Tag Archives: ghosts

2016 Game Review Haiku, #22 – I’ve Been Late

2016 gd games completed i've been late

Despite all the ghosts
This was a relaxing time
Under the moonlight

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.

Absent’s time travel trip is a bit rough around the edges

gd absent adventure game thoughts

Surprisingly, or maybe it’s not surprising at all because we now live in an era when you can’t look left or right without something free being dangled before your hazy, consume hungry-limned eyes, there are quite a number of free adventure games on Steam to try out. I’ve already played The Old Tree, but there’s also Emily is Away, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (that’s one game name, by the way, starting at the doctor part, which I ended up playing in the time it took me to finish this post, whoops), Only If, and Missing Translation to look forward to in my ever-growing pipeline of even free things I don’t have time to play right now. Le sigh.

For the moment, I’m giving Absent from FNGames a go. I saw some posts about it over at the Adventure Game Studios forums, which I like to frequent now and then to see what people are working on and what’s out in the wild, especially since many of those titles don’t get a ton of coverage from the major websites. It was originally released in 2013, but made its cost-effective debut on Steam in 2015. Other than that, I went into it fairly blind, other than obviously seeing a screenshot or two to confirm it was, in fact, a point-and-click adventure game of the traditional sense.

Absent stars the determined if somewhat aloof Murray Schull, a young man attending college and who walks as if he has a permanent wedgie that he is internally debating on picking in public. One day, his best friend Steve’s girlfriend, Crystal, disappears, an event that spirals out of control and puts Murray on a path of danger, disillusionment, and death. Also, time travel, but that really only comes into play towards the very end. Oh, and Murray is haunted by visions of both the past and future, which factor into the puzzles and his decisions on what to do next to find answers as to Crystal’s disappearance.

To say I was taken aback by Absent is being kind. This game really surprised me, for good and for bad. First, a lot of adventure games I snag from the AGS forums are short, tiny little experiences. Snippets of an idea, a few screens to explore. Like A Landlord’s Dream. Absent features plenty of unique animations, is fully voice acted from beginning to end, and took me over six hours to see its credits roll due to the amount of story, puzzles, and, this is not a plus, backtracking involved. Sure, sure. Visually, it is not going to win any awards or even get my eyes to dilate with pleasure, but the graphics take a backseat for an admittedly overambitious story and dense amount of content to poke at.

Let me get more specific here, before I bring up the parts of Absent I found extremely lackluster, as there are many. Though the story is too big for its britches, I give FNGames credit for going big or going home. Since time travel is the deus ex machina to solve everything come the end events, there had to be some careful planning into setting it for that outcome, and I can appreciate details like how the first Reaper was made and that crack behind the canteen appeared. There’s a good amount of dialogue options to go through with many of the NPCs, as well as numerous unique responses for trying items on items that clearly won’t work with it. Showing everyone Murray’s homework assignment was amusing. Lastly, I dig the look of the ghastly, otherworldly Reapers, even if I don’t fully understand their motives.

Alas, Absent is fairly rough around the edges. Also in its middle area. From a technical stance, sometimes the cursor icon would automatically change to “use” when you hovered over a door or exit to a new area, and sometimes it wouldn’t. The inconsistency varied from screen to screen. There were plenty of times I also didn’t want the icon to change, forcing me to have to left click several times back to my preferred option. A few screens, like in front of the college and the swamp, are a wee bit larger than what you can actually see, so you are constantly changing to the “walk” icon to move a foot to the right or left and find the exit. It’s annoying. More times than not, the subtitles and voice-over work do not match up, and there were a number of typos spotted along the way, which, as an editor, I simply can’t not see.

One of my biggest critiques of Absent revolves around logic. Almost immediately, characters are shown to jump to the wildest conclusions without any rationalizing. For example, within minutes of learning that his girlfriend is missing, Steve is absolutely convinced that she was murdered by so-and-so and will hear no other arguments. Missing equals murdered in this world, and then once he finds out that Crystal was cheating on him, he no longer mourns for her. Like, not even a little bit, claiming she got her just desserts. I think at this point in the timeline, it’s been one day since she vanished. Granted, once the speculative fiction elements really start taking shape, a lot of logic-based decisions can be tossed out the window, but for the early part of Absent, I was hoping to see some more believable reactions out of the cast, especially Murray, who seems to simply be a dude we use to click around on things and cause events to happen. I’m still not sure why he’s the main character we play as.

Lastly, in terms of diversity, Absent is absent. This is a world of white people and only white people. Considering the size of the cast, it is a shame to see it so one-sided, and hopefully this is something that can be addressed in the forthcoming Absent II. I mean, it takes place at a college, for goodness sake, where all shapes, sizes, and color of people from everywhere in the world come together to learn, make mistakes, and learn some more. At least the female characters are voiced by women and not men pitching their voices up.

Still, all that said, I’d recommend checking Absent out. You might not be impressed with the story and safe way it wraps everything up, nor the difficulty of the majority of puzzles, which mostly require item on item interaction save for one involving a sliding ladder, but there’s still something interesting going on here, especially from a small team. Plus, if you like British accents, this game has them and then some. I personally think Steve sounds like Jim Sterling, but that’s just me. Maybe every angry British man does.

Campfire’s scary ghost story is told by matching four

gd campfire capture

I’ve gone camping a few times, when I was younger, but never in the stereotypical manner depicted on television or in movies. You know, when everyone gathers round a roaring flame in one big circle, roasting marshmallows on sticks and whispering the beginnings of stories whose only purpose is to ensure you have even more difficulty falling asleep on the ground in a sleeping bag possibly crawling with critters. Instead, I slept in a cabin and had lights out by like nine p.m. or it was with my father, and we’d eat hot dogs and beans and then I’d play my guitar in the murky darkness of the woods before the sound of its strings–the guitar’s, not the wood’s–would quickly freak me out. Yup, I’m kind of a big scaredy-cat.

Campfire was created by Adam Hartling (XenosNS) and Chris Last-Name-Not Known (rogueNoodle) for the Halifax Game Collective back in February 2015, which sported the theme “ghost stories,” and the player weaves these spooky tales by matching four icons on a grid and increasing the meter on the bottom of the screen. Seems easy enough. If you don’t match four similar-looking monsters, the meter will deplete and those around the campfire will grow bored, even sleepy. Basically, like a multiplier, you’ll want to keep matching four after four after four to ensure all are properly frightened from start to finish.

Honestly, it’s a bare bones match four puzzle game, but I’m in love with its design and aesthetic. The crackling campfire, the sounds the monsters make when matched, and the cute, children’s book-esque illustrations are a sight to behold. They remind me of someone‘s artwork that I look at weekly, though the name refuses to hop off the tip of my tongue. Unfortunately, you don’t really get to view what is going on with the campfire and kids as you match, since your focus and eyes are looked into the grid, always searching for the next set to clear. Okay, I went back to see, and all that happens is the main bear thingy, the one with the darker fur, just speaks a speech balloon featuring the monster you matched. Be cool if the monsters changed expressions as they grew more scared or bored.

I’ve not played anything else from rogueNoodle, but looking through his games list gets me excited to try out a few others. The same can be said about Adam Hartling. Gah, too many cool-looking indie experiences to experience, and not enough time in this universe. Curse you, Warp Door, for revealing yourself to me today. Curse you, and also thank you.

Anyways, if you enjoy matching adorable vampire bats and often listen to a soothing soundtrack that is burning wood on loop, give Campfire a try–in your browser, mind you–right over this way.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #41 – The Novelist

2015 games completed gd the novelist

Meet the Kaplans fam
Use your ghost powers to change
Their lives, poor Tommy

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.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #20 – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

2013 games completed luigi's mansion dark moon

Mansion to mansion
Ghost to ghost, Luigi sucks
‘Em up, shivering

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon took me for a chilly ride

luigi's mansion frozen pit boss

Some two months after getting it, I’m almost done with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, which is good seeing that Animal Crossing: New Leaf drops in just a few days and will continue to take up most of my portable gaming time for both the near and far-flung future, but I came very, very close to taking the cartridge out of my 3DS and never looking back. Why? Let’s blame the possessor ghost boss fight from the Secret Mine mansion, and let’s blame it coldly.

While the main levels within a mansion all follow a formula of slowing making progress to the house’s final area, ghost by ghost, piece by piece, there’s definitely not one tied to the boss fights at the end. Each has been drastically different, and the one hoarding the dark moon fragment in Chilly Ride took me by surprise for its difficulty and unrealistic expectations.

For starters, the game switches to a first-person shooter perspective, having you toss bombs at a looming monster face covered in slabs of ice while you race down a slippery ice tunnel. Once you break away each slab, you then have two chances to toss a flaming bomb into the monster’s open mouth; do that, and you return to more traditional grounds, sucking up the possessor ghost as usual in third-person perspective before being thrown back into the shooting formula two more times. Each subsequent time adds more slabs around the monster’s face, and you only have so much time to clear them off the boss before your sledding/shooting machine malfunctions. If that happens, you have to redo the entire fight from the beginning. Which sucks.

Trust me, I know. It took me eight attempts to finally beat this boss, roughly around 40 minutes. That’s the equivalent of two missions in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, wherein you are collecting ghosts, finding gems, earning money for unlocks, and seeing story beats unfold. I definitely have more fun exploring rooms than tossing bombs down ice tunnels and hoping for the best. Luck and a lot of timing played into this boss fight, which is what makes it so frustrating. When I finally did take down the possessor ghost, I didn’t feel like it was through genuine skill, just something I managed to sneak by.

But whatevs. I beat the Chilly Ride boss–cue Luigi’s adorable line, “I do it!”–collected the fourth Dark Moon fragment, and moved on to the final mansion to see this story to a close. Which I hope to do tonight or tomorrow. No really. I’m almost there, and I’ll probably have some final thoughts on the game, as there is, just like with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, a lot to enjoy here, but the frustrations are truly that, and this boss fight was almost bad enough to drive me away. Hopefully the final boss fight won’t kick me out for good.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon tasks you to ghost hunt like a pro

luigi mansion dark moon initial impressions

During my junior and senior years of college, I dated a girl called the Giraffe. Relationship stuff notwithstanding, she played videogames in a fairly casual manner, except for a few specific titles like Crash Team Racing and Pikmin, which she ate up with glee. In fact, I was there the day she bought her Nintendo GameCube, slyly suggesting she also pick up Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, an RPG I knew she’d never like, but one that I was most definitely curious over; to sum up that game, not so good. As we dated, her GameCube collection grew, and one game we ended up enjoying together was the original Luigi’s Mansion, but for altogether different reasons.

In Luigi’s first ghost-hunting adventure, he ends up in a haunted mansion after winning a contest that he never entered. He told his brother Mario to meet him there to celebrate his…uh, victory. Upon arrival, Luigi realizes that Mario arrived before him, but is now missing somewhere within the mansion. To help Luigi find his red-coloring sibling, an old professor named Elvin Gadd equips him with the Poltergust 3000, a vacuum cleaner used for capturing ghosts, and a Game Boy Horror, a device used for communicating with Gadd. You then explore the mansion room by room, sucking up ghosts and looking for any clues related to Mario’s disappearance. It’s a very charming game, with a lot of style and cartoonish sense of horror, and that’s what the Giraffe ate up the most. She would literally spend fifteen minutes just walking around a room pressing the “Call out to Mario” button, eating up Luigi’s uncertain, shivering tone. Me, I actually liked playing the game, though I never got too far into it.

Some ten-plus years later, and we now have a sequel with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS. This time, the adventure is set in a region called Evershade Valley, which is where Professor E. Gadd lives in his laboratory and studies friendly ghosts. The Dark Moon, which hangs above Evershade Valley, shatters thanks to a nefarious Boo, which causes all the local ghosts to suddenly become hostile. Luigi is summoned by E. Gadd to re-collect the five pieces of the Dark Moon, scattered in different mansions, to restore peace.

Currently, I’m still in the first mansion, and it’s been a lot of light-hearted, ghost-sucking-up fun, hampered by all things Professor E. Gadd. Firstly, he talks way too much, calling you constantly on your Nintendo DS phone device thingy. And this isn’t helped by the fact that he sounds completely like an Ewok. I’ve been rushing through his dialogue as quickly as possible, even though there are some great zingers to be read. I really enjoy sucking in ghastly ghosts via the enhanced Poltergust 5000, which can be likened to many fishing mini-games, where once you have a ghost “hooked” you need to pull in the opposite direction its moving to “reel” it in. And every new room feels like an unopened present, especially since there is so much that Luigi can interact with–blowing ceiling fans to reveal hidden floors, sucking up window curtains, moving rugs, exploring vases and desk drawers. My gaming OCD doesn’t allow me to leave a room until I’ve fully explored every crevice and interactive set piece, and that’s just fine by me.

Luigi may be all shivers and quivering words, reluctant to see what’s behind the next door, but I’m pretty excited to explore onwards. Will report back later if anything else surprises me about Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon though I suspect it’s going to kind of be a lot like the first mansion, but four more times until the end credits roll. Have not been able to unlock the online multiplayer stuff yet though my non-love for online multiplayer experiences tells me to try it once and then promptly ignore it. We’ll see.

Owl Creek has been invaded by ghosts in Phantasmaburbia


Well, I’m back for round 2 of digging into Box in a Bundle‘s latest package, which I covered previously in a post about the non-game Dinner Date. This time, I’m most definitely playing a game, and I know that because after two hours I’ve switched between three different playable characters, gained levels, equipped special items, killed ghosts and skeletal rodents and unshapely shades, and died during a particularly tough boss fight. If that doesn’t summarize me playing a game, well…no, that’s it exactly. I mean, I literally did mostly the same thing over the weekend in Ni no Kuni, calling it quits when Moltaan, the Lord of Lava, wiped Oliver and friends off Old Smokey.

So, with that, I’m here to talk about Phantasmaburbia, a long-name game that appears capable of going the distance. To summarize, the year is 201X (twenty-X-teen), and the small modern neighborhood of Owl Creek has suddenly been overrun with ghosts. No one knows exactly why or how just yet. Four local kids, assisted by spirits of their ancestors, will group together on a suburban adventure to save the place they call home.

I’ve only gotten far enough in the game–roughly two hours and change–to have three kids in my party. I named the first boy Todd, the goth girl Rayne, and the gun-wielding, blonde-haired kid Drogo. Screenshots from the developer’s website show that the fourth character is another girl, so feel free to leave name suggestions; otherwise, she will be called something dumb, like Jam.

Anyways, it’s an RPG, with all the things you’d associate with the genre present. Its strongest element is its battle system, which is seemingly based around the active time battle model, with no room for pausing or breathing. Best plan your attacks before you even select them or the enemy, which consists of things like Catdavers and Roadents, might slip in an extra swipe. It makes for lively fights, but alas, many are over too soon, and the battle music takes a few seconds to really kick in and sound amazing. There are some other special elements to battles that involve you clicking dangerous tentacles away or loading bursts of light into a spectral gun, all timing-based.

The graphics are perfunctory, if not elementary. This is not a slam against Phantasmaburbia, as its story and gameplay more than carry the title forward, and graphics never are everything. Am I right, Minecraft? Anyways, there’s quite a bit of dialogue here, and the best is between each kid and their respective spiritual assistant ancestor. Everyone speaks in an Animal Crossing-like fashion, just making noise, but don’t take that as a reason to rush through the dialogue. The ghosts are particularly well-written, showing off their unique personalities.

It seems like most of Phantasmaburbia is spent either outside or underground in weird space/time dimension dungeons. These are where the puzzles are, as each ghost can interact here in a different way. For instance, one ghost can highlight invisible panels to walk on, and another can take over animals to move them onto special tiles. I suspect that once all four kids meet up and are one team, a lot of dungeon levels will involve switching between different ghosts to get everybody from point A to point B.

Oh, and one really small touch that I liked are the garage door motion sensor lights. You go near them, they go on. You walk away, they go off. It’s especially great when you’re nearby and see a wild animal trigger them. I don’t know. It’s the small stuff that can make a world feel big, and despite its rather generic look at times, Phantasmaburbia seems like a fully realized place, one I look forward to exploring more. Though that means I have to figure how to properly use Todd and Drogo to beat the current boss I’m stuck on. But for this sleek and somewhat goofy RPG, trying again is a must.

Elite Four Shauntal and her Chandelure are a phantom pain

elite four shauntal

All right, Trainers everywhere. I’ve made some progress–and changes–since last I updated y’all on where I was with Pokemon White 2. Y’know, that post from three days ago.

Since then, I’ve learned that my Munna won’t evolve on her own by reaching a select level, and so I’ve given her a Moon Stone to hold in hopes that will help speed up the process. She recently gained a level, going from 62 to 63, but nothing happened otherwise. Not sure if it’s just a random happening. I also made some changes to my team overall, especially once I figured out how easy it is to transfer Pokemon over from my previous Pokemon White galavanting. This involved finding my Nintendo DS Lite, which was sadly at the bottom of a box, bereft and cold, an old thing forgotten in the midst of shinier toys. Sorry about that, my dear friend. Anyways, all I then had to do was go to a Poke Center in both games–Pokemon White 2 on my 3DS, and Pokemon White on m y DS–select to enter some weird chat room thing, and then trade with…myself. Yeah, that part was a little odd, having to switch back between menus that both mentioned a Pauly, but I figured it all out in due time. In the end, I gave away three really low level Pokemon that I never used (or planned to), and took back my three original main staples:

  • Trashy, a Garbodor (poison)
  • Snape, a Serperior (grass)
  • Vick, a Victini (um, fire and maybe psychic)

Before attempting to take on the Elite Four for the very first time, I removed my Terrakion and did some light grinding, getting Trashy up to LV 59, Vick around LV 56, and Snape somewhere near 53. To be honest, I was glad to have them back with me after spending so much time with them last year, but I suspected I really wouldn’t need them, with my now LV 72 Genesect able to just destroy everything in its way by simply spamming Bug Buzz and keeping him healthy and healed. And that plan went swimmingly…until I met Shauntal and her army of Ghost-type Pokemon.

So, just using Genesect solely, I was able to defeat three of the four Elite Four members. With ease. Bing, bang, boom. Oh yeah. They were not exciting fights, but I’m okay with that, as I actually prefer exploring and capturing pocket monsters more than struggling through a back-and-forth type of battle and dealing with what one might call “strategy,” and you get to a ton more of that fun stuff once you “beat” the game, opening up the map and letting new types of Pokemon appear in the wild. Mmm yes. More of that please.

However, Shauntal’s Ghost Pokemon are super strong despite being the same levels as other Elite Four’s teams, especially her Chandelure, which is the second Pokemon out of the gate. I can’t get past it. The blasted thing one-shots my LV 72 Genesect, and my other critters barely get a hit in before fainting as well. Seems like I need a Dark or Ghost type Pokemon myself to deal sufficient enough damage back, and well…I don’t really have one of those at a decent level. Got a Jellicent around its early 40s, but it mostly has Water attacks. Please suggest something better, as I really don’t want to grind several more hours just to get one Pokemon up twenty levels to stand a chance. Is there a way I can turn one of my existing Pokemon Dark of Ghost-like?

Until we meet again, Shauntal.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #7 – Blackwell Deception

Psychic says move on
To where, from who, check MyPhone
Still don’t trust Joey

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.