Tag Archives: walking simulator

2017 Game Review Haiku, #34 – holt

Wander this wan world
Search for life, water–sustain
Keep on that dancing

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.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #22 – I’ve Been Late

2016 gd games completed i've been late

Despite all the ghosts
This was a relaxing time
Under the moonlight

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.

Follow or disregard instructions in Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

Dr Langeskov gd final thoughts

Here’s the honest truth: if I had just taken some more initiative last month and played Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist when it was released like a good little soldier boy, it most assuredly would have made my top five favorite games for the year. Sorry, Time Clickers, but let’s get real; you would have gotten cut fast, seeing as you don’t hold a candle–in terms of a singular, satisfying experience–to Dr. Langeskov. Still, the in-game feedback forms are right, as this title is far too long for consumption, but one should never complain about a free lunch.

Before I describe Dr. Langeskov to you in my own fancy words, allow me to share its amusing description on Steam:

A 15 minute heist game by Crows Crows Crows & Directed by William Pugh (The Stanley Parable). Slip into the soft-soled shoes of the mastermind responsible for the greatest heist- oh god I can’t do this any more, i’m joining the strike. good luck writing the steam description.

Right. Once you load up this “heist game,” you’ll begin to realize this is not a traditional, straightforward experience on your end. Instead of controlling the player moving through the mansion, avoiding pitfalls and dangers like a pro, and stealing the cursed emerald for reasons unknown, you are the one behind the curtains making everything happen. I mean everything–lighting, weather effects, making the lift rise. Without you, the tiger would never get released. You are the man from Omaha that flew into a strange land via a hot air balloon and is getting things done. Honestly, it’s the sort of off-the-wall interactions you’d expect from The Stanley Parable‘s William Pugh, with the action being focused around a gleefully playful narrative and whether or not you want to listen to the narrator’s instructions or do things as you please.

So, just like in The Stanley Parable, you are guided from one location to the next with the help of a cheeky, about-to-lose-it narrator that speaks directly to you and often openly to himself in a nervous, captivating manner, voiced by British comedian Simon Amstell. When he notices you, he immediately puts you to work behind the scenes, seeing as there has been a worker strike. His tone is never ornery, and even when you decide to not do what he says and push buttons clearly designed not to be pushed right now, he handles everything with a nervous laugh before ushering you onward. He is not an all-knowing being, commenting on your choices from a cloud of snobbery. Look, I’m not going to be doing a top ten of my favorite British narrators in videogames, but if I did, he’d be pretty high up there, rubbing shoulders with Thomas Was Alone‘s Danny Wallace and The Stanley Parable‘s Kevan Brighting.

Since Dr. Langeskov is fairly short and somewhat non-linear in that there are a handful of different things you can do as you go along, I won’t spoil too much about each room, especially the final area, which had me grinning from ear to ear as chaos and comedy collided into one fantastic conclusion. But my suggestion is this: take your time. There’s a lot to look at in terms of posters on the wall, post-it notes, papers strewn about, and all of it feeds into the bigger picture. I’m not gonna lie–some of the “fake” game posters look intriguing. Much of these elements are highly detailed in the same fashion as things were in Gone Home, an aspect I greatly appreciate, not just because my eyesight is poor.

I played through Dr. Langeskov twice and did not find the grappling hook. Curses and shouts. Shaking fists and fiery eyes. I’ll go back one more time, most likely, to see if it indeed does exist, as well as to gobble up each and every strangely placed pretzel. More games should contain pretzels as collectibles. If Dr. Langeskov does anything for our industry going forward, please let it be that.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #5 – Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

2016 gd games completed Dr Langeskov

Welcome to backstage
Of a heist game, press and pull
Levers, free tiger

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.

A day in The Stanley Parable’s life is hilariously sad

the stanley parable gd final impressions

My first run through The Stanley Parable–er, more like slow walk–was pretty straightforward. I simply listened to the narrator’s instructions and followed them exactly, never questioning a single demand. I was a good, obedient lab rat, and for that, I received an ending that rewarded my mind-controlled actions with a glimpse at freedom, of blue sky, billowing trees, and a cool breeze. Sure, there were puzzles still left unanswered, like where had all of Stanley’s coworkers disappeared to, but I liked it nonetheless and immediately dived back in to see what I could do differently; maybe inaction was the key.

The Stanley Parable tells the story of, well, Stanley — an everyman office drone whose mundane existence is interrupted one day when he discovers that all of his coworkers have mysteriously vanished. As you take control of the protagonist and begin exploring the abandoned office building, a snarky British narrator (voiced by the wonderful Kevan Brighting) explains each of your decisions before you make them. Or talks at length if you simply stand around for too long, admiring a waiting room or well-watered plant. Either way, the narration drives the plot, and it is up to you to decide whether you want to follow along or rebel.

The Stanley Parable plays from the first-person perspective, similar to Gone Home and Dear Esther. The player is able move around and perform interactions with certain elements of the environment, like pressing buttons or opening doors, but has no other controls. You can’t even jump, though I do suggest everyone tries at least once. It’s a game about choice and choices, and you can follow along with the narrator or discover your own path through the game. You might think that something as minor as taking the door on the right instead of the left wouldn’t have a great impact on things, but it does. Everything matters, and, in a sick sense of mind, nothing matters.

Have you ever been in a large office space all by yourself? I have. Let me tell you–the feeling is strange. Walking around, seeing empty desks and lights off in certain areas. Yet you are still there, existing, interacting with the world, and everyone else is gone. While I hated seeing all the spilled coffee at the Picus Communications headquarters in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I loved walking around looking at everything before baddies showed up. There’s voyeurism, and there’s a general curiosity about examining how other people decorate their home-away-from-home workspace. This is the my favorite part of The Stanley Parable, going through those first few rooms, looking for clues on the cleanest desks ever created.

I discovered a few of the endings myself, but looked up the remainder of the ones I missed. Spoilers: there’s many ways to conclude Stanley’s journey. It’s not that I don’t mind replaying the same short experience again and again, it’s just that I wasn’t sure I was performing the right actions to see a different conclusion. In fact, I ended up stumbling into the “freedom” ending once or twice by getting locked inside Stanley’s boss’ office with no other way out. Either way, they are all neat and amusing, if depressing in tone. The Stanley Parable isn’t a happy game, especially when I look at myself, a cubicle-dwelling working stiff just like Stanley save for the voice in his head, but it is fascinating to see unfold and peek behind the curtains. It starts out perfunctory, it ends in ridicule.

Flipping the bird hard in The Night That Speaks

0MihL5

The Night That Speaks is not your typical game jam entry, especially when we’re talking about the GameBoy Jam. Quick–think of every single horror adventure you ever played on Nintendo’s GameBoy as a wee lad or lass. Not coming up with many names? Yeah, that system wasn’t really known for the jump-scares and spooky hallways, championing more colorful, safe outings like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Super Mario Land. Stuff one can eat up on a cross-country drive in the family’s station wagon that wouldn’t give a kid nightmares later at the hotel, unless you just couldn’t get over that Kumo enemy design.

Anyways, The Night That Speaks is a small, creepy walking simulator which has you, a nameless teenage soul witnessed only by your extended milky white hand, exploring catacombs beneath a graveyard. Why? That’s a good question, with no clear answer. Something to do with a dead girl perhaps. Also, there’s a freaky ghost-skeleton-monster chasing after you as you gather clues via collectible notes, with your only defense being crude hand gestures. It’s scary and goofy and a little hard to deduce, but from the visual and audio departments, this is one fine piece of work. Certainly, I’ve never seen anything like it before, not in this perspective.

I’ve not played, nor will I probably ever, things like Slender: The Eight Pages or Outlast, but I’ve watched others tackle them. Y’know, that way I can close my Internet browser if events become too traumatic to bear. I’m not good at scary games, and I guess I need to pony up soon as I did make a promise at the start of this year that I’d get through Silent Hill 3 this October. Sigh. Either way, those games follow a similar trajectory, with the player wandering around a bit, collecting notes or scraps of paper, and with each piece discovered, there’s a greater chance of the monster showing up. I’m not into this, as the idea of being hunted by a hunter you can’t see is beyond paralyzing. Basically, this means that the moment I get the feeling that something is following me or right around the corner, all I want to do is shut my eyes and quit to desktop.

That said, Adam Ryu‘s The Night That Speaks is worth checking out, just to watch how the lighting and shadows work as you move forward through the graveyard and deeper into the labyrinth of catacombs. It’s amazingly detailed and immersive for such a retro style. I’m no tech guy, so I don’t actually know if this sort of game could’ve existed on the original GameBoy hardware, but if it could–man, what a different world that would’ve been. Pressing the “Z” key in allows you to “exert your will,” which is a nice way of saying giving someone the middle finger. If you time this right, you can keep the scary ghost-skeleton-monster at bay for a bit, but I mostly flipped the bird at lanterns or tables or anything that got in my way. I played for about twenty minutes, dying a handful of times–so I don’t know if there’s a conclusion or way to win.

Let’s end with some non-solicited advice from a genuine scaredy-cat: don’t wander into ominous catacombs in the dead of night, armed with only a gesture  manner meant to degrade, intimidate, and threaten. At least bring a flashlight. Maybe the really heavy kind that doubles as a blunt object. Or, I don’t know, stay home and watch old episodes of Frasier when the darkness becomes too much. You’re welcome, and stay safe.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #44 – The Stanley Parable

2015 gd games completed stanley parable

You play as Stanley
So alone at work, in life
Find all his endings

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.