From the Moon and the Stars, this blog I deliver unto you.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on a NOT AT ALL EROTIC quest to see if women attracted to other women of the same sex indeed have the qualifications. BEWARE, the Moon.

I never thought I'd see the day, but alas, it is here. What am I talking about? Why, the day when I encountered a mediocre Moon game. (Ignoring Dead Moon, of course.) Some of you might be confused, although that may be because nobody's ever heard of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. Apparently. To bring you guys up to speed, it's a remake of one of three reasons to own a Sega CD in the first place (the other two being very obvious).

Now what's wrong with that? For one, it's a very simple game. I mean, there are some cool ideas in Lunar, but the game never really executes on those ideas. They just sort of exist, like that's enough to make a good game. But alas, it isn't. It is enough for a simple, underdeveloped experience, though.

"...absolutely nothing happens. Just thought I'd let you know."

I imagine the story is a big reason why everything feels that way. It all begins with a youth named Alex. He wants to become a Dragonmaster. What is a Dragonmaster? What does that entail? Why is that position so desirable? Who gives a shit? The story's barely interested in any of those questions. Hell, it's barely interested in its own themes, as it only pays them a cursory glance. For example, freedom versus order. That's the easiest theme to spot in the story, since the bad guy (a nasally bastard named Ghaleon) is trying to revive a god to impose divine rule or whatever on mankind. That may not sound exciting, but seeing Ghaleon slowly arrive at these conclusions is enough to draw you in and generate inte-what's that? Freedom wins, just because?

Maybe that was a bad example. What about adventure itself? It's the main character's motivation, after all, and the game constantly raises the stakes as it figures out what the hell adventure means. It's going to be interesting, seeing how Alex changes as t-Oh, he stays pretty much the same from beginning to end? That seems.....overly easy. You sure you don't want to give that more thought, game? Are you sure you don't want to look at it more, make sure you haven't created any serious problems? No? Really? It's like the game doesn't feel invested in its own story. And that's not even getting into any of the other problems, such as expository dialogue or dumb plot choices (like oceanic fireflies).

You see that Geocities background at the bottom of the screen? It's the game's idea of water: a still image that scrolls in one direction at a constant speed. Quality production, folks.

Possibly because I want to talk about something that vaguely works: the characters.....sort of. Oh, there are so many characters to encounter in this game. You've got the fat kid with daddy issues, the girl who gets over deep sadness strangely quickly, that fucking thing that greeted you into this blog, and so very much more. Everybody's got a well-defined personality, and they all play off each other very well. So you end up with a bunch of mildly humorous situations that almost mitigate the narrative problems I talked about before. Almost. For you see, when decent characters and mediocre plot come together, the mediocre plot somehow wins out every time. Any sense of character development must be abandoned to meet the demands of a story that isn't very good, anyway. Luna's doubting whether she should even follow Alex on his adventures? Bring her along anyway; we'll figure out a reason later. Or not at all. I mean, that doesn't completely ruin the characters, but it certainly makes me less willing to play the game. It's like the writers don't fully understand what makes Lunar work in the first place.

But perhaps Lunar doesn't need a stellar story to be good. Maybe its mechanics are fun enou-OK, they aren't. There's so much potential here for a fun time, but again, never does the game deliver on any of that potential. Not in the core systems, though; those just suck. Most of the game involves Alex walking through fantasy areas and whacking fantasy creatures, possibly in a way that is fantastical in nature. If that sounds overly reductive, understand that there isn't a lot to reduce in the first place. Each character only has a few attacks at their disposal, all of limited use. In fact, you can usually get through battle by selecting the basic attack option and then checking out for the next ninety seconds.

I am so very, very confused right now.

So you end up with half the battles feeling eerily similar, and the other half being bosses. Who also feel similar. The characters' positions don't help much. Sure, it looks like those characters moving about the field might introduce a strategic element, but since you can't move them around yourself, such strategy is limited. What exactly does that leave? Me filing away through menus to remind the game that I exist. Doesn't sound terribly engaging, does it? It's like the game's filling space between story moments because it doesn't know what else to do.

Normally, I'd talk about some other gameplay mechanic the game has, but there isn't any, really. All you can do outside of battle is simply walk to the next story event or battle. You're essentially ferrying yourself from one mindless event to another mindless event, repeating for as long as it takes to reach the credits. Overall, Lunar's a disappointing game. That's really the best word I can use to describe the game. The story disappoints by introducing all these cool ideas and then doing absolutely nothing with them. The gameplay disappoints by letting its best ideas fall well short of what they could accomplish. Even the presentation is disappointing, what with the mediocre animation paired alongside forgettable music. Put it all together, and you end up with a game that's competent, but not much else. This is no way to honor my Lunar heritage.

Review Synopsis

  • You've got some interesting stuff going on, but nothing ever really comes of it.
  • At least the characters are kind of good. When the plot leaves them alone, of course.
  • Walk into battle, bash things, walk into another battle, bash things, repeat for a while.

Is this what Mario was like in middle school? It's simultaneously glorious and horrifying.

Well, this is certainly weird. I'm not talking about the game, but rather, my reaction ot the game. Densetsu no Stafy 3 is probably one of the most average games I've played in a good while, but for whatever reason, I find myself enthused by it. Hell, its averageness is the very reason I'm enthused. How does that.....I don't.....Wh.....I am so very confused by all this.

I can't even begin with an explanation of the game, because there really isn't a lot to explain. You guide a star-shaped creature named Stafy through some aquatic environments, swimming about with the occasional light jumping. Throw in some shitty fetch quests and a rather low level of difficulty, and you've got the Stafy experience. Doesn't sound like there's a lot to this game, is there? That's because there isn't. This isn't a bad thing, though. In fact, it's the main appeal to the game. You never have too much to deal with, so everything's just so calm and relaxing. There's no sense of urgency, or huge monster to threaten you, or overly complex mechanic to wrap your head around. Just a D-pad, two buttons, and a few obstacles here and there to give you some light challenge. This is the perfect game to unwind to.

Oh, ha ha. Real funny, Nintendo.

Even with all the dumb distractions the game throws your way. What? I didn't tell you about them? Turns out there's a lot more to this game than simply doing nothing. You also get to ride a submarine, a horse, a sheep costume thing, and so many other stupid, stupid vehicles. I guess this is to ensure some level of variety in the game, and while I can certainly commend Stafy for that, I must still acknowledge the hit or miss nature of all these side features. Each one has an annoying control quirk to endure (I'm not sure sheep move like boulders), and they're not all that fun to play through. But even at their worst, these games don't change the nature of the game. After all, there still isn't a lot to manage, and there still isn't a lot of risk in what you're doing. So really, what has changed between the normal gameplay and these stupid mini-games? At their worst, they're minor distractions from the overall game. At their best, they're a completely different character with her own way of getting about the world.

It has only now struck me that I haven't even mentioned the basic premise behind this game. What is there to mention? A monster has broken out of his porcelain prison a vase; not a toilet and he's trying to take over Heaven or something. Now it's up to a small starfish creature to dick around for a bit until things just kind of solve themselves. If my detached tone hasn't made it clear, I don't hold the story in too high regard. Sure, it's mildly entertaining, but it isn't that important. Or at least it isn't as important as how the story is presented. Everything's just so squishy and adorable and cute. The presentation really does a lot to put you in the relaxing mood that makes Stafy 3 as good as it is. In fact, now that I think about it, this is probably one of the few games I know of that can coast on charm alone. I mean, what else does the game have going for it? Simple gameplay mechanics? Terrible music? A story I decided to ignore less than halfway through? None of that is enough to make for a quality experience. But then you add a squishy layer of cute charm, and.......I don't even know how to finish that sentence. I am that mellowed out in the presence of Stafy.

Review Synopsis

  • Imagine Ecco the Dolphin. Now imagine that it didn't suck total shit. That's Stafy for you.
  • And then throw in something about riding a horse for no particular reason. Again, that is Stafy for you.
  • Have you broken out into a fever and painful rashes? That's staphy for you.
11 Comments

The screenshot ballad of Heartbreakin' Hisao Nakai. Episode 5: End of the Tropes.

Part the 一番目
← To Episode 4: Takin' it to HarlemTo Episode 6: To Parts Unknown

Those weren't the unforeseen consequences. Obviously.

After Hisao's long recovery, the G-Man tried to explain how things went so awry. But Babyface wasn't having any of it. He demanded that he be sent back to Yamaku immediately.

Normally, I'd explain some stuff about Rin's route, but Hisao has a few loose ends to tie up. That's right: we're making a beeline for Kenji!

LEAVE THE CLASS CONFUSED ABOUT GATE LOVE!
BURN TWO BRIDGES WITH ONE TORCH!
BE A SPINELESS COWARD!
GIVE HANAKO HER SPACE!.....That's a weird step.
DENY HANAKO'S CUTENESS. (Also, we're skipping a step after this. That's what we get with these choices, folks.)
CREEP OUT THE GIRLS WITH YOUR SURGERY SCARS!
TELL THE NURSE TO EAT A DICK!
This one doesn't matter.
Because they beat the piss out of him, anyway.
But let's assume that Babyface has moved on from Sugartits once and for all.
Wait a second. I thought I told him NOT to side with Lilly. I'm not even kidding. Hisao is defying my orders.
Just for that: bad ending.
Something tells me they don't enjoy your sense of humor.
That something being this.
Rin glaring at him too much to come up with a decent dick joke.
He still goes to bed sweaty. Just as he likes it.
Exactly. You've let Kenji get ahead of you.
"I just hope he likes the smell of lemons."
"That sounds like a threat." ".................."
Rin told him about this thread, didn't he? *sigh*
And we get bad ending music, out of absolutely nowhere. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JeJjWeYQuc
Probably the same shit they've been doing for the past few months.
Dead bodies.
"Hopefully, she's not wearing anything too tight."
No matter how many times you've DESPERATELY asked her.
"Helping" in the loosest sense of the word.
Actually, she's drinking it up with Hanako. I think we know why.
"Is this how eating works?"
Somebody's gonna die.
"Try and make a joke out of THAT one, Rin!"
I FUCKING LOVE THIS ROUTE!
How sad is it that this is probably the most memeable line in the game?
Kenji is not amused.
Your mom wouldn't happen to be Akira, would she?...........Wait.........
Prepare to be surprised.
"...........Really?..........Fucking.......*sigh*"
If it was, he'd have brought Hanako.
http://youtu.be/8Sr3ZbSxolI
Don't worry. I've got you covered.
It'll never beat the Shoulder Touch Drinking Game.
And Kenji STILL hasn't explained why he shot up Babyface.

Unfortunately, we're not getting the answer today. That comes tomorrow.

8 Comments

The blog that landed me on at least one government watchlist.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on a NOT AT ALL EROTIC quest to see if women attracted to other women of the same sex indeed have the qualifications. BEWARE, the Moon.

Why do we play bad games? Well, in my case, it's usually to ensure that I don't ever have to play them again. Yes, that means I have to do the very thing I wanted to avoid doing, but......hey, you guys ever hear of Hacker Evolution Duality? Because I sure as hell haven't. In fact, I can't even remember how I got this game. What a strange thing to say, and not for the reasons you're thinking. Hacker is barely even a game. It's little more than using brute force and trial & error to figure out how best to complete a bunch of pre-planned steps.

Of course, things don't start out like this. In fact, the premise starts off rather well. I mean, you're some elite hacker (not that kind) turning the world's computers into your own play toys. Sound fun? Well, it isn't. Part of that has to do with the narrative context. The story doesn't do a lot outside its "hack a megacorporation so it doesn't use its super virus" premise, so there's not a lot here to make you feel invested. But a lot more of it simply has to do with how fixed the gameplay feels. Every single level feels like a fucking checklist that you have to go through. You flip this option so you can flip that option so you can flip this other option and.....I know this sounds reductive, but there really is nothing else to Hacker other than that. Hell, you don't even get any meaningful choices to make, unless you interpret "victory or defeat" as a conscious decision. Your actions hold absolutely no meaning; you're just there to fill in the gaps while the game yells at you to hurry things along.

This is, like, 45% of the experience.

Oh, did I not mention that? Turns out that while you're hacking away and sticking it to the man, a bunch of AI servers will take turns pelting you with satellite attacks until you've lost the level. You're in a constant race against the clock throughout the game. (You can eliminate them, but doing so pretty much nerfs any chance at progressing through the level. What wonderful game design.) Unfortunately, Hacker is (sort of) a strategy game, so the game is essentially asking you to take the time to think things out while also getting things done as fast as you can. It's frustrating, to say the least. Not even difficult or engaging on any real level; just annoying.

And tedious. Have I mentioned tedious? Because this game is really, really tedious. Some of that's because of how you play the game. Hacker gives you all these tools to accomplish your goals, but none of them are any fun to use. They're all simply awful. Let's look at key cracks as an example. They're nothing more than a jumbled screen of numbers that you have to click through in sequential order, because I guess Minesweeper could always use a bit more tedium. (Retina scans are about the same, albeit on a smaller scale.) And that's a tool that actually provides some sort of challenge; the rest simply ask that you match bars to specific values. How riveting. I'd say that the puzzles don't help, but that would be assuming that this game even has puzzles. There are none. Instead, you get the checklist stuff I described before and false choices. By that, I mean you get three choices, one of them's correct, and you have no way of knowing. So you either trial and error your way through a mission or completely break the flow and let the game literally give you the solution. What skill is this situation engaging? What is the game asking me to do? When am I supposed to feel like I've accomplished something? Because all I see is needless busywork masquerading as mechanical depth.

If I had to say one good thing about the game, I'd probably say something about the aesthetic. Everything's crisp and efficient (at least until those key cracks ruin your vision), and the music does a good job of pumping you up throughout. But man, in light of everything else, that is not enough to make this game worth playing. A clean look and electro beats can't mask significant problems like utterly rote gameplay that insults your intelligence while offering nothing in return, or.....no, that's pretty much the major problem with Hacker Evolution Duality. Well, that and the non-committal ending that I can't seem to find anywhere. But mostly that other stuff.

Review Synopsis

  • Checklist speedrun. That sound enjoyable? It isn't.
  • Where it isn't frustrating, it's tedious.
  • But at least it looks good. I guess.

You know, this would've made just as much sense in my last blog.

These "theme" blogs really are hit and miss, aren't they? Half the time, I end up in a Napple Tale situation, where the games have absolutely nothing to do with each other. And then there are situations like these, where the stars align and my selections are somehow relevant to each other. Remember how Hacker was seven tedious levels too long, and it had a bunch of features that did nothing to make the game enjoyable? (If you can't remember, then that's probably a sign that I write too many words.) Bomberman's the exact opposite of that. Instead, it focuses on a couple of small ideas and develops the hell out of every last one of them.

Or perhaps just one idea: bomb the hell out of your enemies (and blocks that block you from bombing them). Does that sound simple? Well, that's because it is. And isn't. Therein lies the game's greatest strength: it finds the perfect sweet spot between simplicity and depth. On the one hand, bombing foes isn't easy. You have to manage a lot, like enemy behavior, your bomb's behavior, and the level design (and possibly its behavior). Bomberman's a slow game that prizes careful, well considered actions. It's almost predatorial, like a game of cat and mouse if the cat was packing heat.

You're looking at about 98% of the game in this one screenshot. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Yet on the other hand that I've neglected until now, the game doesn't require too much thought. As slow as the game can feel, each level lasts only a couple of minutes, so the investment isn't particularly high. And for as much as you have to manage, the gameplay's still relatively easy to grasp, even when the game starts introducing new elements. Strange, isn't it? Bomberman can introduce all these cool power-ups like multiple bombs and walking through walls, yet it feels essentially the same as it did at the beginning. Let that stand as a testament to the game's quality: it gives you enough neat toys to engage your mental faculties, but not so much to overwhelm you or anything. It's like the game struck that one sweet spot between simplicity and strategy.

And then it goes on for about fifty levels. That's really my only complaint about Bomberman: it's too long for its own good. (That, and the bonus stages suck, but mostly the length thing.) You know how much I praised the game for making the most out of only a few features? Well, it still isn't enough to cover fifty levels. After a while, the game becomes a tedious slog, devoid of any variety. Having to search for a door at the end of each level only makes things worse. At times, it's like the game feels as though it has to go on, for reasons unknown, and the quality suffers as a result. Maybe on a portable platform, having this many levels and this little gameplay would make more sense, but.....turns out this game's on the GBA. You know what? Pick up that version. It's how the game was meant to be played.

Review Synopsis

  • Hooray for meaty gameplay!
  • Hooray for it being accessible, too!
  • Also, this is Pinocchio, apparently.
3 Comments

To the Metal Gear Mooooooooooooon. And other such strange titles.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Man, I've been playing a lot of war games recently, haven't I? Valkyria Chronicles, Medal of Honor, Spec Ops: The Line....and now this. Even more surprising is just how diverse my opinions on these games have been. For instance, I'd probably have been harsher on Valkyria Chronicles and its saccharine ilk if its gameplay wasn't absolutely amazing. Then there's Medal of Honor, which was little more than a dick-waving contest with a poor understanding of dick-waving mechanics. Spec Ops: The Line comes next, and while it certainly has important flaws, it also certainly dedicates a lot of energy toward maintaining its horrifying, pointless world.

.....and now this. Where do I even begin? How about with my conclusion: I like this game. Sure, the "game" is about half cutscenes, and it's only barely aware of this sad fact. And sure, the story presented in those cutscenes is confusing and self-indulgent. But deep down, there's ultimately something that makes this game worth playing, even if it is only barely. Could that something be the rewarding stealth gameplay? Who the hell knows?

I'm still not entirely sure what Stan Lee is doing in this game

I'd probably start on that stealth gameplay thing, but I did just say that the game is half cutscene. You can't drop a bomb like that without explaining yourself, can you? But I stand by it: half the game is cinematics, and half of that is utterly needless filler. I'd say that the designers forgot this was a game, but they clearly remembered enough to pander. Unfortunately, that's not going to cut it. Load the game with a bunch of cutscenes, and suddenly, you've created distance from the player. Instead of experiencing things for yourself, you're simply sitting on your ass, watching things unfold in front of you. Sometimes, that's appropriate (like if you're literally supposed to be watching something), but most of the time, the story is simply harder to relate to because of all these cutscenes. Granted, the cinematics are damn fine on their own terms. Whoever directed these scenes clearly knows what elements to highlight, and they very clearly know how to work in some meaningful symbolism. If this were a movie, such technique would be admirable. But this isn't a movie. It's a game, and the cutscenes don't integrate themselves well into that game.

But maybe Guns of the Patriots tells such a good story that it can get away with priding cinematics over direct interaction. (Alright, it can't; you can't ignore gameplay when writing a story for a video game, but let's just run with the premise for now.) If we're judging the game on those merits, then it does....well? It at least does better than it did in the last paragraph. The story is essentially a world hopping fist fight between two decrepit, aging men. Liquid Ocelot (which just has to be a perfume name by now) is trying to take control of The Patriots, and Solid Old Snake is there to stop him. Oh, and tackle a ton of heady themes along the way. Stuff like the commodification of war, trying to maintain autonomy in the digital age, and Snake figuring out his place in the world as an outdated relic. And child soldiers and nanomachines and conspiracy theories and.....maybe the complex plot interferes with those heady themes.

I think this is the only screenshot in the game that isn't mostly grey or mostly brown. Quite bold for a game from 2008.

Thankfully, it doesn't interfere enough. The story still knows damn well what it's doing. For instance, let's look at what I said about Snake being old. Yes, it really is that big a part of Metal Gear Solid 4. Half the story's dedicated to people calling Snake an old fart, and the other half is him breaking his hip on a mission. You can't help but feel bad for the guy. Yet in spite of all this, he manages to accomplish a helluva lot over the course of the game. More importantly, though, he accomplishes all of this without ever giving the impression that the writers have pulled anything out of their asses. Everything just feels natural, all the more impressive when there are mooing muscle robots romping about the scenery (more on that in a bit). It's really amazing the level of control that the story maintains throughout the game. And that's just one topic. Imagine what the game does with everything else it wants to cover.

And then the Kojimaisms barge onto the scene to fuck things up. By that, I mean any moment when the game devotes a lot of time toward justifying every last detail of its world, only to populate said world with the dumbest shit imaginable. For instance, Metal Gear Moo. When Metal Gear Moo first came onto the scene, I started getting headaches. I didn't know it at the time, but this was my brain warning me not to put up with any more of this bullshit. My brain was right, as the Kojimaisms kept on rolling. An arms dealer who feeds his diaper-wearing-monkey soda; a little girl who cooks eggs to the tune of obsession; a fucking robot samurai (and everything used to explain his existence); Guns of the Patriots features all of this and so much more. For some reason. I really don't see why any of this was included in the game. They're not consistently entertaining; just jarring. All the Kojimaisms accomplish is to take me out of the experience and render the messages less credible. How am I to take the game seriously on its issues when it can't even take itself seriously? Or maybe that's just me. Maybe you're actually supposed to play the game for the action and sense of spectacle. If that's the case, then yea, I can see all this dumb crap fitting into the story.

You'd better stay off the ground, Snake. You don't want that guard to hear the weird slurping noise your suit makes for no real reason.

Normally, I'd opt for a broad explanation of the gameplay mechanics, but this time, I think an example will serve me better. Cut to the third act in the game. Snake's taking a sabbatical in Europe, meaning he's trailing a local resistance group to their hideout. If you want Snake to succeed, you're gonna need to put every last bit of your stealth knowledge to good use. Yes, you can tranquilize every idiot in your path and slurp your way into the shadows, but there's so much more you have to do. You have to observe your mark's movements, make sure he doesn't see you, pit the resistance against the army to your advantage, keep track of your surroundings, and so much more.

Does that sound like a lot of work? Well, that's because it is. Unless you're in a wide open area where you can simply blow through enemies undetected, Guns of the Patriots expects a lot of work from you. And time. Let's just say that you're not the only person who's going to spend most of their time sitting on their ass. But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. That slowness is precisely why playing through the game feels so good. You've invested so much time and attention into this one minor thing, so it follows that the payoff is going to be even greater. There's almost a predatory aspect to the game; it just feels so empowering, and it all comes together for this great experience. (There might also be something about autonomy and control to tie into the story, but fuck it. Patient gameplay wins out.)

Without spoiling anything: SHITTY PLOT TWIST.

The boss battles, by contrast, damage the experience beyond all belief. They suck. There's no way around it. (The few other bosses are alright, though.) They're too action oriented for the own good. Sure, the game is capable of handling action moments, but it very clearly wasn't meant to. Each boss battle is a clumsy process of finding the Beauty in question and unloading your bullets into her face. Your only hope of finding success is if you stumble across it, not because you're playing as an old man, but more because you're playing through a scenario based on trial and error. And on that note, the bosses don't even have the story to back them up, as they contribute nothing to it. They pop in for a quick boss battle, crawl up and die, have Drebin explain their back-story (all of them pretty much the same), and then fade into irrelevance, never to be heard from again.

I also have some things to say about the weapons systems and the PTSD button and all the bullshit plot twists at the end, but I think I've made my point. In the end, Guns of the Patriots is the kind of game that makes you work for enjoyment. Story-wise, this probably doesn't hold up too well. I can't imagine many people would want to see the game's take on self-determination after learning about the digital conspiracies and psychic computer egg children you have to get through first. Fortunately, this functions better when you're playing the game, largely because the game rewards you this time around. So......great. Another game whose recommendation depends on that whole "game/story" split. Like I haven't played enough of those recently.

Review Synopsis

  • Tale as slow as time....Snake far past his prime.....Metal Gear Solid.....
  • I don't have any strange Disney jokes for the mechanics. All I can say is that they're as good as ever.
  • You know, for a game called Metal Gear Solid 4, the actual Metal Gears really have very little to do with the plot.

Sadly, I was not able to experience Metal Gear Online. However, I feel like this video captures the potential experience quite well.

Another moon-based video game that revolves around emotional item collecting? Sign me the fuck up!......Now that I think about it, I don't need any more elaboration than that. I can just say "Fragile Dreams" and you'll probably understand what my opinion of this game is. Something about emotions, writing, and me pestering the shit out of you to play this damn game.

And it's not just because my glorious Lunar Kingdom plays a big role in the story......OK, that's a pretty big reason. You play as these two memory doctors, but the real focus is on John Wyles, whose life's wish has always been to go to the Moon. Unfortunately, he's a few days away from death, so he'll have to make due with memory alteration so that he believes he went to the Moon.

Have I mentioned the game's sense of humor? It sucks, but fortunately, it doesn't intrude on the game's more serious events.

Such a subject brings up some very important ethical concerns, but for whatever reason, none of them are societal. I guess we can ignore serious political ramifications (to name one) if we know that downloading music through your memories is illegal. No, it's all personal for To the Moon. For example, is it right to whitewash a person's history to their liking? What if getting rid of the tragic moments requires getting rid of the joyous ones, too? Is there an obligation to get rid of the tragedy wherever possible? And what about what actually happened? Does altering a person's memory negate the reality of what happened, or is that allowed to stand on its own? Each one of these questions is a complex issue, and fortunately, To the Moon treats each one with the depth and respect they warrant. There are no clear answers; only enough material for you to derive your own.

But that's not what makes the game good; at least not entirely. What makes the game really stand out is its emotional side. I forgot to mention this earlier, but our two doctors (whose names I also forgot to mention) need to create a plausible story leading up to the Moon, and that requires incepting Lunar desires into John's earliest memories. But to get to that point, they have to work backwards from his most recent ones. It's an interesting way of relaying this guy's life story, and more importantly, it works really well. The whole "telling the story backwards" thing creates this feeling of helplessness throughout the story, since you know John can never solve the problems he encounters. You want him to overcome his problems, but given the nature of the plot, you know that's not going to happen (at least in the way you'd want it to happen). This only becomes so much worse when you realize this while the characters are first confronting their problems. And then that becomes worse when you realize that you're playing a video game; a medium known for its interaction. It's amazing how this game can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Of course, backward story telling alone is not responsible for this. The game has other tricks up its sleeve, like how it uses meaningless objects or how it breeds familiarity. Arguably, though, how the plot moves forward is one of the more important ways the game breeds a sense of pathos.

When did things become so Spec Ops: The Line?

Of course, that sense of pathos takes a serious blow when you realize how selfish John is. For all the time he spends with River (his autistic wife), you never really feel like he gets to know her on a deeply personal level. He doesn't make any strong efforts to know her beyond what she shows him, even when he's presented with a reasonable opportunity. (Anybody who's played the game knows what I'm referring to.) River only seems to exist as an object to fulfill John's desires. Yes, the game blatantly acknowledges this, but that doesn't make it right. If anything, it makes things worse. On some level, John knows what he's doing is wrong.....but he does it, anyway. Given that the story is only good insofar as you sympathize with John, this hampers the quality in a pretty significant way.

I feel at this point, I should probably mention the gameplay. Let's see....well, you wander around small environments, examining items to gain memory orbs you need to advance. You also need to solve simple puzzles to advance, for some reason. They're mildly entertaining, but......do I really need to mention any of this? All these particular mechanics accomplish (besides complementing what I've already discussed) is creating a sense of discovery that closely mirrors what the two doctors most likely feel. In fact, forget everything I said about the mechanics. Just focus on the closely detailed characterization and the emotional investment and all that stuff. Those are the real reasons you should play this game. You know, ignoring the obvious fact that it has the word "Moon" in the title and does justice to my Lunar glory.

Review Synopsis

  • Man, does this game know how to bond with its player.
  • I just wish the protagonist was less selfish.
  • Oh, and something about solving simple "flip all these squares" puzzles.

33 Comments

Spec Ops: Grandpa's Leftovers.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Well, isn't this a stark contrast from my last blog? Not just in the title (in that you could probably guess what I'm going to talk about this week), but also in the games I'm covering. Remember how Valkyria Chronicles and Medal of Honor both treated war with irreverence, and they both suffered because of that? Spec Ops: The Line ain't having any of that shit. This game absolutely knows how to put the medium to use, and in this case, that use is to create some horrifying imagery of war. And damn, does it do a good job.

It all begins when a small group of soldiers get sent into Dubai. Their mission is simple enough: pick up survivors and find out what happened to the 33rd Infantry. This all changes about three chapters in. The once opulent city of Dubai has fallen into a state of utter decay, teetering on the edge of nothingness; the 33rd are revealed to be a bunch of assholes (not that you're much better); and overall, things just become weird. Really, really weird. Thus we arrive at perhaps the game's greatest strength: it's surreal nature. Sometimes, this backfires horribly, like it does with this silly shit. Fortunately, that's only a minor fraction of the experience. The rest of the time, it works beautifully. You'd think blurring the lines between fantasy and reality would make the terrors of war harder to take seriously, but the opposite happens. That otherworldly atmosphere permeating the streets of Dubai only makes the atrocities pop out more. You directly experience the toll that war takes on those experiencing it. Better still, the game never lets up. From beginning to end (whatever those are; they blend together), the game simply becomes more hideous and twisted and repulsive, like a mocking parody of itself.

Spec Ops: The Line also has a VERY keen eye for detail. For instance, the shark depicted here is, in actuality, a complex metaphor for a shark.

And then there are the choices. They...are actually where the game starts to fall apart. I get what the game's trying to do, although that may have something to do with its lack of subtlety. Anyway, I get it: I shouldn't try to shirk off responsibility for the things I do. Everybody's constantly pinning the blame on somebody else, or placing their deeds into a better context. That last one might hold validity, but does the first one? Do I have any real ability to avoid the terrible actions in this game? Most of the scenarios presented me with three options: "Horrible Atrocity A", "Horrible Atrocity B", and "Fuck Else". You can say "just walk away" all you like, but it doesn't mean much unless I actually have the ability to walk away. I can remember quite a few situations where I tried simply walking away from something terrible, only for Spec Ops to railroad me into an awful "choice". It's not entirely fair or thought out to blame me for choices I was essentially forced into. But then that ending comes around, and man, does it fix every flaw these themes could possibly have. I know that sounds exceedingly hyperbolic, especially when I'm not going to tell you what the ending's like (spoilers), but you're just gonna have to trust me on this. It really is that good.

The only real flaw I'd see with the game is how it uses cutscenes. If not for them, I'd probably hold the game in higher regard than I already do. At times, it's almost like the game is a movie. I mean, yea, the moments when you're playing are just as important to the story (the most horrifying moments are usually the ones you directly experience), but come cutscene time, and Spec Ops feels like a completely different experience. There's staging, an acute focus on camera work, and all these other things that never happen when you're actually fighting your way through Dubai. Again, it's like a movie, which is the worst possible thing this game could be, given its message. If I feel like I'm simply watching events unfold before me (rather than like I'm actually making these events happen), I'm going to feel some distance from what's happening. Now I can safely abdicate responsibility for what I did in the game, because I didn't do it; I just watched some guy do all these horrible things. Hell, I'm only a special guest in this game. How can themes like "you always had a choice" or "you're not a hero" apply to me under those conditions, game?

You know what? Maybe I was completely wrong about this game when I originally wrote this blog.

Oh, that reminds me: this is a video game we're talking about. It's a shooter, which should mean you shoot bad guys until the game gives you other bad guys to shoot, and for a time, that's true. In fact, the only distinguishing trait early on is just how often you're shooting out windows to let sand rain down on your foes. But this is Spec Ops we're talking about, so of course, it's going to put a scary amount of thought into this one aspect of the game. You want to feel like you're in a hell on Earth? It doesn't matter; Spec Ops is gonna do it, anyway. You're constantly running out of ammo, bullets are so lethal that even hearing them can put you in a comatose state, and you need to issue orders to your allies intelligently if you want to succeed in a firefight. That last one might sound rather tame until you realize that about half the game is spent away from those teammates. So yea, just about every shoot-out is tense, frantic, chaotic, and a bunch of other words you'd use to describe a war zone. Overall, a fitting complement to everything else in the game.

(There are also BioShock-esque intelligence tapes to pick up every now and then. The less said about these jarring little boxes, the better.)

Actually, now that I think about it, that's a weird way to refer to Spec Ops: The Line. After all, you're not coming to this because of the shooting mechanics or anything like that. (Just ignore the multiplayer mode on the title screen. The developers certainly have.) You're coming to this game because it knows how to connect to you. And promptly stomp the ever-loving hell out of your conceptions of the world. You're coming for the haunting imagery and that feeling that things are slowly spiraling out of control, eventually reaching a crescendo of absolute carnage. It is a beautiful madness.

Review Synopsis

  • Who knew that the Middle East could be such a horrible experience?
  • How the game handles choice looks pretty bad at first. Then you hit the credits, and it looks pretty good.
  • Oh, and you shoot things, I guess. That's in there.
  • You know, I probably could've just said "Apocalypse Now: The Game", and you'd understand most of the review.

You know, this is an oddly accurate summary of Spec Ops: The Line.

This was supposed to be DEFCON. You know, so I could pair it with Spec Ops thematically. Unfortunately, several factors got in the way of that, like it being a multiplayer game and my absolute lack of skill in it. So instead, we're looking at Tiny and Big, the Turner & Hooch of video games. Probably. If ever there was a poster child for simplicity in game design, Tiny and Big would be it. The game really only has one gameplay element to fuck about with, but does that stop it from being good? Hell no! If anything, that only makes the game better, since the game can now focus on milking the hell out of this one particular mechanic.

That feature, of course, is cutting shit up. What? You couldn't gather that from the title? Grandpa's Leftovers are ropes, fire, and cutting implements. (Actually, the leftovers are underwear, but is that really any less unsettling?) You're gonna have to use every last one of them to navigate all those acrophobia inducing environments. Now, that may not sound like fun, but that's only because I haven't mentioned the very loose physics on display. This is where things get interesting. When you combine loose physics with tools that let you manipulate your environment, you transform the world into your personal playground. A sense of childlike glee will roll over your face as soon as you realize that the world only exists so that you can utterly destroy it. By that, of course, I mean you're going to feel both very, very powerful, and very, very stupid. Hell, there's even a small sense of rebellion as you defy the game's implicit orders. Yes, there's clearly a right way to get through these levels, but who gives a shit when the wrong way is clearly much more enjoyable?

Man, what a beautifully detailed environment. Time to get to cutting it to a billion little pieces.

Eventually, though, you're gonna have to do things the right way. As fun as it is to slice a level into ribbons, it's also a very good way to screw yourself out of any progress. You're gonna have to slow down considerably if you want to make your way through the game. Surprisingly, this only makes the game that much better. Instead of merely giving you some monuments to needlessly cut up, Tiny and Big's now testing a set of skills, and it does so relatively well. Success in the game hinges on paying careful attention to you environment and knowing all the ins and outs of your various tools. Watching it all come together leaves you with a well deserved sense of accomplishment. Hell, I'd go so far as to say that the sense of chaos from before only enhances that feeling of accomplishment. After all, you're gonna feel a lot better for solving something if you know just how badly you screwed things up beforehand. Of course, this set-up isn't entirely perfect. The frequent checkpointing robs you of at least some sense of accomplishment, and the loose physics that were so fun a while ago now introduce an unwanted element of luck into the mix. But despite these issues, the game manages to have its cake and eat it, too. Oh, and there are rocks to collect, too, and maybe a couple of other extras, but the game calls those boring, anyway, so I see no harm in skipping them over completely.

Speaking of things I'd rather ignore: the length. The game's a measly couple of hours long, and I feel like I'm left wanting more. Not because two hours is too short for a game, but because it's too short for this game. For all the game does with the idea of cutting things, I still feel like it could do more. Not much, mind you, but the game still ends just before it's exhausted every last opportunity to slice things apart like a madman. It's like the game is underdelivering on its own potential, even if it's only doing so by a marginal amount. Fortunately, though, that's not really enough to drag down the game's other accomplishments. I mean, it still somehow manages to take an idea that's completely dumb and transform it into something that's thought out. How many games can claim to do that? Without being designed by Hideo Kojima?

Review Synopsis

  • This must be what it's like as a five year old.
  • With the brain of a thirty five year old.
  • Just keep in mind that it's only a couple hours long.
  • Wait, I think I just described Akira. So yea, Tiny and Big is exactly like Akira.
34 Comments

Now all I need is Germany. (Blog)

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

This is the first blog of 2014, ladies and gentlemen. Just ignore the fact that I posted this in late June; we're kicking off the new year! And what better way than with my first PS3 game? I have to imagine there are several better ways, because that first PS3 game is Valkyria Chronicles, and I'm.....a little conflicted about this. On the one hand, the story's hot shit. It's too childlike and idyllic, traits you shouldn't include in a game about World War II (and, by extension, the Holocaust). Normally, this would be enough grounds for me to dismiss the game outright, but then that other hand comes into play and punches me in the face with gameplay. So thoughtful, so tactical, such a perfect balance between strategy and action....What the hell do I do with this game?

How about we start with the story, like I always do? It all begins in the happy, peaceful nation of Gallia. One day, while they're singing about brotherly love and peace among men, the big bad Empire sends their metal death monsters in to murder kill all the happy Gallains. But worry not! Lieutenant Welkin Gunther is here to.....are you seeing the problems, here? The story's too saccharine for its own good. Keep in mind that there's a long-lasting, continent-engulfing war going on. You've gotta treat that shit with reverence; put in the time and attention to detail necessary to make sure you've done the complex social and political issues justice. Valkyria Chronicles, unfortunately, does the opposite. In this game, war's fun and happy. There might be some sad moments, but nothing severe. For example, the worst a forced labor camp does to you is leave you a little bummed out. Other than that, war's just a fight between heroes and villains. Nothing more. Also, nothing better. Worse than that, though, is that the game's only very barely aware of these problems. It'll try to add some complexity (like resource scarcity motivating the war (at least until the end)), but only in conciliation. The game's less trying to treat the subject of war with the respect it deserves, and more trying to cover its tracks. And the story's full of moments like these. It's like the story is parodying itself, only with some very worrying implications.

How does everybody maintain such perfect skin in this worn photo aesthetic? It's a little confusing, is all.

For instance, let's consider the racial themes in this game. There are three races in the world, but only two worth considering: the Darcsen, whose distinguishing trait is that they all have short dark hair, and the Valkyria, who essentially gain superpowers by huffing magic gasoline. The Empire's sending the Darcsens into forced labor camps while simultaneously using the Valkyria to win the war. Our allegiances seem clear: Darcsen are the victims, and the Valkyria are to be maligned. Until we actually see the Valkyria, that is. Then, they're absolute demigods, raining righteous fire down upon their enemies, shining in glory about the battlefield. The game can say they're supernatural and inhuman all they want, but that does little to abate their godly status. You're not supposed to look down on the Valkyria; you're supposed to look up to them. And the Darcsens? Well, at this point, I've completely forgotten about them. Too focused on wanting to be the bad guy, you see. Wonderful.

Maybe the characters can redeem this game, right? Oh, I wish. You can sum up most of them in one, maybe two traits. "Largo's large and likes vegetables", "Rosie sings and is anti-Semitic", "Alicia only exists to bolster Welkin's character, even when it makes no sense", etc. This is a cast that makes you want to look up the official criteria for diagnosing Asperger Syndrome. Especially Welkin. You know what I said about the story being a cheery Disney movie about World War II? Welkin ratchets that attitude up to some very high number. Somehow, even in the worst situation you could possibly imagine, he keeps a calm, upbeat, positive outlook on things. That may sound admirable until you realize it's the result of delusion. There's a reason I made the Asperger joke: Welkin's into bugs and plants. Like, really into them. He can only perceive the world through obscure species of beetle, and to him, this is completely normal. Hell, at one point, he compares Alicia to a bug, thinking it's a compliment. Funny, right? I'm guessing that was the intention, but it just makes the problems I listed before a little worse. It's like he's brushing aside war as nothing serious so he can get back to his precious bugs. Joy.

If only snipers were this useful in the game. Most of the time, enemies wipe them out with a single well-placed shot. How sad.

But even ignoring those problems, he's still not a very interesting character. His motivations are "to pass good things down to the next generation." Those are his words. What weak, utterly bland and meaningless motivations. This makes his status as the focus of the first half of the story all the stranger. Then again, I can't imagine many characters whom I'd especially enjoy the story focusing on more. The only character worth considering happens to work for the enemy, but she's an exception. For all the individuality your own squad mates have, every single enemy is just some generic fuck who can be replaced in a heartbeat. You know, almost like you should follow the Imperial example and regard your enemies as inhuman vermin.

But there's hope yet. Have you perhaps noticed that the entire story takes place largely from one perspective? Or how about that art style? It looks time worn, like the game is a series of old war photos being presented to you. You know, like you're looking back on the game's events rather than playing through them. And then there's the fact that you advance through the story line by line, page by page. My point? This is a fairy tale. I know that sounds redundant, but hear me out. The events of the game did happen, but not exactly like this. Somebody's changing the details (smart money's on Welkin) to present their side in a far better light. Looked at this way, the story's far more salvageable. Yes, the simplicity's still there, but it's something to work against, and the source of the story's quality. Now you're trying to figure out not only what details have been changed and why, but also what actually happened over the course of the war. It's subtle and t-What's that? There are some Empire scenes that Welkin couldn't have possibly known about or guessed at? And the game's fairly clear about what the framing narrative is? OK, nevermind. The story sucks. Go about your business, everyone.

This image has frustrated Sigmund Freud to no end.

The gameplay, on the other hand, is simply amazing. I don't even know where to begin. I don't even really know how to describe it. Ogre Battle: The Third Person Shooter? You choose which unit to command from a huge military map, and then zoom down to them and take control of them manually. You walk forward, pop a few shots off on a guy, and then retreat to cover. That may sound simple, but there's actually a lot to keep track of. You've got to know where everybody is, where they're facing, what their weaknesses might be, how much ammo some of your units have, and maybe some other stuff I haven't gotten into. You have to think tactically about every move if you want to win. Needless to say, the atmosphere is tense, uncertain, almost like you're fighting in some kind of war.

Despite that (or maybe because of that), Valkyria Chronicles can be pretty rewarding, too. As tense as the scenarios can be, there's something to be said for placing your troops in such a way that the enemy can't advance a foot. Or watching an enemy scout run into one of your shocktroopers (hint: it doesn't end well). It's the feeling of watching all the pieces fall perfectly into place, and seeing everything go exactly as you planned. I'd call it 機能美, but a lot of stupid shit keeps that idea at bay. Of course, I mean stupid in a good way. Like using all your commands to sneak one unit through the Normandy landing to conquer a single base while only killing one, maybe two enemies on the way. No, seriously. How dumb, yet utterly brilliant. And what a perfect demonstration of what makes this game good: planning. Put in the time, and Valkyria Chronicles will reward you well. True, some of your shots can feel like they rely too much on luck to plan for (like missing a blow to the head at point blank range), but that doesn't happen enough to make the game any worse.

The only real downside to the gameplay's in the minutiae. On top of all the exciting battles, you also deal with some not-so-exciting bureaucracy. Things like leveling up soldiers, upgrading/managing their equipment, and taking advice from old guys who hang out in cemeteries. I imagine all these options are supposed to make you feel as though you're becoming more powerful as the campaign ramps up, but that doesn't really happen. Enemies die to about as much firepower at the start of the game as they do at the end, and you almost never get any new abilities from upgrading your guys. Since you can't see what your upgrades are doing, they just become needless busywork. And then there are all those special perks on each soldier to worry about. Great. Actually, that's the wrong tone. None of these ancillary features detract from the game, but they don't necessarily add a lot to it, either.

And that's Valkyria Chronicles. What the hell do I make of it? I just spent the last few paragraphs telling you how the gameplay manages to balance so much and how it puts the "tactical" in tactical RPG. But just before that, I railed against its fairy tale interpretation of severe human suffering and death. How do I reconcile such disparate stances? Simply put: I won't. I'll leave it up to you. You want gameplay? Get this game. You want story? Go play something else; maybe Little Inferno I don't know. I'm talking Valkyria Chronicles, here.

Review Synopsis

  • Hey, remember how Path of Radiance handled topics like race and war and genocide and all that other heady shit? Imagine if somebody else did it, but without as much pesky thought put into it.
  • Hey, remember how Path of Radiance had brilliantly balanced strategic gameplay? So does this game.
  • Hey, why's Tom from Toonami such an asshole?

It is a glorious madness. It cannot be understood, nor can it be misunderstood. It simply is.

And now we shift toward America's take on World War II: Medal of Honor. No, not the 2010 reboot that nobody remembers (hell, I confused it with Warfighter for the weapon controversy), but the 1999 one made by Dreamworks. Surprisingly, that explains everything that's wrong with this game. I mean, Dreamworks made Shrek shortly after this, which explains why Medal of Honor is so concerned with fantasy and grandeur. Dreamworks also makes movies, which explains why this game fails to deliver on any of that grandeur. Hell, the game doesn't even have decent gameplay to mitigate those problems. It just sucks.

A large part of that suckage comes from just how powerful the game makes you feel. Not on its own, mind you, but that certainly plays a part in why I don't like the game. Every single little aspect of this game is dedicated to making you feel awesome. That stuff about the Nazis and World War II? Just window dressing. (Window dressing that paints the Nazis as gleefully evil scum, but that's probably the least of this game's worries.) You start up the game, and already, somebody's telling you how awesome you are. Holy shit! I barely had to do anything, and already, I feel amazing. No time for that, though. You're on a mission to save the world from utter Nazi annihilation (annazilation?). And then again. And again. And again. That's pretty much what the whole story's like: a bunch of missions of the utmost importance. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Yet. All that weight does a good job getting you to play the game, since all your actions feel significant. Hopefully, the scenarios are challenging and exciting enough to justify the sense of importance the game places on you and all your actions.

What amazing historical accuracy. I never knew the Nazis occupied Anatolia. Or the British Isles. Or Soviet Russia.

They aren't. They aren't even remotely close to challenging or exciting. The game sets the lowest bar it possibly can, robbing your actions of any legitimate importance. For example, the enemies: they're all Nazis incredibly weak. Your character can take quite a bit of punishment, yet he can send Nazis flying back nine feet with a single bullet. Literally; they actually fly backward when you shoot them. They also only come out in very small numbers; usually one or two at a time. Just enough to pick 'em off as they come at you. So instead of anything like urgency or tension, Medal of Honor instead doles out mere targets for you to shoot down. I'd say that's quite some distance from what the more explicit narrative is preaching, but the gameplay's still close enough to tamper with it. I mean, it's kind of hard for the game to make you feel good about yourself when it doesn't offer a formidable opponent, isn't it? True, the game gets better about this later on as it throws more enemies your way. But alas, it isn't enough. The tone has already been set.

The levels themselves don't help matters. If anything, they only make things exactly the same. Much like the enemies, the levels themselves aren't that complicated. You get a few goals to accomplish, and they're all arranged in what is essentially a straight line. Complete them out of order, and there's a good chance you skipped one of them by accident. To be perfectly fair, it is rather convenient that the game telegraphs these things to me. At least under these conditions, I won't spend half my time wandering around in search of that one item I missed. (I mean, I still did that, but I couldn't really pin any of that on the game.) But again, it's these conditions that suck any sense of satisfaction out of the game. There's no challenge. The game's simply spoonfeeding me victory and then telling me I'm a great person because of it. It all creates this weird dissonance between what the game tells me is happening and what's actually happening as I play.

There were people here, but I shot them down for pretty much no reason. The snowman's fine, though, and isn't that all that truly matters?

Perfect example: there's this one level where you have to sink an enemy sub from within. That may sound simple, but there are actually several other things to worry about in order to sink the sub. My mission briefing even says I'm on a tight time limit. That may sound complicated, but everything I need to do is clustered into one small area. Plus, the briefing lied: there is no time limit, and even if there was, I doubt it'd be much of a problem when the exit is three feet away. So with enemies who only exist to die and levels that don't leave much to the imagination, I feel like any joy I derive from the game is unearned. What place do my own skills have in this world? Failure was never a viable option. I couldn't even bump up the difficulty in case I wanted feelings of legitimacy. (Or if I could, I never figured out how.) This was all the game was offering me.

If I had to say something positive about the game, I'd have to go with the visual design? As that question mark should indicate, this idea is difficult to explain. The levels feel like real places? I mean not in the act of playing them (again, they're little more than hallways), but in the act of experiencing them. There's a fair amount of detail in these areas. They often feel like living, breathing places, rather than just arenas for Nazi shootin'. That goes for the enemies, too; they feel like actual people. Not because they always respond to your presence with bullets, mind you, but in all the other ways. Despite only being able to survive two bullets, you're still going to see them near death quite a bit. They'll crawl around, stagger on their knees, generally behave like somebody who got shot in the chest. So, if nothing else, at least the game presents a believable world.

But, of course, that's not enough to redeem Medal of Honor. I mean, we still have to deal with the lack of challenge. I know that I've probably beaten this point quite deep into your skulls at this point, but it really is the one linchpin holding the game together (well, not holding it together, in this case). With all its praise of your various escapades, the story needs challenge for any of that praise to make any damn sense. Without that challenge, it feels like the game is selling itself short, telling you how great you are for the most minor of deeds. Maybe there's something worth digging into if you can power through the easier sections, but that's asking a lot out of the average player.

Review Synopsis

  • Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to kick some Nazi ass.
  • They have large asses, so they shouldn't be that hard to kick.
  • Also, do some other stuff, if you have the time.
  • Man, that Mission Impossible reference got weird fast.
31 Comments

The screenshot ballad of Heartbreakin' Hisao Nakai. Episode 4: Takin' it to Harlem.

Part the 一番目

← To Episode 3: Tears in the RainTo Episode 5: End of the Tropes→

And so we're back with the G-Man. How? Why? Who cares? Certainly not Hisao; he just wants to get this over with. In fact, he says as much to the Man's face. The G-Man's taken aback by Babyface's forwardness, but he takes it rather well. He only leaves Hisao with this before sending him on his way:

Prepare for unforeseen consequences.

Anyway, Hanako's route. What road do we take to get to Harlem? Pretty much the same as Lilly's. In fact, almost exactly the same as Lilly's. They're literally a choice apart, which I'll detail when we get to it. In the meantime, a couple of fun facts:

  • This is the only route in the game where Miki gets a speaking role. A little strange when you realize what little influence she has on the story (and how much more relevant she'd have been in Emi's route), but whatever. You take what you get.
  • So far, Hanako's route is the first one with three endings, at least in the "good/neutral/bad" sense. If I play my cards right, we'll only see the first two. Of course, I'm going to play them wrong. That's right: I am going for her bad ending first. I warn you now so you know why I feel like such a piece of shit later on. Anyway, let's take it to Harlem.
It's like she knows.
Step one on the road to Harlem: book it to the library.
"It's like there's more vomit each time I come back. How can she puke up so much of it and STILL be so drunk?"
How are you finding out about their night clubs just now?
"Makes me think of Emi."
.....How about we just skip right to the library?
But not without being an asshole to Hisao first!
Guess from who. And why.
Don't worry about Yuuko. She gets her revenge by putting them in spine-first.
Step two on the road to Harlem:
Gawk at her scars and make her feel extremely uncomfortable......Goddamn it.
Fine. Apologize to her. Just don't spend twelve pictures staring at her scars.
Somehow.
Don't you fucking do it.
*seething seething rage*
It was love at first sight.
And by "love", I of course mean "stress-induced fear".
"You cut her off at the stairs, you cut her off at the elevator, and I'll go in for the kill."
Yea, she "got this fit". Nothing else could have possibly happened.
"A few" meaning "enough times to draw a lifelike portrait of just her scars".
"Oh, you mean like a rabbit?" "What?" "....Nothing."
HANAKO IS CUTE IN ALL TIMELINES!
"You might want to cut that shit out."
"Because I don't think Hanako's having much fun. Shizune clearly is, but that's to be expected."
Take the hint.
Wrong hint, b-wait, didn't I already make this choice?
"Sorry for turning The Life of Pi into The Strife and Cry."
Normally, I'd add "by looking deep into their faces" or some such nonsense. Unfortunately, there's a good chance he'd actually do that.
Wait a minute, this IS the exact same scene. What the hell, game?
"There's nothing to worry about. I'm sure you'll get along well with him." [Naw, girl. You'd better ice this fool right here.]
Oh, fuck.
This kind of thing's easier when you don't talk to the victim.
Just in time. She almost ended this thread in the first update.
"BOOZE!"
And let's add THAT one to the list...
"I'm sure Shizune and Misha will keep y-"
"Aw, shit."
"I don't understand. I thought I dodged her this time."
[Told her to ice that fool.]
"And that's when I notice Emi."
This time, he's added finger motions to the mix.

Maybe a weak way to end the first update, but whatever. It's funny in my head, alright?

75 Comments

Finally. A blog as random as the games within it.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

That's right: I'm jumping ahead two episodes in the chronology. This has everything to do with this episode being the only free one. Not that my previous experience with the series should really matter, as we'll soon find out. While the first two were adventure games (a genre known for using items in very specific scenarios), this third installment is an RPG (a genre known for using items in very specific scenarios. Also, hitting.), and the change seems to have paid off. I mean, it's hard to say that without any context on the previous games, but this game in particular seems alright. It has a decent sense of humor, and the battle system is intuitive, fast-paced, and a lot of fun. Why does this sound familiar?

I guess that's why, to separate Penny Arcade from their previous outings, Zeboyd made sure this game's story wasn't very good. The story begins with me making the characters girls because I am never to be trusted. Normally, I'd begin with a brief synopsis of what the story's like, but, well, I don't understand what the hell the story's about. There's this guy trying to assemble a book, possibly of evil origin. Also, something about paintings and Tycho wants to end all existence or something? I've got no idea. The story introduces a lot of elements without explaining them or making them feel natural to the world, so you never have a good idea about what's going on. It's confusing, to say the least.

Not that this fact is ever relevant to anything.

It's poorly paced, to say some amount greater than the least. The second half of the story isn't necessary; it simply drags the game on longer than it should go. The characters have a simple goal (that I can't remember for reasons already explained), but they spend a lot of time pursuing minor diversions that don't contribute anything valuable. An alternate dimension here, a Star Trek parody there, etc. This doesn't add anything to the plot; it just needlessly bloats the game. In short, don't play On the Rain-Sli.....Don't play this game for the plot.

Instead, play the game for its sense of humor. If you're the right kind of person, that is, because the humor here isn't for everybody. A lot of it relies on just how random things can get, usually by combining two things that you don't normally find together and then drawing attention to how funny that is. It's a very fine line to walk, and I have to admit that the game falters from time to time. Many of the game's jokes come off as annoying and obvious, the shoehorned cultural references especially so. But for as many times as it blunders its way to a punchline, it's absolutely amazing just as many times. It's like the writing is detached from what it depicts; like it's completely aware of how stupid it can be, and it has no problems pointing out this stupidity. That approach doesn't always work, mind you, but there's enough thought and attention to most of the humor that in the end, I came to like it.

This is all she ever says. One of the writers (and one of the artists (and one of the programmers)) dedicated time and space to this mediocre joke.

That not doing it for you, huh? Fine. How about we talk about the gameplay, for once? Like every other Zeboyd game in existence, Game With Obscenely Long Title is an RPG mocking old school RPGs. For some reason, though, it never mocks the fact that you have no choice but to walk down bottlenecked corridors and actively engage people in conflict until you've beaten them to death. I'm assuming that's because the game's relying on the strength of its battle system, which, yea, I'll give it points for. Battles unfold a la Final Fantasy X: everybody's turn is queued up in a little line at the top of the screen, and winning each battle rests largely on you understanding and getting on top of who acts when. It's actually a lot easier to understand than I make it appear, but there's still a level of skill involved in it. Each battle has their own rhythm and flow as you figure out the right moves for each situation, and since each battle lasts about a minute, tops, you don't have to invest a lot into the game to get something out of it.

The real fun, though, lies in the class system. It allows you to mix and match all kinds of abilities and skills for all sorts of intricate strategies. Let's consider three classes as an example: Dinosorcerer, Diva, and literally anything else. The Dinosorcerer can transform into any dinosaur they damn well please. That should be enough to sell you on the game, but humor me. The Diva's only real purpose is to mess up your allies. That may sound like a bad thing, but one of the Diva's moves lets you drain MP, and a dinosaur'd ally can't really use that MP. This is where the classes begin to interlock. Dinosorcerer becomes a dinosaur, steamrolls some enemies, and the Diva sucks up the useless MP to use for their literally anything else. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Presumably. Unfortunately, I was far too lazy to mess around with a lot of the classes (or at least take note of the ones I did mess around with), so this could be the only good part of the game's class system. I'm pretty sure it isn't, though.

I'd say that's enough for me to recommend the game, but on second thought, I'm a tad more trepidatious around such a recommendation. On the one hand, you have a visceral battle system and a class system that encourages experimenting and strategy. On the other hand, you have randumb humor and a story that more concerned with shiny distractions than it is with actually making sense. So where's I'm Never Typing the Full Title land in terms of quality? Personally, I'll settle on it being a good game if you play it in short bursts. Those are the best conditions for the quick battles and the apropos-of-nothing sense of humor. I mean, what's the alternative? Play it for longer, more concentrated sessions? If you do that, then you're subjecting yourself to a dreary and monotonous experience, and you don't need to suffer through that. Besides, the game isn't terribly long, so you'd better play it in short bursts if you hope to get the most out of the nothing you might have spent.

Review Synopsis

  • I can haz cohesive storee? (Is probably one of the jokes in this game.)
  • To give the game credit, hoboism is pretty damn funny.
  • And inflicting it on some hapless foe is just as fun.

Just what I wanted out of SpongeBob: for Mario to burst in and kill everything about it.

That's right: I'm jumping ahead two games in the chronology. Unlike last time, though, this jump's simply because I forgot about the other two games. But can you blame me? I doubt the other two games are anything special, at least if this one's anything to go by. This game is just so completely and utterly average. It doesn't do anything wrong, but it doesn't do anything right, either. It simply plays things safe, only offering you the most basic of concepts to deal with. I don't know if I should feel elation or dread.

Probably nothing, because that's exactly how the story makes me feel. Like the rest of the game, it starts off inoffensively enough. One kid shows a rare dinosaur bone to his friends, but then another kid accidentally breaks it. How can we continue our lives in light of such a horrible tragedy? Worry not, for Doraemon's here to save the day. He's the cat with a wand of forgetting, a watch that can change a person's mood, a doll that can assume another person's identity, a time travel object of some kind, and everything else a budding rapist needs. He's going to use one of those tools to fetch a duplicate bone and make everything all better. So far, so good. (Ignoring the rape.) Somehow, this ends with Doraemon trying to stop The Joker (actually The Tick) from taking over all of history. How sudden and strange.

How this game avoided an AO rating....wait, this is a Japanese game. That explains it.

Except not at all. In spite of the mafia's time crimes, the stakes remain rather low throughout the story. I mean, for at least half the story, the bad guy doesn't take any real steps to annihilate you, or if he does, you don't feel that he does. To call it "relaxing" would be inaccurate. "Doldrum" would be more accurate, and Doraemon's sense of humor only supports this notion. Nowhere will you find anything as raunchy as my earlier rapist joke. At best, you'll get whatever the hell this is supposed to be. Other than that, prepare for funnish comedy. Not funny, but funnish. All the humor's relatively clean, the scenarios are non-threatening, and the story leaves little if any lasting impact.

Playing the game, on the other hand, leaves about the same level of lasting impact. A large....actually, that's entirely because of how simple the game is. For example: the levels. You get an elevated piece of land to jump on, some baddies to beat up, maybe a boss with easily predicted patterns, and nothing else. Oh, and maybe a trip to the city every now and again, but given how much those suck (it's mainly a framing issue), I think it's best that we just ignore them. That way, we're left with nothing but safe, elementary level design. Nothing to challenge you; nothing to engage you; nothing to motivate you to play through the game for something that resembles enjoyment. Just nondescript gameplay to occupy your time. That's it, really.

Shizuka's never been a big fan of Mega Man X. It only reminds her that she could be in considerably better games than this.

Really, the game's only noteworthy aspect is the character switching mechanic. Throughout your time-hopping escapades, you'll encounter some new playable characters from time to time. Of course, there' s Doraemon himself to fuck about with, but you also get a fat guy who murders things with the power of song, a small child who murders things with what I have to assume are burps, and a couple of other characters who murder things. Maybe they use sound, too. Who the hell knows? That's what makes the game so fun. Everybody has their own little quirk about them, like the way they move or how high they can jump or what their attacks do. Finding out how each character behaves and how you should adapt your play style to them is part of why Doraemon's as enjoyable as it The only character I didn't like was Nobita. He's the one with the glasses and the snot. He's also the one with the slowest speed, shortest attack range, and least useful ability in the game. Other than him, though, the character switching mechanic gets the job done.

Man, if there's a better way to describe this game than "gets the job done", then there probably is. It feels like Doraemon sets a low bar for the player. It doesn't want to do anything that might scare players away, so it highlights everything the player needs to know about and only gives them so much to work with at any given time. It's patronizing, in a way. Yes, I realize this is a kid's game, but that's no excuse. You can make a good game for a wide audience and still engage them in worthwhile and exciting ways. Hell, I imagine people would kill for such an experience. But such an experience Doraemon is not. Instead, it's flat, unassuming, and average. In summation, I knew I should've done Yatterman.

Review Synopsis

  • It's like Peabody and Sherman if anybody had any clue what the hell I was talking about.
  • All the simplicity of "slide slide jump jump" without any of the urgency.
  • And a girl who can fly with her head. Not sure what to make of that.

Oh, fine. For old time's sake.

19 Comments

A pair of lumbering, undead monstrosities.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Look at that: a game that you might actually know something about, for once! If you don't, here's all you need to know: lots of people credit Tokimeki Memorial with launching the dating sim genre. That's right: Japanese developers the Japan over looked at Tokimeki Memorial and thought to themselves, "Man, I could definitely make a better game than that." I know that sounds obvious in the wake of any successful video game, but Tokimeki Memorial really does leave a lot of room for improvement.

Of course, for there to be room for improvement, there has to be some initial promise of quality, which Tokimeki Memorial readily provides. There are a lot of memorable girls roaming the halls of Tokimeki High, and the premise encourages you to get to know them in greater detail. But alas, this promise remains unfulfilled. Despite the game's length, you never come to know any of the girls past your initial impressions of them. It's almost like Tokimeki Memorial has this really good idea, but doesn't quite know what to do with it. It's disappointing. Nothing more.

I swear that this isn't a porn game.

Except for the billions of words I'm going to list here. For instance, the characters! You're going to meet so many of them. Only counting the ones with breasts, there's a character who speaks English at random intervals, a character who's all poops and smiles, a character who's practicing rather hard for a spot on the Space Channel Five news team, a character who has no problems dissecting your brain, and oh so many more. As I hope I made clear, they're all just bristling with personality, inviting you to hear their stories. Or something like that. Everybody emotes, too, and while their range of emotions is indeed limited, it's more than enough to make them feel like living, breathing people. I can't wait to get to know them better.

Too bad that never really happens. Seems strange, doesn't it? I mean, you go out on dates with these girls quite frequently over the course of the game. Just what the hell are you doing during those dates? You select some place to date, usually arrive there late, she asks a question, you respond, and then the date's pretty much over. If that doesn't sound conducive toward building personality or relationships, that's only because it isn't. You don't have to know much about these girls to make them happy on a date. Maybe one of their interests or what an asshole might say (this is easier to figure out than you'd think), but that's about it. True, there are opportunities to better familiarize yourself with whomever you happen to be dating. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to access said opportunities. They seem to trigger under specific conditions that don't make themselves apparent, or may very well be random. Until you meet those conditions....well, I hope you like first impressions, because you're not going any deeper.

In case you guys were wondering which girl I ended up romancing, it was a girl I never once revealed in the thread. (Then again, there's very little chance this was ever the case.)

The actual mechanics of play don't make things any better. If anything, they make things worse. For instance, let's consider dating strategies. You meet a girl and you're attracted to her personally. You decide that you'd like to start seeing her more often and now you've made a very big mistake. You didn't think about the other girls, did you? See, they're all vindictive bitches, and if you don't pay them any attention, they're gonna spread rumors that you've been beating them. And the love of your life will believe every last one. I am not making any of that up, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. If you want to win a girl's heart, you're gonna have to date around, even if that goes against the spirit of the game. If you're dating so many women at once, doesn't that make it more difficult to form a lasting relationship with any one of them? Wouldn't you end up with only the barest idea of what these women are like? It's like the game's encouraging me to view the girls as mere objects. I'm dating them more to make myself happy rather than to form some greater emotional bond or obtain something longer lasting out of the experience.

At this point, I'm tempted to talk about how the statistic management feeds into all this. However, I feel I've made my point. (Besides, it'd only make the same point from an easier to justify perspective.) In the end, Tokimeki Memorial's ultimately focused on being a video game, which is the wrongest choice possible to make in this specific context. As an experience, Tokimeki Memorial should be about meeting a girl and forging a strong emotional bond between the two of you. As a game, it's about jumping from girl to girl, fawning over the cold numbers, and maintaining emotional distance. But that doesn't make the game callous; just the result of misguided efforts. I mean, you could always do worse. You could always be Princess Maker.

Oh, and there's also some weird-ass RPG mini-game that sometimes pops up for absolutely no reason. You can probably ascertain why I didn't mention it in the blog.

Review Synopsis

You know you've wanted to see it. Even if you didn't, you knew.

What's the opposite of a healthy romantic relationship? That's right: zombie vampires! I know that I've covered this game before, but in between stuff like Star Wars and Wonder Momo, I needed at least some promise of quality, and Legacy of Kain delivers on that promise. Sure, the combat might err a bit close to the simple side, but everything else about the game's really good. You've got a wonderfully told story, (somewhat) thoughtfully planned puzzles and did I mention zombie vampires?

Let's start with the story, since it's the fastest way to get to the zombie vampires. Hell, that's how the story begins. In walks Raziel, a vampire lieutenant who looks like an emo version of the new Dante. Unfortunately, Kain's a fan of the older games, and he expresses his opinion by casting Raziel into the Lake of the Dead for thousands of years. Now Raziel's off on a quest for revenge amidst the ruins of Nosgoth, unraveling the mysteries and conspiracies regarding the world's decline. Don't expect me to hold much of an opinion on those mysteries, though. All I can say is the plot's very well structured and the ending sucks its fair amount of ass. Unlike the dialogue. The dialogue sucks minimal amounts of ass. Everybody speaks as though they're in a Shakespearean play, bandying about soliloquies and dialogues with the heft of a titan. As I hope that demonstrated, the writing is carefully tended to and lends a lot of weight and importance to what's happening in the story. It's like playing a stage production, only you have glaucoma.

What the hell happened to Raziel? Isn't he supposed to be blue instead of brownish-orange?

Surprisingly, that's not Soul Reaver's greatest strength. No, that honor belongs to the world. It's amazing how much craft (and grey and brown and blue/green) has gone into creating this world. Nosgoth is utterly decrepit; barely clinging to life. Vampires have infested every last crevice they could find, and they mirror the world's feral degradation all too well. Even Raziel himself moves about the world like a scavenger feeding off whatever scraps he may. Only the mere impressions of an age long dead remain. And this one guy with a flamethrower, for some reason. I don't have much of a clue what he's doing there. But other than that, the world design's amazing. It does a fantastic job of drawing you in and making you want to see just what the hell happened to this place. Clearly, a lot of craft went into creating Soul Reaver's world.

The only real problem I have is actually exploring said world, surprisingly enough. You'd think that such a well-designed world would give you decent motivation to comb through it, but alas, that is not the case. You're only going to find weapon upgrades that you never really need and some health upgrades you could do without. Not exactly the greatest motivation to dig through the ruins. But even if it was, the game doesn't make exploration terribly easy. That grey/brown aesthetic might connote death really well, but it also makes everything look exactly the same. All of Nosgoth is but a labyrinth, and not in a good way. Jumping's also a hassle. Raziel has such a crippling fear of heights that he'll launch himself off platforms as soon as he's on them, which isn't the best of traits to have in a world with as many platforms as this one. I'd say that Soul Reaver's appeal lies more in the sights it offers rather than in actually exploring those sights, but exploring the world is what gives it the sense of death and emptiness that makes it so damn good. This is quite the conundrum.

"Tell me, you wretched monster: what long-standing feud with Princess Tomato has wrenched such vile calumny from your lascivious lips?"

And then you have the block puzzles. They're....weird. I don't exactly like them, but I can't place why. It's not for a lack of challenge. While none of the puzzles stumped me for too long, they still require a good deal of thinking. Some of them even require very careful attention to detail. Light shining through a window, precise environmental layouts, stuff like that. And it's not something to do with their place in the world, either. I mean, the developers clearly tried working them into the world. Most of the time, you're restoring frescoes or reassembling pipework, both of which somehow unlock a nearby door. I guess that's the core problem I have: no matter how much effort the developers put into working these block puzzles into the world, they simply don't fit. (Pun not intended.) Giant cubes simply announce their presence in a way that nothing else in the game matches. This isn't as bad as Tokimeki Memorial was above; the block puzzles don't contradict anything the game's trying to achieve. I guess they just add another layer of ridiculo-OH, wait, now I remember. The game has you fight enemies while you're working on these puzzles, almost like it's punishing you for solving these puzzles at a regular pace. Real dick move, Soul Reaver.

Which brings me rather nicely to the combat. Remember how the block puzzles are fun to solve, but don't entirely fit with the world? If you don't, then your short term memory must be completely and utterly fried. But my point was that the combat's exactly the opposite: it has a lot of story value, but isn't terribly fun to play through. Let's start with that first one. What are you fighting in Soul Reaver? Feral vampires, basically. They show absolutely no signs of intelligence or humanity; they lash out at you because of their animal instincts. Not that you're much better. You have to eat to survive the dangers that face you, and if that means tearing a dude's face off, so be it. Combat is something to be dealt with rather than something to be anticipated with glee. Still, it adds volumes to the game. It really brings to life the sense that the world is only barely clinging to life.

Game-wise, though? Things aren't looking so well. You can only dig your claws into an enemy in so many ways, so every encounter comes to feel very similar. You whack a vampire about a couple times and then impale them on the nearest pointy object. Repeat until monotony ensues, and then repeat a bunch more times for good measure. The fights against your vampire brothers aren't much better. Most of them amount to little more than "do this thing", maybe with a side of "get sent to the spectral plane because you didn't do this thing". Doesn't make a lot of sense when the story revolves around these guys, does it?...............You know what? I'm ending the blog there. By now, you should have a good idea what I think of this game. Besides, the abrupt ending here should prepare you for the abrupt ending in the game.

Review Synopsis

  • To be or not to be a zombie vampire; that is no question.
  • I think I made a Fragile Dreams reference back in the original blog from two years ago. It still stands.
  • And then there are some block puzzles and combat to deal with.
  • As long as I'm ending things with Adventure Time references...

9 Comments

A Song of Ice and Fire (That's Completely Unaffiliated with Anything Game of Thrones).

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

You ever play a video game and feel like a total piece of shit afterward? No, I didn't confuse this game with Spec Ops: The Line (which I really should get around to playing). I'm honestly saying I feel like shit after finishing Little Inferno. I spent the entire game depriving other people of their joy and brought the world around me closer to annihilation. And for what? To bring a fleeting amount of joy to my pathetic, lonely existence? When I finally saw those credits roll, I felt like an awful person. And that's what makes the game so damn good.

It all begins with a relatively simple premise. Here's a fireplace; have fun burning shit. Hell, you even get paid to burn things, just so you can buy more things to burn. At first, all of this feels rather gratifying. There's just this primal joy to be had, watching things slowly fade into ash. Maybe it's the setting. All you ever really see in this game is cold, unfeeling brick. Starting a fire, as psychotic as it sounds, is the only thing that brings even the smallest, most fleeting glimpse of light and warmth.

Of course, there are always memories I'd be happy burning away.

Whatever the reason, it isn't going to last. Primal joy soon gives way to tedium as you soon realize how repetitive your actions are. Remember that little tidbit about being paid for your "work"? Well, that's the entire experience: you buy things to burn to buy things to burn to buy thing to b-and it goes on like that for a while. You're essentially trapped in digital samsara, bringing things into this world so that they might die, only for the process to repeat ad infinitum.

And then the story context makes things so much worse. Even though you spend most of the game looking at a fireplace that's completely removed from the outside world, Little Inferno's more than happy to send you newsletters to keep you updated on current world affairs. Turns out the Earth's covered in smog, trapped in eternal winter, and you're to blame for this. Well, not entirely; you're not the only one lighting fires to entertain yourself. But it's difficult escaping my role in what's going on. Oh, sure, my limited view of the world and the letter's flammability certainly encourage ignorance, but ignorance isn't an excuse. The game is telling me in unambiguous terms that my actions are destroying the world. Yet I continue to do it. Hell, I could've simply shut off the game at any time, and I'd no longer be an active participant in the world's destruction. But I continued, anyway. For what? Some fleeting moment of joy I knew couldn't last? That would ultimately deprive somebody else of perhaps even greater joy?

Despite a planet so vast...and populated by countless number of people...Why is it that I'm so alone?...Oh, well. More tinder for the fire.

In fact, let's explore that last idea some more. What is it that I'm burning? Used credit cards, discarded family photos, letters that people have sent you, children's toys, are you starting to see a pattern here, yet? All of these items have a personal history to them. Somebody out there valued this item and attached some personal meaning to it. Now, you're just feeding it to the pyre. Even if the item in question doesn't have any sort of past attached to it, I'm still ultimately denying other people things that they have more of a right to than I could ever claim. I'm sure there's some kid out there who needs that toy more than you do. In fact, there's almost definitely somebody out there who could use that medication more than you do. But I still bought it all, specifically knowing that all I could do was destroy it and be paid for the privilege, whore that I am.

The worst part of it all, though? This one particular moment toward the end of the game. I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but there's this girl who writes to you throughout the game. You can't write back to her, but you can send her gifts every now and then. She's your only personal contact for 90% of the game. Fast forward to the tail end of that 90%, and now she's asking you to send her all the items you sent her over the course of the game. All four items. I couldn't remember them. Oh, believe me, I tried. I desperately tried to remember the only contact we made with each other, but it was a fruitless endeavor. I could only remember one, maybe two items correctly. One of those items was the most recent one I sent. In a three hour experience. Way to trip over a low bar, me. I took so long trying to dig up lost memories that she had to send me a letter explicitly telling me what I'd sent her. Do you understand how awful that experience made me feel? I had spent so much time trapped within my own limited, ultimately selfish perspective that I'd completely forgotten about other people. The fire had wiped away more than my possessions. It wiped away my memory.

That's enough needless melodrama for one blog, now, isn't it?

Gameplay? What the hell's there to discuss about gameplay? The closest you come to any challenge in the game is in figuring out what two items you have to burn to fulfill a combo. Some of them are difficult, but most don't require a lot of brain power. But that's not what Little Inferno is about. It's about watching the world burn away to nothing, all because that's what gets you off. Who cares about exploitation, or about a cycle that can only end with destruction? It's just you, me, and the cubes.........no idea why I made that reference, but alright.

Review Synopsis

  • What could be more fun than watching things crumble into ash?
  • Maybe stopping to think about all the horror associated with that sentence?
  • The story doesn't help too much, either.

And now for something completely out of date.

........You ever try to come up with an introduction for one of your blogs, only to feel two horrific monsters burn their gaze into your very life essence?......Anyway, Snow Bros. Like Little Inferno, it's a very simple game based around a very simple concept. But unlike Little Inferno, you're smothering things in snow instead of lighting them ablaze. Also unlike Little Inferno, Snow Bros. lacks a deeply depressing core. Instead, it's just that one gameplay mechanic. You get to fuck around with that for fifty levels, the game ends, and you feel as though your time has been occupied.

I'm really not kidding: covering things in snow is really as there is to Snow Bros. You lob snow at an enemy, turn them into a snowball, smash them against the nearest wall or floor, and then repeat for a large number of enemies over a smaller number of stages. Sound simple? It almost is. Turning enemies into snowballs is rather easy, but rolling them down a hill isn't as self explanatory. You have to hurl snow at their corpses while you're pushing them. I guess you can't let them die without taunting them one last time. As if I didn't have enough reasons to hate those two....things that the game considers protagonists. Other than that, though, Snow Bros. is good for what it is. Despite its simple nature, Snow Bros. is gonna make you think. Not very hard, mind you, but you still have to put some consideration into how to kill all the enemies on screen at the same time. It's all mildly fun and you get decent enough thrills from completing a level. Overall, this game knows how to dole out the instant gratification.

"Try having kids NOW, King Scorch!"

Hmmm....Instant gratification. Let's explore that idea, shall we? Does instant gratification make Snow Bros. an exploitative game? I mean, have you seen how I've described the playing the game thus far? "Mildly" and "decent enough" don't exactly connote the highest quality. They connote an utterly detached experience that I couldn't care less about. Clearly, the gameplay hasn't held my attention. Instead, that responsibility falls on the bright visuals, the simplistic melodies, and the cheap thrill of solving a very basic puzzle. Snow Bros. doesn't want to engage your skills and abilities; it wants to hold your attention for as long as it can.

To what end? I have no idea. Keep in mind that this is a really short game. There are only fifty levels, and I'd be hard-pressed to find one that's longer than fifty seconds. That comes out to......some number higher than fifty seconds of gameplay. That's not a lot of time for the game to accomplish much of anything. So Snow Bros. isn't necessarily benevolent; just incompetent. But after some careful consideration, is that necessarily a bad thing? The game's still offering you some enjoyable puzzle action. Who cares if it parcels out said action like crystal meth? If you're willing to overlook Snow Bros' more exploitative trappings, then it might be right up your alley. Don't think about it too hard, though. I think I've demonstrated why.

Review Synopsis

  • What's not to like about pushing enemies down small inclines and watching them die a horrible death?
  • Besides the game exploiting the sense of joy that scenario creates?
  • Oh, and something about the flame king turning people into snow. Should've mentioned that.
Start the Conversation