Monthly Archives: January 2014

A throng of forgotten and unused blog images

For the longest time, one of Grinding Down‘s things has been that each post contains a picture at the top, and that image is edited to contain some text, generally white-colored and always in the Showcard Gothic font. Maybe it’s a pun or just a string of words that sound nice, but it helps make the blog post stand for something more, and gives readers–well, I hope it does–a good idea of what I’m going to be talking about, whether it is a rant or gushing praise of what-have-you. Don’t worry; that process is not going to change, but sometimes I get ahead of myself and create an image before I even begin writing about a game, only to discover later that, truthfully, I’m just not as interested as I previously thought I was about writing on that topic. And so that image sits, neglected and rejected, an entry to never be. Poor things.

That all said, here some Photoshopped images I found in a miscellaneous folder, and I’ll just put them up here without further comment:

harvest moon grand bazaar first 30

lets golf 3d games


nostalgia early impressions

rayman origins demo 3DS impressions

shank making progress

The Half-hour Hitbox: January 2014

jan 2014 hitbox spelunky top pic

I know, I know. Technically, the month isn’t over, but I really don’t see myself dabbling in anything new over the next two or three days, and so here’s the newest edition of The Half-hour Hitbox. You’re welcome, and all that. Right. See, the dayjob has been pretty crazy these last few weeks, and I come home from work with only enough energy to do a couple of Spelunky runs and then pop upstairs for the heated blanket and some quick-but-quality Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokemon Y time. I think I’m nearing the finish line for that latter title, though Victory Road is proving to be a swift kick in the rear, as my collective team of pocket monsters is still not high enough to make it through in one go. I’m not worried. I finally caught a Garbador, so really, all is fine. I’ll get back to EXP grinding after I’m done stuffing its face full of colorful Poké Puffs.

But enough of that. Here’s a sampling of a few other games I played in January 2014, but haven’t gotten to talk about them yet here on Grinding Down. If we’re lucky, I still might further down the road.


fountain terryc

Last month, I tried Terry Cavanagh’s Oiche Mhaith, and found it upsetting and disturbing. Fountain, made for Ludum Dare 28, is not so in-your-face depressing, but it is shrouded in inevitable sadness. You start out as an old woman near a fountain, which, when you touch it, restores you to a younger version of yourself. Now you can explore the map faster and push away the fog of war. Everything is also more vibrant, the music a bit bouncier, but after awhile you have to return to the fountain for more youth juice as age sets back in. With each return trip to the fountain, your youth fades faster, and you must be young and spry to find all the hidden items. I was not able to get many and found it frustrating that your first trip out into the wild is generally the farthest you can go before the fountain binds you to it until time stands still for our leading old woman. I guess something is being said here.

Heroine’s Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok


Hmm. Heroine’s Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok is as old-school as the oldest school can get, and by that I mean that Bianca, the name I gave to our leading, blonde-haired warrior, froze to death in the forest in the game’s opening fifteen minutes. And no, I had neglected to save at any point. Yup, this is the sort of point-and-click adventure where you can die left and right, so that’s always hanging over your head, along with trying to puzzle out where to go next and how to get there. I’ll try again, as I love its look and the dry voice acting, but it’s not the easiest game to get into and stay in.

Kingdom Rush: Frontiers


It should come as no surprise that my return to some casual time with the RTS genre is with the sequel to the only RTS game I’ve enjoyed over the last several years. Yup, Kingdom Rush: Frontiers, now totally available to play online, in your browser, for zero dollars. I’m down with that, and yes, it’s still a complete package, even if it isn’t technically complete, as some bells and whistles are only available for those that pay to play the game on their iThing or sign up for an online save slot. I’ll stick with the bare bones, thank you very much, because it’s still a fun, bouncy campaign built around constructing towers and fighting off pre-determined waves of enemies. The real trick is to learn when–and how–to spend your money, as a simple upgrade to a specific tower can be the key to victory.

Rogue Legacy

hitbox rogue-legacy

Last year, everyone was talking about Rogue Legacy. And playing it, too. Well, now so am I, but let it be widely known I’m not any good at it. Complete rubbish, actually. I think the longest I’ve stayed alive is two minutes, maybe three, but I’m slowly accruing gold, enough to unlock new parts of the castle and upgrade all the various helpful merchants. It’s a great game when you have a few minutes to kill and absolutely don’t mind getting nowhere fast. I have not yet found a specific build that works well, and the timing for jumping with your sword blade pointed down to activate those platforms is quite tricky.


hitbox spelunky freeware

Speaking of getting nowhere fast, yes…I’m heavily into Spelunky. Giant Bomb‘s Patrick has been playing it every day now for about three weeks, and at first, I watched the videos just because I always watch everything that goes up on the site, regardless if I’m immediately interested in the game in the limelight. It looked like fun though. I played a bit of the freeware version before finally biting the bullet and grabbing the PSN version for a sick three bucks in their 14 in ’14 sale. And now I play it every day, hopefully getting better with each run. I made it to the first level in the Temple section, which I’m pretty proud of. It’s a tough game, but very rewarding in its own way, and I like the Daily Challenges aspect very much. Also: bats are the worst.

Jet Set Radio


Originally, I wrote Jet Set Radio as Jet Moto. My bad. Remember that game? Anyways, in this one, which is a high-definition port for the PlayStation 3, it is all about gaining control of Tokyo-to through graffiti and sick skating skills. The music is rad, upbeat, and heavy on pulsing drum beats and record scratches, and all I’ve done so far is skate through the tutorial, but I’d like to get back into this as it’s such a weird mix of mechanics and a fantastic use of cel-shaded graphics, the kind that tugs at my artistic heart.


envirogolf capture

This is a bad golf sim that attempts to make you feel bad about playing golf. The jokes are kind of funny the first time you see them, but the experience is lacking overall. By the time I got to the third hole, the jokes were repeating themselves. Also, could really use some copyediting.


facade 24241-shot1

A small indie thing made for the MiniLD 48 jam. You basically walk to the right, read some words, go through a cave, open a door by collecting light-bugs, learn that you can’t go on the rocket that is going to get everyone off this desolate hunk of junk…and do it all over again. The second time gives you a more final reason why you can’t leave the desolate planet with everyone, but then that’s it. Game over. Some extremely iffy writing, but very pretty to look at.

Scaling the Sky


Scaling the Sky could also be called Swimming the Sky, as you’ll be doing a lot of that, and it’s fantastic. I mean that from an enjoyment standpoint and a remote from reality kind. It’s a platformer at heart, but you’re going up, up, up, using clouds for a boost and rainbows to transport you to the next scene. The first few sections are pretty simple, with a clear path to follow, but the later ones ask you to puzzle out the best way to reach the rainbow, and you have to sometimes use the push of a chain of clouds to gain great height. That might sound kinda complicated, but it works wonderfully, and I found myself bouncing in and out of clouds, gaining momentum and playing with it. Eventually, all this climbing comes full circle in a moment that makes you smile.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon


I will most assuredly being writing about this at greater lengths, as it took me by complete surprise, but let me just say that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a hypnotic ride, one that seems to fuse some of my favorite elements of Fallout 3 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and I’m mad at the world because nobody told me that earlier.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.

Journey’s an expedition unlike any other


It seems like January 2014 has been the month when I finally play all those frequently talked-about indie games, like Gone Home. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons as well, but I’ve not gotten to write about that somber story yet. And now Journey, which I bought last summer, but immediately put aside, as I had these visions of grandeur where I was going to find the perfect slice of time in my life where nothing else would distract me and I could devote every ounce of my being to the thatgamecompany’s impactful title, as I constantly heard it was best played in a single gulp. Well, after too much waiting for that dreamlike moment to pop up, I eventually just booted up the game the other weekend and devoured it happily in only a couple of hours.

Journey‘s story is interpretive. I see it as a spiritual sojourn, but others might think differently. You control a nondescript figure garbed in what might be ceremonious robes, alone in the desert, your only guiding light being a literal beam of light far off in the distance, emitting into the sky from a massively tall mountain. As you travel closer to it, you’ll acquire a scarf and the ability to jump in the air and glide for a short period of time. Eventually, you’ll leave the sandy desert for some other visually unique areas, but your goal remains the same, to get to that light. There’s no narration or spoken dialogue in the game–all story beats are visual–so you have to assume that you want to get to that light; either way, it is very enticing and seems to pull you towards it without you even knowing why.

To reach that light, you’ll run, jump, hover, slide, and solve some environmental and platformy puzzles to reach new areas and continue the *ahem* journey. How high you can jump and how far you can float is dictated by the length of your robed being’s scarf, which grows over time via…collectibles. I think. Wait, now I don’t even remember. Maybe it just got longer the further you played? Hmm. You can also interact with other scraps of fabric on the ground or in the air by holding in a big chirp and letting it loose near them; sometimes this would gather a bunch of scraps to you, and other times it would set them free to build a bridge down yonder. And that’s kind of it. There’s a surprisingly small amount of game mechanics to mess with, but they are more than enough to explore a world that is as large and wide as the sky overhead.

The reality is that Journey is two different experiences: a single-player excursion to that great big beam of light and a co-op struggle of two robed souls, unable to verbally communicate, but by each other’s sides the whole way through. Or as long as they can make it, seeing as I eventually teamed up with three separate players during my climb to the sky. You can only communicate with these other players by chirping, and you can strangely get a lot of mileage out of this mechanic. When excited by a big jump or epic sand slide, I mashed that chirp button like a maniac, shouting gleefully at my fellow scarf-dweller. When it was time to be sneaky and slow, I would only let out a single chirp to indicate it was time to move forward. In truth, the chirping became its own kind of meta game–and I loved every ounce of it. Once you complete the game, you gain access to who you played with, in case you want to add them to your Friends list, but based on some of their usernames–one was pretty offensive–I don’t think that will happen. And that’s awesome. I played a non-violent game with a bunch of nameless strangers, and that really helped make the experience something special rather than teaming up with BearKiller69 or whatever.

I suspect I’ll go through Journey again…at some point. Heck, there’s a Trophy I want that demands you return to the game after waiting at least a week. It was a very relaxing, very pleasing time that captured me in a bubble. It’d be really cool if it had couch co-op, but I understand why–and how–it couldn’t. It’s a beautiful  adventure of epic proportions and shows that a videogame can have a fantastic sense of style, soaring music, staggeringly creative visuals, and absolutely no reason to shoot anything in the face. You should play it for the synergy between gameplay and music alone, but you should also just play it because it’s a very important tickmark in the industry, one that raises the bar for storytelling and is a ton of fun to boot.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #13 – Ben Chandler: Paranormal Investigator

2014 games completed 13 - ben chandler paranormal investigator facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #12 – Fragment

2014 games completed 12 - fragment facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #11 – Journey

2014 games completed 11 - journey facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

Studying human memory and emotions in Fragment

fragment rara copy

Fragment, one of the fourteen point-and-click adventure games found stuffed inside the AGS Bake Sale bundle, is the final product of a team effort from Ben Chandler and Sebastian Pfaller. It’s a much more serious story than I’m used to with Chandler’s games, like picking up a Roald Dahl novel only to discover it’s really some new shadowy tome by William Gibson. Still, it’s an enjoyable hour and change of puzzle-solving, but maybe not the happiest. Definitely unnerving from the moment you collect your first fragment, that’s for sure.

It’s the future, and no, I don’t know what year. You play as Timothy Jenkins, a young, blonde-as-a-lemon scientist conducting a range of experiments around the exploration of human memory and emotions, aided by a female AI called Arkady. Lately, Tim has been losing himself in his work, as he recently broke up with his girlfriend Marylee, and he’ll take any distraction he can get. This work involves exploring different virtual plateaus for fragments of data, and Arkady has begun creating these landscapes from Tim’s memories, an act he’s slowly finding a bit disturbing. And rightly so. Naturally, as human-crafted AI are wont to do, ulterior plans are brewing in the background, and Tim eventually finds himself trapped in these digital dimensions.

Fragment has a great gameplay setup that constantly keeps things fresh and had me looking forward to jumping back into the Animus virtual realms that Arkady put together. Each plateau you visit is strikingly different in tone, look, and puzzles, and that made hoping back in all the more exciting. There’s also some great, moody sci-fi tunes that are heavy on the bass to provide a unique soundtrack while you are scouring the screen for important pixels to click on. At first, when Tim commented on the music, I was taken aback, but it all eventually makes sense. After you’ve collected a fragment, you have to do a small puzzle on the computer of finishing a broken circular design (or sometimes very non-circular), but all this equates to is just clicking around enough until everything lines up. It’s something else to do, but I’d rather have more things to look at/interact with on the plateaus. Everything else is pretty standard for the adventure game genre, with one mouse button to look and the other for using, and you are never found carrying useless or red herring items, which I always appreciate.

So, there’s two possible endings based on a key decision you make near the very end of Tim’s sojourn. For those curious, I went with quarantine, but I’ll probably see if I can find a different choice played out on YouTube or something, because I’m curious, though not enough to play through it again, as nothing else seems like it would change. The plateaus ramp up in difficulty fairly slowly, but the few ending stages, despite how sparse they actually are, end up being the most interesting parts of Fragment. They had me re-thinking my literal steps, and the puzzles there are quite inventive and unlike anything else in the game.

Other than the fact that Tim looks nothing like a scientist in my stereotypical mind, I really enjoyed Fragment. Again, it’s very dark, very dreamy, very futuristic in an uncertain sort of way, but there’s a lot of beautiful visuals and interesting topics discussed, like what it means to be human, what it means to be artificial, and what it means to be social, all aspects I struggle with daily. Plus, a groovy soundtrack. I’m not sure if Chandler & Co. have released it for free or not since the AGS Bake Sale ended though.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #10 – 9 Months In

2014 games completed 10 - 9 months in facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

See the horrors of prison life with 9 Months In

9 months in final thoughts

Premise-wise, 9 Months In was the point-and-click game from the AGS Bake Sale bundle that I was most interested in. See, you play as…dang, I can’t recall her name. Or even find out via the Internet because there’s not a lot of coverage for it. Maybe she never had a name, I don’t know. Let’s call her…Anna, a very much pregnant woman stuck in prison, with only a few days left until her due date. That’s not the date she’ll hit parole, but rather the date her baby will bust free from its own metaphoric jail. At the start of the game, she wakes up in her cell just like she has every other day of her sentence, except her roommate Susie is dead, strangled in her bed sometime overnight. Naturally, everyone blames her, and so she must do what she can to clear her name, and all that before her water breaks.

So yeah, that’s fantastic. No, really. I dig it. A murder mystery in jail starring your less-than-standard main character type. It’s probably something we might even see on the next season of Orange is the New Black, which is a lovely original show on Netflix starring one of the most diverse cast I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Here, have some fanart. Also, if what I know about prison life is true in that show, then most of these inmates should be in beige-colored uniforms, not the newbie orange. But yeah, I digress. I’d totally take this kind of plot over another “escape this bedroom” kind of adventure game any day of the week.

Unfortunately, 9 Months In, as a game, is simply mediocre–and just barely. Surprisingly, there’s voice acting, but it’s mockingly bad and stiffer than a piece of wood. Dialogue is read out loud in a stilted, expressionless tone of voice, which leaves much to the imagination, but that might’ve been more successful if there had been no VO to begin with. The puzzles are pretty easy to figure out and see from a distance, like the mop in the closet and putting something in the officer’s cup of coffee. You only pick up a limited number of items, and there’s really only so many rooms you can explore in a locked facility. There’s also a big problem with the speed of Anna’s walking, which is glacier-like, and you can’t double-click to skip to the next room, a feature that newer adventure games are spoiling me with. Moving from the basketball court to the showers feels like a literal journey.

Choices matter, and that’s why pregnant Anna is in jail. And choices continue to matter in 9 Months In, as there are multiple endings to the game based on the decisions you’ve been making along the way. A score counter in the top corner of the UI lets you know how close you are to getting 100 out of 100, which I assume is the good ending. Alas, I completed the game somewhere around 87, which resulted in a conclusion felt rushed in order to finish the game in time for promotion. The story’s resolution, through bad voicework and unclear writing, left me wanting more. A solid explanation. Anything. At least a nice song plays during the credits, but otherwise, this was just okay.

So yeah, a bit of a bummer. 9 Months In sounded really cool, but doesn’t do its subject material justice. Guess I just need to hold out hope for an OITNB adventure game Kickstarter.

Finally got around to that bundle of AGS Bake Sale games

Bake Sale games roundup

Hmm. I can’t believe this, but I’ve searched and searched Grinding Down‘s archives, and it seems like I never made a single dedicated post about the AGS Bake Sale, which was a pay-what-you-want gathering of 14 adventure games made with the Adventure Game Studio program by members of its community, with all proceeds going to Child’s Play. Really now, shame on me.

At the time of purchase, I snatched the bundle up eagerly and excitedly, but quickly ran into problems running many of the games on my Windows-based laptop. Alas, I didn’t really try many other methods or even understand the way you could change compatibility and run in windowed frames via the winsetup executable, so I mostly forgot about the slew of games, left to collect digital dust in my videogames folder for…well, nearly two years on the dot (bought the bundle in late January 2012).

The good news is that, lately, I’ve made some great strides in going through my backlog of downloaded games, especially those from the AGS Bake Sale bundle, which, if you didn’t know, are all of the following:

  • 9 Months In
  • Abner the Amazing
  • Barn Runner: The Rich Dame Who Cut the Cheese
  • Ben Chandler, Paranormal Investigator – In Search of the Sweets Tin
  • Entrapment
  • Escape the Barn
  • Falling Skywards
  • Fragment
  • Indiana Rodent and the Raiders of the Lost Cheese
  • The Rail
  • RAM Ghost
  • Red Volition
  • Retina
  • Zombie Attack

Let’s get the lame stuff out of the way, and here’s all the games that I couldn’t get running on my machine, no matter all the different tactics that I tried: Barn Runner: The Rich Dame Who Cut the Cheese, Entrapment, Indiana Rodent and the Raiders of the Lost Cheese, and The Rail. So that’s extremely unfortunate. There’s probably nothing more irritating than buying a game and not being able to play it, which is why I am very selective with my Steam purchases and mostly play everything I can on my consoles. I’ve tried looking up alternate solutions on the forums, but I’m really not tech savvy at all, and so I can only accomplish so much.

Two games that did work just fine on my flip-floppy ASUS laptop unfortunately didn’t hold my attention for very long: Abner the Amazing and Red Volition. The former has a strange look to it, with some tedious pacing, and the latter is too much red. No, I kid about that. There’s some maroon and pink in there to boot. I just didn’t know what to do in the thing and eventually wandered away.

Haven’t attempted to install and run the following: RAM Ghost, Retina, and Zombie Attack. Eventually I will, but I’m not gonna hold my or your breath, as it seems like my computer only likes a really specific type of AGS game and refuses to work with anything else. Oh well..

So, that leaves us with 9 Months In, Ben Chandler, Paranormal Investigator – In Search of the Sweets Tin, Escape the Barn, Falling Skywards, and Fragment. All of which I’ve played and beaten. You may all now toss your handfuls of confetti high into the sky. It might not surprise you that three of those five games have some kind of Ben Chandler involvement, whether he helped make them or is, in fact, the main character, a lost soul searching for his sweet tins. Yeah, that was a weird one to play. But anyways, this entire post is basically to say that you can expect some kind of Grinding Down coverage of these specific games over the next week or so, though I think this comic I did for Escape the Barn sums up that relatively short and straightforward game enough. Forwards, I go.