Sunday, June 3, 2012

Monday Musings - 4th June, 2012

It's been a busy day of comics and writing, but now i have my coffee and it's time for the Monday musings (turns on Persona 4 soundtrack).

Below the Root (PC)

I've mentioned The Adventure Gamer before, and his quest to play through every notable graphic adventure game from the genre's humble beginnings to now. Well after completing Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth last week i thought perhaps it might be fun to follow his campaign myself (and since i love both retro games and adventure games, it's a win win scenario for the use of my gaming time). Now i'm not going to play every title on the Wikipedia entry of notable graphic adventure games (and i have my own criteria for which ones i choose), but i am starting where he's starting and that's the 1984 adventure / platformer, Below the Root.

Based on a trilogy of books (and made as the fourth book), this is not a pure adventure game. It's not even a pure platformer, and to boot it's got elements of the RPG as well. Truly a hybrid game. You pick one of five characters that live among giant trees. You can pick up something called a shuba to allow you to glide, and this is a very good thing as the controls are hard to initially get used to (and smacking into a wall will hurt you). Pressing left or right will move you left or right, and the longer you walk, the faster you go. Pressing again will jump in that direction. A lot of the platforming is precision based so you can probably already see the issue. You have to learn to tap up or the opposite direction the instant you land in many cases (even doing so when switching screens as you might find yourself walking off a ledge). Different characters have different stamina stats (which affects your jump), and there are ways to increase that stat in game. This means that some jumps are harder than they need to be if your stamina is not right (as you will over or under shoot your jump).

You also have a spirit stat and this is basically magic. You learn spells as you progress in the game such as healing, kiniporting (teleporting items), and pensing (you can judge people's motives. There are those who will lie to you, and kidnap and capture you if given the chance). The world itself is massive, and its this sense of exploration and just all the options available to you that keep me returning to the game despite all the issues. There's just this atmosphere that immerses you, plus learning all the spells and progressing does give you that feeling of satisfaction that you've overcome a great hurdle.

Plus if you're stuck it's fun just walking and gliding around the tree tops.

God of War (PS3)

Yes the first game. It's on PS3 cause i'm playing the HD collection. It's funny cause there have been some frustrating segments in the game thus far, but the whole pacing and presentation have made me forget about them as i trudge forward. During my last play i opened up Pandora's Temple by breaking the necks of some sirens in the desert.

Perhaps it's because i've been playing Sine Mora but i have been a little disappointed about the lack of boss battles so far (because Sine Mora is all boss battles). I think it's also cause that hydra fight the game started with is such an amazing kick off that i'm waiting for the next equivalent. That i want more is a good thing though, and i imagine the game will reward that sooner or later.

The camera is an interesting beast to be sure. I like 3d games that take control of the camera for you. It allows a greater direction of action and scope, as you can guide the player's eye. It also makes for some seamless flow (a good example is a simple one. Descending the spiral staircase to the Athens Sewer. The way the camera zooms in as you move down is exquisite). The downside is that if you want to backtrack you cannot see where you are travelling, but i've not had a problem with this use of the camera in combat... and seeing that's the core mechanic of the game, i'm pretty happy with it.

Nightsky (PC)

I gave this one a quick go this week. It's a side scrolling marble madness with power-ups that reverse gravity or give you speed up bonuses. I played for fifteen minutes or so. Not enough to hold my interest i'm afraid (or to write about it seems).

But i did play it and i wanted to mention it. Yay!

Terranigma (SNES)

I visited Suncoast. I took pictures! I also got some meat and fed it to a gourmet over in Freedom. Apparently the best way to get your town noticed by the world at large is to feet local cuisine to an American gourmet. Who knew?

I fought my way through Nirlake (cause it's near a lake), and had a boss battle against some starfish while a water dragon turtle thing spewed fire in my direction. Quoting Charlie the Unicorn episode 3 could not save me. Starfish most definitely does not love you. I did get the ability to hold my breath underwater though which allows you to travel where bubbles are.

Then i travelled to NeoTokyo. You can find a ghost in a trashcan, and if you defeat it, you can visit the Quintet headquarters (the company that developed Terranigma). All the different departments are there, and they all seem overworked yet optimistic. Hooray for breaking the fourth wall.

More as the journey continues...

Rayman Origins (PC)

I tweeted last week that if you have the ability to play co-op, buy this game and invite a friend over. I have not had so much fun playing a game in a long time. I went over to my buddy Kenneth's place, though was definitely not in the mood to continue our game of X-men Destiny. Luckily he loaded up Rayman Origins on Steam and we spent the next couple of hours laughing our asses off and being blown away by the beauty of the artwork, the great music, and just the ingenious level design.

Most of the humor was derived by Rayman's big blue mentally challenged buddy. Almost everything he does from hanging on ledges to flying through the air is hilariously stupid, and we started to create a narrative that this game is actually about Rayman unable to get out of an abusive friendship with Bluey.

As platformers go, the jumping is a bit loose (especially with the run), but seeing that there's no lives, and co-op uses the 'second try' bubble system from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, everything is fluid and fun. That's not to say there's no challenge however. Man, to get everything available in each level takes some masterful platforming, and the game really shows off its abundance of secrets and medals.

I am greatly looking forward to our next Rayman game session.

Final Thoughts

Playing not only Below the Root and needing a walkthrough, but also needing one for a puzzle in God of War makes me question my patience for videogames and the challenges they pose. My favourite genres are adventure games, platformers, and RPGs, and out of them, platformers are the only ones i don't require assistence for. For an adventure game or RPG, a walkthrough is a must. In RPGs i don't want to be underlevelled or spend points in the wrong areas, and in adventure games, i hate being stuck, dragging the game to a halt.

I wonder if it's my changing tastes as a gamer, or the lack of time i now have. I used to love exploring every inch of adventure games and RPGs, and there's a great story i have about how the solution to a puzzle in Loom (one of my favourite games) came to me in a morning dream, so i instantly woke up, turned on my PC and lo and behold it worked. My brain had solved the problem for me. I think i was 13 or 14 when that happened.

Perhaps it's the ease of information on the Internet that has changed the way my brain works, so instead of holding information and making connections, it's learned that anything it needs can be looked up. This would account not only for the lack of patience, but the lack of being able to work through these solutions.

It's not to say i don't enjoy puzzles anymore. I loved playing through Limbo (although i would leave and return later when stumped), and i always come back and finish off sudoku and crossword puzzles. Perhaps it's pride that makes me think that i should still be able to tackle this problems alone, and of course there's still that stigma in gaming that if you require codes or walkthroughs, you're somehow less of a gamer (i wrote an article on that a couple years back).

Does anyone else wrestle with this? I'd love to hear some thoughts on the subject.

Till next week, happy gaming all!


  1. Terranigma sounds trippy... I'm so confused...

    I think the puzzles / walkthrough thing really depends on the game, and how well made and thought out the challenges are. I know that there are some games with great storylines but bad puzzle elements that I will use a walkthrough for in an instant, as i want to continue the story, and working out the puzzle isn't fun. There are other games, however, where the puzzle draws you in, and you find yourself spending time to try to solve it, as you constantly feel like you are right on the cusp of being able to do so, and are given feedback that you are on the right track.

    1. I like this explanation. :)

      I think you're right. If there is a balance between immersive story & world, and the puzzles & challenge, then the player will work to progress. If not, we'll find other ways.