Path of Exile

Finally, Diablo III is here.

I Was On A Boat is an action RPG by Grinding Gear Games in which you Diablo the Diablo out of the Diablo until you can’t Diablo anymore. It’s online, but it also allows you to adventure solo, since areas aren’t shared with other players unless you’re in a party.

I don’t need no stinkin’ party

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Every Conceivable Good Decision is free-to-play. Not “free-to-play,” not free-to-try; but free-to-play. Although micro-transactions exist, they are only for decorative elements. Nothing you can possibly buy with real money is of any actual practical help in the game, therefore making it absolutely not pay-to-win, as opposed to the general fleet of utterly stale, fun-wrecking, wallet-sucking abortions that clog the pipes with the scourge of online gaming.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck-

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You start on a boat heading for exile, because it doesn’t matter why. There, you get to choose between six characters: Moses, Kevin Bacon On Steroids, Legirlas, Emo Boy, Keanu Reeves, and Carrie. Three of them embody one ability (strength, dexterity, or intelligence), and the other three a mix of two of those. There’s a seventh, only available to those who beat the game, which embodies all three; encouraging some replayability, even if just to prove that you clicked more stuff to death than other players.

Yes, it definitely is click-click-click to kill ad-infinitum, but that’s just how it rolls; it’s a style. There is some strategy involved, but it’s definitely carpal-tunnel-syndrome-fueled. Maybe they have a deal with a host of hospitals and surgeons; maybe that’s how they manage to keep the game up, because I can’t imagine how aesthetic micro-transactions would help all by themselves.

Or maybe they just sell human suffering

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In terms of game design, I only see good decisions in Doctor Diablo’s Confounding Click-a-rama. For example, there is no gold. Forget about hoarding shitloads of coin that end up becoming useless. Instead, everything you get from selling loot is other items, usually things that can be stacked into something you can use to enhance your own gear. This barter system works the same when you are buying. Sell your portal scrolls and other crap for a shiny new sword to cleave skulls with, be it to an in-game merchant or to other players.

Shoulda bought some Wyrmscale Maxipads

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The potion system is also ingenious. You don’t actually buy potions per se. You buy bottles which get filled with every enemy you kill. This means no back-and-forth to buy potions, and if you do happen to need some while out of enemies to kill (sacrilege), a portal scroll is enough to refill your bottles as you teleport to the closest decrepit hub-slum.

Meanwhile, the skill tree in I Still Can’t Believe There’s No Gold is virtually indistinguishable from the Tokyo subway map. 1350 different skills, adaptable to whichever build you wish to pursue, within the capabilities of your character’s level 100 cap (and a total of 120 points to spend on skills), will ensure that you spend hours getting lost amidst the vast expanses of possible choices, just like at the supermarket, trying to pick a packet of chips.

I wasn’t kidding

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Many items have those all-familiar sockets, into which you can insert gems that bestow unholy powers upon your character, like Raise Lawyers, or Twilight.

Updates for Diablo III Properly Done keep coming, and I want a ticket to New Zealand, because angels must be orbiting it. There is no way to cheat or pay one’s way up, there is no gold to mindlessly hoard, there is no back-and-forth hassle if you don’t feel like being a picky lowlife; instead, there are pleasant graphics, an engaging atmosphere, immersive sound and music, the option to play alone or in a party, and all the gore you could possibly want.

Sorry, I sneezed.

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Every negative aspect I find ends up depending on matters of subjective taste and personal preferences, and because I am an immaculate being of pure perfection, I am clearly untouched by such vile aspects of human nature. Begone, scourge of mankind, and happy mauling.

10/10

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The Sparkle 2: Evo

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There is no such thing as “last week,” it’s a myth.

Hungry Hungry Wigglything is a casual action game by Forever Entertainment S.A. in which you start as this:

Screenshot_184and end up becoming this:

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I do, and I also know how to eat your entire family alive.

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Eat Stuff: The Game advertises itself by vaguely suggesting that the player has control over how their lifeform evolves. What actually happens is that when you level up, the game tallies which elements you ate the most (red, green, or blue), and turns you into an appropriate larger version of what you once were. That’s as much control as I have over the smell of my breath when I am faced with the possibility of having some garlic.

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So hippie, jock, or bland. Got it.

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Spore’s Uninteresting But Pretty Cell Stage drops you in puddles of life wherein you have to compete with a rival lifeform for food. That’s it, really. Eat more than the other guy and you win. There’s a non-competitive mode in which all you have to do is deplete one of the colors from the entire level. This becomes a sort of microscopic Where’s Waldo, except he’s constantly pinging you. As far as what you’re supposed to eat, what starts as nibbling at inanimate candy-plankton becomes full-on dismemberment and organ-harvesting murder.

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im in ur bellah, nommin ur kidz

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The visuals are beautiful. Everything glows as it floats about, and the ability to go up and down in levels of depth gives you a glimpse of what you can find below. You’re apparently immortal, however, and whenever you are damaged the game automatically makes you climb one “floor,” which only serves as a minor inconvenience. Nothing attacks you, either, you only get hurt by lunging at the wrong end of whatever it is you’re trying to rip to pieces.

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I am not your mother.

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The chill-out music fits the game well, as the most action you’ll experience is speeding through the water for a brief moment, and only if you happen to be a carnivore. The game is not without bugs, however, and although the collision system is strange at best, I found myself flung beyond the edge of a certain level after getting stuck inside some weird jellyfish inside a whirlpool. As for level 13, which I initially thought was incomplete, I only have this to say: No.

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It’s the first EULA I’ve ever read in its entirety.

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Nom Nom Nommin’ On Living Flesh can be finished in a few hours, and the credits were a nice touch. Although I wish I could say it does what it advertises, it’s not a waste of time either. The controls could be better, but they only need some getting used to, and as the game itself tells you, it’s there to fill your free time with something nice. As far as I’m concerned, the price should stay at the 75% off it is at permanently, and not just until the 16th of June.

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“Control the evolution” my DNAss.

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5/10

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Hammerwatch

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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?

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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Thou must surely be jesting.

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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”.

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It’s just another bloody monday.

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8/10

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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WARNING: May contain traces of dragons

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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.

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

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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.

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I should be able to buy a boat

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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.

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MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODS

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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.

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

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

7/10

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Liitmeis

Bomberman Noir is a top-down action puzzle game by Team Li… Lei… Lee… Litmy… these guys, in which a shady-looking neon fellow intends to escape a collapsed mine the American way: By planting sticks of dynamite everywhere until the problem is solved. It seems simple at first, but trust me, there are things within those walls you don’t want to set free.

Such as the common stoner.

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You have an infinite stock of dynamite, but you start conditioned by the reach of their explosion and the number of sticks you can plant at the same time. Soon, shopkeepers become available for you to buy upgrades from, such as a miracle-cure sandwich.

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Is that sign drawing a landscape?

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I find little to say about Dick Tracy Buried Alive, other than it is a well-balanced game that succeeds at giving you that little spark of competitive anger after a neon dragon has dismembered you to bits for the tenth time. The strategy is similar to Bomberman, except the environment keeps you a bit on edge and requires a tad more forethought, but not too much. You definitely don’t want to bomb a wall that contains an invincible self-replicating flesh-eating fungus, for example, but if you feel like doing a mad dash for the exit, by all means, plant dynamite until you’re either surrounded by gold or monsters.

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I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that I’ll soon be out of limbs.

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The levels are randomly generated, which by this time is probably to be expected of every game on the planet that happens to be made of levels. The fact that Eat Fruits allows you to plan your own plan, if you will, is probably its strongest asset. Its simple premise would get tiresome too soon if not for the fact that there is no wrong way of playing it. Awake sleeping monstrosities to kill for gold, or play it safe and spend hours hacking away at bedrock to ensure your passage remains unnoticed (you know, with dynamite).

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Be vewy vewy qu- Is that PONG?

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Speaking of tiresome, let’s talk about the music. Darkneth Ith Coming features the first children’s choir I’ve ever heard with a generalized lisp, and 90% of the levels had that very same track playing over and over and over again. I got that “darkneth ith coming,” if that’s what they’re singing. Did you lock front-toothless kids in a basement to record that single line? Granted, I didn’t get to world 2 out of pure (healthy) frustration, but if a couple of levels in world 1 already had a different theme, I would say you need more music in your soundtrack, or at least some balance in what music you attribute to which levels. This would be way less noticeable if the game had sound effects at all. The only thing you will ever hear during gameplay is the music, and that will draw even more attention to a soundtrack that isn’t discrete enough to compensate for its limitations.

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Dear diary: JACKPOT

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Audio flaws aside, Bombersnake remains a simple, yet solid game. Works as advertised, does what it says it does, play like it says it plays. Besides singleplayer, it features a co-op multiplayer mode, and a custom level creator in which you can set various parameters, say, map size, percentage of specific blocks to appear, presence or absence of a merchant, abrupt ending of a review, etc.

6/10

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Cortex Command

I'm guessing that planet is pretty small, if I can see the elevation of a single peak and the outlines of individual trees...

Cortés 2099, by Data Realms, is a 2D shooter mixed with some strategic turn-based elements in which space mining companies fight for the control of precious resources, much like a 22nd century gold rush, if you will. We are greeted at the title screen by the only planet we will ever see and by a sci-fi score, nothing out of this world (haha, j0k3), but it suits the experience. The best way to describe Terminator Attacks! is by reading the reports of one of those mining companies, RAM OVERLOAD, which in 2072 decided it had had enough of this blogging bullshit and publicly stated “screw you, guys, I’m gonna go dig for gold on other planets.”

We're in a gold rush, but this gentleman can go first, because he is player 1.

We’re on a gold rush, but this gentleman can go first, because he is player 1.

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The moment we decided to land on one of the mining sites (those shiny dots on the planet’s surface, presumably because there’s so much gold there it can be seen from space), a rival company decided to do the exact same thing, on the exact same site. “Dem bastards!” we said, and lo, they now had a name.

They came, they saw, they opened a can of whoop-ass on us, they probably came multiple times later from all the gold they inhaled off the desert’s surface, and so RAM OVERLOAD had to admit defeat. This was, however, in the sands of the Burraki Desert, the shiny dot to the west. There was another place to the east, the Dvorak Caves, and that’s where we crossed paths again with Dem Bastards.

Flying dicks, fossilized turd-tentacles? I shall name thee Freudlandia.

Flying dicks? Fossilized turd-tentacles? I shall name thee Freudlandia.

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So, in Gold Huffing, humanity no longer inhabits their own bodies. Instead, it transplants its brain into a robotic body which can also control other robots telepathically. Only one robot can be controlled at a time, but they also have an AI able to follow simple commands… from your cerebral cortex. Get it? Get it?

Ahem, in a nutshell, if, during an expedition to a mining site, that little pink brain-in-a-vat-on-a-body gets blown to pieces, you’re done. You have a total of 10 available brains in a campaign, which for the purposes of this game we will ignore as belonging to human beings with a past, a life, probably a family, ambitions, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. They should have read the fine print.

As I was saying, we crossed paths with Dem Bastards in the Dvorak Caves, and this time our marksbots managed to shoot the enemy’s brains out (literally) before they did, which is in essence the whole point of the game.

The planet’s two mining sites were now evenly distributed between RAM OVERLOAD and Dem Bastards. Sounds nice, fair and square, right? Fuck them, I want EVERYTHING!

Well, shit.

Well, shit.

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We failed spectacularly at trying to take over their base, which had been fortified by now, since they distributed their funds between this and trying to take over the Dvorak Caves in the previous turn. Every turn you get a chance to distribute funds between expeditions, building (thank heavens for auto-build), and planetary surface scanning. I recommend you never overlook the latter, lest you fancy landing at the bottom of a cliff, or on a sharp peak. The AI doesn’t fuck around in Tripping At Every Pixel, so get ready for some serious resistance.

When it comes to invasions, however, I’m either pretty good at defending myself or the AI decides to enter retard mode. Dem Bastards decided to do the exact same thing and take the Dvorak Caves from RAM OVERLOAD, the result was humiliating (for them).

I keep seeing the red icons as big fat zeroes, and now you can't unsee it.

I keep seeing the red icons as big fat zeroes, and now you can’t unsee it.

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So, nothing chang- Oh but what’s that? A third mining site? Psyche! RAM OVERLOAD victoriously crushes the brain of its rival and claims the Metankora Highlands for itself. With double the income, we’re bound to take over their base easily.

Here I come to Rambo the shit out of you, bitc-

Here I come to Rambo the shit out of you, bitc-

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-ohhh... snap.

-ohhh… snap.

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Yes, it’s the same dune. Our adventurous brain-in-a-vat-in-a-body probably rolled down the dune more than it had time to walk. The obvious retaliation is easy to foresee, and the next five turns can be summed up with the following picture:

Except instead of cats it’s soulless corporations, instead of paddles it’s money, instead of ping pong balls it’s brains, instead of a table it’s a planet, instead of…

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They came to us, we blew them to pieces, we went to them, they blew us to pieces, repeat ad infinitum. Eventually, however, private 3V3RYM0M3N71L1V315460NY entered the stupidest backdoor ever built, took out all the guards in his/her/its way (except for Laurel and Hardy up there) and reached the enemy’s brain.

Headshot! Is there any other?

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The moral of this story is never nail your brain to the ceiling. Nothing good can come of that.

Now, you might be thinking “this looks like an awesome game!” You would be correct, in theory. There are little things that make this more frustrating than fun.

The most glaring issue was that every single fucking pixel of terrain can make you trip, block your path, or prevent your jetpacking up a shaft (which, by the way, only works at top speed if you have no guns… and no legs). And it’s not just the pixels, it’s the movement itself. The puppetry, the controls, the weight, etc. The kind of quick thinking that Hasta La Vista Brainy requires is definitely not compatible with very buggy movement and puppetry systems. “Oh but it’s not a bug! It’s a feature! Because the physics syst-” Screw the physics system. A game has to FLOW first and foremost. If your movement is being hampered to a bothersome degree of frustration, your physics/movement relation is weak. This isn’t QWOP. We’re supposed to be focusing on shooting, digging and defending bunkers, not on whether our robot is able to put one foot in front of the other.

Granted, the website clearly states that this is an alpha. It has been out as such for a long time. Movement, however, is a basic function that in my opinion should be tweaked before anything else. If the flow of the game does not improve, I’m afraid that despite all the neat features and ideas to be added, the final version will still feel like I’m trying to wrestle out of a quicksand pit every time I take a step forward.

4/10

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A Nation of Wind

Beanland.

Too easy a prey for fart puns.

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Some games are good mashups. Some aren’t. This one isn’t.

It’s not really about what genres are mixed, it’s more about how, and that’s where Flying Fartresses constantly misses the point.

The game begins after a very short ellipsis-obsessed intro that couldn’t be vaguer if it tried. Something something something clouds, something something something broken capital, something something something reunite people, and it’s as elucidating as it gets.

If you make a little effort, you can hear Christopher Walken narrating.

With a little effort, you can hear it in Christopher Walken’s voice.

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But we’re not here for the story. We don’t need it right away, it adds to the mystery. This is, after all, supposed to be an engaging experience of both strategic planning, city-building and action, right?

Wrong.

After a briefly informative tutorial, we appear as HMS Satan’s Bathtub amidst floating chunks of land, some as little moldy turds that can be pushed around for no apparent reason, others as big, solid, floating generic-RPG-overworld-meets-Minecraft continents. So solid, in fact, that a flying ship is unable to go over or below them. Go figure.

What is this "third dimension" you speak of? Heresy, I say!

What is this “third dimension” you speak of? Heresy, I say!

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In order to proceed through Flying Orange Penis,we’re supposed to take control of several obelisks by building temples to the four elements around them. Why? Dunno. But you can see right there a temple to Flatula, god of wind, gas, beans, and cheap lowbrow humor. So, why don’t we just build them temples and get on with it? Because we need resources. Farms supply food, forests wood, mountains stone, villages money, and all that jazz.

Seems straightforward. Plant a bunch of buildings, wait for their daily outcome, and… Hey, where’s my resources? And what are these balloons floating towards… Oh, I have to fly by the buildings to collect the resources? I see. Well, that would be interesting if the ship didn’t steer like a fucking walrus having a stroke on a skateboard. In addition to my having to go all the way around the islands because a vehicle capable of flight seems to have forgotten the notion of altitude, SS Poodle Dick’s controls are not only incredibly clunky, but the ship also takes ages to accelerate, assuming it hasn’t suddenly stopped because of a stray pixel. Correct me if I’m wrong, but even if there are movement upgrades along the way (I didn’t go very far, for fear of damaging my sanity), I don’t think “shitty controls at the beginning” is recommended anywhere as a game feature.

Why did I even get in here?

Why did I even get in here?

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It gets worse.

Where would a strategy game be without enemies? Random creatures of all kinds come through strange rifts, or whatever they’re called, along with some weird eggs we’re advised to take to safety and “hatch with food.” I’m sorry, I don’t feed food, thank you. If anything, I’d hatch them FOR food. At any rate, in the style of arcade shooters, we’re supposed to prevent these monsters from destroying our colonies, the defense capabilities of which are equal to jack shit. Ok, fine, there are turrets and walls, but that’s like expecting machine guns on top of the World Trade Center to have prevented 9/11. Most of the time, we need to roam around the entire map to check for attacks of various sorts, while hoping that our hard work hasn’t been pulverized by a dragon or eaten by giant ants. This is especially annoying at the beginning, when we might not be able to afford enough lighthouses to warn us of hostilities should we not be around a particular bit of floating ground.

This, however, is not the issue. The issue is directly connected to Titanic’s little brother, Tiny Tit, having awkward controls and being only one ship. Because when you have colonies sprawling all over a map, are thinking about how to optimize the output of your buildings, and counting the resources you need for expansion (a system which, by the way, could use some color coding for when you have enough or not), there is nothing better for your blood pressure than to be needed at three different places at the same time, having to decide which is both more important and more doomed at the moment, and having to fly there on a motherfucking manatee on drugs.

That’s exactly how it feels. It doesn’t feel like you’re commandeering a ship. It doesn’t feel like your empire is being attacked and you need a preemptive strategic thinking. It doesn’t feel like you’re amounting to anything. It feels like you’ve just heard a noise in the kitchen at 3 AM, you get up from the bed half-conscious and clumsily stumble down the stairs with a pair of scissors in your hands, hoping that when you trip, if you trip the right way, you’ll land on the burglar and stab him wherever.

It’s panic. Panic and an encouragement not to multitasking, but to ADHD, surrounded by a fluffy layer of boredom and frustrating controls.

Many ways to express your despair.

It does offer you many ways of expressing your despair.

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Also, the music, by Saskrotch, needs a lot more variety. A 2-minute loop that is repetitive in itself will drive anyone insane while playing what is supposed to have RTS elements.

My problem with Flight of the Cockords is that it constantly succeeds at frustrating any attempt at enjoying it. I just didn’t manage to go on for much longer. Maybe I’m a bad strategist. Maybe I’m acting like someone who can’t bear with a steep learning curve, but first consider that despite all of its hardships, I manage to enjoy Dwarf Fortress, for example. Granted, I used a graphics pack and didn’t go far yet, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get addictive. This doesn’t. This gets tiresome. After completing one level, the last thing on my mind is to go over the same thing.

Yes, I know, it’s just Jameson Wilkins making the game. I am in no way demeaning the work put into this, which is also visually gorgeous (never have I been betrayed so strongly by such nice visuals), but rather the final result. I know there’s turrets you can tow to strategic places, for example. There’s ways of getting around some of the problems I mentioned. But why is the way there so confusing? Where’s the little pull, the kick out of it? Many games are even fun to lose, why isn’t this one? Because the base itself is flawed: Too sprawled a game, too clunky controls. With those two core aspects fixed, this can go from exasperating brainfuck to addictive masterpiece. Right now, it remains the former.

3/10

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The Binding of Isaac

I keep my promises, Tiago.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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King Arthur’s Gold

Imagine someone grabbed Terraria and Worms Armageddon and smashed them together along with terrain physics. That’s KAG in a nutshell. Only better. Oh, so much better.

King Arthur’s Gold (which mentions no such thing) is a sidescroller focused on building and destroying. I don’t think it really fits a specific genre, so let’s borrow the term used by Transhuman Design to baptize their wonder child: a build ‘n’ kill.

In a feat of seduction, they offer you a free version with less features than the paid one only to leave you drooling at the possibilities of the finished product, like half a Kitkat dangling freely outside a locked chest half-filled with Lindt chocolate, except they tell you the chest will be completely filled, and will eventually include praline and nuts. It’s only an early beta, after all, but I was nevertheless immediately hooked, so I promptly bought it and it has been a pain to stop playing.

The singleplayer better improve dramatically when they’re done with the game, because Deathmatch is just a combat tutorial against clones of some poor bloke named Henry, and Sandbox is the definition of boredom: completely alone in an small, empty map in order to build whatever I feel like with infinite resources and the ability to conjure the map editor. Why am I going to build anything if I don’t have to defend myself? Just call it Map Editor and open its interface directly. Then there’s Zombie Fortress just for the fat cats like me, able to cough up 13 dollars like it’s 10 bucks. This mode is almost exactly like Terraria, except there’s less to do. You just have to survive the nights and recruit retarded migrants to help you repel waves of undead.

Can’t touch this. Dun dun-dun-dun…

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Night comes so fast I found myself dying repeatedly until the random map generated the ruins of a tower tall enough to grant me some time to build a decent fortress. I may just be a sucky builder, though. The absence of a save function in this mode renders it pointless. Sure, you can save the MAP, but as far as I could tell you can’t save your progress in it.

Having said this, the singleplayer in MOVE! as of now is at best mediocre and aimless. We are instead witnessing an event similar to that of a blue moon in gaming: When the multiplayer mode cumbersomely carries the entirety of the game’s glory upon its shoulders, like a proud, fat and zitty Atlas somewhat saddened that he cannot reach his Cheetos without dropping the world on his head.

Yes, the multiplayer arena is delightfully, addictively, structure-crumblingly, absolutely FUN. There are three classes to choose from, and each of them has its own particular way of being a dick to its surroundings. As one of the seven dwarves, you have the chance to play God and decide whether the enemy knight coming your way will take a shovel, a spiky wall or an entire building to the face. As Sir Bombalot, you seem to enjoy divine protection, since not only does your shield have the power to break the laws of physics to serve as a parachute, you’re also able to master bomb-propelled flight while sustaining no damage whatsoever. As William Tell Me You’re Out Of Arrows, you have the ability to go Twilight on trees while crushing the hopes and dreams of every knee in sight (my personal favorite). Losing is fun, winning is fun and seeing structures meet their demise at the hands of physics (and a well-aimed catapult shot) combines a sight of terror with a visual orgasm, regardless of whether you’re part of the collapse.

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The first multiplayer mode I landed on was Capture the Flag, in which teams red and blue fight for a piece of cloth waving to the wind on the opposite side of the world. Thinking this was the only mode available, I then stumbled upon War, I mean, WAR!, where you must drain the opposing team’s reserve of tickets back from hell before yours run out. There’s also Rapid Deathmatch, which is the same except there aren’t any respawn tickets to be used, and Gold Hunt, or so I’ve heard, since I haven’t set eyes on that one yet.

UPDATE: I thought I’d just add this here: Zombie Fortress seems to have been included as one of the multiplayer modes, effectively obsoleting the singleplayer one. Now you can relive the thrill of Walking Dead in a medieval setting, and without whiny bitchery.

I have only one concern over the long-term future of the multiplayer experience in QUARTERS PLZ!: If the community eventually either rottens or dies, this will effectively become a dead world. I have my doubts concering the latter, though. I mean, look at Worms Armageddon. It’s beyond ancient and there still exists a multiplayer community. That leaves us with the grim possibility that the population of KAGville might eventually consist of nothing but a myriad of douchebags and their corresponding variations, while behind passworded doors some decent folk still play.

Concerning the soundtrack, or rather, the track, the only one that I ever managed to hear in the game is the title screen’s. I couldn’t tell if there were more, I’m not the kind that lingers at the title screen to think about life. It was composed by David Pencil, from Penny Arcade. I think that THEY’RE TUNNELING! would either need a constant soundtrack or none at all. As it is, it feels a bit pointless. But we never know, maybe the finished product will have a say in this too.

For now, I’ll just gaze into the horizon of possibilities with my totally cool and anachronistic glasses.

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9/10

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Legend of Grimrock

Dungeons and Pressure Plates is a first-person action dungeon crawler by Almost Human (not the prosthetic shop). Quite the appropriate name, you soulless Finnish mind rapists. Your cruel puzzles are brain-melting. Sure, it all starts with a poorly concealed tutorial at the first level with uninspired “riddles” such as “to close the pit, something must fly,” but then I’m supposed to know before traveling miles into dangerous corridors ahead that a lever should be pulled so that a scroll is removed from a secluded shelf in order to activate a mechanism that lifts the walls of an entire room for me to access eons later, all while I’m being hunted by an infinite and ferocious horde of subzero raptor-steak dispensers.

Don’t get me wrong, the puzzles aren’t my complaint, quite the opposite. I would just like not to be easily cornered and killed by infinitely spawning monsters while I’m supposed to be carefully searching for something. The last thing you want to do in the middle of dinosaur-infested corridors is appreciate the craftsmanship of the masonry.

I say, will you cease your nagging, old chap? I’m savouring the workmanship.

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As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

In Rock of Legendgrim, you start as a party of four prisoners ironically pardoned by being This is Sparta’d into a monster-filled, trap-ridden dungeon out of which no one ever came out alive. You can customize the party before you start, with four different races at your disposal and, in a quasi-D&D fashion, plenty of points to be attributed to skills and abilities, along with some traits to choose from. I would start praising this game simply because of not having gone down the Tolkien-centric lane of elves, dwarves, hobbits, etc, but all is not well.

I still can’t believe it.

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In a vain effort to seem organized, I will first state the three issues that prevented me from giving Legend of Temptation Island nothing but a round of applause: Satan, saves, and square dancing.

Nah, the first point isn’t Satan, I just wanted three “S”s in a row. It’s actually the aforementioned combination of running and puzzling. Choose one, for fuck’s sake! Either I kill all the monsters in a room and THEN solve the puzzle, or I solve a puzzle that releases monsters at its completion. Both of those do exist, but the third variant, akin to robbing a bank while doing your taxes, risks being a harsh game-stopper. Unless you wanted this game to be beaten only by hardcore gaming purists that whither and melt at the sight of a walkthrough, in which case I must add that I did consult one, for the benefit of my OCD braincells, AND I’M NOT ASHAMED OF IT.

Maybe a little.

Not really.

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I praise games that manage to bring my OCD to a halt, due to the sheer stress that they might provoke in me, and near the end, Grincock did in fact almost achieve that. Almost. Why? That’s the second issue.

Saving whatever, wherever and whenever you like, in this kind of games, is bringing about the creation of dozens of alternate realities, born from the sheer terror of overwriting a save file that MIGHT link to something we MIGHT have overlooked at some point in the game, and that we MIGHT regret. That’s not gaming, my dear Finnish mutants, that’s mindclutter. There’s a kind of frustration that is part of a good tough gaming experience, and if you would have increased just a bit the number of save crystals, or whatever the hell they’re called, while disabling the free save function, you might have successfully provoked such a feeling. Instead, I find myself saving before every single door, after every single encounter, in every single moment of choice, be it left or right, up or down, chocolate or corn flakes, etc, simply because I CAN.

Yes we can.

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Do not expect a gamer to be fair with the circumstances he’s presented with, unless he has some sort of weird honor code involving samurai and chicken sacrifices at midnight. We are sneaky devious bastards who exploit every last single microscopic speck of a glitch, bug, feature, or game mechanic for our personal gain. Fairness must be imposed, albeit without being deliberately and pointlessly oppressive or boring, and this brings us to the last issue.

If I wanted to square dance, I’d go ask Doc for the DeLorean. The combat system is a fucking disaster. By disaster, I mean DAMN. In Dungeons and Pardners, your entire party of four occupies one square and, in an interesting yet quickly wearying fashion, you move square by square like an undecided mechanical toddler with hiccups. Half into the game, my eyes ached and felt like they belonged to the Flash in a stop/start traffic jam, alternating between stationary and my lips are flapping. At the beginning, combat seemed to be pretty straightforward: Get to an adjacent square to that of the giant snail, punch it to death as quickly as you can before it can bite your head off too much, and pray you don’t miss, because snails are known to be quick and fidgety creatures.

Will you stand still!

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Later on, however, I started meeting enemies that would seriously damage my party if I didn’t move around. That would be fine if the movement weren’t so awkward for all the parties involved. It suddenly became a boring dodgefest: I move away, you move into where I was, I hit you before you can hit me, I move away, you move into where I was, I hit you before you can hit me, I move away, etc. I’m not even mentioning the times where the simple concept of my being diagonally positioned in relation to the monster seems to send it into deep thought about the mysteries of the universe.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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The activity that was the most fun, the joy of stabbing walking mushrooms to death, of punching giant mosquitoes in the thorax, of exploding members of the Cthulhu Fan Club to smithereens, had thus become a boring square dance of damage accounting.

Mix both the saving and the battling issues, and you have probably the best OCD mechanism of them all. No risks. I’ll just save and load and save and load and save and load until my square dancing and dodging is optimal and I can beat this ogre before he needs an aspirin from running into walls after me. Then I’ll just do the exact same thing for every single aggressive organism in this hellhole.

I am aware of the existence of the easy mode, yet it only solves the first and lightest of the issues. I think the definition of easy shouldn’t be “sensible,” but “for the lazy or the handicapped.” Normal is normal, people. It’s the game’s al dente, au point, just right, and that’s all I think should be reviewed. I’m guessing hard mode implies having to run through the entire dungeon in under 30 seconds with your hands cut off while surrounded by rabid moths.

It’s a pity, really, as Legend of Snorerock has some brilliant and refreshing stuff, like the attention to detail in how you position your party, who gets hurt from what side (although it would make sense for four people to be able to act in four directions simultaneously), tons of hidden junk and, once again, the puzzles. Most of the games in this style are from the days of hand-cranked machinery and it feels good to see what I like to call a nostalgic innovation in the genre. It’s not an easy game at all, mind you, but that just adds to the problem. If you include easy save mechanics in a game where you are expected to take risks and save your skin, you are essentially turning the latter into a boring chore, instead of a feeling of having escaped barely alive from a room full of radioactive ooze.

Flubber wants revenge.

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I also tried the dungeon editor, and it’s a masterful move by the developers, of the same kind of Bioware’s release of the Aurora Toolset along with Neverwinter Nights. It’s easily accessible and a treat for anyone with a soft spot for creative gaming activities (guilty) and mod enthusiasts.

As far as the soundtrack goes, or rather, the two tracks, title screen and credits, all there is to say is that it’s good orchestral fantasy music that fits the mood. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was composed by Stakula, from Alamaailman Vasarat, a Finnish band I listen to. The rest is just effective ambient sound for the dungeon itself.

Now that the important stuff is settled, it’s time for a plot-related rant.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

It is beyond my reasoning how a mechanical cube can threaten anything at all. It doesn’t even seem able to climb a set of stairs, for fuck’s sake.

Also, how the hell is the UNDYING One killed just like that? Are we to believe that four pissy outlaws can best the power of the ancient Cthulhu Fan Club, who decided to make a weapon that could disable the fucker and keep the former hidden in a tomb, and then thought “Nah, let’s just leave its deactivated carcass in here and use the premises to store prisoners. No one will wake it up anyway, there’s only four parts of it taken out and their slots are blatantly exposed. Let’s just spend our resources building complex golems to guard it and spend our lives in this moldy basement playing hide-and-seek among the pillars and the tetanus-ridden giant spiders.”

“Sounds good to me!”

*SPOILERS END*

5/10

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