Zen Puzzle Garden
(And so goes yet another game in the Humble Indie Bundle.) Unfortunately, this isn't exactly an interesting Humble Indie Bundle game to blog about. I'm not calling Zen Puzzle Garden bad; in fact, it's good. And that's the problem: it comes up with an idea, executes it, and then does absolutely nothing else. That leaves me with only two words: it's good.
Alright, here's the basic premise: you're a monk in charge of raking a garden. Unfortunately, you're the type of OC SOB who won't cross the same path twice (unless you're fucking about in freeform mode), and that's pretty much how the gameplay goes down. OK, so there are also lamps you can move and leaves you can pick up (in order of color, because this is the type of monk who has to make sure his lines are perfectly straight or else his day is completely ruined), but that doesn't really change the core gameplay. Not that I'm complaining; the puzzles can be pretty clever and challenging, and there's a decent variety of modes and levels. And that's it. That's all there is to this game.
- Do I really need one?
Nazo no Murasamejou
(How about an actual blog, for a change?) I'll make up for that last part later. Anyway, Nazo no Murasamejou, also known as "Mysterious Murasame Castle", also known as "A Nintendo Game You've Never Heard Of". I know that you're wondering how that's possible, since people tend to know of even their most obscure franchises, but this happens more often than you think. Ever hear of Devil World? How about For the Frog the Bell Tolls?
Yea, there are tons of them like that, and while I can't explain them all (it's been a while since For the Frog the Bell Tolls, and I've yet to touch Devil World), this game has a clear reason for remaining as obscure as it is: it's a decent game, but not terribly outstanding. You'll play bit of it, think "that's pretty cool", and then move on with your life, this game having no impact on that life whatsoever. It's like the Zen Puzzle Garden I can actually form a meaningful opinion about.
Although to be fair, it does put a lot of work into its story, something that most games didn't even have when it was released. OK, so at first, it looks like your typical "save the princess....multiple times" ordeal, but it's the little details that really propel this game to greatness. For example, one of your enemies is an exploding ninja, meaning it has to take place somewhere during the Warring States Period of Japanese history. In fact, there's a real argument to be made here that this is just one samurai's desperate attempts to remain relevant in a world changing right before his v-Oh, who am I kidding? This game makes absolutely no sense. Princesses turn into demons, the ending is a wiggly Ode to Joy, and sometimes, you pass through mountains for no real reaosn. Although that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's got that "I'm a game and I don't give a shit" feeling that pretty much every game back then had, and that's what I love about this game.
Oh, and I guess I like the gameplay. Or, to be more specific, the combat. What do I like so much about it?....I don't know. It can't be the power-ups, because while there is some strategy to them, like "use the spread on those shielding asshole bosses", there aren't a lot of them there. Just shurikens, fire, and about four ways to configure the two. Oh, and invisibility and lightning, but those don't come up often enough to have an impact on the game. No, what I like about the game is everything you can kill. Samurai who stand and wait for you to run into their sword; ninjas hiding in every damn pixel imagineable; hell, even some kind of cool bosses near the end of the game. So what if the levels are just banal dungeon crawls or the game is five(ish) levels long? It takes a basic idea and fleshes it out for some frantic and decently challenging action, and that's enough to satisfy me. Like Zen Puzzle Garden. For a bit. Then I move onto the next part of this blog and on with my life. Again, like Zen Puzzle Garden.
- It's an early NES game, meaning it's flamboyantly game...
- ...and it's a nice little diversion you won't remember the next day.
- Still, I wish Nintendo would reboot this as a Devil-May-Cry-esque character action game, or perhaps even a Binding-of-Isaac-esque dungeon crawler.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: Russian cartoons are fucking weird.
(And rounding out this blog is some Elebits.) Why? I was feeling nostalgic, and while normally I am quite capable of ignoring these urges, this time, it was too much to bear. I had to take Xenoblade Chronicles out of my Wii for less than a week so I could play an almost-launch title for the Wii. Not that I'm complaining about it or anything. Elebits is damn cool. Imagine if Valve contracted Keita Takahashi to design Portal for arcades. Aw hell yea.
And I can guarantee you that you'll be using these words to describe the game, too. How do I know this? Well, here's the premise: parental neglect, a world fueled by alien lightning creatures, and a kid taking his father's weapon so that he might conquer the very elements themselves. It's amazing to think that in its earliest days, the Wii would feature a game that could easily double as either Norse legend or a heavy metal album...probably because it didn't. That description before? Selective. Yes, those elements are there, but they're played far more lightly than how I depicted them. Specifically, they're a bedtime story being narrated to a whiny little girl (?), and sadly, that's the best thing I have to say about the voice acting in this game. The protagonist is supposed to be a boy (even when I originally played it, this caught me extremely off guard), the father sounds less like an actor and more like a reading, and...no, that's pretty much the entirety of it.. Fortunately, they art's so good enough to make up for it. Not the graphics, which are merely serviceable, but the art. Holy shit, is it vivid. This game uses colors that I didn't know existed, like greem or fleven. That's more than enough to make me forget the "just enough of a Y chromosome to be a" boy.
But not enough to forget the Wii aspects of this Wii game. Remember what I said about this coming out near the birth of the Wii? Well, it shows. You see, back then, every goddamn Wii game had to have motion controls NO MATTER WHAT. Some of the time, it made sense, like here. It's mostly limited to pointing at the screen and zapping Elebits (more on that in a bit), but there is some manipulation of objects to be found. It starts off intuitive enough, like throwing something on the X axis or the Y axis or the...Z? There's a Z axis? Why? From what I can tell, it feels really goddamn awkward and never works, so you default to the other two axes, anyway. Still, it's better than twisting. For an action you have to do an oddly high amount of times, it sure is awkward as hell. See that doorknob? Grab it, twist it, and watch your cursor fly to parts unknown, scared of the arcane upside-down world you cast it into. Then you have to coax it back into the game with that handy little home button that completely removes you from the experience. I wouldn't complain about it so much if it didn't come up so often. Just...damn it.
So what the hell do I like about this game, exactly? Wasn't I positive about it before? What makes me like this game so much? How about everything else, motherfucker?! The basic premise of the game is that you're supposed to collect a certain number of electricity creatures. Here's the thing, though: they can detect your utter hatred of them, and they'll promptly hide from you if given the opportunity. (Black Elebits don't count because fuck them and their deadly love hugs.) This means you get to overturn every goddamn thing in sight. I repeat: aw hell yea. It's chaos incarnate, and what could be more fun than chaos? Double chaos. You see, not only are there Elebits that allow you to lift more powerful stuff, like that house from before, but there are power-ups that give you the powers of the gods themselves. Lift whales and cause tornadoes. Who's going to stop you? What? The game is? With its Super Black/Blue Death Elebits, and its arbitrary sound and insurance limits? Fuck that, Konami! I don't care about your Metal Gears! I can throw your Metal Gears halfway across the goddamn planet! I AM AN UNSTOPPABLE DEITY!!!
Wait. I ran out of Elebits to zap up. That's gotta suck. Unfortunately, it happens a lot more often than you think, and it's exactly as unfun as I make it out to be. You're forced to turn over every goddamn thing looking for the next Elebit, and while that sounds exactly the same as before, trust me: it's not as fun when you've captured every other Elebit in the level. It's also not as fun when you realize you've made a huge mess of things because that's what makes the game so fun. The game's tendency to block off areas until you've found X Elebits only frustrates the issue. WHY MUST YOU PUNISH ME FOR HAVING FUN, ELEBITS!? I realize that the game has to deliver challenge in some form, but I would have preferred that they didn't sacrifice pacing to achieve that noble goal.
That aside, Elebits is simply a solidly built game with a lot of meat to it. For example, remember how I mentioned power-ups earlier? Turns out there's more to them than simply lifting shit. Granted, a lot of it is contextual, so the only ones you're guaranteed to use throughout are the homing laser, super strength, and, if it ever comes up, the super death vacuum. What's more fun than lifting a house? Vacuuming it up in anti-gravity. Oh, did I forget to mention the anti-gravity parts of the game? I did? How? They're really fucking awesome, you guys. No more worrying about finding that last damn Elebit; you just get to toss shit around and make a mess of everything. And then you get to fight a boss that restores gravity to the world. Does it make sense? No. Do I love it? Yes.....Actually, that could describe all the boss battles in this game, final boss and his fucking screws notwithstanding. To make up for that, I guess, are all the extra modes and unlockables? There are soooo many of them. In fact, I'm not going to list them, since that would constitute another blog entirely. Instead, I'll just demand that you dust off your Wii and shove this in it.
- All these colors! All these lightning creatures! All these listless voice actors!
- Such magnificent power! You're all nothing more than fleas compared to me now!
- Oh, and a bunch of ultimately minor fuck-ups that don't do a lot to diminish the overall product, or something to that effect.