Tag Archives: puzzle platformer

2016 Game Review Haiku, #67 – Mr. Mothball

2016-gd-games-completed-mr-mothman-capture

You, Mr. Mothball
Jump, collect the blue trinkets
Sorry, don’t know why

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.

POLISHING OFF: Kung Fu Rabbit

polishing-off-kung-fu-rabbit

Kung Fu Rabbit is a fun, colorful game that is easy to like and enjoy, but only if you give it a chance. Alas, I’m not sure many will. It’s a dime a dozen these days for indie platformers and, unfortunately, there’s an opinion out there that I don’t share at all that a lot of the smaller indie games handed out as freebies for PlayStation Plus are afterthoughts or unable to stand shoulder to shoulder with the AAA games. That said, I’ve never heard of either of the PS3 titles for October 2016. Regardless, I’m thankful I did play this as I found this rabbit-starring puzzle platformer both amusing and challenging. Perhaps more challenging than I initially expected too, which is why after completing the main groups of levels this time last year, I put it aside, despite only having one more Trophy to unlock.

Well, about a month ago, I unlocked it. Hooray for me. I figured I wouldn’t even bother making a post about it, but then this gave me an idea for a new feature on Grinding Down, as polishing off games is something I do from time to time and would like to do a lot more. Basically, this is me finishing whatever is left in a game that is preventing my broken brain and body from simply deleting the whole thing after beating its main thread. Honestly, I can’t say what made me scroll all the way down again on my long, ever-growing list of PlayStation 3 games, but I just wanted to revisit it and see how difficult it might be to finally unlock the Grand Dragon Trophy, which asks players to…well, the description doesn’t actually say what you are supposed to do:


Grand Dragon
– You finally won. They’re erecting statues in your honour and fans are throwing flower petals before you. You’re pure class.

Sounds like quite a celebration. Jaynestown, but for a small, furry mammal. Anyways, to get this Trophy, you must complete all 60 basic rabbit levels, as well as then complete all 60 hardcore rabbit levels. These are like the normal levels, but with the difficult nudged up a wee bit. Think of the Dark World levels from Super Meat Boy, but with less thrashing guitar riffs and more spitting sound effects. Thankfully, you do not need to collect a certain number of carrots each level, only finish the dang thing, and you can burn all that carrot currency on power-ups to help you reach the end without much trouble. Though there were still some levels I refused to do this on, knowing I could beat them with enough patience and attempts.

Hmm. So, while doing some research and fact-checking for this post, I stumbled across this forum thread claiming that you only needed to finish world 7’s hardcore rabbit levels for this to pop. Whoops. I did them all. That’s okay, as I probably would have felt incomplete afterwards, but that trick is out there is you are looking for an even faster means to the end.

With this accomplished, Kung Fu Rabbit is ready to retire to the dojo…for the rest of its days. I mean, universal evil has been vanquished. Also, I’ve played all the levels, unlocked every Trophy, listened to its martial arts sound effects numerous times, squirmed uncomfortably whenever a section devoted to the spitting enemies appeared, and collected all the carrots that I deemed worthy of collecting. That’s it for this rabbit.

Completing a game doesn’t often mean finishing everything there is to do. For many games, long after I’ve given them a haiku review and post of final thoughts, there are still collectibles to find, side quests to complete, things to unlock, challenges to master, and so on. POLISHING OFF is a new regular feature where I dive into these checklist items in hope of finishing the game as fully as possible so that I can then move on to the one hundred and thirty-eight million other games begging for my attention.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #59 – Dreams and Reality

2016-gd-games-completed-dreams-and-reality-capture

Dream a little dream
Chase it, climb into the sky
Tis good to have goals

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.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #56 – Umbri

2016-gd-games-completed-umbri-capture-01

King of illusions
Cleanse the infected tiles
Must move fast, flip skills

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.

Y’know, you have to explore the darkness to move forward in Lampshade

lampshade gd indie game impressions

I recently got a ring in Stardew Valley that emits a small circle of light around my character, which makes exploring the dimmer parts of the mines much easier, especially for my old man eyes. Thankfully, it’s not my only source of light, and it plays a super tiny role in the grand scheme of raiding a mine for resources that you can sell or use back at your house to help fill out those progression-essential Community Center bundles. Wait, I’m not here to talk once more about Perdido Farm. Certainly not until I get through my first winter, at least. This post is about Lampshade from Mister No Wind’s Studio, where you are, more or less, the only source of light, which makes navigating through a dark, labyrinthine cave all the more troublesome. Step by step, as the song goes.

Lampshade tells the story of a nameless woman–let’s call her Lamprini–who must travel through some mysterious, dark cave across six different chapters…for one reason or another. It’s not explicitly said, and the things that are said are said slathered in lyricism and pretentiousness. This is an odd retro world full of platforms and dangerous spikes, but also glitches and strange, old men and rules that are meant to be broken. Also, ghosts that affect your vision upon contact. Every chapter switches things up, and so the simple platforming found in the first chapter becomes hindered by total darkness in chapter two and then completely bonkers after that, with the edges of the screen no longer predictable as merely edges of a screen. It reminds me, as many things often do, of Fez, of Persist.

I’ve had to write some stuff down for Lampshade. I suspect many other players did too, unless they have the mind of three elephants combined. In which case I don’t know if they need to go to the hospital or a museum first. Right, writing. It’s a good thing I like writing because the notes-taking for this under-lit adventure feels…wholly unnecessary. Sure, it is necessary for me to map out where to jump on platforms in pure blackness, but it’s not like the path changes every time I die or if it is even different for other players in their game. It’s the same road, just hidden, and that I guess equates to puzzle platforming. The challenge comes from not being able to see, but that twist doesn’t make it a lot of fun to play.

By the way, Lampshade is played in a browser, using only the arrow keys. Up jumps, and left and right move Lamprini around the level. However, the longer you hold the up key, the higher she jumps. You can use this to your advantage to master hopping up stair-like platforms, but I still found myself losing control of her and missing a landing here and there. Or simply walking off a ledge. You’ll occasionally need to pause in front of lamps, which will reveal the entirety of the screen until you move away from them, leaving you to your memory and platforming skills. Sometimes you have to traverse across several screens before getting to the one you are supposed to have memorized, which can test your total recall ability.

Chapter 4 of Lampshade is most likely where many will walk away or rage quit. I certainly did…of the former. Despite giving you a map, which tells you very little actually other than what square cube you are in…in relation to the other square cubes, you are forced to replay many sections of the level if you make a single mistake towards the end in terms of where you jump and how you land. Naturally, you don’t know this the first time going into it, and so you’ll mess up and feel punished. It’s a cheap means to stretch out the gameplay in the middle, to ask a lot of a player already giving up things like eye-sight and security.

By all means, give it a go yourself. Do let me know what the last few chapters are all about and whether Lamprini ever sees the light of day. I don’t have a lot of faith that she does.

Soul Brother’s puzzle platforming life is but a brief tenure

gd final impressions on soul brother

I have two copies of Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor in my collection, one on the PC and the other my PlayStation 3, and I’m scared to play either. Y’all should know this by now, but I’m terrible when it comes to horror games or even games with just a slight hint of horror. I don’t like walking around a corner in real life and getting scared when something jumps out at me, and I like it even less in videogames. This is why it took me years to play through Silent Hill 2. Strangely, I’m mostly okay with horror films, as I’m not in control and just along for the ride, though some, such as The Gate or The Blair Witch Project, continue to give me nightmares to this very day. Thankfully, Soul Brother, which is one of Byrne’s earlier works, is a more lighthearted adventure, despite all the forced suicide.

You play as one Mr. Soul, a spirit that can body hop from creature to creature upon death. This spectral form is on a quest for wisdom and understanding, and to find that, it’ll have to navigate a weird, maze-like landscape, using the body and skills of the bodies it inhabits to make progress. Different bodies will help in unique ways, such as the bird Birdie that can hover across long stretches or the cat Nemo who can double jump. Mr. Soul also needs to avoid enemies on screen, floating saw blades, and pits of spikes because this colorful, kaleidoscopic realm is full of danger, while also trying to collect every gem of wisdom along the way. It’s the only way to understand reincarnation, naturally.

Soul Brother is free to play in your browser over at Adult Swim’s gaming site. I’ve enjoyed other titles from there before, such as Insidia and Winnose. Just search Grinding Down if you want to know more. Anyways, this retro platformer is just as good and kooky, with enough challenge to stop you for a bit in several rooms as you noodle out a solution to make it out alive or, in some cases, kill yourself in the most strategic way possible. The arrow keys move your character left and right, and the X button is for jumping, which changes based on the body Mr. Soul is currently occupying.

Alas, I did not collect all the gems of wisdom. There’s 33 in total, and I grabbed about 8 or 9 before moving on to the end. Thankfully, you don’t need to collect all (or any) of the gems to reach a higher plane, but they are there if you’re looking for an extra challenge or goal. Evidently some gems are also tucked away in hidden rooms. At the end, you are rewarded with fruit pick-ups from a multi-limbed green entity based on a number of different attributes, like time completed and how often you had to reincarnate. I suspect getting all the gems would give you something really good here, but that’s just me speculating. I was content with my pixelated pear and orange.

I can’t end this post on Soul Brother without touching on its soundtrack. It’s so full of bounce and pep that it is in complete contradiction with the idea of killing yourself to be reborn in a better body. The soundtrack makes me want to live more in my original body, to get up and move, to nod my head as I wiggle my heads. Truthfully, I’ve been listening to it on full repeat as I wrote this post. There’s a bunch of thick drum and bass, crunchy electronica, wonky synth action, and just enough odd sound effect sampling to keep you on your toes. Warning: these great tunes may get in your way of successful platforming.

Lastly, I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I look at my cats every day and do think they have it pretty good. So, if push comes to shove, I’d like to be reborn as a furry friend for a nice human, where the biggest concern of my day isn’t avoiding swinging saw blades but rather finding the most perfect slant of sunlight and taking a nap in it. Right meow please.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #24 – Soul Brother

2015 gd games completed soul brother

See those spikes, do it
Embrace reincarnation
Your reward is fruit

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.

Natural ability and magnetism only get you so far in Teslagrad

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I’m not officially committing to anything here, as committing to tasks in the past has not worked out phenomenally, but 2016 is hopefully going to be the year that I actually make a dent in my PlayStation Plus backlog instead of simply day-dreaming about doing so. That said, my digital collections on the PC and Xbox 360/One also continue to expand daily, proving to be strong competition for my attention. Regardless of that, I’d like to think we’re off to a decent start so far, with Rain and The Unfinished Swan already getting played and put away for good. I suspect I’ll be going after the smaller indie titles first than, say, that copy of Batman: Arkham City that scares me to even start.

Y’know, like these little critters:

  • Quantum Conundrum
  • Closure
  • Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut
  • Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark
  • Stealth Inc 2: Clone of Thrones
  • Puppeteer
  • Vessel
  • Unmechanical: Extended
  • Chariot
  • …and even more that I’m forgetting to list!

Also, looking at that list of names all together really hits home that many of these smaller titles blend together in my brain. I don’t know the difference between Vessel and Closure at this point. So we’re not starting with either of them.

Well, this is probably only amusingly strange to me, but check this out. At the beginning of 2016, as mentioned before, I played a game called Rain, which is about these little children being chased by monsters through some nameless Eastern European town as it rains like crazy. Flash-forward a month or so, and I’m giving Teslagrad a chance, which is a game from the funnily enough named studio Rain Games. It also opens in a similar fashion, with a young boy running from the king’s angry-looking guards in the Kingdom of Elektropia as the weather takes a turn for wetter pastures. Eventually, the boy ends up inside a maze-like tower, where he’ll discover special powers, as well as the rich history behind the kingdom’s many conflicts.

Let’s see. Teslagrad is a colorful, 2D puzzle-platformer. Magnetism and electromagnetic powers are the key to solving many of the game’s puzzles and finding new paths to take through the mystical tower. So far, the game features minimal combat segments, though I did fight a massively mechanical owl with a cage for a body in a boss-like fashion. Instead, it’s mostly about electric-based puzzle sections and precise platforming and teleporting. Yes, teleporting…though you can only dash forward a small distance and not through every substance in front of you. The tower can be explored in a non-linear way  though I wish there was more direction or sign-posting to confirm you are making progress and not simply wandering or revisiting areas in uncertainty.

Here’s what I’m totally into when it comes to Teslagrad. The art style betrays you, because the colorful characters and environments quickly become menacing and frustrating, all without changing their look. Honestly, I went into this game fairly blind and assumed it was an adventure game of sorts, not one that relied heavily on quick reflexes and using your noggin to move platforms to and fro. This is a good thing, as it is fun, once in a while, to be deceived. Solving a tough puzzle is satisfying, but figuring things out occasionally requires simply trial and error tactics. Ultimately, it requires timing and patience. Every now and then you’ll stumble into a cinematic cutscene, which is presented within a mini theater using cute cutouts and minimal animation.

Now for the stuff that is both driving me mad and further away from the game, to the point that I suspect I might walk away from this if things don’t improve in my next session. It’s a little too open, with next to no hints pointing you in the right direction, other than up the tower. The map is mostly useless, represented as simply large colored squares and rectangles that do not tell you much about the space or if there are any collectibles left in there to grab.

I actually think I’m nearing the end of Teslagrad, having just taken down the third boss of five total. Oleg took many, many tries, probably somewhere in the thirties. Alas, there is nothing too puzzle-tricky about the boss fights. There’s a pattern to each that’s easy to see, but it must be carried out hair-width precision three times. The repetition does not result in excitement, but rather frustration, as one tiny mistake will cost you the entire encounter. I don’t plan on getting all the scroll collectibles, despite each one being tied to a Trophy unlock, so perhaps I’ll just grit and bear it and head down as straight a path as possible to the last two bosses. If I’m successful, you’ll know it by the birth of a new haiku.