Tag Archives: Humble Bundle

2017 Game Review Haiku, #107 – Eventide: Slavic Fable

Save endangered plant
Seek alliance with creatures
Nifty stained glass scenes

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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Waking Mars educates one about an alien planet’s ecosystem

I’ve never been to Mars and probably never will in my lifetime, but I’ve both read and seen a lot of hot takes on the red planet, such as Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, The Martian by Andy Weir, and 1990’s Total Recall. I’ve even played a few games set there, like all the Red Faction joints. Chances are I wouldn’t survive long, knowing only how to make hot dog rice and a slumber party tent using two chairs and an old bedsheet, but that’s expected. Also, if hostile alien lifeforms exist, I wouldn’t know what to do to keep them from eating my Earthly flesh. Related to that, one is still trying to survive the harsh landscape in Waking Mars, but the true focus is on study and education, on discovering what makes this world alive and function.

Tiger Style put out Waking Mars in early 2012, but I only discovered it the other night in my Steam library, way at the bottom of the list. I honestly have no recollection of how it got there, but I’m going to assume it was through a Humble Bundle of sorts. Without knowing too much about the game other than some of the Achievement descriptions, I loaded it up and was surprised to discover that it is…a science-fiction adventure game with light platforming in the veins of a jetpack. Also, it’s totally about gardening. The year is 2097, and life has been discovered on Mars. Your mission of first contact takes a real bad turn, with American astronaut Liang becoming trapped by a cave-in. He must master the alien ecosystem to better survive and progress, as well as discover the secrets of the planet’s past.

Right. First off, instead of shooting your way to safety, Liang must grow a lively ecosytem to open passageways and redirect water to the areas that need it most. This was a great surprise. Much like The Swapper, combat is not the focus; instead, exploring your surroundings and puzzling out what to do next is the main mechanic fueling progression and storytelling, and that has actually made the jet-packing all the more fun because you are not trying to fire a blaster and dodge acid bombs at the same time, but rather zip around in search of places to grow some local life. Instead, you are looking for plant seeds and fertile ground, as well as scientific remnants of a co-worker that has gone missing. Each area has a Biomass rating, which you must raise to open up new areas to explore, and you do this by making life thrive. Plant seeds in the right spot, cultivate them, mix seeds with other seeds, avoid dangerous plants, and watch how everything interacts.

Waking Mars, so far, has a somewhat compelling story, but I’m more interested in the diversity of its cast, as well as the strong voice acting, which gives more meaning and urgency to the search for alien life and a way back to the headquarters. Liang is quiet and curious, but also physically alone in these Mars caves. In his ear are two support team members: Armani, an upbeat scientist, and ART, a humorous and glitch AI (think TARS from Interstellar). At different points, you’ll stop for conversation and figure out what to do next. These are linear moments, but they do reveal a lot about each character and provide hints at what is really going on here.

The gardening is fun. I generally always have fun growing digital plants, but the fact that everything interacts with each other to either raise or lower your Biomass rating is fascinating and much different than other games. Makes me feel like a scientist doing scientist-y things. You are also encouraged to get creative and research each plant fully, figuring out how it reproduces or reacts to prey. Once you know more about each respective plant, you can create a highly efficient zone, one that almost takes care of itself. It’s difficult but not impossible to reach five-star Biomass rating, and I suspect doing so will have a unique result on the current environment; alas, I’ve not been able to do this yet.

According to the Internet, Waking Mars takes about six to eight hours to complete. I’ve only put in two hours so far, which means there’s plenty of Mars left to explore and turn into my personal zoa garden. We’ll see if I have a green or red thumb.

Get it?

Y’know, because the iron oxide prevalent on the planet’s surface gives it a reddish appearance?

Figure out the connection between civilization and nature in Rituals

gd-impressions-rituals-steam-game

I feel like I talk about bundles a lot here at Grinding Down…and for good reason. These packages keep me afloat through the years, often helping to fill in the gaps for those bigger games I missed out on or drowning me in lesser-known indie titles that are equally as entertaining. Well, Humble Freedom Bundle is one of the best yet, with a sickeningly number of games, digital books, and music to add to your respective libraries, as well as having all the money raised go directly to charity. United, we stand. As of this post, the bundle has raised over $5 million for the ACLU, the International Rescue Committee, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, and it feels great to be part of such a gracious, overwhelming cause. I might not be able to do much, but I can do this.

I’m not going to list out every game in the Humble Freedom Bundle, especially when you consider they added a whole bunch more only yesterday. But there’s a lot, and a good number of them were already in my Steam library from previous bundles, such as Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Super Meat Boy, World of Goo, VVVVVV, and so on. Regardless of that, purchasing the bundle was still a no-brainer as it got me immediate access to many others on my wishlist, like The Witness, Invisible, Inc., and Subnautica. Plus, I now have a third copy of Stardew Valley, so if you are interested in that game and want a key, please reach out to me so I can share the love and joy that is pixelated farming. That said, I’m not in the right frame of mind to start a bigger game, and so I decided to see what Rituals, one of the more recent additions to the bundle, was all about first, given its small install size.

To get as simplistic as possible, Rituals is an adventure game clearly inspired by classic point-and-click romps. The kind where everything you pick up in the area is essential to you moving forward, as well as the kind that simply do not tell you the answer to every puzzle dangling before your confused face. I’m not going to call it a point-and-click adventure title despite the fact that you do often point and click on things. Just doesn’t feel right, and I think it has a lot to do with how you move around the game’s environments. More on that in a sec. You play as a nameless, faceless person waking up at his or her desk in a rather by-the-books office building. As you begin to explore the empty rooms around you, there are hints of bad things, and then suddenly you are transported to a mystical forest at night, hearing whispers in the distance. There’s got to be a connection between the two realms.

If that set-up kind of sounds familiar, then yes, I too immediately thought of The Stanley Parable upon loading Rituals up. It’s that minus the witty, sarcastic narrator. In fact, there’s not a lot of words here, with just a smidgen of text when you pick up an item or examine something important. The rest is up to you to deduce. Even with its minimalist, low polygon look, the game’s environments are fun to explore as the shapes and solid colors do more than enough to make you believe these places are what they are. And those places range from an abandoned office building to a dark forest to a lush jungle to a snowy graveyard and more. Getting to the next area is a reward in its own way.

Now, moving around is a different trick–the game is played in first-person perspective, but you can’t freely walk around. Instead, you click on navigation arrows to move forward or back or closer to areas of interest, and this can take a little getting used to. However, this means you only need a mouse to play the game, and I’m cool with that. Using an item is done by clicking on it from the inventory list at the top of the screen and dragging it on top of whatever you want, and this can be somewhat finicky, especially during the mortar and pestle part. It’s not the end of the world, except when it is.

Rituals didn’t take me very long to complete. My Steam data says around 77 minutes, and that’s a-okay with me. Again, from all the Humble Freedom Bundle provided (even more games were added since I started typing this blog post!), I wanted something quick and enjoyable, and that’s what this was. There’s a big ol’ decision to make at the end, but you can quickly reload the last checkpoint to see how the other option plays out. That said, I can’t speak with confidence that I don’t know what the relationship is between the tedium and struggle of the real world and the more fantastical aspects accessed via magical elevators, but sometimes it’s okay to not know. The important thing here is not being afraid to say so.

Searching high and low for vampire hysteria in Kisilova

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I don’t have an Android phone. Loyal Grinding Down readers will know that I have continued to tread water in an ocean of hungry sharks with my fancy-shmancy Windows phone, though I do expect my next upgrade to be something different. Yes, yes, I’m highly tempted by the potential of a new Animal Crossing game on phones in the future. So, no Android-based mobile device currently, but thankfully I have a laptop with Steam installed on it, which allowed me to partake in the Humble Mobile Bundle from Artifex Mundi, as they all came with bonus Steam keys. At this point, there’s not much that can stand in my way of a bundle that can help my digital library expand.

Okay. Let’s do this. Are you ready for the list of games from this bundle that I never heard of beforehand and chances are neither did you? Good, good. Because here they are, in no particular order, but in all their generic name glory nonetheless:

  • Dark Heritage: Guardians of Hope
  • Vampire Legends: True Story of Kisilova
  • The Secret Order 2: Masked Intent
  • The Secret Order 3: Ancient Times
  • Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily
  • Eventide: Slavic Fable
  • Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride
  • Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan
  • Grim Legends 3: The Dark City
  • Mythic Wonders: The Philosopher’s Stone

Mmm-hmm. Also: yowza. It’s like the creators picked a bunch of videogame title mainstay words, threw them in a hat, mixed it up wildly, and created games based around whatever was pulled at random. Personally, I’m pretty tickled by Crime Secrets though. Crime…secrets. However, because I’m broken inside, I started with Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova. Not because I love vampires–though I did end up re-watching Twilight recently to see if I’d recognized any locations after visiting Seattle, La Push, and Forks in Washington with my father last summer. No, I picked it first for two simple reasons:

  1. It appeared to be a standalone game.
  2. It appeared to be, somewhat, rooted in history.

What do I mean by that second point? Well, Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova is based on the first documented case of vampirism. Allow me to set the stage: it’s 18th century Europe. Fifty years after a great plague swept the land of the Habsburg dynasty, the subjects of the Emperor are in danger once more. A series of horrifying, mysterious deaths occur in the remote Serbian town of Kisilova. Residents, fearing that the plague is back, begin fleeing their homes. Summoned by the Prince of Württemberg himself, Imperial emissaries journey to Kisilova to investigate these events and prevent further deaths from happening. You play as one of these investigators, and I’m sure you have a name, but I can no longer remember it.

Have I yet said what kind of game Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova is? No? It’s got puzzles and hidden objects to unearth and exploration, moving from one location to another to find clues and items to progress the narrative. Steam uses the tag “casual” on its store page, and I am in full agreement of that. It’s casual, and I played it casually. Like, I played a few hours of it when I got the bundle back in September 2016, and then I came back recently to finish the thing off in a few more sittings.

Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova is a strange mix, both in terms of what you do, but also what you hear and see. There’s voice acting, and it’s a little rough to endure, especially the voice of the investigator you control. I understand this isn’t modern times, but everyone speaks so stiffly and uncomfortably that dialogue is a struggle to listen to. As it turns out, the puzzles are the meat and most enjoyable aspect of the game, and the narrative exists only to serve you more puzzles in the frame of roadblocks, and so the voices and dialogue can be completely ignored. I ended up playing the latter half of the game with Netflix on in the background. Many of the puzzles are of the “use the right item here” mindset, and sometimes you have to travel through several locations to find the key gizmo. Not hard, but satisfying. I personally found the hidden objects sections more enjoyable, remembering how much my mother liked this type of gameplay on her Nintendo DS. The hand-painted scenery, which is really jarring against the animated avatars whenever they take center-stage, is nice to look at and highly detailed, though that does mean some pixel hunting has to happen.

I have to imagine that I’ll be trying Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily next. Again…crime secrets. Makes me laugh. My best guess is that it’ll be pretty similar to this experience, but that’s okay. Like I said above, the puzzles are fun to figure out, and a good hidden objects checklist scene is something I simply can’t ignore. It also doesn’t punish you for clicking like a madman when you only have one item left to find and cannot see where it is. More is fine. There will be plenty more for the rest of 2017 too thanks to this Humble Mobile Bundle from Artifex Mundi.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #23 – Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova

2017-gd-games-completed-vampire-legends-the-true-story-of-kisilova

Inscrutable deaths
Explore that Kisilova
Find all vamp objects

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.

Descend deeper and deeper with Runestone Keeper

runestone-keeper-steam-gd-early-impressions

I am enjoying Runestone Keeper greatly despite it being the sort of roguelike that demands you suffer inordinately for its opening hours before you can even begin to fathom making progress. You know, like Rogue Legacy and The Binding of Isaac. Do the time before you enjoy the sublime. Not like Spelunky though. In Spelunky, you can beat the game on your very first run, so long as you know what you are doing; sure, a wee bit of luck is needed to get some specific items, like the jetpack, but it is totally doable. For other harsh roguelikes with some permanence to them in terms of upgrades and accrual, you must first grind runs one after another to begin closing the distance. I think, so far, I’ve gotten to level 9 with Guy, the only playable character available until you get further or are more successful on higher difficulties.

What is Runestone Keeper you ask silently from the other side of the screen? Well, it is a piece of interactive entertainment that came out in early 2015 from Blackfire Games. What else? It was recently part of the Humble Jumbo Bundle 7, which is where I got my Steam copy. Yeah, cool, but more specifically…what is it? Technically, Runestone Keeper is an über challenging roguelike-to-roguelite dungeon crawler that blends classic roleplaying elements and turn-based combat strategy. Kind of a weird, blood magic-driven fusion of Minesweeper and Dungeons of Dredmor.

That last description probably didn’t help all that much. Allow me to try harder. Basically, dungeon floors are randomly generated and set out as a grid that can be explored in any order from wherever you start, uncovering one tile at a time by clicking on it. Each revealed tile has an effect, even if that effect is basically nothing happens. Most discoveries include finding hearts that heal your HP, gold coins, treasure chests, traps, single-use items, weapons like readied crossbows, merchants, valuable runestones, and various pitfalls. Each tile you reveal also fills up your soul meter, which dictates your usage of certain items, as well as using in-level shrines and such. Your basic goal is to reveal enough tiles to find the staircase to the room below and head deeper into the darkness.

The real trouble with that endeavor is you’ll also reveal enemies in each dungeon level. You can avoid most fights if you want, but monsters block adjacent squares from being revealed, which are essential to finding the way to the next floor. Also, early on, you will want to fight some monsters for XP and dropped loot (which contains random prefixes and suffixes for different stats), though RNG rears its ugly head from time to time, causing you to miss your ax swings even though you are standing directly next to the angry goblin. Your attacks are obviously based on your gear, and you can quickly swap between two sets; I like having something for up close, as well as ranged enemies. Monsters hit your shield first, which absorbs a certain amount of damage before stealing away HP. The cast of enemies is quite varied, and many of them have their own unique abilities, like silencing or poisoning. Early on, your best friend as Guy, is the spell he has to lower an enemy’s attack power for a few turns though it is beyond frustrating to whiff on every sword swing during this phase.

Runestone Keeper‘s gameplay is extremely layered, even if it at times it feels unfair and driven solely by luck spirits. There’s tattoos to equip, an enchantment system, worshiping and un-worshiping deities that provide buffs and debuffs, elite arena rooms, special one-time events dictated by text choices, and more. Lots of spinning plates, and I’m sure I’m missing some elements. My focus for Guy continues to be upgrading his strength and stamina and plowing through enemies as quickly as possible while also hoarding a ton of gold coins and selling unwanted to gear; unfortunately, in the later dungeon levels, he struggles to deal with ranged enemies, as well not exploding when unearthing a ticking time bomb. It’s a problem. We’re working on it.

Similar to how I approached Rogue Legacy, Runestone Keeper is perfect for doing a couple runs, being unsuccessful, but returning to the main menu hub with enough gold coins to upgrade a permanent bonus, such as gaining more XP from killed monsters or earning more gold with each pick-up, and that leaves me feeling satisfied, feeling like I am actually inching towards a better run. I’m still hoping I’ll find that “perfect storm” run where I get some killer equipment/items early on that will help me reach level 10 of the dungeon and maybe even beyond that. If not, this is surprisingly one game I don’t mind bashing my head against the wall, desperately trying to survive or crawl to the next floor in hopes of…well, hope. Not everything has to be about being the ultimate powerhouse.

I suspect Final Fight isn’t actually my final fight

final fight overall impressions

I didn’t do too deep on the latest Capcom-themed Humble Bundle, obtaining only the games in the $1.00 or more tier. Specifically, these ones: Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3, Strider, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and Final Fight Double Impact. The second tier already contains a few titles I own, such as Remember Me and Mega Man 9/10, and the rest didn’t stand out to me as must-haves. But finally having a copy of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix after all these years of only ever playing a demo version over and over and over, and for only one hundred pennies? I couldn’t resist. Regardless, those are words and stories for another post, on another game. For today, let’s talk about Final Fight.

Or, more specifically I guess, Final Fight Double Impact, which is the name of the thing I got from this latest Humble Bundle. Not really knowing much about this product, I assumed this was either a new Final Fight game in the beat-em-up series or a remake of the Super NES port. Turns out, nope. It’s a bundle, containing two arcade classics from Capcom’s history: Final Fight and Magic Sword. I have absolutely zero record with Magic Sword, and not much more with Final Fight, always being a Streets of Rage fanboy more than anything else, but know enough about the brawler through osmosis thanks to the Internet.

Final Fight‘s plot is hilariously legendary, one for the ages: the Mad Gear street gang has kidnapped Mayor Mike Haggar’s daughter, Jessica. Being a former pro wrestler and more muscle than policy-pushing man, Haggar refuses to give into their demands. Instead, he sets out to rescue Jessica with the help of her boyfriend, the martial artist Cody, and his friend Guy, a modern-day ninja. Y’know, cool dudes. They’ll do this together, punching and jump-kicking and slashing with a sword or lead pipe every Mad Gear goon and gal in Metro City, regardless of whether they are visible on the screen or not.

Truthfully, I only meant to see what this Final Fight Double Impact was and how it ran, but then I kept playing, eventually getting to Belger, the final boss, and kicking his gun-toting behind right out a window. That is, with a little help from some random online friends that jumped in and out of my game as I continued to hit continue after losing enough lives. See, I really never played many of these beat-em-ups in the arcades, save for that X-Men one, as they existed only to eat your quarters and I was more interested in spreading my quarters around, sampling a wide array of game types. Playing on a console with unlimited continues negates that mentality, and you can see credits roll in a number of side-scrolling brawlers so long as you persevere.

Final Fight is fine. The mechanics are simple yet solid, and somewhat addicting. You can punch, jump attack, pick up items like health and weapons, and even burn a little health to use a super attack that is good at clearing out a number of goons at once. I found a really good strategy of simply standing by the edge of the screen and mashing the attack button repeatedly; enemies will begin to walk into your firsts, and you can watch their life bars tick down without even putting a face to a name. Speaking of names…oomph. There are some doozies in here, such as Bill Bull, Holly Wood, and Wong Who.

In actuality, Final Fight is a great game to sort of lose yourself in for an hour and change. Yup, with unlimited continues, it doesn’t take too long to finish this fight, especially when you have the help of random online players. I went through just about every level with Guy, messing up once towards the end when I accidentally picked Haggar, but I can see myself going through this again with just Cody or Haggar all the way. This version comes with a bunch of built-in challenges, like finishing a level with only using one character or a certain number of continues or hitting a specific tier of points, and all that feeds into unlocking art and extras in the gallery, as well as trophies.

I also plan to still check out the other half of this bundle, but don’t expect to beat Magic Sword in a single go like I did here. Unless it really is some kind of magic sword. Final Fight contains a sword as a wield-able weapon, and it performs its own kind of magic in completing dominating the playing field unless you are going against those fire-tossing dudes. Anyways, yeah–this isn’t my final fight.