Tag Archives: puzzles

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – King Oddball

They truly named King Oddball appropriately. This comes from 10tons, which you might remember from a previous Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge, one on Sparkle 2. Seems they enjoy making their strange puzzle games, though this one is focused more on physics and destruction than matching colored orbs and finding keys in a fantasy realm. Still, it’s goofy, and I personally love that; give me all the weird gaming experiences out there.

King Oddball tasks you with ending the world with boulders and…well, your tongue. Which is probably as long or longer than a giraffe’s. The titular King swings a boulder back and forth with his tongue, but it’s up to you to decide when to release it and at what angle. If you time the release accurately, you can crush as many targets as possible with each boulder toss. The concept is simple, but it quickly grows more complicated because you only have so many boulders, plus the inclusion of other obstacles can impede your tosses. You’ll need to master King Oddball by anticipating how boulders roll, bounce, and launch from exploding crates. Physics–it’s a good time. Also, make sure you take advantage of collapsing structures.

The overworld map is broken into a three by three grid, so, y’know…nine squares. Each square is its own set of contained levels, often with a theme, such as grenades or dealing with helicopters, and there’s about 15 or 16 levels to conquer before you can move on to the next square. I completed all of the far left three squares and a little bit of the top middle before deciding that I’d seen enough of King Oddball. I was able to jump on the tile that contained my progress statistics, which, if you really wanna know, look like this:

  • Time played: 00:28:17
  • Total throws: 300
  • Levels lost: 55
  • Levels won: 47
  • Foes destroyed: 311

With the main quest progress sitting pretty at 36%, I think I’m okay moving off of King Oddball. It’s quite fun, really, and more than just an Angry Birds clone, which is what I was initially worried about. I probably could plow through the remainder of the game in a few hours, but I’ve got other things to take care of than throwing boulders at tanks, even if it is quite enjoyable, especially when a boulder bounces back high enough to hit the King and you get a free boulder from it.

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.

I’m in it to win it with Minit

Minit was one of my top 10 games that I didn’t get to play in 2018. I have actually had a copy of the game installed in my Steam library since getting it via the Humble Day of the Devs 2018 Bundle, and yet, the irony here is that, for a game where each session of actually playing the game only lasts for sixty seconds, I never found the time to play it. Sure, I’m to blame there, but it’s not like I have anything super serious going on in my life currently. Well, the good news is that, according to this very post on Grinding Down, I have now finally played a bit of Minit. Not enough yet to win it, but I’m in it…still.

For those unaware, Minit is an action, puzzle-driven adventure thing developed by Jan Willem Nijman, co-founder and one-half of Vlambeer, Kitty Calis, who contributed to Horizon Zero Dawn, Jukio Kallio, a freelance composer, and Dominik Johann, the art director of Crows Crows Crows. It is based around time. Basically, the premise is that each of the player’s lives only lasts for one minute, resulting in tiny sessions of exploring the world over sixty seconds at a time. With each interval, the player will learn more about the environment and gain new items to help progress further and further. Inching forward slowly but surely is the name of the game.

It’s a pretty novel idea, executed extremely well. Other games that have done something similar to this, such as Half-Minute Hero, surely exist, but I haven’t played them. So, for me, Minit has been a truly exciting game to play. One, it’s a ton of fun to play, and the time limit never feels restrictive; in fact, as my little hero’s time winds down, I find myself getting excited to try exploring a different path on the next go. It is quite freeing. Two, I absolutely love Minit‘s look, which is clean and unobtrusive and does not end up distracting you too much when searching for something to do to make progress. Third, the usage of various home bases makes exploring new areas pain-free and getting around much easier.

Minit has you playing as a small bird-like pixel character–he kind of reminds me of a duck, but, y’know, a pixel duck with nothing more than a bill to go off of–who lives in a black and white world and is cursed with only ever living for a single minute. Despite all that, it’s an action adventure game just like The Legend of Zelda, with puzzles to solve too. The good news is that various actions do have permanence in the world, so dying doesn’t mean it was all for naught. For instance, finding key items to open up more progress stay in your inventory when you are reborn, and if you previously helped someone with a task, they remain helped. Thank goodness. This would be a much more cruel and nearly impossible game to play if you were forced to accomplish all this over again in your short-as-heck life.

According to How Long to Beat, Minit is a short game, roughly three or four hours long. I’ve already put about an hour and a half into it, so I guess I am halfway there. Although it has now been a week or so since I played it, and I fear I might have forgotten where I’m supposed to go next. I’m at the inn, looking to fill it up with patrons. Hmm. Wish me luck, and then, after about sixty seconds, wish me luck once more.

Cyberpunk romp Technobabylon shines with futuristic style

I desperately want to play Unavowed, but I have other point-and-click games from Wadjet Eye Games in my collection to get through first, along with nearly a  bajillion indie downloads from itch.io that all look super neat, such as Robin Morningwood Adventure and The Librarian. However, for this post, I’m talking about Technobabylon, which came out in 2015 and is a substantial reworking and expansion of James Dearden’s trilogy of freeware games that debuted back in 2010. I never tried them then, so this is all new information to me, but clearly Wadjet Eye Games saw something special in them initially.

Technobabylon is set in the city of Newton in the grand ol’ futuristic year of 2087. In this world, genetic engineering is the norm, the addictive Trance has replaced almost any need for human interaction, and an omnipresent AI named Central powers the city. CEL agents Charlie Regis and Max Lao are investigating a serial killer calling himself the Mindjacker who is tapping into the neural wiring of seemingly ordinary citizens, stealing their knowledge, and leaving them dead. Yikes. On the flip-side of this, an agoraphobic net addict named Latha Sesame might be the next target. However, Charlie’s past comes back to haunt him, and he and his partner find themselves on opposite sides of the law, with Latha’s fate stuck right dab in the middle.

Gameplay is your traditional, old-school point-and-click affair, and that’s perfectly fine. I know what I came here for, loving just about everything about previous works from Wadget Eye Games, namely the Blackwell series, Gemini Rue, A Golden Wake, The Shivah, and, heck, even Two of a Kind. You’ll acquire items into your inventory, combine them in strange ways, or simply exhaust dialogue options until you start making things happen. Technobabylon features multiple protagonists, and each one also has access to different bits of technology, such as the Trance or logging into Central. This helps open up options for puzzles while still keeping everything within the same system…though I fear it could become overwhelming down the line.

Speaking of that, there’s a ton of world-building going on here in Technobabylon. It’s seemingly a mix of things like Blade Runner, Black Mirror, and Ghost in the Shell…though I’m not sure how successful it is everywhere. For instance, I don’t fully understand how the Trance works, nor do I grok what “wetware” ultimately is or does, but maybe the point isn’t to fully explain everything happening in this dark, somewhat desolate future. You believe it works as they say it does and go with it. I also may not have paid as close attention to some bits of dialogue, so perhaps the fault rests on my shoulders.

I’m currently somewhere in chapter three of Technobabylon and am enjoying it greatly. I’ve only used an online walkthrough now and then after I felt like I had truly exhausted all my options, and the solution often makes me feel slightly stupid for not figuring it out on my own first. Oh well. That’s how some of these point-and-click adventure games go, I guess. If you miss picking up one single item, you are doomed, like I was for not finding the mag coil before entering Mr. Van der Waal’s apartment, which left me flustered on how to get the dang pistol out of the bloody Jacuzzi. And I do mean bloody.

I’ll keep plugging away at Technobabylon, though it seems like a longer game to get through. At least once I’m done I can move on to other point-and-click adventure games in my collection, many of which have been waiting patiently, for years, for me to…well, point and click on them. We’ll get there, I promise.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #9 – Dark & Cold

Light your way through dark
Find a stranger, a way out
Short journey upwards

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

I can’t be alone in thinking Never Alone is cute yet disappointing

It was supposed to snow this past weekend, and while it did, all we got was a snusting, a new word I’m pushing to get into the OED. It means a light dusting of snow, in case that wasn’t clear. Anyways, this put me in a mood to play something snowy, and after scanning my list of games still to install on my Xbox One I saw it, the perfect winter weather game–Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa).

Ultimately, Never Alone is a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games and published by E-Line Media based on the traditional Iñupiaq tale, “Kunuuksaayuka,” which was first recorded by the storyteller Robert Nasruk Cleveland in his collection Stories of the Black River People. I realize that is a lot to take in at once, so please, give yourself a moment before moving on. In terms of gameplay, you swap between an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion to complete puzzles and navigate the wintry landscape. There are a total of eight chapters to get through, and the game was the result of a partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media. It is evidently one of a growing number of videogames produced by Indigenous people, and that’s really cool. Too bad I found the whole thing frustrating and disappointing, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep creating games that celebrate and explore different cultures. I do want more.

You can play Never Alone co-op, but I went through it by myself, which meant manually switching back and forth between Nuna and her fox companion. At first, during the early stages, this was fine, but later you have to take timing into consideration and it can be tricky to get both characters to work in unison. I wonder if the controls would have been better if they followed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons or ibb & obb. Anyways, Nuna can push/pull boxes around, as well as use her bola to destroy chunks of ice while the fox can jump higher and let down ropes from ledges. There are action sequences where you are being chased that require quick jumping, but most of the game is about moving from platform to platform, often using spirits as ledges to help Nuna get where she needs to be. This does become tougher later on when your fox changes and requires the two to work much more closely to get things done.

Look, Never Alone‘s story and its structure is based on the inter-generational transference of wisdom, and that’s mega neat. It is told in the form of an oral tale, and players are rewarded for collecting “cultural insights,” which are ultimately video vignettes of Iñupiaq elders, storytellers, and community members sharing their stories. These are all well done and produced, and this isn’t the norm when it comes to puzzle platformers, but I’d love to see more of collectibles like this. I ended up missing one by the game’s end, but the majority of them are along the main path, so you’ll find ’em easily enough and should dedicate some time to check them out.

Alas, here’s what I ended up disliking immensely about Never Alone. At first, the platforming and puzzles were rudimentary and simple, but became more time-based as the levels went on, which, when coupled with the fact that you had to switch between characters in a flash, resulted in many annoying deaths. The game is also glitchy, and I’m specifically talking about a tree I ran into during the last level that refused to walk forward; I had to return to the main menu and hit “Continue” for it to truly awaken, but this was only after 20 minutes of attempting to figure out if I just wasn’t doing something right. Ugh. Also, jumping and grabbing on to ledges with Nuna felt seriously inconsistent, and that’s a big part of the gameplay, so boo-hoo to that. I honestly thought, based on the first few chapters, that Never Alone was going to be a breeze, but found myself shouting curses at the TV screen near its conclusion.

It’s a cute game, doing really great things for the Iñupiaq community and culture, but it isn’t the most fun thing to play in the world. Sorry about that. I’m just as bummed as y’all.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #8 – Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)

Stop source of blizzards
Learn indigenous culture
Inconsistent jumps

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #7 – What Never Was

Loot grandpa’s attic
For journal entries, puzzles
Travel by magic

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Unmechanical: Extended

I’ve tried playing through Unmechanical twice now, once on the PC and the second time on my PlayStation 3 with the Unmechanical: Extended edition. I feel like I got as far as I did in both games, which was not very far along if I’m being honest, stopping around the same point, somewhere deep in the mines section. I really wanted to like this puzzle-topia starring an ultra cute robot, but the puzzles eventually became too much for my tiny brain to figure out. Some are logical, and some are physics-based, but if all I’m doing is looking up solution after solution online, I don’t see the point of playing a game at all.

Unmechanical: Extended is a somewhat enhanced version of the original game, with an additional episode included to complete. This is first and foremost a puzzle adventure that combines tricky puzzle solving, exploration, and an engrossing if depressing atmosphere set amid tubes and machinery and underground tunnels. Taking place in a world of flesh, rock, and steel, your robot’s journey to freedom requires you to solve a great variety of puzzling challenges. Alas, my robot friend will never be free, and for that I am deeply sorry.

The controls aren’t too complicated. There are only three real options when you are controlling your robot buddy: moving it with the joystick, pushing a button to get a basic hint, and every other button on your controller activates your tractor beam; however, you have to hold down the button to keep your tractor beam engaged, and the beam can help move objects or activate levers. Some puzzles are self-contained in solitary rooms, while others are spread out across multiple areas, requiring you to travel back and forth, which can be quite frustrating and confusing, depending on the state of your memory.

Unmechanical: Extended is actually more than frustrating. Talawa Games clearly knows how to craft intricate puzzles, but the reliance on backtracking is a big ol’ bummer. The game’s world could have been a little more fleshed out, and the environments and additional robot critters all look rather bland or same-y. I don’t think I could really tell you what the actual plot is other than…escaping something, and maybe the additional content explores this further. It also sounds like there’s little to no replay value here, not that I’ll ever know. Lastly, the hint system. This should theoretically help players move forward, but the hints appear as thought bubbles or sometimes just a question mark, which feels too obtuse more than helpful.

Maybe one day I’ll give this another go, though I suspect I’ll get about halfway in and then give up because I just don’t have the energy to watch YouTube walkthroughs for the more complicated and involved puzzles. Sorry, Unmechanical: Extended, I just don’t have the energy.

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.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #4 – Where is 2019?

Hunting the new year
Strange world, solid platforming
I found seaweed, yay

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Sparkle 2

I never played Sparkle 1, if it was even called that, but I can’t imagine it being too different from Sparkle 2, today’s game du jour for being on the chopping board. I feel like I’m making a good dent on this sojourn of mine to rid myself of all these PlayStation Plus titles, but there are still so many left on my PlayStation 3 to go through. Woe is me, I know. How I must suffer at the hands of all these freebies of varying quality.

Anyways, Sparkle 2 is a marble shooter action puzzle game–woah, that’s way too many adjectives–that tasks you with eliminating snake-like lines of colored balls by matching three of them to make them vanish. Yup, it’s a match three, but the twist of the lines moving along a path helps keep the experience somewhat fresh. I say somewhat because, well, there’s only so much that can be done with a match three style game. I dip into these every now and then, such as with Tumblestone, Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, and Adventure Pop, but never hang around for too long. Actually, the only one I truly continue to check in on these days is Gems of War, and that’s probably more because it reminds me so much of Puzzle Quest, where I really got hooked.

Evidently, Sparkle 2 comes with a story, a reason to match all these differently colored marbles. See, a long time ago, five enchanted keys were created. The keys were scattered around mysterious lands and still remain undiscovered. Many have come to find them, but alas, so far, all have failed. Now is your chance to shine and find these keys and unlock their secrets. It’s either that or join the endless ranks of souls forever trapped within this fantasy land. It’s honestly not much to go off of, but it is at least something, a thin carrot on a stick to chase after. That said, after finding two keys, I still don’t really follow the plot one bit.

I played Sparkle 2 for at least four hours, finishing about thirty or so levels and finding two of the five missing keys. How do I know I put that much time into it? Well, one, there’s an in-game timer, and two, you get a Trophy for playing that long. Go me. The game’s controls are thankfully tight, which they need to be if you are going to try and shoot marbles as quickly as possible at moving targets. There’s no guide though, so you have to do your best to line things up, and some power-ups help more than others. I really liked the one that turned into a bunch of fireflies to clear out multiple balls at once.

Well, I’ll fire one more colored ball, this time at Sparkle 2 itself, eliminating it from my PlayStation 3 and making room for whatever PS Plus game is next to cross my path.

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.