Tag Archives: platformer

Watch Shantae whip and save Sequin Land from evil pirates

gd impressions shantae pirate's curse

I’ve never played a Shantae game, so I thought that, naturally, the best place to start is with Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third game in the series. Naturally. Look, it’s the only one I have in my entire collection, and I’d rather start somewhere than deal with the silly impairment in my brain that demands I begin all videogame series at the very start and only play through them one after the other, completing each one as fully as possible to truly get the ultimate gaming experience. It’s an exhausting, never-ending battle that I’d love to watch crumble and blow away in the wind, but that day is not yet on the horizon. Or is it? I mean, this is a small chip in the mountain, but I am at least taking action.

The story in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse sure is something, and I’ll do my best to get all the whimsical details right. So, Shantae is adjusting to life as a human post-genie, but wakes up to the sound of cannon fire one morning. Turns out, Scuttle Town is being taken over by the Ammo Baron, who, after a brief scuffle, reveals that he purchased the town from Mayor Scuttlebutt and is legally now its new mayor. Shantae’s arch-nemesis Risky Boots accuses her of robbing her of henchmen and other valuable items, but now they are teaming up to take on the Pirate Master, a powerful evil tyrant who is attempting to revive himself while simultaneously placing a curse on many of the world’s critters. Yeah, sure. To stop this all from happening, Shantae needs to destroy a specific number of dens of evil because videogames.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is one of those Metroidvania, 2D action side-scrollers you have all probably heard about by this point in time, though I’m still having a hard time deciding if it is more Metroid or more Castlevania. Its whimsical story and goofy sense of humor makes it hard to place in either category, plus those sultry sprite animations. Instead of whipping a whip at enemies, Shantae whips her hair with extreme force. She can also jump, dash backwards, perform a super kick, and fire a pistol shot, resulting in a versatile action heroine capable of handling whatever is thrown at her, whether it be frog fish, wetmen, or cacklers. Basically, this is all one needs to complete dungeon puzzles and open up new areas of the world to explore. You also have an inventory, and this is where potions, monster milk, and bento boxes go, all of which are easily accessible via the touchscreen on the Wii U gamepad…though I prefer to leave it on the map screen for quick navigation.

So far, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a good platformer that I am playing in short bursts, like between big moments in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or while waiting for that latest Nintendo Direct to start. There’s always progress to be made and, if not, I’m okay grinding for money so I can purchase new moves for Shantae. Though I am finding the number of enemies that magically pop up/appear right before Shantae and damage her to be ultra annoying. Also, in the second level, there is a sequence that involves carrying Shantae’s zombie friend Rottytops through a monster-infested forest where a single collision means death. It mixes up the gameplay, but the penalty for messing up and ramp in difficulty is surprisingly, especially so early on in the game.

I’ve put in under two hours so far into Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, and the Internet is telling me that it is about eight hours or so to complete the main campaign, with a few more to boot if one wants to gather all the squid hearts and hidden collectibles. Here’s hoping I stick with it a bit longer to see credits roll because I am enjoying it though it is not the second coming of Super Metroid. I’m not sure if anything ever will be.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #87 – Drop Alive

A drop of water
Switch from liquid, solid, gas
Not the tightest jumps

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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #76 – Runbow

Colors disguise ground
Find your path, dash, double jump
If not, try again

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.

We live in a rainbow of chaos in Runbow

To me, there are two kinds of platformers: good and bad. Just kidding. I’m talking about ones where the platforming exists as a means to get you from point A to point B so you can do action C, and ones where the platforming itself, the jumping and landing and getting from spot to spot safely, is the entire crux of the game.

I like both to varying degrees, though I certainly prefer the former, enjoying more laid-back jumping like in Sound Shapes, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and Sugar Cube Bittersweet Factory over punishing affairs like So Many Me, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels. Those are almost instantly frustrating and what I like to call un-fun, though there is a masochistic side of me that continues to return to them, to see if I maybe have the twitch-based skills to jump quick with godly precision. Runbow is a mix of these two platformer types, with some levels being a breeze and others being the sort of wall I bang my head against for fifteen minutes, dying over and over and over until I get the pattern down perfectly.

First off, I didn’t choose Runbow, it chose me by being one of July’s freebies on Xbox One and its bright, colorful appearance. I believe it originally came out for the Wii U a couple years back and was later ported to PC, New Nintendo 3DS, and Xbox One from 13AM Games, an indie team based in Canada. Its origin stems from the 2014 Global Game Jam, and the quick elevator pitch is that it’s an action platformer focused on players trying to reach a trophy at the end of each level, dealing with obstacles, enemies, and vanishing platforms along the way. Players can perform a double jump as well as a punch attack to defeat enemies or gain extra reach while jumping up or horizontally. The rub is that the background of each level constantly shifts between a cycle of colors, causing platforms and hindrances of the same color as the background, such as blockades and spikes, to disappear/reappear. Levels are timed, and you are awarded either one, two, or three coins for beating it under a specific time.

I’m currently working my way through the singe-player Adventure mode, which tasks you with saving Poster District from the evil Satura. Why? Not sure, and it doesn’t really matter. This is just an excuse to complete a bunch of levels–140 in total–until you can take her on yourself four separate times. What is nice is that if you are mainly gunning for Satura, you can forge your own path to her, sticking to green (easier) levels instead of following yellow or red ones (harder). The map is broken into four quadrants, with each one its own theme containing unique challenges and dangers. You can play as a number of different characters, some from famous indie games, like Shantae and Shovel Knight, but they all jump the same as far as I can tell so it doesn’t really matter who you go with; I like male Red Hue dressed as a lumberjack, personally, but you do you.

I’ve not tried it yet, but there’s a mode called The Bowhemoth, which is described as a single, ultra-difficult challenge that takes place in the belly of a colossal beast. Evidently, it will test the skills of even the toughest platforming veterans, so I’m greatly concerned. I’ll give it a shot, but might have to *ahem* bow out if the jumping is too tough. I have, however, tried out the online competitive modes of Arena and King of the Hill, both of which were too chaotic for me to grasp and enjoy. I often found myself unable to find myself on the screen and just hoped for the best, which went as well as you can expect.

 

 

My goal for Runbow is to complete all 140 levels. Yup, you heard me. Not three-star every one, but at least complete them and fill in the poster map. After that, I think I’ll be done with it altogether as I’m not interested in its online competitive modes or its co-op action. Still, it’s a fun, seemingly friendly product, with good tunes and a neat gameplay mechanic that has you strategizing each and every jump. Stay tuned for the eventual game review haiku, hopefully.

Absolutely nothing special about the platforming and punching in Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

Everyone’s been talking about collectathons of late with the release of Yooka-Laylee, and I’m a pretty big fan of this…uh, genre. Sub-genre? This style of game. I mean, I like things like Insomniac’s Spyro the Dragon–still working my way slowly through Spyro: Year of the Dragon, somewhere now over 40% complete with plenty more eggs to track down–and Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, which split the difference between action elements and collecting shiny trinkets pretty nicely. Shockingly, I’ve never played Super Mario 64 (or 98% of the Nintendo 64’s library). But, having a list of shiny objects to collect is not the worst thing in the world and, in a lot of ways, can be quite calming and satisfying, even if there’s no larger reward at the end of the task.

I’m also a firm believer of playing bad videogames. Not because I’m a masochist and love them more than good games, but because it is important to see all sides of the industry, from the AAA work that takes hundred of people and years to make to the smaller outputs that certainly needed more time in the oven or someone to step in and fight for or against specific design elements. Some less-than-stellar titles from my past include The Incredibles for PlayStation 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One for the Nintendo DS. There’s more, but I’m not going to name ’em.

Naturally, these two paragraphs of buildup is for me to talk to you about a little ol’ thing on the PlayStation 3 called Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, of which I’m currently working my way through. It was a PlayStation Plus freebie for April 2017. If you, like me, have never heard of this beast before, fear not, for I have a summary of sorts. Invizimals is a Spanish augmented reality video game franchise developed by Novarama and published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. The series, which originally began in 2009 as a video game on the PSP, has since inspired toys, trading cards, comics, and an animated television series telling an interconnected transmedia story.

In Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, you play as the child hero Hiro, who is sent through a Shadow Gate and into the Invizimals world to form allegiances with the various creatures that he encounters, as well as stop a bunch of evil robots for some reason that I stopped following. The uneventful story is told through in-game cinematics, but the introduction is done in full-motion video with actors, like Brian Blessed, that fans of the show would probably be excited to see. All I’ve been able to gather is that robots are bad and violent animals that attack them are cool. Not sure yet where humans fit into the picture.

Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom‘s gameplay is beyond perfunctory and repetitive. Hiro is able to fuse his teeny tiny body with the various Invizimals he meets, which help to unlock a number of abilities. Such as climbing up vines, swinging over inexplicably large drops, swimming underwater, and teleporting past locked gates. You can switch freely between these Invizimals using a weapon wheel menu, though the game will often automatically transform you into a specific Invizimal when the puzzle or platforming section says so. When given a choice, I’ve been sticking with Ocelotl, mostly because I like how the narrator says his name. There are two main actions: attacking and collecting. The fighting is bare bones, with mashing more than enough to get you through it, and the menus for upgrading don’t provide a lot of context for the abilities you are purchasing. As for collecting, well…there’s a lot to snag–Sparks (2,000 in total), Z-Sparks (13,000 in total), pup idols, dark seeds, and unlockable vault doors. None of it is difficult to gather, but I’ve completed some levels with a few items unscooped, and it’s eating away at my brain.

Some general complaints about Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom include that there are no subtitles or even options to muck around in. You may be able to play with the audio levels, but I can’t remember. There’s also next to no explanation for a number of things, especially the Battle Mode, which, from what I saw, is kind of like a one-on-one Pokemon fight in real time, where you can level up your creature. But to what end? I don’t know. There are also too many quick time events, which instantly warped me back to when I first got my Xbox 360 and only had Kung Fu Panda to play for many days.

Look, I’m just not as into Trophies as I am into popping Achievements, and part of that still has to do with how finicky it is to sync them with your profile and the clunkiness that is trying to quickly view the list as you are playing. But whatever. I’ve completed a few games on the PlayStation 3 to 100%, namely Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Doki-Doki Universve, Dragon Fantasy Book 1, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Kung Fu Rabbit, Machinarium, and rain, but have yet to acquire my first Platinum Trophy. I came close with Prototype 2 (at 91%). Sadly, or rather humorously, Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom might be my first Platinum Trophy. It doesn’t seem difficult to get, just a little bit of time and collecting and we’re at our final destination. So while it may not have been the best freebie in the world, at least it served a purpose…for me and my desire to have digital rewards. I’ll let you know when I hit it.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #36 – Spectrum

The world is all gray
Bring color back with crystals
Lousy platformer

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.

Someone needs to push the reset button on Reset 1-1

Reset 1-1 is just one of the handful of games I got back in early January 2017 when I plopped down some digital cash on the Steam Winter Sale. It was bundled with a group of similar-minded, indie action platformers, the kind that ask you both to make jumps as well as damage enemies in your way. Of them so far, I played Dungeon of Zolthan and found it pretty enjoyable, challenging, and quick despite its minimalist look and goals. Reset 1-1 was next on the to-do list, and I began liking it a lot, eating up its quirky sense of humor, bouncy soundtrack, and stamina-driven combat. Alas, I’m now actively against the thing. Don’t worry, dear readers–I plan on telling you why.

Developer xXarabongXx describes Reset 1-1 like so:

The world has ended, Demons have risen to conquer the uninhabited and flourishing nature outside. It’s your turn, with your unknown identity, to find your path for a new beginning.

For those not aware, my day job is editing. I read a lot and am thus quickly able to suss out when an author has no idea what they are talking about, but need to have something down on paper to show that they are clearly alive and involved in the project. That is what I’m getting here: a bunch of keywords loosely connected to each other that, hopefully, comprises something of a story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, but I guess many aren’t coming to Reset 1-1 for its wondrous plot twists. Still, a little more work could have been put towards this. A little more defining. Here, I’ll even do the developer a solid and provide a better description at no cost whatsoever:

Demonic forces have taken over the world. It’s up to you to discover who you are, defeat evil, and create a new start.

Sure, it still sounds like a generic mess, but I don’t have much to work with. There are hints of story and character development early on, with our pixelated tiny hero not knowing his true identity (is it John of Jhon?), but that doesn’t seem to last longer than the introductory levels. Each boss you come across has something quick to say before the battle ensues, but it is usually of the “I’m going to kill you” ilk. Other than that, this is more about action, with a focus on nailing tough jumps and effectively managing your stamina, especially during boss battles.

In terms of gameplay, Reset 1-1 is a platformer. Think Fez, but less puzzles, more fighting. I guess Cave Story is a better comparison, especially in the graphics department. You run, you jump, and you throw projectiles at enemies by swiping your sword in their direction. Our hero can also roll, and much of his actions are dictated by a stamina bar that quickly depletes. As you progress and defeat bosses, you gain experience points to level up, and you can pick either more damage, more health, or more stamina as an upgrade. There are also different swords to find, as well as single-use health potions to hold on to dearly or, if you are like me and playing with a controller, accidentally hit the X button to use it when most definitely not needed (I was trying to open a door). Speaking of controllers, plugging an Xbox 360 controller in works, but does not work well, as I found the game immediately laggy; however, the standard PC controls are even funkier to get a grasp on so it was this or nothing.

So, I got to the final boss fight in Reset 1-1 last night. It’s some kind of weird ghost-thing that throws fireballs and summons a wave of them up from the lava below that you need to carefully time two rolls to make it through alive. I can’t beat it, and each attempt is more difficult than the previous thanks to this game’s sinister system of upping the difficulty, slowing down the frame-rate, and dissolving color from the graphics with each subsequent death. It is extremely difficult to now see throw projectiles, and jumping with lag is as much fun as you can imagine. Unfortunately, it seems like I’m just digging myself into a deeper hole, and there’s no way to start this final fight on equal ground. More annoyingly, I got the Steam Achievement “Tales of creation and destruction” upon meeting this big baddie, but there doesn’t seem to be one for kicking its ethereal butt or even finishing the game.

On Reset 1-1′s title screen, there are four options–play (continue), reset, options, and quit. For some reason, my brain shrunk in size and strength, and I clicked “reset” thinking that this would reset the fact that I had died so many times that everything moved like quarters through molasses, but kept me there at the final boss fight, refreshed and ready. Naturally, this instead wiped my entire progress. Granted, it only took me about an hour to get to the end area, but still. Time lost. Grrr. Sure, I could go through Reset 1-1 again, but knowing that I’d get to the end boss and only have so many viable attempts early on before I found myself drowning in my own mess is a whole new level of stress that I’m not interested in handling. A shame, as I was nearly there.