Tag Archives: Ludum Dare

2017 Game Review Haiku, #8 – Spring Cleaning

2017-gd-games-completed-ludum-dare-37-spring-cleaning

Good morning, Roomba®
Time to clean, get all the trash
Side-splitting rewards

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.

Advertisements

Dive deeper, swim faster in Beneath the Waves

gd-post-impression-beneath-the-waves-capture

Beneath the Waves begins with, naturally, as all platforming-based videogames with a retro aesthetic should, the destruction of a romantic relationship. See, the Sun and the Ocean used to live in harmony, united, all smoochy smoochy, but have now fallen out. Well, the Sun wants its CDs back, and by CDs I of course mean precious gifts. You’ve been requested to gather these idols hidden beneath the waves–hey, that’s the name of the game wink wink–and return them to a series of pedestals high in the mountains. The trouble is, the Ocean and its denizens do not like this plan. Not one bit.

As mentioned above, Beneath the Waves is a platformer. Well, two types of platformer actually. There’s the part where you are on land, jumping from ledge to ledge, escalating higher into the sky to find the pedestals upon which you will place the returned idols. Then there’s the other part, in the water, where you are swimming and diving deep and avoiding dangerous schools of fish or heat-seeking sharks. The platforming underwater is actually more challenging than above the surface, as the little dude is able to cling to walls to reach higher ledges, but swimming past obstacles while the pressure is on requires a little more finesse and patience. I guess the best comparison I can make is that the swimming has a similar feel to arcade racing games–a little loose, with momentum an issue.

Controls in Beneath the Waves are fairly simple: use the arrow keys to move around, and [X] or up jumps. I stuck with [X], in case you wanted to know. Your main goal, to progress forward, is to find the idols deep down in the water, and thankfully you don’t need to worry about an oxygen bar as the main character can evidently breathe underwater indefinitely. Y’know, like Aquaman. As you search the underwater caverns for these idols, you’ll notice an abundance of friendly aquatic life that you can swim into without taking damage. However, once you pick up the idol, everything in the ocean changes and becomes your enemy. If you take too much damage, you drop the idol and need to swim back down and pick it up once more. Once you safely make it to the surface, you can bring the idol to a pedestal and open the gate to the next area, getting a sliver of interesting, if not entirely clear story-stuff the moment skin touches water again.

Rinse and repeat this a few times, with the underwater caverns becoming more twisted and maze-like as the game goes on. The above-ground platforming sections never really become too challenging, but the final boss fight against the Ocean’s biggest defender did force me to remain on my webbed toes, as this boss chases after you harder than any shark ever did, as well as steals back the final idol to its original location. The game does a good job of building up to this moment, so that you have all the necessary skills and knowledge readily available for you to succeed, though it took me a few tries.

It can be easy to dismiss Beneath the Waves as another one of those indie platformers with retro pixel graphics clearly made quickly for a game jam. Though Gregory Avery-Weir did make this initially for Ludum Dare under the title of simply Waves, before expanding on the idea. Still, the story is somewhat mystical, as well as something I’ve continued to think about in the days since playing it, and the swimming–when the sea creatures are not attacking you–is dreamy and fun and reminds me of the only reason I ever played Ecco the Dolphin, which was to dive deep and rocket-ship up out of the water in an epic, Sea World-worthy reveal. I’d say give this one a play if you’re looking for a different way to platform, under the sea.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #52 – Beneath the Waves

2016-gd-games-completed-beneath-the-waves

Sun and Sea, no more
Return gifts, avoid cross sharks
Platforming two ways

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.

There’s always A Place in Space for shooting aliens

a place in space capture gd thoughts

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number just came out, and while I’m definitely interested in more chaotic, gun-tossing mayhem set to electronic beats that thump deep in your chest, from the coverage I’ve seen of it, the game doesn’t really seem to be that much different from the now cult hit. Which means I can wait, there’s no rush. If anything–if the itch becomes too strong to resist scratching–I can simply return to the original game on either Steam or PlayStation 3, as surely I haven’t seen everything there was to see, especially when you consider I went through the trippy tale of revenge wearing nothing but the “doors kill” mask.

Or, if you prefer blowing alien monsters into piles of bloody mush rather than nameless goons at a strip club or seedy apartment complex, there’s A Place in Space, another high-listed entry from Ludum Dare 31. You all remember me dipping my toes into this jam competition’s creations with Kram Keep from a few days ago, right? Right? Well, good. Glad to see your collective memories are in fine shape.

There’s no story here, and there doesn’t need to be a story. Keeping with the jam’s theme of “entire game on one screen,” you move a little, gun-toting astronaut warrior between blackened out rooms, blasting everything that moves until it stops moving, opening the door to the next room. Rinse and repeat, moving clockwise around the same set of rooms, which are randomly generated a la The Binding of Isaac when you step on in. You use the WASD keys to move around and the mouse to both aim and fire whatever gun is currently equipped. The miniscule and crudely pixelated astronaut can only take so many hits from enemies, which means you definitely don’t want to back yourself into a corner. As you create pools of bloody mush, you can also pick up health refills and new weapon types, which immediately change how you both fire and play, just like in Contra.

A couple of problems I ran into, and these might only apply to me, as I’m sure I’m using the worst browser ever designed for Internet browsing. No, I won’t tell you what it is. Whenever I was in the bottom two rooms and tried to walk my astronaut up using the W key, the entire page I was on would shift up, cutting off half my view and forcing me to quickly use the mouse to scroll it back down. When this happened in the middle of a tense shootout, things often didn’t go well. Also, for some reason, every death caused A Place in Space to crash, which wasn’t the biggest deal since it only took a quick refresh to get back into the groove of things…but still. Lastly, and this is more of a nitpick than anything, there didn’t seem to be any way to know how long power-ups lasted, whether it was for a specific number of shots or only for one room; it would certainly help with planning the next room’s attack to know whether I’m going to lose that laser beam add-on early into the skirmish or not.

Give A Place in Space a try in your browser, and I guarantee that you’ll do at least a few runs in a row. If only there was a more killer soundtrack to go along with all that alien monster killing. If only.

Kram Keep is a tiny yet towering take on Metroidvania

kram keep overall impressions gd

In a different life, one where maybe I didn’t try to have a career or binge-watch TV shows via Netflix or sleep or, heavens no, make a name for myself through art and writing, I’d be covering every Ludum Dare that happened, deeply examining all the themed creations, whether they got voted highly or not. Alas, that is not me. Instead, I kind of stumble across a Ludum Dare jam game months or even years after it was born. Well, with the topic du jour, I’m not terribly late, seeing that Ludum Dare 31 went down back in early December 2014, its jam theme being “Entire Game on One Screen.”

Kram Keep certainly meets that requirement. It’s the age-old classic tale of a blue-haired vampire hunter, a massively large castle full of traps and projectile-shooting enemies, and an evil master at its top, awaiting your blood. It’s a Metroidvania-style game, stuck on a single screen, meaning you can press the Shift key at any time to zoom out the map all the way and see everywhere you’ll eventually be going; I liked this, as it proved useful in guiding me to the next area, as well as keeping me informed about what was to come and the locations of vital power-ups. If anything, this seems sides more with the vania part than Metroid, but it is hard to say. As you go, you can collect hearts to increase your life bar, but you really want those special abilities–wall jump, double jump, and spread projectiles–if you are going to make any significant progress. Little crosses act as both checkpoints and health refills.

There were perhaps two or three tricky spots in Kram Keep that involved precise wall jump timing, and using the letter X and the arrow directions on the keyboard complicated things. As always, I prefer my platformers with a controller in hand, but sometimes you aren’t allotted such a benefit. In truth, where I needed a controller the most, was against the final boss. He has a pattern, so it eventually comes down to memorization and quick reflexes, but I still managed to put him six feet under with only a sliver of health left. Once you kill him, spoilers, much like with the end of Super Metroid, you have a limited amount of time to escape the castle, which means reversing the way you came in, though some routes are now closed off; I failed it the first time, but by hitting continue on the main menu, you can give it another go, and from what I can tell, it only changes a small part of the credits. Overall, the experience is tough, but fun, something I’d definitely recommend platforming fans to check out.

Since I love statistics and games that spit them out at the end of your run, here are my final, less-than-impressive tallies for Kram Keep:

  • Time played: 0:42:51
  • Deaths: 52
  • Enemies killed: 160
  • Crystal Hearts: 5/8
  • Difficulty: Normal

Ludum Dare 32 is coming up in the middle of April, though there’s no listed theme just yet. Until then, I think I’ll snoop around a bit more in Ludum Dare 31‘s entries, as I’m almost positive there are a bunch more innovative takes on the “single screen only” theme. Hopefully I can find a few other titles to highlight like Kram Keep, that do a lot with very little.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #24 – Kram Keep

2015 gd games completed kram keep

Bloodsucking menace
Waits at the top of this keep
Collect powers, kill

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.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #10 – Soliloquy

I had some serious great luck the last time I perused the Ludum Dare website and some of the contest’s entries, finding the gem BATHOS in a sea of contenders. The twenty-second edition of the “create a videogame in a single weekend” challenge just happened in late December 2011, and site users have voted on the top 50 games based on things like graphics, sound, fun, innovation, use of theme (alone), and so on. The winning lineup went up the other day.

Now, I’m not going to be a crazy bearded mountain man and try to play all 50 of these homemade brews, but I think trying out the top 10 is worthwhile. I mean, these are the ones that got the most love by a large community of indie game makers and fans, and glancing at teaser images for them, well, a lot of them look neat. Saw some pixel art and started salivating. Plus, I’m still slowly gearing up internally for the idea that maybe 2012 will be the year I learn how to make a game; playing these can only add to my experience.

So, first up, we have Soliloquy, created by the user Friedrich Hanisch, also known as ratking. The game is described as so: In this game you are split. You are one person, alone in a lifeless world – but you have two souls, which have to work together. Okay, got it. I am playing it over the web, and it opens up in a first-person perspective looking down an empty hallway made up of large, texture-less, purple and pink polygons. There’s a constant feed of white noise. Somewhere, a baby giggles. WASD moves you forward and the space bar lets you jump.

The beginning part is just moving down this short hallway, jumping small gaps while pondering where exactly you are as well as why it all looks so boring. Found the stage’s exit, which took us to a new room of floating platforms. Time to jump around; I instantly miss the first big leap and fall into the abyss. There’s more jumping, and then the soul-switching mechanic comes into play–and it ruins everything for me. By clicking the left or right mouse buttons, you sort of split the world into two perspectives of the same image, one layered hazily on top of the other; not really sure how to use this trick to complete the level, and then I started getting a headache, bringing our time with Soliloquy to an end.

Not bad. Very unique idea that just didn’t work for me and my bad eyes. I played for about 10 minutes or so. Give it a try, I say. There’s also a post-competition version that tweaks things like mouse sensitivity. Onwards to the number nine spot!