Now Playing (Week of 7/25/16)

I have a few new titles on my playlist this week. In particular, I have been revisiting Digital Extreme’s “Star Trek” from 2013 – a game that I have enjoyed very much, in spite of a few technical issues here and there (the prospect of seeing the new movie gave me the push to go back to it.) I am also taking “The Assembly” for a VR spin (totally not required that you play this one in VR, but the goggles were just sitting there…), and am satisfying my inner sadist by attempting to solve the puzzles found in the indie game, “The Eyes of Ara.”

The Assembly

  • Publisher: nDreams
  • Developer: nDreams
  • Version Playing: Oculus VR
  • Current Price: $29.99 ($19.99 for the non-VR version)
  • Original Release Date: July 19, 2016
  • Strengths: Some interesting mini-games and puzzle solving, dueling narratives
  • Weaknesses: VR pasted on – not necessary to the gameplay experience, VR default control scheme
  • Metacritic: 55 (Based on two reviews)
  • DaveTheCritic: 75

Comments:

The game follows two different characters with two intersecting narratives as the player tries to discover what exactly is going on in this research facility. Caleb Pearson and Madeleine Stone are both unwitting victims of The Assembly’s master plan and it is up to you to help them discover the truth in the first-person adventure that can be purchased/played as a traditional game, or in its VR version. There is literally no reason to play the game in VR and it is not particularly well-implemented – so the $10 addition to the game’s asking price is unwarranted. Otherwise, The Assembly is s solid, if unspectacular adventure with a few interesting puzzles.

The Assembly – A VR Adventure That Does Nothing with VR

The Eyes of Ara

  • Publisher: 100 Stones Interactive
  • Developer: 100 Stones Interactive (Ben Droste)
  • Version Playing: PC/Steam
  • Current Price: $14.99
  • Original Release Date: July 19, 2016
  • Strengths: Interesting architecture worth exploring, easy mouse-only navigation and gameplay
  • Weaknesses: Like all games in this genre, puzzle-solving frustration can lead to a lot of hunt-and-clicking
  • Metacritic: NA
  • DaveTheCritic: 82

Comments:

“Myst”-like games are tough to pull off in this day and age. You need to get the balance just right – puzzles can’t be too easy or too difficult. You need to get navigation right – it has to be first-person with at least a modicum of real-time movement, clicking from static background to static background is no longer acceptable to the modern gamer. And, you have to have a great setting with a strong sense of place. Doesn’t sound easy, does it? Well, a developer named Ben Droste, in the guise of 100 Stones Interactive, has accepted the challenge and has delivered a very compelling entry in the genre, entitled “The Eyes of Ara.” It will make you pull your hair out at times. It will likely have you scouring YouTube for help at some point. And, it is totally worth playing. Lots of secret rooms and story details to be found in this one – well played, Mr. Droste!

The Eyes of Ara is a Worthy Addition to the Time-Honored “Myst” Tradition

Star Trek

  • Publisher: Namco-Bandai
  • Developer: Digital Extremes
  • Version Playing: PC/Steam
  • Current Price: Not Available on Steam/$14.99 for Steam code on Amazon
  • Original Release Date: April 23, 2013
  • Strengths: Solid third-person action, all of the actors from the Abrams films, good original story, classic Trek humor and interpersonal relationships
  • Weaknesses: Some technical issues, a lot of elevator rides, kind of “Mass Effect”-lite
  • Metacritic: 43
  • DaveTheCritic: 81

Comments:

Digital Extreme’s (“Warframe”) 2013 take on JJ Abrams version of the Start Trek universe has been all but ignored – selling just over 500,000 units across three platforms – PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The Metacritic score of 43 would seem to make a strong statement as to the developer having delivered a poor game… Nothing could be further from the truth. This third-person action game allows you to choose to play as Kirk or Spock (each with his own mission path and special abilities), features an interesting original story with no direct tie to any of the first two movies, features all of the film series’ main actors reprising their roles, and combines solid cover shooting, melee combat, exploration and platforming. It really is a mystery to me why the game received poor critical and commercial response. I have played it through on both PlayStation 3 and PC and am now enjoying it once more as I get ready to head to the local Googleplex to catch “Star Trek Beyond.” Sure, it’s not perfect, but it is enjoyable… and I wasn’t even a Star Trek fan until JJ took the reigns.

A Little “Making Of” Action for Your Viewing Pleasure!

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: EA Dice
  • Version Playing: PC/Origin
  • Current Price: $59.99
  • Original Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Strengths: Excellent parkour, huge open world, much to do and see, visceral hand-to-hand combat
  • Weaknesses: Freedom in gameplay and exploration leads to disjointed presentation of the narrative
  • Metacritic: 70
  • DaveTheCritic: 92

Comments:

I know that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has not been as well-received, by critics or consumers, as EA and Dice would have liked. But, I think the Metacritic score of 70 is a joke. Catalyst is a fantastic AAA, open world gaming experience that makes the original (which I loved) look like a tech demo. If you want to read my expanded thoughts, you can find them here. I have also played the PlayStation 4 version, but have concentrated on PC in the hope that the Stereoscopic 3D wizards at Helixmod will work their magic!

Catalyst is a Fantastic Parkour Playground and a Tremendous Value Proposition

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
  • Developer: Traveller’s Tales
  • Version Playing: PC/Steam
  • Current Price: $39.99
  • Original Release Date: June 27, 2016
  • Strengths: Dependable Lego gameplay, great sense of humor, good use of voices from the film and new audio
  • Weaknesses: Cover shooting mechanic needs work and feels unpolished
  • Metacritic: 78
  • DaveTheCritic: 91

Comments:

I can’t get enough of Traveller’s Tales Lego games, and is there such a thing as too much Star Wars (I mean besides the prequel trilogy?) You combine the two and Reese’s can only dream of having such a sweet combination! TT Games, through a consistent development approach and persistent iteration, has come close to perfecting the Lego game formula and The Force Awakens is one of their best – ranking up with the two Lego Harry Potters and Lego Dimensions.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Has Nothing on Lego and Star Wars!

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About The Author
David Winding
Dave Winding is a 25 year gaming industry veteran that has been actively involved in sales, marketing, advertising, product development, publishing and communications. While his career has been as a gaming executive and entrepreneur, he is, above all else, a gamer.