Figured I might as well extend this journal beyond only covering video games, because why not. Here’s all the stuff I partook in this past month. (July is here.)
Board games, a medium? Sure, why not? When a board game has as much character, style, and variety as a video game, why wouldn’t you call it an art medium? And the multiplayer beats the shit out of gaming online.
I played three games of Arkham Horror this month, but don’t take that lightly—each game was nearly seven hours long. Arkham Horror is monstrously complex, though surprisingly easy to figure out, supposing someone is around who knows how to set it all up for your first time. As for the board… look at this fucking monster.
Arkham Horror is a constant thrill ride because, true to its Call of Cthulhu mythos, it’s full of constant danger and death around every corner. There’s an insane amount of variety in the game, so it’s got a higher replay value than even the most expansive video games. Moreover, it’s one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had. The first game I played was with eight people and no expansions, the others with six people and three expansions, and each time, it was an extravaganza to behold.
Last year, I did a Top 15 Anime list which was probably the best favorites list I ever made (not currently available online). It listed K-On! as my number 1, which at the time felt awkward, and I didn’t expect it to hold up. However, watching this movie reassured me that I just don’t like anything else the way I like K-On!. It gives me more to love per second than several other shows on my favorites list combined. The movie is as good as any great episode of the second season, and with all the shiny Kyoani art you could ask for.
I talked about this game extensively here. Super Metroid is the pinnacle of the Metroid franchise, and seems to validate its existence. It was one of the most atmospheric and engrossing games that I’ve played, even moreso than Metroid Prime, which I’ve accidentally taken a long break from. I certainly wouldn’t mind if Nintendo tried to make a better, or at least comparably great 2D Metroid game.
The Dark Knight Rises
It is a thing of much importance that I’d read an extremely extensive post about the faults of this movie before I saw it, because it let me go into the movie with properly attuned expectations and enjoy it thoroughly. It also allowed me to quickly reach the conclusion that this would’ve been a truly great movie had it been an hour or two longer. Instead, it’s a good movie, and I don’t mind that it isn’t The Dark Knight, because I never expected that it could be so good.
Over the course of this list, you’ll see a shitload of browser platformers which I played through this month. Of them, Endeavor was probably the best. It’s a simple, open-world platform adventure, most closely resembling Knytt Stories and You Have to Win the Game from my July post. The most significant difference is that you can’t die in Endeavor. It consists entirely of collecting power-ups and using them to continue your adventure, which clocks in a bit over an hour (unless you play twice for both endings). My only complaint about this game is that the poor sound effects became grating at times, but the excellent cross-fading soundtrack almost completely made up for it.
Covered in more detail here. Metroid II was a pleasant surprise and a deeply engrossing and atmospheric game, despite the limitations beset upon it from being an early Game Boy game. For its time, I might have considered it a masterpiece in a world where Super Metroid didn’t exist.
Metroid Zero Mission
Once again, covered more thoroughly in other posts. Zero Mission thankfully makes it so I don’t have to play the original Metroid game, and is a fine addition to the franchise. It’s also a sad one, though, because it shows where there was potential for the next 2D Metroid game to top Super Metroid—potential that hasn’t been capitalized on. Had Zero Mission been a fully-realized game with twice the length, it would be a lot more memorable.
Sword Art Online episodes 3–7
More about this show here. I was tempted to put this under +, but I think I like it just a bit more than that still. My brother and best friend are enthusiastically loving the show (the latter so much that he went and read all of the translated novels). Personally, I’m waiting for it to get through the side-stories and deliver something more filling than the fluff I’m getting. I found these episodes forgettable, held up only by the few things the show almost innately does right.
Don’t Look Back
From the guy who created VVVVVV, which I still haven’t gotten to play in full, this is a shorter and less-ambitious platformer with more emphasis on narrative than on innovation. That isn’t a condemnation—the narrative, conveyed entirely through mechanics, is very well-done. The game is difficult, but not frustrating, and respawns you instantly. Solid as it is, though, a thirty-minute, simplistic platformer isn’t enough to leave a lasting impression for me. I do recommend it for fans of narrative mechanics, though.
Fancy Pants 1 & 2
This is apparently an old classic among browser platformers. It plays like Sonic the Hedgehog, but less aggravating, which is cool by me; though like Sonic, I still can’t get into this style of play. The controls are ultra-smooth, and the animations are incredible. Sure, it’s all pretty much stick figure art, but the stick figures totally come to life, and the environments are nice to look at. There just wasn’t much to leave an impression on me (story of the day for these browser games), and I wouldn’t play it again.
K.O.L.M. should’ve been in my ++ list. It’s a great-looking, fun to play Metroid-esque action-platformer that, in its hour of play, comes close to excellence. Its major failings are in feeling too rushed, and in the lame-ass narrative.
The first half of K.O.L.M. is paced nicely, reflecting the feel of the early part of a Metroid game. After that, though, it rushes to conclusion, just as it’s started to become interesting. I know it’s only a browser game, but that happens to be its flaw. It should’ve had another hour’s worth of content, even if that meant making it a downloadable game.
All of the narrative unfolds in a dialog box at the bottom of the screen, wherein the robot main character talks to hisGLADoS-clone mother, and it’s just lame. It’s not funny, it’s not entertaining, it’s just lifeless. I’ll get to this more, though, when I talk about the unfortunate Shift series.
I’m not through with this game, which I’ve talked about here. When I played it in the midst of other Metroid games, it was disappointing, and I got stuck on an infuriating boss. Once I play through on Easy mode, it may or may not change list positions.
Phantasy Star 0
I plan to do a very large post about this game, and why it pales in comparison to the game that it is a prequel to, Phantasy Star Online. PS0 isn’t a terrible game, and I enjoyed playing it to the end of its twelve-hour run, but it felt soulless to me. It didn’t capture the fun of PSO, and the story mode was insufferably boring.
In this imaginative puzzle-platformer, your goal in each level is to commit suicide. The game has a wicked sense of humor and tons of genuinely hilarious moments, with comedy dripping from the mechanics as well as the narrative (two things well woven-together). On the whole, it’s very simplistic, with a bland-on-purpose visual style, but the context makes it work. Unfortunately, I encountered a weird bug halfway through the game which left me unable to proceed, and I didn’t care enough to start the whole thing over with the chance of hitting the bug again. That said, I may be willing to pick this one back up.
Here we have a surprisingly difficult browser puzzle-platformer from Edmund McMillen (Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, etc.). I actually got frustrated with this game a couple of times because I had so much trouble with the puzzles, which I’d say is a good thing.
What’s not good is that the game had one boring, terrible piece of music that played throughout the entire thing, which became absolutely grating as it went along. Moreover, there’s a dialog box on the right side of the screen where a character feeds you with nonsensical dialog—except his voice is an Animal Crossing-esque mumble that plays constantly, and I for one never got a chance to glance over and read any of the dialog, because I was concentrated on playing the game.
Had the presentation been more enjoyable (graphically it was all fine and good), I might have enjoyed it more, but I don’t know that I’d have been praising it. It’s a well-made game, but not one that I found particularly fun.
The Expendables 2
All I asked of this movie is that the action scenes be good. I saw it because my brothers and dad had to be out of the house for four hours, and I didn’t want to see the Bourne whatever. (My dad wouldn’t have been up for Paranorman, though I more drastically forgot to check and see if Premium Rush was running.) The barely-existent plot and dialog of this movie don’t matter. They fluctuate between serviceable and stupid. What matters, though, is that the final big action scene is too confusingly directed and too rushed, which left me feeling dissatisfied, even in comparison to the similar but superior first movie.
I didn’t expect this to be in the ~ section, since Super Meat Boy is one of my favorite video games, but the browser version of isn’t nearly as good as its finished counterpart. Super Meat Boy’s incredibly tight controls weren’t fully honed in the browser game, and the only button you can use to jump is the spacebar, which I hate. All through these browser games, I cursed at the ones which made me use the spacebar, and applauded those which assigned the z, x, or up keys. But none was so tragic as Super Meat Boy, which required precisely timed jumps all the time.
The browser game also features a weird aspect ratio which, when playing on Newgrounds, felt awkward to look at. I wouldn’t have minded it, had it been a downloadable game in its own window.
Meat Boy actually has a ton of levels for a browser game, but I got fed up with it after the first world, knowing that I could be playing Super Meat Boy instead.
Robot Wants Kitty
Yet another action-platformer for the browser, this one was disappointing. All the mechanics where there, but nothing was as sharp as in other games of its ilk. Its visual style was boring, the platforming wasn’t air-tight, and enemies could become infuriating at times because the game, while in a tiny open level, didn’t feature frequent enough save points. In a game where you die in one hit and face frequent death scenarios, having to go back constantly is annoying. The saving grace is that enemies stay dead once killed, but this also erases all challenge in the game, so going back again and again is nothing but a hassle. Had it not been so short, I might not have completed it.
The Shift games are the most disappointing thing in this entire list. These puzzle-platformers revolve around using the shift key to turn the level upside-down, and flipping the character from the black or white part of the screen to the other (it makes more sense when you play it yourself). The mechanic works well enough for puzzles, and each proceeding game (there are like five total) adds in a new mechanic or two.
However, there are core tenants of the games that don’t work well. Most importantly, the controls aren’t tight, and can be frustrating at times. This was true in the first game, and remains true in every game after that, which is bewildering, considering how many updates were made to the series adding new shit without fixing the groundwork.
However, what bothered me the most was the godawful story which unfolded in messages on the background of levels. The messages play out an obvious GLADoS clone, even including direct references to Portal lines; but they aren’t fucking funny, and a lot of them are absolutely awful. These inane messages became infuriating, and left such a bad taste in my mouth that it embittered me towards K.O.L.M., which was written by the same person.
In this simple exploration game, you can only move and jump, and at the start, you can only see a small area of your immediate surroundings. As you explore, the camera pans out and you see more of the world as a complete image. This also makes it more challenging, as you become a smaller and smaller dot on the map.
The game’s art is minimalist to a fault. It was sometimes difficult to tell what things were supposed to be, and this made some of the platforming confusing (though never difficult, since there was no fail potential). Some of the level designs were simply boring in that they make you jump constantly or aren’t that interesting to look at. Ultimately, I found this game boring and unmemorable. Had the presentation interested me more, I might have seen more in it, though it would need to make a huge leap before I’d give it the same praise that I’ve seen it receive from many others.
Where Is 2010?
It’s possible for a game to be so short that it appears meaningless. This is such a game. It’s a ten-minute platformer featuring a simple and interestingly stark art style, with which it does little. The game just kind of happens, then it’s over, in a manner I’d almost call absurdist. Much as I love absurdism, though, I just didn’t get anything out of this.
Other Media I Tried
These are mostly games which I played anywhere from ten minutes to several hours of and couldn’t get into them. I will probably not pick any of them back up for a long while.
Ben’s Game – Surely the strangest and most interesting inclusion in this post. This is a game that came as the result of The Make A Wish Foundation. A kid named Ben wished that a game be made which could help other kids to understand and deal with going through chemotherapy. This context makes the experience of playing it rather heartbreaking, especially because the game is hard to figure out and hard to play, resulting in me constantly drawing parallels between the game and fighting cancer in a light that was somewhat terrifying. I didn’t expect it to be a great game, and it’s not, but playing it was an interesting experience, anyways.
Eye of the Beholder – This one depresses me. Last month, my friends and I extensively played a SNES Capcom beat-em-up called The King of Dragons. We then moved on to Capcom’s new fantasy RPG, Dragon’s Dogma, and ended up drawing a lot of comparison between the two games. While watching my brother play DragDog, I noticed that it had Beholders as major enemies towards the end of the game. The next day, I was at a local used game store, and I saw a Capcom game called Eye of the Beholder. I knew that Capcom had made two other D&D-inspired beat-em-up games for the SNES, so I assumed this was one of them and excitedly bought it.
Of course, as it turns out, Eye of the Beholder is a first-person, old school dungeon-crawler. It was a PC game ported to the SNES by Capcom, and it’s not even a good port because you have to control the mouse cursor with the D-pad. I got into the game and spent five minutes failing to figure out how to attack. I went online and couldn’t find any guide that explained the basic controls, so I took the game back and bought Ys for the DS.
Orphan Feast – Maybe it’ll become a thing on this monthly journal where I briefly play one random Adult Swim game. Orphan Feast has great visuals and plays smoothly, but just isn’t my kind of game. I find it tedious and boring.
Running Blue – I barely even remember playing this lame Mario clone.
Scary Girl – While this game featured high-quality art for a browser game, the visual style was all over the place, and the controls were way loose, so I gave up on it instantly.
Shinobi 3D – This 2D action game felt like a fucking disgrace to me. I just found it boring and cumbersome to play, with controls that felt off (fucking 3DS joystick is not meant for 2D games). I hate that I had to erase my brother’s file just to stop playing after two levels out of total disinterest.
Spewer – Another Edmund McMillen game, I honestly only played a few minutes of this one and might be willing to give it another shot. I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the mechanics and had a really hard time with even the tutorial stages.
Not Yet Qualified
These are all the Media games that I’ve consumed to some degree and am not yet done with. These might fall into any of the lists above on my next journal post. Any media from last month’s post which aren’t in any above category still apply to this list.
Banjo Kazooie (enjoying this a decent bit so far)
Bayonetta (just started)
Jungle wa Itsumo Hare nochi Guu (4 eps in)
Kingdom Hearts II (kill me now)
Legacy of Y’s Book I&II (for DS)
Metroid Prime (I love it so far but when it’s frustrating, it’s frustrating)
Phantasy Star Online (OH GOD THE NOSTALGIA)
Ponymon (might put on hold till a further update)
Robot Unicorn Attack (I suck at this game)
Sengoku Collection (watched 2 eps)
Shadow Skill: Eigi (watched 1 ep)