Tag Archives: action platformer

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Aaru’s Awakening

Aaru’s Awakening is a looker, but not a hooker. Now, by hooker, I don’t mean one that is in the business or practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment. I mean the game itself did not hook me from the start, nor even after a couple of hours of bashing my head against it. It’s a beauty to behold, but a beast to play, and I’m glad I played it and relatively quickly saw that it was definitely not for me in the long run despite the gorgeous vistas and animations. In that respect, it reminds me of The Last Unicorn, a whimsical, romantic fairy tale full of gorgeous animation and fantastic vocal talents, but a story and pacing that I found quite dull and uninteresting.

Lumenox Games’ Aaru’s Awakening is a hand-drawn 2D action platformer set in the fantastical and deadly world of Lumenox brimming with spiked walls, falling platforms, toxic pits, enemy monsters, and various other pitfalls. This fast-paced game puts you in control of Aaru, a yellowy-orange mythical creature with two unique abilities–teleportation and charging. With these abilities at hand, he will travel through Lumenox’s four realms to defeat an evil entity…because that’s just what you do if your world is under attack.

Anyways, these two abilities are essential to Aaru’s Awakening and help it stand out as something more than a typical action platformer. The game’s levels require you to make split-second decisions while also completing ultra-hyper fast puzzles. Imagine while doing your taxes on a 30-second time limit and then you also had to decide between saving your wife from a bear or your child from a shark. Know the answer? Go. Aaru can perform a charge, which is basically a flying headbutt that can bash through stone walls, as well as extend your jump a few feet. Aaru can also teleport by firing an orb and appearing at any point in the orb’s trajectory. If that sounds tricky, it is…sometimes you need to bank the orb off walls or floors or through narrow vents in the rocks to bypass hazards. It’s also Aaru’s only offensive weapon–you can fire an orb at an enemy and, as it passes through him, teleport yourself to it, killing the monster in the process.

I found Aaru’s Awakening to be one big lump of trial and error, with fewer successes than failures. Because of the twitch-based gameplay, you can’t recover from your mistakes. If you miss a jump, well…too bad. Everything falls, and everything is designed to kill you, forcing you to remain on your toes and react instantly to every change. Look, I don’t play a lot of these so-dubbed splatformers by one Vinny Caravella, but I did okay in Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, and the difference between those and this is I found them challenging, but not overly punishing. Every mistake felt like my own, and here it often felt like I just didn’t know what was coming up and stumbled with my actions. Also, and I know this is a silly thing to bring up, but I didn’t even pop a single Trophy after playing the game for a few hours.

Here’s the final rub…if I had shelled out full price for Aaru’s Awakening, I’d probably be really disappointed in my purchase. As it stands, this was a freebie for PlayStation Plus subscribers some time back, and so, to me, I came into it with no financial attachments. The game requires split-second timing and a lot of memorization, a staple in many platformers for sure, but to a degree that is simply not enjoyable. I’ll let others take a whack at this brutal beast, teleporting myself elsewhere, most likely back in time to play Donkey Kong Country or Kirby Super Star on the SNES, games I know aren’t the toughest, but still have a bit of challenge behind them that make getting to the end feel rewarding.

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.

Advertisements

You have 10 seconds to survive Sonic Blast’s underwater levels

I played some Sonic Blast the other day, and I almost beat it. I’m not going to tell you why I had the sudden urge to play a Sonic the Hedgehog game, nor why I decided to pick that one of all my options. The game originally appeared on the Sega Game Gear way back in 1996, but also later managed to eek its way on to the Sega Master System…but only in Brazil. Huh. Nowadays, it can be found on various other platforms through collections, even as recent as a digital download on the Nintendo 3DS. My version is found deep inside the 2004 release Sonic Mega Collection Plus for the PlayStation 2, which I got almost three years ago during a PS2 shopping spree.

Sonic Blast clearly wanted to–pun intended–ape the same style of pre-rendered graphics from Super Nintendo’s big 1994 release Donkey Kong Country. For sure, those Rare titles had a look, even if they haven’t aged well. However, to ensure that details are visible, both sprites for Sonic and Knuckles are bigger than their counterparts in earlier titles, which results in a “zoomed in” look. This means you get to see less of the level on the screen and will often not know what is coming up, whether it be a bunch of rings, an enemy, or a death pit of spikes. I also had this problem with Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge and Metroid II: Return of Samus, both of which put all their effort into ensuring you see the game’s hero up close and personal at the sacrifice of gameplay.

And, well…it’s a Sonic the Hedgehog game. You generally move left to right across the screen, jumping, collecting rings, avoiding enemies, and searching for the spinning signpost that signals the level is over. Usually, to get there, it’s a complicated puzzle path. There’s not much new here overall, though you can also play as Knuckles from the get-go, which I did not do. Sonic Blast is relatively short, about five zones long, with each zone made up of a couple levels and a boss fight against Doctor Eggman that tasks you with jumping on his spaceship’s windshield several times to crack it open.

I got all the way up to the Blue Marine Zone, which is the fourth zone. Alas, it’s mostly underwater, with bits of ancient ruins, like crumbled columns, in the background to begin questioning yourself on the true nature of this beast and whether it all takes place on Earth. Also, there’s a bunch of pipes that shoot you this way and that way and all around with fervor and strong water currents to deal with. Here’s the kicker: you’ll drown if you stay in water for too long. If you need air, you can either get out of the water, find an air bubble, or travel along one of the previously mentioned suction tubes.

Drowning in Sonic the Hedgehog games is not whacking the originality ball into space. It’s been there since the beginning, with a wonderfully haunting ditty to remind you that death comes at your fast and there’s no time to do anything about it and you’ll never get to see your loved ones again and the end is oh-so near. That’s whatever, but my main beef with the mechanic specific to Sonic Blast is that…you have no indication of how much air you have left. If you linger too long under the water, you’ll eventually get a 10-second timer on top of the screen silently counting down to the Blue Blur’s demise. That classic piece of music I linked to above does not play. Considering the maze-like design of this zone and limited options for filling up Sonic’s lungs, I was frustrated and lost all of my lives and continue credits in this one section, having had zero deaths up to this point as the difficulty wasn’t all that challenging.

Wait. Okay, no–I had to look up a video walkthrough to confirm I wasn’t missing something, that this was user error, and it sort of was. See, if you stand Sonic over an area where tiny air bubbles are coming out of the ground–because of science, duh–it depletes your number of rings. I guess that means you are briefly buying more oxygen, but it’s not very clear as there’s no meter or picture or even animation from the Legendary Blue Hedgehog to indicate anything is happening; a sound effect would have gone a long way. But just like how Sonic’s air supply was depleted, so was my interest in playing further, seeing as this dropped me unceremoniously back to the title screen.

In the end, my forty or so minutes with Sonic Blast was anything but that. What? You had to know a joke like that was coming. Anyways, maybe one day I’ll feel inspired to go back and finish off its final acts, knowing what I know now about air bubbles and rings. Or maybe I’ll try another Sonic the Hedgehog title in my PS2 collection, considering it has something like 20 games in it, albeit not all star the Blue One and some must first be unlocked. Or perhaps I’ll never touch anything Sonic the Hedgehog-related ever again. All are likely options.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #1 – Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack

Eat everything up
Grow, consume, become monster
Planets are tasty

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.

Sate your alien hunger in Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack

I’ve never understood anyone more than when they say that they don’t like to eat. I mean, c’mon now. Eating is universal, providing heterotrophic organisms with energy, which allows for growth. Or maybe this is me being hypersensitive to food and nom nom nom-ing delicious things after spending more than a year working hard to lose weight and keep my calorie intake in check. For those curious, I’ve dropped almost fifty pounds by managing everything that goes into my mouth and doing my best to avoid downfalls like devouring an entire box of Cheez-Its in one sitting or having a bowl of pasta for every meal. Either way, I’m all for that eating, which is probably why I relate intimately with the green alien blob in Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack.

See, the little green alien blob thing you control in Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, which is a cataclysmic science-fiction puzzle-platformer if you ever needed a crazy mouthful of varying genre labels, has an insatiable appetite. Also, mutant powers, like the ability to cling to metal walls or squeeze through tiny gaps or grow in size after consuming enough food slash junk slash people. There are also mini-games to contend with that reminded me a bit of Marble Madness, with an overhead perspective and the goal being to get the green gluttonous ball to the level’s exit without falling into any holes; they are super short, but a lot of fun. Otherwise, your mission is to reach the end of the level, bypassing puzzles or platforming sections, eating up whatever gets in your way along the way.

I’m about halfway through Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and enjoying it quite a bit. The game is broken up into a bunch of worlds, each with their own specific count of levels. Personally, I prefer the more traditional platforming sections, where the goal is to get enough substance inside your gelatinous body to move forward. There are parts where you gain the ability to rocket around in zero gravity, and I found the controls less precise–most likely on purpose–and harder to handle there. I’m currently in the fourth world, the Badlands, and I have to wonder if I’ve seen all of this game’s tricks; if so, that’s perfectly fine, as the levels are relatively short to get through and too many gimmicks would complicate things. Also, I will not be going back to rescue the missing friend collectibles, no matter how cute or sad they look. Sorry, little blobs.

It’s got a cool retro style mimicking the look and sound of the 1940s and 1950s, which, while I never personally got to experience in the flesh, is an aesthetic I find interesting nonetheless. Some other noted examples: Fallout 3, L.A. Noire, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Well, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack comes from Drinkbox Studios, which is a name I now associate with going all in on style, having later put out the tough yet rewarding platformer Guacamelee!, which, let the record show, I did beat. Oh, and did you know they are making a Guacamelee! 2? Anyways, like that first game, this has some nods to other indie titles, such as with the Phil’s Fish restaurant or  billboard advertisement for Awesomenuts, and these are cute to find as you push your blob hero forward towards greater consumption.

Will completing Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and finally gets me to try out my copy of Katamari Damacy that I’ve had for years? Will I ever stop hungering for things like Cheez-Its and bowls of noodles? Will 2018 be our true downfall wherein we are consumed wholly by large, green alien blobs bent on the destruction of mankind? Stay tuned for answers, maybe.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #127 – Potatoman Seeks the Troof

Pink Potatoman
Seeks knowledge–jump, run, don’t jump
Semi-enlightened

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.

Watch Shantae whip and save Sequin Land from evil pirates

gd impressions shantae pirate's curse

I’ve never played a Shantae game, so I thought that, naturally, the best place to start is with Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third game in the series. Naturally. Look, it’s the only one I have in my entire collection, and I’d rather start somewhere than deal with the silly impairment in my brain that demands I begin all videogame series at the very start and only play through them one after the other, completing each one as fully as possible to truly get the ultimate gaming experience. It’s an exhausting, never-ending battle that I’d love to watch crumble and blow away in the wind, but that day is not yet on the horizon. Or is it? I mean, this is a small chip in the mountain, but I am at least taking action.

The story in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse sure is something, and I’ll do my best to get all the whimsical details right. So, Shantae is adjusting to life as a human post-genie, but wakes up to the sound of cannon fire one morning. Turns out, Scuttle Town is being taken over by the Ammo Baron, who, after a brief scuffle, reveals that he purchased the town from Mayor Scuttlebutt and is legally now its new mayor. Shantae’s arch-nemesis Risky Boots accuses her of robbing her of henchmen and other valuable items, but now they are teaming up to take on the Pirate Master, a powerful evil tyrant who is attempting to revive himself while simultaneously placing a curse on many of the world’s critters. Yeah, sure. To stop this all from happening, Shantae needs to destroy a specific number of dens of evil because videogames.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is one of those Metroidvania, 2D action side-scrollers you have all probably heard about by this point in time, though I’m still having a hard time deciding if it is more Metroid or more Castlevania. Its whimsical story and goofy sense of humor makes it hard to place in either category, plus those sultry sprite animations. Instead of whipping a whip at enemies, Shantae whips her hair with extreme force. She can also jump, dash backwards, perform a super kick, and fire a pistol shot, resulting in a versatile action heroine capable of handling whatever is thrown at her, whether it be frog fish, wetmen, or cacklers. Basically, this is all one needs to complete dungeon puzzles and open up new areas of the world to explore. You also have an inventory, and this is where potions, monster milk, and bento boxes go, all of which are easily accessible via the touchscreen on the Wii U gamepad…though I prefer to leave it on the map screen for quick navigation.

So far, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a good platformer that I am playing in short bursts, like between big moments in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or while waiting for that latest Nintendo Direct to start. There’s always progress to be made and, if not, I’m okay grinding for money so I can purchase new moves for Shantae. Though I am finding the number of enemies that magically pop up/appear right before Shantae and damage her to be ultra annoying. Also, in the second level, there is a sequence that involves carrying Shantae’s zombie friend Rottytops through a monster-infested forest where a single collision means death. It mixes up the gameplay, but the penalty for messing up and ramp in difficulty is surprisingly, especially so early on in the game.

I’ve put in under two hours so far into Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, and the Internet is telling me that it is about eight hours or so to complete the main campaign, with a few more to boot if one wants to gather all the squid hearts and hidden collectibles. Here’s hoping I stick with it a bit longer to see credits roll because I am enjoying it though it is not the second coming of Super Metroid. I’m not sure if anything ever will be.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #76 – Runbow

Colors disguise ground
Find your path, dash, double jump
If not, try again

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.