Blues and Bullets Episode 1 Review

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Blues and Bullets is an episodic detective thriller set in a film-noir theme with large nods towards Bioshock, the premise has all the ingredients for a truly memorable game.

The opening menu greets the player with a beautifully crafted Diner, painted almost completely in black and white, the only other colour on show is a striking red. Throughout the game this acts as the bullet point for the player’s attention. When first poking through the menu, it boasts a “My Choices” tab, this shows that B&B uses the butterfly effect (your choices affect how the game is played out) and the choices you made throughout your game are tallied up against other players, it’s a small but since touch. Deeper in the menu shows controller support, which always gets a vote from me, and different resolution choices that allows the game to be tailor-made to an individual set-up. When poking round the menu the backdrop moves with the player, this shows more angles of the graphic capabilities on offer, it’s another small touch but it’s nice to see nevertheless.

As the story starts it opens with a flyby of the beautiful surroundings, with the credits littered around the scenery; B&B makes this work effortlessly and because it works so well it really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The introduction cinematic is complemented by the beautiful soundtrack, which demonstrates, when done well, just how evocative music can be, the game wants you to feel curious, the soundtrack does that. The game wants you to feel vulnerable, the soundtrack does it, the game wants you to feel like you’re in a disgusting place, the soundtrack does it, and every sound is wonderfully encapsulates everything that’s presented on screen.

The gameplay controls for playing with M&K on PC is simple as it could be, W,A,S,D to move and E to interact, that’s it. The opening stages allow the player to explore the surroundings, interact with the environment and get a real feel for the game. On very first impressions the walking animations are very lifelike and realistic, but it’s so slow, the walking animation really could do with being sped up slightly, a small nit-pick I know, but it feels necessary. A few minutes into the game and it’s time to make your first decision and spoiler alert here; you’ll feel like a horrible person for choosing the obvious answer. As you cast your decision, the game loads a “You made a decision” banner, letting you know that the game as changed slightly, giving you the feeling that you are truly in control of the story.

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Set around the Mid 1940s/50s, in the fictional town of Santa Esperanza, we meet our protagonist, Eliot Ness. The story slowly picks up speed as it becomes clear that the setting is one of the main characters this game has. The graphics are incredibly well crafted without a single feature being missed, the splashes of red really stand out especially in a busier environment. Further into the game, the weather changes dramatically and its effects hit the screen as if we are watching the events through a camera, another small, but captivating touch. There’s also an alluringly artistic section where Eliot has an inner monologue and the buildings are replaced with key words in the sentence. Frankly, this part of the game is artistically sublime, it really grabs the players attention and makes them feel a part of it all, the character interaction works really well, dialogue flows freely and every character’s voice fits wonderfully, however the facial animations were ever-so-slightly off, even though it’s clear what the character is saying, the audio and the visual are just slightly out of sync.

The environments change rapidly through this first episode, each as striking as the last, but there’s a strange disparity, the production quality doesn’t fit into triple A, but it doesn’t fit into Indie either, it almost seems like low budget wearing the skin of high budget. This feeling is most prominent halfway through because it takes place in a seemingly open area, but it’s actually closed in by invisible walls, the biggest example of “You can look, but you can’t touch.” This becomes even more striking as the second scene goes on, the fixed camera angles push the player towards an object, really limiting itself, it almost feels like the player is a passenger in the gameplay, rather than the driver.

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As the game gets in full swing, the detective elements are explored in more detail. It gives a scenario and the player must figure out what happened, also why and where it happened. Walking around the player can pick up clues and they can be added to a clue tree that is slowly filled out and pieces everything together, these clues are in the form of mini-games where every angle and aspect of a clue can be viewed from, completing these investigations gives an enormous sense of reward and makes the investigation seem like a sight-seeing tour, this mechanic takes clear inspiration from La Noire.

Blues and Bullets is a game that is difficult to place into one genre, because it travels through a lot of styles, the elements of Bioshock such as the art style, character interaction and the quite obvious references (Without giving spoilers, in one scene you’re in a place that was created by an A. Ryan, a visionary with a god complex that created it from scratch, I mean, if I’m wrong and it actually has nothing to do with Bioshock, then I don’t really know what to believe.) The shooting and action elements of the game that have faint reminders of Mafia 2 (because of the fixed camera angles and cover based system,) also, the detective elements of La Noire (except a lot more in depth in the detective sections, with an actual feeling of reward.) In short, this game is for you if you loved those titles and wanted to see a hybrid of them, or if you if you played La Noire and thought “I’d enjoy this game a lot more if it wasn’t so poor, and if the story was actually engaging.”

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Rolling Sun Preview

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Rolling Sun; a physics based, side scrolling game based in CryEngine, named so because “Physics Ball” isn’t all too catchy.

When the menu loads, the player is greeted by stunning visuals that show the incredible backdrop that rolling around, albeit slightly lost, will be an absolute delight. The menu is extremely simple such as in the settings, it only has the graphic options (such as Low that would be running on the most feeble of computers.. such as mine, jumping to High that challenges graphics cards to a fight,) after toying around in the menu, jumping into the game was the next logical step.. well it was the only step.

When the game starts, there’s no explanation or narrative to a story, no explanation to where you’re meant to go, no anything. It has a “Once you’ve figured out the way, then I’ll hand you a piece of story” way of explaining things, this I like, it feels like the player is being rewarded for being curious around the landscape. The game boasts controller support that allows the small movements to be much more precise, making the experience much easier to digest. Upon rolling around the physics puzzles become a lot more complex but it leads to a slight problem, when falling off a ledge (and I fell down ALOT, because I’m terrible at puzzle games) because of the way the shadows are placed it makes the small gaps almost impossible to see, granted it’s a small problem, but it makes some of the movement much more tricky. When completing the second level the game, different powers become unlocked, this allows more complex movements of the ball, as the level design becomes more complex in itself.

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The controls for this game are as simple as expected to start with, W,A,S,D rolls the ball around and Space allows the jump function, as the game progressed and I found myself increasingly stuck on a section, finding out that the ability to double jump is available. Although there was no tutorial to tell me that, it makes the experience much more engaging, because I figured it out myself so I started to see what else the ball could do, it added to the challenge but didn’t hold my hand through the early stages. However, I would welcome the chance to map the keyboard to my own preferences, because I’d personally feel much more comfortable controlling the ball by using the arrow keys.

As mentioned before Rolling Sun’s physics are created in CryEngine and it is very fluid. When first starting the game the ball’s control can take some getting used to, this is because how much like a real ball it is, there’s no strange hanging in the air, there’s no bizarre movements, in that area it’s actually very lifelike.

The music is simplistic and couples the action well, it really adds to the mystical feel of the game, as the player progresses through the game the music almost progresses with them, giving a real sense of achievement.

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Now, the game unfortunately is quite short, only 6 levels + 3 bonus levels. but this shows the vast potential that’s on offer. Since the gameplay was very tight, graphics spot on (apart from the odd texture glitch found here and there) mixed with the strangely relaxing music, this gives a huge platform for the game to jump off and knowing that the development team is minuscule (One person actually) further adds to the character of this project. It would be good to see the next steps from here, maybe new powers to the ball, maybe new levels with harder puzzles or any other additions to increase the gameplay in this beautifully natural world.

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