Monthly Archives: May 2018

2018 Game Review Haiku, #32 – I’ll Take You To Tomato Town

Your grocery needs
Go, a list for everything
Even shoplifting

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Don’t stop for nothing when it comes to High Hell’s breakneck combat

I continue to mistakenly refer to High Hell as How High. Y’know, that classic stoner flick from 2001 about multi-platinum rap superstars Redman and Method Man as Jamal and Silas, two regular guys who smoke something magical, ace their college entrance exams, and wind up at Harvard–hilarity ensues. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve seen it more than once. Also, I’m sure I’m not alone in this conundrum. Either way, the two entities are desperately unlike, and that’s good, because I don’t think playing a videogame version of How High would be all that enjoyable. High Hell, on the other hand, is a real hoot…

High Hell is currently one of the freebies for the month of May for those with Twitch Prime, which I finally set up a month or two ago, mostly to get some free cosmetics for Fortnite. It seems like it is on the same level as Microsoft’s Games with Gold program, and I like that I’m getting the games for free permanently, unlike with PlayStation Plus, which means I don’t feel extra pressure to play through them sooner than later. We also got Pyschonauts, Clustertruck, Gone Home, Titan Souls, and I, Hope. Some of those I’ve played, and some I’ve not, so, for me, it’s been a good balance of new things to try out along with some acquiring a few classics I can open with a different launcher.

Right. Let’s cut immediately to the action now, because that’s what High Hell is all about. It’s a neon-soaked, arcade-action first-person shooter from Terri Vellmann (Heavy Bullets) and Doseone (Enter the Gungeon, Gang Beasts). I’m aware of all three of those games, though I’ve never touched ’em, but a part of me suspects one or two are waiting to be installed in my Steam library. In this one, you must take on the criminal underground with a gun that never needs reloading and bring lethal salvation to those that have fallen from the light. Er, something like that. Devolver Digital is behind it, and if you have played any of their games, you know they go big, bold, and right for the jugular. Also, they aren’t afraid to be a little goofy. Some examples that I’ve actually tasted include: Hotline Miami, Luftrausers, and Gods Will Be Watching.

The story is purposely thin and mostly told through mission objectives, such as burn three Employee of the Month paintings, destroy two wiener pumps, deface corporate effigies, and kill Beelzebot. There are main objectives and side objectives and even smaller side tasks, such as burning piles of cash, but the true goal is to stay alive and shoot down anybody or anything targeting you and your health meter. For each successful kill, you get a little bit of health back, which is good, because it doesn’t take much to bring you to your knees and health pick-ups are few and far between. You can methodically and slowly inch your way forward or charge ahead guns blazing, and both plans of attack have their moments, but you need to be quick with your shots because the enemies or big bosses don’t pull any punches.

I’m currently around level 12 or 13–I can’t remember, it’s all a pink-and-gray blur–out of 20 total missions, and I’m having a fantastic time. I normally belittle myself and lack the self-esteem to feel good about playing this type of fast-paced, twitch-based shooters, but I’m actually doing all right. Sure, I get stuck on a couple of levels, but repetition helps iron out the wrinkles and improve my playthrough each time, breaking it down to an almost exact science if you can pull off each shot. Granted, I’m not hitting speedrunning times, but that’s never been my goal; remember, the only game I’ve speedrunned so far is Gone Home.

I’m hoping to see High Hell all the way to its conclusion, but I don’t know if there is more to do after that. Or, even if there is, I don’t know if it is something I will care about. I’m enjoying the frenetic nature of these levels, and jumping off buildings to parachute away after completing all objectives is beyond satisfying, but I might have my fill by the end. We’ll see. For now, I’ll keep kicking down doors and blasting anything that gets in my way.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #31 – Quidget the Wonderwiener

Quidget, dog genius
Must solve a bunch of problems
Booby assistant

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is set in the year 2018, where sections of an alien spacecraft have crash-landed in several major cities around the world, including Baghdad and Tokyo, and doom is beyond impending. Y’know, not all that much different from our current climate. Anyways, you take on the role of the commander of an armor battalion, referred to as “14th Platoon,” and are sent to investigate anomalies that have occurred in the vicinity of these wreckages and gather information on what is happening in the affected areas. See, the anomalies–which, if you didn’t know, are something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected–are interfering with radar and satellite imagery and must be dealt with to neutralize any potential threats.

Y’all should already know at this point that tower defense is not a favorite genre of mine. It’s not to say I hate it to the point that I won’t play anything in it, as I have enjoyed a few–namely Kingdom Rush and Plants vs. Zombies–but generally I’m not hooked on the gameplay. I only played Defense Grid: The Awakening long enough to get some specific Achievements back when I was trying to hit a certain amount and then uninstalled the game without any further thought. Harsh, but true. Well, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is kind of like a reverse tower defense. Or, if you are feeling silly, tower offense. However, I’m continue to remain not hooked.

Basically, you control a bunch of mobile units in an environment brimming with enemy turrets, making your way to a specific point on the map. Anomaly: Warzone Earth takes this idea one step further by giving you control over what you can build, the order in which you place your units–they move in a singular line–and by also allowing you to plot out the course you’ll take dynamically during the mission, switching routes when necessary or a better path opens up. I enjoyed the rethinking “on the fly” part, as well as running ahead of my units and gathering power-ups, seeing what enemies and traps are in store.

I like the look of Anomaly: Warzone Earth a lot, and the top-down perspective really makes you feel like a god, commanding these soldier-esque ants to do your bidding. You direct all the movement, the moment-to-moment action, and collect power-ups dropped on the battlefield from planes overhead. The UI is clean and stylish, with the map screen sporting a beautiful mix of blues, whites, and reds, and the tutorial never really felt like a tutorial, pushing you through the first mission quickly while teaching you things along the way, such as how to heal units or purchase new tanks. That said, the story is fairly ho-hum, with the voice acting not doing it any favors.

I played the first three levels of Anomaly: Warzone Earth‘s campaign, stopping at mission 4 “Distress Call,” and that’s enough for me. There’s other modes, like Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid, that are grayed out on the start screen, and I’ll never experience local co-op, but that’s okay. I liked this more than I thought I would, but not enough to keep going.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #30 – How to Cope with Boredom and Loneliness

Harold is grounded
For thirty years, find out why
Free hint–ask his mom

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Slay away as Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

As a young lad, many of the sleepovers with my then best friend resulted in us exploring the nearby woods at night, playing games together on our respective consoles–his a Sega Genesis and mine a SNES–and renting horror films to watch until the sun came up. These ran the gamut from things like Species to Deep Rising, but our favorites, meaning ones we rented multiple times for the local Blockbuster, were the Friday the 13th slasher films. These were, though it is embarrassing to admit to it, our first look at nudity and violence holding hands, a concept that stimulated our teenage brains to their very core, and we’d stay up late after the movie was over, tossing back ideas about what we’d do to take down the legendary Jason Voorhees ourselves, if we ever were unlucky enough to come across him. My plan often involved pushing him off a cliff.

Well, with Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle, you aren’t trying to beat the man that won’t die; instead, you are him, on a mission to murder every final girl, nerd, officer, punk, etc., one after the other, until nobody’s left to bother you. This isometric top-down puzzler, across a variety of levels, has you sliding Jason across a grid until you literally bump into your victim, instantly murdering them. After taking out all the targets, a final mark will appear, and often reaching them is a puzzle of its own because you can only slide in so many directions. Each level ends with Jason using a stylish finisher move, which would normally be considered grizzly and ultra-violent, but not here, where the game’s cartoonish look keeps everything light and silly. I mean, I don’t know if stabbing a person through the chest with a baseball bat is even possible, but it’s funny to see the hockey masked man do it. Afterwards, your bloodlust gauge fills up, and once it is full, generally with a little help from Jason’s mom’s severed head–don’t ask–you can unlock a new weapon to equip.

Here’s the thing I didn’t expect to experience in Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle–it’s addictive. The levels are short and satisfying. You can take stock of the layout at your leisure, even switching the camera to an optional top-down view, before making your first murderthon move. Each themed level introduces something new, such as animals you don’t want to harm, people running away from Jason right to an exit, obstacles keeping you from your victims, guards with gnus, and dealing with traps like holes, bodies of water, and electrified fences. Thankfully, it never becomes too much. At first, you can kind of fudge your way to victory, but as the level fills up with all these various elements, you have to slow down and, similar to chess, begin to think several moves ahead. It’s ultra satisfying to see your plan come together, and then you fall into the hole of wanting to at least see how the next level starts, ultimately losing a half hour before you even know it.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle isn’t a difficult game. Levels rarely take longer than a few minutes. What I find ultra appreciative is that the game comes with hints and walkthroughs in it, which means I don’t need to Google anything on my phone when I get stuck or exit out and come back later, losing momentum. At any point, you can click on Jason’s mother’s severed head–still don’t ask–and she’ll either give you a single hint of what to do next or walk you through every single step in fast-forward. You can also undo any more, even ones that kill Jason, or simply restart the level if you feel like you’ve borked it bad enough. I have resorted to using the in-game walkthrough a few times, but only after giving the level a good shake, and I love that it is included, and the language around it is super friendly and not condescending.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle was released, for free, a few weeks back on…yup, you guessed it–Friday, April 13. I believe it is available on phones, but I’ve been playing it in bursts on Steam, and I’m probably halfway through all the levels it came with, currently sliding around Jason from Jason X, not my favorite entry in the series. Anyways, this cute freebie comes from Blue Wizard, the developer behind Slayaway Camp, which shares similar gameplay, but more voxel-based graphics. If I ever see the end of Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle and really want more puzzle-driven mayhem, I’ll know where to turn to next. Even if it doesn’t have a dedicated button in the pause menu to making the chi chi chi ha ha ha sound effect.