Sunday, May 27, 2012

Monday Musings - 28th May, 2012

Another week, another musings. Let's get to it!

Diablo 2 (PC)

To fill the void of Diablo 3, i went back to Diablo 2. Here's the thing though... i've played this game pretty much every year since its release, sometimes for months at a time. The thought of levelling a character up to the point of amazing loot acquisition was not a pleasant one. Then i got an idea. A hero editor! I can test out builds, and create stupidly high level characters and give them a go, starting out at the point where i search for the good loot.

It's been fun. I've created a Whirlwind Barbarian at level 75. To get used to the character, i've been running through Nightmare mode. I love being a whirling dervish of death. I haven't played too much further than smacking down Andariel because i think while a new spin on things, and despite how good the game is after all these years still, Diablo 2 is not Diablo 3. I had a taste with the guest pass, and i want more dammit!

Sine Mora (360)

When i last talked about this game, i was having troubles with Papa Carlo and the mechanical spider that came in the section before it. Like most skill/reflex based games however, the more i play, the better i get, and when i sat down to play this on Wednesday, i not only completed this section but the next two stages in their entirety as well. Part of my success is due to in these stages, the minimum firepower being at level three instead of level one (it goes up to level nine, and when hit, all the power-ups fly out of you). That added ability to chew through many of the small planes on screen in a very quick manner was invaluable.

Funnily enough, aside from the giant beam cannon boss, i can't remember too much else about my game session (well there was getting hit by an oncoming train that happened more than a few times). The giant airship was a pushover but alas i am stuck on yet another crazy boss. This one is some sort of rotating mobile fortress. You have to enter its maze of girders, and then navigate through it, avoiding and destroying not only the guns and laser beams that can fry you, but the power cells that open up new areas of the maze. All the while it's slowly rotating around and around.

The first few attempts were a challenge of time, as it is quite scarce. Once you fry the first power cell however, as long as you don't take a load of hits, time is no longer a concern. This is where use of your secondary weapon can be a godsend. Where i left it, i was getting bombarded by laser beams (as there is not much room to manoeuvre) and searching to see what pathways each destroyed power cell granted me. Every step forward and victory in this game has been quite satisfying, so i look forward to sitting down again this week and besting this foe.

Terranigma (SNES)

A short game section this week. I explored not only North America, but South America as well, enjoying the chilled grooves of the town of Liotto. I travelled by ship to Mermaid Tower, and cleared it of evil piranha fish. The mermaids returned and i got a boat out of the whole ordeal (cue Lonely Island track here).

I started to travel the seas, acquiring magirocks and special armour in Antarctica, New Zealand, and Scandinavia. When i saved, i was headed to Suncoast (Australia), and it will be interesting to see how the game interprets my home.

Oh yeah, i also helped invent the telephone. A man named Bell. I have no idea who they could be alluding to (wink).

Torchlight (PC)

So with Diablo 2 not fully filling that desire to play Diablo 3, i decided to finally try Torchlight. Almost immediately i was wondering why i didn't play this game sooner. The ease of play and the interface combine to make a fully enjoyable experience (so much so i played four to five hours the first day). The pet is an amazing addition (that keeps you adventuring despite a full inventory), and the skills i was acquiring on my ranged character were enjoyably powerful.

Then the next day the sheen started to wear off. I was down to about floor twenty of the dungeon and was getting bored. The frequency of decent loot is pretty lopsided (for example my first play i got a pair of amazing gold gloves... and have not found another useful gold item since), and there's no challenge at all. Groups of enemies attack me, i explosive shot till they die in clumps. For the past four to five floors, i'd been using that skills exclusively.

Still, even though i don't see myself returning to the game anytime soon, i'm happy i played what i did, and this makes me more excited for the release of Torchlight 2 sometime in the coming months.

Final Thoughts

I've plugged the articles i write for the retro page over at indie gaming mag here before, and i will continue to do so. You may have noticed that the games i cover i don't talk about in this column. That's so when i write about them, everything is new and fresh, and i can milk the game for all its worth upon the page.

Sometimes i wonder if i shouldn't talk about these games here though. For instance a lot of this last week i have been playing 'Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth'. Yes, the game is as bizarre and enjoyable as it sounds.


I just started writing about it and then deleted the sentences to write this instead. I was beginning to write what would normally flow out of me when approaching the column. It's probably a testament to the game that i really want to talk about it on this open forum i bring to you each week. Well seeing i link my work, perhaps it isn't too much of a loss that i skip out on games i'm playing on this column from time to time (well, purposely. There have been many times sadly where i've plum forgot about including something i've played in this column. That almost happened with Diablo 2 today). If anything, putting these queries out on the page helps me work through them better than if i just pondered it in my noggin (the same principle applies to my cartooning and webcomic content).

So be on the lookout for a write-up of 'Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth' sometime in the future, and till next week, happy gaming all!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Musings - 21st May, 2012

Hello all. I'm gathering most people's game playing week has consisted of a good dose of Diablo 3. Mine did too... kinda. Read on and find out. Let us muse.

Limbo (360)

Since my quick review went up late last week i don't feel i have too much more to say about the game. I will say that the final puzzle took quite a bit of trial and error, and like many of the later tough puzzles, i felt a sense of jubilation when i finally bested it. That was immediately shattered with an, "Aw, is that it?". This is especially interesting considering i felt like the game had been dragging in the last hour or two, and overstaying its welcome. I guess that overall i was sorry to see the experience end. It's the sign of a good game when you end up wanting more when it ends. That happens so rarely with me because i don't finish many games. Most i do end up finishing, there's this final slog to the end, and i will admit that on the way to the finish line, Limbo did invoke that reaction...but overall, i do have a pleasant memory of the experience, so there's that.

The ending however.. hmm, i dunno.

Diablo 3 (PC)

So the entire household where i live bought their collector's editions, and here i am a poor destitute gamer who to feel part of the release, re-downloded his copy of Diablo 2. Then i got the great idea to use one of the many guest passes available to try the game out. The problem here is evident. When the guest pass ended after i defeated the skeleton king, i was even more depressed that i couldn't afford and play this game. The art style is so beautiful and the gameplay is so straight-forward and stream-lined. Some may not like it, but the customisation in the attacks in each class make for many choices of play style, and the best part is it can be changed on the fly. Yeah sure I haven't played enough to really see the fruits of this system for good or ill, but my short time with it was quite positive. The crafting system also seems interesting. It's like instead of gambling your money away trying to grab good gear, you gamble crafting your gear, and thus you have another use for all the weapons and armour you pick up and are going to sell anyway. I guess the grey area comes between scraping your spoils for components, and getting enough money to cover training your crafting skill (and I don't even have any idea how runes or gems or all that work).

Needless to say, I wish I could afford Diablo 3. I think once I get stable again, it's one of the first things i'll save for.

Terranigma (SNES)

I've not played as much Terranigma this week because of everything else, but I have bested the Spain portion of the game, so I would like to take this opportunity to talk about Bloody Mary. My housemate Pierce had talked up this boss as the only boss that magic is useful on in the game, mainly because she is a boss encounter that is very difficult, and that you will remember. Now magic in Terranigma is an interesting beast. You obtain special rocks called Magirocks throughout the game. With a little bit of gold, you can craft these rocks into rings that will unleash spells (that once used will give you the rocks back). I mainly use the rocks to craft grass pins, which will give you full health (it's useful when you run out of healing items), as I found hitting things to work better (I usually favour melee over magic in most RPGs).

I've been half using a walkthrough while playing Terranigma. The guide i'm using suggested that before entering Bloody Mary's dungeon, to use your Magirocks on forging Elec Rings (as it's a screen covering attack... kinda like a summon spell). I kind of gloated to Pierce after using the first ring when fighting this boss. “This is supposed to be a hard boss?” Yeah, I was kind of a dick. I guess I couldn't resist. Each Elec Ring hit her fairly hard, but soon I had used all the rings I had crafted, and she was still alive.

This is where my gloating came back to bite me in the ass. Pierce laughed as Bloody Mary's magic gems obliterated me, causing much loading of save states (I don't know how i'd play this game without the aid of the emulator. Save points are so far apart and not in dungeons at all). He was amused as he headed to bed, leaving me to continue my uphill climb against this boss that I had suddenly come to respect. Part of my problem was over-reliance on the jumping dash attack. It would cause me to hit the gems on my way through attacking. The standard dash attack however would hit Mary twice and I would be immune to the gems as I travelled through. Now Pierce had told me to use the dash attack over the jumping dash many times, but I keep reverting back to it as I find situations where it does a significant amount of increased damage. I guess the temporary invulnerability always trumps damage output. After a little more fighting, I had bested Mary, and I felt like I had overcome a great challenge. I now too tell tales of Bloody Mary. This was it. Heed it well.

I have left things as I travelled across the sea to the new world (called 'Freedom'), and this is where we leave Terranigma for this week.

Sine Mora (360)

So what happens when Grasshopper Manufacture make a shoot em up game? Sine Mora, that's what. A game with an incredible sense of style, memorable boss fights, and mechanics that revolve entirely around time. It's also hard as balls, at least to a player like me who is not well versed in the playing of crazy shmups. I've played for a couple hours and am up to level three (the levels usually consist of a couple different sections of game, such as a big boss fight with a Victorian house train or a giant mechanical logging machine named Papa Carlo).

The way the game works is that killing enemies add to the level timer, and getting hit takes away from the level timer. You have a bar of bullet time which when triggered allows you to dodge the crazy bullet spray with ease. Over-reliance on this will of course dry it up and then you're left to your own reflexes (which always astonishes me on how sharp I can dodge stuff when I have to in this game). Couple this with collecting weapon upgrades (which fly out when hit) and you have a lot of fun, if not frustrating gameplay. It's one of those challenges though that I find myself playing to rise to. If just that I want to see every boss fight the game has to offer. I shudder to think of what the final boss is like. They are one of the more exciting and memorable portions of the game.

One thing is that there seems to be a rather detailed story accompanying the game, but as it is told in blocks of text dubbed in a fake language, I have had no interest in following it, and I find myself fast forwarding the cut-scenes to get to the gameplay. A shame, because I want to know why i'm playing a grizzled old Bull or a Cat lady interchangeably. Perhaps i'll look into it in condensed form online when I finish with the game.s

Final Thoughts

To start with on the final thoughts section this week, I want to plug my new retrospective on Goblins 3. Boom!

There has been a discussion amongst the writing staff which I would love to open up to my readers as I find it quite interesting. Basically it's what constitutes a retro game in your opinion? I won't tell you what we settled on, but I will lay out my thought process on things.

Possibly the greatest jump in videogaming was in the mid 90s with the shift from 2d to 3d. It might make an ideal point to classify everything before that point as retro (and I must admit that when I think of retro, I think of the eight or sixteen bit eras). Then again, a lot of those early 3d games could easily be seen as retro, especially by today's standards. Hell, with how quickly technology progresses, games from ten years ago could be considered a little retro. This is where the discrepancy lies. And also, who's to say in ten years the advances won't be such that make today's games look just as dated as those early 3d titles?

I do think of retro as around 1978 – 1997, but the constant shift forward of our game technology, and the ever changing landscape means that we will have to constantly re-evaluate our definitions, especially as gaming gains more and more history as the years go by (by changing landscape, I mean did anyone see the explosion of motion gaming, and then the explosion of tablets and the app store? Who knows what the next ten years holds).

As always, i'm interested to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments and till next week, happy gaming all!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quick Review: Limbo

Developed by: Playdead
Published by: Playdead
Released: July 2010 on Xbox 360, July 2011 on PS3, August 2011 on PC
Played on: Xbox 360

Story: Average

I guess the ending revelation is kind of neat in a pondering sort of way, or at least as a culmination of all you've been through, but it's exactly what you've been through that made me yearn for something a little more definitive and satisfactory after slogging through all the game has to offer.

Mechanics: Good

This is a hostile world in which you have a stubby little jump, and the ability to pull things. As a platformer, this is mighty close to bare bones. With that said, the developers have done an amazing job creating interesting puzzles that will have you scratching your head until you figure them out. One criticism i have is that early on the puzzles were a little more centered around the hostile world you find yourself in and the game cleverly used that to its advantage. Later on some of that is thrown out the window for what i'll call 'fun with physics'. They're still clever and interesting, but it does feel a little like they ran out of ways to tie the puzzles into the world.

Aesthetics: Good

For a game based in blacks and whites, there is an incredible sense of atmosphere and mood conveyed in the environment through the visuals. The backgrounds have a hazy, dreamlike quality to them and there is a definite sense of contrast through the use of light and dark. The sound is very minimalistic and accompanies the gameplay quite well.

Technology: Good

While playing Limbo, i experienced no slowdown or any type of graphical issue. The best part though was how quick you respawn upon death. The instantaneous respawn coupled with the well placed checkpoint system makes for a stress free game experience... at least from the technical perspective.

Overall: Good

While i felt the game kind of overstayed its welcome in length, it is a short enough experience full of clever puzzles in a very striking atmospheric world. A must for those who like to use their brains while platforming. If anything, i felt a lot of satisfaction from besting some of the crazier puzzles presented.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Musings - 14th May, 2012

Oof, that sickness last week really took it out of me folks, but Dave is back and a picture of health (what kind of picture? Well i'll just leave that up to your imagination). Time for Dave to stop talking in the third person because once again it is time to muse!

Terranigma (SNES)

So lacking the access to consoles i decided this was an opportune time to go a little more retro, seeing there are so many classic RPGs on the super nintendo that i have wanted to play. I acquired a copy of Earthbound and was ready to start that up again when my new roommate Pierce caught wind of what i was doing. "You have to play Terranigma", he said. He was rather insistent on this matter. I'd heard about the game (and i seem to be one of the few people i know that enjoyed Quintet's other Snes RPG 'Illusion of Gaia') so i said, "why the hell not?" and loaded it up.

You start underground with the world destroyed. You open Pandora's box and unleash further devastation. Then you are tasked with fixing things, first by raising the continents, then by repopulating the Earth with plants, birds, mammals, and finally humans. Once humans are raised, you're tasked with helping them with their problems, and it's in Europe in the town of Loire i find myself at this moment, with a tyrannical king and his mute daughter.

It's quite impressive the scope they tried to convey with what is really a rather straightforward action RPG. You have a dash, a jump, an attack, and a shield. With button combinations you have about five different moves of varying success (dash/jump/attack being a favourite). And holy moly, the difference that levelling can make. When trying to resurrect the mammals in Africa, i came across a boss that i was doing no damage to (and he was destroying me). I finally resigned myself to grind a couple levels, and it's insane the difference that made. The boss went down like a hot spoon through chocolate pudding. Grinding is pretty damn time consuming though, and even though it's worth it (and the whole level up sound effect makes you feel pretty good), i still dislike the practise. Really i just hate filler in my videogames and grinding is most definitely filler.

Oh and the menu screen is inside Pandora's Box. You press select and jump inside with your legs flailing. You access weapons, armour, items, and spells by travelling to different rooms inside the box... well your weird pink bat sidekick Yomi does. It's a unique touch that helps the game to stand out from what was becoming a thick glut of Jrpgs at the time i imagine.

Limbo (360)

The place i moved has consoles because two of my housemates work at videogame retailers. I was given the go ahead to play some stuff so i thought to start with i'd play what's meant to be a quick indie title i should have played years ago. That of course is Limbo. Now at the time of this writing, i'm not finished with the game yet. I dunno how close i am to the end. It seems everytime i think i'm getting near, the game keeps extending itself. What is this, Tron 2.0 (obscure joke)? To tell the truth, where i am at the moment, i'm not sure i'm having fun anymore, but i'm under the influence of what i'll call stubborn gamer syndrome. Since i know it's not that long a game, and i've been steadily making progress, even though most of the new puzzles are exercises in frustration, i persevere and eventually overcome.

The puzzles are damn clever though. Especially since the world gets more and more hostile the further you go into it. What started out as evil kids and creepy spiders turns to gravity and physics puzzles with ever present saw blades, deadly drops, and a recent addition being sensor driven machine guns. It also helps that the game is gorgeous, especially with such a simple colour palette.

This game also teaches us that trial and error gameplay is not bad game design if you have the frequent checkpoints to back it up and ease gamer frustration. Players should be mad at their inability to solve a problem, not having to traverse previously charted territory to get back to their trouble spot. Kind of similar to what i said about grinding up the page, replaying entire areas is gaming filler. I have grown despondent of gaming filler.

Final Thoughts

I'd like to take the opportunity this week to give a shoutout to a blog i discovered and have started devouring the archives of today. Killias2, a blogger and commenter over at Destructoid posted about some gaming blogs that people might enjoy and the one that i've latched onto it 'The Adventure Gamer'. Written by 'The Trickster', this bold gamer is playing through the entire run of PC graphical adventure games starting at the very beginning. Not only is he blogging and rating the games, but he's doing it all sans walkthough. He's definitely got some fortitude, but for those who like the adventure game genre (*raises hand*), he provides some good insight into his playing habits and the trails and tribulations associated with the early genre (like puzzles that make no damn sense).

And as these things go, the games you're the most familiar with and the ones that test your sanity make for the most entertaining reads (such as his time with 'Uninvited').

The blog can be found here -

I look forward to catching up, and then being able to follow along the discussion.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Musings postponed

Heya folks. Fun times this week (he said sarcastically). I not only contracted a cold/flu over the weekend but i think i've been hit with a bout of food poisoning on top of that. Due to this writing for more than a sentence or two today has been extremely difficult.

Sorry to have to postpone musings. I should be back next week, if not updating later in the week when i'm feeling better.

The picture used is cause i google image searched 'Sick Dave'/

Till next time, happy gaming all.