Tag Archives: Humble Bundle

2016 Game Review Haiku, #49 – Final Fight

gd games completed final fight

Jessica taken
Mad Gear must pay, says mayor
Off-screen punches win

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.

The future rewards those who press on in Read Only Memories

gd early impressions for read only memories rom

Well, the newest videogame bundle to make your eyes pop out of their sockets is the Humble Narrative Bundle, which, at its “pay whatever you want” tier, is handing out copies of Her Story, Cibele, and Read Only Memories. Yowza. I already have Broken Age, but the next tier contains that, plus 80 Days and Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2. I don’t really know what those last two ones are. Oh, and if you drop $10 or more, you’ll get Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a hypnotized ad man here, but this bundle is phenomenal, especially if you like games built more around stories than crazy upgrade mechanics. Y’know, like me.

Despite Her Story being on my list of games I just didn’t get to in 2015 yet really wanted to, I dove into Read Only Memories first. It seemed…well, to be honest, a smaller adventure, and perhaps something a little easier to digest in small chunks, as I wasn’t intending to play through anything on one single sitting last night despite there being a Steam Achievement called “Iron ROM” to do exactly that.

I’m going to do my best to describe the story or at least the setup, but like all things cyberpunk, there’s a lot of jargon and acronyms to wade through. Read Only Memories takes place in 2064, where most people have their very own personal robot, commonly known as a relationship organizational manager (ROM). These AI-driven bots act as interactive personal computers, but are limited to their programming. All that changes with Turing, a ROM made by the protagonist’s old friend Hayden, which is much more advanced. to the point of being sapient. Turing breaks into your apartment in the middle of the night after Hayden is kidnapped, requesting your help. Not because you are some superhero, but rather, according to Turing, the most statistically supported in getting the job done. Trust me, it did the math.

And that’s all I really know, having completed the prologue and am somewhat into chapter one. You’re tracking down clues as to the how and why Hayden disappeared, all while learning about Neo-San Francisco and its colorful cast of characters. It’s very much a retro point-and-click adventure title, with lots of things to interact with in a given scene, as well as plenty of throwaway text written for silly combinations, like using spoiled milk on a parked car. Normally, in a game like The Blackwell Legacy or A Golden Wake, you’d probably get a “I don’t think so” or “That’s not going to work” kind of comment, nothing else. Here, in Read Only Memories, you get a response, which only encourages me more to try everything on everything. I guess this previously thought smaller adventure is going to take me that much longer to finish. Sorry, I can’t not click on stuff that potentially holds fun flavor text.

Writing is key for Read Only Memories, much more prevalent than puzzle solving so far. Be prepared to read. Thankfully, the writing is strong and fun, if a little long in parts. Turing is a cute robot that can also be frightening when you realize it knows next to everything about you. Well, me. I made Turing address me as “Pauly” and use the pronouns of “him/his.” Also, I have an omnivore diet. It’s nice to see a game include such options and openness, as well as a future were LGBT characters face less discrimination, but then again…this is San Francisco. In actuality, this is a queer-inclusive videogame, and its developers are also involved with the GaymerX series of LGBT video gaming conventions.

I’m definitely interested in seeing this mystery unfold, as well as trying more drinks at the Stardust bar. Then I’ll move on to Her Story. Or maybe Cibele. Regardless, more story-driven adventures are in my future. Also, Read Only Memories has reminded me that I need to check back in on Matt Frith’s work and see if he’s done anything else to Among Thorns, which certainly shares some similarities with the darker side of technology.

Money will create success as you venture through Coin Crypt

gd coin crypt early impressions

I don’t know about you, but in this day and age, it sure seems like coins–otherwise known as disc-shaped metal or alloy that can be used to purchase goods–matter less and less with each rotation of the Earth. Not even paper bills are highly visible anymore. It’s all about the plastic or, if you have a cooler phone than myself, you can just show people your screen at Starbucks to order that triple, venti, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato via your gift card credit line and never have to do more than flick your wrist. Still, coins are an age-old staple of videogames, and, more to the point, your direct means of attacking enemies in Coin Crypt.

This aptly named Coin Crypt arrived in my Steam library back in August 2015 via the Humble Jumbo Bundle 4, which also contained–deep breath–the following:

  • Space Engineers
  • The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II
  • Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes
  • The Stanley Parable
  • Outland – Special Edition
  • Mercenary Kings
  • Endless Space – Emperor Edition
  • Screencheat
  • Freedom Planet

Whew. Naturally, of all those, I’ve only tried one other at this point, namely The Stanley Parable. I do occasionally glance at Mercenary Kings and Outland and think hmmm maybe, though I’ve yet to flex my finger muscle and press play on either. Perhaps sometime in 2016. Perhaps. Or maybe if I can figure out my recording stuff I can feature them on an upcoming streaming event thingy. Yeah, the less I commit to, the better for now.

Anyways, Coin Crypt is fairly neat. It’s a rogue-like adventure game that borrows its combat system from collectible card games where you use different spells to deal damage and cast other effects on an opponent. A bit of Magic: The Gathering, a pinch of Hearthstone. Actually, I haven’t played Hearthstone, so that’s really a wild guess. There’s also randomly generated worlds and permadeath if you want to get to the heart of the matter. At the start, you select a bouncy, rectangular cube-like adventurer and go off into the world, navigating them via a top-down perspective. You must collect coins, fight enemies, and advance further. Coins are life, as they are how you attack your opponent, purchase additional character classes after you buy the farm, and unlock gated parts of the level, so managing them is vital. You also need to ensure you have a good balance of offensive and defensive coins, so you’re not stuck on your turn with nothing but three shield coins to use.

I really dig Coin Crypt‘s stylized graphics. The tall, rectangle adventurers hop about like pod people or Mii avatars, but contain enough detail to have personality from one to another. The thick outlines around everything give off a cel-shaded look, which I can always get behind, and the bright colors help keep everything bright and bubbly, even when the challenge turns it up a notch and you begin scraping by in fights. At this point, I’ve only seen the forest and the world after it, which is themed around a graveyard; I suspect there are a few more areas to discover as well, and I’m working towards unlocking the monkey class, as we all should be working towards always, no matter the scenario.

Similar to Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac, I pop into Coin Crypt rather infrequently, but when I do, I give it all my attention. I’ve gotten a few levels deep, but always meet my maker because I run out of strong attack coins or am simply not fast enough to take down my opponent. The combat is not exactly turn-based, as if you sit still too long you’ll get smacked in the face. There’s a lot to pay attention to, to plan ahead for. That said, it takes some time to read what all the coins do and figure out which to pick or whether I should reshuffle them into my bag and try again with a new set of three.

With many roguelike titles, one can only get better through persistence. I’ll keep at Coin Crypt for sure, though I wonder and worry if I’ll ever reach its conclusion. If there’s a conclusion to be reached. Money can’t buy that.

Zoinks, it’s a murder mystery that only Detective Grimoire can solve

detective grimoire gd early impressions

I’ve been much pickier with indie gaming bundles as of late, even passing up on the recent one from those Humble Bundle bastards based around one of my favorite tabletop gaming mediums–cards. Oh well. I did end up downloading free copies of Card City Nights and Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, though, so far, that’s all I’ve done with those titles. Both are of the print-and-play ilk; I need to sift through the rules a bit and see if these games are easy enough–and silly enough–to jive with my gaming group. We recently tried to play Nuns on the Run, only to get bogged down in the rules and lose interest before even playing a turn.

Hey, speaking of bogsDetective Grimoire. Yeah, you like that transition. It is just one of the many names included in the Humble Weekly Bundle: Adventures! promotion currently happening over you-know-where. I’d directly link to the topical page, but it seems that website is constantly changing, and nothing lasts forever, so make good with your Googling skills if you feel the need to see more. Of the many point-and-click adventure games added to my Steam library from this recent purchase, it seemed like the easiest and most inviting of the bunch.

Here’s the story, right out of an episode of everyone’s favorite American animated cartoon franchise Scooby-Doo. Detective Grimoire has been summoned to investigate a murder. The owner of a small tourist attraction, called Boggy’s Bog, has been found dead outside his office, with many believing the key suspect to be the very mythical creature the attraction is built around. Dun dun dunnnn. Of course, something else is surely afoot, and it’s up to Detective Grimoire–now hatless, but not hapless–to rattle the locals for clues into what really happened in this lackluster swamp.

Gameplay involves going from scene to scene across the swamp and clicking on the obvious parts of the screen, especially the ones that flash until you click on them. Sometimes this reveals a clue, and other times it leads to a mini puzzle, like moving papers out of the way on someone’s desk to see what was beneath them. You’ll also come across a small cast of eccentric characters, and you can speak with them, as well as toss clues or other character profiles in their faces to get a reaction. The clues act as your inventory, and through talking to the locals, you’ll gain more tidbits about each one. You’ll also unlock the ability to challenge someone, so long as you have the right logic and clues to back it up–for instance, piecing together why Mr. Remington went home early from the cafe on the night of his murder.

Detective Grimoire‘s two best qualities are how it looks and how it sounds (minus one thing, which I’ll get to in the next paragraph). Generally, I have no interest exploring swamps, but the digitally painted screens here are quite lush and inviting, and the characters, along with their dialogue animations, are unique and a joy to behold. I think the cutscenes could’ve used more polish, but everything else is nice to look at, especially the user-interface. All clues get their own drawings, which is much more gratifying to look at than simply a list of words. Sound-wise, the orchestral soundtrack swells and dips in all the right moments, and there’s this lofty, soft voice that reminds me of a religious hymn echoing around in some grand chapel. It’s easy to listen to and not distracting.

That said, there are a couple things I didn’t like about Detective Grimoire. First, it was too easy. So long as you exhaust your options, you’ll eventually get to the end of this mystery, and the only part that gave me pause was the challenge against Echo, as its wording was more confusing than anything else. Second, every time you get a new clue or a clue in your notebook is updated with additional information, a chime sounds, and it is a really goofy, extra loud, and out-of-place sound effect, often playing over-top someone’s dialogue. Lastly, the end credits whizzed by at an alarming speed; I understand the developers wanted to get to their post-credits sequel tease, but it shouldn’t have been at the cost of crediting the people that made and worked for the game.

Overall, Detective Grimoire was an okay sliver of adventure gaming, though nothing that will stick with me for a good while. I figured out what was going on much sooner than our titular hero did, which lead me to believe there might’ve been a twist, but nope, everything worked out as expected. It makes a jab at Professor Layton early on, but has a long way to go before it can even consider itself a passable clone, let alone a better game. Think I’ll try A Golden Wake next from the bundle.

Gone Home to mysteries, answers, and everything 1990s

gone home overall thoughts

Breaking news: I’ve decided to do away with my gaming haikus, at least for 2014. Chin up, Mr. Sadface. It’s going to be okay. Really. I had a lot of fun writing them, but after two consecutive years of dipping my toes in Japanese poetry–well, if you can call 104 haikus a dip–I’m ready to try something else. Gotta keep things fresh. If you’ve been keeping up with Grinding Down over the weekend, then you’ll know what the long and short of it all is: comics. Yes, yes. Actual comics about the games I’ve played, and I really don’t know why it took me so long to combine these two passions of mine together.

Anyways, Gone Home gets the special honor of being my first completed game for 2014. Compare that with Yoshi’s Island from last year. That’s right. Go on. I dare you to compare the two. One looks like a drawing, and the other has you occasionally looking at drawings. Hmm. If you’ll recall, Gone Home was also my number one pick for the top 10 videogames I missed out on in 2013, but thanks to a recently good deal via the Humble Bundle store I was able to pick up The Fullbright Company’s debut for a sweet price, one that wouldn’t make me terribly irate if I discovered that the game didn’t work on my ASUS laptop. The good news is that, obviously, it ran just fine, even though it defaulted to the lowest of settings to do so and some of the textures looked a wee flat. Small quibbles aside, I absolutely loved it.

Gone Home‘s plot itself is pretty straightforward: it is June 1995, and Kaitlin Greenbriar is returning home to her parents’ new house in the Pacific Northwest after traveling abroad. She gets in very late on a rainy, thunder-laden night only to discover the house is completely empty, with a strange note on the front door from her sister, urging Kaitlin to not go digging around for clues as to what happened. Naturally, though, that’s exactly what you do, and the whole game is built around exploration and piecing together where Sam and Kaitlin’s parents went to. If I’m being honest and a little spoilery, that’s not at all what the plot is really about; in truth, this is actually Sam’s story, not Kaitlin’s, and there’s stuff about her parents to unravel, as well as what went wrong with the previous owners of the house to have it now deemed the Psycho House by other students at Sam’s school. Kaitlin is just a means to see all this unfold, and she is mostly non-reactive, save for a few text-only comments when finding items related to her parents’ sex life.

The game itself takes around two to three hours to complete, depending how thorough you search each and every room in the larger-than-life mansion-like new Greenbriar home. That said, Gone Home never wastes a single second though or pads out rooms with nothing that isn’t vital or important to the story-telling, and so you are constantly advancing, learning more and more. I found all this beyond exhilarating and couldn’t wait to see what was behind that closed door over there or what hid in the third drawer from the top, but only after I clicked open the first two drawers. You move with WASD, and zoom in for a closer look and pick up items using the mouse. Oh, and you can also fully twirl items around in your hand, to check out all sides, and you’d think there would have been more puzzles built around this mechanic, but Gone Home is actually not about puzzles–save for the few combination locks–and this mechanic exists more so to keep you in the world, prove that these rolls of tissue paper and printed books are real, that everything has a front and back and can be examined properly.

Anyone that actually grew up in the 1990s is clearly going to sink into Gone Home a bit deeper than those that didn’t. The game oozes with the era, from magazines wreathed in pop culture icons to board games and mounds of VHS tapes of your favorite Saturday afternoon couch-flicks, like Blade Runner and just about every episode of The X-Files. In fact, Super Nintendo plays a wee part in the events that transpire in Sam’s young, blossoming life, and you can find various fictional cartridges around the house, some goofier than others. Regardless, the attention to detail is astounding and appreciated, especially for a game that’s all about looking and listening. I couldn’t listen to too many of Lonnie’s musical recordings though, sorry.

Many have complained about the bait-and-switch trick in Gone Home. It’s initially set up to seem like your typical ghost story: girl comes home on a rainy night to find her house completely empty of life. For most of the early rooms, you expect something spooky to happen. The TV to randomly flip on? A door to slowly creak open itself? The sound of footsteps overhead? But no, nothing like that happens ever, save for a single moment of pure genius that is logically explained so long as you found the correct paperwork earlier in the house. This is not a ghost story. This is a human story, and it is remarkable in its dedication to remain rooted in reality, one I think many can relate to on some level, whether it is with teenage romance, a failed marriage, not being good enough for your father, and so on.

I think Gone Home is both a great game and a very important one. If you haven’t played it yet, I highly recommend you do so as soon as possible. Videogame story-telling has a new measuring stick.