Tag Archives: casual gaming

2017 Game Review Haiku, #107 – Eventide: Slavic Fable

Save endangered plant
Seek alliance with creatures
Nifty stained glass scenes

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.

Advertisements

2017 Game Review Haiku, #92 – Slime Rancher

A plorts adventure
Full of slimes, discovery
Choose between two doors

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.

You kind of control a pond’s ecosystem in Among Ripples

among-ripples-community_image_1422754042

One of my goals for 2017 is to chip away at my Steam library, and I’m using HowLongToBeat to help me determine where to start. Certainly not with Crusader Kings II, which the site claims is around 175 hours in total to see through to completion though I do what to give it a swing at some point after really enjoying the fun that was an old GBE Playdate.

Instead, I went with Among Ripples, estimated to eat up 19 minutes of my sweet, precious time. I think I ended up logging closer to 25 minutes before exiting out of the…experience and staring for a bit at my two cats, wondering where they’d fit into the whole survival of the fittest scheme. I actually think Pixie would last longer in the wild, hiding with all her might, while Timmy would totally walk up to a predator to lovingly rub his face on it. Ah, tiny domesticated lions.

There are no cats in Among Ripples, at least none that I could find. There is, however, an otter, and that made this slice of casual gaming all the more wonderful. Though I still really don’t know what it was. In descriptive terms, it’s a meditative ecosystem management simulator. You are the puppet master of a small pond, filling it with food and predators/prey, watching life unfold over the seasons. Basically, you add different creatures to the mix and see how everything interacts. I did this just fine, but kept expecting something more to happen beyond this, despite knowing that this was all there was to experience.

It’s an extremely simple slice of sandbox gaming. You can click on a few things to get life going and then sit back to take in the watercolored art and gentle, calming soundtrack. However, among all this niceness is the fact that nature is ruthless, and animals eat other animals. You must be prepared for this. They also do other things many might scoff at; one time, at the Philadelphia Zoo, I saw a giraffe drink another giraffe’s pee. Nature is surviving at all costs, whether we’re talking about reality or simulation.

Among Ripples is neat, but not enough. I understand that the goals are your own to set, and I watched an otter live through all the seasons, which is all I ever ask of otters, as well as saw a bunch of crayfish rot. I don’t plan to write a haiku review about it as I didn’t feel like it was technically something I completed, but rather dipped my toes in; sure, I could leave this up in the background one day and really watch the pond evolve, but I best move on. No worries though. To quote that eccentric, charming mathematician from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Just not in my pond going forward.

Jables’s Adventure begins with an odd squid for a hat

jables’s-adventure-36

It is difficult for me to write Jables’s Adventure like so and not like Jables’ Adventure, but I’ll simply have to get over my internal dilemma to edit every videogame title to my specificity. I didn’t make the game, Squiddershins did, and despite that weird use of an apostrophe s instead of just an apostrophe, I’m delighted by this little action platformer. The developer describes it as a “casual platformer,” but if my experience with the game’s first boss, an angry woodsman with a chainsaw called Jacques Lumber, has anything to say, it is that this far from a casual experience.

The short of it is this: released in 2010, Jables’s Adventure is a freeware game created by Jason Boyer, with assistance from Ryan Pietz on dialogue and plot items and music by Kevin “Frantic Panda” Carville. You might be tired of this description, but it’s apt–it’s Metroidvania in both look and play, moving a lot like a less-linear Cave Story, and brimming with a surreal sense of humor. Just ask the mushrooms if you don’t believe me. The story’s simple at first, then turns nonsensical, starring a reluctant boy named Jables who one day wakes up…with a squid on his head. He then sets out into the world to do heroic things with a little goading from the talking cephalopod. Why? Well, that’s just what heroes do. You have to be a hero.

It’s a platformer. You jump, move left to right, and, after acquiring these items, shoot your wind-gun at bad critters and infinitely boost in the air with a jetpack. The world is open to explore, though there is a critical path to follow to both obtain these items and deal with the bombastic boss battles. I will continue to cry foul over having to play action platformers on the keyboard, but I didn’t even try to see if there’s gamepad support, so maybe I’m to blame. I kind of doubt it. Thankfully, the amount of precision needed in Jables’s Adventure is miles away from something like Super Meat Boy, but there were a few spots that gave me trouble where playing with a controller might have helped.

One of the first villagers you come across is a young man you can high five. I did this in quick succession, adding my own drum-beat to the already bouncy and catchy soundtrack that plays when you’re exploring the outside, thinking it was nothing more than a fun interaction you can take part in. Turns out, slapping five with this fellow is also how the game saves your progress via checkpoints, and there is no denying that this is Jables’s Adventure‘s defining and greatest feature. Plus, it comes in real handy at the end of the game hint hint wink wink big smile.

Perhaps because this is my first time with a game from Squiddershins or that I don’t have a fondness for things like Adventure Time and Strawberry Shortcake that some of the more random moments just felt like…random moments. Other random moments, like learning facts about fruit or when you make friends with a cactus or discovering that band in the clouds, hit me right in the heart and made the adventure all the more exciting. There’s imagination here and childlike glee, seemingly unlimited, shoved into the mold of a somewhat difficult action platformer that doesn’t have any kind of map to follow. I enjoyed strolling around, meeting new characters, but struggled in the tougher areas, like where you have to use the jetpack to get through a maze and not touch the ceiling or floor due to crystal spike traps.

Looking over the other games from Squiddershins, there’s a bunch I’m eager to try out as soon as possible. Specifically Excuse Me! and Tick Tock Isle. We’ll see how long as soon as possible turns out to be. I feel like I’m starting a pattern, where I discover a studio or bunch of independent developers that I like, only to play one game from their collection before another shiny studio or independent developer steps into the spotlight and demands I pay attention to them. It’s the darkest circle of life.

Matching pairs of tiles and rotating never felt so good

gd early impressions taptiles_1

I’ve been a huge fan of all things mahjong since the good ol’ college days when I discovered some Flash-based version online that I could play in a resized browser while having AIM conversations next to it with friends and girlfriends into the late hours of the night and the early hours of the morning. It kept me active at a moment’s glance despite my angry eyelids wanting to shut and bring in Mr. Sandman. Conversely, I also adored the time I spent with Picross 3D. You might be wondering what the two of those have in common, and it is beyond evident once you sit down and give Microsoft’s Taptiles a go.

Taptiles, beside being a free download on Windows 10, is mahjong, but with a twist. Usually, a mahjong field is static, either from a top-down perspective or three-quarters view, meaning you can’t see what is behind a number of tiles until you clear the ones on top away first, working only with what is before you. This time around, you can rotate the stack of tiles Fez-like to see every clickable, decorated rectangle, which means you can’t ever really get stuck. Can’t find another tile with those squiggly blue water lines on it? Turn, turn, turn, and you’ll either see it on the other side or find another pair to make to clear the path forward. I’ve only run into a few spots where I ran out of moves, but the game just auto-shuffles the tiles for you.

There are three modes of play in Taptiles: Dash, Origins, and Relaxation. Allow me to sum each of them up in a few sentences. For Dash mode, it’s a race against the clock, with the only way to add more time to it by quickly matching tiles and using special power-ups to help you finish more rounds faster. Truthfully, I found this too stressful and not what I’m looking for when it comes to a game of mahjong. Origins mode contains larger, more challenging puzzles, as well as more relaxed time limit, though the later stages still expect you to move fast. This mode requires some quick thinking and reflexes, but is more enjoyable in the end. Lastly, there’s Relaxation mode, a.k.a. my mode, which offers calming puzzles without the pressure of a ticking clock.

There are also daily challenges. Five, to be exact. Each day, of every month. They range from easy to difficult, and the better you do at them, the more points you’ll earn, which helps increase a progress bar towards acquiring bronze, silver, and gold medals. To be honest, I’ve only logged into the daily challenges a few times to do the easy puzzles; I’m not finding anything worth investing heavily in with this feature, though, for some, I’m sure it’s a cool addition for bragging rights.

I’ve noodled with a few of the timed modes, but my main go-to in Taptiles is Relaxation mode because it lets me play like the good ol’ days, where I can leave it open and do some mindless Internetting, returning to it now and then to clear out a few tiles and watch the board get smaller. Sure, I’m not racking up any sweet non-stop matching bonuses, but that’s never been what mahjong is about. At least to me. I clicked really fast for a bit there and got the Achievement for a speed bonus chain of 30; that said, don’t expect me to pop the one for 150, as that is far too stressful on both my heart and eyes.

How do you prefer to match up a whole bunch of bamboo, character, and circle tiles? With or without a timer? In real life, on a tabletop? As a means of therapy for battling dementia? I honestly want to know.

Can’t escape smiling at this Ludum Dare game called BATHOS

If it wasn’t for Notch, I would have never even known about this crazy thing that recently took charge, known to indie game developers worldwide as the Ludum Dare. Basically, participants develop games from scratch in a single weekend–that’s 48 hours, okay–based on a theme suggested by community. This time around the theme is escape. Browsing through the 500+ finished entries is a bit daunting; some of them really do look great, and others…well, not so much. Unfortunately, a good chunk of them blur together.

The first submission I clicked on to check out was BATHOS by Johan Peitz, mostly because it looked like a SCUMM title, and those experiences always pull at my heartstrings. Seriously, there’s a Maniac Mansion vibe here. I’m super pleased to announce that the very first Ludum Dare title I’ve tried…is a winner! Well, in my book. I’m sure Notch’s entry is stellar too, but I haven’t attempted it yet, considering I barely understand Minecraft still, and I’ve been playing that for several weeks now. Anyways…

In BATHOS, the player wakes up in a supervised prison cell, naturally wanting to escape. The door is locked, but he quickly discovers many keys in his tiny, depressing cell room. Surely one of them will work on the door. And that’s it. Find the right key and get out of there. It sounds simple, but it took me about fifteen minutes on my lunch break to figure out, and the solution is delightful, obvious, turning this little indie bit of Flash wizardry into something truly charming. The graphics are clean and unobtrusive, and the game controls smoothly. There’s only so much our pixelated hero can do, but it all works. Picking up keys that don’t work and flinging them under your bed never felt so good.

One of the definitions for bathos is “an anticlimax,” and yes, Johan Peitz’s take on solitude, yearning, and escape most certainly is that. However, it might be the first time something so ludicrous has made me smile.

You can play BATHOS in your web browser by clicking this very sentence. Or, if you’re looking to download it for Windows/OSX/Linux, go here…just don’t read any of the comments below otherwise you’ll spoil a perfectly genuine gaming experience. And remember, this was created in under 48 hours. To me, that’s mighty impressive–and gives me hope that maybe one day I could make a videogame, too.

Breaking news: I bought the farm

…and by that I mean I removed the FarmVille app from my Facebook profile and no longer have to click, click, click until every crop has been harvested, every animal has been tended to, and every job has been done. It’s quite a relief actually, but truth be told…I was never a good farmer to begin with.

I signed up for FarmVille like countless others did sometime last year, curious to its appeal. I quickly found myself plowing some land and planting my first seeds. The crops grow in real time, meaning eight hours means eight actual hours. So once you plant your crops, you basically have to wait to get more money to plant more crops. Yup, it’s a cycle, and the cycle certainly can be addicting if you’re into that sort of work/reward process. While you wait, your avatar can decorate your farm with an assortment of farm-like and unfarm-like items, ranging from barns to hot air balloons to themed statues. You can also visit your neighbors (i.e., Facebook friends) and check out their farms, fertilizing their crops and feeding their chickens. But other than that, you must wait. And this will be how you play FarmVille for the first few weeks. It’s not until you level up considerably and get a decent chunk of change can you really design your farm to your heart’s content and focus on the crops you most enjoy growing.

But then the game plateaus. For me, this was around level 25.

At this point, FarmVille tried too hard to cater to every kind of gamer, casual and not. It threw in collections and ribbons (basically Achievements) and co-op gameplay and pet owning and headshots and tea-bagging and so on. The game also basically made it really hard to play without interacting constantly with neighbors and posting BS to your Facebook’s wall. In all of my 33 levels of farm powers, I might have posted a total of four items publicly; my sister made me do it. It’s not fun to do, and I feel annoying even just thinking about it. Sorry, Facebookers.

And so, just recently, I realized I hadn’t logged into my farm for a few days. My crops surely had withered away. My trees were most certainly all full of fruit, all ripe for the picking. I can see all my animals, all of them stuck forever in place, waiting for me to collect their feathers, calm them down, or gather up ice cubes. It seemed like too much for me, and I was not ultimately happy with the layout of my farm, feeling stuck; that said, I was also too lazy to start anew, and so my next option was to cut loose, set them free, and find something else worth clicking about on.

The app was removed in a matter of seconds, no bells and whistles, no hoops to jump through. Surprisingly easy.

I’ve always been curious about the Harvest Moon games, and I might have to try one of them out soon. Farming simulation can be fun, but for me…I need a little more direction than just plant, harvest, plant, harvest, plant, harvest, and plant, harvest.