2018 Game Review Haiku, #31 – Quidget the Wonderwiener

Quidget, dog genius
Must solve a bunch of problems
Booby assistant

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is set in the year 2018, where sections of an alien spacecraft have crash-landed in several major cities around the world, including Baghdad and Tokyo, and doom is beyond impending. Y’know, not all that much different from our current climate. Anyways, you take on the role of the commander of an armor battalion, referred to as “14th Platoon,” and are sent to investigate anomalies that have occurred in the vicinity of these wreckages and gather information on what is happening in the affected areas. See, the anomalies–which, if you didn’t know, are something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected–are interfering with radar and satellite imagery and must be dealt with to neutralize any potential threats.

Y’all should already know at this point that tower defense is not a favorite genre of mine. It’s not to say I hate it to the point that I won’t play anything in it, as I have enjoyed a few–namely Kingdom Rush and Plants vs. Zombies–but generally I’m not hooked on the gameplay. I only played Defense Grid: The Awakening long enough to get some specific Achievements back when I was trying to hit a certain amount and then uninstalled the game without any further thought. Harsh, but true. Well, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is kind of like a reverse tower defense. Or, if you are feeling silly, tower offense. However, I’m continue to remain not hooked.

Basically, you control a bunch of mobile units in an environment brimming with enemy turrets, making your way to a specific point on the map. Anomaly: Warzone Earth takes this idea one step further by giving you control over what you can build, the order in which you place your units–they move in a singular line–and by also allowing you to plot out the course you’ll take dynamically during the mission, switching routes when necessary or a better path opens up. I enjoyed the rethinking “on the fly” part, as well as running ahead of my units and gathering power-ups, seeing what enemies and traps are in store.

I like the look of Anomaly: Warzone Earth a lot, and the top-down perspective really makes you feel like a god, commanding these soldier-esque ants to do your bidding. You direct all the movement, the moment-to-moment action, and collect power-ups dropped on the battlefield from planes overhead. The UI is clean and stylish, with the map screen sporting a beautiful mix of blues, whites, and reds, and the tutorial never really felt like a tutorial, pushing you through the first mission quickly while teaching you things along the way, such as how to heal units or purchase new tanks. That said, the story is fairly ho-hum, with the voice acting not doing it any favors.

I played the first three levels of Anomaly: Warzone Earth‘s campaign, stopping at mission 4 “Distress Call,” and that’s enough for me. There’s other modes, like Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid, that are grayed out on the start screen, and I’ll never experience local co-op, but that’s okay. I liked this more than I thought I would, but not enough to keep going.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #30 – How to Cope with Boredom and Loneliness

Harold is grounded
For thirty years, find out why
Free hint–ask his mom

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Slay away as Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

As a young lad, many of the sleepovers with my then best friend resulted in us exploring the nearby woods at night, playing games together on our respective consoles–his a Sega Genesis and mine a SNES–and renting horror films to watch until the sun came up. These ran the gamut from things like Species to Deep Rising, but our favorites, meaning ones we rented multiple times for the local Blockbuster, were the Friday the 13th slasher films. These were, though it is embarrassing to admit to it, our first look at nudity and violence holding hands, a concept that stimulated our teenage brains to their very core, and we’d stay up late after the movie was over, tossing back ideas about what we’d do to take down the legendary Jason Voorhees ourselves, if we ever were unlucky enough to come across him. My plan often involved pushing him off a cliff.

Well, with Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle, you aren’t trying to beat the man that won’t die; instead, you are him, on a mission to murder every final girl, nerd, officer, punk, etc., one after the other, until nobody’s left to bother you. This isometric top-down puzzler, across a variety of levels, has you sliding Jason across a grid until you literally bump into your victim, instantly murdering them. After taking out all the targets, a final mark will appear, and often reaching them is a puzzle of its own because you can only slide in so many directions. Each level ends with Jason using a stylish finisher move, which would normally be considered grizzly and ultra-violent, but not here, where the game’s cartoonish look keeps everything light and silly. I mean, I don’t know if stabbing a person through the chest with a baseball bat is even possible, but it’s funny to see the hockey masked man do it. Afterwards, your bloodlust gauge fills up, and once it is full, generally with a little help from Jason’s mom’s severed head–don’t ask–you can unlock a new weapon to equip.

Here’s the thing I didn’t expect to experience in Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle–it’s addictive. The levels are short and satisfying. You can take stock of the layout at your leisure, even switching the camera to an optional top-down view, before making your first murderthon move. Each themed level introduces something new, such as animals you don’t want to harm, people running away from Jason right to an exit, obstacles keeping you from your victims, guards with gnus, and dealing with traps like holes, bodies of water, and electrified fences. Thankfully, it never becomes too much. At first, you can kind of fudge your way to victory, but as the level fills up with all these various elements, you have to slow down and, similar to chess, begin to think several moves ahead. It’s ultra satisfying to see your plan come together, and then you fall into the hole of wanting to at least see how the next level starts, ultimately losing a half hour before you even know it.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle isn’t a difficult game. Levels rarely take longer than a few minutes. What I find ultra appreciative is that the game comes with hints and walkthroughs in it, which means I don’t need to Google anything on my phone when I get stuck or exit out and come back later, losing momentum. At any point, you can click on Jason’s mother’s severed head–still don’t ask–and she’ll either give you a single hint of what to do next or walk you through every single step in fast-forward. You can also undo any more, even ones that kill Jason, or simply restart the level if you feel like you’ve borked it bad enough. I have resorted to using the in-game walkthrough a few times, but only after giving the level a good shake, and I love that it is included, and the language around it is super friendly and not condescending.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle was released, for free, a few weeks back on…yup, you guessed it–Friday, April 13. I believe it is available on phones, but I’ve been playing it in bursts on Steam, and I’m probably halfway through all the levels it came with, currently sliding around Jason from Jason X, not my favorite entry in the series. Anyways, this cute freebie comes from Blue Wizard, the developer behind Slayaway Camp, which shares similar gameplay, but more voxel-based graphics. If I ever see the end of Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle and really want more puzzle-driven mayhem, I’ll know where to turn to next. Even if it doesn’t have a dedicated button in the pause menu to making the chi chi chi ha ha ha sound effect.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #29 – Umfend

An experiment
Creates echoes from the past
Work harder, smarter

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #28 – Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan

Queen, mortal danger
These objects full of darkness
Use that nice otter

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

#GameStruck4 – The Four Games That Define Me

I’m a sucker for memes, especially videogame ones, but alas, this #GameStruck4 one seems to be mega popular only on Twitter, a platform I’m not really active on anymore. So I’m doing it here instead and using it as an excuse to write about four very important games in my upbringing. As if I haven’t already touched upon these masterpieces in the past. Oh, and these are all from my SNES and PlayStation 1 days, which is really where gaming got its hooks into me–sorry, GameBoy–and I’m sure I could come up with four for every console generation I’ve gotten to experience up to this very day and date, but these are the ones that certainly shaped me early on.

Suikoden II

Ah, my sweet, sweet Suikoden II. You were everything I liked about the first Suikoden and then some, showing me that characters, that tiny bits of sprites and colors and text boxes, were just as believable and real and full of feelings as 3D polygonal dudes and dudettes. And Suikoden II has so many great characters. Here, let me name a few: Jowy, Nanami, Viktor, Flik, Bolgan, Luc, Clive, Luca Blight, and so on.

I replayed the game back in 2014 and wrote a bunch of thoughts along the way, many that I don’t need to rehash here. It’s a game that continues to live on inside me, and I often find myself comparing a lot of things to it. Or comparing it to everything. Either take works. Like, if a game lets you recruit party members, that’s cool and all, but six pales in comparison to 108 Stars of Destiny. No cooking minigame will ever beat Suikoden II‘s cooking minigame, and watching your castle grow and expand as your army increases makes going out and finding these new recruits worth it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is probably the first game to ever make me cry. Not out of joy or love or the beauty of its colorful pixels, but frustration. I was young and struggled to beat a boss, and it affected me greatly. I remember physically tossing my SNES controller, something I’ve never done again. I’ve since grown from this time and now have backpacks full of patience, but this game, if anything, taught me to take things slow, to examine and prepare, to live in these environments and not rush to the next screen just for some shiny object or plot point. There’s a good number of secrets to discover in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and playing around with teleporting between the Light World and Dark World is one of my favorite time-killers, especially if it resulted in an extra Heart Piece or path to a new area.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid oozes atmosphere without saying a whole lot directly. You really have to pay attention to the environment to rise above it and defeat all the Space Pirate bosses. The two most long-lasting memories for me for Super Metroid, a game I’ve most definitely replayed a bunch and claim (back in 2011) has the most epic scene ever, are when you first get to the powerless and ghost-infested Wrecked Ship on Zebes and learning how to wall-jump from the blue, monkey-like Etecoons.

For the former, the eerie stillness of the area is immediately unnerving, and your constants, such as upgrading the map and restoring health and missiles via the respective stations, no longer work until you switch the power back on. There’s a ton of implied storytelling here, like piecing together that the ghosts are actually the deceased crew. For the latter, you need to watch the critters work their magic leaping wall to wall and then replicate it; otherwise, you aren’t going anywhere. It’s not easy, but when you successfully climb that tall column and hit the top, getting higher than the Etecoons, it feels beyond amazing. It’s also neat to know that you can do this move at any point in the game, from the very start. You just don’t know about it until until you run into them later.

Metal Gear Solid

I’m bummed to no longer have a physical copy of this game unlike the three listed above, especially when you consider how essential the retail box is to a specific part in the story. Still, when I bought the Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012 for the PlayStation 3, it came with digital download codes for Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Sold: VR Missions. Both of which I played through relatively recently when I was on a sojourn to see this series through from start to finish; my progress came to a complete and grinding halt during Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which I did not find all that interesting or captivating, and I should probably just skip it entirely and move on to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

Anyways, Metal Gear Solid taught me that games can be larger than life, that they can take their time telling whatever story they want, no matter how inane or far-fetched or action-cool it was. That your surroundings and actions matter, that you can go about a mission in multiple ways, whether it be by sneaking past unaware soldiers, sniping them from far back, or a mixture of both plans. It was certainly the first stealth game I ever played, which planted a pacifism seed in me that, to this day, no matter the game, has me always trying to accomplish tasks nonviolently, with as few casualties as possible.

What are the four games that define you? Tell me about ’em below in the comments or link to your very own hot take on the #GameStruck4 meme.