My progress for this month: Fnord’s profile

Because I’m terrible with keeping things like “currently playing” and my future plans consistent and up to date, I’ll just simplify things and make a list of my progress for the month, until I can come up with a good system.

If anyone is curious about my complete backlog, it can be found here

Games beaten
Squidlit
Star Wars Episode I: Racer
Minecraft: Story Mode

Games dropped
Vendetta - Curse of Raven’s Cry


I think I’ll give up on this month’s theme. The dropped game for this update really made me lose any and all motivation to play any more boat games. And can you believe this was the fixed version, and that the original was even worse? Now I’m almost curious about how broken that game was!

Squidlit

0.6 hours, 3 of 18 achievements

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A cute and very short little platforming game where you play as an octopus that needs to travel through some strange lands to save its village. As you might be able to tell, this game is quite heavily inspired by the original gameboy, and is using music and sound effects that it would be able to play, has a colour palette that's the same as the gameboy and even uses the same resolution. It's a simple gimmick, but it works. The only issue is that at some points some things blend in with the background, but it's not a common issue. Overall, this game was quite fun. One of those super cheap steam games that are actually worth playing.


Star Wars Episode I: Racer

3 hours, no achievements
Origin version

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I had forgot just how fun this game was! Star Wars Episode I: Racer is by far the best thing to come out of the prequel trilogies, and it's even one of the best Star Wars games ever made, with only the KOTOR series being better (and even that's arguable). This is a Wipeout-style racing game, where you play as a very fast hovercraft that need to navigate some tricky levels. One thing that surprised me about it, apart from how well it ran on a modern machine, was how easy it was. I played through all the levels, including the 4 bonus levels, and I only did not get first place once, and it was on the second bonus level. So yeah, that I guess is a bit of a negative, but overall, this game was a blast to play.


Minecraft: Story Mode - A Telltale Games Series

13.1 hours, 50 of 50 achievements
Well this was a bad idea

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What would you expect from Telltale making a Minecraft-based adventure game? Probably something better than this, to be honest.

Minecraft: Story Mode uses the very typical Telltale formula, set by The Walking Dead. It's clearly a game meant for a slightly younger audience, with a rather simple "save the world" main story. It does get a bit dark at times, and there are a few jokes that kids won't get (like they talk about dropping the f-bomb, that is to say the "Formidi-Bomb"). Had this been all there was to it, Minecraft: Story Mode would have been an inoffensive, but not very good game, with some charming scenes, but an otherwise forgettable story, but it had some major issues. Namely a plethora of bugs, and a story choice that I think was made because the first episode was free.
-Dialogue keeps cutting off. This is kind of serious in a story-driven game, when plot-important dialogue cuts off constantly. This was at its worst during episode 1, but it kept being an issue through the entire game.
-Flickering textures & models. This was a more common issue later, but there were some serious issues with flickering models & textures.
-Disappearing models. This mostly happened in the first DLC episode, where a cutscene that was meant to hold nearly 10 character models could end up only having 2-3.
-Characters "warping" from place to place. This happened during a bunch of cutscenes, most of which were from the DLC, where instead of walking from one place, characters would just instantly "warp" from one location to another. This was always a short distance, but it was still jarring.
-Facial animations were buggy. This was particularly true for bearded characters.
-The game would suddenly stop letting me interact with objects, which also happened when I re-loaded my save-file. Only way to fix this was to "rewind" to an earlier point in the chapter (at least the game let you do this). This was entirely limited to the first DLC chapter, but it happened twice there.
-The game would suddenly decide that all hotspots in a scene were for the same thing. If you had lava, a pig, a sheep and a door in a scene, the game could suddenly decide that no matter which hotspot you were trying to interact with, it would be the pig. This mostly happened in episode 5.
-Sometimes audio de-synced

I hope I got all of them. This game was in other words nearly as buggy as Telltale's Jurassic Park, and I was really tempted to moving it into my "broken" category on steam and never look at it again.

And about the story issue. The main story is limited to episode 1-4, with episode 1 going out with a real bang. But from hereon it would be quite hard to actually keep things interesting through 5 chapters. It would have been better to leave the end of episode 1 to around the halfway point of episode 2. Instead episode 5 is just setting up the DLC.

Overall, I would say that this is a safe skip. Had the game not been such a broken mess, I would have said that it might be fun for a child (one old enough to watch movies like Disney's The Hunchback in Notre Dame, but good grief, it's like Telltale was trying to make this their most broken game yet.


Vendetta - Curse of Raven's Cry

2 hours, 1 of 58 achievements
And I guess this one was worse...

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From one broken mess to another. Vendetta actually starts pretty alright, and showcases some good ship to ship combat, that is a bit more complex than what Assassin's Creed: Black Flag had to offer. But it's all downhill from there. The main character's voice acting is "alright", as is the main supporting character, but then after a little while you run into someone who seem's to have recorded their lines using a lower mid-range gaming headset in their bedroom. Combat also turns out to be rather problematic, as the game flat out refuses to detect hits against enemies who stand on any kind of sloped surface. Yep, if the enemy is standing on some stairs, or on a gently sloped gravel path or anything like that, you can't hit it! Also, combat against multiple enemies is pretty much broken, as the camera keeps spazzing out and even if you target on specific enemy, the camera will still start panning rapidly between enemies.
And this combat is supposedly greatly improved compared to the games original release! It should be noted that the original release of this game is sitting at a metacritic score of 27/100. And really, that's more than this release of the game deserves. Even Ride to Hell: Retribution works better than this thing, and I had to stop playing Ride to Hell because the game would not load in the stairs for a staircase.


A bit over a week later, and it’s time for another post! I’ve got a really questionable game this time around, one I’m not sure was worth the time I put into it… Two of the games this time around also had a really annoying heartbeat sound that was used to indicate being damaged. Both of those games were incidentally from 2007!

Rot Gut

0.4 hours, 9 of 9 achievements

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Rot Gut is a simple 2D platformer set during the 1920. You're some agent who needs to shoot up evil gangsters or something. It's about as simple as it sounds, and the game is really short. I could not get my gamepad to work with it, but the keyboard controls are good enough, and the game is just generally very easy. The game is fun enough, worth a playthrough if you got it in a bundle or very cheap, but nothing worth going out of your way for.


kuso

0.6 hours, 0 of 25 achievements

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I managed to get 0 achievements during my playthrough of this game!

If you played LOVE, you know exactly what this game is about. It's more of the same. kuso is a 2D platformer that's both very punishing, and forgiving at the same time. Your goal is to simple make it through a gauntlet of different stage hazards, where a single hit kills you. You can place down respawn points on any solid ground, which is what makes it so forgiving. I enjoyed this game, much like I enjoyed LOVE, but it's a very short playthrough (this game also has some levels from the original game, but it lets you chose if you want to play through just the new levels, or all of them, and I just beat the new levels).


Hard to be a god

24.8 hours, no achievements

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This is a very "questionable" RPG, based on a famous Russian sci-fi novel.
I wrote a review for it if you're interested in more details, but the short of it is that this game is not very good. It's very buggy, and the translation is absolutely atrocious. It was oddly compelling at times, but the second half of this game is a real slog. Also, this game has a really annoying heartbeat sound when you're wounded


The Sea Will Claim Everything

2.9 hours, 12 of 19 achievements

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The Sea will claim Everything is a short Point & Click adventure, that's very dialogue heavy. Some of the dialogue is genuinely very entertaining, and the whole game has this surreal sense to it that I really enjoyed. Sadly the actual puzzle solving leaves a bit to be desired, and some of the pixel hunting you need to do, while hardly the hardest ever, felt like it just slowed down the game a bit too much. This is the kind of game that might well be best played with a guide. Not one you follow to the letter, mind you, doing a bit of exploration and talking to the stranger creatures that inhabits this world is a must, but having a guide that helps you past some of the pixel hunting would be a good thing.


Disney Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End

3.9 hours, no achievements
Why is the pirate gay?

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The second game in this update that had a really annoying heartbeat sound that was meant to indicate damage!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds' End is a mediocre game based on an even more mediocre movie. I remember watching the movie at the cinema, and being mostly bored. Well, this game is also mostly kind of boring. It has an alright combat system, the issue has to do with the encounter design, which remains pretty much identical through the entire game. You've got next to no actual variety with the enemies , and only on a few occasions are there stage hazards that could get in the way (and these generally did not make things more fun). If you've not seen the movie, the story to this game will seem completely disjointed, as I think they've cut out a lot of intended cutscenes. Considering the cast of the movie are not actually voicing the characters here, they don't have the excuse of not having access to the cast, they just skipped a lot of scenes between the levels, which makes the story make absolutely no sense.

Also, in regards to the "Why is the pirate gay?" thing, that was something that the Disney higher ups actually asked when they made the first movie. They did not get Jack Sparrow, they thought Johnny Depp was playing a gay character, when what he in actually was doing was playing a washed up rockstar (his reasoning was that pirate captains were basically the rockstars of the era, so he should act like a washed up rockstar).
Oh Johnny, how far you fell. He really added a lot with his ideas to the first movie, and seemed to have been a key part in the creative process, while in the last movie he could not even be bothered to show up on time, and did not want to learn his lines, so he had an earpiece, and was told his lines through that. He also seems to have turned into a rather abusive and unlikable person.

It's also funny how the higher ups at Disney had already decided that pirate movies would always flop, and even when the shooting was pretty much done (which had to be done behind their backs for the most part), they wanted to cancel the movie, because they "knew it would fail". And somehow the lesson they got from this movie was not "making good movies with actors who do their job well is likely to earn them some success", what they "learnt" from making this movie was "Giving Johnny Depp stupid hats is a recipe for success". Hence why we got things like The Lone Ranger.

You know, the things going on behind the scenes of the Pirates movies, and the business side of it is a lot more interesting than this game ever had the chance to be. It really highlights how the higher ups in the entertainment industry really don't "get it". They're pretty much always looking for simple answers. "Movie was successful-> it was because Johnny Depp had a stupid hat", "Movie was unsuccessful->This entire genre of movies is dead, nobody wants to see them anymore"! It's the exact same thing with the video game industry.

And that was a needlessly long explanation about something that was only tangentially related to the game


Tiny Guardians

3.5 hours, 4 of 16 achievements

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I've had this game installed for about 3 months, playing a level here and there. There's not a whole lot to say about this game, really. You play as a wizard that slowly wanders across a level, and you summon different "guardians" to protect you. It's like a mobile tower defense game, with many of the mechanics you would expect from a regular TD. It's fun, but nothing exceptional.


Rock of Ages

6.9 hours, 12 of 19 achievements
Think this might be the longest time between starting and beating a game ever for me (without starting anew)

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I started this game back in 2012, and now finally decided to actually beat it!

Rock of Ages is a weird one. Imagine Super Monkey Ball, only with RTS elements, set in a world seemingly inspired by the animations made by Terry Gilliams (Monty Python). You roll the ball down a hill, avoiding obstacles, until you hit he enemy gate. Then repeat the process until the enemy gate is down. The enemy is trying to do the exact same thing to you. Between bouts of rolling downhill, you place traps & structures on your opponent's side, trying to slow them down and hopefully even breaking their rock.

It's fun. Really fun actually, and the animated sequences between levels often made me smile due to how silly they were. It's also a rather fun competitive multiplayer game (which is why I first got the game, back in 2012).


The Walking Dead: A New Frontier

0 hours, no achievements
Non-steam version

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The third season of The Walking Dead feels like a mild return to form for Telltale. Unlike many other games released during this time period, it actually feels like this one was given the proper care and attention (you had no weird rotating necks, no things done out of sync with the music, no strange clipping issues and so on). That said, it's still not Telltale's finest. This one takes place a while after the events of Season 2, and you mostly follow a brand new cast of characters, although it's no spoiler that Clementine is in the game (she's even in the banner image!).

I liked this one more than Season 2. This game does not feel the need to move at quick the same break-neck speed, and you get enough time to really get to know the characters. There's less zombie killing, and more talking, and I think that that is a good thing. The characters are also more consistently written here than in S2.

You play as Javier, who's been spending the time after the zombie apocalypse with his brother's wife & kids. They've been on the road for so long, and it's wearing on them. Things do, as they tend to do in stories like this, quickly go south for them, when they come into contact with new people, and they need to figure out what they actually want to do, where they want to go.

To me, this game feels like another side story. The events here do at most feel like they're setting up the events of Season 4, they're not really advancing the plot to any major degree. That said, it's not bad. While I did not care as much about the characters here as I did with Clem & Lee in the first game, they were still human enough, and sympathetic enough that I wanted them to succeed.

While the game feels quite polished, you can tell that they're pushing the engine a bit too far. Everything close to the camera looks nice, but the zombie hordes, and any motion in the background had a tendency of looking weird. There was only once odd instance of a character not moving its mouth. It's not an important character, but he's close to the camera on two occasions, yet he keeps his mouth completely shut the entire time. I guess they never actually made the character model so it could open its mouth, but it looked weird. If he had been a dedicated background character, then fine, but the way he was used ended up taking me out of it.
They also seemingly re-use one location as two different ones. I can't swear they do it, but they looked similar enough that I strongly suspect they did.

Still, if you liked TWD S1, I would recommend this one.


Speaking of The Walking Dead, I’ve had the closest thing to a movie & TV series binge that I’ve had in ages (a decade or more!) in the last few months. Since November last year I’ve managed to watch 4 movies and 2 seasons of a TV show. That’s about 3 movies and 2 seasons more than I usually watch. And they’ve all been zombie-related.

Fear the Walking Dead Season 1: This one showed how the zombie invasion started, You get to see the daily lives of people, as the events are slowly set in motion. This was interesting. It was a short season, at 6 episodes, and that felt just about right. Heck, they could probably have managed to make it a little bit shorter even, but still, 6 episodes was a good length. Not a whole lot of padding, enough time for you to get to know the characters, and it was interesting seeing how things started.

Fear the Walking Dead Season 2. Welcome to padding city! This was 15 episodes, and it should have been 5. There was so much filler material. It also had a scene that reminded me of this scene from Austin Powers, where a couple of people drove up to shoot at a bunch of zombies, starting quite far away from them as the zombie horde slowly shuffled towards them, and one of them decides that he needs to reload his gun, and just stands there, not even thinking of walking away from the zombies when they’re within arm’s reach. He did of course get eaten. It was just so silly that it made me laugh at it.

Night of the Living Dead The classic zombie movie that kind of cemented what we think of as zombies today. I expected to turn it off after 30min, and never go back to it, as it’s an ancient black & white zombie movie. How good can it be anyway? Turned out, really quite good. Romero was smart enough to focus on the people, and not the zombies. Yes, it has its scenes where it shows its age, but I genuinely thought this was a very good movie.

Dawn of the Dead The most famous of Romero’s zombie movies, and one I’m far more torn on than Night of the Living Dead. When it works, it’s quite good. I liked how the movie started, and I liked the scenes we got in the mall, when the characters are settling in, and trying to decide what to do. But it was tonally quite inconsistent. We had another Austin Powers scene here, well kind of. During a zombie invasion one character in a sombrero just decided to strap himself into a machine that measures your blood pressure, even though he’s surrounded by zombies. That was the worst scene, but it had a few others that ended up just being silly, in a way that did not fit the movie.

Day of the Dead the darkest of the movies thus far. The earth has been overrun by zombies, and you get to follow a small band of people living in a bunker. Tension rise between the soldiers, and the scientists, and you get scenes that makes you wonder if the zombies really are the real monsters here…
This one was more consistent than Dawn of the Dead, but also less interesting. It’s a perfectly fine movie, one I did not mind watching, but it was not good enough as to prevent my mind from wandering.

World War Z. What a complete piece of utter garbage this movie was. It does not really care about introducing its characters, and its reason for having the character fly around the world is so flimsy and out of character for the movie that the RPG adventures I wrote when I was 10 were better put together, more consistent and made more sense. Also, they could not even get the zombies consistent. Why are the zombies played by real actors completely different from the CG zombies? And why does the CG zombie movement seem so “weightless”? This zombie makes the Resident Evil film series seem like consistent masterpieces in comparison (and the Resident Evil series is not good…)

Sword of the Samurai

2.7 hours, no achievements

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I wrote a review for this on steam.

It's really quite good. Graphics might not be great, but it's a fun game!


Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon - Ork Hunters

8.2 hours, no achievements
SG Win

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I wrote a review for this one as well!

It's also quite good. Actually, I would argue that this DLC is better than the base game!


GOD EATER RESURRECTION

2 hours, 4 of 33 achievements

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This game was frankly just boring. The game is on a very short loop. Get a bit of story, do a <5min mission where you fight a few monsters, back to base, get a bit of story, go out on a <5min mission when you fight a few monsters, rinse and repeat. After 2h of this, I just gave up. It was not fun, I did not particularly enjoy the combat (fighting monsters with oversized weapons "should" be fun, but these monsters are not even particularly solid, as in their hitboxes don't really match their models and your character can end up just standing inside them). Also, the game loved just telling me how hot one of the women was. Every character just kept blabbering on about how hot she was. Something tells me that she will die at some point, and I'm supposed to find it sad because she's hot, or something (of course this is a game, so "hot" in this context means that she has big breasts and wears clothes that would be better suited for a trendy expensive night club during the summer than clothes that you would use when fighting monsters)


Spiritual Warfare & Wisdom Tree Collection

0.4 hours, no achievements

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Christian propaganda games. I made a post about these. Needless to say, they're not good.


Сartoonway: Mini Cars

0.1 hours, 8 of 54 achievements

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A boring endless runner with alright graphics. The biggest issue with this game is that the music is on a very short loop, and it's rather annoying. The game also has some cyrillic text in it in its interface (which frankly is not a huge issue). Not a great localization. Other than that it's just a bit dull.


RIP

0.2 hours, no achievements

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You control a turret that sits in the middle of a field and you shoot incoming enemies. That's it. It's rather boring, and feels like a flash game from Newgrounds.


Bad Bots

0.9 hours, no achievements

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At first, this game was not so bad. It was an alright 2D platformer. Damage avoidance was hard, and the game compensated for that by just giving you an ungodly amount of health, which is not really the sign of a good game, but it was not terrible or anything. Enemy variety was kind of low, but that was also fine. Then game the "arena rooms". Before the arena rooms the game gives you boatloads of ammo, to the points where I wondered why it even bothered with an ammo system to begin with. And then the first arena room hits, about 40 min in and you get swarmed by loads of basic enemies. It was intense, and while the over-reliance on massive health rather than damage avoidance combined with questionable hit detection made it far less fun than it should have been, I did not hate it. Then almost instantly thereafter comes the second one. Exact same enemies, but now it felt a bit easier. And then another one, but now the game kind of starts running out of energy, and instead of sending swarms of enemies it starts sending 2-3 at a time, and just draws it out after the initial rush. And directly after that another one, only now it sends 1-2 enemies at a time towards you! And you guessed it, another one directly after that, only now it's not even trying, and it just sends 1 enemy at a time at you, and makes it take a really long time. And then after that another one, and this is where I hit alt+f4.


Sometimes you find a game that defies all reason.
I gave the old Wisdom Tree games a try. They came in a bundle a while back, and I was curious (plus I randomized what game to play next, and one of the games from that collection came up).

The standout game in this collection is Spiritual Warfare, a game where a kid is in a park and needs to convert evil people to the true faith by throwing fruit at them. These evil people includes:
People running around with huge kitchen knives who want to stab children (these can be saved if you throw fruit at them)
People with wooden clubs, who want to clobber children to death (these can be saved if you throw fruit at them)
People who run around bushes (these can be saved if you throw fruit at them)
People who ride bicycles (these are beyond salvation and are so utterly evil that their eternal souls can not be saved and if you throw fruit at them a devil will show up and try to murder you!)

This game played like a bad Zelda 1 clone with annoying music and bible questions. As a non-Christian I could not help but feel like the “right” answers for these bible questions were the bad answers, basically boiling down to “Don’t think, believe in god” “Don’t worry about doing good deeds, believe in god” and other such things. The right answer was always blind faith, never good work.

I did not stick with this game. It was just awful.

The other games in the collection includes a game where you stacked animals to put them in the ark. This game was kind of broken, as far as I could tell. And two bad boulder dash clones. Because for some reason Boulder Dash is a good representation for Christianity.. or something.

Don’t you just hate it when you find a game you’re really enjoying, and then you run into a bug that makes it impossible to progress further? That just happened to me in Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy. I’m mildly annoyed right now.

Some short ones this time around.

Radiant One

0.5 hours, 11 of 11 achievements

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Radiant One is a very short and easy point & click adventure game where you're exploring a person's dreams. Nice graphics, and the story had potential, but the game is simply too short to carry its story, it would have needed at least another 15-20min to set things up properly.


SHOCK TROOPERS 2nd squad

0.8 hours, 2 of 10 achievements

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The first SHOCK TROOPERS game is considered a classic, one of the all time greats. SHOCK TROOPERS 2 on the other hand is usually not talked about. I see now why that's the case, because while the first game really was great, the second game is not. It has some nice spritework, but the game just somehow feels like it lacks energy. It's a bit dull. Oh, and the framerate, the framerate is atrocious! At its worst, the game ran at less than 1/20 of its intended speed, and it very often ran at less than half. This is not a well optimized game, an issue that the game supposedly had in the arcades as well.


Anarcute

3.9 hours, 16 of 25 achievements
Imagine Hello Kitty but with more rioting and property damage

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Anarcute is a game about cute animals rioting in the streets, trying to overthrow a corrupt government. Or something along that line. You're controlling a mob of cute critters that fights against a police state. As you move through the levels you gather more members for your mob, and as you fight the police or try to get past stage hazards, your mob takes damage and shrinks. As the mob gets larger, it gets more unwieldy and hard to control, but you also get access to powers like tearing down buildings.

The game is quite simple, but as a short little diversion it's fun. I would not consider it a must play, but if you have it in your library, why not give it a short?


Final Dusk

0.3 hours, no achievements

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I guess this one is partially on me. I was going in expecting this to be a platformer. It's not, it's a simple puzzle game. You're supposed to protect a vampire from sunlight, and you do this by moving bookshelves and such in front of windows. This might get better later on, but at least in the first world there's almost no variety between the puzzles, so I got bored quite fast.


Manor of the Damned!

0.7 hours, no achievements
What do you get when you combine a specter and a vampire?

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Something tells me that the developer of this game was quite young when they made this game. The complete name of this game is Rijn the Specpyre in…. Manor of the Damned. When the game got released on Steam the dev luckily dropped the first bit of the name.

So in the game you play as not a vampire, not a specter but a Specpyre, which combines all the strengths of both vampires and specters. The game plays this straight, and treats the specpyre as some form of super cool creature that we should all be impressed by. It's cute, in a very dorky way. The whole thing feels like what a teenager would come up with when they create their own D&D race.

The game sadly also plays as if it was made by a teenager. While it's not completely broken, its somewhat buggy, and it also has some rather poor level design, which reminds me of the kind of level design I would come up with when I played around with game making tools as a teenager. This would be a rather alright game if it was something the developer put up for free on their website, but as a commercial product it does not hold up. It's not awful, but it's not worth paying for.


Seems like I started “weeb month” early. Dang, I could have had more games added to my played list for this theme, had I just waited a little bit longer!

Children of Zodiarcs

9.9 hours, 21 of 40 achievements
A mild disappointment

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I'm a big fan of SRPGs/TRPGs. There's just something about seeing my team of characters grow in strength through the game, combined with the tactical gameplay. Be it Fire Emblem or Jagged Alliance, this is just a type of game that really appeals to me.

Sadly Children of Zodiarcs does not quite live up to its potential. It's close to being great, but it misses the landing. In Children of Zodiarcs you've got a small band of heroes who need to fight their way through a hostile city. They level up, get more powerful and as they do so, they get access to more abilities. And this is a rather interesting part of the game. Each ability is represented by a card, and you're allowed to make a deck of cards that you bring with you into battle, and then you randomly draw abilities from this deck. You also roll dice, and you get to assign dice between battles, with different dice having different numbers of each symbol on them, so the trick is to find dice that are likely to roll the number of symbols that work well with the cards you bring. Some symbols only trigger effects on cards, so getting 5 stars would be a waste if a card only needs 2 to trigger its effect, and some deal direct damage, so rolling more of them is always better. The dice rolling also "feels" really good. It's hard to describe, but it has a very nice almost tactile feel to it.

Sadly where the game falters are on the levels themselves. Basically they don't feel very varied, and you're not given a lot of interesting tactical options. I think a large part of this can be attributed to the fact that you've only got 3 characters. I think having 5 would have opened up more interesting tactical options. And because of this, Children of Zodiarcs is a mild disappointment. It's so close to being something I would highly recommend, but it's not.


Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure

8.3 hours, 33 of 53 achievements
It's no Ys....

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Falcom is a Japanese developer responsible for the Ys series. For a long time I thought I was a fan of Falcom's games, but it's becoming more and more apparent that it's not Falcom that I like, it's just Ys.

Gurumin feels like a Ys-light game, and sadly not in a good way. You're playing a small girl with a drill, who battles enemies in order to save her monster friends. Combat do remind me of the PSP-era Ys games, but it feels a bit slower, and clunkier, and on top of that, this is a game where you can get stun-locked (or rather juggled) by enemies. It's the game that prompted me to make a post about it. The games biggest drawback though is the levels. You know how in Elder Scrolls games the dungeons are made up out of pre-made pieces just stitched together in different ways? (This is at its most obvious in Oblivion). This game does that as well, each region has a few levels made out of repeating peaces like this. When I was plying the second real level, after the tutorial was over, I did for a moment think that I was playing the first level, but in reverse, it's just that obvious. So this is not really a great game.


Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim

9.5 hours, 9 of 16 achievements
This is Ys!

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The Ys series is a long-running franchise, that's getting really convoluted. Which game is what in the numbered series? Why are there more than one game with the same number? Why are some games not numbered? Why are they released out of order? Yes, it's a mess.

Ys is an action/RPG series with really fast-paced combat. The first 2 had this weird "bump" combat that some people hate (I don't, but it does take some getting used to), and the games can have small grind walls at times (this is in large due to how damage is calculated. It's simple, Attackers attack - Defenders defense = damage. But if your attack is 11 and the enemy has a defense of 11 you'll deal 0 damage, if you go up 1 attack you'll deal 1 damage, 2 attack and you'll deal 2 damage (so doubling the damage!). This means that just rushing through the games can result in you hitting a brick wall, where you just can't damage the enemies enough for it to be realistic for you to take them down.

And this was what happened to me in 2017, when I started this. I hit a small grind wall, and then told myself that I'll beat the game once I'm in the mood for taking on this. Fast forward to 2019 and I finally got around to doing it!
Apart from the small grind walls, this game is really fun to play. I do enjoy the very fast paced combat and the interesting boss battles. This game was a little bit weaker than Ys: The Oath in Felghana (which is a remake of Ys 3), but still fun. Fans of action RPGs should check it out.


Supercharged Robot VULKAISER

0.6 hours, 22 of 33 achievements
Form VOLTRON!

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Don't know if they actually say Form Voltron in the TV series, it's not one I watched… But it seems like something they would say!

Supercharged Robot VULKAISER is basically a love-letter to children's mech anime of the 70's & 80's. I'm sure there's a name for that, but I've never really been into anime, nor mechs, so I don't honestly know. But what I can say is that this game is quite fun!

Supercharged Robot VULKAISER is a simple SHMUP where you fly as a giant robot, shooting down different enemies, that sometimes are rather silly looking. And it works really well.
This is a relatively crude indie title. It lacks the polish of a Braid or Dust, but it feels like the developers who made it really loved what they were doing, and this shines through. Despite the games rough edges, I had a lot of fun with it. It's a short playthrough, and for a SHMUP it's also kind of easy, but if you like these kinds of games, I suspect that you'll like this one as well.


Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler-

0.3 hours, no achievements
Please make the bad sound go away!

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I did not get far into this game. It was full of long repeated voice clips, and it was driving me nuts. Hard pass on this one.


Asdivine Hearts

2.3 hours, no achievements
So every girl wants to sleep with the main character?

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You know how some young boys dream about getting surrounded by girls who want to sleep with them, and they have no real idea of how any of those things work, because they have no first hand experience to draw from? That's basically this game. You're playing as a main character who I suspect is mean to appeal to 13-15 year old boys, who's surrounded by girls who fight over him. And you get awkwardly written scene like girl wears a dress and comments on how a light wind might make the main character see her panties (which she wants, but at the same time is too shy to fully admit, but it's made clear that yes, she does indeed want that), and the motherly figure who's taking care of her (and the main character) encourages her to wear it so that she can impress the main character. And then more girls are introduced and they all really want to be with the main character, and have similarly cringe-worthy moments. Yes, it's that kind of story, with those kinds of characters. I'm not a 13-15 year old boy anymore, and this kind of writing does not appeal to me at all.


Suikoden
Suikoden

Now this game I liked! Suikoden is a classic JRPG released for the PS1. Unlike most other JRPGs, you’re not just following a band of 4-10 characters, you’re building an army! The game is centered around a conflict between an emperor who’s gone evil (always the emperors going bad in JRPGs, eh?), and a small “liberation army”, who tries to overthrow the emperor. You start with a small group of people, and as the game goes on, you recruit more and more characters. 107 to be precise (not including temporary party members). This is both a strength (it feels like you’ve got a growing army) and a weakness (with that many, most can’t get much development, and it gets hard to justify spending time on more than a core party). And on top of the usual JRPG fare, you’ve also got large-scale battles (an underdeveloped portion of the game that nonetheless at least adds more flavour to it).
If I were to point to any big flaws this game has, it has to be the difficulty, or lack thereof. It’s likely the easiest JRPG I’ve ever played. But despite this, I do feel like this is one of the top PS1-era JRPGs, beating games like FF7. And I’ve heard that part 2 is even better! (But I think it might take a while before I play that…)

Second mini-rant!

Stunlocking. Have you’ve ever been stunlocked in a game and thought “Wow, I’m really glad that I can’t do anything right now, other than what my character’s HP go down?”. I bet you have not. Stunlocking is one of those things that should never be happening to the player. I think it’s perfectly fine for the player to be able to do it to the enemy (as long as the game’s actually balanced around you being able to do it, and as long as that enemy is not another player), but getting stunlocked in games is just frustrating.
With stunlocking I mean any situation where you’re losing (most of your) control of your character, and the enemy can repeatedly apply this effect to your character, with no realistic way of you preventing this or breaking out of this state. Imagine fighting an enemy wizard in an RPG, and the enemy wizard casts “freeze” on you. Freeze lasts for 3 seconds, and during this time you can’t do anything, other than possibly rotate on the spot. So you wait 3 seconds, and then the enemy wizard casts freeze again. You’re stuck again, without the ability to do anything. Now repeat this until your character is dead, or least where it’s lost a significant portion of its health. There’s no way to avoid this effect once it hit the first time, as you’re unable to move out of the way of any freeze projectiles in time. So sure, you could have avoided the first freeze effect, but none of the following ones.

Most developers are sensible enough to put in some way to avoid this in their games. You might get a few invulnerability frames, the game might not allow another freeze effect to be applied right away, enemy wizards might only be allowed to cast freeze once every 20 seconds, and it will never have more than 2 wizards in any given encounter, and so on. But then there are those that don’t. I was playing a bit of Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure (it’s not a great game… Imagine the PSP-era Ys (same developers) but far more clumsily made), and an enemy appeared. It hit me, and pushed me back, into another enemy, which in turn hit me and pushed me back into the first. Repeat. Yes, I was juggled between two enemies. This is the kind of thing you want to avoid happening in your games. Secret of Mana is even worse in this regard. If you’re hit your character can get knocked down. If you’re hit when knocked down your character can have another “knockdown” effect applied to it. Which results in your character being knocked down for a few seconds, then the animation for getting up plays, then as soon as that animation plays, another knockdown animation plays. So yes, the game stacks these effects, and will play them one after another. It’s the main reason why I don’t like Secret of Mana (the other reasons are: The screen only scrolls when you’re very close to the edge, making it so that you can very easily get surprised attacked by an enemy, the companion AI is awful and they get stuck in things, and you’re not allowed to go far from your companions. And then there’s how spells just stops the game. Oh and the inventory system is awful…. okay so I really dislike Secret of Mana, but this was not meant to be a mini-rant about how bad that game is!)
I don’t really see how one can defend the player getting stun-locked. If the goal was to add challenge, then there are far less frustrating and more interesting ways of doing that (heck, just up the damage the enemies deal. Dying fast in games is more fun than slowly watching your characters health drain without you being able to do anything about it). Yet I keep running into games where the player can get stun-locked (or fear-locked or whatever the game wants to call that particular status effect, they’re functionally more or less the same).

There are a couple of related issues to this, like when you’re stuck in a defensive loop, and can’t do anything other than heal yourself, or you’ll lose, but if you don’t do anything else, you can’t prevent the enemy from damaging you. This primarily happens in JRPGs, and to some degree in Wizardry clones (although the later usually have large enough parties and other ways of dealing with this issue).