Category Archives: artwork

2017 Game Review Haiku, #77 – Windosill

Leave eleven rooms
By clicking on all objects
To find that sweet cube

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.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #58 – Toca Boo

Bonnie scares fam time
Hide, make them nervous, big boos
Cute animations

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, #33 – Bendy and the Ink Machine: Chapter One

Imagine Oswald
Going on murderous trip
Cool look, just the start

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.

Rescuing a village of emotional fruit people is just what you do in Karambola

karambola-final-impressions-capture

Here’s a funny coincidence: I played Karambola, and then, the next day, ate some carambola, for the first time, as part of a fruit salad when visiting family for babies and a BBQ. I found the starfruit to be quite sweet, but maybe my taste-buds are off as I was the only one to think this. Others claimed it as bitter. To me, it tasted like a sweeter grape–no, not the cotton candy kind–and I am officially a fan. I’m also a fan of the point-and-click adventure-in-your-browser game Karambola, strange as it is, an artsy mix of bitter and sweet, a satisfying snack in the end.

First, if anything, Holy Pangolin Studio’s Karambola has reminded me of a great sin–that I’ve not yet played Samorost 3 this year despite totally saying I wanted to. These games swim in the same bizarre and silly point-and-click adventure pool where everything is all at once familiar and slightly unsettling. I mean, in this one, a flock of evil bird-thoughts–which I assume are standard endothermic vertebrates that happen to bring about unwanted thinking to those they encounter, like gray clouds hanging overhead–attack a village of peaceful and, might I add, emotional fruit people. Unfortunately for our titular protagonist Karambola, all of his friends scatter, lost to their own inner demons, and it’s up to you to bring them back via some smart if unconventional puzzle-solving clicking.

Each distraught villager is its own scene and puzzle, and some are easier to figure out than others, but all clues are directly in front of you, distorted or purposefully blurred, hidden in the environment for you to find. Still, everything is eventually doable with enough thinking and clicking, and you are then treated to a little animation of the emotional fruit-headed villager coming back to reality and happiness, color washing the screen clean. Then it is back to the Mega Man-esque level select screen to save the next downer, until all hope is returned.

Music and sound effects are vital to Karambola‘s storytelling, especially since you only get a screen of text at the start to explain the setup and then nothing more. Audio helps sell these villagers as villagers and sets the tone for each scene, whether it is the rhythmic lighting up of windows or muted guitar chords as a pinecone-headed figure cries into a wooden tube in the woods. A lot of the music is low, soft, clearly atmospheric, and it mixes strongly with the colorless, almost sketch-like artwork of the fruit people against the water-colored backdrops. There’s also a really fantastic little musical loop that plays when you click on the evil bird-thoughts to get a glimpse of unspoken story in their silhouetted bodies. Some of the bands on the soundtrack include Bird of Either and Avell, which are both new to me.

Lastly, some linkage. I know, I know…I just linked to some bands’ Facebook pages, but these are the more game-relevant ones. First, check out this interview with Karambola‘s creator Agata Nawrot. Second, give this oddball of a game a shot by clicking here and enjoying it in whatever browser you like to use. I played mine in Mozilla Firefox, for what it’s worth. Lastly, fruit flies are the worst, but evidently evil bird-thoughts are much worse, so don’t let your guard down. After all, there’s never been a better time to be playing videogames than right now.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #11 – The Curse of the Mushroom King

2016 gd games completed the curse of the mushroom king

Cursed, never again
To enjoy PB&J
Tortuous puzzles

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

My five favorite games in 2015

my five favorite games in 2015 gd post

While I love listening to “Game of the Year” podcasts and sifting through dozens and dozens of lists featuring, in descending order, ten videogame titles, I myself don’t really participate in this tradition. Instead, I like to muse about the games I didn’t get to play in 2015, as well as list what I consider to be my five favorite games. Yup, five–not ten. I’m truly an outlier.

Chances are a few of these are smaller games or experiences no one else is talking about in big, bold tones, and that’s fine. Take for instance, my five from last year, which highlighted Disney Magical World as the shining star. It’s my list, and these are favorites for a reason, which I’ll go into more later with each game. Also, enjoy some artwork I whipped up for every numbered item.

::insert sound of drumroll here::

::okay, here as well::

::almost there::

::eee::

5. Lost Constellation

gd 2015 top five - lost constellation

Look, technically Lost Constellation came out two days after Christmas in 2014, but I didn’t get around to playing it until February, after a Quick Look from Giant Bomb brought it to my attention. I’m counting it for this year because it has continued to stick with me since then, and I’m bummed that Night in the Woods still hasn’t come out yet. Here’s me going out on a limb and saying that you’ll see that game somewhere in my top five next year, so long as it hits all the same marks as the supplemental demo did.

Anyways, Lost Constellation is a tantalizing appetizer of things yet to come, but stands strongly on its own as a cute, somewhat dark bedtime story perfectly set in the winter. I played it in the winter, but I’m looking forward to going through it again when the summer heat kicks in as it can easily transport you from one season to another. There’s not much replayability to it, other than creating different looking snowmen, but the succinctness of the story–and mesmerizing soundtrack–are worth revisiting. Plus, there’s a rather sardonic cat to converse with, which I’ll never turn down.

4. Time Clickers

gd 2015 top five - time clickers

Here’s the scary thing. I’ve not actually played that much Time Clickers, but Steam says I’ve logged 199 hours on it, and that’s mostly because I enjoy leaving it open while I’m drawing or listening to a podcast. That’s still an insane number of hours, rubbing shoulders with other giants from my past, like Dragon Quest IX and Fallout 3. The difference here though is that those games are more based around actions while Time Clickers is a game of choices. Do I level up this element of my gun or something else? Do I hit the space bar now to use all my power-ups at once or wait until there are only a few cubes left? Do I reset and use Time Cubes to grow stronger, but start over? That last one is easy to answer: no. Never start over. Not when it took around 199 hours to get to the level 500s.

3. Pokémon Shuffle

gd 2015 top five - pokemon shuffle

I always hit a wall in Pokémon Shuffle, and, so far, I always break past it. Might take me a few nights, might take me a week or even a month, and it might take me a number of coins to purchase special power-ups to get the job done. But I persevere. For those that don’t know, it’s a match-three puzzle game where you match cartoon heads of Pokémon to damage the level’s enemy. You get five chances to play before having to wait some silly amount of time to recharge your hearts, but that aspect never bothered me because this was my before-bed experience, burning five hearts. Sometimes making progress, sometimes not–though you are always leveling up your team.

Currently, I’m at level 219 (Spewpa) and plan to keep going. I have no idea how many more levels there are, if there is in fact one for every Pokémon out there. Seems like it keeps getting updated. Pokémon Shuffle is also the third most played game on my Nintendo 3DS according to the stats library, at nearly 65 hours, behind Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Disney Magical World. I expect to be playing this a bunch in 2016, which is the opposite of that other free-to-play Pokémon game that came out this year.

2. Super Mario Maker

gd 2015 top five - super mario maker

As it turns out, I was not able to finish writing about Super Mario Maker before firmly placing this title as my numero two for 2015. The blog post for that is still in the works, so this might seem a little out of nowhere considering I’ve not really talked about it a whole bunch…on Grinding Down.

It’s fantastic, and I’m terrible at half of it. Namely, the half where you construct your own levels. It’s probably the most I’ve ever messed with a create-your-own-level mode other than Super Scribblenauts, and it works just fine, but I think I enjoy playing–and watching others play–Mario levels more than creating them. I constantly check back in to see what new levels will give me cutesy 8-bit costumes, as well as try my hand at a random assortment of levels. Truthfully, I love watching people stream demonically-designed stages and struggle, like with Patrick Klepek and Dan Ryckert’s ongoing feud. There’s a growing community around this game, one I’m finding myself actively participating in.

1. Fallout 4

gd 2015 top five - fallout 4

I finished Fallout 4 the other night out of fear of being spoiled, rushing through the end of the main storyline. If I could go back in time, I’d give a hug at a very specific time in my life, as well as not rush through Fallout 4 like that. It’s not great. In fact, I’d say that it is a better game to play and live in, but not complete. I’ll have some more thoughts on the various lackluster endings at a later date, but despite that, I can’t get enough of this world. It’s open, brimming with items and enemies and places to discover, and while I struggle with a lot of the settlement stuff and house decorating, it’s still something I think about whenever I find a certain item or resource out in the wild. I’m already thinking about other characters to craft and new ways to build up Sanctuary. I’m already planning a run where I’m friends with every faction in the Commonwealth and stop playing main questlines once those are locked in.

As someone who ate up every ounce (or nearly ounce) of Bethesda’s previous open-world games, Fallout 4 did not surprise me or the industry. It’s exactly what you expect it to be. It’s like going home.

There you go.

As many should now know, I did not get to play many newly released games in 2015, and so it was actually slim pickings when it came to my top five for the year. Regardless, I’m happy with them, and wonder what will grip my head and heart next year. Here’s hoping for a few surprises.

Gloom is a macabre morsel of merriment

Gloom Hand

Gloom asks you to laugh in the face of others’ displeasure, perfect for an evening of beer, pretzels, and friends, so long as everyone is in the mood to make much mayhem. Also, alliteration. It’s not a great fit for more serious gamers, thirsty for strategy, but I’ve found the game of inauspicious incidents and grave consequences a strong palette cleanser after energy-draining, often soul-crushingly long sessions of Lords of Waterdeep or Kingmaker.

In Keith Baker’s Gloom card game, which came out in 2005, you assume control over the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. There are four families in the base set, each containing five members: Blackwater Watch, Dark’s Den of Deformity, Hemlock Hall, and Castle Slogar. The goal is easy enough: make your family suffer the greatest tragedies possible, and then kill them off one by one. Modifiers like “Was galled by gangrene” and “Was swindled by salesmen” add negative points to your people by lowering their self-worth, and the player with the lowest total family value after an entire line has been wiped out wins.

Gloom‘s gameplay is rather simplistic, but still requires some planning. Each turn, you get two actions to play modifiers on your family or an opponent’s, event cards, and untimely death cards. Please note you can only kill someone on your first action every turn, preventing you from loading Lord Wellington-Smythe up with a lot of self-worth and then forcing him to kick the bucket. The event cards can really shake things up, but other than them, it’s perfunctory card action, with a few rule changes to pay attention to, all of which are stated directly on the cards themselves.

The real magic behind Gloom is in the stories it births. When you take control of a family, you play the narrator of their lives, coming up with reasons why they went here or there and did this or that. It’s better to play a modifier with passion and reason than simply to give a character negative 15 self-worth. Sure, it takes imagination and effort, but it is worth the storytelling, especially when you begin to link your families with others, like the time I decided that Butterfield, the butler for Hemlock Hall, was actually married to Grogar, Professor Slogar’s work-in-progress teddy bear, after receiving the “Was wondrously well wed” modifier card from another player. Keep the stories alive, and the game, even when it slows down due to card shortages or roadblocks, remains bursting with flavor.

It’s hard to know what I love most about Gloom: the art or design of the cards. Both work hand in hand. All of the cards are transparent, which makes it so easy to see how the modifiers stack on top of a family member. Plus, they’ll survive an accidental soda spilling before all them Munchkin cards. The macabre and gloomy artwork, done by Scott Reeves, Lee Moyer, and Todd Remick, as well as heavy use of alliteration, will make many think of Edward Gorey instantly, but there’s also room for some influence from The Addams Family comics and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Regardless, fans of ominous Victorian horror will delight at the family member depictions, though the majority of the other cards lack personality.

I brought Gloom home-home during the holidays to play with my sisters, but we never got the chance due to all the to-and-for hubbub, charades, and Scrabble bouts. Hopefully we can make up for this over the summer so long as no one is stalked by snakes or sleepy from the sun.