‘Framed 2’ Review – The Second Half of a Really Good Game

When I reviewed the original Framed [Free], I said “Given the brevity and lack of progression in the concept, this really does feel like half of a larger whole stretched out to fill one game.” Holy crap was I right. Loveshack Entertainment decided to return to the concept with Framed 2 [$ 4.99] and the difference is night and day. I don’t know if I have ever played a game where the second title in the series made the first one look like utter garbage in comparison, but that’s exactly what Framed 2 does. It is exactly what the original game needed to feel like the genius title that the concept deserved.

I recommend playing Framed 1 still to a certain degree, as it is in part the tutorial to Framed 2, which throws a few easy sequences your way, before going whole hog into its concept, challenging you early on rather than feeling like one giant tutorial. The story itself is a prequel, once again involving a silhouetted man, woman, and a mustachioed man pursuing them. The woman and mustache are the same characters who appear in the first game, with the big MacGuffin briefcase playing a role here. There’s still no dialogue in the experience at all, but the game feels like it has more character. The male protagonist in particular has just enough detail and personality to keep him as the abstract character he’s supposed to be, but to make him feel like a character. And taking the world from a generic western city to a vaguely-Chinese town gives the world more of the feeling of a dynamic, lively setting. It doesn’t feel flat, or generic, and there’s good ways that the locale gets used to inspire the theme. While some people might be disappointed that the game is a prequel, like how I saw some consternation after Beyond Good and Evil 2 was revealed to be one, I will say: it pays off well.

The core mechanic of the game is rearranging panels in order to create the proper sequence of events, with the location of characters and items in each panel playing a role contextually to what happened in previous panels. The annoying puzzles where the rules of comic sequencing were played with are gone. For example, there were puzzles in Framed 1 where you had to rotate long panels around to solve puzzles, creating puzzles where you weren’t completely sure of how the sequencing was going to work. Those are gone. What does play a bigger role are the fun puzzles where you have to re-use panels in order to complete a sequence. So, you have more instances of where you have to utilize the different contexts, while still finding a way to use all the panels at least once, in order to solve the puzzle and advance. These puzzles now have more in the way of permanent effects, so order plays a role, too. You also have to move pieces around several times, so just the depth of these puzzles and how you focus on your approach is taken to a new level. Some new elements get thrown into the mix, such as environmental elements outside of panels that you have to manipulate. Some new puzzles at critical moments in the narrative get thrown in, too.

The photos you can collect serve two purposes in Framed 2. One is that they show how there’s some whimsy in the experience now. These Polaroid-style instant photos have cartoony representations of events in the game, and are part of how this game doesn’t take itself so seriously. There’s a few silly moments, and a couple of cool references to a famous fan of the original Framed, one of which is just a nice thrown-out reference, another playing a role in the game itself in a way that shows some of the cleverness at play in Framed 2. Additionally, these photos often require that you play through things in a slightly different way, perhaps taking an alternate sequence through the level. This is great! It shows that there might be more than one solution to challenges, and it encourages a bit of creativity in playing the game and replayability if you miss the photos.

While the police officers in the Framed universe will never be considered smart, Framed 2 does a lot of subtle work to make sure that the hazard they represent doesn’t feel extremely unrealistic. Like, these cops still don’t have a tremendous ability to see anything outside of their immediate vision, but the original Framed took this to a ridiculous degree. The way you avoid and dodge cops in Framed 2 feels far, far less ridiculous. There’s still some oddities of the rules as to when your protagonist will whack the cop from behind or not, but nothing especially egregious.

I am seriously, seriously impressed by how much better Framed 2 is compared to the original game. You’re talking about a title that left me surpremely disappointed. I specifically said it felt like the first half of what should be a really good game. There were clever ideas, but they went underutilized. And a lot of ideas that didn’t work out took up too much prominence. And the twist in Framed 1 just didn’t land as well as I think Loveshack intended; even on a recent replay, it was still just confusing instead of clever. I stand by that game as a 3 out of 5 mobile experience. Framed 2 chucks almost everything that was bad about the original Framed out the window, emphasizing what is strong about the concept, and then building on it. This is exactly what a sequel should do. And for Framed, where you had a game with a good concept but a flawed execution, Loveshack put a ton of work in to make a sequel that annihilates what the first game did. It took a few years, but finally the promise of Framed has been fulfilled with Framed 2.


Review: Apple’s new 12″ MacBook boasts incremental speed improvements

Article Image

Apple last week refreshed its MacBook lineup with processor upgrades and minor aesthetic tweaks, with the 12-inch MacBook benefiting from new Intel silicon and faster SSDs. Are the changes enough to prompt existing owners to upgrade? Find out in AppleInsider’s video review.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Days of Annoying, Endless App Review Requests Are Finally Over

The days of endless requests for app reviews and ratings might finally be over, thanks to a subtle change made this week in Apple’s App Store Review guidelines.

The relevant change is the addition of section 1.1.7, which requires developers to use Apple’s own app rating API and user interface going forward. This updated App Store rating API was first introduced in the iOS 10.3 beta, and alongside a slightly different UI, it also limits the number of times that apps can ask users to review them. Previously, using Apple’s official API was optional, but this guideline change makes it mandatory and disallows “custom review prompts.” iOS 10.3 also brought certain other App Store changes, such as the ability to rate reviews and a feature that would allow developers to respond directly user comments.

Developers will now only be able to prompt users to review their apps three times a year, according to Mashable. Additionally, once an app has been reviewed, it can’t display the review request message again — even after major app updates and overhauls. Notably, for users who want to forego the app reviewing experience entirely, there will be a new option to shut off the prompts altogether in Settings.

But while this updated API will limit how and how often apps can ask for reviews, the change might actually make it easier for users to rate their favorite (or least favorite) apps. Unlike the old system, which redirected users to an app’s App Store page, Apple’s new UI allows users to give a star rating to apps without ever leaving the app itself. You can see an example of the new UI in the tweet below.

The updated App Store guidelines will see a general rollout in the fall alongside a completely redesigned App Store in iOS 11.

Want a FREE iPhone 7? Click here to enter our monthly contest for a chance!
Follow us on Apple News by pressing the (+) button at the top of our channel


Microsoft Surface Laptop with Windows 10 Pro review

I feel like I always start a Surface review the same way, so here goes: I’ve always wanted Microsoft to build a laptop. A couple of years ago, Microsoft nearly did that with the Surface Book but it wasn’t enough.

The Surface Book was top heavy, chunky, and it had a removable screen that I rarely detached. Like many Surface devices, it was different for the sake of being different, but it wasn’t the ultimate laptop that Microsoft claimed it would be.

Microsoft has now finally created the laptop I’ve been waiting for, and it’s simply called the Surface Laptop. The Laptop has virtually everything a working person could ask for, yet strangely, Microsoft has bundled the Surface Laptop with Windows 10 S, a new, slightly crippled version of…

Continue reading…

The Verge – All Posts

‘Monument Valley 2’ Review – Mother and Child Reunited

The first Monument Valley [$ 3.99] was a landmark game on the App Store, a title that brought a fascinatingly gorgeous experience to mobile gaming. Yet, I thought there was something lacking from it: it wasn’t a particularly difficult game as far as challenge goes, and while the story had some poignant moments, its abstraction perhaps was too disaffecting from the story the game wanted to tell. But certainly, critics of the game are in a notable minority, as the game has become one of the top-selling mobile games of all-time, spawned many imitators, appeared on House of Cards, and caused many people to fall in love with the characters from the game. So the sequel Monument Valley 2 [$ 4.99] is in an unenviable position where it has to try and recapture that magic of the original. And to a certain extent, it does: it’s still a gorgeous game, and Ustwo are the masters of their craft at putting Escherian impossible geometry into a game experience. As a delivery vehicle for some gorgeous colors and landscapes, Monument Valley 2 is once again a success. As a game, and even at times as a story, Monument Valley 2 falls a bit short.

This sequel doesn’t feature any kind of narrative connection to the original game beyond thematic elements. There is one moment where the game tries to rekindle fond memories of the original while still being new, and it works quite well. I’m being vague so as to not spoil it. This game tells the story of Ro, and her unnamed daughter. The daughter not having a name seems like an odd choice, and one that seems obfuscating more than the benefit of making her a nameless symbol accomplishes. This isn’t just a story of a child growing up, it’s also one of motherhood, and watching your child grow, becoming their own person, and learning to let them go. Yet, it still sees the mother as their own person, and someone with their own experiences – their life isn’t over just because they’ve finished raising their child to adulthood. The application still seems very hands-off, and good luck trying to figure out the connection of the story of Ro and daughter to the magical acts they’re undertaking along the way. Which, themselves have an interesting customization aspect, as you create magical sigils at the end of each level, and can create unique patterns for each one to include with your screenshots that you take of the game.

The puzzles lack things like the crows from the original game, so it’s just you solving the environments through rotating and manipulating certain objects. Ro and her daughter – who has the cutest bounce in her step – play roles, in that you often have to account for each character depending on the puzzle you’re solving. Again, being vague so as to not ruin the experience for those who haven’t played, the role that Ro and her daughter each play in the game changes over time, and your relationship to control of the characters changes, too. As far as challenge goes, it’s not very difficult. It’s still a rather compelling game, and if you like your puzzles to throw just mild resistance at you so you can feel like you’re progressing without putting in too much in the way of blood, sweat, and tears, well, this is the game for you. It’s definitely a game friendly enough for casual players.

Once again, Monument Valley 2 is an absolutely gorgeous stunner of a game. Ustwo utilizes a similar M.C. Escher influence, and a similar set of pastel colors as the base of the world. But they are willing to take some risks with the coloration and artistic approach. Some of the coloration starts to take on new hues that you might not have seen before, that still feel like they fit, but definitely expand on what the game is known for. A particularly cool sequence deliberately plays with making the world look two-dimensional, and utilizing a style that references some of Piet Mondrian’s most famous works.

The thing is that we’ve seen this genre evolve. There’s obvious inspirations like Euclidean Lands [$ 3.99], which serves as a perfect counterbalance to the lack of difficulty of Monument Valley by having some truly, truly devious puzzles. But we even see games like Old Man’s Journey [$ 4.99] which go light on the puzzles, but feel like they still require some thought, and aren’t afraid to go light on dialogue while going deep on emotional connection to the player. Your mileage will vary depending on your emotional connection to the story, but in my personal opinion? I think that since Monument Valley released, other games have stepped it up in the genre. This isn’t a slight against Monument Valley 2, as it reaches new heights in terms of artistic effects for everyone else to compete against. It’s just as a cohesive game, there’s other titles that provide gorgeous experiences with more satisfying puzzle challenges and storylines that are abstract yet meaningful.

The way that you have to look at Monument Valley 2 is the same way that I look at Monument Valley. That, as a delivery vehicle for the gorgeous art, it’s top-notch. But as an actual game, and even as a storytelling experience, it’s not quite on par with some of the fine experiences that have hit mobile since Monument Valley burst onto the scene. It’s tough to criticize the game too much since I’m pretty sure that the purpose of Monument Valley games is to be a delivery vehicle for some gorgeous art. And the mother/daughter themes of Monument Valley 2 are something I’d love to see other games explore. Father/son relationships have played a role in media over the years, and we’re seeing some games in the AAA space that are exploring that dynamic. And even for men, the mother/daughter themes of Monument Valley 2 are absolutely relatable. But there are aspects to the gender dynamic of mothers and daughters that I’d love to see more games explore.

So as a game, I have my criticisms of Monument Valley 2, and it’s kind of why while I understand why review scores are such a useful shorthand, they are imperfect for something like the Monument Valley games. If you want a puzzle game that will test you, this isn’t for you. If you just want something that you can interact with in order to get rewarded with interesting themes and gorgeous artwork, Monument Valley 2 succeeds at that. But if Ustwo ever explores this world again, I think there’s a gap between the gameplay and the art that could be crossed to make this the masterful experience these games have just barely fallen short of being in my eyes.