2017 Game Review Haiku, #33 – Bendy and the Ink Machine: Chapter One

Imagine Oswald
Going on murderous trip
Cool look, just the start

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.

Running out of batteries is Outlast’s darkest horror

Outlast is most certainly and without a doubt not a game for me, but at least it was only a couple hours long and a “freebie” from Xbox One’s Games With Gold program several months back. I have one more Achievement I’d like to pop, which is thankfully right at the beginning of the game before everything is plunged into murky darkness, and then I’ll be waving goodbye to this sliver of nightmare meat from my console with boyish glee. Unfortunately, I still have a couple of other horror games in my various collections left to tackle, such as Layers of Fear, Anna, and Siren: Blood Curse, and I’m just the worst at these. Y’all remember when I promised to play Silent Hill 3 two years ago? No? Okay, good. Well, we’ll see if I can, ahem, outlast a few more.

So, moving right along to Outlast‘s plot. Freelance investigative journalist Miles Upshur is off to the Mount Massive Asylum, a private psychiatric hospital, after receiving an anonymous tip about inhumane experiments being conducted there. Because of course. Still, once there, Miles is shocked to discover the hospital’s halls destroyed and brimming with the mutilated corpses of the staff. A dying SWAT officer reveals that the asylum’s patients, known as “variants,” have escaped and are freely roaming the grounds, butchering employees left and right without mercy. Alas, Miles is unable to leave the way he came in and, besides looking for a new way out, soon finds himself deep in the mix as he comes face to face with those that roam this madhouse. It’s a somewhat straightforward story with loose details that won’t surprise you once you see what it is doing, and that’s okay. I saw that second season of American Horror Story and have enough unique and terrible images in my head to last a lifetime.

Gameplay is broken down into several distinct elements: exploration, platforming, chase sequences, and stealth. There are a few cutscenes to watch as well, but don’t expect much out of Miles Upshur other than labored breathing, as the man is nothing more than a vessel for the player, a host to see these horrific things through and breathe a sigh of relief when push comes to shove and events take a turn for the even worse. I enjoyed exploration the most, and really enjoyed it at the very beginning and end of Outlast, in the most well-lit areas of the asylum where you don’t have to bother with the video camera, and disliked all things related to chase sequences. Early on, you learn a move that allows you to run forward and then also quickly glance over your shoulder; I never used it. I hated being chased in Super Mario 3D Land, most likely would hate it in real life, and did not enjoy the pursuits here. Too stressful. Puzzles revolve around finding valves to turn or levers to pull or a specific key, and they aren’t about figuring out how to do these actions, but rather getting to them alive by sneaking around in the dark and avoiding violent asylum patients. The platforming, while not the greatest considering this is first-person platforming we’re talking about, is infrequent enough to not be a bother though I still missed a number of easy jumps.

I think I played the first five or ten minutes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent many moons ago and knew then that it was too terrifying for my weak skin to handle. Outlast is pretty similar, with a focus on carrying around a light source (lantern versus video camera with night vision mode on), being in first person, and a lack of combat, but also completely different. Whereas the former seemed to go for quieter scares and ramping up the tension, Outlast brings out all the big guns, with swelling music, screaming, jump scares galore, and a large monstrosity to chase after you down dark halls where you have to both run and create roadblocks in the manner of shut doors and barricades. There are, of course, occasions where things are quiet and uneventful, which is unnerving, but I quickly learned to not trust these sequences for too long. Eventually something’s going to grab you.

All right, lastly, or rather outlastly, there are some more things that I’m just not a fan of and found severely off-putting because I’m in a complainy mood, but your mileage may vary. A large portion of Outlast boils down to basically managing the number of batteries you have and when and where to turn on the camcorder. They drain quickly, and though I never did run out of them entirely during my playthrough, I always felt like I was close and preferred to have more in my inventory than not, just in case I needed them. This stressed me out greatly. For collectibles, there are two types–notes and documents–with notes referring to handwritten notes by Miles after witnessing something, and documents being, well, printed papers of exposition left behind for players to find. They aren’t all that interesting to read, and, more annoyingly, when you get a new one, it appears at the bottom of the collected list, which means as you collect more and more, it takes longer and longer to scroll down and read the one you just unlocked. Lastly, because I’m a wuss and scared of the dark, I spent probably something like 85% of this game behind the camcorder’s lens with night vision mode on; I’m sure Outlast looks sharp and amazing in spots, but all I ever saw was grainy blurs of faded neon-green and blinding puffs of white light.

Outlast isn’t fun. It’s kind of designed that way, but maybe a special type of person exists somewhere on this batty planet that looks at all these cruel limitations and unfriendly setting and thinks, “Aw yiss!” The developer’s main goal is to fill you with fear, and the player’s main goal is to escape scare-free. I’d rather live safely on my Stardew Valley farm with Maru and our first child Mauly, tending to my crops and searching for those rare starfruit and upgrading my tools. I’ll never run out of batteries there because, thanks to my lightning rod, I get a freebie every time there’s a thunderstorm. Take that.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #32 – Outlast

Asylum in woe
Hate battery management
Not my kind of fun

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.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Mega Man X

games I regret parting with Mega Man X

Mega Man X, as far as I can remember, is the only game in Capcom’s long-running and blaster-charging run-and-jump action series where an innocent-looking robot boy obliterates rogue worker automatons that I’ve beaten. Granted, I haven’t actually played all that many, and that’s mostly because they are challenging gauntlet runs that punish more than they reward. Still, back when I was younger and only had so many games to play and few IRL distractions, practice made for better attempts, and I eventually saw credits roll on Rockman’s first appearance on the Super NES. I absolutely know that getting all the capsule upgrades played a big part in this accomplishment. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have gotten past Chill Penguin. Sick frost burn.

Do you know Mega Man X‘s somewhat maturer plot? If you do, congrats. You can skip ahead two paragraphs. If not, allow me to summarize. Dr. Light created Mega Man X, commonly known as just X, years after the original Mega Man series, with a key difference: the ability to make his own decisions. However, Dr. Light was not completely blind and thus recognized the potential danger of this model, sealing X away in a diagnostic capsule for over 30 years of testing. X’s capsule was uncovered by an archaeologist named Dr. Cain almost a hundred years later. Excited by the possibilities X presented, Dr. Cain disregarded Dr. Light’s notes and warnings and created a legion of new robots that replicated X’s free will–Reploids.

Unfortunately, a virus spread and caused these Reploids turn deadly against humans. Shocking, I know. And so these Reploids became dubbed Mavericks, which lead to the formation of a group called the Maverick Hunters to combat them. Because what else are Maverick Hunters gonna do, y’know? Anyways, the Maverick Hunters were originally led by Sigma, the first Reploid created by Dr. Cain, until it also turned violent and declared war against humans. X joined the Maverick Hunters under its new leader Zero to save Earth from total evil robotic domination. It’s a story much more complicated and involved than the original NES games, which, as a young man with a blossoming brain and beginning to dip his toes in things like anime, I enjoyed greatly.

Mega Man X introduced a lot of new elements to the series. Like the Central Highway Stage, which is basically a tutorial level that allows players to get a feel for the game before setting out to stop the usual kill list of eight named bosses. It is in this level you are first taught how to dash along the ground, cling to walls, and wall jump, as well as dashing and jumping simultaneously, increasing X’s speed in the air. These modifications give X far more mobility than in previous games, which, often required precious timing and accuracy, especially when trying to jump from vanishing platform to vanishing platform. I don’t remember if I played Super Metroid before or after Mega Man X, but the wall-jumping is much easier to nail in the latter.

Besides gaining new weapons after kicking the metal butts of every robot leader, X is also able to upgrade parts of his armor, such as his helmet, boots, arm cannon, and chestplate. These are found in hidden capsules, and they are, as far as I can recall, fairly well hidden, save for the first one, which you have to stumble across for story purposes. X can also charge up the weapons he takes from defeated bosses, giving him a secondary fire mode. More options equals more fun, and some levels even feature alternate paths. Also, completing certain stages ahead of others will subtly affect the battlefield. For example, if you clear Storm Eagle’s aircraft carrier stage first, Spark Mandrill’s power plant stage will suffer from electrical outages.

And now, for everyone’s enjoyment, a list of the bosses in Mega Man X, which, at the time of its release, I thought were beyond cool, but now see that as simply uneducated madness:

  • Chill Penguin
  • Spark Mandrill
  • Armored Armadillo
  • Launch Octopus
  • Boomer Kuwanger
  • Sting Chameleon
  • Storm Eagle
  • Flame Mammoth

Actually, I still think Launch Octopus is pretty killer. We can blame that on Kojima and Decoy Octopus, I guess. Pretty much any combination of [cool word] plus octopus sounds fantastic. Like Fugazi Octopus. Or Mozzarella Sticks Octopus. See–works every time.

Giant Bomb is currently working their way through the Mega Man games with their premium video series Blue Bombin’, and I’m not sure if they’ll be playing the Mega Man X series of games, but here’s hoping they at least give the first one a chance as it certainly switched some things up for the little blue boy who could. I’ll always remember it fondly and wonder why on Earth I thought it was a good idea to give away this classic SNES cartridge (plus original packaging and manual) for a few measly bucks towards an original PlayStation 1. Sigh.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #31 – Choke

We all need to breathe
Ignore the doors, too much sass
I am boring, same

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.

Someone needs to push the reset button on Reset 1-1

Reset 1-1 is just one of the handful of games I got back in early January 2017 when I plopped down some digital cash on the Steam Winter Sale. It was bundled with a group of similar-minded, indie action platformers, the kind that ask you both to make jumps as well as damage enemies in your way. Of them so far, I played Dungeon of Zolthan and found it pretty enjoyable, challenging, and quick despite its minimalist look and goals. Reset 1-1 was next on the to-do list, and I began liking it a lot, eating up its quirky sense of humor, bouncy soundtrack, and stamina-driven combat. Alas, I’m now actively against the thing. Don’t worry, dear readers–I plan on telling you why.

Developer xXarabongXx describes Reset 1-1 like so:

The world has ended, Demons have risen to conquer the uninhabited and flourishing nature outside. It’s your turn, with your unknown identity, to find your path for a new beginning.

For those not aware, my day job is editing. I read a lot and am thus quickly able to suss out when an author has no idea what they are talking about, but need to have something down on paper to show that they are clearly alive and involved in the project. That is what I’m getting here: a bunch of keywords loosely connected to each other that, hopefully, comprises something of a story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, but I guess many aren’t coming to Reset 1-1 for its wondrous plot twists. Still, a little more work could have been put towards this. A little more defining. Here, I’ll even do the developer a solid and provide a better description at no cost whatsoever:

Demonic forces have taken over the world. It’s up to you to discover who you are, defeat evil, and create a new start.

Sure, it still sounds like a generic mess, but I don’t have much to work with. There are hints of story and character development early on, with our pixelated tiny hero not knowing his true identity (is it John of Jhon?), but that doesn’t seem to last longer than the introductory levels. Each boss you come across has something quick to say before the battle ensues, but it is usually of the “I’m going to kill you” ilk. Other than that, this is more about action, with a focus on nailing tough jumps and effectively managing your stamina, especially during boss battles.

In terms of gameplay, Reset 1-1 is a platformer. Think Fez, but less puzzles, more fighting. I guess Cave Story is a better comparison, especially in the graphics department. You run, you jump, and you throw projectiles at enemies by swiping your sword in their direction. Our hero can also roll, and much of his actions are dictated by a stamina bar that quickly depletes. As you progress and defeat bosses, you gain experience points to level up, and you can pick either more damage, more health, or more stamina as an upgrade. There are also different swords to find, as well as single-use health potions to hold on to dearly or, if you are like me and playing with a controller, accidentally hit the X button to use it when most definitely not needed (I was trying to open a door). Speaking of controllers, plugging an Xbox 360 controller in works, but does not work well, as I found the game immediately laggy; however, the standard PC controls are even funkier to get a grasp on so it was this or nothing.

So, I got to the final boss fight in Reset 1-1 last night. It’s some kind of weird ghost-thing that throws fireballs and summons a wave of them up from the lava below that you need to carefully time two rolls to make it through alive. I can’t beat it, and each attempt is more difficult than the previous thanks to this game’s sinister system of upping the difficulty, slowing down the frame-rate, and dissolving color from the graphics with each subsequent death. It is extremely difficult to now see throw projectiles, and jumping with lag is as much fun as you can imagine. Unfortunately, it seems like I’m just digging myself into a deeper hole, and there’s no way to start this final fight on equal ground. More annoyingly, I got the Steam Achievement “Tales of creation and destruction” upon meeting this big baddie, but there doesn’t seem to be one for kicking its ethereal butt or even finishing the game.

On Reset 1-1′s title screen, there are four options–play (continue), reset, options, and quit. For some reason, my brain shrunk in size and strength, and I clicked “reset” thinking that this would reset the fact that I had died so many times that everything moved like quarters through molasses, but kept me there at the final boss fight, refreshed and ready. Naturally, this instead wiped my entire progress. Granted, it only took me about an hour to get to the end area, but still. Time lost. Grrr. Sure, I could go through Reset 1-1 again, but knowing that I’d get to the end boss and only have so many viable attempts early on before I found myself drowning in my own mess is a whole new level of stress that I’m not interested in handling. A shame, as I was nearly there.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #30 – Tales from the Borderlands, Episode 1 “Zer0 Sum”

2017-gd-games-completed-tales-from-the-borderlands-zer0-sum

Vault key deal goes south
For Rhys, Fiona, and friends
Zer0 loves haikus

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.