Category Archives: impressions

Your broken spaceship’s parts are Out There (Somewhere)

out there somewhere gd early impressions

Well, the Steam Summer Sale kicked off the other day, and so far, I’ve produced a haiku about it, as well as bought a bundle of four games for $0.74. I’d also like to note that the money used to purchase this bundle was generated from selling digital trading cards on the Steam marketplace, so this is a big win–in my mind–from multiple angles. The Developer Alliance bundle, which was marked down to 95% off, contained the following, all of which seemed interesting and were not already in my library at the time of purchase: Polarity, Beep, Camera Obscura, and Out There (Somewhere). Today, I’ll be waxing on and off about the last listed title there, but I do expect to try out the other three sooner than later.

Out There (Somewhere), a name that feels like it should be attached to a long-lost Asimov short story, is an action-based puzzle platformer clearly inspired by adventures like Cave Story, Super Metroid, and Portal. See, you play an explorer named Yuri stranded on a dangerous alien planet after your spaceship is damaged. Low on fuel and in desperate need of key spaceship parts, your only hope for escape is to explore and see what this planet holds. Thankfully, you have a teleportation gun, though its use is limited based on your environment. I’ll explain.

In this platformer, you can jump, as well as shoot your teleportation gun, which fires a ball of blue light. Technically, that’s you. Once that blue light hits a surface, you’ll be instantly transported there. Of course, there are some exceptions, as different colored beams of light will get in your way: red cancels your shot, blue will teleport you like any other surface, and green takes you for a ride first. This is where a lot of the puzzles come into play, figuring out how to get from one place to another using your gun. Often, you’ll have to factor in momentum too when landing a teleporting shot. Fairly early on you’ll acquire a more weapony gun, a real pea-shooter, which will help you take out enemies like bats and monster slime thingies; alas, having two different guns confused me at first, and I ended up firing the wrong one at the right time far too many times.

Evidently, I’m a sucker for games where every screen you traverse gets a name. I loved this in VVVVVV and You Have to Win the Game, and I like it here as well, though the screen names, so far, are not highly titillating (for example, Basement). The story is fairly thin, but enough to go on. As you explore, you’ll come across NPCs in the form of alien treefolk; they don’t say much, but there’s an Achievement for speaking to every one of them, and so I’ll do it. However, Out There (Somewhere) is more about the action and nifty mechanics, and the difficulty curve is surprisingly tough–but rewarding.

Part of me is bummed to learn that Out There (Somewhere) was released back in 2012. That means I’ve been missing out on this good, wholesome, teleport-your-body fun for three years. There once was a time when only a handful of games came out, and you could keep track of them all; now, not so much. Well, I’m glad then that this Developer Alliance bundle for the Steam Summer Sale caught my eye, and I’m looking forward to checking out the other titles, but only after I finish Yuri’s mission. For the meantime, I have to get back to work, and by that I mean collecting those vital spaceship parts with style.

Alfie Banks and his great opportunity in A Golden Wake

gd impressions a golden wake pca

More so than movies or books, videogames transport us to other worlds and let us interact–with things, whether they are people, plants, or places. Oftentimes, these worlds are fictional or, in the case when they are not, the narrative surrounding it or the era are created whole cloth. I’m struggling to think of a game built around something so real and true, an experience where you just recreate the past as it happened. No, the Assassin’s Creed series definitely does not count. Now, A Golden Wake doesn’t do this per se, but many of the people in it are pieces of history, as is the land boom in Florida and the illegal happenings around Prohibition. I mean, you simply can’t make up a thing like the Roaring Twenties.

You take control of Alfie Banks, a realtor for Morris & Banks in New York. Unfortunately, his realtor days are up because his coworkers concoct a cunning plot to frame him, which subsequently results in his ejection from the company. With not much to go on, Banks purchases a newspaper–with his last dime, mind you–and reads an article about the land boom in Florida. For him, a fresh start is simply a long train ride away. And off he goes, to meet an array of new characters and find his place in the big ol’ world.

A Golden Wake dives deep into its setting. You can see this from the reworked Wadjet Eye logo when the game loads up to the playful menu text when you quit back to the desktop. Despite being a work of speculative fiction, Grundislav Games makes a massive effort to be historically accurate, including notable figures from the era, such as real estate developer George Merrick and mobster Fatty Walsh. period dialogue, and a retro, ragtime soundtrack that is still stuck in my head as of this writing. This high attention to detail really helps bring the old-school and, to be honest, somewhat crude graphics to life. To put it bluntly, there were a few screens, such as the boat dock and a few one-off locations, like the golf course, that felt unfinished. Or rather, uninteresting and distant, and existing only for Alfie to click on something and go to an additional screen, where things were much more refined.

Here’s a bummer: Alfie Banks is not very likeable. The game likes to build up his so-called charm and way with words, but I found him grating, whiney, and selfish from the very first scene. There’s nothing you can do about this. It is how he is written, and when the time comes for him to make a major decision, you just sit back and watch, helping to put the pieces together afterwards. The problem is that we never get a whole lot of backstory on the man, not even when his brother shows up for a chat. Which makes a lot of his journey and grumbling as an errand boy feel a bit empty. He certainly has an impact, but ultimately feels quite unnecessary in the long run. A shame, as I did enjoy many other characters, such as Marjory Stoneman Douglas, voiced by none other than Rebecca Whittaker. Another problem is that because Alfie is constantly jumping ship, you never get to hang around with the same side characters for too long.

In stark contrast to the previous point-and-click adventure game I played, A Golden Wake‘s puzzles across Alfie Banks’ sojourn for a better life are shockingly simple. Your inventory never becomes too full, and every solution stems from a logical conclusion. Need an antenna for a toy tramcar? Use that antenna you broke off that radio earlier. There are a few spots where the “action” switches from standard pointing and clicking, with you finding “hidden objects” in a picture to condemn a house or steering a car to help Mabel Cody hop on her flying stunt plane. These certainly do break up the action, but are far from enjoyable. In the end, I only had to look up the solution to an obtuse bookcase secret passage puzzle (hint: how would a V.I.P. enter?), figuring everything out on my own. There’s also a questioning minigame–think L.A. Noire, but toned way down–where you can use Alfie’s charm and wits to unearth answers or cheat by clicking the Seller’s Intuition button; I never felt like I was doing it right, though the story just continues on regardless of the outcomes.

A few years ago, I replayed Blackwell Deception with the developer’s commentary on, and it was just as enjoyable as the first time through. I’m not ready to go back into A Golden Wake–aw, horsefeathers!–but when I do, I suspect I’ll partake of this option, as well as go for some of the trickier Achievements. There’s no difficulty setting for the puzzles, but it’ll be interesting to hear some thoughts about what went into them or why this location was used this way or that. A Golden Wake dreams big, and while it is not successfully in every corner, it is still a pretty good adventure that fans of traditional pointing and clicking can eat up, all while drowning in that deliciously sweet jitterbugging soundtrack.

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.