Dec 1, 2013

Flower for PS Vita

I already got Flower for PS3 earlier, so now that the Vita version is available, I got it for free as it's a cross-buy game. I think you can also get it for free for PS4, if you have bought one of the earlier versions as a digital copy.

I was playing it all Saturday while "watching" movies (just listening, with an occasional glance at the screen). I managed to get one of the trophies I didn't get when playing the PS3 version, so once I had figured out how to do that, I went back to the PS3 version and got it there as well.

The game starts with a very bleak screen:


As you proceed, the number of flowers on the window sill grows, color increases, and the scenery seen from the window changes.

The idea in the game is that you have one petal to start with and then you collect more from flowers you visit while being flown by the wind.


I really love the graphics in this game. The colors are so vibrant and the flowers are beautiful. Just look at these:




The only minus the game gets from me is the Pure trophy. It is much too hard for a game like this. This is supposed to be something you relax with and the trophy is extremely annoying to try to get. I gave up earlier with the PS3 version and may do the same with this version, if I won't succeed in a few tries.

Nov 27, 2013

Remember Me

I spent the entire last weekend playing this game. If it had a less interesting story, I probably would have given up in the boss fight of episode 3, where I got stuck the first time, but I really wanted to see more.

The following contains spoilers.

I decided I needed to buy some time, so I searched for a game guide listing all the locations of the SAT Patches. Then I started a new game and made sure I picked up every one of them in the first three episodes. This time, when I got to the Zorn, I could take more damage than in the first game and, after several tries, I managed to beat it.

Starting a new game was a good idea, because I could also use the combos more efficiently now that I understood how they work and had had some practice. It is actually a clever system, because you can customize the combos for each battle. For example, when fighting the enforcers that give you damage each time you hit them, regeneration is very useful.

Memory remixing is much more interesting than fighting. Olga's memory took a lot of tries as did Forlan's, but I managed to get Scylla's memory right the first time. I had luck with the handbag, but otherwise the chain of events was fairly obvious. Although, there is one problem with this particular memory – even in its original version, the accident was Scylla's fault, you just don't look to the back seat that long while driving, no matter what is happening there. But parents aren't perfect, so maybe Scylla just took the easy way out and decided that it was Nilin's fault.

Before getting there, there was one exceptionally infuriating part in the game. When you're being chased by Trace, there's the part where he says "Oh my, Nilin..." and then you need to run and the floor plates are falling. You need to run without stopping or slowing down and the jumps need to be perfectly timed. I failed this one again and again and started to get really annoyed at hearing Trace's line again and again.

First I was shouting at him to keep his stupid mouth shut, and later I cursed the idiot game developer, who made the part too hard for the easy level and didn't realize that Trace's line, which I suppose is meant to be funny, only adds to the frustration. I finally managed to pass this part, after taking a little break from the game to cool down.

After the Zorns, that was the worst part. And speaking of Zorns, I got stuck with one again in episode 7. I tried to beat it probably a couple of dozen times, but just couldn't do it, so I gave up and watched the rest in YouTube. Good thing I gave up, because there would have been more seemingly endless battles ahead.

It really is a pity that they spoiled an otherwise great story with much too much fighting. What I missed most were alternative routes and ways of doing things. There were so many parts where there could have been an option of running away and hiding and then sneaking around and avoiding enemies. I guess that's not tough enough, although in real life, it would be the wisest choice.

Nov 22, 2013

PS Vita's new panorama camera

The latest update of the PS Vita OS included a new camera function, which takes panorama pictures. It's the icon in the bottom middle.


The function differs from the one in my Samsung MV800 as you take separate photos instead of panning with the camera. You take the first photo by pressing the right button and then you just turn the Vita so that the next part is in the blue frame and the photo is taken automatically. The maximum is 9 photos, which will be stitched together when you finish.


Here are the first test photos. The photo below consists of three photos and looks actually quite good.


Then I tried full nine photos and that failed. There's a part missing between the first two photos. Using the function obviously requires some practice, but as the photo above shows, it does work, if you're careful.


Nov 20, 2013

Progress

I've been thinking for some time that I should check the town plans under preparation to see if there's anything new about block 11. The plan for that was stalled the last time and they decided to just approve the plan for block 12.

Today I found out that half of block 11 has got a proposal for a plan and it is available to public right now. Any complaints or comments are to be submitted this Friday at the latest, and a decision is to be made next month. Maybe this time they will actually get a decision.

The part in the proposal is the northern half, that is, the part to the left of the two-story house in the middle in the photo below. Now that trees are bare, you can see that the area has been cleared already, except for the tall birches. It's a pity that they will eventually have to go. I've grown quite fond of the view.


I think the drawing below shows the plan for the underground part of the new buildings as AP means parking area. The new buildings will be apartment houses with six stories and an underground parking garage. You can also see the locations of the other buildings across the street that you can see in the photo.


The next drawing shows what the planned buildings look like. They will be a lot like the apartment houses that have already been built in this area in the past 10 years or so.


I had been wondering a bit about the brick wall separating the new buildings in block 12 (the two rightmost blank ones in the picture above) from the older ones in the other half of the block, but the proposal for block 11 cleared that one. One of the requirements for the new buildings in block 11 is a firewall at least 1.2 meters high, separating them from the other buildings in the block. There were some other fire safety requirements as well, like making sure there is enough room for operating fire engines in the yard.

The attachments to the proposal revealed all sorts of interesting information, like parties involved in the process and what sort of statements different authorities have given about the issue. Based on everything I read, I'd say it's going to take some time before an agreement about the other half of block 11 can be reached. I guess that is why they're doing the planning of this area piece by piece.

The estimated schedule for the part discussed now is that building will start about a year from now. We'll see if that happens.

Nov 15, 2013

Horror games

Steam Halloween sale had some interesting games at very affordable prices. The first one I played was Deadlight, a side-scrolling zombie apocalypse. I actually managed to finish it as it's often easier to just run and avoid the zombies or to lure them into traps than to actually try shooting them (I'm a slow shooter and really bad at aiming). The story isn't spectacular, but interesting enough, and the limited movement of a side-scroller makes it easier to figure out what to do next, because there aren't too many directions available.

The ending was a surprise, although it felt a bit hasty, like the developers thought "Okay, we need to wrap this up so we can release the game. Quick, somebody come up with an ending!" Although, you must admit that it isn't easy to have a zombie game that ends in something else than "and then there were none."

I also checked the alternate ending in YouTube and... (spoilers, select the paragraph to read) it was really bad, because it made no sense. I can't imagine how the girl could immediately draw the conclusion that the guy was a murderer, just because he had her sister's necklace. They left him in the warehouse with the sister's body (as he had shot her when she had gotten infected), so he could have just taken the necklace at that point, before moving on.

Next, I started Amnesia: Dark Descent and that is nerve-wrecking. The character wakes up in a manor with a total memory loss and needs to figure out what's going on. There's nobody around, but soon it becomes clear that there is something badly wrong, and a little later you start encountering monsters. You can't fight them so you just need to run and hide, while at the same time exploring the place and performing certain tasks. Pretty basic horror stuff, in other words, but the atmosphere is anything but basic.

The distorting view when your sanity starts slipping away is very effective, especially combined with the sounds of the game, and you start valuing sources of light very quickly. This is definitely the creepiest horror game I've played so far. I haven't progressed very far, because I just had to stop and try something less stressful.

I'm not sure if Silent Hill: Homecoming can be called that, but it is what I started next. I've played Silent Hill 2, 3 and Downpour, so I knew what to expect. I like the parts where you explore buildings, because it is usually easier to figure out what you need to do in that sort of environments. My main problem with these games is just that, figuring out what to do and where to go, and so the game gets frustrating and I resort to gameplay guides to get me on the right track. I haven't progressed very far in this one either, but plan to continue playing later.

One I will not continue is Black Mesa. It's free, so I decided to give it a try. The premise, a secret research center where a sudden disaster takes place, is nothing new, but the place looks interesting. There are the usual fights with monsters and trying to find and do stuff. Then the military shows up and... I start losing interest in the game. My main problem with the game is that it feels like the makers tried to cram everything into it: monsters, malfunctioning equipment, collapsing structures, hostile soldiers, you name it. At least the game was free and I did enjoy the beginning (before the soldiers appeared).

Another free game is Haunted Memories. I read some reviews and there were lot of references to Slender Man, but I'm not familiar with that one. I suppose it's the boogeyman that's after you in the game. The game isn't finished yet and I hope the final version will be less frustrating.

To begin with, it's much too dark. I mean, literally dark, as in "I can't see a thing." It's also very hard to figure out what needs to be done. I gave up after some aimless wandering around, wondering where I'm supposed to go and what to do. Still, I managed to get an achievement – by falling and killing myself. I didn't even see what happened. I just got stuck, it was all dark, and then there was a text saying I fell, and the achievement popped up saying I had killed myself. Wasn't that fun?

After this kind of games, Dear Esther was a nice change, as was Gone Home, but more about those later.

Nov 14, 2013

Games

I have played or at least tried several new games recently. The first one is Rain for PS3, which I pre-ordered in good time, because I knew it would be "my kind of" game. The main character is a boy, who is visible only in rain. When sheltered from rain, he is invisible and only his footsteps and stuff he moves when walking by can be seen. He tries to reach a little girl who is just like him, and there are also monsters, who are visible in rain, invisible out of the rain.

The concept is great, but the actual game started getting a bit boring, because the solutions to problems are too repetitive. Still, it's a beautiful game and I enjoyed playing it through. The tedious part was finding the memories, which only get unlocked once you finish the game, so you need to go back. I just searched for a list of the locations and used that to complete that part. You get the last 3 trophies, if you find all the memories, and I so rarely get 100% trophies in a game. The only one in which I've managed to do that before this was Journey.

Touch My Katamari is for PS Vita and it was free with PS+, so I decided to try. The so-called story of the game is weird and the king started annoying me very quickly. The basic idea is simple, you just roll a ball over stuff, which then sticks to the ball and makes it bigger. You need to achieve a certain size in a certain amount of time. That could have been fun, but wasn't really, because the ball sometimes gets stuck and won't move even though there's nothing to stop it. That wastes precious time and gets me annoyed, and I'm not playing games to get annoyed, I do that quite enough without any games. So, I think I'll forget this one. Good thing I didn't pay for it.

I remember reading reviews of Remember Me and thinking it isn't for me, because they mentioned combos. I've got enough trouble with pressing single buttons, so I was sceptical about managing any combos. However, this is in November's free PS+ games and that meant I had to at least try and see how hard it would be.

I downloaded and installed the game on a Saturday afternoon, started playing and noticed suddenly that it was midnight. The game has a really interesting story and a female main character (Nilin), who dresses in an outfit suitable for her tasks, instead of extremely skimpy clothing, and looks like a normal person otherwise too. That is always a huge plus.

The controls turned out to be not too bad, although I still have trouble with fighting, even in Script Kiddie (easiest) level. However, I have managed to progress to the boss fight of chapter 3, although only after dying a lot. Nilin has already died in fights with various opponents and also very often by misjudging a jump and falling. Fortunately, there are frequent save points, so things don't get too frustrating.

I really hate boss battles, so I'm giving the game a rest right now, but I hope I'll manage to play at least a bit more of it later. I don't expect to be able to finish it, but I'd love to see more playing the game myself before I resort to watching the rest in YouTube. If only there was a game where you could just go exploring Neo-Paris. That would be fantastic.

Nov 11, 2013

Hill climbing

On Sunday, I decided to go out, although weather was really foggy and a bit damp. I wanted to test the elevation measuring in the GPS device, so I headed to the highest hill around, Jouppilanvuori. It's a man made hill and is a downhill skiing center in winter. There is a proper road to the top on the other side, but I decided to take the footpath on the north side, which I hadn't checked before. You can see it in the photo, going right in front of the tall fir trees.


This is the back side of the hill, so the terrain is more uneven than on the side that is used regularly.


The footpath went zigzagging up the hill and got narrower, but it has clearly been used. I know that at least mountain bikers use this side for riding downhill.


At this point I really didn't know how long the remaining path was, but I saw that this shortcut would take me straight to the top, so I decided to try. After all, the worst thing that could happen was that I'd slide down on my tummy and get a bit dirty. That didn't happen, although I did slide down on my knees a bit a couple of times. Too bad I didn't take a photo of the shortcut once I got up the hill. I'm sure it was a hilarious sight.



The visibility from the top was exceptionally poor. On clear weather, you can see the entire town center and the church clocktower.


The GPS signal got lost when I was climbing the back side of the hill and was only found again once I was at the foot of the hill on the side shown in the photo above. I understand why it would disappear at the back of the hill, but it should have been found again when I got to the top. I guess I'll just have to try again some other time, although the fog shouldn't have anything to do with it, considering how good the signal reception was later on my walk.

Once I got home, I uploaded the GPS data to the Garmin Connect site and checked how much of the route I got. The satellite photo shows the footpath quite clearly and if I hadn't taken the shortcut, I would have had to walk quite a bit around the hill to the proper road on the south side.


After all the sliding in the mud and fallen leaves, I decided I needed better walking shoes. The ones I had yesterday have too hard soles with too shallow pattern. So I went looking for something with better grip and also better water resistance, and found these.


They feel very good, but the real test will come when I go for a longer walk. 4-5 km should be enough for finding out how good they are for walking. The soles are made of two types of rubber and should be good for slippery surfaces.

Update: I may have figured out the reason for the disappearing GPS signal. There is a radio mast (or a cell tower) on top of the hill and I suspect it may be the reason for the blocked signal. That would be logical as the signal came back once I got further away from the tower.