Saturday, November 30, 2013

REVIEW - Tearaway.

Tearaway is an adventure-platformer, and the first new IP from Media Molecule since LittleBigPlanet back in 2009.  It recalls inventive platforming classics like Psychonauts in its boundless, cheerful creativity, but feels exceedingly fresh and new thanks to (oddly capable) mechanics that take advantage of the Vita's unique hardware features.  It uses the tilt controls, the camera, the touchscreen, rear touchpad and microphone for moments of such childlike whimsy you'll find you can never feel disappointed at the game for making you tap on it, tilt it or growl into it.

It's deeply charming.

First of all, the entire world is made of paper.  Paper you feel like you could reach out and touch.  Paper like the colored construction paper I spent countless hours with as a kid.

You might be walking down a path, but there's a tactile sense that the path is a cut piece of paper that's been laid on top of green grass surrounding it.  It has a seam in its middle - a rising little peak, because someone folded the paper before it was placed down.

As your little player-character - a sentient envelope, who spends the entire game trying to get to you to deliver a message - walks across it, the raised edges of a path flatten to smooth with the ground under her tiny weight.  That little peak in the path will depress as she scampers across it.  (I say she because I chose to go with Atoi, the girl character.  If Iota, the boy character, is half as adorable as my Atoi was, you'll spend the entire game wanting to hug him.)

When you splash through water - a sheet of blue paper that sits atop the green - expanding paper rings burst from your footsteps with each little 'sploosh."

It's lovely.  Long grasses are strips of paper that flow with the wind (to a lovely rustling paper sound).  Waves of paper water break against the paper path to a lighthouse.  Paper rain falls, and when it hits the ground it shatters into beautiful little paper curls that leap into the air, roll themselves up, and are gone in an instant.

The world sways and breathes with the wind, and it's carried along by a fantastic folk-meets-electronic soundtrack.

Atoi and Iota, no mater how you dress them up with the game's construction paper kit,

are charming and expressive little folk.  They utter tiny, high-pitched bursts of effort (uhn!) when they heave a squirrel into a basketball net, their mouths form little "ooohs" when they're amazed and their eyes go wide with fright as they're chased by rampaging windigos.  Atoi, it should be known, loves a good, old fashion pig ride.

The game starts out simple, with not even a jump at Atoi's disposal (though you'll tap the rear touchpad to fling her from jump pads).  When rampaging 'scraps' - little one-eyed newsprint cubes, and the game's enemies - show up, all she can do is run around looking terrified until they leap at her.  If she successfully gets out of the way, the scrap will hit the ground and wang its head, stunned for a moment, at which point she can pick it up and (uhn!) toss it into other scraps or off cliffsides.

Atoi's skills are really only half of the equation, though, as the game treats the player themselves as a player-character.  You'll stab your fingers up through the game's world from beneath, scattering scraps and pushing platforms around.  You'll pull on the ribbons of countless presents to unseal the confetti within (used for buying camera upgrades, filters and pre-made fashion accessories like eyes for your messenger) and spin records to stop the world from turning.

About a sixth of the way into the game, Atoi earns her jump, but Tearaway keeps its mechanics lean and meaningful.  It never introduces a button press that you won't be using constantly for the rest of the game, and it does such a fine job of keeping things fresh throughout you never find yourself pining for a deeper movelist.

You'll wander through orchards and design a crown for the squirrel king.  You'll make a mean face for a pumpkin so he can scare crows away (once you toss his head up on his body), and those little blue snowflakes above are the little blue snowflakes I designed, when an elk asked me to.

Like all good adventurers, you travel the land setting things right enroute to your ultimate goal, taking pictures of your bathroom curtains to dress up colorless characters and snapping pictures of others, which automatically returns their color to them and unlocks a papercraft design for print-out later, if you're so inclined.

The game clips along, constantly delighting with creative new environments to explore and adventures to have, and - try as I might - there's nothing here to complain about, and nothing I can suggest needed a bit more attention.  I never cursed a checkpoint location, was never disappointed by an odd-feeling difficulty spike, was never less than charmed for my entire time with the title.

As its presentation attests, this is a game assembled carefully, with an abundance of love on the part of its creators.  It never frustrates, only delights.

Far from the meatiest of games, Tearaway more than makes up for its meager length by way of its constantly charming presentation and comfortable, involving gameplay.  I didn't even realize how tightly the game had wound its way around my heart until its weirdly hallucinatory ending, and I found the screen was blurred through welling tears.

It's wonderful.  Lovely.  Delightful.  Charming.  Smartly-constructed and well-paced.  It's not a game you'll play forever, but it feels like an instant classic, and something you'll be dying to share with any kid in your life.

Tearaway, it turns out, is more than just a cute face, with something beautiful and meaningful to say about games, gamers and what occurs between them.

Friday, November 29, 2013

REVIEW - Knack.

Knack is a PS4 launch title from SCE Studio Japan and Mark Cerny, architect of the PS4 and a man with a proud history in Knack's genre.  A kid-friendly action-platformer, Knack has a lot in common with the sterling titles of Cerny's past, where he was an Executive Producer on Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, and a designer on the venerable Ratchet & Clank franchise.

Those are all great games, and Knack - a light platformer with some simple but sharp brawling action - has a lot in common with them.  But not enough.

We live in an age when triple-A studios are shuttering their doors on a horrifyingly regular basis, and fewer and fewer developers are able to compete within this high-profile space.  With that sobering fact well in mind and a very heavy heart, I suggest Knack may be worth checking out, but not for more than twenty dollars.

It's okay.  It's alright.  It has its strengths, but overall it's pretty boring.  Pretty meh.

I'll explain the plot a bit further down, but pretty much all you need to understand about Knack, the character, is that he's a sentient 'Relic Orb' that has the ability to manipulate other relics into an ambulatory collection of cubes and triangles that approximate a humanoid.  Relics are the sort-of-mysterious ancient artifacts that the humans of the game mine to power all their machinery and vehicles.  As Knack wanders around he gathers more relics into his body, gets bigger and "stronger," and no matter how big or small he gets he always just kinda' looks like a
"junk art sculpture of a muppet."
-Alex Navarro, who totally nails it. 
As a new IP debuting at the dawn of a new generation of consoles, Knack the hero is pretty disappointing.  I think we're meant to be impressed that his body is made up of all these little polygons you can really see, but that feels like as much of a disappointing, shallow-minded throwback as Knack itself.

No one bought a PS4 to see big, chunky polygons.  We bought one because we never want to see a game character made up of cubes and triangles again.

It reminds one a bit of Kirby's Epic Yarn, which was regularly surprising and delightful in its creativity, but the developers didn't have enough respect for their audience to challenge them.  Knack sort of has the opposite problem, in that the game is rock hard and stiflingly uniform throughout, refusing to ever surprise.   The dynamics of a fight you have in Knack's first hour are distressingly similar to those you'll have in its last, as the game entirely lacks the experimentation and skill development on the part of the player of a more dedicated brawler.

Instead, Knack's gameplay is as simple and sharp as an NES controller.  It's simple like Crash Bandicoot, in which you either successfully strike your enemies before they hit you, or you die.

To a point, that's fine.  That's good.  That creates combat that's very involving for the player as Knack, regardless of his size, can only suffer two or at most three good hits (and often just one, depending on the strength of the attack).  The player cannot simply stumble through Knack, but must be attentive, present and engaged at all times - or the player won't be going anywhere.

It would be less frustrating if... oh, there are so many ifs with Knack.

Knack would suck less...

...if the player had any meaningful control over their changes in size.  If I play well or terribly, it doesn't matter - Knack only absorbs a significant amount of relics at certain developer-chosen spots, which then allows him to deal more damage in his punches, and those relics are then taken away at scripted story moments.

...if those changes in size had any meaningful impact on gameplay.  Occasionally you'll flatten tiny enemies as giant knack, but more often you're simply fighting larger enemies in melees that exactly mirror those you had at two feet tall.

...if Knack had more than a three-hit combo on the ground and an air-ball attack.  He's got some special moves you need to absorb "sunstone energy" to unleash - and those are pretty satisfying - but because you can only charge a move by absorbing a dozen or so sunstones, you can't rely on them to get you through tough sections.

...if the path Knack walked down didn't directly expand and contract in relation to his size, kind of killing all sense of scale.  When Knack's huge, he feels like Knack walking through a model city, not a huge Knack walking through a city.

...if the checkpoints occurred more often than after five or six cleared rooms, given that each and every goddamned room often has the capacity to one-shot you (not to mention bottomless pits!)

...if the game didn't feel like you're just having the same fight over and over.

...if the environments you travel through felt the least bit inspired.

...if the story and characters weren't so asinine. And weirdly, subtly racist.  And misogynistic.  Seriously.  Knack, the kid-friendly family-fun game has really weird you'll-notice-it-when-you-think-about-it ways of telling you not to trust dark-skinned people or women of any race.

To explain, I'm going to spoil the crap out of the game's (boring, stupid, doesn't-even-have-an-ending) story.

Victor and Katrina (right).

Victor, the only male human with tan coloring is an evil genius bent on world domination.  Katrina, his even-browner female companion is the strategic mind behind the throne, a martial arts expert and the closest thing the game has to a principal antagonist.

They show up in the game's opening, a willing part of an expedition with (Knack's creator) The Doctor to discover where the marauding hordes of goblins have been getting their souped-up tanks and modern weapons lately, with which they've laid waste to human settlements.  They promptly betray The Doctor and try to kill Knack.

Charlotte (in holo-communicator form).

The Doctor, one should note, still pines for Charlotte, the lost love of his life who fell into a bottomless pit during an expedition twenty years ago.  Charlotte, of course, shows up again - turns out she abandoned mankind and it's been her who's been making tanks and weapons so the goblins can wage their anti-human genocide - what a twist!

The Doctor, a heavy-set middle aged man, is assisted by a wide-eyed youth (whose name I forget, so I'll just call him Jonny Quest) and a tall, handsome, muscular blond adventure-hero type (whose name I can't recall, so let's go with "Race" Bannon) reinforcing the notion that the only folks you should trust are "normal-looking," archtypical white men.

It's pandering, formulaic and thoughtless.

Weirdly, I never even noticed blur effects while playing - Knack and his enemies look gorgeous, in motion.

Knack has its moments.  Moments that directly recall and replicate the type of pleasure the game means to.  The fun of just wandering through a colorful, cartoon world and being challenged by simple, analog fights with bad guys, kicking their asses with nothing more than a jump, a dodge and a three-hit combo and moving on - but that simple pleasure, alone, can't carry an entire game.  It can't maintain one's interest for three hours, nevermind thirty.

Its environments are sharp and clean and graphically nice-looking, but never interesting, never inspiring, never involving.  The game's art direction reads like a Big Book of Kiddie Gaming Clich├ęs.

In small doses - a few hours a few times a week, perhaps - Knack may have been acceptable.  After the first few hours, I'll admit, I just wanted it to be over so I could go play more interesting games.  So, there it is:

Knack.  I'm glad it's over.

We're lucky that big strong white man was there to rescue that woman, aren't we, Cerny?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A short Game Diary - Knack.

Ys : Memories of Celceta is out.

I'm dying to try it because it's the type of game that's right up my alley, but I'm drowning in kid-friendly fare, at the moment.  Tearaway is currently in my Vita, and it's everything they say - it's adorable, charming, entertaining.  It has not, yet, worn out its welcome, and I intend to get it finished and reviewed before I move on to something else.

Knack, meanwhile, remains in my PS4.  I play it when I get home and before I go to work, and it just does not appear capable of ending.  I'm becoming convinced that Knack will just keep going for the remainder of my natural life, like Naruto, making incremental advancements to the plot only after two or three hours of attention have been paid to it.

What's weird is, Stockholm syndrome has appeared to set in.  I've spent what feels like 20 hours with Knack, and I'm starting to dislike it less.  I'm starting to take a bit of pride in perfectly evading and obliterating a team of killer robots or goblins, and I'm starting to really appreciate the way it will go into slow motion for the strike that finishes off the final enemy in a cleared section.

It's... meaningful, when Knack extends his weird composite arm to smash a leaping enemy out of the air, and that enemy's armor shatters from it in slow-motion.

But, again, Stockholm.  I actively disliked Knack after three hours.  After twenty hours with anything, you find you start identifying with it.

Toukiden drops Feb 11 in NA, Feb 14 in EU.


Toukiden is the boss-heavy and terribly good-looking Vita title from Omega Force, the team behind the ubiquitous Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors games.  Its heritage does it no favors, for me - but then, I last played Dynasty Warriors when it was the hot new thing on the PS2, so it may be time to give the developer a second chance.  At the very least, I really dig the art direction and presentation in Toukiden.

Press release!
Tecmo Koei America is pleased to announce today that the upcoming title Toukiden: The Age of Demons, will be available in stores on February 11th in North America and February 14th in Europe, 2014 for the PlayStation Vita handheld system.

Following the groundbreaking success in Japan, with sales exceeding 470,000 units, Toukiden: The Age of Demons is bringing the fight for survival to the west.

Set against a backdrop inspired by various historical periods of Japan, Toukiden: The Age of Demons tells the tale of humanity’s last stand for survival. When monstrous demons (Oni) of varying strength and size invaded the world through cracks in space and time and started attacking humans, the only opposition came from the Slayers, a caste that has always secretly protected mankind from their murderous intent.

Eight years after the time warp and Oni appeared, a brave young Slayer embarks on a journey to thin the numbers of the enemy and help humanity survive. Players take the role of this young warrior and can fully customize their characters, weapons and armor and form a group of hunters to take down the destructive Oni.

This visually stunning game boasts an extensive character creation mode, and six different weapon types, each of which can be forged and upgraded to the player’s preferences, while it also features 200 characters based on both fictional and historical Japanese figures, whose souls help players strengthen their team and defeat their enemies.

To aid Slayers in the beginning of their journey Tecmo Koei America announced a series of in game pre-order bonuses. Specifically, those who pre-order Toukiden: The Age of Demons through GameStop will receive two extra Mission Collections, along with the Mitama of Niijima Yae. Those who pre-order at Amazon will receive the Mitama of Momotaro, a warrior’s soul that will strengthen the player’s skill, along with 2 pieces of armor - Cat Ears and a Fox Mask.
A few more screens!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tomb Raider for next-gen announcement at VGX?

Last week a listing of Tomb Raider : Definitive Edition for PS4 appeared on Italy's Amazon.  I hadn't noticed IGN chasing after the story, but they actually got a response from Square:
"It’s so hard to keep a secret these days! We appreciate all of the enthusiasm, however we don’t have any details to share just yet. That said, we highly recommend you keep an eye on any major gaming events happening in early December."
Translation : Watch VGX (the new name of Spike's Video Game Awards).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sexy new inFamous : Second Son screens!

(Click to embiggen.)

Neon power running takedown!

To me, inFamous is kinda' Sony's Titanfall.  It's the big, gorgeous exclusive you wanna' play but can only play on Sony's box. 

Basement Crawl screens finally emerge.

We've been hearing about Basement Crawl since E3 '13, with very little information to explain what the game actually is.  We got this creepy non-gameplay trailer last month and a lot of creepy key art - but now, finally, we see what the game actually looks like in action.  It looks like a demented Bomberman with traps instead of bombs.  I think.

(Click to embiggen.)


New Siren coming to PS4?

As you no doubt remember, the Sony-developed Siren: Blood Curse was a fantastic survival horror game, and the genre's best representative on the 7th generation of consoles (not that it had much competition).  Well, the game's name has turned up on an official Playstation Romania site - highlighted below.  (Click to embiggen or go here or here to see original size.)

There were hints for two years after Siren: Blood Curse's release that a new Siren game was in the works - there was even a contest in Japan to design a monster that would make it into the next game - but this is the first we've heard of the game since.

I'm just crossing my fingers that it sees a proper disc release in North America this time, and isn't download-only.  I mean, I'll import it if I have to - but I don't want to have to.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Oh yeah, New Fallout is definitely coming.

Here's the teaser site - ohhh let's hope it's on new-gen consoles and it's super-gorgeous and awesome.

[update] Endless says the site's a fake - so the site's probably a fake.  Let's go with a rumor tag, for now.

...oh I'll be sad if it's a fake.[/update]

[update update]
And now Kotaku's sayin' the whole thing smells fishy.  I choose hope. [/update update]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

REVIEW - Assassin's Creed IV : Black Flag.

Terribly difficult to pin down to a single genre, Assassin's Creed IV : Black Flag can be summed up as an open-world action game.  It's a pretty-decent platformer, a stealth game and the best damned pirate simulator since Sid Meier.  There's little difference in mechanics between the PS3 and PS4 versions, but a notable gap in presentation and performance (which affects play) - so go with the next-gen option if you have the choice.

The Assassin's Creed franchise has had a tumultuous relationship with quality.  The two hadn't yet been introduced when Assassin's Creed first appeared in 2007, but they finally met up in time for its sequel, and Assassin's Creed II ('09) and Brotherhood ('10) were both excellent. Those were heady days, with sharp mechanics and smart design, directly recalling the developer's history with Prince of Persia on the previous generation of consoles.

Since then, quality's taken a bit of a break from Assassin's Creed, having gone on holiday with Crystal Dynamics, Naughty Dog and Rockstar, and the AC franchise was much poorer for it.  Revelations ('11) didn't approach the heights of Brotherhood, and III ('12), for all its posturing and prettiness, was the least-fun the series had been since its inception.

I'm pleased to report that, with Black FlagAssassin's Creed and quality have, finally, been reunited.  A current and next-gen game, Black Flag makes a strong argument that other games native to the PS3 and 360 could see new life and appreciation on the new generation of consoles - I'd love to see high-res versions of the Dead Space trilogy, Uncharted or FarCry 3 on the PS4.

A huge improvement over III, Black Flag's platforming now works.  Constantly.  Consistently and reliably.  Never in the game did a chase come to an unceremonious halt because of buggy mechanics, and new lead Edward Kenway (grandfather of ACIII's Connor) sweeps through the game's gauntlets of platforms with the sexy animations his grandson enjoyed and the trustworthiness of their Florentine ancestor.  All of III's platforming additions are here - you still zip through treetops and vault fences - but it's worth noting that none of the cities you dash across approach the beauty and grandeur of Rome in Brotherhood.

Sure, there are still viewpoints to climb - church towers, fort lookouts and lonely tree limbs - there are still targets to assassinate and cities to clamber though, but the (three or so) small towns you weigh anchor at cannot compare to the stately, breathtaking elegance of Italy in II and its sequel.

The Jackdaw at port in Havana

A large part of the franchise has always been its gorgeous realization of historical settings, and - while Black Flag again does an admirable job of recreating a time and place - the time and place chosen, here, simply don't offer architecture and cities as striking as those in the series' past.

It's fortunate, then, that Black Flag's most pronounced pleasures do not lie in its acceptable improvements to the franchise's mechanics (which really amounts to smoothing to acceptable what was left unacceptable in ACIII), but by the bold new course it charts.  In Black Flag, you're not merely running around cities, shankin' dudes.  For over half your time with the game, you'll be at the wheel of a beautiful two-masted ship, cruising throughout the Caribbean.

Yes.  You are literally a pirate of the Caribbean, and if playing this game doesn't make you want to go dust off some Johnny Depp movies, I'll eat my hat.  My jaunty, jaunty hat.

Black Flag's greatest joys are found, here, at the wheel of the Jackdaw, calling out orders to your crew and almost feeling the thrust of speed as the canvas unfurls and catches the wind.  As you cruise the seas, you may spy a mast on the horizon.  Holding R1 brings up your spyglass, via which you can discern if the ship is merely carrying some rum or sugar (good for sellin') or if its hold is heavily laden with precious timber and metal, crucial for upgrading your ship in order to stand a chance against greater prey.

You may spy a royal caravan - a great three-master, flanked by quick little sloops for intercepting attacks - weighed down by ten thousand royals.  If you do, the ship's existence and location will appear in the games of anyone on your friends list playing Black Flag, and they'll be able to take down the ship as well.  Same goes for white whales.

Yes, you can hunt humpacks and sharks, and the elusive white whales in a minigame that sees you throwing harpoons from a skiff into the beasts as they sweep back and forth, visible just beneath the waves.  It's both exhilarating and rather sad.

Once you've spied a ship you feel is ripe for the plunderin', you'll tap X thrice to get the Jackdaw up to travel speed - the camera pans out to show the entire ship, dashing across the waves as your crew bursts in to a lusty sea shanty (my favorite's Roll Boys, Roll).  New shanties for your crew to sing are found in the various towns and islands of the Caribbean, unlocked in little races with glowing musical notes.

You can begin your attack from afar, spending one or two shots from the mighty mortars, "stun" the ship with chain shot from your bowchasers or just sweep up casually alongside your prey before turning the camera to gaze off the ship's starboard side and calling "fiyaaa!" to unleash a shattering broadside.  Then, it's an elegant, dynamic dance as both ships cut through the rolling waves, obscured this moment (you can arc your cannon fire over a wave and into an enemy ship), revealed the next, jostling for position to lay down as much punishment as possible while taking little in return.

There are some lovely touches, here.  If you fire a broadside (or your bowchasers) while stationary, the smoke will linger in the air, blinding you.

After crippling a ship to the point that it lays adrift in the water, you pull the Jackdaw up alongside, raise your fist and call "drag them to the depths!" as your crew fires grappling hooks across the gap to reel your prize in as you may choose to man a pivot cannon, picking off officers and detonating powder supplies before leaping between the ships to eliminate its crew and lay claim to the booty.  The ship itself can then be used to repair the jackdaw, lower your ship's wanted level (gone, thank God, is the personal wanted level when in towns) or sent to Kenway's fleet.

Kenway's fleet is a lot like the hands-off assassination contracts and caravans of Brotherhood and III, and thankfully, here as there, you never really have to bother with the tedious affair, allowing it to go untouched with no ill effects.

Rather like the opening scene of Curse of the Black Pearl - and here, replacing the Templar forts of the Ezio trilogy - Kenway makes a habit of laying siege to any military fort he comes across, bombarding its defenses with mortar fire and cannon salvos before clambering ashore and assassinating the commander, to claim it under the black patch of the pirates.

Defeating a fort unlocks a large swath of the sea map - rather like the revelation of points of interest when one completes a viewpoint synchronization - and is often worth doing just for how much safer it makes the seas when embarking on a bit of honest piracy.

Like the towns, the fort segments feel almost - though not quite - like the unfortunately retained remnants of what Assassin's Creed once was.  Like the towns, they're not much to look at and not particularly thrilling to clamber through - and it is, again, where Black Flag separates itself from its predecessors that it makes the greatest impact.

Among the islands that dot the Caribbean sea, there are secrets to find and ancient ruins to discover and clamber across.


Dashing through jungles and up forgotten tombs, one forgets to miss the gorgeous Italian architecture of Ezio's saga and finds themselves instead involved in the mystery they're exploring and the comfortable, easy-going play that Assassin's Creed offers when it's at its best.

While the game takes no real bold new direction on PS4 as opposed to PS3 - mechanics are identical - the PS4 version is downright striking in its beauty (1080p, locked at a constant 30fps, while the PS3/360 versions suffer from very variable framerates).

The turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea, a gorgeous emerald green in the shallows, has a sense of presence and physicality on the high seas that I've never seen in a video game before.  The water, here, is transparent - but like real water, not infinitely so.  You can read objects just below its surface - whales as you hunt them, for example - and sometimes see the hull of a ship through the wave at it crests it - but go any deeper than nine or ten meters, and the object will be lost in the murk.  It's gorgeous.

The game's hero is a likeable rogue - a shipwrecked sailor, Edward Kenway is a brash, violent, arrogant child who has a chance encounter with a wounded Assassin and promptly murders the man and assumes his identity as he spies a bit of profit in it.  The game covers several years of Kenway's exploits in the Caribbean, and - rather like Ezio before him - we see him evolve from a foolhardy jerk into a man grown, the cares of the world heavy on his shoulders.

Not quite the franchise's storytelling at its best, Edward is certainly more endearing than III's Connor, and while the game's end lacks the grandeur and awe we often get from Assassin's Creed, it does a wonderful job of maintaining the emotional through-line of Edward's journey, and giving us the ending it deserves.

You find messages in bottles!   They're collectibles!

Assassin's Creed IV : Black Flag does not quite achieve the near-perfection of design that Ezio enjoyed in his first two outings, but it approaches mercifully close.  More valuable, Black Flag far and away outpaces any of its predecessors by finding its own very unique identity, and while - like any AC - it boasts an absolute wealth of content to explore and unlockables to find, it is at its best when it concerns itself first and foremost with being a pirate simulator.  When you find you've forgotten you're playing an Assassin's Creed game.

After all, pulling up a spyglass to examine a small spit of sand with a few palm trees sprouting from it and calling to my crew to loose sail doesn't remind me in any way, shape or form of Assassin's Creed.  Pulling up to the island and plunging into the sea (your crew calls "cap'n o'erboard!"), pacing across its white shores and pondering over an old treasure map, digging in the sand... that doesn't feel like Assassin's Creed. 

It feels only like Black Flag - a joy and discovery that the game and its hero may never have stumbled across, were both unprepared to wander so far from home.