Kholat (PS4)

2Q== (2)Hello everyone and welcome back to another of my quick video reviews!

Make sure you read up about the fascinating and enduringly creepy Dyatlov Pass incident that heavily inspired Kholat.

Kholat was reviewed with a download code of the PS4 edition, provided by PR.

Layers of Fear (Xbox One)

Layers of Fear - BannerThere’s an art to making interactive horror.

For a game to be frightening, the player must empathise  with – or even inhabit – the role of a victim. And what do victims have in common? They have limited agency to resist the things that are done to them. That can be a problem in videogames, which are distinguishable from other media precisely for the agency that they offer. This friction is one of the reasons Resident Evil has continued to falter as it rushes to incorporate ever more action tropes. Continue reading “Layers of Fear (Xbox One)”

Hitman GO (PS4)

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“Poseidon is gentle with us today” Giuseppe called to his son who busied himself with untangling the nets. He had not been a young man when his wife blessed him with their only son,
but he felt only gratitude that the boy was now of an age to help out on the boat. Arthritis made even the most mundane tasks a painful chore, a reminder that there is some discomfort even in paradise.

As if on cue, the boy sat back in the stern, sweating from the exertion of wrestling with the sodden nets and pointed out over the azure sea to the blackened silhouette of the island, “What is that island, papa?” cried the boy. Giuseppe paused for a moment before answering “My son, that is hell in paradise.”

The terrible tales told by fathers to sons about the island would have given pause even to mighty Odysseus. No Siren or Cyclops dwelt there though and only the irregular walls of a villa piercing the skyline hinted at human habitation. To the locals they looked like nothing less than broken teeth, the lower jaw of some infernal beast. For all the fantasy though, the locals knew that their stories hid a worse terror still.

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“What have I done to deserve such generosity?”

Though he stood on the villa’s highest balcony, Don Rosario did not notice the fishing boat below, instead he was ruminating as to why Ennio had not patrolled the courtyard during the past ten minutes. Not for the first time did he feel a pang of regret at the laziness of sons-in-law employed out of generosity – that fannullone was probably asleep in a flower-bed.

Don Rosario was robbed of the opportunity to pursue the thought further as the strains of Ave Maria drifted from the bedroom, interrupting his thoughts. He loathed these sentimental old hymns but his wife adored them so he generally had little choice but to suppress his discomfort. Strange he thought, he was sure he’d heard his wife leave ten minutes earlier.

He returned to scowling at the courtyard, though even investigating the bedroom would probably not have saved his life. Agent 47 had committed to the kill and stepped silently out of the doorway and briefly reflected that Don Rosario was so vain a man that he’d probably appreciate being assassinated by a killer in a brushed wool Tom Ford coat with eight buttons and an ulster collar. However, he could not allow the Don the luxury of appreciating such elegance as with practiced ease he slipped a yellow scarf around the neck of the hapless Mafioso, a carefully placed knot crushing his larynx in seconds.

…and this is the verve and art of the Hitman series which distils so well into the format of a deceptively simple puzzle game. This is, however, not your daddy’s version of Go, the black and white stones of the ancient Chinese original giving way to playing pieces depicting a variety of henchmen and assorted toughs. While the original Go features even more winning variations than chess, Hitman Go presents only a handful of ways to beat each level, with extra points available for completing various optional tasks along the way such as collecting a briefcase or…er…not killing any dogs.

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I killed everyone in PETA with my nine-millimetre 

So if we don’t got Go, then what do we got? Not just the distillation of Hitman but also the essential form of many a ‘proper’ stealth game, the majority of which already operate like elaborate board games. Wait for baddie-A to move out of the eyeline of baddie-B and then move from hiding place to kill baddie-A and chuck his body down a well.

Hitman Go is just all of that without the fluff: A turn-based board game with the aim in each level being to reach the exit or bump off some poor chap who’s clearly narked the wrong people. The bad-guys are the aforementioned assorted toughs who have an idiosyncratic way of moving depending on their type. Blue-jacketed bruisers face stoically in one direction, dog-handlers pursue you relentlessly once they have sight of you and even snipers crisis-cross the playing area with them laser-scopey things that I can’t remember the name of.

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Trip Advisor rates this park as ‘quite stabby’ ***

Agent 47 isn’t quite defenceless though as carelessly littered around each level are silenced pistols, sniper rifles and rocks and tin-cans which distract the enemy when thrown. Before you go away thinking that this is a gun-feast after all and not suitable for children, elderly relatives or the clergy, be advised that this is an entirely bloodless affair. Hitman Go doesn’t just play like a board game, but it looks like one too. Each level looks like a specially-constructed diorama, populated by charming hand-painted figurines. When Agent 47 does rub out one of his foes, their playing piece simply gets yanked from the board and set down at the side.

The commitment to a cohesive look and feel for the game is admirable and complemented throughout by some surprisingly soothing noodley xylophone music.

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“Mama-Mia! I should’na had-a the fish!”

The game definitely loses something in its transition from mobile platforms though, where the touch-controls were a perfect fit, as was the ‘one quick go on the bus’ gameplay. The game felt sizeable on mobile, so I was surprised to romp through the whole thing in four hours on console (although it’ll take me a good while longer to achieve 100% completion). Sitting down with a console is more of a time commitment so inevitably it’s not a game with great longevity on this format.

Still, while it lasts it’s a relatively unique experience and the puzzles have just the right tension between frustrating and simple to prompt repeated attempts. Just don’t be tempted to use the ‘Hint’ option and render a short game even shorter.

8/10 Polonium-fresh

Hitman GO was reviewed with a download code of the PS4 edition, provided by Dead Good Media.