Category Archives: achievements

Anodyne’s dream world is perfect for wondering and wandering

Over the weekend, I beat Anodyne, and I still remain conflicted over how I feel about the game overall. I liked a lot of moments and puzzles and found others beyond frustrating; I had to look up several walkthroughs online just to keep going and figure out what I needed to do next, and that is something I desperately try to avoid doing when playing anything for the first time. I don’t know. It’s a strange game, set in an even stranger world, where characters say the strangest things to our leading lad Young, and it’s up to you to determine if what they say matters or not. I don’t think they did.

First, what is Anodyne? It’s an action-adventure game clearly inspired by the original The Legend of Zelda, or even The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, developed by Analgesic Productions, the same team that brought us Even the Ocean and All Our Asias. It was released on PC some years ago, but just came to consoles recently, which was a pleasant surprise. The game begins with little explanation as Young jumps into a dream-like world via a main hub area…for some purpose. Once there, a somewhat terse and shrouded Sage sets him off on a mysterious journey to open gates, defeat evil monsters, and collect a good number of cards. All right then.

Whereas the general tone of things like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and The Legend of the Skyfish are colorful and positive, upbeat, all about adventuring forward and seeing new sights, Anodyne is the opposite. The vibe I constantly felt as I put in over six hours into this dark adventure was one of unease. There’s an unsettling cloud that hangs over every screen, every word that these oddball NPCs spew out at Young, words that seemingly have no purpose other than to take up time or make you wonder. I always felt like I was intruding, disturbing the environment in some way, even on the screens that were complete dead ends. There are tormented characters, and I honestly don’t even know what Briar, the final boss, was all about, but he was certainly disturbed, along with a pain to fight.

Something I love is that Young wields a broom, not a sword. The broom can still be used to attack enemies, but it is also used for puzzle solving, picking up puffs of dust to use to navigate waterways. There are a bunch of upgrades you can get for the broom too to change how it functions, the last one being a real post-game changer. In terms of puzzles, you are usually looking for a key or a way to hit a switch or, even trickier, get an enemy to hit a switch for you. They are never too hard to solve, and I found the jumping parts in the acrobat dungeon to be the hardest to time and nail perfectly. Some frustration comes from the map and seeing rooms with exits you can’t seemingly reach.

The game’s retro look and subtle soundtrack works well for Anodyne‘s vibe. The 16-bit graphics–and, at times, 8-bit–will never blow your face off, but there’s a comforting feel to many of the screens, hearkening back to the good ol’ SNES days with games like Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy III. It makes exploring every nook and cranny worth it, even if all you get is a dead-end screen, and the sound effects of hitting a slime with your broom are satisfying. I did notice some weird flickering on the menu screen, especially when viewing the cards you collected. Other than that, Anodyne plays exactly like it looks like it should play.

I popped all but two Achievements, and I’m okay with that. One is for finding a bunch more cards, which is something you can only do post-game, but I’m not feeling the desire to look around this world more. The other is for beating the game in under three hours–no thanks. Still, in the end, I’m glad I played Anodyne, even if I might not ever truly know how I feel about the experience. That said, I most certainly will be playing whatever comes out of Analgesic Productions next.

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You are designed for accomplishment, so says 100,000 Gamerscore

As y’all probably know, I’ve been at this for a while, slowly building up my pointless and inconsequential Gamerscore, trying to hit it perfectly on big numbers like 10,000, 20,000, and so on. It makes getting these silly things called Achievements fun and somewhat meaningful to me, especially the extra ones you have to actually work for, and I will most likely continue to go at it…though having now finally hit 100,000, I feel like I might not make a big stink of it going forward. I mean, sure 110,000 is a bigger and better number than 100,000, but it just doesn’t seem as cool. Weird.

Anyways, I was real close to hitting this mega-milestone mark back in July, but then some other things happened, and I was away from my Xbox One for a good number of weeks. Once I was back to recovering at home on the couch, I was able to play a few more titles and earn some Achievements, hitting 100,000 perfectly on the nose thanks to games like Death Squared, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and State of Decay 2. Woo, go me, big celebration.

As always, picture proof, though I only snapped this one photo of my cool-as-cool-gets number using my cell phone’s camera against my broken TV:

Also, I updated my avatar, something I didn’t think you could even do anymore.

A quick side note. One of my favorite things from this current generation of gaming is when a game, such as Gears of War 4 or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, comes out with new Achievements, recognizes you already did the work to pop ’em, and grants you them with glee from the moment you next sign into the game. That’s happened recently, and I’ve also been noodling away at Anodyne, which I will say nothing else of here except that is a game that deserves its own post and exhaustive breakdown because…hoo boy. Also, playing a bunch of Fortnite, but because there’s no Achievements for the Battle Royale mode, that’s not a real thing.

I’m currently almost a thousand points ahead of 100,000 and not even thinking about the next milestone. It’s been a fun journey, starting way back in February 2010 on the ol’ Xbox 360, but I have other issues to concern myself with at the moment. Thanks for coming along with me nonetheless. I’m sure I’ll find some other dumb thing to focus on down the road. Until then, readers…

State of Decay 2, the categorical and harsh suffer sim

I never played the original State of Decay, but I really wanted to. On paper, it sounded challenging, but rewarding, putting you firmly into that fantastic scenario we all ponder now and again, thanks to so much post-apocalyptic media in our lives: how would you survive in a world gone to shit? I know I personally wouldn’t last long due to my lack of cardio and upper-body strength, but I’d hope I could contribute to a community in other ways. Either by organizing our rations and inventory or even just making sure people knew what goals needed to be accomplished and by when. Still, eventually, I’d be zombie food. Or even a zombie myself.

So far, for my little community in State of Decay 2, despite things going pretty poorly from time to time, no one has died (editor’s note: I wrote this sentence almost three months ago, but as of mid-September I have had a member die out in the field trying to take on an infestation by himself, insert sad face here). I take great pride in this because there’s been some seriously close calls. However, Choe, our resident nurse, got frustrated with the lack of medicine and eventually left the group. Otherwise, I’ve been able to keep people somewhat satisfied, even if morale is constantly bouncing between stable and poor and nobody wants to be on latrine duty.

It’s not one hundred percent fun to play, and I constantly feel like I’m just treading water and making very little progress. The area around my tiny community is mostly cleared out of zombies, but keeping my group of people healthy and happy is a constant task that never seems to churn out great results. Basically, I pick a spot on the map to investigate, take a friend with me, use our only car which is damaged and low on gas, go kill a few zombies, and discover, if at most, a few items to bring back, but mostly an empty shack or house. Rucksacks are the most important thing to find, but they are few and far between, so I’ve been relying mostly on calling in special drops to pick up…which feels a little like cheating sometimes.

Fast forward to now-ish, and I basically haven’t played the game in a few months…for specific reasons. Well, I noticed that a new piece of DLC came out recently called Daybreak, and it is part of the season pass which I guess I purchased at some point. It’s a brand-new game mode for State of Decay 2 completely separate from your base community. Basically, it’s a re-playable co-op “zombie siege” experience, something akin to Horde mode in Gears of War 4. You and up to three teammates play as elite Red Talon soldiers, armed with potent high-end weaponry. Working together, you must defend a fortified position where a technician needs time to repair a critical satellite relay. You’ll have to survive seven waves of increasingly difficult swarms of zombies, including the brand new blood plague juggernaut, with the ultimate goal being keeping the technician alive. Do that, and you win.

Between each wave, you can run out into the woods to pick up more ammo, weapons, and wall repair kits from CLEO drops. You only have two minutes though to grab what you can before a new wave deploys upon your small fortress. What I really like about playing Daybreak is that you earn weapons–melee, guns, and tossed explosives–to use in both further attempts at the DLC, but also in the main State of Decay 2 mode. You can even earn the opportunity to recruit a Red Talon soldier into your base community. I’ve attempted keeping the technician alive twice now–first time, we were successful, and the second time, he got killed in the final wave. Either way, it’s a pretty fun mode that, thanks to you earning new gear and being able to bring it back to your main game mode, feels more connected than it probably needed to be, even if it feels a little repetitive.

I do look forward to playing more, but a part of me now just wants to unlock all the best gear and weapons first in Daybreak and then start a new community over, especially since I just lost Mike who was suppose to become my group’s leader. At some point, I’ll have to avenge his death, take back all his good gear, and focus on someone else to take the lead, but even the thought of that currently doesn’t fill me with excitement. In the end, that’s kind of what State of Decay 2 is, a game I both want to play and stay far away from because it is draining. I now know why people refer to it as a suffer sim…you do it to yourself, really.

Korgan’s an uninspired dungeon-crawler, but easy 1,000 Gamerscore

There are a lot of free games floating around like tiny desperate dust motes up in the digital entertainment industry’s night sky these days. Many more than a couple years ago. Some are good, some are great, and many are bad, hastily put together and thrown into the wild in hopes of earning money or a fanbase or anything at all. I’ve been able to get a lot of mileage out of many of these freebies; for instance, according to my Xbox app, I put about 58 hours total into Fallout Shelter. Other free adventures that I continue to poke and prod at include Gems of War, Fortnite, and Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle. Alas, Korgan is not one of the good ones, sitting nearly at the bottom of the barrel, with its only saving grace being that it has a relatively easy number of Achievements to pop, if that is something you care about.

Korgan is an episodic dungeon-crawler from Codestalkers, and you can play the prologue chapter for free, which takes maybe two to three hours to get through, depending on how thorough you want to be. I recall zero details about the plot of this stock fantasy-driven adventure, but I’m sure it involves some sort of ancient evil or shadow group trying to spread chaos and monsters across the world, leaving it up to a trio of do-gooders to set things right. You can freely switch between these three heroes to face enemies or obstacles; the titular Korgan is an up-close dwarven warrior that uses axes and mallets for damage. As for Sedine and Meldie, well…I’m too annoyed at the game to look up much more, so one of them is a floating mage-lady, and the other is a hat-wearing hunter that uses a bow and arrow. I’ll let you decide who gets what name, even though it doesn’t matter one lick.

Naturally, each character has their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and you could combine attacks together for more damage, such as freezing as enemy with the mage and switching to the axe-wielding hero for extra damage…except I never felt the need to do this. You can skate by on using one character until his or her health is almost gone, and then switch to the next one. If one character loses all of his or health, it’s not the worst thing in the world–you are zipped back to the start of the level, but most of your progress has been saved, meaning death has no real consequence besides it now taking you longer to uninstall Korgan after getting through the prologue.

The game and gameplay is barbarously boring, almost to the point that I have nothing to say of it. It’s generic hack-and-loot, with paint-by-the-number quests that culminate in droll boss fights that, for some reason, were set to auto-record on the Xbox One. The subpar elements of Korgan that truly stand out to me are around its design and UI decisions. For instance, the developers thought that clicking in the right stick and holding it for upwards of 15 seconds would be perfect for actions like reading text on monuments, searching areas for clues, and destroying traps. It’s slow and not fun on one’s hand, and I eventually avoided doing it if I could. Hitting the Y button switches between your three characters, but it’s also the button to hit for looting all items as opposed to selecting them one by one, and since I never got the impression there was an inventory limit I looted each and every piece of gear I could fine…but sometimes, instead of looting, I’d accidentally switch to someone else.

Here’s something else I didn’t grok, but maybe I was half-asleep. Each of the three characters share a single XP bar that fills up as you complete side quests, break down traps, and kill enemies. However, as far as I can tell, only the character you are actively controlling at the time when the XP bar hits the max amount levels up and gets a skill point to spend. Because of this, though I did use all three characters, I ended up putting the most points into the mage’s spells and found her to thus be the most effective when it came to dealing damage. Except some enemies were immune to her attacks, and that sucked because Korgan and the other one were not as leveled as the mage. It also didn’t help that the UI for inventory and equipping potions, armor, and weapons was clunky and confusing. That said, the skill tree upgrades are as bland as unbuttered bread, and you never truly feel like the character is growing in strength or power.

Look, you might like Korgan. It might very well be your first taste of a dungeon crawler with gear to pick up. And if you do, that’s great, because the first nibble is free, and there’s more content coming. I believe you can jump right into chapter one if you are champing at the bit. However, I found the slow combat, poor controls, and uninteresting progression and loot to be too underwhelming, and I just don’t care about anything now. In fact, I’m going to continue living life believing that all three heroes fell down a dark crevasse and got swallowed up by the earth, never to be seen or heard from again. Oh well.

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.

SUPERHOT’s time only moves forward with the player

We’re a few months into 2018, or twenty-great-teen as the kids are callin’ it, and I’m finally cool enough to play SUPERHOT. Y’know, that mega indie hit from…well, it originated as an entry in the 2013 7 Day FPS Challenge, but was a full release on consoles and PC in 2016. Strangely, right now, the game is everywhere you look–it was a freebie for March’s Gaming with Gold on the Xbox One, which is how I acquired it, it was a freebie last month for Twitch Prime’s new Free Games with Prime program, and it’s currently one of the games bundled in Humble Indie Bundle 19. My lordy-loo. I guess there is just no avoiding it at this point. After all, SUPERHOT only moves when you do.

Okay, some setup, of which I will absolutely nail down the mechanics of this game, but not its narrative. SUPERHOT is an independent first-person shooter developed and published by the appropriately named SUPERHOT Team. The game mostly follows traditional first-person shooter mechanics, with you trying to take out enemies shooting bullets at you. The twist to all this is that time within the game only progresses when the player moves. Remember when Neo in The Matrix used bullet time to his advantage? It’s like that, but always. This often creates unique opportunities for the player to assess their situation and respond appropriately, turning each gunfight into one massive, slow-crawling puzzle wherein you’ll dodge a bullet, punch a dude, grab his gun out of the air, and shoot him in the face with it before a second goes by.

Now SUPERHOT‘s story…exists on several metanarrative levels. First, the player plays a fictionalized version of themselves sitting in front of a computer receiving DOS prompts, getting a message from their friend who offers them a supposedly leaked copy of a new game called superhot.exe, claiming that the only way to access it is with a crack. Second, launching the game immediately thrusts the player into a series of seemingly unconnected puzzle-combat rooms via different points of view, all based around killing hostile red dudes via the cool time slowdown method, after which the game glitches out and disconnects. After this crash, the player’s friend sends an updated version of the .exe file, which is apparently a new version of the game that fixes the “glitches,” and you go further down the rabbit hole, doing as the large, blocky text on-screen says because…that’s what a good videogame player does. Look, it’s something of a connective tissue, and that’s fine, but story is not at all the reason I’m playing SUPERHOT, nor what I will ultimately remember about it five years from now.

Visually, the developers got lucky. The game is presented in a minimalist art style, with enemies in ruby red and weapons in stark black, in contrast to the otherwise white and gray environment, which has the effect of everything popping before your eyes, especially those red bullet trails. I suspect this look was picked because it was quick and easy to implement during its days as a jam baby, but it really works great to boil SUPERHOT down to its essentials–an area, enemies, and all your tools to kill them quickly seen. When you shoot a red guy, he explodes into a bunch of polygons, like a window breaking, and it’s super satisfying to both see and hear. Once you successfully survive a level, the game replays all your actions like a mini action movie trailer, and you can save and edit the replay into GIFs and such, if that’s your thing (it’s not mine). Oh, and one can’t forget the classic bit of the booming “Super, hot!” voiceover that loops after you’ve obliterated every red dude in your way.

I enjoyed playing SUPERHOT; the playing of it was enjoyable. I didn’t really understand a lot of stuff around the edges or what story it was trying to tell, but that didn’t diminish the fun I had from slowly dodging an incoming bullet, throwing my empty pistol into the face of a red dude, catching the shotgun that they tossed upwards, and unleashing a spray of bullets in their direction, all within the blink of an eye. Every room was a puzzle, open to interpretation, and I played a few challenge levels and endless mode after the credits rolled, but it lacked something the frenetic, bouncy campaign had, nor did it do anything new. I’m glad I got to finally play SUPERHOT, and if you’ve not yet…well, it’s time to stop time, get yourself a copy, and start slowly making your way to the complete and total domination of red dudes.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Bombs are a big deal
For an older Ezio
Nothing new divulged

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.