Tag Archives: Monster Tale

Perishing is progress for Temple of Yog’s tributes

temple of yog early impressions gd

Let’s get the nitty-gritty out of the way: I’m buddies with Lee Bretschneider, the artist from ChudChud Industries and main pixel-morpher on the company’s first release Temple of Yog, which dropped on the Nintendo Wii U’s eShop last week, alongside something called Mimecrass. Real quick aside, spellcheck suggests the following instead of nitty-gritty, which I find amusing–bitty-gritty, nutty-gritty, natty-gritty, titty-gritty, and ditty-gritty. Also, I paid for Temple of Yog with my own hard-earned digital dollars, so don’t go thinking I’m on the take here. The last and only free game I got for review purposes was Monster Tale…a game that had you looking between two screens in the middle of all the action. Hmm, coincidence.

Temple of Yog‘s lore is thick with murky ancient history and told through a somewhat difficult font to read. Here’s what I’ve grokked so far: after Ao the Original, the leader of a small band of villagers, sacrificed himself for the greater good, things have been pretty good for said band of villagers. They found refuge outside a large temple’s base, finding great returns in terms of ripe fruit and fresh fish. The settlement prospered in the Zenith Portal’s protective glow. However, in appreciation for the temple’s generosity, the villagers provide a sacrificial offering via someone‘s life. Depending on how great of a warrior this someone is will affect how the village continues to grow.

Basically: get as far as you can and collect as many Boon points before you die so that you can upgrade your different classes to be stronger, better, more prepared for the next run. Think Rogue Legacy, but without the castle or hereditary traits. Or replace the castle with guilds. It’s a twin-stick shooter, so you move your character with the left stick and fire magic projectiles with the right. Everything you kill and do earns you Boon points, including moving on to the next area, which means players that can’t help but clear out every enemy in both the Light and Shadow realms will benefit the most. Right, there’s two realms, which you can switch between at will: one is on your TV screen, and the other below on the Wii U GamePad. However, you can only linger in the Shadow world for so long until your meter drains.

Before heading through the Zenith Portal to begin racking up Boon points, you’ll have to pick one of four classes: Holy Augur, Cult of the Magi, Livid Blade, or Rogue’s Nest. Each has their own stats and special abilities, and I’ve tried every one now, but found that I’m only interested in the Holy Augur guild. Why? Its special power is healing, a necessity when making headway through a jungle full of dangerous creatures. They also have fantastic reach. I’ve spent a lot of Boon points enhancing this guild the most. As you explore, you can find special items–like boots that make you move faster–as well as crystals that will give you side objectives for a chance to earn extra Boon. I wish there was more of the latter, or that the crystals showed up more frequently, as it gives me something to work towards, other than just eventually buying the farm.

Look, I’m not great at Temple of Yog. This has been my best run yet, getting as far as fighting the first giant wolf (warg?), but Fromage the Beloved hit the ground fast with one bite from its snout. Turns out, you should attack wolves from behind. Since the floors are randomly generated, some areas are tougher than others. I’ve encountered empty Light worlds, a Light world with one static plant monster, and then another filled with six to seven spiders, all bent on spitting in my face. This randomization greatly affects, at least for me, how far I’ll make it in a run. It also helps feed the “one more run” mentality.

Not every element here is a worthy sacrifice. This might be a problem only specific to me, but I had to “pause” the game a few times during runs, either to get a phone call or clean up surprise kitty cat vomit, and my natural inclination is to hit the “+” button. Nope. That doesn’t pause; it automatically sacrifices your character, and yes, I did this a few times before learning from my mistake. Still, when you are in a world where everything wants to murder you, a pause button would be welcome. I’ve also spawned inside a spider or right next to a spider when moving on to a new level, which is not ideal. Lastly, I play with the Wii U GamePad in my lap, which makes looking down at it and away from the TV screen a dangerous and unnerving task. Others might be better at it, but I’m still hesitant to do it often.

So, this first slice of Temple of Yog falls under the label of “The First Epoch,” with three further updates forthcoming next year. Early investors, like me, will get those for free, but others will have to suffer with the game’s base price increasing with each new add-on. Regardless, I’m going to keep playing, because death is progress, even for meager Boon points, and, theoretically, I’ll only get better as the guilds grow stronger and can take on and dish out more damage. Let’s check back later when I can take down a clutter of spiders like a pro.

Also: Temple of Yog‘s soundtrack is killer, probably something like 805,967 in Boon points. Sacrifice gladly accepted.

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Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, a fantastic distortion of the senses

The demo for Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS has its ups and downs, but it has nonetheless confirmed for me that I’ll be purchasing the cutesy side-scroller on Day One. As well as reading all of Scrooge McDuck’s lines out loud in my amazing Scottish accent.

It opens with gorgeous, hand-drawn art and text-based story blocks, and stays that way for some time. Maybe too long to be reading text, but whatever. There has to be setup somewhere. Power of Illusion takes place some time after the events of Epic Mickeywhich I never even came close to beating. A part of me wants to go back and try again, but then another part remembers how there were houses you went into that had absolutely nothing inside of them, and they made me furious because what’s the point of going in it then, why not just leave the door locked, ugggggh. Anyways, the evil witch Mizrabel and her Castle of Illusion have been accidentally transported to the Wasteland by the wizard Yen Sid. That’s Disney backwards for those not in the know. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit contacts Mickey Mouse to tell him about the castle and that Minnie Mouse has been spotted inside of it, which is not true at all. Ever the hero, Mickey then sets off to save Minnie and the “Illusions” of other Disney characters trapped in the castle.

Right. It’s a side-scroller of yesteryears, and it’s coming from Dreamrift. Y’know, the folks responsible for the charming Monster Tale. Some company alum also worked on the highly praised Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. So, we’re definitely in good hands here. Plus, several interviews with Peter Ong, co-founder and creative director, have remarked on his love for Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse for the Sega Genesis. And that love shows. Oh does it show. But thankfully there’s more to Power of Illusion than just nostalgia and one fan’s dream to bring it back.

After all the story intro stuff, the demo drops you into control of the one and only Mickey Mouse, with little to no abilities to his name. Hmm. Basically, you can jump, and his jumps are unfortunately very floaty, something I’m not digging. Later on, after acquiring the Pixie Dust sketch which allows you to float down when falling, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference. You go through a tutorial level, which shows you how to bounce off enemies, throw paint/thinner at them, draw in items or erase them completely, and rescue familiar Disney characters, like Beast and Rapunzel. The artwork is gorgeous and looks great in 3D, presenting depth of field over launching things at your face.

As for the paint/thinner aspect which carries over from Epic Mickey, it’s fairly perfunctory. When you need to create an item, you trace its outline, and depending how steady your work is, you’ll create a stronger item. Alas, this is no Theatrhythm, and it’s not exactly clear where you are being judged in terms of lineart. For thinner, you basically just smudge away the item with all you got. That’s all this demo showed, so I’m not sure if there’s more to this gimmick or not. When running around, you can throw paint or thinner at enemies, and depending on which type you use, they’ll drop health or money. Yeah, Disney Dollars.

Once you are done learning the ropes, you head back to your Fortress. And this is where Power of Illusion really won me over. Because the Fortress is the castle from Suikoden. Well…sort of. The Disney characters you rescue in levels will take up refuge in your Fortress, getting their own room and serving their own purpose. You can upgrade the room too, though I’m not clear on how that is accomplished. Some characters become shops–like Scrooge McDuck–who sell upgrades to Mickey’s health meter, how much paint/thinner he uses, and upping his ability to find hidden treasures, and other characters will dish out side quests. This, I like. Very, very much. And I spent most of the demo playing around here before going back into one more level, which was set on Captain Hook’s pirate ship. That then ends with a boss fight teaser, definitely leaving me wanting more.

My Nintendo 3DS is in for some hurting over the next few weeks. I’m still trying to finish up a single playthrough of Pokemon White 2–seven badges collected so far!–but this Sunday I’ll be picking up Paper Mario: Sticker Star. And then comes Power of Illusion, followed by the downloadable Crashmo. I also still mean to pick up the new Layton game too. Gah. And maybe Scribblenauts Unlimited. Triple gah. At least now that the weather is getting horribly frigid, I have something to do underneath the heated blanket: collect pocket monsters, collect stickers, collect Disney characters. My system might not be ready for it, but I definitely am.

Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion for the 3DS is a videogame I now want

Okay, I’m all in.

To start, I found Disney Epic Mickey on the Nintendo Wii to be severely flawed, with horrible camera jank, empty houses that made me angry, and a really slow pace. Charm and atmosphere was there, but that’s it. Which is a shame, as I love Mickey Mouse and animation of golden times and all things Disney–I mean, for our honeymoon, Tara and I geeked out in Disney World for a week, and it was sublime. There’s just something so charming about Disney’s universe, and we’ve had a couple of good games based off Ser Walt’s creations in the past, namely Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Kingdom Hearts.

And so, while wearing trepidation-laden armor, I am excited to see how Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two turns out, what with its focus on co-op and music, but the real reason to be overjoyed that Junction Point Studios is giving it another go is that there will be a retail release for the 3DS…and it’s totally different.

Made by DreamRift, the fine beings behind 2011’s underrated Monster Tale, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a 2D platformer that harkens back to the previously mentioned Castle of Illusion. In fact, some are straight up calling it a sequel. Nothing’s been formally announced, but the Internet has provided a number of game details and a single screenshot scan, and from all that…I’m in. It sounds amazing, and might very well be the third 3DS game I buy in 2012 (the first was Super Mario 3D Land, and the second will be Animal Crossing 3DS). Here’s a couple of bullet points supposedly from the newest issue of Nintendo Power:

  • Use stylus to tap item icons
  • “Paint” (trace) those items into existence to create cliffs, cannons, and floating platforms
  • Use thinner to erase objects
  • Scrolling parallax backgrounds
  • Every level in the game is based on an animated Disney adventure, which includes Sleeping Beauty to Tangled
  • Every character that Mickey saves will take up residence in the fortress that Mickey uses as his home base
  • The witch from Snow White is the main villain
  • Scrooge McDuck, Minnie, and Oswald also make appearances

Did you see the bullet point I highlighted in red font? Check again. I did so because that basically confirms that Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is part Suikoden. Oh em gee. Give me a base, let me recruit people, and I will play that game, no matter what it ultimately is. I can’t wait to see how the fortress evolves with each cartoony pal that Mickey brings back. People are guessing Fall 2012 for a release date, and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more delicious-looking screenshots.

Back to blogging and videogame snogging

I did not plan to take two weeks off from blogging about videogames and giving Grinding Down love five days a week. Not one bit.

See, first things first, I was in a car accident. I was coming home from a work-hosted Christmas party, thinking about what gifts I still needed to buy for various family members when, without warning, a car slammed into my vehicle from behind at such a force that I screamed a sound I never knew existed within my being and bounced forward down the highway. I was doing around 65 mph; this person, who, with not much else to go on, I believe was drunk, had to be doing around 80 or 85 mph. They then drove off, leaving me on the side of Route 80, scared and uncertain. So I had to spend a few days dealing with that, as I was actually in a rental car at the time of impact and had to go to a police station, get an accident report, pick up my true car Bullet, and so on, so on, so on.

Then came the holidays themselves. This is the year I learned that, well, I’m not going to love the holidays as much after losing my mother to cancer last December. Makes sense, really, and so my depression surfaced to a magically new high. I played a lot of videogames, as I’m wont to do when down in that ditch, but I couldn’t get myself to write about them. I just hid in them and used them for quick hugs and abused them for ways to avoid all things real, all things scary. But I’m back now. I think. Yeah, hopefully. Gotta make the best out of this manic phase before I swing back low, right?

So, the year of 2011 has come and gone, and it’s that time for those Game of the Year roundups. I offered my picks over at The First Hour, naming…L.A. Noire as my Game of the Year! Yeah, woo. Play that game, y’all, if you haven’t yet. I also call out Bastion, Fallout: New Vegas, and Monster Tale as pretty great experiences, which should be obvious to anyone that follows this little blog here. I write about those games lots. Go check it out, even if Greg still doesn’t love exploring the Mojave Wasteland.

Throughout all this quiet time, I’ve played many, many games. Seriously, dear readers. A ton of ’em. Here’s just a few to whet your collective whistles: Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, Saints Row: The Third, Rage, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Pushmo, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Again, to name a few. There’s more. And I have a lot of blog posts bouncing around my rabbity head, so stay tuned. Cause I’m back at this. I hope.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Some great Nintendo DS games yet to come

I don’t know about you, but I kind of thought that great Nintendo DS games came to a stop with Monster Tale back in March 2011, and that all further energy and expenses were put towards making the Nintendo 3DS a roaring success. That latter hope has not worked out quite like the big Nintendo head-honchos would’ve liked, and any glimmer of light that gamers would get another title for the bereft DS handheld as high quality as The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks or Professor Layton and the Unwound Future or Dragon Quest IX seemed unlikely.

However, strangely, there seems to be a number of great titles coming out in the next few months, even during the rebirth of the 3DS, and I’m all for this. In fact, these are the sort of games that will get played in my Nintendo DS Lite, as playing them in the 3DS might feel a bit like betrayal. They were created for the DS; that is their home, their haven. It’s only right.

Let’s take a looksie…

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2

Release date: September 19, 2011

From what I understand, the Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker series is basically Pokemon, but in a universe where classic blue slimes and puns reign supreme. I found a copy of the first game the other week at GameStop for less than $10.00; haven’t got to play much of it yet as I plan to cover it for The First Hour. However, if it’s anything like the monster battling mini-element from the end of Dragon Quest VIII, I’ll be pleased. DQM: J2 seems to be more of the same, but with the usual shtick of better graphics, better online connectivity, and huger monsters, the kind that take up both screens.

Kirby: Mass Attack

Release date: September 19, 2011

A new Kirby game is always reason for excitement. The little pink hungry puff‘s latest adventure comes with a new gimmick; he’s been turned from one Kirby into many, and you’ll use this mass of Kirby to solve puzzles, platform through levels, and fight end bosses. The fact that it’s not trying to force 3D at us or use it in some stupid way is welcoming. Seems like a fun time overall.

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter

Release date: September 27, 2011

A follow-up to Tail Concerto, a PlayStation game I actually did get to try out as a youngling. It was just a demo level and entirely in Japanese, but still…the dang thing resonated with me so well that I still flash back to it from time to time. It focused around Waffle Ryebread, a dog police officer out to stop the nefarious workings of a cat named Fool. Silly stuff, but there was such confidence in the world-building that I bought in, and the same effect seems to be happening here with Solatorobo: Red the Hunter. Maybe deep down–really deep down–I’m a furry fan. I dunno. Kind of hope not. I just want to play a videogame about a doggy sky hunter and his sister as they try to steal a special file from an airship called Hindenburg. That’s totally normal.

And that’s three great-looking titles that don’t need 3D witchery to enhance their fun (and price tag). I’m definitely interested in picking up all three whenever they come out. Which is in…uh…all of them in September, two on the same day. Dang it. We’ll see what’s possible. If anything, since I just picked up Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker for cheapy cheap, I might forgo the newest edition until the timing and financial situation is better. But still, two desirable and quality DS games come out next month, and that’s definitely something to pay attention to, gamers and game developers alike.

Games Completed in 2011, #11 – Monster Tale

Metroidvania is a special genre of gaming. It’s both linear and not, it’s devoted to progression and secrets, and it’s been around since the venerable NES days. I mean, it’s very namesake comes from two of its most obvious influences: Metroid and Castlevania. Over the years, Metroidvania has seen some peaks and valleys and straight-up dry spells, never finding a wide audience, but there’s been a rebirth of sorts on handheld consoles like the Nintendo DS. Mostly more Castlevania titles, but there’s also been the occasional surprise debut, and that’s where we find Monster Tale from DreamRift, the makers of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.

In Monster Tale, you play as Ellie, a young girl who stumbles upon a magical armband, unhatched egg, and hidden world inhabited by monsters. She quickly discovers that she’s not the only human to venture into this world as it is ruled by snotty, personality-heavy kids, the worst being Priscilla. They have enslaved many of the monsters and turned them into their evil pets. The egg Ellie found earlier hatches, and the monster quickly bonds with our blue-haired protagonist, fighting off enemies, eating snacks, and evolving into more powerful forms. She names it Chomp, and he/she/it will be vital to her survival as she searches for a way back home.

Monster Tale is a mix of platforming, combat, and pet raising. You’ll travel through five themed worlds—a wicked treehouse and demon express train, for example—until you can’t travel forward any more; most likely, Ellie will need to learn a new ability like charge shot or obtain a key to open a locked gate. Unfortunately though, DreamRift is a wee bit masochistic and decided to make back-tracking a high priority here. Very high priority. Now, with Metroidvania games, back-tracking is the point; you get a new ability, and now you can get past X from that earlier level. However, the back-tracking in Monster Tale feels unnecessary, and often the item/power needed is on the far opposite side of the map. There’s no fast-travel system so Ellie and Chomp have to trudge all the way back; I was constantly checking the map so as to not get lost. It feels like something implemented to transform a four-hour game into an eight-hour game.

Good thing the combat is fun, especially thanks to Chomp. He/she/it is an adorable monster that helps attack enemies on both screens of the Nintendo DS. Chomp can’t spend too much time up top as it drains its health, but the bottom screen acts as a sanctuary, healing it and housing many special items for it to interact with. There’s some great animation work when it comes to Chomp chompin’ down on some cold pizza. As Chomp defeats enemies and eats entire bowls of rice, it gains XP and levels up, opening up new forms. I had him evolve into the Juggernaut by the end of the game and kept him there, but there’s plenty of other forms for people to tinker with if they’re curious. I only wish that Chomp was a little more proactive when on the top screen; it seemed like it wouldn’t attack an enemy unless Ellie personally chauffeured it over.

Story-wise, Monster Tale doesn’t ask too much of your attention. There’s small bits of dialogue between Ellie and another kid before a boss fight, but other than that—it’s purely background fluff. I likened it previously to a Saturday morning cartoon plotline, and I’ll still stand by that. I do think that DreamRift missed out on a great opportunity though; all along, Ellie is trying to get Chomp back to its mother, but this plot point fizzles out. It’s safe to assume the two are reunited, but it would’ve been nice to see some monsterly reunion on-screen.

The production values in Monster Tale can’t be ignored. The 2D sprites are colorfully crisp, and the animation work is top-notch. The quality kicks it into even higher gear during the boss fights, my favorite being against the deranged bunny rabbit. Background details such as monsters hiding behind paintings really help with the immersion. To be honest, I did not notice much of the music; I eventually turned all sound off as I got tired of hearing Ellie make a noise every time I hit the jump button. Every. Single. Time. Thank goodness the game’s gorgeous to look at for extended periods of time.

Monster Tale came out shortly before the Nintendo 3DS launched, a period being labeled as “the end of the Nintendo DS era,” but not by me. It might be late to the party, but it’s a pristine example of why gamers should stick around a little longer. Sure, the back-tracking gets tiresome, but the combat and pet raising is irrefutably addicting. It’s definitely one of the more unique Metroidvania titles in some time, and if you’re a fan at all of fun, friendly platformers, this is one helluva tale.

A copy of Monster Tale was provided to me by Majesco Entertainment for review. My completion total was 78.6% after just under eight hours. I’m pretty sure I found every room, but did not spend a ton of time evolving Chomp into different forms. I basically stuck with the Juggernaut form and grinded him to level 30 before the final boss fight. The hardest part of the game involved a moving platform and floor lined with deadly spikes.

Chomping and wall-jumping my way to fun in Monster Tale

My current stats for Monster Tale say that I’ve now played the game for three hours and five minutes, clearing 28.4% of everything. I think this is an excellent stopping point to hand out some free impressions about Ellie’s journey into the unknown. To start—it’s super fun. The story is light and bouncy, and kind of reminds me of a Saturday morning cartoon plotline: a bunch of kids leave home to become rulers of a foreign realm where they also enslave monsters to do their evil work. Enter Ellie, a young, spritely girl who stumbles upon a magical band (the thing you wear on your arm, not the thing you pay too much to see perform badly live) and an egg which hatches into a powerful monster. Jealous of her connection to Chomp, these unmanaged kids seek to steal back what they believe is rightfully theirs.

Much like how Shadow Complex was done in honor of Super Metroid, Monster Tale feels to be honoring the same game, as well as the Castlevania titles for the Nintendo DS. The overall aesthetic is friendly, with bright colors and cuddly enemy lifeforms, and I simply love that the save rooms are in libraries, and that to save you press up on the D-pad. It feels so good to save. Ellie can use either a melee attack or shoot balls of energy from her band; I’ve found that melee is most often the way to go, and the better your combo for killing, the greater your monetary reward is. Or sometimes you’ll get a slice of cold pizza. Win-win, really.

The platforming…it’s solid, but a little slow to start with. Thank goodness for the wall-jump ability, which makes backtracking and traveling in general smoother. You travel left and right, up and down, and there’s definitely obvious sections that will be accessed later after you’ve acquired the right ability. The usual platforming pitfalls prevail, too, with ledges that vanish upon touch, ones that bounce her high into the air, and others that move back and forth.

Chomp’s a nice addition to the party. He mostly attacks enemies on the top DS screen, and regains health on the bottom one, as well as devours food, kicks soccer balls, and learns new skills. The eating animations for him are made of pure smiles. So far, he’s learned several forms to evolve into, and the one I’m currently upgrading is called Wrecker, which means he enjoys exploding, meat, and exercise. That might sound silly until I tell you that his previous form loved ice cream. And here’s where it gets really RPG-like; each Chomp form levels up on its own, gaining stats from whatever you have him eat or how he attacks enemies; players can switch between forms on the fly, too, without the fear of losing all that hard-earned experience.

My only irks so far is that, on occasion, Ellie will roll forward when I actually want her to jump down to the ledge below. Also, the noise that plays when text scrolls along—does that have a name?—is annoying and not needed. Remember, silence is golden.

Boss battles are good, but I’m worried they are all gonna be too much alike, wherein Ellie fights one of the kids and a monster they control. Doesn’t take long to learn the patterns, and the toughest parts is just keeping Ellie’s health up as there’s no way to replenish it during a battle sequence. Regardless, I’m looking forward to giving Priscilla a smackdown. She reminds me of Darla Dimple from that 1997 classic Cats Don’t Dance.

But yeah, almost one-third of my way through Monster Tale and loving it immensely. It’s definitely proof that this pre-3DS system still has a lot to say. Stay tuned for more coverage.