Her Story - A Different Type of Video Game

I don't play video games very often. Sometimes there are stories that I need to play through to see where it goes. Her Story is that type of game.

Her Story isn't your typical video game. There are no monsters or bad guys to kill. There are no princesses to save. There are no treasure chests to be opened. Instead, you are given a computer with access to a police database. You have to search the database for video clips of woman taking part in a number of police interviews. These clips do not contain the officer's side of the conversation. Only hers. And you can only access the clips by searching for keywords. Some of these keywords are contained in previously viewed clips (you are given one keyword to start off - "murder") but some of them you have to figure out on your own. When you have watched enough of the main storyline videos, an instant message will pop up asking if you have figured it out. The answer is up to you.

I bought this game from Steam because (1) it was $6.00 and (2) the gameplay sounded interesting. I'm not good at shoot-em-up games or difficult puzzle games but I am good at hidden picture or games that require you to figure out the answer. Since the gameplay is so much different from every other game out there, I was intrigued. There are no real controls. You just have to search a database. How difficult can that be?

The game, itself, is not difficult. There are a few instances where I ran out of obvious keywords so I had to broaden my searches a bit. The difficulty in the game lies in the fact that there is no real solution. As you watch the videos, it is obvious that the case is about the murder of a man. The woman in the video is his wife. She tells a variety of stories - a lot of them based on fairy tales. You have to decide which stories to believe. And the goal of the game is not to decide whether or not this woman committed the murder. No. You have to decide if the videos depict twin sisters or one woman with multiple personalities. At no point are you given a definitive answer. And, from what I can tell, the answer is different for everyone. Some people see traits that prove the twin theory and some people see traits that prove this is only one woman.

While I did enjoy the game, the lack of an ending is frustrating. I wanted there to be some sort of definitive answer and there is not. Sam Barlow, the creator, wanted it that way. To be honest, I have more fun scouring the (real) internet for other people's opinions. Maybe that is what Barlow was aiming for. Not so much the experience of the game itself but the interaction of the players after the game was over. There have been a ton of online discussions debating what was real versus what was a lie. I think that alone makes Her Story one of the most interesting video games of the year.

Game review: Hidden Objects Fashion

The goal of Hidden Objects Fashion is to help children improve their recognition skills. It is a fairly basic hidden object game. The game gives you a list of fashion-related objects to find, like hats or skirts or earrings, then they bombard the the level with a ton of different fashion objects. You have to find all of the objects in your list in order to move onto the next level. Since the game is aimed at children and I play way too many hidden object games, I found this one to be pretty easy. Though I admit that I did have a difficult time finding some of the shirts. They look so similar! However, I do think that this would be a good way to help children hone more than just their recognition skills. I think that this would also help them with the skills they need to search for things. Instead of looking for a few seconds then giving up, the game tries to get the child to continue looking until they find what they need.

The one downside to the game is the audio. I found the music for the first level very annoying. The second level wasn't as bad but it was still a bit like elevator or mood music. I don't know that children will find that pleasing to hear. Other than that, I found the game very enjoyable and I would definitely recommend it to someone with younger children.

Small World 2

For Valentine's Day, my husband bought all of us copies of Small World 2 on Steam. We own the board version of the game but we never had a chance to play it. Either there aren't enough of us to play a good game or other players don't understand the rules. The digital version doesn't have these issues. Not only can you play against the computer, there is also a very short instructional video to easily explain the rules. An ideal fix for a mundane problem. The game itself is pretty cool. Every player picks a race with a modifier. You try to conquer as much land as you can before running out of armies. Then you can put your race into decline and pick a new one. Most of the time, you can only have one active race and one race in decline. The person with the most points after 10 rounds wins.

I am not all that great at this game. My daughter has won almost every game we've played together. Yet I still find the game a lot of fun. Since both the races and the modifiers are shuffled separately, you rarely get the same combination between games. One race may be super powerful one game and really weak the next. Also, it takes a bit of practice to figure out when you should put your race into decline and pick a new one. While you do still get points from the declined race's land, they are easily defeated by your opponents, giving them the points instead. But the game wouldn't be as fun if you didn't get to beat up your opponent's armies!

For those of you that love playing board games but don't have the ability to physically play the game, the digital version is perfect. If your friends have copies of the game, you can play online or locally. If you are having a party and want to play, you can play the Pass N Play option, which allows up to 5 opponents play on a single device. It is available in the Apple Store, on Google Play, and on Steam. Or you can just play by yourself with up to 4 AI opponents. (This is my favorite since my daughter massacres me every time we play.) This is definitely a good game to add to your collection.

Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

Last night, my husband, my daughter, and I went to the symphony at The Mann Center in Philadelphia. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performed The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. The orchestra performed 4 movements featuring music from a variety of the Legend of Zelda video games.

My husband is the true gamer in the family. He has played most, if not all, of the Zelda games. Both my daughter and I watch him play but we're not as familiar with the series as he is. However, we all enjoyed the concert. There is a large video screen above the orchestra that shows videos, both game play and cut scenes, from the games. The music was beautiful and even I recognized a few of the tunes. I also thought the video screen was a nice addition. I don't always know which game is which just by the title. Having the video helped me identify each game.

The downside of the concert was the crowd. Since this is obviously aimed at gamers and not normal symphony-goers, the crowd didn't know the appropriate behavior for a symphony. While I will forgive those that wore jeans (to the SYMPHONY!), it was extremely annoying that people would cheer and scream when fan-favorite characters showed up on the screen. Yes, I understand that Epona is awesome. But I paid a lot of money to listen to the music, not you screaming your head off for a video game horse.

If the concert is coming to your neck of the woods, I would recommend checking it out. Just keep in mind that the audience will be full of people with no knowledge of social etiquette.

Game review: L.A. Noire

My husband purchased L.A. Noire for the Xbox 360 a couple of days ago. Given the long weekend, we had plenty of time to give it a whirl.

The game is based on the stylistic movies of the 1940s and 50s. Sex, lies, and corruption are everywhere. You play a rookie police officer. It is your job to nab the bad guys. However, not all of the witnesses are honest people. You need to use everything at your disposal, including your intuition, to decide who is lying and who is telling the truth. When you solve enough cases, you get promoted to another area of the precinct, where more difficult cases await.

We are having tons of fun with this game. I didn't think it would be nearly as difficult to figure out when suspects and witnesses are lying. But, like real life, liars aren't always easy to notice. It gives the game something a little extra. You aren't just blindly following a trail. Options change depending on what clues you find or what answers you get. I'm very happy that we decided to pick it up.

Kinect

It has now been awhile since we purchased the Kinect. I have to say that the entire family enjoys it a lot. While there are some buggy games out there (I'm looking at you, Zumba), if you do your research ahead of time, many of the games are tons of fun. My daughter's favorite is Kinect Adventures, which comes with the system. To be specific, she likes the Rallyball mini-game. It's a lot like Racquetball but your hand is the racquet. The goal is to use the balls to break boxes. You hit the balls with various parts of your body. It is a pretty interesting game. My favorite is Dance Central. Then again, I really like to dance. The moves are easy enough for anyone to pick up and you still get a decent workout from it. I haven't tried the harder levels yet. I'm working my way up to it.

I'm sad that there are developers throwing out buggy games for the Kinect. I really wanted to play the Zumba game. However, everything that I have read about it says it is terrible. C'mon guys, this is an awesome system. Take the time to develop the game properly before throwing it out there. The users will love you much more for it!

Favorite Friday

I managed to sneak in one quick game of Dance Central with the Kinect. Unfortunately, my legs were already weak from Zumba class so I didn't do very well. My legs have recovered and I will try again either tonight or this weekend. (All this exercise? It might be worse than the side effects of diet pills!) Both my daughter and my husband have been dancing to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." Personally, I picked this song:

Rock Band 3

My husband picked up Rock Band 3 the other day. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to play it much. Not to mention that I've had some throat wackiness for the past week, which makes it very difficult to sing. However, I did manage to croak through a few songs Tuesday night. The character creation is OK, but a lot of the default faces are just plain ugly. You need to do a bit of tweaking on the cheeks and jawline to get any sort of prettiness out of them. (At least for the girls. I didn't try to create a male character.) After you finish making your character, each player gets to make their own band. This gives each individual player goals to reach with their band. It also means that each player gets their own rewards. Instead of needing money to purchase upgrades, you win them by playing various gigs. You also get to pick the "stand in" computer players for your band, if you don't have anyone to play with you. (My husband's favorite is Moosejaw - the homeless man that needs to put down the guitar and find some construction employment or something.) I think this makes the whole band experience a lot better.

I've only played the vocals so far. In my opinion, the vocals have gotten a lot better since RB2. I believe they have keyed some of the songs up a bit so they aren't really low anymore. This is awesome for me because I always have problems hitting the very very low notes. (Yes, you can sing an octave up but that sounds wrong.) They've also changed the way spoken words are handled. Well, it's not a huge change. Mostly a visual one. Instead of "notes" to speak, it just shadows that whole section to give you more time to hit the beat.

My husband picked up the keytar yesterday. I plan on finding some time to play around with that so you'll definitely hear more about the new Rock Band in the future!

BlizzCon

BlizzCon ran on Friday and Saturday. First, let me say how weird it is to see a two-day convention that takes place on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. My husband signed up for the DirecTV pay per view to partake in the geekiness. And, oh, was it geeky. To be honest, we only watched the interesting parts of the show. The opening ceremonies with Chris Metzen's speech, the costume contest, the dance competition, and the Tenacious D concert. Amazingly, Chris Metzen was extraordinarily entertaining. Most of the time, these speeches are done by boring suits or developers with no social skills. You end up wondering when the pain will end. I was very surprised to see Metzen and, even more surprising, I didn't want his speech to end. I was ready to listen to him all day.

Then we saw some boring panel with PowerPoint slides on the new changes that were added to.....I forget what game....Starcraft 2 maybe. I actually turned to my husband and said "You paid to watch some geeks do a PowerPoint presentation on a game? This is lame."

There was some cool things in the costume and dance contests. (I wonder if there were trophies handed out....) There were a lot of people that stupidly wore stilts. They needed help walking down the ramp to the stage. Overall, I was impressed and I was happy with the winners. As for the dance contest, it was silly and fun but one guy did end up getting injured. (It has been debated whether he broke his leg or just dislocated his knee. Either way it sucks.)

Finally, the Tenacious D concert at the closing ceremonies. Of course, they rocked the house. Dave Grohl (from Foo Fighters and Nirvana) played drums for them. If anything, this was the only thing worth the price of pay per view. I would do it again just for the D. Everything else was dull in comparison.