Tag Archives: action platformer

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

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.


We live in a rainbow of chaos in Runbow

To me, there are two kinds of platformers: good and bad. Just kidding. I’m talking about ones where the platforming exists as a means to get you from point A to point B so you can do action C, and ones where the platforming itself, the jumping and landing and getting from spot to spot safely, is the entire crux of the game.

I like both to varying degrees, though I certainly prefer the former, enjoying more laid-back jumping like in Sound Shapes, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and Sugar Cube Bittersweet Factory over punishing affairs like So Many Me, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels. Those are almost instantly frustrating and what I like to call un-fun, though there is a masochistic side of me that continues to return to them, to see if I maybe have the twitch-based skills to jump quick with godly precision. Runbow is a mix of these two platformer types, with some levels being a breeze and others being the sort of wall I bang my head against for fifteen minutes, dying over and over and over until I get the pattern down perfectly.

First off, I didn’t choose Runbow, it chose me by being one of July’s freebies on Xbox One and its bright, colorful appearance. I believe it originally came out for the Wii U a couple years back and was later ported to PC, New Nintendo 3DS, and Xbox One from 13AM Games, an indie team based in Canada. Its origin stems from the 2014 Global Game Jam, and the quick elevator pitch is that it’s an action platformer focused on players trying to reach a trophy at the end of each level, dealing with obstacles, enemies, and vanishing platforms along the way. Players can perform a double jump as well as a punch attack to defeat enemies or gain extra reach while jumping up or horizontally. The rub is that the background of each level constantly shifts between a cycle of colors, causing platforms and hindrances of the same color as the background, such as blockades and spikes, to disappear/reappear. Levels are timed, and you are awarded either one, two, or three coins for beating it under a specific time.

I’m currently working my way through the singe-player Adventure mode, which tasks you with saving Poster District from the evil Satura. Why? Not sure, and it doesn’t really matter. This is just an excuse to complete a bunch of levels–140 in total–until you can take her on yourself four separate times. What is nice is that if you are mainly gunning for Satura, you can forge your own path to her, sticking to green (easier) levels instead of following yellow or red ones (harder). The map is broken into four quadrants, with each one its own theme containing unique challenges and dangers. You can play as a number of different characters, some from famous indie games, like Shantae and Shovel Knight, but they all jump the same as far as I can tell so it doesn’t really matter who you go with; I like male Red Hue dressed as a lumberjack, personally, but you do you.

I’ve not tried it yet, but there’s a mode called The Bowhemoth, which is described as a single, ultra-difficult challenge that takes place in the belly of a colossal beast. Evidently, it will test the skills of even the toughest platforming veterans, so I’m greatly concerned. I’ll give it a shot, but might have to *ahem* bow out if the jumping is too tough. I have, however, tried out the online competitive modes of Arena and King of the Hill, both of which were too chaotic for me to grasp and enjoy. I often found myself unable to find myself on the screen and just hoped for the best, which went as well as you can expect.



My goal for Runbow is to complete all 140 levels. Yup, you heard me. Not three-star every one, but at least complete them and fill in the poster map. After that, I think I’ll be done with it altogether as I’m not interested in its online competitive modes or its co-op action. Still, it’s a fun, seemingly friendly product, with good tunes and a neat gameplay mechanic that has you strategizing each and every jump. Stay tuned for the eventual game review haiku, hopefully.