Tag Archives: Steam

2015 Game Review Haiku, #33 – Broken Age

2015 games completed gd broken age full

Two young kids, destined
To shake their worlds up, those late
Game puzzles–not fun

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Time is of the essence when you have to Race the Sun

gd impressions race the sun

I first glimpsed the scorching hot light that is Flippfly’s Race the Sun last year at the tail-end of my Extra Life stream when, one might say, I myself was racing the sun to stay awake for the final few hours of charity-driven gaming. I was playing my Steam copy using an Xbox 360 controller to do the needful, and I found it to be a stylish, engaging experience of piloting an airship to the end of a bunch of regions before the sun sets. That last tidbit is very important considering that the airship is solar-powered, so if the sun sets or if you spend too long in shadows you’ll lose energy and come crashing to a dead halt.

Strangely, if you look over some of my gaming history, it’s evident that I’m a fan of endless runners. Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run 2 are good examples of that genre done well, done with enough addictive hooks to keep me going. Substance over style is the key element here, as an endless runner doesn’t need to have super realistic graphics for it to be enjoyable, but the activities you can do as the main character pushes forward without warning are where the game becomes fun or a chore. I don’t mind picking up gems, so long as picking them up feeds into a side quest or becomes currency for upgrades. It can’t literally just be endless running.

Again, the core gameplay of Race the Sun is pretty straightforward: race the sun until it sets. You control a solar glider that relies on sunlight to keep it powered; in order to survive, you also have to avoid a number of obstacles, such as sentient square blocks, tall pyramids, spinning windmills, and falling towers. Due to the game’s minimalistic art style, it can be hard to tell what some of these shapes are; perhaps they are just shapes in the end, lost in a forest or crumbling cityscape. As your ship rushes forward, you can pick up different booster types (jump, shield) as well as hit warp portals, which zip you right to the end of a region, no questions asked.

For many, endless runners are all about the high score. Strangely, I don’t really care about a number attached to my name listed on a board with similar results in Race the Sun. I prefer going for the side challenges, such as collect three boosters in mid-air in a single run or use the warp portal five times, which help you level up and unlock new abilities and decals for your airship. If you are interested in a high score, you’ll want to collect as many Tris, which are blue-colored pickups, to up your multiplier while also trying to survive running into things. Though some side challenges ask you to do that, which is fine by me.

To back all your quick reflexes, barrel rolls, and boosting ahead is an electronica, drum beat-infused soundtrack that is beyond catchy. You can buy it separately over here. It also builds with your progress, which really hammers home the sense of almost there during the end of the later regions.

I’m not certain about this, but it seems like Race the Sun‘s world is reconstructed after a set period of time (maybe every few days or a week?) so while I have become familiar with the layout of the gray-colored world in these last few sessions, that will all change shortly. Unlike with Tower of Guns, this is a rogue-light that I can really just pick up and play for a bit, though I’m stuck at level 17 currently, with two of the three side challenges available being of the “only turn left for two regions” or “only turn right” ilk, which are difficult to master. Either way, that sun is always setting, and my job is to not see that happen. Happy racing, all.

Jolly Rover’s got a sea’s worth of canine scallywags and spiritual magic

jolly rover gd final impressions

Through the power of Gmail and its determination to never truly delete anything from your inbox, I have discovered exactly when I got hold of my copy of Brawsome’s Jolly Rover, a comedic pirate-themed point-and-click adventuring starring literal dogs of the sea. It became my treasured booty back in March 2012 when it ran as part of “The St. Patrick’s Day Bundle,” which was the ninth bundle from Indie Royale. That bundle also provided me with copies of Hard Reset, Vertex Dispenser, DLC Quest, and Lair of the Evildoer, of which I’ve dabbled in a few of them over the years.

The plot in Jolly Rover is both engaging and easy to grok, a stab at the swashbuckling classics with a side of silliness à la Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! or Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. Gaius James Rover is a nicer-than-nice dachshund who, after escaping from indentured servitude on an enemy pirate ship, finds himself caught up in a number of quests involving lost treasure, family secrets, cannibals, cannonballs, and coconut-dropping magic–among other things. In order to reclaim his stolen cargo, save the girl dog, and fulfill his lifelong dream of juggling balls in his very own circus show, Rover must travel around a series of islands, speak to the inhabitants, click on items, and solve puzzles, either logically or via the magical ways of pirate voodoo, which runs the gamut from scaring away beasts to heating up anything made of iron. Pretty standard stuff.

The most interesting aspect of Rover’s abilities involves using a book of magical spells, as well as a voodoo “cheat sheet” that basically lets you do any spell you’ve already successfully performed without going through every step again. A few spells required me to take a picture of my laptop’s screen with my cell phone as I just couldn’t remember the specific steps clearly, though the similar gesture-based pictures are designed that way to confuse you. Ultimately, it’s fairly clear where and when you need to use a voodoo spell, but I do wish the game allowed for more creative uses or rewarded the player for experimenting now and then. For example, I thought melting the iron bars off a jail window to free some prisoners would’ve done the trick just fine–nope, didn’t work.

There’s really not too much else that stands out here from other traditional 2D point-and-click adventure games other than the previously discussed voodoo, but I do want to draw attention to both the rank and quest labeling system. These sit at the top of the screen and update constantly as you gain score–upped from doing stuff, whether it is examining items or advancing the story–and hit big events. The ranks are quite amusing, with Rover starting out as a “Blistering Barnacle” and working his way up past nicknames like “Nefarious Trickster” and “Dog-o-war.” For the quests, the objective is always amusingly changing, even during dialogue, so suddenly instead of “find X, Y, and Z” you’ll now have “think fast” when being questioned hard by the governor. It’s a really small detail that adds a lot of color and humor to Rover and his interactions with all the other dogs.

Alas, by the end of Jolly Rover, I did not find all the collectibles, which include pieces of eight, crackers, and scraps of flags. Phooey on that, as I won’t be replaying the game, even though I did unlock developer commentary for completing it once. Hitting set tiers for each of the listed collectibles unlocked music tracks and concept art. Not the biggest loss, but I do aim to be a completionist as I play, and so some treasure will just have to stay buried if you get my pirate talk.

I mostly came to Jolly Rover for its dog and pirate puns, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. That said, I also found the game to be charming, cute, colorful, and crafty. The voice acting is also quite good, which always help in drawing me into a point-and-click adventure game; I don’t mind reading all this text, but it helps paint a stronger picture of each character to hear how they describe an oily rag or coldly served salamagundi. I will admit that I had to look up the puzzle involving a wheel and birthday dates, but otherwise it’s a simple, easy, and enjoyable few hours. As they say, a dog pirate’s life for me.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #27 – Jolly Rover

2015 gd games completed jolly rover

James Rover, pirate
DeSilver robs his clown dreams
Voodoo your way home

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

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.