Tag Archives: Steam

All Our Asias surreally explores Yuito’s dying father’s mind

Even the Ocean was one of my favorite games in 2016. Analgesic Productions crafted a game of platforming and exploring, with just the right amount of challenge to not make it feel like a cakewalk, while also weaving a tale of friendship and loss and impending doom that, to this day, still sits inside me, gnawing at my stomach. Aliph’s quest to fix a bunch of power plants to stop the foretold invasion of flood-bringing monsters is not a straightforward affair, nor a happy one, but it’s something she does because…someone has to take charge. More power to her, if you ask moi.

Similarly, Yuito’s mission in All Our Asias is also on a bit of a time-crunch. This is a completely free to play, surreal as surreal gets 3D adventure, about Asian-America, identity, race, and nationality. It comes from Sean Han Tani, one part of Analgesic Productions and the co-creator of Anodyne, which, alas, I’ve still not gotten to play. In this one, you play as Yuito, a Japanese-American hedge fund analyst in his early thirties. His estranged father is dying, and it’s too late for Yuito to communicate with him; however, thanks to advances in technology, despite his father being on life support, he can enter his father’s Memory World, which is a supernatural landscape full of the man’s experiences and secrets. The technology is nascent, and the process is risky, but Yuito has questions and wants answers.

Gameplay is twofold–walking and talking. To explore this Memory World, Yuito glides around inside a tiny tank-like vehicle, something that instantly made me think of that bright red tank from the PlayStation 1 Ghost in the Shell game (I briefly experienced it via one of those demo discs). You’ll find people to chat with, who will often guide you to the next area or offer a tidbit of info about this strange, hypnagogic realm. He’s trying to learn more about his father, but not everyone is forthcoming with information; in fact, there’s an entire sidequest about restaurants and instituting new tax policies that I didn’t entirely understand or see how it was connected to the big picture, though it does tackle issues about race and shared sympathy and other sensitive topics generally not explored by this medium. Movement is slow, most likely deliberate, which gives you time to observe the environment and eat up the soundtrack. You can do a short-hover jump to help with ledges and staircases, but this is by no means a puzzle platformer, and beating the game gives you a cool upgrade to help speed exploring up…though I didn’t feel compelled to keep playing.

I genuinely love the look of All Our Asias. Sure, my first gaming console was the Super NES, but when I eventually did that terrible thing of trading in a ton of my games to get credit to buy a PlayStation 1 from Toys”R”Us, rest in forthcoming peace, I was taking a big step, one that would forever impact my history with gaming. Here was a console I was getting myself, not as a birthday or Christmas gift, but through the sacrifice of others, and boy was I going to get the most out of this system. I played the heck out of Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Bushido Blade, Silent Hill, The Granstream Saga, Chrono Cross, Resident Evil, and so on. I become one with low resolutions and polygons, with fog designed to purposely mask load times or pop-in, with in-game character models with next to no details beside shapes and some color. Exploring All Our Asias forces your imagination to see things bigger and better, to look past its flat textures and chunky models; it’s a blend of walking simulator-esque gameplay and emotionally complex storytelling, drenched in 32-bit visuals, and I love it.

Sound-wise, All Our Asias is a dream. Again, I’m never not lost on the difficulty of describing music via words, but please, take a listen. It’s soft, it’s mesmerizing, it’s soothing. You’ll at once feel like you are floating above a city skyline on a gorgeous September morning while also zipping through the innards of a dying man’s mind where thoughts and memories race against each other, fighting for attention, scrambling for security. Somehow, the soundtrack never overtakes the story, but provides ambiance and a haunting sense of dread, and I can’t get over how pretty of a tune “Somewhere’s Meadow” and “What Will He Retain?” are for the ears. Getting lost a couple of times and unsure of where to proceed next wasn’t frustrating, as it just meant I got to listen to some more songs.

Right. All Our Asias is not perfect and certainly not for everyone. It’s focus on narrative and slowly moving towards the next story beat will probably feel like a chore for many; however, I found myself instantly sucked into this world, curious to know more, much like Yuito himself. I won’t stand here and say I understood everything it was going for and definitely could not relate to some of its themes, but your mileage may vary, and you won’t know until you give it a click.

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2018 Game Review Haiku, #12 – A Raven Monologue

A raven walks town
Questions about how to croak
Experimental

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.

You gotta swim to survive in Subnautica

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Subnautica from the Humble Freedom Bundle back in February of last year before they ran out of keys for it. However, I didn’t even install it until two weekends ago, kind of waiting for it to finish up treading water in Early Access and release as a full-as-full-gets-these-days game to play. This way I don’t know what has improved or changed or stayed the same, and all I see is a crashed spaceship and an endless amount of ocean to explore, same as you or your brother or your brother’s mother, most likely your mother too. Right…I’m ready to dive in, even if my lungs are not.

Subnautica begins with a bang. Well, more accurately–a crash. You have smash-landed on alien ocean world, and the only place to explore is down beneath the waves. In the distance is your spaceship, on fire and full of radiation, and though the game never explicitly says you should go back there, one feels the need to get inside it and see if there is anything salvageable, figure out where things went wrong. But first, you’ll need stuff, like food and water and gear, if you are to survive Subnautica‘s shallow coral reefs, treacherous deep-sea trenches, lava fields, and bio-luminescent underwater rivers. You’ll also need to manage your oxygen supply as you explore kelp forests, plateaus, reefs, and winding cave systems, and the water is teeming with life, both helpful and harmful. No one ever said swimming was easy.

So far, I’ve put about two hours and change into Subnautica and don’t have a whole lot to show for it. That’s okay. I’m in no rush, so long as I can continue to catch plenty of bladderfish and peeper to sustain myself and various meters. Actually, I have made some better oxygen tanks, fins to swim faster, a repair tool, and a radiation suit, but there’s plenty more to craft via the fabrication panel inside your still-floating escape pod and I haven’t really left the safety of the initial area.

Here’s the problem I am dealing with: I’m not certain exactly what I should be going after and why. I mean, like Minecraft, which is perhaps the only other “survive” style game I have an association with, the goals are sometimes up to you. Clearly, you want to survive as a general rule of thumb and keep your health, food, and thirst meters healthy and high, but after that…you decide. Maybe you also want to construct a better submersible craft to explore the ocean depths or are interested in cataloguing the various fish and underwater life you come across using your scanner to learn more. Ultimately, I do wish the breadcrumb trail was clearer as even a quest log of sorts would help; right now I feel like I’m stumbling my way to progress, and even that is coming about through mere happenstance and not any specific action I took. For instance, I knew that creating a repair tool was important because there were two things inside my escape pod that couldn’t be fixed without it, but then I struggled to find cave sulfur and had to look up a guide outside the game for it, which was frustrating.

Visually, Subnautica is delightful and terrifying. Granted, again, I’m still only in the starting area and suspect there is much more to come, but the variety of underwater alien life balances itself well between recognizable sea creatures and straight-up weirdness. Every new fish or piece of coral is a fun surprise, and you can generally tell whether something will bite you in the face or not. Exploring at night is extremely unnerving because, not surprisingly, it gets dark, and you only have a flashlight and flares early on. The game runs well enough on my laptop, with just a little pop-in here and there, and I’m thankful that you can play it with a controller too.

I recently tried to get ABZÛ running too on this new laptop of mine, but it seems like that one is real heavy on resources, even on the lowest settings I could find, and so I’ll just have to wait until I magically get a copy on Xbox One or something. Surprisingly, when you search the keyword “underwater” on Steam, you only get a handful of games covering this topic, and most of them are horror titles or VR experiences, which, look, I get. I’ve seen enough of Sir David Attenborough’s The Blue Planet to kind of know what lurks in the dark depths of our planet’s oceans. Still, I like exploring underwater areas in a more leisurely fashion, like with Treasures of the Deep, or the time my sister Bitsy brought home a copy of Endless Ocean: Blue World and played for a bit, and it was so relaxing–not boring–that I dozed off.

So I’m going to stick with Subnautica a bit more because it is definitely my speed, but also in hopes that it really opens itself up more and dangles some carrots before my face to keep me pushing forward for reasons. Besides, I’d really like to see one of those time capsules for myself that are all the topics of discussion these days.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #11 – Banyu Lintar Angin – Little Storm

Follow three siblings
Through rural Indonesia
Splendid, swell soundtrack

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, #9 – Sprout

Life as a small seed
Sprout into various plants
Become mighty oak

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, #8 – Echoed World

Renew life, beauty
Just not through jumping, which stinks
Maybe promising

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.

Conceivably rising to Risen’s challenge of becoming the ultimate legend

I’ve always been intrigued by the Risen games, knowing they were probably something I’d never touch, mostly because big, open-world RPGs on the PC were just always that–on the PC. I mean, I’ve had a personal computer of some sort since my college days, then playing things like Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Sims, and Age of Empires, but mostly sticking to consoles for my gaming time and leaving the computer for activities like reading, writing, blogging, adulting, and using Photoshop Elements 3.0 to make killer journal comics. I think the closest I got to playing something Risen-like was trying out the demo for Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga way back when.

Anyways, at some point, from one of those numerous too-good-to-ignore bundles, because I know I did not purposefully seek out these two titles on my own, I got Risen and Risen 2: Dark Waters. It might have been a Deep Silver-themed bundle a couple years ago. Regardless, I have them, and I see them all the time in my Steam library as I scroll past them to play literally anything else, and I finally felt bad enough to give one of ’em a try, specifically the first entry in the series, which now has a total of three games not counting the potential tie-in ELEX. Unfortunately, first impressions are key, and the original game in the series about rising up as a nobody does not make a strong one…even if I do feel compelled to keep playing a bit more, to see where it ultimately goes. Or could go.

Risen‘s plot starts out somewhat generic. See, the gods have forsaken humanity, and from that titans have begun wrecking the world with all their might and rage; unfortunately, the ship you are currently sailing on is destroyed while at sea, sunk, torn to bits. Miraculously, you do not drown during this crazy storm, waking up on the island of Faranga. Alas, you are now stranded, penniless, and unarmed. Strangely, you are not alone, as Sara is another survivor looking to journey beside you. Her attire consists of a handkerchief around her neck, a bra, and a skirt; she’s all midriff in your face, like something out of the early 2000s. Anyways, you quickly begin to explore the area, meet locals, and fight off fantasy-esque monsters like giant vultures with…a stick.

After helping Sara find a safe and temporary house, the player moves deeper into the island and meets a resident named Jan who talks about the ruins and temples that have recently risen from the underground, bringing along strange monsters and animals. Still, these temples are also rumored to house mystical treasures. Because of this, humans from other lands have come in and started an inquisition, as well as instituting martial law, forbidding Faranga locals from moving out of the main town. Anybody caught outside is turned over to the monastery and recruited to the order. Alas, I wasn’t paying attention closely to this cutscene–had Netflix up on the television, duh–and so after it was over I walked a foot or two in the wrong direction, resulting in my character being taken. Either way, my character is now inside this monastery, doing miscellaneous tasks like sweeping up dirt and solving a murder mystery. Also, I can’t seem to leave.

At some point, I’ll need to decide if I’m with the bandits or inquisitors, though that is probably dependent on getting out of the monastery, and I suspect to do that means I’m becoming BFFs with the robe-wearing, -wielding inquisitors. Well, prior to getting kidnapped, I did get to experience some combat which…is underwhelming. Battles are not complicated, and enemies will move around and try to flank you, which makes groups especially dangerous, but I generally only fought one ugly-as-heck vulture at a time. I’m playing on a laptop with no mouse, and the mouse wheel is evidently what brings out your weapon, so to get that to happen I need press both buttons beneath the trackpad together, right in the middle…let’s just say that I hope there’s never a moment when I need to do this action super fast because oh boy. I also expect magic spells to show up eventually, but for now, all I’ve done is hit big birds and bugs with sticks and it is not all that thrilling.

Risen is almost ten years old, releasing back at the end of 2009. By today’s standards, it’s not the prettiest thing to crawl out of the swamp, but I’m not one to get hung up on graphics so long as there’s something to be enjoyed here. Remember, I’m the guy that recently played some Sonic Blast. Alas, I don’t know if there is anything fun here, but again, something about these games has me curious to see more. I need to at least get out of the monastery and give the game’s combat another look before deciding whether to see more of Faranga island or begin the long swim away towards Risen 2: Dark Waters.