2016 Game Review Haiku, #44 – Hitman: Absolution

2016 gd games completed Hitman Absolution

Hide Victoria
Hide Agent 47
Until plans go wrong

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #43 – LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2016 gd games completed lego star wars the force awakens

BB-8, so cute
It is the best droid, true fact
Poor R2-D2

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

How to train Spyro the Dragon to conquer frustrating platforming controls

gd final impressions spyro 1 gnasty_gnorc_level

I quit Twitter in October 2014 and haven’t regretted it…all that much. To tell the truth, for the years I had it, I never used it for any great means. Sure, there was the occasional self-promotion, the randomness of writing down whatever weird thoughts popped up in my head, the handful of subtweets and then quick deletion of said subtweets, and the liking of others’ better constructed, more engaging updates. More often, I stayed quiet, observing everyone else. However, I occasionally had my moments, and this is one that I still like to this day, posted a few years ago while watching some speedrunners destroying games for Summer Games Done Quick:

Well, almost two years later, I’ve beaten Spyro the Dragon, finishing at a 71% completion rate. That’s fine, really. I have no interest in going after the full 100%, which would require finding the remainder of gems, dragons, and eggs. Though it does look like you get access to some special room/level. Eh, I’ll just look it up on YouTube later. Remember when there was a time that you couldn’t do such a thing? Yeah, me too. Okay, okay. Let’s get on with this post. I know you are foaming at the mouth to read my thoughts about a small purple dragon that tries hard to be mighty, but is diminished by outside technological elements. The camera, people. I’m referencing the atrocious camera, as well as the less-than-trustworthy controls.

First, a plot summary despite probably covering most of this in my last post on Spyro the Dragon. This not-so-nice fellow Gnasty Gnorc–not sure if that’s a cross between a gnome and an orc or an entirely separate, standalone race–has gone and turned all the dragons of the realm into stone statues. For reasons, I guess. Well, almost all of them. Somehow, teeny tiny purple-scaled Spyro made it through the transformation wave unscathed and is now everyone’s only hope. He’ll travel through six worlds, freeing as many dragons as possible while also collecting gems, which are hidden in enemies, chests, and even across the map, eventually taking down Gnasty Gnorc in the final level.

Our titular hero has a decent array of moves for a PlayStation 1 mascot-driven platformer. He can breath fire, charge, float, and even do a barrel roll on the ground. The problem is that, coupled with the unfriendly camera, doing any of those moves while moving fast is a recipe for disaster and death. I found the easiest way to move forward was in chunks: enter an area, spin the camera round to see everything there, and then tip-toe over to the gems or enemy to take care of business. This worked mostly fine until you got to areas where you needed to run down a ramp and gain speed or do some light platforming. Unfortunately, jumping Spyro from one area to another is not as easy as it sounds: Spyro’s jump is both floaty and floaty, meaning you can hold the jump button after pressing it to float for a bit. However, letting go doesn’t simply stop the float in mid-air, so you really need to aim your jumps specifically and accurately. The camera will be your toughest enemy in this endeavor.

While I found a lot of the maneuvering in Spyro the Dragon frustrating, I didn’t outright hate the game. In fact, I loved collecting the gems and dragons and checking the list in each hub to see what I was missing. I know, what a shock. Paul enjoyed collecting things in a game that does a good job of having things to collect and lets you know what you still have left to collect.

Anyways, despite all my progress, I nearly walked away from the Spyro the Dragon when I got to the final fight against Gnasty Gnorc. I stopped counting after ten attempts to take him down. First, you have to complete the whole thing with no mistakes, as the boss fight is made up of three sections and there are no checkpoints. The first section is easy, chasing down two enemies that are carrying keys, and I eventually got so good at this part that I contemplated a career in speedrunning Spyro the Dragon. The second part isn’t too tough, with Spyro using a shortcut to catch up to Gnasty Gnorc and damage him. Lastly, and you can see this in the screenshot above, you have to platform across lava, landing on thin slivers of platforms that are slowly retracting into the wall. It’s not terribly long, but you’ll remember that I mentioned moving fast and moving with precision are not friends in this game. One false step or lack of speed, and you have to do everything all over again.

Truthfully, my mascot-driven platforming journeys are only just starting. Yes, it’s 2016. It’s never too late to dive back into the industry’s history. I bought this digital copy of Spyro the Dragon during a crazy good PSN sale back in April 2014, as well as some related titles. Next up are Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Then maybe Gex: Enter the Gecko. Maybe. I also grabbed a bunch of Crash Bandicoot games though I’m less interested in those as Crash Team Racing is still my favorite game starring the horribly misshapen Crash Bandicoot. That probably says something.

War is about repeatedly killing a man for an Achievement

valiant hearts healing hero gd post

I watched Karl bleed out more than a dozen times before finally saving his life. It is by far not my proudest accomplishment to date as a grown man that plays and enjoys a wide variety of videogames, but it is one that has stuck with me since popping this Achievement in Valiant Hearts: The Great War:

valiant hearts healing hero achievement icon
Healing Hero:
Save Karl for the third time without making any mistakes (60G)

You’re welcome. Also: I’m sorry.

In Chapter 4-5: Saint Mihiel, you’ll be playing as Anna at Emile’s farm. She discovers a badly hurt Karl and immediately goes into nurse mode, which is represented as a…rhythmic quick time event. Not sure how else to describe it. I imagine it’s a bit like playing Guitar Hero, but instead of all the button prompts falling from the top of the screen to the bottom, you are working left to right, along a path emulating something like a heart rate monitor. The desired button presses start out simple, but quickly escalate in variety and amount as you get further into healing Karl’s wounds.

Here’s the rub. The Achievement’s description is not crystal clear, and you have to make it through all three of the healing QTEs without making a mistake for it to work. If you mess up on one of them, your best option is to let Karl bleed out–in other words, purposely miss the button presses until it fails. Thankfully, you don’t have to go back and redo all three instances of the QTE, just the one you goofed. I ended up having to kill Karl a bunch on the third and final QTE, which is naturally the most difficult of the trio. You also do all this to a glorious soundtrack of a child screaming and Karl’s failing heartbeat. Over and over. Yup, it’s brutal for all parties involved.

Fast forward several months from abusing poor, weakened Karl, and I’ve also gone back and found all 100 collectibles in Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Yes, a hundred pieces of actual history, such as urine-soaked rags, periscopes for use in trench fights, and numerous hand-written letters home from soldiers. It turns out that I hadn’t missed that many during my initial playthrough, but in my silly and sometimes too dramatic mind, the act of going back and finding these hidden items seemed like a real arduous task. It was not. I grabbed everything I was missing in a few hours over the holiday weekend, and it was nice to see that the game autosaves the moment you find a collectible, which meant I didn’t have to finish each and every level I dropped into…as that might’ve been too much.

With that, there’s nothing left in Valiant Hearts: The Great War for me to do. That’s fine. I need to begin clearing up storage room on my Xbox One. Yes, already. I do hope to see more unique, small titles like this from Ubisoft. It’s a somber adventure, quite different from a lot of the company’s other output, but the industry needs more unique takes on tough subjects. This could have easily been a quickly forgotten third-person action game or, worse, a lackluster first-person shooter that did what it could with the war’s weapons and tactics (hi, Battlefield 1!). Thankfully, we got something more memorable.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #42 – Spyro the Dragon

2016 gd games completed spyro the dragon ps1

The smallest dragon
Soars, scorches, charges, saves realm
The biggest impact

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

The Temple of No holds a map that sees all things that ever have been or will be (but in map form)

gd final impressions the temple of no

The Temple of No is the first Twine game I’ve ever played. How do I know that, other than being me and knowing everything I do except for the hours when I’m asleep and dreaming about drowning in an ocean of spicy tuna sushi rolls? Well, for starters, I had to look up the definition of Twine before beginning the game. Evidently, when it comes to videogames, it means this: Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. Basically, HTML-driven code that’s perfect for choose-your-own-adventure models, so long as it is inside a browser. I think you can pick your browser.

And that’s sort of what The Temple of No is, except it is more interested in breaking the fourth wall and ensuring you know that you are not the protagonist of the game than sticking to a structured narrative. The story is based on choice, and so you can either be a man, woman, or frog in search of a “map that sees all things that ever have been or will be (but in map form).” Yeah, y’know. Like the Marauder’s Map, but turned up to eleven. This amusing little jaunt is written by The Stanley Parable’s William Pugh and features gorgeous illustration work by Dominik Johann. Crows Crows Crows, the studio behind the equally free and interesting Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, are also behind The Temple of No.

Despite its understandably short length, I only went through The Temple of No once. Sure, sure, I’m probably missing out on a ton of jokes and maybe even more bits of delicious, storybook-esque artwork, but when a game is driven by choice–in this case, what words I click on and in what order–I can’t help but see these decisions as firm and final. I followed the man of the story as he worked his way through the jungle and into the temple in search of the map. In my mind, I can’t simply undo that history to see what would have gone differently with the frog character despite being a huge fan of Chrono Trigger‘s Frog design. Psst: if you played through as the woman or frog, tell me a bit about their stories in the comments below. Okay, thanks, bye.

The writing is good and amusingly smart in places, though I did spot a few grammatical errors. Nothing major, just a missing period or word that was lowercased that probably should be capped. Since the game is heavy on text, it is important that the writing be strong, captivating. I found the clicking of words and timing of audio cues to be enjoyable, and there’s one bit where a man begins talking to himself…for a very long time. I eventually cut him off, but I do wonder just how long it goes on for. Regardless, that’s some solid dedication for a joke, but that’s what makes The Temple of No special. There’s great care behind it.

I guess I’ll have to keep my eyes open for future Twine games, as well as whatever comes next from Crows Crows Crows. I really do dig their aesthetic and versatility.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #41 – The Temple of No

2016 games completed the temple of no

Go, brave as a bear
To find that special wisdom
That only TWINE knows

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.