Eufloria, Tripadelic RTS Invasion

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Eufloria is a game that defines some of my earliest days with indie games, and it’s far from showing its age.  There are those who would have you believe that indie is a style that can be encapsulated in a game with a whacky storyline or super-artsy hand-painted backgrounds, but I call bullshit on that.  You don’t have to put girls in cakes to make an indie game: what you need is balls.  Eufloria shows a lot of that brazen attitude in the way it took a bizarre concept, ran with it, made it work and did the whole fucking job well.  That is how you indie.

Eufloria is a game where you take control of an army of flying seedlings, and then impregnate various ‘asteroids’ with them.  The key to this army is their flexibility.  depending on the characteristics of the asteroid that spawns them, they will have a mix of 3 traits: energy, speed and strength.  Depending on their combination of these traits, they will look different.  If they have a higher strength, they will have a longer tail, of they have higher speed they will have wider tails and if they are energetic they will have longer beaks.  Each of these traits translates into something completely different in game.

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Like little, zappy death bugs…

Each of those little flying things is a seedling, and they serve any number of functions from soldiers to colonization.  When you send a collection of these little guys at an enemy, they will start zapping them with a little laser.  No fucking clue how that works, I will get back to you on that.  When you hit that button down there, they kamikaze into the asteroid and a tree starts to grow.  Logical in a sort of odd way.  As far as I have progressed, there are two trees: a dyson tree, which generates more seedlings, and defensive trees, which lob explosive pods.  Planting a dyson tree will generate seedlings with traits mimicking those of the asteroid.  Some important things to keep in mind on this point: speed seedlings are fast as fuck and are great for rapid reinforcements, strength seedlings are great for taking out enemies and defensive trees, energetic seedlings are great for taking over enemy asteroids.

Eventually, you will start dealing with enemies, and a fucking lot of them.  They swoop in low and start zapping fucking everything, and you have to counter.  Now, the way you direct your seedlings is by clicking and dragging.  This will launch all the seedlings circling an asteroid at the target in an awesome attack formation that makes me want to turn on Flight of the Valkyries every time I do it.  If you want to send only your fastest seedlings (in case you have to contact the Dread Pirate Roberts), you double-click and select the fastest seedlings.  This will turn your cursor blue, for speed, and then you drag from origin to target.  This can be done with any of the types.

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Ba bada ba ba, ba bada ba ba, ba bada ba ba, ba bada ba ba, ba bada baaaa!!!!!

Reading the placement of the asteroids is important, too, because where you can go depends on which asteroids you control.  Each asteroid has a range that you can fly from it to reach other asteroids.  Once you get there, you’ll have to lay waste to the enemies like a swarm of genocidal gnats.  The best part comes when you take the asteroid.  To achieve this, the seedlings zap a tree until it explodes.  They then fly down into the remaining roots to attack the core, where they fucking explode.  If you have a fear of bugs flying into your ears and laying eggs in your head, this is not an okay game for you.  I fucking love it, though.

The older your trees, the more seedlings or explosive pods they will generate, so size matters.  Watching an old asteroid take hits is a bit gut-wrenching, but the respawn rate for seedlings is pretty good; I still recommend filling up the max tree level as best you can, though.  Once you strike an enemy, they will ALWAYS try the fucking dick move and strike at the asteroid you vacated to attack theirs.  That’s ok though, you can always pull a few from another location to clean those guys up.

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So… whatever is on that rock is about to fucking die.

As you can see, the art takes a minimalist style, utilizing color to make the world feel warm and alive.  Every time you start a level you will have a different color and each level has its own challenges to overcome.  The way the colors seem to vibrate with life takes on a role of its own in the game though, and it really starts to feel more like a full region than just empty space.  As you conquer and cultivate each asteroid, you can zoom further and further out to see all of what you’ve created, and the later levels get pretty expansive.  The music combines with this warm sensation to create an ambient space of wonder and interest.  This is like playing an RTS painting and each factor is shaped specially for the task.  Despite feeling like you are a swarm of dust mites conquering the equivalent space of someone’s nostril, the game itself really has a life and style of its own.  I would like to see some major fucking publisher with the balls to release this one.  It’s available on Steam right now for 14.99$ and I recommend it highly.  It is a magnificent game that really draws you in and challenges you, but in a soothing and enjoyable way that isn’t like every fucking RTS Blizzard made since Warcraft 3.  It’s wonderful.  Fucking play it.

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Zeno Clash 2: Much More ‘What’, Equal Parts ‘The Fuck’

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Zeno Clash 2 is a perfect example of what happens when an imaginative group of talented developers find a publisher and can make a game the way the always wanted.  Granted, it is fucking bizarre as pink dancing hamsters in tutus tearing apart two cows having a threesome with a Scottish midget, but there is just as much fun and blood involved as the above description.  This game is fun.  It is a ton of fucking fun heaped into a bizarre surrealist world and topped off with guns.  Not to mention, the storyline is interesting as fuck.

So Ghat makes his comeback in this sequel by doing the opposite of what he did in the first one.  Literally, the fucking opposite.  Where before he was trying to kill father-mother and break up the family in order to avenge FM’s baby-thieving, now he is trying to save FM from a much-deserved ass-kicking and reuniting the family.  I honestly think this guy just likes to fucking beat shit up and kill motherfuckers.  I mean, that is what he did as a Corwid, and he hasn’t changed anything but the fact that now he no longer wears a mask.  I would hypothesize that this shows that Ghat is willing to face who he is and give into his dark, true self, but that would almost be too fucking involved.  I think he just likes to fuck shit up.

City of Halstedom, pronounced Hal-stom.  See also churning homestead of wanton fucking insanity.

City of Halstedom, pronounced Hal-stom. See also churning homestead of wanton fucking insanity.

Halstedom has been taken over by the North Golem, Kax-Teh.  You know, the guy you brought to Halstedom to deal with Father-Mother?  The North Golem, the guy with the Rubick’s cube from ZC, has built a jail, the colonnade-adorned head building, to incarcerate criminals in the town.  Makes sense, guy’s a natural fucking philanthropist.  Except one thing.  These people have no idea what this concept of “law” is.  It is literal anarchy.  Whoever wants to rule can, if they can get enough support from other thugs and people in the area.  So he is literally forcing these foreign concepts of law and order onto a city of people that have trouble with the concepts associated with a can-opener.  They are children, and he is ruling them with an iron fist from his head-palace using concepts none of them can understand.  Very little about any of this makes much sense.

With FM behind bars, you would assume that everything should be alright in the world, but Ghat is a more motiveless malignancy than Iago, so he gets tired of starting bar-fights all the time.  Luckily, Rimat, a woman wearing a rice paddy hat from FM’s family, decides to start some shit.  See, after everyone found out about FM’s treachery and baby-stealing, the North Golem told them who their real parents are and where they could be found.  Many went to him, but a few did not.  Rimat was one of those who didn’t.  Her opinion was that you cannot change the past, so she cannot change the fact that she was raised by a giant, hooded man-bird.  And, honestly, she has a compelling point.  This is something that many adoptees have to come to terms with, but Rimat, given the chance to go back to them, prefers to stay with the familiar.  She chooses to stay with those that she grew up with.  Very interesting.  So together with Rimat, Ghat helps to break FM out of jail and seek out the various members of the family.

After they’ve found all their brothers and sisters, they then turn their goals against the golems.  As it turns out, the golems are just the servants of some infinitely wiser entities, and they were put in place to keep the Zenos from leaving their land of Zenozoic.  The term “zenos” is used to describe anyone from this place, too.  I would want to keep these guys out of my backyard too.  I mean fucking look at them!

Ugly is a polite term for these people

Ugly is a polite term for these people. I mean, the police force wear flour sacks on their heads leaving you to imagine the horrors beneath!

Above is one of my favorite features of this game.  Normally, the gameplay is something like a free-roaming RPG, but there will be these areas where you’ll be pitted against a ton of enemies.  Unlike other games such as Half-Life 2 or any FPS by Flying Wild Hog, these arenas are not resolved with a sword or by gutting people with a machine-gun.  These battles are most often resolved with combo attacks and flying double-fist strikes.  Massive battles like this are resolved like street thugs would back in the 1920’s:  Everyone has a nasty brawl and the victors are the ones who are right.  Sometimes you will have some assholes sitting back, picking people off with a rifle or a grenade launcher, but hit them hard enough and they will drop it.  Of course, if there are weapons like rifles and grenade launchers, why even get into pitch brawls like that?  Simple, the guns in this game are few and far between and there isn’t oodles of ammo laying around.  It’s actually somewhat realistic in this way.  Of course, why not grab a club?  Those are around too!  This game forces you to deal with someone via fisticuffs.  Weapons that you have to strike someone with, including guns without ammo, will break and shatter.  The most reliable way to deal with your issues is to beat them to a bloody pulp with your bare hands, as God intended.

The landscapes in this game are absolutely magnificent and always always always have elements that make you curious, intrigued and outright confused.  As you wander these landscapes, you might be wondering if you are on Mars.  Actually, the game gives you ample reason to believe that it might be Earth, but the game has numerous regions.  Each region can be explored and explored freely.  Some are more open than others, but each area has its own unique look and feel, and each area has its secrets and stashes.

The two-headed monkey riding on the back of a fire-spitting vulture made the muculosaurus in the desert seem low-key.

The two-headed monkey riding on the back of a fire-spitting vulture region made the muculosaurus in the desert seem low-key.

Two features adding to this are stashes and skill points.  Stashes are places where you can find items (food to heal, totems to fill the special attacks meter, weapons etc) which fulfill a variety of uses, mostly combat-oriented.  These stashes look like giant, horned clamshells and function much the same way as chests.  The art director for this game should be drug-tested hourly.

The other feature are the skill point totems.  These appear as skulls hanging from a crude stand and can be found nearly everywhere.  A couple time I revisited regions only to find a new skill totem that wasn’t accessible without equipment I found elsewhere.  These totems are well-hidden too, almost as if they hired someone from Flying Wild Hog to put in the secrets.  When you interact with these totems, half the present skulls disappear and you get points equal to the number of skulls obtained.  Once you have the points, you can go ahead and start pouring them into the various skills: health, stamina, strength, leadership. Health is health, stamina dictates how many punches you can throw before getting weak, strength is how hard you hit.  Leadership is the most interesting skill, though.  Throughout the game, you will switch out between various characters that will help Ghat and Rimat on their journey.  The higher your leadership, the more powerful the allies that you can recruit to your quest with you.  These guys are useful, too, especially when you find yourself suddenly confronted with a massive mosaic of faces as seen above.  You will be fighting ALL those fuckers, often in close-quarters.  With little space to run and twenty mother-fuckers trying to kick your ass, you will need some friends to mix up the melee.  I poured nearly all of my points into leadership.

The skills are accessible from the map screen, where you can also find some collections.  There are a variety of things to collect, all of which are random and make little sense.  They are a ton of fun, and when you play, you’ll likely see how they add their own pieces of flavor to this game.

Make a left at the canyon filled with testicle-chinned shrimp, pass by the butthole-licking tribe of barbarians and we'll arrive at the city of mechanical, two-headed monkey people.  Remember to pack sandwiches!

Turn left at the canyon of testicle-chinned shrimp, pass foot-collecting barbarian tribe and arrive at the city of mechanical, two-headed monkey people. Remember to pack sandwiches!

Do not play this game thinking you will not be saying “What the fuck” every five seconds.  This game is just as whacky, if not moreso, than the first, but its gameplay is memorable and awesome.  I honestly hope they take this formula and apply to a remake of Double-Dragon or Final Fight.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have a fighting-style free-roaming first-person RPG like this one in a vast post-apocalyptic, future cityscape where gangs tear eachother apart?  You could have some guns in there, but they might be so rare that they are almost a form of currency, so battles are largely solved with blades and fists.  Just food for thought to give Ace Team.  This game itself is a hell of a thing though.  It feels like the greater narrative of morality and law being waged by the golems is the true story, and the rest of the world is made to be ridiculous so a seeking mind is almost forced to latch onto the golems and interpret their story.  Then Ghat comes in and fucks shit up, believing, I guess, that true freedom requires the death of law.  Whatever you glean from this game, it is likely to be memorable.  And the best part is that its Special Edition currently on sale for 2.99$ on Steam, although it is deserving of every cent of the 24.99$ usual asking price.  Go get it now! Seriously!  It’s fucking awesome!

The Polynomial, Psychadelic Space-Out

headerI am a huge fan of space shooters, but this one is less a space shooter and more a spaced-out shooter.  This is a title I recommend to anyone on LSD or Acid, because it is intense as hell.  Of course, I recommend anyone with Photosensitive Seizures avoid this title altogether.  I am photosensitive in general and this game made me feel a little nauseous and headachey after about an hour of gameplay.

First, keep in mind that this game is a sort of space shooter.  You are in a spaceship and there are wormholes, but that is about the only thing this game has in common with space, real or theoretical.  Click the left mouse to fire a stream of plasma and steering is a bit difficult due to low gravity.  When you start you are a bit slow, enemies are tough to hit and, if you put the game on insane difficulty as the game instructs, you’ve died a couple of times already.  That’s ok, honestly, I have yet to discern any real point to this game outside of “get a fuck load of points.”  That is ok, though.  It is a good bit of trippy-ass fun.

dashing through outer space in my plasma-shooting ship!

dashing through outer space in my plasma-shooting ship!

There are three other types of entities in this game aside from you: ghosts, flowers and nom-noms.  Everything has a reticule around it in-game, though, so locating them won’t be too too difficult. Your allies are ghosts.  These beautiful beings look the way a child might imagine a soul or angel.  They have a central orb with fluttering wings and a vaguely defined look.  They’re tough to spot with just the naked eye, especially against the shimmering spaces of the game.  If you fly through them, you’ll heal your life-bar and gain a speed boost.  Finding your life bar is a challenge of its own, but it is the solid bar at the top.  The green/red bar on the right of your aiming reticule is your velocity bar.  No numbers, just visual approximations.  The other entity type is the flowers.  These don’t really offer boosts, but they do help you hide from the enemies.  They are more defined than the ghosts, and have a colorful interior.  I am pretty sure they don’t move, either.  They’re like nebulas that keep you from detection.  You enemies are nom-noms.  These guys look like someone took one of Mario’s Big Chomps, covered him with neon lighting and started a light-stick rave party inside.  These guys go around mauling your friends.  They eat the ghosts and it’s your task to kill these fuckers.  And it is tougher than it sounds, too, even on normal.  Aside from chomping down on ghosts, they will also shoot plasma bolts at you.  This is frustrating, especially when you start off, since you are slow as shit.

OooOoO! So pretty!

OooOoO! Ghosts are so pretty!

Yes, those are snowflakes in that picture.  When I got into the game, after it explained how I play, I went through a wormhole into this area that had a big-ass Christmas tree on a big red ball that throbbed to the pulsating trance of the music.  It was cool, especially when it played Christmas music, but it’s FUCKING JULY!  Whatever.  I guess it has just been a long-ass time since I last played this game.

Now, if you want to speed up from your initial slow-as-sex-in-a-pool-of-molasses speed, you have to either fly through ghosts, which can be tough to manage, or find the power-ups.  There are three of these things as well.  One boosts your speed, as you might’ve fucking guessed.  But it doesn’t just boost your speed, it more than doubles your speed bar, so getting these whenever you can, even if you think you don’t need it is always a good idea.  I am pretty sure this will temporarily stack after flying through a ghost, so it will be enough to keep enemy fire off you for a bit.  Your next power-up is the power… uh… power-up.  This one makes your plasma deal spectacular damage.  After grabbing this beast, you’ll mow through nom-noms like nothing.  The last one is auto-aim.  Just center your reticule on your enemies and let the power-up do the rest.  Normally with all the flying about and such, you have to lead your enemies to (hopefully) hit them and land a kill.  This power-up makes all that so much easier.  Just get them in the dotted circle and they’re toast.

OM NOM NOM!

OM NOM NOM!

I said there are wormholes, right?  Fly through one of them if you are tired of the area.  I was sick of the Christmas-themed area and wanted to get out into the greater game.  It was well worth it.  I was greeted by a wide range of procedurally(?) generated spaces full of scintillating beauty.  I really cannot say enough about that.  It says it is a fractal shooter and it really is.  Every space is shaped by invisible fractal variables that paint a spectacular picture.  The choices of colors are also really nice, but can be headache-inducing.  Its look makes Polynomial feel like another game that remembers how we were told games would be “in the future” when we were kids growing up in the 90s or the 80s.  This game really is great, and gives you a chance to just zap some dudes, no strings attached.  The music often has a highly-required trance feel to it, but sometimes you will get some really elegant piano music that really vibes for you.  It’s pleasant. I would call this a really artistic spaced-out shooter that lets you enjoy yourself and really vibe to the music.  Well worth a play and I would even say it is well worth the 6.99$ asking price on Steam.

What really pissed me off about this game?  Everything is shiny and neon colored, sparkly and pretty.  Some fucker hid the goddamn wormhole in the Christmas area, so I was fucking stuck in that section for fucking ever!  A lot of times you will find yourself just struggling against the graphics to see anything, and it gets really aggravating at times.  They have a map, but it is kind of 2D, so it really feels like it is for the look rather than any kind of useful fucking help what-so-ever.  Whatever.  I will just go off and play something that makes a lot more sense and requires me to do inane tasks rather than letting me explore shiny and beautiful space-scapes.  That should chill me out.  Who am I fucking kidding.  That will never happen.

Among the Sleep, Crawling in the Dark

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My wife calls this the “freaky baby game” and not because of the baby.  Everything about this game is unnerving and it all adds up to an enjoyable experience in fear-inducing games.  My wife hates it when I play this in the dark cause she keeps having to run in and check that my screams are caused by the game and not something terrible… like a stubbed toe.  Those are horrifying.

If you come into this game off the adrenaline high that profoundly horrifying games like Amnesia produce, you will not be enthused.  I have to admit, I couldn’t play Amnesia.  It was that fucking freaky for me.  I quit playing only about an hour into the game, and I hadn’t encountered any enemies yet.  Among the Sleep was a much more accessible game for those who don’t want to pour hours into complex puzzles, creeping through terrifying dark castles and losing your mind.  Horror-lite, is the best term for this game, and I found it rather enjoyable.

Among the first elements of the game that you notice is the fact that you are a goddamn 2-year-old.  Your mom has you in a high chair, she’s feeding you cake, you play with a ball and you have as much control of yourself as a drunk muppet.  Not to disparage the game, it controls beautifully.  Toddlers on the other hand are called toddlers because they don’t have the basics of biomechanical locomotion down, yet.  Look down at your body, and you notice a tiny, onesie-clad body that takes haphazard steps.  Environmental manipulation is difficult at times, too.  You are a baby, after all.  Your tiny little hands grasp uncertainly at objects.  It is almost adorable.  Except for the fact that you are scared out of your shit trying to rationalize the world around you.  In the very beginning of the game your crib gets thrown across the room, spilling you onto the floor.  You spend some time crawling around, which lets you hide from foes and get into tight places, but you can stand up on your little baby-legs.  When you do, you move slowly, but you can run briefly before stumbling over into the crawling position.  Frequently, the game makes use of this by making you want to run so badly, but you can’t, you know, being a fucking baby and all.  Not exactly a Kenyan track star.  Also, you can hear the tiny little baby breaths and your character hides in the dark, sucking in air like a noisy little vacuum.  Another feature that highlights the fact that you are a baby is the esc screen.  Hit escape and you bring up your tiny baby hands to cover your face.

Remain still and the teddy bear will go away.

Remain still and the teddy bear will go away.

Early on you realize there is trouble in paradise, and being sensitive to everything around you, it shows.  Babies don’t know much, so they have to experience the world around them in terms of emotions.  Thus, when something scary happens, your screen gets dark and twitchy, like it’s being chewed on by a langolier.  This occurs early on when mommy answers the door.  You hear a male voice and then mommy starts yelling.  That’s when the screen gets all ugly, but mommy soon comes back and it’s all ok again.  She brings a present to you, which you get at later no thanks to your mother, and inside it is the scariest toy ever.  Your travelling companion is a terrifying possessed teddy bear.  At one point he plays with your train set and hides your elephant from you.  But I know the fucking truth!  That little bastard is possessed by a dark entity bent on turning you into a ruthless serial killer!  Either way, teddy is apparently your only weapon.  When you get scared, you have to hug him and he glows in the dark, like a carebear stare that is less powerful and gives your position away to enemies.

<THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!>  Since this game only came out a few months ago, I have to do this.

While playing this game, you notice some really interesting tidbits.  There truly is something sinister lying just beneath the surface, and it isn’t just the spooky ambient soundtrack.  Anyone who watches Grimm knows that what people thought were stories are often used to represent something more sinister.  Although it might not be the fact that werewolves exist, fairytales like Grimm’s fairytales were actually mechanisms used to rise children in a time where they could have been ripped apart by wolves just outside of town.  No one would have noticed for a good few hours either.  So rather than saying “don’t go into the woods or you’ll get ripped apart by wild animals” they would probably say “don’t go in the woods or you’ll be eaten by a witch!”  This is much easy to offer to children than, you know, sheer abject terror.  This game uses the same vehicle to convey and otherwise occluded backstory.  Some guy brings a wrapped package to the door on your birthday and gets into a fight with mommy?  Yea, that was dad.  I guess they were having some kind of issues, so daddy doesn’t live at home anymore.  Later you go through this level with paintings on the walls, one of which features a woman and a well.  As you approach it changes from the woman coming out of the swamp toward the well, her standing at the well and then her drinking deeply from the well with water running down her dress.

Toward the end of the game, you see mommy drinking from bottles (which litter the floor in another level) and she turns into a monster.  This made my jaw drop.  So apparently mommy is also an alcoholic and having some serious issues.  Considering your character stumbles out of a closet at the end of the game, I have to assume this means that the whole game is basically the result of child neglect by a irresponsible bitch that wants to keep the child away from a potentially loving father.  This is a little on the rough side, since a lot of single mothers work hard to ensure that their children get the best they can provide.  But no one is perfect, and some people outright deserve to be dropped off a cliff.

O, shit, mommy is drinking from the jack daniels well again!

O, shit, mommy is drinking from the jack daniels well again!

This game takes a real big adult issue and shrinks it down to a baby size.  It is really deeply affecting, especially since at the end, your mother is the one who rips the arm off your teddy bear, and you character still starts rubbing her head as she sits crying on the kitchen floor.  I cried a little, since this one hits a bit too close to home, having had a number of friends growing up who experienced something like this.  All told, this game is a true horror story that focuses more on the story elements and leaves those “terror from the darkest wilds” elements to more drawn out titles.  After all, how much can you really tell about the story of a baby?

Among the Sleep is a great title, but the thing that really got my gaul up about this title is the number of startle scares it gets out of you.  I mean you creep around a corner, BAM! chair flies at you.  Turn around and something behind you is moving by itself, or something flies out of a random hatch you didn’t know about.  STOP FUCKING DOING THAT!  Man, you’re gonna scare the shit right out of me!   I guess that is their fucking plan, though.  Bastards.

Pseudo “Game” Art: Proteus

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Calling Proteus a game is incorrect.  All you can do is walk around, look and listen.  This game has existed long enough, however, where I do not feel at all bad about telling you everything I experienced in it, because let’s face it, it was fucking weird.

When you load up the game a screen like that above will appear.  You click the island to start and dive in.  Every time you start up Proteus, the island is different and you are offshore a good distance.  After the long swim (which feels like it is supposed to build anticipation) you come to shore and you start to get an idea what you just bought.  Everything is in saturated colors and the visuals make Minecraft look like a graphical powerhouse.  Everything is in these bizarrely basic Atari-level graphics.  But that is not the cool part.  Obviously.  What’s so unique about Proteus is that it is about wandering around and discovering.  The things you discover aren’t cool loot or terrifying enemies, they’re sights and sounds.  Strangely, at a lack of other stimuli, you then start to react to the game emotionally, which makes it a more deep and tactile experience.

I came ashore in Proteus and there were a bunch of pink trees with leaves falling from them, which made a beepy drifting noise as they fell to the ground.  Walking further I found a frog and chased him up a hill where I found the ruined towers.  This tower had a weird chiptune bag-pipe music.  That’s the best fucking way I can put it.  Walking up to the thing I noticed my screen blink black.  When I turned around, I was elsewhere on the island.  I stepped away from the imposing broken-looking structure and found a path, which bordered a forest.  Just inside the forest was a flock of birds that bloop when they peck the ground.  I figured they must be chickens.  If you walk too close to them, they’ll chirrup before skittering off, tinkling the whole way.

I walked along the path and found nothing of particular fucking interest.  By this time it was getting late in game, and my natural gamer instinct kicked in.  “Fuck!  The zombies are going to eat me!” but the game lilts softly as night falls, making comforting and sleepy noises.  Really pretty, and no zombies came out looking for my brains.  I’ll tell you what I did find, though.  Fireflies!  I heard weird little bloops that came and went and looked around only to find little lightning bugs flashing here and there.  I wandered around for a bit and saw some sparkles like falling stars in the distance, spinning and writhing.  I got there and found a mass of spinning sparkles.  As I entered the circle, it condensed and formed a portal.  Already time was flying by around me, so I stepped inside the portal.  I was at the same place, but it was a little different.

 

Ooo! Sparkly!

Ooo! Sparkly!

So after wandering around more I found a circle of totems, these made a low whirring noise and the stars pulsed wildly like they were exploding then retracting then exploding again.  Eventually this stopped and a storm rolled in.  Nothing in this game seems to follow any kind of logical sense, though.  There are simple effects and things that react to your presence (standing stones that shoot sparks and make a noise as you walk by, animals to chase) but nothing all that interactive.  At one point I went through the portal and came out into a sad autumn land with a graveyard.  Seriously.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t there before, but it had a bunch of sparkles everywhere.  I also noticed that clusters of sparkles would pulse into existence, then disappear.  When I left the graveyard to search for the portal again, I saw ghosts playing peek-a-boo with me behind trees.  Weird.

Finally I entered the portal again and came out into a desolate snowy waste with dead trees and over cast with clouds.  It began to snow a little, which added some sound.  There was very little, and this took away most of the fun of the game at this point.  I went around and there was very little of interest, so I looked for the totems again.  I couldn’t tell if it was night or day, since the sky was blocked out.  I felt claustrophobic too, and wanted to get above the low-hanging clouds.  When I found them, the totems were emanating a weird chanting noise.  Suddenly I began to float upward.  The chanting got louder.  I saw the mountains, a huge fucking tree I found earlier and went to those landmarks, but I kept moving upward.  A couple falling stars whished past me as I drifted up and up toward the moon.  Finally my eyes began to close slowly until the screen was black.  And the title screen slowly loaded up.

I have to assume this game is some kind of weird analogy for life, you start off fresh and new and everything seems to be in a state of springtime.  You step into the portal and time whooshes by and then it is summer.  Summer is full of more weird shit, there are some bees and the sun is pulsating hotly.  Step into the portal again and it is autumn, the world is full of trees dropping leaves and death.  There are spirits and ghosts and I even found a graveyard.  Step in again and the world is dead.  You find the place of passage and you pass through the clouds, out of sight and into the heavens.  Yay, fun.  I wish I had dropped acid or ate some ‘shrooms.  Might have made the game that much more enthralling.  Of course, I would be the fucker to find the only way to fucking die in a game about looking around and listening to everything.  If you want to play this game, it is available on Steam for 3.99$ due to the Steam Summer Sale.

It is hard for me to recommend that anyone else buy this game.  I liked it, it definitely made me feel something different.  But this is not something for standard gamers to buy.  It is weird and experiential.  You will find things in here that are neat and fun.  Everyone will feel something about this game, whether it be hatred or ecstasy, but to say it is a good game would be a vast overstatement.  Art is to be looked at, enjoyed and explored, and with more than just a few key clicks.  Don’t buy this game if you are looking for a fun little game to waste some time with.  This is not that.  It is more like a visual and auditory vacation from everything else that leaves you on one side of a massive wall or the other.  Do not buy this as a game, buy it as a piece of art, for it is to be enjoyed lightly, perhaps over a pipe of some strong weed.

Whooshy comets go whoosh!

Whooshy comets go whoosh!

In a game with music and bizarre visuals where I always had one eye-brow quirked, I still found something to be angry about.  And that is the fucking reviews on Steam.  Seriously!  It is like everyone is taking some fantastic drugs and loading this baby up!  Everyone seems to agree this is a game you come into just to wander around and enjoy being away for a while.  You get sent to a pristine island of singing things and happy-happy times!  Not to mention, this game has better scores than games that work harder and give you more.  But I have another theory!  This game is actually the waiting room that demented gods send their human sacrifices through! Each day in game is how long it takes in the real world for them to send another one through.  And at night you are sent to the next level of this insane purgatory!  Finally at the end, you are so bored out of your mind that you are happy to let the world melt away and drift into the air to be consumed – mind, body, spirit – by your god(s).  Take that, you hippy-ass art-as-experience pricks.

Zeno Clash, Untamed WTF

ZCheader

 

Zeno Clash is what would happen if Guillermo del Toro dropped acid and wrote a videogame storyline.  This title is full of weird enemies, surreal visuals, somewhat disjointed story elements and a world so bizarre it defies logical explanation.  I tried to explain the game itself to my wife and she said it defines “what the fuck”.  Yet, everything I just described is merely the flavor of the downright bad-ass, knuckle-cracking time this game provides.

First, your character.  A human named Ghat that starts of the game having savagely disfigured a creature known as father-mother, the leader of a clan in this town. The town of Halstedom.  Father-mother’s clan runs the city alongside the Northern Gate Gang.  It seems like this place is a veritable hive of scum and villainy as nearly everyone is part of either the clan or the gang, and there are very few laws being observed to the outside observer.  At least, few laws outside whatever father-mother says.  This leads one to submit to the supposition that father-mother (henceforth FM) is the monarch of the town, or at least influential enough to be a sort of leader of Halstedom.  Not to mention, FM has his entire clan convinced that he’s their father and mother.

Now, why Ghat has decided to take on FM is beyond me, especially considering that FM is a 10-foot-tall peacock creature.  Regardless, he escapes Halstedom with his hide intact where Deadra, crazy-horny heartthrob, follows him and helps him in his journey.. by being as flighty as possible.  And by horny I mean she has enormous fucking horns coming out the sides of her head. No, seriously.

The horns must be great for extra doughnut storage.

The horns must be great for extra doughnut storage.

Now, I am not saying I would hide my sexuality from her in abject fear of her getting naked, but those horns would definitely do a number on my bedside table.  I, mean, she probably never goes indoors, for that matter, but they do come off once, if memory serves.  This being the only point where she is shown laying down looking dreamily into Ghat’s eyes.  She is very naive considering she follows a known felon, who may have killed the only being either has ever known as father or mother,  into the wilderness and away from the safety of the only home she’s ever known.  To her credit, however, she is handy with her sawed-off shotgun and has some nice legs.

Despite the weak central female character, whose only function is to harass Ghat about FM’s secret and stand defensively out of the way of fights, the game still delivers in the place that truly matters.  Gameplay.  And here I introduce Metamoq and the Corwids.  The Corwids are these guys Ghat describes enigmatically as being not insane, but having chosen to be what they are.  So, they are fucking insane and do everything from eat people to bang their heads on trees.  There is one guy that walks in a straight line and refuses to let anyone change his course.  You find him later dead when he met the only nemesis a nutcase wearing giant iron boots has: a tree.  And he runs into a fucking tree in a desert after making his way OUT OF A GODDAMN FOREST! Sorry.  That is in no way important to the plot, but it was one of many WTF moments in this game.  These not-crazy, but actually fucking insane, mask-wearing guys have some members that border on intelligent.  Ghat was a Corwid for a while, which is how he knows so fucking much about them.  Since each of them seems to really only do one thing, I am going to say Ghat’s “thing” was beating the fuck out of bitches with his bare hands.  He never says what inspired this ascetic lifestyle either, nor what he did before that.  At some point he meets Metamoq, a growly-voiced, mask-wearing, sentient booger that teaches Ghat how to beat people with his fists.

And beat people he does.  This brings me to the best part of the game, its combat.  You can punch and kick people.  You can get super hard wind-up punches in.  You can dodge and strike ’em in the ribs.  You can even knee ’em in the face.  Much fun to be had.  You might expect a fighting game made with the source engine to be less maneuverable , or maybe generally difficult.  Not so, and the first-person fighting makes things challenging in a way that doesn’t make it less enjoyable.  Although this game holds a number of features reminiscent of older-generation fighting games like Double Dragon (ie slide-in versus screens and free-style fights and health bars), it fails to devolve into the button-mashing frenzy of those older games.  And you can’t just use the “powerful attack” all the time since stronger enemies will just dodge that slow-ass punch.  But timed well and as part of a combo, those attacks become devastating cards in a deck of whoop-ass.  I discussed this with my brother, The Game Pirate and he said it reminded him of a game we played on the Nintendo 64 called Hybrid Heaven, and equally WTF-inducing fighting game.  But where Hybrid Heaven focused on using the WWF’s finest spine-splintering attacks, Zeno Clash focuses more on its use of boxing-type moves.  When you get tired of fisting everyone in sight, you can pick up any of a number of imaginatively fucking-weird guns.  They are slow to reload and have shitty rate of fire, but this is a brawler at its heart, and even grenades are tough to use against enemies who do the logical fucking thing and run away.  They also tend to hide if you have a gun and favor moving through cover to get to your position, rather than making it nice and easy by running across the giant open field to get in fist-range.  Some of the boss fights All of the boss fights are weird, and most of this game will leave you scratching your head.  But don’t let that stop you because it damn well might.

So at some point you wander through a dark wasteland on the other side of a desert and find this guy named Golem waiting for you.  He calls you and Deadra by name and says he was left by a long-dead race of wise people.  Why everyone always thinks the “long-dead race of ancients who are wiser than us” thing makes sense I will never know. But if they were all that fucking wise, why are they ALL FUCKING DEAD?! Anyway, this guy has a human torso and a head, arms and feet made of blue playdough.  He follows you around and even helps you kill a blind assassin, who uses squirrels with parachutes and powder keg backpacks to kill you.  Then at some point he sits down and starts working on a fucking Rubick’s cube.

Big, strong AND he maintains his mental acuity

Big, strong AND he maintains his mental acuity

You bring him with you back to Halstedom and after finishing off FM, he reveals the secret FM has that Ghat is too much of a pussy to tell.  Y’know, that the father-mother guy everyone is defending steals babies from their beds and raises them as his own. Also, he’s a guy.  And he replaces the babies with baby pigs.  You even run into a woman that seems perfectly happy with a new baby pig, too.  Just bringing up baby Peter, or whatever.  Once FM lays dying, the big blue guy pulls out his Rubick’s cube and it starts to glow.  He says that he can help bring peace by bringing everyone in as part of a new connection that can never be broken.  Screen zooms out, you see this weird guy with a telescope standing next to a completed Rubick’s cube and everything ends.

Endingcredits

Shiny naked metallic dude, just looking at everyone else with a telescope like he has nothing to hide. Whatever, not the weirdest shit in the game so far.

Now, this guy looks remarkably like one of those metallic shadow zombies that infested the wasteland where you find Golem.  So part of me thinks his idea of peace is quite a bit more morose and sad than his words imply.  All that just makes me want to play the sequel even more.  Just bought it and set it to download.  No game has had me as excited to play as Zeno Clash has since Half-life 2, and perhaps Hard Reset, so hopefully the sequel upholds all these points while gracefully embellishing upon them and simultaneously polishing its rough-points.

So, given everything about this game and how much fun it is, what bothers me the most about it?  I have never said ‘what the fuck’ more times in more ways and for more reasons than I did while playing this game.  I mean, the blind assassin first shows up and fights you from atop the head of this floppy elephant/brontosaurus.

Is it just me, or does that thing have hairy testicle sacs hanging from various spots on its face?

Is it just me, or does that thing have hairy testicle sacs hanging from various spots on its face?

The whole father-mother thing.  Baby thievery being the basis for an entire city!  Using squirrels as purveyors of fiery death!  Giant horn-headed chick! Mostly-naked masked men dancing in the woods!  There is a point where a Corwid spins in circles and plays music while hopping on one leg!  Grenades are human skulls hollowed out and filled with explosives!  The only non-caveman humans in the game seem to be wearing rice paddy hats for no reason! Did I mention this game was made by a bunch of Chileans?  That rifle’s sight up there is a piece of wire! Regular-sized crabs spit vomitous goo!  The giant chicken-dragon also vomit green goo!  You can get a double-slingshot-crossbow as a ranged weapon!  The ammo for said crossbow uses rocks that have faces!  The faces have noserings where the trigger mechanism attaches!  Oh, that rifle is reloaded by inserting a long rod with an orange-hot end into a metal loop on the back of the chamber and shutting a little door with it!  This game deserves a what the fuck of the year award for the year 2009, when it was released.  Seriously.  I don’t think I will ever say what the fuck as many times in a row ever again.  Oh, right there’s a sequel.  The thing is, even this element of the game gives it a unique-ness that really cannot be matched.  You could say that anything this bizarre couldn’t be called ‘art’ or ‘artistic’, and it doesn’t really have a deep moral meaning outside of ‘beat up baby stealing assholes with your bear hands’.  But if you think bizarre cannot be artistic, just look at anything by Salvador Dahli.  How about all that crazy, though awesome, music out of the 1970’s?  (Pink Floydd, Led Zepplin, Jimmi Hendrix et al)  This game’s unique approach and winning gameplay are guaranteed to lock you in and wtf you until the games conclusion.  Which makes no more sense than nearly anything else about it. Surrealist art. Period.