A Short Hike – a journey full of cuteness

Claire finally reached the top of the mountain! The view is EPIC up there.


A Short Hike, which received the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, is a relaxing 3D adventure and action game.

The main character, Claire, traveled to the Hawk Peak Provincial Park with her parents for a vacation. The player can explore the harmonious mountainside landscapes freely, chatting with people along the trails, hike, climb the walls, and even glide through the region, mingling with the wind. Walk around the island, chatting with others, discover coins, shells and treasures, and try to unveil the mystery of the island!

Game’s website: http://ashorthike.com/

YouTube gameplay demo: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=qsA5p0MKdoM

I would like to analysis the game with the following lenses:

Lens #7: Elemental Tetrad

  • Mechanics

There is a variety of actions that a user could perform. She can move in four directions, jump, glide in the air, pick coins or shells from the ground, talk with others, and climb the walls with limited stamina.

When the user equips with tools, she can perform special actions. For instance, when the user holds a bucket, she can fetch water and sprinkle a specific area of soil. When the user picks a stick, she can hit movable beach balls and even play ‘stickball’ with others.

  • Story

This game neither has a sequential storyline which requires the player to follow, nor having a leveling system which may cause changes in difficulty or modification of the environment, etc. The main goal of the mini-game is to reach Hawk Peak, which is the top of the mountain. The message is clear: When we reach out and explore the world, we can experience great things along the way.

  • Aesthetics

The pixel art style applied in this game creates a dreamlike, foggy scene, and the light background music mainly played by piano and violin. These facilitate the generation of a calm and delighted mood and a strong sense of serenity.

The music and the graphics form a pleasant environment which makes the exploration process full of joy.

  • Technology

This game runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. A keyboard and monitor are required to play the game with the best experience.

Lens #4: The Lens of Curiosity

Although the main goal of this game is reaching the top of the mountain, as the player wandering around the site, she meets different animals, and they might teach her a skill such as fishing, or even give her treasure maps and hints that there are other mysteries around this island. The players will have high incentives to keep travel around the island and unveil the mystery of the island, even after reaching the top of the mountain.

Lens #1: The Lens of Essential Experience

After playing the game, I would command it as a very relaxing experience. The light music and the pixel artworks with cute style made me feel like I am having a happy vacation and I revived my inner-child and made explorations in the game. The sense of serenity generated by the graphics and the music are essential factors that make the game excellent.

Lens #27: The Lens of Skill

There are only a few skills required for playing the game. Players only need to use the arrow keys, z-key, x-key, and the spacebar to perform all the motions for the character, including climbing, chatting, gliding, swimming, running, picking up an object, etc. Skills that are related to motions are dominant in this game since the main goal of the character is to climb to the top of the mountain, and these skills are helpful for the player to explore various regions. Since this is a sole game, no unfairness between players could exist.

The controls are simple and intuitive, and some characters will teach the player how to perform the motions. In my opinion, the skill level required is suitable for this simple, relaxing game.

Lens #45: The Lens of Imagination

The players can immediately relate their experience in visiting country parks to this game since there are a host of natural landscapes including hills, rivers, waterfalls, forests, etc. There is not much imagination involved in this gameplay in terms of the environment.

Since this is a pixel game, it is hard to show the detailed facial expressions of the characters. However, by using intonations in the character’s speech, the player can identify the mood of the characters. Some NPCs even give the player some hints that there are treasures located in this park, which inspire the player’s thoughts about heading to the unknown areas.

Lens #31: The Lens of Challenge

The main challenges involved in the game is trying to reach a certain part of the area with limited abilities. For instance, the player needs to climb up a wall with limited stamina, or the player needs to go across a broken bridge with a combination of skills, including gliding and climbing. The difficulty is just right, the challenges do accommodate a variety of skills, but the variety of challenges is limited since the game is only about exploring in a huge park.

If you want to be relaxed, meet cute animals and admire the beauty of nature, this game is for you!


Subnautica Cover Shot


Subnautica shoots you down onto an ocean planet, stranded, and the only thing that separates you from the deep dark abyss that is the ocean is your lifepod. You are the only survivor, and your goal is to survive the unknown and somehow, in some way, escape.

This is a first-person survival and adventure game, set in a mostly underwater environment. Players are able to explore the open world, collecting resources to create tools, buildings, and even underwater vehicles, while completing different tasks and triggering storyline advancements.


Game site: http://subnauticagame.com/

Gameplay demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9FTfbDeN4Q

The Elemental Tetrad:


Played in first person, Subnautica has a standard and intuitive exploration mechanic. Players have the freedom of swimming through the ocean in three dimensions, and are able to interact with the environment through grabbing or hitting objects.

As a mostly underwater game, the player also has “needs”, such as food, water, and most important of all, oxygen. Food and water is easily replenished through making use of the abundant sources in the ocean. On the other hand, oxygen can be replenished through either surfacing from the ocean, or later in the game, through vehicles that the player constructs.

The player also constantly constructs new equipment to improve themselves, which allows for exploration further and deeper into the ocean, which subsequently unlocks new content for storyline progression.


The world of Subnautica takes place in the futuristic setting where humans have gone beyond the solar system, and begun to colonise other worlds. Your ship has been sent to a particular star system in search of a ship lost ten years ago when it crashed on a planet 4546B. Upon reaching orbit, your ship was struck down by a mysterious energy pulse, leaving you stranded on the planet as the sole survivor.

The story was told through PDA records left by past survivors, as well as interactions that happen between the player and the PDA’s AI. This does not create an information dump on the player, and allows them to experience the story as they proceed through the world at their own pace.


Subnautica was developed with the Unity Engine, and is available on both Windows and macOS, a blessing for macOS users.


The ocean world of Subnautica is a gigantic handcrafted map, which consists of a large variety of biomes throughout the world that have their own flair that doesn’t get old. There are also biome-specific enemies which make the experience more interesting, even for long-time players.

Lens 6: Curiosity

The game piques the player’s interest with the presence of eye-catching objects or creatures that the player might find. Chase it down too much though, and you might actually end up running out of oxygen, or get chased by an unexpected creature.

With blueprints that are scattered around the ocean, players can’t help but be curious about the purpose of the tool that it unlocks for them, and the places that the new equipment might bring them in their journey into the depths of the ocean.

Lens 27: Time

Subnautica does not force players to complete any tasks or missions within any sort of time constraints, which allows players to move on whenever they feel well prepared enough. However, personally this might end up making the gameplay longer than necessary. The game might feel too boring if the story is not driven fast enough, especially if the player does not know what else to do and end up wandering aimlessly without progress for too long.

This does have its benefits, as players can choose to farm for resources early on to make themselves more well prepared for the dangers that may arise later on.

Lens 32: Goals

The game leads the player to its goal through quest beacons which direct them to further the storyline. Furthermore, the crafting system for Subnautica also allows the player to set their own goals; to collect materials for the equipment or tool that they might be hoping to obtain, or even to defeat the creature they could not defeat before.

Lens 94: Atmosphere

Light penetrating the shallow waters create a warm and safe environment in the early game in the biome where the player starts out. Different biomes may also have special lighting and terrain, which can evoke a sense of awe in the player visiting them for the first time. As the exploration gets further away and deeper, different features start to show, most notably the drop in visibility in deeper regions. This pairs extremely well with the uncertainty of deep ocean creatures which may be lurking in the hidden depths.

The sound effects enhance the experience further, adding environmental sounds and even the roars of the marine creatures, which definitely add to the feeling of terror when you are exploring the deep darkness and trying your best to stay alive.

Review of Dark Souls 3, the Game Referred to by Journalists as “The Hardest Game Ever”


After more than 500 hours of playtime in this game, I can safely say that Dark Souls 3 is my favorite game.

Game description

It is an action role-playing video game from a third-person perspective. The game focuses heavily on high-intensity combat with the ability to dodge, block, parry, and stamina management as each action costs stamina which adds a certain challenge to the game.

The screenshot of the game UI. This is the first boss that you will face in the game and it is surprisingly difficult for a first boss.

Action screenshot from the same boss.

Link to the YouTube gameplay

Content (Graphics)  

To start, the game looks amazing visually for a game released in early 2016. The art style is inspired by culture from the late middle ages (1500 – 1600) and the amazing, slightly surreal gothic architecture adds to the unique aesthetics of the game. The music and art style really immersed me in the game and gives a certain dark and gloomy personality to the game which fits the main story.

Content (Gameplay)

The combat in this game is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is extremely fast-paced where I need to be aware of your enemies and surroundings at all time as a few hits are enough to kill my character. Not only that, there is a stamina bar which gets depleted every time you do an action (attack, dodge, run) and thus, it requires me to pay attention to stamina management too on top of the difficult, action-packed combat. While this overwhelmed me in the first few hours, it wasn’t long before I got used to it and started to really enjoy the fast-paced combat system. The difficulty of the combat keeps me on my toes at all time while playing the game which prevents the game from being boring/too easy near the end where most games would start to die down in terms of excitement or challenge (Card 38, The Lens of Challenge).

Despite the game being really-difficult, it is still very fair to the player. The enemies have well telegraphed attack animation with incredibly-accurate hit boxes which can be countered by dodging or parrying at the right timing. This is a skill than can be acquired through practice and it is not unfair to the players as experienced players can even complete the whole game without being hit once by paying attention to the enemies’ attacks. Moreover, the game starts of easy and gets progressively more difficult later-on which gives time to the players to get better at the game as the game progresses. I can really feel myself improving as I continue playing the game and it shows in the decreasing rate of my character dying (Card 39, The Lens of Skill).

The difficulty level is also mitigated by the appropriately-designed reward system. This game rewards players that are willing to take risks by exploring the harder areas early-on to get really-good weapons and armors that can carry them for a good chunk of the game. While playing this game, every reward that I got, be it item or weapon or armor, still give me a sense of pride and accomplishment as all the rewards require you to defeat a hard boss or reach a hard-to-reach areas. Moreover, each reward is always worth the effort it takes to get them where the harder it is to obtain the reward, the better it is. This amazing reward system is what made me want to keep playing the game as I feel like I am getting significantly-stronger after every reward that I get (Card 46, The Lens of Reward).

The game world is completely explorable and there is no explicit direction pointing towards the next checkpoint or goal. As such, you are free to explore the game without being forced to proceed in a certain way. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea as this could possibly cause some players to get stuck and unable to proceed, I still find it to be enjoyable. By not having a clear direction, I feel truly immersed in the game as every direction is point my character to is completely based on my own decision and not influenced by the game’s storytelling or guidelines. This gives me a sense of freedom in gameplay as it allows me to choose what I want to explore in the game (Card 79, The Lens of Freedom).

The game’s story is not based on expositions or dialogue but more on the world-building. There is rarely any interaction or dialogue and the expositions are extremely cryptic. However, the game world is rich with unspoken stories. For example, a certain cursed area of the map shows signs of decay and the enemies gets more and more distorted as my character slowly fight his way to the center of the curse. As you progress through, more and more information about the curse slowly gets revealed before the climactic fight with the boss of the area. There was no dialogue throughout this whole section, but I still managed to get what the story is and how it happened. Moreover, each item in the game has a backstory to it (even objects like a candle) and this allows me to understand the story even more. This unique approach to story-telling really hooked me in as the lack of exposition is mitigated by not only the story-rich game world but also my imagination as to how things could have happened (Card 78, The Lens of Story).

Referring to The Elemental Tetrad

Amazing gothic aesthetics that fits the game’s dark tone and gloomy atmosphere which is complemented by the somber story of the game. The incredibly-accurate hit boxes of every single enemy in the game and the main character really shows how incredible the game’s technology is and the graphics is quite amazing for a 2016 game.

The combat mechanics are where the game really shine where the fluid, fast-paced, and action-packed combat managed to keep the me engaged throughout the whole game. Usually a game feels stale when approaching the ending of the game, but this game still managed to keep me on my toes the whole time even until the 2nd time I played it. The need to manage my stamina, while at the same time avoiding enemy attacks, and the fluid player attack animation makes every enemy encounter exciting.

Overall, this is a very solid game with fluid combat and awesome art style. Despite the game being almost 4 years old, it still has an active community playing which shows just how amazing this game is. I would give it a 10/10.

Overcooked 2 Review

Image result for overcooked 2 story
Poster for Overcooked 2.


Just as the saying goes: “Too many cooks spoil the broth “. Who would think that creating a cooking game for a party of 4 bring about so much chaos in terms of swearing and screaming! Overcooked 2 is a 2v2 Versus / Local Co-Op 1-4 players  party game where you try to manage the chaos in your kitchen while serving dishes on time.

Imagine trying to serve a plate of French fries, your friend trying to find an extinguisher to put out the fire, your friend fell into a trap: this chaos and catastrophe perfectly sums up a simple level in Overcooked.  

Lens 78: The Lens of Story  

Cut-scene from Overcooked 2 Co-Op Mode

You and your friends become cooks to save the Onion Kingdom through venturing different maps to cook and serve food to save the day! Throughout the game, you get to experience different rounds depending on the progress of the storyline and face different scenarios and obstacles which you will need to overcome.

The story was well-thoughted as it really makes you feel like a cook, doing your best to save the day by trying to manage the challenge with your friends in order not to burn something or overcook something which you need to serve. But honestly, it feels like a series of rounds and levels patched together with a thin layer of plot which had little to no significance to whatever you are doing in the game itself.

Honestly, the game did not need a story as I did not really watch the cutscenes and wanted to skip them in order to play the main game. What could have been done better is that the game could have added elements or decision trees during the rounds which affects the future levels and the story which you are going through.

Lens 38: The Lens of Challenge

Image result for overcooked 2 fire
Cooks trying to put out the fire in their kitchen!

Levels do not get progressively difficult. However, there is an interesting twist to this: you get to experience a huge variety of different kinds of maps with different challenging obstacles. For example, you would have to make sure you do not go too fast on the icy levels where you might slip and fall or navigating through the platforms in the space levels. It gets exciting the first few times you play it as you get to enjoy different levels with your friends. However, as you play it again and again, you might find it a bit too repetitive.

Despite this, in the co-op 2v2 mode, your opponent become your biggest challenge. Your opponent can steal your food or sabotage your ingredients as you try to gain more points by serving dishes on time. There is a huge element of sabotage and conflict, which is the driving factor for many party games. As a result, the challenge gets increased significantly, due to the element of opponent and conflict.

Lens 45: The Lens of Competition vs. Collaboration

Image result for overcooked 2 versus mode

Well, the story mode is an 8 as cooperation is key in order to passing the level. You and your 3 other friends will need to help each other to cook, wash the dishes, and put out any fire hazard which someone might have caused. If not, you would need to replay the level until you pass the level. Of course, you can troll your friends by holding onto the dish, but you might get hurled with vulgarities.

For the Versus mode, it is a 5 out of 10 as you feel competitive and want to sabotage the other team to gain an advantage. However, you still need to work with your partner to get the dishes served in time and make sure you get enough points to win that round.

Referring to The Elemental Tetrad

The Aesthetics: It is lively and joyful most of the time and the music selected really suits the map in which the players are in. After all, you would not want to have moody scenes 24/7 when playing a party game. Not only that, visual feedback through music and visuals is good as it would occasionally warn you when you are about to miss an order or reach the end of the time limit.

The Story: Not Significant, would rather not have a story and just play the story mode without the cutscenes itself, which might be annoying at times.

Image result for overcooked 2 controls
Easy to Learn controls based on the Xbox version of Overcooked 2

The Mechanics: They are simple enough as you just need to walk, pick up items and ensure that your kitchen is in order. Perfect for a party game as you can pick up the game easily and play it with a couple of friends who might not have great gaming skills.

Overall, I would give this a 9. It would be a 10 out of 10 if only the story was more interactive and decision trees would affect the story and endings.

Dead Cells

Dead Cells Cover Picture

What lies inside a prison is a corpse, or in fact, many corpses, which one of it is the protagonist, where the player plays as a decapitated head of green goo controlling this dead body, only to die and restart all over again with another corpse, repeating this insanity till what seems to be the end.

Dead Cells is an indie, Metroidvania rogue-like dungeon crawler with procedurally generated maps with different routes, making each and every run a whole different experience. In each run, the player will try to kill the King of the kingdom, but only to have the King explode, causing the player to return as the green blob, and restart again.

Official Website: https://dead-cells.com/
Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu5LSwznZKs

Lens #7: Elemental Tetrad

In-game Screenshot

The combat system of Dead Cells is relatively simple. The player is able to move bi-directionally and equip 2 different weapons and skills. As they progress along, the player becomes stronger by finding powerups by either defeating enemies or picking them off the ground.

With these functionalities, the player is to traverse a multi-biome map, defeating enemies which get progressively powerful. All in all, their goal is to simply defeat the King and “complete” the game.

However, each time the player finishes a run without dying, they can start a new run, but with increased difficulty and items. At the 4th defeat of the final boss, the player will be able to reach the true ending.

In this world, a spreadable disease known as the Malaise, has gloom across the kingdom, infecting and killing citizens. The King locks up and kills infected suspects, slowly losing his humanity. The protagonist plays as a single green blob to control a corpse and defeat this King.

What is truly amazing is how the game tells its story. Even though the developers did not really intend for a story for Dead Cells, they slid in areas and conversations in the game that tells the whole story instead of having forced, linear lore.

With each different biome, comes with a different background and environment, which changes the ambiance and how the player feels about the current place they are in. Using pixelated art rotoscoped over 3D models, they managed to create smooth and fluid animations, making the game feel extremely responsive.

Dead Cells was made in Heaps and runs on, Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, and Android.

Lens #18: Flow

Hand of the King – Final Boss from 0BC – 4BC

With the flickering number of enemies and each of their difficulty, the player will experience a surge of anxiety followed by relaxedness. In Dead Cells, the player will slowly defeat weaker enemies in the earlier biomes, which gradually becomes more difficult as the game reaches closer to the end, allowing the player to experience a constant flow.

There are two situations in which this form of excitement and tension mostly comes from. One is fighting a boss, and the other is opening a Cursed Chest. A Cursed Chest curses the player to instantly die upon getting hit by anything but provides a large form of reward that is simply impassable. Both situations will result in the player’s anxiety to rise, which causes their flow channel to constantly fluctuate, but enough so that they do not be overly stressed.

Lens #27, #31: Skill
How Dead Cells exploits the interest of people is by simply providing an extremely difficult challenge, rewarding those with talented mechanics and skills. 

One of these skills required is mainly known as the “Hand-Eye Coordination”. Enemies in this game attack relentlessly, but they always form of indication to the player before their attacks, challenging the player’s ability to react at the correct time. 

This single mechanic is what rules throughout the game, but as the game progresses, the player will be required to get better at it for the difficulty will be tinkered to a higher level.

Lens #33, #40, #41: Triangularity, Reward & Punishment

Cursed Chest

Dead Cells heavily incentives the risk that the players make. Here are two common situations where a large risk comes with strong punishment.

Cursed Chest: As stated, they cause instant death, but rewards hitless runs with powerups, ending the curse after defeating a set of enemies.

Powerups: Even the powerups have some form of risky take to them. One can either opt for more damage or health at a diminishing returns when going all out for either one. At this point, freedom is given to the player to choose whether they want survivability, or risk their small health to simply hit harder.

Although Dead Cells supports the idea of being risky, not all situations have a risk that comes with a reward. Sometimes, risk comes simply as a mechanism to complete the game itself. Like most rogue-like games, each time you lose, you only start back from the beginning, losing “almost” everything you have since your previous run. 

It may seem unfair or even plain frustrating to reach the final boss, only to die to him and restart all over. But what dead cells do is that you gain more flexibility and power after each run. After each biome, the player can spend one of their currency, known as cells, to unlock new items, or improve every equipment in the game. This provides width and depth for the next run, ensuring the player will have something different to go with the next time they repeat. Hence death itself is actually a form of punishment for your current self, and a reward for your future self. 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a Tactical Role-Playing Game for the Nintendo Switch. The main gameplay consists of a single continuous campaign, that may branch into 1 of 4 routes depending on the player’s choices. The player assumes the role of a Professor at a military academy and later a military commander and battles for the fate of the continent of Fódlan.

Image Credit: https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Emblem-Three-Houses-Nintendo-Switch/dp/B07DK13HKX?th=1

Gameplay Demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3-nh0hX5V4

Elemental Tetrad:
1. Mechanics
During each chapter, the player is given a month of in-game time to interact with their students – and later soldiers – in activities that help improve the characters’ combat abilities.

At the end of each month, the player must successfully complete a battle in order to complete the chapter. During this phase, the player controls their allied units on a grid-based system. Each turn, the player may command each of their units to move to another tile within its own range, and to perform an action – attacking an enemy or supporting an allied unit. Defeating enemies awards a unit experience points, through which they may level-up and grow stronger. Once all allied units have moved, the enemy AI takes its turn. As a grid-based and turn-based strategy game, the player is able to – and in many cases must – think carefully not only about the actions their units take, but also the order in which to take those actions.

Through the Lens of Triangularity (#33), the moment-to-moment gameplay often involves a risk-reward trade-off. The outcome of battles is partially luck-based as the hit- and critical-rate of each attack is a percentage chance. In many cases, the player might adopt a less reliable strategy that reaps greater potential rewards, or attempt a more reliable but less rewarding strategy.

Each battle may have a different goal – such as routing the enemy or defeating the enemy commander. Each battle may also have multiple side-objectives – for example, the player may be tasked with protecting NPCs, for which they may be rewarded with better items after each battle. Some battles feature chests, which the player may open to reap additional items. These are typically optional towards the completion of the battle – and by extension the game – but must typically be completed within a turn-limit.

Through the Lens of Goals (#25), the player’s ultimate goal is to beat all the chapters in a particular route and thus complete the campaign. Proximal to each chapter, the player might try to complete both the main and side objectives. Turn-by-turn, the player’s goal is to keep their units healthy while moving towards the battle’s objective. The player may also have other goals in mind, such as feeding kills to a particular unit in order to raise them, building the support levels of units, or during the non-battle phases, trying to achieve a particular build for a particular unit.

2. Story
The game has 4 different routes that the player may experience depending on their choices. They might either team up with Adrestian Empire, determined to conquer the continent in order to revoke an antiquated system of nobility, or 1 of 3 other opposing factions that aim to stop the Empire on its warpath.

A consistent element throughout the Fire Emblem series has been the need to fight and kill characters you might be reluctant to in order to progress. This element is particularly well-executed in this game. During the first half of the game, the player may recruit students from other houses into their own. If they fail to do so, the characters return in the second half of the game fighting under opposing banners. While previous games would place the player under similar circumstances, the situation is especially poignant as the player is allowed to bond with them for the first half of the game. Through the Lens of Meaningful Choices (#32), the player’s choices are able to affect the ultimate fate of the continent and characters.

Thanks to deep world-building, the player is unlikely to piece together the truth behind the world’s history and the unfolding events unless they have played through all 4 routes. Through the Lens of Curiosity (#4), the mystery of character motivations and in-universe lore provide a good incentive for the player to both progress in the story and to replay the game.

3. Aesthetics
The game’s art is beautiful, with detailed character models and combat animations. Of particular note is the game’s music. There are two renditions of each battle theme – normally, a more melodic rendition will play, but during combat animations between two units, a more rhythmic version of the same track would play to accentuate the intensity of combat. The use of recurring motifs also gives the game a strong musical identity.

4. Technology
The game runs on the Nintendo Switch. Compared to previous 3DS titles, the more powerful device allows for the more detailed models as described above.

The Lens of the Player (#16)
One common dynamic that arises in the Fire Emblem series is resetting battles. Because death is permanent in old games (and on “classic” mode in newer games), players would often restart an entire battle if any of their units were to die. This game allows the player to optionally turn back time a set number of times per-battle, allowing them to run back a poor decision. The player is also warned whenever their unit moves into the enemy’s attack range, removing the need to check and memorise enemy attack ranges. These comprise Quality-of-Life changes that help to enhance the player experience compared to older titles.

Assignment 1 – Analysis of Existing Game: Overcooked! 2 Game Review


Short Description of Overcooked! 2 (Versus Mode, 2v2)

When the Nintendo Switch was released in 2017, along came the game Overcooked!, a co-op arcade action game about chefs scrambling to get food orders out of unique kitchens. The refreshing and original concept of the game made it a hit. In August 2018, a sequel of the game was released, and it was met with considerable fanfare as well. The game play is like that of Overcooked!, whereby cooks in a kitchen get tasked with many orders and they must accomplish as many of these orders as they can. The chefs must not only pick out ingredients from crates, they still must chop them up, remove them from chopping boards, cook these ingredients and ensure that they do not “overcook”. After which, the cooked ingredients must be placed onto a plate with other cooked/raw ingredients to make a complete food item. This food item then needs to be brought to a tiny window to be served before the order is considered completed. The game play usually involves 4 players, 2 players cooperating with each other to beat the other 2 players who are on the opposing team. It is possible for just 2 players to play the game as well, however, I will be focusing on communicating ideas for a 4-player game play, specifically the Versus Mode.

Overcooked! 2 Versus Mode 2v2

Game Analysis of Overcooked! 2 (Versus Mode, 2v2)

While playing the game, I feel a sense of anxiousness because I can see the orders piling up very quickly and as a result, I become flustered. It is necessary for each pair to work well in order to complete more orders than the opposing team. While I play the game, I am most focused on the orders list, and sticking strictly to only the things I am delegated to do. If I am supposed to take the ingredients, chop them up and serve the done dishes, I will stick to doing these tasks and nothing else. This prevents a conflict of responsibilities between my teammate and me.

Overcooked! 2 involves arenas which are static, whereby the kitchens remain the same throughout the 3 minutes of game play. It also features dynamic arenas, which morphs every 15 seconds or so, for players who are itching for an additional level of challenge. With the dynamic arenas, players must think on their toes, because the tasks the player will be able to accomplish changes according to how the arena morphs. When I got stuck on one side of the arena, I was only able to toss the ingredients to my teammate and she had to do all the chopping, cooking and plating, then she had to toss the completed food items to my side for me to serve. This is occasionally frustrating, because we ended up tossing completed orders into the water or molten lava, which render the food items useless. Hence, we must redo the same order again which reduces the chance of completing the order request satisfactorily. However, this makes the game even more addictive, as the additional layer of challenge invites players to come back to compete for an even better score if they know that they were delayed due to mistakes.

Cooperation is key in Overcooked! 2. In order to complete as many orders as possible, 2 players must communicate throughout the 3 minutes of game play effectively, especially when the arena is dynamic, or if the arena allows for the opponent pair to steal completed orders/ingredients from you and your teammate. There is synergy when the players work together because of how the game mechanics work. If players decide to work on completing orders alone, from getting the ingredients to serving the completed orders, it would be too slow, and the points earned would be affected. The optimal scores are achieved the Overcooked! 2 Versus Mode only  through cooperation.

Despite the high-level of cooperation required between teammates, the competition element of the game is not ignored. In the Overcooked! 2 Versus Mode, teams of 2 compete against each other to see which team can earn the most points in the same time period. Some game arenas are also pieced in a way that allows players to steal the completed food items of their opponents, making the game play even more challenging. All 4 players are playing within the same arena and their actions can affect one another. Players can block opponents from getting certain ingredients by standing in the way of their opponents. The competition aspect of Overcooked! 2 makes the game more entertaining; players must not only strategise on ways to cooperate with their teammate and compete against their opponents.

Finally, the game has an intuitive and bright visual interface to complement its intention of being a party game. The intuitive interface is a necessary game aesthetic as it prevents the complication of the fast-paced game. Players can glance down quickly to check the time left and their current scores, which are placed at the bottom right and the bottom left of the screen respectively. This saves time, as placing these elsewhere might require players to glance around for a couple more milliseconds, affecting the players’ momentum. Also, the bright colours used to paint the whole game provides a cheerful atmosphere, uplifting the essence of fun. The background music used is upbeat, which complements the theme effectively. It also speeds up towards the end, as the game clock approaches 0. This adds on to the adrenaline that the players feel towards the end of the game, as they eagerly clear as many of the remaining orders as possible.

In conclusion, Overcooked! 2 is a fantastic game. It is a good example of how real-world scenarios can inspire interesting and refreshing game plays that work. Even though it does not have a detailed narrative, nor does it have stellar graphics, it stands out because it is an effective party game. Its inviting and fun atmosphere, and the relatively short duration keeps players entertained for hours. In a generation where we are so disconnected by technology, maybe it is time we consider how we can adapt technology to help us connect, just like how Overcooked! 2 has achieved it.

Game play demo link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcVISRmANIo

SIGGRAPH 2018 – AnimVR

AnimVR is an animation tool shown during SIGGRAPH 2018 that released later that year on Steam and their site. In the program, you can draw from scratch, set the keyframes, color, and storyboard, just as a start.

It looks like a great tool for anyone in animation, as it can be exported to a standard device.
But, you might ask, why in VR?

AnimVR was made with VR in mind to help make an easier transition into creating 3D production content. When something is already made in the desired platform, there is less of a need to fix it up for a new platform. Now, it is easier than before to create animated 3D films and shorts.

That being said, the reviews are mixed. The main complaint is that the controllers tend to register strokes when drawing, even though the users never inputted the command. Some other complaints are that the tutorials are almost non-existent and not helpful, leaving the user to attempt to learn the program by themselves.

However, seeing that AnimVR was publicized at SIGGRAPH 2018 and also has some larger studios using the program, such as Aardman Productions (of Wallace and Gromit fame), there is potential to this program. And it seems that there are continual updates to this program, at least to fix bugs, but also to try and streamline the creation process.

Since it’s the 1st of its kind, in terms of an animation program pre-made on a VR platform, there are bound to be bugs and missteps. But I think with time and continual updating, there could be something outstanding to work with here.
Below are links to the company site, Steam game, and SIGGRAPH article:

Heroes of Might and Magic IV

Heroes of Might and Magic IV is a turn-based strategy game developed by New World Computing (bankrupt) and published by the 3DO Company (also bankrupt) in 2002. It is set in the fictional world of Axeoth where there are mythical creatures such as dragons and vampires and elves and dwarves.

Image of adventure map taken from GoG

Lens of Elemental Tetrad:

The graphics of the game were not particularly groundbreaking or realistic for its time. However, the art style was overall unified and consistent. It was also higher quality than the one in its predecessor HOMM III. While simple in design, the animated sprites were able to help players like me visualize the terrain and other objects in the game. Each creature and hero also had simple but unique character portraits to depict their appearances.

The game audio is composed by Rob King, Paul Romero and Steve Baca and features many different soundtracks from a variety of genres including classical, folk and country. The background music changes from town to town and also when travelling across biomes. Difference in music style across the biomes helps to further distinguish each of the representing factions. For example, Necropolis and Asylum have more chaotic and faster paced orchestral music while Nature is peaceful and relaxed. All in all, the game tracks and sound effects did very well in making HOMM IV an immersive and enjoyable experience.

During the Reckoning, the world of Enroth is destroyed. Most of its inhabitants manage to escape through mysterious portals to the new world of Axeoth, where the game takes place. The base game features six individual campaigns that tell the story of how each of the leaders of the major factions of Axeoth came to power.

Everything in the game can be controlled with the left click of the mouse, from adventure movement to combat movement and even troop and structure management.

Players usually control one or more heroes and take command of an army of mythical creatures to travel and explore the map for towns, dwellings or resources while battling monsters and hostile armies. As heroes level up, they can pick up a new skill or improve an existing one such as Diplomacy or Archery. There are over 40 different specialized classes and a total of 36 skills that each have 5 levels of progression.

A campaign can span over multiple maps and ends when a key hero has died or when the player successfully completes the questline. Each adventure map is further divided into two levels, a subterranean underground and the surface. Players can traverse between the levels using portals located at certain points in the map.

Heroes of Might and Magic IV is available on Windows and Mac OS. It can run smoothly on any modern computer. The game supports multiplayer on the same computer and also over LAN as well.

Lens #4: The Lens of Curiosity
While most of the campaign maps feature a linear story line, players are still encouraged to explore other parts of the map that are not necessary to completing the main objectives. Players are often rewarded with additional resource mines or story snippets as they explore every corner of each map.

Lens #16: The Lens of the Player
Generally, players who play the Heroes of Might and Magic series like it for the depth of its gameplay. There are a ton of interactions between each creature due to the unique traits they can posses (for example, vampires can attack without retaliation while also leeching life at the same time) and players are constantly finding new strategies as they play through maps, be it against the AI or against another player.

Heroes of Might and Magic 4 remains true to the core gameplay of the series while making QoL changes to the UI, creature tiers and hero skillsets. This makes it an enjoyable game for both newcomers and veterans alike.

Lens #32: The Lens of Meaningful Choices
Game Designer Sid Meier once said: “A game is a series of interesting decisions”. In Heroes of Might and Magic IV, you have to make many important decisions throughout the game.

Limited by resources and dwelling production rate, players have to make the choice between which types of creatures to produce and how many of each to produce. Throughout most of a campaign, players have to balance between building up their towns or buying units or equipment in order to maximize their effectiveness on the campaign map. During combat, the skillful micromanagement of a player can often turn the tide of battle against a numerically superior army.

Players can find enjoyment in min-maxing their army and hero builds and the veterans of the series are well rewarded for making smart choices by being able to conquer large expands of a map within a much shorter period of time than perhaps another player who is new to the game.

Lens #45: The Lens of Imagination
HOMM IV is set in a fictional medieval world, represented by simple but yet detailed game sprites. A large portion of the game has been crafted in such a way to help the players imagine that they are a part of this imaginary game world. For example, the UI is designed very nicely such that every button has a look that fits into the theme of the game. Most of the story in the campaign is delivered by text in a box that looks like an old parchment and also narrated by voice actors (who sort of play as the character saying the lines) as you read through it. As mentioned above, the soundtracks do an excellent job of representing the traits of each faction and helps to build the atmosphere.