Tag Archives: cats

2017 Game Review Haiku, #70 – Cat Poke

It’s raining outside
Have some fun, poke cats in butt
Got them all, got poked

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.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #56 – ᗢ

These scattered islands
Yours to explore, mind ocean
Good kitty, meow

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.

Hilariously, baby’s first Platinum Trophy is for Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

Language is a reflection of ourselves in Missing Translation

missing-translation-gd-final-thoughts

I originally ran through Missing Translation in a single, puzzle-driven sitting back in December 2016 and have desperately wanted to write about it, but other posts ended up taking priority over the wordless thing. You might view that as ironic, that I haven’t found the time for the right words yet to describe a project built solely on visual language. I definitely do. Fret not, for now I’m here, bright-eyed and inspired, with hopefully enough snappy prose to get the job done.

First off, Missing Translation is free to play on Steam, and for that fact alone, I do urge you to go play it before reading much more about it. Yup, I’m totally ushering you away from Grinding Down by the second paragraph of this post, which means I’m a terrible blogger. Also, it’s not because there’s insane plot twists or amazing watercooler-esque moments, but because it is the kind of interactive experience that is best experienced. It’s a game about language and, often, immersing yourself in something foreign and unknown is the best way to learn what is what and how the world spins. Like that time in college when I went to Montréal, Quebec, for Spring Break with only knowing a few French phrases. Spoiler alert: I totally made it out alive.

Right. Onward with the words. Missing Translation is a short game with intellectual puzzles that is all about teaching a visual language that’s based on drawing lines across a nine-node grid. By decrypting this secret language, one can really begin to understand what’s going on in this black-and-white-and-gray world full of foreign machinery, cats, and robots in funny hats. To be honest, I never grokked the entire thing, but was still able to complete the game and enjoy the uptick in difficulty for the puzzles.

You might have trouble believing that Missing Translation is wordless. Well, it is. From beginning to end. There’s no tutorial, hints, or text–as we know it–to be found, not even on the “start” menu. This means that anyone and everyone can enjoy the game regardless of their native language. It’s a universal conundrum for solving. There are about a hundred puzzles to figure out, varying from connecting dots on a grid in the right way to navigating through large screens brimming with totem-like blocks. Each one grows in difficulty and complexity as you dig deeper, and I couldn’t stop myself once I got started, for fear of forgetting what trick was behind each set of puzzles. This is why I ran through the entire game in a single gulp, unable to leave any bit unfinished. As they get solved, new friends and allies are unlocked to help guide the main protagonist–which can either be a man or woman–back to their world.

Missing Translation is more than a puzzle adventure game. Its got a wonderful premise, inclusive to all that want to click and think and learn, and while I might not know what every strange symbol means, much like in Fez, I had a fantastic and fulfilling time figuring out my way through its many locked doors.

The Fabulous Screech will make you click and feel emotions

gd the fabulous screech final impressions

The Sea Will Claim Everything is a game I think about now and then, a game which I haven’t really touched in about four years. That said, I think about it like this: starting over, falling into it once more, eyes wide and absorbing, my brain ready for an overload of story and characters and rich lore. The amount of detail that Jonas Kyratzes imagined up for this world, these Lands of Dream, staggers me still, as does the inviting, storybook artwork by Verena Kyratzes. Together, these two create portals, doors that open and close, but take you far away from where you started. I don’t know if I’m ready yet to give The Sea Will Claim Everything another go–I believe I walked away from it feeling somewhat overwhelmed–but I continue to build up brain space for when that day comes.

In the meantime, there’s The Fabulous Screech, which is a smaller, more contained bit of whimsical fantasy and storytelling. No, it’s not about everyone’s less-than-loved Saved by the Bell nerd-for-brains. The jaunty plot is that your partner bought you a ticket for the season’s last performance by The Fabulous Screech and His Trained Humans. You travel to the town of Oddness Standing to see this unique show and learn how The Fabulous Screech lived its life. Interestingly, this game came to fruition as a Christmas gift for someone’s boyfriend when times were tough and funds were short, and the Kyratzes duo ended up making it more personal than originally intended. This is why you’ll click and feel emotions.

Gameplay is minimal and easy, but that’s okay. This is more of an interactive story, and there’s so much to interact with, to click on and read, that dealing with solving complicated puzzles for getting you from point A to point B would have messed up with the laid-back pacing and gentleness blanketing everything here. At most, you have to find an item for a character, and there’s only so many places you can search, so you’ll eventually find it and move ahead. All this captivating reading and visuals are backed by a soothing soundtrack that works when things are bouncy and childish at the theater’s curtains to the darker moments of dread and frailty by the end. Also, and I had this problem in The Sea Will Claim Everything so I suspect I need to learn to live with it, I’m still not a fan of the common-day references everywhere, such as to the Sierra or T.S. Eliot, but I guess that’s what helps make these lands dream-like. That blurring of fantasy and the real world.

The life–and presumably death–of The Fabulous Screech in The Fabulous Screech is anything but straightforward. There’s whimsy and silliness, but also a good amount of stark reality and sadness. Look, aging is unstoppable. That’s a hard fact. Time passes by with every second, and it’s up to us to make the best of things, to find happiness and be happy. I try not to think about my furry pets dying, but I know they will some day, and that debilitating fear makes it difficult to even write about this stuff. Sure, Timmy can be a psychopath and bully, but also a lap warmer and affectionate friend. Pixie can shed like there’s no tomorrow and get her claws stuck in everything, but she also headbutts me hello whenever she can. They are special to me.

Okay, that’s all I can do. Gonna go hug both of my kitty cats now and hope that, at least in their feline eyes, I’m a well-trained human.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #23 – The Fabulous Screech

2016 gd games completed the fabulous screech

A magical show
Starring cat, its adventures
Life is beautiful

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.

The fruit in Jasper’s Journeys is not for eating

jasper's journeys early imps gd

I guess I’m on an indie action platformer kick at the moment, having moved on from Jables’s Adventure right to Jasper’s Journeys. To further blur the line between those two names, I’m going to invent a title called Journey’s Adventures and play that next, right after another go at Journey. I kid, I kid. Though this also means I’m moving backwards in time, which happens when you begin to dig into my laptop’s videogames folder, where I dump a ton of downloads on a nearly daily basis with the hope of checking the games out much sooner than later. Still, Jables’s Adventure came out in 2010, and Jasper’s Journeys is from February 2008. Yowza. I wasn’t even blogging back then.

Anyways, Jasper’s Journeys stars Jasper, who is a Loffin, whatever that is. I think it is a race of people with long, purple hair that have floaty jumps and don’t take any fall damage. I could be wrong on all that. Also, still not sure if Jasper is a young man or woman; for the purposes of this post, I’ll go with female pronouns. Unfortunately, her cat Orlando got kidnapped by an evil witch on a broomstick while playing in the tall grass. Seems like she’s keen to use this cat as an ingredient in some spell she’s concocting, and so it is up to you to save the feline by traversing fifteen levels of danger, platforms, and lots of fruit to collect.

Completing a level is as simple as finding the blue dragon, which will pick Jasper up and take her to the next level. If you find a purple dragon, you’re in luck, as this one will take you to a special island full of fruit, which is your only source of ammunition for taking out the baddies. However, to find this dragon, you’ll have to noodle out some puzzles based around platforming and finding colored keys, as well as fighting off enemies and bosses with health meters. There’s no in-game map, so you’ll have to pay attention to your surroundings and remember where to return to once you have the proper keys in your inventory. Along the way, you can also visit an inn to save your progress, as well as purchase items with acquired gold, like shields and status-affecting potions.

I played on the easiest difficulty settings, and I’m fine with that decision. The most trouble I got myself into involved areas where there were moving spikes on the floor and platforms above and having to take Jasper and make her jump from platform to platform without dipping into the sharp bits below. Naturally, because I’m playing Jasper’s Journeys on a keyboard and not a gamepad, this was more tricky than it needed to be. Also to blame: her floaty jump, which made it challenging to land on platforms now and then, especially when guiding her via the arrow keys. Otherwise, it’s not too challenging of a game, certainly on easy, but I wasn’t looking for a challenge here. Instead, I liked seeing how the levels changed from one to another, with the former focusing on grassy hills and the next tossing you beneath a castle, and though the pixel art never hits any extremes it is still pleasing to the eyes, some eight years later.

The same could be said about Jasper’s Journeys‘ soundtrack, but to your ears, not your eyes. It’s gentle and laid-back when necessary, but can up the tension during boss fights. However, the songs don’t seem to loop after they finish, and because I’m a slow gamer and like to check every nook and cranny for secrets, the majority of a level ended up being played in silence, which is a bit weird. Sound effects for killing enemies and picking up fruit are goofy and call back to the days of mascot-driven platformers on the SNES.

For some reason, it feels more odd to play a game that is only eight years old versus something like Final Fantasy IX. I don’t know why. I guess I’m having a hard time comprehending what the world was like eight years ago, which, all at once, doesn’t seem like too far back, but is also an eternity ago. Both in my life and the industry. The AAA gaming landscape of 2008 consisted of work like Burnout Paradise, Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, Braid, Fallout 3, and Fable II. As well as Jasper’s Journeys. I wonder how big of a splash it made; I think I got my copy in late 2011 as part of the Humble Voxatron Debut bundle. Shame it took me nearly five more years to play it. I’ll have to get a jump on Chocolate Castle soon too, I guess.