2015 Game Review Haiku, #30 – Prototype 2

2015 games completed gd prototype 2

Become who you hate
To consume Blackwatch, Gentek
Upgrade that jump range

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Prototype 2’s James Heller is on a quest to destroy the Blacklight virus

prototype2pax6

The last big action-adventure open world videogame starring a brooding soul with super powers I took a deep leap into was inFAMOUS 2, which featured a troubled young man gifted with special powers, a city under attack and turmoil, and plenty of tall structures to climb and jump off of cinematically. Well, I’ve had the itch for more of the same lately, as I’m still working on Final Fantasy IX and am totally not emotionally ready for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and so, after scanning my long list of PlayStation Plus freebies, I discovered Prototype 2. Now, when I said I wanted “more of the same” in relation to inFAMOUS 2, I didn’t mean it literally. It’s fun, but something still seems off.

Let’s get this out of the way. I never played the original Prototype, much how I never played the original inFAMOUS. Thankfully, you don’t really need to have in order to have a good time here. Plus, there’s an option from the main menu for a summary of the previous game’s events. Of which, I’ve forgotten everything. Something something virus something something Mercer something something consume people for power. Yeah, got it.

Anyways, two years after the events of the original game, U.S. Marine Sergeant James Heller is struggling. His wife and daughter are dead, due to the Blacklight virus, which kickstarts him rejoining the military to fight against it. During one mission, he bumps into Alex Mercer and, believing this is the man at fault for his deceased family, chases him down. Unfortunately, Mercer infects Heller with a strain of the virus that gives him superhuman abilities. After dropping some predictable exposition about the nefarious plans of Gentek and Blackwatch, Mercer offers Heller a truce in order to take them down.

If Prototype 2 has anything going for it, it is this: running up the sides of buildings. I could do this for hours and accomplish nothing, but the feeling of bursting to the tippy-top of some tall skyscraper is immensely satisfying, especially since you can then leap off of it and immediately glide towards another erected structure. I actually ended up bouncing back to Assassin’s Creed II after playing this a bit, needing to collect the remainder of Subject 16’s glyphs, and the slowness that is meticulously clamoring up an old-timey building in Rome physically hurt my soul. Oh, and Prototype 2 also has an in-game GPS notifier when near some kind of collectible, which I appreciate. So there, two things I am really digging.

Playing on the “Normal” difficulty, I’m finding Prototype 2 to be shockingly easy. Maybe I should bump it up a bit, but I’m not actually looking for a challenge here, now remembering how frustrating some parts of inFAMOUS 2 got with those enemies that shot up high on pillars of ice. I think I’ve died only once due to some lousy dodging on my part, but otherwise Heller can take down an entire base of enemies without seeing a drop in health. It’s ultra violent, mindless, and laid-back, which is a strange combination, but fitting nonetheless. The stealth mechanics, thanks to being able to transform into people you’ve consumed, are very forgiving, which results in a good amount of experimenting, all of which is nine times out of ten successful. Personally, I love transforming into a scientist, leaping off a building into a military-controlled zone, and then releasing monsters from cages to do my dirty work–all without raising an alert.

Based on the Trophies list, I feel like I’m about two-thirds of the way through Prototype 2, almost done with the second island zone of New York Zero, with plenty still to destroy, collect, and upgrade. I hope to finish this up soon though and get back to some other games that require a bit more focus and effort.

Pokémon Shuffle’s Mega Glalie is bad game design

Pokemon Shuffle Mega Glalie is the worst

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was stuck on Pokémon Shuffle‘s level 120 against Mega Glalie, and that everything was fine because, no matter what, my pocket monsters were continuing to gain XP and grow stronger and, without a doubt, I’d eventually have a team powerful enough to conquer the annoying, Generation III ice-type levitating face and move on to level 121. Astoundingly, that hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve been, more or less, using all five of my hearts against the bloody ripper every night before bed. I’m sorry to say, but this is some really bad game design, and I can’t recall the last time I hit such a visible wall in a game.

I’m not the only one struggling. If you type both “Mega Glalie” and Pokémon Shuffle into Google, you’ll quickly get returns for posts about people unable to beat the beast, people beating it using every item and Jewel they had and only then crawling past the finish line, and people puffing their chests out like mighty lions, claiming to have defeated Mega Glalie easily, using no items at all. Uh huh. Here’s a handful of confetti. If you are to use items, which are, let me remind y’all, quite costly, many are suggesting Complexity -1s, Mega Starts, and Disruption Delays.

For me, there’s certainly a stubborn drive behind my desire to beat Mega Glalie without any items, and this is not at all to prove I am a big macho man and super skilled at matching severed Pokémon heads. I conquered all 119 Pokémon levels before Mega Glalie without using any items. Perseverance, patience, and picking the right team was all it took, and so it bugs me deeply that the same strategy simply cannot be employed here. The problem is that, within four or five turns, Mega Glalie begins freezing entire columns, two at a time, often locking you out of sweet–and powerful–combo chains, forcing you to chip away at its health until the board resets or you run out of moves. Even with a team of level 6 Pokémon, the farthest I’ve dropped Mega Glalie’s health is down to about 25%.

This level is designed for you to spend money on (either in-game currency, which takes a good while to stock, or through extra turns via Jewels bought by real-life money), unless you hit the biggest luck streak of the century. Truthfully, I was enjoying Pokémon Shuffle, which just celebrated some 2.5 million+ downloads, when it kept progressing, even if just little by little. Play a few matches every night, unlock more to play the next night. Heck, Nintendo is even adding in more levels to the base set, upping the count to 180. That’s sixty more for me to get through…or potentially never see.

I may have to try an item against Mega Glalie. Call it desperation, call it despair, call it giving in–I don’t care. I have a free copy of Disruption Delay in my inventory, acquired from…uh, doing something cool, so maybe I’ll give that a go tonight. However, if the match goes just as poorly as all previous attempts, I will forever be bitter against using items and will refrain from ever experimenting again, deleting this free-to-play Pokémon game and focusing instead on that other free-to-play Pokémon game. That one, so far, hasn’t raised any walls yet to impede my journey.

If you have any good tips on taking down Mega Glalie, please do share. If you beat this level with your eyes closed and one hand behind your back, kudos for you.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #29 – Tower of Guns

2015 gd games completed tower of guns

This tower of guns
Is out to kill you, bullets
Fly, story is dry

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Pokémon Rumble World’s toys are free to play with

pokemon rumble world 3DS2-620x

Another month, another free-to-play Pokémon adventure to experience on the Nintendo 3DS. I mostly wrote that leading sentence as those words don’t come together too often and maybe never will again. Yes, it was only two months ago in February that I was scribbling away about Pokémon Shuffle, Nintendo’s stab at the free-to-play match-three genre. Now we’re here in April, the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with a new free-to-play, pocket monster-starring, potential money-maker called Pokémon Rumble World.

Let me do some quick historical research. Evidently, Pokémon Rumble World is the fourth game in the Pokémon Rumble spin-off series, of which I’ve played none of them. In this one, you control your Mii as he or she helps a king with low self-esteem collect various Pokémon to one-up a local magician who has way more colorful critters than him. That’s the general set-up, and its school playground-esque plot is paper-thin, but acceptable. It’s not like the traditional Pokémon games have mind-blowing narratives. The whole point, as always, is to collect a bunch of Pokémon (719 in total) and aim for being a completionist, though you can also earn money to buy new clothes for your Mii. I already got mine a green hoodie, so I might be good for a while.

And here’s how you go about collecting all them toy versions of Pokémon: use a special hot air balloon to travel to themed locations brimming with pocket monsters. New special hot air balloons cost Diamonds, which are this free-to-play’s second currency, but are time-based to use after that initial purchase, meaning you can continue revisiting locations so long as you don’t mind waiting a bit in-between. When you select a specific area, a roulette of several stages spins around, with each stage hosting different–and sometimes rare, indicated by a star–Pokémon. As you collect more, your adventure rank increases and new Pokémon begin to appear in the wild, inspiring revisits.

Once you are in a stage, you take your wind-up toy version of whatever strongest Pokémon in your collection is and destroy everything in your path. You can do two different types of attacks, all of which vary depending on your Pokémon of choice. Personally, I really like using Chespin at the moment. Sometimes the defeated enemies turn into coins, and other times they are knocked down, ready for collecting; to do that, simply run over them. Strangely, simply moving your selected Pokémon warrior near enemies or barrels causes it to auto-attack, which I did not like. If you’ve StreetPassed with anyone, they will appear in the stage, under duress, and if you save them they will reward you with boosts or even a Diamond; in fact, I saved fellow videogaming blogger Matt Mason the other night from a wild gang of Treecko–you’re welcome. After a few levels, you fight a boss Pokémon and then return to town, replenish your wares, and head back out for more. As your rank goes up, the king will have side quests for you too.

By far, my favorite thing about Pokémon Rumble World is that it plays, more or less, with no restrictions. Sure, you have to wait for your hot air balloon to recharge to use again, but I discovered you can just visit a different location via some other hot air balloon while waiting, which leads to never really waiting. In Pokémon Shuffle, once a day, I played my five turns and moved on, but here one can keep playing, exploring, or organizing their growing list of collected toys for as long as their battery life lets them.I do worry, however, that there could be a bit too much menu-ing in this, especially once you have collected a large amount of Pokémon, many of which are seemingly duplicates, but do differ in terms of stats and attacks.

Having passed up on the remakes Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire last year for reasons, Pokémon Rumble World is turning out to be a good replacement for my “catch ’em all” itch, and the free-to-play elements are beyond easy to ignore, which makes this all the more successful. Wind me up, my Mii–I’m ready for more, as well as on the hunt for a Garbodor.

 

Ascend the tower of guns with the power of guns

tower of guns early impressions

I do not believe I’m passionate enough about Tower of Guns just yet to confirm whether or not I already have a copy on Steam thanks to some bundle or giveaway, but it matters not for PlayStation Plus subscribers get it for free this month. On both PS3 and PS4, I believe. Incidentally, I keep mistyping it as Tower of Funs more times than I’d like to admit. In between prepping for East Coast Comic Con this weekend, I’ve run the tower a handful of times, improving with each go.

What is Tower of Guns, you ask? And you don’t mean metaphorically? Well, it is a single-player first-person shooter with rogue-like elements developed by Terrible Posture Games. Yeah, that’s a mouthful. Let me see if I can come up with something better. It’s a bit like Borderlands meets The Binding of Isaac, with each enemy-filled room randomly generated and a par time set for the entire level. You can perform specific tasks while you play to unlock new perks or guns, as well as collect experience point orbs to level up your currently equipped weapon. Oh, and it’s also quite a lot of fun, more than I expected when dipping my hairy toe in.

Strangely, there’s a story, but one could completely ignore it or even turn it off in the options, which I’ve not actually done yet. It’s pretty easy to not pay attention to. It’s also immensely difficult to pay attention to at other times. Basically, as you move from room to room, some dialogue boxes will appear on the screen, but nothing anyone says seems to be important, and some of it comes across as randomized. The fourth wall will break, with you occasionally addressed as gamer, which I was not a fan of, as that word continues to sour in my mind thanks to the atrocities of GamerGate supporters. Your goal is to get as far as you can, ideally to the end, the tippy top, in a single run. You will first have to survive a number of standard enemy-filled rooms and then battle a boss before moving on to the next tier of the tower.

Tower of Guns is both a fast and short game, with the strategy for just about every enemy you encounter being shooting while strafing. A few bosses will require some extra planning, especially the finaler boss, who I could not take down on my first try. The difficulty, which can be raised or lowered via pick-ups and perks, really stems more from the level design. Some rooms are shockingly dull–imagine just four walls, maybe a staircase, and little to no decorations–while other rooms have teleporting pads and high platforms to maneuver around, plus a bunch of flying tanks and turrets shooting at you non-stop. You never know what you’re going to get once you shoot a door to open it Metroid-style.

Now, I’ve run into two walls so far. Not literally, though there are plenty of walls in this game. First, the game froze on a loading screen, though I think it might’ve been more my cat Timmy’s fault, since he knocked the controller out of my hand as Tower of Guns was loading the next area, forcing it to lock up. This was extremely unfortunate as I was on my ninth run and doing really well in terms of health and progress and taking down bosses–and all that was nonexistent when I loaded the game back up. Secondly, for a bullet hell-themed game, some of the rooms where the bullets are plentiful and hellish cause the frame rate to drop immensely, stuttering away at an unplayable clip. You’d think with the less-than-taxing art style and new hardware that this sort of issue wouldn’t ever pop up, but it does.

I’m definitely going to keep at Tower of Guns until I unlock the majority of the guns and perks, but unlike other rogue-likes, such as Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac, this one doesn’t feel like it’s going to last forever. Eventually the repetition will outweigh the randomness, and the tower will crumble, but not before I’ve wrung every bit of fun from it. Until then, may you always start each run with the ability to triple jump.

Help Jason defeat the corruption in IAMJASON

iamjason gd final impressions

It’s not hard to see that I appreciate just about any game with a low res retro style to it. It makes my imagination work ten times as hard. Some recent notable examples include A Place in Space, Bernband, and A House in California, but we can dig deeper and see that I’ve been into this style since the heydays of the text-based murder mystery Sleuth on the family computer. To be fair, that game’s retro look was due to it actually being a retro game and using ASCII characters as graphics, released in 1983 by Eric N. Miller of Norland Software. Anyways, IAMJASON is another great runner to carry the “less is more” torch for indie games, delivering a somber, unsettling story through traditional mechanics and a visual style that has you determining for yourself what you are seeing.

IAMJASON is a point-and-click adventure game set in a dystopian other-realm where the colors pink, purple, and orange reign. The long and short of the game’s plot is that you must help Jason defeat the corruption, and to say anything else would ruin a lot of the discovery. The game was developed by Calico Reverie for the Monthly Adventure Game Studio (MAGS) competition in February 2015, which is a 30-day game dev challenge. I believe the theme for that month’s challenge was “losing something,” and IAMJASON is successfully all about that, whether it is in the form of family or memory or even meaning.

Mechanics are what you expect for the genre. You have an inventory to collect items into, as well as four commands–go, use, take, and look. Interestingly, the text you get from looking at items or trying to combine this with that is presented largely at the top of the screen in single word blips, as if the protagonist is really thinking about every word. You could almost imagine a “DOES. NOT. COMPUTE.” joke to pop up during some puzzle error, but the game never breaks from its seriousness. This goes the same for IAMJASON‘s soundtrack, which is low, peppered with muted bleeps and bloops, as well as the occasional burst of static acting as a drum beat. It works magically to create an atmosphere of dismay and disinterest, of broken beings continuing to just go through the motions. Many of the puzzles are logical even if you are dealing with fairly illogical concepts and items, such as daemon robots, passcode mechanisms, and power cores.

Unfortunately, I ran into a nasty, game-stopping bug in IAMJASON. Basically, I solved a part of a puzzle’s process earlier than expected, immobilizing a daemon robot to allow me to get a key item, but in doing so this locked the door to the room said robot is now trapped in. To complete the game, I needed to extract something from the wonky robot, but the door refused to open for me. I had to watch the remaining five or so minutes of gameplay on YouTube, which, while not the worst outcome, was still a little disappointing.

Other than that, I heartily recommend you give IAMJASON a go. It’s about thirty minutes of gameplay in total–so long as you act accordingly–and hopefully that previously mentioned bug is fixed or will soon be. Regardless, this is a strange and fascinating world worth ridding of corruption, even if it means losing everything.