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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.