Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Ramona" - Fiction

I'm in Creative Writing this year, in high school. Like the last time I was in the class, two years ago, the first grading period has you writing a multiple-assignment story about one character. Five assignments: one character biography and four stories. Think of each assignment as a chapter. 

That's all done now. I threw together my assignments and edited them some. I think this is pretty alright. Please enjoy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rayman Legends (Video Game) - Review

2D platforming is such a simple genre and one so full of games, that I sometimes worry we'll eventually reach a time when the genre as a whole grows stale. After each time I play one, I get more and more concerned that developers will just run out of ideas. Rayman Legends is the kind of game that restores my faith, but with some strings attached. Rayman Legends is a great game rife  with clever design and superb aesthetics, even though it left me without a proper sense of satisfaction after the credits rolled.

Rayman Legends is a joy to play. The controls and physics are very solid, meaning that the inputs are merely an expression of your skill. There are some hairs to split, like wall-running getting a bit disorienting in terms of which direction to move the stick/d-pad, but overall, again, very solid overall. The level design is truly remarkable. Most levels are designed to be ran through quickly in a sort of rhythm. This makes things exciting and fast-paced, even though technically only some levels actually force you to maneuver quickly. Throughout the duration of the game's main five worlds, original concepts are sprinkled into the bowl. The best example is the stealth portion that is mixed with swimming, which offers a pretty unique experience. It's also the little things that really stick out, like the cleverly-placed hidden collectibles. 

Rayman Origins got the attention it did thanks in large part to its gorgeous visuals, and the ante has only been upped in Legends. This game is beautiful, with intricate and fun animation and bucket loads of color. The music is also quite good here, offering enjoyable tunes that both enhance the feeling of playing and are good in their own right. The aesthetics are remarkable.

Each world ends with a boss and then a music level as a bit of a reward, essentially. The bosses are polygon-based 3D, which is a cool way to contrast them off of the rest of the graphics. Taking down the bosses is good, patterned-based fun, even though none of them are particularly anything to write home about. The music levels are definitely cool, offering a really entertaining mixture of level design and music to enjoy, but they are somewhat lazily put-together. Gameplay footage makes it seem like these are interactive-rhythm segments, but they're actually a fake version of that, as your interaction doesn't create the music, it just goes along with static music in the background. A string of lums (coins) is set to a series of guitar strings, for example, but if you don't collect the lums, the guitar strums still happen. I did enjoy these, even though they don't involve the player in a way that makes game like the Bit.Trip series so neat.

The big disappointment here, though, is just that the main game ends abruptly, leaving me still wanting. The story is a load of nonsense, which means that there is no added sense of satisfaction at the conclusion because there's basically nothing here. Narratives in games like this don't need to be anything more complex than a hero saving a princess from a monster, but something should be here to give a sense of purpose and conclusiveness to the adventure. It would probably seem silly if that was the thrust of my explanation of my biggest problem with the game, but that is just secondary. The short feeling of the main game adds much more to this abruptness. These five standard-length worlds don't feel like enough. I wanted more.

That's not to say that there isn't a lot of content here, because there is. Legends does a brilliant job of constantly holding a carrot in front of your face, giving you new challenges like short time trials (as well as daily ones that are ranked online!), and new rewards like character skins. It's quite addictive! There's nearly an equal amount of remade Origins levels here, which are still incredibly fun despite feeling jarring and useless, considering this game is lacking on new levels and since Origins was so recent. 

I get the sense that Rayman Legends could have so easily been an incredible or even masterful game, when it's really just a great one. So you could fairly say that I'm disappointed. But really, I love this game. It is an absolute blast and very smartly designed. Its aesthetics are wonderful. It's great.


~  Reviewed on Playstation 3, single-player ~