Tag Archives: What Remains of Edith Finch

An outlandishly intriguing echo of Legendary Gary’s life

For many, videogames are not just a way to kill the hours, a delightful form of digital entertainment, but rather pure escapism. They are a doorway to elsewhere. I know that when I was going through my divorce a few years ago I leaped at the chance to lose myself in some other world than this, to worry instead about equipment, side quests, and skill points versus dividing up household items and signing papers full of legalese. I’m not ashamed to name some of them either, such as Remember Me, Transistor, Fantasy Life, and, uh, Disney Magical World. Sometimes avoidance is the easier path, though usually not the best one in retrospect.

Legendary Gary, made by Evan Rogers, who previously worked as a programmer on What Remains of Edith Finch and The Last of Us, is a literal take on escapism. It’s about a young man named Gary who lives in his mother’s basement and would never be described as legendary by those around him. He’s been recently fired from his job at the local supermarket, and he’s struggling to find motivation to do anything responsible-like. Thankfully, there’s Legend of the Spear, a turn-based strategy RPG that he can play on his computer, day and night. to keep adult-ing at bay. This game within the game stars Winkali, a heroic warrior who somewhat physically resembles our leading lad and must save his kingdom after his King mysteriously disappears during an attack. Eventually, Gary’s personal life and Winkali’s quest begin to share some similarities, and the line dividing them weakens, to the point where even Gary himself is questioning everything around him.

Gameplay in Legendary Gary is divided up into two beats. For normal, everyday slacker Gary, you’ll walk around small areas like his mom’s house and workplace, talk to friends, family, and co-workers, and tend to the garden, which basically involves planting some seeds and ensuring all the flowers are watered once a day. At first, I was worried I’d be falling deep into another farming-like simulator, but that was not the case; so long as the flowers are healthy and wet, you’ll gain extra abilities during fights. There’s also a “motivation” meter to be aware of, affected by Gary’s relationships and decisions and whether or not he gets a good night’s sleep, and this determines some dialogue choice options, but it never seemed to go further than that, so don’t get too upset as it climbs and dips as the story moves forward.

In Legend of the Spear, it’s all about the combat, with a couple of name-guessing puzzles to boot. Battles are predetermined and limited in number, taking place on a small hexagonal grid. Both the heroes and enemies attack in a turn-based fashion, except the wrinkle here is that everyone is technically moving on the same turn simultaneously. You kind of need to see it in action to grok it. This type of combat requires a different type of strategy and takes a few attempts before everything really begins clicking, but thankfully there are some helpful tools readily available from the start to get you up to speed. For instance, you can preview every single turn to see what your enemies are planning to do, determining your actions based on this bit of future sight. You can also rewind turns if things go sour quickly, and they will because if one character in your team dies, it’s over. If you’re successful, you’ll get to see an entire uncut replay of the fight, and it’s like watching a young child’s interpretation of a theatrical song and dance about good versus evil, sped up slightly.

So, the combat is probably the big seller for the game, the thing that makes this a narrative-driven RPG, and I found it initially underwhelming. However, with each fight, I felt like I was getting better and beginning to master how to move everyone around the field, conserving SP and using everyone’s abilities smartly. Your party, at most, is made up of three team members, but you’ll also have some solo fights to deal with. Still, some fights were absolutely brutal, like the one against Sintravos, which took me 70+ turns to see conclude. In retrospect, there were some abilities I never even used, and I found myself sticking to the same-old patterns and tricks to get the job done, such as having Winkali winding up for a stronger punch on the next turn. I initially assumed there would be grinding involved and leveling up via experience points, but each fight has been designed to teach and test you appropriately. In reality, they are more like combat puzzles.

Perhaps my favorite element of Legendary Gary is its soundtrack. It’s weird and weirdly mesmerizing. All the music is done by xXsickXx, and there’s a tribal, electronic pop tint to it all, like something you might imagine was born and bred in the 1980s, in a jungle, with a fever. Sometimes the disconnect between the songs and what is happening in the game is super strong–mostly because the soundtrack only veers its strange head during fights–but it never took me out of the experience completely. Also, you might be surprised to hear someone singing in a couple songs, as most soundtracks for games are instrumental only, but it does become an integral plot piece later in the game. The artwork in Legendary Gary is just as striking, reminding me of an illegal fusion of Squidbillies, Disney’s Pocahontas, and that 1982 Franco-Hungarian animated science fiction classic Time Masters, and it’s extra neat to see how people in Gary’s real life appear in Legend of the Spear. There’s a simplicity to the style and animations with bright, flat colors, but it works well and helps create a unified world.

Despite all that, I still had some issues with Legendary Gary. The Augur egg puzzles, which basically require you to input a specific name, are at first unclear and ultimately not fun to do because you have to click left or right a bunch of times to find the correct letter, and it just slows everything down to a snail-like crawl. I’d have preferred using my keyboard to type in the specific name; I’m a fast typer. Pathfinding is problematic too, especially in the supermarket. Gary’s friend Dave is a sour note, relying on way too many jokes about having sex with Gary’s mom who you come to realize is degrading in mental health, and his gross humor just didn’t sit well with me. Lastly, and this is a big point for me, considering my day job is editing the heck of out other people’s grammar, there were several spelling mistakes throughout Gary’s journey, such as using “effected” instead of “affected” and “weilding” instead of “wielding”, and each instance of these broke my copy-editing heart.

In the end, I wanted more from Legendary Gary. I really enjoyed its look and sounds and felt ready by its credits to take on some even tougher battles, but by then it was over, and the story was told. Still, if you enjoy turn-based combat and want something a bit different than the standard stuff, along with a soundtrack that will have you bobbin’ your head from the very first beat, give this a try. It’s available on Steam.

A copy of Legendary Gary was provided to me by Evan Rogers for review. It took me about four to five hours to complete over a couple of sittings. At one point, during a battle, I closed my eyes and drifted away on a gloriously fluffy soundtrack cloud, returning several minutes later to, y’know, play the game proper. I don’t know if I grew every flower in the garden, and I’m still pretty upset about Gary’s mom, who reminded me way too much of Ellen Burstyn’s character from Requiem for a Dream. Anyways, pay them bills.

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The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2017

Happy holidays, dear readers! Gather round, gather round, for I have a tall tale to tell…

As always, I’m back to wax and wane about the games I did not get to play this year because I’m only one person with two hands and so much time on them to play these wonderfully entertaining things. My bad, but also–whatever. There’s always next year, and the year after that. To refresh everyone’s memories, because I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature for a few years now, here’s a bulleted list of previous entries, and I do suggest y’all dig in to play detective and figure out whether or not I’ve played any of these games since these age-old posts:

I’ll spoil an entry from that bottom 2010 list that I’ve still not touched, some nearly eight years later: Red Dead Redemption. Oh well.

Naturally, there are more than 10 games that I didn’t play this year, but not all of them are things I was interested in from the get-go. Such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, NieR Automata, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Yakuza 0. I’m sure they are all worth trying out eventually. But enough about those. Let’s get into the ones that I probably would have played if…I could have played them. Er, don’t think too hard about that sentence.

10. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy

Did you know a new Professor Layton game came out this year for the Nintendo 3DS? Yeah, me neither. Huh. I had a pretty busy year on my 3DS, with Ever Oasis and Miitopia taking over much of my handheld gaming time. Evidently, this stars a new protagonist for LEVEL-5’s classic point-and-puzzle adventure series–Katrielle Layton, who becomes embroiled in a casual, quizzical quest in search for her missing father. Y’know, the Professor Hershel Layton. I felt a little burned out after Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, but I think I could dip back into this series next year. Also, screenshots show that you get to redecorate the Layton Detective Agency and dress Katrielle up in different outfits, so I’m more than intrigued, plot aside.

9. Cuphead

I have never been interested in difficult platformers, doing only the bare minimum in Super Meat Boy to get to the end credits and staying away from many of these. Though I did recently beat this weirdo. It sounds like the run-and-gun Cuphead is also just as tough. But I wouldn’t be playing it for the challenge, rather to see every inch of art and animation. See, the game was heavily inspired by the rubber hose style of animation used in cartoons of the 1930s, like the stuff coming out of studios like Fleischer and Walt Disney Animation. It seeks to emulate the most subversive and surrealist qualities, and if you don’t know what that means, look at the screenshot above. Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2018 and get this as a Games with Gold freebie.

8. Thimbleweed Park

I didn’t play Thimbleweed Park, a brand new point-and-click adventure game developed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick for PC and modern consoles in 2017, for the obvious reasons. It’s a spiritual successor to Gilbert and Winnick’s previous games Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, both of which I’ve still not played. Ugh. Send me directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. At least I do have access to both of them, so here’s hoping 2018 is the year I finally tackle those genre classics, and then maybe I’ll see what is going on with that creepy clown.

7. What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch doesn’t sound like a happy time. This follows the titular character, a young woman revisiting her old family home as she recalls and discovers the stories of deceased family members. So, it’s probably a somber affair, though I do know that at some point you turn into a shark and roll down a hill. Shrugs. It comes from Giant Sparrow, the developer that brought us The Unfinished Swan, which I enjoyed a good amount, and I imagine this is a wild ride, the best experienced in one big gulp.

6. Rime

Rime, one of two new games from Tequila Works this year alongside The Sexy Brutale, which made the side-scrolling cinematic platforming survival horror Deadlight back in 2012, sounds like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild minus all the combat. Which, honestly, is perfectly okay with me, considering I often tried my best not to get into fights in that game because I’d just end up losing health, weapons, and arrows without getting much to replace them. It’s about a young boy that has washed ashore on an abandoned island, with the main focus being on solving environmental puzzles. It looks both gorgeous and relaxing.

5. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Speaking of relaxing, that’s the vibe I get from Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. It’s an adventure game set in an open world environment, which doesn’t sound like anything unique, but the tone seems to be real low-key. Hey, welcome–stay a while. The game’s primary goal is collecting magical creatures, known as sprites, to banish an ominous shroud known as the Murk. Along the way, you can take part in non-violent activities like farming, fishing, and crafting while exploring the island, and that’s the part I’m most interested in. Last year, I was all about that sweet pixely Stardew Valley, and this seems to share some of the same traits.

4. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 sounds like the end-all, be-all überlegen CRPG, with content bursting at the seams and a story that reacts to nearly every single one of your choices, no matter how major or minor. That’s cool. Maybe I’ll try it some day. Though there’s that terrible part of my brain that says I shouldn’t until I’ve at least played Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Divinity II, Divinity: Dragon Commander, and Divinity: Original Sin. You can’t tell because this is just written text, but I’m laughing hysterically over here.

3. Pyre

Supergiant Games is a rad developer with some highly imaginative titles. I loved Bastion, and I was a little mixed on Transistor. Pyre looks gorgeous, but I don’t know if I’ll get into the fantasy sports element since I don’t even like normal non-fantasy sports, but I have to imagine that the plot will draw me into this strange, amazing-looking world. Here’s a quick plot summary, which sounds fascinating: you controls a character who has been exiled from society and quickly meets three other exiles. The three exiles then discover that the player-character is literate and invites them to join their party, nicknaming them the Reader. The Reader aids the exiles and other exiles met during the course of the game in their travels through the land of purgatory as they look to cleanse their souls via defeating other exiles. Yowza.

2. Tacoma

I played a bunch of Gone Home in 2017. It’s still a masterpiece. Fullbright’s follow-up Tacoma is another exploration game, this time set aboard a seemingly-empty space station in 2088. You play as Amy, who has an augmented reality device that allows her to review the actions and conversations of non-player characters that were part of crew that had been aboard the station. These recordings can be manipulated, fast-forwarding or rewinding as necessary in order to see what happened and move the plot forward. It’s another rummaging simulator, but this time aboard an abandoned spaceship, like Prey but without the constant fear of a coffee mug trying to kill you. I also think the polygonal character models look super neat.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

I don’t have a Nintendo Switch, and I probably won’t for a long time. That’s just how these things go, too many consoles, not enough money, space, and time. Thankfully, I was able to play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this year via the Wii U version, which is fine. Then again, when I think about it, I haven’t played many of the big Mario marquee titles over the years, like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, both Super Mario Galaxy titles, and so on. So this isn’t anything new or shocking, but the twist is that Super Mario Odyssey is the first one in a while that I’m actively interested in playing. The hook of using your hat to take over enemies and use their abilities to better yourself seems fun and instantly reminds me of Brave Fencer Musashi. I also really like how organized the game is when it comes to tracking how many moons you’ve collected, and that the collectibles are your ship’s currency to get you to new places.

And there we have it, the top 10 games I didn’t get to play in 2017. I hope I can play one or two of these some time in 2018, but there’s never a guarantee on that (see the previously mentioned Red Dead Redemption at the top of this post).

But that was me, and now I want to know more about you. What big or small games did you not get to touch this year? Tell me all about them in the comments section below.