Horizon Zero Dawn & The Frozen Wilds

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Wow, so here I thought I had already reviewed Horizon Zero Dawn, but instead I had blogged about how excited I was for it to arrive. If you’re interested you can read that blog post here.

Well, Horizon’s been out for nearly 8 months now. I remember the day I bought it. I spent around $90 for the digital deluxe edition. At the time I thought it was a good deal, but in hindsight, not really. I won’t talk about that edition, but I found the stuff included in the package was okay, not fantastic.

Let’s talk about Horizon Zero Dawn. The story is set in the 31st century, in a world where humans have regressed to primitive tribal societies due to some disaster that happened in the past. Their technologically advanced predecessors are vaguely remembered as the “Old Ones.” The buildings and ruins can be found scattered across the land.  Machines dominate the Earth, and some appear to resemble animals we love such as horses, or t-rex dinosaurs. They used to peacefully coexist with humans, who occasionally hunt them for parts, but then they started to become corrupted causing machines to be very aggressive toward humans. Not to mention that bigger and deadlier machines have been unearthed to reek havoc on the land. There are three tribes that are prominently featured: the Nora, the Carja, and the Oseram. The Nora are fierce hunter-gatherers who live in the mountains and worship nature as the “All-Mother.” The Carja are desert-dwelling city builders who worship the Sun. The Oseram are tinkerers known for their metalworking, brewing, and arguing.

HZD (Horizon Zero Dawn) is a role playing game where the player plays Aloy in a 3rd person perspective in an open world environment. She’s our female protagonist, and I must say I love this. Not many games feature strong women in a leading role in video games. And less so in modest, normal clothing. I applaud Guerrilla Games. Aloy is very curious about the Old Ones and their fate. The story is centered around her curiosity and what she finds in the ruins. For one, her Focus.

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Focus is a small device worn by human users that served as a multipurpose neural interface. This device is responsive to the user’s gestures and voice, and displays a visual 3D interface visible only to them, aiding in the operation of machinery and technology alike, as well as in communications. Aloy finds her focus in the ruins near her home when she’s a child and from then on she relies on her focus to help her in many ways:

  • Scanning machines and registering their information, including weaknesses, in the machine catalogue in the notebook. This briefly leaves them and their weak points highlighted.
  • Optionally places a trail on the ground indicating a machine’s patrol route.
  • Decoding datapoints, glyphs, and vantage points.
  • Revealing tracks or evidence left behind by humans or machines.

Let’s move on to other aspects of the game. Aloy has a skill tree which helps a lot with the game. If you purchased the Frozen Wilds DLC, then you’ll get an additional 12 skill tree slots, some of which I absolutely love as I can harvest more amazing parts when I take down machines. Super helpful when you run out of resources and you need to get more. This cuts down on grind time.  As you’ll see in the screenshot below, the Traveler skills on the far right are only available if the DLC is installed.

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There are also many merchants scattered around the world (is it strange I don’t know the name of Aloy’s land?). Visiting each one will give the player a variety of different weapons and resources to buy, and this is in the loading tips, but it’s only partially true. What you do want to do when visiting a merchant is buy their free box. Each one has one and who doesn’t like free things? You can’t revisit the same merchant twice and get another box. Once bought, that’s it. Another thing merchants sell are maps. There are four maps that cover all four types of major collectibles; Metal Flowers, Banuk Figures, Ancient Vessels and Vantages. These collectibles are the hardest to find, and the most non-essential (but super valuable!). The maps will allow the player to see the general location of each collectible. Collecting each set will allow the player to exchange them for a reward box with a specific vendor in Meridian. In the Frozen Wilds downloadable content, or The Cut as the area is called, there are also collectibles there, but these maps must be purchased from merchants with blue symbols and only when you reach that area.

There are many gameplay mechanics available to Aloy in HZD. One of them is being able to override certain machines so you can have your very own mount. Sadly the only machines Aloy can ride are broadheads, chargers and striders. Using her focus she can find weaknesses on all the machines to take them down faster. Another important aspect is that even though Aloy can override these small machines early in the game doesn’t mean she can override everything. You, as a player, must guide Aloy through the land to find Cauldrons. These are ancient areas built by the Old Ones. They’re identified by the large, metallic, triangular entrances guarded by machines. Cauldrons aren’t exactly easy. I remember a friend of mine entered one when he was only level 10 or 15, and when he reached its core, he was confronted with a new, ultra large machine. He was stuck in this room and had to take it down (along with the two watchers). He told me he couldn’t take it down and was stuck in there for days, and had to revert to an older save to escape. That’s the thing. Once you enter, you cannot just fast travel away. This is a no-going-back zone until it’s complete. So when you do play this game, make sure you’re at least the level required. I believe the map will say the level of the intense areas. Same goes with corrupted zones. There are some easy ones, and there there are zones that require  you to be level 30+ due to the difficulty of the machines. Okay, so going back to overriding machines. This is an awesome mechanic. It doesn’t work on corrupted machines, but it does on the normal ones. Let’s say you reached an area and there are 5 longleg machines. These are nasty. If you stealth approach one (this is important!!! They can’t see or hear you coming or it won’t work) and override it, it will fight the other machines. One important detail though, you cannot control it or give it commands. But I love watching it destroy other machines. Of course if you can override multiple machines, you have a better chance. Now, if you start attacking the non-overriden machines at the same time, they will start to attack Aloy instead and then you have to fight multiple machines off, unless you can successfully go into stealth mode again (which doesn’t always happen). If you use Tearblast arrows from your Sharpshot bow once on specific components on the machines, they might be puzzled but will not attack. Tearblast arrows are my favorite. Other mechanics is being able to upgrade Aloy’s purchased weapons and outfits with modifications. You can scavenge low-end mods from smaller machines, and boss-like machines (such as the Thunderjaw (kind of looks like a T-rex without arms equipped with cannons on its face and a disc launcher on its back). Defeating these will sometimes give you better modifications. If these machines happen to coincide with a side quest (say for the Hunting Ground trophy) then you’ll get purple mods which are the best ones. I love that the best and strongest of anything is purple. It’s my favourite colour.

Then we have side quests and errands. Unlike other open world games designed by other companies that fill the world with useless junk just to make their games longer (cough *Ubisoft* cough) this game is done nicely and well with the side quests and errands. I very much enjoyed doing the side quests and errands because they add to the story instead of just filling up the world with nonsense to make the game last longer. I remember finding an errand in a settlement where a wife and husband had a fight, and Aloy was tasked to finding the husband. I find him huddled on a hill. When I speak to him, he tells me all his beer casks are in the field below among a herd of Tramplers. I have to say it was the most memorable errand I had to do in the game. Since new game plus came out, I haven’t found it, but I found a different side quest where this crazy man wants to drink the blood of various machines. Haha.  You never know what you’ll find when you explore the area.

Finally we have the new DLC, The Frozen Wilds. Just look at that… so cold, so snowy!

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I thought for some reason that the DLC would be separate from the main game the same way Naughty Dog set up the Left Behinds. But nope. In fact, they added a new section of the map up above the Banuk settlement and in order to unlock it, Aloy must find the appropriate quest giver. There are 4 of them scattered across the map, and thankfully has a blue icon which is unlike any other icon in the game so it’s easier to see them (if you’re in the general area). Guerrilla Games suggests you be at least level 30 to start the DLC but when I went in I was already level 50 with all the best weapons, and I found it super hard. The new machines… holy crap. Intense! I do love the new additional stories they’ve added, and in total (including finding all the collectibles) it’s a good solid 15 hours of extra gameplay.

All in all this is one solid game and it’s worth the money spent. Even better though, in December, 2017 they will be releasing the complete edition which I will assume contains the DLC for $60 CAD. That way those who missed the Black Friday sale will still get a chance to grab the game.

Things I liked about this game:

  • I have a special affinity for games with female protagonists, especially ones that are not scantily dressed with absurdly large breasts. I like that Aloy looks normal, and is properly dressed, and she’s sarcastic and a bad-ass.
  • This is the first and only open world game where I was genuinely interested in finding all the collectibles.
  • The machines. Love them all.
  • The environment and the graphics. So spectacular.

Things I didn’t like :

  • I was totally expecting some amazing cutscenes when Aloy sees her first Tallneck. Some people said it was like The Last of Us when Ellie encounters the herd of giraffe, except in HZD I didn’t get a cutscene. So the the new machine encounters were less enthralling.
  • The facial animation when having conversations….. I can tell it was done by hand and not with the new tech that Naughty Dog uses. It felt off, but meh, it’s not super important.

I highly recommend this indie game by Guerrilla Games. They know how to make an excellent game, and I hope they create more in the future with better improved facial animations 🙂

My rating? 10/10

Should you play this? Definitely!!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

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Hyper Light Drifter drifts into our hearts

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I have had the pleasure of playing this wonderful game by Heart Machine developers. I can’t remember the day I found this game. Perhaps it was a sale being advertised on Steam the day I was looking around (the rare days I log in on my mac). In any case it was on sale on Steam. I had looked at the system requirements and was a little unsure it would actually run on my computer. Also, I’m not a fan of gaming on my computer at home. Perhaps my readers don’t know this, but I am a video game tester on a full time basis. It’s perfectly fine to game at a desk at work, but when I’m home I want to chill out with my favorite game while sitting on my comfy couch. Know what I mean? I hopped over to my PS4 and headed to the store to check out the price difference for Hyper Light Drifter. Pretty big difference. I paid $20 on PS4 as opposed to the $12 sale price on Steam. I guess I paid for comfort and perfect frame rate and excellent resolution! 🙂  (Note: If I had bought the game on the mac it might have only run on the lowest resolution possible).

So I was then the proud owner of a brand new indie game. I LOVE indie games. Can you tell? I guess it’s because so much love goes into these games, unlike AAA titles which seem to be less cared for, like the forgotten middle child. 🙂  If you’ve never heard of Hyper Light Drifter it’s a 2D action role-playing game developed by Heart Machine. The game pays homage to 8-bit and 16-bit games but with modernized game mechanics. One feature of SNES games that Preston captured is that there is no spoken dialog, placing more emphasis on the game’s music and visuals to tell a story. The soundtrack in this game is fabulous.

I don’t know too much about the story because it’s intentionally obscure so each player can speculate on what the story should be. I was content to just play the game and learn a bit here and there. But here’s a short 1 minute video of the game’s lore with no real spoilers:

In the world of Hyper Light Drifter you take charge of the Drifter. He comes equipped with a little robotic buddy who helps you find things hidden in the world, and an energy sword. Because this is an RPG, you can expand the Drifter’s weapon and ability arsenal, making him stronger and deadlier, and more awesome. There are guns available, but usually awarded to the player after a boss battle. The player doesn’t need to scavenge for ammo in the game because there’s a neat mechanic that replaces this. Instead, to replenish the ammo one must only have to attack plants or enemies with one’s sword. With each swing a portion of a bullet is filled up. In boss battles if you alternate between shots and swings, you’ll never run out. The only item the Drifter must look for in the world is health packs. They’re scattered everywhere. Let’s say you’re in the west and you ran out of health packs, all you need to do is teleport back to town, head north and zip through that area replenish your stock, then teleport back to the west. It’s a nice little mechanic. However, there is a dark side to this: When you teleport out of an area where you killed all the enemies, the act of teleporting will respawn all the enemies once more. Ideally you will not want to do this. I discovered this the hard way. If you leave the area on foot and return on foot, the area will remain as you left it.

There are four major bosses in this world; North, South, East and West, as well as smaller less intimidating bosses scattered in each quadrant. When the player reaches the center of the world, the town, they have three choices for their starting point. West, North and East. It doesn’t really matter where you go, because this game isn’t so linear. It’s more of an open world concept, sort of, with limitations of course. Here’s a screenshot of the map:

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You cannot go South or to some areas because you will have blocks with arrows blocking your path. As you can see by the blocks they have arrows pointing in three directions. You must complete the first three quadrants before you can unlock the south, leading you to your final destination.

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There are a lot of little secrets in this world to uncover:

  • Gear Bits – Your in-game currency to buy new weapons and upgrades. There’s a trophy to gather all 186 gear bits.
  • Keys – Gather keys to unlock secret rooms for extra things.
  • Monoliths – Finding all 16 will unlock a secret outfit.
  • Modules – Get all of them to unlock the final large module in the town’s center.
  • Chain Dash challenge – Do 800 consecutive chain dashes to unlock a secret outfit.
  • Play the game to discover them all!

Things I liked about this game:

  • I love everything about it, even the challenging boss fights, some were really tough though.

Things I didn’t like :

  • The 800 dash challenge. Do you have any idea how difficult this is to do with a controller? I tried to connect a keyboard to my PS4 to use some keys to make it easier, but Hyper Light Drifter wouldn’t recognize there was a keyboard connected. I was so sad. If you’re a trophy hunter, you might want to get this on steam for this challenge.

I highly recommend this indie game by Heart Machine. They know how to make an excellent game, and I hope they create more in the future!

My rating? 10/10

Should you play this? Definitely!!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

“Never Alone” in the Arctic

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Never Alone is a video game created and developed in conjunction with Ishmael Hope, a storyteller and poet of Iñupiaq and Tlingit heritage, and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a non-profit organization that works with indigenous groups living in Alaska’s urban areas.

I don’t think this game is very well known as it isn’t a AAA title, as the majority of gamers prefer triple A titles. Not me. I love indie games and supporting independent companies in the creation of new and exciting titles. I was introduced to this title because at the time I was perusing my buddy’s PS4 titles thanks to PSN ID sharing. I saw this image thumbnail (image above) and I was intrigued so I downloaded it to my own PS4.

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Never Alone can be either a single-player game or in a co-operative fashion with a friend. You play as a young Iñupiat girl, Nuna, and an arctic fox as they set out to find the source of the eternal blizzard which threatens the survival of everything they have ever known. You will trek through frozen tundra, leap across treacherous ice floes, swim through underwater ice caverns, and face numerous enemies both strange and familiar in the journey to save the girl’s village. Throughout the game there collectibles to be found that will unlock video insights of Elders, storytellers, and other members of the Alaska Native community sharing stories and wisdom about their culture, values and the amazing Arctic world. This gives the player some background into an otherwise unknown frozen world most of us never experience.

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A screenshot of what a video insight looks like as it plays.

If you love video games, and you want to support indie developers, especially the Indigenous people of Alaska, give this game a try! It’s available on multiple platforms!

  • Apple store
  • Google play
  • PS3 / PS4
  • Steam
  • WiiU
  • Xbox One

Things I liked about this game:

  • I have a special place in my heart for small, indie games that try hard to tell a story, and this is one of them. I love to learn, and learning while playing a video game is even better.

Things I didn’t like :

  • Sometimes the controls were a little difficult, and a lot of people complained about it, but overall it wasn’t so bad. Not much I hated about this game.
  • Maybe the length was a bit short, which is why I recommend this game on sale.

All in all I would say for an indie game by Alaskan Indigenous people, it’s a winner! Don’t let the mixed reviews confuse you. You buy the game based on your own feelings from the trailer and not from what other people have said about it. This game might not be everyone’s cup of tea and we have to understand this (when reading negative reviews). Or maybe they were frustrated and just hated on the game. Either way it’s a lovely story and it’s beautifully made.

My rating? 7/10

Should you play this? Definitely!!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

INSIDE the world of Playdead’s newest game.

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I was really excited when I heard that Playdead made a new game! I really loved Limbo. Did you guys play Limbo?? The little boy who awakens in the middle of a forest on the edge of hill to search for his missing sister. Such a good game. Well INSIDE is similar but also different.

INSIDE’s story is not really known, but in short, it’s of a boy who wakes up in a forest, and is running from masked men with flashlights looking for him. You play this boy, and you must escape this world that is horrific and frightening.

Limbo was designed in black and white tones, but INSIDE is designed in a more monochromatic style with color used sparingly to highlight parts of the environment. As with Limbo, INSIDE is a mostly silent game with the occasional musical cues. You, as the boy, can now control people using mind control devices located throughout the game. These are important to solving certain puzzles.

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It’s a similar mechanic to the game, The Swapper. However, I only played 20 mins of that game so I can’t really comment on the similarities.

While playing the game you notice as you control the boy that he is hiding from people who are searching for him. Why? No one really knows. He ends up in some buildings and then eventually in some sort of laboratory, finding horrific things.

As with Limbo, INSIDE offers several secret collectibles to be found throughout the game. These collectibles take on the form of medium-sized black orbs with lights on them, and are always hooked up to yellow power cables, which can often be seen outside the secret areas where the collectible can be found and broken. Near the end of the game, and near the 14th collectible, there’s a large board that lights up with every collectible found. So that way, the player can reload a specific chapter and redo it to get the collectible. It will save and when complete the player can resume their game where they left off.

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A shot of what the collectible spheres look like.

On top of collectibles, there’s also a secret ending that only the player who complete and collect all the collectibles will get to see. At this point the new puzzle for the new ending will be seen. There are a few endings to INSIDE, and they will all leave you feeling a little more puzzled and asking a few more questions. I won’t go into details because I don’t write reviews with spoilers, but if you’ve played the game (or will play it) and you want to learn more about the ending, READ ME to learn more about IGN’s theories. 🙂

If you’re curious about the game, or you’ve never heard of it, then I encourage you to watch this trailer and give this game a try. I know for PS4 the INSIDE + Limbo games are sold together as a bundle, and it’s worth it.

Things I liked about this game:

  • I love all of Playdead’s games. They’re unique, and refreshing, and the puzzles are very good. I loved everything about this game, even the confusing and puzzling ending.

Things I didn’t like :

  • This one is superficial, but I was expecting the look of INSIDE to be like Limbo, as in black and white with the same boy design, but it isn’t. The art style of INSIDE is slightly different but that is such an inconsequential dislike it’s barely even worth mentioning. 🙂

I highly recommend this indie game by a Danish company. Playdead knows how to make excellent games, and this is one of them.

My rating? 10/10

Should you play this? Definitely!!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst – Perfect for parkour!

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If you’ve all played Mirror’s Edge, then I’m sure you’re all excited for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst! Or maybe you aren’t? Maybe you’re listening too hard to the reviews and comments of others to dip into this beauty of a game? I was a little hesitant at first to get this game, I’ll admit. Why? I heard they changed it from a linear game to an open world. I’m not a fan of open world games. There’s too much to do, and it feels too big and overwhelming. But at Christmas time my dad asked me what I wanted and I asked for this and The Last Guardian. 🙂 I liked the story and I couldn’t resist, I would suffer the open world for the story. I got this game as a gift, and I had a week off of work after Christmas, and my plans were to play the games my dad bought me for the holidays.

It’s been so long since I played the game. Today is October 30th, 2017! 😛  Haha I shouldn’t have waited so long to write this review.

Ok, at the time I really liked Mirror’s Edge, but I found portions of it rage-inducing. I thought how could they improve this game? Well, Faith’s parkour abilities have changed, for the better! In the first game, I found running along vertical walls to be hit and miss. But in Catalyst the newly created mechanics are smoooooooooth! You hit that vertical wall and Faith will run across it with ease, making it to the other side without dying. It was amazing. I knew after that that this game was loads better than the first.

The combat mechanics were overhauled. The use of guns was removed in Catalyst focusing on Faith’s running and parkour movements and quick melee-style attacks to take down or evade her enemies. When she runs, she enters into focus mode, and with enough of it, she can even evade bullets. When she performs her finishing move on enemies, the camera switches to a third-person perspective to get a better view, which I thought was neat. I can’t remember but I believe I only saw that happen once in my game. I guess I’m not that good at melee fights. 🙂

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Faith in a melee action shot. She goes into 3rd person view for her finishing move.

Going back to my earlier comment about disliking open world games is this. I swear game designers/developers think that players want more “game”, so they fill the world with side activities such as time trials, races and environmental puzzles. For some these are great, but for me I just avoided them. The races required precision, and were very frustrating. One mistake, and you missed the goal. I’m not good with precision, so I just skipped all this stuff. I stuck to the main campaign, doing any side missions I might find along the way but didn’t concern myself with getting 100% completion in this game. Personally, my preference is linear games rather than open world. Give me a good story and a path to follow and I’m quite happy.

After I completed the game, I had some questions about the story itself. I did a little search and found this in an article found here:

DICE’s upcoming Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a re-imagining of the original Mirror’s Edge; we’ll hear a different version of protagonist Faith’s tale, and although we’ll see familiar faces and hear familiar names, they may not be in the forms we remember. But perhaps the biggest change is the way DICE is presenting Faith herself. According to narrative director Christofer Ermgard–who is also working on the prequel comic Mirror’s Edge: Exordium–she’ll be less an “empty vessel” for players to control and more fleshed out, due to a richer narrative and supporting world.

All in all it was a great game, and an amazing prequel to Mirror’s Edge. I could recommend it as a good starting point, but it’s not as smooth and awesome as Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Just look at the view !

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The view from one of the highest points reachable via the story!

Things I liked about this game:

  • Faith attaches to walls like glue so running along walls is a dream (as compared to the original Mirror’s Edge where I constantly fell).
  • I really liked the story in this one, I felt it was a good story that gives you an intro do Mirror’s Edge or answers questions. In my case I had a few more, but only because I wasn’t sure if this story came before or after Mirror’s Edge.
  • The graphics! The city is beautiful!
  • I have to admit the open world concept is a good one. In the original game you were limited by one, maybe two paths, but here you can run just about anywhere.

Things I didn’t like :

  • The excess of collectibles, side missions, secret bag locations. I swear EA DICE did this on purpose because the main story wasn’t that long.

All in all I would say for AAA game it’s a recommend! I recommend this open world, action-adventure runner game for the pure joy of being able to run atop buildings and climb and do parkour. Think of it as a parkour simulator for those who are not capable of this level of energy. 🙂

My rating? 9/10

Should you play this? Definitely!!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a must buy!

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I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted any video game reviews. January is such a long time away and I have played many new games since then. I will try to post more regularly.

Today I want to talk about Ninja Theory’s newest cinematic psychological horror action-adventure video game. Before I begin my actual review of this game, I heard about this game a year before it was released. At the time they called it a “hack and slash” game. I wasn’t sure how I’d actually feel about this when I heard this. Hack and Slash is not my kind of genre. I’ve never played Heavenly Sword because I did not like the gameplay I experienced in the demo, but I did really enjoy Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. When Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was finally released, I took a chance since it wasn’t priced high. I’m quite pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it, so let’s go on with the review!

Like I just mentioned, I took a chance on this game. In saying this, I didn’t know the story for Hellblade. I knew it was about Senua (acted by Melina Juergens, who incidentally also happens to be Ninja Theory’s video editor) and her journey through a hellish world.

It turns out this hellish world is Senua’s psychotic manifestations of her reality and mind due to her mental illness, psychosis. In case you don’t know, psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind that involves a “loss of contact with reality”. Senua created her own reality as she set on a quest to release her love’s soul, Dillion, from Hel (also known as Helheim) and ruled by Hela, the Queen of Hel and daughter of Loki in Norse mythology. 

To give you a little backstory, Senua is a Pictish warrior from the Orkney islands. She was traumatized by her psychosis, the lies from her father and how he convinced her that she was the curse upon her village. She left her village to be a geilt (a geilt is “one who goes mad from terror, a panic-stricken fugitive from battle, a crazy person living in the woods and supposed to be endowed with the power of levitation, a lunatic.”) and lived in the woods to exorcise her curse. Upon her return, she finds Dillion sacrificed in the Blood Eagle fashion (you can google the information but it’s NSFW). She sets off with Dillion’s head in a bag attached to her belt to Hel, to release Dillion from Hela’s grasp.

Senua travels through a world full of demons manifested from her psychosis. Each enemy encounter represents another kind of psychosis she experiences. The player never knows if they are real or if they are a figment of Senua’s imagination.

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Her first ‘demon’ is Hela, the Norse goddess of death as she begs for Dillion’s release in the first 20 minutes of the game. Hela refuses and Senua gets afflicted with the rot, and the player is told that the rot will grow each time the player fails. An additional warning appears that if the rot reaches Senua’s head, her quest is over. And so it begins. The player must fight for Senua’s life for the rest of the game.

When it comes to the story, it’s not so easily given away. It is fed to the player in a subtle way and they must search the environment for lore stones to learn the backstory of Norse mythology, as well as Senua’s past. These can sometimes be in plain sight, but more often than not they have to be sought out for they are well hidden. The player upon finding all of them will be rewarded with a bonus extended ending. The great thing about the lore stones is that they’re tracked. There is a ring of white runes around each one. Every time a lore stone has been found, the rune turns red showing as found. Each section in the game has a set number of lore stones and the lore stone runes are separated by a dot, so it gives the player some indication as to where in the game they must look and how many they must find. Depending on where the player is in the game, there is a possibility to backtrack and find unread lore stones.

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Along with lore stones, the player must also find runes in each new area. Senua will encounter doors blocking her path which she must unlock, and to do so she will be presented with one, two, three or maybe even four runes. She must then walk around and search for these runes. The player has to be creative because they could be anywhere. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you how to find these runes. This is half the fun.

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Another part of Senua’s psychosis is that she hears several voices in her head speaking to her constantly. I love how the designers have designed this game to have binaural 3D audio. The game is intended to be played with headphones on. So when the voices speak the player can hear them coming from all directions. The voices, even the narrator’s constantly chatter in her head, encouraging her, goading her, guiding her, or even laughing at her. This gives the player stress and tension, allowing them to become engulfed in Senua’s psychosis little by little. I never knew who was speaking. I know personally that I felt some unease with their consistency. They never gave me peace. I felt paranoid. The creators of this game wanted the players to experience what it’s like to live with psychosis. It worked.

The gameplay mechanics, on the other hand, are very interesting. The combat is fierce and claustrophobic (like the voices in her head). The camera is always stuck to the most active enemy as must keep her foes in sight, as they will not wait to take a swing at her. Senua can parry and counter-attack and they feel like duels. Remember, these aren’t real enemies but figments of her psychosis. Ninja Theory’s goal was to overwhelm and unsettle its players, presumably as an attempt to recreate the mental fatigue of Senua’s psychosis. It assaults the senses, and might even trigger some. That’s why there’s a psychological warning at the beginning.

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Along with tight combat, there is no HUD, no maps, no objective markers. The game is very linear. It’s not difficult to follow, but you won’t know if you’ve missed something like a lore stone unless you see a white rune among red. You’ll have to rely on your memory and retrace your steps. If you miss a lore stone in the game and you’ve reached a point of no return, then you can start a new game with all found lore stones saved and just find the ones you’ve missed. It’s a great little mechanic.

All in all this is a great game! I love what Ninja Theory did with it.

Things I like about this game:

  • I liked almost everything. The tension, the fear, the rot, the enemies, the story.
  • The binaural audio was a nice touch.

Things I didn’t like :

  • Having to wear headphones to play to get the full effect of the voices. I live alone, so playing a game with headphones doesn’t make sense, but I tried without, and you just don’t get the sense of voices whispering in your ears when your speakers are 5 feet in front of you. I guess my headphones were too tight. I had to switch to ear buds for better comfort.
  • Senua would get camera locked to an enemy and it proved to be a little difficult to maneuver, especially when she gets surrounded by 4 or more later in the game. Staying alive was a challenge.
  • The game wasn’t as long as I wanted it to be, but Ninja Theory priced it accordingly and I respect that.

All in all I would say for a game made by an independent company, it’s a highly recommend! I recommend this cinematic psychological horror action-adventure game for everyone who loved Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a far different game than these two, but it’s worth it. Even if the permadeath isn’t real, Ninja Theory made an excellent game.

My rating? 9/10

Should you play this? I say yes!!!! DO IT!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

 

 

The Last Guardian gave me all the feels.

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The boy and Trico…. checking out the view.

Let me start by saying that my dad was the best! He bought this game on December 7th, the 2nd day it was released for me for Christmas. I wasn’t expecting it because it’s so expensive but I had asked for this and a less expensive game. I was expecting to only get the less expensive game. But to my joy I got this one too!

I’ve heard some less than awesome things about it, but I decided to ignore everyone and play it with an open heart and mind.

The Last Guardian is designed by Fumito Ueda. It’s an action-adventure video game developed by genDESIGN and SIE Japan Studio. Fumito Ueda created the Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (SotC) worlds we know so well. The worlds full of grandiosity which make you, the player of that little person feel ever so small. I played Ico and SotC and I loved them both, but I can tell you that I loved The Last Guardian the most! YES I SAID IT!!! The Last Guardian is the BEST GAME EVER from Fumito Ueda. He outdid himself.

So without going into too much detail and spoiling it for everyone, you are a boy. You wake up in a kind of cave with a very large, albeit angry half-bird and half-mammal named Trico whose in chains. You try to satiate the beast with these glowing blue barrels, you remove the spears in his body and then he allows you to get near his head to remove the collar which has him trapped in that cave. Your entire adventure is with this Trico. He is a fearful creature, and looks to you for guidance in everything. He learns to trust you and follows you around like a puppy, and it’s adorable. After some time the boy learns to give Trico commands so he’ll follow you. You’re helping him out of the maze you’re in. And so begins the beautiful journey of boy and beast. You do find out that Trico isn’t alone in this world. You also find out how the boy ended up where he is. I won’t say more because otherwise I’ll spoil it for you 😉

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Trico is giving the boy head rubs because he’s just so sweet.

I found this game to be half like Ico and half like SotC. You battle odd shadow guards. You solve puzzles, and you can climb Trico! Speaking of commanding Trico, this can be a little tricky. I was pretty good at getting him to go where I wanted most of the time. I petted him a lot and I think that helped. Trico also gives you clues as to your desired path, and it’s important to watch him carefully while you play. I have two cats, and I feel that gives me a slight advantage in this game. I’m very good at reading their body language and meows and it was the same with Trico. The boy also needed Trico very much to get to hard-to-reach places or to get out of sticky situations.

I really loved the environment in this game. Like Ico and SotC, it was another imposing environment with very large buildings everywhere. It just reinforces how small you are and how large Trico is. The detail in the environment was really amazing, even with Trico.

Gameplay mechanics were alright for this game. The boy either had a full on run or he tiptoed when he walked slowly. It was pretty funny. And sometimes he’d end up pushing a wall instead of running around it. It took some getting used. Also, the camera could have been a tad better. I played for a solid 15 hours last Tuesday and I got pretty dizzy. I had to change how fast the camera moved, but it didn’t help. Because the boy is so small there’s a lot of camera shifting to find the way out. Remember in Shadow of the Colossus when the boy had to climb the flying Colossus in the desert? You rode that horse in circles just to try to get on that beast. Well I got pretty dizzy from that. Imagine a lot of circling camera movement? Same thing. I mean it was all my doing, but frequent breaks are required 🙂 Overall these issues didn’t bother me too much. I did sigh a few times in slight frustration, but it was such a small aspect that I was fine.

The one thing that bothered me the most was the boy and how he looked in comparison to everything else. He had very little shadows on him to define his face, neck etc. He was also quite bright and appeared to look different than Trico or the environment. In essence he stood out like a bright sore thumb. I assume the dev did this so you could actually see the boy, but really I didn’t think this extra brightness was necessary at all. But after the first initial shock of it I just ignored it as a quirk and brushed it aside as an unnecessary annoyance. Yes, he was off compared to the rest, but I wasn’t going to let something so insignificant as this ruin a perfectly wonderful game.

Finally, there is a huge replayability for this game. I know people love New Game Plus, and The Last Guardian does have a sort of NG+ option. Once you finish the game and you’ve watched the credits and the movie after the credits, you get sent back to the main menu. In this main menu you can continue the story (not start a new game — they are not the same). By starting a new game you essentially erase all the work you did in the last one. Continuing the story saves all the barrels you’ve gathered for Trico during your first game. So you’ve continued your story and you’re back in the cave with Trico. Once you gain control of the boy, pause the game. Go down to “Items”. Here you have unlocked new clothing colours for the boy depending on how many barrels you’ve collected. The great thing about this game during your second round, is that the barrel count updates continuously, so if you were playing for 30 mins and you paused and went back to your items, you’ll see you’ve gathered more barrels. The goal is to gather 96 barrels. Not only does that unlock all of the outfits for the boy (and a trophy if you select them all and put them on the boy during the game), you also get to change Trico’s feathering! I don’t know how many actual barrels there are in this game, but supposedly there are more than 36 which is how many barrels I found in my first playthrough.

So don’t worry. If you finished the game, you can go back and try again for some trophies! The hardest trophy to get is the “Finish the game in less than 5 hours”. You must have perfect command of Trico, know the world inside out, and not care about the other trophies or the extra barrels. I might try this one day. I read online that the in-game timer still runs even if you pause the game, so if you’re playing on PS4 like I am, you have to physically pause and go to your XMB to really pause the timer. Having a physical timer next to you helps to track your actual time in the game since the game doesn’t have one internally. The other two speedrunner trophies are easy to unlock. I managed to finish the game in under 15 hours and unlocked both that and the 30 hr trophy. Good luck with the 5 hour trophy!!

I bet you’re super interested in this game. If you haven’t seen the trailer, you should:

Now I want to talk about my likes and dislikes for this game 🙂

Things I like about this game:

  • The environment and how majestic and stately it all was.
  • Trico. A big puppy that follows you around which is so adorable.
  • The lengths the boy went to put Trico at ease.
  • The story of Trico (you’ll have to play the game to learn this) 🙂
  • The unbreakable bond that grows between Trico and the boy.
  • The story. Oh my goodness the story is amazing.
  • The puzzles. They weren’t easy, and no one is holding your hand.
  • The in-game soundtrack was wonderful.
  • I got scared of heights and got butterflies a lot while climbing very precarious places.

Things I don’t like :

  • The boy’s skin made him look too bright and cartoony compared to the rest of the environment and world, making him stand out like a sore thumb
  • The boy sometimes ran too fast, especially when I was on treacherous ground. Scared the shit out of me.

All in all I would say for an indie game, it’s a highly recommend! I recommend this action adventure game for everyone who loved Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. In my mind it was better than both games put together. I will be personally writing to the designer, Fumido Ueda, and congratulating him on a job well done! I cannot wait for their next game, whenever that will be.

My rating? 9/10

Should you play this? I say yes, if you loved Shadow of the Colossus or Ico!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

FIREWATCH – A very broken game

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Playstation had a deal not too long ago and FIREWATCH was on sale for a very reasonable price, around $8 -13. I had heard some good things about this game so I decided to buy it and give it a try. I played it with a friend watching on New Year’s eve 2016.

All was good. We had made it to day 77, and for some reason which I cannot remember I quit the game to check something on the XBN of my Playstation 4, and then I went back and started the game anew. What I encountered when I started it up was that the game would not load. Not even a little bit. Not even in the load game screen. Continue didn’t start the game nor did the save file. We did some digging around on the web and decided to try and download my saved game data from the online storage. To our surprise the save data wasn’t even present in the cloud or on my PS4. WTF Santo Campo!?! Did your compliance team even catch this issue? Did you fix it? Nooooope. We were forced to restart the game. Thankfully it’s a short game and can be played in a few hours, but still. Super annoying.

Now while my friend was checking the internet and I was zipping through the slog at the beginning, he found yet another potential blocker found somewhere around Day 79 which half the players encountered. Thankfully when we got to that point I did not otherwise I’d be emailing Playstation store for a full refund. Unfortunately it was a digital sale and cannot be refunded… FU.

As a little side note, my friend and I are professional QA video game testers. Which means we test video games for  bugs on a full time basis, and when we encounter a released game that is as broken as FIREWATCH, we are deeply disappointed.

Alright, back to my review….

We both decided it was prudent to start a new game. I was pissed off at this point having paid money for this game, and finding out it’s already so very broken in the most important way. Slogging through the beginning wasn’t fun so I spammed X the whole time trying to choose the same options as before.

I did run the whole time and avoided reporting all the fog. What the fuck is up with Henry and his fog reports? Once I got to the same point where we last were the story started to take many twists. I suspect the two girls in the beginning were a red herring to throw the player off from the actual plot in the story which revolved around Brian Goodwin. I won’t say more in case you’re reading this and you do indeed want to play this game.

We finally made it to the end, but we had encountered massive frame rate issues where the game would just freeze for a second or two. This wasn’t fun, but it’s more acceptable than the not being able to load a save game issue. My friend and I also found it difficult to relate to either of the characters. Henry was unrelated and then there’s Delilah with her “I need to fuck you now” need towards Henry at some point in the game. We both thought that was really off, and not at all appropriate for what was going on in the story. I really, really didn’t like that part AT ALL.

So in the end, the story is okay. It confused the hell out of my friend with all the convoluted plot lines going here and there. I know at one point I was getting very much into it. Sadly the end is very anticlimactic. I suppose it could have been better, but it wasn’t.

Things I like about this game:

  • The colour scheme was interesting.
  • Dialogue choices.
  • The twist in the story.
  • The sub trophies were fun.

Things I don’t like :

  • The very, very orange-ness of the game when the sun was setting. It was too orange.
  • Henry’s arms when he ran. It was very robotic.
  • Clunky jump option. No smooth jumping.
  • Frame rate issues.
  • Couldn’t load saved game after quitting the game in mid-playthrough.
  • Save data didn’t upload to the cloud or my PS4 upon first play. Probably the reason for the save data being unable to load cause it’s not present.
  • The ending. Too boring.
  • This game had way too many issues. They should have been fixed by Campo Santo BEFORE being released.
  • The final sub trophy could not be unlocked. I was fuming.
  • Had to quit the game before I could unlock Free Roam.
  • I did not have an updated map or the axe when loading into Free Roam which meant I had to run around and get all the boxes so I could find the paths on my map.

I read on their website that they provided patches in September to all of these issues, but that was a complete lie. It’s December, and the game is still as broken now as it was four months ago.

All in all I would say for an indie game, it’s an alright story. I don’t recommend this game based on all of the issues I’ve encountered. Personally it’s not worth any of the money you would spend. This game is worth $1. With all the issues you’d want your money back. If you want to play the game, I recommend watching this YouTube Let’s Play video instead. This way you won’t waste any money.

My rating? 4/10

Should you play this? I say maybe. You can get through one play in a few hours.

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl

The Last of Us Part II is finally happening!

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If you’re heaving into gaming and follow a few gaming blogs, then I’m sure by now you’ve heard the amazing news from this weekend’s PSX 2016 panel with Naughty Dog that they’re finally going to make a sequel to The Last of Us. However, it’s not just a sequel, but part two!

If you’ve played the first game you know that the ending leaves a lot of questions to the player. Questions such as “Why was Joel so selfish?” and “Will he ever tell Ellie the truth about what he did?” It feels so open-ended with so little closure. Ellie is very upset, asking Joel for the truth about the Fireflies not being able to find a cure and Joel outright lies to her face claiming it’s the truth and then it cuts to the credits. Cliffhanger!!!

Naughty Dog says the following about the development of The Last of Us Part II:

“I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to finally be able to say that Ellie and Joel are back for another intense, harrowing, and emotional adventure. Like many of you, we have a deep love for the world of The Last of Us and its characters, and while a sequel may have seemed like a foregone conclusion, that wasn’t the case. We knew that it needed to be a story worth telling and, perhaps more importantly, a story worthy of Joel and Ellie. After spending years on different ideas (and almost giving up), we finally uncovered a story that felt special—a story that evolved into an epic journey.”

A lot of people commenting on all of these news posts are posting negative things about how the sequel will not be good, or why ruin a good thing! Naughty Dog has mentioned the following at their PSX16 panel:

“With regard to worries that a sequel could somehow risk degrading the integrity of the original’s ambiguous ending, Druckmann said, “You have to understand that no one loves these characters more than we do, and we would not do this if we didn’t feel like we didn’t have the right idea.”

“All I ask is that fans of the first one put some faith in us, trust we’re going to do right by them.” he continued. Druckmann also shared some concept art for TLOU2, and confirmed that Gustavo Santaolalla would be returning to score the new game.

I know personally that I have a huge amount of faith in the developers of Naughty Dog to deliver the best video game / story they can create that will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps as well as pave the way for amazing story telling via video games.

Too many times I see developers create games with huge, open worlds. They think the bigger it is, the better it’ll be. But in my opinion, I would rather play a shorter game (between 6 – 30 hours) that is linear but tells an amazing story! I’m all about the story when it comes to video games. I find those open world games are too jam-packed with little itty bitty side quests, trying to make up for an average story (or none at all). Well I’m stoked that Naughty Dog isn’t about making open world games, and I hope it stays like that. I love their games as they are.

Going back to The Last of Us Part II, is anyone else glad that Gustavo Santaolalla is returning to score the new game?? I feel that his score really helps solidify the story. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the full TLOU soundtrack, here it is:

Neil Druckmann is saying that Part II is about ‘hate’. Druckmann explains the following:

“If the first game was really about the love between these two characters, this story is the counter of that,” Druckmann explained early on. “This is story is about hate, through Ellie this time. The first game you play as Joel, this game you play as Ellie.”

Ellie is now 19, and the years spent surviving the collapse of civilization have taken their toll. “She’s gone through some shit,” Johnson said later during the discussion.

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Ellie is on a rampage to kill who? All the infected? The Fireflies? It leaves a lot of questions that we’re all asking, but that doesn’t matter. When Naughty Dog is ready, the answers will be given to us. And they will be granted via their new performance capture technology as seen in the gif below.

This new tech really adds to the game and makes you feel like you’re actually playing real people! I work full time as a video game tester so it’s nice to play a game where they use this kind of tech to capture facial movements, lip syncing and movements is being used. Nothing makes a game more horrible than horribly lip synching, or flat characters with no freaking personality. I know for a fact that Naughty Dog’s used tech similar to this for their first game, so it makes sense to build upon it and make it more realistic. 🙂

Check out the panel at PSX2016!! Get the latest news about the game (trailer is included in this video 🙂

One last thing! A friend of mine shared with me some IMGUR celebratory comics in regards to The Last of Us Part II being announced, and here’s the link but I’m posting my ultimate favorites that I find funny. If you’ve played the game you’ll see why they’re so funny. 😀

And then this one:

For those who might not know about this, Dark Horse has The Last of Us comics you can buy. Tells the story of Ellie in boarding school and how she met her bestie, Riley.

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https://www.darkhorse.com/Books/22-396/The-Last-of-Us-American-Dreams-TPB

Well I hope you enjoyed this rather long post! If you haven’t played The Last of Us yet, I highly recommend it because The Last of Us Part II probably won’t be out until December 2018 or very early 2019. Still two years away.

And comments about the game or if you want to start a discussion are always welcome! 😀

Cheers!

Bitchin’ Gamer Grl

Layers of Fear (or layers of madness???)

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I grabbed Layers of Fear a few weeks past when Playstation had their Halloween sales. I got the main game and DLC (Inheritance) for $13.50, which wasn’t bad considering how many times you have to play the game to get all the “layers” the developers have added.

This is not a very long game, but it’s not meant to be sped through. If you do so you’ll get the neutral ending (or the loop ending) that everyone talks about. It does not give you (the player) nor the man you’re playing as any sort of closure. If you’re the kind of person who has to collect all collectibles, then you will end up with this ending. But don’t despair. This game is meant to be played 3 times for each ending. Nothing’s really explained or laid out for you. The developers at Bloober games expect you to figure it out yourself, but here’s my suggestion:

Playthrough #1: Pick up all momentos, rat drawings and objects lying around to trigger memories. This will give you the neutral loop ending which is okay.

Playthrough #2: This second time you can choose to “Finish It” which will return you to the beginning of chapter 1 where you are in the art studio room. From this point on you choose to go the path of the painter. Essentially you’re being selfish and you only interact with items related to you or your art (Example: Dog collar, dog muzzle, cane, glasses, broken clock, crank (hidden in a closet), rats, broken brushes, broken palette). Under no circumstances interact with any alcohol, or items belonging to the wife as that will trigger the neutral ending. Also, make sure to always follow the rats. If given options of two doorways, always follow the art. If there is black goo by a doorway, avoid it at all costs. Avoid any instances of your child as well (do not pick up any toys or follow the crying voices). And under no circumstances peak in any doors where the dead wife may be hiding and avoid her in the halls. Turn around and walk away if you can.

Playthrough #3: For your final playthrough you do the opposite of your last one. In this final run you are going to constantly head toward your dead wife. Instead of taking the doors with paintings, you will take the door options that have black oozing stuff. If the wall says to Not turn back, turn back. Always embrace your wife. Also, you’ll be aiming to pick up all of her items (hair brush, broken phone, perfume, necklace, checkers, give the potato to the cat (near the checkers) and interact with doors that suddenly open or give you any clues that your dead wife is there. Do not crank the paintings out of the pit, but do jump down. If you fall in a hole and you hear something scary, turn around and search in the dark.

As for the DLC, Inheritance, I recommend it. I recommend you buy the whole game/DLC package because it explains stuff the game does not. Unfortunately the DLC also has 3 game endings.

I won’t spoil them for you, but you will see for yourself when you examine your trophies. I had the most difficulty unlocking the final trophy  This could be important, and therefore recommend the following links to help you find all the collectibles. Unlike the main game, you must find ALL the notes, drawings, and memories in ONE playthrough in order to unlock this trophy. They do not save and carry over to other walkthroughs like the main game.

Steam Walkthrough for all collectibles  /  YouTube Video detailing each collectible (but not explaining how to get it)

Check out the trailer:

And the trailer for the DLC:

Things I like about this game:

  • Creates some layers of madness trying to figure out all the clues to all the secret endings.
  • 3 mysteries to solve.
  • The ouija board room in the basement in the prologue.
  • Short which means you can breeze through the game in 1-3 hours to get the extra endings without picking up all the collectibles.
  • Playing this game in the dark at night.

Things I don’t like :

  • Sometimes walking into items makes the character spin in a circle and to stop this requires walking him into something. It’s for sure a bug.
  • Jump scares aren’t that scary, but they do give me chills.

All in all I would say for an indie game, it’s a recommend! I recommend this horror game for all my fans who are enthusiastic about horror. Just don’t expect it to scare you too much, but it does have great atmosphere.

My rating? 7/10

Should you play this? I say yes, if you like horror!

Enjoy!

Bitchin’ Gamer Girl