Category Archives: just beat

Burly Men at Sea is an interactive fairy-tale too big for one playthrough

Burly Men at Sea is a pure delight. I mean that from every angle–graphics, sound, gameplay, narrative, the way it holds you close and keeps you warm and ensures that the world is all right and not so scary, even when scary things, scary beings, show up…after all, they might just be misunderstood. I recently acquired a copy via the Day of the Devs 2018 Humble Bundle, along with Full Throttle Remastered, RiME, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Yooka-Laylee, Minit, and Hyper Light Drifter, all of which I desperately want to find time for to play. I started with Burly Men at Sea for two reasons–one, its general aesthetic speaks to me deeply, and two, it seemed the shortest of the bunch to play. I was kinda wrong about that last part.

This is a folktale mashup available on both mobile devices and PC that came out in September 2016. One might call it an interactive novel, but that’s not giving it proper respect. To me, it’s a whimsical stab at visual minimalism, frolicsome writing, and some seriously disturbing sound effects generated by voices only. Burly Men at Sea was made by husband-and-wife team Brain&Brain and is based on early 20th century Scandinavian folklore. The plot goes as thus: three brothers—specifically Brave Beard, Hasty Beard, and Steady Beard, which are all fantastic names—find a map in a bottle and set off for adventure. Naturally, things don’t go exactly as planned, with one disaster leading to another.

In terms of gameplay, interactions are fairly minimal. I played the game entirely on my laptop, using just a mouse. You’ll spend the majority of your time “pulling” the mouse to the right or left to reveal more of the screen, and this will cause the three brothers to walk in that direction. You can also click on things in the background to see them react in fun ways, which reminded me of Windosill. A couple scenarios later involve you clicking and holding on specific areas, but it never gets more complicated than that. The game might actually be better suited for mobile devices, given how you interact with it and how long each playthrough takes, but this is how I experienced it.

So, the really neat thing about Burly Men at Sea is that it kind of never ends. It loops, putting our bearded trio right back where they started. You can go on another adventure, and maybe this time you’ll see some new things or perform different actions. I did a second playthrough immediately and was pleasantly surprised by what I came across, and I’m not going to spoil it for y’all. This game is designed for multiple playthroughs, but it is perhaps better if you take a break between them. Otherwise, you’ll begin to see some of the repetition. The experience itself is calming and cartoony, and the danger never feels like danger, but the tense moments still remain tense as you begin to care for the Beard brothers and think about how to get them out of the various sticky situations.

If Burly Men at Sea were a book, it’d be defined as a real page-turner. No scenario lasts too long, and they flow into each other seamlessly. I found myself constantly smiling at the absurd writing and animations. Speaking of books, each unique playthrough is stored in an in-game library that can be referenced to pre-order a fully-illustrated hardcover version of the adventure. That’s neat, even if it’s not for me. I’ll just stick to repeating this ship-worthy adventure, at least a few more times, to see what I see, to unearth something new along the way. If not for me, then for the Beard brothers. They gotta know.

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Captain B.J. Blazkowicz resolutely takes on the Nazis

I’ve got bad news: I know all the spoilery bits for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus already. That’s just one of the few sacrifices I had to make to listen to Giant Bomb‘s 2017 GOTY deliberations, along with knowing where things ultimately go in NierR:Automata, Yakuza 0, and Persona 5. Oh well. Thankfully, I was able to complete both Night in the Woods and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild just before the year came to a close. But considering that I’m only just now finishing up Wolfenstein: The New Order, here’s hoping I forget many details about the much-talked about sequel…whenever I get to it (my prediction: somewhere in late 2019).

I got Wolfenstein: The New Order, along with the follow-up/prequel Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, The Inner World, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, during Microsoft’s big Black Friday sale in that crazy year called 2017. Anyways, I’m trying to make a more conscious effort to the play the games I buy instead of letting them sit for months unattended, and so I recently loaded up Wolfenstein: The New Order, kept it on the default difficulty setting, and quickly got about putting Nazis in their place. It’s good fun, if surprisingly straightforward, both in terms of gameplay and plot.

I’ll do my best to provide a plot summary. Some three years after the destruction of the Black Sun portal, the Nazis deployed advanced technologies, which enabled them to turn the tide against the Allies. On July 16, 1946, at dawn, U.S. special forces operative Captain William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, accompanied by pilot Fergus Reid and Private Probst Wyatt III, took part in a massive Allied air raid against a fortress and weapons laboratory run by General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse. Unfortunately, the three of them were captured and brought to a human experimentation laboratory where Deathshead forced Blazkowicz to choose one of his companions to die–either Fergus or Wyatt. Afterwards, Blazkowicz escapes the laboratory, but suffers a critical head injury, rendering him unconscious and putting him in a coma for 14 years. He comes back to life in a psychiatric asylum in Poland, now determined more than ever to find his friends and blast apart some Nazi faces. Phew.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a first-person shooter that, at many times, asks to you to do things stealthily. There’s also cover-based shooting and entire sequences where you are exploring an area or solving some simple puzzles. I came at this as I do all first-person things–cautiously. Unfortunately, when the chaos kicks in and you are discovered, the best thing to do is keep moving and don’t stop firing. The game is pretty generous with armor, health, and ammo pick-ups, so, honestly, go nuts. However, when I got to Chapter 12: Gibraltar Bridge, I hit a serious snag, finding the difficulty–even on the normal setting–to be a bit much to overcome. I’m not alone in this. You are basically climbing up a broken bridge, at a serious disadvantage, with numerous enemies high above you and out of sight. After about ten or so attempts, I gave up and dropped the difficulty down to “Can I play, Daddy?”, which at first bothered me, but then I had a good time mowing down everyone in B.J.’s way without even giving a second thought to taking cover or needing more health.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Wolfenstein: The New Order is its perk system. Instead of collecting XP and leveling up your B.J.–keep it clean, kids–to spend skill points on perks, you earn upgrades by doing specific tasks. Kind of like in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where if you want to raise your blocking stats with a shield, start blocking with a shield more. These minor upgrades enhance Blazkowicz’s combat aptitude by increasing his maximum health, ammo count, and damage taken, which is all well and good, but you are playing on the easiest of difficulty levels this doesn’t matter much. Still, going after them is enjoyable, and I really had a good time sprint-sliding and killing Nazis to ultimately strengthen my skills at…well, killing Nazis. Also, you can totally take advantage of key checkpoints in certain levels to grind out some of the trickier perks, which I totally did.

So yeah, that’s Wolfenstein: The New Order. I’m currently playing clean-up on some of its collectibles and Achievements (none of them related to difficulty settings though), but I suspect after that I’ll move on to Wolfenstein: The Old Blood…soonish. Eh, maybe. I also need to finish Prey, and then I’d love to get into Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Eep, too many games.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #130 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Traverse through Hyrule
Destroy Ganon at own pace
Pleasing sound effects

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, #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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #42 – Paisley Princess

Search 5 by 5 grid
For princess, if she wants help
Grind out equipment

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.

Final Fantasy IX: the sweetest joy and the wildest woe

finanl fantasy 9 last thoughts roundup gd post

Well, here we are. It’s autumn 2016 and raining leaves everywhere, and I’ve now seen Final Fantasy IX to its conclusion. Well, in reality, that was a couple months back when it wasn’t as chilly in the morning and all shades of red, orange, and yellow because I’m slow to write these days.

I think it is officially the…third game in the ironically long-lasting series to get crossed off for the history books. The two others include Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy XII. I have also watched–Maker, forgive me–Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within more than once, so perhaps that should count for something. Or maybe I need to really consider never mentioning that publicly ever again. Anyways, this has been a long-time coming, and if any of you reading this blog o’ mine are frequent visitors then you’ll know I’ve been…hmm, actively doesn’t really seem right to use…futilely trying to beat this game since about 2013. Or, if you consider when I actually got my PlayStation 1 copy, then more like the year 2000.

Final Fantasy IX is an RPG that has always managed to grip me with its first several hours of action and adventure and story-telling, and then lose me by the end of the second of four discs. I will continue to stick my flag in the ground and say that this epic adventure is too epic, and that the story should have concluded once Garnet was back in Alexandria, her mother, Queen Brahne, no longer a viable threat. Sure, sure, the whole Kuja side-plot would need some rewriting to make that work, but just have the two go down together and bring on the parades of peace and happiness and Vivi not feeling terrible about his existence. Everything that happens on discs three and four is insane, and I don’t mean crazy in a good. I mean characterized or caused by madness. Honestly, I tried to follow along in earnest, but once we got to the point where we learn that Zidane and Kuja are actually Genomes, sentient soulless beings constructed by Garland for the purpose of acting as hosts for Terran souls when two parallel universes merged…well, I gave up caring. There’s a really good chance I even got some of those details wrong, and I was using an online source.

Here’s the thing. Without its cast, Final Fantasy IX is just another adventure to save the world from destruction. From a single-minded villain. I’ll go out on a limb and say its three most pivotal characters are Zidane, Dagger, and Vivi. Steiner is one note, and that note is amusing and never sways too high or low, but not enough to be top tier. Despite not caring what was happening in the overall plot in the second half of this fever dream, I did care greatly about what was happening to each and with each of these characters, as well as many of the side, almost one-offs, such as Cid and Beatrice. The characters are quirky and troubled, all trying to better themselves or find their place in the world–something I can connect with. Also, those Active Time Events I loved so much? Yeah, they are nearly non-existent in the last two discs, which was a big bummer, as it is in those side snippets that you learn the most about the cast.

As it turns out, despite the number of hours I put into Final Fantasy IX, there are complete sections and quests that I didn’t even dip my toes into, for various reasons. Such as Chocobo Hot & Cold, a mini-game that is so lengthy and involved that it might as well be its own standalone title. Related to this is feeding Kupo Nuts to a Moogle couple and watching their family grow. Now, I did keep up with delivering mail for Mognet, but was unsuccessful in seeing it all the way through; evidently, you can eventually visit the headquarters and save the post office from fading into memory. Dang, that sounds pretty good. I also didn’t fight any of the Treno weapon shop monsters or participate in many games of Tetra Master, content to simply collect the cards, though I’d estimate I didn’t even hit 50% of them by the time credits rolled. There’s even more things I didn’t do, as my focus from disc three forward was on strengthening my team–always Zidane, Vivi, Steiner, and Dagger–and synthesizing good weapons and armor in their fight against Kuja’s evil minions.

Whew. Unsurprisingly, I suspect I have a lot more to say about Final Fantasy IX, but I’d rather wait for those thoughts and revelations to emerge naturally and not force them out through my fingertips. It’s a big game. There’s a lot going on here, and I’m not just talking about mechanics and boss fights and grinding. Vivi’s “who/what am I?” story is handled with such coldness and confusion, and it gets me every time. I still love how perfect the “Dagger Tries” ATE is in Dali. That said, every love connection felt really forced, and that ending cinematic and triumphant reveal was a little too drawn out for my liking. Again, like when I went back to play Primal, I’ve discovered that there’s both good and bad to examine here; real quick, I’m not at all saying that Final Fantasy IX is anything like Primal. In fact, it’s far superior, but both of those games are ones that I played the opening hours over and over again, building them up in my brain and assuming that’s how the entire game went. Nope, nope.

I’m most certainly not ready to commit to another entry in the series at this point. In fact, the only other one I have in my grasp that hasn’t seen its credits roll is Final Fantasy VIII, and I’m missing one of the middle discs because I was young and dumb once and loaned it to a “friend” who ended up moving away with it, which really puts a nail in that quest’s coffin. I would certainly love to dive deeper and play one of the older titles; that NES Classic Edition coming out this holiday season comes packed with the original Final Fantasy, as well as 29 other retro titles. Hmm. Also, perhaps one day, far, far down the road of life, I’ll give Final Fantasy IX another swing since it is now available on Steam and has a tempting list of Achievements to pop.

Until then, I’ll just cast “Sleep” on myself and crawl under a tent as a Moogle softly sings me to safety, to slumber.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #67 – Mr. Mothball

2016-gd-games-completed-mr-mothman-capture

You, Mr. Mothball
Jump, collect the blue trinkets
Sorry, don’t know why

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.