Category Archives: just beat

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, #55 – Karambola

2016-gd-games-completed-karambola

Evil bird-thoughts here
Fruit people greatly distressed
Silly conundrums

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.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #54 – Crimson Shroud

2016-gd-games-completed-crimson-shroud-3ds

Grind for better gear
In this cramped, crowded dungeon
Table-top tribute

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.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #42 – Spyro the Dragon

2016 gd games completed spyro the dragon ps1

The smallest dragon
Soars, scorches, charges, saves realm
The biggest impact

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.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #37 – Saints Row IV

2015 gd games completed saints row iv

Earth is gone, POTUS
Out for revenge on Zinyak
Superpowers help

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.

The Fabulous Screech will make you click and feel emotions

gd the fabulous screech final impressions

The Sea Will Claim Everything is a game I think about now and then, a game which I haven’t really touched in about four years. That said, I think about it like this: starting over, falling into it once more, eyes wide and absorbing, my brain ready for an overload of story and characters and rich lore. The amount of detail that Jonas Kyratzes imagined up for this world, these Lands of Dream, staggers me still, as does the inviting, storybook artwork by Verena Kyratzes. Together, these two create portals, doors that open and close, but take you far away from where you started. I don’t know if I’m ready yet to give The Sea Will Claim Everything another go–I believe I walked away from it feeling somewhat overwhelmed–but I continue to build up brain space for when that day comes.

In the meantime, there’s The Fabulous Screech, which is a smaller, more contained bit of whimsical fantasy and storytelling. No, it’s not about everyone’s less-than-loved Saved by the Bell nerd-for-brains. The jaunty plot is that your partner bought you a ticket for the season’s last performance by The Fabulous Screech and His Trained Humans. You travel to the town of Oddness Standing to see this unique show and learn how The Fabulous Screech lived its life. Interestingly, this game came to fruition as a Christmas gift for someone’s boyfriend when times were tough and funds were short, and the Kyratzes duo ended up making it more personal than originally intended. This is why you’ll click and feel emotions.

Gameplay is minimal and easy, but that’s okay. This is more of an interactive story, and there’s so much to interact with, to click on and read, that dealing with solving complicated puzzles for getting you from point A to point B would have messed up with the laid-back pacing and gentleness blanketing everything here. At most, you have to find an item for a character, and there’s only so many places you can search, so you’ll eventually find it and move ahead. All this captivating reading and visuals are backed by a soothing soundtrack that works when things are bouncy and childish at the theater’s curtains to the darker moments of dread and frailty by the end. Also, and I had this problem in The Sea Will Claim Everything so I suspect I need to learn to live with it, I’m still not a fan of the common-day references everywhere, such as to the Sierra or T.S. Eliot, but I guess that’s what helps make these lands dream-like. That blurring of fantasy and the real world.

The life–and presumably death–of The Fabulous Screech in The Fabulous Screech is anything but straightforward. There’s whimsy and silliness, but also a good amount of stark reality and sadness. Look, aging is unstoppable. That’s a hard fact. Time passes by with every second, and it’s up to us to make the best of things, to find happiness and be happy. I try not to think about my furry pets dying, but I know they will some day, and that debilitating fear makes it difficult to even write about this stuff. Sure, Timmy can be a psychopath and bully, but also a lap warmer and affectionate friend. Pixie can shed like there’s no tomorrow and get her claws stuck in everything, but she also headbutts me hello whenever she can. They are special to me.

Okay, that’s all I can do. Gonna go hug both of my kitty cats now and hope that, at least in their feline eyes, I’m a well-trained human.

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.

Longest Night’s stargazing results in emergent music gameplay

gd longest night final impressions

I’m really excited about Night in the Woods. I mean, yeah, I was excited before, after playing Lost Constellation early last year and seeing what these cute animal friends can get up to and the staggering amount of imagination and creativity to everything surrounding them and their antics, but now I’m even more excited. Unsurprisingly, this all stems from my recent dip into Longest Night, which is actually the first of the two supplemental experiences from Finji, though I’m tackling it second. You know I never like to follow anything by the book…unless it is the Metal Gear series in order of release.

Longest Night is less game and more short story. Or short stories, rather. Snippets of fake history. A gang of four friends–Mae, Bea, Gregg, and Angus–gather around the campfire and trace constellations in the dark sky, bringing to life these legends of old. It’s a classic tradition as part of “Longest Night,” which is equivalent to Christmas or the Winter Solstice in this world. It’s become a part of life, and the older one gets, the further from it they go, which is why no one around the campfire remembers how to make any of the constellations, something they used to do all the time as little kids.

To learn about these historical figures dripping with lore, like Ibn, the First Singer, Quinona, and Tollmetron, you have to trace matching stars to one another. Linked stars all share similar audio clues, so match all the chanting ones together, all the ones that sound like bells, and so on. It’s easy to figure out, if you know that you’re supposed to figure these sounds out. Honestly, I didn’t even realize you could click on them and draw lines to other stars; I thought the whole point of the game was simply to swipe your cursor around, making pretty tunes and enjoying the cackle of a campfire, but eventually I got the feeling I was missing something and started clicking.

Like I said, I spent far too much time simply losing myself in the stars, adding my own beats to the already catchy and, on purpose, looping soundtrack. I didn’t want to trace the rest of the constellations, knowing this dream would come to an end. Here, have a taste of my cursor-moving skills:


To be real, I don’t even know what Night in the Woods is about. I’m being ignorant on purpose; I want to be completely surprised, not just in terms of story, but also gameplay, much like I was going into both Longest Night and Lost Constellation. Sure, a part of me would like to see elements from these incorporated in the bigger adventure, like creating your own snowmen and music beats, but they could also scrap all of this and do something completely different, something totally unexpected, and I would still be content. From a few GIFs that I couldn’t help not look at, it seems like an adventure game with some varying and stylized action scenes here and there. Oh, and it looks gorgeous too. Lots of oranges and blues, falling leaves. Ahhhh.

Now that I’ve played both of Night in the Woods‘ supplemental side stories, all that’s left to do is wait for its final release. Which is somewhere in 2016. Until then, I’ll be staring up at the stars, humming along to a song that never ends.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #5 – Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

2016 gd games completed Dr Langeskov

Welcome to backstage
Of a heist game, press and pull
Levers, free tiger

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.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #4 – Absent

2016 games completed gd absent

A girl vanishes
This mystery must be solved
Time travel will help

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.