Tag Archives: GameBoy

2017 Game Review Haiku, #39 – The Evil With Us

Monsters left and right
Grind out gold, better your knife
Only upgrade knife

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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2016 Game Review Haiku, #66 – Witchwood Academy

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Prep for spider fight
Days away–study, your picks
Go Olivia

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.

Back-tracking with purpose in Cuckoo Castle

cuckoo castle gbjam4 impressions gd

I’m not exactly sure what it is about these GameBoy Jams that brings about games involving animals and mysterious castles, but Cuckoo Castle is now the second I’ve encountered. The previous one was Meowgical Tower. It’s not that I’m anti-animals or mysterious castles, but I’d like to see a castle exploring a mysterious animal next year to mix things up when the inevitable GameBoy Jam 5 drops.

That said, the protagonist of Cuckoo Castle isn’t ultimately an animal, but the castle you explore is filled with an assortment of antagonistic critters, like sewer rats and swooping bats, as well as spirits of the undead. Eventually, you get to decide between controlling three different adventurers: a lonely knight with a massively huge sword, a fireball-tossing witch accompanied by the cutest pixel kitty cat ever, and some kind of bug thing that likes to dig. Overall, it’s a bite-sized Metroidvania that, when it comes to the boss battles, can be difficult in spots, but moves like hot butter off bread and feels massive despite being relatively contained.

Gameplay is as follows: leave the empty village and enter the castle in search of villagers while also killing monsters and opening up more of the map. You can recover your HP at pig statues, as well as teleport back to the village to speak with those you saved. Some will offer clues, and you can also switch between protagonists in the village. The lonely knight reminds me greatly of how your warrior moved in Rogue Legacy, with his mighty sword held aloft. The witch can jump higher, but her attacks deal less damage and it takes some learning to grok how her fireballs move with a curved trajectory. I did not try out the bug thing. As you get further through the castle, you can hit levers to open up shortcuts, which makes back-tracking to the village not so bad.

Once again, I’m astounded at the tech here. I don’t remember actual GameBoy games looking this good, moving this fast, and that might be because nothing back then is as solid as the stuff being produced these days to resemble the age-old adventures. The animations in Cuckoo Castle–which I’ve seen hilariously mispronounced in a few YouTube vids–are clean and full of character, and the lighting, much like with The Night That Speaks, helps hide things in the shadows like how things in shadows should be hidden. Plus, pixel kitty cats abound back in the village. But seriously, give it up for the developers, especially when you consider the time-crunch this was produced under

I was hoping to kick Cuckoo Castle‘s butt and put it on my growing list of games completed for the year, but alas, no. The second boss–or it could be the last boss for all I know–is Dracula, and I just couldn’t best him. Granted, I only tried with the kitty-loving witch and not the warrior, but I already removed the game from my laptop. Oops. I tried looking up online to see if anyone gotten further than me in video form, but it’s fairly barren out there. In the end, I rescued six villagers and eviscerated a giant sewer rat. You can try and do better than me by grabbing a free copy of Cuckoo Castle or playing it in your browser over this way.

Flipping the bird hard in The Night That Speaks

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The Night That Speaks is not your typical game jam entry, especially when we’re talking about the GameBoy Jam. Quick–think of every single horror adventure you ever played on Nintendo’s GameBoy as a wee lad or lass. Not coming up with many names? Yeah, that system wasn’t really known for the jump-scares and spooky hallways, championing more colorful, safe outings like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Super Mario Land. Stuff one can eat up on a cross-country drive in the family’s station wagon that wouldn’t give a kid nightmares later at the hotel, unless you just couldn’t get over that Kumo enemy design.

Anyways, The Night That Speaks is a small, creepy walking simulator which has you, a nameless teenage soul witnessed only by your extended milky white hand, exploring catacombs beneath a graveyard. Why? That’s a good question, with no clear answer. Something to do with a dead girl perhaps. Also, there’s a freaky ghost-skeleton-monster chasing after you as you gather clues via collectible notes, with your only defense being crude hand gestures. It’s scary and goofy and a little hard to deduce, but from the visual and audio departments, this is one fine piece of work. Certainly, I’ve never seen anything like it before, not in this perspective.

I’ve not played, nor will I probably ever, things like Slender: The Eight Pages or Outlast, but I’ve watched others tackle them. Y’know, that way I can close my Internet browser if events become too traumatic to bear. I’m not good at scary games, and I guess I need to pony up soon as I did make a promise at the start of this year that I’d get through Silent Hill 3 this October. Sigh. Either way, those games follow a similar trajectory, with the player wandering around a bit, collecting notes or scraps of paper, and with each piece discovered, there’s a greater chance of the monster showing up. I’m not into this, as the idea of being hunted by a hunter you can’t see is beyond paralyzing. Basically, this means that the moment I get the feeling that something is following me or right around the corner, all I want to do is shut my eyes and quit to desktop.

That said, Adam Ryu‘s The Night That Speaks is worth checking out, just to watch how the lighting and shadows work as you move forward through the graveyard and deeper into the labyrinth of catacombs. It’s amazingly detailed and immersive for such a retro style. I’m no tech guy, so I don’t actually know if this sort of game could’ve existed on the original GameBoy hardware, but if it could–man, what a different world that would’ve been. Pressing the “Z” key in allows you to “exert your will,” which is a nice way of saying giving someone the middle finger. If you time this right, you can keep the scary ghost-skeleton-monster at bay for a bit, but I mostly flipped the bird at lanterns or tables or anything that got in my way. I played for about twenty minutes, dying a handful of times–so I don’t know if there’s a conclusion or way to win.

Let’s end with some non-solicited advice from a genuine scaredy-cat: don’t wander into ominous catacombs in the dead of night, armed with only a gesture  manner meant to degrade, intimidate, and threaten. At least bring a flashlight. Maybe the really heavy kind that doubles as a blunt object. Or, I don’t know, stay home and watch old episodes of Frasier when the darkness becomes too much. You’re welcome, and stay safe.

Tilt every platform to make it through Through

gbjam4 through impressions gd

Here’s the unfortunate reality: I will never have enough time to explore all the game jams out there that I want to explore. I’m still not even close to seeing all the entries from GameBoy Jam 3, of which there are 237 in total, and I’ve tried out a whooping three, each of which had something unique or fun to offer: The Tale of Kelda, Roguelight, and Meowgical Tower. Now here we are with a further 181 creations for the next iteration, the rightfully named GameBoy Jam 4, and I don’t know what to do with myself. Guess I’ll play something.

Through is a short, proof of concept puzzle platformer starring a tiny black pixel that could probably befriend the likes of Boxboy and the doomed hero from Disposabot. There are twelve levels in total, with the goal being to reach the teleport pad; however, it’s not always a straight path to it, and this is where tilting takes over. By pushing our tiny retro pixel soldier against a wall for a second or two, he or she or it can pass through, turning the wall into empty space and reshuffling the other platforms around. It’s a bit mind-bending, and I never really saw how the world shifted or was going to shift, like one eventually did in Fez, but if you kept playing around with tilting this way or that, the exit would get closer and closer.

The twelve levels here are not difficult, especially the first three that act more like a tutorial than anything, and so Through is more of a casual playthrough, where you try pushing against a wall and seeing what happens. If it doesn’t work out, jump elsewhere and push another wall. Floor spikes make an appearance only in the final level, and those kind of dangerous elements could have been introduced earlier to create some tension or force players to find an alternate path to the exit. All of this is backed by a looping soundtrack of bloops and bleeps, though it works well enough.

A “To be continued…” message pops up after you finish Through‘s final level, and I do hope we get more from this. The mechanics are there, but a little more variety could help, as well as a smidgen more art, though the simple graphics help create a lonely aesthetic. The game’s developer goes by the username goshki, and I’m not familiar with any of his other work, but I’d love to see this warp maze puzzle game expand into something a bit trickier, more demanding. Personally, I think it’d be a great fit on the Nintendo 3DS, especially if there’s a level editor involved, wherein we can then see what others can create with this idea. All right, I’m off to get a cup of coffee, and I think I’ll just push against the kitchen wall afterwards and see where it takes me.

It takes a princess to save a knight in The Tale of Kelda

gd impressions the tale of kelda

Don’t you hate it when, in the middle of spinning and swirling and dancing with your one true love in some fantasy-quality grassy field, a ferocious monster snatches away your significant only, leaving you standing there, burning for justice and revenge? I know I do. And so does Kelda, the star of The Tale of Kelda, which was another high-up-on-the-list entry, in terms of votes, for the GameBoy Jam 3 from last year–yes, I’m still nibbling away at it–of which I’ve also tried out two other strong contenders in the names of Roguelight and Meowgical Tower.

The Tale of Kelda, from Sinextra Game Studio and which obviously has no obvious connection with The Legend of Zelda (obviously), is an action platformer, starring the princess herself, which would make Anita Sarkeesian quite proud. It kind of reminds me of when Jade, a journalist, was sent to rescue Double H, an armored soldier, who was kidnapped by the evildoers in Beyond Good & Evil. If only we can get a true take on this notion from Nintendo with the Mario series, and no, sorry, Super Princess Peach was not the best effort, given that most of her power-ups rely on emotions, like joy and rage. Y’know, because all women are emotional.

Moving right along, Kelda deals in simple actions: moving left and right, jumping, double jumping, slashing with her sword, and charging up a magic projectile. That’s it. You’ll use all of these skills to complete each level, with the level’s end identified by a road sign and an arrow to follow. You have five hearts, and a set number of magic spell uses, though killing enemies and breaking pots will reveal extra pick-ups to refill those meters. All in all, it’s a straightforward experience, with little challenge, though there is something extremely satisfying about slashing a skeleton archer to death before it can loose an arrow your way. The platforming is rudimentary and never really tasks with you anything too challenging, but it gets the job done.

A few quibbles, of course. Kelda occasionally would land on the edge of a platform, and she’d sort of get stuck in-between the geometry. I never felt truly confident leaping to another ledge and slashing at an enemy awaiting me there. Lastly, I was able to cheese the final boss by standing in one spot and perfectly timing four or five magic projectiles in a row. Oh wells. This is a jam game, after all, and still a solid stab at the theme and all its limitations.

I have a few more entries from GameBoy Jam 3 downloaded to look at, though I will never experience all 239 creations. Certainly not at my pace, at least. Regardless, stay tuned for more retro-themed adventures and my avant-garde thoughts on ’em. Long live princesses.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #21 – The Tale of Kelda

2015 games completed gd the tale of kelda

Dragon takes your knight
Jump, slash, charge your magic blasts
Good to be princess

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.