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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Mountain

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Watching Paint Dry is a self-categorized “relax’em up” by David OReilly in which a mountain is generated and you get to look at it. I wish I could stop making these “no, I mean it” intros, but there is really no other way of describing this.

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My thoughts exactly.

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Mr. OReilly’s Audiovisual Rollercoaster starts by asking you to draw your interpretation of three separate words. Apparently, this data is used to define the shape of your mountain, what grows on it, and what kind of climate is most prevalent. There is no clue to this in the game, I just overheard it in the massive network of plumbing that is the internet, so take it with a kernel of corn.

After this, the only thing you will ever see is a floating mountain, alone in the void of space, with its own atmosphere and climate.

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You can do nothing with the mouse AND the keyboard, AT THE SAME TIME.

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Apparently there are 50 hours of “gameplay,” and I am told it has an end. Guess who won’t stick around to see it. This has been running in the background for over 6 hours now (apparently it’s designed for just that), and the only interesting thing I’ve noticed is that, for some inexplicable reason, giant objects from space will collide against the mountain, and by that I mean anvils, horses, dice, sailboats, clocks, eggs, jars, and violins, at least so far.

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A lone piano key will occasionally signal the appearance of a random thought, and a choral choir will announce the dawn. As far as music goes, that’s it. It rains, it snows, it’s more or less cloudy, the mountain just keeps spinning. You can actually zoom in and out, and rotate the view with the mouse. Considering the controls say otherwise, I’m guessing this is an easter egg.

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I don’t think I can attribute a score to this, simply because I don’t think this is a game. Now, of course, we could delve into a debate over what makes a game a game, and what implications defining such a concept has to the future of gaming and its influence on society, but we won’t, because I don’t really care. It’s just a bloody mountain.

Accept the mystery.

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VVVVVV

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Did you notice that June only had two weeks this year? Weird.

V for Vendetta 8-bit is a side-scrolling puzzle platformer by Terry Cavanagh, with music by Magnus Pålsson (SoulEye) in which a ship and its crew of six get stranded in a strange dimension. As Captain Viridian, you have to find the remaining crew and figure out how to leave. The catch is that, unlike most platformers, you can’t jump. Instead, you flip gravity’s pull. It may sound simple at first, but Mr. Cavanagh made sure that no hair on your head will be left intact.

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You better be

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The challenges in The Vagina Vovologues are akin to a vicious trip within the mind of an insane genius on a budget, and I’ll be impaled repeatedly on spikes if it isn’t rewarding. There are no lives, only checkpoints from which you will spawn after your billionth attempt at crossing any particular screen of this gravitic mindfuck. The only collectibles in the game are concentric circles called Shiny Trinkets, of which the collection I haven’t been able to complete because of THAT ONE. You know exactly what I’m talking about, Terry, and I hate you. I hate you so much I could kiss you. I don’t even know you, but rest assured, I hate you with the force of a thousand Volvos.

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AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!

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Little is said about whoever was in charge of this strange dimension, and I’d rather you find about the details yourself. There is a surprising amount of atmosphere for a game made with such scarce resources, which is quite a feat. The map is divided into many different areas, each of them a fixed screen. Teleporters exist to take you to areas that would be otherwise inaccessible, as well as to shorten the trips between places you might want to explore again. There is also a level editor for those who might feel like they can make things even more maddening than they already are.

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… but I’m on the pill, and the restrooms are vacant.

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I can’t find a single thing wrong with Vampire Vultures Vicariously Vivisecting Voltaire’s Vulva. The controls are great, it’s challenging at all times, it’s full of little secrets and details despite its simple appearance, and Mr. Pålsson’s music is not only fitting, but fiendishly addictive. The whole game is just right in every aspect, and I heartily recommend it.

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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Space Engine

Holy Shit Are You Serious is a space simulator by Vladimir Romanyuk, a.k.a. SpaceEngineer, in which you explore space. And… that’s it.

“That’s it?” I hear you say, “That’s it,” I answer. No pew-pew-pews, no aliens, no missions, nothing… yet. For now, it’s just for sightseeing. A planetarium, as it calls itself. Even so, I shat asteroids when I got my eyes on this.

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I swear I tried to come up with something funny to say.

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The universe in Light-Speed Is So Slow is a 10 gigaparsec cube centered on Earth, in which 99.999% of the content is procedurally generated, save for real objects from official star catalogs.

Let me break down that number for you: One parsec is about 3.26 light years; one light year is the distance light travels in one year, or 9,460,528,400,000 km (or 5,878,499,810,000 miles, for the backward weirdos); so, one parsec is 30,856,775,790,000 km (19,173,500,000,000 miles); 10 gigaparsecs are 10 billion parsecs, so every edge of the cube that comprises the universe generated by Space Engine is 308,567,757,900,000,000,000,000 km long (FuckYouGoLearnMetric miles). In case that was hard to read, it’s over 308 sextillion km.

butwait

But wait! There’s more.

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That’s the length of the cube’s edges, how much is the actual volume of the cube? Why, just 308,567,757,900,000,000,000,000 times 308,567,757,900,000,000,000,000 times 308,567,757,900,000,000,000,000, which gives us 29,379,989,390,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 km3, or over 293 million vigintillion cubic kilometres (approximately 0.01 yourmoms).

But what does all this volume contain? Why, galaxies. Many, many, many galaxies, about 10 trillion, and EACH contains from a few billions to over 500 trillion stars. A very rough estimate would place the total number of stars in Unfathomable Size at around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one septillion). Knowing that most possess planets, that means- ah, fuck it.

So what are Vladimir’s thoughts on all this?

Too small.

Crimea-map-Ukraine-Russia

Theory: Vladimirs tend to have a poor notion of size.

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“I must make it a few billion times bigger in each dimension.”

He wants it to be “a few billion times bigger” than 29,379,989,390,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 km3, because that’s too small.

How can you not love this guy?

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I don’t think the couch will fit, honey.

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Too Small is the first game that made me understand how slow light-speed is. Set your velocity to 1c (light-speed), and watch the stars zoom- no. No, they don’t. In interstellar space, light-speed is like a snail on a highway. It’s borderline ridiculous.

The sights are amazing, scientifically-accurate, and despite several bugs and incomplete features (spaceship mode, for example), this shows tremendous promise. The music could be almost anything, honestly. Without a definitive mood set, whatever you wish to listen to while exploring ends up being adequate to your state of mind.

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The hills are on fire with the sound of melting.

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How far the development goes depends on the donations received. Now at beta version 0.9.7.1, and having recently reached the milestone that guarantees a finished 1.0 freeware planetarium version with things like “particle effects: accretion and protoplanetary disks, weather effects, volcanoes, and ship engines exhaust” in the future,  the donations keep coming in. The best part is that one of the next milestones is an actual single player space exploration game with shitloads of features, and I’ll let you read about the long-term goals yourself, because drool and keyboards don’t mix.

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This planet was dry before I read the long-term goals.

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I will become deeply disappointed in humanity if the funding for this ever stops. I’ll retreat into a remote cave and never speak to anyone again. I mean it. Go fund them. Now. You need me, I need you, we all need this.

8/10

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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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.

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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?

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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

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SSTTP: Splice

Now you can insult the church and rape nature at the same time from the comfort of your home. How cool is that?

Dr. Mario VS God is a puzzle game by Cipher Prime in which you have a limited amount of moves to splice cells in order to meet a predetermined pattern.

That’s it, really.

The puzzles get harder and harder, while some new cells appear that react differently to every splicing action. It’s a pretty comfortable puzzler, actually, since you can scroll back and forward in time from the last place you screwed up. With all its sleekness and relaxing environment, you’d think this is a pretty laid back game.

Well, it isn’t.

Cellbots, assemble!

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The logic of the splicing isn’t easy to get, and even when you do, the subsequent combination of results is as easy to predict as the weather on Mars. This splits the gameplay of My Little Mutation into careful thought patterns and I’ll keep wasting dead baby stem cells by screwing up over and over until I randomly get it right.

Dain Saint provides a soundtrack that is both fitting and cliché, reminding me of the more sober kind of genius-at-work montages. Pretty, enveloping, discretely ominous, but still a pain to have to rewind along with the game when you want to go back a move or two. I understand the effect, but if the music is supposed to help concentration by easing one’s mind into the game’s pace and tough challenges, making it WHURRZIP every time you need to undo something gets tiresome quite quickly.

6/10

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