Tag Archives: Clickers

2018 Game Review Haiku, #13 – THOR.N

Hey, happy birthday
Better start earning credits
Citizen–yes/no?

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.

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Unlock achievements in THOR.N, a dystopian job simulator

It’s no secret that I both like Achievements and completely understand how empty and hollow of a concept they are. That’s okay, I guess. To me, they exist as extra goals, things to try to do in a game to squeeze every little bit of life out of it before moving on to the next piece of digital entertainment. You might not get much within the game for collecting all the shiny doodads, but your Gamerscore will certainly grow. I’m scared to say that a society driven by things like Achievements might be interesting to see, and I suspect that those with fancier phones than I probably already have apps that reward you for doing mundane, menial tasks like eating breakfast, putting on pants, and taking your first steps of the day.

Well, THOR.N is a game kind of about that. In it, you wake up on your eighteenth birthday. This is a momentous day because now you can begin your true journey to citizenship. An excited and large, jelly baby-esque head attached to the wall tells you all this and even provides you with your first birthday present–50 credits. Woo. After this, your bedroom door is unlocked, and you can go into the next room to discover…a bunch of workstations. You must now begin working towards your citizenship by crafting uniforms, rations, and munitions. You gain credits for each job completed, which you can spend to buy another workstation or upgrade any that you’ve already unlocked. Each time you purchase an upgrade, you earn a skill point, which then adds to your citizenship level. Eventually, you can make the process automatic and watch the credits tick up with minimal effort on your part.

THOR.N is a clicker in disguise. The jobs you complete at the workstations are extremely simple, almost perfunctory. You click the button on the left, wait for the meter to fill, click the button in the middle, wait for the meter to fill, and then click the button on the right…yup, you guessed it, wait for the meter to fill. Still, it’s strangely satisfying to watch the process happen, and once the upgrades get big enough you won’t even need to touch the machine to get your credits. As all of this happens, you are growing your citizenship level and watching Achievement-like messages pop up on the screen to congratulate you on your merits. Which, ultimately, are not worth celebrating. I suspect that’s the point, highlighting your work as something greater than it is when, just by listening, you know there are many others out there doing exactly the same actions as you, all for the greater good, some of which make it, and some of which do not.

I like a lot of the story bits that THOR.N keeps to the side and doesn’t shine a light on. Clearly, this is a dystopian future. Despite the cheer, chipper voice of your robot overlord, something must have gone wrong to get to this place in society. There are “No Entry” signs emblazoned on the glass doors that lead to the outside world–if such a place even exists, as Prey taught me–and information terminals constantly show you how well other citizens are performing. The apartment is small, but full of details, like art and papers on the walls. Also, the ominous robot voice congratulating you on all your achievements occasionally sounds aggressive, with some bits even feeling like thinly veiled threats. At one point, I returned to my bedroom and tried to access the computer screen in there only to get firmly reprimanded and told never to touch that screen again. I never did. Once you reach a certain citizenship level, a new door unlocks, and you can proceed through it…only to suddenly finish the experience.

While the ending is both abrupt and unclear, I enjoyed THOR.N, especially its aesthetic, as well as when all three workstations were operating at full capacity and my credits were skyrocketing. It’s just so dang satisfying when everything is operating smoothly and efficiently, and I don’t know what that says about me. Of the few Humble Originals from the Humble Monthly Trove I’ve tried so far, all of which were once free but no longer are, I found this similar to how I felt after completing Hitchhiker: First Ride–good, not 100% sure I grokked everything that went down, and interested to know more. I’ll have to be a good citizen and keep my eyes open for whatever Advect Productions puts out next.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #122 – Princess Nom Nom

Feed your pink princess
Cardinal directions food
Speed eat, thirty mins

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.

Time Clickers and the idle quest to destroy colored cubes

time clickers gd early impressions

Well, here we are. After listening to Jeff Gerstmann speak feverishly and passionately about an idle clicking game called Time Clickers on the Giant Bombcast for the past two weeks, I decided to see what was what. The blasted thing is free on Steam, and I dabbled in things like AdVenture Capitalist and that strange monster-driven mini-game during this past Steam Summer Sale to grok the concept. Little did I know that watching colored cubes explode would be so gratifying, even when I barely contributed to their demise.

Made by Proton Studio Inc., Time Clickers is…a clicking game with guns. For those that don’t know what that means, a clicking game basically revolves around on you, the player, clicking on different elements to eventually get to the point where actions are happening automatically and you can just sit back, eyes dilated, absorbing the delicious, dopamine-triggering rewards. A few examples that I’ve not played but heard of include Cookie Clicker and Clicker Heroes. In this one, you collect gold by blasting apart colored cubes, upgrade your click pistol, hire a team of elite soldiers to fire additional weapons at the cubes, and take down bosses as quickly as you can. You do this ad infinitum, constantly leveling everything up and “advancing” further through the game.

For a game that demands such little interaction, I can’t stop thinking about it. See, even when you are not running Time Clickers, you are continuing to earn gold. It’s like in Fable II, when you’d purchase houses and rent them out to villages. You could turn the game off, come back a few days later, and be much more richer, as the pay-rent-to-landlord system kept turning even while you were away. A part of me wonders how much money I’d get now if I turned Fable II on and loaded up my save from 2009-ish. Anyways, Time Clickers does that, which means it is always luring me back, with the completed promise of more gold to spend on DPS upgrades.

Steam says I’ve logged about two hours or so already in Time Clickers. Ugh. Here, let me let you in on a dark secret; the other night, while on the phone with my sister, I let the game run, watching cubes explode and Achievements pop, all without my hand even hovering over the mouse. Yes, it’s that kind of experience. It’s as if you had a fish tank full of bright, vibrant sea life, and every now and then you got a reward just for looking at it. Or not looking at it. Nothing can stop the clicks.

I’m sure there’s plenty to probe here. It all boils down to this: clicking games are a horrifying examination of human psychological weakness. They take hold of us and never let go. Even now, while I’m far away from my gaming laptop where Time Clickers is installed, it’s calling out to me, a siren on the shore, lulling me into a haze, one where the numbers keep going up and the cubes explode faster and arena bosses grow in size. I wonder if I’ll ever escape its grasp.

Dealing with a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus

ps3 gd the last of us impressions

Let me just say this: I am terrified of the Cordyceps fungus. This is a fungus that infects insects and arthropods. It attacks its host, replacing tissue and sprouting ominous stems that grow outside of its body. Eventually, these stems release spores into the air, infecting other hosts, and the cycle repeats ad nauseam. It’s rather special, like the work of a mad scientist whose only goal is to eradicate everything. So far, the fungus has no negative effect on humans and is even used in some medicine and recipes, though I have no desire to nom nom on creepy shrooms.

The Last of Us imagines a world where this is not the case. Where one unlucky dude got infected–and then millions did. I ended up dog-sitting for some friends during that recent, so-called storm of the century, and I took The Last of Us, Destiny, and Red Dead Redemption off my friend’s PS3 gaming shelf, intending to give all a whirl in between petting dogs and letting dogs go outside to do their canine business. Alas, I only ended up playing the first of the three, and it really took me by surprise. Yeah, I know, I’m pretty late to this train, but, based off all the talk in 2013 during “game of the year” time, I’m well aware that many are thrilled with how The Last of Us turned out. That it is a good, possibly great game. That’s not what surprised me. Let me explain.

I thought The Last of Us was going to be scarier than it is. I mean, its ideas and the inevitable actions of man in a post-apocalyptic world are horrifying, but that actual sneaking around enemies, both human and mutated, is more mechanical–and often frustrating–than anything frightening. Sure, I’m still not a fan of the sound Clickers make, but I can get past it. Literally. It just takes patience and willpower. For the longest time, I stayed away from The Last of Us, liking it to things like Dead Space and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, horror adventures built mostly around jump scares, tension, and a sense of hopeless dread. The Last of Us does feature the latter two elements heavily, but there are no cheap scares here. At least as far as I’ve gotten, which is up to when Joel and Ellie arrive at Eastern Colorado University.

I’m playing The Last of Us on its normal difficulty, but have found several sections extremely frustrating. Namely, navigating a room full of shiv-only Clickers, running from a noise-making generator, and that suburban sniper sequence. I may or may not bump it down to easy, which is not the worst thing in the world, seeing as I’m really just going through the combat scenarios to see the next cutscene or interaction between characters. This could’ve totally been a highly polished point-and-click adventure game sans guns and action-driven conflict, and I’d be enjoying my time all the same. Or maybe not. Maybe these combat sections are imperative to the plot, to see how violent Joel gets, how violent he has to be to stay alive. All I know is that playing The Last of Us is not what I look forward to most.

That said, possibly one of my favorite trends in videogames over the last decade is being able to see enemies–and track them–through walls. This was one of the early upgrades I got in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I know tagging enemies in Far Cry 3 and 4 is important to keeping tabs on everyone, and that very same tagging system helped keep me alive in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Here, in The Last of Us, Joel can enter “listening” mode any time he wants; this puts him in a crouch, turns the world black and white, and pops up visible silhouettes of enemies in the area. I find myself walking around in this mode so often that I forget how colorful Naughty Dog’s world is, how lush with greenery and rust and blood it actually is. I hide by listening.

I suspect I’ll be back for some post-The Last of Us writing, given how powerful the narrative is turning out and unfolding. Plus, I think, unlike with Tomb Raider and Dragon Age: Inquisition, I will give the online multiplayer a shot. A sneaky, stealthy bow shot, that is. Er, hopefully.