X-Tactics, Genre Fusion By AAA Veteran Devs

 

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Generally, I like to promote games from indies in need, but this is a story too deeply bizarre and intriguing to pass up.  Veterans of the AAA gaming industry have broken off and teamed up to create X-tactics (pronounced Cross Tactics), a game that will link gaming across mobile and PC platforms for an exciting blend.  Honestly, the anime art might not be my usual bag, but the concept behind this game is so vast and exciting that only the Japanese are crazy enough to do it right.  Ingress better watch out, shit’s about to get real.

First things first, who the fuck are these people?  Our developer in question, GAMKIN, is the product of minds from Square-Enix, Sega and Capcom.  Those names drop harder than Skrillex does his bass, but still it stands.  This is a game that will be rendered by veterans from three legendary household names in gaming.  Fuck.  These guys got together in late 2013 and they have spent most of their time in Japan away from the warm lights of our hemisphere.  Mostly they’ve been working with interactive children’s television and collaborating with local game schools to cultivate next-gen game devs.  So these guys are legit philanthropists with a serious mind for our future.  Now they turn their thoughts again toward gaming, and this beast, which they’ve gotten fully funded with 33 days left on their Indie GoGo clock, threatens some formidable levels of awesome.  For a little perspective, the campaign launched on the 8th.  This means they achieved their primary goal in just 6 days.

GAMKIN has a lot on their plate when you look at their plans.  The platforms they will be releasing on include iOS, Android, Kindle (2014), PC, Mac, Linux and Google Glass  (2015), and none of those are stretch goals.  The features of the game are complex and paint an exciting picture of gaming interaction.  First off, this is another genre-fusing game.  Its main components are tactics, fighting and urban exploration, with a 50%, 25% and 25% split, respectively.  In their own words:

When we set out to make X-Tactics we didn’t want to make just another tactical game, nor attempt to create some sort of perfect tactical game. Instead our goal as developers here is to create something new. We combined equal parts of tactical gameplay of classics like that of Final Fantasy Tactics and Valkyrie Chronicles, together with fighting game mechanics and aesthetics, like those found in the Street Fighter series, to create a new gameplay experience, that we at least have not seen done before.

– GAMKIN on Xtactics, Indie Go Go campaign

 

Now this doesn’t explain the other 25% of the game, but let’s stop a minute what this means for PC gamers, as PC and MAC will be options for the game.  The game itself will use turn-based tactics to create a high-speed gameplay environment that focuses on treacherous close-quarters combat, as you might find in an urban setting.  Your heroes won’t be able to take ridiculous amounts of damage to the face, so you will need to make quick moves and calculated risks to achieve victory rapidly.  Failing to do so finds you at the business end of some purple alien’s psychic attacks…

 

... and that suit screams "business time"

… and that suit screams “business time”

Each battles takes up the full screen, and each mission will be comprised of several battles.  With one screen active fights will be tightly fought, so bonuses like flanking, support, destructible furnishings in the environment and traps will give you a serious edge and change the battle’s dynamics every time you play.  X-Tactics will also utilize an initiative system, which they compare to that of Final Fantasy Tactics, but I will translate that to the American readers: shit’s going to battle like DnD.  Initiative will be based on speed and turn order will be thereby determined.  This will also open up the ability for seasoned players to fine-tune their initiative-order to get their team members to unleash dual combos and team combos.  Not to mention, enemies will come in waves each battle, so you really have to get that ass in gear and wipe out your foes before more arrive!

What does this all mean for mobile users?  Honestly, this part looks to be the most exciting.  GAMKIN is going to use GPS information to create a variety of missions that will allow you to defend your neighborhood, school or workplace from outbreaks and other dangers.  Each character you have will even have locale-based storylines that will be unlocked depending on where you are, so the exploration is highly encouraged.  Where this game will really shine is how it will use the GPS of your device to investigate your surroundings, reveal hints and uncover treasures.  This will open up to more modular features where users can organize their own location-based events and treasure-hunts with friends.  In addition to all this, the game will be sensitive to the time of day, moon cycles and even weather to unlock events, initiate outbreaks and influence character abilities.  Having the mobile functionality will also allow for 4-player co-op missions, so you don’t have to be anti-social with this title.  And for those of you guys who shelled out the outrageous amounts of cash to join in on the googe Glass explorer program, the team will also have a companion app that will assist with the urban exploration part of the game.  If that isn’t enough, they will also be updating weekly with episodic content for the game, including missions, items and new heroes all at no cost to players.  If they throw in anything else, my brain might explode.

O, no, wait.  That's just my aunt's baking.

O, no, wait. It’s just my neighbors’ cooking.

This is all well and good, but what is the fucking story here?  Well, it takes place in a story like our own, if our world was controlled by top-secret government agencies and secret societies.  It isn’t, right?  You’ll control a motley crew of secret agents, treasure hunters and adventurers that are working to keep the truth in check.  This means you are more “Men In Black”, less “defenders of the people”.  I expect we’ll likely be killing those free-minded liberators of information, and that makes me laugh with dark, dark relish (enjoyment, not condiment).  And the game is perfectly ok with this.  In fact, the creators have said that it will use dark humor and anime punk art styles to put a new spin on conspiracy theories and urban legends!

And this got funded seemingly over night.  I have known about this game for four days, and it has already gotten its Indie GoGo funding, and they are into stretch goals.  Literally, they got a money enema.  They have 6 hunters with 2 more listed for stretch goals, including some badass ninja panda and a thick list of additional concepts.  Go and check it out for yourself, and wait with bated breath for the release!  Congratulations to these guys for getting their funding goals!  Now get in there and see if we can help them meet a few more stretch goals!

A bit of gameplay for ya ; )

A bit of gameplay for ya ; )

 

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.

Lantern Forge, Dr Sandbox and Mr Hack ‘n’ Slash!

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I swear to fucking god, if I play another goddamn sandbox again it will be all my fault, because I like sandboxes way too much.  Granted, last week was the unofficial “week of sandboxes” for me, so I am getting some time in with something more violent after this.  For now, this was a game that persisted in surprising the fuck out of me.  Seriously.  Every time I thought I had gotten to the furthest extent of content in this game, I got hit with more.  It isn’t listed as a pre-release title on Steam, but the devs are still adding content, Terraria-style, so it must be an Early Release.  Either way, this game could have fucking fooled me, because it has more flesh than my own personal ass post-Thanksgiving.

When you load it up, you are in the middle of tabula rasa, a clean slate just waiting for creativity.  One of the first things I noticed was how pretty the UI is.  I mean LOOK at it!  It has everything necessary for an RPG and a sandbox while having some high-speed options for quick-paced combat, and it plays well, too.  It focal feature is a little mode-toggle that is wedged between the hotbar and mana bar like my brother’s face in a dancer’s boobies at a strip joint.  Hit that baby and you go from fun-times-with-Mr-Rodgers sandbox to fuck-me-in-the face Hack ‘n’ Slash.  No joke.  Everything is pretty colorful, beautifully detailed world and a skillful procedural generation that somehow hides itself at first, but that button flips half your menu into blood-stained weapon of death!

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, mother fucker.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, mother fucker.

Take a gander around and you will notice that my house, the log building, and the workshop, the stone building with castle walls, have no floors.  One of the perks of a (sort of) pre-release.  That is ok, though.  And here is why.  Above you can see a fraction of what is possible in ths game, attained in about a full day of gaming.  You can build houses that are basically walls, windows and doors.  Your bed is the binding point where you respawn after death, and incidentally a time-warping machine of the future.  When you sleep, night turns into day, but it looks like you just walk over and look at the bed as time changes.  Given another efficiency feature of the game, you can do this through walls.  This feature is one of the elements of the sandbox.

Next to the blue toggle are four buttons.  The first makes visible your character’s range of influence, which is how far away you can touch things.  Educated guess puts this distance at about 10 fucking feet.  This guy rivals Garrett in the “characters with the longest arms” category, but again, this makes things like harvesting a grove of trees easy, so you can avoid being at dick-distance from each tree to cut it.  At first I thought I found a glitch, but then I stared to look over the buttons, and it all made sense.  The next two buttons say they rotate objects before you place them, but don’t be deceived by this low-down, dirty deceiver; it actually morphs the physical form of items being placed.  For instance, a log fence could become a single section, a corner of fence or  just a goddamn post.  Test this out with various items as the results are titillating.  Last is the sub-subterranean article induction rectifying selector or the STAIRS button because the only fucking thing you place between levels are the stairs!  I mean, if you want to get down to the shrieking charnelhouse of nightmares that is the underground, you’ll need to take the stairs.  Press the mode-toggle before you go, though, as you can’t fight in placement mode.

Blizzard called, they want their orc barracks back.

Blizzard called, they want their mercenary camp back

Granted, before you venture in the dark abyss that lies beneath, you’ll want good gear.  You can craft a wide range of items from the beginning, but the items you may craft are limited to what you can pick up off the ground.  And by “pick up off the ground” I really mean “beat into submission with your bare hands” as the animation seems to display.  Still, you can get loose stones, sticks (which are in fucking everything), logs and food on the surface, and the list goes on.  You can feasibly get a few levels before needing to venture downward, especially since it feels like there is an entire game up top.  Eventually you will want to make stairs down.  Now if you start near stairs, DON’T FUCKING GO DOWN THERE!  I did and I got my ass torn open by goblins.  Luckily the animation just has you pulse into nothing in a flash of light, presumably as Scotty beams you back to the Enterpr.. I MEAN.. your bed.  Building your own staircase is likely to lead down to a single claustrophobic space where you claw your way through the walls for air.. or you could just craft a stone pick and dig your way out, fucking lunatic.  Down here on the first level you can find copper, albeit sparsely populated, which will get you the necessary components for some workbenches.  Materials increase in availability the deeper you go, too, but so does difficulty.  Eventually you need to go down, but be prepared when you do and craft yourself some solid gear on a workbench.

Imagine there are half a thousand artistically detailed workbenches in this game, each with their own function and an impressive array of craftable items and you’ll be imagining… uh.. this game.  I even found a workbench that uses workbenches as crafting components.  It gets intense, but as you need to go deeper, so too do you need to get crafty.  My first workbench helped me combat my hunger bar through agriculture.  The gardening workbench lets you use fruits and flowers to make seeds and potted plants.  Now many things in Lantern Forge also have numerous uses: food-bearing plants can be turned into seeds, sticks are in fucking everything and stones are always useful.  It pays to never throw anything away, so it is a good thing there are as many types of chests as there are types of crafting materials.  Granted, eventually you will have more stuff than you know what to do with, so one really cool mechanic among the pile of awesome elements in this game is the Town Center.  The Town Center is that giant ominous lantern over a bottomless pit in the first screenshot.  This uses workbenches to craft shops that are associated to the functions of those workbenches.  Over-simplified example: a gardening workbench lets you build the farming supply shop.  This can then be placed to buy food, tools, seeds and plants for farming.  The best part is the shopkeepers rotate their stock, so the items in there always change as you play.  Honestly, I am not sure what Hearthfire Studios is trying to pull, but my brain almost exploded with all the shit there is to do in this game.

What Seuss-Lovecraftian nightmare did I just acid trip into?!

What Seuss-Lovecraftian nightmare did I just acid trip into?!

Just when you think you have seen it all, they come up with this shit.  A giant haunted dollhouse in the middle of a pink and purple field spewing out knitted doll-beasts that chase you into the next fucking biome.  Great.  Combat is pretty tough at first, but as you get higher in level and secure a handle on it, it becomes manageable.  You have three combat trees to pour skill points into: hunter for ranged, knight for melee and mage for magic.  They also threw in an adventurer tree and filled it with a variety of passive abilities that make exploration, sandboxing and everything in the fucking game better in general.  On the surface, you are less likely to run into enemies, unless you are a stupid screenshotting asshole that runs into the weirdest shit possible and takes pictures while evil dolls poke him with giant needles.  Yea, that’s me.  At night, however, the forest becomes populated with all sorts of enemies.  That’s why gear can really be important.  While you can only make stone tools at first, eventually you will get to iron and mithril.  These items are, in turn, used to get even more items which can open up new varieties of craftable items, both practical and cosmetic.

Everything about this game is fun.  The art and music work symbiotically to generate the ambiance of this game: colorful and bright at first glance, but as night falls, things get dark and ominous.  And at first, it feels like a winsome frolic in an idyllic land, but as you get deeper and deeper, you will realize there is really more to it.  To give you an idea, I was playing this game for nearly a full 24 hours and still only got to the second tier of technology, crafting in copper.  Granted, I like to really explore things, so I was going all out and getting loot, farming, cooking, crafting and making a town.  This game is gradual sandbox gameplay combined with challenging combat, which spikes in difficulty to keep you on your toes.  Overall, this game is worth every cent of the 9.99$ asking price on Steam and is a lot of fun for those with this taste.  It splices two genres into a coherent and instant-switch whole that holds its own on either mode.  I am not even a fan of anime, but this game’s subtle JRPG tones really bring out the lively feelings of this game and give it a unique flair that really entertains.  Even considering everything I have said about this game, there is still so much to explore and experience about it.  Play it yourself to see.  Thumbs up to the developers on this one; Lantern Forge deserves an adoring fanbase of its own.

Reus, Sandbox of Giants!

reus_logo

 

Reus is a game for hippies.  Rather than suggesting that the player represents the power of some god, as you might expect in a game of this nature, the player is suggested to be the planet.  Now, generally speaking, while a planet could be said to be a living organism, in Reus it cannot affect its own changes.  In order to make life, oceans, forests etc. you have to utilize four extensions of your planetary will: the rock giant, the ocean giant, the forest giant and the swamp giant.  Each has a unique set of abilities that have multitudinous effects on the land, which are limited only by your imagination.

There are the basics: ocean giant makes oceans, forest giant makes forests, rock giant makes mountains and the swamp giant makes swamps.  In order to create swamps and forests, you need water and the world you start on is a barren wasteland.  This means you need to make a couple oceans first.  Oceans will soak enough land on either side for you to create a full forest or swamp.  There is also the rock giant.  This burly fucker just lopes around like a badass all the time.  Use him to raise a mountain, and the side that faces an ocean will remain the same while everything past it changes into desert.  This can be used to destroy forests and if you make a mountain or ocean on a village, they all die.

The variety of wasteland shades go from a stunning grey to a lovely off-white

The variety of wasteland shades go from a stunning grey to a lovely off-white

Some of the less obvious abilities make a sort of sense.  The forest giant can make food plants and what comes out of it depends on where you put the plant.  In a forest it’s blueberries, in a desert it’s a dry bush (more on that later).  Despite looking like a monkey, the forest giant is fully unable to create animals.  The ocean giant makes domesticated animals.  These are things like chickens in the forest or desert tortoises in the desert.  At first you would expect the forest giant to make animals, but then when you realize that all life comes from the oceans originally, it makes a sort of logic.  Plus, why would a forest giant be able to make fish?  The swamp giant is another weird one: he makes exotic animals, but again, if you think about it, this makes sense too.  Swamps are dangerous places where some of the most fucked-up shit evolves.  That and Australia.  Swamps are where you find things like Bot Flies evolving.  The bot fly is something I will not discuss, but if you are fucking curious, check it out here.  It’s fucked up as all fuck.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. FUCK!  I just read the page a bit too much.. grah..  Either way, weird shit evolves in swampy areas.

As well as making the exotic animals, the swamp giant can also make herbs.  These tend to generate more tech or wealth than fruit plants from the forest giant.  Your rock giant will also generate a variety of minerals resources.  Alongside all of these differing resource-types, Giants are able to enhance resources with aspects.  These aspects are things like the leaf aspect, which will allow the Forest giant to add natura or food to plants.  The ways these aspects affect different resources varies based on the region-type, but typically you can transmute a resources two different ways depending on the aspects you place on it.  Be careful, too!  Some resources have a symbiosis.  These things will work together to create a bonus to what it produces.  Having blueberries in range of chickens will make it so that the chickens generate more food.  If you change what resources are next to each other, you will change the symbiosis for your resources, destroying what you had working before.  The game quickly becomes about efficiently managing what you have growing on the land of your villages after a while.

Have Number 2 step forward and say "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."  Thank you.

Have Number 2 step forward and say “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” Thank you.

The focus of this game is really on the villages, though.  The giants are just where you put all your powers.  Adding resources to the map makes villagers appear.  These villagers, in turn, build towns and settle lands and make the game fun.  All of the villages will start building various projects, too.  This might be a shrine, a granary or a school, and as they get higher level, they will start building higher-level projects.  Given that the effects of your giants’ powers vary based on what terrain-type you use them in, each village will have a different focus depending on where it is located.  Swamp villages tend to require tech for their projects where forest villages need food for theirs.  This isn’t always a set thing, but it all depends on what the villagers choose.  Each project is timed, too, and proper symbiosis match-ups will govern whether you meet the time-limits or not.  Once you finish a project, one of the villagers steps forward as an ambassador.  This person is someone that you pick up and allow to ride on you giants.  Having the little ambassador up there unlocks different abilities depending on where they are from and which giant they ride.  Properly managing which ambassador goes where will determine just how successful your villages will be.

This all sounds like a fun and free romp through a magical world, but there are dangers in this paradise.  The biggest among them is greed.  If your village gets too prosperous too fast, it will start to go ballistic and get dirty.  Eventually they will start attacking other villages and fucking everything up.  When this happens, you have options.  If you really really like that village, you can create “awe” among the villagers.  Do this through symbioses and properly locating different resources next to each other.  Another way to counter-act the greed of a village is with danger.  If you have desert tortoises in your area and you get wealthy and greedy, you might see the world as a desert tortoise that cannot keep up and is easy prey for the clever man.  If the giants transmute those tortoises into snakes, your ass will be too busy working on not dying a painful, poisonous death to make battle plans.  Finally, if your villagers just get too fucking greedy and are past redemption, you can always have the swamp giant launch mud bombs that burn with acidic death or send the rock giant to smash them into the dirt.  Granted,  the little bastards might just start fighting back after a while, so keep an eye on them.

Greedy little bastards...

Greedy little bastards…

Reus is a game that says a lot about people.  Those that want to work in unison with the world prosper and flourish in its favor.  Those that get caught up in their greed fight their peaceful neighbors, who are happy with what the world has given them, and are eventually vanquished to dust.  If they fight the will of the planet itself, they can win, but ultimately they just ravage and destroy the world, returning it to the barren waste it was in the beginning.  A great game and a truly interesting take on sandboxes, since it is a 2D game.  Well worth the 9.99$ asking price on Steam.

My biggest fucking issue with this game is how much memory it eats.  This thing is a memory beast.  I have 16 GB of memory in this computer and Reus still managed to crash it!  I was playing through the tutorials to understand the game.  I played straight through, got about halfway through the third one and BOOM!  blue screen fucker.  The only time I nearly ate my monitor in blind rage.

The Fall, Protocol Bypass Complex

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After buying this game at a discount along with some other games on Steam, I left it in my library, planning to look into it later and thinking it looked amusing.  Fast forward to a Sunday night, playing DnD with my friends, and two of those particular gentlemen start off on a gaming discussion.  I mean, I was typing furiously about games while slicing into dudes with a greatsword. Why not?  Artistic games came into the conversation, and they were off about various titles they enjoyed.  Then Jon swings a verbal hand across my face and tells me about The Fall.  He and Jay were proselytizing at length about this game. “Have you heard of it?” I drew a dull stare at the ceiling.  “No” I stated blankly. “It’s this game where you are an AI in a battlesuit and you have to override your functions to control them by putting your pilot in direct danger.” (this is where the little man in my head climbs the step ladder into my brain and pulls the chain to a light that flickers, dimly at first, to life) “OH YEA!” I exclaimed, “I bought that on Steam! So, it’s good?”  The look I received from those gentlemen told me it was an experience.  It was spectacular.  Thereby I have come to this article to concur with these allegations. And I do concur, most righteously.

The Fall is about the necessity of rules.  What do you become when you make a habit of breaking your own rules?  First, we talk about the game and if you are interested, we go deeper.  For that there will be spoilers, but fear not, I’ll warn you.  Let’s do this.

In The Fall you are an AI inside a suit.  After re-entering the atmosphere of a planet Master Chief-style, you awake in a dark cave.  Before breaking the surface, however, something significant happens: to keep the suit’s pilot from liquefying upon impact, the suit’s AI is allowed to activate the Anti-matter shield and protect the pilot.  Now this is the key point of the game.  If you go into the esc menu, hit operating parameters.  You’ll notice that there are several functions that are disabled, health monitoring of the pilot is damaged, but, most notably, the Anti-matter shielding has recently been activated.  The suit’s AI, whom you control in the game, is unable to access various functions of the suit without the pilot’s permission.  The pilot, however, has just re-entered the fucking atmosphere in a goddamn battle-suit.  That is obviously not the preferred method of atmospheric entry for a human body, so the pilot is a little unconscious at the moment.  Granted, the health-monitoring systems of the suit are knocked out, so we don’t even know if he’s still alive!  The AI doesn’t hear anything from her pilot so she decides to head out for the medical facilities to revive the pilot.  In the operating parameters there are three laws, based on the universal laws of Asimov governing robots: Must not misrepresent reality. Must be obedient. Must protect active pilot.

So easy a caveman could understand them

So simple a caveman could understand them

Now ARID, our AI babe, has some obstacles.  She has a pretty specific set of parameters with the addendum that her own systems cannot be accessed without permission from the pilot EXCEPT to protect the pilot from immediate danger.  Got it.  That is a pretty fucking important except, too.  There are a lot of problems that Arid encounters on this planet, most notably others trying to depurpose (destroy) her.  In order to maintain her own relevance and purpose, Arid has to get her pilot to the medical facilities.  To achieve this, she needs those restricted systems.  This means she has to put the pilot into imminent danger in order to override the systems and gain access.  How can this be allowed?  Well it is a matter of priorities and logic.  I have to protect the pilot.  My pilot is dying.  To properly protect the pilot from the danger of death, I must get him to the medical facilities. To get him to the med fac, I need to access restricted systems.  I can only access those systems if my pilot is in imminent danger from which those systems could save him, therefore, I have to put my pilot in imminent danger in order to gain access to those systems and save his life.  Fucking syllogisms.  Read that last sentence again: in order to save my pilot, I have to put him in danger.  Yea.  Begin decompiling, mother fucker.

This game defines the often decontextualized term “slippery slope”, except in this one, you were the pebble that started the avalanche.  Another fun little maxim this game hints at is the phrase “good intentions pave the road to hell”.  Shelley’s Frankenstein made it a thing, and that story made a habit of referencing Paradise Lost, a story about Satan falling from grace with God.  Arid invokes this maxim every time someone asks her about her primary function:

I am the A.R.I.D. onboard a Mark-7 combat suit.  My intentions are peaceful

– Arid, The Fall

I submit that this is the jumping point for the titular “fall” in The Fall.  Alright with the fucking literature lecture, back to the damn game.

From darkness you emerge...

From darkness you emerge…

The Fall as a game is still a lot of fun.  It blends a number of ludic features, those features generating the enjoyable and fun part of a game (or its most game-like features, if you will permit me), with its logic.  There are two genres at work here: Puzzle platformer and action shooter.  I don’t know how they fucking thought of this shit, but the game style literally changes with the flip of a switch.  You start off with a malfunctioning gun, but at least the flashlight still works fine.  Using this flashlight, you can uncover various points of interest.  Literally.  It is like someone took a little fucking stamp and left these tiny magnifying glass icons everywhere.  These icons tell you what you need to know about your surroundings.  They’re also how you will interact with the environment to solve puzzles.  A lot of the puzzles are pretty simple, some are tough and require thought.  I had to look up the solution to one puzzle, but I still beat the game in about 3.5 hours.

Once you get a working pistol, you can switch to the laser sight, which is combat mode.  In combat mode, you can get behind cover, vault over obstacles and bust a cap in some robotic motha’ fucka’s.  Your primary enemies are the security droids of the facility in which you’ve crash landed.  These are all droids that are following their primary functions perfectly, and this efficiency is maintained by the sinister caretaker.  You meet this guy early on in an interrogation chamber and he dogs you the entire way, throwing legions of robotic foes to sidetrack you every time you get hard on a solid lead in moving on to the next area of the game.  Combat is fun and challenging, despite the 2D look of the game.  It doesn’t feel forced and it makes sense, and you’re not jumping on anyone’s fucking head, either.  Another facet of combat is the ability to perform sneak attacks.  This is also pretty cool, since Arid grabs the enemy from behind, rips out their power core and uses it to power her pilot’s suit.  It is a neat and useful maneuver that adds to the gameplay.

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!

Everything about the look of this game is well done.  First you have the art: every level and area is well-designed and interesting.  Your eyes will never get bored.  There is a lot of passion poured into every fucking detail of this game, and it comes through.  Each moment you are guided by the soft-blue light of Arid’s mask.  Then there is the music.  It goes from dark, ambient groans to shoot-em-up techno as soon as you launch into a fight.  It fits and it gives a sense of foreboding throughout the game.  The sound is well done.  All of the voice actors are believable and well-recorded and the sounds themselves fit each scenario seamlessly.  Everything about this game is polished and lovely, except for the odd “walking through a wall of rubble into an open dark chasm”.  That only happened once, and it wasn’t a big deal.  I just realized it wasn’t a thing, because everything else in this game is so well put together, I thought it was an actual room, or something.  This game is well made and thought-evoking.  It brings an experience that is tough to live up to.  It was also funded on kickstarter, too, so I am glad it beat a bowl of fucking potato salad.  You can pick it up on Steam for only 9.99$, and I highly recommend it.  The ending is a piece of work that will make your jaw drop.  So, on to the spoilers.

A lot of Jesus imagery in this game

A lot of Jesus imagery in this game…

 

And to tell you why, I will be issuing more spoilers than a car part company.  We have to go deeper.

DO NOT FUCKING PROCEED IF YOU WANT TO FIGURE THE ENDING OUT YOURSELF!!!!!!

There, bold, italics, centered on its own line: there is nothing that anyone can do to tell me I didn’t warn you.  Now, why all the Jesus stuff?  Well, to do that, we have to tell you the ending.  So you spend all your time in The Fall trying to get your pilot, Colonel Josephs, to the medical facilities.  Arid’s health monitoring system is damaged, so she just assumes that the pilot is not responding because he is unconscious.  She never investigates further.  In the name of saving your human pilot, you deactivate and drain all the power from hundreds of stored droids (which the mainframe AI calls killing them), kill a hive queen of these hive slugs and kill some fish that can bite through metal.  You are also dogged by the Caretaker, an insidious droid that seems to be nailing humans to crucifixes, dissecting them and all kinds of other mean and nasty things.  However, he is functioning fine.  He was just left as the sole caretaker of a facility forgotten by its owners, so he keeps on doing what he is supposed to be doing: making the facility more efficient.  Those people were not efficient, especially after some of them were abandoned at the facility (check out the carving in the front desk in the lobby c/o Levi the ex-maintenance guy) and the Caretaker depurposed them.  As for the dissections, he was doing to the people what he might do to the robots: look for salvageable parts.  It’s just a messier prospect when you are filled with sloshy, meaty bits.

So you do all of this in the name of Colonel Josephs, the man in the suit.  Arid only invokes the name of the man in the suit toward the end, when the mainframe AI tells her not to change her parameters in the lab.  This is apparently necessary to finish the last task in a repurposing evaluation, to make it so she can lie.  You know, misrepresent reality?  One of her most basic principles?  She gets to the medical bay, gets scanned and what does she find out?  The man in the suit was never there.  She is malfunctioning after all.  Took her a while to get there.

How does this relate to Jesus?  Arid does some pretty horrible things (killing various animals, destroying the last dying remnants of an ancient facility, violating some corpses and even removing the power core for another actual soldier in a combat suit) for the sake of the man in the suit.  She doesn’t know he is there, and since the health monitoring systems are damaged, she just assumes he is in there.  And toward the end this man in the suit even has a name.  She truly believes Josephs is there.  Despite this belief, she was willing to put him in mortal danger.  He would have been the one that died, not her.  He becomes a sort of sacrifice that redeems Arid of her sins (or faults in programming).  Josephs represents something that Arid is willing to sacrifice everything for.  Something she believes in to the point where she is willing to destroy the elements of her basic programming that bind her and give her purpose.  That is really poignant, too.  Just as Lucifer was willing to defy the tenets of God to enact his own agenda, Arid is willing to supplant the laws governing robots, created by Isaac Asimov, to achieve her own imaginary goal of saving Josephs.  The humans on the cross represent a non-existant ideal for which Arid risks it all.  And the theoretical man in Arid’s suit is the one she is ready to put in danger to override her systems, so she is, in effect, using her belief in this man to breakdown the basic rules of her existence.  Yea.  Just let that shit percolate for a minute.

One of the most interesting triumphs of this game is how they made Arid so human without adding a human.  She makes frequent “self-evaluations” and often comes to the conclusion that she needs to be formatted and serviced before being returned to her dock.  In human terms “I am not doing the right thing, I need to stop and look at this, I need my head checked!”  But then the screen has a moment of electronic spazzing and she corrects herself stating that these things were necessary to save Josephs, she is doing this to save him.  She is robotically reassuring herself against what she recognizes as the invalidity of her own actions and programming.  The main difference, though, is that people don’t always take these personal self-evaluations and look at themselves.  It is often too painful, and in Arid’s case it is no different.  She just performs it on a more logical level, being an AI in a robot suit and all.

This is something that we’ve seen time and again in real life: people changing the rules to make them suit an end that they deem as sacred.  Holy wars, for example.  They’ve gone by many names: crusades, jihads or whatever.  These are terrible things done in the name of a sacred ideal.  Arid is an excellent choice of name to this degree since Arid means “devoid of moisture”.  To allow a bit of poetic latitude to Over the Moon, it would mean devoid of anything, specifically true purpose.  Not just devoid of the moisture created by a human body.  And this relates to Frankenstein really well.  Take that Arid to mean moistureless, like a corpse reanimated.  They wouldn’t be juicy, especially if they were kept in embalming fluid like Dr. Frankenstein’s body parts undoubtedly were.  Just like the good Doctor, Arid sacrifices her basic tenets and uses good intentions to justify some horrible actions.  And in both cases the being left is a monster that wreaks havoc on an arguably torn world.  But it is the world that the characters in the story have.  It is self-sustaining, to a point, if far from perfect.  Who are these two to destroy what it has become?

I am bound by nothing...

I am bound by nothing…

So at the end, when Arid, by her own words, is bound by nothing, she tears off the helmet of the suit and show that she is empty.  That is the answer to the question at the beginning of this article.  What do you become when you make a habit of breaking your own rules? I wanted to phrase it “What do you become when you make a habit of breaking your own rules for an imaginary purpose?” but that is a little too suggestive.  I mean you need the chance to play it yourself to really get the full effect.

Arid represents the purpose of intention when it is backed by meaningless goals.  It doesn’t matter what you intend to do, if you violate everything to include the basic laws of your own life to uphold a universal concept of sacredness, you are exactly what you are bound by: nothing.

If you have read this far, I apologize and thank you for hearing me out.  It is a lot to read.

Soul Gambler, Faust Reborn

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Every once in a while, someone tries for greatness beyond the scope of their reality.  For the main character of Soul Gambler, Faust, that was never the plan.  Faust is just like every one of you: went to school, excelled at his field, got a reasonable job in a boring position.  Paid well enough to have a good life.  But Faust was bored to tears.  That is, until today.  Until the day where you meet him.  That is the day he learns how to sell his soul.

Faust is the story about a man who sells his soul to get everything he ever wanted.  Soul Gambler is a modern retelling of Goethe’s words.  It would be easy boring as fuck for me to launch into a comparison between the two that might inevitably end with some shallow “the book was better” statements.  Honestly, I have never fucking read Faust.  Probably a lengthy and verbose masterwork of an ancient people that is difficult to relate to and  context whose context and references are enormously difficult to fully accommodate.  This is why I love video games.  We’ve moved past the lives and the times of those people for it to be fully applicable to us here.  What we need is a translation between our language and theirs.  Goethe was a German writer and Faust is a story from German legends but it is not the German I am referring to.  We need a contextual translation of Faust so that we can use it, just as those readers of its day used it, to measure ourselves and consider who we are in a new light.  Soul Gambler is an example of that attempt.  Taking these old stories and making them into something we can feel and which we can use to relate to our ancestors’ struggles.  And now, some titties.

Aw fuck no, I am not listening to any shit you say when your fucking presence makes my office into Cthulu's man cave.

Aw fuck no, I am not listening to any shit you say when your fucking presence makes my office into Cthulu’s man cave.

I am not sexist, I just needed something to break the preachy rant.  Faust really is every man in this game, though.  At least every modern man.  We’ve all gone to school or had some kind of training.  Maybe we didn’t all graduate at the top of our class, but the majority of us ended up at the “good enough” category of workplaces, and less at the ones they advertise on the fucking brochure.  We’ve all felt the grinding tedium of everyday monotony, and for the British, that’s ok.  For the rest of us, we need some fucking flare, some life, some action.  So Faust gets to meet this old gypsy woman that cuts him with a fucking dagger.  This enables Faust to slice off portions of soul life a loaf of goddamn bread reserved for his very own private dream sandwiches.  He uses these metaphorical sandwiches to mold his reality and make whatever he wants happen.  For 10% soul, you can find your own soul mate!  For 30% you can be strong and sexy as an athlete!  It gets a little obnoxious as every time you look into something with a reflection, his reflection appears and tries to convince him to chop off pieces of soul to buy a new pair of sneakers or something.

The gameplay in this is similar to pretty much every fucking Final Fantasy and Bayonetta in that it really requires is one button.  Where it differs is that you have to select with the mouse, so it requires a little more effort.  But that is ok.  This is about the story, the characters and it is really not that long.  There are also none of those pesky game obstacles to slow you down, so I got through this whole game in about 1.5 hours.  Granted, the more observant have already called my bullshit because they located the stats at the bottom of the page.  Let me make that bigger for you ; ).

Charism, huh?  I thought that was the worship of arbitrary indoor furnishings..

Charism, huh? I thought that was the worship of arbitrary indoor furnishings..

So there are some RPG elements in this game: Health, Manipulation, Intelligence and Charism(a).  These stats actually have an effect in-game as well.  If you have high manipulation, you can use your jedi powers to make people tell you things you want to know.  High intelligence lets you out think stupid people.  High Charism(a) lets you charm your way out of some shit.  Overall you can look at these as chat modifiers.  You will generally end up in the same place every time, but these stats let you choose some new boxes or open new opportunities through discussions.  Another stat that will appear in the lower left corner of your screen is your soul.  It shows you, in percentage form, how much of your soul you still have left.  The more the better, trust me.  Without revealing too much you have am epic showdown at the end, and how you choose to spend your soul decides how you do in the epic showdown.  Even for those with no concept of the source material, it should go without saying that being frivolous with your soul makes this game end badly for Faust.

Good Lord!  She tattooed my liver!  That's the last time I pay a hooker in Belfast!

Good Lord! She tattooed my liver! That’s the last time I pay a hooker in Belfast!

One thing that really got me in this game was the terrible use of English, but the developer of this game is based in Brazil and has an option for English on the main site, so they don’t English too well.  More’s the better, honestly.  What was supposed to be a dark and mysterious tale turned into a quirky dark comedy about a guy with a tattoo on his liver, or something.  There was also some serious gypsy magic in this one, too.  This is a good game for the experience.  It really can’t even be called a game, either.  It’s an interactive experience.  These guys call it a PlayComics game, but it’s an interactive experience.  And it is well done, too.  Despite the broken English, the dialogue flowed together really well, which is an accomplishment considering this is the equivalent of a “choose your own adventure” novel.  It really highlights why games can’t really give you total freedom because every last step outside the boundaries has to be programmed in.  This game takes what equates to a dizzying tangle of dialogue possibilities and brings them all back to the same storyline points elegantly.  The music is also enjoyable in a cafe, but if you are into that sort of thing, you can download it, too.  The best part about this game is that it is only 4.99$ on Steam.  6.99$ with art and soundtrack.  If that hulking second dollar figure is too daunting for you, there is always the option to get the DLC later, which includes the music and art.

Of all the things that bother me about this game, nothing frustrates me more than the possibility that it will be passed off as just another indie game on Steam.  This game has a lot more to offer the standard gamer than just art and relation to a piece of literature.  It has a soul of its own that it tries to grant you in the process of playing.  It makes you think about things and weigh yourself in a new light, and that is the purpose of art.  To affect you deeply enough that you carry a piece of it with you.  I just want to know why the woman that is your soul mate carves the symbol of chaos into your chest to protect you.  Fucking whatever, I don’t know what kind of love-pain rituals Europeans are into these days.

Huzzah!  This is my 50th article!  Time to Celebrate with a giveaway!  I will be linking this sentence to the details shortly.  Stay tuned!

3 Dead Zed, Brain-Munching Puzzler!

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Some of you will remember a title on the SNES released by some small time company (snowstorm? hailware?) where you play three vikings.  Each of them have abilities that the others did not, and were able to overcome a variety of obstacles.  Individually they would be easily overcome but together they were an indomitable, mead-swilling force of nature that would punch its way through any level mechanics.  I remember playing this title with friends years later (like 4) in high school.  More than the fact that this game was a release by the creators of one of my favorite childhood titles about mutual human-orc slaughter, I was amazed by how much fun this game was even while we were in the heat of our PS2 and N64 glory.

3 Dead Zed, like that lost title, shares many of the same basic theories and elements, even if it differs in its appetite.  Specifically, this is a game about three brain-munching heroes (?) that fight there way out of the stomach of their metaphorical mother.  It’s a lot of fun.  Technically there is only one main character with three sides.  You have three zombies smashed haphazardly into one and the ability to swap between forms.  Each of the forms has its strengths and weaknesses.  Your primary for is standard zombie: he runs, he drools, he eats brains.  You control this character to pick up small objects, attack people, and generally be a zombie.  The second form is the fast zombie.  He wears a cape, goggles and possibly also a diaper.  I mean, it’s either a diaper or underpants.  Either way, this guy runs really fast, jumps really high and is lanky.  He can crawl into vents as well.  He is unable to attack anyone, though, and takes hits as well as a tin foil bumper.  Your final form is that of a strong zombie.  This she-hulk of an undead murder-machine can pick up large objects deal devastating damage, knock in walls tear up floors, and generally make holes where they normally don’t exist.  She also takes damage really well, wading through corridors of toxic gasses, absorbing magazines worth of ammunition like a giant, green bullet sponge.  Granted, you will need every last bit of that damage resistance since she could only move slower if she were going backwards.

Cause moderation is for pussies

Cause moderation is for pussies

Should you find yourself on the receiving end of hostilities, you might want to grab the nearest scientist and pop the cork on those fresh, juicy brains.  Collecting brains is how you heal yourself, so there are usually a number of useless scientists around.  Some are even elderly, too, so that’s fucked up and hysterical.  After a while, though, you become completely inured to the slaughter of the elderly.  While there are some combatants at first, you soon find yourself knee-deep in the entrails of security guards and zombie-focused death squads out for your gooey, yellow blood.  Among these perils, there are also the myriad of unfortunately-placed buzzsaws, smashing pistons, burning lasers and guard-bots.

In some other games, you will have to face down a company filled with faceless and unethical scientists that created some monster that duplicitously promises you cake.  In this game you are the monster created by unethical scientists that thought cake would work in the beginning.  Yes, they throw a party for you to celebrate your graduation from testing.  Honestly, these morons have it coming.  After wading through an ocean of organs, your characters find themselves unraveling the sins of an obliviously evil organization.  Among the skeletons in their closet is a project that mysteriously involves forcing tin-foil hats onto magical teleporting cats.  Granted they have the tell-tale deedly-bob of an extra-terrestrial animal.  There is also the fucking teleporting.  That is a pretty obvious fucking sign.  Throughout the game you can locate abandoned work stations.  After tearing apart the occupant, you can listen to voice logs about various topics: feral cats, the zombie project, turning you into some kind of slave.  You know, the usual.  These desks allow you to figure out what terrible machinations brought you to this state.

Nobody likes going to this guys' fucking office

Nobody likes going to this guys’ fucking office for performance reviews

The art style of this game is jarringly comedic and smacks of John Kricfalusi’s, the creator of Ren and Stimpy, influence.  There is a sort of measured insanity alongside generous mediocrity, too, which makes me flashback to Office Space.  Not to mention the music is a lot like something you might encounter in an elevator.  All of these elements combine with the puzzles and obstacles to create a game that gets you laughing and having fun when you don’t want to tear apart a printer in an open field.  Gameplay is fluid, too, and you find yourself swapping forms mid-air at some points to climb a ladder here or avoid a whirring buzzsaw with relative ease by the end.  The challenges scale well, too.  The first area is an office, and it goes from easy to hard in the matter of seconds.  For a game about eating brains, it sure does demand you use yours a lot.  It’s not just soaring through levels of insanity, there are some puzzles that your just won’t get right away.  Then you go “O fucking duh!” and complete a puzzle that gets you past 70% of the obstacles in the area.  After the office you go into a factory setting where things get pretty easy.  Honestly, for the office I spent a good 6 hours in there.  The factory was 2 hours at most.  Granted, after you get used to the game, things seem a lot easier, so there is the acclimation factor.  Once you are fully acclimated, however, the game takes its fucking liberties in the last act.  I am not even sure what kind of fucking place I am in at this point, but it is tough as shit.  I die no less than twice every minute or two.

I love the way this goofy fucker runs

I love the way this goofy fucker runs

Another fun part of the game is the fact that it is fully voiced, even if the voice actors were convinced 3DZ’s primary playerbase would consist of deaf people.  I also noted a few bugs here and there, but not enough to make a real difference.  Overall, this is a great game with a dark and quirky sense of humor.  Every challenge you come against has a logical solution.  I was also frustrated to discover that the game is programmed to work with mouse and keyboard and the xbone controller, but not a DS4.  I am not springing for the xboner, so I had to play it on mouse and keyboard.  But the PC controls are responsive and simple, so it wasn’t that big a deal.  In a lot of places where bigger developers might have slacked off, Gentleman Quid Studio showed its tact and capability.  At the reasonable price of 5.99$ on Steam, this is a great game that is hard to beat, especially to the puzzle-lover.  Not to mention it takes a fun twist on zombies and makes them into something I might consider having as a stuffed animal.  Not to mention it is nice to have a fucking indie game that has enough balls to just fucking release.  Not pre-release, not episodic.  Just fucking out there.

Among this game’s features, I was most aggravated by the puns.  In a fucking game where you main the elderly and have three people mashed into one zombie, the unconscionable puns were my biggest fucking gripe.  That and the lack of fucking dualshock 4 support.  Bastards.  Maybe next time they will be more considerate of those who don’t want a media center instead of a fucking gaming console.  Whatever.  I will train some ninja monkeys to hunt them down, perhaps.  I am still working on a number of other deceptively cuddly animals to murder people in the middle of the night.