Tag Archives: christmas

2016 Game Review Haiku, #83 – Chimney Presents

2016-gd-games-completed-chimney-presents

Santa needs your help
Bring gifts, avoid ice, holly
Season’s greetings, all

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.

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The future rewards those who press on in Read Only Memories

gd early impressions for read only memories rom

Well, the newest videogame bundle to make your eyes pop out of their sockets is the Humble Narrative Bundle, which, at its “pay whatever you want” tier, is handing out copies of Her Story, Cibele, and Read Only Memories. Yowza. I already have Broken Age, but the next tier contains that, plus 80 Days and Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2. I don’t really know what those last two ones are. Oh, and if you drop $10 or more, you’ll get Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a hypnotized ad man here, but this bundle is phenomenal, especially if you like games built more around stories than crazy upgrade mechanics. Y’know, like me.

Despite Her Story being on my list of games I just didn’t get to in 2015 yet really wanted to, I dove into Read Only Memories first. It seemed…well, to be honest, a smaller adventure, and perhaps something a little easier to digest in small chunks, as I wasn’t intending to play through anything on one single sitting last night despite there being a Steam Achievement called “Iron ROM” to do exactly that.

I’m going to do my best to describe the story or at least the setup, but like all things cyberpunk, there’s a lot of jargon and acronyms to wade through. Read Only Memories takes place in 2064, where most people have their very own personal robot, commonly known as a relationship organizational manager (ROM). These AI-driven bots act as interactive personal computers, but are limited to their programming. All that changes with Turing, a ROM made by the protagonist’s old friend Hayden, which is much more advanced. to the point of being sapient. Turing breaks into your apartment in the middle of the night after Hayden is kidnapped, requesting your help. Not because you are some superhero, but rather, according to Turing, the most statistically supported in getting the job done. Trust me, it did the math.

And that’s all I really know, having completed the prologue and am somewhat into chapter one. You’re tracking down clues as to the how and why Hayden disappeared, all while learning about Neo-San Francisco and its colorful cast of characters. It’s very much a retro point-and-click adventure title, with lots of things to interact with in a given scene, as well as plenty of throwaway text written for silly combinations, like using spoiled milk on a parked car. Normally, in a game like The Blackwell Legacy or A Golden Wake, you’d probably get a “I don’t think so” or “That’s not going to work” kind of comment, nothing else. Here, in Read Only Memories, you get a response, which only encourages me more to try everything on everything. I guess this previously thought smaller adventure is going to take me that much longer to finish. Sorry, I can’t not click on stuff that potentially holds fun flavor text.

Writing is key for Read Only Memories, much more prevalent than puzzle solving so far. Be prepared to read. Thankfully, the writing is strong and fun, if a little long in parts. Turing is a cute robot that can also be frightening when you realize it knows next to everything about you. Well, me. I made Turing address me as “Pauly” and use the pronouns of “him/his.” Also, I have an omnivore diet. It’s nice to see a game include such options and openness, as well as a future were LGBT characters face less discrimination, but then again…this is San Francisco. In actuality, this is a queer-inclusive videogame, and its developers are also involved with the GaymerX series of LGBT video gaming conventions.

I’m definitely interested in seeing this mystery unfold, as well as trying more drinks at the Stardust bar. Then I’ll move on to Her Story. Or maybe Cibele. Regardless, more story-driven adventures are in my future. Also, Read Only Memories has reminded me that I need to check back in on Matt Frith’s work and see if he’s done anything else to Among Thorns, which certainly shares some similarities with the darker side of technology.

Room 11: Xmas Tree will challenge your Christmas clicking skills

gd xmas tree final thoughts

I don’t believe I’ve played any other “escape the room” games from Ichima’s Room series, which is not to be confused with The Room, a puzzle game series on mobile phones, though I’ve definitely played ones similar to the style and complexity of its logic puzzles. Such as Find 10 Yellow Cupcakes and Polar Escape. Basically, you are trapped in a confined room or house, with the main goal of getting out.

For Room 11: Xmas Tree, the tease of seeing a Christmas tree decorated with colorful balls just outside the window is enough to motivate me to make my escape and get up close and personal with it. Standing in your way are a number of obscure, locked boxes and doors. You can gather some items along the way which may help you get more items, but the bulk of puzzles require some head scratching and logic-based answers. There’s no whacky side quest to configure a key from bent chicken wire and heated up using the flaming breath of a dragon you found via a hidden hole behind the cupboard, which only revealed itself by knocking to the same tune played by a discovered music box. It’s all about seeing a pattern of numbers, colors, or symbols, and later applying to something else.

Honestly, I can think of only a handful of games that required me to take notes as I played. There was Fez, for sure. Way, way back in the day, I think I scribbled down where some treasure chests were for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but other than that, most games give you everything you need. Especially modern titles. Need a passcode for a locked door? Pick up a scrap of paper and it’s added to your inventory of passcodes, ready to be automatically used on the door without you actually having to read it or memorize it. There was a moment in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots‘s later act that asked Old Snake to remember some numbers, and I actually assumed the game would do it for me, so it surprised me when I was told to input them and didn’t actually remember; thankfully, the game moved forward nonetheless.

Well, these tiny escape games do not hold your hand. Room 11: Xmas Tree saw me jotting down everything I came in contact with that was not immediately evident. I have things like MDUDMMU and OOO8OO88O hastily written down like some madman’s manifesto, but it’s all a necessity when you are jumping from one complicated puzzle to another and can’t keep everything clear in your headspace. I figured a few out on my own, but the majority required a lot of back-and-forthing with my notebook to figure out.

I found a YouTube walkthrough of Room 11: Xmas Tree that finished the thing in just under five minutes, but it took me much longer to breathe fresh winter air. That’s because, right from the start, I simply went screen by screen, clicking on every single element until I got no more cryptic clues or Christmas ball ornaments. Then I had to begin to review my notes and figure out how each clue applied to everything else, which often would give me another item to use or more puzzle clues. I’m okay with taking my time, as adding a countdown clock or something like that would really prove too frustrating. Though a soft, soothing soundtrack, not necessarily related to Christmas, would have gone a long way here.

Think you’re up to the challenge? Well, grab a pen and notepad, then head on over here to start your deducing and click-click-clicking.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #60 – Room 11: Xmas Tree

2015 games completed gd room11 xmas tree capture

Christmas is outside
Click everything, in order
To solve, be merry

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.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Home Alone

games I regret Home Alone GB

Here’s a pretty good example of my lack of focus lately, or, rather, my more passionate and dedicated focus on other projects; I was hoping to both write and post this edition of Games I Regret Parting With before Christmas hit a few months back, especially when you consider that Home Alone is the classic family comedy about a young boy surviving a home invasion during the holiday season. Well, here we are at the end of March, the first day of spring, though it is supposed to snow today, so there’s at least a paper-thin connection to go on.

Home Alone is one of those rare game franchises where it is a different beast for the various systems it popped up on, to the point that you need a wiki to figure out where each one differs. Think like how Jurassic Park on the SNES and Jurassic Park on the Genesis were DNA-created reptiles from totally opposite prehistoric eras. Heck, one let you play as a velociraptor, and the other tried to use a Wolfenstein 3D look when inside buildings. Either way, I only ever played Home Alone on one system, the legendary Game Boy, and while I can remember that detail clearly, I still have no memory over what happened to my Game Boy and collection of tiny, gray game cartridges. All I know is that, unlike my SNES and small handful of classics (minus Mario Paint), they are all gone. Probably sold at a yard sale or traded in during my dumb trade in phase.

The Home Alone Game Boy version, while similar to the SNES and NES versions, required the player controlling pixelated Kevin McCallister to evade confrontation with the Wet Bandits. While hiding from the house robbing baddies, you have to gather up valuable items and then dump them into a laundry chute to deposit them into a protective safe. You could also resort to using these items against the Wet Bandits, by dropping them on their heads or setting up elaborate traps. Y’know, just like in the movie. In total, there are four levels, with each taking place in a different area of the larger-than-life McCallister abode. The first level pertains to gathering up jewelry/gold/silver items, the second level has toys, the third focuses on various electronics, and the fourth level has various exotic pets that are both rare and expensive. I feel like I never got past the second level, as I really don’t remember collecting electronics or exotic pets.

Evidently, after collecting the minimum amount of items and dumping them into the chute, you can go into the basement to fight a boss before locking up the safe. This is where things take a strange turn. A videogame-y turn, if you will. The first level’s boss is a giant spider, then a massive rat, and so on. Kevin eventually battles against Marv and Harry, but the true final fight is against the fearsome and deadly basement furnace. Again, I can’t recall any of these end-of-level encounters, but I was probably rubbish at Home Alone, content to simply run around the house and collect a few things.

For those too afraid to look into the matter, there are currently five films in the Home Alone franchise. Naturally, only the first two are worth watching. I feel like I might’ve dabbled in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on the Game Boy as well, though it could have been a rental or borrowed copy from a friend. The games never controlled too way, especially when it came to Kevin’s jumping and later sliding mechanic, and could be pretty unforgiving, but the chiptune versions of some of the movie’s iconic songs were all I really needed. Plus, finding a slice of pizza inside a dresser drawer never got old.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #8 – Locked Away

Next on our list of top dog Ludum Dare 22 creations is a mostly vertical platformer called Locked Away. Made by MoltenMustafa, it starts out strong, asking the player to choose a color before a difficulty setting. I really liked that, and I went with green and Easy for my first run. We then get some side-scrolling text: They locked me away in here. On Christmas day. All alone. Poor kid. And with that, we’re plopped into the game, ready to make our little lonely avatar climb to the top of the map while avoiding enemies. The graphics are retro and crisp, and the controls and movement speed of the avatar is surprisingly fast and responsive. Touching an enemy kills you, bringing you back to an unannounced checkpoint–all of which happens in the blink of an eye. That helps to keep one playing as you can just keep trying to make that jump up until you get it.

Easy is definitely easy. You learn some of the game’s tricks here, like how to time jumps and hit semi-hidden platforms to open up a new path. It doesn’t take terribly long to get to the end of the map. Normal difficulty, however, proved to be problematic for me; I ended up getting stuck between two platforms of moving enemies and just couldn’t squeeze by them without getting hit. I decided to try Hard out, sticking with the good ol’ green, and this time, you’re falling, trying to avoid hitting obstacles. Kind of like in ‘Splosion Man. You basically have to learn where everything is and memorize it; beating Hard got me an end game screen, which had a house and present box on it, but these were upside-down. Not sure if that was intended or some faulty coding

So yeah, I beat Easy and Hard, but can’t get past one part in Normal. Go figure. Y’all should play it though as it is quick and enjoyable, with tight controls. Just remember to choose green as your color. Green is the only way to play.

Christmas loot

I made out very well this holiday season, finding the following beneath the Christmas tree:


Touchmaster 3 – Haven’t played any yet because I’m going to be doing a half-hour handheld review for The First Hour. I did, however, look over my fiancee’s shoulder a few times as she jumped between games. Seems like an interesting mix of mini-games. More to come later…

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – Only an hour into the game or so (just received the whirlwind tool, to be more specific), but I’m looking forward to more already. I’m not quite as put off as I was upon initially starting The Phantom Hourglass.

Lastly, I got this big boy:

Bioshock – I tried the demo a few months back and enjoyed it more than I expected. So now I’m ready to head deep underwater into the throwback city of Rapture. Wish me luck. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m not terribly great at shooters unless they are a mix of RPG/shooting.

These three should keep me busy for quite some time. Plus, there’s always Fallout 3. Always…