Com-PETE-ions, 2023

Here’s a list of games I’ve Com-PETE-d in the above-mentioned calendar year.

So – what constitutes “Com-PETE-ion”? All Achievements/Trophies, where available, is a bare minimum; the aim is to fully experience what the game has to offer (from at least an asset perspective). DLC is required in almost all cases – the commitment is to the game as a whole.

Last year was a banger of a year: despite a bunch of 3DS/Wii U eShop purchases, I managed to decrease the length of The List by about ten, pushing the average age of my backlog three months younger (and the median age one month younger). And I had a lot of fun! But that fun should come to an end – it might be time for me to re-enter the workforce, decreasing the gaming time somewhat in the future.

So this year’s goals are a little less lofty. As per usual, I’m hoping to push the average age of The List forward, and continue to be a little more circumspect with my purchases.

  1. Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma (3DS)
  2. The 25th Ward: The Silver Case (PC)
  3. Lugaru HD (PC)
  4. Luftrausers (PC)
  5. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (PC)
  6. Kena: Bridge of Spirits (Playstation 4)
  7. Kena: Bridge of Spirits (Playstation 5)

Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma

I really dug 999, and enjoyed the rollercoaster ride that was Virtue’s Last Reward. Both those games managed to take an heady (but anime-friendly) plot-line, and sprinkle it with clashing stereotypes who, by-and-large, managed to endear themselves to the player.

Zero Time Dilemma, however, presents nine utterly unlikable characters during it’s (very) cold opening, and few of them make positive emotional inroads throughout the remainder of the game. Puzzles very much stick to the Nonary Games formula, with no real surprises.

The last five-ish hours of the game are much more rewarding than the previous twenty, as the decision tree complicates itself through time, but I wrapped up Zero Time Dilemma feeling thankful that I’d never have to deal with these characters again. A definite low-point for the series.


The 25th Ward: The Silver Case

A follow-up to Suda 51’s earlier Silver Case visual novel, The 25th Ward uses much of the same setting (and even some of the same characters) as the prequel. There’s now an additional plot strand (on top of the original’s two), providing a welcome opportunity to flesh out the narrative with an additional viewpoint.

And that’s really handy, because the narrative is some solid Suda nonsense (even if he was only responsible for about a third of the text). It’s glorious nonsense, of course: superhumanly powerful sexy female cop who moonlights in chat sessions? the return of a supernatural person/spirit who can subsume the living at will? a bureaucratic hierarchy of increasingly murderous assassins keeping the titular Ward in check? They’re all in there.

Despite the wackiness, there’s a little less cohesion in The 25th Ward than The Silver Case – whilst the run towards the finish line is pretty tight, the rest of the text is not quite as satisfying in the moment. The kicker, though, is having to trudge through the one hundred ending sequences to get to the “true” end; sometimes Suda’s jokes can wear a bit thin. Still, that’s probably more my fault than his.


Lugaru HD

Look, I never would have bought Lugaru from any storefront; but, way back in 2010, the idea of the Humble Indie Bundle (the very first Humble Bundle!) seemed too good for this altruist to pass by. I had to support it, resulting in the unwelcome inclusion of this game (and Gish, and Penumbra) on The List.

Settling in to play this third-person rabbit beat-em-up nowadays is pretty rough – for all the “HD” that its title may suggest, there’s very little visually pleasing, and aurally there’s only a few short synth loops to accompany the screeches of rabbits and occasional clank of weapons. And whilst the combat initially feels mashy at best, the context-sensitive nature of the controls – especially the counter – proves to be interesting.

Look, I’m not saying that this is a must-play: the narrative is short and clumsy, and the combat challenges feel uneven and careless. But there’s a bit more to Lugaru HD than I was expecting… but not much more. And my expectations were pretty low.


Luftrausers

With a very restricted colour palette, and wonderfully chunky – yet identifiable – pixelated enemy designs, Luftrausers is immediately engaging. The well-weighted unlock system, tied into micro-missions associated with each unlocked part, really propelled me along.

The real highlight of the game for me, though, was the mix-and-match assembly of the player’s craft. Selecting different weapon, body, and engine parts give wildly different crafts, both visually and ludically (and even aurally, with the background music changing on the basis of the weapon parts).

And, lets face it: the surprise ending of the game is pretty awesome.


Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

As with Dreamfall‘s predecessor (The Longest Journey, Com-PETE-d in 2022), I started with the best of intentions… but was soon frustrated into opening a text walkthrough, which accompanied the rest of my play.

As an early 3D point-and-click adventure, it’s… well, it’s trying (in both senses – and tenses – of the word). None of the puzzles are too onerous – though there’s some annoying back-and-forth puzzles that span multiple locations in the mid-game – but there’s just enough friction to annoy. The infrequent combat and chase sequences, on the other hand, are irritating from the get-go… and the (small) level design really reminded me of another game of the era, Deus Ex: Invisible War.

Look – I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t compelled by the story, especially in the back half of the game. But even with the post-credits teaser, and numerous dangling threads, there isn’t enough intrigue to tempt me into playing through the final game(s) in The Longest Journey series… but I may watch a walkthrough.


Kena: Bridge of Spirits

There’s no denying that Kena is a gorgeous looking game – especially on the PS5, where the animation-studio-quality graphics run at a smooth 60 fps. The visual design is matched by the audio design, with clear indicators of your status during battle.

And that’s just as well, because Kena‘s combat is no joke. For all the cute characters and well-realised scenery, the boss fights (and even regular encounters, on harder difficulties) are challenging. What initially seemed like it might be an old-fashioned character action explore-a-thon reveals itself to be sterner stuff.

But it’s super-rewarding, even if some of the Challenges made available in New Game + frequently veer into frustration. Luckily, NG+ also makes a series of modifiers available, one of which marginalises the combat to make the game a much more comfortable experience.

Com-PETE-ion required 100% collection – all Charmstones, all Hats, hence all Challenges. But I drew the line at Master Mode – I used a save game glitch to unlock the Master Mode trophies, and even the few short battles to get to the glitch were almost beyond me. Played on both PS4 and PS5.