Tag Archives: Steam

Ascend towards an unknown destination in The Old Tree

the old tree gd impressions

According to Steam, I completed The Old Tree in twelve minutes. Thankfully, those were twelve really good minutes spent in a bizarre, surprising world, starring a microscopic octopus-like alien blob, as well as a couple other cartoonish characters, like that insect bellboy. It’s a short experience, but satisfying, and there’s obviously room for so much more.

From Red Dwarf Games, The Old Tree effectively mixes point-and-click adventuring with beautifully interactive art. Think more Samorost 2 than Botanicula, but both fit the vibe when it comes to imagination and creativity. Anyways, in this atmospheric free-to-play title, you help guide a tiny alien thing, which I’ve seen referred to as both Dumbo Octopus and Baby Cthulhu by fans, to an unknown destination. Basically, you’ll hit a number of progress-blocking puzzles, where you have to figure out what to click on in the environment–and in what order–to open up the path for our leading creepy, crawling turnip to keep moving. Despite some of the surroundings, the puzzles are mostly logical, such as how you can’t open a door as easily when it is submerged in water, meaning you need to empty the tank first. I really liked getting around the insect bellhop and his/her need to control the light switch.

Strangely, there’s quite a sinister air hanging over The Old Tree despite nothing terrible happening and–spoiler–a happy ending for the little alien dude. Maybe it has to do with the dark lighting or use of unnerving insects in human-like positions, and the quiet, haunting soundtrack probably doesn’t help much. Either way, I kind of dreaded every new scene, waiting for things to take a serious turn for the worse, but it never happened. I guess that is more on me than the game, but I might not recommend this as a bedtime story just yet. Maybe stick with Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the meantime if you are looking for a blob-driven narrative.

That said, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Red Dwarf Games’ next project, which is called Tales of Cosmos, already on Steam Greenlight and aiming for a 2015 release. Similar to Lost Constellation and Night in the Woods, a freebie taste of what’s to come really helps rope me in for the long haul, and I hope it works on others, as there is something special here in the art direction, something worth exploring in a larger capacity.

Just can’t seem to quit Rogue Legacy’s random castles

gd more rogue legacy 256914-RR

It was actually quite easy to walk away from Rogue Legacy on Steam, addictive as it was. I only got far enough to beat the first boss Khidr, but I refused to play the game with mouse and keyboard; it’s very much a controller-driven action platformer, and it seems I run into more and more problems every time I plug in my Xbox 360 controller to my laptop. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it only works if you plug it in after a game boots or before a game boots. I don’t know. All in all, it’s never reliable, and so I haven’t really played Rogue Legacy since my passionate burst back in October 2014 during my Extra Life stream–and a little distance afterwards.

True story time: I started writing this blog post a few weeks ago just as I got back into Rogue Legacy thanks to its PlayStation Plus status as a February freebie, but I’m only returning to writing this mess of words and paragraphs after beating the game a few days ago. Such is the way I work.

Okay, back on track now. This game is still and will always be freakin’ addicting. No, really–other people think so too. This person says it is Zelda 2 on mushrooms,” which is a fun description. Carolyn Petit examines the balance of internal growth and external rewards when it comes to scouring these randomly generated castles. Some good reading there. Return here when you’re done.

For those that don’t remember, the main goal of Rogue Legacy is to enter a castle and gather as much treasure as possible by killing every monster in sight, including mini-bosses and progress-blocking bosses. Here’s the rub–every time you enter the castle, the layout, which includes the traps, treasure chests, monsters, secret rooms, etc, is randomized. After your character dies, and you can guarantee he or she will perish at some point, you select an offspring of theirs from a list of three, all of whom are also randomly determined. Basically, it’s replayability to the max, with each next run a new chance.

Without the randomizing aspect, Rogue Legacy‘s difficulty would be without value. You could memorize the entire layout, know where every enemy is and know exactly how to play your leading hero. Each and every time. In fact, you could probably run it blind, and this astounding, addictive experience would get lost among a zillion other similar–if still pretty good–side-scrolling action platformers. That’s not to say that randomizing is everything; skills are needed, especially when it comes to fighting the bosses or learning how to survive on a slither of health until you find something to eat. Even after twenty-plus hours, I’m still no master of the down-strike attack you can do while jumping, often timing it too early and missing the mark, whether it is an enemy’s noggin or a needed platform over a floor of spikes.

Beating Rogue Legacy doesn’t mean the adventure is over. Naturally, there’s a new game plus mode, which you get dropped right into upon the credits finishing, and this saves all your progress, but ups the ante when it comes to room layouts and the strength of the base enemies. You can also go after the four door-blocking bosses again in hopes of seeing what that final fight is like, but on a whole new level. I’m doing this, but not with the same fervor as my first run complete run through the bosses happened, and that’s okay. Still, the addiction is there, and, like a bag of potato chips, I can’t just eat one; each time I sit down with Rogue Legacy, I lose an hour or so, making small increases to my character’s health and mana stats, and possibly finding a new blueprint. Right now, I need to be focusing on some art projects, so I expect to keep my distance from the game for a bit, but sooner or later it’ll suck me back in; one can only not scratch an itch for so long.

Hoping back into Rogue Legacy these last few weeks also rekindled my disgust for mimic treasure chests. I also had trouble dealing with the eyeballs that shoot red tears through walls, especially when they are out in numbers. Truth be told, just about every enemy in this game can kill you if you’re not careful or know how to take care of them, no matter what traits you are rocking. Generally, I tried to always go with the characters with the least vision-affecting traits as possible, which meant no colorblindness, no nostalgia, no upside-down POV, and such. I could handle the no 3D vision one, but everything else just distracted me and lead to a quick grave. The Lich King class is extremely powerful, with his or her HP growing higher with every kill.

If you’re ever looking for a game that is both punishing and immensely difficult to put down, search no further. Rogue Legacy will strip you to your core, but reward you for all your hard work, when you make the effort, that is. It’s a game I expect to continue nibbling at for the rest of 2015.

Zoinks, it’s a murder mystery that only Detective Grimoire can solve

detective grimoire gd early impressions

I’ve been much pickier with indie gaming bundles as of late, even passing up on the recent one from those Humble Bundle bastards based around one of my favorite tabletop gaming mediums–cards. Oh well. I did end up downloading free copies of Card City Nights and Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, though, so far, that’s all I’ve done with those titles. Both are of the print-and-play ilk; I need to sift through the rules a bit and see if these games are easy enough–and silly enough–to jive with my gaming group. We recently tried to play Nuns on the Run, only to get bogged down in the rules and lose interest before even playing a turn.

Hey, speaking of bogsDetective Grimoire. Yeah, you like that transition. It is just one of the many names included in the Humble Weekly Bundle: Adventures! promotion currently happening over you-know-where. I’d directly link to the topical page, but it seems that website is constantly changing, and nothing lasts forever, so make good with your Googling skills if you feel the need to see more. Of the many point-and-click adventure games added to my Steam library from this recent purchase, it seemed like the easiest and most inviting of the bunch.

Here’s the story, right out of an episode of everyone’s favorite American animated cartoon franchise Scooby-Doo. Detective Grimoire has been summoned to investigate a murder. The owner of a small tourist attraction, called Boggy’s Bog, has been found dead outside his office, with many believing the key suspect to be the very mythical creature the attraction is built around. Dun dun dunnnn. Of course, something else is surely afoot, and it’s up to Detective Grimoire–now hatless, but not hapless–to rattle the locals for clues into what really happened in this lackluster swamp.

Gameplay involves going from scene to scene across the swamp and clicking on the obvious parts of the screen, especially the ones that flash until you click on them. Sometimes this reveals a clue, and other times it leads to a mini puzzle, like moving papers out of the way on someone’s desk to see what was beneath them. You’ll also come across a small cast of eccentric characters, and you can speak with them, as well as toss clues or other character profiles in their faces to get a reaction. The clues act as your inventory, and through talking to the locals, you’ll gain more tidbits about each one. You’ll also unlock the ability to challenge someone, so long as you have the right logic and clues to back it up–for instance, piecing together why Mr. Remington went home early from the cafe on the night of his murder.

Detective Grimoire‘s two best qualities are how it looks and how it sounds (minus one thing, which I’ll get to in the next paragraph). Generally, I have no interest exploring swamps, but the digitally painted screens here are quite lush and inviting, and the characters, along with their dialogue animations, are unique and a joy to behold. I think the cutscenes could’ve used more polish, but everything else is nice to look at, especially the user-interface. All clues get their own drawings, which is much more gratifying to look at than simply a list of words. Sound-wise, the orchestral soundtrack swells and dips in all the right moments, and there’s this lofty, soft voice that reminds me of a religious hymn echoing around in some grand chapel. It’s easy to listen to and not distracting.

That said, there are a couple things I didn’t like about Detective Grimoire. First, it was too easy. So long as you exhaust your options, you’ll eventually get to the end of this mystery, and the only part that gave me pause was the challenge against Echo, as its wording was more confusing than anything else. Second, every time you get a new clue or a clue in your notebook is updated with additional information, a chime sounds, and it is a really goofy, extra loud, and out-of-place sound effect, often playing over-top someone’s dialogue. Lastly, the end credits whizzed by at an alarming speed; I understand the developers wanted to get to their post-credits sequel tease, but it shouldn’t have been at the cost of crediting the people that made and worked for the game.

Overall, Detective Grimoire was an okay sliver of adventure gaming, though nothing that will stick with me for a good while. I figured out what was going on much sooner than our titular hero did, which lead me to believe there might’ve been a twist, but nope, everything worked out as expected. It makes a jab at Professor Layton early on, but has a long way to go before it can even consider itself a passable clone, let alone a better game. Think I’ll try A Golden Wake next from the bundle.

Fulfilling Johnny’s last wish to go to the moon in To the Moon

to the moon gd final thoughts impressions

If thought Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition was a surprising palette cleanser to the lackluster The Incredibles, then I have to imagine this is an even stranger, grander change of direction. Yup, I followed up shooting pig cops in their bacon strip faces and quipping once amusing pop culture quotes with a heavy expedition through an ill man’s mind. In fact, I had wanted to play this last January, as that seemed to be a month where I was experiencing a bunch of those much-discussed indie titles, like Gone Home and Journey. Alas, that never happened, but here we are a year later, ready to give this four-hour tale of a man’s dying wish its due.

Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts work for Sigmund Corp. and have unique jobs: by entering patients’ heads and altering memories, they can give people whatever they want, with implemented memories affecting or creating new ones, all on a path to the desired result. Please note, this only happens through the memories, as you are not actually changing what happened in someone’s life. Think of it as…wish fulfillment. As far as I can tell, this service is mostly used for patients on their deathbeds.

In To the Moon, Rosalene and Watts must fulfill the lifelong dream of the dying Johnny Wyles, which is the game’s namesake: he wants to go there, though he’s not sure why. The doctors then insert themselves into an interactive compilation of his memories–think of the shared dreaming idea from Inception–and traverse backwards through his life via mementos to plant the seed of being an astronaut where best. Naturally, there are a few hiccups, along with Johnny’s quickly deteriorating health.

To the Moon is built on the RPG Maker XP engine, a program used to create 16-bit role-playing games in the classic sprite-based style of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. That said, To the Moon is not an RPG. There is no inventory system or party system or way to gain experience, though the really quick joke early on about a turn-based battle against a squirrel was amusing. The game’s focus is more on puzzle solving; you do this by finding key memento objects which will allow you to go deeper into Johnny’s memories, and then collecting five pips of energy to break into it. Once you do, there’s a relatively simple yet satisfying tile-flipping puzzle. Later on, there’s a one-off section where you can shoot projectiles and have to avoid traps, but it doesn’t last long and is more cumbersome than anything. It broke a bit of the atmosphere, to say the least.

To the Moon‘s soundtrack, featuring a theme song by Laura Shigihara and the remainder of the piano-driven tunes by Kan Gao, has been praised by many critics. And rightly so. It’s soft when it needs to be, as well as deeply brooding and uplifting. When it swells, I couldn’t help but feel myself inhaling and holding my breath. The soundtrack is its own beast and a special part of the game, dictating the way scenes play out, since you can’t get a ton of facial reactions and such. When I first booted up To the Moon, I sat at its title screen for a few minutes, playing with the moonlight, but really mostly listening. It makes a fantastic first impression and never lets up.

I found To the Moon to be fantastic, and I’m annoyed I dragged my feet on it for so long. I wish I had been able to play it all in one session–it’s around four hours long–but I started it late in the evening and had to return to it the next night. The writing is smart, heartfelt, and funny all at once, save for a Doctor Who joke I didn’t grok, and everything gels together–the music, the graphics, the puzzles, the pacing. Yup, even that horse-riding section. Since I love all things memory-based, such as Remember Me and Inception, I did find the explanations for how the memory implementation works here a little contrived, but I went along anyway; it’s more about the characters than the science.

You really don’t come across that many games willing to tackle the themes of old age, illness, love, regret, sacrifice, and playing god, all while doing it in reverse, which is why To the Moon is exceptional. It’s a story worth seeing unfold.

There is no story in The Tiny Bang Story

gd the tiny bang story final thoughts

I think I ended up getting The Tiny Bang Story in one of the first Steam sales I ever participated in, grabbing it because it was über inexpensive and had a fantastic, whimsical art style, similar to Machinarium. I then allowed the casual point-and-clicker to sit quietly and ignored in my Steam library for a good while, eventually giving it an unsuccessful go during my Extra Life stream this past October. Yeah, turns out, playing slow-moving, atmospheric puzzlers does not make for thrilling entertainment, nor does getting stuck in the opening chapter because I couldn’t locate X, Y, and Z. Still, something was there, and so I returned to Colibri Games’ indie mosquito-catching simulator recently to solve every puzzle it contained.

But first, here’s the most disappointing thing about The Tiny Bang Story–there is no story. At least not a solid narrative throughout. Sure, there’s some light setup, but it is just window dressing for…item gathering and random puzzles. See, life on Tiny Planet was pretty relaxing until a great disaster struck–a meteor, that is! Now everything is a mess, and it’s up to, the player, the one with the power to click a mouse button, to restore Tiny Planet back to its peacefulness. You do this by fixing a variety of machines and mechanisms, as well as collecting hidden jigsaw puzzle pieces. That’s the story, and that’s all you get. The rest is left up to your imagination because you’ll get absolutely zero clues no matter how many times you click on those characters.

The gist of the gameplay involves clicking. Click on stuff until a sidebar pops up to tell you what to collect and how many in order for the selected item to work. In reality, The Tiny Bang Story is a very pretty “find the hidden items” game, the kind my mother and I used to play together on the Nintendo DS. There’s no time limit to any of the puzzles, and the game autosaves at nearly every turn, so if you are tired of straining your eyes in search of that one, teeny, tiny light-bulb you can always come back to it later. Which I did. Many puzzles are logic-based while others just ask to you click around enough times; I found a few to be initially difficult because, since there is no story or even text in this game, I did not know what was desired. I struggled the most with the puzzles based around sliding or rearranging tiles because I’ve never been any good at those.

Okay, besides the lack of story, I do have another peeve to pick: the hint system is tedious. In games like Professor Layton, you can collect hidden coins in the screen to spend on clues to help you solve puzzles. That idea is here, too. Sort of. On every screen you visit, there are blue mosquitoes that softly buzz around; if you click on them, you’ll collect them in a bubble at the top right corner, and once you have enough, you can summon a single mosquito to circle around a specific area if you missed something or don’t know where to click next. Fine, fine. Except clicking on the tiny bugs is harder than you first imagine, and then you quickly realize you’re going to need to click on far too many of them just to get a single hint. Like, I think maybe at 14 or 15. No thank you, I’ll just look up an online walkthrough.

Now, while many of the puzzles were hit or miss, the enchanting soundtrack was always spot on. After you complete a chapter, you get to play with the jigsaw puzzle pieces you collected along the way, filling in the picture of Tiny Planet itself. These moments are so soothing that I found myself moving each piece into its slot slower and slower, not wanting it to end. Some might see this as a rather boring task in a game, but the soundtrack and visuals work in unison here to really create something atmospherically pleasing. Plus, the picture in the puzzle moves–kind of like photos in the Harry Potter universe–which helps keep you immersed in completing it.

I thought The Tiny Bang Story was going to be something else, a more narrative-driven adventure game. What it ultimately is isn’t bad; in fact, I had a pretty good time in its kooky and unexplainable world, especially playing around with those jigsaw puzzle pieces at the close of every chapter, but I think this means I need to whet my point-and-click adventuring appetite and finally get around to Beneath a Steel Sky or To the Moon. Or just be content that I recently played Botanicula and it was everything I wanted it to be.

Don’t let Insidia’s dark creatures consume you

insidia gd impressions capture

I really need to start spending more time perusing Adult Swim’s gaming subsite. I mean, previously, they blew me away with Winnose, a surreal puzzle thing blistering with catchy tunes and tricky riddles, and sort of impressed me at the start of Westerado, that Western tale of revenge murder and retro graphics. Plus, if I remember correctly, they are also behind Jazzpunk, a zany adventure game that I do have in my Steam library and hope to play both before the year is over and I have it spoiled for me on the Giant Bomb GOTY podcasts. Either way, they put out strange, unique experiences–“Too Many Cooks”, anyone?–and Insidia, while actually rather plain and straightforward, is still a solid half hour of fun.

What’s Insidia all about? Well, it’s about a traveler, who may or may not be a female automaton, who has to make an emergency landing on a dark, strange planet in order to fix her broken spaceship. Ten repair kits will do the trick. To find them, you’ll need to explore and collect several power-ups, like double jumping and moving faster, which allow you to access new parts of the map. There are also ten hidden areas containing switches to flip, and if you want the best ending, you’ll need to discover them all. Otherwise, the darkness will consume you, which is probably the same fate that fell on those skeleton in cages you are trying not to notice in the background as you move about.

Speaking of moving about, you can use WASD or the arrow keys to move, X to jump, M to bring up your map, and T to safely teleport the traveler back to the spaceship at any time. That last point is great, considering the spaceship is near the middle of the map, making it handy for cutting down on backtracking. I found both moving and jumping with the arrow keeps to be less reliable and switched to a letter key for jumping and had little problems after that. There are save points everywhere, but you don’t actually lose any progress if you die, so they act more like respawn points. You can totally collect a repair kit, jump into some spinning spikes, and restart four screens over with the repair kit still collected. I persevered, and after about twenty minutes or so collected all ten repair kits, as well as flipping the ten hidden switches, which allowed the little orange robot to lift off the planet free from harm.

Insidia obviously looks like a handful of other small, indie platformers of late. Thankfully, I’m a fan of this simplistic, old-school style, but it does try to be its own thing, with a sort of sketchiness to it. Seeing it and the monster designs in motion shows that there is great personality here, and a single haunting song makes up the whole soundtrack, shadowing your jumps with clinks and clanks and techno-esque bloops. It helps build ambiance. If there’s one nitpick–and naturally this is one I’m always going to gripe on when it comes to games–it’s that the text for both the intro/end cutscenes could use some serious editing, as well as the tutorial messages. Saw a number of spelling mistakes, as well as just strange wording, which is a shame as the cutscene art is quite cool.

Anyways, you can play Insidia right over here, so stop reading and make with the clicky clicky.

Rogue Legacy’s castle of chance keeps on giving

rogue legacy khidr boss beat

I don’t completely understand how this happened, but this is the first post I’ve dedicated to writing about Rogue Legacy, despite playing it off and on for the last few months. I mean, generally, save for some exceptions, I write about every game I’m playing–at least once. And yet, Rogue Legacy never really got in the spotlight despite accidentally eating up a few hours of my Extra Life stream; hey, it’s rather addicting. It’s also completely different than Rogue Galaxy, an awesome Level-5 JRPG for the PlayStation 2, but with both names being oh-so-similar I think I mixed them up a bunch when speaking. My bad. This post will now only be about the indie platform game with rogue-like elements, not the one starring a young, rebellious Jaster Rogue.

Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games is an indie platform game heavy on giving you one chance to win. Its biggest hook is that you are constantly playing as the child of the character you last played as, often gaining some of the previous parent’s traits while showcasing new ones. These greatly affect how you explore the randomly generated castles, as some traits, like blurry vision, only let you see so far ahead, while others, like two left hands, change the direction you normally cast spells in. There are also many other traits that have little to no impact on gameplay, just there for decoration. My personal favorites are dwarfism and ADHD, meaning you are both small and fast. Couple that with a good spellcaster, and enemies drop like flies as you zip on through.

While the early deep-dives into Rogue Legacy feel a bit aimless, there is an overarching goal to achieve: defeat four bosses, which unlocks that large door at the start of the castle, wherein you’ll find the final boss. However, beating those four bosses is no easy task. At this point, I’ve taken down one, namely Khidr, the Gatekeeper, in the opening section of the randomly construed castle, and that was only after something like 50+ deaths and enough money to level up my heir to fighting status. Khidr is difficult because it has a projectile attack that spirals around its eyeball body, and there are spikes on the floor to avoid. I did encounter Ponce de Leon, the Sentinel, in the Maya zone, but got my assassin butt handed to me swiftly.

The truth of the matter is that every run is actually more about getting as much gold as possible rather than taking on bosses before you are ready for ‘em. All upgrades cost gold, and usually it is a hefty amount–think 500 and higher, at least. Plus, as far as I can tell, the prices continue to increase as you grow in skill. Whatever gold you don’t spend on upgrading the castle can be spent before heading inside. There’s an armorer for weapons/gear and an enchantress for runes, as well as a dude that will lock the previous castle’s layout for you for a price, though it does repopulate with enemies. You have to give up the remainder of your gold before venturing into the castle, though there is an upgrade path to go down that lets you keep a small percentage of it. Regardless, get that gold and upgrade each and every time you die.

Not everything in Rogue Legacy is fascinating. The “story” is told through sporadic journal entries you randomly stumble across, and even then, they aren’t the most exciting or illuminating to read. You’ll occasionally come across a statue in the castle, which you can pray to for assistance, often giving you a bonus ability for that single run; however, unless you know what each power-up is already, there’s no way to know what you got. It’s kind of The Binding of Isaac in that respect. There are also Fairy Chest and special rooms that are purposely difficult or obtuse to solve. Still, even in light of that, it is an internal struggle to not keep playing, to not make one more attempt at that boss or get enough gold for that vampire-themed cape that restores HP with every enemy kill.

Strangely, Rogue Legacy is a game I can play for hours, but I actually load it up rather infrequently. Part of that might be my brain warning me not to lose an entire night to castle raiding, I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll get back to it soon enough, and each run is progress, whether it is getting a new weapon to buy or a permanent upgrade to your MP or actually killing a mini-boss. I’ll get through this in due time. Heck, that’s what genealogy is all about.