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Here’s a bunch of games I’m looking forward to in 2019

I did this last year, so let’s see how things turned out in the end:

  • Mineko’s Night Market A game about crafting crafts, eating eats, and catting cats was supposed to come out sometime in 2018, but is now tentatively dated for 2019. I’m still interested.
  • Staxel – This, I believe, did hit its release date, but I just never got around to it. I had plenty of other farming games in my collection to keep me distracted, I guess.
  • Ooblets – Speaking of farming, Ooblets is an upcoming farming, creature collection, and town life indie game. This was another “sometime in 2018” game that has now been pushed to this year. I’m super-duper excited for it as it should also be coming to Xbox One.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – Well, this obviously hit, and I obviously did not hit it.
  • State of Decay 2 – This was my number 5 game of the year for 2018. I wasn’t in love with the stress of keeping my community afloat, but the wave-based zombie slaughter DLC mode Daybreak provided a good amount of mindless fun. I hope to one day start my community over, now knowing what I now know.
  • The Lord of the Rings LCG – I’m assuming this came out at some point, but I haven’t really looked into it too much. Honestly, I’m more inclined to download and try out Magic: The Gathering – Arena. I like card games, but I don’t have the time, money, or social group anymore to play with real-life cards, so digital is the path forward.
  • Long Gone Days – This also got bumped to 2019 though it has been in Early Access for many months.
  • The Swords of Ditto – I did not get to play this yet, but shortly before 2018 ended, Twitch Prime handed out a free copy of this game, along with many, many others, so no excuses going forward.
  • Legendary Gary – This came out, I requested a review copy, I got a review copy, and I enjoyed it.
  • Knights and Bikes – Still TBA.

Okay, so I still got some tentative 2018 games to check in on this year, along with several other newbies. Namely, these beauts:

The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds is a new single-player, first-person, sci-fi RPG from Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division. One of those developers worked on Fallout: New Vegas, so clearly I’m deeply interested from the get-go. Lost in transit while on a colonist ship bound for the furthest edge of the galaxy, you awake decades later only to find yourself in the midst of a deep conspiracy threatening to destroy the Halcyon colony. Sounds like a good time to me.

Stranger Things 3: The Game

Not to be confused with Stranger Things: The Game, which is a retro thingy available on phones and something I have played a tiny bit of. This will be a 16-bit, top-down action game that lets players take control of the series’ main cast throughout the events of the upcoming third season of Netflix’s popular science fiction show. Not much else is currently known.

Animal Crossing

Ah, my entire reasoning for getting a Switch relatively soon–Animal Crossing. I do hope it expands a bit more than Animal Crossing: New Leaf did from Animal Crossing: Wild World. I want even more options when it comes to things to do, with plenty of nifty secrets to discover, like money rocks or stacking fruit. I’m sure I’ll love it either way and will end up sinking the most hours into it of any game I play in 2019. That’s a guarantee.

The Sinking City

The Sinking City is an upcoming adventure-horror video game developed by Frogwares and published by Bigben Interactive, inspired by the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft. It seems to be heavy on spookiness and atmosphere, and while I don’t play a ton of horror-themed games, this was has me mildly interested.

Pikuniku

I know very little about Pikuniku, but it appears to be Mr. Men: The Videogame. Sort of. By the way, if you really wanted to know, I’m a total duplicate of Mr. Worry, both in shape and color. Anyways, I’m digging the art style, for sure, and it sounds like it’s a puzzle-driven adventure with a focus on physics. Hmm. Curious to see more, and the game comes out at the end of this month. Maybe I’ll get lucky and ask for a review copy.

Rage 2

Trust me, I’m no Rage defender, as I couldn’t believe how abruptly that first game ended, but I liked inclusion of multiple mini-games and the strangeness of the world’s characters. Wasn’t too into the driving, but the shooting felt good, and the environments were kind of neat. Plus, it had a mission bulletin board in the middle of town, which I will always appreciate. The second game seems to be zanier times ten, and we’ll see how it turns out.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn

Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii is a game I loved, never finished, and have since lost the disc to, though I have the case and instruction manual, which breaks my yarn-knitted heart. I’m happy to know then that it is heading to the Nintendo 3DS in 2019 under the expanded title of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Every stage in the original Wii version is stitched in, but this handheld version has some new features, like the ability to craft bigger yarn balls, summon bead-collecting wind, and play two new modes featuring familiar faces, namely King Dedede and Meta Knight. I’m ready to drown in its cuteness all over again.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I’m sure there’s more to come down the pipeline, plus the ever-surprisingly amount of unheard of indie games to pop up.

What games are you most looking forward to in 2019? Share with me in the comments section below.

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Just Desserts is the sweetest, tastiest card game

I’ve been on a real solo board/card gaming kick as of late, mostly because I’m used to playing by myself and I can probably only convince Melanie to join me on these larger-than-life games, such as Fallout: The Board Game or A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, so many times. I know it is not her thing, and that’s perfectly fine. However, when I saw Just Desserts in my local gaming store, I thought this might be a good one for us to play. It’s all about eating yummy food, specifically desserts. The game is recommended for two to three players, but I think three or more is the best way to go. Two players is fine, but less cutthroat.

Just Desserts comes from Looney Labs, which is the company that makes five thousand and thirty-two Fluxx variants each year. That’s an estimate. I have a copy of Zombie Fluxx from years ago and tried to play it once or twice, not really enjoying it all that much. Or maybe I just didn’t understand all the rules swapping around. I also have a copy of Retro Loonacy from them, which has yet to be played, but I love the artwork nonetheless.

Anyways, Just Desserts is a sweet, delicious card game all about serving some very picky guests at the cafe you work at. No soup, no salad, no main dish… all they want is dessert, and I can understand where they are coming from. I mean, over the Christmas holiday, I probably ate more cookies than anything else, along with a few peanut butter trees from the good ol’ boys at Reese’s. You’ll have to compete with your fellow waiters to serve guests their favorite goodies before someone else gets to them first.

The rules are relatively simple and easy to explain. Each player starts with a hand of three dessert cards while three guest cards are placed in the center of the table; each dessert card shows one to three tastes that it satisfies, such as chocolate, fruit, or pastry, while the guest cards show what they crave, as well as what they refuse to eat, such as veggies or peanuts. On your turn, you draw a dessert card, add a guest card to the table from the deck, then take one of three following actions:

  • Serve (and claim) one or two guests by discarding one or more dessert cards to give them what they want (while avoiding what they don’t want); also, if you give a guest their favorite item, which basically meets all their desires, you get tipped with an extra dessert card.
  • Draw one more dessert card.
  • Discard as many dessert cards as you want, then draw that many cards from the deck to refill your hand.

At the end of your turn, discard guests from the table so that only one guest of each “suit” is still waiting to be served; however, you can consider this guest heading out the door, but still in play to be claimed…until another guest card is discarded on top of it. You win Just Desserts if at any time you’ve served three guests of the same suit or five guests of different suits.

I absolutely love the art in Just Desserts, which is done by…I’m sad to report, I don’t know. I’ve tried searching online for the artist, but am having no luck. Please, if you know, let me know, and then we can all know. Each dessert card looks delicious, even if it is a dessert that I don’t want to eat. The guest cards are goofy and fun to look at, and each person looks unique and truly stands out from one another. My only quibble is that the font on guest cards for their favorite treat is small and hard to see from a distance when you have them in the center of the table. The gameplay is loose and casual, but fun, and there are variants you can use to make it more aggressive, such as stealing other player’s claimed guests, but we haven’t tried these yet.

I’m excited to play more Just Desserts in 2019 and have even ordered copies of the two tiny expansions–Just Coffee and Better with Bacon. They don’t seem to mix up the gameplay too much, but rather add more dessert cards and characters to please in your cafe. Fine by me. I love both coffee and bacon.

LEGO The Incredibles needs to be a bit more flexible

Hey, remember when I played The Incredibles on PlayStation 2 and mostly hated everything it had to offer? Well, the good news is that LEGO The Incredibles is forty-five times better than that hunk of junk…though it still has its own issues to deal with. That said, it is one of the better LEGO games of recent memory, and I’m looking to hit 100% completion on it real soon, which is a lot more than I can say about LEGO City Undercover.

LEGO The Incredibles is a fairly fun-filled adventure that puts you in control of your favorite characters from the franchise, along with a bunch of familiar faces from other Pixar films, such as Sulley from Monsters, Inc. or Merida from Brave. You’ll have to team up as the superhero Parr family to conquer crime and relive in LEGO form the unforgettable scenes from The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2 movies. Strangely, the game starts with levels from the second movie first, but I guess that’s because this game was tied with the theater release of The Incredibles 2. I greatly enjoyed the sequel, but my heart will always call home that first flick…so it was a bit of a bummer to have to go through the game backwards.

It follows the standard format of most modern LEGO games now, which means there are long-as-heck story-related levels to complete, each with their own collectibles to find, along with a large hub world to run around in and complete other smaller tasks, such as time trial races or defusing bombs. A part of me feels like the hub world is quite small when compared to things like Middle-earth from LEGO The Lord of the Rings or even the multiple islands in LEGO Jurassic World, but maybe that’s because you can zip around it rather swiftly if you use any character that can fly. You can purchase a number of vehicles too, but again–why drive when you can zip through the skies, with or without a cape (no capes!)?

Something I did enjoy greatly in LEGO The Incredibles is getting to play as all the different superheroes, not just the Parr family, most of which are long dead by the time things get going in the first film. For instance, the game mixes things up so you can have a partner on Nomanisan Island, and your go-to-pal is none other than Gazerbeam. Sure, sure, he’s definitely dead in the movie due to taking part in Syndrome’s droid’s battle education, but at least now you can put a voice to the character and see how his powers work. Others to definitely try out include Dynaguy, Apogee, and Firebreak, who I used the most to fly around New Urbem. There’s a wealth of lore to dig through, and I got excited every single time I unlocked a superhero from the past; that said, Voyd is kinda cool too.

One of the elements of LEGO The Incredibles that gets truly repetitive is clearing out crime waves in each district. Basically, to rid the city of crime, you have to complete teeny side missions out in the hub world, such as “put out 10 fires” or “defeat three gangs of X’s goons,” and then beat up whatever iconic supervillain is behind it all. Once you do that, that district reveals all its collectibles on the map, gives you a Pixar Incredibuild to do, which just consists of a lot of button mashing, along with a red brick. The only beam of bright light among all this is that it is presented as a breaking news report, and the TV anchor uses every pun in the book to get the job done. I love puns.

LEGO The Incredibles is a good amount of fun, but some of that fun is watered down by really long loading screens, story levels that never seem to end, and repetitive elements, like crime waves, mindless combat, or doing Incredibuilds solo and having to mash the build button for four separate characters. Ugh. Still, I’m having fun with all the various superheroes (Old Lady is fantastic, too) and a few of the Pixar characters, though now I just want a LEGO Toy Story. That might actually be a thing that could happen with the forthcoming film on its way, and they already have a Woody model, along with three other films to build off of and–sorry, sorry, you caught me monologuing!

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2017

Happy holidays, dear readers! Gather round, gather round, for I have a tall tale to tell…

As always, I’m back to wax and wane about the games I did not get to play this year because I’m only one person with two hands and so much time on them to play these wonderfully entertaining things. My bad, but also–whatever. There’s always next year, and the year after that. To refresh everyone’s memories, because I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature for a few years now, here’s a bulleted list of previous entries, and I do suggest y’all dig in to play detective and figure out whether or not I’ve played any of these games since these age-old posts:

I’ll spoil an entry from that bottom 2010 list that I’ve still not touched, some nearly eight years later: Red Dead Redemption. Oh well.

Naturally, there are more than 10 games that I didn’t play this year, but not all of them are things I was interested in from the get-go. Such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, NieR Automata, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Yakuza 0. I’m sure they are all worth trying out eventually. But enough about those. Let’s get into the ones that I probably would have played if…I could have played them. Er, don’t think too hard about that sentence.

10. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy

Did you know a new Professor Layton game came out this year for the Nintendo 3DS? Yeah, me neither. Huh. I had a pretty busy year on my 3DS, with Ever Oasis and Miitopia taking over much of my handheld gaming time. Evidently, this stars a new protagonist for LEVEL-5’s classic point-and-puzzle adventure series–Katrielle Layton, who becomes embroiled in a casual, quizzical quest in search for her missing father. Y’know, the Professor Hershel Layton. I felt a little burned out after Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, but I think I could dip back into this series next year. Also, screenshots show that you get to redecorate the Layton Detective Agency and dress Katrielle up in different outfits, so I’m more than intrigued, plot aside.

9. Cuphead

I have never been interested in difficult platformers, doing only the bare minimum in Super Meat Boy to get to the end credits and staying away from many of these. Though I did recently beat this weirdo. It sounds like the run-and-gun Cuphead is also just as tough. But I wouldn’t be playing it for the challenge, rather to see every inch of art and animation. See, the game was heavily inspired by the rubber hose style of animation used in cartoons of the 1930s, like the stuff coming out of studios like Fleischer and Walt Disney Animation. It seeks to emulate the most subversive and surrealist qualities, and if you don’t know what that means, look at the screenshot above. Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2018 and get this as a Games with Gold freebie.

8. Thimbleweed Park

I didn’t play Thimbleweed Park, a brand new point-and-click adventure game developed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick for PC and modern consoles in 2017, for the obvious reasons. It’s a spiritual successor to Gilbert and Winnick’s previous games Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, both of which I’ve still not played. Ugh. Send me directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. At least I do have access to both of them, so here’s hoping 2018 is the year I finally tackle those genre classics, and then maybe I’ll see what is going on with that creepy clown.

7. What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch doesn’t sound like a happy time. This follows the titular character, a young woman revisiting her old family home as she recalls and discovers the stories of deceased family members. So, it’s probably a somber affair, though I do know that at some point you turn into a shark and roll down a hill. Shrugs. It comes from Giant Sparrow, the developer that brought us The Unfinished Swan, which I enjoyed a good amount, and I imagine this is a wild ride, the best experienced in one big gulp.

6. Rime

Rime, one of two new games from Tequila Works this year alongside The Sexy Brutale, which made the side-scrolling cinematic platforming survival horror Deadlight back in 2012, sounds like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild minus all the combat. Which, honestly, is perfectly okay with me, considering I often tried my best not to get into fights in that game because I’d just end up losing health, weapons, and arrows without getting much to replace them. It’s about a young boy that has washed ashore on an abandoned island, with the main focus being on solving environmental puzzles. It looks both gorgeous and relaxing.

5. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Speaking of relaxing, that’s the vibe I get from Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. It’s an adventure game set in an open world environment, which doesn’t sound like anything unique, but the tone seems to be real low-key. Hey, welcome–stay a while. The game’s primary goal is collecting magical creatures, known as sprites, to banish an ominous shroud known as the Murk. Along the way, you can take part in non-violent activities like farming, fishing, and crafting while exploring the island, and that’s the part I’m most interested in. Last year, I was all about that sweet pixely Stardew Valley, and this seems to share some of the same traits.

4. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 sounds like the end-all, be-all überlegen CRPG, with content bursting at the seams and a story that reacts to nearly every single one of your choices, no matter how major or minor. That’s cool. Maybe I’ll try it some day. Though there’s that terrible part of my brain that says I shouldn’t until I’ve at least played Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Divinity II, Divinity: Dragon Commander, and Divinity: Original Sin. You can’t tell because this is just written text, but I’m laughing hysterically over here.

3. Pyre

Supergiant Games is a rad developer with some highly imaginative titles. I loved Bastion, and I was a little mixed on Transistor. Pyre looks gorgeous, but I don’t know if I’ll get into the fantasy sports element since I don’t even like normal non-fantasy sports, but I have to imagine that the plot will draw me into this strange, amazing-looking world. Here’s a quick plot summary, which sounds fascinating: you controls a character who has been exiled from society and quickly meets three other exiles. The three exiles then discover that the player-character is literate and invites them to join their party, nicknaming them the Reader. The Reader aids the exiles and other exiles met during the course of the game in their travels through the land of purgatory as they look to cleanse their souls via defeating other exiles. Yowza.

2. Tacoma

I played a bunch of Gone Home in 2017. It’s still a masterpiece. Fullbright’s follow-up Tacoma is another exploration game, this time set aboard a seemingly-empty space station in 2088. You play as Amy, who has an augmented reality device that allows her to review the actions and conversations of non-player characters that were part of crew that had been aboard the station. These recordings can be manipulated, fast-forwarding or rewinding as necessary in order to see what happened and move the plot forward. It’s another rummaging simulator, but this time aboard an abandoned spaceship, like Prey but without the constant fear of a coffee mug trying to kill you. I also think the polygonal character models look super neat.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

I don’t have a Nintendo Switch, and I probably won’t for a long time. That’s just how these things go, too many consoles, not enough money, space, and time. Thankfully, I was able to play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this year via the Wii U version, which is fine. Then again, when I think about it, I haven’t played many of the big Mario marquee titles over the years, like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, both Super Mario Galaxy titles, and so on. So this isn’t anything new or shocking, but the twist is that Super Mario Odyssey is the first one in a while that I’m actively interested in playing. The hook of using your hat to take over enemies and use their abilities to better yourself seems fun and instantly reminds me of Brave Fencer Musashi. I also really like how organized the game is when it comes to tracking how many moons you’ve collected, and that the collectibles are your ship’s currency to get you to new places.

And there we have it, the top 10 games I didn’t get to play in 2017. I hope I can play one or two of these some time in 2018, but there’s never a guarantee on that (see the previously mentioned Red Dead Redemption at the top of this post).

But that was me, and now I want to know more about you. What big or small games did you not get to touch this year? Tell me all about them in the comments section below.

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.

Participating in Extra Life for the very first time

extra-life-2014-comic-art

Hi, everyone! It’s me, your Grinding Down creator, author, and somewhat steady maintainer–Paul Abbamondi! I made a big decision recently, and that is to participate in Extra Life this upcoming Saturday, October 25. What’s Extra Life, you ask not knowing? Well, in their words, it’s “an online grassroots movement working to save local kids through the power of play.” Basically, people stay up for 24 hours straight playing games and asking for donations. Over the years I’ve watched others put in the time and raise money for children in need, and now, nervous as I am, I’m gonna do it too. First, some important links to click on:

My donations page: http://tinyurl.com/pabbamondiEL2014

My Twitch page, where hopefully you’ll be able to watch me stream: http://www.twitch.tv/paulwise

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I’m thinking. My goal is set at $100 (and we’re already halfway there!), but of course I’d love to raise a whole lot more for PennState Hershey’s Children’s Hospital. I plan to make a big dent in my Steam catalog, though I have to be careful in what I play as my laptop can’t really handle anything too strenuous and stream at the same time, thus the above list of indie/older titles. If I somehow run out of things to play there, I can always hit up the consoles or handhelds (I’ll most likely be getting Fantasy Life the day before), though I can’t really stream from them.

Tentatively, I’ll start streaming at 9:00 AM Saturday and won’t stop playing vidya gamez until 9:00 Sunday. I will be maintaining a “live” blog post here on Grinding Down, updating it hopefully once an hour or so, though these’ll be short, quick updates. Truthfully, I’m excited about finally finding the time to eat up some Deus Ex: GOTY more than anything. I am part of Team Giant Bomb, and I appreciate any support you can offer me–this is my first time doing anything like this, and I’ll be running at it solo (well, my cats will be around), so please, give me strength. And donations, too. FOR THE KIDS.

The Half-hour Hitbox: January 2014

jan 2014 hitbox spelunky top pic

I know, I know. Technically, the month isn’t over, but I really don’t see myself dabbling in anything new over the next two or three days, and so here’s the newest edition of The Half-hour Hitbox. You’re welcome, and all that. Right. See, the dayjob has been pretty crazy these last few weeks, and I come home from work with only enough energy to do a couple of Spelunky runs and then pop upstairs for the heated blanket and some quick-but-quality Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokemon Y time. I think I’m nearing the finish line for that latter title, though Victory Road is proving to be a swift kick in the rear, as my collective team of pocket monsters is still not high enough to make it through in one go. I’m not worried. I finally caught a Garbador, so really, all is fine. I’ll get back to EXP grinding after I’m done stuffing its face full of colorful Poké Puffs.

But enough of that. Here’s a sampling of a few other games I played in January 2014, but haven’t gotten to talk about them yet here on Grinding Down. If we’re lucky, I still might further down the road.

Fountain

fountain terryc

Last month, I tried Terry Cavanagh’s Oiche Mhaith, and found it upsetting and disturbing. Fountain, made for Ludum Dare 28, is not so in-your-face depressing, but it is shrouded in inevitable sadness. You start out as an old woman near a fountain, which, when you touch it, restores you to a younger version of yourself. Now you can explore the map faster and push away the fog of war. Everything is also more vibrant, the music a bit bouncier, but after awhile you have to return to the fountain for more youth juice as age sets back in. With each return trip to the fountain, your youth fades faster, and you must be young and spry to find all the hidden items. I was not able to get many and found it frustrating that your first trip out into the wild is generally the farthest you can go before the fountain binds you to it until time stands still for our leading old woman. I guess something is being said here.

Heroine’s Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok

hq7

Hmm. Heroine’s Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok is as old-school as the oldest school can get, and by that I mean that Bianca, the name I gave to our leading, blonde-haired warrior, froze to death in the forest in the game’s opening fifteen minutes. And no, I had neglected to save at any point. Yup, this is the sort of point-and-click adventure where you can die left and right, so that’s always hanging over your head, along with trying to puzzle out where to go next and how to get there. I’ll try again, as I love its look and the dry voice acting, but it’s not the easiest game to get into and stay in.

Kingdom Rush: Frontiers

Kingdom-rush-frontiers-with-new-units-and-map

It should come as no surprise that my return to some casual time with the RTS genre is with the sequel to the only RTS game I’ve enjoyed over the last several years. Yup, Kingdom Rush: Frontiers, now totally available to play online, in your browser, for zero dollars. I’m down with that, and yes, it’s still a complete package, even if it isn’t technically complete, as some bells and whistles are only available for those that pay to play the game on their iThing or sign up for an online save slot. I’ll stick with the bare bones, thank you very much, because it’s still a fun, bouncy campaign built around constructing towers and fighting off pre-determined waves of enemies. The real trick is to learn when–and how–to spend your money, as a simple upgrade to a specific tower can be the key to victory.

Rogue Legacy

hitbox rogue-legacy

Last year, everyone was talking about Rogue Legacy. And playing it, too. Well, now so am I, but let it be widely known I’m not any good at it. Complete rubbish, actually. I think the longest I’ve stayed alive is two minutes, maybe three, but I’m slowly accruing gold, enough to unlock new parts of the castle and upgrade all the various helpful merchants. It’s a great game when you have a few minutes to kill and absolutely don’t mind getting nowhere fast. I have not yet found a specific build that works well, and the timing for jumping with your sword blade pointed down to activate those platforms is quite tricky.

Spelunky

hitbox spelunky freeware

Speaking of getting nowhere fast, yes…I’m heavily into Spelunky. Giant Bomb‘s Patrick has been playing it every day now for about three weeks, and at first, I watched the videos just because I always watch everything that goes up on the site, regardless if I’m immediately interested in the game in the limelight. It looked like fun though. I played a bit of the freeware version before finally biting the bullet and grabbing the PSN version for a sick three bucks in their 14 in ’14 sale. And now I play it every day, hopefully getting better with each run. I made it to the first level in the Temple section, which I’m pretty proud of. It’s a tough game, but very rewarding in its own way, and I like the Daily Challenges aspect very much. Also: bats are the worst.

Jet Set Radio

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Originally, I wrote Jet Set Radio as Jet Moto. My bad. Remember that game? Anyways, in this one, which is a high-definition port for the PlayStation 3, it is all about gaining control of Tokyo-to through graffiti and sick skating skills. The music is rad, upbeat, and heavy on pulsing drum beats and record scratches, and all I’ve done so far is skate through the tutorial, but I’d like to get back into this as it’s such a weird mix of mechanics and a fantastic use of cel-shaded graphics, the kind that tugs at my artistic heart.

EnviroGolf

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This is a bad golf sim that attempts to make you feel bad about playing golf. The jokes are kind of funny the first time you see them, but the experience is lacking overall. By the time I got to the third hole, the jokes were repeating themselves. Also, could really use some copyediting.

Facade

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A small indie thing made for the MiniLD 48 jam. You basically walk to the right, read some words, go through a cave, open a door by collecting light-bugs, learn that you can’t go on the rocket that is going to get everyone off this desolate hunk of junk…and do it all over again. The second time gives you a more final reason why you can’t leave the desolate planet with everyone, but then that’s it. Game over. Some extremely iffy writing, but very pretty to look at.

Scaling the Sky

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Scaling the Sky could also be called Swimming the Sky, as you’ll be doing a lot of that, and it’s fantastic. I mean that from an enjoyment standpoint and a remote from reality kind. It’s a platformer at heart, but you’re going up, up, up, using clouds for a boost and rainbows to transport you to the next scene. The first few sections are pretty simple, with a clear path to follow, but the later ones ask you to puzzle out the best way to reach the rainbow, and you have to sometimes use the push of a chain of clouds to gain great height. That might sound kinda complicated, but it works wonderfully, and I found myself bouncing in and out of clouds, gaining momentum and playing with it. Eventually, all this climbing comes full circle in a moment that makes you smile.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

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I will most assuredly being writing about this at greater lengths, as it took me by complete surprise, but let me just say that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a hypnotic ride, one that seems to fuse some of my favorite elements of Fallout 3 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and I’m mad at the world because nobody told me that earlier.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.