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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SSTTP: Red Rogue

Illegally-Inclined Far-Leftist, for the politically correct.

Illegally-Inclined Far-Leftist, for the politically correct.

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Isn’t it funny how I keep reviewing stuff that isn’t shown on the right sidebar as being played or to be reviewed?

Yeah…

Everything Bleeds is a Sidescrolling Roguelike Dungeon Crawler by Aaron Steed in which a rogue explores a dungeon with her anorexic boyfriend, naively hoping not to die at some point.

There isn’t much to say, except that it’s fun, flows very well and is moderately addictive. The controls are just right, and the effective menu takes just a bit to get used to. I cannot understand for the life of me, however, why is down for entering doors and up for picking objects that are on the ground. I mean, I can… You usually go DOWN the dungeon, and pick UP objects, but someone must have slept through the whole history of sidescrollers to not remember that “up goes in doors.” I’m sure it has already become a reflex to most of us, and by us I mean me, my brain, and my fingers.

Not sure if Sinatra, Krueger, Jackson or Jones.

Not sure if Sinatra, Krueger, Jackson or Jones.

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I noticed, however, that if you go up the first flight of stairs you come down from, you appear at the overworld, where apparently you can hit some magical wheel of XP and level up silly-nilly. What’s the deal with that? It strikes me as a rather heavy flaw, if you ask me, unless the dungeon’s first level then adapts to your level 99 rogue and blocks the way with some bloated draconic fatass you’ll have to defeat with your magical bare fists of rogueness.

Something I like a lot about Fedora is what I like to call bump-death. Just keep walking against your enemies and the rogue will attack them on contact, just like… she’s on her…

The blood everywhere now makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE.

It seems simple at first, but then some random writing on the walls will provide you with strategic tips, like how falling on top of enemies stuns them for a while. I also noticed that a situation where moving towards the stationary monster is better for you than a mutual convergence, amidst other things.

How I fixed the up and down issue.

How I fixed the up and down issue.

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Screeching Sewers doesn’t exactly have music per se, rather some sinister environmental texture by Nathan Gallardo akin to a mix of microphones being raped in several creative ways. It works wonders for the immersion.

I guess my strongest complaint is that the limited colour palette makes me tire of the game faster than, say, something like Spelunky. Other than that, it’s brilliantly executed, and a real steal for exactly $0.

7/10

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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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