Tag Archives: Squiddershins

Tick Tock Isle needs a backtracking timeout

I’ve tried a few games now from indie developer Squiddershins, namely Excuse Me!, Cat Poke, and Jables’s Adventure. Much like the developer’s name, these are cute, silly, and not run-of-the-mill experiences, heavy on the pixel art and charm.

For instance, in Excuse Me!, you are trying to find the best place to fart, generally away from as many diners as possible, but time is ticking down, so hurry it up. Cat Poke is a slightly more traditional affair, seeing you solve puzzles revolving around making cats happy while stuck inside on a rainy day. Lastly, Jables’s Adventure is a weird platform adventure–the developer’s very own words–starring a young boy named Jables who is told he is a hero by a visiting hat-squid and goes off to do hero-like things, such as beating up lumberjacks. There are more I want to try, but let’s get on with the show, which is Tick Tock Isle.

In Tick Tock Isle, which came out at the end of November 2015, you control a young horologist named Strike who is accidentally sent back in time when he tries to restore a clock in an abandoned monolith in the present day. Y’know, the usual Monday on the job. Finding himself in the past, with the ability to jump between 2009 and 2010, Strike stops worrying so much about fixing the clock and rather fixing all these damaged people around him. Like the troubled girl, who needs musical inspiration to finish her song writing. Or that grumpy married couple, with the husband that continuously says he’ll mow the lawn, but never does. The game is a spiritual successor to Cat Poke, which means there’s a heavy reliance on story, character interaction, creative thinking, and poking around until something eventually happens.‬

Sure, I will describe Tick Tock Isle as a point-and-click adventure game, but truthfully, there’s no pointing, no clicking. You use the arrow keys on your keyboard to wander around the mansion, talk to people, collect items, and use those collected items on other things and/or people to advance the story. Instead of clicking on hotspots and people, you press the up arrow key whenever Strike is near something interactive, which means there’s no pixel hunting, but rather up arrow hunting. Pressing the Enter key brings up a status screen showing your inventory, a map, and a list of objectives, all three of which are sub-par in actually doing their job. The map is crude, tiny, and hard to follow. The list of objectives are so vague that they might have all just said “Play the game more” five times in a row. Lastly, the inventory…it’s ultimately a collection of the items you’ve found along the way, each with a short description, and they become grayed out after serving their use.

To mix up the to-ing and fro-ing action, Strike will occasionally stumble across two kids playing make believe with cardboard swords and castles. See the pic at the top of this blog post for further proof. Anyways, entering their hobbled-together fortress drops you into a platforming mini-game, where, if you make it to the end, you’ll get a specific item that certainly will help you solve a puzzle. These are short, basic platforming sections, where you can also use a sword to swat enemies away, but mostly rely on timing your jumps and avoiding getting hit. They are a quick, enjoyable break from trying to figure out what to do next, but they also feel out of place, like leftovers from a game jam tossed in for good measure.

Tick Tock Isle is not a super long game, of which I’m thankful, but I have to imagine that it would have been even shorter if you cut out all the necessary backtracking to the top of the tower to use the time traveling device when you want to move from one year to the other. It’s tedious and confusing until you learn how to speedrun all the doors and staircases, and I wish it could have just been a button press on some handheld device that Strike carried with him always. I also will just come out and say that I didn’t really understand what was happening by the game’s end or its implications or the plot altogether, and there were a couple of tasks in my objectives list that I hadn’t crossed off by the time credits dropped. Oh well. I’m not going back to 2010 or 2009 ever again.

Advertisements

2017 Game Review Haiku, #119 – Tick Tock Isle

Travel between years
To fix clock, also people
Too much back and forth

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, #78 – Excuse Me!

Flatulence crisis
Find the safest place to fart
Time is running out

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, #70 – Cat Poke

It’s raining outside
Have some fun, poke cats in butt
Got them all, got poked

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.

Jables’s Adventure begins with an odd squid for a hat

jables’s-adventure-36

It is difficult for me to write Jables’s Adventure like so and not like Jables’ Adventure, but I’ll simply have to get over my internal dilemma to edit every videogame title to my specificity. I didn’t make the game, Squiddershins did, and despite that weird use of an apostrophe s instead of just an apostrophe, I’m delighted by this little action platformer. The developer describes it as a “casual platformer,” but if my experience with the game’s first boss, an angry woodsman with a chainsaw called Jacques Lumber, has anything to say, it is that this far from a casual experience.

The short of it is this: released in 2010, Jables’s Adventure is a freeware game created by Jason Boyer, with assistance from Ryan Pietz on dialogue and plot items and music by Kevin “Frantic Panda” Carville. You might be tired of this description, but it’s apt–it’s Metroidvania in both look and play, moving a lot like a less-linear Cave Story, and brimming with a surreal sense of humor. Just ask the mushrooms if you don’t believe me. The story’s simple at first, then turns nonsensical, starring a reluctant boy named Jables who one day wakes up…with a squid on his head. He then sets out into the world to do heroic things with a little goading from the talking cephalopod. Why? Well, that’s just what heroes do. You have to be a hero.

It’s a platformer. You jump, move left to right, and, after acquiring these items, shoot your wind-gun at bad critters and infinitely boost in the air with a jetpack. The world is open to explore, though there is a critical path to follow to both obtain these items and deal with the bombastic boss battles. I will continue to cry foul over having to play action platformers on the keyboard, but I didn’t even try to see if there’s gamepad support, so maybe I’m to blame. I kind of doubt it. Thankfully, the amount of precision needed in Jables’s Adventure is miles away from something like Super Meat Boy, but there were a few spots that gave me trouble where playing with a controller might have helped.

One of the first villagers you come across is a young man you can high five. I did this in quick succession, adding my own drum-beat to the already bouncy and catchy soundtrack that plays when you’re exploring the outside, thinking it was nothing more than a fun interaction you can take part in. Turns out, slapping five with this fellow is also how the game saves your progress via checkpoints, and there is no denying that this is Jables’s Adventure‘s defining and greatest feature. Plus, it comes in real handy at the end of the game hint hint wink wink big smile.

Perhaps because this is my first time with a game from Squiddershins or that I don’t have a fondness for things like Adventure Time and Strawberry Shortcake that some of the more random moments just felt like…random moments. Other random moments, like learning facts about fruit or when you make friends with a cactus or discovering that band in the clouds, hit me right in the heart and made the adventure all the more exciting. There’s imagination here and childlike glee, seemingly unlimited, shoved into the mold of a somewhat difficult action platformer that doesn’t have any kind of map to follow. I enjoyed strolling around, meeting new characters, but struggled in the tougher areas, like where you have to use the jetpack to get through a maze and not touch the ceiling or floor due to crystal spike traps.

Looking over the other games from Squiddershins, there’s a bunch I’m eager to try out as soon as possible. Specifically Excuse Me! and Tick Tock Isle. We’ll see how long as soon as possible turns out to be. I feel like I’m starting a pattern, where I discover a studio or bunch of independent developers that I like, only to play one game from their collection before another shiny studio or independent developer steps into the spotlight and demands I pay attention to them. It’s the darkest circle of life.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #7 – Jables’s Adventure

2016 gd games completed jables's adventure

Squid, your new, pink hat
Tells you what to do, go where
Heed fruit facts, mermaid

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.