Tag Archives: Steam

Rogue Legacy’s castle of chance keeps on giving

rogue legacy khidr boss beat

I don’t completely understand how this happened, but this is the first post I’ve dedicated to writing about Rogue Legacy, despite playing it off and on for the last few months. I mean, generally, save for some exceptions, I write about every game I’m playing–at least once. And yet, Rogue Legacy never really got in the spotlight despite accidentally eating up a few hours of my Extra Life stream; hey, it’s rather addicting. It’s also completely different than Rogue Galaxy, an awesome Level-5 JRPG for the PlayStation 2, but with both names being oh-so-similar I think I mixed them up a bunch when speaking. My bad. This post will now only be about the indie platform game with rogue-like elements, not the one starring a young, rebellious Jaster Rogue.

Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games is an indie platform game heavy on giving you one chance to win. Its biggest hook is that you are constantly playing as the child of the character you last played as, often gaining some of the previous parent’s traits while showcasing new ones. These greatly affect how you explore the randomly generated castles, as some traits, like blurry vision, only let you see so far ahead, while others, like two left hands, change the direction you normally cast spells in. There are also many other traits that have little to no impact on gameplay, just there for decoration. My personal favorites are dwarfism and ADHD, meaning you are both small and fast. Couple that with a good spellcaster, and enemies drop like flies as you zip on through.

While the early deep-dives into Rogue Legacy feel a bit aimless, there is an overarching goal to achieve: defeat four bosses, which unlocks that large door at the start of the castle, wherein you’ll find the final boss. However, beating those four bosses is no easy task. At this point, I’ve taken down one, namely Khidr, the Gatekeeper, in the opening section of the randomly construed castle, and that was only after something like 50+ deaths and enough money to level up my heir to fighting status. Khidr is difficult because it has a projectile attack that spirals around its eyeball body, and there are spikes on the floor to avoid. I did encounter Ponce de Leon, the Sentinel, in the Maya zone, but got my assassin butt handed to me swiftly.

The truth of the matter is that every run is actually more about getting as much gold as possible rather than taking on bosses before you are ready for ‘em. All upgrades cost gold, and usually it is a hefty amount–think 500 and higher, at least. Plus, as far as I can tell, the prices continue to increase as you grow in skill. Whatever gold you don’t spend on upgrading the castle can be spent before heading inside. There’s an armorer for weapons/gear and an enchantress for runes, as well as a dude that will lock the previous castle’s layout for you for a price, though it does repopulate with enemies. You have to give up the remainder of your gold before venturing into the castle, though there is an upgrade path to go down that lets you keep a small percentage of it. Regardless, get that gold and upgrade each and every time you die.

Not everything in Rogue Legacy is fascinating. The “story” is told through sporadic journal entries you randomly stumble across, and even then, they aren’t the most exciting or illuminating to read. You’ll occasionally come across a statue in the castle, which you can pray to for assistance, often giving you a bonus ability for that single run; however, unless you know what each power-up is already, there’s no way to know what you got. It’s kind of The Binding of Isaac in that respect. There are also Fairy Chest and special rooms that are purposely difficult or obtuse to solve. Still, even in light of that, it is an internal struggle to not keep playing, to not make one more attempt at that boss or get enough gold for that vampire-themed cape that restores HP with every enemy kill.

Strangely, Rogue Legacy is a game I can play for hours, but I actually load it up rather infrequently. Part of that might be my brain warning me not to lose an entire night to castle raiding, I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll get back to it soon enough, and each run is progress, whether it is getting a new weapon to buy or a permanent upgrade to your MP or actually killing a mini-boss. I’ll get through this in due time. Heck, that’s what genealogy is all about.

The Swapper believes strongly in a single soul inhabiting two bodies

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This year has been many things. One of them has been me catching up on all the great titles that came out in 2013 and just whooshed past me due to my inability to keep up with modern gaming as it unfolds. At this point, I’ve now gotten to experience the exploratory coming-of-age walking simulator that is Gone Home, the somber journey of siblings in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, what it is like to kill both deer and humans with the same tone in Tomb Raider, quirky personality quizzes in Doki Doki Universe, removing and revisiting bad memories in Remember Me, and using clones unemotionally to make progress in The Swapper.

For some reason, I stopped playing The Swapper right before the last few puzzles and end sequence. My bad. I didn’t know how close I was to the end at the point, but I suspect I just got busy with some other games and planned to return to it later. Well, I have now, having finished it up over the weekend after getting the required 124 orbs to move on, much to my heart’s sadness, though probably to my brain’s happiness. My cups of coffee are also pleased with this news.

Anyways…man. What a game. For those that don’t remember what’s going on here, you control an astronaut with a mysterious gun-like device called the Swapper, which allows her to make clones and swap between them. You’ll use this device to solve puzzles, collect orbs, and make your way further through and discover what ultimately happened to the crew of Theseus, a space station in great distress after taking highly complex rock formations of unknown origin on board. Most of the story details surface in computer data logs, but you will eventually meet a character or two that speak, as well as a bunch of rocks with too much time on their minds.

Look, I’m not gonna lie. A few of The Swapper‘s puzzles nearly broke my brain. Generally, they involved platforms and being down one clone. I’d say I had to look up the solutions to five or six of them in total, but only after I banged my head against the wall for at least fifteen or twenty minutes. I tried, I really did. But I didn’t want one puzzle stopping all my progress in this gorgeous and deeply dark tale of identity, so some “cheating” had to occur. Otherwise, I figured out the rest on my own, and many of the puzzles are really satisfying to unravel. I also enjoyed how you have to use the Swapper device to sometimes navigate from room to room, just to get to the next puzzle. It’s quite exhilarating to hit a gravity switch and go zooming up to the ceiling, only to make a clone a second before you make contact and swap to them; also, pretty disturbing.

Evidently, there are Achievements for The Swapper, but none of them relate to the main path. In fact, after making my final choice (I swapped, for those that are curious) and watching the credits roll, I had to do some light Google research to make sure my copy wasn’t glitched or something. We’re so engrained this day and age to get some kind of pop-up when you do something cool or momentous, but that’s not the case here. Fine, fine. The Achievements are for finding secret, hidden consoles throughout the map that contain special messages; I discovered zero during my entire six or seven hours. Oh well.

But let’s end with this, because it’s really all I want anyone reading to take away from this post: y’all need to play The Swapper.

Proteus is a mesmerizing and powerful getaway

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On one hand alone, I can count the number of islands I’ve been to in real life. Ignoring that less-than-stellar fact, here’s a bunch of fictional islands I’d love to visit and explore for a day, just a day:

  • The island from LOST, specifically Dharmaville and far from wherever the Smoke Monster dwells
  • Amity Island, from Jaws
  • The El Nido Archipelago, from Chrono Cross
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • Isla Nublar, home to Jurassic Park‘s dinosaurs
  • Yoshi’s Island

Well, let’s add one more to that list with Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus, which is actually difficult to describe, though I’m sure all the Gone Home haters would describe it as “not a game” or a “walking simulator.” Phooey on them. Sadly, I just discovered a new term, “anti-game,” while doing some quick research, and that really bums me out. I think anything that creates an experience can be called a game, whether it is highly interactive or not. That time you stabbed a pencil around your fingers and sped up each go? A game. Connecting dots to other dots with lines to reveal some kind of image? A game. Traveling to a foreign, digital world and taking it all in visually? A game. Really now, people.

I guess you could say Proteus is a stark adventure of exploration and discovery in a musical wilderness environment. There are no challenges and set goals, no Achievements to pop (well, on the PC version, at least), no text anywhere on the screen to tell you anything or provide lore. You can’t even really pause the game, only close your eyes to take a snapshot or exit back out to the main menu. As you explore the island, a reactive audio mixing system modifies your soundtrack, with frogs, tombstones, flowers, and birds each acting as individual notes that sound as you draw nearer.

There’s plenty to see on the island, as well as plenty to not touch. All the animals scurry away as you draw near, and you will eventually stumble across a cabin and small circle of statues, but all you can do is look at them and wonder. There’s no “Press X to Pay Respects” button, and that’s more than fine. You can, however, press a button to sit down on the ground and absorb all the sounds. I also found a giant tree-thing that teleported me to the other side of the island. Otherwise, it’s a lot of walking, looking, listening, and learning. Sounds simple, but it’s beyond effective.

I explored Proteus‘ island once on Steam during my Extra Life stream and then a second time on PlayStation 3 just the other evening. Each trip takes about twenty or so minutes, and each island is randomly generated, though you will see a few familiar pieces and critters with each playthrough, as well as summon the swirling vortex of floating white lights that fast-forward the seasons from spring to summer to fall to, lastly, winter. I have not tried simply standing next to the vortex and not causing this shift to happen, though I think that’s possible too. Both of those games ended differently; the first time, I flew into the sky, chasing after the aurora in the night sky, and the second time I got lost in a bleak, snowy winterland, heading for the moon.

So, there are Trophies to unlock on the PlayStation 3 version of Proteus. I got one, and I have to assume I got it for beating the game once. I don’t know. They are overtly obtuse, and I’m looking forward to unlocking a few more–hopefully by accident–though their inclusion does break a bit of immersion and uniqueness. Oh well. Not the worst thing ever, though trying to read all their descriptions in one sitting gave me a headache.

Ultimately, Proteus is about time, about mortality. The experience is all at once deeply relaxing and terribly unnerving. The music will warm you, fill you with hope; then it will drain you, drain from you, and remind you that hope is fleeting. Life goes round and round, until it stops. There’s more than a vicious cycle to experience here, and it’s certainly a walk to remember.

LUFTRAUSERS gives you the power to set the skies aflame

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Some of my favorite Peanuts strips revolve around Snoopy’s alter ego of a World War I flying ace battling the likes of the Red Baron or the Austro-Hungarian Empire high up in the sky, his doghouse an adequate stand-in for a time-appropriate biplane capable of intense dogfighting. I even found the Xbox Live arcade title Snoopy Flying Ace to be decent fun. Anyways, I’ve always been a big fan of when comic strips get imaginative, which is why it won’t surprise you to learn I eat up other strips like Calvin and Hobbes, Rose is Rose, and Big Nate. In many ways, Vlambeer’s LUFTRAUSERS feels a lot like these comic strips, where the real and unreal mix in a manner that can only result in bold, sparkling joy.

The premise to LUFTRAUSERS is simple: select a combination of parts to complete your Rauser plane, take off into the sky, and shoot everything that shoots at you. Don’t worry, it’s not confusing–everything shoots at you. Depending on your plane’s build, you’ll have different amounts of HP, but you can recover damage by not shooting anything for a bit. Each part–gun, body, engine–has its own set of missions to complete, such as blowing up submarines or destroying ten enemies while boosting, and you can mix and match your build to create the perfect plane for completing each task. I personally found the Nuke body to be perfect for taking down those nasty submarines post-death. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to get the blimp to spawn, as many missions are locked until I can take one of those bloated airbags down.

Visually, LUFTRAUSERS has a minimalistic look, but it works extremely well, because once you are up and about flying around like a madman, doing loops over dozens of on-screen enemies, the flat, muted graphics help make each enemy and bullet pop whereas something more detailed might cause these elements to become lost in the action. The sprites get more detailed in the menu options, such as in the bunker or statistics, where an actual member of your team is standing there, watching your every move. There’s also tiny cutscenes as well, which will make you fondly think of your childhood SNES adventures. From the sounds of it, you can collect other color variations for the game, too, so if sepia isn’t your thing, something else might sink your battleship.

The experience of zooming up into the sky, dropping down into the water, and blasting everything in sight would be less of a thrill if the soundtrack wasn’t as killer as it is. For one thing, the soundtrack morphs based on how you construct your plane, so there’s both plenty to hear, plenty to see, but regardless of that, every song exists to pump you up about getting into some intense aerial combat–and it works. I can’t tell you the number of times I caught myself unconsciously bobbing my head as I played, only to realize how into the tunes I was after my plane blew up.

I originally played LUFTRAUSERS on Steam, even streamed it a bit as I figured out my setup for Extra Life, though that video is now gone from my archives, but the game is now a November freebie for PlayStation Plus subscribers on PlayStation 3. No surprise, but it plays the same on both systems, but this arcade-inspired “one more run” style of game is more enjoyable on the couch, so that’s where I’ll continue on with my dogfighting plans. Watch out, blimps–I’m gunning for you!

Mining my experiences as a cowboy steambot in SteamWorld Dig

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I’ve never gone very far underground in my thirty-one insipid years on this planet we share, and that’s fine. A few family vacation one-offs where we’d explore a cave with a tour group or something like that, but never any personal expeditions. Much like the ocean, the underground is terrifyingly expansive and filled with too much unknown. Also–very dark. There’s a 2006 horror movie called The Descent that seems like the most scariest thing possible, as it follows a group of British spelunkers down into the deep dank depths of some labyrinthine caves in North Carolina; on top of that alone, they get pursued by flesh-eating monsters. No thanks.

If I was to go underground, I’d hope it would look more like SteamWorld Dig, all colorful and bouncy and peppered with kooky characters like Lola, who runs the bar in Tumbleton and acts as a respawn point, and Hank “Cranky” McCrank, a repairbot who helps you upgrade your digging tools. I mean, just look at the game’s hero Rusty; with his cowboy hat and big, green metal hands, he appears more than confident to handle whatever is lurking deep beneath the town, and so I’d go with him, though still not too far down.

The story here is slight, but solid enough to give Rusty a reason to dig deeper into the mineral-infested ground. Rusty the steambot wannabe-cowboy has inherited his uncle Joe’s mine after Joe apparently lost his life plunging into its depths for secrets. Naturally, curiosity screams, and Rusty takes up the call (and pickaxe) to continue his uncle’s journey. That’s it for now, and the characters aboveground in Tumbleton are essentially menu options and quest-givers at this point, but that could all potentially change down the line.

There’s a cycle to Rusty’s cavernous adventuring, and it is thus: dig down into the mine, gather as many minerals as you can hold, return to town, sell your stash, purchase upgrades to help you dig deeper, gather more resources, and survive longer. Much like Rogue Legacy and Spelunky, it has that “one more run” vibe to it, because even if you don’t get far or gather too much, every piece of trashium or copper sold is all feeding back into making Rusty better, stronger, more awesome, which promotes sojourning a wee further. You can really only go so far as your tools allow, and eventually you’ll run out of lantern light or hit dirt you can’t dig through yet. Or maybe even some tough critter-crawly enemies. Either way, you have to hightail back to sunlight, and you can either climb back up the hole you dug or find a fast travel point along the way.

On your way down below, you’ll also come across special cavern entrances that basically lead to a platforming section or ability-testing area. You can find some good valuables in these spots, as well as new abilities, like special drill arms, wall-jumping, or boosting upwards from a stationary position, which uses steam, a finite resource to also keep an eye on. These aren’t very tricky so far, and often give you a reason to travel up, left, or right rather than simply down all the time.

Right. I’m one of those crackpots that thinks Super Mario Bros 2 is a more enjoyable time than Super Mario Bros 3, and a favorite section of mine is when you have to travel downwards through layers and layers of sand. You do this by digging, by hitting the “pick up object” button, and the Princess–who else would you even bother playing as, honestly–will lift the sand beneath her feet away, causing her to fall into the next line. Keep doing this, and eventually you’ll get through it. You make your own path, and the enemies will even follow along it just like you. That same idea applies to SteamWorld Dig; how you dig down to the caves or map indicator is customizable, but you also have to be thinking about reverse directions too, about what would make it easier for Rusty with no light to find his way to Tumbleton. Unfortunately, returning to the surface, especially once you really get deep down, is where things become less fun and more of a slog. I thought I read that the underground is randomly generated, so if that’s true, the replayability is at least very strong with this one.

For those with a PlayStation 4 and subscription to PlayStation Plus, SteamWorld Dig is a freebie for the month of November. Even if it wasn’t free, I’d heartily suggest checking it out. So long as you don’t mind a whole lot of digging.

Regrettably, I lost the game in You Have to Win the Game

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A few days before my Extra Life stream was to start, I scanned through the “free-to-play” tag on Steam to see if there was anything worth downloading and trying live on the day of the event. Turns out, no…not much. A bunch of off-putting MMORPGs, a couple of MOBAs, and some frightening swamp monster called Fistful of Frags, but there was one title that certainly stood out from the pack, both on its name and looks.

Enter You Have to Win the Game, a deceptively tough platformer with a retro 1980s PC aesthetic from J. Kyle Pittman, who I believe either works or worked at Gearbox Studios. Can’t quite confirm that at the moment. It now seems like he and his brother founded Minor Key Games last year to create its sequel Super Win the Game, so kudos to them. I will definitely be checking that out once I go back through YHTWTG one more time.

There’s no solid story here, but that’s fine–think back to the good ol’ days of when action platformers needed no story. I mean, yeah…maybe there was one in DuckTales or Mystery Quest, but I can’t recall a single detail; all I know is there was jumping and exploring and jump-exploring to do. Granted, those games had enemies to deal with and ways to dish out damage, but YHTWTG is much more isolated, with you controlling a little sprite person as you explore a map and gain abilities, such as wall climbing and double jumping, that will eventually help you explore even more. Actually, wait. There are enemies, but your only course of action is to avoid them, not get in their face(s). There’s a continuing thread throughout the game’s progression about learning a magic word, but more on that in a moment.

Just like in VVVVVV, each screen feels like its own contained space, especially given that each screen gets its own quirky name at the bottom, like KISS Principle or Hardcore Prawn. This helps drive the desire to see what is up next. Some of these screens are simply there for you to walk through, some contain a save checkpoint or bag of money (which you collect to raise your 100% completion percentage), but many of them center around a deadly pitfall or crazy set of jumps or orb-tossing untouchable boss encounter. This is where this cutesy, retro platformer becomes something else–a challenge. But very rewarding, especially when it comes to rooms requiring precision-based timing to make it through in one piece.

Visually, the game is what you see above, using four-color CGA graphics and a lot of black space, but curved around a fake monitor screen, with monotonic PC speaker sounds to boot. That faux screen curve is a really cool effect that, after a minute or two of playing, you don’t even realize is there. At least I didn’t. Not much changes in terms of graphics overall as you progress, but it is fun entering a new area and seeing the layout change or where new traps are added or spotting a new way to go. The orb-tossing boss enemies–there are a few in total–are much larger sprites, detailed just enough to be threatening. If you can, search for the secret cat room.

At the end of YHTVTG, you are given the chance to enter in a password, which is whatever the magic word ultimately is. Unfortunately, I had only loosely paid attention to the scribbling on the walls, so I was unable to make a good guess and thus “lost” the game. I plan to go back and try again, as well as get the rest of those money bags, though there are a few sections I’m not looking forward to repeating, like that one where you have to jump down to a portal, cling to a wall, and then double-jump over a line of spikes. Yeah, I spent a good while on that part during Extra Life. Granted, I should be able to speedrun the first few parts now that I’m on the up-and-up, and I think there’s even an Achievement for completing the game (any %) in under ten minutes. Good luck there.

And good luck to anyone inspired by this post to win the game. I mean, you have to. You Have to Win the Game.

My tentative schedule for Extra Life 2014

gd schedule extra life nashville MTA schedule

The weekend draws nearer, and I’m trying to hammer out some kind of firm plans for what I’ll be playing for 24 hours (for the kids!–please donate). I feel like if I don’t at least have a tentative schedule I’ll just flail about aimlessly and spend more time trying to find something to play than actually playing. It’s nice to have things to look forward to, which is why I’m putting Deus Ex: GOTY edition later on in the schedule. Ideally, I’m hoping to play each game for at least an hour, though some games might not demand such devotion, and others might suck me in for longer. We’ll see.

Gaze upon the plan, which could–and most likely will–change as everything goes down:

  • HOUR 1: Aquaria
  • HOUR 2: Hack, Slash, Loot
  • HOUR 3: Legend of Grimrock
  • HOUR 4: You Have To Win the Game
  • HOUR 5: The Tiny Bang Story
  • HOUR 6: Botanicula
  • HOUR 7: DragonSphere
  • HOUR 8: FTL: Faster Than Light
  • HOUR 9: Gunpoint
  • HOUR 10: Krater
  • HOUR 11: To the Moon
  • HOUR 12: Proteus
  • HOUR 13: Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
  • HOUR 14: SteamWorld Dig
  • HOUR 15: Eschalon: Book II
  • HOUR 16: Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut
  • HOUR 17: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
  • HOUR 18: Titan Quest
  • HOUR 19: System Shock 2
  • HOUR 20: Papers, Please
  • HOUR 21: Tiny Barbarian
  • HOUR 22: WHATEVER KEEPS ME AWAKE
  • HOUR 23: WHATEVER KEEPS ME AWAKE
  • HOUR 24: WHATEVER KEEPS ME AWAKE

EDIT: I expect to start streaming 9 AM Saturday, October 25, and won’t stop playing games until 9 AM Sunday, October 26.

Other games in my Steam library that I’ll dabble in if not everything above takes an hour to play or keeps me entertained enough, especially during the wee early hours of Sunday morning:

  • Crayon Physics Deluxe
  • Delve Deeper
  • Jolly Rover
  • Maniac Mansion Deluxe
  • Might & Magic: Duel of Champions
  • Offspring Fling!
  • Snapshot
  • Teenagent
  • Tobias and the Dark Scepters
  • …and more!!!

If I get tired of streaming from the laptop, I’ll turn to my consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 2) and a comfy couch, with a few goals in mind:

  • Hit level 70 with Whisper, my demon hunter in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (Xbox 360)
  • Start a “hardcore” run for Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox 360)
  • Um, Dark Souls? (Xbox 360)
  • Maybe I’ll finally do some alchemy in Ni no Kuni (PlayStation 3)
  • Recruit more peeps in Suikoden II now that I got my castle (PlayStation 2)

Alas, none of the above console stuff can be streamed, so I’m hesitant to do it, as I feel like being “on camera” is part of the whole Extra Life experience thing. Regardless, I have plenty of games to keep me entertained through the night. I just hope I have the endurance as well. Please tune in when you can!