Retrobooster, Taking Back the ‘Verse

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Now, this game has nothing to do with Firefly, but just humor the analogy for a moment.  In Firefly, it felt like it treated space, matter and physics correctly.  Everything reacted right, there was no sound in space and it was full of excitement and narrow escapes.  Retrobooster does the same thing.  You are affected by gravity, how you are steering and every other force that might interact with your ship.  It makes sense and it is packed with full-throttle moments where I can imagine your pilot hitting the pedal to the floor in a crystal-clear moment of balls-to-the-wall commitment to death or victory.  I am having a hard time finding things about this game that I didn’t like, so excuse me for gushing a little bit. Dick.

Play the tutorial first.  If nothing else it will give you an idea how to steer your ship: more in relation to which method suits you best.  You can use either the arrow keys or the mouse or the arrow keys to steer your ship, known as a Starblade.  Using the arrow keys is a solid method, but it felt weird to me having both hands on my keyboard.  Utilizing the mouse is more fluid, but there is more margin for error.  Both methods are good and fly suitably smooth, the choice is really in what suits you best.

Now, you have two weapons – a gun and a launcher, we’ll call them.  With each you can find a spectacular array of weaponry to equip and deploy.  You can get varied ammunition for your gun, varied ammo for the launcher or a powerup that will make you more powerful for a short time.  For the gun, my favorite ammo variation were the thermite rounds.  These are like shooting smoking pellets of smouldering napalm.  They wreak havoc on enemies that have clustered together, and it happens more than you’d expect.  For the launcher, I have only really had the guided missiles, but they are magnificent.  Nothing better than going into a fight knowing you can start blowing holes in enemies from the start.  In some cases, the missiles give you a fighting chance. Powerups give a lot more variety to gameplay.  Sometimes they’ll give you a scatter shot that fires in a cone in front of you, other times it will be a constant shield that lasts for 25 seconds.  Either way, it’ll be something useful.

Boom boom boom boom

Boom boom boom boom

Two of the most important things to keep in mind are (duh) health and shields.  In this game, it is too easy to fuck yourself up and if you don’t get flying down, the enemies just have to sit back with some popcorn and watch you kill yourself.  Hit any obstacles and you’ll take damage.  There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, don’t crash into shit.  Shields are useful because, in the heat of a fight you will end up crashing into shit.  Hold the spacebar a couple seconds to use your shields and avoid unnecessary damage.  Simple as that.  Shields can also be use to deflect enemy fire, but be careful as your shields are limited.  If you do well and kill a lot of enemies in a row, you’ll get a token to increase your shield meter or heal your ship (green bar at lower left is health, blue bar is shields).

Enemies in this game are aliens that remind me of what would happen if Apple invaded another galaxy; they are all white and smooth with softly glowing lights and a sort of arrogance that makes you want to punch them in the teeth.  Of course, killing isn’t everything, and Retrobooster recognizes this.  I suppose this is why the developer made the wide array of aggravating puzzles to solve.  They are things like pushing a button and then flying past obstacles to get to the door you opened in time, or manipulating forcefields to get to the button you opened.  Either way, it pumps your adrenaline and has pushed me into plenty “leaf on the wind” kind of moments.

I'm a leaf on the wind, watch how I desperately try not to get blown to pieces...

I’m a leaf on the wind, watch how I desperately try not to get blown to pieces…

These moments often launch you through a narrowly closing door only to send you blasting out the other side… directly into oncoming fire.  It sucks sometimes, but in my mind my character and his co-pilot just carry the adrenaline and go from one second to the next, flying by the seat of their deeply soiled pants.  Funny part is, once you’ve killed off enough enemies for the area to be reasonably safe, you start looking for survivors.  by survivors I mean humans that have survived the alien onslaught.

Just be careful, cause these guys are delicate...

O, hey! He’s reached his ultimate power level… O, no.  He’s bursting into flames.. my bad..

Some things to keep in mind with survivors.  First, they are squishy, flammable and all kinds of easy to kill by accident.  Many times aliens will just walk over them and squash them, other times the detritus jettisoned from an exploding enemy will be enough to kill survivors.  That is why you want to take enemy fire to your shields to protect them, use your ion bolt to blow up wreckage before it can kill them and do whatever else you can to protect these guys.  Next, when you land, you have to do it gingerly.  They will generally avoid you when you are coming down, but once your landing gear touches terra firma, all bets are off and they come running.  Some times your ship might bounce a bit and squash someone under it, other times if you come in too close to the people, they will catch on fire.  This is hilarious, but probably bad.  When they come aboard, they will give a small boost to health and shields.  Not much, but enough to bring you up from a tough fight.  My question is how do they all fit in there….

Enemies coming in from all vectors!

Enemies coming in from all vectors!

Retrobooster is a great game.  Gameplay is fluid and feels great.  It can be tough to navigate and aim at the same time since your shots follow the momentum of your ship, and shots fired can push you backward in space.  It really feels like you are floating around in a low-gravity environment battling foes.  Weapons are fun to use and explosions are satisfying.  Puzzles are a real challenge and you will die a few times, even if you are really good at flying, but that makes the game all that much more fun to play.  You only get two lives per level, which can be a pain in the ass at times, especially since there are no extra lives to find; however, longevity can be attained through skilled maneuvering and liberal application of ion blasters.  The most irritating thing about this is that sometimes the people look like they have no joints, sort of like Rayman, but there isn’t anything annoying enough to make me not want to pay the 17.99$ for this game.  If you are looking for a spectacular space-fighting challenge with a retro feel, this game is going to rock your ‘verse.  Really Slick lived up to their names on this one.

Letters to T-Mobile: Call to Action

First I just want to express my deep frustration toward Comcast.  When COMCAST DECIDES TO DIE FOR SEVERAL HOURS on a Sunday night right after I already decided not to run an article the previous night to attend the birthday of a close friend’s daughter, it gets a little frustrating.  Just wanted to apologize for breaking my schedule and I will be on it again now.

GG_VJ

Some of the latest that I noticed last night: After the foot-biting of Pol, people started to calm down and remember that we have a mission here.  King of Pol reminded us that we should, in fact, watch what we are saying but not become the thought-police in the process.  I also saw this exchange of tweets cross my vision:

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T-Mobile seems to have stated, to some effect, that they will not be swayed by any number of emails and that they require an out-pouring of physical letters about the topic to flood into their offices.  Honestly, I chuckle and think of the scene in the first Harry Potter film where the letters explode in through their mail slot.  We need to make it rain on them, and I have an idea how.  Write 5 letters a week, by hand.  PLEASE do not use automatic mailers for this one, people, as they are asking for physical letters in order to see the human side of this conflict.  The human side of us.  Write with your own meat-hooks.  I know this is difficult, but do it.  Some of us may be dislexic or unable to hold a pen properly, please feel free to sign a printed letter.

For the rest of us, though, make 5 letters to send out during the week and mail one each day to T-Mobile.  I know it sounds silly, but this will have the effect we, and T-Mobile, are demanding to see.  It will help us make the change happen and it will show T-Mobile the human cost of doing business with these folks.

Here is the Address for T-Mobile.

T-Mobile Customer Relations

PO Box 37380

Albuquerque, NM 87176-7380

I will include a typed copy of my own letter for an example.  Please feel free to embellish, improve and personalize.  That’s what they are asking for!  Just no death threats or evil letters of angry anger-tude.  That will set us back in this.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of T-Mobile,

My name is _________ and I am a blogger, gamer and supporter of #GamerGate.  Please hear me out.  I am writing to you tonight concerning a request, issued by your company, for physical, written statements concerning recent events with Gawker Media, Vox Media and statements of bullying.  First, let me give you a little background.

When I was younger, I received the brunt of much bullying from Elementary School all the way through High School to where most of my memories of being a child focus on being bullied at school.  It had a powerful influence on myself as a child and is still visible in me as a man.  It is one of the reasons that I loved Boy Scouts so much that I and my four brothers became Eagle Scouts.  Despite boy scouts being my only refuge from school life, even it got hard at times and many nights I would cry to myself.  I would stay home from school “sick” and have even considered self-harm.

I am a man now.  I am lucky enough to have found a spectacular wife (who I met in high school, funny enough X D!) who is excited to bear our children.  When those children go to school, I know, though it saddens me deeply, that they will face bullies as I did.  How they and others like them handle this harsh reality will be greatly influenced by the “real world” and its perception of these acts.  If they see in our society the same sort of ambivalence toward, or even support of, bullying, I honestly don’t know how many of them won’t commit suicide.

As a father, American and former military member, I will likely tell them what I will advise you tonight.  Fight them and others like them.  There is nothing bullies fear more than isolation.  Seeing those that once laughed with them and echoed their ideas walk away shaking their heads is always at the back of their minds.  They know that one day no one will care what they have to say.  My kids will be taught not to feed into them and, worse comes to worse, how to throw a mean left-hook; but the response I propose for T-Mobile is less straight-forward and immeasurably more effective:

Please discontinue any support and advertising for all Gawker Media Sites (Kotaku, Gawker, Kinja, Deadspin, Jezebel, io9, Jalopnik, Gizmodo, Lifehacker), all Vox Media sites (The Verge, Curbed, Racked, SB Nation, Polygon, Eater, Vox), Gamasutra, Destructoid and Ars Technica.  These sites and their staff have repeatedly bullied their consumers, at one point releasing a media blitz of 14 articles in one day – around Labor Day nonetheless – stating that gamers are dead, that we are evil and misogynistic.  They continue to state that we are part of some great misogynistic narrative, created by them to validate their extreme ideas.

Recently these groups, their sites and their staff have suggested that bullying “nerds” is acceptable and even that it should be “brought back.”  They have provided some apologies, but this seems to be a hollow-hearted reaction to losing money and financial backers for their sites.  Their constant rhetoric, damaging relationship with their (former) readers and constant harassment make the support of bullying the last PR straw that should break their wallets.  People this toxic shouldn’t be paid for insulting others.

In every way, as you may imagine, these words – especially as they come from major voices in my favorite hobby, gaming – anger and disappoint me profoundly.  I have been a regular customer of T-Mobile, enjoying your mobile products and accessories for many years.  They have brought myself and my wife hours of fun and good times playing games and communicating with loved ones.  For a time I even had a T-Mobile phone when I was in the Army, used to talk to the woman that would be my future wife.  If T-Mobile supports these individuals and their rhetoric, I will have no choice but to consider my time as a consumer of T-Mobile products at an end.

As a concerned business made of responsible, reasonable people and parents, please stand with GamerGate to relax their grip and teach them the level of their relevance.  Help us speak out against these bullies.

Signed and dated.

Now I will be including printed copies of tweets in question and other items that can be referenced as you might put links and such in an email.  Hopefully we can get through to them.

Terrance the Flying Eyeball, Disembodied and Ready to Rock!

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Somewhere on the corner of creativity and the truly bizarre sits this little game that can be found on itch.io.  I have never played any games where I was just a single flying body part, but this is surely a whole lot better than some games where you play the disembodied head of an ancient samurai warrior.  Granted, this game is not a shooter, it’s just a simple little timed game where you have to get to the end of zones.  And it’s not easy.

Controlling Terrance is pretty easy: just hit the arrows or the WASD keys, whatever your preference.  He doesn’t stop immediately, so you have to prepare for a little bit of fishtailing.  You’ll guide Terrance through small obstacle courses filled with all manner of bizarre and inventive dangers.

Just don't touch 'em, just don't touch 'em..

Just don’t touch ’em, just don’t touch ’em..

If I were actually Terrance I would be a neurotic mess.  Without explanation and, from what I can tell, shortly after his creation in a lab, this little eye has to face some pretty harrowing obstacles seemingly crafted for him.  First, there are electrified walls and blocks that disappear when you run into them; they’re the orange ones.  These wouldn’t be so bad, but then at some point there are these purple mines that come into play.  Tap one and you have 3 seconds to vacate the area or be zapped to death by purple plasma.  Each time you die, you are sent back to the beginning of the level, which makes me wonder: are you one eyeball or do they just create another?  Each level is filled with equipment and what seems to be some Looney Toons version of measuring devices in the background, so maybe this is a series of test chambers not unlike those in Portal?

Each level ups the ante on level of challenge, too.  I am still having trouble getting to the end of the second zone.  See, there are these plasma-shooting blaster things, and after a while, they home in on you and fire a lot faster.  At one point, I have to break through these glass tubes in order to progress with the blaster shooting like there’s no tomorrow behind me.  If you run into it directly, you bounce just far enough back that you’ll get zapped, so you have to run into it and use the momentum to get you past the plasma balls.  You will not be at a loss for a challenge.

Fuck whatever mad scientists designed Terrance's horrible life... seriously..

Fuck whatever mad scientists designed Terrance’s horrible life… seriously..

As far as a game goes though, especially one on itch.io, you really can’t do better.  The art here is fantastic, resembling a sort of Dexter’s Laboratory feel.  For those of you not familiar with the old Cartoon Network tv show: it’s smooth and very professional-looking.  Terrance the Flying Eyeball is a game that focuses more on timing and skill than other game elements.  If you’re looking for a fun play with a simple concept to give you a break from all those deep gaming experiences that crowd the popular platforms these days, you could do worse than Terrance.  The music is peppy and fun, the gameplay is fluid and easy to pick up.  If you don’t get some enjoyment out of playing this game, even for a little bit, then you might just be expecting too much out of your games.  Hell, the game doesn’t even cost that much.  You can pay what you want for the game.  Mind you, this is a title that has a some work in it, so leave a few notes in the till, please.  I would say this game is worth at least 5$.  If more indie devs put out games like this, competition in indie games would be even closer than it already is.  Terrance feels like a game from a game jam and is just as delightfully creative.

Clockwork Empires, Wondrous Melange of Steampunk Insanity and Bugs

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It should come as no surprise, since this game is currently in Early Access, that Gaslamp Games’ latest title is buggy, broken and incomplete as fuck.  That being said, it is the most fun that I have ever had with a game this broken, and at some points I am having a hard time telling what is broken and what is actually supposed to be happening.  Overall, if you have been waiting for a good game that well-represents steampunk, but you were wholly disgusted with Bioshock: Infinite, then this game is one you should consider after a long debate about whether Early-Access gaming is a worthy direction for the industry.

Clockwork Empires is a game with personality and a lot of bizarre quirks.  You are a group of colonists starting a small colony of the Great Clockwork Empire – at least I think you are since this is never really specified, just referred to as “The Empire.”  But fear not! This is nothing like sitting in a Jane Austin novel set on a frontier!  You have to help your people to survive in a world of horrors! HORRORS!

So when you start, you’ll want to start assigning work crews by clicking the work crew button and deciding which people will do which jobs.  Trust me, division of labor is a pretty important concept in this game, since it will dictate which jobs get done fastest.  My opinion is that breaking things down like this bears some of the best results.  2 crews for farming and foraging.  This is most important.  Foraging is how you will get the initial glut of goods to sustain your people in the beginning and you’ll have some food from the Empire, but airdrops are too infrequent, sometimes inaccurate, to rely on.  You have to get farming or starvation will set in briefly before cannibalism starts.  These little bastards don’t even think about it either, they’re just like “What ho!  I’m rather peckish and Nancy just died.  Guess we’d best start rationing her out, hey chaps?”

Clockwork Empires 2014-10-14 10-47-07-71

Listen up, Steelwalker. You and your chaps will start looking for the best way back to the Empire, cause this place sucks!

After food income is determined, the next most important economy is the space economy.  This is handled mostly by one or two crews that are set to forestry, mining and hunting.  Forestry is a task that will have them chopping wood, removing terrain obstacles and other sundry natural objects.  Hunting will make them a useful source of occasional food.  The tasks I always break out are construction and workshop jobs.  Now, in the outset you can easily group these two together since there will be no workshops in the beginning, you’ll have to build them.  But if you keep your workshop crews constantly divided between construction and their workshops, goods production will go WAAAAAY too slowly.  Eventually construction will become its own job and given that there are so few people for all the jobs, and the more people you get the more likely you are to starve, it is something that will have to be done in spurts.  Of course, there are a few exceptions.

Exceptions are always important.  In the very beginning, farms should be among your first things you create, but farms alone aren’t great for producing food.  You’ll need workshops, and the two most used are the kitchen and the carpentry shop.  The tutorial actually recommends you make the carpentry shop first, and they are right.  The carpentry shop is where you will create planks that are necessary to build nearly everything else in the game.  After the carpentry shop, get on that kitchen.  Chances are that you chose wheat as your first couple farms.  Great choice, but without a kitchen you can’t use the wheat you’ve harvested to make bread.  Your people will die staring at sacks of flour.

Yes, just place that plaque of the imperial coat of arms above their dirty little workstations so they can look up at our ubiquitous hegemonic omnipresence at all times. Very good.

Yes, just place that plaque of the imperial coat of arms above their dirty little workstations so they can look up at our glowering hegemonic omnipresence at all times. Very good.

Construction in this game is definitely unique and undeniably irritating.  First, you have to build on the grid, but the grid doesn’t run everywhere.  Some areas are just not to be built upon.  No real explanation, but I assume there is a ditch or unstable terrain there or something.  Once you’ve cleared a spot to build upon, you now draw the outline for the building.  It doesn’t always have to make sense and it is the most impressive feature of the game.  You can make a thousand of the same building and each can be vastly different from the others.  Once you’ve got your blue outline, you then place your modules.  These are the things that give the buildings purpose and character.  Some are required, in the above case a door and a worktable, some are optional and the rest are decorative.  I like putting the massive bay doors on my carpentry shops.  Just gives the impression of industry.  And make sure you put one or two decorations.  It might just be a game, but it’s the little things that give a sense of immersion.  The most irritating things about the construction system is that you can’t add a few things in at the start and then finish up later.  You are building everything that is going to be in that workshop for the rest of the game.  That is irritating as fuck because gameplay develops as the player interacts with the game.  It is just restricting and never shows any growth or development.

So you’ve got the makings of a colony, and things are moving along.  You’ve got your basic workshops, goods are moving and you’ve finally gotten a few bunkhouses up for the lower class and the middle class.  You are going to start having issues.  Most namely among these issues are the foes: cultists, fishpeople and all manner of eldritch Lovecraftian horrors.  The best part is that the fishpeople will walk in at random intervals and menace your people.  Sure, you can forage their eggs as exotic caviar, effectively eating their children as a delicacy; but cogs only know why the beasts so hostile, amirite?

Charles, gather the basket.  I must defend the crown!

Charles, gather the victuals. I must defend the crown!

I haven’t really gotten very far with this game simply because it is so fucking broken.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this game, but the level of incompletion and inoperability make this game absolutely frustrating to deal with.  My biggest gripe is that saves don’t really seem to work.  I have saved games and come back to them with varying degrees of success.  Sometimes they work, other times reloading a save causes the game to utterly crash.  If this were the only issue I would be less annoyed with the game, but sometimes it just crashes mid-game.  All of my plays invariably end with a crash of some sort and then me sighing about everything that I didn’t save.  Then I remember that the saves rarely even work and go play something else.  Sure, you might be saying “But Crotchety, this is an early-release you ass-burglar!  Of COURSE it’s buggy, they are still working on it!”  Let me say this to you little shits, never judge anything by what it could be some day.  That is how Hitler managed to convince people into the Holocaust.  One day we’ll eliminate all the weaker genes in the human race and the world will be full of happy, healthy blonde-haired blue-eyed babies.  Sure sounds nice until you remember you had to kill millions of people to get there.  Also, the price of the game on Steam is 29.99$ AS IT IS!  That is 30$ that would probably be better spent on a portion of Civilization: Beyond Earth.

Malfeasant clawbulb.  Fucking.. what?!

Malfeasant clawbulb. Fucking.. what?!

Despite the issues, there are still a number of reasons to be excited about this game.  There are some surprises like random crops growing in your farms, enemies and content updates.  The art is nice and the music is fun.  Every so often you will get drops and immigrants from the empire that will help your colony thrive, but there are so many bugs.  I read about this game back in the April 2014 issue of Game Informer and getting ridiculously excited about what I was reading.  Finally, a steampunk game full of cogs, gears and fishpeople and its an RTS!!!!  The unfortunate fact is that this is a game whose release I am still waiting for.  The best way to play these Early-Access games, in my opinion, is to buy it, play it a little bit to get the impression then let it sit for some months and let it get updates.  Sure this suggestion might make developers nervous, but if you can’t release a full game, it is going to suck and hurt to play.  Just like every time I have to be punished for not saving and, saving, have to be punished for buying the game early when my saves don’t load but, instead, crash the game.  Well, at least the game is fun and quirky.  Even the crash messages say “What ho! The game has crashed!” or some such irritating nonsense.  If your game crashes, it shouldn’t be cracking jokes.  This is where your skirt has blown up.  Fucking apologize for your broken game.

Natsumi, Hentai Girls are Afraid of the Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Point Perfect, Rage and Cursors

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After years of neglect and self-hatred, Mavis Beacon of typist teaching fame decided to grow a mohawk, dye it green and donned her studded leather jacket.  She stole the Doc Brown’s Delorian before the 90’s ended, went through dimensions to a time where the 80’s were the space-age and began her conquest.  Now she has returned to wreak havoc on mousepads worldwide, and the effect is devastating.  Ok, so that’s not the story behind this game, but with all the anger and rage it created, you would think I was playing Dark Souls or something.  You can visit the Point Perfect website here.  By the way, young’n’s: the device stealing that child’s youth in the picture is a CRT monitor circa 1998.

This is not a game for the feint of heart.  It is the most challenging thing I have played yet this year.  Simple enough idea with some goofy pixel art to provide a story.  There is a world of people that use mouse cursors to fly through space.  They are attacked by aliens and space invaders, zooming into action.  You are this world’s elite pilot and you must rise to the occasion or retire your peripherals.

Prepare yourself, brave hero.

Prepare yourself, brave hero.

From the very start, you get the feeling this isn’t going to be an easy ride.  You have to choose between an increasing number of trophies, but the first three are a wider targeting range, increased points and three lives.  THREE FUCKING LIVES! You have to choose between a buff or the basic 3 lives!  Needless to say, I always chose the three lives because I knew I would never make it without the extra lives.  And there aren’t even any extra life pick-ups (that I’ve encountered) in the entire game!

So you are the cursor.  You have to move the mouse to dodge enemies.  In order to do battle, you have to click and drag to ‘target’ foes.  When enemies enter the green field, you release to destroy them.  Sounds easy, but fucking try it.  To start, you have a smaller targeting field range, but as you get ‘P’ pick-ups your range will increase, opening the opportunity to create larger and larger kill-combos.  Your power-ups will show up in the lower left corner, and if you die, they shoot out of you in a demeaning, Sonic the Hedgehog kind of way.  If you drag more than your range, your targeting field goes red and no kills are made.  All of this has to be done while dodging projectiles and enemies.

In the lower right hand corner you’ll see a weapon box.  As you fight your way through the alien armada, you will collect various weapons that help tremendously.  My favorite was the shield, which deflects weaker enemy fire – the yellow balls.  It won’t block other colors, but that is something.  There are all kinds of other weapons that increase points from combos, add points to your overall score and other fun things.

Drag and pray, mother-fucker.  Drag and pray.

Drag and pray, mother-fucker. Drag and pray.

Of course, with all the challenge this game provides, victory is a sweet, sweet bitch to get.  Usually you just manage to kill some enemies, but successfully giving it to bosses must be amazing.  I haven’t beaten any yet, but I have come SOOOO close that it was infuriating.  This game keeps giving and giving with numerous levels beyond just this starry background.  With no introductory info, though, this game is a pain in the ass to grasp.  I had it for a month and managed to figure out that I could kill enemies.  Yea, I am not a moron, but it just didn’t register to me.

PP_cry

This game is perfectly alright with telling you that you suck.

Fighting enemies isn’t the only thing to do in this either, Point Perfect also has a wide array of little skill games and challenges that provide a welcome respite from the chaotically cluttered masses of foes.  Retro graphics and an old school feel are a few more of this title’s strong points, but every element of this game’s design is created to unforgivingly teach players precision and timing.  You cannot fullscreen it.  So what, you say?  This makes it easy to drag off the screen, click other programs and push the game to the background.  It is an insane carnival ride of unremitting terrors, but it is the most fun I have ever had cursing relentlessly at my mouse.  I almost launched the little fucker undeservingly out the window…  I will be waking up in a cold sweat dreaming about this game for weeks to come.  I only pity the fool who tries to play this on a track pad. Poor, ignorant bastard.  Available on steam for only 4.99$, this game is well worth it, if you think you have the balls.  If you think you are man enough, woman enough… Gamer enough.

Hollow Dissent, Stealth Simplified

HoDi_logo

This game, by Dark Space Games, is definitely a first game.  Developers’ debut titles may carry certain elements that come through into the game itself: uncertainty, ambition, fear and paranoia.  Hollow Dissent certainly gave the devs a chance to release some of that my shouting into a microphone.  While it may have been therapeutic for them, it made my headphones buzz and my ears ring a little.  Of course, the fact that this game almost feels like a default game that came with Windows 98 kind of makes the game feel a little silly.  Let me explain.

When you start up the campaign, you aren’t given a story as much as you are given what you need to know.  Bunch of people on a base are starting to succumb to radiation poisoning and they are losing their minds because of it.  Kill them all.  Now, I’m no doctor but I am pretty sure that a lead enema isn’t the only treatment for radiation poisoning.  This seems suspicious.  Alongside the ominous music, this all seems like some kind of plot that I am being thrown into the middle of in hopes that someone can solve a really big fuck up.  You play as the wetwork ninja that will move in, eliminate all witnesses and resolve the issue.  Ah, mysterious paramilitary organizations, when will you learn?

HoDi_squish

Turning enemies into anonymous clouds of red mist…

The controls are pretty simple and easy to master: spacebar shoots your rifle, arrow keys move, shift lets you interact with things.  Typically you will get through a level after eliminating all foes and get to a door to go to the next level.  It is never really specified whether you go up or down, but I always assume down.  Then there is the gun.  Remember when I mentioned this being a stealth game?  Well the main way you kill enemies is by walking over them like a fucking power up.  They’ll turn into red mist and give out a groan.  I don’t even want to know what this guy has that makes the corpse explode into red mist and even more terrifying is the fact that he never gets covered in enemy residue.  If you fire your gun, however, all the enemies in the level hear it and come running.

Who are the enemies in this game?  Initially you face the personnel of this facility.  The most interesting thing that this game does is make you feel bad for the guards.  Let me explain.  The two main enemies in this game are the guards and the scientists.  The guards are either stationed or patrolling and are ridiculously easy to take out.  In a game like this you would have a stationed guard switch his gaze back and forth between different corridors.  Not in this game.  These guys are practically mechanical meat-puppets that look only where their gun is pointing since that is how shooting works, right?

The other primary enemy you’ll face are the scientists… fucking little scientists.  These guys, unlike every other scientist in gaming, have decided to self-arm and start shooting anyone they don’t recognize.  This is a bitch.  Combined with the fact that they move erratically, they are a serious pain in the ass to take out.  On top of that, these guys spend the whole time whimpering and whining about “him” and “they’re gonna find us.”  This, combined with the totally forced voice acting for the guards makes the whole game start to slide apart.  I mean, the guards literally say things like “target acquired” and “moving to target” like they are a bunch of overweight local policemen playing paintball on a weekend getaway.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  I am sure even those weekend paintballers manage to sound more convincing.

Not sure why all the scientists are wearing orange-tinted fishbowls on their heads, but whatever...

Not sure why all the scientists are wearing orange-tinted fishbowls on their heads, but whatever…

Why do I feel bad for the guards?  They are useless.  Seriously.  They are doing their jobs, walking back and forth or standing there doing nothing; in some cases they are even facing a wall.  This would make sense if there was some kind of viewing window, but walking right up to them on the opposite side of the wall from where they are stationed results in staying hidden.  These guys are doing their jobs and continue to do so despite the fact that the scientists, who are supposed to be far more intelligent, start losing their shit and packing heat.  The guards even come running if they hear a gun shot like it might not just be one of the damn scientists giving into their insanity and killing themselves.  What with all their whimpering and bitching, I would have just ordered the R & D team be euthanized.  I wouldn’t even resist the main character, I would be helping him.

Then, about 4 levels down (or up, I am not really sure which) you run into a new foe.  These are some kind of groaning, grumbling comet-ghost creatures that can pass through walls, but they only move when you fire your weapon.  You can walk right up to them and they just stare right through you.  Shooting at them is totally useless, so you have to just get past them to finish the level.  The devs seem to favor putting these fuckers near the exits, forcing you to fire your weapon to get them to come after you… away from the door.  These ghosts don’t seem to affect the guards in the least bit but, entertainingly enough, the scientists splatter upon contact with these things.

Man, the flooring in this room is making me see some weirs ass shit...

Man, the flooring in this room is making me see some weirs ass shit…

Don’t get me wrong.  This game isn’t terrible, but there is much that could have been done to improve it.  Ambiance is held together by the grace of a solid soundtrack and decent graphics.  Your character looks like someone took a silhouette of a swat cop, put blue arm bands on him and said “fuck details.”  Guards are all the same little guy holding a pistol with a red dot and the scientists are the erratic little guys with the orange fishbowls on their heads.  This all kind of adds to the ghosts being a little more creepy when you run into them.  Everything already has an ambiguous look to it, but now you have these ghosts that are just all kinds of fucked up.

Level graphics are painfully simple and cookie cutter-styled.  Walls all look exactly the same, and every couple of levels the floor changes design; this would be ok if there were some explanation or pattern, but it goes from stone to riveted metal to castle flagstones so fast that after a while it is just as annoying as the scientists.  Story is delivered in the form of computer consoles that are placed randomly throughout the game.  Through the computers your character communicates with his employers, but this is very very vague and cryptic at every turn.  We have to guess at what is even being discussed at times since there is no internal monologue about anything.  If I saw a comet ghost when I thought I would be stabbing blood-puppets for the next three hours, I would stop to consider my circumstances for a moment.  I am pretty sure I passed by a terminal at some point, too, but it seems that you can go up the next level before finding the consoles, so those aren’t even entirely necessary.

Where's a proton pack when you need one?

Where’s a proton pack when you need one?

If you are jonsing for a good stealth game that challenges you in your stealthiness, you could do a lot worse than this.  Hollow Dissent still accomplishes what it sets out to do in that regard, but it wouldn’t be my first resort.  I am also not going to say that the 5.99$ asking price on the Darkspace Games website is entirely worthwhile, but here are some suggestions on how to make this game worth a little more than that:

Add in a few gadgets and, perhaps, a silencer.  Something more than just a gun and walk-over stealth kills.  The walk-over stealth kills would be alright if the guards looked around a little bit.  Add in some darkness and give guards and scientists flashlights.  This will act to show you where they are looking and add more spooky ambiance to the game.  Don’t make the ghosts glow, but perhaps add in a radar that pings gently as their groans draw closer in the darkness.  That is something the last Alien game did well, even if the only thing.  Put a little more variation in the walls.  Please.  Maybe little windows that stationed guards can look through.  It will add another obstacle and way to get detected.  These levels feel less like any kind of facility and more like mini-mazes to house a few meat sacks.  A little decoration could go a long way.  I don’t rate things, but that would take what is currently 40% of a decent game and punch it right up to 75% maybe even 80%.  I could pay 10$ for that comfortably.  And, please, get a better voice actor.  I could do it for you, I was in the army for two years.  I know what convincing “report” language sounds like.