Tag Archives: free-to-play

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.

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2018 Game Review Haiku, #38 – Korgan (Prologue)

Impending evil
Use three characters to fight
First bite free, don’t eat

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.

Korgan’s an uninspired dungeon-crawler, but easy 1,000 Gamerscore

There are a lot of free games floating around like tiny desperate dust motes up in the digital entertainment industry’s night sky these days. Many more than a couple years ago. Some are good, some are great, and many are bad, hastily put together and thrown into the wild in hopes of earning money or a fanbase or anything at all. I’ve been able to get a lot of mileage out of many of these freebies; for instance, according to my Xbox app, I put about 58 hours total into Fallout Shelter. Other free adventures that I continue to poke and prod at include Gems of War, Fortnite, and Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle. Alas, Korgan is not one of the good ones, sitting nearly at the bottom of the barrel, with its only saving grace being that it has a relatively easy number of Achievements to pop, if that is something you care about.

Korgan is an episodic dungeon-crawler from Codestalkers, and you can play the prologue chapter for free, which takes maybe two to three hours to get through, depending on how thorough you want to be. I recall zero details about the plot of this stock fantasy-driven adventure, but I’m sure it involves some sort of ancient evil or shadow group trying to spread chaos and monsters across the world, leaving it up to a trio of do-gooders to set things right. You can freely switch between these three heroes to face enemies or obstacles; the titular Korgan is an up-close dwarven warrior that uses axes and mallets for damage. As for Sedine and Meldie, well…I’m too annoyed at the game to look up much more, so one of them is a floating mage-lady, and the other is a hat-wearing hunter that uses a bow and arrow. I’ll let you decide who gets what name, even though it doesn’t matter one lick.

Naturally, each character has their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and you could combine attacks together for more damage, such as freezing as enemy with the mage and switching to the axe-wielding hero for extra damage…except I never felt the need to do this. You can skate by on using one character until his or her health is almost gone, and then switch to the next one. If one character loses all of his or health, it’s not the worst thing in the world–you are zipped back to the start of the level, but most of your progress has been saved, meaning death has no real consequence besides it now taking you longer to uninstall Korgan after getting through the prologue.

The game and gameplay is barbarously boring, almost to the point that I have nothing to say of it. It’s generic hack-and-loot, with paint-by-the-number quests that culminate in droll boss fights that, for some reason, were set to auto-record on the Xbox One. The subpar elements of Korgan that truly stand out to me are around its design and UI decisions. For instance, the developers thought that clicking in the right stick and holding it for upwards of 15 seconds would be perfect for actions like reading text on monuments, searching areas for clues, and destroying traps. It’s slow and not fun on one’s hand, and I eventually avoided doing it if I could. Hitting the Y button switches between your three characters, but it’s also the button to hit for looting all items as opposed to selecting them one by one, and since I never got the impression there was an inventory limit I looted each and every piece of gear I could fine…but sometimes, instead of looting, I’d accidentally switch to someone else.

Here’s something else I didn’t grok, but maybe I was half-asleep. Each of the three characters share a single XP bar that fills up as you complete side quests, break down traps, and kill enemies. However, as far as I can tell, only the character you are actively controlling at the time when the XP bar hits the max amount levels up and gets a skill point to spend. Because of this, though I did use all three characters, I ended up putting the most points into the mage’s spells and found her to thus be the most effective when it came to dealing damage. Except some enemies were immune to her attacks, and that sucked because Korgan and the other one were not as leveled as the mage. It also didn’t help that the UI for inventory and equipping potions, armor, and weapons was clunky and confusing. That said, the skill tree upgrades are as bland as unbuttered bread, and you never truly feel like the character is growing in strength or power.

Look, you might like Korgan. It might very well be your first taste of a dungeon crawler with gear to pick up. And if you do, that’s great, because the first nibble is free, and there’s more content coming. I believe you can jump right into chapter one if you are champing at the bit. However, I found the slow combat, poor controls, and uninteresting progression and loot to be too underwhelming, and I just don’t care about anything now. In fact, I’m going to continue living life believing that all three heroes fell down a dark crevasse and got swallowed up by the earth, never to be seen or heard from again. Oh well.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #30 – How to Cope with Boredom and Loneliness

Harold is grounded
For thirty years, find out why
Free hint–ask his mom

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.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #24 – The Flood

Find serenity
Amidst destruction, simply
Enjoy the journey

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.

I hilariously keep forgetting Team Kirby Clash Deluxe’s name

At first, I thought it was called Kirby Battle Royale–y’know, the game where 100 Kirbys jump out of a plane, land on an island, and must fight each other to death. Then I thought it was Kirby Star Allies, which is some new thing full of big reveals coming out real soon for the Nintendo Switch. Lastly, I thought it was Kirby’s Blowout Blast…but nope, none of those are right. I mean, yes, they exist and are all technically games starring the titular pink vacuum-beast, but the game I am playing and constantly forgetting the name of is Team Kirby Clash Deluxe. Oy vey. Look, there have been a lot of similar-sounding and looking Kirby-based games coming out of Nintendo these last few years, and it is difficult to keep them all separate.

Evidently, to make things even more complicated and layered, Team Kirby Clash Deluxe is a spin-off of a mini-game from 2016’s Kirby: Planet Robobot, available as a free-to-start digital down on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. It’s a game entirely made up of boss fights from previous Kirby-starring games, with all your favorite cute-as-heck baddies showing up, like Waddle Dee, Meta Knight, and King Dedede. RPG elements like leveling up, class types, and unlocking new weapons and armor sets are the key to making your Kirby super strong. You can take on the fights somewhat alone, with three computer-controlled Kirbys–should it be Kirbies?–or you can team up online with other real-life players; I’ve not tried the latter, and I’m doing just fine without human help, though I guess then I’m missing the whole point of this experience. For what it’s worth, I’ve never done much online multiplaying on my Nintendo 3DS, save for Animal Crossing: New Leaf and a few matches of ScareScraper slash Thrill Tower from Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. I like flying solo.

Now, the fighting in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe is not the most technical or satisfying combat system this side of the moon. It’s mashy and chaotic and that’s never really been the focus of Kirby games, of which my favorites are Kirby’s Dream Land 3 and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Speaking of the latter, I seemingly still have my case and instruction manual for it, but no longer the disc. Boo to that. Also, not-favorites in the franchise include Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Anyways, you can freely switch your Kirby between four different classes, which are as follows:

  • Sword Hero
  • Beam Mage
  • Dr. Healmore
  • Hammer Lord

These classes are basically locked-in versions of when Kirby would copy an enemy’s ability for his own nefarious purposes in a traditional game. Y’know, but sucking them into his mouth and swallowing them whole. Class-wise, they are easy to figure out, with Sword Hero being a general warrior type, Beam Mage being a ranged wizard, Dr. Healmore is your cleric, and Hammer Lord is most definitely a tank. I’m putting all my chips, and therefore Gem Apples and currency fragments, into Beam Mage, buying weapon and armor sets as they unlock because trying to spread out my spending on multiple classes, without using real money–more on that in a bit–is a fool’s errand. I really like the Beam Mage’s Time Stop ability and the fact that I can keep my distance from bosses and let my AI-driven team get in close for me. As fights progress, the boss will drop stone tablets, and if you collect all four of them you can perform a supermove that deals massive damage; other than that, the strategies are mash attacks and heal and dodge when necessary and obvious.

Let’s now talk about the free-to-play stuff. Team Kirby Clash Deluxe‘s freemium currency is Gem Apples, and there’s a tree in your main hub area that will give you five Gem Apples every 12 hours. Naturally, you can also buy Gem Apples for real cash money through the nearby shop or upgrade the tree itself for better harvests, and I wish I could tell you what the best deal is, but I honestly haven’t even looked at the prices. Each boss fight requires a certain amount of Vigor to take on, which recharges over time–it’s basically your standard energy system to restrict you from playing too much at once. You can instantly refill the meter by eating a Gem Apple or leveling up. Gem Apples are also used to unlock new boss fights and, along with additional currency requirements, acquire new weapons and armor. At first, everything only takes a few Gem Apples to do, but as you progress the amounts required will increase, insisting you pay real money for more; thankfully, I’m as patient as an anaconda hunting its prey and don’t mind checking in every 12 hours or so for my free Gem Apples, stockpiling them until I can unlock the next whatever.

So, similar to my approach with Pokémon Shuffle, Disney Magic Kingdoms, and other free-to-play games, I’m okay taking it slow in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, so long as I get to see a majority of its stuff. Some of these armor sets look adorable on the ol’ pink sphere. I doubt I’ll get my Kirby up to level 50–he’s currently sitting rotund at level 12–but I’ll keep checking in on this until the Gem Apple requirements truly become too steep to climb.

I’m not smart enough for ERROR: Human Not Found’s computer-science puzzles

I’d like to think I’m not afraid to admit when I’m not good at something, but that’s probably not the case one hundred percent of the time. So, in that honor, here is a short list of activities and skills I can confidently say I absolutely stink at and you can silently judge me all you want from your side of the computer screen because that’s the Internet for you, all stares and snippy comments:

  • Cooking
  • Running
  • Confronting people
  • Arm wrestling a bear
  • Sports
  • Walking on snow
  • Mathematics

Now, it’s that last listed item there that plays a part in today’s blog post, which is all about ERROR: Human Not Found, a free point-and-click/visual novel adventure on Steam that examines that differences between humans and artificial intelligences. Certainly not breaking any new ground, and yet I continue to be unable to stay away from this subject matter, fascinated by the themes and characters in things like Battlestar Galactica, Ghost in the Shell, and Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, to provide a few examples. I mean, as Black Mirror has rightfully and accurately predicted, we’re moving ever closer towards a technology-driven future, and it is going to be both sleek and shiny and bleak as hell. It’s best to start prepping for it now.

In ERROR: Human Not Found, you play as sassy Grace Fortran, a computer scientist stationed on the Noah Sphere, a space-based research station. There’s celebration to be had, what with the first artificial intelligence being successfully uploaded into the physical body of an android. Yahoo and wahoo. Alas, no time for cake and cheers just yet, as Grace must quickly move to clear her name in the mysterious death of this very AI who is murdered not twenty-four hours after the upload. She’ll have to work together with Ada, another AI body-bound, to search the station for clues, question suspects, and solve various computer-science related puzzles to get the job done. Grace will ultimately need to determine the fate of AIs while exploring their relationships with humans and the world at large, and it’s all pretty standard stuff, save for the hints that they might be better at running the government than the flesh-and-blood models.

This is interactive fiction, with a stronger emphasis on fiction than interactive. CelleC Games’ ERROR: Human Not Found is broken up into different chapters, and each one contains the same style of gameplay. You’ll have conversations with Ada and other members on the station, make a couple of dialogue choices, explore a limited environment (usually consisting of a couple of screens) for clues, and then take on a puzzle or two. Rinse and repeat until the story concludes, so long as you can get past the puzzles, which are, more or less, logic gates. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Now I was able to fudge my way through the bulk of them, guessing here and there, but the last one, which is based around binary code, stumped me for a bit, forcing me to walk away from the game for several nights. Then, because I can’t stand starting something and not seeing it through, I went back for one more hard, stubborn-drive swing, to finish this off.

Would you like to know how I solved the final computer science-themed puzzle? Well, for starters, I had The Descent: Part 2 on in the background, and let me tell you something…it’s a terrible sequel to a strong adventure horror film about a group of young women getting lost inside an unexplored cave and discovering a race of flesh-eating subterranean humanoids. It’s fine to listen to, but don’t waste your eyeballs on it. Instead, I had the game open in a window, as well as the notepad application, and I jotted down each successful attempt to match a number with the what-I’m-assuming is its respective binary code, because you only get so many tries. For instance, 8 is 1000 or 14 is 1110. Again, if you are currently salivating and ready to jump down my throat and call me stupid because this is so obvious to you, please remember that I started this post by being honest about the things I’m no good at, and this is one of them. The more I knew ahead of re-starting the puzzle, the further I got, and it took me ultimately six attempts to finish.

Evidently, there are three different endings to see in ERROR: Human Not Found. I’m fine with the one I got, though I can barely remember it now, some days later when typing up this post. I appreciated the game’s love for all things scientific and mathematics, with a number of nods at popular players in these fields, like Grace Hopper and Isaac Asimov. There’s even an exhaustive database full of profiles on these characters if you want to read more. However, I can neither recommend it to those looking for a story-driven game or something puzzle-y, as it doesn’t truly succeed in either of those departments.