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.

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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!

Elysian Shadows, Preview of 2D Paradise

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You backed it on Kickstarter and now it’s happening.  We were excited about the mechanics, but what about the elements we’ll all fall in love with?  Who are the characters? What are their struggles?  What is their world like?  I wanted to know, and Falco Girgis and the Elysian Shadows Team agreed to tell me.  So what’s behind the game?  Find out with the Crotchety Old Gamer!

I am excited as anyone about playing this game, but who will be our window into the world?  Who is the main character of Elysian Shadows, and what drives him?

“The main protagonist of ES is named Julien. He is the son of two famous “diggers” who were well known for their research of the ancient ruins scattered throughout the land of Elysian Shadows. Julien grew up traveling with them on numerous expeditions and learning about the different ancient cultures of the past. He was well on his way to following in their footsteps as an accomplished digger, when the two mysteriously wound up missing during an expedition. An adolescent Julien was then sent to live with a family friend, the local museum owner, where he grew up despising the ruins that claimed his parents. Rather than exploring them with a passion and thirst for understanding as he had in his youth, he now scours them for a means to survival, plundering and looting their treasures just to make ends meet. 
Julien has virtually no motivation to take part in the party’s quest in the beginning. He is thrust into the action by necessity rather than choice, and it’s initially the other party members who drag him along on the journey. For Julien, this is a quest of personal growth. It’s him having to come to terms with his traumatic past and face the ruins that caused him so much pain, and his struggle to reignite a long-lost passion that died along with his parents. Julien’s character represents crawling back up and trying again after suffering an extreme loss or emotional defeat. Whether this be a metaphor for learning to love again after heartbreak or learning to try again after seeing your dream project crushed on Kickstarter. Heh heh.”
Julien and the other diggers have to rely on physical weapons when excavating ruins because magic is a power reserved exclusively for the religious. While the technology for Julien’s time is not particularly advanced by today’s standards, many of the weapons and artifacts the player encounters within the ruins from civilizations long past are far more advanced than those found in his own time. The diggers and the scientific communities rely on these kinds of manufactured and uncovered weapons for combat while the religious are strictly magic-users. But what if Julien and his friends somehow discovered a way to use magic as well?”
Dark, mysterious caverns where treasures and danger abound...

Dark, mysterious caverns where treasures and danger abound…

Julien, like most people, is dealing with a  secret pain.  His struggle might be unique to himself, but each of us has our own climb from the bottom.  Each of us has a cave of terrible darkness and untold treasures unique to our souls that we must brave before we are free to be who we are.  Joseph Campbell wrote Hero of a Thousand Faces, which concerned itself with the way characters like these resonate in each of us.  What about the world, though?  What is the story told by the world Julien and his people will inhabit?
“Elysian Shadows is a world caught in constant conflict between magic and technology. Magic is associated with faith and the religious. Technology is associated with scholars, scientists, and explorers who have turned away from The Creator’s divine gifts in an attempt to better understand the world around them. The technologists are seen as heretics, while the religious are seen as sheep, following blindly. Julien and Eryn, who both work for a museum, are sent on an expedition to uncover a valuable artifact for a new exhibit. The two quickly find more than they bargained for in the ruins. They stumble upon a discovery that thrusts them into the middle of this mounting conflict between magic and technology, forcing them to unlock the mysteries of ancient civilizations and prevent their own people from sharing this fate.
The storyline of Elysian Shadows was heavily influenced by the moral dilemmas of our own technologically advanced society, especially with recent advances in bio-engineering. With stem cell research, cloning and the human genome sequence, science challenges religion on a fundamental philosophical level. Science is beginning to encroach upon powers that many people argue are reserved exclusively for God. Do we have any business modifying our genetic make-up? Is it moral to alter a fetus before its birth? Is it wrong to artificially produce life in a laboratory? Science claims that these advances could drastically benefit all of humanity, while religion claims that we are meddling with things that we have mo business meddling with. We wanted to create a story that was more than just a superfluous JRPG experience. We wanted something that would make the player think; something that would engage them intellectually and emotionally.”
Lovely vistas!

Lovely vistas!

Elysian Shadows seems like it will strike a chord that resonates with our own lives, possibly even a few nerves, but who would we be if art never asked hard questions?  And how we answer these questions are part of what make us individual from one another.  Our varied ways of thinking and how those come together for a common goal are part of what has made America what it is today: a center for all people to share ideas freely, and sometimes those ideas reach back out to the people that created them.  So how will the characters accompanying Julien contribute to the game?
“Julien is initially accompanied by the lead female protagonist, Eryn, who is a tech-savvy university student. Eryn helps her father run the local museum, showcasing various exotic and mysterious artifacts from the surrounding ruins. While Julien’s past has rendered him jaded and disinterested in discovering the secrets of these ruins, Eryn explores them passionately in hopes of uncovering their secrets often dragging Julien along for the ride. She is a strong-willed tomboy and often the most level-headed and responsible member of the party with a ruthless pragmatism. 
The two adventurers find themselves in the company of one of Eryn’s professors after his lab is ransacked and his research is destroyed ( presumably because he was getting too close to a breakthrough with his work ). While Professor Rand is brilliant, he’s also infamous for dysfunctional antics and living a life of excess. His peers in academia generally disapprove of his hedonism, but they are often forced to concede to his genius and gift for piecing together puzzles. Rand serves as a non-traditional guide for the party, and he is well-versed in the ancient ruins and their technology. Unfortunately Eryn finds herself having to guide Rand just as much throughout their journey, keeping his arrogance in check and ensuring that his decadence doesn’t get the party deeper into trouble along the way.”
...And when you look at what they want to accomplish, it is hard not to drink the koolaide.

There is a big adventure out there for us

Allies and enemies and what separates the two is a major point of reference in how each of us live our lives.  It says something about who we are and what we want.  Note that Julien is already surrounding himself with those that spend their time largely concerned with the ruins, the very thing that he blames for the loss of his parents.  This means that, despite his feelings on them, somewhere they are still very much a part of him, maybe even one he wants to love again as it would be the only emotional link back to those happy days of youth exploring with Mom and Dad?  Eventually he will have to face those emotions, and his friends will be the ones to help.  So, what about the game itself?  How will each of these characters actually work together?  I was allured by the claims to an inventive new system for skills and jobs – How will these systems work and how will they be reflected in each character?
“It’s actually a mixture of two different systems. We ran into a kind of design dilemma early on when we were dreaming up skills and abilities for characters. On one hand, we wanted each character to have their own unique feel and play style. We didn’t want every character to feel completely interchangeable, and we wanted to give each their own innate strengths and abilities. But on the other hand, we are huge fans of job and class systems, and party customization is something we very much wanted to do with Elysian Shadows. We really wanted to give the player the freedom to customize their party as they see fit.
So we wound up with a hybrid system where each party member learns their own unique set of skills and abilities during combat and storyline progression. They each have their own unique skill trees and pools that are independent of the other characters, which is how we intend to make our characters unique and interesting. Then  each party member can be assigned to a certain class wherein they unlock class-specific skills and abilities. This allows the player to really fine-tune their party, offering a considerable amount of strategic freedom within the combat system, while still allowing us to create unique and interesting characters.”
Giant swords and power help, too!

Giant swords and power help, too!

This means the class you choose for each character determines what role they will play, and allows you to dictate how the party reacts to challenges.  Alongside this, one character might have access to certain elements within there skill tree that other characters simply cannot get to – the same way Falco and myself might both become developers, but we would end up using those skills to completely different ends and learn different, though equally useful, methods of making games.  Well, damn, I am glad I contributed to the Elysian Shadows Kickstarter!  Of course, there are still 5 days left to contribute to the ES Kickstarter, but what about those that miss the opportunity?  How much will they have to pay and what outlets will the game be available on?
“Since we’re targeting so many different platforms with completely different indie markets and economies, we can’t really set a fixed price point across each. The price of ES will most likely be adjusted so it’s comparable to other indie games available on each platform. Currently, digital copies of ES for Steam and OUYA can be preordered for $15 through our Kickstarter. This also includes our development tools, ESTk and ESGamma. The standard edition of Elysian Shadows for the Dreamcast will be $49, which includes a professionally produced jewel case, color instruction manual, and pressed disc thanks to our publishers at Watermelon Corp. The game will look like a 100% legit Dreamcast release picked up from a commercial retailer back in 1999. You will also be able to choose between PAL, US, and JAP style packaging so ES will match the rest of your DC collection no matter what region you’re in!”
Painstaking attention to detail, thorough skills and class systems, complex characters and a complex storyline balancing the the beliefs of a world against the pain of one kid: Elysian Shadows is going to have something for everyone, and a little extra to boot.  I have never been this excited for another modern retro game; not Shovel Knight or any other mainstream title.  Elysian Shadows, however, is more than just a modern retro 2D RPG: it is our modern 2D RPG.  More than just this game, I look forward to the ripple effect that this game will create and how that will resonate across the industry.  Here’s to hoping it contributes to some interesting developments all the way around.  But whether or not it does, either way, it’s going to be an awesome game!  As always, you can check the Elysian Shadows website for more about the game!

Haunt the House: Terrortown, Murderous Spiritual Mayhem!

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Not since Haunting starring Polterguy has there been a game this indirect about its approach.  In Haunting, you play a ghost who was recently rendered spectral by a careless family of fucktards that killed you while skateboarding, so you make it the purpose of your afterlife to rectify a vendetta against them.  Terrortown’s ghost is more of a motiveless malignancy that likes to kill people and scare the ever-loving piss out of them.  At least Polterguy had a purpose, granted his manifestations were exceedingly more graphic.  But he never killed anybody!  This adorable little ghost has a bloody, murderous core.  No wonder it can’t move on.

Everything in Terrortown starts in the clocktower in the middle of town, where the ghost lives.  After a brief tutorial on possessing and manipulating objects in the environment, you are set loose on the town like an apple-cheeked Mongol set on destroying families and lives.  A couple things of note in the clocktower, though.  During the tutorial, what they teach you possession with is a bell, of which there are nine, plus the one you possess.  There is also a large, out-of-focus painting that looks like it was painted in a JRPG with the bloom turned down.  More on these later.

The adorable little tent is where the ghost hatches his devious and bloody schemes.

The adorable little tent is where the ghost hatches his devious and bloody schemes.

Calling this game a puzzler is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion, since the only puzzle you are solving is how you will drive terror into the hearts of the town’s citizens.  I would call this more of a strategy game, considering you are tasked with manipulating circumstances and individuals to reach a specific outcome indirectly.  The ghost in this uses possession to its advantage.  By possessing the various elements of the environment, you are able to manifest the fears of people in the things around them.  Now the things you can make people see depend on the level of fear in the atmosphere.  At the base level – relaxed – everyone is milling about in “thumbs-up-asses” mode.  Starting from relaxed, you will only be able to move furniture or swing chandeliers, rattle bars, etc., but once you start to creep people out, the fear level rises.  Increase it to perform higher profile scares and soon you will have people leaping out of windows to escape the house.

Once you have the fear levels up to fever-pitch, people are twitchy if not outright terrified.  You are performing bizarre and ostentatious scares, people are running around terrified and the general populous is jumping out of window to escape.  Revisiting the bells in the clocktower, each level has a few haunts that get bloody.  Several people in the game are asking for it, seemingly pretending nothing is going on, and the scares you perform near these guys get them fucking killed.  This is where the ghost gets murderous: it’s already sucked the happiness and fun out of a room faster than Carl Sagan at a confirmation party, now you’re going in for the kill.  Each person you assassinate gets the esteemed position of haunting the fucking belltower with you, circling a bell themed after their purpose in life to haunt them forever.  How wonderfully sadistic.

That's right, shifty motherfucker, just mind your own business.

That’s right, shifty motherfucker, just mind your own business.

The goal of this game is to get everyone out of the public places.  Once this goal is accomplished, you win!  Seriously, though that is it.  There are 4 locations to haunt and you are done.  This is a little frustrating, but I get the feeling there is more to come.  At least there better be.  Even though the game is 4.99$ on Steam, I have played other, cheaper games that are, in fact, full and finished.  Don’t get me wrong, this game is great, especially since I was such a big fan of haunting on Sega Genesis, but it literally feels like you finish the first level and it’s over.  I have had farts that lasted longer than this fucking game, regardless of how awesome and adorable it is.  The only thing that takes a long time to finish with this title is figuring out who the last fucking person in the goddamn museum.  I had to look up a walkthrough to figure that shit out.  Overall, it is a fun game and worth some money, but until they add ore content to the title, it will always feel short and incomplete.  And if they charge for DLC, I will pitch a bitch fit.

Nuclear Throne, SHMUP Both Exciting and Frustrating

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Vlambeer is a Dutch game developer, and their stylish little Shoot-em-up, Nuclear Throne, is on my list today.  Better known for their works published through Devolver Digital, I am curious to see what their independently published projects look like.  While this title needs a little time to grow on you, it still has a certain charm and will definitely appeal to lovers of SNES and NES shooter titles like Smash TV and Contra.  Be warned though, this game is hard as fuck.

When you start up Nuclear Throne, you’ll be greeted by a badass theme that sounds like a fusion of western-style acoustics with post-apocalyptic metal influences.  It stopped me more than once at the above screen, and almost seems too awesome for this game, but it blends with the style perfectly and given what the game goes for, it is definitely perfect.  It’ll fill your ears and get you pumped up as you choose a character in the select screen, which portrays them all sitting around a campfire while one plays the guitar.

Each of the characters has its own benefit and special move, which is activated by right-clicking, but be careful since some characters have cons.  I will list them in order. Fish is a fishman who gets more ammo than the others and can dodge roll. Dodge roll is really useful in situations where you need ammo and have to traverse a field of fire to get to it.  Crystal is a sentient crystal that has extra HP and can morph into a giant crystal for increased defense.  Later, crystal can get a teleport ability with this. Eyes is a blue alien-looking creature that can see in the dark and pulls pick-ups toward him with telekinesis.  Melting is.. uh.. a sort of amorphous creature. He has shit HP, but gains XP faster than the others.  After death he can also use explosive revenge, but I found that thoroughly fucking useless since there are no extra lives.  Plant is a plant that moves faster and can grow snares to slow enemies. Y.V. is a one-eyed triangle reminiscent of illuminati symbolism that gets a higher rate of fire and can use an ability called Pop pop.  I tried using it, but I couldn’t figure out what it does.  Steroids is a muscle-bound character who starts loaded in each new level is less accurate, but can dual wield similar weapons.  Robot is a robot and he gets better tech drops and eats guns.  Eating guns is one of my favorite abilities by far.  Chicken is a samurai-chicken that starts with a katana, is hard to kill and makes everything go into slow motion upon right-click.  Once chicken gets to 0 HP, his head flies off and his body can keep shooting until it dies, too.  Gruesome, but kind of funny.  I also managed to unlock rebel, who has extra defense and can call allies into battle in exchange for HP.  There is one other character I was unable to unlock.

I brought marshmallows, but they upset Melting.

I brought marshmallows, but they upset Melting.

After selecting a character, you are thrown right into a chaotic arena full of enemies.  At the start you get a simple revolver to suit your slaughter-oriented needs, but that will be quickly replaced by a vast array of weapons from a screwdriver all the way up to a flame shotgun and more.  Grabbing a melee weapon in a “shoot-em-up” might seem like bringing a screwdriver to a gun fight, but that is only because it’s exactly what you’re doing.  In Nuclear Throne, however, it isn’t such a bad idea, really.  I mean, you don’t have to reload melee weapons, so if you are working with a character that has comparably lower ammo, it might not be bad to have up your sleeve.  Your inventory, however, will only accommodate two weapons, so choose wisely.  Luckily, some weapons draw from different ammo types, but given all the ammo drops look the same, there is no telling what you pick-up.  Since there is no weapons inventory screen or anything more complex than weapon 1 and weapon 2, there is no way to tell how much of each type of ammo you have.  It can be a bit frustrating, but it doesn’t fucking care.  The weapon mechanics in this game are intentionally bare-boned so you don’t have anything to distract you from the HORDES of fucking enemies that want to wallow in your blood and render your corpse a charred shell.

Tearing through hordes of enemies is fun, but, as I said, you will want to mix it up.  New weapons do just that, and they come in a healthy variety, packaged in chests throughout the game.  Walk over a chest and it pops open, press ‘E’ to equip a weapon.  Experimentation will help you survive in this, but watch your ammo.  Aside from just chests, there are also EXP canisters.  Originally I thought they were giving me ammo, but they leave a bunch of green shell-looking objects.  Everyone drops these, but noticing they did nothing for my ammo supply I wondered what the fuck they were for.  Eventually, I leveled up after collecting the green bits, so that solved that fucking mystery quicker than a bunch of stoners with a microbus and a mutated, talking great dane.

Did I just see Beetlejuice?

Did I just see Beetlejuice?

Between levels of play you will level you character by choosing a new benefit.  Sometimes these give you more ammo, help you heal, make you faster etc.  The best ones, however, enhance your special ability.  Personally, I like guns for breakfast, so I choose Robot fairly often.  Taking the appropriate skill will allow you to gain more nutrition from guns, healing you more and, I think, providing more ammo.  Each of the skills follow, too, but figuring out the related image is, at times, a matter of artistic interpretation.  The spinning black and purple vortex you see isn’t the door to Narnia, by the way.  Once all your enemies lie beaten and broken, a sucking hole pops up and whisks you off to the next level.  This can be frustrating, so I advise exploring the level as much as possible before killing everybody since this can prevent you from finding all the pickups in the level.  Missing XP canisters can seriously debilitate you for future levels, and dodging bullets becomes half the focus of the game.

Murder on a massive scale is often one of the best things to happen in the dark!

Murder on a massive scale is often one of the best things to happen in the dark!

This game is hard as hell and I couldn’t find a variable difficulty level.  Your choice of character will dictate the level of the challenge, but the massive number of unrelenting enemies make this game truly challenging.  Factor in the drop-off of everything you might accidentally miss after killing the last enemy, and you can see how I only made it up to level 6 after hours of play.  A lot of restarts, yes, but the game makes it easy to restart with the same character, so this is not one you are meant to beat in one sitting.  After drilling away at it, you will find combinations that work for your style of play and get you further and further.  The most aggravating element of this game is the fact that there is no fucking save!  Initially I was mad and wondering why the fuck you would damn your player to infinite restarts, but then I remembered that Dungeons of Dredmor originally had you play through the entire game before you could reload from a death.  Granted, you could at least save after you exit, but when you died your saves were all deleted.  Nuclear Throne doesn’t even possess that decency, and feels like a really well put-together flash game, which makes it a little more disappointing that it appears on Steam.  It is fun, though.  Overall, a good game, just a little too aggravating and definitely a title made for those who got through any of the original Contra games solo and without cheats.  It also has a unique charm that cannot be denied.  Its graphics are fun and don’t lend themselves to over analysis.  They harken back to the old age of 8-bit gaming where it was difficult to even tell what you were seeing at times, but it doesn’t detract from gameplay.  Gameplay is smooth and fast-paced, if missing any form of gaming respite.  Since it is early-access, I can definitely say that this is a game worth buying at its 12.99$ asking price,  even if just to see where they end up going with it.

Memories of a Vagabond Should be Repressed

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I would say this is what happens when a game studio doesn’t hire dedicated writers, but looking at the DarkElite Studios website, they have several.  I think one of their staff is even from Blizzard, but even throwing a name like that around did nothing for MOAV.  Certainly one of the worst games that someone is asking money for.  I am not sure why the most terrible games I have played are mostly RPG’s, but this one made me shake my head in disappointment numerous times.  It wasn’t all bad, just mostly.  Come with me as I plow through this clusterfuck of under-utilized potential.  Wow.  What a keynote.

Let me start this review off by naming the many things this game did right.  The music in Memories of a Vagabond was pretty spectacular.  It was appropriate, enjoyable and I often found myself tapping a toe.  Battles often found themselves alongside the usual battle-music, while the boss fights had a badass metal riff going.  Music provided an acceptable variety with a new jam for each area.  Granted, there were one or two recycled songs, but they were still enjoyable.  Another fantastic feature of the game was the art.  If you are feeling nostalgic for the old days of RPG, a la FFVI or  Chronotrigger, this pixel art will definitely feed that craving.  Every sprite is lovingly crafted, the areas are imaginative and exotic and the characters are pretty fancy.  And when I say characters, I mean all the characters.  This leads to anther really great element of the game: its soul-mechanic.  Throughout the game, you get the choice of playing as 4 different characters: warrior, mage, bounty hunter and assassin.  Should you die, you also get the chance to change to another body.  Almost made dying worth your time.  I spent most of my time, however, as the Bounty Hunter.  That honestly concludes everything good that I have to say about this game.  Get your snorkel out, baby.  We’re going down into this shit.

You're right. Not everything on Steam is worth playing after all....

You’re right. Not everything on Steam is worth playing after all…

Oh my godness is right.  I have combed the Dark Elite site looking for evidence that they are primarily made up of people from a non-English-speaking country, but I have found nothing either way.  I can say that it seems they could afford to pay for someone to look over the writing on their site, so there is no reason they shouldn’t have been able to correct the gross errors in their dialogue.  And it is beyond a few adorable mistakes here and there, they literally have numerous instances of the most common errors in the English language.  It seems the editing was either done by someone who is not familiar with English, or the writers just didn’t care.  The main story-writers have  names seemingly of French origin, so I will give them some leeway here.  However, with a dedicated person for text-corrections, I have to wonder if she played through the game even once to pick up on its myriad English faux pas.  I will decorate this article with examples in pictorial form as Vlad the Impaler decorated his castle with corpses: to show others what not to do.  Granted in Vlad’s case, the message was “you should move to another country”.

Moving on from the language and toward the story, I have to say that this seems the biggest gripe I have over low-budget indie games.  They are willing to cut out story and writing in favor of mechanics and coding, which makes some sense on the surface.  Codeslingers are the ones that make the game playable.  Without them the mechanics, engine and other important elements won’t work.  Of course, if you skimp too hard on your writers, as MOAV seems to have done in spades, you get a game that isn’t tolerable.  Some fucking morons and reckless retro fanboys might be willing to overlook such “dispensable polish” as story and language, but one of the things that was so spectacular about retro games like Final Fantasy and Chronotrigger was the level of detail they paid to story, art, music and the entire package.  In this title, you have a game story that is a joke compared to those games.  Your character starts off proposing to his love.  No fault here.  After a night in bed with his beloved where they “sleep” (I rarely believe titles anyways), she is pulled from bed by some evil demon, who then kills you.  After a visit to hell you meet some soul-dealer that will rent you a new body for the low low price of any dignity you soul might possess.  If you chose the old man body, that shit is on you.  Later you find out, pretty unceremoniously, that the soul-dealer and the demon were working together.  The best part is that the soul-dealer is all prophetic when you meet him, then, after time traveling to defeat the demon and save your lady-love, you see him sitting out front the house with the evil demon as if they are both ro-sham-bo-ing for who will steal the broad.  I face-palmed.  Now they aren’t actually doing this, I am being dramatic, but then he turns to you and you shout something like “traitor!” and this soul-dealing demon of fate replies, “look guy, I don’t know who you are, but I have lives to ruin right now.  Take a number and get in line.”  Not an exact quote, a creative paraphrase.

Lift a.. what?  That sounds like it could be gross.  I wouldn't want a demon lifting his "finger" on my wife either...

Lift a.. what? That sounds like it could be gross. I wouldn’t want a demon lifting his “finger” on my wife either…

There is also the matter of your fellow adventurers.  The only one that gets any real explanation is the bunny-girl, who spends a lot of her time early on being inadvertently sexual, and she makes a big deal out of sleeping in a bed with you.  She tells her employer that she wants to explore the world, then you suggest she do it with you, to which she replies “that was my idea.”  So we have some cute, though awkwardly-handled war-of-the-roses banter.  Fun.  The other characters are sort of just lumped into your party after you do a mission with them.  Nothing is said, and you never tell them that you will be fighting demons.  Imagine that conversation “Yea, I am out to find my fiancee, kill a couple eldritch demons of screaming horror, then be home in time for tea.”  It almost feels like this game was getting down to the wire and they didn’t have time to throw in any real material for the characters.  They are all pretty flat, beyond a mission or a little feature here or there.  The hero doesn’t even allow them into the conversation most of the time, occasionally talking at them amidst exploration.  As long as they bring their gear to battle.  Sure, one is a mercenary, but treating that as an excuse to just have a character thrown into the party that sits there and attacks back is just lazy scriptwriting (not the code kind), and makes me think someone didn’t put more than a weekend into it.

There were also a number of 4th-wall breaking elements of the script that felt less like clever little “we’re making a game” jokes, and more like careless writing.  In some places it even felt like an outright refusal to give any fucks and arrogant dick-wagging like they thought they were creating some masterwork.  This is barely a finger painting.  Granted, it was hung on a billion-dollar refrigerator, but Steam needs to learn how to vet its selection.  This just shows low standards.

While we are talking about characters, there is this fiancee.  With all the attention paid to her side of things, she might as well be a Princess Peach life-size sex doll.  At least DLC Quest had the decency to call their lady “Princess McGuffin” and obviate the fact that she is little more than motivation for the hero to act.  I am not one to go all activist on a game, but she is a sex-token that does nothing for indie games and treating women with any kind of respect in gaming.  At the end I thought she would turn out to be the villain, but she just kind of lilts and says how glad she is to see you.  Y’know, like a good little Stepford robot.  See those bodies around on the ground?  They are, as I realized hours later, her fucking family.  The hero pays them no mind, nothing is said about them if you “interact” with them.  There is no dramatic elements drawn from the wholesale slaughter of her family, and they are not explored in any fashion to give you the feeling of them being anything more than randomly selected sprites on a rooftop.  There is a vague dream-sequence that I just now realized includes them, but they say these detached lines and mill about in a spectral manner.  It feels like they are just figments of the dreamworld, and they have as little relevance by now as possible.  Any drama to be gleaned from them is diluted heavily.

Man, these thatch roofs are fucked!

Man, these thatch roofs are fucked!

There is also the matter of ???? island.  Wander to the lower-right edge of the main continent, and you will find a row boat to ???? island.  It has a small town with some guy that buys journals and another lake with a fishing spot, one of two in the game that I found.  Go inside the houses, and the rain follows you.  Sure, there is some thatch roofing involved, but they were never this bad.  Seriously, it is like aliens invaded only to replace their roofs with holograms before disappearing without evidence of having been there.  At this point I realized the entire game is a broken, unfinished mess.  Or so it feels.  It’s almost as if the game has cardboard cut outs stuck up and put out.  Sure, you could argue that publishing unfinished games is now the industry standard for indie games, and you’d be right.  But that is for “pre-release” or “early-release” games, not supposedly completed titles like MOAV.  And with a name attached to this like Blizzard, I have to wonder where that guy’s influence was.  It must have been a case where someone knew the guy and he stood in the room and used their bathroom to give some credentials to the title.  Don’t be fooled.  This is not a piece of mastery, it is a shoddy piece of work that is scarcely better than the games that my friends and I made on pirated copies of RPGMaker 2000 back in middle school.  Before Steam.  Fuck you, shit was tough to come by.

Fuck you, guy.  I will gladly drink whiskey from your skull this night.

Fuck you, guy. I will gladly drink whiskey from your skull this night.

Overall, this game is pretty easy, non-complex and has a storyline with as much depth as a snack cracker.  The characters mostly feel like cardboard stand-ups and the language and writing is so god-awful unprofessional that I almost puked.  I feel like this is what CoD players see at the epitome of RPG gaming, because the other RPGs are too “complicated and wordy” for their tiny brains, although I am certain they would phrase that “fagit gamez for FAGGITZ!”  The best parts of this game are the music and the art, which seemed to get all of the attention.  The mechanics have a lot of potential, especially the soul-changing concept, but that could have been better employed.  I would have liked to see the developers give each body a different story that you had to help sort out before being able to find your own lady and resolve your own quest.  Instead, this plays like a twelve-year-old raging through the world after his sex-bot is taken, bashing in the heads of any nebulous foe that appears until he gets strong enough to fight the last bad guy.  There was also a battle arena, but that was literally like putting up a sign saying “grind here.  we were too lazy to make an actual game.”  I didn’t even bother to try fighting in there.  Another point of interest.  I didn’t want to purchase the services of the mercenary in the beginning, thinking “hey, the devs might have added more interesting and involved characters later.”  I mean, all I did with this guy was meet him and get his axe in exchange for armor.  Then at the end, each character gets a nostalgic little send-off, which would be great, except that there was no bonding with the characters.  There was no interaction.  Just, “I helped you so you’re now my friend that will help me get my sex-doll back.”  This game costs money , too.  It is currently 5.99$ on Steam.  5.99$!!!!  I wouldn’t give them a turd in a blanket for this game, let alone 5.99$.  This game should be 0.12$ on itch.io or Desura, not cluttering up Steam and making it dirty.  Not recommended, but you are certainly welcome to make your own judgments on this one.  Steam needs to get some standards, this game is evidence.

Flem, Sticky Little Preview

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This game is the most adorable game about a booger I have ever played.  Your main character is a little pixel snot, and the style of this game reflects the silliness having such a main character implies.  Its retro-style pixel art and chiptune music make it feel like a long-lost classic from the SNES, but its divergence from the usual recipe of those older games is what makes this game so much fun.  It is also a title appearing this week at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany at the Unity 3D stand.

Flem is a booger.  The first title I saw when I loaded the game read “One day in your nose…”  The tutorial takes place in a little alcove of someone’s nose where other little boogers teach you everything how you will interact with the game.  First there is your basic movement: left, right and jump.  The most important feature of movement is the roll.  Using roll is similar to running in that it increases speed, but it’s a toggle, so you don’t stop rolling until you hit the button again.  When I started, I was as careful as I could be; but once I realized how to progress in the game, I realized I had to step it up.

Final goals tend to define a game, and the goal here is timing.  Each level is a timed race to get past treacherous terrain, flora and fauna.  This is why I found myself rolling through most of the game, since you need to make a good time to progress.  I died a lot, mostly because platformers are not my strongest suit, but also because this game’s squishy exterior is only skin deep.  This is not a forgiving game.  Sure, each level is short, but that doesn’t change the fact that starting from the beginning every time is a pain.  I have cursed Flem more times than any other game in such a short period of time, and he can really be fucking frustrating, too.

Behold! The nostrils!

“What the actual fuck..?”

As you roll along through the game, you encounter a variety of obstacles, with the most common being spikes.  Spikes are literally fucking everywhere.  It’s like Flem got launched from the warm safety of the nostrils into a nightmare world of demon spikes and bizarre animals.  I wouldn’t call the creatures in this game enemies, since you don’t really fight them.  By all means, this game is almost Buddhist in its treatment of other creatures.  That I have found, there is no means to kill enemies, mostly because that is not what Flem is about.  Rather than sterilizing the environment of it natural fauna, you are tasked with slipping by them.  And they are weird.  There are yellow jumping bugs (dust mites, guess), cactus-like plants that launch pellets into the air, flying purple bugs and a myriad of other obstacles, but again, you are not there to kill anything: you just want to get past quickly.  At the end of the level, you’ll be graded, and the faster you completed it, the better your score.  Of course, there are only three scores, noted by different-colored gems.  One of the biggest points of frustration are the buttons to continue the game.  For now, it seems selection randomly flickers from one button to the next, making it equally possible to restart, continue or return to the menu by accident.  It’s really annoying, but in a preview this early, it is good to see so few flaws.

In order to get past, you are given some interesting abilities, too.  One of these abilities is gathering up little purple bubbles to float around.  Of course, there is a gauge that displays the amount of time that you have to hover, which can be refilled by grabbing another purple bubble.  This gets difficult, too, since your ultimate goal is to get to the end quickly, not to collect pick-ups.  There are also orbs that give you speed boosts, let you jump and these are trickled into the game slowly enough that you get a handle on them, and the game ramps up the difficulty at a rate that is challenging and still fun.

Older games have a more specific motivation with an interference-oriented goal.  Mario would vanquish goombas, beat on turtles and kick Bowser’s butt to save the Princess.  Flem is a booger.  He isn’t nearly as committed to combat as the suspenders-clad knight of the Mushroom Kingdom.  There isn’t even a definable enemy, just this sense of displacement that drives Flem onward.  In the very beginning, rather than some foe drawing you out into the world, you are launched out of the nose by a sneeze.  It’s a beginning as goofy as the main character, but it sets a tone of enjoying the pixels of the game rather than selecting and neutralizing targets.  As I have come to expect and enjoy from Norway, there is a talent for creating a fun environment that you pass through and enjoy, rather than tear through like a tornado full of missiles and chainsaws.  I’ll bet that’s the next sequel to Sharknado.

What the fuck is with all the deadly spikes?!

What the fuck is with all the deadly spikes?!

The art in this game is spectacular, despite the simple concept.  The tutorial, which is currently pretty basic, is delivered alongside a gallery of pictures that seem to tell the story of dissenting opinions between the denizens of the nose.  Some ended up leaving, others stayed to cultivate some kind of snot garden.  The music is always whimsical and echoes the style of the environment.  It’s not some kind of modern, pulsating techno-mix of chiptunes; it’s just plain simple bit-tunes suitable for a game on the SNES.  I would expect this title to appear on Ouya and other simple platforms.  Alongside those, Henchman and Goon are trying to get this game voted up on Steam!  I would expect this to be another fun little title for a low-ish price, so go vote it up on Steam and lets play!

Of everything that bothers me about this game, nothing drove me up a fucking wall like the spikes lining every single wall in sight.  I mean seriously!  Is the world descending into the worship of some bizarre demon-god that covers everything in tiny spikes?!  What would the point of that be?  Does he want you to just be permanently uncomfortable?  I mean, spikes are spikes, but at this size it might be, at worst, like laying on toothbrushes.  That might even tickle.  It’s like the world was infiltrated by the most effectively strategizing and bizarrely quixotic aggressor in the world.  Maybe he was invented by Woody Allen?  I dunno, just seems like something he might imagine.

Shadow Warrior, Better the Second Time

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As with movies, games that were remade from an older title fall into two categories: epic or fail.  Shadow Warrior takes the material from the unrepentantly indecent original and sculpts it into an experience that adds to and surpasses the original.  And the way they did it is what makes this so awesome; Shadow Warrior uses the same corny sense of humor, but tempers it with a snarky, demonic sidekick. Devolver Digital has recreating an old washed-up title down to a process as simple as “give it to Flying Wild Hog.”

When SW kicks off, you main character is driving down the street listening to The Touch by Stan Bush.  People seem to like those songs from the 80’s, but not everything out of that era is worthy of remembrance.  Shit, not much out of the 80’s and even some of the 90’s is worth remembering, so this guy listening to some shitty 80’s music in a badass car on the way to a deal is a little off-putting.  Honestly, at first I was like, “God, please don’t tell me that’s the main character.”  But this game is filled with demons, so despite my pleas of “don’t make me play this guy”, I was forced to play as Lo Wang. I let out a nervous giggle and soldiered on.  Of course, this was the only thing that I, as a gamer, found distasteful about the game.  Its humor, on the other hand, is another story entirely.  If I were asian, I might be pretty deeply insulted by most parts of this game, but the way the game also makes fun of the original seems an attempt to apologize for it.

SW_powah

Huh, they misspelled “POWAAH!”

 

As with most games, the first level gives you an idea of what to expect, and it is fucking awesome.  It’s about an hour worth of slicing enemies to tiny pieces with a katana as they shriek and gush blood all over the carpet.  Your katana behaves like a magical limb-detaching wand, and at first I was really surprised by how horrible and gory the game is.  That lasted about 10 seconds before I was laughing my ass off at how ridiculous it really was.  2 parts Tarantino, 2 parts Jet Li and all Wang, baby.  It also displays how good at hiding shit in plain sight FWH really is.  At one point there is a statue behind glass in one of the main corridors, and I walked past it wondering why it was the only glowing statue in the whole place.  This statue is one of several types of collectibles that the game hides from you: money statues, bowls of blood, Ki Crystals and fortune cookies.

The statues give you money, but are not the only source of funds.  The other source is an ancient chinese method called “finding that shit lying around.”  As you collect money, the game totals it and lets you use it to buy ammo and upgrades for your weapons.  There are 3 different upgrades per weapon with 6 upgradable weapons: a pistol, machinegun, shotgun, crossbow, flamethrower, rpg.  One of the things I love about this game is a logical conundrum that I call the “Dimensional Sphincter Improbability”.  Essentially, unless you have a magical asshole that also links to an alternate dimension where you store all your weapons, it’s highly fucking improbable that you can carry an arsenal this vast.  Hard Reset, FWH’s inaugural title, solved this issue by making these weapons varying configurations of the same two weapons.  Shadow Warrior just stores these weapons in an off-screen pocket dimension that follows Lo Wang around at all times.  Of course, this game makes no apologies, and why should it?  It is a remake of an old, less-than-classic game.  Fuck logic.  Your first weapon, though, is the best.  The katana is an awesome part of this game, and you start the game dicing people up and flinging shuriken.  There is one problem with all of this.  The money has the square hole, which is distinctly Chinese, but the katana and shuriken were weapons of Japanese origin.  This game is a bizarre cultural amalgamation of two cultures.  Maybe the enemies in the next game will come from Korean lore?

The next big K-pop group, "Puppets of a Delusional Overlord"

Massacring these blood puppets was more fun than my ethics should have been able to tolerate.

Next, you have the bowls of blood.  This part makes me a little uneasy, and I filed it under “shit I won’t think about too much.”  Every once in a while, you will come across a secretly ensconced bowl of blood suspended by demonic power on a spiked shrine built of the corpses of your enemies victims.  So, naturally the first thing you do is drink it.  At least, I assume you do, and I am pretty sure it is never outwardly stated exactly what Wang does with it, but what else is there to do with it?  Rub it all over your body?  Either way, you get these bowls and they grant you Karma, which, in turn, is used to upgrade yourself with all kinds of abilities.  I spent the most of my first karma points on Ki attacks with my sword, which are badass attacks that allow you to cut through demons like lightly-chilled tofu.  These attacks are rewarding as fuck, too.  Get off a good divider of the heavens attack and your enemies basically explode while is great for taking off legs.  Your enemies will crawl off a bit, which makes it easy to deal with their friends then come back for the karma of beheading them, too.

Ki crystals are giant crystals that glow with ki power, something that fuels the demons’ magic.  Luckily, it also allows you to use Ki powers like self-healing or making a defensive bubble.  While not overtly useful, if used properly the powers become as deadly as the attacks.  Each of these collectibles allow you to buy new weapons, powers and abilities that make gameplay deeper and more entertaining.  The best part is that the abilities flow perfectly from gameplay, and the controls are beautifully intuitive.  As soon as I had the abilities mapped to my brain and the controls, I was ripping through enemies.  When I was finished, their army was measured in liters rather than kilograms.

After a battle, every arena tends to look like this.

After a battle, every arena tends to look like this.

Finally, there are these fortune cookies. Each of them gives you 5 health, which is nice, and then slips you a Confucius-style joke that will make you face-palm so many times your head will turn black-and-blue.  Generally, the humor of this game is pretty terrible, and it would even get to a point that is indecent, but the demon in your head makes it a little better.  He is an ancient, which is some kind of immortal asian demon.  The one you befriend is named Hoji, and he was banished from the shadow realm.  His story is one of Romeo and Juliet turned Pygmalion and Galatea, but with a dark twist.  He provides some comedic levity to balance your character’s ego a little.  With Hoji by your side, there is someone to keep Lo Wang from being the same person he was in the first game.  At one point he even says “Sorry, I used to be a prick.”  In the context of the game, he could be referring to his recent personal catharsis, but it also feels like a reference to that previous life.  Given the fact that this game also has more Easter eggs than grocery stores in late March, it’s not too much of a stretch.

Your enemies are also a throwback to that old time, when Nukem was the duke and consoles were for kiddies.  Many times, this game just throws you into fights where you are like “o shit I’m gonna die” and the entire time I was having flashbacks to plays of Descent and Doom.  Your first enemies are humans, but the game is fast to switch them out for an army of demons.  And those old games seemed to have a habit of throwing demons in as a foe for shooters.  I mean, look at Quake.  I had no fucking clue what the fuck I was even fighting, and the recent(ish) Quake 4 changed over to aliens instead of demonic foes.  Honestly, whatever.  Shadow Warrior made it cool to kill demons again and gave me as much of a thrill as Bioshock did.  Then there are these massive bosses that the game throws at you.  I played a little Duke Nukem Forever, and the giant-boss battles were just a little too… Duke.  They seemed so focused on the fact that the boss was massive and it played well enough, but it was just uninteresting.  Just felt like I was firing bullets into a river to dam in an attempt to damn it shut.  I didn’t feel  badass, just felt like damage control.  Boss battles in this game follow a sort of rhythm and you can measure your progress visually.  You also feel badass at the end for taking down this giant enemy.  It doesn’t feel one bit frustrating and is well done.  The battles are the same method as those found in Hard Reset, and I greatly enjoyed them.

Alongside the enemies, the game takes numerous flares from old-style games, like the card-key search.  Back in the days of Doom, it was standard procedure to be sent out after a set of keys to the complex you were running and gunning through.  Lo Wang finds himself running through arenas of foes searching for colored shrines to destroy in order to get past mystical demon seals.  It really brought me home, and I feel like this is an experience that new gamers will enjoy while old gamers can get all nostalgic.  On top of all this, Shadow Warrior had a spin-off game with Viscera Clean-up Detail: Shadow Warrior.  That is another indie gold mine and a lot of fun, so check it out.

Obligatory scenic screenshot

Obligatory scenic screenshot

Every ounce of this game screams with a righteous fire that burns through every expectation that I had.  It is a vein-bursting experience with fun gameplay, amazing music and a storyline that plays an artful, melodramatic chord against the game’s wang-fueled humor.  The game is ridiculous and over-the-top in a way that made old kung-fu movies so popular.  It doesn’t matter that this game is goofy and ridiculous, it is still a lot of fun, and in a lot of ways it is a shrine to the old generations of PC games and a fist-bump to their players.  It almost feels like I just sat down with the developers, had a few beers and talked about the “good old days of PC gaming” and how gamers nowadays wouldn’t understand.  This they would understand.  And it is really something special, even though it is so, so ridiculous.  Not to mention, the game leaves one of its main enemies wide open for a sequel.  Zilla, your former employer and demonically-enhanced lunatic, escapes in a helicopter.  You slice the other guy’s throat, though, so you get that satisfaction.  This game is 39.99$ on Steam, and I whole-heartedly endorse paying this money.  I got the game when it was on sale, so I lucked out, but it is a title you are guaranteed to enjoy.

With all that being said, the thing that boils my blood over this game is its developers.  Seriously!  How dare they make something so good!  This sets fucking standards!  They literally have made 3 fucking games.  FUCKING 3!  A game where you shred through hordes of demonic minions with righteous blazing fury, one where you blow your way through level after level of robotic minions that are spliced with human bodies and … a game starring a pink panda and a yellow lizard.  Ok, so that last one is still in development, but I am totally fucking serious.  These guys should be given some other old-school titles to revive, like SiN or Blake Stone!  I feel like the only fucking guy that even remembers Blake and his battles with Aliens of Gold!  Shit!  Oh well, I am sure all that is just around the corner, Devolver Digital just needs more money for properties acquisition.  I wish I could just give them money.  LoL!  Be so much easier than waiting for games to come out.

How Elysian Shadows Team Plans to Revive The 2D RPG

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In 1998 I spent my time roaming the castles of Thief: The Dark Project and watching The Matrix, but I also have a strong memory of hearing about this mythical console set to ride an eastern wind to our shores.  Its name was the Dreamcast and it was Sega’s final all-or-nothing bid to take the game console market by storm.  It had numerous features that were well ahead of its time.  Unfortunately, it was too far ahead, like trying to explain electricity to cavemen.  By the time the Playstation 2, Xbox and Gamecube were released, it was just a shadow of a memory from a glossy magazine page.  After the Dreamcast, Sega didn’t die, it just slid out of the limelight and settled for publishing games instead of consoles.

Many did not get to experience the Dreamcast, but for those that did, it was more than just a console, it was a lost piece of gaming history.  Even today, developers are putting out titles for Sega’s last console, and the Elysian Shadows Team proudly stand among their number.  Falco Girgis is the Engine Architect and Team lead, and he explained his motivation to me when I asked why develop a game for the Dreamcast in 2014?

” I found my way into the Dreamcast scene at around the age of 14.  I had always loved video games, and I had done a little bit of programming, but when I discovered there was an entire community of crazy fuckers out there developing their own apps, emulators, and games for the console, and I had the opportunity to also do that without being part of a huge studio, I fell in love immediately.  You have to realize this was before Steam, smart phones, or any kind of indie support on consoles.  The Dreamcast allowed the average guy with a dream to develop for a platform.  I taught myself to code just for that little white box.  I fell in love with it, and what it represented as Sega’s last console.”

So, it was a console Falco loved immensely as a teenager and he learned to hone his craft on it.  That just means it has a special sheen, right?  It’s a dead console, though.  So what?  I was still wondering if there was even still an audience for the console as Mr. Girgis continued.

“It’s so underappreciated, and it innovated so much in gaming–poly counts in the millions, hardware support for bump mapping (PS2 can’t do that), memory cards with screens, online gaming.  It also had an insane amount of AAA titles for a console with such a short lifespan.  It really felt like Sega knew it was their last chance in the hardware market, and they poured their hearts and souls into it.  For those of us who were able to experience the Dreamcast, it’s kind of an immortal thing, and it shows.  Most of our money from our Kickstarter is from Dreamcast sales.  There are still gamers everywhere who have not forgotten the Dream, and I have made it my personal quest to realize my childhood dream of releasing a game for the console.”

Honestly, I was taken aback.  Jump over to their Kickstarter and tell me what you see.  As of right now, I see 90,448$ with 760 backers.  Doing the math, that would have to be about 119$ from each backer, and considering only 182 backers pledged 100$+, that means there is a formidable Dreamcast audience.  Granted, some of those backers gave 1k$ – 5k$, so this game has a spirited group of supporters…

...And when you look at what they want to accomplish, it is hard not to drink the koolaide.

…And when you really look at what they want to accomplish, it is hard not to drink the koolaid.

Everything I see on their page makes me flash back to the numerous hours I had when I discovered Chronotrigger, Secret of Mana 1 – 3 and (US) Final Fantasy 6 on emulators.  There is a lot on that kickstarter page, but seeing everything made me wonder, what are they really trying to accomplish?

“Our overall goal is pretty multi-layered, haha!  The biggest thing we wanted to achieve with Elysian Shadows itself was to reinvent the traditional 2D RPG formula in a manner that makes it new, exciting and relevant by today’s standards.  We don’t want games like Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana to be a thing of the past, and we certainly have not been too thrilled with the slow demise of the JRPG itself.  Most of our team members can be quoted saying that they want to create the game they wanted to play most as a young gamer, including aspects of games that they grew up loving as children, and trying to use them to create a unique RPG experience that could appeal to an audience beyond just RPG players.”

“I have found myself,Falco, really wanting to make an emotional connection with our audience through ES.  I want to create a game whose story and characters are relatable, and whose struggles are relevant to the lives of our players. I feel like this connection is really the ultimate goal of any form of art, and this is especially true for video games as they’re an aggregate of every other art form: writing, art, music, etc.  I’m really an introverted guy who loves to play the outgoing extrovert, but I have very few close friends and I tend to not have much in common with most people.  The older I get the more I feel like my contributions to ES artistically are some kind of attempt to connect with players and fans on a deeper level.  I’m sure Freud would have a field day psychoanalyzing that.”

That really explains everything.  Elysian Shadows is a collaborative piece of art interpreted through the hearts and souls of its creators.  Each of them has something unique to put in and being indie developers lets them do this the best they can.  And when you look at what it adds up to, you can’t help but feel the passion and love there.  You can’t helped but be awed.  Personally, I think it’s moving.

I love the shadows and how the game looks like pixelated life.

I love the shadows and how the game looks like pixelated life.

I really enjoyed taking in everything that Falco and the team were telling me, but what is the rest of the team like?  What do they do and who are they?

“We have 7 team members total:

Falco Girgis

Falco Girgis

 Falco Girgis is our engine and toolkit developer, and he’s also the one who developed the framework, allowing us to target so many platforms (including the Sega Dreamcast).  He’s basically the team mad scientist.  Falco loves the Zelda franchise, pretty much anything on the Dreamcast, and obviously all of the 16-bit JRPG classics.

Tyler Rogers

Tyler Rogers

 

Tyler Rogers is the gameplay engineer, who basically takes the art, music, and levels then puts everything together into a cohesive gameplay experience.  Tyler is very into Legends of Dragoon, Castlevania, and Final Fantasy tactics.

Daniel Tindall

Daniel Tindall

 

Daniel Tindall is our web developer and level designer, and he has been very much a secret weapon for creating our Kickstarter and Steam pages.  Dan’s favorite series is Metal Gear Solid.

 

Patryk Kowalick

Patryk Kowalick

Leandro

Leandro Tokarevski

 

Patrick Kowalik and Leandro Tokarevski are our two pixel artists, both self-taught and classically trained traditional artists who decided to get into game development to broaden their horizons through pixel art.

 

 

 

Connor Linning

Connor Linning

Connor Linning is our team rock star and audio composer, bringing with him a background in rock, metal, electronica, and survival horror music influencing his musical direction with Elysian Shadows.  Connor is obsessed with the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series.

Eddie Ringle

Eddie Ringle

 

Eddie Ringle is the team mobile developer, who has been the guy working on the OUYA, Droid, and even Google Glass builds of Elysian Shadows.

We aren’t just retro gamers either.  Falco is totally into the new adventure-style games: Uncharted, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us.  So good.”

It feels like I just put up a description of the A-Team, or something.  Hopefully each of these pictures gives you an idea who we’re dealing with here.  Each of these guys is immensely talented and putting everything they have to make something amazing.  I hope Ebert is rolling in his grave because if this isn’t art, nothing is.  Of course with the influence each of these games has had on the Team, what games have a direct influence on Elysian Shadows?

“There really is no single inspiration behind Elysian Shadows, and I kind of feel like that’s why it’s so special.  It’s why our team is so emotionally invested in the project.  We have all found our own ways to endow Elysian Shadows with a piece of what we like best in gaming, each of us growing up with different backgrounds and inspirations.  Obviously games like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Phantasy Star have deeply inspired our direction, but there are quite a few more inspirations that aren’t even from the RPG genre.  Falco and Tyler grew up loving the Megaman Legends series, and it has influenced their direction with the whole “ruins” concept.  Even portions of the storyline.  Connor is a huge survival horror fanatic and, oddly enough, he’s found ways to endow ES with that kind of emotional tension through dynamic lighting.  Once we added jumping (initially inspired by Mario RPG), we quickly found ourselves able to design levels with influences from games like Super Mario and add combat moves from games like Megaman X.  I feel like there’s little pieces of numerous games influencing what we do with ES.”

So Elysian Shadows, almost literally, draws its lineage from the DNA of a widely-ranging gamut of games without any single influence dominating completely.  The more I hear about it, the more excited I get.  This isn’t just a game, it’s a love letter.  The kickstarter page has an amazing set of features.  Elysian Shadows Team has partnered with Pixellamp, which allows for impressive pixelated shadows.  The combat is set to be real-time and the gameplay will have a strong feeling of freedom.  Splicing 2D RPG and platformer elements, this game will go boldly where other games are limited from going.  There will also be a complete class or “job” system where characters’ innate strengths, weaknesses and gameplay styles can be augmented through a wide array of job-specific abilities and talent trees.  A lot of this is straight off the Kickstarter page, so you can go there and get the complete feeling for what backers are getting out of this.  They have samples of the music, the art and descriptions of various details planned for the game up there, too.  The initial goal is to reach 150,000$ with stretch goals all the way up to 800,000$.  And considering that last one would make this into an MMORPG, I hope we get as many additional backers as humanly possible.  They also have an entry on Steam Greenlight, so if you can’t put any money in, vote them up on Steam!  This is one vision that is extremely close to meeting its funding, and it threatens to shake the boundaries of games as we understand them.

 

A lot of this article has been lightly edited to flow as neatly as possible.  The message conveyed has been kept the same in all respects.

Q-Bert Rebooted, Reviving a Classic

QBERT

 

When I was a kid my parents had a Commodore 64.  It was this huge beast of a monitor with a fucking keyboard you could kill a man with.  I never played NES becase I was too busy with the awesomeness of this thing.  It’s 8-bit graphics and massive display loomed over us as we poured hours into it.  We played The Hulk, a game where you typed commands to the green rage machine as he was tied to a chair with a bomb ticking to destruction.  Incidentally, Hulk could not cry for mommy.  Hulk not know mommy.  We played Centipede and Space Invaders, but none of them hooked me in like Q*Bert.  I had no fucking clue what Q*Bert was, but I figured he was an alien like ET.  He hopped around this mountain of colored blocks, of which I never made it past the first or second levels, and was continually thwarted by these fucking green dudes, pink snakes and bouncing red balls.  But I tried and tried.  It was the first love-hate relationship I had ever known.  This machine was forgotten when we got the SNES, relegated to the back of the attic.  I remember that we would still use the monitor years and years later for Nintendo 64 and Xbox, when Halo 2 came out.  It was the last game I was to play on it before the last lights in the machine finally died out.

Nowadays my cellphone has exponentially better processing power than that stone-age piece of machinery, but nothing aggravated me more than the games it presented me with.  Modern games are much easier, walks in the park by comparison.  And some asshole had the idea to reboot Q*Bert.  I fucking hate you guy.  Not because this ruined a game from my childhood, it didn’t.  More because this game ruined my tiny little mind with a rage I had never before known, and now it’s back.  Just as frustrating as ever.  And I love it.  You could even skip this article to the last paragraph and not miss much, just a great time and fun and love for a character from my childhood.  Yup!

The two faces of the insidious little space-invader

The two faces of the insidious little space-invader

Upon loading up the game, you will see that Q*Bert has given you the option of torture.  Play the original arcade game (not recommended for the feint of heart nor the weak of constitution) or the modern game mode.  Q*Bert is a game about jumping on blocks to change their color.  Somebody put this fuzzy (?) little alien on it, basically so it would sell, I’d wager.  Now, when you choose the modern game mode, it eases you in.  First level, jump on blocks to change the color, avoid some balls.  No big.  Then they add the snakes and the rainbow discs.  When you see the pink ball fall from the top, you know it’ll turn into a snake, rather than just falling off the edge of the board.  Hop onto a rainbow disc, though and it’ll carry you to the top.  I guess it was those discs that really made me think he was an alien.  They’re like his little UFOs you know?  But then shit gets really aggravating with these little sunglass-clad green dude that change the color of your blocks.  AND THEN there are these little horned things that chase you around the board alongside the snakes!  Shit gets frustrating pretty easily.

Q*Bert’s newest features involve a character select screen where you can pick which alien guy or girl you want to play.  Given you’ve had time to amass some gems, you can choose any of a number of cool and fancy Q*Berts, so I chose this Q*Nicorn that farts out a shiny rainbow everywhere it goes.  Magical!  There is also a level progression screen, which has asteroids a various locations that require a certain number of stars to progress.  Each star is obtained by finishing a level one of three ways: finish the fucking level, finish the level by a certain time and finish the level with a certain number of points.  I found myself quickly cursing at the screen as some of the early levels have you jump on the blocks twice to get them to the appropriate color.  Then those fucking green dudes come along and ruin EVERYTHING!

I'm going to kill your family you little green shit!

I’m going to kill your fucking family you little green shit!

It really is a rage-inductively fun game, if you are into puzzlers.  Q*Bert is a classic puzzler that will really make you consider the path you take to traverse a given field.  Needless to say, a straight line is never the fucking answer.  This early videogame is one that makes the challenges of the Portal franchise seem like an over-narrated piece of cake.  While Q*Bert Rebooted steps you up gradually to the insane scramble of the original game, it still employs new elements of gaming to make you want to bash your monitor in.

There is also something really odd about Q*Bert.  While his original form looked a little wary the rebooted version of Q*Bert looks positively concerned.  His eyes have this look like he’s thinking “Are we really going to play this again?  You really sure you want this?”  Just look into the furrowed brow and saucer eyes.  He looks saddened by something and reluctant to even exist.  Granted, when you fuck up, Q*Bert curses his head off so bad, that it needs to be censored.  And why shouldn’t he?  His life is one of coloring OCD, jumping on blocks to make them just the right hue while he’s dogged by snakes, falling balls, green dudes that FUCK UP HIS WORK REGULARLY and who knows what else!  Seriously there are no words that can fully encapsulate my rage for those slick little green shits.  Then it hit me.  When you Game Over Q*Bert says “bye bye”.  This makes sense since you will be walking away from the screen to count to ten and squeeze a stress ball into flaccid submission.  But what else does he say, huh?  That’s just alien gibberish, right? FUCK NO, MAN!  Q*Bert is saying “What’s the object of it all” impassively implying that he knows it’s all pointless.  Like he knows that jumping on blocks and being constantly driven by your OCD to make everything perfect is a crappy way to live.  That’s pretty fucking heavy coming from a simple puzzle game, like some shit I expect to find in Q*Bert’s suicide letter after he jumps off the level for the last time!  But he can’t even kill himself since he’ll just be put right back up on top to continue.  Like his very existence is one of pure resignation to the fact that he must (not can, wants to, chooses to, should, would, likes to) but fucking must complete these boards.  But why?  Why does he have to?  My guess is that if you beat the game, Q*Bert will be left in peace to do what Q*Bert does when you’re not making him color blocks.  I guess that would be hang out in the endless void of space, just hopping around.

Shiny gems almost make the futility of life seem bearable.

Shiny gems almost make the futility of life seem bearable.

So I guess you might have skipped the rest of this article since we all know what Q*Bert is really about. ::: whistles innocently :::  So, yea, it’s a fun game full of great colors, cute characters and shiny objects.  Give this to children, cause like, I played it as a kid, and I turned out great!  Good times!  Great price, too!  Only 4.99$ on Steam to support a classic of videogaming!  Go and get it!  Honestly, there is nothing about this game that would ever make me mad.  Those green guys can be a little frustrating, but hot dog!  You’ve got to have some challenge, hey?  So go on, get this title and don’t say I didn’t warn you… about the great time you will undoubtedly have!

Black Ice, Warning: Incoming Game!

BI_logo

 

Remember those days when we imagined all the different ways that life would be different inside a computer?  Any male product of the 1990’s would remember Reboot: a show whose name is invoked, intentionally or not, when an old series gets updated and made dark and gritty.  It was about the denizens of a cyberworld inside a computer where things were fine and happy until some jerk decided to play a game.  If that were the case, my computer’s inside city is a post-apocalyptic nightmare ruled over by the churning wheels of a citizen-rending machine known only as Steam.  But before all that happy-go-lucky bullshit there was a guy who envisioned a world destroyed by cybernetics and supercomputers.  Where the ultra-wealthy elite do as they please with the world, ruling from corporate arcologies where they look down and see an infinite sea of light reflecting the scintillating beauty of the stars above.  This vision of the future, as seen in Bladerunner and Shadowrun, is called cyberpunk.  Black Ice takes place in the minds of those called hackers, and it is a love letter to that vision of a future age.  Garrett, the developer behind this game, shared some of his own thoughts on the inspiration driving this title.

Black Ice was inspired by many things, but mostly Neuromancer by William Gibson and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I wanted to experience the hacking as described in Neuromancer, but I also wanted to find cool loot and blow stuff up.  I think it’s obvious that I took a lot of inspiration from Diablo 2 and Quake 3, but I also looked at things like the Android: Netrunner card game and older games like the original Rise of the Triad. I want you to feel dread at what’s going to come out of these servers, to risk it all for the potential of awesome loot. I want you to feel great because you found an awesome ability combo and are wrecking servers that used to give you trouble. I want you to feel OP.

– Garrett, Developer, Black Ice

Jacking into the Supermesh can be a bit overwhelming at first, since you start the game at level 0.  The game is far from perfect right now, but it has a good thing going.  Check in options that you have the tutorial activated your first run.  It will give you an idea where to start, level you up and secure you some first-level loot as well.  But after running the tutorial once make sure you don’t have it active anymore, or else it will run every time you play.  Irritating.  Sure, in most versions of a cyberpunk future you are dealing with a massive computer network cybercomplex known as “the matrix”.  Gibson used it, Shadowrun uses it, the Matrix used it: at this point the matrix is an irritating trope, so I am glad someone saw fit to call it something a little different.

Towering cybernetic arcologies etched with fluorescent dreams and backlit by scintillating points of data

Towering cybernetic arcologies etched with fluorescent dreams and backlit by scintillating points of data

Once inside the supermesh you will see block after block of fluorescently lit data archives.  These are the servers.  Each one is owned by a company or organization and each one holds a dark secret and terrible power, and you can read about them on their little terminals.  But don’t get too distracted; there is a lot to get a hold of.  Each attack you possess costs you RAM.  Think of RAM as stamina in other games: every action you take aside from pressing ‘wasd’ costs RAM.  Sure, your RAM replenishes but how quickly depends on your talents.  You also have a health bar, experience and an actions hot bar.  You can slot actions into your left/right click and numbers 1-5.  You will also be able to slot abilities into spacebar and shift.  While I went with the age-old gaming medium of shift to run, space to jump, you will certainly have options open as you can slot any ability anywhere.  You could have 6 different types of lasers, an icebreaker and a rocket pack and play the whole game that way.  Your arsenal depends on your hacking style.

Each of your attacks and abilities is governed by a talent.  This is like the character sheet for your standard RPG, but this one is a bit more extensive.  There are a lot of things to consider while you are running the supermesh. You have your hacking talents ( hack speed, hack time, hack range) which govern how you attack servers.  Increase your hack speed to speed up your hacks.  Decrease your hack time so there is less time on the clock when you start the hack.  Increase hack range and you get a larger playing field.  Now, when you hack a server, you run up to it and activate your icebreaker.  Why the fuck is it ice?  What is with all the fucking ice?!?!?! Is it cause the ground is light blue like ice or something? No.  Fuck no.  Those playing Shadowrun are aware that each server deploys Intrusion Countermeasures to detain or kill anyone trying to gain unlawful access to the data on the server.  Your icebreaker lets you tunnel into the server and gain access in a matter of seconds.  In the meantime, you have to deal with Black Ice, the ICs designed to kill the operator.  These are what you shoot, nuke and destroy in the game.  You main enemies.

Your next series of talents are what I have dubbed your general talents (Movement speed, Loot Find, RAM, Health) these let you do various things, mostly self-explanatory. You want all of these increased as much as you can get them.  Some items increase your RAM incrementally or by a percentage, each is displayed separately.  Your next round of talents will be your combat talents ( attack speed, accuracy, critical hit chance, weapon damage, weapon range).  Again, all self-explanatory.  The last round of talents are really just secondary combat talents (Damage returned, chance to pierce, drunk projectiles, knockback power, homing, chance to ricochet, damage reduced, chance to colorize, RAM returned).  A lot of your talents cannot be increased by level, so watch what items you slot.  You don’t want to give up an icebreaker that has a nice range if you really need space to move!

When you see this fucker you better run.  It's a shark that fires missiles out of its jagged-toothed mouth.

When you see this fucker you better run.  UFO shark is gonna shoot you with missiles!

Some points to consider while leveling up.  While having an ass-load of RAM is good, some abilities will reduce your RAM by a percentage.  This means the speed you’ll run out of it will not change ever.  So the best stat to level up if you want a good bit of RAM every time you hit that button would be RAM return.  This will increase the rate that your RAM bar refills.  There are a lot of talents in this game, so don’t be afraid to experiment with each of them.

Personally, I did a lot of experimenting with ways to play this game.  For example, nothing is more annoying in battle than being unable to find the attack you want right before some cyberweb crawler leaps at you and takes you out.  This is frustrating.  So I arranged my abilities and weapons so my attacks would be easier to access.  In order to activate my icebreaker, I have to hit 5.  Essentially, I cannot hit that button by accident.  Your supermesh cybercity will be arranged so that a level 300 server is just next to the level 80 server I want to hack.  If I am finishing off the target server and accidentally attack the level 300 server just next to it, I might get my bits scrambled before I can exit the hack range.  I have had my bits scrambled a lot, and every time that happens you lose bitcreds, in-game money.  So placing my icebreaker in a tough to hit spot helped me stop doing that shit.

Another fun fact you might notice while playing is that you can crack multiple servers simultaneously.  This helped immensely when I was level 50 – 70 and was getting bored.  Cracking one server at a time is a slow leveling process, and you have a long way to go until you can attack your final server, the aptly named Finality, Inc.  It is the giant silver server guarded by a roving warship of doom, called a S.H.A.R.K. and topped with a spinning cybernetic skull.  Can’t miss it.  Anyway, being able to take several servers at once gave me the ability to level fast as shit.  I got from level 51 – 80 in a matter of hours; each server provided a healthy boost of around 1000 exp.  Activating several servers simultaneously allowed me to create a giant Venn Diagram of death.  Pure magic.

Enemies in the red, orange, blue field are assholes that don't like video games.  I nuked them with a logic firebomb.

Enemies in the red, orange, blue field are assholes that don’t like video games. I nuked them with a logic firebomb.

However, I still wasn’t leveling fast enough.  I got frustrated and went to the store to sell a fuckload of goods.  After cracking a few hundred servers, you inventory gets a little full.  So you go to these giant solid-colored store servers.  I hadn’t bought anything until level 47 and boy was I surprised when I did.  I realized that I could buy some crazy missile attack that allowed me to blow up anything in sight. I also got a secondary, slow-firing shotgun attack that fired missiles instead of pellets.  That shit hurt a lot.  Now I was cracking 2 servers twice my level.  At my best around level 50 I was able to take down a level 110 server and a level 160 server at once.  Anything more than that and it gets really dicey.  These attacks even let me take on the dreaded sharks, and that got me even stronger weaponry, since Finality Inc is a level 500 server.

Now I am pushing level 99 and I am able to take on three level 150 servers at once, but I generally just take a level 175 server and a few smaller ones with it.  An important factor to note in server crashing is that when you attack more than one server at once, each server’s ICE will attack the others.  This means that if you grab a spam server, all the other ICs will be bogged down trying to fight the little guys.  Most other servers will kill off a spam server for you, and you can just watch.  Granted, you would normally get experience per kill.  If ICs kill eachother, you get nothing for it, however, you will still get the exp when the server goes down and the loot inside.  But this means that you can use two or three larger servers against eachother, but be careful!  Each server is killing each server and any IC not engaged in combat will lock into you if close enough, so it is best to keep within the range of enemies you can feasibly take down.  I still shy away from servers at the upper 200 levels.  Utilize these tactics well and you will turn all your enemies into a neat little pile of cybernetic death confetti, just make sure not to get your bits scrambled in the process.

It's like a party for you imminent demise! YaY!

It’s like a party for your imminent demise! YaY!

Black Ice is a great game, but it is in pre-release status, so it is far from perfect.  It has a modern-classic feel to it, though, and will definitely get you back to reading some Neuromancer.  It is available on Steam right now for a cool 9.99$.  Not bad considering it is a good time.  At the moment you’ll be plowing through servers like you’re some kind of bit drinking data vampire after a camping trip in the Australian outback, but it is a lot of fucking fun.  My favorite thing is standing on top of a server, looking out and seeing the ghostly outlines of the numerous servers I’ve crashed.  Sometimes destruction is its own form of creation.  This is another game that includes a photo-sensitive mode designed to aide those suffering from light-sensitive seizures that still want to enjoy it.  For those that care, this one is firmly planted in my favorites on Steam.

I was driven up a wall by one thing in this game, and it wasn’t the web crawlers.  The thing about this game that got me so frustrated is the distinct lack of anything.  It is a lot like being in an actual server: lights, a droning noise some soundtrack but there is no life!  Can we have the game elements of this one already?!  I mean I don’t want to go trade war stories with Mr. Rodgers or anything, but when I am cracking servers just to have someone to associate with, you know there should be a little more variation.  Whatever, maybe I can just go hang out at Finality, Inc.  Live every week like it’s shark week!