Hammerwatch

Screenshot_156

A game reviewer is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he remembers that he should have posted something two days before.

Super Zeldiablo is an action-adventure dungeon crawler by Jochum Skoglund and Niklas Myrberg, in which you hack at monsters through a dungeon.

That’s it, what else is there to say?

Did I mention that it’s fun as nails? Or that it’s buckets of hard?

Screenshot_2

But just in case, let’s wade through giant beetles, giant maggots and giant eyes to make sure.

.

I had to admit, I didn’t get very far. I played as a paladin first, then as a warlock, and although the former’s charge attack is impressive, I much prefer the latter’s chain-lightning-like powers. That’s because I’m a coward who doesn’t want giant maggots to drool his skin to snot. True, I didn’t try easy mode, but that’s like asking George R. R. Martin to write a children’s book. You just don’t do that.

The controls are tight, they feel as good on a keyboard as they do on a gamepad, and your walking speed is just right. Killing monsters is as fun as it is advertised, that is, until you find yourself without mana and running from an entire zoo of horrors trying to chew your face off.

Screenshot_13

Woe is you, milady, for thy basement hath verily become the lair of republicans.

.

Grandma Needs To Call An Exterminator does allow you to save by activating checkpoints, which can be done more than once per checkpoint, but loading will restore you to the exact state you were at the moment you last activated it. How is this new, you might ask? It isn’t, but the act of saving automatically overwrites the previous save file. You may run towards the nearest checkpoint, hoping to have reached a new safe spot, only to find out that you saved with 1 hit point, no mana, and a wave of Fox News pundits is just around the corner, eager to know your opinion and then vomit acid all over you.

Screenshot_16

Forsooth! May my soul be kept safe… in 1.44 MB.

.

You start with one special skill besides your normal attack, and you can find merchants to buy the other skills from. That gives all the gold that is randomly scattered about the dungeon a purpose. Some merchants, however, are conveniently positioned so you may experience the joy of tearing your hair out in rage and wondering why you can’t just fucking jump over that ridiculous 5-feet wide chasm and get to them. It does however work as an excellent mechanism to drive the player forward, and sometimes even find secret passageways or walk right through incorporeal walls altogether. The level design really keeps you going, that is, until you’ve been ground to a pulp by the spawns of hell for the 20th time in a row.

Screenshot_14

Thou must surely be jesting.

.

I tried the multiplayer mode, but it seems to not be working at the moment. By “at the moment” I mean “for a year now.” Not good, people. I might have read wrong, though. I might have just fallen upon posts of people whom the gods of port forwarding hold in very low esteem and enjoy torturing. From the symptoms, I seem to be one of those poor souls, and to the gods I say UP YOURS

As for the music by Two Feathers, it’s great. It fits both the medieval feel of the game, as well as its 16-bit look. Some cuts are odd, though, as it sometimes switches tracks without any transition whatsoever, in the middle of the music, as if it were a “bloody”  “monday”.

Screenshot_12

It’s just another bloody monday.

.

8/10

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Tumblr.

Advertisements

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Screenshot_106

You didn’t think I’d leave this sucker behind, did you?

The fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series is an action-adventure RPG by Bethesda in which dragons are a rising threat to an otherwise peacef- oh wait, there’s a civil war too, and necromancers, and giants, and vampires, and werewolves, and… Anyway, your skinny/furry/scaly head is saved from rolling off your neck into a basket at the last second by a dragon attack, after which you end up discovering that you have powers related to dragon-slaying.

intro

You gone done it.

.

Irony, like every other Elder Scrolls game, allows you to chisel your character’s frontispiece in detail, after choosing from a variety of races such as White People, Blindingly White People, Slightly Less White People, Black People, Legolas, Brown Legolas, Never-Saw-The-Sun Legolas, Velociraptor, Neko, and Orc. There’s always Orc.

ScreenShot3

Naturally, I went with Velociraptor, because not only can they open doors, they wear pants properly.

.

So what do you do in Medieval Hoarding? You might as well ask what don’t you do. There’s all sorts of plots and quests to follow, and, uh… Questing, plotting to quest, questing to plot quests. Yeah, basically you do stuff for other people and you get rewards… But look at the scenery!

ScreenShot8

WARNING: May contain traces of dragons

.

Please the local top cat enough, and he’ll name you the equivalent of sheriff of the place. He might even give you a house! Why would you want a house? Well, maybe because if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself hoarding clutter like there’s no tomorrow, with no place to keep any of it. In the land of rimmed skies, no container is safe from the demons of respawning, save for those inside your hard-earned haven. You can also marry and have your spouse rot there for the rest of their life!

But what is the point of Quests With Scenery? Well, killing dragons, for one. Despite the countless hours that I have spent shooting arrows into everything but knees, I haven’t finished the game yet, so it’s not like I can spoil the ending or the final purpose of it all. Soon after your botched execution, you learn that you are the fabled Dragonborn, an individual born with specific powers who comes along every century or so as a gift from the gods to get mortals out of some bind that inexplicably can only be neutralized by someone who can sneeze a dragon off the skies. Not that this is out of place, on the contrary. The environment and especially the music do a great job of making the whole experience feel epic, especially while battling dragons.

ScreenShot26

That’s as close as I can get to a dragon before shitting my pants.

.

As far as skill development goes, I’ve always been a fan of how this series handles that. For those less familiar with the Elder Scrolls games, almost every attempt at anything, from interacting with merchants to battling, to lockpicking, to crushing ingredients to make potions, increases your experience in that skill, therefore making you better at that specific skill through training, regardless of success. Many RPGs instead give you experience points that you can then spend on anything, making it possible for you to become better at, say, magic, from beheading goblins in a cave with an axe. Unless you ate the brain of a shaman, that’s not gonna happen. Those that don’t do that have predetermined skill trees for each pre-selected class, and I was never much of a fan of those, mainly because it feels a tad too restricted, at least in games that rely on rich details and freedom for your character. I wouldn’t ask that of Hammerwatch, for example.

ScreenShot1

I should be able to buy a boat

.

For all its breathtaking scenery, rich lore, and inspiring battles, even Epic Sneezing does not come without faults:

Bugs. Bugs everywhere. Holy shit, so many bugs. Ant farms of them. But that’s almost a staple of Elder Scrolls, really, and it is understandable, due to the complexity of the game. Still, BUGS.

Every monster looks exactly the same. Little to none texture variance, which, in a game where you’re bound to meet plenty of monsters, is an invitation to visual boredom. Every beautiful sunset over the mountains won’t save the fact that every skeleton, troll, and bear looks the same.

The inventory screen is an aberration. I don’t think I have to say anything else, but my amygdala is begging me for a hyperbole: Imagine you have a lot of objects to sort in one room, imagine you can only know their name except when you hold them in your hands, imagine you can only see the names of about twelve of them at a time, then imagine you have to sort objects between this and another room, and you cannot see what is inside both rooms at the same time. All of this has to be done around five times a day, if not more.

The keyboard and the mouse are having their own civil war for dialogue and inventory menus. If you decide to use both for some reason, you’ll often end up challenging someone to a duel to the death when all you wanted to know were directions.

Followers are mentally-challenged, and the arbitrary limit of one follower serves no purpose.

Why does every book cover look the same?

I look like an idiot when I jump. In the game too.

Corpses become immaterial. In a game where I can pick up and move almost anything, this sounds contradictory.

If apples and bread heal me, why would I craft potions?

Like in every RPG, once you get the hand of the mechanics, everything turns into a lot of grinding just to increase your abilities. This is almost inevitable, but there are ways to make this less boring, and to fix everything mentioned above.

Screenshot_107

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODS

.

I loaded over 150 mods into my game, and I can say they solved all the problems above, and more. Now, of course, your machine needs to be able to handle them, and there will always be bugs, but you can’t possibly compare them to the ones in the vanilla game. The mod community is definitely to thank for imbuing The Buggy Scrolls with the life it needs. From enhanced visuals and sounds, survival systems, and texture variants, to difficulty enhancers, interface overhauls, and added content, they turned my experience with this game into a 10/10.

ScreenShot4

Due to public health concerns, I am not allowed to show the original inventory screen.

.

However, I am not here to review a modded game.

7/10

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Tumblr.

Lone Survivor

Silent SNES is a psychological horror adventure sidescroller by Jasper Byrne, in which a young man seems to have mistaken an outbreak of spasmodic flesh mannequins for the bird flu.

You start as You (not you, You), a young man who seems to recollect very little of his recent life, including his near surroundings. You also seems to believe a dust mask to be an effective shield against shambling monstrosities with a propensity for biting and an inability to grasp the concept of depth, should You decide to cleverly dodge into the background shadows. Long story short, there’s monsters everywhere, and You wants out of this place, because you know, getting bitten to death sucks.

Oh, but that’s not it, no sir. Drugs Are Bad For You pulls you (not You, you) into the mind of You, and boy, is it fucked up. You eventually meets Her, who seems to be someone You held in high esteem, and she is the main source of mystery and motivation for You (aside from not being eaten alive by Them). I won’t delve deeper, simply because I can’t. Most questions you might have about You’s past life, current state of mind or encounters are never answered objectively, materializing instead as inside-out renditions of Thriller, a shady cat-comics lover in an overcoat, the lovechild of Pee-Wee Herman and Billy, and a man in a suit with a cardboard box on his head.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

.

I like it. I like it a lot. Daddy’s Gonna Rape You is tough. Some small things aren’t easy to notice, but I like how something as simple as ammo or flashlight battery replenishment are embedded into the surrealism of the game. There are some details going on you might miss the opportunity to act on at first. Along with the multiple endings, this provides good replay value. The save mechanics make sense, the shortcuts back to the only place you can save in are well positioned and scarce enough to make You’s journey a challenge, and you always have the choice between being sneaky or shooting everything that moves. This last point is many times ruined in games when the choices are too unbalanced, especially in the case of stealth being an easy choice over melee as deadly as storming a bunker alone with a pocketknife. Can’t See Shit, Captain features no controller support, though. It’s fine on keyboard, but it wouldn’t hurt to have that little extra for controller-nuts like me. Joy2Key it is.

Another thing I love in Mommy’s Gonna Cut You is the absence of a GUI besides the inventory. No bars, no meters, no points, nothing. You is You, you become You, no interferences, no idiotic sanity accounting, no control, no idea of when You’ll start feeling hungry, tired, nothing at all. You are stripped bare of anything that could possibly distract you from You’s point of view, therefore guaranteeing total immersion, which is what a horror game is supposed to deliver. I won’t be scared if I’m simply told that my character just crapped his pants. That’s what sanity meters do. They’re pantscrapping measurement tools, and that’s pure, extra virgin and unprocessed bollocks. If you want me to crap my pants, then make the game do so. Even if you don’t want that, even if you just want me to jump from time to time, to leak one or two drops of pee, to shiver a bit, to lay an egg, whatever, just make the game itself, its environment, events, characters and story have that effect on me. A sanity meter is the equivalent of an “applause” sign at live shows: shallow, insincere emotion, and a waste of everyone’s time, vocal chords, and skin cells.

The Matrix doesn’t seem so bad anymore, now does it?

.

The Magic School Bus works so well, in fact, that it doesn’t even need fancy graphics to keep you on edge. It’s not something that will rape your mind with horrifying nightmares for a month, far from that, but while that was never a requirement, it still does a better job than many games with modern graphics. The music, also by Jasper Byrne, accomplishes this masterfully. Hell, all of the audio is spot on. I didn’t know a vacuum cleaner could sound like that.

I’ll end this by addressing the bloated, pulsating elephant carcass in the room: The influence of Silent Hill is more than obvious, no one can deny it. By Silent Hill, I mean Silent Hill 2, the only Silent Hill game there has ever been. I do not know of any other Silent Hill, and if you do, I’m so sorry. I believe, however, that a great formula can be used more than once with very good results, and this is one of those cases. Why? Sensibility.

Speaking of which, hey, Konami, Jasper called, he found your taste.

9/10

.

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

Botanicula

Some days ago, if someone had told me that you could make a game about natural life and arboreal harmony terrifying, I would have laughed in their face. Now I weep in a corner of the room, repeatedly yelling at deformed, flying livers with eyes to stop humming in unstable chords.

I thought Amanita Design would leave surrealism to music videos, but What The Fuck came to prove me wrong. Like Machinarium, it’s a point-and-click adventure game, with truckloads more easter eggs than anything I’ve seen recently and the ability to enthrall in such ways that you cannot stop wondering whether your brain is being caressed or raped.

I wasn’t kidding about the flying livers.

.

We’re not talking Bambi nature, here. We’re talking trippy cloud-bubble genius wishing, bizarre larvae band listening, globulous tumor feather dotting, flying goldfish riding, chicken-mounted volleyball playing, bloated ooze-fly squeezing, flabby slug-pig stomping, mumbling afro-mushroom storytelling, cancerous Igor-lookalike city exploring, one-eyed sap jellyfish driving, bug-racing blue peanut cap stealing, pseudo-Buddhist floating-truffle-inhabited fig temple visiting nature. This is nature as understood by a child whose parents have a disturbing sense of humour. This is nature as heard by a schizophrenic boyscout lost in the woods for two years. This is nature as seen by Dali on acid. And it’s hilarious.

The visuals are one bizarre work of art after another, and 95% of the audio is made out of vocalizations, snaps, claps, whistles, and the noise you make when you’re pretending to be a plane right before you realize you’re not alone in the room, after which you proceed to name a fictional respiratory disease to mask your inadequacy to act your age. I’ll admit the art style isn’t my cup of tea as much as Machinarium’s was, but seeing every little reaction of every little bug, seed, twig, or leaf I’d click become funnier and funnier definitely kept it interesting.

I wasn’t kidding about the chicken volleyball either.

.

I had already explained my thoughts on point-and-clicks, but most puzzles in What Is This I Don’t Even are downright illogical. The game ends up being a meticulous process of hovering over every single pixel on the screen and clicking when the cursor changes, in a mix of inner-giggling terror and curiosity at what hilarity might emerge. Only near the very end does logic come to play a little role, and even then it is too short-lived and right before a tiny segment of actual action. Action at the speed of grandma, but action nevertheless. I am not saying, however, that this wasn’t the point of the developers. They surely managed to stylistically reinvent the genre.

At some points I felt a bit overwhelmed, however. Not because of the difficulty, but the laboriousness of the exploration, which is reduced to checking every square pixel for bacteria droppings and every variation thereof during the course of a dozen areas. It definitely didn’t strike me as an addictive game, as I felt like my eyes had been injected with eerie-glowing painting oils to drive my brain into detail overload after a while in the same session, forcing me to take a day-long break. It feels more like an exercise in visual curiosity (and auditory hilarity), while the storyline remains simple enough to keep the focus on the art.

The soundtrack, composed by DVA, a Czech alternative band duet, is… strange. The eclectic references are everywhere, from pop to jazz, to folk, to traditional music, even a clever redoing of Pacman, and it includes a lot of the game’s audio, which only helps the bizarreness. One specific track, for example, reminded me of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. Some loops are tiresome, and the faster the tracks, the more they sound like someone blended 10 kg of vinyls and glued all the pieces back into a different set of discs. They all fit the game perfectly, as will some shrooms.

The similarities are uncanny.

.

6/10

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

SSTTP: Celestial Mechanica

A.K.A. Robots in the Sky

.

Why Are Water Temples Always So Confusing is a simple 2D platformer focused on exploration and puzzles by Roger Hicks and Paul Veer. The game’s pixelated style and focus on robots make it a sort of younger hyperactive brother of Cave Story who, upon noticing the achievements of the latter thought it would be easy to follow in the same steps while having Knytt in mind.

You wish.

The game starts with a story being told of how humanity almost perished when Earth decided to flip them the bird and break into pieces because of their insistence on raping the environment. Right before it crumbled completely, an extraterrestrial race of robots called Mechanians suddenly appeared in the sky, miraculously restoring the planet and making it clear that mankind would owe them forever. They established themselves in a flying fortress and have never been seen anywhere else on Earth for a hundred years, despite the fact that you, a curvy yellow robot thrown off the flying city, meet one right as you land, along with several others intent on killing you.

Sense: None.

.

Apparently, the king of the Mechanians is angry and you’re supposed to climb back up there to understand why. That’s pretty much it.

There isn’t much to say about I Can Masturbate For Longer Than This, except that its simple visuals are pleasing to the eye, the controls are tight and fast, and the soundtrack, also by Hicks, at times reminded me of Muse‘s older days. It could be a longer game, as it has the potential to explore its visual effects capabilities and mechanics. One of the acquired abilities involves catching the enemy’s projectiles, and I can think of several ways in which such a skill could be improved beyond wait, grab, and throw back. Even Kirby and Megaman thought further than that.

Neo may dodge bullets, but I GRAB them.

.

The power-ups feel too easy to acquire since there are so many compressed in such a short amount of time, and the fact that you have infinite lives, along with your respawning in the immediate vicinity a la Zelda only makes the trip faster and less challenging. I’ll keep running, jumping, getting shot and dying until I get through. One thing I would definitely consider an annoying flaw (and yes, I got the 1.20 patch) is the hypersensitivity of spike pits. A microscopic nudge towards the general vicinity of their upper corner and I am suddenly bereft of life.

The reason I am again reviewing a game from last year is that I didn’t even know this existed until very recently. Although short, Knytt Meets Asimov remains a pleasant game, and I wonder how many little gems of the kind could be hidden in the series of tubes that we inhabit.

5/10

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

The Binding of Isaac

I keep my promises, Tiago.

.

Yes, I know it’s from last year, I know we’re in November, but I’ve been planning this one for a long time, so can it and read.

Holy Shit This Guy Has Issues is a top-down 2D roguelike dungeon crawler by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himself Hansel Hindenburg Himsl. It feels like The Legend of Zelda, except Link is naked and cries on his enemies, Ganon is his murderous mother, and Octoroks are at that time of the month.

Is that… Are they… Oh God…

.

If you ever dreamed of having an aborted fœtus as a sidekick while fighting eyeless blood-coughing disembodied baby heads and wailing tumors through an oddly dangerous basement, I recommend both this game and the nearest shrink.

You start as Isaac, a happy little boy living his life contentedly with his mother, until she hears a voice from above telling her to strip him of his “corrupted possessions,” lock him away and kill him as a proof of God-fearing faith. Don’t have enough haters yet, Edmund? Good man.

Let’s not act surprised, however. We all know Mr. McMillen from charming titles such as Spewer, Carious Weltling, Time Fcuk (and that is not a typo), Cunt, and the very famous Super Meat Boy. We know of his deranged and depraved mind, and if you don’t, my warmest of welcomes. After playing this, I am torn between suggesting Edmund a CAT scan or leaving him be just to see what he comes up with next.

You Must Be Puttin’ Me On looks like just another cartoony Newgrounds gorefest at first, but as I kept playing I saw a greater plan forming around me. The neverending procedurally generated dungeon layouts and the sheer amount of collectibles, power-ups and secret levels turned permadeath into an average bother. Maybe this time I’ll find better power-ups, maybe this time I’ll unlock a new character, maybe this time I’ll get to this new ending I just unlocked, those were the thoughts that went through my mind as I kept playing through the strangely addictive massacre.

Ten bucks if you guess where he wears the coat hanger.

.

The Internet memes and the references to Nintendo games are abundant, and the whole game feels both familiar and alien. At one point I realized that one of the bosses swallows bombs, making my task of slaying the giant maggot a lot easier, provided I hadn’t spent them all blowing up rocks to get to treasure chests that frustratingly turned out to only contain one cent. But you never know! That’s the essence of I Have Mommy Issues. There are more locked doors than there are keys, more bombable rocks than bombs, more stuff to buy or invest on than money (provided you don’t find specific items that can fix that for you), so everything is a matter of risk. And it’s fun, because although challenging, the levels are so few at first that I found myself more interested in knowing what horrifyingly strange device I would find next.

The boss fights feel like those stressing arcade games in which you have to keep shooting and dodging with the tenacity of a single termite at a lumber mill. It kept me on edge, and that’s a tough balance to find. Many games either power you up so much you can keep all the goodies for the boss and vaporize him in one hit, or expect you to be able to dodge raindrops made of death during the monsoon using only a paperclip and a dead hamster (I’m looking at Youhou).

Digestively correct monster lair.

.

Danny Baranowsky‘s soundtrack fits the game like a glove, enhancing the darker tones that the cartoony visuals try to soften, assuming you can soften the image of a room filled with blood and feces, that is. The music adds that spark of ominous grittiness without being too serious, ensuring we don’t forget this is a child going bonkers.

The fact that Does Your Mother Know doesn’t seem to take itself seriously is probably the key as to why it works so well. The gratuitous gore exists primarily to keep your morbid sense of curiosity going while providing a good laugh at the incredible shit the developers managed to come up with, regardless of whether it does mean something more to Mr. McMillen’s fascinating neocortex. Therefore, anyone taking offense to the obvious biblical references and/or to the gore itself is better off somewhere else. Similarly, anyone taking offense and proceeding to voice it like a douchebag is better off on Mars without a spacesuit.

Apparently, Nintendo rejected to port Sarkeesian’s Field Day to the DS, not because of the gore, but due to “questionable religious content.” As opposed to religious content that won’t be flamed in any part of the world? The Flying Spaghetti Monster, perhaps? I do understand Nintendo’s stance as a respected company who wants to maintain its family-friendly image, but then you have the Resident Evil and House of the Dead series, Madworld, No More Heroes, and Dead Rising, all on the Wii and we’re supposed to be worried about a bible reference? Fine, I also understand the religious point. It’s the same reason why some Zelda games got their names changed for their western release to avoid damaging the delicate minds of religious fanatics and get customers from the Bible Belt. In case you don’t know, Link used to be a Christian, I shit you not.

If anything, I’d sue for making Bomberman look like an undead Teletubbie.

.

Regardless, Nintendo, although you might not hear me over the sound of building a new landmass out of money, I think you lost a hell of a deal with this one. I’m not the kind of person who hangs on to games like these for a long time, but it definitely deserved a review, as late as it may come. I feel redeemed from my delay, however, as an expansion called Wrath of the Lamb came out this year, apparently containing more of everything. I’ll be sure to give it a whirl.

7/10

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.