Natsumi, Hentai Girls are Afraid of the Dark

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Don’t let my title mislead you, this game is not an erotic horror or anything.  As far as I’ve gotten in the game, the main character it features is a scantily-clad anime character and the title’s namesake: Natsumi.  I was unable to get very far in this game, so my perception may be a little skewed.  I also got over anime and hentai girls in high school… neither are really my bag.  I have a hard time identifying with this type of animation since I grew up with a totally different form of cartoon.  Anime is an acquired taste, which I never gave time enough to acquire.

All that aside, this is a pretty spooky game.  Don’t play this shit in the dark, either, or you will shit the bed.  Literally.  I was playing the game in a well-lit room, granted it was well after sunset, but the room was well-lit.  It still gave me a start every time I failed in the first sequence.  This is as far as I got, too.  This game is difficult, sure, but to me it felt unfair.  See, in the game it is dark and your little hentai girl has a head lamp.  For unexplained reasons (it’s horror.. enigma = uncertainty and uncertainty leads to fear) you character has to walk around in the dark finding notes.  Every note you find looks like a pair of eyes with blood dribbling down the cheeks.

They look just like the unifying element between a lot of these pictures...

They look just like the unifying element between a lot of these pictures…

Now, the ambiance is great.  It’s dark, it’s raining, they employed the standardized film grain… my biggest issue is with the controls and the lack of explanation.  You have to find these notes, sure, but the camera seems to want to stay in a location so that you can only see just in front of you, forcing poor Natsumi to get close enough to dry-hump whatever she is looking.  Finding the notes is frustrating enough, but finding them in time is even more irritating.  At the start the game says “find the 5 notes to survive,” but what they don’t tell you is that there is some spooky eye-less stalker out looking for you; the worst part is the intermittent nature of this guy’s appearance.  I’ve played this numerous times, each time this guy found me before I found all the notes.  I know exactly where 4 of them are, but getting between them is aggravatingly impossible.  This guy doesn’t show up at the same time every time, either.  Some times he takes longer, sometimes he jumps on you out of the gate, but he always shows up.  I was getting tired of jump scares, so I had to put it down.

Wait! Kissing bikini babes!?! When did I miss.... I mean, I am so over this hentai stuff... *zip*

Wait! Kissing bikini babes!?! When did I miss…. I mean, I am so over this hentai stuff… *zip*

I am sure this game has a lot to offer, but I was really unable to get past the very beginning.  There are also three buttons in this game for camera controls: one that puts you in the standard short-sighted view, one that drifts in front of Natsumi thematically and another that seems to also look at Natsumi from behind.. but these closer modes are just for experiencing the fear.  At least that is what I could tell.  Henry Sorren hasn’t let me down yet, but this title mostly confused the fuck out of me.  Somebody please play it and explain it to me…  You can get this game off of the app store for only 0.99$, just like all the other Pulp Horror Games.  Here is their tumblr. They also have a facebook.  They have a lot of great games, but I just didn’t get into this one.  It scared the poop out of me, but I couldn’t really get into it.

Efec and Death, Weird Like This is Tough to Find

Henry Sorren, I am finding, is a guy that created a lot of weird things.  This game is one of them.  There is much in this game that didn’t make sense to me, and I got the feeling that is the way it was meant to be.  Each of the Pulp Horror Games has a feel and tone of its own, and this one is just bizarre.  It is very creepy, and I feel like with headphones on in the dark, I would only have completed this game in pieces.  As it stands, I haven’t completed this one, but it has a haunting spookiness.

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Awful lot of birds…

Efec is you character and he is a vampire.  He has, apparently, been asleep for a very long time, so long that he wakes up and there is a pool on top of him.  Whatever, he doesn’t make any mention of it, Efec seems more focused on this hooded figure.  What does the figure want?  Well, this guy tells Efec that death has been hard on the town, and that Efec is their only hope.  He has to go find and kill death.  Efec responds, sure!  Right after I get something to eat!  Makes sense.  If I was locked in some ancient enchantment for years on end, I would likely want something to eat upon waking.

So Efec wanders out into town to find: absolutely fucking nobody.  Seriously, he says “nobody is in town.”  For half a minute I thought there would be a guy sitting there like “my name’s nobody,” but yea, I guess they all just fucking died.  The really eerie thing about this world isn’t the distinctly heavy side of the building to people ratio, but the ambiance of the world.  It has the same film grain that other Pulp Horror titles seem to possess, but this one has Ave Maria playing the entire time.  And it plays like it is coming out of some dusty old victrola in a haunted attic.

...yea seriously, cause I need blood.  Can I directions to the nearest blood bank?

…yea seriously, cause I need blood. Can I get directions to the nearest blood bank?

After wandering through the town like a groggy anemic, you come to a forest.  In this forest is a well, a house – which gives Efec a ‘bad feeling – and a giant, shrieking spider.  Approaching the spider reveals that someone stole its keys and that its kids are in danger.  Whatever, man, just shut the fuck up.  I will help you get free if you’ll only shut the fuck up!!!  Wandering around, you eventually find the keys.  This is a big relief since you have, like, zero visibility out there.  Of course, you get to repeat the process as you wander through the spider caves.  It feels like there is more distance to cover, all of it in pitch darkness.  At times I found myself using walls to guide myself only to realize that I was walking into walls after a while.  There are a number of doors with hidden keys to find and it is hard as shit; so, with the profound lack of visibility, I was unable to get past the spider caves.  This game is creepy as hell, and fits October perfectly.  Play it through at some point, I promise it will give you the jitters.  This title is another artistic piece by the Pulp Horror Games crew, and it costs only 0.99$ on itunes.  Check it out at risk of your own sanity!

Shadow Protocol, Super-Techno Euro Spy

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I am generally not a fan of mobile games, but some devs have really been killing it lately.  Seriously.  First I discovered Henry Sorren and his horror series, then there is Goodnight Games and this remarkably sweet piece of iOS entertainment.  I grew up playing games where stealth was a challenge and not a super-power, and this game just feeds that sense of profoundly badass precision tempered with a tension I rarely see anymore.  Come disappear into the shadows for a while.  I promise you’ll enjoy it.

In this iOS title you play a member of M.O.T.H., a super-secret organization so shrouded in mystery, not even the game explains what it stands for.  You are a covert operative trained to get in, get the intel and GTFO before the bulldogs catch on to your presence.  In this, as with many other stealth-based games, a main focus of the game is the gear.  Primary among your kit is that black alien suit you are wearing.  It allows you to melt into the shadows, avoid detection and be generally ninja-like.  When you are in the shadows, you are completely invisible and the music reflects this by going all enigmatic.

Another important piece of gear is the hacking device, and it’s what you use to obtain the most important plot-progressing pieces of the game.  Throughout the game there will be terminals to hack, which will give you pieces of intel – usually objectives – and can also grant you access keys to doors.  These doors will be a bland white color.  Other doors seem to have been purchased from the 90’s era FPS games, as they are activated by keys matching the color of the doors themselves.  I didn’t have an issue with this at all; in fact, I found the keys an endearing element of the game, lending a nod to older games and utilizing the game’s isometric view to the best of its coded capacity.

Be a spooky shadow-ninja

Be a spooky shadow-ninja

Another piece of gear is the smoke bombs, which you will use to get past certain types of guards.  Generally, you can avoid the patrolling guards by staying out of sight until they pass then dodging past them toward your goals.  Cameras are pretty easy to avoid just by going into the shadows.  You can even move around in the shadows, you won’t appear on the camera at all.  I guess the villains were too cheap to afford motion-sensors.  Better to waste the funds on stupid muscle.  That always works out well. The last type of guard is a little something of a dick.  This guy sits in one place, usually guarding a door-key.  To move these jerks, throw a smoke bomb and slip past them, getting the key and gaining access.

Guards can be a little easy to get past at times, providing little more than a momentary obstacle, but they all have little surprises here and there.  The patrolling guards will look to the sides, rather than just in front, finding you just around that corner you thought you were safe beside.  Some of the guards go outside the methods you trained them on, so stay on your toes.  There is no telling where the next guy will be and how resourceful you’ll need to be to get past him.  It can be aggravating at times, but for fans of challenging stealth it is worth the play.

Of course, not every situation permits passive avoidance, and there are situations in this game that warrant a more proactive approach.  Before you Assassin’s Creed nuts start going all Altair on these guys, you have no lethal weapons in your arsenal.  All you have is a whip and a taser.  The whip has a slight chance of render enemies unconscious for a second, but there is also the chance that they might just come running after you; since the latter option is far more likely, you won’t be using this much.  Some guards will only move if you try using this thing, so it becomes a necessity in some levels.  The taser is the most proactive item you have, and this disables your enemies long enough for you to get away… so about 3 fucking seconds.  Using the whip will only disable enemies for 1 second.

...because guards are among the most intellectually superior creatures on the planet, right?

…because guards are among the most intellectually superior creatures on the planet, right?

The controls are pretty intuitive, though they can be frustrating at times.  You move via the touch-screen joystick that many iOS games use, and I have had many a time where I was playing too fast and I went the wrong way… in front of a camera.  Items are deployed by hitting the corresponding button on the menu at the right side of the screen.  Most of the items you just tap once and they’re used, but the hacking tool has to be held while a bar fills, hacking the terminal.  This can be infuriating as sometimes you have to do this before the guard gets back from staring at the wall for a few seconds, other times before a camera moves painfully slow into view.

The art and sound of this game surprised me, and were amazingly superior for an iOS game.  It looks and plays like a lost SNES title with art that is fitting and very enjoyable.  Characters walk and move smoothly and scenery is good.  Sound is enjoyable and helps to create the necessary tension that a game like this desires.  Everything comes together here to create a fun and interesting play, and it has a story that is frankly too good for the standard mobile fare. Add to that the fact that this game is a fucking challenge?  Yea, it’s a good play, for sure.  Seriously, though, the game goes from a pretty moderate walk in the park to “Oh my fucking god how did I even clear that goddamn level?!?!” in a few short (ish) levels.  All this, and the game itself is only 0.99$ on iTunes and the App Store.  I recommend this for iPad, but it is likely still very playable on other idevices.  Want to watch the trailer?  Here you go.

Lights Off, Good Old-Fashioned Horror

In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d bring out some horror games I’ve been meaning to review for some time now.  When you think of an iOS game, you don’t tend to think of horror, though.  Hell, most games you download through the app store have something to do with angry, flappy birds, smashing candy or playing with your jewels, but it seems that some people are opening up their minds a little.  Some developers are trying out something new with these media and seeing just how well they can excel.  In the case of Lights Off, they’ve created horror and made it even more personal.

LO_car

Some of the main things that stand out with this game.  When you start there is a rudimentary story presented, enough to get you into the game but little enough that you feel less than secure about what’s happening.  In Lights Off the main character says he got into a fight with his father, took his keys then left the house.  He then needs to remember where he left his tent since he needs to get out of town for a while.  Maybe it’s just me, but it really does seem like he’s implying the argument got really bad.  Perhaps he’s murdered his father?  I mean, I have had plenty of arguments with my mom, my dad my brothers occasionally my wife, but I have never had to leave town to sleep in a tent, which I keep in an alleyway, to spend the night in a “place where no one could find me.”  Yep.  Maybe it’s not just me.

While you are sleeping in the woods, you are awakened in the night by glowing red eyes.  This makes you wander around at night with a dying flashlight, trying to find a house that some disembodied voice mentioned in passing.  After stumbling around in the dark for what feels like ages, you find your way to the back of a house.  Inside you meet this big, black spooky being that reveals some things about you.  Like, for instance, you are a man.  No really, I had only a few indications to this, but up until I saw a photograph of the character, I was undecided about his sex.  The problem is that in the beginning sequence, when you search for the tent, the sound of the shoes on the ground sounds, to me, a lot like high heels.

LO_town

Later, when you are in the house, your character breathes so heavy, I thought he might need an inhaler.. or he might have just turned into a zombie.  Either one is a viable response.  But his breathing has a bass resonance that seems to sound like a man.  Originally, I was so confident that the main character was a woman that I was getting ready to talk about how I was glad to have a female protagonist.  Considering the implication of murdering the father, women usually have way more twisted motivations for killing their fathers than men do.

LO_parcel

Another issue I had with the game is actually just a double-edged sword.  This game has a fantastic ambiance, and it even suggests you play this in the dark with headphones on.  I wouldn’t recommend it since that might have scared the piss out of me during my playthrough.  One of the ways the game achieves its ambiance is through the liberal use of film grain.  It grants the game a gritty and chaotic feeling that you just don’t get with clean graphics.  It works great, until it becomes so prolific that you feel like you are wearing really really dirty glasses.  At a couple points the film grain got so bad that I had no idea where I was or what I was doing, and I even missed a couple of little scares because of it.  It was like “man I can’t see shit! O, that was supposed to scare me! Ahh ahh….. dammit..”  In earlier levels, the game also has a small area of vision within your screen due to the fact you are using a flashlight, which is really effective and creepy.  This worked out well.

The controls are one thing that I really have to applaud because you never see them.  The left side of the screen lets you walk by sliding your finger around and the other side lets you change what you are looking at by sliding your thumb around.  It is like having two joysticks you can see through to the game itself.  Well-orchestrated and it really did help me get even more into the game.  All this alongside the fact that the graphics were pretty good for an iPad app, and I would say that this is totally worth your time to check out.  Not to mention, this game is free on the app store.  Henry Sorren and Pulp Horror Games have a lot of other games up there, too.  Definitely a good team and you should check out their work

Henry Sorren has also been a sort of sponsor of The Crotchety Old Gamer, providing keys that I was able to distribute to winners in The Crotchety Old Giveaway.  Unfortunately, the giveaway ran for a good length and by the end some of the keys expired, which was a bummer.  Steam keys never go bad, but the app store acts like you are giving away fresh strawberries without any kind of refrigerated storage.  Bastards…

Double-Up Discussion: Taekwondo Global Tournament, Bucketman

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It is starting to happen.  Games are coming out on mobile platforms that aspire to be more than just quick little solo challenges.  Mobile gaming is starting to earn its stripes as a “real gaming” platform.  Don’t believe me?  Check this game out.  It’s based on the ancient Korean martial art, and it utilizes the fighter concept to pit players against one another.  It is still deep in development, if you go to the game’s website, you can sign up to receive updates about its release!

So right now you get to choose between four character, two male and two female.  There are also two different arenas to battle in, but the “space” in the arenas are pretty small.  Really the goal is to get up on your enemy and deliver blows to their helmet or to their waistband.  This scores you a hit and lowers their health.  There is also a stamina bar that lowers depending on how many moves you do, and attacking and blocking will lower it briefly before it refills.

You stepped in a poop...

I can see you stepped in a poop…

Controls are simple, back and forth arrows allow you to scootch in close to your enemy.  Above those there is the block button, which makes your character drop their shoulder.  There are two attack buttons, a low and high attack.  Low attacks are aimed at the waistband while the high attack is aimed at the head.  Experimenting with the attacks in combination with the move buttons causes your character to perform a variety of different style attacks.  It is a lot of fun.  It is pretty fast-paced and a lot of fun, even though there were only two different arenas that I could choose from: Dojang and Iran.

The background and art of the game is rather stunning for a mobile game.  Taekwondo Global Tournament really took me by surprise!  Right now there is no sound, but with the attention being paid to the rest of the game, I don’t doubt that it will be spectacular when it’s released!  You can watch the teaser on you tube!

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Bucketman is a bizarre game that takes the location information about your neighborhood and turns it into a game.  Just the introductory levels, which all take place in Palo Alto, California, are frustrating and difficult, but the game has its charms.

The story is that there are Artificially Intelligent Vehicles, or AIVs , roaming the streets and you have to take on the form of a sentient bucket to stop them.  Probably related to the Kool Aide Man.  In this battle for chromatic dominance, you control your bucketman with a concentric joystick pad.  You can also jump over the AIVs and there is another button, but I was having some trouble getting to the use of that thing.  It is a fun game, though a bit trying on the patience.

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The game gets more and more complex as you play, and the goal is to battle it out with the AIVs.  You collect different color paints to raise your stats, such as walking speed and air-time for your jumps.  An easier way to put is you can get more ups so jumps last longer.  There is also water that you have to collect throughout a level, which comprises the main goal and gets you more time.  So run around collecting more paints and waters.  You can also buy more paints and such with in-app purchases, but they are pretty well hidden in the menu, almost as if the developer is ashamed to ask.  But no worries, it isn’t in your face or forced, so it makes me feel really good about these guys.  You can get this app free on Google Play!

Bucketman is a great location-based game that deserves some credit, even if the concept is bizarre and the story is goofy.  I mean who would believe that Google cars could take over the world..? wait a minute…

Skyling: Garden Defense; Rhymes, Rhymes EVERYWHERE!

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Sometimes a game is way too much fun and you must talk about it to everyone, the puzzles were tough and the enemies strong I was grabbing fruit all the day long, kitties I’d lift and sluggy balls chuck I would stop rhyming but my brain’s deeply fucked, I’m sure that a comma each statement can’t end, forever this review in rhyming I’ll spend, so I’m just going to type and cut out the crap, so no one feels the sudden and undeniable urge to stab me in the fucking throat.  Just.. one sec… rhyming sickness is tough to break, but I have to focus cause this review’s at stake…  GODDAMNIT!!!

That is the format of the tutorial for this game.  At first it’s adorable but after a while it becomes creeping and insidious, invading every word that you speak.  Your character’s Bloom and her toes are magic, and everywhere you walk a patch of green grass grows.  The goal?  COMPLETE WORLD DOMINATION!!!!!  Sort of.  Actually you have to spread verdant giddiness throughout this skyborne garden that was taken over by the blight monsters, which rendered the Skylings’ garden a barren wasteland.  There are several types of them and I didn’t see them all, but if I kept playing I would have been rhyming for the rest of eternity!  Or at least until someone rightfully stabbed me in the spleen without a medically logical reason to do so.

Skyling 2014-09-07 21-08-21-09

Don’t let her fool you… Beneath that whimsical smile lies the unburdened soul of a psychotic killer. Or just a vegan.  Interchangeable, really.

So, as stated, Bloom walks around each little square and spreads the green grass everywhere, which, in turn, brings the garden back to life.  There are little, dead gardens surrounded by dirt paths and as you surround them each with grass and flowers, they grow right back.  Each garden then shoots out a crop of fruit.  Considering how fast they come out, these people should put up warning sirens during harvest season, or else someone is flying off the skygarden.  Then again, it would help to cull their numbers.  Fruit doesn’t last forever, though, and the next challenge after regrowing the gardens is collecting the fruit before it rots away, without getting caught.  And the blight bastards make it tough as shit,  cornering you until you shrink into an insignificant little nothing.  One of the best games I’ve seen out of itch.io, this game’s exceedingly whimsical is likely to entertain women, children and lyrical leprechauns the world over.  Not to mention the puzzles really are tough as shit.  You’ll often start off in the only safe little corner of the board and you have to navigate the monster hoard.  I didn’t make it too far in the game, but I still had fun all the same.

Sky kitty don't care.  Sky kitty don't give a shit.

Sky kitty don’t care. Sky kitty don’t give a shit.

The first monster you run into is the stone ogre.  These guys have purple horns and only walk on stone and if you don’t pay attention they’ll get you alone and kill you in a corner; this happened to me way too many freaking times!  But since they have a set path they’re pretty easy to outsmart, but they are fast; so try not to find yourself in too many games of ‘step off’ chicken with these guys.  This is where you see the enemy plodding along his stone walkway and you just want to get that last couple squares covered.  Then you turn around just as you finish and run back toward the enemy to get back to the safety of the one smooth square that is close and you’re not immediately blocked from.  A more adorable game has not made me scream with as much frustration.

Sluggies are the orange ooze monsters.  These guys eat everything they can find but you can pick them up if you come from behind.  (wink wink nudge nudge)  But seriously, get behind them and you can pick them up and chuck their gooey, orange asses off the skygarden like a bizarrely adorable episode of american gladiators.  What?!  They made nerf wars look like the most epic thing ever!  When I say they eat everything they can find, I mean they erase your little green patches, and if they break the grass surrounding a garden, it wilts and dies again.  This can be remedied by just walking over the square again, but it doesn’t yield more fruit.  It’s just fucking annoying.  Luckily, these orange guys serve as your most offensive weapon.  If you manage to grab one of the sluggies, you can launch them at other monsters, rather than into the wild blue yonder, and it kill them both, scoring you some points.  This is especially useful if you missed some fruit and need to recoup the losses.

Bats are a fucking nuisance, but they can usually be avoided.  If they catch you, then you can’t move.  This lasts just long enough for you to get caught by a monster and lose, so be mindful.  My best tip is to get to a smooth square if you see them coming at you.  This way you won’t get bowled over by the fucking stone ogres.  Additionally, don’t go anywhere without a kitty to take the blows to its fat, useless body.  It’s asleep, it won’t mind.

The final foe is what I call the gaping maw for two reasons.  I didn’t get far enough due to rage quitting to see these guys.  The game isn’t impossible, just a really really tough piece of enjoyable gaming.  Seriously, it’s deceptively hard.  They lure you in with carefree music and little 16-bit graphics, but then you have to get the last fruit on the giant fucking q-bert level!  Perhaps I was just caught up in the horrifying memories of rage-quit I had on that game, though.  The other reason is that the monster is literally just a yellow mouth.  I am terrified of what it does to you and refuse to speculate openly.  Probably just hunts you down and chews on your bones.  Yummy magical bones.

This fucking level was harder than shit, if I played any longer the dev's throat I might slit.

This level was tougher than a limestone shit, if I played any longer the dev’s throat I might slit.

You aren’t without allies though.  There are the kitties.  Best part is, they are about as fucking useful as you might expect they would be in a war against bio-diversity strangling monsters.  They lay there and purr innonously as they sleep, the little fuckers.  The title screen is just a menu with a purring kitty reclining in the ‘g’ and if you listen for hours you’ll realize that’s the same sound your soul makes as it’s torn from your shrieking mortal coil.  I would just kick them off the skygarden, honestly, but they have uses.  Bloom grabs these guys nonchalantly and plops them down on switches proving that cats basically have one purpose: dead weight.  Throwing them on switches usually has the effect of triggering a pillar to pop out of the ground, which causes monsters to be corralled away from you.  To be fair, however, these cats can also be used as obstacles, and I have used them to turn a charging stone ogre.  See, at least the ogres care about kitties.  Then again, with only one eye, they have no depth perception, so a cat might just look like a purring, vibrating ball of fluff.  That would make me reconsider my path of trudging in a heartbeat.

All-in-all this is a really fun game.  Great pixel art and upbeat music help to give this a really cute atmosphere that is perfect for children and childish adults alike.  The controls can be a non-responsive on the keyboard, but not enough that you can’t get used to it.  Also, there is no ‘save’ outside of the standard level-by-level advancement.  If you’re caught by monsters, you have to restart from a clear board.  It drove me fucking nuts, but it also makes you really think about what you do.  Be warned, though:  this game is full of rhymes and is hard as fuck, so when asked about it your face will fall into a pale countenance, steeped with horror.  In a thin, wry voice you’ll caution “they were everywhere!  In the bushes, in the trees!  If it wasn’t for the kitties, I would’ve never made it out alive!” A paltry 0.98$ on itch.io, I wonder how itch stays in business giving such crap rates to well-made games.  For more info on the game and its developer, check out Mighty Studio’s site!

Double-Up Discussion: Catch Aliens, Free-Diving Hunter

In the spirit of moving forward, it’s time to get back to the games.  Today I will be discussing two iOS games because my wife would like her iPad back.  Granted, there is a reason I haven’t been able to keep off the thing, and these two games are it.  There is a lot I have to say about these titles, though so strap in.  This might get a little on the long side.

 

CTA_logo

First up is Catch the Aliens.  Just from the logo here, you get a distinct sense of awesome.  I don’t want to burst that bubble, but you do play glorified dog-catcher.  That is alright, though, since the game itself is actually a lot of fun.  There are two modes of play: Casual Level-Based and Competitive Endless.  Now, these terms are advanced language, and in gamer-speak they translate to “singleplayer” and “multiplayer”.  In what I am coining as the “singleplayer” mode, you play by yourself and clear a space station room by room.  In the second mode, or “multiplayer”, you compete with friends on Facebook for scores.

Now, as you play, you are confronted with room after room of fairly cute aliens that scamper around and cause a nuisance.  These guys vary in color and “ways they piss you the fuck off”.  That second quality is key.  Now, your method of controlling the alien-catcher is to sort of lean the idevice, like you are gingerly erasing an etch-a-sketch.  If you don’t know what that is, your parents should be smacked.  Either way, I was using an iPad despite the fact that this game was meant for an iPhone.  That would make the game more responsive where I felt like I was wrestling a bull to the ground by its horns.  It added to the game itself, but for quality performance I recommend something with a smaller face-area.

And stay in that bubble!

And stay in that bubble!

Despite all this, the game was still a lot of fun.  Levels are small arenas with up to 4 aliens running amok, and you have to catch them by tapping them with your forcefield alien catcher.  You tap them and BAM! instant bubble.  Of course, if you are too slow to catch the others, they will free the ones you’ve already caught.  This causes issues as you have three green dots at the top of the screen.  Each time an alien is freed, the dots turn red.  If they all turn red, you lose and have to restart that room.  It gets frustrating, but there is a certain strategy to the game: yellow aliens just run around, kind of slowly.  They can be caught last.  The guys you want to go after first are the spitting purple aliens, which can pop bubbles from across the room, or the speedy green aliens.  To catch the speedy guys, you’ll need a speed boost, or you’ll have to get on the inside of their turn out of a corner.  The rest of them can be mopped up thereafter.  There are also red aliens with horns that you have to tap twice before catching, but they aren’t too fast, just a little annoying and take a bit of time.

Now, accomplishing three challenges in each room grants you stars.  These stars are required to progress to the next floor, each floor having more rooms than the last.  The challenges are Life, Order and Sparkles.  Yea, that sounds like the motto of My National Socialist Little Pony Party, but that’s because it’s not really called sparkles.  That is just what I call it.  See, when an alien is freed, you lose life.  Hence, no life lost gets you a star.  There is also a certain order you are “supposed” to catch the aliens.  If you get it right, you get another star.  Every time an alien is caught, it emits a cloud of little sparkles, which you then collect and store.  Get enough of these and you will get the.. um.. sparkle star.

This game also has some optional in-app purchases, and I can see how extensive play would necessitate a high-level of skill or concession to buying your way up the spacestation.  It isn’t in-your-face, but after each level, there are ads which take up the whole screen.  maybe on the iPhone it would be less irritating to eliminate them, but on the iPad the word ‘iPad’ and the wifi meter get in the way of closing the ad.  Grrr…  Not blaming the developer on that one, I am the guy using the giant older brother of the device this game is meant for.  The best part about this game, however, is that it is free on the app store.  You can get to the game through Panipurisoft’s site.  They also have a facebook page.

FDH_logo

I think I downloaded a broken version of this game, because there were no in-app purchases that I could find.  It terrified me.  I sobbed-heavily with my new found freedom to PLAY A FUCKING GAME!!!  It was majestic, it was awesome.  Thank you.  Thank you.

The game itself is pretty cool, too.  When I was in the military, I knew a Hawaiian gentleman who told us about his exploits with free-diving.  It sounded like he was evolving into a fish, honestly, and he has a general disdain for octopopuli.  I don’t know how to pluralize that, so fuck you, english.  Either way, it sounded like something intense and soothing at the same time.  Now, that gentleman only dove with a snorkel and a knife.  This game doesn’t have as much faith in your lung capacity.  You have a snorkel and a speargun.  Now, the much-needed tutorial feels a little basic, but it gives you what you need.  The controls are wonky as hell, but they make sense, and once you get used to them, they react well and make sense.  At first I was cursing mightily, but this game requires practice, honestly.  Putting a little time in sharpened my aim with the speargun and honed my agility with the diamond.. space… non-joystick.. of mystical..  That thing!  The fucking thing in the lower right hand corner!  That is what you use to control your diver! JEEZ!

DUN DUN.  DUN DUN. dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun.... oh you get it..

DUN DUN. DUN DUN. dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun…. oh you get it..

Now, the rest of the game orbits you in the form of the admittedly cluttered UI.  Starting top-left you have your level and lung capacity, bottom-left is the dive button over top the speargun trigger, center-right is a compass, further right is the.. ahem.. control reticule, tucked beneath the swim button.  Top-right you see the UI toggle and then your score.  Now, in a game where you swim with a spear gun, there should be no surprise you catch fish.  Of course, this ends up being like a low-tech alien abduction to them as they are speared and wriggle around until you reel them in.  The game process goes like this.

Just snorkeling here.  Nothing to see.

Just snorkeling here. Nothing to see.

You start in a third-person view.  Pressing swim will make you move forward while you control with the reticule, roving for prey.  Once you find a fish you want to go after, hit the dive button and slide down a little on the reticule.  Maneuver yourself until you are heading toward a fish.  As soon as you dive, a timer will come up on the screen, starting at the max for lung capacity.  As you hunt your prey, the timer ticks down.  If you let it tick out, you might black out before you can resurface, which freezes the game for a full minute, but it is tough to have it happen if you pay attention.

Once you start closing in on your prey, you will eventually see an exclamation point appear over their head.  Hit the trigger!  If you hit, you enter a battle-mode of sorts.  During this mode, you have to hold the reel button, which replaces the trigger after firing a spear, while the fish is stationary.  It will still be wriggling to get free, but it won’t be swimming around.  If you reel in while it is stationary, its life (a red bar) goes down.  If you reel in while the fish is swimming, your line’s strength (a blue bar) goes down.  If your line loses strength, you lose the fish.  Catch the fish and it adds to your score, and every 5 fish you’ll gain a level.  Each level will grant you one more second of lung capacity and you will also gain better gear!

Now gear has some stats of its own.  These are swim speed, gun strength, gun reach and … shaft speed.  They are all.. pretty self-explanatory.  Except that last one.  I am sure it makes sense and I am sure it’s relevant.  I have no idea what it does besides make me giggle incessantly.  It doesn’t help that I leveled up a bit and got Depth Max brand gear which has a high shaft speed and makes my gun stronger and shoot further.  I am so sorry it’s come to this.  Ok, let me get control of myself.

The art of this game is fantastic.  Each fishing area has its own challenges from increased depth to sharks.  I tried hunting the sharks, but their only real function is pissing you off, since they can eat the fish off your lines.  Fuckers.  Lucky this isn’t FarCry3.  I would C4 your ass in a heartbeat…  But each area is unique and has a sort of excitement, like you’ve found another great hunting spot.  The music is a sort of asian-keyboard reggae.  It is relaxing and enjoyable, but it’s odd.  Just listen to it, ok?  This game is worth its 1.99$ price, and if you like those outdoorsman games by Cabelas etc., you should try this out for a fresh new take.  I have never played a firt-person fishing game, but it is really fun.  I just hope this doesn’t get bought out by EASports or something.  They would fuck it all the hell up.  Of course, this might be cool on a Wii U or something.  The developer has a Facebook page here and a website, with free demo, here.

 

Dev Discussion: Modern Gaming and How it’s Evolving

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Today I will feature a discussion that I happened upon on the internet.  Developers were having a heated exchange about an age-old argument that most often causes bloodshed between gamers.  For the sake of constructive intellectual exchange, I will curb my PC bias and look at this objectively.  Note also, Console v PC.  I will make fun of Mac gamers.  That is comedy that writes itself.

Gamers often get into heated debates over which is better: PC or Console gaming.  Console gamers often cite titles and communities as the strongest factors favoring console gaming, while PC gamers will fill your screen with chart after chart displaying the raw power of a PC compared against consoles, or grab screenshots to illustrate the visual differences between the graphics.  While each side certainly has a compelling argument, which really is better and , more importantly, where is it leading us?  This exchange focused more on the evolution of the various facets of the industry, rather than an argument over which is better.  Joining the Crotchety Old Gamer in the discussion, we have three fine gentlemen: Joe Yeats (@ProceduralJOYE via Twitter), a developer from the UK currently working with Autelia LTD on Human Orbit, a procedurally-generated simulator about shaping a computer-controlled utopia.  Max Krieger (@MaxKriegerVG via Twitter), an Indie Game Developer from Chicago and student at DePaul University.  Drake (@DMODP via Twitter), a programmer, designer and writer.  I came late into the discussion, but some very intriguing points were made.  Feel free to join the discussion in the Crotchety Gamers United Steam group!

Lightly paraphrased, Max said that the time-proven model of Mac vs PC illustrates why Console and PC gaming will coexist.  While Drake and myself were somewhat confused by the statement, Max was happy to provide a more detailed explanation on his viewpoint:

“[…] In this age where computing platforms are all headed in the same direction, the differentiating factor that will be key to platform sales remains the image and curated experience of that platform. I used Mac OSX as an example because it shows how illogical this thinking can be – OSX is really cumbersome for a lot of simple tasks, doesn’t play nice with industry standards, and only runs on a very closed line of hardware, but people lap it up because of the image it supports: a creative, media-oriented one that strives for intuitive use over flexibility. Make no mistake, I am not an Apple/OSX fan, but they’re one of the biggest proven examples of the curated platform image in the modern tech industry.”

Max does make a good point.  Essentially, he is saying that the biggest difference between the PC and console crowds is the image they use to represent themselves.  With the development of the Steam Machine, this viewpoint was never better supported.  Steam started as a PC gamer’s wet dream, but recent implementations in the retailer (such as Big Picture mode) reveal a strong push toward console gaming.  Not to mention, the fact that the Steam Machine plans to license its construction out to third parties, which will create a variety of hardware builds, make it a bit of a frankenstein PC-esque Console.  With companies bridging the gap between the two worlds, one has to wonder when the differences will be declared null and void.  Drake had a similar thought process, but with a different approach.

co-exist

 

Drake also did me the favor of elucidating his view:

“The reason people often side with one or the other and not both is […] because they’re polar opposites. They have their own unique control schemes. Consoles and computers are polar opposites not [just] because of their difference in controls, but in their difference of experience. First, [PC gamers] don’t have to move to a different part of the [house] to experience games. They’re right there on the same machine we use for work, surfing the web, social media, etc. Second, [PC gamers] can open windows […] for reference material […] but this is also good from a social standpoint. [PC gamers] can take screenshots and post them [on the internet], we can respond to [people] on our favorite social network, etc.”

So, as you can see, Drake has a solid point, too. Despite consoles, such as PS4, recently enabling access to other forms of media and direct internet streaming capability with the touch of a button, there are still a myriad of things that PC’s can do that still remain unavailable to Console gamers on just their consoles.  Drake continued, elaborating on the features of the console camp:

“I feel consoles are the extremist response-time choice. […] For response-time challenges, the question is: Who can execute the highest number of actions in the shortest amount of time? It provides a completely different experience from computers.”

My personal experience with computers, however is totally different.  The mouse offers pinpoint accuracy while playing a game.  How can you get more direct than pointing at it with your mouse? The answer is getting a touchscreen and pointing yourself.  Of course, Drake had his own response to this:

“[…] A controller’s reaction time is far more demanding. It’s more than clicking a billion times a second. It’s about hitting the right buttons at the right times and getting your fingers everywhere they need to be without looking down at [the device]. Console games often assume the player’s really good at this activity to the point they make [players] do everything all the time. [Console gameing] is about just doing.”

Of course, I would offer that this depends on the player.  I grew up on PC gaming first, so the ‘WASD’ model is practically gospel for me.  Sure, different games have different controls, some even have demanding hotkeys, but use of them is up to you.  You can customize the experience to your own play-style, and the majority of games tend to use the keys immediately adjacent to the ‘WASD’ keys for additional actions where applicable.  Not to mention, the sticks on a controller can’t be as accurate as a mouse.  A mouse is literally point-and-click.  Controller sticks are more indirect.

Joe’s thoughts on this topic were a bit of a combination:

“It’s obvious that some genres are better aided by certain input hardware than others. This is certainly the case with simulators and strategy games, which usually do better with a keyboard and mouse. I don’t think it’s necessary to expound on this.”

Max largely agreed with Drake’s assertion of their differences, but had his own interpretation of how this affects gaming.  The tech he refers to is more the innards and less the interface devices:

precisely

 

Max got more specific in explaining this part of his thought process:

The Playstation 4’s success also may owe itself to [platform image], but it’s too early to tell. Sony has always given the PlayStation brand a mild sense of curation by endorsing or even producing avant-garde titles on the platform, moreso than any other console maker in history. Going forward, this curation may end up being the PS4’s largest difference when PC hardware overtakes it again at an equivalent price point.”

Around here, Joe had some relevant input on the topic:

“The technical boundaries between a console and a desktop machine have become increasingly blurry over the years – but we’re all still pretty sure what they each are and when we make a decision about how we want to play a game, we know how to compare the ‘desktop experience’ to the ‘console experience’. We all know that we can hook our PC up to the TV and use a bluetooth controller for a ‘console-like’ experience: but most of us aren’t going to do that. The reputation and image of the formats has been accrued over a generational time period – we couldn’t shake that easily and there may not even be a good reason to do so (even if all games were available on all platforms). When I play a game on a console, I know that it has been tailored for the specific controller that I’m using, for the hardware that it’s running on. I can expect a reliable game experience without having to faff around. The experience has been designed for me down to the slightest detail. I don’t even have to tweak the graphics settings. I just need to switch on, plug in & tune out.”

The conversation gradually drifted in the direction of mobile gaming.  Drake disagreed that mobile gaming had a different target demographic and said that it targets everyone, presumably everyone with a mobile device.  Of course, just in the virtue that targeting “everyone with a mobile phone” is a task achieved differently than targeting “everyone with a specific console”, it logically follows that it is a different target demographic.  In fact, because of the similar situation of iOS v Android, console and pc gamers might find themselves on either side of the mobile discussion depending on their devices.  In this way mobile almost has a market that is totally separate from, but still noticeably influence by the gaming market comprised by PC and Console gamers.

Of course, Drake also touched on a separate issue that abounds in the mobile gaming market: the quality of games:

greatmobile

Now, before someone starts cluttering the comments sections with cries of Angry Birds adoration, Drake is referring to the fact that simple, casual games, like Angry Birds, currently dominate the mobile market.  And while he is right in that great mobile games are hard to find, they are far from non-existent.  The greatest example of a mobile-specific game that uses its functionality is Ingress.  Read about that game here.  And Ingress isn’t the only one, but, to my knowledge, it is the first.  Windows phones will be able to play QONQR, a game that wants to be Ingress, and X-Tactics, a game that is just like “Fuck Ingress!  And now for something completely different!”  Of course, location-based games are certainly not the only angle mobile gaming could take.  The fact that progressive-thinking developers have tried, and failed, to make augmented reality games more accessible overall shows that we are still a long way from making it work effectively, even with Google Glass.  So, Drake definitely has a point with mobile games being “designed to waste time while you [wait] or short experiences.”

Of course Max breaks back in and asks for a thought experiment:

“[…] If all consoles disappeared overnight, could mobile [gaming] fill their place? Yeah. But they’d have to cater to both convenience and involvement – two contradictory ideas that dilute platform image.”

This is true, but if gaming were to be forced onto mobile devices, I find it believable to find games evolving to replace what was lost – FPSs utilizing the mobile device in question combined with the player’s surroundings, RPGs that focus more on tap-controlled characters, etc.  In short, mobile games wouldn’t stop being the simple, casual games, but these types of games would be joined by an overwhelming number of widely varied games and genres.

There was more discussion about Mac OS vs Windows, of course.  This piece of the discourse was meant to display how the image-focus model has affected other markets aside from gaming.  Max posited that Mac OS continues to sell primarily because it does “normal user” better than Windows. He continued saying that Windows tried to retake that ground by creating Windows 8.  This undermined the “pro” part of Windows, which upset their users. Then, when Windows repaired the alterations to their OS, the image of a “jack-of-all-trades” OS persisted. Max maintained his standpoint, saying “image is everything.”

Max’s final thoughts on the discussion were pretty broad, but still relevant.

“Ultimately, I believe that the current trend of consuming media in any environment is one that will plateau once our near-omniscient media viewing capabilities lose their novelty. It’s an undeniable phenomenon that certain forms of media are better consumed in certain environments and settings. The biggest obstacle to a unified platform for all gaming is not the tech, nor the interface, but human nature itself – not something that can be so easily overcome. Nobody expected the PS4 to be doing as well as it’s doing right now, and I think that alone is proof enough that human nature has a lot more twists left in the evolution of gaming tech than we expect right now.”

Drake came from another angle, though, saying that games are a form of media.  And if there is one thing that is true now more than ever, it’s that people want their media no matter where they are.

everywhere

Joe broke into the conversation here, pointing out the relevance of the feature of PS4 where it can be played remotely from the Vita.  Drake admitted that he hadn’t tried it, but named a relevant issue with that right off: not every PS4 owner has a PS Vita.  Drake also suggested that the Vita isn’t the best handheld to carry around with you.  Joe threw in some more thoughts of his own regarding the PS Vita.

noway

Drake added saying that it really needs to be a native experience that still feels extremely great. But to do something like that, you’d have to take the ‘app’ structure and generalize the controls, then change the controls so they cater to every device the game might appear on.  He had a lot to say about this especially, and there was also a considerable piece of discussion about porting.  That will be included in another piece since this one is long enough already.

If you’ve made it to this point, please remember, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic!  Come join the discussion on my Steam Group, and let’s see if we can get some interesting exchanges started!

Boogey Boy, Preview of Fears

BB_title

 

You know that dream where you are running and running, then suddenly you look back and there is a giant black demon horse chasing you? Goon Studios made a game about that and it is not nearly as terrifying as the dream.  Frustrating at times, but still a lot of fun.  Granted, it’s not completed, so this game is a preview version, but the good news is you can play this preview, too, on Indie Database!  Don’t want to commit to the download?  here are my thoughts on it as it is so far.

You character is a kid in his dreams, which end up having the same exact mechanics as an endless runner, like Canabalt or Crazy Critter Dash.  Interesting that I should compare it to mobile games, since this little blue-haired fucker will be charging his way across PC monitors, Idevices and Androids.  As he runs, his arms flop behind him like he was dreaming about seducing an anesthesiologist prior to arm surgery, then the running started.  His art reminds me of a combination of Coraline, carrying some similarly creepy vibes, and Adventure Time.  Nothing on this fucking Earth would get me to watch that show, but the art looks similar from what I’ve seen on posters at the mall.  You are being chased by a rotating cast of silhouetted eldritch horrors across the terrain of your dreams.

Gonna die!!

If I was being chased by Cthulu’s drinking buddies, I would look like this too.

While you are running, there is the ground itself, which undulates wildly.  Stay on the ground and you’ll be dead in seconds, since the nightmares, I’ll call them, run fast, and you really don’t for the most part.  When they catch up to you, you roll under them like that guy in Ben Hur.  To avoid this, there are a number of floating platforms you can leap to.  Jumping is a lot of fun, and this kid is apparently the blood relative of an ancient ninja: he can double jump.  And his double jump is fucking fancy!  He’ll jump, then double jump and end it with a travolta.  It’s wild and fun, and the best part is that this game is fucking creative.  Sure, you have the usual platforms, floating pieces of road, clouds etc.  But there are also things like beds to bounce on.  As you might expect, this enhances your jump, which can already be enhanced by holding down the jump key.

But you have to move fast, since the nightmares toss platforms aside as they pass under them.  Of course, you don’t control your run so much as struggle to cope with it.  The only way to increase your run speed is to grab stars, which seem to make you speedier the more of them you have.  Much like other running-centric heroes, you will lose your shiny collectibles if hit by an enemy.  Enemies are pretty surreal, too.  They run the gamut from helicopters and frogs to cars with spring-loaded boxing gloves in them.  Most of these you can ‘defeat’ by jumping on them, but sometimes you can run along the top of them to escape.

Aside from stars, there is an array of powerups you can grab, and I have no idea what any of them do.  I will tell you, instead, what I do know about them.  The batteries you grab fill up your batter bar at the top of the screen, which makes me feel good when I get them.  I have not been able to fill it and posit that its effect would be known if I could get the third battery slotted.  Unfortunately, runners are not my natural habitat.  There is also a kid-style superhero cape, which seems to actually be a blanket. You can’t trample my dreams!  There are also dog, bubble, sister and teddy bear pickups.  See if you can uncover their secrets!

Jump on the magical unicorn to briefly escape a horrible death by trampling!

Jump on the magical unicorn to briefly escape a horrible death by trampling!

This is a really fun game.  I have only played a couple unfinished levels, and I am really interested in this title, despite my neutral emotions toward its genre.  Honestly, most of my love for Boogey Boy comes from the art.  The look is really dream-like and surreal:  enemies make a sort of vague sense, platforms are creative and neat.  Another thing is the music.  It leaps and frolics around with you while still leaning on you to keep up a solid pace or be stomped into dream dust.  The controls are simple and the UI is a bit random, but coherent.  Overall, I would be alright paying money for this game.  Its early stages of development generate their own ire, but it is to be expected at this point.  The most annoying thing about this title is the lack of fucking exit button on the menu.  There is also the issue of no pause menu’, so you only get the choice to return to the title menu, but even there you have no exit option.  Again, though most of that title menu is non-functional because this is an early early development preview!  Check it out, but don’t be judgmental.  It’s a great work-in-progress that deserves to have an eye kept on it.

Double-Up Discussion: Freaky Dragon, Shurican

FD_logo

 

This title, by Freakout Games, is more than a bit unhinged.  First off, the dragon looks like Barney raped Spyro, and it can barely stay aloft with those tiny wings.  You tap the screen to fly, so it’s another flappy-style game.  Its art is rather nice and the music is fun, considering it is only one track, but there is still much that will anger you about the game.  The most entertaining feature of the game is the least utilized: if you play a dragon, even a pink polka-dotted purple dragon, you’ll generally want to breathe some fire.  Freaky Dragon opts out of this, making you spent the better amount of time dodging obstacles.  After a solid couple hours on this game, I didn’t use my fire balls once.  Next, in-app purchases.  I cannot emphasize how much I hate this standard of the mobile gaming industry.  Every time you die, the game suggests you might revive the dragon and continue if you have eggs, pictured above.  Not enough eggs?  Buy some with real money!  Thanks, but no thanks.  If I play this game anymore I might just end up snapping my phone in half.  This game is free on Google Play.

Shurican_logo

 

Certainly the better of today’s games, Shurican is another flappy-style game starring a ninja.  Good start.  Every time you tap the jump button, he slashes.  Double jump and he throws a Shuriken.  Hold your finger a second and release for a charged slash.  There are two play modes in this game.  Challenge, which takes place on the same board, and seems implied to be finite.  You are scored by percentage completed.  To date, I have gotten 44.15% completion.  I have never made it to the end, but the other game mode is called endless.  This one is point scored and starts a new level every time.  The points are gained each second you survive and from killing enemies.  My best score is 216 points.  Both modes pit send the ninja down a constantly scrolling corridor of death, dodging buzzsaws and slashing at demons.  It is challenging and fun, refusing to take itself seriously.

The art comes from simple vector graphics and it’s bloody as hell: your ninja spews blood everywhere and explodes upon death like a robot.  The music goes with everything else in this game: heavy techno-rock that says “ninjas, demons, explosions… why not?”  There are small ads that display across the top of the screen when you die, but they don’t slap you in the face and it is difficult to accidentally hit them.  Enjoyable, well-made app that is considerate of its players.  Add to that it is free on Google Play, and I would recommend this to mobile game fans.