Category Archives: impressions

Cthulhu Saves the World with an old-school parody RPG

Cthulhu saves the world screen gd impressions

A copy of Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII: The Beginning have sat untouched, uninstalled in a folder on my laptop’s desktop, for a good long while now. I mean, the former came out in July 2011, and I guess I ended up getting a copy of it through some bundle promotion that I can no longer recall, but all I did was download it, not ever sure when it would be a good time to kickstart an old-school RPG adventure. Turns out, any time is good, and so I’ve been tinkering away at this pixelated 2D journey through labyrinthine dungeons brimming with treasure chests, a limited number of random encounters, and the moodiest soundtrack, with hard swings from cult-like chamber songs to a peppy, relaxing tune when exploring a village.

Now, technically, the game’s name on the title screen is as follows: Cthulhu Saves the World: Super Hyper Enhanced Championship Edition Alpha Diamond DX Plus Alpha FES HD – Premium Enhanced Game of the Year Collector’s Edition (without Avatars!). Oh boy. Quite a mouthful. We’ll just stick with the abbreviated title to save precious space, plus I have no idea how one even goes about abbreviating such a thing.

So, what’s the deal in Cthulhu Saves the World? Why would the lord of insanity want to save the world? Well, truthfully, Cthulhu was all set to plunge the world into madness and destruction, but his powers were suddenly sealed away by a mysterious sorcerer. Alas, the only way for Cthulhu to break the curse is to become…a true hero. Sometimes to save something, you have to destroy it at the same time. Everyone loves a good anti-hero in these days of Breaking Bad‘s Walter White and just about everyone from Game of Thrones.

I’d like to tell you that, as a writer, I’ve long delved into the works and demented mindset of H.P. Lovecraft, but the truth is, I really only became aware of the material due to the Munchkin Cthulhu card game from Steve Jackson Games many years ago. Still, I understand it on a surface level, and the game here seems to only demand you understand that Cthulhu is a monster forced to take on a heroic quest. At least so far. I haven’t really come across other cosmic entities yet.

Cthulhu Saves the World is a throwback to traditional 16-bit RPGs of yesterday, like Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy. You wander around towns full of houses and shops, buy potions, armor, and new weapons, and then traverse across an overworld to your next destination. That said, the battle system is a bit more unique here than your standard turn-based form, and this is what makes both playing the game and grinding for higher levels enjoyable. To start, enemies become 10% stronger for every turn they live through, feeding off of Cthulhu’s madness. This means you want to kill them as quickly as possible, as you’ll also regain more magic points the sooner the battle ends.

Here’s one of my favorite elements of Cthulhu Saves the World: random encounters are limited. When you arrive at a new zone, you can pop over to your status menu and see how many random encounters you will have to endure before they just stop popping up altogether. Praise the Great Old One! This means you can only grind for so long, though you can also start a battle if you want via a menu command. It’s both a nice and strange feeling to wipe an area clear of random fights, which makes going back for missed treasure chests less of a pain. When you level up, you have the option to pick between multiple spells or upgrades, and I’m focusing so far on Cthulhu doing big damage and Umi handling healing and attacking all enemies at once with her Flood spell.

I’m not terribly far into Cthulhu Saves the World, somewhere in Chapter 2, with both characters in my party–Cthulhu and Umi–at level 10. Like I mentioned at the top of this post, it’s a game I’ve been tinkering with over the last few months, playing it in short spouts, but always making progress. Its humor and engaging turn-based battles make it a joy to play, and, as always with old-school RPGs, I’m eager to see the next town and purchase better gear. That’s how you know you are getting somewhere, when a shop has more expensive items.

Shutting this Nintendo Club down with freebies

club nintendo post gd end of april

A little while back, Nintendo emailed me. Chances are, if you are a member of Club Nintendo, you also got a similar email, though we might differ on one main point–status. Anyways, they wanted to inform me that I had earned a Gold status in their unblinking, Mario-esque eyes, which meant I was entitled to a free game, a digital download at zero cost, and I had a list to pick from for either the Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Wii U. Those that got Platinum status had a larger pool to pick from, and I made a mental note to come back and get my not-yet-selected freebie. Fast-forward to yesterday, the deadline for this promotion, and I scanned the list and picked…well, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the Wii U.

Hold your horses, you say. Ah, I say back. You must be one of my highly attentive readers, for you are properly confused as to why I’d buy a digital game only available for the Wii U when I do not have a Wii U. Let me spoil it for you: I have a Wii U, and I’ve had a Wii U for many, many months. Since last fall, actually. I’ve just not found much to say about the system, which, in its own little way, maybe says more than I ever could. I’m not sure how well playing a two-screen game like Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Wii U works–yes, I am not disregarding the fact that the console also has two screen, but they are somewhat separated–but I’m interested in learning.

Since I was already logged in to Club Nintendo’s site, I did a little more browsing and discovered I had 650 Coins sitting pretty up in the top corner. Suddenly, I remembered–there was something I wanted to use those on! Specifically, the Animal Crossing: New Leaf-themed deck of playing cards. Alas, they were no longer available, which is what I get for not hopping to it. Boo. None of the other physical items called out to me so I spent my well-earned reward coins on two more digital downloads for the Wii U: EarthBound and NES Remix. The former is a classic RPG that I’ve long wanted to play, just not through an illegal emulator, and the latter is a bunch of quick, quirky challenges in NES titles of yesteryear.

I’ve not actually loaded up either EarthBound or Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga yet, as RPGs like that require a time commitment, which I’m not ready to give, mostly because all my RPGing at the moment is going into Final Fantasy IX. I’ll get to them soon, perhaps over the summer. That said, I did load up NES Remix last night and found myself seriously absorbed, unable to stop until I had completed all of the levels for Excitebike and one-third of the ones for the original Super Mario Bros. It’s a lot of fun, but I’ll save further thoughts for its own dedicated blog post.

All that said, I am left with 100 coins in my Club Nintendo profile, which can be spent on…next to nothing. I can purchase one item for 80 Coins, which is called Grill-Off with Ultra Hand! Hmm. It’s a fast-paced game of skill and timing, where the player must barbecue all kinds of meats on the grill. In one way, it sounds amazing, and in another, it sounds like a gimmick that would quickly get old. Alas, I don’t think you can earn any more coins for your profile, so it is either this or let my coins vanish in the end. I’m not really tormented over this decision. Club Nintendo is shutting down at the end of June, so I have plenty of time to weigh my options.

If you too were brandished with either Gold or Platinum status, what freebie did you pick? Also, if you have those Animal Crossing: New Leaf-themed playing cards, I’ll trade you a free copy of Grill-Off with Ultra Hand! for it. That’s a pretty good deal, and you know it.

Prototype 2’s James Heller is on a quest to destroy the Blacklight virus

prototype2pax6

The last big action-adventure open world videogame starring a brooding soul with super powers I took a deep leap into was inFAMOUS 2, which featured a troubled young man gifted with special powers, a city under attack and turmoil, and plenty of tall structures to climb and jump off of cinematically. Well, I’ve had the itch for more of the same lately, as I’m still working on Final Fantasy IX and am totally not emotionally ready for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and so, after scanning my long list of PlayStation Plus freebies, I discovered Prototype 2. Now, when I said I wanted “more of the same” in relation to inFAMOUS 2, I didn’t mean it literally. It’s fun, but something still seems off.

Let’s get this out of the way. I never played the original Prototype, much how I never played the original inFAMOUS. Thankfully, you don’t really need to have in order to have a good time here. Plus, there’s an option from the main menu for a summary of the previous game’s events. Of which, I’ve forgotten everything. Something something virus something something Mercer something something consume people for power. Yeah, got it.

Anyways, two years after the events of the original game, U.S. Marine Sergeant James Heller is struggling. His wife and daughter are dead, due to the Blacklight virus, which kickstarts him rejoining the military to fight against it. During one mission, he bumps into Alex Mercer and, believing this is the man at fault for his deceased family, chases him down. Unfortunately, Mercer infects Heller with a strain of the virus that gives him superhuman abilities. After dropping some predictable exposition about the nefarious plans of Gentek and Blackwatch, Mercer offers Heller a truce in order to take them down.

If Prototype 2 has anything going for it, it is this: running up the sides of buildings. I could do this for hours and accomplish nothing, but the feeling of bursting to the tippy-top of some tall skyscraper is immensely satisfying, especially since you can then leap off of it and immediately glide towards another erected structure. I actually ended up bouncing back to Assassin’s Creed II after playing this a bit, needing to collect the remainder of Subject 16’s glyphs, and the slowness that is meticulously clamoring up an old-timey building in Rome physically hurt my soul. Oh, and Prototype 2 also has an in-game GPS notifier when near some kind of collectible, which I appreciate. So there, two things I am really digging.

Playing on the “Normal” difficulty, I’m finding Prototype 2 to be shockingly easy. Maybe I should bump it up a bit, but I’m not actually looking for a challenge here, now remembering how frustrating some parts of inFAMOUS 2 got with those enemies that shot up high on pillars of ice. I think I’ve died only once due to some lousy dodging on my part, but otherwise Heller can take down an entire base of enemies without seeing a drop in health. It’s ultra violent, mindless, and laid-back, which is a strange combination, but fitting nonetheless. The stealth mechanics, thanks to being able to transform into people you’ve consumed, are very forgiving, which results in a good amount of experimenting, all of which is nine times out of ten successful. Personally, I love transforming into a scientist, leaping off a building into a military-controlled zone, and then releasing monsters from cages to do my dirty work–all without raising an alert.

Based on the Trophies list, I feel like I’m about two-thirds of the way through Prototype 2, almost done with the second island zone of New York Zero, with plenty still to destroy, collect, and upgrade. I hope to finish this up soon though and get back to some other games that require a bit more focus and effort.

Pokémon Shuffle’s Mega Glalie is bad game design

Pokemon Shuffle Mega Glalie is the worst

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was stuck on Pokémon Shuffle‘s level 120 against Mega Glalie, and that everything was fine because, no matter what, my pocket monsters were continuing to gain XP and grow stronger and, without a doubt, I’d eventually have a team powerful enough to conquer the annoying, Generation III ice-type levitating face and move on to level 121. Astoundingly, that hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve been, more or less, using all five of my hearts against the bloody ripper every night before bed. I’m sorry to say, but this is some really bad game design, and I can’t recall the last time I hit such a visible wall in a game.

I’m not the only one struggling. If you type both “Mega Glalie” and Pokémon Shuffle into Google, you’ll quickly get returns for posts about people unable to beat the beast, people beating it using every item and Jewel they had and only then crawling past the finish line, and people puffing their chests out like mighty lions, claiming to have defeated Mega Glalie easily, using no items at all. Uh huh. Here’s a handful of confetti. If you are to use items, which are, let me remind y’all, quite costly, many are suggesting Complexity -1s, Mega Starts, and Disruption Delays.

For me, there’s certainly a stubborn drive behind my desire to beat Mega Glalie without any items, and this is not at all to prove I am a big macho man and super skilled at matching severed Pokémon heads. I conquered all 119 Pokémon levels before Mega Glalie without using any items. Perseverance, patience, and picking the right team was all it took, and so it bugs me deeply that the same strategy simply cannot be employed here. The problem is that, within four or five turns, Mega Glalie begins freezing entire columns, two at a time, often locking you out of sweet–and powerful–combo chains, forcing you to chip away at its health until the board resets or you run out of moves. Even with a team of level 6 Pokémon, the farthest I’ve dropped Mega Glalie’s health is down to about 25%.

This level is designed for you to spend money on (either in-game currency, which takes a good while to stock, or through extra turns via Jewels bought by real-life money), unless you hit the biggest luck streak of the century. Truthfully, I was enjoying Pokémon Shuffle, which just celebrated some 2.5 million+ downloads, when it kept progressing, even if just little by little. Play a few matches every night, unlock more to play the next night. Heck, Nintendo is even adding in more levels to the base set, upping the count to 180. That’s sixty more for me to get through…or potentially never see.

I may have to try an item against Mega Glalie. Call it desperation, call it despair, call it giving in–I don’t care. I have a free copy of Disruption Delay in my inventory, acquired from…uh, doing something cool, so maybe I’ll give that a go tonight. However, if the match goes just as poorly as all previous attempts, I will forever be bitter against using items and will refrain from ever experimenting again, deleting this free-to-play Pokémon game and focusing instead on that other free-to-play Pokémon game. That one, so far, hasn’t raised any walls yet to impede my journey.

If you have any good tips on taking down Mega Glalie, please do share. If you beat this level with your eyes closed and one hand behind your back, kudos for you.

Pokémon Rumble World’s toys are free to play with

pokemon rumble world 3DS2-620x

Another month, another free-to-play Pokémon adventure to experience on the Nintendo 3DS. I mostly wrote that leading sentence as those words don’t come together too often and maybe never will again. Yes, it was only two months ago in February that I was scribbling away about Pokémon Shuffle, Nintendo’s stab at the free-to-play match-three genre. Now we’re here in April, the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with a new free-to-play, pocket monster-starring, potential money-maker called Pokémon Rumble World.

Let me do some quick historical research. Evidently, Pokémon Rumble World is the fourth game in the Pokémon Rumble spin-off series, of which I’ve played none of them. In this one, you control your Mii as he or she helps a king with low self-esteem collect various Pokémon to one-up a local magician who has way more colorful critters than him. That’s the general set-up, and its school playground-esque plot is paper-thin, but acceptable. It’s not like the traditional Pokémon games have mind-blowing narratives. The whole point, as always, is to collect a bunch of Pokémon (719 in total) and aim for being a completionist, though you can also earn money to buy new clothes for your Mii. I already got mine a green hoodie, so I might be good for a while.

And here’s how you go about collecting all them toy versions of Pokémon: use a special hot air balloon to travel to themed locations brimming with pocket monsters. New special hot air balloons cost Diamonds, which are this free-to-play’s second currency, but are time-based to use after that initial purchase, meaning you can continue revisiting locations so long as you don’t mind waiting a bit in-between. When you select a specific area, a roulette of several stages spins around, with each stage hosting different–and sometimes rare, indicated by a star–Pokémon. As you collect more, your adventure rank increases and new Pokémon begin to appear in the wild, inspiring revisits.

Once you are in a stage, you take your wind-up toy version of whatever strongest Pokémon in your collection is and destroy everything in your path. You can do two different types of attacks, all of which vary depending on your Pokémon of choice. Personally, I really like using Chespin at the moment. Sometimes the defeated enemies turn into coins, and other times they are knocked down, ready for collecting; to do that, simply run over them. Strangely, simply moving your selected Pokémon warrior near enemies or barrels causes it to auto-attack, which I did not like. If you’ve StreetPassed with anyone, they will appear in the stage, under duress, and if you save them they will reward you with boosts or even a Diamond; in fact, I saved fellow videogaming blogger Matt Mason the other night from a wild gang of Treecko–you’re welcome. After a few levels, you fight a boss Pokémon and then return to town, replenish your wares, and head back out for more. As your rank goes up, the king will have side quests for you too.

By far, my favorite thing about Pokémon Rumble World is that it plays, more or less, with no restrictions. Sure, you have to wait for your hot air balloon to recharge to use again, but I discovered you can just visit a different location via some other hot air balloon while waiting, which leads to never really waiting. In Pokémon Shuffle, once a day, I played my five turns and moved on, but here one can keep playing, exploring, or organizing their growing list of collected toys for as long as their battery life lets them.I do worry, however, that there could be a bit too much menu-ing in this, especially once you have collected a large amount of Pokémon, many of which are seemingly duplicates, but do differ in terms of stats and attacks.

Having passed up on the remakes Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire last year for reasons, Pokémon Rumble World is turning out to be a good replacement for my “catch ’em all” itch, and the free-to-play elements are beyond easy to ignore, which makes this all the more successful. Wind me up, my Mii–I’m ready for more, as well as on the hunt for a Garbodor.

 

Help Jason defeat the corruption in IAMJASON

iamjason gd final impressions

It’s not hard to see that I appreciate just about any game with a low res retro style to it. It makes my imagination work ten times as hard. Some recent notable examples include A Place in Space, Bernband, and A House in California, but we can dig deeper and see that I’ve been into this style since the heydays of the text-based murder mystery Sleuth on the family computer. To be fair, that game’s retro look was due to it actually being a retro game and using ASCII characters as graphics, released in 1983 by Eric N. Miller of Norland Software. Anyways, IAMJASON is another great runner to carry the “less is more” torch for indie games, delivering a somber, unsettling story through traditional mechanics and a visual style that has you determining for yourself what you are seeing.

IAMJASON is a point-and-click adventure game set in a dystopian other-realm where the colors pink, purple, and orange reign. The long and short of the game’s plot is that you must help Jason defeat the corruption, and to say anything else would ruin a lot of the discovery. The game was developed by Calico Reverie for the Monthly Adventure Game Studio (MAGS) competition in February 2015, which is a 30-day game dev challenge. I believe the theme for that month’s challenge was “losing something,” and IAMJASON is successfully all about that, whether it is in the form of family or memory or even meaning.

Mechanics are what you expect for the genre. You have an inventory to collect items into, as well as four commands–go, use, take, and look. Interestingly, the text you get from looking at items or trying to combine this with that is presented largely at the top of the screen in single word blips, as if the protagonist is really thinking about every word. You could almost imagine a “DOES. NOT. COMPUTE.” joke to pop up during some puzzle error, but the game never breaks from its seriousness. This goes the same for IAMJASON‘s soundtrack, which is low, peppered with muted bleeps and bloops, as well as the occasional burst of static acting as a drum beat. It works magically to create an atmosphere of dismay and disinterest, of broken beings continuing to just go through the motions. Many of the puzzles are logical even if you are dealing with fairly illogical concepts and items, such as daemon robots, passcode mechanisms, and power cores.

Unfortunately, I ran into a nasty, game-stopping bug in IAMJASON. Basically, I solved a part of a puzzle’s process earlier than expected, immobilizing a daemon robot to allow me to get a key item, but in doing so this locked the door to the room said robot is now trapped in. To complete the game, I needed to extract something from the wonky robot, but the door refused to open for me. I had to watch the remaining five or so minutes of gameplay on YouTube, which, while not the worst outcome, was still a little disappointing.

Other than that, I heartily recommend you give IAMJASON a go. It’s about thirty minutes of gameplay in total–so long as you act accordingly–and hopefully that previously mentioned bug is fixed or will soon be. Regardless, this is a strange and fascinating world worth ridding of corruption, even if it means losing everything.

The rest is up to me, Assassin’s Creed II

gd assassins creed 2 final thoughts

It’s a little weird to be completing Assassin’s Creed II in 2015 when there are now a bajillion more entries in the series, some of which are universally praised and others, such as Assassin’s Creed III, are pretty much loathed. My storied history for this series created by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs has been playing Assassin’s Creed, then skipping right to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and now finally go back to see Assassin’s Creed II‘s lengthy credits roll. I’ve been dabbling at the game piecemeal over the last few months, but was driven to see it off my “still playing” list since getting wind of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag being a freebie for Xbox 360 users at the end of this month. Frustratingly, that means I’ll be skipping two more games in the “as released by Ubisoft” timeline, but neither of them sound highly recommended.

Anyways, Assassin’s Creed II–it’s pretty good. It’s definitely better than the original Assassin’s Creed game, though I fuzzily remember very little from that original outing save for frustrating climbing, annoying collectibles, and repetitive missions. Hey, wait. Some of that junk is still here in this one. Hmm, I guess it is the other elements that make the game stand a few rooftops higher, such as more nuanced and engaging combat, better climbing mechanics, and building up your home base with shops, paintings, and loot to earn some sweet coin. Plus, the locations you visit are more interesting to explore, and stabbing dudes from on a horse is never boring though I still prefer smoke bombing and making a hasty exit.

I won’t really go into too much story stuff, as the story in the Assassin’s Creed series–both in and outside the Animus–has never really interested me. I’m more into the exploring and climbing of buildings and running from rooftop to rooftop, with the occasional cool-looking assassination. Naturally, I did all the tombs as fast as I could, as the platforming puzzles, while frustrating and unclear in spots, are really the most enjoyable aspect to me. I will always hate tailing missions and chase missions, which thankfully only made up a small portion of the game. I prefer going from point A to point B and stabbing a dude in the neck, and I’m sorry if that concerns you. At least now I understand why it felt like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood picked up immediately after the conclusion of the previous game–that’s because it did.

Alas, come the end, I only found…42 of 100 feathers. I will not be going back to find the remainder of the flags. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood spoiled me with its ability to purchase maps of flag locations–though I still never went out and grabbed them all–but here you have only your ears and eyes to guide you on your collecting path. They tinkle and sparkle, but that’s not enough. No thanks. That means I will also miss out on the Auditore cape, which is unlocked for finding all the feathers. One last task for me to handle before deleting the game from my Xbox 360’s hard-drive is finding the remainder of the hidden symbols on select buildings, and I suspect I might grab a feather or two along the way, but not enough to finish the side quest.

Lastly, I do enjoy end credits sequences where you, the player, are still involved in some way. One standout favorite is shooting asteroids with developers’ faces and names on them in Vanquish to add to your final score tally. While not as cool as that, the end credits sequence in Assassin’s Creed II has you running around as Desmond outside the Animus as he and others try to escape the modern-day Templars. It’s more of the same from the main gameplay, but it is fun to see the names of the game’s creators scroll by as you punch, counter, and run from danger.

Well, I’ll be back to my assassinating ways very soon once Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag becomes free for Gold users at the end of April. Until then, the rest is up to me.