A Noob’s [Mini] Review – Sea of Thieves

Ahoy, me hearties! The sea is calling.

Do you ever dream about sailing away, off into the sunset where there lies promise of sun, adventure, treasure and grog? If that sounds appealing then do I have the game for you. Sure, there may be the odd storm. A ghost ship or two. The occasional battle for your ship, lives and everything you have ever owned and loved against the fearsome, monstrous creatures of the deep. But it’s not just the party that makes the pirate, and when you’re approaching an outpost ready to cash in your haul, singing shanty’s of the sea into the dead of night, you will tell tales of previous voyages, laugh, and look forward to the next.

Sea of Thieves is an online multiplayer game in which you and up to three friends captain a ship. From there, the world really is your oyster. The game provides you with a huge sandbox world, full of random events. If you would like a fight then it is up to you to stock up your ship and seek out active forts, sea battles, or even other players. If you would prefer a calmer experience then you can instead find treasure maps, using the tools and clues provided to seek out the island you need. You can also become a merchant, follow story quests, or even just pick a direction and set sail, seeing what you find along the way.

What makes Sea of Thieves special is its core mechanics. Sailing a ship requires teamwork. Correctly navigating without incident and adapting when needed is always satisfying. The sea feels like a real sea and there is a learning curve to understand how the boat moves, all adding to the immersion. You will become as familiar with your compass and maps as you will with your sword and cannons. Not to mention, the stylised art style of the game offers an impressive beauty in all weathers, at all times of day.

The overall structure of the game creates an ever changing pace which makes no two sessions alike. The travel adds a downtime that is all the more appreciated after surviving three near disasters in a row, and all the more elevated when your ship is full of treasure and you have no idea what is in the water below, or over the horizon ahead.

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Release date: 20th March 2018
Available on: PC and Xbox (One, Series X/S, Game Pass)

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A Noob’s [Mini] Review – Astro’s Playroom

Pure joy in a Video Game.

Astro’s Playroom may seem like a strange game to spotlight due to the nature of its release. This is a game that arrived with the PS5 and came pre-installed on all consoles. Because of this, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that it is just a tech demo or tutorial that isn’t worth the time. Thankfully, I would like to let everyone know with great enthusiasm that this couldn’t be further from the truth. While it does do a great job of showing off the features of the DualSense controller, it definitely manages to stand on its own two feet as a full fledged – albeit short – game.

At first glance the game may seem like it is for children due to its cute characters and colourful settings. This is accurate to an extent – it can be enjoyable for all ages – but the true genius of the design is that the parents can have even more fun than the kids. Especially if they have any history at all with PlayStation.

The concept is that this game takes place inside of your console and every time you power it up, this is the magic that is happening within. It is a giant party. We take control of a robot named Astro, making our way through wonderful and bold levels based on different components, such as the ‘SSD Speedway’ and the ‘GPU Jungle’. It is a 3D platformer so your job is to explore, hop, skip, jump, roll, glide and fly your way to your objective, avoiding and/or dealing with obstacles, taking in your environment and collecting everything you can find.

The more that you look around, the more you will get from this game as you notice all of the attention to detail. Every level is full to the brim with references of famous scenes from many different games, providing delight around every corner. Every environment that you enter is built from technology parts in ways that you would not expect. Every area makes use of a unique mechanic, showing off the potential of the haptic feedback in the controller. At the end of each section, you will be rewarded with a nostalgia that – if you are anything like me – could bring a tear to your eye. On top of that, the sound track is fantastic and completes the atmosphere perfectly.

Unfortunately, the only way to play this one is on the PS5. But, if you do have a PS5 then that means that you already own the game and it is absolutely worth the few hours it takes to play through it. It is like the most fun, interactive, joyful museum that you could ever go to, celebrating PlayStation’s past, present and future.

Developer: Team Asobi
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: 12th November 2020
Average play time: 4 hours
Available on: PlayStation 5

If you would like to see my live playthrough, here it is!

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A Noob’s [Mini] Review – SOMA

If you play one horror game in your life, I believe it should be this one.

Explaining in too much detail why you should play SOMA runs the risk of ruining the reason that you should play SOMA, but I am going to give it a shot.

SOMA is a narrative experience like no other I have ever had. While it isn’t gameplay heavy, it is a classic example of a story thats impact is amplified due to the medium and the player input that brings.

In this game we play as Simon Jarrett, an ordinary young man who has suffered the misfortune of a brain injury. Taking part in some experimental treatment, Simon arrives to get his brain scan but it does not go as expected. As he comes to, it rapidly becomes clear that all is not how it seems. 

This is a game of linear exploration. From a first person perspective, we guide Simon through an ordeal, moving forward through circumstances that are horrifying on a spectrum from deeply personal, to unfathomable.

If you are a person that does not enjoy playing horror games for reasons like jump scares, intensity and/or gore (like me), then all is not lost. While the atmosphere is indeed spooky, the most worthwhile aspects of the game come from the themes and events that can stay on your mind for weeks, as opposed to a cheap scare. To account for these people, the developers added a ‘Safe Mode’. This is how I played and it prevents any lose state, allowing you to be confident that you won’t lose any progress while you explore the environment (which I highly recommend doing to get all of the context).

SOMA is not a pleasant experience. It is haunting, dark and bleak. But, it is up there with the most thoughtful games I have ever played and I think about it on at least a monthly basis. It presents the player with choices that have no easy answer and deals with existentialism among other topics in very interesting ways. It is the only horror game that I would encourage anyone unsure to try to look past the genre, and if you are a horror fan? Turn off the lights, get fully immersed and enjoy.

Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Release date: 22nd September 2015
Average play time: 10 hours
Available on: PC, PlayStation (4, 5) and Xbox (One, Series X/S, Game Pass)

If you would like to see my live playthrough, here it is!

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