Adding to the Backlog – A Mortal Game of Ages Beyond Time and Space Starring PAC-MAN

adding to the backlog mortal kombat rayden fat

Well, Sony went and did it again, putting a crazy good sale in front of my face for the entire weekend, demanding I get in on the “I’d buy that for less than a dollar” action before time ran out. Naturally, this flash sale went live just as I was heading out of town, but once I was home, I scanned through all the deals and picked out five to add to my never stopping, never not growing backlog. Here, take a look at my grabs:

  • Game of Thrones – $0.80
  • Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection – $0.90
  • PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX+ – $0.90
  • Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space (Episodes 1-5) – $0.80
  • Rock of Ages – $0.45

For a grand total of…$3.85. Which, if you want a measuring stick, is less than my cup of coffee and breakfast sandwich from this morning. Hmm. Not a bad deal one bit, though, again, I can’t even begin to see the end of the tunnel where I get to sit down and seriously play some of these titles.

At this point, I haven’t even downloaded all the items, as I might need to delete a few things and make space–seems like those five Sam & Max episodes are large in size, as is Game of Thrones. Between these kind of sales and years of PlayStation Plus, my PS3’s hard-drive space is pretty bloated, and I know that Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots has a mandatory install thingy to plan for once I return to the series. Ugh. I’m forever dealing with juggling space, whether it is on my phone, my 3DS, my PS1/PS2 memory cards, or my other gaming consoles. It’s almost a game in itself.

That said, I did download and install Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection first, load it up, select Rayden (or is it Raiden?), beat a few peeps to their knees, and electrocuted Lui Kang for my first Fatality in some years. Probably since I was a teenager over a friend’s house or getting lucky in the mall’s arcade. I did have to look up how to do it, as both my muscle memory and regular memory for final moves has faded, but it still satisfied, even if that original Mortal Kombat both looks and operates like garbage.

Well, more games. At least these don’t take up any shelf space.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Home Alone

games I regret Home Alone GB

Here’s a pretty good example of my lack of focus lately, or, rather, my more passionate and dedicated focus on other projects; I was hoping to both write and post this edition of Games I Regret Parting With before Christmas hit a few months back, especially when you consider that Home Alone is the classic family comedy about a young boy surviving a home invasion during the holiday season. Well, here we are at the end of March, the first day of spring, though it is supposed to snow today, so there’s at least a paper-thin connection to go on.

Home Alone is one of those rare game franchises where it is a different beast for the various systems it popped up on, to the point that you need a wiki to figure out where each one differs. Think like how Jurassic Park on the SNES and Jurassic Park on the Genesis were DNA-created reptiles from totally opposite prehistoric eras. Heck, one let you play as a velociraptor, and the other tried to use a Wolfenstein 3D look when inside buildings. Either way, I only ever played Home Alone on one system, the legendary Game Boy, and while I can remember that detail clearly, I still have no memory over what happened to my Game Boy and collection of tiny, gray game cartridges. All I know is that, unlike my SNES and small handful of classics (minus Mario Paint), they are all gone. Probably sold at a yard sale or traded in during my dumb trade in phase.

The Home Alone Game Boy version, while similar to the SNES and NES versions, required the player controlling pixelated Kevin McCallister to evade confrontation with the Wet Bandits. While hiding from the house robbing baddies, you have to gather up valuable items and then dump them into a laundry chute to deposit them into a protective safe. You could also resort to using these items against the Wet Bandits, by dropping them on their heads or setting up elaborate traps. Y’know, just like in the movie. In total, there are four levels, with each taking place in a different area of the larger-than-life McCallister abode. The first level pertains to gathering up jewelry/gold/silver items, the second level has toys, the third focuses on various electronics, and the fourth level has various exotic pets that are both rare and expensive. I feel like I never got past the second level, as I really don’t remember collecting electronics or exotic pets.

Evidently, after collecting the minimum amount of items and dumping them into the chute, you can go into the basement to fight a boss before locking up the safe. This is where things take a strange turn. A videogame-y turn, if you will. The first level’s boss is a giant spider, then a massive rat, and so on. Kevin eventually battles against Marv and Harry, but the true final fight is against the fearsome and deadly basement furnace. Again, I can’t recall any of these end-of-level encounters, but I was probably rubbish at Home Alone, content to simply run around the house and collect a few things.

For those too afraid to look into the matter, there are currently five films in the Home Alone franchise. Naturally, only the first two are worth watching. I feel like I might’ve dabbled in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on the Game Boy as well, though it could have been a rental or borrowed copy from a friend. The games never controlled too way, especially when it came to Kevin’s jumping and later sliding mechanic, and could be pretty unforgiving, but the chiptune versions of some of the movie’s iconic songs were all I really needed. Plus, finding a slice of pizza inside a dresser drawer never got old.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

There’s always A Place in Space for shooting aliens

a place in space capture gd thoughts

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number just came out, and while I’m definitely interested in more chaotic, gun-tossing mayhem set to electronic beats that thump deep in your chest, from the coverage I’ve seen of it, the game doesn’t really seem to be that much different from the now cult hit. Which means I can wait, there’s no rush. If anything–if the itch becomes too strong to resist scratching–I can simply return to the original game on either Steam or PlayStation 3, as surely I haven’t seen everything there was to see, especially when you consider I went through the trippy tale of revenge wearing nothing but the “doors kill” mask.

Or, if you prefer blowing alien monsters into piles of bloody mush rather than nameless goons at a strip club or seedy apartment complex, there’s A Place in Space, another high-listed entry from Ludum Dare 31. You all remember me dipping my toes into this jam competition’s creations with Kram Keep from a few days ago, right? Right? Well, good. Glad to see your collective memories are in fine shape.

There’s no story here, and there doesn’t need to be a story. Keeping with the jam’s theme of “entire game on one screen,” you move a little, gun-toting astronaut warrior between blackened out rooms, blasting everything that moves until it stops moving, opening the door to the next room. Rinse and repeat, moving clockwise around the same set of rooms, which are randomly generated a la The Binding of Isaac when you step on in. You use the WASD keys to move around and the mouse to both aim and fire whatever gun is currently equipped. The miniscule and crudely pixelated astronaut can only take so many hits from enemies, which means you definitely don’t want to back yourself into a corner. As you create pools of bloody mush, you can also pick up health refills and new weapon types, which immediately change how you both fire and play, just like in Contra.

A couple of problems I ran into, and these might only apply to me, as I’m sure I’m using the worst browser ever designed for Internet browsing. No, I won’t tell you what it is. Whenever I was in the bottom two rooms and tried to walk my astronaut up using the W key, the entire page I was on would shift up, cutting off half my view and forcing me to quickly use the mouse to scroll it back down. When this happened in the middle of a tense shootout, things often didn’t go well. Also, for some reason, every death caused A Place in Space to crash, which wasn’t the biggest deal since it only took a quick refresh to get back into the groove of things…but still. Lastly, and this is more of a nitpick than anything, there didn’t seem to be any way to know how long power-ups lasted, whether it was for a specific number of shots or only for one room; it would certainly help with planning the next room’s attack to know whether I’m going to lose that laser beam add-on early into the skirmish or not.

Give A Place in Space a try in your browser, and I guarantee that you’ll do at least a few runs in a row. If only there was a more killer soundtrack to go along with all that alien monster killing. If only.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #25 – Off-Peak

2015 gd games completed off-peak

Search for ripped ticket
In the strangest transit hub
This side of oddness

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.

Naut wants to know if there is life on Mars

overall naut impressions gd

Let’s see. I’ve experienced Scribblenauts from its earnest beginnings to its later, mega-popular forms, thought not all of ‘em. I’ve also played Outernauts though Insomiac decided to take it all down off of Facebook some time back. A part of me would eventually like to try out Treasurenauts. Until then, at least I can say I played Naut, which, if keeping with the theme, should have been more amusingly titled as Nautnauts. I don’t know. I think every game title should end with the nauts suffix; yes, even you, Chrono Cross.

Anyways, the stylistic and explorative Naut is from Lucie Viatgé, Tom Victor, and Titouan Millet, members of the Klondike collective. According to their website, they come from the north of France and are not (er, naut) in fact a delicious ice cream treat that comes in over two dozen flavors and includes choco tacos, ice cream sandwiches, and stickless bars. I’m not familiar with too much of their other game work, but if it is anything like Naut, count me in. Or, at the very least, count me in to begin sifting through their, surprisingly, large backlog.

What is Naut all about? That’s not really something easily answered. You might as well be asking about the meaning of life. Let me steer you in a direction though using the developers’ own words: wander around, drive through the desert, hear what the cosmos has to tell you. While some elements might remain the same, everyone’s experience with Naut will be slightly different. For me, I immediately took our leading astronaut and goofily ran him/her over to the car, and then proceeded to drive around Mars and see its sights. Which consisted of strange plants, additional houses with odd inhabitants, and large rock formations, as well as a lightning storms. I watched the day turn into night and then back into day. Lastly, before deciding I had seen my fill of the Red Planet, I honked my car’s horn enough times to lift both it and its drive high into the air, far enough to no longer be able to see the alien ground below; naturally, I had the astronaut exit the vehicle and fall to his/her…feet. Yup, no fall damage, no fall physics–but that’s okay. It was still a beautiful descent.

Visually, I think Naut is out of this world, pun fully and gleefully intended. It’s a whole lot of pink and pastels for this Martian frontier, but it works, presenting this unknown planet as friendly and inviting, something you shouldn’t be scared to explored. You should be excited, like a kid getting a birthday gift early. The piano-lead soundtrack is melancholic, but adaptive, changing depending on whether you are driving at high speeds or galloping on the ground. Either way, it is at once calming and unnerving, reminding you that you are alone out here, but that that’s a-okay. Mars is both empty and massive, yours for the viewing. Interestingly, you can play Naut with a second player, navigating your collective way from one home to another, which sounds like fun, though I will probably never get to experience it.

Curious to see Mars for yourself? Good at clicking on links? Then grab a free copy of Naut over this way (or drop the developers a few bucks) and enjoy those outer space lightning storms as much as I did.

Kram Keep is a tiny yet towering take on Metroidvania

kram keep overall impressions gd

In a different life, one where maybe I didn’t try to have a career or binge-watch TV shows via Netflix or sleep or, heavens no, make a name for myself through art and writing, I’d be covering every Ludum Dare that happened, deeply examining all the themed creations, whether they got voted highly or not. Alas, that is not me. Instead, I kind of stumble across a Ludum Dare jam game months or even years after it was born. Well, with the topic du jour, I’m not terribly late, seeing that Ludum Dare 31 went down back in early December 2014, its jam theme being “Entire Game on One Screen.”

Kram Keep certainly meets that requirement. It’s the age-old classic tale of a blue-haired vampire hunter, a massively large castle full of traps and projectile-shooting enemies, and an evil master at its top, awaiting your blood. It’s a Metroidvania-style game, stuck on a single screen, meaning you can press the Shift key at any time to zoom out the map all the way and see everywhere you’ll eventually be going; I liked this, as it proved useful in guiding me to the next area, as well as keeping me informed about what was to come and the locations of vital power-ups. If anything, this seems sides more with the vania part than Metroid, but it is hard to say. As you go, you can collect hearts to increase your life bar, but you really want those special abilities–wall jump, double jump, and spread projectiles–if you are going to make any significant progress. Little crosses act as both checkpoints and health refills.

There were perhaps two or three tricky spots in Kram Keep that involved precise wall jump timing, and using the letter X and the arrow directions on the keyboard complicated things. As always, I prefer my platformers with a controller in hand, but sometimes you aren’t allotted such a benefit. In truth, where I needed a controller the most, was against the final boss. He has a pattern, so it eventually comes down to memorization and quick reflexes, but I still managed to put him six feet under with only a sliver of health left. Once you kill him, spoilers, much like with the end of Super Metroid, you have a limited amount of time to escape the castle, which means reversing the way you came in, though some routes are now closed off; I failed it the first time, but by hitting continue on the main menu, you can give it another go, and from what I can tell, it only changes a small part of the credits. Overall, the experience is tough, but fun, something I’d definitely recommend platforming fans to check out.

Since I love statistics and games that spit them out at the end of your run, here are my final, less-than-impressive tallies for Kram Keep:

  • Time played: 0:42:51
  • Deaths: 52
  • Enemies killed: 160
  • Crystal Hearts: 5/8
  • Difficulty: Normal

Ludum Dare 32 is coming up in the middle of April, though there’s no listed theme just yet. Until then, I think I’ll snoop around a bit more in Ludum Dare 31‘s entries, as I’m almost positive there are a bunch more innovative takes on the “single screen only” theme. Hopefully I can find a few other titles to highlight like Kram Keep, that do a lot with very little.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #24 – Kram Keep

2015 gd games completed kram keep

Bloodsucking menace
Waits at the top of this keep
Collect powers, kill

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.