Tag Archives: Adult Swim

An outlandishly intriguing echo of Legendary Gary’s life

For many, videogames are not just a way to kill the hours, a delightful form of digital entertainment, but rather pure escapism. They are a doorway to elsewhere. I know that when I was going through my divorce a few years ago I leaped at the chance to lose myself in some other world than this, to worry instead about equipment, side quests, and skill points versus dividing up household items and signing papers full of legalese. I’m not ashamed to name some of them either, such as Remember Me, Transistor, Fantasy Life, and, uh, Disney Magical World. Sometimes avoidance is the easier path, though usually not the best one in retrospect.

Legendary Gary, made by Evan Rogers, who previously worked as a programmer on What Remains of Edith Finch and The Last of Us, is a literal take on escapism. It’s about a young man named Gary who lives in his mother’s basement and would never be described as legendary by those around him. He’s been recently fired from his job at the local supermarket, and he’s struggling to find motivation to do anything responsible-like. Thankfully, there’s Legend of the Spear, a turn-based strategy RPG that he can play on his computer, day and night. to keep adult-ing at bay. This game within the game stars Winkali, a heroic warrior who somewhat physically resembles our leading lad and must save his kingdom after his King mysteriously disappears during an attack. Eventually, Gary’s personal life and Winkali’s quest begin to share some similarities, and the line dividing them weakens, to the point where even Gary himself is questioning everything around him.

Gameplay in Legendary Gary is divided up into two beats. For normal, everyday slacker Gary, you’ll walk around small areas like his mom’s house and workplace, talk to friends, family, and co-workers, and tend to the garden, which basically involves planting some seeds and ensuring all the flowers are watered once a day. At first, I was worried I’d be falling deep into another farming-like simulator, but that was not the case; so long as the flowers are healthy and wet, you’ll gain extra abilities during fights. There’s also a “motivation” meter to be aware of, affected by Gary’s relationships and decisions and whether or not he gets a good night’s sleep, and this determines some dialogue choice options, but it never seemed to go further than that, so don’t get too upset as it climbs and dips as the story moves forward.

In Legend of the Spear, it’s all about the combat, with a couple of name-guessing puzzles to boot. Battles are predetermined and limited in number, taking place on a small hexagonal grid. Both the heroes and enemies attack in a turn-based fashion, except the wrinkle here is that everyone is technically moving on the same turn simultaneously. You kind of need to see it in action to grok it. This type of combat requires a different type of strategy and takes a few attempts before everything really begins clicking, but thankfully there are some helpful tools readily available from the start to get you up to speed. For instance, you can preview every single turn to see what your enemies are planning to do, determining your actions based on this bit of future sight. You can also rewind turns if things go sour quickly, and they will because if one character in your team dies, it’s over. If you’re successful, you’ll get to see an entire uncut replay of the fight, and it’s like watching a young child’s interpretation of a theatrical song and dance about good versus evil, sped up slightly.

So, the combat is probably the big seller for the game, the thing that makes this a narrative-driven RPG, and I found it initially underwhelming. However, with each fight, I felt like I was getting better and beginning to master how to move everyone around the field, conserving SP and using everyone’s abilities smartly. Your party, at most, is made up of three team members, but you’ll also have some solo fights to deal with. Still, some fights were absolutely brutal, like the one against Sintravos, which took me 70+ turns to see conclude. In retrospect, there were some abilities I never even used, and I found myself sticking to the same-old patterns and tricks to get the job done, such as having Winkali winding up for a stronger punch on the next turn. I initially assumed there would be grinding involved and leveling up via experience points, but each fight has been designed to teach and test you appropriately. In reality, they are more like combat puzzles.

Perhaps my favorite element of Legendary Gary is its soundtrack. It’s weird and weirdly mesmerizing. All the music is done by xXsickXx, and there’s a tribal, electronic pop tint to it all, like something you might imagine was born and bred in the 1980s, in a jungle, with a fever. Sometimes the disconnect between the songs and what is happening in the game is super strong–mostly because the soundtrack only veers its strange head during fights–but it never took me out of the experience completely. Also, you might be surprised to hear someone singing in a couple songs, as most soundtracks for games are instrumental only, but it does become an integral plot piece later in the game. The artwork in Legendary Gary is just as striking, reminding me of an illegal fusion of Squidbillies, Disney’s Pocahontas, and that 1982 Franco-Hungarian animated science fiction classic Time Masters, and it’s extra neat to see how people in Gary’s real life appear in Legend of the Spear. There’s a simplicity to the style and animations with bright, flat colors, but it works well and helps create a unified world.

Despite all that, I still had some issues with Legendary Gary. The Augur egg puzzles, which basically require you to input a specific name, are at first unclear and ultimately not fun to do because you have to click left or right a bunch of times to find the correct letter, and it just slows everything down to a snail-like crawl. I’d have preferred using my keyboard to type in the specific name; I’m a fast typer. Pathfinding is problematic too, especially in the supermarket. Gary’s friend Dave is a sour note, relying on way too many jokes about having sex with Gary’s mom who you come to realize is degrading in mental health, and his gross humor just didn’t sit well with me. Lastly, and this is a big point for me, considering my day job is editing the heck of out other people’s grammar, there were several spelling mistakes throughout Gary’s journey, such as using “effected” instead of “affected” and “weilding” instead of “wielding”, and each instance of these broke my copy-editing heart.

In the end, I wanted more from Legendary Gary. I really enjoyed its look and sounds and felt ready by its credits to take on some even tougher battles, but by then it was over, and the story was told. Still, if you enjoy turn-based combat and want something a bit different than the standard stuff, along with a soundtrack that will have you bobbin’ your head from the very first beat, give this a try. It’s available on Steam.

A copy of Legendary Gary was provided to me by Evan Rogers for review. It took me about four to five hours to complete over a couple of sittings. At one point, during a battle, I closed my eyes and drifted away on a gloriously fluffy soundtrack cloud, returning several minutes later to, y’know, play the game proper. I don’t know if I grew every flower in the garden, and I’m still pretty upset about Gary’s mom, who reminded me way too much of Ellen Burstyn’s character from Requiem for a Dream. Anyways, pay them bills.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #126 – Small Radios Big Televisions

Analog, baby
Find tapes, gems hidden inside
Unclear narrative

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.

My Laptop Hates These Games – September 2017

Look, this feature is good for my soul, figuring out what works and doesn’t on my less-than-stellar laptop and deleting them without a second glance if they’re borked, but boy does it make me sad. Why? Well, I like playing games, and having games that don’t work and can’t be played is a big ol’ bummer. Mainly because of that first declaration. But also because some might have been acquired with money, and I work hard correcting bad grammar for those dollars so…boo to that. The majority of games in my collection are there because I wanted to play them, and hitting a brick wall right away with a genuine curious smile on your face is not ideal.

Either way, here we are with the second edition of My Laptop Hates These Games. Read on to see which ones in particular.

Small Radios Big Televisions

This is the previously mentioned big ol’ bummer of the month. I got a copy of Small Radios Big Televisions from some recent bundle whose name I know not, and it seemed like a cool, extremely chill adventure exploring the inner workings of deserted factories in search of data cassettes that contain boundless virtual worlds. Y’know, the usual thing. Regardless, I’ll never get to collect those cassette tapes because the game crashes as soon as I launch it, and I’m not alone, with the answer being updating drivers for my graphics card. Which I don’t know how to do or if there even are drivers available. So that’s that, uninstalled. Maybe it’ll come to Xbox One…one day.

Astral Heroes

Some days, I like thinking about all the card games or card-based games I could be playing right now and imagining a world where I both had the time and team to eat every single one up with glee, learning mechanic after mechanic and eye-balling amazing artwork until my eyes were no more. Alas, nope, not ever going to happen, and that stinks because of forthcoming creations like Munchkin Collectible Card Game and Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Card Game. Well, looks like I won’t ever being playing Astral Heroes either, a sequel to Astral Masters and a free, fantasy-based card game with deck building, similar to Hearthstone. All I see when I run the executable is a black screen, but I can move a cursor around and hear music.

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon A Time, according to its description on Steam, is an adventure game in which a young woman finds a magic book and is instantly teleported inside. It is not, as far as I can tell, a tie-in with ABC’s Once Upon A Time, which is a popular TV series about a new world, one in which fairy-tale legends and modern life collide. For this free game, each chapter of the book is one single tale in which you will have to solve riddles in a fairy-tale setting. Magic and nature will be friends and foes. Um, sure. That sounds fine if somewhat vague, but even on “very low” settings this was nothing but chunks of various shades of gray that made it next to impossible to navigate. It was like I was swimming in a cave full of fog when the reality is I was supposed to be in some building collecting scrolls.

My Laptop Hates These Games takes a quick look at the titles that kind of, only sort of run or don’t run at all on my ASUS laptop. Here’s hoping that some of these, specifically the ones that looked interesting, come to console down the road. Y’know, those gaming machines where nothing ever goes wrong and every game runs perfectly without ever crashing or freezing or glitching out. Maybe I’ll play these there or in 2056 when I get a new laptop that is, even at that point, still somewhat obsolete.

Soul Brother’s puzzle platforming life is but a brief tenure

gd final impressions on soul brother

I have two copies of Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor in my collection, one on the PC and the other my PlayStation 3, and I’m scared to play either. Y’all should know this by now, but I’m terrible when it comes to horror games or even games with just a slight hint of horror. I don’t like walking around a corner in real life and getting scared when something jumps out at me, and I like it even less in videogames. This is why it took me years to play through Silent Hill 2. Strangely, I’m mostly okay with horror films, as I’m not in control and just along for the ride, though some, such as The Gate or The Blair Witch Project, continue to give me nightmares to this very day. Thankfully, Soul Brother, which is one of Byrne’s earlier works, is a more lighthearted adventure, despite all the forced suicide.

You play as one Mr. Soul, a spirit that can body hop from creature to creature upon death. This spectral form is on a quest for wisdom and understanding, and to find that, it’ll have to navigate a weird, maze-like landscape, using the body and skills of the bodies it inhabits to make progress. Different bodies will help in unique ways, such as the bird Birdie that can hover across long stretches or the cat Nemo who can double jump. Mr. Soul also needs to avoid enemies on screen, floating saw blades, and pits of spikes because this colorful, kaleidoscopic realm is full of danger, while also trying to collect every gem of wisdom along the way. It’s the only way to understand reincarnation, naturally.

Soul Brother is free to play in your browser over at Adult Swim’s gaming site. I’ve enjoyed other titles from there before, such as Insidia and Winnose. Just search Grinding Down if you want to know more. Anyways, this retro platformer is just as good and kooky, with enough challenge to stop you for a bit in several rooms as you noodle out a solution to make it out alive or, in some cases, kill yourself in the most strategic way possible. The arrow keys move your character left and right, and the X button is for jumping, which changes based on the body Mr. Soul is currently occupying.

Alas, I did not collect all the gems of wisdom. There’s 33 in total, and I grabbed about 8 or 9 before moving on to the end. Thankfully, you don’t need to collect all (or any) of the gems to reach a higher plane, but they are there if you’re looking for an extra challenge or goal. Evidently some gems are also tucked away in hidden rooms. At the end, you are rewarded with fruit pick-ups from a multi-limbed green entity based on a number of different attributes, like time completed and how often you had to reincarnate. I suspect getting all the gems would give you something really good here, but that’s just me speculating. I was content with my pixelated pear and orange.

I can’t end this post on Soul Brother without touching on its soundtrack. It’s so full of bounce and pep that it is in complete contradiction with the idea of killing yourself to be reborn in a better body. The soundtrack makes me want to live more in my original body, to get up and move, to nod my head as I wiggle my heads. Truthfully, I’ve been listening to it on full repeat as I wrote this post. There’s a bunch of thick drum and bass, crunchy electronica, wonky synth action, and just enough odd sound effect sampling to keep you on your toes. Warning: these great tunes may get in your way of successful platforming.

Lastly, I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I look at my cats every day and do think they have it pretty good. So, if push comes to shove, I’d like to be reborn as a furry friend for a nice human, where the biggest concern of my day isn’t avoiding swinging saw blades but rather finding the most perfect slant of sunlight and taking a nap in it. Right meow please.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #24 – Soul Brother

2015 gd games completed soul brother

See those spikes, do it
Embrace reincarnation
Your reward is fruit

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Coma means to feel nothing and still get full credit for being alive

coma gd final impressions

It’s interesting to see what an impact 2010’s Limbo from developer Playdead had on the gaming industry. It’s been almost five full years since the world got to take control of a young boy, wreathed in silhouette, on the hunt to find his missing sister. Since the world got to watch in horror as horror happened to this young boy for every misstep and mistake he–a.k.a. you–made. Coma doesn’t punish you in the same trial and error way as Limbo did, but it still evokes a somber, almost futile sense of dread with every jump and change of scenery. I dug it, but there’s problems. Also, questions.

What’s a coma? An extended state of unconsciousness. I’ve never been in one and hope to never experience it, but you never know what way life will go. More pertinent to the topic at hand–what’s Coma with a capital c? It’s a light exploration and adventure game by Thomas Brush, playable in your browser over at Adult Swim’s games section. Probably a bajillion other sites, too, but this is where I first stumbled across it, my new go-to site for small, bite-sized gaming experiences, like Insidia and Winnose from last year. It’s a casual platformer, with no fail state that I could find and a running time of maybe fifteen to twenty minutes, depending if you get stuck trying to figure out how to make it across that one big gap.

Coma‘s story is purposefully obtuse. You play as a tiny boy-thing, drowning in shadows. You are searching for your sister who, according to a bird-thing you befriend, is trapped in a secret basement. Along the way you’ll run into other strange critter-things who may or may not help you. There’s writing on the walls that maybe clue you in on the state of this realm and Pete’s abusive father, but again, it’s not really for the game to say. Is this boy in a coma? Is he trying to rescue his sister, who is the one in a coma? Is that big blobby queen creature a tumor? Not really sure. I both like that and don’t, as the game’s world is perhaps too ethereal and foreign to feel grounded in, so I have nowhere to even begin basing anything off of.

The controls are thus: use the arrow keys to move left and right, as well as the up arrow to jump. Personally, I’m not a fan of this, as I like my jump command to be binded to a different button than the movement keys as it can sometimes be tricky to press both in one direction and then up to leap over an obstacle. You use the mouse to advance dialogue by clicking on it. That’s it, which is more than enough for an exploratory platformer. Unfortunately, the fluidity of the jumping takes some getting used to and is not very accurate when you need it, such as jumping large gaps or from ledge to ledge. Plus, given that there is maybe one or two choices to make, dialogue should’ve scrolled automatically, with no input needed by the player.

A platformer with poor platforming controls should not be played. That’s a pretty obvious call, really. However, Coma is so gorgeous to look at and listen to that I urge everyone to push past the lackluster leaping to see the next screen, hear the next tune. I’m a sucker for fields where the grass sways and flowers bob as you brush past them, and that happens a lot here. There’s also a beautifully picturesque sequence involving a trampoline and clouds that I won’t say any more about. When Coma gets dark, it gets dark, and that’s fine, given the subject matter, but I much more preferred wandering around above ground than in the giant worm-infested darkness below.

Coma will most likely mean something different to everyone that plays it. For a short, relatively simple adventure gameplay-wise, reading a bunch of various interpretations about what Peter’s sister’s song means and the point of Mama Gomgossa’s ball game is nonetheless stimulating. Play, don’t trust the bird, and see what you see.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #7 – Coma

2015 gd games completed coma

Don’t ring the doorbell
Some comas are eternal
The bird’s a liar

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.