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A 3-post collection

Game Review: Ori and the Blind Forest

Written by Michael Earls
 Gaming  ori  PC  XBox

One of the reasons I chose the XBox Bundle that I did (besides the 1TB hard drive) was because of the games it included. One of those games was Ori and the Blind Forest.

From the very start, I was hooked. It has a great story and challenging gameplay.

Getting food with "mother"Getting food with “mother”

Aside from basic platformer shooting, there are also fun puzzles and, what is probably the best feature of the game, the escape sequences from the six major areas. These escape sequences give you very little time to think and no room for error as you use your skills to progress through the board with a very stressful natural disaster (or enemy) on your tail.

Perhaps the hardest sequence in the game is the first one, the Ginso Tree escape. It’s the hardest because it’s the first and you can’t make any mistakes.

One of the great features of the game is the ability tree that you have access to that lets you spend your spirit points (gained by killing enemies) to gain new abilities. I was one ability away from collecting all abilities. I missed that achievement. I just didn’t have enough skill points going into the final sequence. I’ve read that you can’t go back and explore after you win the game.

Ori's Ability TreeOri’s Ability Tree

After getting a new ability, I would go back to areas I had already cleared to get powerups that I could not get earlier in the game. I would also attempt to explore 100% of each area and get to all the secret places.

Map of the areaMap of the area

I am currently on the last sequence. It’s very difficult. I have the enemy on my tail. The sequence is a series of very challenging moves that require a mastery of all the skills (abilities also come in handy – like the triple jump) that Ori acquired throughout the game. Each section only gives you about 10 seconds to get through before the enemy swoops in and violently ends your life. Then you spend a few seconds getting through additional sections. If you spend too much time in an area that is not visible to the enemy, you still have to worry about the environment around you catching on fire. Basically, you can’t stop moving (much like the other escape sequences). I’m almost to the end of the sequence. Even knowing what’s coming next, you still have to execute the movements without faltering. The sounds of the enemy in the distance add a creepy ambiance to the sequence. It also gives you audible clues as to how much time you have left to finish your current section.

The following video does not show the ending with spoilers, it only shows the sequence.

I have to play these sequences sitting on the edge of my seat. It can be very stressful, but the reward for finishing is a feeling of great relief.

I have really enjoyed this game. It reminds me of the early days of playing Super Mario Brothers for the first time. The artwork is fantastic and the gameplay mechanics are fun. I find that it had just the right amount of difficulty.

Game Review: Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Written by Michael Earls
 Gaming  valiant hearts  XBox

One of this month’s Games for Gold on XBox Live is Valiant Hearts: The Great War. I downloaded it last night and started playing. The game takes you through the lives of four characters during World War I. It is a combination of puzzles and action sequences. The graphics are much like an animated movie would be. It’s an amazing game.

As soon as I started playing this game, I was hooked. We had to leave for a meeting after I had been playing for about an hour. During the meeting, all I could think about was getting home to continue playing. When I got home, I played through all of Chapter 1 and into Chapter 2.

The puzzles are fun and the action sequences are just hard enough to be fun without being discouraging. What I liked most about the action sequences is that when you messed up, it didn’t always start you over from the beginning of the sequence. It progressed far enough so that you could get progressively better at the new parts and skip the parts you had already mastered. A lot of the game is a side scrolling platformer. The boss fights are a lot of fun.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War_20140625204222

While you are playing the game, it reveals historical facts about the war that are very interesting to read if you aren’t educated on the history of the war (or want a refresher). There are also diary entries throughout the game that give some character development to the characters that you are playing and the ones they love.

Valiant Hearts

I’ve learned quite a bit about the war from this game and it’s interesting to read about the trenches and tunnels. You get to explore the tunnels as part of the gameplay.

At some point early in the game, you meet a medic dog. He stays with you through the adventures and becomes a vital part of your puzzle solving team. You can command him to fetch, dig, and distract the enemy. Since he’s a dog, the enemy doesn’t recognize him as being on your side (he started out in the service of the Germans), so you can send him into enemy territory to get things for you.

I would highly recommend this game to anyone that enjoys casual puzzle games.

I Finally took the plunge and bought an XBox One

Written by Michael Earls

I’ve been a very happy owner of XBox since the first one was released. I bought the original XBox and the XBox 360 on release day. I have watched the dashboard change from its original layout to the latest layout.

Original XBox Dashboard Original XBox Menu

My XBox 360 is so old that it has a 20GB hard drive on it and it’s white. I had the “red rings of death” and sent it in to have it fixed. I still loved it and played it a lot. I remember the first time I encountered “the flood” in Halo and ran my butt off to avoid the massive swarm at the end of the game, running out of ammo along the way. Man, was that a blast.

Flood carrier Flood Carrier

I remember thinking how advanced the graphics were on Morrowind on the original XBox. We’ve come so far since then. I thought those graphics were “photorealistic”, but today’s graphics are far more advanced.

Evil abounds in MorrowindEvil abounds in Morrowind

I’ve been saving my “allowance” for a few months now and was looking for a way to spend it (keeping it in savings was killing me :wink: ). At first, I was considering buying an Apple Watch, but after a few days of consideration, I finally decided that it was time to upgrade my gaming console.

When the XBox One first came out, I felt that I did not need a new gaming console because I would just play my games on my PC. However, after buying and spending hours playing PC games, I realized that I was very uncomfortable sitting in my desk chair for the duration. I was also wearing headphones because I hate all the wires associated with desktop speakers. Playing games while sitting on the sofa, with the soundtrack coming from the stereo would be a far better experience.

So, last night, I traded in my old XBox 360 for the holiday bundle of the XBox One. I chose the holiday bundle because it has over 30 games included with it. I didn’t have much time with it before I had to go off to bed, but I did manage to get Netflix and a few other apps downloaded. I also got it wired up to my DVR cable box so we could watch TV through it.

I am going to look into getting the USB TV tuner to see if I can use that with our cable company. I am hoping that I can so I can get rid of this terrible DVR that they gave us. We really liked the way Comcast’s DVR worked (the Scientific Atlanta model), so we were very disappointed when we got this piece of junk from WOW! cable (our cable provider). However, WOW! gives us 60Mbps Internet for the price of 30 and they don’t have data caps, so we can’t complain overall.

Now is a good time to get into console gaming as there are a few games that I’m really excited about:

  • Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (I have been playing it a lot on the PC)
  • Fallout 4
  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Fable Legends
  • Destiny

I am also looking forward to playing the updated version of Gears of War that came with my XBox One.

I think that, in the end, getting an XBox is far more useful than spending the same amount of money on an Apple watch. I think my Pebble will do fine for now.