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Prison Architect – Cubicle Schmubicle

Full Disclosure: It’s 1:37 am and I’m a little tipsy.

I recently quit my job. This job had 22 weeks of paid vacation. Now I work in a cubicle in an office for 3 weeks of paid vacation (but a healthy pay bump). Being under the harsh glow for a continuous nine hour stretch for the first time in more years than I can count tipsy has put me into a somewhat-more-unbalanced-than-usual state of mind. It’s a walking(sitting?)/waking-dream like state where nothing exists except for the computer screen and three fuzzy half walls that are never exactly pleased with what I need to do to get through the day for them and for me, and a semi-constant hum of air conditioning, the snack table, and telephones. Turning 40 recently has also exacerbated this somewhat metaphysical condition, to the point where, during the day, I lose all semblance of my former personality, and can really only communicate verbally though a series of business buzzwords from the 80s, that still seem to work today for some weird reason, power suit, synergy, rebranding.

I just made the company 73 million dollars.

So I started playing Prison Architect for a completely unrelated reason.

 

Prison Architect – I wish I could spend all day thinking about dogs.

This game has been out for a few years now, I got fed up with Sips fucking things up all over the place and fixing things that didn’t need fixing, so I decided to try it for myself.

I learned these things really quickly.

  1. Watching 50 hours of Sips’ gameplay of Prison Architect through various runs does not in any way translate into actual gaming experience.
  2. I am far more shit that Sips at realizing what’s going wrong at any given moment, because my first prison after the intro turned into a riot where 75% of the prison population escaped in about 35 seconds.
  3. It’s a pretty fun game.

I’m aware that by reviewing a 2 year old game, we’re not going to cover any new ground (cough cough retro game reviews are bullshit cough cough), but there’s something really satisfying about this game. It still seems to be getting updates and improvements even this much later, which must be hell on the devs. Could you imagine if they actually went to prison after making something like this? It’d be like serving two sentences at once, but only one is real, the other one is like fighting against Shadow Link in your mind.

Did I mention that it’s 2:04 am, and I’m a bit tipsy?

 

Prison Architect – This is not a good idea.

 

I guess what was surprising to me is that the game has an amazing amount of depth in it, and your prison is not something you just keep building onto, it’s something that you have to build and reshape and repurpose as you’re going. An hour or two in after the tutorial, and every little of the first iteration of my prison exists. I mean, like 75% percent of my prisoners are gone, and I think I’m fucked, but they haven’t shut me down yet. I might be able to linger on. I mean, this is modelled after the US right? They fuck up prisons, like, all the time.

About fucking up, which happens, often, one of the things that I really appreciate about this game is that they do disasters right. In Sim City, when you got hit with an earthquake or if a tornado got your power plants, you were basically screwed. In this game though, while the emergencies can really do a number on your prison, they feel much more balanced. Sure, I lost 75% of my prison population, but the other 25% were unconscious on the floor or dead, so it felt like I had something to work with. I’ll see how it goes after writing this article, I might change my mind if I get shut down.

 

Prison Architect – Bleakfield Federal

 

Right now, I’m only a few hours into the game, and this is what I’ve built. Good old Bleakville National. This is 2 days before everything went to hell. It’s a nice little cozy prison. Maybe I shouldn’t have let 30 prisoners all stay in the same holding cell for like ever. Maybe I should have hooked up this shower. Meh?

Look at me, I’d be a perfect warden for a for-profit prison. And that’s what’s important. I think I need to play another round.

2:19am. More than tipsy.

The Burpy Fresh crew is heading to the wonderful BIC (Busan Indie Connect) Festival for the weekend! It’s Korea’s premiere (read: only) indie gaming event, so if you’re in the country you should definitely come. We’ll be the guys passed out naked on the beach!

Come on out? It’s better than a cubicle, no?

 

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Hacknet – The Ultimate Multiplayer Game?

Yes. Yes, it is. You can go back to watching cat videos now.

Still here? Oh, so you want reasons now. Fine. I’m down to clown. Hacknet, the hacking simulation game, was released a while back, but they just released a new DLC (which we didn’t make it too) and the dev is a super cool dude, so @curttheinvert and I decided to finally take the game for a spin. (Apply foreshadowy music here.)

 

20170507-Hacknet-2
Hacket – Most Visually Stunning Game Ever. (Okay okay, cheap shot)

 

Hacknet doesn’t look like much. I’m just going to get that out of the way right now, because it has like everything else going for it. It has interesting and challenging puzzles, a rich, in-depth storyline with lots of twist and turns, and most importantly, it doesn’t hold your hand through anything after the first 30 minutes or so. It also makes you feel like a frickin’ badass…

Until you see one tiny bump in the road, or happen to look away from the screen for a second to moisten up your dry cracked hackeresque eyeballs, and promptly forget all of the text commands you need to get through the next crucial phase in the game.

This is where Player Two comes in. Player Two, in this case @curttheinvert, henceforth known as Backseat McHackery, simultaneously acts as a driving force of stability, who, if taking notes, gently informs you of your failed life choices while reminding you that nmap is the network scanning command, while getting out their phone and shouting World Star just to see how you’ll collapse under the pressure of a shaky steadily-growing faux-Soviet-fonted timer.

Damn you @curttheinvert. Damn you straight to hell. And also I love you.

Also, screw that timer font. Yes, I know that I have 30 seconds left, you don’t need to scream it in red. Like who would set up their own computer terminal to put more stress on them in tight situations?

But somewhat more seriously, Hacknet feels like a completely different game in multiplayer, and it’s all for the better. The story is complicated, and while it doesn’t assume you’re an actual hacker (#SUBSEVEN4LIFE), it often tells you how to do something once, and only once. You can have notes open on the side, but these take up system memory (really dude, like 300k of memory just for a basic text file?), which may leave you with not enough memory to finish whatever task you may have at hand. Having another set of hands to write these things down and help remember other important facts is incredibly useful.

It’s also incredibly entertaining to hear to grown men try to keep their calm as they type commands into a little box that keeps warning them that they’re growing closer and closer to some unspecified punishment. I mean, I don’t know what happens when you fuck up in Hacknet, but with ol’ BsMcH screaming “Click the box. No the box! CLICK THE FUCKING BOX OR I WILL DESTROY YOU AND ALL OF YOUR UNBORN CHILDREN!” I don’t ever want to know. It’s a hint of extra realism, that really brings that tension home. It’s kinda like that part of Resident Evil, where you take your character through the L shaped hallway for the second time, and that dog comes through the window and attacks. I remember playing that at like three in the morning at my friend’s place when it came out. His parents were away and we had it up like super loud. Like, look at this video, but picture a bunch of people screaming when the dogs come out.

 

 

Okay, things were scarier in the 90s. Sheesh. It was a simpler time. Hacknet did made me feel this same tension though, and moreso when Curtis was in the room glaring down at my disapprovingly as I kept typing porthack as porkhack. I don’t like the idea of having a stress induced heart attack, but if I were to have one, I think this is how I’d like to go.

#SUBSEVEN4LIFE #BACKSEATMCHACKERY4MAYOR

I wonder if I could just play Hacknet instead of exercising to get the ol’ blood flowing…?

So, yeah. Curtis and I streamed about two hours of footage when he came to visit a while back. OBS was set to turn off every time I pressed the letter P, and hilarity ensued. Man, we’re terrible at streaming. This starts about 5 minutes into the game and continues through for a while. It’s not too terribly screamy, basically because we cut it as we were getting to that point. Haha. Yeah. We’re terrible at screaming.

 

 

After we turned it off, we forkbombed our own PC and crashed our server. Hilarity. You should try it, like after you save it.

We’re going to do this again the next time Curtis comes over again, probably after BitSummit. It’s going to be amazing. Go download it.

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Forma.8 – Black Blobbed Floaty Samus

Full Disclosure: As seems to be a trend these days, I bought this game like the rest of the plebs. WTF man. Where has all my game street cred gone?

 

Forma.8 - Lava
Forma.8 – Lava and a glowy spider dude!

 

Forma.8 is the newest release from the somewhat-unreassuringly-named Mixed Bag Games, out a few weeks ago on Steam, but earlier on other platforms. It’s a highly metroidvanic joint, with oodles of physical puzzles, and psychological terrors to deal with. You’re this little black blobbed floaty Samus-like, which I’ma call Smookles. Poor Smookles, praying to what gods may exist, is one of many little black blobby bits shot out of the front of this gun-looking ship towards an unknown planet. Smookles lands and starts its journey in an earth-toned shadowy room with only one exit (for now, I guess).

The game initially feels like Metroid. There are puzzles you have to float through. You need certain power-ups in certain places to advance. There is a lot of area to explore. The biggest difference would that Smookles does not feel the effects of gravity. The controls felt really… for lack of a better word… floaty, but after I got used to how Smookles bobs around they felt pretty good. I will say I did notice I was really pressing on the d-pad harder trying to push the little dude faster (to no avail of course), which was kind of annoying. That could be because I was using PS2 controllers with it too though.

Controllers are expensive.

The graphics are simple, but are really nice to look at. While most of the characters and enemies are mostly solid black with glowing dots on them, the backgrounds are grainy textured oranges, reds, and browns that create an idea of a dark deep descent without actually blacking out the screen. I particularly liked the menu screen, not just because you can operate it and play the game at the same time, but because of how it “powers up.” The image below doesn’t really do it justice, but it kinda reminded me of turning on and off an old CRT screen. So satisfying.

 

Forma.8 - Menu Initialization
Forma.8 – Menu Initialization

 

I don’t really have an idea of what the greater picture of Forma.8 encompasses yet, but it seems to be bigger than just Smookles. You meet Smookles’ dead friends along the way, and they give you power ups to help you survive longer on the planet. The power ups and items are a mixed bag. So far they’re all pretty cool, but sometimes the level design is very reminiscent of a Skyrim dungeon in that at the start of some levels you can see what if effectively the equivalent of the famous exit only barred door. While I understand it’s important to have power ups that let you overcome certain situations, I’d like to see more games stretch beyond this type level design. Is there an alternative to this that doesn’t involve excessive backtracking or warping? I guess that’s the question we all have to think about.

I’m nitpicking. It’s good. I’m gonna play it some more.

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Mana Spark – Freeview

FREEview:  Mana Spark

FREEview is our weekly review of totally free shit.  All honey, no money!

Lemme get this off my chest real quick:  I love rogue-likes.  It was the 199something Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 that cursed me to forever heed that genre’s call.  Probably more of a siren song really.  So basically I love to go down into a dungeon, get stuff, and try not to die.  That’s it for the most part.  Well that and the procedurally generated levels and the constant threat permadeath are the basic rules to being a rogue-like.  They are also the basic rules to me loving your game.  Enter Mana Spark.

  20161213-mana-spark-logo

looks scary!

Mana Spark certainly has a little bit of that rogue-like nonsense:  procedurally generated levels, random enemies, varied loot drops, and most importantly permadeath.  Some plays will be easy.  Others won’t.  It is the luck of the draw, the roll of the dice, the shoot of the crap scenario.  That is where your skills and patience come in.  Get dealt a shitty hand and you’ll become a better player for it!  The game won’t play easy on you either.  It will be tough and you will die my.  Hopefully you’ll walk away stronger for it.  There is always next time!

Even if it is difficult, you will get better.  Every trip down into the depths leaves you feeling like you learned a little more.  Every new enemy you encounter has a different strategy.  Every item effects you differently.  So when you finally, inevitably do die, you’ll bring back little more knowledge of this dark and mysterious world.  Let’s get to the nitty gritty my friend.

20161213-mana-spark-gameplay-1 20161213-mana-spark-gameplay-2

You’re this little cutie archer with a great sense of fashion: a wicked scarf and a sexy bow.  He is probably a tween but who’s to say!  Now throw that little sprite boy in a beautifully animated 16-bit(ish) top down environment with unlimited arrows and an increasingly difficult enemies on four evil floors.  Slam in a store between each floor for good measure and now you got a game.  Kill the enemies in hopes they drop cash.  Use the cash to buy items in the three stores.  Fight a boss on the final floor!  BOOM.

20161213-mana-spark-wolf

That wolf is fucking cute yo.

Now I’d love to go into greater detail here but I really shouldn’t.  These Brazilian developers known as Behemutt were kind enough to release Mana Spark as an early access build.  The game ain’t done yet!  I can’t wait for more of it.  At this point I have probably beaten it ten times.  I’ve nearly mastered it but not quite because that is next to impossible!  That is the best part of the game too:  you can’t master something that changes constantly.  You will die.

Get it on PC / MAC / Linux here!