vogelscript played Party Animals
1 month ago
vogelscript played Cocoon
Cocoon is a visually engrossing and mentally stimulating puzzle game. The setting stood out to me first. It is acutely alien, with fantastical flora, critters that are both cute and creepy, and environments that feel different from the classic video game biomes. The whole package is sold by a plethora of bespoke and fluid animations, in addition to sound design that is more atmospheric rather than melodical. Each "world" is contained within an orb, and the player can move in and out of these orbs, while also manipulating them inside each other, which forms the core of the puzzle gameplay. The pacing of the game felt unique too, as there isn't much of a clear structure to when you find new orbs or fight bosses, adding to the wonder and mystery of the world. Although there's not a clear story or narrative, I did find myself attached to each of my orbs in a very organic and funny way, much like the companion cube in Portal.
As the player you can only move and do a few actions: grab or release an object (you can also long press the button to activate some elements). Everything happens with one button, and with an accessibility option in the menu, any combination of joysticks and face/trigger buttons on a controller can be used for the game. (Sidenote: I love playing lazily with one hand and having the option to switch my grip whenever a hand gets tired. So few games are playable like this.) There aren't many actions, but each orb (and each world within) has unique mechanics so there ends up being a decent variety in gameplay. There are also boss fights which have you dodging in various ways and damaging a weak spot using a key object unique to that fight.
A single word I would use to describe the gameplay is "smooth". The puzzles slowly escalate, and never focus on one mechanic too long before moving on to the next thing. Some of the more mind-bendy twists of the world-within-world concept are only used once and then never again. The game is very strict about keeping the player on-track, and fail states are impossible (natural gates automatically appear at various stages to lock the player into an area, preventing needless backtracking when stuck). Once realizing this, it's easy to deduce solutions as every element in the area was necessary and nothing superfluous was kept. Because of this, and the fact that the possible actions are always quite limited, I never found any puzzle difficult and there's always exactly one solution for each one. This rigid approach to puzzle design eliminates a lot of frustration that can be present in other puzzle games, but also reduces the creativity and "eureka" moments. There are plenty of clever puzzles here, but I attributed that cleverness mostly to the designers for creating them, rather than myself for finding the solutions. This could have been a game with zero frustration, except for one late-game boss fight which tested my patience by requiring several sequences of precise timing and aim.
I loved this game mostly because of its atmosphere, fluid controls, and concise playtime. The puzzles were clever, and despite never truly testing me, it was a pleasure simply discovering all the twists the designers devised. The fluidity of the movement and animations made the game fun to interact with as well. I highly recommend this one, and due to it's friendly level design, it could be great for novices of the genre as well.
1 month ago
vogelscript played Chants of Sennaar
Chants of Sennaar hooked me with its stunning visuals and addicting language-learning gameplay loop. I began in an unknown world with mysterious symbols and people all around, and I had a strong intrinsic motivation to uncover the meaning of the symbols and the story behind the people. After learning the basics of the language, I felt more comfortable with the setting and was excited to complete the definitions for the last few glyphs. And when I finally had everything defined, there was only a brief moment of complete understanding with everything before entering the next area. I was presented with a new language and environment to explore, but could use my knowledge of the old language to more quickly learn the new one. This repeated cycle of naive curiosity to complete understanding (and back) was satisfying every step of the way, and it held my attention completely for the 9-10 hour story.
The game has a very natural way of easing the player into the systems for deciphering the language, and you learn to pick up on a variety of clues including environmental puzzles, NPCs pointing and speaking, and sculpted murals. It allows you to type in a personal guess for each symbol at any time, and these guesses are only validated in sets of 3-4 once the game decides you've seen enough clues to deduce the meaning. The UI is minimal but functional, and the only thing I wish it had was a world map. The environment design is stunning, with bold colors and line-work that excels at highlighting the architecture of the world in such a way that every screenshot could be a wallpaper. But this atmospheric design philosophy sometimes comes at the cost of practicality, most notably in the placement of fast travel spots which are often inconvenient and require some tedious backtracking to traverse between.
There are five distinct sections of the world, each with inhabitants that have their own culture and speak their own language. The languages have their fair share of unique words depending on the culture, and each look visually distinct, but grammatically they never differ more than how plurals are formed or where the object is placed. They also all have the commonality of logograms, where each word is one glyph. While easier to translate and gamify, it meant that all the languages felt the same linguistically which was kind of a disappointment. I got the sense that the languages were more of a set-dressing on top of a cryptographical puzzle game rather than a deep and informative linguistic exploration. It's still fun, just somewhat of a letdown from my expectations.
The game has a lot to say about communication, which it conveys through the gameplay itself rather than directly in the narrative or cutscenes. For example: the act of guessing a glyph's meaning, then verifying it to be quite different from the original guess, shows a lot about how multiple words can fit the same context but maybe their textbook differences aren't that important. It shows how different cultures can view the same thing in different ways, leading to misunderstanding or artificial barriers. I found this environmental storytelling truly absorbing, and the fantastic art direction and music only added to this.
Despite feeling like Chants of Sennaar could have done more with the languages themselves, and that it lacked some quality of life features, I loved the game and thought it created a unique and engrossing experience. It stands as one of the best in multiple genres: puzzle, adventure, and deduction.
1 month ago
vogelscript played Sea of Stars
This game gets a lot of credit for having lush, beautiful pixel art with many bespoke animations overlaid with modern lighting effects. It manages to invoke old JRPGs while also clearly being a huge technical leap forward. It does this with the character movement too; traversing the world isn't just walking in 4 or 8 directions, it also involves jumping over gaps, shimmying over ledges, climbing walls, and generally interacting with the world in much more fluid way. The soundtrack is also wonderful, catchy, and fits the world well.
Sea of Stars more than deserves all the praise it gets for these things, and I think that carries the experience for many people. For me though, it wasn't enough to finish the game after about 5 hours of play time. I found the rest of it pretty lackluster. The story and characters didn't grip me at all, the puzzles were never complex enough to be engaging, and the combat seemed really shallow and not very customizable. I like that it borrows the interactive turn-based approach from the Mario RPGs, but I found the animations were poorly choreographed and the timings too hard to hit. There is also very little customization for stats or items, leaving characters with a small and static pool of abilities.
Despite the beauty and polish of the overall package, I needed either the combat or story to be compelling enough for me to be motivated to finish the game. There's a chance I could return to it later, but there are other RPGs I'd rather play first.
1 month ago