Tag Archives: casual

If you play Pikuniku, you’ll get free money (not really)

With a name like Pikuniku, you’d think this game would be harder to explain or some kind of Pokemon offshoot, like Hey You, Pikachu!. It is, in fact, deceptively simple, and that’s not at all a bad thing. Weird, for sure, but weirdly simple, and I’m sitting here smiling just thinking about it. Before you read anything further, I highly suggest you put this game’s soundtrack from Calum Bowen on.

Right, so…Pikuniku is an absurdly wonderful puzzle-exploration game that takes place in a strange but playful world where not everything is as happy as it seems despite all the bright colors and bouncy tunes. You play as a “monster” from a cave and must help out a number of peculiar characters overcome struggles, uncover a deep state conspiracy, and start a fun little revolution in this delightful dystopian adventure. Down with robots, as they say, and don’t let the free money bit fool you; when it comes to money, nothing is ever truly free.

The main thrust of Pikuniku is its platforming, which I can liken to things like Night in the Woods and LittleBigPlanet. A bit floaty, but you can still get to where you need to go and, if not, try jumping on a tree, cloud, or citizen for extra reach. After that, there are several light-hearted puzzles to deal with, but none of them are overly complicated, and the same can be said of the boss fights, which are fun and easy, grandiose even, and that’s all good. I’m not a huge fan of splatformers–I just started to play Celeste, and I don’t see myself getting too far up that mountain–and sometimes I just want to jump around in a relaxing fashion and explore the world leisurely without being chased by some nightmarish monster or having to have super reflexes when it comes to pressing buttons and landing on teeny-tiny platforms.

As the red “beast,” you can run, roll, and kick things, and the animations for all these actions are smooth and hilarious to see happen. Plus, you can put different hats or cosmetics on the main character to change its look and perform specific abilities, such as the watering can hat that lets you water flowers to reach new areas via jump-pads. There are coins to collect, along with trophy statues and small scenes involving bugs, but all these are just that–collectibles. The world is full of fun characters to interact with, ranging from web-spinning spiders to round worms to people that look like they came straight off the pages of the Mr. Men books. The dialogue is goofy and enjoyable, and it is worth chatting with characters just to get a vibe for how they live in this world, and you’ll occasionally get a dialogue choice though it definitely doesn’t make a big difference overall.

Alas, I did not get to try out the co-op mode of Pikuniku, but that’s okay, as I can only imagine it being slightly frustrating considering the somewhat non-precise controls for steering your character and hitting rocks around. But it’s there if you want it. The main story mode is only a few hours long and pretty linear, and I played through it in multiple phases, usually pausing after a boss fight; a part of me wanted to go back and find all the hidden collectibles, but I didn’t get a sense that anything would truly come of it…so I’ll leave those for others to gather up. I wonder how many hats you can get, too.

As it currently stands, Pikuniku is one of my favorite games of the year so far. It’s delightful. It’s quirky and embraces its strangeness, and I love that. Don’t be surprised when it shows up on my end-of-year GOTY list.

It’s completely true that A Good Snowman is Hard to Build

I don’t think I’ve ever actually constructed a full snowman. I’ve made mini versions that were no bigger than a few inches tall on several front stoops, but the real deal just seems like a lot of work, especially once you realize you have to lift those snowballs on top of each other. Our next door neighbors built one last winter in the backward, and we got to watch it slowly melt away, which is always a little depressing. Anyways, snowmen…they are cool, especially if you take the angle that Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame does; however, you won’t find any sickly monstrosities in A Good Snowman is Hard to Build, but every snowman you construct is simply adorable, and there’s even one named Paul.

Right, let’s get to it. For spring is coming. A Good Snowman is Hard to Build is a puzzle videogame created by Alan Hazelden and Benjamin Davis. After searching around on my very own blog here, I see that I’ve played some work by Hazelden in the past, namely a thing called Skipping Stones to Lonely Homes. That’s nice of me. And, in my Twitch Prime list, I have another of his to install and play down the road–Cosmic Express. Anyways, A Good Snowman is Hard to Build was released in 2015 for personal computers and mobile devices, but I only noticed it the other day, again, in my Twitch Prime list, waiting to be installed on my computer. Ultimately, I’m glad I did.

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build is, more or less, a bunch of puzzle rooms with the connected theme of building either one, two, or three snowpeople. You do this by rolling a snowball into a large ball, then rolling another into a medium ball and putting it on top of it, and lastly adhering a small snowball as the being’s head; if you do this correctly, you will construct the named snowman and open up paths to more puzzle areas. Graphics are by Benjamin Davis, and they are adorable, even the little monster you control. The game’s original soundtrack is by Priscilla Snow, and it’s calming and quiet, perfect for the background as you rack your brain for a solution.

Now, I won’t sit here and lie to you and say I solved every possible puzzle on my own, as I did have to look up a few solutions online later on, namely for: Willow; Rob, James, and Matthew; and Zoe and Richard. However, I did do the bulk of them unassisted, and it feels great to see your finished snowman. The trick is figuring out how to roll each ball to the appropriate size, and your limits are often dealing with a small amount of space to do this, as well as only so much snow to get the job done. I eventually learned that you can leave the puzzle are and return to it from a different direction, which helped a lot, as did rolling balls in top of each other and then off each other. There’s quite a bit going on in this rather adorable-looking puzzle game.

It’s pretty short; I finished A Good Snowman is Hard to Build in a few hours, in two different sittings. Evidently, after finishing all the main puzzles, you get access to some sort of alternative universe, which I walked around in for a bit, but couldn’t seem to figure out what to do next. Maybe there are even more puzzles to complete. Oh well, spring is coming, and the snowmen will eventually melt away, leaving no trace behind but a small puddle. Maybe next winter.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #15 – A Good Snowman is Hard to Build

Roll up a snowman
Some are quite tricky, but cool
Cute puzzles and theme

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.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – King Oddball

They truly named King Oddball appropriately. This comes from 10tons, which you might remember from a previous Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge, one on Sparkle 2. Seems they enjoy making their strange puzzle games, though this one is focused more on physics and destruction than matching colored orbs and finding keys in a fantasy realm. Still, it’s goofy, and I personally love that; give me all the weird gaming experiences out there.

King Oddball tasks you with ending the world with boulders and…well, your tongue. Which is probably as long or longer than a giraffe’s. The titular King swings a boulder back and forth with his tongue, but it’s up to you to decide when to release it and at what angle. If you time the release accurately, you can crush as many targets as possible with each boulder toss. The concept is simple, but it quickly grows more complicated because you only have so many boulders, plus the inclusion of other obstacles can impede your tosses. You’ll need to master King Oddball by anticipating how boulders roll, bounce, and launch from exploding crates. Physics–it’s a good time. Also, make sure you take advantage of collapsing structures.

The overworld map is broken into a three by three grid, so, y’know…nine squares. Each square is its own set of contained levels, often with a theme, such as grenades or dealing with helicopters, and there’s about 15 or 16 levels to conquer before you can move on to the next square. I completed all of the far left three squares and a little bit of the top middle before deciding that I’d seen enough of King Oddball. I was able to jump on the tile that contained my progress statistics, which, if you really wanna know, look like this:

  • Time played: 00:28:17
  • Total throws: 300
  • Levels lost: 55
  • Levels won: 47
  • Foes destroyed: 311

With the main quest progress sitting pretty at 36%, I think I’m okay moving off of King Oddball. It’s quite fun, really, and more than just an Angry Birds clone, which is what I was initially worried about. I probably could plow through the remainder of the game in a few hours, but I’ve got other things to take care of than throwing boulders at tanks, even if it is quite enjoyable, especially when a boulder bounces back high enough to hit the King and you get a free boulder from it.

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.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #39 – Frightened Beetles

Three terrified bugs
Dodge obstacles, reach an end
Short, sweet adventure

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.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Starwhal

Starwhal is an easy game to purge from my PlayStation Plus collection on the PlayStation 3. Why’s that? Because it’s heavily dependent on local multiplayer for fun times, and I have no fleshy friends to join me on the couch and play against. The entire point of this fake future sport that forces narwhals to battle each other to the death is to poke each space narwhal–a starwhal, if you will–in the heart with their pointy horns. Do this enough times and be the last one standing to claim victory and enjoy a buffet of whatever it is that narwhals enjoy eating. Hold on, I’m actually looking this up.

Seafood. A lot of seafood, like squid, Greenland halibut, shrimp, Arctic cod, rockfish, flounder, and crab. I’d enjoy some of that too, honestly.

Anyways, the game’s options are limited. You can play a deathmatch mode either versus your fleshy friends or add in AI-controlled opponents. I tried this three or four times and didn’t really enjoy it. The starwhals are purposely difficult to control, and I never found myself getting a good grip on steering them in the right direction. They feel unmanageable and remind me of trying to guide a squire on a leash across a field full of nuts and other squirrels. There’s a whole lot of flopping about. If I managed to damage an enemy, I promise you it was purely accidental, and I didn’t win a single match against the computer. Oh well.

There’s also over 30 Obstacle and Target challenge levels to hone your combat skills, but again, I struggled with simply controlling my green-colored, wig-wearing starwhal from one side of the screen to the other. Couldn’t even beat the gold time for the first challenge area. I figured they were only going to ramp up in difficulty after that and decided this was just not for me. Similar to things like Sportsfriends and Crawl, these types of gaming experiences are better with friends, where you can together laugh and cry out in frustration as your starwhal flops the wrong way, causing you to lose the match. Without them there, it’s just me and a growing grimace, listening to some pretty rad tunes.

Paulwhal, out!

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.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #28 – Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan

Queen, mortal danger
These objects full of darkness
Use that nice otter

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.