SteamWorld Dig

Today I’d like to bring a little game to your attention called SteamWorld Dig. Basically it’s almost what would happen if you mixed an ARPG (Diablo, Torchlight) with a 2D crafting game (Terraria, Starbound).

Keyword being: Almost.

SteamWorld Dig is a little more lightweight than any of those games. The “crafting” is about 99% digging, and the ARPG aspect is mostly present in how you have a hub that you visit between dungeon dives. It’s not exactly the most complex game ever.

And yet it is fun. Really, really fun.

Also you get to play a steampunk robot.

…okay, it’s not quite as cool as that one. But. Still. It’s tough to go wrong with a steampunk robot protagonist.

I would really love to see the devs take this game, well… deeper (sorry) and really delve into the crafting side of things as well as the ARPG side of things. If this game has shown me anything, it’s that a true mashup of those two genres would be amazing. But until then, SteamWorld Dig is available on a variety of platforms (including, but not limited to, Windows, Linux, PS4, and Nintendo 3DS) and it’s well worth a look. Warning: once you start playing you probably won’t stop for a few hours.

Snag it on Steam!

That Feel When No Games

So it’s been a little while since my last post. I do apologize, but work suddenly decided to throw hours at me. Good for my paycheck, bad for my video game playing time. I don’t know about you guys, but when I haven’t played games for a while I get really, really antsy. Not that there aren’t lovely non-game forms of entertainment out there (books, movies, TV shows etc.), but… but… GAMES!

I image searched "VIDEO GAMES" in all caps and got this.  It works.

I image searched “VIDEO GAMES” in all caps and got this. It works.

On days when I am too busy to sit down and play games I have resorted to things like playing Angry Birds whilst on the toilet. (Speaking of which, Angry Birds is horribly underrated by “serious gamers”. Bigger post on this later, maybe.)

What do YOU do when you’re too busy for games? Do you tough it out? Do you MAKE TIME?

What’s Gold Is New

Over the course of the last couple of days I have been replaying Pokemon Gold. It has probably been a good 12 years or so since I last played this game – I never even got around to playing the HeartGold/SoulSilver remakes. While I was initially wary of going back to an older Pokemon game after being spoiled by the ridiculously good Pokemon X/Y, I’ve found that, much to my delight, the game is actually really pulling me in. I do often feel like I’m m-o-v-i-n-g v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, but since I’m emulating I just press the turbo button when I want to get from place to place quicker. Hey, it’s a valid replacement for the roller blades, right?

"But... that's like... 1000% speed rollerblades."

“But… that’s like… 1000% speed rollerblades.”

Other than that I’m having a blast. What a great game. What a great Pokemon generation.

Dear readers, when is the last time YOU played through an older game that you hadn’t touched in forever? And how did that go for you?

Waking Mars is On Sale and Worth It

Right now you can get a little game called Waking Mars for $1.99 over at GOG (or $2.00 over at Steam). This is a steal. I’ve talked about this game before and I recommend reading that article for a good overview.

Basically it’s sort of a puzzle game and sort of a platformer and sort of Metroidvania but mostly it’s about exploration and being relaxed.

And look at this friggin artwork and tell me this isn't great.  (Hint: You can't.)

And look at this friggin artwork and tell me this isn’t great. (Hint: You can’t.)

TLDR: GET IT ON GOG or GET IT ON STEAM or GET IT ON THE ITUNES STORE. Not even kidding you guys: this is a good one.

Somewhere Only We Know

WoW_Young_Althalor

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand

tawyntribute

I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete

WoW_CleansingTheWell

Oh simple thing where have you gone
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on

WoW_FlightOverDarkshoreRedux

So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

wow_diremaultree

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me

WoW_MoonkinFun1

Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?

WoW_RacingTheZeppelin5

Oh simple thing where have you gone
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on

wow_lunapikeagainstnightsky2

So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

WoW_GogglesBearSurveysTheKingdom

And if you have a minute why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?

treesarescary

This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?

WoW_KaraKey

Somewhere only we know…

WoW_FamilyKaraRun

Oh simple thing where have you gone
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on

WoW_WhatAmIDoingHere

So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

WoW_TreeSpotlight

And if you have a minute why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?

WoW_YoungSonglark

This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
So why don’t we go

WoW_LunapikesNewDragon1

This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go

WoW_DrakesAreNotYourPersonalArmy

Somewhere only we know?

WoW_DireMaul

Somewhere only we know?

12029_600

Somewhere only we know…

WoW_TawynsKarazhanBedroom

Keane – Somewhere Only We Know

Banished

A few days ago one-man indie outfit Shining Rock Studios published their medieval city builder Banished, a game which I had been looking forward to since coming across it a few months ago. So after spending a few days messing with it and giving a couple of villages a go, I’m here to give you my report on the thing.

I want to begin with by observing that Banished is, for me, a highly polished product. I have encountered no crashes, no slowdown, and no bugs, even of a graphical nature. It’s a small thing really, but it’s both impressive and a little damning that a one-man outfit can produce a game which in this regard is up to snuff where huge mexabux companies sometimes seem to struggle with it. Obviously my experience is an anecdote and in no way representative, but still nice to see.

Now to the game itself. You start with a handful of villagers, some food and tools and clothes and, depending on your difficulty level, a few starting buildings and useful things like seeds and livestock. Your task is very simple: survive. You do this by building houses, making coats, and chopping firewood to keep warm, by hunting, fishing, gathering, and farming to provide food, and by establishing the secondary industries needed to perform those tasks most efficiently, like making sure you have an educated populace using good tools, and making sure they’re healthy by providing a good mix of foodstuffs and having some medicinal herbs on hand. And you have to carefully balance and plan, otherwise you’ll be in some trouble. Expand too fast? People starve. Expand too slow? People don’t have enough kids to create the next generation. Not enough firewood and winter coats? People freeze to death. Plus there are disasters like fires and tornadoes, and they can really do a number on you. It’s a game about survival, and survival can be a brutal struggle.

A pleasant, bustling idyll. Until a tornado arrives.

A pleasant, bustling idyll. Until a tornado arrives.

One of the words I’ve seen in connection with this game is “shallow”. This game has no overarching goal beyond survival, there’s no kings to overthrow or Orcs to fight off (no combat of any kind), there’s no grand monuments to build, your only task is to keep your village going and grow it as much as you can. It’s refreshing in its simplicity and for the most part I like the lack of direction as precisely what a good city builder should provide, but it does go a bit too far in that direction, I think. There needs to be at least some higher-tier content to work towards; a grand cathedral, a big phallic monument, stuff like that. There also needs to be a bit more in the way of random decorative stuff like trees and small statues and whatnot. This sort of thing would be pretty pointless in the early game, but would help prettify your city a lot, and isn’t that what a city builder is ultimately all about?

I’m a little hesitant to just call the game shallow and leave it at that though. It’s a solid, compact title that I’ve already more than got my money’s worth out of, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a game in the genre, especially those burned by SimCity 2013. It’s by no means perfect, there are some balancing issues to work out, and the pathfinding probably needs to be tightened up. There definitely needs to be more content of some sort as well, but the dev has voiced support for modding and hopefully we’ll be seeing modding tools soon to aid in that. All in all I don’t expect this game to overcome SimCity 4 for city builder addictiveness, but it’s a very nice starting point that’s entirely playable right now and will, with some time and affection, almost certainly grow into something really special.

Y’all can get Banished on Steam, or GoG.com, or from the Shining Rock site directly: http://www.shiningrocksoftware.com/

Has There Ever Been Something Similar to Twitch Plays Pokémon Before?

Genuine question. I want to know. I can’t think of anything.

Now for all three of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, well, the good old BBC has got you covered (and so does Twitch of course.) Basically for the last week or so tens of thousands of people from around the globe have been trying to collaborate on a romhack of Pokemon Red. It’s about as chaotic as you might expect, although somehow the stream has managed to get about halfway through the game.

Essentially

Essentially

I keep trying to think of something that this can compare to but for the life of me I can’t. We’ve seen multitudes of people get together for a gaming event (like a game launch), even multitudes of people all in the same place in the same game (like Ahn-Qiraj in World of Warcraft), but all controlling one single character and trying to collaborate on a single player game?

I’ve been playing games for three decades and can’t think of something similar. This might be unprecedented.

Go check it out or alternatively help me think of a previous similar event of this scale so I stop beating myself up and racking my brains over it.

RIP Flappy Bird; all hail the absurd Flash successor

I’m sure most everyone has heard by now, but Flappy Bird has been removed from sale, so while those of us who already have it on our phone can continue to play it, for everyone else the titular creature has flapped into the sunset.

Insert Metal Gear Solid theme song here.

Insert Metal Gear Solid theme song here.

Do not fret, however! The guy behind games like Super Hexagon and VVVVVV has us covered with a flash game that makes Flappy Bird look like Fisher Price’s My First Difficulty Level.

Presenting Maverick Bird.

If you score higher than about ten I’m pretty sure you’re a legend.*

Have at it! You’ll probably be playing for a while as this game comes complete with Robot Unicorn Attack Syndrome (aka you won’t stop playing until the catchy song is done).

* EDIT: I have surpassed ten and been informed that some of my friends have done likewise. I’m bumping the new score-to-beat up to 20. Mister Adequate has 31. ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH DUDE?

The Merits of Experimentation

I was recently seized by the desire to play some Final Fantasies so I went back to the beginning and played through I in a couple of days, and then I started II. Now, like Pike when she started it a couple of years ago, I had never played FF2 before now. And like Pike I had heard a lot of polarizing talk about the game, especially with regards to its somewhat unconventional character growth system.

See, in FF2 you don’t gain experience points to level. Instead, much more in the vein of western RPGs like The Elder Scrolls, your characters grow according to what they do in battles. If they take a lot of hits they’ll gain HP and Stamina. If they cast magic, MP and Spirit or Intelligence, depending on whether it’s White or Black magic. Dodge and you gain dodge and agility. You get the idea. This doesn’t just apply to stats though, but also to your weapon proficiencies and magic. Use a particular class of weapon more and you’ll get better with it. Use a particular spell more and it will grow more powerful and more accurate, though also costing more MP.

I’m playing the PSP version which has enjoyed some years of refinement and polish over the original so it’s quite possible that the original’s balance was all out of whack. But I can safely say this system is one of the most engaging I’ve encountered in a JRPG in a long long time. I’m enjoying it tremendously and I cannot even begin to fathom what the complaints are. (I mean, I know what they are because I’ve read them, but if I hadn’t read them I’d never have figured them out by myself.) It’s deeply satisfying to get such feedback and results to how you play and it feels like there’s a lot more freedom here than in typical party-based RPGs.

wow very hate much dissent very opinion

wow
very hate
much dissent
very opinion

But this goes, in my eyes, further than just being a system I am enjoying. What I’m finding is that I’m very naturally finding roles for my party members and that it’s not based on preset things but rather what feels sensible when a role needs to be decided. For instance, at the start of the game Guy, a big dude, seems like the obvious choice for heavy hitter. And he is a pretty heavy hitter. But he’s also loaded with the exact sorts of spells that have moderate, occasional, or intermediate use. I don’t need to stick Teleport on a dedicated mage, and I’d rather have Life on someone with a ton of health. The thing that makes this work is that you can level your spells as well. Guy doesn’t need to spend much time on his magic to still be useful with it. On the other hand Firion is carrying my offensive spells and because the spells grow as you use them, I find myself ensuring I do some casting regularly. I’m still early in the game but it already feels like a much more natural and sensible system than many RPGs manage. It’s a system which influences how I play without dictating it, and a system which rewards investment without being too malleable and having characters end up being very easily swapped because their abilities are tied completely into equippable items. It’s pretty simple to turn Barret into a mage and Aeris into a heavy hitter once you’ve got the materia to do it.

Ultimately what I’m enjoying is that character development fits into this wonderful niche of being freeform and not constricting without simply turning the characters into identikits of each other. By the standards of Final Fantasy this was a highly experimental game and I’m very glad Square made the choices they did with it because it has resulted in a real gem.

What about you guys? Do you have opinions on FF2, or perhaps you’ve come across interesting leveling systems in other games? Feel free to share your opinions, and remember we’re as interested in hearing about games that tried and failed as much as those which succeeded! Not every experiment will succeed, but learning about why one failed is at least as important as why another succeeded.

Why Can’t I Stop Playing The Stupidest Game Ever?

In this post I am actually going to live up to the blog namesake a bit and talk about an Android game. You have probably played it, and if you haven’t played it, you have probably heard of it.

I am, of course, talking about Flappy Bird.

Flappy-Bird-Teaser

It is the dumbest game ever. It involves tapping the screen to guide a bird through some obstacles. You get one point for every obstacle you successfully negotiate and you go until you lose. That’s it.

So why can’t I stop playing it? No, really?

This is my actual face upon realizing that I cannot stop playing this dumb game.

This is my actual face upon realizing that I cannot stop playing this dumb game.

Have any of you fallen prey to this game? What other really stupid games can you not stop playing?

Disregard Life, Acquire Video Games