Tag Archives: Steam

Burly Men at Sea is an interactive fairy-tale too big for one playthrough

Burly Men at Sea is a pure delight. I mean that from every angle–graphics, sound, gameplay, narrative, the way it holds you close and keeps you warm and ensures that the world is all right and not so scary, even when scary things, scary beings, show up…after all, they might just be misunderstood. I recently acquired a copy via the Day of the Devs 2018 Humble Bundle, along with Full Throttle Remastered, RiME, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Yooka-Laylee, Minit, and Hyper Light Drifter, all of which I desperately want to find time for to play. I started with Burly Men at Sea for two reasons–one, its general aesthetic speaks to me deeply, and two, it seemed the shortest of the bunch to play. I was kinda wrong about that last part.

This is a folktale mashup available on both mobile devices and PC that came out in September 2016. One might call it an interactive novel, but that’s not giving it proper respect. To me, it’s a whimsical stab at visual minimalism, frolicsome writing, and some seriously disturbing sound effects generated by voices only. Burly Men at Sea was made by husband-and-wife team Brain&Brain and is based on early 20th century Scandinavian folklore. The plot goes as thus: three brothers—specifically Brave Beard, Hasty Beard, and Steady Beard, which are all fantastic names—find a map in a bottle and set off for adventure. Naturally, things don’t go exactly as planned, with one disaster leading to another.

In terms of gameplay, interactions are fairly minimal. I played the game entirely on my laptop, using just a mouse. You’ll spend the majority of your time “pulling” the mouse to the right or left to reveal more of the screen, and this will cause the three brothers to walk in that direction. You can also click on things in the background to see them react in fun ways, which reminded me of Windosill. A couple scenarios later involve you clicking and holding on specific areas, but it never gets more complicated than that. The game might actually be better suited for mobile devices, given how you interact with it and how long each playthrough takes, but this is how I experienced it.

So, the really neat thing about Burly Men at Sea is that it kind of never ends. It loops, putting our bearded trio right back where they started. You can go on another adventure, and maybe this time you’ll see some new things or perform different actions. I did a second playthrough immediately and was pleasantly surprised by what I came across, and I’m not going to spoil it for y’all. This game is designed for multiple playthroughs, but it is perhaps better if you take a break between them. Otherwise, you’ll begin to see some of the repetition. The experience itself is calming and cartoony, and the danger never feels like danger, but the tense moments still remain tense as you begin to care for the Beard brothers and think about how to get them out of the various sticky situations.

If Burly Men at Sea were a book, it’d be defined as a real page-turner. No scenario lasts too long, and they flow into each other seamlessly. I found myself constantly smiling at the absurd writing and animations. Speaking of books, each unique playthrough is stored in an in-game library that can be referenced to pre-order a fully-illustrated hardcover version of the adventure. That’s neat, even if it’s not for me. I’ll just stick to repeating this ship-worthy adventure, at least a few more times, to see what I see, to unearth something new along the way. If not for me, then for the Beard brothers. They gotta know.

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The world is ripe for digging in SteamWorld Dig 2

While playing I, Hope and growing extremely more disinterested and disappointed in the whole thing, I began to tinker away at SteamWorld Dig 2. This was a seemingly sleeper hit for many last year, and I, like many, wish I had played it sooner. It was like experiencing polar opposite games, where one game was just learning how to program jumping code for the main character and then the other game was able to flawlessly nail the feeling of feet lifting off the ground in order to reach a higher platform. I know I shouldn’t compare the two, as they are vastly different in countless ways, but I can’t help it, considering I would use SteamWorld Dig 2 as a feel-good chaser after dealing with some frustrating areas on repeat in I, Hope.

Let’s start at the start. SteamWorld Dig 2‘s story takes place between the events of SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist, of which the latter I have in my Steam library, but have not checked out yet. Following Rusty’s disappearance at the end of SteamWorld Dig, Dorothy, a robot who he had befriended, travels to the mining town of El Machino in order to search for him. Along the way, she comes across Fen, a remnant of the Vectron that Rusty had previously fought, who joins Dorothy as a navigator. While searching the mines for Rusty and hearing rumors of him turning into a monstrous machine, Dorothy comes across a group of humans led by Doris, who claims that mysterious machines are triggering earthquakes. From there, Dorothy is off to investigate.

The gameplay is quite similar to the original SteamWorld Dig, but much more refined. The loop is very much the same–dig deep underground, collect gems and materials, unearth the terrors of the underworld, and return to the top to cash in your collected goods for upgrades to help you better navigate this “platform mining adventure forged in Metroidvania flames.” Those are the developer’s own words, but man do they nail it right there. You’ll also unlock fast travel points along the way, so you can hop to and fro with ease, and some areas will require backtracking once you acquire a certain ability or perk, such as the jetpack or grappling hook.

I ended up taking a long break from SteamWorld Dig 2 because of the time I spent in the hospital and a growing general disinterest in playing many games on my laptop, but coming back to it months later is a breeze. One of my favorite elements is related to cogs. All of Dorothy’s tools are upgradeable with cash earned from excavating gems, and additional features are upgraded with cogs, which are found for the most part in secret areas or puzzle rooms scattered around the map. So, for example, for your pickaxe, you can use modification cogs to unlock Hunter’s Edge, which gives +5 extra XP per enemy killed with pickaxe, or Bounty Hunter, which nets you a cash prize for taking out enemies with the pickaxe. What is super awesome about this is you are not locked in to any of these mods and can switch them out freely at will, similar to Functions from Transistor.

Graphically, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a pure delight, especially on my laptop since I sit so close to the screen. It reminds me of a Saturday morning cartoon, all bright and bouncy and safe to absorb. The robot designs are fun and imaginative, and there’s more to talk to here than the first game. The game’s soundtrack is strong, especially the song that plays in El Machino, which is important, because you’ll be returning there a whole bunch for selling goods and upgrading your gear. Sound effects are solid, especially the noise of you collecting gems and materials, which you’ll be doing a lot of; Dorothy’s pickaxe attack against an enemy is also quite pleasant.

I’m making no promises that I’ll see SteamWorld Dig 2 to its conclusion in 2018, but that’s okay. This is a gaming experience worth savoring and dipping back into now and then to get just a little further down the hole. I fully expect Image & Form to come out with a SteamWorld Dig 3 or another spin-off like SteamWorld Heist, as this world and its characters are too good to not do more with them. I’ll be ready, whenever they are ready.

Harvest Seasons is a dangerously addictive clicker

I don’t play as many clicker/idle games as I did a few years ago, but I still check in on a few now and then, such as Clicker Heroes, Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, and Harvest Seasons, today’s topic du jour. I also have some Office Space-themed thing on my phone that I looked at once or twice, but still haven’t uninstalled for some reason or another. It’s there for emergency purposes, like many of the games on my cellular device. Either way, if built right, an idle/clicker game can be quite relaxing and satisfying or dangerously addicting. So far, that’s how I feel about Harvest Seasons.

What exactly is Harvest Seasons? Well, one, it’s free on Steam. Second, it’s a fusion of many familiar things, such as a farming game, a city building game, and an idle/clicker game. It’s all about harvesting resources and leveling up your individual tiles to, well, create more resources, which will open up more options to increase your farmland’s yield. It’s a cycle of clicking and waiting, but a surprisingly addicting one because there never seems to be a dull moment, as something is always asking for an upgrade and your workers need to continually be kept busy cutting down trees, gathering crops, mining ore, or carving animal skins. Otherwise, you just aren’t growing.

It’s got a good look, heavy on the cartoony pixels, but the graphics are not the star here. They are functional enough. You can also stay very far zoomed out, which I do, as it lets me see more at once than being all up and close. I did have to turn off all the music and sound effects though as they are a little too loud for my sensitive ears, and because I don’t play in full-screen mode I can rock a YouTube video or Spotify playlist instead. Also, some of the font is a little tiny to see, even with my face only inches away from the computer screen. These are minor complaints though because, so far, and I’m still only in the first season of many seasons, I’m enjoying the clicking and waiting and clicking again.

Evidently, Harvest Seasons was lovingly hand-crafted by a husband and wife team, under the name of Bearded Bunnies. That’s super cool. This seems to be the duo’s first game, and I think it has a lot of promise. It’s not about loot crates or forcing you to purchase a ton of boosters with real-life money; instead, it’s pretty chill in letting you go at it however you want. For me, that’s checking in on it at least once a day, clearing out a few requests, focusing on unlocking at least one building or taking on a dungeon level, and then leaving it off for the remainder of the day. You aren’t punished for being away, and I find coming back to it with a ton of things to do to be ultra exciting.

Also, and this is a silly thing, but Harvest Seasons comes packed with over 400 Achievements to unlock. Granted, the majority of them are for reaching generic-like levels of things, such as harvesting X amount of crops or earning X amount of gold, all at different tiers, but it does hit that special spot in your brain to see so many unlocking so quickly. I’ve got about 50 so far, with plenty more to pop.

At some point, I’m going to have to “buy the farm” and do the thing I hate doing in these idle games but understand it is a necessity and start over…with some bonus perks, of course. I believe this is how you move from one season to another in Harvest Seasons. Eventually, you hit a wall where leveling up requires too much time or effort on your part, and your best bet is to start anew, with some enhancements to help get you back to where you stalled quickly. I get why it must be done, but it never feels great, wiping the slate clean. This is why, in real life, I am no farmer.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #39 – Frightened Beetles

Three terrified bugs
Dodge obstacles, reach an end
Short, sweet adventure

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #34 – Marie’s Room

Unlikely friendship
Unearth what happened, years back
Short and sweet, zoom in

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Slay away as Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

As a young lad, many of the sleepovers with my then best friend resulted in us exploring the nearby woods at night, playing games together on our respective consoles–his a Sega Genesis and mine a SNES–and renting horror films to watch until the sun came up. These ran the gamut from things like Species to Deep Rising, but our favorites, meaning ones we rented multiple times for the local Blockbuster, were the Friday the 13th slasher films. These were, though it is embarrassing to admit to it, our first look at nudity and violence holding hands, a concept that stimulated our teenage brains to their very core, and we’d stay up late after the movie was over, tossing back ideas about what we’d do to take down the legendary Jason Voorhees ourselves, if we ever were unlucky enough to come across him. My plan often involved pushing him off a cliff.

Well, with Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle, you aren’t trying to beat the man that won’t die; instead, you are him, on a mission to murder every final girl, nerd, officer, punk, etc., one after the other, until nobody’s left to bother you. This isometric top-down puzzler, across a variety of levels, has you sliding Jason across a grid until you literally bump into your victim, instantly murdering them. After taking out all the targets, a final mark will appear, and often reaching them is a puzzle of its own because you can only slide in so many directions. Each level ends with Jason using a stylish finisher move, which would normally be considered grizzly and ultra-violent, but not here, where the game’s cartoonish look keeps everything light and silly. I mean, I don’t know if stabbing a person through the chest with a baseball bat is even possible, but it’s funny to see the hockey masked man do it. Afterwards, your bloodlust gauge fills up, and once it is full, generally with a little help from Jason’s mom’s severed head–don’t ask–you can unlock a new weapon to equip.

Here’s the thing I didn’t expect to experience in Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle–it’s addictive. The levels are short and satisfying. You can take stock of the layout at your leisure, even switching the camera to an optional top-down view, before making your first murderthon move. Each themed level introduces something new, such as animals you don’t want to harm, people running away from Jason right to an exit, obstacles keeping you from your victims, guards with gnus, and dealing with traps like holes, bodies of water, and electrified fences. Thankfully, it never becomes too much. At first, you can kind of fudge your way to victory, but as the level fills up with all these various elements, you have to slow down and, similar to chess, begin to think several moves ahead. It’s ultra satisfying to see your plan come together, and then you fall into the hole of wanting to at least see how the next level starts, ultimately losing a half hour before you even know it.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle isn’t a difficult game. Levels rarely take longer than a few minutes. What I find ultra appreciative is that the game comes with hints and walkthroughs in it, which means I don’t need to Google anything on my phone when I get stuck or exit out and come back later, losing momentum. At any point, you can click on Jason’s mother’s severed head–still don’t ask–and she’ll either give you a single hint of what to do next or walk you through every single step in fast-forward. You can also undo any more, even ones that kill Jason, or simply restart the level if you feel like you’ve borked it bad enough. I have resorted to using the in-game walkthrough a few times, but only after giving the level a good shake, and I love that it is included, and the language around it is super friendly and not condescending.

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle was released, for free, a few weeks back on…yup, you guessed it–Friday, April 13. I believe it is available on phones, but I’ve been playing it in bursts on Steam, and I’m probably halfway through all the levels it came with, currently sliding around Jason from Jason X, not my favorite entry in the series. Anyways, this cute freebie comes from Blue Wizard, the developer behind Slayaway Camp, which shares similar gameplay, but more voxel-based graphics. If I ever see the end of Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle and really want more puzzle-driven mayhem, I’ll know where to turn to next. Even if it doesn’t have a dedicated button in the pause menu to making the chi chi chi ha ha ha sound effect.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #25 – Garden of Oblivion

Stuck, unsound garden
Open the door, discover
Your good/bad ending

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.