I know what you’re thinking. “Where the hell have you been, Zoe?” I’ve been here, actually, and I’ve been busy writing. How busy? I’ve written 100,000 words in two weeks, and averaged about 9,000 to 10,000 words per day. That kind of dedicated work doesn’t leave much time for anything else, but as I’ve gone three seasons without writing anything new, I had to take advantage of this sudden productive streak and hold onto it for as long as I can.
But I did spend a few minutes here and there gaming as a reward for meeting chapter goals, and my game this time around was Adventures of Mana, which was ported over to PS Vita from the iOS/Android version. At this point, that makes it a port of a port of a port, and the game itself is fairly old. So, how does it stand up after the passage of time? Not well at all.
My experience with the Mana series stops with the SNES title Secret of Mana, a game I liked so much that a few years ago I got a ROM and emulator to play it back through. In playing Adventures of Mana, I can see the story attempting to hit some of the same notes, and it doesn’t do a very good job of it.
Right off the bat, the hero (who you can name or go with the default choice) is a slave gladiator who after fighting one exotic beast is told by another slave that the tree of mana is in danger, and that he must seek out the last of the Gemma Knights to learn how to SAVE THE WORLD. Rrrrrrrriiiiiight. Additionally, someone a room over from this trite death scene totally heard this guy’s last gasping whispers and suggests that the hero can escape during his next fight because the gate the fighting animals enter the arena from leads directly outside to the front of the castle. (Which has no guards or traffic to notice an escaping slave.) I don’t care how generous you want to be, this is a level of stupid so powerful it generates its own event horizon. Continue reading
Downwell was the game I got while waiting for Mighty No. 9 to finally release in the European PS Store. At this point, Mighty No. 9 has finally “shipped” and I played it for a day and deleted it with no intentions of reviewing it. I’ll only say that the game has about as much to do with Mega Man as a Snape/Potter slashfic has anything to do with Harry Potter. Sure, there are surface details that seem similar, but once you scratch the surface, it’s all squick and nausea below.
But so this is my review for Downwell after a week of playing on both my Vita and my PS4, and while it has some interesting ideas, overall, I ended up deleting it as well.
Downwell is another indie retro title, but while most retro games pay tribute to Nintendo, the graphics in this feel like they’re reaching even farther back to the days of Atari or perhaps Amiga and Commodore. The controls remind me of those old days of imprecise joysticks with a single fire button, there’s only three colors in any palette, and any two objects occupying the same space will result in one dithering or vanishing entirely. The object of the game is summed up in the title. You fall down a well and use your “gunboots” to shoot enemies. Doing so will make them release gems of various sizes. Along the sides of the well are occasional pit stops with a force field around them. Once you hit that field, time stops. Your enemies freeze, and you get a chance to rest and collect extra gems or guns. After passing through the first well barrier at the bottom of level 1-1, another hole in the walls appears with shops holding three items for sale in exchange for the gems you collect. Also, completing each level gives you access to an upgrade item, some of which have very helpful qualities. Continue reading
Having played on all the difficulty levels besides the easiest, I can safely say I know Fallout 4 inside and out. The previous survival mode wasn’t quite the challenge I’d been hoping for, so when talk of a new harder mode came out, it had my attention. As more details leaked, I only became more intrigued. Ammo and crafting supplies would have weight. Food and beds would be much more important, and there were new challenges in the form of management of fatigue and even diseases. Yes, this all sounded much more challenging.
And for the most part, it is, but not in the ways that I’d hoped. The added challenge of only saving when I can find a place to sleep was certainly interesting, or at times frustrating when I couldn’t find a bed and ran into major trouble. But that was a rare occurrence because it often seemed like I could find beds and sleeping bags every hundred yards or so. They were even scattered out in the open in places that were highly unlikely to say the least. But for a large chunk of the game, there was an added difficulty because my character was tissue paper weak, and could usually be killed with one shot. In this way, even a single stray bullet could send me back a half an hour or more.
Another part of the challenge had to do with carrying enough food and clean water to keep myself in fighting shape, and having all those supplies severely limited what I could pick up. It also limited how long I could travel without restocking, and most of the caps I earned early on in the game had to be spent on food, water, and bullets. I’d say a great deal of my time in the first 18 levels was spent micromanaging my supplies and that kept pulling me out of the game to worry about my inventory more than the enemies I was facing. Continue reading
Well…so by now, y’all should know why I chose to pick up this game. But if not, here’s the recap: after beating several games on their hardest modes and not feeling challenged, Dark Souls III was supposed to be a huge knock to my ego because it’s just so, so hard. But you know what? It isn’t nearly as hard as I’d been led to believe. I’ll tell you something else. I think it’s a mistake to talk up the difficulty as a selling point. It’s an overrated ideal, and it doesn’t do the game justice. Having played this and mostly loved it, I’m going to buy the PS4 port of Dark Souls II and Bloodborne because I want more of this kind of fantastic gameplay. That will of course come after I’ve played through this game a few more times to see the other classes and endings. It is not without flaws, some of which might be sticking points for more casual players, but I’ll get to those after the gushing and the rambling. (And it will be rambling because I’m writing this at 7 AM after an all-night session to beat the last two bosses.)
I should mention that I’m coming into this series as a relative newcomer. I know the past games from watching speed runs on the Games Done Quick events and from watching Let’s Plays on YouTube. I know some of the lore from commentary offered in both of those venues. But I have never played any of them myself, and once I committed myself to buy this game, I flat out ignored all the previews and streams of the preview copies because I wanted to go into this and be totally surprised by it. In that regard, mission accomplished. Every ambush and trap was totally a shock to me the first time they happened, and some of them helped prove that yes, my butthole pucker function still works well.
Ahem, let’s move on.
Where to begin? Well how about that character creator? I spent a few hours just pondering what class to play. I knew someone somewhere would roll their eyes if I chose a sorcerer or a cleric, so I went with an assassin. I took no extra items, wanting to make this first run really challenging. Then I spent another few hours playing with the face and body of my character, and I was pleased by the variety of the body types and races I could make my character. I didn’t like the default lean-faced lass, so I made her a bit on the ugly side, with a big nose and an overbite. I had a lot of fun just making my character look perfectly imperfect. Continue reading
Had I based my review off of the first two to three levels of Enter the Gungeon alone, it probably would have been glowing, with only a few complaints about the controls. To be sure, there is still a lot to praise. But I’ve since burned out on the game without completing it based on one simple problem: it’s incredibly stingy and gives no sense of accomplishment for beating the challenges it throws at me.
I want to get one of my biggest complaints out of the way first. I hate the control scheme because it’s needlessly painful on my hands. I know this could have been avoided had I been allowed to change the button layout, something I know I can do on the Steam version. But fuck me if I want to play on console with my nice big screen TV and comfy couch. Then I’m stuck playing with a control scheme that keeps pulling my thumb off the sticks and back again in a frantic motion that just hurts. This is bullshit. If I can change the buttons on the Steam version, why am I forced to play with a control scheme I don’t like on the console?
Because of how badly the controls hurt my hands, I had to play this in short spurts with lots of rest breaks in between, and I did so because there is a lot to like about this game. To start with, the story is wildly unique. In this mysterious bullet castle is a gun that can kill the past, and adventurers with old regrets come from all over the galaxy for a chance to undo their past mistakes. To do so, they must traverse five floors of bullet hell and assemble a bullet that can shoot through time itself. Sounds awesome, y’all. Continue reading
Salt and Sanctuary needed almost a full day of playing to work for me, as the first area really wasn’t being too kind to my eyes. I was also a little iffy on the story at first because “Oh, look, it’s another rescue the princess quest.” But it’s not, and the princess is actually a huge MacGuffin that leads to a much deeper story, one I really enjoyed all the way to the end.
Initially, though, I was struggling to move past an area very early in the game after the first boss, and I inadvertently ended up spending that first day in a cycle of grinding for XP. Once I got past that sticking point on the second day and into an area that was less visually blurry, my enjoyment of the game went up immensely.
I’m going to cover the game in a lot more detail, but first I want to tell a little story. After my review of Fallout 4, I ended up playing it another three times, each time increasing the difficulty until I was up to Survival mode and still beating the game. On Twitter and Facebook, I commented that if it was possible for me to win on the hardest modes like this, maybe I needed a knock to my ego by getting Dark Souls III when it comes out in April.
So then along comes some reviews for Salt and Sanctuary, all of them sporting the description “2D Dark Souls.” So I figured this would be a good training run before getting into the real deal. Continue reading
Way back when I a wee teen, I had a friend who went to Dallas all the time, and he would pick up issues of Weekly Shonen Jump for me. Not the compiled individual comics, but the actual issues imported from Japan. They’re all black and white comics on really cheap paper, and most of the stories are broken up into frustratingly short blocks. But oh how I loved those comics, and I kept buying them for quite a while before I got too sick and too broke to afford them.
J-Stars Victory VS+ is thus a perfect game for me because it’s got so many characters I read during my misspent youth, plus many others that I’ve come to know through later compilations or their anime adaptations. It’s an extremely flimsy premise drawing all of these characters together, but then it’s a fighting game and plot is pretty much secondary to the reason for playing.
Having said that, for as much as I enjoyed the game I also had problems with several parts of it, not the least of which is how the adventure mode draggs on and on before getting to the end of the story.
Before I cover the problematic parts, I want to talk about the things I did like. The combat is good and usually easy to grasp regardless of which character I’m handed to play with, and each character has their own special moves that come from their respective series. The arenas these fights take place in are nice and varied with plenty of color and personality, and buildings and walls explode with satisfying force when I attack an enemy and send them flying. Continue reading
Level 22: Gary’s Misadventures is a “humorous stealth” (yes, both of those belong in quotes) game with some cute moments and several fun levels, but it’s also hindered by many dreadful levels caused by bad design. The premise is simple enough. Gary has partied too hard on his birthday, and waking up late the next day, he realizes he must sneak into work or risk being fired.
In this plot, Gary needs help from a master of slacking, so he calls Marty, who knows the company’s security and all the ways to exploit it. In return for helping Gary get to his desk, Marty asks Gary to find some of his prized toy collection, which was scattered all over the building after Marty got fired for destroying some office equipment.
Thus begins Gary’s ascent to Level 22, a trip that will take him up and down through the convoluted maze of his company, each floor starting and ending with a stairwell. Which, even being nice, is a perfect example of stupid video game logic. In every single real world building, the stairwell is a single continuous structure used primarily as a fire exit. Want to go to level 22 without being seen? Take the stairwell, because no one in their right mind is going to climb 22 flights of stairs when there’s a working elevator. But whatever, the building is set up by a masochist who hopes everyone dies in a fire. Let’s just run with that. Continue reading
Hoo boy, this fuckin’ game…there’s a part of me that wants to say something pragmatic and objective, like “Teslagrad is not a bad game, just a bad game for me.” But that’s because I absolutely hated playing it from start to finish. I want to be objective and pragmatic because the graphics are so pretty and the story is told without dialogue. That’s a nifty trick in an age when most games want to spend five minutes in intro cut scenes before letting you play. But the game DEMANDS perfection with every single puzzle. I remember reading early reviews that said, “This isn’t very challenging,” and now I want to scream at those reviewers, “As compared to what? Demon Souls?!”
So, the game starts off with an older man taking a baby to a house before time passes forward, and then an invading army forces the grown child to escape into a tower designed by the electrical equivalent of Rube Goldberg. This is the point at which I have to ask, “Does anyone ever build a tower that will kill them for failing to navigate the trip to their office?” FUUUUCK NOOOO THEY DON’T! The argument can’t even be made that this tower was built to defend some mystical treasure from distant enemies, because as the story plays out, it’s clear the “electromancers” were wiped out by their own allies. As it is, the first item, the polarity gloves, are right inside the tower. That’s some super duper security, mang.
AND YET, this ancient tower also contains automated puppet shows covering the history of these two factions. I’m trying to picture who had time to build that, and WHY they fucking built it. Like, “AAAAAH, OUR ALLIES HAVE BETRAYED US AND THE TOWER BURNS! WE MUST SET UP A SERIES OF ELABORATE PUPPET THEATERS DETAILING OUR HISTORY IN CASE SOMEONE ELSE COMES ALONG AND DOESN’T DIE IN OUR HUNDRED BOOBY TRAPS OF HOT ELECTRICAL DEATH! Continue reading
Hitman Go needed time to grow on me, and for the first two “boxes” I was pretty bored with it. But the game keeps adding new ideas and raising the challenge until it becomes a fun sort of puzzler that crosses chess with assassination.
Even at the start, each level is a visual treat, being designed to look like a board game with little plastic figures representing Agent 47, his marks, random guards, and even occasional bystanders. Each collection of levels is part of a box set, and given how each section is relatively small, I can almost see this game fitting into a real life box.
Given how pretty the designs are, it’s a shame that the game is so stingy about camera control. It is possible to nudge the camera a bit to get a slightly different angle or to zoom out, but that’s about it. This makes it harder to appreciate all the little details going on around the levels, which is a real shame when I wanted to look at some of the background antics. One airport level in particular had humorous depictions of baggage handlers using some…unorthodox packing methods. I wanted to zoom in on that, and it’s a bummer that I couldn’t. Continue reading