Monthly Archives: July 2017

Let’s all go exploring with Breath of the Wild

It took me a little over four hours to complete the initial opening chunk of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that’s perfectly fine. I’m talking about the part when Link, after emerging from the mystical cave of resurrecting people after 100 years because it’s cool to do so, must go complete four shrines to acquire all the necessary powers and hang-glider to start him proper on his journey to destroy Calamity Ganon. I’m not mad. Really, not even the slightest. Those opening hours helped teach me tricks and techniques that I’m still using currently to survive and puzzle my way to victory in Hyrule, some twenty-ish hours later.

Right. I got a copy of Breath of the Wild for my Wii U back in June, after I finally finished putting together the second chapter of my ongoing journal comic project Death, Divorce, and Disney. I’ll use this very sentence to plug it hard, so please click and read away. I’m not going to talk too much about the game’s plot, for two reasons. One, from a summary stance, it’s pretty bare bones. And two, there’s a lot I don’t understand yet, like Link’s relationship to Zelda and Hyrule’s people or why these shrines exist, and so on. That all said, we’re playing as an amnesiac Link, who awakens from a hundred-year slumber to a mysterious voice that guides him to defeat Calamity Ganon before he can destroy the kingdom of Hyrule. It’s not too far off from A Link to the Past, where a non-amnesiac Link awakens during a nightly thunderstorm, summoned to the castle by Princess Zelda’s voice to stop…uh, Ganon.

Back to my original point, about how long I spent in the “tutorial” section of Breath of the Wild. I got hung up for a while on how to access the two shrines located in the colder, snowy section of the Great Plateau. I assumed I needed better clothing to keep Link warm, and I was mostly right. It turned out I needed to figure out a recipe for the helpful Old Man and, once satisfied, he’d pass over some magical shirt to keep Link from freezing his nipples off. The problem was I didn’t know how to cook, and in a very non-Nintendo way, the game did not provide me with a hand-holding walkthrough to ensure I knew how to do this. I figured I just walked up to a pot on an open flame and there would be a prompt waiting for me, kind of like what happens in Fallout 4. Nope. All I kept seeing was “sit,” and so I sat, stuck. Turns out, you need to go into your inventory, pick a bunch of ingredients to hold, exit the menu, and then stand by the pot to get the prompt–so far, it’s one of two things I’ve had to look up for the game, and I deeply regret it.

I’m now much deeper into the story and map, but also totally not. It just feels that way to me because the hour count on the game’s save slot has gone way up. There’s still a lot to discover. In truth, I’ve completed a smidgen of shrines, found a few Korok seeds, climbed a couple tall towers, unearthed three lost memory spots, and haven’t taken down a single Divine Beast, though I do have the quest from the shark-people to do so whenever I please. But that’s up to me and my discretion. Personally, I like the less intense side quests, like finding horses or returning chickens to a pen, or just collecting ingredients to try my hand at cooking. Also, taking pictures of weapons and bugs and flowers to fill out the Hyrule compendium is good, wholesome fun that reminds me dearly of Beyond Good & Evil.

When it comes to waging war, I’m not great at combat, and part of that is me feeling like I’m missing a dodge button or something. Early on, I remapped the jump button, and that has helped a bunch, but timing your way around an enemy’s attacks is still a bit tricky, which has, naturally, made me rely more on loosing arrows from afar and being a sneaky elf. Y’know, just about how I play every RPG I get my grubby mitts on. Like many, the idea of breakable weapons breaks my heart, but at least unlike in Dark Cloud, Link isn’t far from a full inventory of things to use when one weapon breaks. It does, however, mess with your head a bit because you’ll find a cool, powerful weapon as a reward in a shrine and then be reluctant to use it in the field because you don’t want it to disappear. I don’t know. It’s a weird system, and I need to learn to not love my gear because nothing is permanent.

Also, Breath of the Wild is the game that actually got me to admit defeat and buy one of these plastic things:

I kind of want more, which is a dangerous thing to say out loud. And not just because they make a magical chest full of fish and raw meat fall from the sky once a day. I have a love for tiny figurines.

Anyways, Breath of the Wild. It’s really good, and I’m completely content to take my time with it. Sometimes I’ll play it for several hours in a night and then not return to it for a few days. That’s okay. Despite having a quest called “Destroy Ganon” since the start of the game, the in-game world is seemingly in no rush to see that actually happen. At least that’s the vibe I’m getting. If anything, my current adventures are leading me far away from Calamity Ganon for the time being and into the fins of a bunch of shark-people that taught me how to swim up waterfalls.

Advertisements

We live in a rainbow of chaos in Runbow

To me, there are two kinds of platformers: good and bad. Just kidding. I’m talking about ones where the platforming exists as a means to get you from point A to point B so you can do action C, and ones where the platforming itself, the jumping and landing and getting from spot to spot safely, is the entire crux of the game.

I like both to varying degrees, though I certainly prefer the former, enjoying more laid-back jumping like in Sound Shapes, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and Sugar Cube Bittersweet Factory over punishing affairs like So Many Me, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels. Those are almost instantly frustrating and what I like to call un-fun, though there is a masochistic side of me that continues to return to them, to see if I maybe have the twitch-based skills to jump quick with godly precision. Runbow is a mix of these two platformer types, with some levels being a breeze and others being the sort of wall I bang my head against for fifteen minutes, dying over and over and over until I get the pattern down perfectly.

First off, I didn’t choose Runbow, it chose me by being one of July’s freebies on Xbox One and its bright, colorful appearance. I believe it originally came out for the Wii U a couple years back and was later ported to PC, New Nintendo 3DS, and Xbox One from 13AM Games, an indie team based in Canada. Its origin stems from the 2014 Global Game Jam, and the quick elevator pitch is that it’s an action platformer focused on players trying to reach a trophy at the end of each level, dealing with obstacles, enemies, and vanishing platforms along the way. Players can perform a double jump as well as a punch attack to defeat enemies or gain extra reach while jumping up or horizontally. The rub is that the background of each level constantly shifts between a cycle of colors, causing platforms and hindrances of the same color as the background, such as blockades and spikes, to disappear/reappear. Levels are timed, and you are awarded either one, two, or three coins for beating it under a specific time.

I’m currently working my way through the singe-player Adventure mode, which tasks you with saving Poster District from the evil Satura. Why? Not sure, and it doesn’t really matter. This is just an excuse to complete a bunch of levels–140 in total–until you can take her on yourself four separate times. What is nice is that if you are mainly gunning for Satura, you can forge your own path to her, sticking to green (easier) levels instead of following yellow or red ones (harder). The map is broken into four quadrants, with each one its own theme containing unique challenges and dangers. You can play as a number of different characters, some from famous indie games, like Shantae and Shovel Knight, but they all jump the same as far as I can tell so it doesn’t really matter who you go with; I like male Red Hue dressed as a lumberjack, personally, but you do you.

I’ve not tried it yet, but there’s a mode called The Bowhemoth, which is described as a single, ultra-difficult challenge that takes place in the belly of a colossal beast. Evidently, it will test the skills of even the toughest platforming veterans, so I’m greatly concerned. I’ll give it a shot, but might have to *ahem* bow out if the jumping is too tough. I have, however, tried out the online competitive modes of Arena and King of the Hill, both of which were too chaotic for me to grasp and enjoy. I often found myself unable to find myself on the screen and just hoped for the best, which went as well as you can expect.

 

 

My goal for Runbow is to complete all 140 levels. Yup, you heard me. Not three-star every one, but at least complete them and fill in the poster map. After that, I think I’ll be done with it altogether as I’m not interested in its online competitive modes or its co-op action. Still, it’s a fun, seemingly friendly product, with good tunes and a neat gameplay mechanic that has you strategizing each and every jump. Stay tuned for the eventual game review haiku, hopefully.

It’s lights out for the Destiny 2 open beta

I never got into the original Destiny, but I sure watched a good amount of coverage on that game via those chuckleheads over at Giant Bomb, enough so that I felt like I understood the ups and downs of Bungie’s latest sci-fi first-person shooter that wanted to be a big ol’ massive multiplayer extravaganza, but was severely lacking in the story department. Still, people went ga-ga for this thing and constantly cried out “The shooting feels great!” to any naysayers while I contently hacked away at Borderlands 2 and the online multiplayer aspect for Gears of War 4. That all said, I may be interested in checking out Destiny 2, especially now that I got to nibble a bit off the larger loaf via the recent free and open beta.

What was in the Destiny 2 Beta, you ask, probably already knowing the answer, but helping me segue into a new paragraph nonetheless? Well, it features activities from three core experiences to use the company’s own words: Campaign, Cooperative, and Competitive play. I’ll talk a bit about each below and my experience with shooting alien monsters that were shooting at me and accidentally hitting the “dance” button one too many times. Mmm-hmm. Evidently, you could visit a specifically hub section called the Farm, but only at a special time, that which I did not know. That’s fine. I prefer not to be social.

The campaign mission is called “Homecoming,” and it’s a mix of single-player action with some wave-based enemy elimination near its end where other real-life players can join in to help out. You are responding to an emergency distress call from the last safe city on Earth. Also, I forgot to mention, you get to pick an already decked-out character at the start of the Destiny 2 Beta, and I went with the Hunter class. I also tried out its two subclasses, namely Arcstrider and Gunslinger, preferring the latter greatly, but only after I figured out how to activate my super ability; I’m sure original Destiny players had no trouble with that, but the game never instructed me on how to pull this off, so I had to look it up in the control options menu. Anyways, it’s a short, linear, and perfunctory mission, where nothing goes wrong, with some story stuff at the end involving the word “light,” sometimes capitalized as “Light,” that went completely over my teeny tiny head.

Next up is the Cooperative Strike called “The Inverted Spire,” which tasks you with infiltrating an enemy stronghold alongside two other Guardians to take down all active threats. Also, here’s a bit of descriptive text that is lost on me–The Cabal awoke something deep beneath Nessus’ surface. Right. So, I went into this with two other players, one of who spent a long time jumping around the milk waterfall and trying to reach out-of-reach platforms. Eventually, you get to a big boss fight at the end, which is where everything went to crap, especially because communication was non-existent. I died, they died, we all died, and I eventually dropped out (sorry, peeps with gamertags I can’t remember). I can imagine this being easier and more fun, as well as rewarding, with a dedicated group of friends that are able to issue commands to one another. Plus, there wasn’t any loot to pick up, which is an important element for a loot shooter.

Lastly, there’s Competitive Multiplayer, and several versions of it to try out. I don’t think I could tell you what mode I played, but it was one team versus another, and we were trying to control certain points, indicated by capital letters, on the map and keep the opposing team from getting them. I wasn’t great at this, but I did manage to shoot a few guys and hold a flag for some seconds. It’s very quick and somewhat chaotic, and despite my constantly changing affection for Gears of War 4 online multiplayer, this was most certainly not for me. I felt like I barely had a chance to do anything, and when I finally did and something went wrong, it went bad fast. I’m sure there’s a whole cut of the population that loves this, but if I’m to play any Destiny 2 down the space road, it’ll likely be campaign stuff and Strikes, but only when I’m with a trusted group of Guardians. If such a group can exist.

So we’ll see come September if I’m interested in picking Destiny 2 up. I can concur with those that shouted about the shooting feeling good. It does. It really, truly does. I also like its overall look and the names of the weapons and pieces of armor and the tougher enemies, but I also want a good story, sue me. I don’t want to have to piece things together via websites and an app on my phone. I want characters, and I want those characters to interact with me in a meaningful way to get me to care about Earth blowing up or things going dark or whatever the plot turns out to be. Perhaps I’ll wait a bit and see what people have to say about it. Maybe while I do that I’ll play through all of Halo: Reach. Er, maybe.

Waking Mars educates one about an alien planet’s ecosystem

I’ve never been to Mars and probably never will in my lifetime, but I’ve both read and seen a lot of hot takes on the red planet, such as Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, The Martian by Andy Weir, and 1990’s Total Recall. I’ve even played a few games set there, like all the Red Faction joints. Chances are I wouldn’t survive long, knowing only how to make hot dog rice and a slumber party tent using two chairs and an old bedsheet, but that’s expected. Also, if hostile alien lifeforms exist, I wouldn’t know what to do to keep them from eating my Earthly flesh. Related to that, one is still trying to survive the harsh landscape in Waking Mars, but the true focus is on study and education, on discovering what makes this world alive and function.

Tiger Style put out Waking Mars in early 2012, but I only discovered it the other night in my Steam library, way at the bottom of the list. I honestly have no recollection of how it got there, but I’m going to assume it was through a Humble Bundle of sorts. Without knowing too much about the game other than some of the Achievement descriptions, I loaded it up and was surprised to discover that it is…a science-fiction adventure game with light platforming in the veins of a jetpack. Also, it’s totally about gardening. The year is 2097, and life has been discovered on Mars. Your mission of first contact takes a real bad turn, with American astronaut Liang becoming trapped by a cave-in. He must master the alien ecosystem to better survive and progress, as well as discover the secrets of the planet’s past.

Right. First off, instead of shooting your way to safety, Liang must grow a lively ecosytem to open passageways and redirect water to the areas that need it most. This was a great surprise. Much like The Swapper, combat is not the focus; instead, exploring your surroundings and puzzling out what to do next is the main mechanic fueling progression and storytelling, and that has actually made the jet-packing all the more fun because you are not trying to fire a blaster and dodge acid bombs at the same time, but rather zip around in search of places to grow some local life. Instead, you are looking for plant seeds and fertile ground, as well as scientific remnants of a co-worker that has gone missing. Each area has a Biomass rating, which you must raise to open up new areas to explore, and you do this by making life thrive. Plant seeds in the right spot, cultivate them, mix seeds with other seeds, avoid dangerous plants, and watch how everything interacts.

Waking Mars, so far, has a somewhat compelling story, but I’m more interested in the diversity of its cast, as well as the strong voice acting, which gives more meaning and urgency to the search for alien life and a way back to the headquarters. Liang is quiet and curious, but also physically alone in these Mars caves. In his ear are two support team members: Armani, an upbeat scientist, and ART, a humorous and glitch AI (think TARS from Interstellar). At different points, you’ll stop for conversation and figure out what to do next. These are linear moments, but they do reveal a lot about each character and provide hints at what is really going on here.

The gardening is fun. I generally always have fun growing digital plants, but the fact that everything interacts with each other to either raise or lower your Biomass rating is fascinating and much different than other games. Makes me feel like a scientist doing scientist-y things. You are also encouraged to get creative and research each plant fully, figuring out how it reproduces or reacts to prey. Once you know more about each respective plant, you can create a highly efficient zone, one that almost takes care of itself. It’s difficult but not impossible to reach five-star Biomass rating, and I suspect doing so will have a unique result on the current environment; alas, I’ve not been able to do this yet.

According to the Internet, Waking Mars takes about six to eight hours to complete. I’ve only put in two hours so far, which means there’s plenty of Mars left to explore and turn into my personal zoa garden. We’ll see if I have a green or red thumb.

Get it?

Y’know, because the iron oxide prevalent on the planet’s surface gives it a reddish appearance?

2017 Game Review Haiku, #75 – Escape from a Ramen Shop

A few months ago
I had delicious Ramen
Great noodles and broth

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #74 – LUZ

Walking through the void
Of black and white, static grays
Sanctity exists

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #73 – Marvel Heroes Omega

Cosmic Cube deadly
Use preferred superhero
Like Squirrel Girl, love squirrels

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.