Hits & Misses
Disney Interactive is gone. Disney Infinity is gone. The game/toy platform’s developer, Avalanche Software, is gone. What remains for those of us that bought into the concept is three base sets, a number of Play Sets, and all of the toys, Power Discs and mini-games that were part-and-parcel to the whole Infinity experience. Personally, I own all three versions, every Play Set and mini-game and 59 figures.
While the game’s much-lauded Toy Box mode and the community content produced for it never really attracted me, I was, and remain, a huge fan of the Play Sets and the overall concept. Why did Disney pull the plug, in spite of sales success that saw the DI platform out-performing its competition at retail (Lego Dimensions and the Skylander franchise?) Is there any possibility of a future for the concept? These are questions that those of us that have made large financial investments in DI would like answered.
The very curious thing is that, after the discontinuation and closure announcements that resulted in what seems to be the end of the franchise, widespread anger at Disney for their abrupt and Draconian decision and retailers discounting remaining product and pulling it from shelves, Avalanche had one more arrow in the quiver that they let fly just as the PTB at Disney landed the fatal blow – the “Finding Dory” Play Set for DI 3.0. Of course, given the current retail climate for DI, actually finding Dory proved to be a challenge worthy of Marlin and Nemo. As Best Buy (and other retailers) isn’t stocking the product in their stores, I had to hunt it down online.
With all of the negativity and challenges, and my personal feelings as a consumer betrayed by the House of Mouse, you could hardly say that I approached Dory and her Play Set with anything but bitterness and a feeling of loss. But, in Finding Dory, I found all of the reasons why I love DI and, quite possibly, one of the top Play Sets that the series has seen. If the end has truly come for the Disney Infinity platform, Avalanche couldn’t have gone out on a more positive note that, at least temporarily, will put a smile on your face and take you from a state of mourning to one of joy and a sense of healing. (I know… overly dramatic – but it kind of does!)
While the Finding Dory Play Set maintains some of the conventions of the other sets in the software platform (mission/side mission structure, Skill Tree, a variety of collectibles), its structure differs somewhat in that the Play Set is comprised of 13 horizontally and vertically scrolling levels that make up the “Marine Life Institute,” where the main objective is to find/save the fish that are in danger at the MLI and lead them to the safety of Morro Bay.
Morro Bay, in turn, is a 3D hub world where Dory receives her missions, talks to other fish, collects shells (the game’s currency), and uses those shells to purchase [...]
If ever a game deserved the VR treatment, it is “Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.” Sadly, EA Dice’s prequel (reboot?) to 2008’s “Mirror’s Edge” does not support the technology offered by Oculus VR, htc Vive (and ultimately PlayStation VR), but that is about the only thing missing from this fantastic experience.
I will admit to being a full-on fanboy of the original game, so my opinion might be colored a bit as I was going to be more than happy with more of the same – city, parkour, melee combat. But, the open world game that EA Dice has delivered goes way past those basic expectations and gives us a playground that is as beautiful as it is fun to explore, melee combat that is deep and extremely satisfying (no gun play this time around), an RPG-lite upgrade system and a tremendous amount to see and do. And, the parkour action and immersive nature of the first-person control scheme are both better, deeper and more involved than they were in the original game.
For me, the real beauty of the game lies in how well the city of Glass has been designed and how much fun it is to turn off the “Runner’s Vision” (highlighting the recommended path to your currently selected objective/mission) and have at it without any help – free to make your own mistakes, choose an alternate path or simply stumble upon one of the many collectibles found in the game. While I normally enjoy exploration and the discovery of hidden goodies in any action/adventure/RPG game that I play, the level of satisfaction that exploration gives in Catalyst is an entirely different animal. In most games (I’ll use “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” as my most recent example), exploration is a slow, meticulous undertaking. In Catalyst, it is just the opposite – while you are running and jumping at full speed, you are able to find items within the flow of your parkour navigation. Sure, there are searches and discoveries that will be accomplished at a slower pace in the game and that are more deliberate, but it is amazing how much can be found when you are going full throttle.
Of course, there is also a fully-fleshed out narrative and a number of friends and foes with which to interact, but the plot and Faith’s prequel origin story take a backseat to the outstanding parkour experience and hand-to-hand combat found in the sandbox that is Glass. With so much to do and see – including community-created races and a great variety of side-missions and activities, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will be one of those games that you can play over and over again for many years to come.
Mirror’s Edge CatalystPublisher: EA Developer: EA Dice Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: 6/7/16 Price: $59.99
ICG Verdict: Hit
As much as I loved the original Mirror’s Edge, Catalyst makes it look like a tech demo. With a huge open [...]
After finishing the latest chapter in The Odd Gentlemen’s reboot of the classic “King’s Quest” franchise, “King’s Quest – Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb,” I have come to the conclusion that I have to adjust my expectations. The first chapter offered over five hours of gameplay and a fairly wide variety of puzzles and characters – as well as a more open approach to the game environment. With Chapter 2 and, now, Chapter 3, the developer has reigned in the game and delivered shorter, much more linear expansions of the story and the associated gameplay.
The thing is… although shorter and much more concise in the gameplay offered and plot focus, Once Upon a Climb continues to deliver on the story (this time around, it is all about Graham’s search for the love of his life), the new characters introduced (and the old that continue to be part of the mix – seriously, is there anyone that doesn’t love “Whisper?”) and the sweet, gentle nature of the narrative. I know that the gameplay is simple and elements are reused from the prior chapters, but that all really takes a backseat to my desire to see the evolution of King Graham’s journey – I care about him, his family and the various denizens of his kingdom of Daventry enough where it is more important to me to continue with their story arc than take issue with the quality of a particularly annoying puzzle (I’m looking at you, lute!)
That being said, at a price of $9.99 for each three hour chapter (after the first), I can see why some would say that this is a relatively high price to pay for a game that is becoming less interactive and more linear as it moves forward, but I respectfully disagree. I consider the price well worth it for the quality entertainment on offer and, once all five chapters are complete (assuming they continue along the lines of the last two), I will have spent $50 for a game that delivered memorable, and wonderfully quirky, characters, great voice acting, and that made me care about the world and its inhabitants. And, it will have done so over the course of 15-17 hours of total gameplay. So, taken in that bigger context, the investment in King’s Quest puts it right in line with most games on offer in 2016.
Before I wrap this up, I need to drop some of my favorite Whisper lines on you… love that guy!“Whisper shall… whisper” “Whisper’s lips will whisper no more” “If the ladies see Whisper, King Graham won’t stand a chance” “Whisper loves Whisper”
King’s Quest – Chapter 3: Once Upon a ClimbPublisher: Sierra Developer: The Odd Gentlemen Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: 4/26/16 Price: $9.99
ICG Verdict: Hit
The third installment in The Odd Gentlemen’s reboot of the King’s Quest series focuses on King [...]
My best memories of the DOOM franchise go way back to 1993 or so and playing the original on PC with my oldest son (2-3 years old at the time) in my lap repeatedly saying “Daddy, play DOOM kill ’em in the face!” (I know what you’re thinking… “Father of the Year”) while sitting at my desk. To this day, my son, who graduated from UC Davis in four years and is now working in Manhattan (proving that video games are indeed good for you… LOL), remains a HUGE DOOM fan.
I bring this particular memory to the surface because I had been very skeptical of id’s reboot of the franchise. I was not the biggest fan of DOOM 3 and the reboot was going through what seemed to be a stealth launch and it coming to market the same week as Uncharted 4 couldn’t be a good sign that Bethesda was expecting great things of a game that had been in development hell for quite a few years. Funny thing happened, however. After playing through the game this past weekend, I sent a text to my son – telling him that he shouldn’t hesitate to buy the game, as it was the perfect combination of old school and the new, and a memorable homage to the original.
While I won’t vouch for the multiplayer, the single player campaign is non-stop action that is surprisingly smart, incredibly visceral and deceptively deep – with a good deal of exploration made possible and a bunch of those trademark DOOM secret areas, as well as Codex to find, Rune Trials to play, classic DOOM maps, etc. While the game doesn’t have the great story and drama found in Bethesda’s “other” id FPS, “Wolfenstein: The New Order” (developed by MachineGames on id’s engine), it does offer a cool take on the well-worn “demons let loose on Mars” paper-thin plot that has been at the core of the DOOM experience. But, nobody is playing DOOM for the story – we are in it for the gory action that is the hallmark of the franchise, and the reboot delivers it in spades. Although there are all of the familiar weapons (shotgun, machine guns, chainsaw, rocket launcher, etc.), the reboot makes one excellent addition in the form of “Glory Kills.” These moments occur when you soften up an enemy to the point where they start glowing in a gold-ish color, then move in for the finish via the R3 button. These finishing moves are absolutely brutal, with the added value of providing extra health drops when you pull them off. Another surprise in gameplay is how vertical the fight is. The game environments are built so that you have to keep on the move, and a big part of that movement is jumping from one level of the area and grabbing a platform to pull yourself up to the next – while being aggressively pursued from behind. This subtle addition really makes a big difference in the intensity of gameplay and the associated anxiety [...]