Tag Archives: Carmel Games

2017 Game Review Haiku, #27 – The Shadow Realms Arcade


Here, a dark arcade
Open back door, see hidden
Puzzles too obtuse

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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #14 – Camp Phantom


This is Camp Phantom
Where Lucy needs lucky charm
Deter ghost, or not

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.

Jamming with Grandma immediately takes a turn with kidnapping

jamming with grandma capture 02

Look at that screenshot above. It’s a little girl tied up inside some sugar factory, with a pile of dynamite to her side and a spinning saw blade of doom heading right towards her. This scene takes place almost immediately after starting Jamming with Grandma, another point-and-click adventure game from Carmel Games that I foolishly assumed was going to a light-hearted romp where a young child helps her elder make some fancy plum jam.

In one way, I was right, and then I was also completely wrong, as a creepy dude in black quickly showed up and kidnapped little Kaitlyn with the full intention to murder her. No, that’s not entirely true. Here comes a spoiler: all the threats in that room are completely fake. That dynamite? It’s just paper towel tubes painted red. That saw blade? It actually goes behind Kaitlyn and cuts her ropes off. He only wanted to make it seem like she was going to die so that Kaitlyn would give up her grandma’s secret, award-winning jam recipe. Yup, all that for jam.

After escaping the dastardly plans of the disturbing man dressed in black, it’s business as usual in Jamming with Grandma. You’ll travel to a limited number of scenes set in a small, suburban town, interact with a small mount of people, pick up items, and then use them on people and things to progress forward in your quest to get Grandma all the ingredients she needs. I believe this is sugar, lemon, sliced pears, and something else I am forgetting. I’m no jam chef, though I do enjoy putting some apple jam jelly on lightly toasted bread in the morning.

I know this won’t be shocking, but I continue to experience the same problems I did with other titles from Carmel Games like Smells like Art and Dakota Winchester’s Adventures. These include not being able to tell when you can explore more of a scene to the left or right, obtuse puzzles, and extremely forced voice acting. The latter isn’t a deal-killer, but I did eventually get stuck for a minute or two in Jamming with Grandma until I accidentally hovered my mouse over to the right inside Grandma’s house and discovered there was an entire second room to explore. The artwork didn’t really make it seem like there was more that way.

Speaking of artwork, I actually really like the direction Jamming with Grandma took. It’s more colorful and defined than previous titles, where everything in the foreground, meaning characters and items you could pick up, felt flat when placed against the more detailed backgrounds. Here, everything gels together a little more naturally. Though Grandma’s artwork kind of reminds me of the Hobbits in Return of the King by Rankin and Bass. Also, there’s a kid dressed up as Freddy Krueger and hanging out on a sidewalk, which was weird, though he did eventually make himself useful for a puzzle.

Once again, I continue to pop into these titles because I’m just so dang curious about them and their titles and plots and how high the male voice actors will pitch their voices this time to somewhat emulate a woman speaking. Can’t wait to see which one I try next, though I did see a comment on Carmel Games’ blog mentioning that a new title that explored more of this mysterious man in black was on its way. Let’s hope there’s less kidnapping of tiny children.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #35 – Jamming with Grandma

2016 gd games completed jamming with grandma

At one point, some twit
Kidnaps Kaitlyn, ties her up
To sweep jam contest

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.

Dakota Winchester does indeed anticlimactically find the third ruby

dakota win 3 capture

At last, the day has arrived. For a while there, I thought we’d never get the third and final act for Dakota Winchester’s Adventures, which stars an Indian Jones wannabe in search of three mystical rubies because…hold on, let me look this up. Right, these rubies are the keys to the even more mysterious Hilda’s box, which proclaims to contain the secret to eternal life. Anyways, I kept checking the Carmel Games website, but only saw that other brand new adventuring series were being started at a surprising and alarming rate. Thankfully, it is here, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Swoon. And I’m not disappointed, but only because I knew going in that I would, more likely than not, given my track record with these sorts of games, be disappointed.

I played the first two parts of Dakota Winchester’s Adventures way back in November 2014, nabbing two out of three rubies in preparation for the final victory. This third act kicks things off in the basement of some old mansion. Dakota Winchester is on the hunt for the final ruby, and he’ll have to solve puzzles involving fires, ropes, and hidden safe locks, as well as conversing with an old professor of his who does not think highly of him. See above. My favorite aspect of this character is that he himself is a wannabe, this time of Indiana Jones’ father, Henry Jones, Sr., played by the legendary Sean Connery. Look, we all can do terrible Sean Connery impressions, but that doesn’t mean we should or should have these impressions recorded and tossed into a point-and-click adventure game for many to hear. It’s potentially more cringe-worthy than when previous Carmel Games titles would obviously pitch up a man’s voice to portray a female character.

I found Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 3 to be a letdown from beginning to end, but maybe that’s because I built it up in my head to be a somewhat satisfying conclusion. Or at least provide closure so that I could feel like I finished a full thing. The puzzles are frustrating even though many of the solutions are obvious, and a few required brute forcing. There was also one scene that I didn’t realize provided an arrow to a second scene if you moused over to the left far enough, but I assumed that pathway didn’t exist because there was a chandelier on fire in the middle of the walkway, which looked like something our intrepid hero couldn’t get around. So that was frustrating to discover several minutes later. Also, one puzzle near the end is basically a round of rock, paper, scissors, which is strange and jarring and makes me think that the developer simply had access to this interface and decided to toss it in for kicks. I won on my first try.

Look, I’m going to spoil the last fifteen seconds of Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 3. If you can’t handle this, just cancel your Internet subscription and burn whatever device you are reading this on. I need to explain what a bait and switch this whole affair is. After doing all those puzzles, you finally gain hold of the special key that will open that locked treasure chest. Inside, as expected, is the third ruby. Dun dun dun. Dakota Winchester places each one into their respective sockets on Hilda’s box, which opens and is full of light, kind of like the Ark of the Covenant from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Anyways, Dakota says he can see some gold coins, as well as a map, and then…TO BE CONTINUED? pops up. Credits roll. Take note that it’s not TO BE CONTINUED with or without a period or even ellipses, but it has a question mark at the end, as if even the people making these have no clue what they are doing.

I recently read Javier Grill0-Marxuach’s will and testament about whether or not the writers of LOST were “making it up as they went.” It’s a fantastic examination of how nothing can be so simply said, laying out as much history as possible before it either fades or becomes exaggerated in one’s mind. That sometimes things come together conveniently, and other times you have to force it more than you like. Plus, mystery boxes. Even by the end, there’s no firm conclusion. That said, despite their very own literal mystery box, the developers behind Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 3 are definitely making all this up as they go. I guess they would; I mean, they want people to keep playing their games, and so they need those games to truly never conclude.

Okay, that was probably far too many words about Dakota Winchester’s Adventures. If you read them all, then bless your heart. You’re a good one. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the fourth entry, though, knowing me and my ever-curious mind, I’ll probably check it out nonetheless and continue to be flabbergasted when the map leads you on another wild goose chase that ends with more carrots on strings. Now that I think about it, a great twist would be that Dakota Winchester spends so much time trying to find the secret to eternal youth that he passes away from old age in the sixty-fourth entry in the series.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #13 – Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 3

2016 games completed gd dakota win 3

Near the last ruby
Meh puzzles, naturally
To be continued

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.

Smells Like Art’s grand idea to turn poop into portraits

smells like art 01

Every now and then, I pop over to the Carmel Games website for two reasons. One, I honestly want to see how Dakota Winchester’s Adventures concludes and am patiently waiting for it to pop up when available. Not because the plot of where the third ruby is hidden is keeping me up at night or because the characters are a Joss Whedon-level of memorable, but because I like reaching conclusions for things I start, whether they are books, shows, or a less-than-stellar puzzle game. Two, I’m fascinated with the quality of these specific point-and-click adventure games.

Well, there’s no new adventure up yet for Dakota Winchester, but there’s been plenty of new additions from the last few months to peruse. I only have the name and a tiny sliver of art to go on, and so I went with Smells Like Art in the meantime, which actually does not reveal much about itself based on those two credentials. Turns out, it’s a game about poop. Well, dealing with poop. you know, making the best of a bad situation. Our hero Bosko has just inherited a bathroom off the highway from some dead relative, but quickly discovers it is in terrible shape in terms of…acceptable hygiene standards. He decides to change it into an art gallery instead.

That’s the plot. Don’t dig too deep into it. Grossness abounds. The puzzles themselves are not terribly difficult to figure out, as they more or less follow a logical path, save for the part where you are turning feces on the wall into framed artwork. You have a small inventory and can combine a few items together while using others on people or things in the environment. There’s only so many places to visit in the game and, generally, once you’ve acquired everything in the location there’s no reason to revisit, unless you found a pen and know a man who loves pens. You can speak to less than a handful of cartoony characters, but there are no dialogue choices, and they only say a few lines total.

Once again, the writing is silly and too direct, with most of the female characters voiced by a man with effects added afterwards. This doesn’t make them sound like a woman, but rather a woman on drugs or mutating into a small demonic critter. Not a fan. I’m totally fine with old-school adventure games where no characters speak out loud and you have to read everything that they say and imagine their voices in your head. I wonder if all of Carmel Games’ creations contain voicework like this, or it’s just been my luck with the few I’ve tried so far.

Strangely, for all of Smells Like Art, which I finished in just under thirteen minutes as I obviously work towards becoming a professional speedrunner and racking up millions of dollars through sponsors, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” plays on loop. I don’t really understand why it was included. I mean, it’s a dance for a ballerina, not background tunes for some dude dressed like Fred Flintstone as he deals with his serious bathroom issues. In this case, I’d rather have no music whatsoever than this for seemingly zero contextual reason. Yup, you’re reading this right–so far, I want no music and no voices. Guess I’ll just turn my laptop’s sound down next time.

Don’t worry, Carmel Games. I’ll be back to sample some more of your bizarre creations. Maybe one day I’ll actually like the adventure, instead of simply going through the motions, clicking on everything, eyes wide in amazement, brain tingling with the words and turns of phrases I’ll use to describe the latest ordeal. If anything, these games help give my creative writing a big burst of energy.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #57 – Smells Like Art

2015 games completed gd smells like art

Bosko wins bathroom
Plans to spin it, an art show
Click poop, dig up pet

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.

Dakota Winchester’s Adventures are everything save adventurous

dakota winchest this doesn't work capture

Over the years, I’ve occasionally dabbled in a few “mouse only” point-and-click adventure games from the people at Carmel Games, namely Habla Kadabla and a few others that I never got around to writing about. They all share a very similar style, both in terms of art, humor, and puzzles, and while none so far have been anything to drop one’s jaw at, they can periodically be enjoyable and an okay way to kill thirty minutes. Not amazingly great, not terribly offensive–just these strange, small adventure titles that ask you only to click and exist in what I imagine as some kind of shared universe, where everyone stands stiffly forward, eyes wide open, voiced by one singular, ultimate power.

So, why’d I pick the subject of today’s blog post to experience? It had to be that Dakota Winchester is clearly trying to ape Indiana Jones, and any time that happens I just have to see how it goes. I mean, Indiana Jones, at least for me, made archeology exhilarating and cool, rife with danger and discovery. And before you weigh in on the current state of Doctor Jones, no, I’ve not seen (and probably won’t ever see) Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, though I did play the LEGO videogame based on the film, which wasn’t terrible. Mostly due to LEGO figs.

Anyways, in the first leg of this episodic journey, intrepid Dakota Winchester travels to some island via Gustavo Cruises in hope of solving the mystery behind Hilda’s box, which is rumored to contain the secret of eternal life. However, in order to open it, he first has to find three unique rubies scattered across the globe. To do this, you speak with people, collect items, and use items on other items/people to make things happen. The main goal here is that Winchester needs to find two rings to open up a temple door, and it’s all straightforward stuff until the final puzzle, where I wasted at least five minutes not realizing there were additional layers on the rotating ring that could be moved. The “To Be Continued…” screen popped up after 21 minutes.

The second episode has a much fuller title of Dakota Winchester’s Adventures Part 2: Cactus City. That means the first episode should probably have been called something like Part 1: Gustavo Cruises or Part 1: Temple of Ring Doom. I don’t know. I’m a stickler for consistency. Anyways, this one only took me 12 minutes to find the second of three plot-vital rubies, and the gameplay structure remains the same. However, there’s one part where you need to find a pickaxe through a bunch of steps to hit a rock in a mine, but if you look in the background art for that very same mine…you’ll see a pickaxe inside a cart. Naturally, you can’t simply click on that one; a strange shortcoming.

According to the credits, James Kaylor handled the voiceover work. All of it. Yes, even the female characters, which you can hear instantly as a man trying to pitch his voice higher to speak like one of those newfangled women in their super screechy tinny talk. I can understand the difficulties in finding additional actors to help record lines, but maybe the better idea is to have it be text-only, which could use a fair shake of copyediting. Sure, you can turn the audio off, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the fact that it sounds extremely amateurish and is there from the start. Some of the music from the first two episodes comes from Kevin MacCleod–remember that awesome soundtrack from 400 Years?–so that’s at least pleasant to absorb. The background art is pretty good, too.

I have to assume there will be a third episode down the line to unearth the third ruby and see what’s ultimately inside Hilda’s box. I don’t suggest anyone play to see what happens, but I’m now at least curious enough to want to know. Maybe sooner than later I should actually play the Indiana Jones point-and-click adventure game in my collection. Y’know, the one called Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Hmm. We’ll see.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #45 – Habla Kadabla

2013 games completed habla kadabla copy

An enchanted cash
Register is stolen, but
Habla still smiles

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.