Tag Archives: action platformer

2019 Game Review Haiku, #4 – Where is 2019?

Hunting the new year
Strange world, solid platforming
I found seaweed, yay

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Another World

Another World is an adventuring classic. At least, it seems so. It’s also known as Out of This World in North America and Outer World in Japan, which has only confused me for years because I always thought those were different, unique games…or parts in a series. Nope, they are one in the same. For those that don’t know, Another World released in 1991, and it’s a highly cinematic action-adventure platforming game designed by Éric Chahi and published by Delphine Software. The narrative involves Lester, a young scientist who, as a result of an experiment gone wrong, finds himself on a dangerous alien world where he is forced to fight for his survival.

Here’s some things I just learned about Another World, after giving it a few goes on the PlayStation 3 via the Another World – 20th Anniversary Edition version, which us PlayStation Plus users got for free this past September. It was developed by Chahi alone over a period of about two years, with help only on the soundtrack from Jean-François Freitas. Chahi developed his own game engine, completing all the game’s art and animations in vector form to reduce memory use, with some use of rotoscoping to help plan out character movements. Both narrative-wise and gameplay-wise, he wanted the game to be told with little to no language or user-interface elements. The game was originally developed for the Amiga and Atari ST, but has since been widely ported to other contemporary systems, including home and portable consoles and mobile devices…which is how I am playing it some now twenty-plus years later after always being curious about the legendary beast.

Still, I couldn’t get too far in this one, especially once it became necessary to fire guns at enemies and dodge incoming bullets while also creating shields to block said projectiles. I did okay kicking and jumping over the weird alien worms that fall from the ceiling, as well as running away from the dark-black hulk that chases you at the start of Another World. After that…everything just needed to be too precise for me to figure out. Plus, once you died, which always only took one wrong move or hit, you had to do the whole “rock the cage” bit again, and then try to hit your marks perfectly or be evaporated before you even knew what hit you.

Well…I just watched a full playthrough on YouTube (with no commentary), with a run-time of just over thirty minutes, which includes multiple deaths and restarts. Yeah, I don’t think I would ever have figured some of this stuff out. There are walls you can blast open to let you into new areas, but I don’t see how you’d be aware of them at all as they don’t stand out and the game itself never tells you what you can or cannot do. In one way, that’s freeing and awesome; in another, completely frustrating. There’s a whole section set in a cavern that is blowing my tiny little mind. I get that adventure games are all about exploring and trying your options out until they run bone dry, but again, with no text or inventory system…it’s seemingly impossible to know what is possible in a strange world like this. Also, all your actions require repetition to perfect.

I’ll give credit where credit is certainly due. It looks like Chahi created one fantastic sidekick more than twenty years ago, an alien being who communicated only through gestures and a small lexicon of syllabic barks and encouragements. I think its name is Buddy, but don’t put my feet to the fire on that. I’d place it next to similar strong standouts like Agro, Vivi, and Yoshi. Another World absolutely wrings every ounce of its low-detail scenery, flipping between perspectives and just overall presenting a world unknown to anyone. It’s strangeness is what kept me watching, wanting to see where it all went…which, to be honest, I didn’t fully follow, but I greatly enjoyed the journey from a distance.

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.

All of Spyro: Year of the Dragon’s eggs are up for grabs

gd-spyro-3-year-of-the-dragon-ps1-early-impressions

I completed Spyro the Dragon, at 71%, despite the wonky camera, frustrating platforming, and that final fight against Gnasty Gnorc. Then I took on Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, collecting a mighty number of gems, talismans, and orbs. After that, I moved on to Spyro: Year of the Dragon, the third installment in the series despite it missing a number in the title, but alas, I’ve still not finished it off and most likely won’t…well, not the PlayStation 1 classic version I have downloaded on my PlayStation 3. Why, you ask? Well, there’s a little thing called Spyro Reignited Trilogy coming out next month–that’s November, y’all–and I’m mega-stoked to revisit the series with hopefully better controls and camera options. Oh, and it looks gorgeous too.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon opens with a celebration in the land of the dragons, where Spyro and his kin are celebrating the titular “Year of the Dragon,”, an event that occurs every twelve years when new dragon eggs are brought to the realm. However, unfortunately, during the celebration, a cloaked rabbit girl named Bianca invades the Dragon Realms with an army of creatures called Rhynocs and steals all of the dragon eggs. She brings them back to the Sorceress, an evil ruler of all the Forgotten Realms, who scatters the eggs throughout several worlds. Spyro, along with his trusty lifelong pals Sparx and Hunter, are sent to recover the dragon eggs.

Well…my save file says that I’m at 64% completion for Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Go me. That more or less equates to 10,110 out of 15,000 gems and 90 out of 148 dragon eggs, according to the in-game Atlas menu. Which, if I can say, is really handy for tallying up all your accomplishments, along with the objectives still to finish off in each distinct world. This is good information to have because you often need a certain number of dragon eggs to move forward to the next area, and most of them are easy enough to collect, except for the ones based on mini-games, like skating or boxing.

The gameplay is, more or less, the same as the it was in the previous two games. In this one, Spyro will explore over 30 worlds, defeat enemies, complete puzzles, participate in mini-games, and collect eggs and the usual colored gems. He doesn’t have any brand-new moves, but the controls are still fine, if a bit iffy when trying to both charge forward and jump; often, I would just send our poor tiny, purple dragon right off a cliff’s edge. The camera remains a constant opponent. That said, it’s still a lot of fun to explore these worlds and find all the hidden-away gems or see a dragon egg in the distance and figure out how to reach it.

Spyro’s quest to recapture the dragon eggs stolen by the Sorceress is aided by a number of furry and fuzzy friends. Such as Bentley the yeti, Sheila the kangaroo, Sergeant Byrd the flying penguin, and Agent 9, a blaster-wielding space monkey. These characters are represented in unique levels to highlight their different powers and abilities, with puzzles only for them. For example, Sergeant Byrd, has large, open levels to match his ability to fly and long-distance attacks. There’s also Sheila, who has much more vertical levels to make use of her double-jump ability, and these sometimes look like a traditional 2D platformer.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon‘s graphics, sound, and charm all work together to create something special. Yes, even some eighteen years later. The character designs, while low on the polygon count, still show off Insomniac’s knack for creating iconic characters that are the step-stones for what’s to come down the road, namely the Ratchet and Clank series. Honestly, I’m excited to revisit all three games next month, and I promise to get all them dragon eggs back from the Sorceress. Why? Well, mostly because they’ll be tied to Achievements. Ha, I can’t quit caring about those digital bursts of dopamine.

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.

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.