Mento's May Madness: #17 - Zen Bound 2

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

19/05/12 - Game #17

The game: Secret Exit's Zen Bound 2

The source: The Indie Brain Pack from the 2010 Black Friday sale.

The pre-amble: The sequel to an iPhone exclusive, Zen Bound 2 is a puzzle game where the player must wrap a rope around a wooden object in a manner that covers as much of the object's surface area as possible. One to three flowers bloom depending on how well you do, which are the key to unlocking further levels.

The playthrough: I'm not sure if I was prepared for some light bondage in my puzzle gaming, but Zen Bound brings the S&M and then some. In this case, the sado-masochism arrives quickly as the puzzles get increasingly devious: Your object, as stated above, is to simply wrap a rope around an object for the most coverage as possible. However, plenty of objects have nooks and crannies which are very quickly inaccessible if you're not paying attention. Exacerbating the issue are a rope length limit which will vary per object and may sneak up on you when you least expect it and the "coup de grace" of an inserted pin that you must wrap the rope around to complete the circuit; this pin can also be quite difficult to reach if you've left ropes sticking out every which way.

So what you have is something marketed as a zen-like relaxation puzzle game that turns into anything but when you start hitting stages that have a very specific critical path to success, being ignorant of which will be the cause of many a restart. Now, I can't speak to what relaxes others, but constantly being forced to repeat the last five to ten minutes of ridiculous wooden ape rope play because I neglected the natural crevices that are its armpits and crotch is not my idea of chillaxation. If one could be said to have an idea of an entirely fictitious word.

All that said, it's an intriguing premise that's clearly got layers of hidden depth for its master-level puzzles to exploit and I'd readily recommend it to anyone who desperately needs to give themselves an aneurysm in order to cash in on a very specific life insurance policy. Just don't be fooled by its new age blissed-out wrappings; at its core, it's as insidious and coldly logical a puzzle game as they come.

The verdict: Possibly. I could use something to replace Toki Tori as a go-to game that dissuades any notions I might have of being intelligent.

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Mento's May Madness: #16 - Uplink: Hacker Elite

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

18/05/12 - Game #16

The game: Introversion Software's Uplink: Hacker Elite

The source: The Humble Introversion Bundle.

The pre-amble: Uplink: Hacker Elite is a strategy game where you play as a neophyte hacker attempting to make a name for themselves across cyberspace, taking on increasingly difficult hacking jobs while updating and upgrading their software and hardware to compensate. Start with simple jobs taking files from secured databases and build up to erasing Sandra Bullock's identity and talking WOPR out of starting World War 3. I'm not entirely sure if those are really the final missions since I'm pretty sure I'm never going to reach that level.

The playthrough: Good gravy. I really should've gleaned what I was getting myself into with this game's subtitle of "Hacker Elite", but holy hell did I get lost fast. Programming languages have always seemed like just that to me: a completely different language. So in essence, this isn't like trying to wrap one's head around an in-depth strategy game like Crusader Kings; it's trying to do so when everything's written in Cantonese. I will say that the game does a good job of acclimatizing you with the basics, with a trio of helpful tutorials that sets you up to achieve the first few missions the game has to offer. Simple stuff (conceptually at least) like hacking into a company's database and stealing/deleting files. Very soon, though, it starts getting absolutely cray-cray.

For instance, if you're not vigilantly deleting any traces you leave - such as visitor logs on the sites you're breaking into - you start getting angry incriminating emails from your victims. Then you start getting veiled threats about other Agents cottoning on to your business. There's a real-time clock ticking away as you're doing anything in the world, giving security firms and all manner of cyber-douches time to mess with you when you're trying to complete more jobs so you can upgrade your elementary system to the point where you stop getting shanked by these netiquette-impaired people. Of course, no amount of upgrades will help if you actually do get rumbled, since those situations will usually result in frantically self-destructing your lovingly-built supercomputer and absconding through the nearest window like every hacker in every movie ever.

The game does strike a good balance between the verisimilitude of being some Gibson-esque cyber-dystopian neuromancer while keeping the actual gameplay part grounded sufficiently where you can actually figure out what the hell you're doing. It's sort of like the clever implementation of hacking in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with its worm viruses and server caches, in that it's an easy mini-game to grasp yet still resembles the incredibly complex actual deal closely enough, or at least to the extent of what we regular computer-illiterate folk believe is actual hacking from watching too many terrible movie examples involving Fisher Stevens on skateboards or Unix-espousing dinosaur park survivors. But man is it all just a little too intense for me, especially when there's so much going on concurrently that I have to keep checking up on. I have a hard enough time with RTS games already without them preying on my insecurity of being unable to set up a router properly.

The verdict: Oh, gosh. It's an interesting game, but I don't think it's for me. It did make me want to watch Sneakers again though.

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Mento's May Madness: #15 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

17/05/12 - Game #15

The game: Rayteoactive's Tobe's Vertical Adventure

The source: The 2012 Indie Royale Spring Bundle

The pre-amble: The Indie 2D platformer is an uncommon thing. Uncommon, at least, without the additional appellation of "puzzle". This game is way more straightforward, as its hearty hydrocephalic heroes employ a couple of vital traversal power-ups and their own natural platforming prowess to navigate a vertically descending level for a big treasure chest before making their way back up a slightly worked-over stage within a newly arrived time limit.

The playthrough: Well. It's not bad looking, adopting the deliberate 16-bit style which has become commonplace in Indie games as well as a sort of anime-lite cartoonish look you'd find in a VG Cats strip. But apparently the developer is from Singapore, so I'm not entirely sure I'd be in the right for calling out the whole overdone anime thing. Or would it? This is seven shades of racist now, so I'll move onto the game's major problem: The controls. It might just be because I'm using a keyboard and that's rarely conducive for precision jumping (though I did well enough with Super Meat Boy), but they're sluggish and unresponsive at the best of times. For instance, I'm fairly sure it's impossible to run and jump at the same time, making some of the longer vaults a bit of a crapshoot. When there's a time limit ticking down and a jump that is far more challenging to make than the graphics would have you believe, either I'm drunk as hell or something's amiss down at the coding level. And I am drever nunk.

That said, it's got a pleasingly straightforward set-up that doesn't involve emotional wrecks reversing time or dumpy-headed albinos waiting until 7am on a Wednesday for a clock to dispense its cuboid treasures and is as short as it needs to be at 16 stages (each will take less than five minutes if you succeed the first time). The 16-bit graphics are sharp, the music's suitably bloopy and like most of these bundle games it is worth as much as you'd care to donate to the creators (which, I believe, is the model Kongregate et al also proffer, though with less fanfare than these dramatic bundle launches). Grab it for a couple of bucks, or don't. There's plenty more like it out there.

The verdict: If I could tolerate those controls, maybe. I should see if it has gamepad support (and then see if I have a gamepad that can support getting supported, as it were).

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Mento's May Madness: #14 - Starscape

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

15/05/12 - Game #14

The game: Moonpod's Starscape

The source: GB user (via 's giveaway). Thank you!

The pre-amble: Starscape is a shoot-em-up in space-sim packaging, similar to something like Star Control or WarpSpeed. Players need to balance their sim aspects, such as mining for ore, researching and developing new technology and outfitting their spacecraft and mothership while simultaneously mowing down hordes of hostile "Archnid" (though they're more Borg than spider aliens) ships.

The playthrough: I really didn't know what to expect of Starscape. From the first impressions, it looks budgety as hell. All the illustrations appear to have been done by the designer's DeviantArt user girlfriend, the text is rarely capitalized correctly, instructions are often poorly conveyed and the controls confusingly mapped and it's not really doing anything to set itself apart from the other, better-funded games in this recent wave of space-sim/shoot-em-ups. That said, it was an enjoyable enough diversion: The combat's relatively simple to get to grips with, without ever being too difficult unless you're foolish enough to let yourself get utterly overwhelmed; the new technologies are distributed at appropriate times to maintain a level of challenge and there's plenty of mining and side-stuff to do once the chores (taking out the enemy-generating mothership of each "zone") are done. Careful exploration nets all sorts of boons, such as recovering lost crew members and finding the friendly aliens who will share technology with you. It's not a deeply complex game, but it's enough to grab one's interest for a few hours.

But guess what? This game costs $10. The Ur-Quan Masters is a free download. And really, Star Control II blows this game out of the airlock and then some. Starscape's quite clearly an homage to the Toys for Bob classic, presumably from a place of "SCII was awesome, people should make more games like that. We should make more games like that." So in that respect, I'll give Starscape credit for trying to follow in the footsteps and put their own spin on a truly worthy game. But yeah, play Ur-Quan Masters instead if you never have before, and maybe only give this one a spin if you've played SCII to death and always thought it needed an art style straight from the Beginner's Guide to Drawing Manga.

The verdict: Probably not.

(I clearly have no business casting aspersions on someone else's artistic ability...)

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Mento's May Madness: #13 - Rhythm Zone

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

14/05/12 - Game #13

The game: Sonic Boom Games' Rhythm Zone

The source: The Indie Pulse Pack, another one of those Xmas 2010 Steam bundles.

The pre-amble: Rhythm Heaven Zone is essentially the amalgamation of one of those user-generated rhythm games like Beat Hazard or Audiosurf - where the game has a clever little algorithm (algorhythm?) tool that magically spins MP3s into stages - and the comfortably familiar Guitar Hero/Rock Band system of flashing colors that you must tap in time with the music.

The playthrough: At least, the theory is that the stages generated match the music that generated them. In practice, this doesn't appear to always be the case, or even close to the case. I can only imagine the accuracy is off because of how incredibly tough it would be for notoriously tone-deaf computer code to so astutely recognize a beat and different instruments and vocals and all that jazz (if the track is a jazz track, at least) and provide the appropriate amount of blue or red or yellow or however these games map tunes to colors in the inscrutable synesthesia way that they do.

I guess the best examples of this sort of game I've seen, which would be Vib-Ribbon first and Beat Hazard a distant second, have the gameplay part simplified to such a degree that the track it is generated from cannot exert too much influence. Without showing its hand, like this game does, that such a synergy between the soulful and the soulless is still a pipe dream for right now, Vib-Ribbon creates very basic but fun gameplay that is enhanced by the soundtrack because it pays just enough dues to the song playing. It's enough to trick your brain that the song and the game are working together in some way, but it doesn't try any harder than that so as to maintain the illusion. Whatever, I'm probably talking out of my wire-frame lagomorphic derriere, since it's been years since I played Vib-Ribbon (and its kooky built-in soundtrack was always the highlight), but I feel these games work best when the generated gameplay is tangential to the music and will remain to be so until we've improved a computer's AI sufficiently to "get" music. Which will probably be the same day we teach it how to love. What a weird, gross, delightful day that will be.

The verdict: A big maybe. Rhythm Zone has infinite replay value, but I still think the "game generated by your playlist" sub-genre can be (and has previously been) better than this. When I find a game that really nails the whole "tailored to your music" paradigm, I'll probably get hopelessly addicted to it.

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Mento's May Madness: #12 - Puzzle Bots

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

13/05/12 - Game #12

The game: Wadjet Eye Games' Puzzle Bots

The source: The Indie Brain Pack, one of the many bundles in the Xmas 2010 Steam sale.

The pre-amble: Prolific Indie adventure game studio Wadjet, perhaps better known for the Shivah, the Blackwell series and (most recently) Gemini Rue, previously created this more kid-friendly escapade about a quintet of odd adventurous robots and their equally eccentric human inventors. Invoking that slightly misleading nomenclature of mine once again, this is an "episodic" adventure game where smaller, self-contained scenarios are presented individually without a persistent inventory carried over - rather, the puzzles are set up in more of a "Lost Vikings" style, where the player must use each robot's special talents to proceed.

The playthrough: This game was a breeze. But not necessarily in the pejorative sense; it had plenty of charm, even if it's the sort of charm you'd find in a well-crafted Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network show. In fact, there are many clues to indicate that this is a game intended for a younger audience - its goofy family-friendly jokes, bright and colourful artwork (and an oddly familiar animation style - reminiscent of Ctrl-Alt-Del, in fact, though with fortunately way less B^U expressions) and the afore-hinted simple puzzles that will even helpfully tutorialize each of the robot's special abilities before letting you run amok with them. So when I say a breeze, I mean a gentle, pleasant experience that passes all too quickly.

Yet again I'm faced with illustrating my experience with a game that's entirely a series of set-piece puzzles without wanting to describe those puzzles in any detail in case I spoil the solutions to any of them. I will say that there's some interesting applications for the robots' powers - especially where the aquatic robot Ibi (who pretty much has to solve every puzzle going on underwater) and the main protagonist robot Hero are concerned, since there's some variation in what they're able to do. Others tend to have one specific job, so it's usually obvious from the context when they're needed - if there's a cracked wall, you use the Bomb Robot and if there's a flammable item in the way you use the Flamethrower Robot, and so on.

I guess I can recommend this game if you've got kids around that you want to ease into the world of adventure gaming, or if you've always wondered what Mega Man would've been like if all the robot masters were gregarious and helped each other solve puzzles. Otherwise it's yet another slight Indie adventure from a developer that has plenty of more intriguing examples of the genre to show you.

The verdict: Beaten.

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Mento's May Madness: #11 - Nimbus

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

12/05/12 - Game #11

The game: Noumenon Games' Nimbus

The source: The very first Indie Royale Bundle.

The pre-amble: More Swedish shenanigans with Nimbus, a game where you guide a ship through a series of obstacle courses. The ship has no means of self-propulsion, so players must use gravity and features of the surrounding environment to propel themselves all the way through to the exit.

The playthrough: I kind of liked Nimbus. It is slow to get started, though, with many of the early levels simply reiterating the game's core concepts of astutely manipulating the natural gravitational forces to glide through and past a myriad of spikes, trampolines, launchers, barriers and the keys that unlock them. The whole thing is presented with a very jovial and bright 16-bit manner, a deliberately retro feel that is emphasized by the dialogue-free introductory cutscene where a boy blimp (our hero) is separated from his girl blimp after she is kidnapped by a giant monster that mocks him before flying off with the boy in pursuit. You can't have a video game plot more straightforward than that.

Each stage has an equally straightforward goal, which is to simply reach the end. However, in the time I spent with the game (enough to clear the first world), I spotted a few Super Mario World-esque alternate exits and a set of collectibles that occasionally provide an additional challenge to a level. There's also the requisite time trials that connects to scoreboards both global and personalized with a player's Steam buddies. Beyond that, the game clearly still hadn't run out of things to show me, and I suspect that I'll even reach the point where I can make upgrades to the little blimp guy protagonist which will facilitate some faster times and new regions.

That said, I've already seen signs that further levels will get longer and more devious and will punish indiscretions by forcing you to repeat large swathes of what you've already seen. This issue seems to unfortunately be part and parcel of the game's central conceit in that some sections are only passable if you manage to gather a lot of momentum from the previous areas; without it there's no way you'll have the necessary speed to propel yourself over the obstacles ahead and you therefore have little recourse but to start over. The game hasn't become the super challenging hell that Super Meat Boy or Trials devolves into just yet, but when that difficulty spike shows up it'll probably kill any goodwill I have for the game. But, hey, I'm mostly speculating on a trend I'm seeing here. (Plus there's no way would dig a game like this unless it was bastard tough.) I'll be sure to keep with it until I reach that point, if indeed it ever comes.

The verdict: Will revisit.

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Mento's May Madness: #10 - Machinarium

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

11/05/12 - Game #10

The game: Amanita Design's Machinarium

The source: The second Humble Indie Bundle

The pre-amble: Czech studio Amanita Design has made quite a few of their uniquely whimsical point-and-click adventures now, most recent of which is Botanicula. Their breakout hit, though, was this cute little tale of a rundown robot in an equally rusty berg of automatons that vary from largely apathetic to downright mean, with the backstory being revealed incrementally through Binding of Isaac-style animated thought bubbles. It's an adventure game that follows what I obfuscatingly coined semi-recently as "episodic" - each section of the game tends to be a self-contained zone with its smattering of puzzles, the solution of which grants you access to the next area with usually very little reason to go back.

The playthrough: This game is just delightful. But I knew as much, given this game's been out for a good three years now and became kind of unavoidable after it was given away in an early Humble Bundle. It's a little gross that I've only just got around to it, actually. Like Lume (probably bad form to follow one game with another just like it), the puzzles are a mix of adventure game "use X with Y" mainstays and the recently popular Layton-esque self-contained Mensa brainteasers, such as sliding blocks around or those friggin' matchsticks. There are no matchstick puzzles in Machinarium, but at least one of every other type of annoying set-up you might've come across in a Layton or Puzzle Agent. In Machinarium's defense, though, adventure games with these sorts of puzzles were still relatively fresh back then. It also has a neat little gimmick where the main character can extend or contract his telescopic body, giving him a higher reach and longer reach, respectively. Of course, he isn't exactly celeritous when stretched or compacted, leading to some annoyance when you accidentally click to the next area and the little dude interminably trundles along, happily oblivious to my frantic attempts to skip the walking animation.

Since this is another game I beat in a few hours with little else I want to say in detail about it, lest I spoil some of the puzzles, here's a bunch of earlier graphic adventures that Machinarium reminded me of in some way: Beneath A Steel Sky's general setting, a slightly dingy arcology that tends towards the up/down axis when progressing through it, rather than the usual length and breadth; Gobliiins' sense of humorous, dialogue-free European whimsy as well as quite a few timing-based puzzles; and, of course, the aforementioned Layton "manatee puzzles" - that is, the type of non sequitur IQ test bait that the game drops in your lap while trying to activate an electronic switch or what have you similar to Family Guy's non sequitur, largely context-free asides. I know it's reductive to say a game's little more than a composite of elements from its elders, but it's also reassuring, in a way, to know that the designers are clearly just as passionate about these games as you are. Wearing your influences on your sleeve isn't necessary a bad thing. Especially when the entire package is so uniquely presented.

Some more scandalous behind the scenes info: This entry was supposed to be about Magicka. But somehow my PC isn't good enough to run it at anything faster than an especially soporific snail's pace. You might even say it bork bork bork my computer. But seriously, I have no idea what's up since it looks as graphically intense as Torchlight, which ran just fine. Maybe it's all those spell physics. I think next time I do one of these PC gaming marathon features, it'll be games I have to run through DOSBox. At least I know my PC can handle those.

The verdict: Beaten like a copper-domed step-droid.

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Mento's May Madness: #9 - Lume

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

10/05/12 - Game #9

The game: State of Play's Lume.

The source: Indie Royale's 2012 Valentine Bundle

The pre-amble: Ask me about Lume! But seriously folks, Lume is a point-and-click graphic adventure game with a strong Layton-esque focus on instance puzzles and an alternative energy theme. Help a kid called Lume power up his grandfather's eco-friendly house before he gets home. Simplicity itself. Perhaps unfortunately, since this game is also very short.

The playthrough: A little inside baseball here: I had a few problems getting the next game I was supposed to cover - InMomentum - running, because my graphics card was made in the early 2000s by immigrants or something. So I stuck that in the same category I have on Steam for games I bought while overestimating my PC's capabilities, alongside STALKER, Witcher and Sanctum, and got to work on the next game: Jamestown. Then I realised I've played Jamestown to death thus rendering it a pointless inclusion for this feature's purposes simply so I'd have a "J" game and it's not like the whole alphabetical device I'd been using until now wasn't already shot. So next it was King's Bounty, which had a 5gb install and was a little beyond the scope of an "install, play a few hours, uninstall" daily feature.

Why all this (additional) pre-amble? Because I beat this game in 30 minutes. It's certainly pretty, having a sort of cardboard cut-out aesthetic that occasionally segues into a quivering photo-realistic diarama model effect that looked pretty cool. It had a few Layton-type puzzles where I'd connect a bunch of wires by spinning around squares on a grid or have to work out the directions on a map, one completely obfuscating Fez-lite scenario where I had to ascertain a padlock code and one instance where I had to use an item on another item to get a third item, without realising I needed a fourth item by using the first item on the second item again. I don't know why I couldn't get both items after the same action, but ours is not to reason why, ours is but to point and click and want to die. To paraphrase Tennyson. As many video game blogs are wont to do. Cough.

Point is, though, I could very easily spend more time writing about this game than I did actually playing it, and that's probably crazy. If you got this game in the Valentine bundle, like I did, then it's not so bad. If you bought this game full price, despite it being shorter than most of the similar point and click adventures you can find for free on Kongregate/Armor Games (sort of a recurring realization for many of the games I've covered here so far) then that.. really kind of sucks for you, I guess.

The verdict: Well, I beat it, so... no, I won't be going back.

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A Brief LP of a Potential Minecraft Killer

Hey folks, I'm interrupting the Steam monthly bonanza thing to hop on-board the cuboid MineCraft bandwagon. Now that a less sophisticated 360 version has come out - and been reviewed on GB even! In lieu of many other games! - I figured it was high time I stuck my unwarranted prejudices in my pocket and give that ol' trial version a run. You know, kind of recreating that fun everyone had with the Alpha back in the day? So I went onto UK XBLA and... they didn't have it. I guess because it takes longer to localize all that story content for Europe?

'Twas but a momentary setback for the "never say die" stalwart chap that I am, however, so I instead embarked on a quixotic quest to find something that was very similar to MineCraft - that could recreate that same mix of constructive fun and exploration wanderlust - yet was somehow both better and cheaper. Guys, I think I may have found it:

Welcome to MinePaint! This is my new world. Looks a bit barren here of course, but then it's only just finished generating all that beautiful whiteness to explore. Let's jump in!
So obviously the first thing you want to do is build a house to protect yourself from the elements (not to mention the many colorful monsters out there!) Since I don't have any sophisticated tools as of yet, my domicile is somewhat crude. We'll fix it later once we've acquired some decent materials!
So here you can see that I've dug a hole in my world and have already started mining a crapton of sweet ores. Most of it is brown and grey, as evident over on the right there, but I've found a smattering of rarer stuff too. Ahh, this game is really hitting up that kind of rush I get for discovery!
Note to first time players: Though the temptation to spend all your new resources on fixing up your crappy house is great (and unavoidable in my case, since I used up ALL my bluium!), you'll want to save it - especially early on - for practical improvements rather than cosmetic ones.
Well, look what we have here. The first visitor to my server! Hello there, neighbor!
Hey, mi casa es su casa, amigo! He seems content to wander around for now, so it's time to do some more mining. Look at all those minerals! I even have some super rare purplium now as well!
Now here is the real first improvement you guys should make: The crafting table! With this, you can add all sorts of useful items to your MinePaint world!
As you can see, I've built a cool-looking chair for sittin', a pickaxe to help me dig further down and RoboCop.
Wha?! H-hey, that's my purplium!
Quickly RoboCop! Apprehend that creep before he absconds with my precious minerals!
Oh God dammit. I guess I need to build some fuel for him something. I don't even know what the MinePaint formula is for babyfood. I'll check the official MinePaint wiki later.
Well, that's the first few hours I spent with this game. A bit of a rough time, but then you can't help it if the occasional criminal element sneaks into your world. Makes it more exciting, in a way. Overall, I've had a blast letting my imagination run wild here. I'll be sure to let you guys in on any big projects I decide to build! Until next time, toodles!

(Part 9 of May Madness is coming soon, you guys. Honest.)

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