toki-tori-2_1

Haha, okay, so this comes with the caveat that I don’t really play that many video games. I used to play a lot more, but I try to do things more productive with my spare time when I can. Recently my video gaming has picked up a bit since I forced myself to slow down with the Forge War business. The goal of that was to spend more time working on my thesis, but a man’s gotta have some procrastination tools at hand, right?

Also I watch a lot of television and the hiatus over the holidays has also given me some free extra time. All of this is to say that I’ve recently been trying to get through my Steam backlog of games purchased in previous Steam holiday sales, and this effort has coincided with the current Steam holiday sale, and so I’ve played a fair number of games in the past few weeks – not all of them from this year, of course – and Toki Tori 2 is the best of the lot.

I know I raved a couple weeks ago about how Fez was the second coming of Zelda, and I still hold those opinions, but playing through Toki Tori 2, I felt the same intense love of video games seeping through every pore of the adventure, but with even more wonderful, well-designed puzzles. It was like a combination of Fez and the first Toki Tori, which features some of the hardest, most brain-curdling puzzles I’ve ever experienced.

I would actually say that some of the puzzles in Toki Tori were too hard. The game was a series of stand-alone levels and some of them got rather large and intricate. I would sit there for like an hour, studying the layout and the tools I was given, racking my brain for the correct solution. Hour-long brain-racking sessions might not be for everyone. I still enjoyed them, but they were exhausting. Once I figured a puzzle out, I’d have to shut the game off and go do something else. In contrast, the puzzles in Toki Tori 2 are just insidious enough. They require a hefty amount of brain power, but none of them are that large and complex, so you can spend maybe 10-20 minutes figuring something out, and then get past it and continue on in your exploration of the beautifully detailed world. So figuring things out was never exhausting – when I solved something I always wanted to keep playing and experience more cool stuff. I lost, like, an entire day or two just absolutely sucked into the logic and wonder of the game.

It was fabulous. Unless you’re my thesis adviser, I suppose.

If you love puzzle games or Metroidvania-style exploration games, I cannot recommend the game highly enough. It will bring you joy and tax your brain in the process.

All right, so what other games have I been playing? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed Sleeping Dogs. I’m pretty sure that was released last year, but whatever, it was still totally awesome. I haven’t played a GTA game since Vice City, so I can’t speak to how that franchise is doing, but Sleeping Dogs was certainly a huge step up from the poorly-controlled older games of the genre. The combat was really fluid and nice – both hand-to-hand and with guns. It almost felt like a combination of GTA and the Batman Arkham series. I don’t know, like I said, I don’t really play a lot of games. So, yeah, I had a lot of fun exploring with that one, doing all the missions, finding all the lockboxes, and dressing my dude up in a nice lady-killer outfit. The story was also top-notch, and I like the whole undercover cop aspect which discouraged you from just going on a rampage and murdering the entirety of Hong Kong. You could still do that, of course, but it was moderately discouraged.

Songbird

I also sat down and played through Bioshock Infinite, which was a nice experience with amazing visuals and a pretty good story. I especially liked the ending and how there wasn’t some big huge boss battle – just a masterful revelation. I don’t know, though, the linearity detracted from the experience for me a bit. I’m still waiting for Irrational to deliver a game play experience on the caliber of System Shock 2 and they still haven’t quite done it, though maybe I am just being nostalgic. There were also way to many trashcans to sift through. You needed massive amounts of cash for your upgrades, so you had to run around and look in every handbag and crate for silver coins – it really detracted from the story in my opinion and got annoying after a while, even though I couldn’t stop myself from doing it.

Anyway, there was also Rogue Legacy, which was entertaining for a good 20 hours or so. It was a very cool take on the rogue-like genre and the combat was fairly engaging, though magic never really seemed powerful enough to be useful, except for finding the occasional secret treasure. Overall, though, ┬áthe game suffered from a lack of variety and you eventually got the feeling that there was nothing cool left to discover. In that sense, it just sort of lacked the spark that could turn it into an enduring classic like The Binding of Isaac. It was still a really solid game, and it’s been cool to watch the developers go from making silly Flash games like Don’t Shit Your Pants (look it up – you will be entertained) to epics like this.

Lastly, I just sat down and played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons with my wife. I know, it’s a single-player game, but I thought it might be fun to play it together and each control one of the brothers, not worrying too much about the challenge of it and just experiencing the story. And that turned out to be a pretty great time. She was using half of a gamepad and I used half of my keyboard, and we had a great time running around, sitting on benches, playing with bunnies and solving simple puzzles. Seriously, you don’t come to this game for a brain workout – the puzzles were fairly mundane – it was all about the story and the cinematic experience, so I think the game was only enhanced by experiencing it with my wife, each of us taking on the persona of one of the brothers (I was the older, more responsible one). And the game play still ended up being moderately challenging because my wife has very, very little experience with video games, so just walking in a straight line sometimes was problematic. We had a super-fun time, and honestly, I think I would have been pretty bored by the whole thing if I had played it by myself. Also, it would have been nice if it were a little longer, but oh well.

So there you have it, the video game round-up, with Toki Tori 2 resting at the top of the small heap. We are fast-approaching January now, so I really should stop playing so many games and focus once again on preparing a Kickstarter and finishing my thesis. Good times!