Sparky's Update - PS+ Madness, World of Keflings, Yesterday

This is where Sparky's Update lives! Get you some!

Welcome back, one and all, to my inane weekly blog about what I'm playing, watching, and reading. This week's biggest news for me is that I'm now a PS+ subscriber thanks to a very generous friend. I've taken advantage of their free monthly games as well as bought a couple of cheapo PS+ deals, so we'll be covering those briefly. I've also finally delved into World of Keflings, a game I bought a while back when it was on sale, and I'll be talking about Pendulo's terrific adventure games Yesterday and The Next Big Thing.

Whew. That's a lot. I'll try to keep things relatively brief. Oh, and by the way, happy early Halloween!

Plus-Sized Plus One

Mento is probably shaking his head over my bad punnery. Can't blame him. That guy's punnery is pure genius, by the way.

Anyways, early on in the week, I received a bunch of free codes for PS+ monthly subs from a friend and promptly activated them. My first order of business was downloading some free themes - my old one was rough on the eyes and I wanted a spiffier front end for my PS3. Why am I justifying this? You don't care and neither do I. Games were next. Here, I kind of went nuts. Pacman CE DX FBI CIA edition is something I've always wanted to play but never got around to. King of Fighters XIII intrigued me, mostly because I hadn't played a King of Fighters game since the late 90's and I was genuinely curious how the hell it held up so many years later. I also decided to double dip and purchase the Off the Record version of Dead Rising 2. I'd played the vanilla version and greatly enjoyed it, so I figured I'd give this one a shot too. There are other games in my queue or that I've downloaded, but I'll have to save those for next week, as I haven't gotten to them quite yet.

Let's start with the lone "bad" game in the bunch, King of Fighters XIII. Now, friend of the pimp Arbitrary Water says I'm nuts for not liking KOFXIII, but frankly, I believe he's secretly a mutated, highly evolved shower curtain and therefore cannot be trusted. And it's not that KOFXIII is broken - not at all. But I can't connect to its multiplayer functions for more than a minute or two at a time, either because of my shoddy Internet or something to do with the game's matchmaking. I can't determine which, but I suspect it has more to do with my end of things, so I won't hold the game accountable. Instead, I'm left playing the single player portion, which is decidedly underwhelming and half-assed. The story mode is comosed of several generic, bland still anime screen wtih some text. I hesitate to call that text a "story," because that would insult the word story. A woman seeks out a childhood friend who is working with the bad guys and demons in order to rewrite.... oh, screw it. He ends up corrupted, she saves him with the power of love, world is safe, yadda yadda yadda. The story elements (not counting the fighting) take up all of about a minute if you're a good reader. There's an arcade mode, but no individual or team endings, leaving me very, very glad I didn't purchase this one.

I'm not going to get that in-depth with Pac-Man CE DX. Too much has been said about its myriad of wonders already. It's a great game, one I'm admittedly terrible at. But I feel like I could get better with time. And no matter how bad I am, I'm still having fun with it. Pretty cool stuff. Makes me want to track down that other DX old school game that I can never remember the name of. They did a QL of it too.... Galaga DX, maybe? Hmmm.

Oh, right, Double Dragon Neon is in there too. It's Double Dragon, just with better animation and some nice bonus features. I'm not a huge fan of Double Dragon to begin with, and this one doesn't make a believer out of me. The combat feels too wooden and quarter-grabby, just as it did back in the day. But I get the appeal, and if you're a fan of Double Dragon, it's worth checking out.

Dead Rising 2: OTR is pretty rad. Other than the initial first fifteen minutes, it's essentially Dead Rising 2 with Frank West spouting snark instead of Chuck Greene. You don't have to worry about the kid, thankfully, but you'll still be tracking down Zombrex, taking on hordes of zombies, and the same crazies. I haven't gotten very much into it yet, but I'm digging it. Frank and Chuck are both great characters, and I have no preference either way. But this seems like a cleaner, smarter version of DR2, especially with the much-needed checkpoints. More on this one later.

A World of Resource Management

At its core, A World of Keflings is essentialy a resource management game. Through your avatar, you pick up keflings and send them to work picking up and delivering resources so you can build more things. It's a simple concept, polished to a high sheen, and given a little bit of patented Microsoft "play it safe" family-friendly silliness. This was a game very much designed by a committee of people trying very hard to create a perfectly acceptable, inoffensive game. In that regard, they've succeeded.

Nothing about World of Keflings really stands out, and yet, it all comes together to form a mellow, pleasant experience that will no doubt be completely forgotten in four or five years. That's not an insult, it's just fact. World of Keflings is designed to appeal to a broad range of people, from kids old enough to follow simple building instructions to adults likely with families to play along too. The dialogue's cute, but never tries to be particularly clever. The same goes for the gameplay - it plays like a very basic RTS without combat, essentially.

Is it worth it? I'd say so, sure, especially if it's on sale. It's a nice little diversion. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yesterday, I Played The Next Big Thing

One of the highlights of the year for me has been the Steam Pendulo pack, which I purchased in one of their big sales. It's a treasure trove of old-school LucasArts-styled adventure gaming with modern graphics. Not all the games have been great - namely, the first Runaway is a real stinker - but the rest of the games have made the pack definitely worth it.

Two of their best games are The Next Big Thing and Yesterday, their most recent releases (as far as I know). They both stick to the Pendulo/classic adventure game mold. You talk to people, find items, combine items, and solve a few puzzles now and again. The Next Big Thing is more focused in on advancing its story than adventuring, making for tighter game with less actual gameplay. The story itself is really delightful. Set in a world where monsters are very real and co-exist side by side with humans in their day to day lives (mostly as actors for a movie studio executive), it gives off a colorful, modern take on the 30's and 40's monster films I adore so much, and spins those basic ideas into its own charming, unique world. The writers spent quite a bit of time on creating unique dialogue for the world, and the actors go to it with aplomb. It's one of the better fictional game worlds out there, and the saddest part is, most gamers will never experience it. Sure, the gameplay might feel a little outdated to the FPS crowd, but if you've got any interest in games that focus on story, it's well worth a look. I unfortunately couldn't finish it due to a late game puzzle that required better vision than what I have, but I cannot recommend this game more...

...except, of course, when I'm talking about the next Pendulo adventure game, Yesterday. Yesterday tends to focus in more on the traditional adventure gameplay, but its story is still superb. It's hard to say which is the better game, Yesterday or The Next Big Thing, but like the last two Runaway games, I don't believe that's a choice gamers should make until they've played both. Yesterday is the darkest Pendulo game to date, focusing on the occult and a serial killer. If that makes it sound like the old Gabriel Knight games, you're not terribly far off the mark. But unlike the Gabriel Knight games, Yesterday creates its own lore and villains, making for a much more creatively satisfying game overall.

Seriously, if you get the chance, pick up the Pendulo pack and either ignore or forgive the first Runaway game. These game makers are definitely underappreciated, and I hope they go on to bigger things in the future.

Tidbits

-I finally finshed up on Bored to Death. It's a darned shame this show had such a brief run, but at least it didn't overstay its welcome. The three protagonists (Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifanakis, and Ted Danson) have terrific chemistry together, and the guest stars such as Oliver Platt are fantastic. It's a comedic take on old detective stories, and is well worth checking out if you get a chance. Just go in knowing that it'll leave you with an unsatisfying conclusion.

-I played about an hour's worth of Wizorb. Great little Breakout game, but not really worth a whole segment here. Check it out if you want a quick diversion that won't tax you, your computer, or your wallet.

4 Comments
4 Comments
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

This is where Sparky's Update lives! Get you some!

Welcome back, one and all, to my inane weekly blog about what I'm playing, watching, and reading. This week's biggest news for me is that I'm now a PS+ subscriber thanks to a very generous friend. I've taken advantage of their free monthly games as well as bought a couple of cheapo PS+ deals, so we'll be covering those briefly. I've also finally delved into World of Keflings, a game I bought a while back when it was on sale, and I'll be talking about Pendulo's terrific adventure games Yesterday and The Next Big Thing.

Whew. That's a lot. I'll try to keep things relatively brief. Oh, and by the way, happy early Halloween!

Plus-Sized Plus One

Mento is probably shaking his head over my bad punnery. Can't blame him. That guy's punnery is pure genius, by the way.

Anyways, early on in the week, I received a bunch of free codes for PS+ monthly subs from a friend and promptly activated them. My first order of business was downloading some free themes - my old one was rough on the eyes and I wanted a spiffier front end for my PS3. Why am I justifying this? You don't care and neither do I. Games were next. Here, I kind of went nuts. Pacman CE DX FBI CIA edition is something I've always wanted to play but never got around to. King of Fighters XIII intrigued me, mostly because I hadn't played a King of Fighters game since the late 90's and I was genuinely curious how the hell it held up so many years later. I also decided to double dip and purchase the Off the Record version of Dead Rising 2. I'd played the vanilla version and greatly enjoyed it, so I figured I'd give this one a shot too. There are other games in my queue or that I've downloaded, but I'll have to save those for next week, as I haven't gotten to them quite yet.

Let's start with the lone "bad" game in the bunch, King of Fighters XIII. Now, friend of the pimp Arbitrary Water says I'm nuts for not liking KOFXIII, but frankly, I believe he's secretly a mutated, highly evolved shower curtain and therefore cannot be trusted. And it's not that KOFXIII is broken - not at all. But I can't connect to its multiplayer functions for more than a minute or two at a time, either because of my shoddy Internet or something to do with the game's matchmaking. I can't determine which, but I suspect it has more to do with my end of things, so I won't hold the game accountable. Instead, I'm left playing the single player portion, which is decidedly underwhelming and half-assed. The story mode is comosed of several generic, bland still anime screen wtih some text. I hesitate to call that text a "story," because that would insult the word story. A woman seeks out a childhood friend who is working with the bad guys and demons in order to rewrite.... oh, screw it. He ends up corrupted, she saves him with the power of love, world is safe, yadda yadda yadda. The story elements (not counting the fighting) take up all of about a minute if you're a good reader. There's an arcade mode, but no individual or team endings, leaving me very, very glad I didn't purchase this one.

I'm not going to get that in-depth with Pac-Man CE DX. Too much has been said about its myriad of wonders already. It's a great game, one I'm admittedly terrible at. But I feel like I could get better with time. And no matter how bad I am, I'm still having fun with it. Pretty cool stuff. Makes me want to track down that other DX old school game that I can never remember the name of. They did a QL of it too.... Galaga DX, maybe? Hmmm.

Oh, right, Double Dragon Neon is in there too. It's Double Dragon, just with better animation and some nice bonus features. I'm not a huge fan of Double Dragon to begin with, and this one doesn't make a believer out of me. The combat feels too wooden and quarter-grabby, just as it did back in the day. But I get the appeal, and if you're a fan of Double Dragon, it's worth checking out.

Dead Rising 2: OTR is pretty rad. Other than the initial first fifteen minutes, it's essentially Dead Rising 2 with Frank West spouting snark instead of Chuck Greene. You don't have to worry about the kid, thankfully, but you'll still be tracking down Zombrex, taking on hordes of zombies, and the same crazies. I haven't gotten very much into it yet, but I'm digging it. Frank and Chuck are both great characters, and I have no preference either way. But this seems like a cleaner, smarter version of DR2, especially with the much-needed checkpoints. More on this one later.

A World of Resource Management

At its core, A World of Keflings is essentialy a resource management game. Through your avatar, you pick up keflings and send them to work picking up and delivering resources so you can build more things. It's a simple concept, polished to a high sheen, and given a little bit of patented Microsoft "play it safe" family-friendly silliness. This was a game very much designed by a committee of people trying very hard to create a perfectly acceptable, inoffensive game. In that regard, they've succeeded.

Nothing about World of Keflings really stands out, and yet, it all comes together to form a mellow, pleasant experience that will no doubt be completely forgotten in four or five years. That's not an insult, it's just fact. World of Keflings is designed to appeal to a broad range of people, from kids old enough to follow simple building instructions to adults likely with families to play along too. The dialogue's cute, but never tries to be particularly clever. The same goes for the gameplay - it plays like a very basic RTS without combat, essentially.

Is it worth it? I'd say so, sure, especially if it's on sale. It's a nice little diversion. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yesterday, I Played The Next Big Thing

One of the highlights of the year for me has been the Steam Pendulo pack, which I purchased in one of their big sales. It's a treasure trove of old-school LucasArts-styled adventure gaming with modern graphics. Not all the games have been great - namely, the first Runaway is a real stinker - but the rest of the games have made the pack definitely worth it.

Two of their best games are The Next Big Thing and Yesterday, their most recent releases (as far as I know). They both stick to the Pendulo/classic adventure game mold. You talk to people, find items, combine items, and solve a few puzzles now and again. The Next Big Thing is more focused in on advancing its story than adventuring, making for tighter game with less actual gameplay. The story itself is really delightful. Set in a world where monsters are very real and co-exist side by side with humans in their day to day lives (mostly as actors for a movie studio executive), it gives off a colorful, modern take on the 30's and 40's monster films I adore so much, and spins those basic ideas into its own charming, unique world. The writers spent quite a bit of time on creating unique dialogue for the world, and the actors go to it with aplomb. It's one of the better fictional game worlds out there, and the saddest part is, most gamers will never experience it. Sure, the gameplay might feel a little outdated to the FPS crowd, but if you've got any interest in games that focus on story, it's well worth a look. I unfortunately couldn't finish it due to a late game puzzle that required better vision than what I have, but I cannot recommend this game more...

...except, of course, when I'm talking about the next Pendulo adventure game, Yesterday. Yesterday tends to focus in more on the traditional adventure gameplay, but its story is still superb. It's hard to say which is the better game, Yesterday or The Next Big Thing, but like the last two Runaway games, I don't believe that's a choice gamers should make until they've played both. Yesterday is the darkest Pendulo game to date, focusing on the occult and a serial killer. If that makes it sound like the old Gabriel Knight games, you're not terribly far off the mark. But unlike the Gabriel Knight games, Yesterday creates its own lore and villains, making for a much more creatively satisfying game overall.

Seriously, if you get the chance, pick up the Pendulo pack and either ignore or forgive the first Runaway game. These game makers are definitely underappreciated, and I hope they go on to bigger things in the future.

Tidbits

-I finally finshed up on Bored to Death. It's a darned shame this show had such a brief run, but at least it didn't overstay its welcome. The three protagonists (Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifanakis, and Ted Danson) have terrific chemistry together, and the guest stars such as Oliver Platt are fantastic. It's a comedic take on old detective stories, and is well worth checking out if you get a chance. Just go in knowing that it'll leave you with an unsatisfying conclusion.

-I played about an hour's worth of Wizorb. Great little Breakout game, but not really worth a whole segment here. Check it out if you want a quick diversion that won't tax you, your computer, or your wallet.

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

A shower curtain, hmmm? Don't think I've heard that one before. For the record, I was saying that KOF XIII is fantastic as a fighting game. The reason you haven't found anyone to play with online is for two reasons 1. The online is functional at best and terrible at worst. 2. For that reason and because it didn't sell especially well, there aren't a lot of people playing the game online in general.

As a single-player experience, I am apt to agree that KOF XIII is junk. But treating it like it's some sort of surprise is unfortunate, considering that the standard for single player in fighting games has always been disastrously low (MK being a weird exeption, but of course I don't think its fighting system is as deep or nuanced as something like King of Fighters). If you don't have anyone to play against, be it friends or strangers, then of course it's not worth actual money. That's the ultimate caveat for all fighting games.

Posted by Mento

Aw shucks, my wordplay ain't all that. It's mostly quantity over quality anyway; more apundant than punderful.

I've gotten tempted by PS+ a few times. PSN is starting to rival Steam and GOG for value, which is pretty impressive for a first-party digital distribution network that's had to work its virtual socks off to regain a lot of squandered trust. Also been tempted by the Pendulo pack in the past, so I hope they bring it back for this Thanksgiving sale. Well, they almost certainly will since there's always a massive library of developer packs, but I mean specifically for a nice big discount. Because I'm cheap.

Talking of which, I'm thinking I should do another May Madness feature to clear some space, except this time spreading the Dementia to my Desura library. Perhaps during December. Now if only I could think of a title for it...

Moderator
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Mento: Desumber Madness? Hmmm. No. I'm pretty sure a rabid monkey hammering on a keyboard could come up with a better title than that. We'll have to work on it, but that's a hell of an idea. I've always been curious about that online service.

I wouldn't have subscribed to PS+ without the free codes. I don't particularly like Sony's track record with its customers, though truth be told, I just really couldn't afford it. I'm loving the free games and deep discounts, even if all the games haven't worked out for me. Like Outland - looks like a great game, but if I can't make it past the first five minutes because of good ol' color blindness, then I'm damn glad I didn't pay money for it. Which leads me to....

@ArbitraryWater: You know what? I kinda dig most fighting games with single player character endings. Stuff like Tekken and DOA, where the story is pretty idiotic, can hook me with some nice shiny CGI cutscenes after I beat the bosses. When I go into a fighting game, I sort of expect that to be there. Maybe that means my expectations were indeed too high for KOFXIII's single player. I don't know. But if I can't play the multiplayer component of a fighting game and there's no reason to really get into the single player portion, what am I suppoed to say? That if I squint my eyes really hard, ask Santa Claus super nicely, and hold my breath for three minutes, that it'll somehow be a magical game full of wonder and joy? Because I tried that shit, and let me tell you, man, my head hurts. But seriously, maybe the next King of Fighters needs to recognize that it's not going to be a multiplayer powerhouse and work a bit more on that single player. If they do, great. If not, then there had better be a huge upswing in the number of players and the quality of their net code, because otherwise, there's no point to what you say are great mechanics. For me, it's just another iteration of a quarter-circle two-punch two-kick fighter and that's not enough to warrant a XIII in its title.

Moderator