Monthly Archives: December 2014

Use Roguelight’s arrows sparingly to beat the dark

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Here’s another product from GameBoy Jam 3, of which I previously covered Meowgical Tower. In fact, this one, this aptly named Roguelight by Daniel Linsson, with audio from Jonathon Tree, is the jam’s big blindin’ star, ranked #1 by those that did all the actual voting. Not me, I only come around after all that’s done, like a hungry dog sniffing at trashcans, searching for the half-nibbled filet mignon that someone was too full to finish. To keep with that odd metaphor, this is a tasty meal, like a big, endless bowl of black pepper potato chips–you can’t just have one.

As far as I can tell, Roguelight is all mechanics, no story. Which is fine, because the mechanics are tied together in an extremely addicting way that you will quickly not care why this young woman is venturing deeper down into the darkness. You will only grow greedier, pushing her forward and downward and further from the surface. See, the deeper you travel, the darker it gets, and you only have a limited number of arrows to light the way. You can use your arrows to light lanterns, but you might also need them to defeat enemies; the choices ultimately mean life or death, stopping or going.

Your first few runs in Roguelight will be pitiful. Mine were. It’s planned that way. As you go further down, you can collect coins, which are used to purchase upgrades for the protagonist’s health, quiver of arrows, jumping abilities, and so on. Here’s the trick; you can only access this shop screen after you die, meaning you can’t upgrade to the good stuff for a while, but each individual upgrade will help you on the next run, allowing you to go further and gather more money. I highly recommend going for the perks that grant you extra coins from lighting lanterns and killing enemies, since those are tasks you’ll be doing anyway. It seems like each new run is randomly generated, though it is hard to tell in spots since, one, it is covered in darkness and, two, many tile sets are re-used. The furthest I ventured was around level 4, so who knows.

That said, I found the game’s single song soundtrack tiring, as it is mostly a drum beat with some electronic beats surrounding it. Toss in the tinny jump sound effect that our leading lady does with every leap, and…well, it’s not a joy to listen to. Thankfully, the clink of an arrow piercing an enemy and producing coins is joyful.

Roguelight obediently sticks to the jam’s rules, meaning it looks like a GameBoy-era title. If only, right? Sure, this is probably illusions of grandeur, but that system needs to come back to power; that, or all these amazing little gems need to be noticed by Nintendo and put on the 3DS eShop for a buck or two each. With Roguelight, it’s the kind of game that encourages replaying and marathoning for a good while, returning to it after your batteries are recharged. Perhaps a stronger story or goal could help push players further below, but really, this is solid, addicting fun as is.

See the light by downloading a free copy of Roguelight right over this a-way.

My five favorite games in 2014

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Hello, end of 2014. Boy am I looking forward to seeing you come to a close. To help with that process, here’s my five favorite games from the past three hundred and sixty-five days. I know such a list is a strange thing to see this time of year and that I’m the only one doing it, but please, stick with me. If you wanna know what topped my list in 2013–and really now, why wouldn’t you–clicky click here.

If you take a look at my actual list of games played and beaten this year, you’ll notice there are not many current releases within it. That’s just how I roll, often getting to the big, new games much later in life–mine and theirs–and so I don’t have too fine of a list to pick from, but I’ll make the effort nonetheless and try to come up with some good arguments why I picked X over Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which, if you’re a good little follower, you’ll already know I haven’t touched yet.

Let me mention some of the 2014 releases that don’t get the full thumbs up below. Transistorman. I really, really wanted to love this game, especially after how Bastion mesmerized me. In the end, I just liked it, favoring the complex and constantly changing combat way more over the muddled story, though I loved elements of how the story was told, such as the terminals and polls Red participated in. And there’s also episodes two through five for season two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which did not end up delivering well on the promise of following your Clem, y’know, the one you meticulously constructed via Lee in the previous season, through her next set of struggles. Plus, it stopped being an adventure game early on in the season and turned into a dialogue wheel selector. Boo to that. For season three, I will instead wait to see how it all pans out. As for Dragon Age: Inquisition, just insert a bunch of wet farts here.

All right, here they are, my five favorite videogames from 2014…

Luftrausers

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I’ve played Luftrausers on both Steam and the PlayStation 3, ending up stuck at the same spot for each version. I can’t get the blimp to spawn. Here’s the rub; I don’t care. I keep playing, keep dying, keep respawning and trying out new ship builds and listening in fascination as the soundtrack mutates this way and that, and I expect to keep playing Luftrausers deep into 2015. I don’t know if I’ll ever beat it or do well enough to get that blimp to spawn, which would then unlock a bunch of new missions to go after, but it doesn’t matter. The retro look, the killer soundtrack, the feel of launching up off the sub and into the sky, primo target #1 for every object loaded with a gun…it’s pure exhilaration. I’m not great, but it’s great.

Broken Age (Act One)

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Ahh. Old-school point-and-click adventure games with a modern look might be my new hot jam. Broken Age (Act One) is a whirlwind of imagination, bright colors, and, alas, pretty simple puzzles. On the surface, its story is cute and fuzzy, but quickly turns dark and upsetting once you begin to see how Shay and Vella are really living their lives. There’s also a fantastic cliffhanger that, if you didn’t know this game was divided into two acts due to financial, timing, and work issues, you’d believe it was planned. While I wish we could’ve seen the conclusion to these two kids’ journeys this year, I expect it to unfold early in 2015. Hopefully the next documentary video will shed some light on that. Oh, and Double Fine was kind enough to include a comic of mine in their weekly gathering of fanart. Obviously, I’m biased.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

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My history with the Diablo franchise has been like so: played the first one on my ol’ PlayStation one, using a controller to manipulate a mouse cursor, got into Diablo II a bit on PC during my college days for all the wrong reasons, and then never touched Diablo III. But then the news hit it was coming to consoles and being re-designed for controllers. I was jazzed. However, by the time I got around to thinking of it, an even newer version of the console was released, offering more content than you can shake a stick at, if you’re the shady type that carries sticks around. Anyways, I ran through the campaign once so far with Whisper, my bow-wielding, backflipping assassin, and enjoyed the heck out of slaughtering monsters, picking up loot, and upgrading her skills. I’m not even close to the level cap, and there’s a bunch of new content to try out still. Really worth the then $40 price tag.

Jazzpunk

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Here’s a wish I wish: I want to erase all memories of playing Jazzpunk. That way, in a few months, next week, or even after I’m done posting this blog entry, I can play Jazzpunk and experience everything it offers once again, with innocent eyes. The game is only a couple hours long, but it is non-stop gags and goofiness along the way; if you’re a fan of Airplane! you’ll absolutely understand what its going for. I don’t want a Jazzpunk 2, just a chance to eat it all up again, especially the Wedding Qake section.

Disney Magical World

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I was hoping to, at this point, already have written a blog post about what Disney Magical World meant to me this year. Still means to me. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the words for that yet, but let’s just say this little Nintendo 3DS title out from left field provided comfort, control, something to focus on when everything else was chaotic and spinning away. Its arrival was timely. I played it every night for a few hours for months straight over the summer and fall, putting it behind Dragon Quest IX and Animal Crossing: New Leaf in terms of hours played. It’s special, an unexpected mix of item collecting and difficult dungeon grinding, of saving up a single ingredient to make a specific recipe to give you that perfect café theme to get a new Disney character to show up and give you special collectible cards or gems to make new wands. It’s full of cycles and things to check in on, and it was a go-to when I needed a distraction. Truthfully, I could still be playing it now, today, but had to put it aside to give some other handheld games their due.

And there you go. My five favorites, with words to boot, and I expect to play Luftrausers, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and the conclusion of Broken Age in 2015, so that makes these games even stronger cases for me.

Here’s the real question though–did you play any of my five favs this year, and, if you did, are we on the same page? Let me know in the comments below.

Castle of Illusion starring the semblance of magical platforming

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A couple weeks back, I had a serious hankering for some Trophy poppin’, and so I scanned my list of already played games to see if any looked easy enough–note that I didn’t say fun enough–to unlock still. My scroll came to a stop on Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, which I beat some time over the summer and then never really said a word about, save for a mention in the April 2014 edition of the Half-hour Hitbox. Truthfully, there’s not a terrible amount to say about this remake, but I’ll find some words nonetheless.

First, do you know what this game was originally called in Japan? I Love Mickey Mouse: Great Mysterious Castle Adventure. That makes me smile. Second, this was a freebie for PlayStation Plus subscribers back in April, and you also got a digital copy of the original Genesis version to boot, though I’ve only gone through the remake so far. If the remake is any indication of the challenge level for the original, I’ll pass on a second romp through Mickey Mouse’s magical castle.

Let me break down what we’re doing here. Castle of Illusion is a side-scrolling platformer, with Mickey Mouse on the hunt for an evil witch called Mizrabel, who has kidnapped Minnie Mouse in an attempt to steal her youth. Um, I guess she doesn’t realize that Minnie first appeared in 1928’s “Steamboat Willie” short, making her somewhere around 86 years old. Regardless of that hard fact, to stop Mizrabel, Mickey needs to collect seven rainbow gems to build a bridge to the castle tower where Minnie is being held.

So, the platforming is pretty basic, which is understandable when you remember this was all born in a 1990 Sega Genesis cartridge. You move left, you move right, you jump up to platforms, and, from them, to others spaced apart. Mickey’s main attack for dealing with enemies is bouncing on them, but he can also collect projectiles, such as apples and marbles, to throw. You can collect items to restore Mickey’s health or grant him an extra life–much like with recent Mario titles, extra lives are pointless–and then there’s a handful of collectibles in each world, such as diamonds and chili peppers for Donald Duck. No, I don’t understand it either. Every third level in a themed world ends in a boss battle against one of Mizrabel’s henchmen, and only the final spout against Mizrabel herself proved challenging, though maybe frustrating is the better descriptor.

For Trophies, I still needed to do a few things, but figured since the platforming was so simple and the levels were extremely short, it wouldn’t be a big hassle. Turns out, it wasn’t a big hassle. I used a spoiler-free guide to point me in the right direction for getting all the magic playing cards, chili peppers, and castle statue pieces. I even managed to jump on seven enemies in a row without hitting the ground, though it took a few attempts. By the end, I got all the Trophies save for one, which asks you to collect all 800 diamonds. I stopped at, ironically, though not to you, 713 of them and don’t have the energy left to find the remainder, which are now scattered across multiple levels. For instance, one early level has only three left to find, but I’ve gone through it multiple times now to no avail. There are better things to collect in other games, like feathers in Assassin’s Creed II or exotic foods in Tomodachi Life.

If you’re a Disney fan and are looking for a light, breezy platformer, by all means, play Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. Certainly play it ten times before ever even thinking of touching Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion. But I wanted more, especially in a remake. More challenge, more variety to the given variety. I know there might not have been much to work with from the original title, but remakes have wiggle room. There’s an illusion here, for sure, but it’s only that you’re actually playing the same game from 1990, now with Trophies tied to tasks.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2014

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Actually, I played and beat a lot of games this year, somewhere around 73 according to my well-kept list. That’s my highest count yet since I started keeping tabs. Many of those games were from last year, years past, or tiny indie darlings. I did get to a few titles that came out this year, such as Transistor, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and Fantasy Life, to name a few, but as things often go, I missed out on a big chunk of the heavy-hitters.

Truth be told, this is one of my favorite lists to put together at the end of the year. Sure, it can seem like a bummer to miss out on some of these, but I’m a patient man and will get to some of them in due time. Or maybe not ever, given that Red Dead Redemption showed up on these lists a few times in a row, and I’ve still not ridden a horse to Mexico. My bad.

And for those curious to see how this feature ran in the past, here’s a bullet list:

Remember, this is a list of games I didn’t play that, if I had the time, money, and chance to, would totally play. Just putting that out there if you’re wondering why Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or Titanfall isn’t showing up below. I don’t want to touch those, not even with a ten-foot pole. Your thoughts and mileage may vary.

10. Destiny

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Hmm. I really like Borderlands II and the idea of a loot-driven first-person shooter. Shoot things with guns, get cooler guns, do it all again. That’s perfectly fine. While the Borderlands series might not have the most illuminating or powerful story, it at least has a story, with characters and twists and resolutions. Sounds like Destiny doesn’t, which is scary, given Bungie’s plan for ten years worth of content. I don’t know. It looks pretty, but I’m a solo player, and a lot of the later game content is slanted towards group play.

9. Assassin’s Creed: Unity/Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

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Another year, another new Assassin’s Creed game to slip past me in the crowds while perfectly pilfering my purse. Based on reviews and fan feedback, neither of these two titles sounded all that great, riddled with bugs and repetition. Still sounds like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has been the series high point. That said, this year, I did finally start playing Assassin’s Creed II and am enjoying it very much, though I wish the feathers showed up on the map. Collecting is hard.

8. Child of Light

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Visually pretty RPGs make my knees buckle, but I never got around to trying Ubisoft’s take on the genre. Heard some complaints about the rhyming mechanics and the lackluster combat, but I can see past that for its watercolor painting graphics. It came out on a bunch of platforms, too, though I feel like this might be a good one to grab on sale sometime next year. Until then, Child of Light

7. Divinity: Original Sin

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Instead of playing Divinity: Original Sin this summer, I dabbled in The Temple of Elemental Evil. It was decent fun, but not the same. Hoping to see the newer, better CRPG pop up in some bundles next year.

6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

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Generally, if I can’t play a specific game or have trouble gaining access to it, I’ll search out a similar experience elsewhere. See above with Divinity: Original Sin. For Hearthstone, a card game everyone was gaga over this year in the same vein as Minecraft a few years back, I just never got to play it. I don’t have an iPhone or iPad, but I did discover Might & Magic: Duel of Champions, which is a lot of fun. Maybe next year I can try this and say “Job’s done!” myself.

5. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

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Remember in the blurb under Destiny where I said I really liked Borderlands II? Well, that’s true. I really liked it. I still like it. I’m still playing it. And so I’m not ready to move over yet to another game that is very similar save for a different setting and an oxygen mechanic. Sounds like there is some collection coming for the series, and it would be awesome to see Borderlands, Borderlands II, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel all together, bundled with every bit of DLC that’s ever been made for the series. One can dream, I know.

4. Bravely Default: Flying Fairy

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Here’s the thing. While I did not play the full retail release for Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, I did get to try out the special demo put out a few weeks before the game dropped. It’s fun and gorgeous and a modern take on the older style of Final Fantasy games. I meant to pick up a retail copy, but never did. And then a few weeks ago, I had to remove the demo from my 3DS to save space and make room for important things, like new puzzle pieces and themes.

3. Shovel Knight

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An old-school action platform where you hop around on your shovel like Scrooge did his cane in DuckTales. I really shouldn’t have to write any more to sell you on the title, and I’m very sad I never got around to this. Think it would be perfect to play on my 3DS, so maybe some Christmas money can help with that plan.

2. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

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One of my goals for this year was to play through every Metal Gear game in order of release. I got all the way through Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Still, a pretty good effort. I won’t be able to try out Ground Zeroes, purported to be the Metal Gear game with the best controls yet, until I finish a few others ahead of it. Hopefully by the time I get to it I can play it like a prologue to The Phantom Pain. Fans believe we’ll hear the release date for that one in just a few days, on Christmas, a gift worth unwrapping violently.

1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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All right, here’s the big one. A Lord of the Rings game, and I didn’t play it. I try out just about every title I can. Yup, even Aragorn’s Quest. Yes, even The Fellowship of the Ring on the PlayStation 2 despite its terrible grammatical errors. That said, the reason one plays Shadow of Mordor is to experience the Nemesis system, which is deep and complicated and cool; however, the last-gen versions of the game have the Nemesis system removed due to limitations, leaving behind a more hollow product. My laptop certainly can’t run a game like this, so I will have to wait until the day I get a new-gen console, which won’t happen until I also know when Fallout 4 is definitely coming out. Sigh. This one hurts the most.

Right. That’s my list. Those are ten games I wanted to play, but ten games I didn’t get to play. Boo-hoo. What titles did you miss out on this year? Speak up in the comments below, and may you get to everything you want to in the next, new year! Until we meet again, dear Grinding Down readers.

Survival is the name of the game for Rein

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Rein is another small adventure game I downloaded some time back, but only came across recently while trying to delete games I’ve already played off my hard-drive. This laptop of mine is filling up fast, and I have no one to blame but myself. Stop all the downloading. It’s probably a stretch to compare it to surviving, but there is an element of choice at play: keep this, delete that, move here, grab that. You never know what to save, what might come in handy down the line, in some unpredictable scenario. Thankfully, in real life, I can move at a slower clip than Darius Poyer’s Rein demands because even a single pause is enough to get yourself flattened, though you can always try again.

Here’s why you, a scientist, must survive: your research facility is crumbling after an experiment goes wrong. That’s all you get, and all you’ll get, unfortunately, as much of the story is left clouded in a chemical fog. Instead, the focus is on escaping, reaching fresh air while everyone else around you succumbs to Death’s cruel touch. I died within seconds of starting Rein. Then I died within seconds of restarting Rein. Died on the next screen almost instantly. You are probably seeing a pattern by now. This is not a game where you have time to right-click on items and read their descriptions; it’s all about moving, thrusting forward, thinking on your feet, no loitering.

Alas, Rein ends right once you get a hang of how it operates. Seriously, it’s short. Maybe ten minutes long tops, and I’m only grumbling about this fact because I wanted more. I wanted the research facility to be larger, to have more rooms to explore and discover the ingredients behind its downfall. Was not a big fan of the puzzle solution where you use a handgun to shoot off a padlock, something that MythBusters debunked a good while back. Rein‘s claustrophobic nature is extremely effective, so much that when you get to the “safe” room, the one where you won’t die by lingering too long, it does feel like a pinch of relief, a weight off. There is a lot of solid animation here–really liked the one for our leading scientist opening a powered-down door with a metal pipe–and an atmospheric piano tune that sets the tone.

Historically, I’ve not played too many point-and-click adventure games where death is an option, one lingering just above the protagonist’s head, waiting to strike. If I recall, you can get yourself shot quite easily in Beneath a Steel Sky. There’s also the numerous missteps you can make in Another World/Out of This World, which one might not classify as an adventure game, but I think it is Rein‘s biggest inspirational drawing point. Other than those examples, I can’t come up with any others I’ve experienced that punish sloppy pointing and clicking, but it is an interesting concept in a genre generally regarded as infallible, unless you can’t find a specific pixel or determine the logic behind the developers’ minds.

Go on. Try your luck at surviving within a crumbling research by downloading Rein over here. I bet you’ll do better than me.

Abobo’s Big Adventure is a risible romp through the NES era

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I’m now at the point that I no longer remember where I download these strange little games. Could be a random website, some sort of bundle, or even just a blog post pointing me to something interesting. I just stumble across them in my “videogames” folder on my desktop days, weeks, and months later, with new names popping up left and right, often giving me pause. Maybe I accidentally fed one after midnight, and now they are spreading like wildfire, threatening to take over my time with so-called bigger games, despite many of these wee indie oddballs working a thousand times better than anything produced by an actual studio these days. Mm-hmm. Still annoyed about that.

Thankfully, Abobo’s Big Adventure helped put a smile on my face and keep me distracted while Dragon Age: Inquisition continued to fold in upon itself. And that’s surprising, because, while I appreciate the NES for what it was and still is today, I have little nostalgia for it. I never had one as a wee boy, though some neighbors did; videogaming didn’t truly happen for me until that Christmas morning when I unwrapped a Super Nintendo, which came pre-packed with a copy of Super Mario World. That said, Abobo’s Big Adventure is a loving tribute to the NES era, and I get a lot of the references and sprites and winking nods, but there’s also some more obscure elements zipping right on by. It’s an odd mix of old and new, but is thankfully a ton of fun to play, even rekindling my desire to trek through the original Legend of Zelda.

For those that don’t know–and I didn’t know upon starting up this free Flash game–Abobo comes from Double Dragon, appearing multiple times, often as a boss character. I played some Double Dragon in my early days, but this character never stood out to me; I guess the developers behind Abobo’s Big Adventure felt otherwise, thrusting him upon a quest to rescue his son, the hilariously named Aboboy. To do this, Abobo must travel through eight different levels, all themed to a classic NES title. I got as far as the one based around Mega Man, but more on that soon.

The controls are very simple, though they obviously change a bit from level to level. Basically, you move with the arrow keys and execute techniques with “A” and “S,” giving you the sensation of using an NES controller in terms of complexity. You can fill up a meter and tap both A and S together for a special move of sorts. Abobo’s actions change with each level, going from fighting goons in scummy alleyways to exploring a top-down dungeon to floating right to left thanks to some helium-pumped balloons. Abobo’s Big Adventure does a good job of mimicking how these old games looked and played, while also infusing them with modern mechanics and less-than-inspired teenage-level humor. Yup, looking at you, penis-shaped Zelda dungeon map. It’s probably silly to call this out in 2014, but the built-in Achievements system is quite flashy and reminded me of the days when Achievements were designed to be fun, rewarding, and experimental. After reading some descriptions, I went back and got a few out-of-the-way ones.

Much like their original counterparts, some parts of Abobo’s Big Adventure are tough, real challenges of skill. This mostly relates to the boss battles, such as the Old Man in the Zelda-themed one, but I found the entire Balloon Fight flight to be a tough grind, as well as the underwater level. The difficulty became too much once I hit the Mega Man level, which features everyone’s favorite off-screen laser beams to narrowly avoid. If you’ll recall, I’ve never been even mediocre at Mega Man games, and so, after multiple attempts of trying to take down the second form of the boss here, I’ve walked away. The keyboard’s not cutting it. And that’s okay. I got through most of Abobo’s Big Adventure, had a pretty good time, and saw plenty; I can’t imagine what comes later is too surprising, though I might find a Let’s Play to see what the last few levels act like.

While games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge are obviously deeply inspired by the classics from gaming’s so-called Golden Age, Abobo’s Big Adventure is them. Just slightly warped and more accessible. If you’re itching for something kind of like an NES game, but also not, I say give this a go. Watch out for that damaging TMNT seaweed in the underwater level though.

A Date in the Park is no walk in the park

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A Date in the Park is out to surprise you, whether it is through its digitalized 1990s visuals and animated sprites, the brazen stride forward it takes to leave you in the dark when it comes to translating Portuguese, or its twisted, tragic tale of love at first sight. I finished it the other night feeling…perturbed. Shaken. And a little more cautious of empty parks in the middle of the afternoon.

You play as Lou, who looks like he should be either the lead singer of an early 2000s emo punk rock band or a recently homeless man living under a beach boardwalk given his adoration for flip-flops. Lou recently moved to Lisbon, in Portugal, to take up a new job and start life anew, though A Date in the Park never really goes into specifics there; it doesn’t matter. Lou is a catalyst, a way forward, a love-sick boy with fantasies of picnics and skinny-dipping in his head. The night prior, Lou meets Catarina, an enchanting woman to say the least, at a bar, and the two of them hit it off great in the way that many first encounters do, where you eager say “me too” when something you enjoy as well is brought up and the hours simply drift by in a fascinating lull. She told him to meet her the next day at Tapada das Necessidades, her favorite park.

I’ve never been to a foreign country by myself. In high school, I had the chance to go to France with my French class, but I chickened out for reasons I won’t go into here. I have to imagine that it can be scary, to know no one, to be up against a language barrier when trying to meet someone. And so, when you do make a connection, like Lou with Catarina, you have to pursue it, wholeheartedly. This means that despite Catarina not appearing at the park when they agreed upon, Lou will do whatever he can to see her again, even if it involves chasing after floating balloons and solving mechanical puzzles.

A Date in the Park, in terms of a point-and-click adventure game, is fairly straightforward. You have an inventory accessible via the top of the screen, you can click to walk around, you can click to either interact with an item or look at it for a description, and you can right click on the corners of the screen to instantly exit to the next screen. Alas, there’s not very many people in the park to interact with, meaning no dialogue trees or experimentation with items on people. The  person you do interact with early on, a gardener, speaks no English, leaving everything one-sided. The puzzles are limited and fairly easy to deduce, save for the one where you need to get the water pump working for the statue pools; I got through it guessing, and I also have to imagine some players might have trouble not realizing that many screens scroll, meaning there might be an exit to a new screen off to the right or left, but it’s only visible if you move over enough. Some of the back-tracking proves annoying, but not too much.

This is a surreal piece of horror, no doubt about it, and things quickly escalate once Lou discovers the wounded duckling. I have some big problems with the plot in terms of believability, but then again, it’s just a game, and I can look past a lot of things, but given how real of a setting it takes place in, as well as realistic sprites playing the roles…I wanted something real. Part of me would have been totally okay with a straightforward date in the park, with hand holding and skipping and looking at the historical sights. The tension builds to a horrific horror–think Se7en–and it drives last few minutes of the game with a palpable panic. I was certainly caught off guard, maybe even more than Lou; like him, I was here for a stroll in the park. We got that and then some.

All in all, A Date in the Park took me about an hour to get through, but again, I got stuck for a bit on that water pump puzzle. Others might move through it faster. You can grab the game for free right over here, but only after you finish feeding the squirrels and sitting quietly on a bench to take in nature’s beauty for at least five minutes. Oh, and after you get through A Date in the Park with your heart intact, check out Mudlarks, another free adventure title from the same developer Cloak and Dagger Games. I plan to soon enough.