games got a look-in. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Most of the week’s gaming was split between Saints Row: The Third and Portal 2. Early on, I tore through the third of The Third‘s DLC packs, which was another embarrassingly brief bit of story-driven content that felt woefully anaemic compared to the main game. But I surprised myself a little by leaping straight back in and starting another new game with the first of the female voices; it feels like there’s minimal script differences so far, and the delivery somehow doesn’t seem as natural as the default male voice. But I’ve torn through the game (playing on Casual now), and I’ve already hammered through all the side-missions and most of the challenges. But, given that this playthrough will be my “proper” run, I’m looking into 100%-ing this properly now – and, after a little bit of goading in the comments last week, that includes finding all the GPS Shortcuts.
And, try as I might this morning, I just couldn’t force myself to methodically trawl block after block in the city of Steelport in search of mystery shortcuts. Sure, I found a map that highlights most of the shortcuts, but it’s incomplete and a bit vague… so I’m fearful that many hours of searching will yield a tally of 262 (of 263) shortcuts. And that’s a bit of a turn-off for me at the moment; I’ll have to see whether I can convince myself to check out a couple of blocks each evening, and just hope that everything turns out alright.
But the better news this week was the completion of Portal 2. Friend – and occasional commenter – Lita had agreed to play through the co-op portion of Portal 2 with me if I’d bought the game, and she was good to her word: a couple of trans-hemispheric sessions (and her careful, and not-too-spoilery, guidance!) saw most of the multiplayer Achievements pop. Then came the Peer Review DLC which she’d been unable to convince anyone else to play with her; no Achievements, no point, seemed to be the unfortunate consensus.
And that’s a massive shame, because the DLC was fantastic.
Sure, the levels were perhaps a bit more clinical than the original multiplayer levels, and I’m under no illusions that my perception may have been coloured somewhat by the fact that we were both figuring out the levels as we went (which led to the odd trying moment… but they were more than offset by the shared joy of figuring a puzzle out). But – most importantly for me – the ending of the Peer Review content drew upon the themes presented in the single-player excursion, rather than the odd dystopian conclusion of the main multiplayer episodes.
The funny thing was that, after the multiplayer sessions with Lita, I still needed one in-game hug for the last of my Achievements… so I set up a Beacon on Xbox Live for the first time, hoping it may draw the attention of one of my other Portal-playing friends. And it was amazing how many people actually did send me a message saying “not right now, but I’d love to play Portal 2 again”; that’s a testament to the wonderful gaming experience that Portal‘s co-op offers that may have been missed by many in the next-new-game culture that’s around now.
With all Achievements popped, there was just one thing left to do… well, two things, actually. First up was a run through the game with the Developer Commentary feature enabled, which proved to be a bit of a pain at times: with Developer Commentary on, Portal 2 doesn’t allow saves… not even checkpoint saves. This meant that I was forced to become adept at some puzzles that I’d just blustered my way through earlier, and the final boss battle took a bit of effort before stumbling over the line. And I’m not sure the effort was worth it, really; the Commentary was all heavily scripted and, with very few exceptions, delivered in a less-than-engaging manner. But that run served me well on my final run through game: the Wheatley dialogue run.
See, I reckon I missed a few choice bits of Portal 2 on my first playthrough, especially near the end; I was getting tired and just started rushing everywhere. Taking the time to hear some of Wheatley’s wonderful lines was time well spent, though, as was the opportunity to absorb some of the other humour that escaped me the first time: the fact that Wheatley is too stupid to “get” the paradox, for example. And the opening of the first massive vault door, revealing a blank wall and a tiny door behind it.
A lazier run also allowed me to drink in some of the brilliant visuals, too: the lighting in that game is superb, with Wheatley’s flashlight flickering stunning shadows within the bowels of Aperture Science, and the emotive puppetry behind GLaDOS’ humanisation is just perfect. A dig around for more content within Portal 2 revealed the faux Aperture ads, voiced by Cave Johnson… and they, too, are wonderful, and served as a wonderful closer for the game for me.
But the week was bookended between two sessions with flOw. Now, all I knew about this game prior to playing it for the first time was that it had originated as a Flash game, and that it was deemed more of a screensaver for the PS3 than an actual game. My initial (post-blogging) session last weekend left me scratching my head a little; I was wibbling the DualShock3 around, Trophies were popping, and I was none-the-wiser as to what I was doing. It wasn’t until I ceremoniously removed Portal 2 off The List that I gave flOw another chance… and the next couple of “games” didn’t really alleviate the confusion. Suddenly, however, the visual language of the game clicked with me; everything made sense, and now I’m gliding around this peaceful world with ease.
I’d like to say I was having fun, but… I’m not sure that I am. To be fair, though, I’m not really sure that I’m supposed to be having fun; I don’t think that’s flOw‘s aim at all. It’s too laid-back, almost meditative, to actually raise emotions so high as to elicit “fun”. Still, some of those Trophies are going to be a bit of a bitch to snaffle, so maybe they’ll get the risk/reward neurons firing.
So – the next week? There’ll be more flOw, more Saints Row, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll start firing up… Perfect Dark Zero. Yes. I think it might be time.