Tag Archives: robots

Disposabot teaches you that death is the answer

GD disposabot final thoughts

I learned of Unept’s Disposabot from perusing the ever enlightening Jay Is Games, and I’m glad I gave it a shot, as this turned out to be a bit more than just a cute-looking puzzle platformer. In fact, it’s a cute-looking puzzle platformer that makes you think, though some levels can be beaten simply by throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks, but for the most part, you gotta use your noggin. It’s definitely one of the better Portal wannabes. Wait, let me explain.

Dr. Nemesis, the snarky founder and CEO of the Tyrant corporation, has decided to kidnap you, an ordinary citizen robot, and really put you through the ringer. By that I mean…a number of anti-hero weapons testing rooms, which are filled with numerous and dastardly ways to lower an android’s power level from 100 to zero in a flash. Your job, naturally, is to get through each room safely and in one piece in pursuit of finding a way to stop the often heard, but rarely seen villain, that way you can get back to normal, daily automaton life. Whatever that is. In each of these rooms is a replicator that allows you to respawn in a new, mechanical body after dying, and this is the main mechanic that will get you from one side of the level to the other. Yup, dying is the answer.

When your little robot dude/dudette dies, your body remains in the level. The Last Geek from Ludum Dare 22 did this, but it was only for cosmetic purposes. Some enemies will leave an empty, light-as-a-feather husk of a corpse that you can push around and use as a stepladder, and others will completely freeze your wireframe in place, even in mid-air. The trick is figuring out how and when to use each of these special corpse types to your advantage, to reach the end-of-level pipe entrance, and the first few levels are beyond basic and obvious, there to teach you these skills, but the majority of the levels are quite puzzling, especially the later ones where you need to get keys before exiting or do certain actions in a specific order without fault.

Disposabot is controlled entirely with just the arrow keys. You move left and right with the respective keys, and press up to jump. If you find yourself stuck and want to start over, simply hit the [R] key to clear away all your mistakes. Surprisingly, that’s all the control you need to get the job done, though I always prefer to play platformers with a d-pad or analog stick for better precision and ending up missing a few vital jumps. Each level gives out medals at the end based on how many times you died, the less earning the better prize, which helps add some replayability for those trying to make it through as perfect as possible. I got mostly golds and silvers, though a few of the final levels saw me dying over and over again out of frustration and unplanned attempts to just push my way to the end, winning only bronzes.

However, unlike Portal, the story never reaches that same wondrous high, but you do eventually put Dr. Nemesis in his place, and the last third of the total 21 levels are very rewarding from a gameplay perspective. Again, it’s a cute-looking puzzle platformer that makes you think. Plus, all the clouds are Tetris shapes. Really, you can’t not smile at that.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #2 – Disposabot

2014 games completed 02 - disposabot facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #52 – Annie Android: Automated Affection

2013 games completed annie android automated affection

Annie loves Mailbot
RoboHQ assigns her
Another bot, bleep

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

A mysterious hatch leads to trouble in BNKR

bnkr game final thoughts

I’m attracted to games with strange names or, at the very least, strangely written names. For instance, ^_^XIII, Viewtiful Joe, and Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder. Some quick complete transparency though: I’ve never played that last title, but just the sound of it alone, the way it rolls off your tongue and hangs in the air like some glowing, ethereal angel, has me curious. But yeah, if your game’s title is non-traditional and a bit bizarre, then you already have my attention, which is really helpful when sorting through game jam lists, too. And all that is just to slip into talking about BNKR, a point-and-click game by Piter Games not from Philip K. Dick and not from some recent jam, but just out there, waiting for you to devour.

Here’s the deal: the world was once populated by humans, but now only androids roam the bereft towns and buildings, constantly searching for fuel vital for survival. One day, a hatch opens, demanding whatever lies beneath it to be explored. You play as an unnamed–yet numbered–android with a digitalized male voice who goes down the ladder to see if there is anything worth salvaging.

Not counting the first hub area, which is a small, closed off town in the form of an overhead map with a few buildings to explore, most of BNKR is played from first person perspective. Er, I mean…first android perspective. Thank you, thank you. No, please, I’m happy to sign autographs. Anyways, you can click to move from scene to scene or interact with your surroundings and items in the inventory. A changing cursor alerts you if there’s something worth investigating. And that’s it gameplay-wise, which is fine, as it’s very short, though I’ll admit it took me much longer than probably others to complete it as I got stuck on two less-than-clear puzzles. Spoiler: you can find the third piece of mirror glass hidden between a desk’s drawers, as well as the other half of the broken key in a vent near the ceiling out in the main hallway. There, that should help greatly.

BNKR is a beautiful, desolate world. Also: very gray. You wouldn’t be wrong to immediately think of Machinarium or Primordia immediately, to compare in looks. There’s some light narration atop some striking artwork, and the voice of the robot you control is both human and not, which only helped draw me in more. It’s a strange combination of familiar and foreign, with the robot’s comments on things like levers and desks and photos of once-living humans little puzzles themselves. You can tell that the robot is a little sad, a little unsure. You can mildly interact with another android at the beginning of the game, but other than that, you’re searching solo; I think more droid-on-droid interaction would have been nice–hey now–as well as some dialogue trees to help fill in story gaps. Other than a couple of really well hidden items, the puzzles are pretty easy to figure out if you keep on clicking, and you can probably breeze through the game in about ten or fifteen minutes.

Alas, BNKR ends right as it just starts getting good plot-wise, and so I’ll have to keep looking for whatever comes from the people at Piter Games, as finding out what’s actually inside that opened hatch is just the tip of the post-apocalyptic iceberg.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #48 – BNKR

2013 games completed BNKR

A bunker opens
Need android fuel to survive
Where is mirror glass?

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Josef the robot’s journey to stop the Black Cap Brotherhood

machinarium final ps3 impressions

In a perfect world, I would’ve continued playing Machinarium on the PC and without a walkthrough minimized on my laptop, hidden but always there at the ready. However, the deed is done, and I finally played through Amanita Design’s gorgeous automaton-themed point-and-click adventure game on the PS3, using a visual (and sometimes video) guide at nearly every step. This makes me hesitate to say that I “beat” it, but I guess I did, as I saw all there was to see, including the credits, and managed to solve a puzzle or two all on my own though I know in my heart of hearts that I never would have escaped the titular city without outside assistance.

Machinarium starts with our little robot Josef disassembled and tossed aside outside the city. As he puts himself together and makes his way back to mechanical civilization, a plot appears: the Black Cap Brotherhood is up to no good, bullying many and keeping Josef’s girl kidnapped in a small kitchen, as well as planting a bomb somewhere else in the city. At least that’s what I’ve put together based on playing the whole game all the way through, as well as some secondary sources to fill in the gaps. Since the game lacks any kind of straightforward narration, both in text and voice, it’s a lot of guessing what’s going on, though the single screen plot problems are generally very obvious.

To progress, you point and click. Except I’m playing Machinarium on the PlayStation 3, so instead you move a cursor with the analog stick and press a button. However, the end results are still the same. Unlike many other adventure games, you can’t just swoop the cursor across a screen to see where all the interactive items are and click until all have been grabbed; everything is relative to Josef, and items only light up if he is next to it and the right height. See, Josef can stretch up to be taller or squat down to be smaller, and finding certain items or solutions is often dependent on his size. I really like this, as it adds a certain realism to a game stark with sci-fi and steampunk, but it also makes for very challenging, sometimes frustrating gameplay. To learn that you were on the right track with a puzzle solution, but because Josef was standing a foot to the left was unable to see your idea come to fruition is a big bummer.

I appreciate the commitment by Amanita Design to a voiceless world, which shows in the hint and in-game walkthrough systems. If you select “hint,” Josef will use a think-bubble animation to show a clue for one of the puzzles on the screen, though the clue itself is not always clear and direct. For the “in-game walkthrough,” you have to play a mini-game wherein you control a key and shoot spiders in your way towards a keyhole; once beaten, you open up a book to an illustrated walkthrough that, again, is not always clear and direct, and because I’m playing on the PS3 and not sitting directly in front of my monitor, it can be hard to see what is what and what is where. The zoom function is nice, but it doesn’t zoom in far enough, if you ask me and my bad eyes.

I found most of the item-based puzzles to be relatively straightforward, if a bit tricky if you didn’t spot that one item you needed hidden in the corner of the room. However, the logic puzzles to open doors, locks, elevators, projectors, etc were beyond stumping. Took me back to my high school math class days, where I’d sit staring at a piece of graph paper, no idea how to even begin. Many broke my brain and detracted from the experience because as soon as I saw a panel of switches or knobs or lights and wires, I went right to the Internet to watch somebody else do it for me.

That grudgingly said, this game is worth seeing. Yes, yes, yes it is. Whether you have to pound your head against a wall until the solutions ooze out your ears, “cheat” and play the key mini-game to unlock the illustrated walkthrough provided by Amanita Design, or simply use an outside walkthrough that clearly says “use object A with object F to see the robot do a Hadoken.” However you need to go about it–go about it. Machinarium‘s visuals are a pure delight to take in; hand-drawn visuals mixed with fun, Pixar-like robot designs, and a soft, rusty color scheme really help sell the world as a cohesive state. There’s always stuff in the foreground and background to observe, and I love how rooms would just appear if you poked Josef’s head through a window or hole, materializing right before your eyes. If you can, let Josef go idle, and you’ll get to take a glimpse into some of his happier memories.

I guess now I just have to wait for Samorost 3 to come out. Hopefully the puzzle-solving areas of my brain have recovered by then…

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Robo Pit

In my early high school years, my mom and I would often go to the shopping mall together, splitting up for a little bit after doing whatever it was we were initially there to do. This usually meant her going off to Macy’s or somewhere like it to peruse for jewelry or clothes or smelly stuff, and I headed for the videogame store. Which, for the longest while, was actually Electronics Boutique (EBX to those down with the abbreviations). Or Funcoland. One of those. Definitely no GameStops then.

Either way, she had her time, and I had mine, and we always picked out a specific place to meet up at when we were done, which was usually in front of the Friendly’s; remember, this was before cell phones and such, so planning was key. I generally found what game I was looking for lickety-split and would hurry back to our meeting spot, take a seat next to the escalators, and promptly devour my newest game’s manual page by page, word by word, occasionally glancing at my surroundings. More often than not, she’d surprise me as I’d be so engrossed in learning that I couldn’t both learn and look around at the same time.

That’s kind of what I remember the most about Robo Pit, a “build your own robot from scrap parts” fighting game for the PlayStation. Not playing the game or even enjoying it, but sitting in the mall, reading about it and waiting for my mother. It’s a striking memory, full of white tile, plastic-green foliage, and feet dangling.

Robo Pit was a game about scraps. Each time your little robot would win a fight, you got to take a part of the defeated bot with you, adding it to your inventory of construction parts. When you’re ready to make a robot, you start out with slim pickings, choosing a body type and color. And it’s not all cosmetic–each body type has different stats for Power, Weight, and Defense. Throw on some cartoony eyes, a couple of arms (spears, crossbows, and other weaponry are acceptable substitutions), a pair of legs, and your creation is off to battle in the pit, for glory and growing. And the list of enemies numbers in the hundreds, many with fear-striking names like Taxiderm, Bigmouth, Sorbet, and Pain Bot. Some challengers are labeled as “special robots,” which basically means you get to take a part of their body after they are defeated. And those were the reasons to play, to get crazier arm-based weaponry, like scythes and boomerangs. I’ve always had a penchant for creating beings, as evidenced in my time with Spore Creatures; it certainly did not start with Robo Pit, but it was definitely a footprint along the path of life.

Looking back, Robo Pit‘s not a great game. It’s formulaic and bland, with uninteresting arenas to battle in, button-mashing combat, little-to-no music, and strange, unexplainable happenings, like robots flying straight up into the sky when being killed as if a rocket exploded in their butt. I traded it in, and I can’t imagine what amount of store credit it earned me. Surely less than $5.00. But it’s something I hold as special. It’s a game I held in my hands while I waited for my mom to take me home. It reminds me to keep waiting.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Meet The Sink’s numerous personality modules from Fallout: New Vegas

Without a doubt, Old World Blues is the best DLC add-on for Fallout: New Vegas so far. It has stellar writing, wonderful voice acting, memorable characters, and a decently sized map to explore as you please. It stands a fraction taller than Point Lookout for delivering a great, bite-sized Fallout experience, even if at times it could be a little too chatty, a little too difficult, and a little too reliant on energy weapons for success. Thankfully, my current character Kapture was already a 100 in the Energy Weapons skill before heading over to Big Mountain to be swarmed by Roboscorpions and frenzied Securitrons. One might also want to consider a character high in Speech, as there are a lot of, um, things to speak with, and yes, I said things, not people. Let’s get into that.

All My Friends Have Off Switches is a faux main story quest in Old World Blues; it doesn’t necessarily have to be completed, but I feel like many gamers will go after it, and it mostly runs parallel with the true main story quest, making it easier to pick up some–not all–of the personality modules as they go mucking about the Big Empty. You are basically tasked with finding holotapes that contain personalities for specific items in The Sink, which is your home-away-from-home for now. Installing these personalities will bring the items to life, and after much talking, you’ll learn what benefits they can offer. There are 10 personalities to unearth, as you’ll soon see below:

#1 – The Sink Central Intelligence Unit is a human-accessible computer responsible for Big MT’s data storage. It can repair your weapons and armor up to 100, switch off/on the other personalities in The Sink, and act as a traveling merchant, with a decent stock of items. It has a thin British accent.

#2 – The Sink’s Sink is a nice, if a bit OCD sink. Obsessed with cleanliness, the Sink is also upgradable, allowing the Courier to bottle his or her own water if they happen to have empty bottles. I never took advantage of this, but I bet it’s great for players on Hardcore difficulty.

#3 – This Auto-Doc is actually a prototype built by Dr. Mobius many moons ago. It seems to have a military-like personality, and it can provide the Courier with the following benefits: a haircut, facial reconstruction, implants of varying price, switch out brains, spines, and hearts, and change the player’s traits (only once).

#4 – This personality is a little creepy. Or should I say…seedy? The Biological Research Station is a computer mainframe that is capable of cloning and planting dried seeds that will harvest after three days. It also refers to the Courier as “baby” and makes way too many sexual references. Tara was especially perturbed.

#5 – Blind Diode Jefferson is The Sink’s talking jukebox, but don’t expect much music outta it. You might even say it’s got the blues…the old world blues. By finding special holotapes, Blind Diode Jefferson can update the Sonic Emitter with new traits and bonuses.

#6 – The Book Chute likes to eradicate sedition. What does that mean? Well, bring it lots of pre-war books, and the chute will wipe them clean, readying them for…um, that I didn’t get to discover. Checking online tells me that you’ll be able to make your own skill books with the right amount of blank books and specific items. That’s neat!

#7 – Light Switch 01 is a very seductive light switch that, while appearing to be sentient, is actually not. There seems to be some conflict between it and the light switch in the other room.

 

#8 – Not much different from Light Switch 01, but a few special dialogue options come up with Light Switch 02 if you’ve got the right perks on ya.

 

#9 – Oh, Muggy! You make yourself so hard to love, and yet you are so lovable. It is a neurotic, miniature Securitron that is obsessed with collecting coffee mugs. I get that. I suffer from the very same diseases. Basically, Muggy can turn coffee mugs, tin plates, and coffee pots into miscellaneous items perfect for using at the crafting bench. It also loves to curse. Swoon.

#10 – Last, but certainly not least, is The Sink’s evil-minded Toaster. This thing wants to burn more than just sliced bread, and it’s not afraid to tell you that. It’s special perk is that it can heat up any weapons composed of space-age Saturnite material, as well as help make extra small energy cells and microfusion cells. This very same toaster was originally cut from Fallout 2.

Whew. That’s a lot of ‘bots. I whole-heartedly recommend you speak with them often and deeply, exhausting as much of their dialogue options as you can. They are all very unique, and given that each (save for the light switches, I guess) offer some kind of benefit or bonus, it’s worth the effort. I found The Sink to be a wonderful, personified hub for my time spent in the Big Empty, and maybe now even for a main playthrough, as it features plenty of storage space, reloading and crafting benches, and helpful robots at arms’ length. For playthrough #4, I’m definitely going to try to do Old World Blues as early as possible (though the game itself warns the Courier that it is meant only for players level 15 and higher, and I struggled at times even at level 28 through 30, so, uh, eep) just to get such a kick-ass base. It definitely trumps Lucky 38 or Victor’s shack.

But there ya go. Hope you liked this little rundown of the ten robotic personality modules you’ll install in The Sink. Good luck finding all their holotapes!

Old World Blues is all talk, no action so far, and that’s fine

I promptly downloaded Old World Blues for Fallout: New Vegas last night when I got home from work. Once MasterChef was finished and poor, lovable Giuseppe was out the door, I loaded up my most recent character Kapture, a dude that loves Energy Weapons and that looks like he’d be right at home watching children playing at a local park from inside his dark, seedy van, and headed to the specific map marker to get things rolling. To start Old World Blues, the Courier must make his way to a drive-in movie theatre, wherein a broken robot satellite will show them a movie. Then it’s lights out, and waking up elsewhere, with strange surgical cuts all over your body.

You’ll make your way inside a large science research building called the Sink (or is it the Think Tank?) at the Big Empty, eventually finding a bunch of whacky robots. The leader, Dr. Klein, will then explain the situation, with colorful commentary from the other local bots peppered throughout. You’re brainless. And have no heart or spine. That’s why you feel so weird, so calm and uncaring. These robots cut those organs out of you, and it’s not entirely clear how you’re, uh, still alive, but whatever, it’s a videogame, and that’s certainly some strong motivation there for completing this newest DLC: recover your brain, heart, and spine. Also, steal some technology from their nemesis Dr. Mobius.

What’s most notable about this DLC is that the first 30 to 45 minutes are spent talking. With crazy robots. Since I don’t ever skip dialogue, a good chunk of my playtime last night was spent with the controller resting gently on my lap, only picking it up occasionally to make a speech selection. Even after the main chunk of talking is dead and done, and the Courier has his main mission, he/she can still explore the Sink and Think Tank to talk further with these deranged robots. I exhausted every dialogue option, gaining three to four more additional sidequests from this. Doctor Dala is extremely creepy, and I was pleasantly surprised–as was Tara–to discover that Doctor O is voiced by a true cartoon doctor…Dr. Venture‘s James Urbaniak!

So far, Old World Blues has some of the strangest and funniest writing to date for the series, with the word penis popping more than you’d ever expect, and drowning in it–the dialogue, not the penises–first and foremost for the DLC is not the worst thing ever. Though I am looking forward to exploring outside the Sink/Think Tank and maybe shooting something. Maybe.