Tag Archives: platformer

All I can say about Auf Abwegen is nein, danke

This might sound super obvious, but jumping is essential when it comes to platforming, and Auf Abwegen does not nail the feeling of good, reliable jumping at all. And without being able to jump well and with precision, there is nothing I could do to get away from the pack of bloodhounds chasing me, which is a shame because, for a free thing on Steam, this seemed to have promise from the start. Well, from a narrative perspective, that is. Oh well, you can’t win them all, and that’s something I’m slowly coming to terms with. Not everything can be completed or seen through to conclusion.

Auf Abwegen, which I believe translates from German to “gone astray” or “on the wrong path,” has you controlling a red fox in its natural habitat. This seems to be some kind of VR simulation, played by people up in outer space, with the implication that Earth is no more, and this is one of the ways they can experience what life used to be like on the forgotten planet. It is a one-man project from user Kindman, but there is nothing kind about the threats and frustration you’ll experience in each scenario you come across, whether it is simply learning how to go under tree roots or running so quick that you can’t see what is up ahead.

Evidently, there are three levels to master, but I think the one where the bloodhounds chase you is only the second one. Or it could be the last challenge, but I don’t really know since I couldn’t get past it after 40-plus attempts. Let me describe what you do in parts one and two. It opens with a tutorial section, where you learn how to move the fox; it can jump, crawl under roots, and run. You are then tasked with finding food for your family, and it is up to you to both figure out how and what you want to hunt. I got a mouse, a bird, and an egg, I think, which worked out, but getting these things was no easy task. For instance, there is a section where you are leaping from lily pads to logs to rocks in a small pond. Again, the jumping is so loose and finicky that landing on these tiny platforms is seemingly random. Chasing the mouse requires you to run it down–not sure how this thing made it across the water–and again, running fast and jumping here isn’t ideal.

However, after delivering the food to your wife and cubs–do foxes have cubs?–you enter the chase sequence, and this is where the madness begins. The fox can run fast, so fast that you can’t see what is coming up next. However, you have to keep moving or else. It might be a hedgehog you have to jump over or a gap in the ground, and you have to use lightning-fast reflexes to overcome these obstacles because the bloodhounds are coming, and if they touch you once, you lose and must start all over, bugle call and all. So it then becomes a game of memorization, but even memorizing what is next doesn’t help when the jumping is unreliable. Sure, some deaths I’ll blame on me, but most of them were me squeezing my controller in pure frustration because I had cleared a bunch of obstacles only to jump into a wooden log with branches instead of jumping over it because I didn’t press the button early enough. Ugh, no thanks.

I do dig the look of Auf Abwegen, from its science-heavy computer interface at the start to the hand-painted backgrounds of the forest, backed by a soft, melodic piano-driven soundtrack, minus that annoying bugle call signaling the bloodhounds that it is time to hunt. The cartoony parts, such as the fox and fish and bloodhounds, pop against the backgrounds nicely. There’s some decent voice-acting, though I think it is all in German, but there are subtitles to read, with only a couple of grammar mistakes throughout.

If y’all are feeling nice or masochistic enough to play Auf Abwegen, by all means, give it a shot for free on Steam. And let me know what happens after you get past the bloodhounds. I’m genuinely curious.

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Resolve an ancient conflict on Wuppo’s quest for a new home

I have way too many games on Steam, and the good bulk of them I have no memory of how they got there. Some were probably freebies, and others cost money or were purchased during a sale. The easiest guess is that many of them came from one of the thousands of gaming bundles I’ve participated in, but the when and where escapes me each and every time I scroll down my list and pause on a name that just seems completely foreign to me. Today, we’re going to talk about Wuppo, a game I have no memory of buying, but I guess I did because…well, it is there, installed on my Steam library, and it looks like a really cute, colorful platformer.

After being kicked out of its apartment home for making another mess via an ice cream cone, one lonely Wum, which is a type of round, featureless creature native to this world, must travel far and wide to find a new place to live. From the metropolitan haven Popocity to the cavernous Bliekopolis, this Wum will discover magical places and encounter strange creatures along the way. Now, this Wum is no traditional hero and only by using its wit and charm, along with the help of a handful of items, can it truly succeed. That’s the main gist of the story, and it’s told through in-game dialogue that is both lively and quite fun to read, reminding me instantly of Pikuniku and Night in the Woods. You’ll also learn more lore by collecting film strips to watch.

Wuppo starts out easy enough, but don’t let its cute aesthetic and bouncy music fool you–the difficulty quickly amps up once you encounter your first boss battle. Fights require a decent amount of precision movement alongside the memorization of enemy patterns, and it doesn’t help that the jump button is on LT, which takes some getting used to, especially if you like double-jumping all the time, which, in this game, is a must. Your main attack consists of firing guns in a setup very similar to your average twin-stick shooter, so you use the stick to both determine the direction and angling of your firing. It takes a little time to get used to, plus you can switch out your gun for other weapons or items to hold, such as a bird that feeds you information at specific points.

Let’s get into the controls a bit more…because they are important. You have controls for basic movement, an action button that does whatever you need in a given context, and a dedicated button just for whistling, which is never necessary, but appreciated nonetheless. Your Wum’s health meter is justified as “happiness,” and you can increase it by making new friends, watching film strips, or eating your favorite food. The game is mostly an adventure platformer, and you’ll be making some large jumps or timed jumps to get to new places. There’s a map you can view, but I honestly didn’t find it satisfying or felt like it grounded me in this world. Maybe I’m just reading it wrong.

Wuppo is pretty hands off. It hardly ever guides you to the next place or quest, leaving it up to you to work out how to progress, which can result in some bits of frustration. Occasionally, there are moments where it is hard to make out specific buttons or levers to pull, as well as what the pathways are, making you feel stuck for no other reason than clarity. Items are placed in your inventory non-ceremoniously, and it’s up to you to figure out how to use them and where to use them, which some players, like Dark Souls fans, might like, but I don’t have time for all that.

Currently, as shown in the picture at the top of this post, I’m trying to find specific items for an altar, which is proving more difficult than I initially imagined. We’ll see if I ever complete this task or just move on to something else. I do like the look and vibe of Wuppo greatly, but it isn’t hooking me too hard besides its playful aesthetic, and there are plenty of other platformers to try out in my Steam/Twitch libraries.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn cutely pulls the wool over your eyes

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I had a retail copy of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which is a light-hearted platformer developed by Good-Feel and HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Wii way back in 2010. Then, during my divorce, I gave up the Wii and most of its games, yet ended up still having the case of the game, along with the manual…minus the disc. Hmm. I suspect it was inside the Wii when it was unplugged and all that because I’m usually pretty good when it comes to not losing my beloved videogames. Thankfully, I can stop looking for it because I have a newer, shinier version of it to play.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn for the Nintendo 3DS might very well be the system’s last big release. I don’t see much else coming out down the road, but you never know…I feel like a lot of people are constantly surprised to see the handheld still being supported, but it makes sense to me when you factor in its large user base. Sure, most have probably moved on to the Nintendo Switch by now, as I will eventually do one day, whenever they get around to announcing an Animal Crossing-themed bundle. Anyways, it’s an enhanced remake of Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii, which means it has the same content as the original release, but also includes new power-ups, modes, and sub-games starring Meta Knight and King Dedede as playable characters. Alas, this version now lacks co-op, so Prince Fluff is not playable, but that’s okay…it’s perfectly fine for solo-ing.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn‘s not a plot-heavy adventure despite the word epic in its title. Kirby is wandering around Dream Land one day when an evil wizard banishes him to Patch Land, a world made up entirely of fabric. Kirby is transformed as well, including his powers. He can no longer copy the abilities of enemies by eating them whole; instead, Kirby can shift form into various vehicles and other devices. Using this and his yarn whip, he journeys through Patch Land as he attempts to put it all back together.

Many originally complained that the Wii game was a bit too easy and forgiving, almost built for children. Well, for those that want more challenge for their cutesy pink platforming star, the introduction of a new Devilish Mode will keep seasoned gamers more on their toes. This new mode ups the challenge a teeny bit–this will never be a splatformer–by having a devil-like character following Kirby the entire time, trying to get in his way or hit him with tossed items. I tried it a few times and found that, ultimately, it is not for me; I like taking my time and exploring every nook and cranny, getting every gem I can, but this mode forces you to keep moving and never stand still. No thanks, but it is there if you want it.

Along with Devilish Mode, there are two extra additions to the original Kirby’s Epic Yarn experience exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS version, plus amiibo and StreetPass support, both of which I no longer care about or am able to do. These are the minigames starring King Dedede and Meta Knight; one is called Dedede Gogogo, and the other is Slash & Bead, and both are relatively similar to each other. For Dedede Gogogo, it is basically an endless runner with Dedede moving across the screen, hitting or diving through whatever comes into his path all while trying to collect as many beads as possible. Slash & Bead has a teensy bit more agency, allowing the player to freely explore the screen, hacking and slashing at everything as the legendary Meta Knight. Each minigame contains four stages to complete, and you can craft…uh, things, such as a yarn donut, with some of the gems and materials you collect in these minigames. It’s not a boatload of extra stuff, but it is something else to do.

Here’s the thing. For Kirby’s Epic Yarn, I never got that far, maybe just to Hot Land. The reasoning behind this is because I was playing it with my then-partner, and we just didn’t end up returning to it after our first gleeful initial session with it. For Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn, I’m already at Hot Land and excited to keep playing. I also am looking forward to decorating my apartment with all things green, as well as helping to flesh out the other apartments with required furniture and wallpaper. It’s not Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, but I’ll take it.

The Legendary Starfy: a stuffy, unsettled luminous spheroid of plasma

There was a short time there when I’d go into a GameStop, swing by the Nintendo 3DS section, ignore all the 3DS titles in their big and bright white boxes, and start sifting through the shelves with countless envelopes that only contained DS games–no box, no manual, just a loose cartridge. These were often extremely cheap, usually a couple bucks at most, and my true goal was to find a copy of Suikoden Tierkreis, but alas that hasn’t happened yet. Still, I’d grab anything that looked remotely interesting, and so I have a strange conglomeration of DS games in a Ziploc bag. Every now and then, I pluck one out and give it a try, for better or for worse, which brings us to The Legendary Starfy.

The Legendary Starfy series are platformers, focusing more on swimming than running and jumping around. That makes sense when you consider you are playing as a starfish. Still, you do go on land, and the controls are par for the course when it comes to running, jumping, and landing on platforms. However, when in the water, players can only move Starfy around using the control pad alone; if you want to make Starfy swim faster–and who doesn’t?–you must hold the B button down. The games are usually composed of multiple stages or worlds, with each stage split up into four sub-stages. Boss characters are found at the end of each world’s final sub-stage, and most of the other sub-stages are centered around retrieving a lost or stolen item for another character.

The Legendary Starfy is essentially an aquatic spin on Kirby, mixing up a lot of the same mechanisms and gameplay styles as Nintendo’s pink puff-ball, as well as throwing in other classic gaming influences for good measure. The game is bright and colorful, bouncy as heck, friendly, reminding me of things like Plok for the SNES and Ristar for the Sega Genesis, and those are good things. The game itself definitely feels targeted at a younger audience, and that’s okay; I’m not against a platformer that provides a lighter challenge–sorry, Celeste fans–interested more in telling a zany, fast-moving story. There’s quite a lot of chatting to read too, as Starfy has many friends, and they like talking.

Let’s talk about that story for a moment. Starfy ends up accompanying a shape-shifting space rabbit on his quest to recover pieces of his crystal spaceship, along with his memory in the process. This leads to a hodgepodge of silly or simply unexpected elements, such as transforming into a fire-breathing dragon or squawking chicken, as well as the ability to swim upwards through rainbows and giant raindrops. Along the way, he’ll meet lots of friends and foes, and even do side quests for some of them, like find red pearls for Herman or racing against Fork. Your in-game case lets you review all this, and there’s also a journal to read, as well as The Moe Show, a talk show hosted by a clam. Yeah, you heard me. Plenty of other things to poke at too, it’s brimming with extra content.

Evidently, The Legendary Starfy is pretty big in Japan, with plenty of merchandise to go around for the little yellow dude in Japanese retail stores, such as plush dolls, pencils, birthday balloons, and casino cards. It only came over to North America in the form of the fifth game. Anyways, Densetsu no Stafy is a manga series produced by Shogakukan and Nintendo, and it is based on the game series, specifically the first and second titles. Oh, and this little starfish shines bright elsewhere, showing up in games like Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, Super Princess Peach, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and an unlockable costume in Super Mario Maker.

I do like dressing Starfy up in different costumes–right now he’s rocking a rubber-ducky ring and sunglasses–but I do wish that these outfits were reflected in the main game’s sprite, not just the 3D model section. Oh well. Maybe one day we’ll see this star-shaped echinoderm on the Nintendo Switch, not just in Japan, but here in North America too. I think he’s up for another adventure.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Vessel

Vessel is probably a game I would have spent a ton of time on in my younger years, when videogames were scarce and my collection only grew by a title of two every few months. Now, I get free videogames to play every single day from all the various programs I’m subscribed to, plus the Internet is just full of freebies, and, frankly, it’s becoming a bit too much for my brain to keep up with. I’m not bragging; this is just reality. This ultimately means that if a game doesn’t really hook me from the start I don’t have to fret too much over walking away from it, knowing there are plenty of other fish in the ocean to eat. Sorry, Vessel, but you’re the equivalent of a monkfish in this scenario.

The main character of Vessel is M. Arkwright, an inventor who creates a liquid-composed, labor-performing automaton called the Fluro. He creates this automaton in order to perform laborious tasks more efficiently than human beings because…well, in the end, we’re all truly lazy. However, the Fluros begin to run amok and cause machinery to malfunction. In order to restore the machinery back to a functioning status, Arkwright must travel through Vessel‘s world and fix the broken parts, which more or less means solving physics-related puzzles. Expect lots of locked doors and levers and pressure plates to push.

A supply of Fluro “seeds” enables Arkwright to conjure these critters wherever he chooses. Drop one down, submerge it in water, lava, or even fruit juice, and a helper will arise, eager to assist you in solving the current puzzle. Different seeds provide Fluros of different behaviors too, as some are fixated on button pushing while others will chase you or seek out light sources. Environments often have grills through which only Fluros can pass, so much of the game involves working out where to place a Fluro so that it can run through a bunch of switches in the right order. There’s a lot of trial and error, of course, and, as with anything based on physics, not everything works as you expect it to. Sometimes the thing you control with a lever won’t stop exactly where you want it, but that’s okay.

Viewing screenshots shows that Vessel does not simply stay in the factory-esque world of the first hour or so of gameplay. Which is good, because it is both dark and boring-looking there. I almost had to turn up the brightness level on my TV to solve a puzzle. You will, in fact, get to go outside, and it’s a shame I never made it that far, as the environments look much brighter and visually stimulating than a bunch of muted machinery. Oh well, maybe next time.

Much like other puzzle platformers or puzzle-driven exploration romps, like Unmechanical: Extended and Quantum Conundrum, I played this for a bit before the puzzles became just a wee bit too much for my brain to handle. Again, there was a time in my life that I probably could sit and bang my head against the puzzles until something gave, but that time is no longer now. So, I’ll just let the Fluros continue running amok, leaving Vessel unsolved and in a state of disrepair. My bad.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

If you play Pikuniku, you’ll get free money (not really)

With a name like Pikuniku, you’d think this game would be harder to explain or some kind of Pokemon offshoot, like Hey You, Pikachu!. It is, in fact, deceptively simple, and that’s not at all a bad thing. Weird, for sure, but weirdly simple, and I’m sitting here smiling just thinking about it. Before you read anything further, I highly suggest you put this game’s soundtrack from Calum Bowen on.

Right, so…Pikuniku is an absurdly wonderful puzzle-exploration game that takes place in a strange but playful world where not everything is as happy as it seems despite all the bright colors and bouncy tunes. You play as a “monster” from a cave and must help out a number of peculiar characters overcome struggles, uncover a deep state conspiracy, and start a fun little revolution in this delightful dystopian adventure. Down with robots, as they say, and don’t let the free money bit fool you; when it comes to money, nothing is ever truly free.

The main thrust of Pikuniku is its platforming, which I can liken to things like Night in the Woods and LittleBigPlanet. A bit floaty, but you can still get to where you need to go and, if not, try jumping on a tree, cloud, or citizen for extra reach. After that, there are several light-hearted puzzles to deal with, but none of them are overly complicated, and the same can be said of the boss fights, which are fun and easy, grandiose even, and that’s all good. I’m not a huge fan of splatformers–I just started to play Celeste, and I don’t see myself getting too far up that mountain–and sometimes I just want to jump around in a relaxing fashion and explore the world leisurely without being chased by some nightmarish monster or having to have super reflexes when it comes to pressing buttons and landing on teeny-tiny platforms.

As the red “beast,” you can run, roll, and kick things, and the animations for all these actions are smooth and hilarious to see happen. Plus, you can put different hats or cosmetics on the main character to change its look and perform specific abilities, such as the watering can hat that lets you water flowers to reach new areas via jump-pads. There are coins to collect, along with trophy statues and small scenes involving bugs, but all these are just that–collectibles. The world is full of fun characters to interact with, ranging from web-spinning spiders to round worms to people that look like they came straight off the pages of the Mr. Men books. The dialogue is goofy and enjoyable, and it is worth chatting with characters just to get a vibe for how they live in this world, and you’ll occasionally get a dialogue choice though it definitely doesn’t make a big difference overall.

Alas, I did not get to try out the co-op mode of Pikuniku, but that’s okay, as I can only imagine it being slightly frustrating considering the somewhat non-precise controls for steering your character and hitting rocks around. But it’s there if you want it. The main story mode is only a few hours long and pretty linear, and I played through it in multiple phases, usually pausing after a boss fight; a part of me wanted to go back and find all the hidden collectibles, but I didn’t get a sense that anything would truly come of it…so I’ll leave those for others to gather up. I wonder how many hats you can get, too.

As it currently stands, Pikuniku is one of my favorite games of the year so far. It’s delightful. It’s quirky and embraces its strangeness, and I love that. Don’t be surprised when it shows up on my end-of-year GOTY list.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Cloudberry Kingdom

Here’s a rare happening when it comes to all these PlayStation Plus Purge posts–I’ve actually already played a small bit of Cloudberry Kingdom already, our topic du jour, but I naturally remember nothing more about it other than that. A quick search on Grinding Down shows that I definitely didn’t have anything to say about the game whenever it was I last touched it, and I don’t know how much more I’ll have to say about it now because…well, it just kind of is what it is. Still, let’s find out together.

First, some pertinent stats upon returning to Cloudberry Kingdom after what I can only guess is several years; my PlayStation 3 says I installed it on June 2, 2015…yup, so there ya go. I won’t go into them all, but here a few standouts:

  • Levels beat: 54
  • Jumps: 761
  • Score: 284575
  • Coins: grabbed 602 out of 637 (94%)
  • Total deaths: 40
  • Trophies unlocked: 1

Cloudberry Kingdom is an action platformer created by Pwnee Studios and published by that lovable French fatcat Ubisoft. The game uses a set of algorithms developed by Jordan Fisher to create procedurally generated levels that can be adaptive to the player’s skill level, in-game character abilities, and alteration of game physics. Whatever that means. Basically, the levels change based on how you play, which is neat, but I probably wouldn’t have known that unless I read it first before playing. To me, the levels in story mode feel mostly handcrafted, so if it is changing based on my lackluster jumping skills, that’s kind of cool. If it’s not, oh well.

There is…a story to follow. Or try to care about. Something called The Orb resurfaces and, with it, comes Kobbler with his mania and Princess with her endless boredom. It’s only a matter of time before Bob, Cloudberry Kingdom‘s hero, shows up to put order back to madness. Three powers struggle for victory, and the fate of Cloudberry Kingdom hangs in the balance. I really don’t know what to make of all that. Honestly, it’s like reading a short summary of something in a different language. Wait, wait a freaking second. I just discovered this major factoid–Cloudberry Kingdom touts celebrity voice actor Kevin Sorbo, the star of hit TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

I’ll be honest with y’all; I don’t dig Cloudberry Kingdom‘s look. It hurts to say because, obviously, I love cartoony styles, but there’s just something ultra plain vanilla about the graphics here. They look like stickers atop a muted piece of background art. The jumping is a bit floaty, but it’s functional enough, though the story levels don’t present much challenge; I’m sure if I got further into the campaign mode I’d come across some real zingers, but that won’t ever happen, at least not in this lifetime. In addition to the main story, there are four additional modes: Escalation, which throws increasingly tough levels at you; Time Crisis, where there is a timer that is draining gems to time to the clock; Hero Rush, another timed mode where you play as different character types; lastly, Hybrid Rush, an absurd amalgamation in which you’re afflicted by multiple abilities simultaneously.

Cloudberry Kingdom has a neat idea behind it, but it lacks polish and imagination. You can’t rely simply on Kevin Sorbo to sell your game…though I am interested to here some of his voicework now. I’d love to see the notion of randomly generated platforming levels explored further, as this is clearly just a nugget of an idea here. It’s just not enough currently.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.