Monthly Archives: April 2013

inFamous 2 is decent fun, but no shock to the system


So far, inFamous 2 really makes me want to go back to free Nazi-controlled terrain in The Saboteur or stop kicking dirt around and finally pick up Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, y’know, the game I more or less got a PS3 for. Well, that and Ni no Kuni. That’s not to say that inFamous 2 is not worth playing, as it totally is…it’s just that the best elements within itself are the ones I’ve already cherished and loved in other videogames. But before I get to all that, I have a wee announcement.

I got a new TV. Now, now, hold on. I have to assume that, for many of you, the TV I got will be No Big Thang™, but you have to realize that all my teenage-into-adult life I’ve learned to live with or live without, and so I’ve been using a large, clunky television from 2005 that does not have all the fancy features one can get with stuff being made some eight years later. And because of this, many videogames I play on it suffer from tiny text syndrome, and unfortunately, that’s going to continue to happen. See, I didn’t get a replacement TV for the living room; instead, I got a wee 19 inch flatscreen for my art studio, which is set up next to where I draw and use my laptop. So now I can watch Netflix while I forever tone bad comics. However, since Tara and I don’t have cable, I needed to move the PS3 over to my new wee TV for all that hot action, which has a bonus effect in that I’m using it a lot more now. I mean, now it just sits there, looking at me, demanding I turn it on and play. Which is probably a good thing for my PlayStation Plus backlog.

Anyways, this is what my new wee TV looks like:


I’m pleased to say that it does the job more than adequately, both for streaming movies/TV shows and playing games. Well, at least the handful of games I opened on it to see how they fared, which consisted of Joe Danger 2: The Movie, Ni no Kuni, and inFamous 2. At some point, I want to switch the PS3 and Xbox 360’s places, to see what Torchlight and Dragon Age: Origins look like, as they were the games I found to have the smallest text in my collection. No real rush on that though.

Right. So, inFamous 2. Never played the original, but it always looked neat, like a modern dark spin on being a superhero, with legit superhero powers. Lightning bolts a-way! The second game seemed to sum up a little from the previous adventure via some cool comic book cutscenes, but it’s not all really clear to me. Something about a Beast (or maybe it’s The Beast) hunting Cole down…I don’t know. I just like climbing buildings, collecting blast shards, and squirrel-gliding from roof to roof like a kid with no restrictions. And you can totally do that, for as long as you want, which is really nice. Morality-wise, I’m going down the righteous path, though I have–on accident, I swear–murdered a few civilians while trying to stop attacking monsters and such. Because it can get hard and chaotic and somewhat confusing once the lightning and bullets begin to fly. Basically, any time there are four or five enemies at once, Cole goes down fast, and I don’t know if it is my fault or not. I’d like to believe I have a decent handle on firing shock grenades and tossing cars, but maybe I don’t. At least the checkpointing is very forgiving.

But yeah, climbing up those towers reminds me of the clunky, but still satisfying climbing from The Saboteur. The way Cole just kind of magnet-like sticks to poles and ledges gets me all jittery for more Sly Cooper tales of thievery (old and new). I’ll probably burn through inFamous 2 rather fast over the next few nights–as I previously mentioned, now that the PlayStation 3 sits right next to my work desk, I’ll be more inclined to use it–but maybe then after I’ll dip back into some old favorites. We’ll see. Probably not. I guess I just like dreaming about this stuff openly.

Easy come, easy go with two more deaths in Fire Emblem: Awakening

fea rip gregor and cherche

Well, another chapter has been completed in Fire Emblem: Awakening, which resulted in two more deaths. One had no effect on me, and the other nearly had me breaking my permadeath-forwards plan and resetting the game to try again and fix my foolish mistakes…but I didn’t. Instead, I saved my progress, checked the roster list to confirm the death, sadly, and shut the game off for the night. Grr. Like I said in my previous post, I’m now at the point in the game where I’ll be losing key members of the party, people that I’ve spent some considerable time with, leveling them up and picking out their specific weapons and working on relationship boosts.

Let’s get this out of the way. Yeah, yeah, Cherche died, and she died because she is a Wyvern Rider, also known as Dragon Knight, which means “kind of useless.” That might sound a little harsh, but I’ve not found many uses for air-borne warriors yet. Seriously, all it takes is one thrown pebble, and down these winged warriors go. I’m not upset over it, as I barely used her to begin with, and mostly had to spend time moving her away from enemies more than anything else. Well, in Chapter 18 “Sibling Blades”, there’s a lot happening, mostly related to the map deteriorating due to rising lava levels, and I guess I forgot where she was, and the enemy quickly moved in for the kill. My bad, not sad.

Now, just before starting “Sibling Blades”, I did two or three small side battles, for grinding’s sake. On the last one, I got Gregor’s level maxxed out at 20, and then used a Master Seal to reclass him to a Bow Knight. This allows him to use bows while still being killer with the right sword. Also, after these side battles, his relationship status with Panne reached level B, and I was pretty curious to see where those two would go from there. Unfortunately, it will never be, as I moved Gregor too far ahead–and by himself–for his own good. Believe it was one of those wizards with Elfire or something that killed him quickly. I’ll certainly miss his friendly and refreshing personality, as well as that accent and unique speech pattern that made him both hard to understand and completely unacceptable at times.

With that said and no going back, all I can do is push forward, keep my living and breathing people healthy and healed, re-arrange my units properly before a fight begins, and kick some serious Grima butt. Also now need to either level up some non-used folks, like Nowi, or find similar replacements for Gregor and Cherche via the Bonus Box. Stay tuned…

2013 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Kingdom Rush

2013 games completed kingdom rush screen 2

Stop waves from coming
Archers ready, for the king
Winsome RTS

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Gordon Freeman loves exploding Striders and collapsing portals

half-life 2 ep 2 overall thoughts gd copy

Well, looks like I’ve finally caught up with the videogaming community, having to now join the hordes of many waiting for Valve to release Episode Three for its Half-Life 2 series. Or the hordes that have given up waiting. Take that, you sneaky headcrabs, bullet-sponge Hunters, and dozen-plus Striders from the final battle. No, really, take it, and never bother me again because that final fight was a bit overwhelming.

Yup, that’s right. Over the weekend, on a random whim–are there really any other kind?–I popped in The Orange Box, loaded up my last hard save for Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and remembered why I walked away from that game some many months ago. First, for those keeping score at home, I played through maybe fifty or sixty percent of Half-Life 2, but ended up getting stuck on the “Nova Prospekt” level due to a nasty switch glitch. Bummed out on that, I simply skipped over to Episode One, and burned through that adventure rather fast, enjoying it quite a bit, especially for its bite-sized aspects. I don’t remember when I started Episode Two, but it probably wasn’t directly afterwards. I’d check Achievement dates, but I’m too lazy; now there’s some stark honesty for y’all.

According to my last manual save, I stopped playing at the part where two large and very aggressive antlions are attacking Gordon, Alyx, and one of those Resistance-friendly alien dudes. If he/she/it had a name, I no longer remember it. Gorbak? Zymla? Naaaah. Anyways, took me three attempts to figure out how to kill both antlions effectively without losing too much health and ammo. Once they were out of the way, the path was pretty clear, and Freeman and Alyx hurried down it, eager to reach White Forest and pass on the data they had, which could help in closing the Combine’s looming sky-portal. Along the way, there was a bridge puzzle, some seriously great zombie sniping by Alyx, a short bit of sneaking, really bad driving from points A to B to C, and then a pretty tough final fight with a lot of to and fro and frantic shooting. I had to try that final fight two more times before I got it right.

Despite being released about six years ago, Episode Two still holds up extremely well, mostly from a story and pacing perspective. The graphics are fine though clearly dated to what most current gen titles can produce, like how boxes break into large, polygonal chunks. Some gameplay elements like no third-person view for driving and a lot of first-person platforming feel stiff and unfriendly. Also, you can’t zoom in with all the weapons and shoot, which is a bit weird, considering every FPS these days at least lets you look down ironsights. Also, this is one of those rare games where I actually used the shotgun more than any other firearm, and that’s because it can take down enemies wielding headcrabs in one clean shot. Pistols were complete junk, as was the Gravity Gun, surprisingly. The Magnusson Device, which is introduced during the final fight, is not easy to pick up, especially since you mostly have to guess how to arc the sticky bombs; I would have appreciated getting it earlier on to test it out on the field against live, moving targets. Oh well.

Thanks to Alyx, D0g, and Alyx’s father, the story is emotionally engaging, which makes the adventure to White Forest feel burly and vital, and like I mentioned, once I got past those two antlions, I burned through the remainder of it all, having to see it through. I appreciate that for most dialogue, Freeman is free to walk around and explore the area while still listening to whoever talk. Sometimes, like with Alyx’s father, I just stood there, locked into his words, but it is nice to know that you are not forced to. Shame the whole story ends on one crazy big cliffhanger…

Maybe one day I’ll go back and see how Half-Life 2 played out, though I kind of already know from Episode One and Episode Two. And now we wait…

Another five dead and gone in Fire Emblem: Awakening

another five dead in fire emblem awakening

It’s been a weekend, and not a good one for those living in my Fire Emblem: Awakening cartridge. Let’s just get to the heart of the matter and list the latest lost loved ones–I can’t confidently say I loved all of these characters, but I couldn’t resist the alliteration–and then I’ll tell you a bit about the how and why they died:

  • Lissa (retired)
  • Lucina (retired)
  • Nyna (dead)
  • Kjelle (dead)
  • Libra (dead)

Man oh man. Hold on a sec, I need to do some counting. Okay, okay. Since starting Fire Emblem: Awakening  last month and sticking with the whole permadeath aspect and not reloading once, I’ve now lost fifteen characters during Chrom’s plight to save the kingdom and bring about peace. Fifteen, yo. That’s crazy. I suspect I’ll lose a few more in the upcoming chapters as I near the end, but I really hope that’s not the case, as I’m now coming down to a handful of men and women, many of which I like and have strengthened purposely and with tactics in mind. Don’t you dare take away my Frederick, you hear?

Anyways, Lissa died–well, retired, really–during Chapter 14 “Flames on the Blue”, which is set on a bunch of boats in the middle of the ocean. Movement space is severely limited, and there were a ton of Pegasus Knights flying around the enemy boats. If you know anything about them, they have fantastic range, able to attack just about anything on the map within a move or two, and there just wasn’t enough room to keep Lissa safe, no matter where I moved her. As the main healer of the Shepherds, she only carried potions and friendly staffs, going down in just two hits. I ended up replacing her with a downloadable character called Serra, who is a sage and just at good at healing friends. But still, I preferred story-essential Lissa…

As for Nyna, another character that I downloaded from the Bonus Box, but grew to appreciate for her Elwind spells…well, she died during Chapter 16 “Naga’s Voice” because a big ol’ baddie with a Silver Axe rushed her and got lucky with a 2x attack. Not much else to say except that’s a shame, as she was pretty potent, and I had recently reclassed her with a Master Seal in hopes of turning her into even more of a badass.

Which brings me to the slaughter from last night, in Chapter 17 “Inexorable Death.” Now, if there is one large complaint I have about Fire Emblem: Awakening, it is so: you cannot arrange where your units start on the battlefield. They start where the game deems appropriate, and so for this battle, all of the weakest units in the Shepherds were grouped together in one tiny, constricting corner of the map. Kjelle, Lucina, and Libra all did their best, but it was not enough. Scared of losing anyone else, I made straight for the commander and killed him with fire spells and sword slashes and sick little smiles, for those that had fallen that day. And the days before.


2013 Game Review Haiku, #16 – Half-Life 2: Episode Two

hl2ep2 games completed

The Freeman is back
Needs to reach White Forest, does
Despite those Striders

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Be stealthy or be deadly or even both in Super Ninja Slash


Something is happening to me lately, and I’m not sure if I should fight it or just sit down and embrace it: I am moving away from mainstream titles. Sure, sure, I recently burned through BioShock Infinite, but I’ve also been spending a lot of time playing browser-based indie gems like Kingdom Rush and unknown point-and-click adventures like Patchwork and under-the-radar SRPGs like Fire Emblem: Awakening. Well, one could totally probably argue that, with the latest in the series, Fire Emblem has reached it big time. But whatever, I am digging a lot of freeware titles as of late. Which brings me to the latest freebie title I’m enjoying: Super Ninja Slash.

Created as “another game jam game” by Kyle Pulver and with music by Danny Baranowsky, Super Ninja Slash clearly takes inspiration from the not-so-surprising success of Mark of the Ninja, the XBLA title that, in one swoosh, seemingly redefined the stealth genre. Based on its name, you’d think it was a straightforward slice-and-dice action game in the vein of many SNES romps, with you taking down enemies left and right thanks to your untouchable ninja skills. Well, sure, you can do that if you want, but the main goal of the game’s nine levels is to reach the exit alive. You can either avoid guards or, so long as you are quick enough, take them out with a single slash. Other pitfalls include holes in the floor and electrified barriers.

The game looks rather retro, but moves surprisingly smoothly. You can double tap the arrow key to give the ninja a speedy boost, and he/she can wall-jump, though sometimes jumping from a wall to another platform is a little clunky as you have to hold an arrow key in one direction and then hit another as you jump to change directions. Orange-colored guards carry flashlights, which represent their vision cones, and getting spotted once is an instant kill. I appreciate the swift violence they drop on the ninja once alerted. Again, if you can jump and swing your sword fast enough, you can take out some guards. I’ve been doing a bit of both; some levels I snuck through completely unnoticed, and others I had to take out a guard or two to make the path a little easier to tread.

I got up to level 8 (of 9) during my first stint with Super Ninja Slash, but had to close out for work-related reasons. I kind of wish that, just like in Kingdom Rush, local progress data was still saved somehow, but I won’t mind replaying the levels again too much as it is all training for the later, more difficult parts. The website even keeps track of who is the fastest ninja, the deadliest, and the most peaceful, though I suspect I’ll never hit the top of any of those lists due to my lackluster keyboard skills, but that’s okay. Ninjas aren’t meant to be seen, anyways.

Newly joined Henry quickly becomes one for the books

rip henry fire emblem awakening oh well

Given the lapse of updates since I lost Sully, you might’ve assumed I haven’t played much more Fire Emblem: Awakening, but you’d be totally wrong. In fact, I’ve played a lot more, an hour almost every night. Granted, that one hour is generally a single chapter, boiled down to one long battle, but it’s forward progress nonetheless.

Basically, I’ve gone from chapter 9 to chapter 13 “Of Sacred Blood,” though I can’t really speak too much about what happened during those four chapters story-wise as things certainly do happen. One of them even caught me unawares. I can tell you, however, that nobody in the Shepherds died during four of the five latest battles, until last night, when dark mage newb Henry strolled on in and, just as fast, strolled on out. Dang it.

Although Henry hails from Plegia, he happily joins Chrom’s army because…well, he loves war. He’s like Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son; looks like a nice, innocent little lad, but then you find out he’s into blood and mayhem and decidedly evil things. Yeah, don’t let him babysit your kids. Anyways, he joins at the beginning of the fight, swooping in as a swarm of ravens, but I wasn’t really paying attention to him during the majority of the fight, as I knew where the advancing soldiers were and how best to handle them with friendly units I’ve come to know very well. Like Frederick and Norne and Stahl. So when enemy troops spawned at unguarded fortresses at the bottom of the map and Henry was all by himself, there weren’t enough Hex spells in the realm to keep him safe. Oh well. I already have my avatar and Nyna for excellent magic spells.

Okay, so Henry’s gone. I also missed out on recruiting a woman named Tharja in an earlier chapter, but I did get a few other newbies to join and remain safely in the Shepherds: Libra, Olivia, Cherche, and [name redacted for spoilery reasons]. Onwards we march, for peace and the Ylissean people…

2013 Game Review Haiku, #15 – The Cave

2013 games completed the cave characters

Pick your three poisons
Explore the Cave, heed its snark
Ladders are the worst

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

The Cave, a labyrinthine moral adventure for the tested and tedious

The Cave overall impressions

Excited about exploring and seeing what was next, the scientist ran ahead, but fell too far from a high platform and died, turning into a magical puff of white smoke and re-materializing earlier in the level. The Cave, ever watchful and ready to quip, remarked, “There’s no dying in the Cave.” Except there is. There totally is. I died dozens of times in my first–and probably only–playthrough, mostly from falling, but also in a few other scenarios, one involving a hot dog. It’s not a crazy huge deal, but the contradiction exists, and it’s just one of several problems I found with The Cave despite appreciating the dark humor, quirky charm, and wonderfully realized character designs.

Right. So, The Cave. It’s the latest brain-baby from Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert,  a point and click adventure game in the skin of an action puzzle platformer. You start out by selecting three of the available seven characters, each with a unique ability, though you have to mostly figure this out for yourself. Unless you press pause and select “How to Play” like I did, which states each character’s special talent. That’s how I learned that the knight’s glowing ring of light meant invincibility an hour or so into the adventure. Anyways, I went with the scientist, the knight, and the monk. You begin exploring standard levels of the Cave as it berates you for your moral choices, and then you have to tackle specific ones designed for the characters you locked into. That means if you want to see the hillbilly’s level or the time-traveler’s level, you’ll have to replay The Cave, experiencing levels you’ve already puzzle-solved to see fresh ones. You could call that replayability, but it appears more tedious than rewarding, especially when you consider that you’d have to do it all again a third time, since there are seven characters in total, replaying two characters to see the last picked one’s level finally. And don’t even get me started on the element of good/bad endings–for all seven of ’em.

The puzzles are pretty old-school. At least that’s how they felt to me. On more than five occasions, I had to go to the Interwebz and look up a walkthrough after seemingly trying everything. Nothing is spelled out for the player in The Cave; there are no on-screen hints; no nudges from our verbose narrator if left standing still for too long. This was both refreshing and a bit frustrating, as there really is only so much our characters can do: they each can hold one single item, and they each have one special ability. It’s figuring out what to do with all that within the environment that proves tricky. And tedious. Since I was playing solo, that means I had to manually control all three characters, which is easy thanks to the touch of the d-pad, but boring, as it often meant a ton of back-tracking or just moving everybody to be together instead of spread apart. On occasion, when the story deems it so, the other two characters will magically appear near you, but that never happens when you really need them. I wish there had been a “call over” kind of command.

Another problem The Cave has is with its platforming elements, which make up just as much gameplay as the puzzles, since you’re always jumping up, jumping down, climbing ropes, climbing ladders, and moving about. There’s never any urgency, but once you begin to feel the back-tracking blues, you’ll just want to get to where you need to be, especially if you’ve figured out the puzzle, as fast as possible. However, The Cave makes that difficult because grappling ledges and moving up and down ladders is clunky and not 100% reliable. It’s easier to climb all the way down a ladder to the bottom then jumping from the three-fourths mark, as you’ll most likely end up jumping higher up on the ladder, defeating the purpose entirely. It’s a gaming habit you’ll have to learn to break, at least for your sanity’s sake.

Despite being a cave, the level design is quite varied, and I really liked the pristine vacation-esque appearance of the island near the end, as well as the castle level from the knight’s story. If anything, The Cave has a look. A stellar one, with kooky, but charming characters, and nice, multiple descriptions of fire. The voice acting, minimal as it is, does its job well, especially the musing Cave, who I believe is the same voice actor for Captain Quark and DeathSpank though toned down somewhat. He actually doesn’t say all that much throughout the game, and there’s quite a lot of long, quiet stretches throughout.

I don’t know. In the end, I explored The Cave, and all I was found was disappointment. You pick morally coruppted characters, see what makes them bad, and choose whether they continue being less-than-good or head to the light; the Cave comments along the way. There isn’t a whole lot to gain from this. Not going back for a second or third time.