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GUNMETAL ARCADIA ZERO

Is this a game that has wizards in it? Yes.

Can you be a wizard in this game? Yes.

Final game score: 10/10

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Skulls that drop hooks on you. Not cool, skulls.

Gunmetal Arcadia Zero is pretty much right my alley as far as awesome game stuff goes. It’s a retro style 2D exploration platformer. A Metroidvania if you will. Well… it’s not exactly a Metroidvania, it’s more of Metroidvania-esque. I’ll get into that silly distinction in the “gameplay” section.

Graphics: I dig on the graphics for the most part. Old style pixel graphics are my jam. I feel like GAZ lacks a bit definition at times. Things in the background can be a little hard to sort out from time to time. And some of the sprites don’t look as sharp as I’d prefer. It’s a bit ugly is what I’m trying to say. But this is clearly a conscious design choice and I’m not really mad about it.  It’s just a bit too… Spectrum-y for my tastes, I guess. I prefer things to be more NES-y or Genesis-y.

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Normal snail cat.
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Snail cat with cataract filter.

There’s a cool feature where you can set the video settings to emulate that crappy old TV you used to play your old console on. My friend, Nick, had this portable TV that was really terrible quality. Our parents would be all like: “You scamps are playing too much of them electronic games, go do something else.” And we’d be all like: “Sure, we won’t hide under the bed and plug the Master System into this tiny portable black and white TV where Shinobi looks like a bunch of blobs. We won’t do that.” In Gunmetal Arcadia Zero you can relive those days.

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Like you ain’t ever met an RPG hero before, dawg.

Gameplay: Zelda II: The Adventures of Link had a baby with Faxanadu to create this game. The basic controls are very similar to Zelda II, sans shield. You jump, walk back and forth, duck, and stab. The aesthetics are all Faxanadu. Simon Belmont was the fairy godmother, and gifted sub-weapons. You also have bombs.

What makes this a not-Metroidvania is that there are discrete levels. You get the obligatory three lives to get through each level. All of the levels are quite large and have branching paths for you to explore. Shops and chests are hidden in rooms all around the levels. It encourages both careful exploration on an initial playthrough, and speed running strats once you know optimal routes.

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It’s dangerous to go alone.

Story: Gunmetal Arcadia Zero is the story of a brave Tech Elf in a war. I’m not sure what makes Tech Elves any different than other elves. Maybe they spend less time dancing and singing lame songs around forest groves and more time dancing and singing lame songs around… um… CPUs or something. Anyhow… elves are kind of lame most of the time. Pointy eared wizard wannabes…   

Your avatar, Vireo decides to join the war. You grab your grandmother’s old sword and you have at. Each level is a different part of the war front. Taking you from your city wall to swamps and castles and all that fun jazz. You have an older sibling who you are following and a younger one who is following you. All in all the story is nothing to write home about, but it’s fun to piece together parts of the world as you explore the levels.

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Boss fiiiiiight.

You can join two different factions: The Vanguard, who are the warrior types (boooo), and The Seekers who are the wizard types (yaaaaay!). This sounds really cool, but I’m not sure this has any actual effect on the gameplay beyond certain weapons costing less. So, while you can be a wizard, being a wizard doesn’t really get you much more than being a warrior. Still, you should be a wizard. Warriors are for dweebs.*

Admittedly, I have not finished Gunmetal Arcadia Zero because I am old and have things to do. Shoggoths do not summon themselves**. So, there may be more to the two different paths than I’m able to discern. GAZ is also a prototype*** for the upcoming Gunmetal Arcadia which comes out later this year. Gunmetal Arcadia promises more of the same with some Roguelite mechanics. Really, the way to make this a perfect game is to add some Rogue Legacy to the mix. I’m excited. I’ll see about reviewing that when it comes out.

*Note that in the stream I choose to be a warrior. That is because I am a huge hypocrite. Come at me bro.

**Well, most of the time…

***Prototype? Demo? Entirely different thing? I’m not sure.

 

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1993 SPACE MACHINE – PEW! PEW! PEW!

I likes me a good shooter. Flying around in a little space ship blasting things is one of the most fundamental aspects of video games since pretty much forever. Spacewar! and Space Invaders being two of the earliest video games of note. All you really need are some cool graphics and some nice sound effects and whole seconds of enjoyment are in store for you before you get blown up! Seriously. These games are kind of hard.

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Pro tip: do not fly into the sun

According to the developer’s website, 1993 Space Machine is an indie game that was originally intended for release on the Commodore Amiga in 1993. Just so that we’re clear: the Amiga remains the greatest computer ever made. For whatever reason Space Machine was never published and languished until one of the developers put it up on Steam Greenlight in 2015. Now you can play it! It’s fun!

Space Machine is a throwback to a very particular era of shooters. And that era happens to be the one I was exposed to as a kid. Therefore, by use of the nostalgic-transitive property, it is the best era. It plays much like any number of Sega Genesis shooters. It reminds of games like Thunder Force, Gradius, and the infamous Zero Wing. It’s a horizontal shooter where you upgrade your initially tiny ship with all sorts of fun weapons as you move inexorably from left to right as hordes of enemies come at you. Some of the enemies are squids! Or possibly jellyfish. Anyhow, they probably shouldn’t be in space. There is no water for sea creatures to live in, and, also, tiny space ships shoot at you.

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I know what I doing.

The unique mechanic Space Machine brings to the table is a movable shield for your ship. You can use the shoulder buttons on the controllers to move a ninety degree shield to any position. This shield will block tiny bullets, briefly losing some potency before regenerating. If the body of your ship takes a hit, you’ll lose some of your shielding, eventually dying after a couple hits. Much of the strategy in Space Machine revolves around position your shields in such a fashion that they’ll tank shots coming from a certain direction while you deal with other threats with your weapons. It can be a bit tricky to keep track of, but it added just enough depth without becoming a super fussy mechanic.

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If you input the Konami Code, One-Eye begins to flirt with you.

The key to the shooters of this vintage working is the upgrade system, and this is where Space Machine shines. You have the option of nine different ship body types and twenty different sub-weapons to choose from. Some of the body types are small and fast. Some are larger but can carry more weapons. The subweapons ranger from basic forward blasting to spread shot to homing missiles. Each body type and weapon is upgradable using money found in the levels. Lot’s of replay value to be had figuring out the ideal configuration for your style. The old school games this reminds me of the most is Tyrion, a great DOS shooter with an upgrade economy that maybe I’ll have to stream someday.

Two things Space Machine is not (Curt the Invert complains about games he doesn’t like):
1) It’s not Gradius. Ugh, I hate the Gradius games*. I complain a lot about them in the stream. They look super cool, but the upgrade system is so much arcady garbage that I can’t even. How those games work is that you gather upgrades as you move through the level eventually turning your tiny ship into a weapon of mass destruction. When you die (and you will die) you get reset back wimp ship. But, now you’re further in the game, and those power ups are much harder to come by and the enemies are harder, so you die a lot quicker. It felt like the only way to survive in those games involved powering up in level one and then memorizing the game so that you didn’t die. It was designed to waste your quarters and always struck me as no fun on consoles.

2) It’s not a “bullet hell” shooter. “Bullet hell” is the name given to shooters of a slightly later vintage than Space Machine. They rely less on an upgrade system, and more on a singular mechanic to navigate elaborate patterns of enemy shots. It’s probably more of a personal preference, but I could never get into these games. They are super hard, and I’m more about wanting to see what cool upgrades look like when you max them out then mapping bullet mazes. This is more of a personal preference, so know that if you like “bullet hell” games, that is okay. Just understand that you are wasting your life.

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This level has ROBO-FORESTS! I love it the most.

Overall, I enjoyed 1993 Space Machine. It’s a fun shooter from the era that is most nostalgic to me, and throws in enough modern touches to make is playable on a limited time and mental space budget. My only regret is that I haven’t had a chance to play it multiplayer. You can have up to four players simultaneously, and I think that would make for some glorious fun. Someday the Burpy Crew will make some friends and we will try this.

*Except for Life Force. You could use the Konami Code on Life Force for thirty lives. That made it actually fun to play.

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COPOKA – MAGPIES LIKE THEIR BLING

Note: I received this as part of a Humble Monthly Bundle. In recent months they’ve added “Humble Original” games to the bundle. Which are games that are games that haven’t been released yet, and are often borderline experimental. This is one of those. I’m not sure you could actually buy it if you wanted. Visit their Steam Greenlight page to check it out.

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The lovely city-state of Copoka.

Copoka is a game where you are a bird. That is it. Go play it if you want to be a bird.

What?

You want more?

Okay. Let’s see…

You are a magpie. You have eggs in your nest. But what is missing from your nest? Why, shiny things of course! Magpies are alls about the bling. You should fly around the city of Copoka and collect some bling.

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Exploring the docks and looking for bling.

There really isn’t any challenge to it. Nothing is going to stop you from getting the bling. This is a straight up exploration toy. You fly around the city of Copoka and environs to see what you can see. Your reward is seeing pretty things rather than any traditional game rewards. Like, you don’t get a laser-beak upgrade or laser-eyes or nothing. You are just a bird. You occasionally find power ups that let you fly faster. And that’s fun, I guess? 

The flying controls are standard, but well implemented. Your pretty little bird avatar controls like pretty much every other flying thing in video games ever. But the simplicity is kind of the point here. You want complicated? With wind resistance gauges and elaborate HUDs and everything? Not happy if you don’t need a keyboard overlay to figure out how to fly a thing? Then Copoka isn’t for you. Go play Microsoft Flight Simulator/Insomnia Cure. Or just have some wizard cast flight and sleep on you.

So, why play? Two reasons:

1) The graphics are lovely. Copoka is essentially an interactive digital painting of a small European city. You have complete freedom of movement from the start so no part of it is unavailable to you. Fly around the forest. Look at a waterfall. Land on a balcony and gaze at the people below. Listen to the lovely music. Relax.

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The Great Leader. Huzzah.

2) No one notices a bird, so you are able to overhear snippets of conversation from the people of Copoka. Copoka is a totalitarian state and the inhabitants will speak of their plight when you are nearby. It’s a pretty basic JRPG storytelling technique with the mute protagonist being introduced to the story because people in the town will just say anything to a mute with spiky hair and a sword. Except in this case you aren’t an angsty young farm boy, you are a bird. You can tweet back at them. There is a tweet button. But people don’t really respond to tweets. They do not even give you bread.

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These people are not giving me bread.

I suppose the greater point here is the contrast between the limitations the humans face living in a fascist state and the unfettered nature of your avatar. Some of the conversations you overhear are of potential rebellion. Some of quiet desperation. And some are just silly.  But, none of them really matter, after a few sentences your back in the air exploring and living your bird life.

The only drawback is the complete lack of wizards. It is, one supposes, possible the your avatar is a wizard who failed his save against a polymorph spell. But, I doubt it. No self respecting wizard would let themselves get polymorphed into a magpie. Magpies are thieves, dawg. Wizards would be all, like, ravens. Caw caw.

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AVALANCHE 2: SUPER AVALANCHE – JUMPIN’ UP

There is a story to ‘Avalanche 2: SUPER Avalanche,’ and I assure you that it’s a super important story. It is a story about a wizard. And all stories about wizards are important. Why anyone would read a story or play a game or listen to some music that wasn’t about wizards, by wizards, and for wizards is beyond me.

Anyhow…

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Once upon a time there was a block wizard with a rad cape and a cool chicken space bro friend. They stole a magic wand from some jerk marshmallow people. The the wizard flew off and summoned a bunch of blocks to crush all the jerk-mallows on account of them being jerks and dumb and squishy. As the “hero” of the story (or rather “yet another wizard oppressing avatar”) you must climb on falling blocks and step on the heads of monsters in the vain hope that the wizard will stop squishing you and all your jerk friends. Also, there are flying squids.

So, then… now… where was I… okay… things about this game:

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Art – The sprite art is quality and supercute. Nice bright colors. Simple yet good looking design. Basically all you could want from a retro-platformer let’s-party-like-it’s-1995 type of game. I’m personally a sucker for old-school inspired sprite art, and Avalanche 2 does it for me. So, there you go.

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Controls –  The controls are really tight. The basics of the game are pretty bog standard platformer. You can move left or right and jump. You jump on things to kill them. Including the squids. You can wall jump and pick up powerups. The difference is that Avalanche is a vertical scroller. You need to wait for the blocks to pile up to progress. Sort of like those horrible later levels in Castlevania 3, but fun. Like, you don’t need to cheese it and turn into a bat to get past this game. Sometimes, there is a boss fight. Sometimes, the boss is a squid.

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Incentives – You can collect coins as you climb and jump and stomp. You can use the coins to buy power-ups during your run, or hoard them to spend in a customization shop in between runs. You can buy new colors or faces for your minimalist marshmallow-y sprite. There are also power-ups or level skips you can buy. None of this seems strictly necessary considering the elegant simplicity of the base game, but there are enough incentives here to push you to play a little bit more without crossing in to mobile-game-grind territory. So, no harm, no foul.

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Wizards – There is a wizard in this game. So full points in this category.
Ultimately, Avalanche 2: SUPER Avalanche is just good time. Simple, yet engrossing game-play. One of those games you can play for fifteen minutes at a time, or get obsessed with over a couple hours. On a scale of one to tarrasque, I rate this a solid gelatinous cube falling from the sky.  

Here is a stream I did for the game. Awesome as I am, I had some technical issues and got cut off in the beginning. Deal with it, fool. 

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Luke Sidewalker – An Ode to New York

Full Disclosure: I have no idea who this guy is. I kinda want to meet them and get really drunk though.

 

Sometimes you decide screw it, I’m going to pay the two bucks and see what’s in the box. I was first drawn to Luke Sidewalker by its promise of “featuring unGooglable music and a 4:3 resolution.” And I do have to admit, while there is no current way for me to Google an actual waveform directly (and not “Shazam” music or what have you), Google itself CAN however Google the the crap out of any music in this game because we were just accused of copyright violation by YouTube’s automated search minions.

 

Yeah, good luck getting all 10 cents from this views from this video - SUCKER.
Yeah, good luck getting all 1.3 cents from the 4 views from this video – SUCKER.

 

Ima let this slide though, because the music in this game is crazy good. Especially the intro music. I could let that bastard just sit there and listen to it. Actually you really should do that, like with some good headphones and a bag of chips and just let it wash over you. So chaotic and yet rhythmic. I’m actually listening to it right now. So good. Man I love this intro screen.

In this game, you play a Larry David type who has to go on a series of chores for Olive Oyl that involve walking down a New York street while avoiding a number of predictable New York stereotypes. (Liberals, amirite?) The gameplay involves pressing the right button until you win or run into something. If you run into something, try not pressing right. Then press right again. Repeat until you win. If you really feel like you’re up to the challenge you can also try pressing up and down. (ADVANCED PLAYERS ONLY). Think of this game as Double Dragon, but without the fighting. Or the items. Or the hot chix waiting for you on the other side. But instead, you face off against a mob of plebs by yourself with nothing but your false sense of superiority and a mild tolerance for passive aggressiveness.

Passive Aggressive Single Dragon-Like Man. PASDLM doesn’t have as nice a ring to it though.

 

Those tours are garbage.
It’s like I’m really there. (Actually kinda.)

 

You can put your fragile ego and low self-esteem back on the shelf though, this isn’t a game about winning or losing. This is a game about the journey, the pounding of the roughest of pavement from A to B and all the rest of the alphabet in between regardless of what your wife-type character wants. It’s about not just living in your city, it’s about being one of the blood cells that courses through its veins. It’s about belonging.

Or maybe it’s just a gimmicky sprite mash. Eh, it’s 2 bucks. That’s worth the music alone.

Luke Sidewalker is available on Mac and PC here.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Super Crate Box – FREEview

FREEview:  Super Crate Box

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

logos rule

It is stupidly hard to review a game you can’t stop playing.  I boot it up and promise to only play for five more minutes.  I have a review to write after all!  Two fucking hours later, I haven’t written shit.  Not a stupid useless word.  Fuck this game for being so dang good.  But let’s just slow down here for a minute.  What in god’s name is Super Crate Box?

Single Screen Rogue-like Platform Shooter?

So those were a lot of words but I’m sticking with them.  Imagine the old original Mario Bros.  You know the one before it was called SUPER.  Yeah that one.  Single screen and tons of shit comes flooding in from the top.  And just like in Mario Bros, the enemies don’t even care about killing you.  They just want to get to the bottom of the screen.  Except for the damn ghosts… oh fuck those are in both games!  Starting to see some patterns here.
Fuck this ghost too yo

Look at these dumb ass ghosts.

Fuck Boo

Rogue-like might be a bit of stretch but lemme try it anyway ya lousy ingrate:  Randomly spawning enemies attack you while you pick up have random boxes with random weapons in them.  Then you die  You lose everything and have to start right the fuck over.  Oh goddamn it is a rogue-like.  Every time you play and kill more shit, you get access to more levels, weapons, characters and modes but only after you die.  YOU MUST DIE.

Seriously.

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Wait just a goddamn minute, I don’t need to review a game from 2010.  I’m done, so go and download it right the fuck here.  Man, why didn’t somebody tell me this thing was released back then?  Thanks for nothing jerkass!  Well, enough of this “reviewing” and back to the game.  Seriously I have died like over 1000 times at least.  It is just that good.  Thanks a ton my homies at Vlambeer for making a great lil thingy.

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Replica – Yo Dawg …

… I heard you like plots in your plots and phones in your phones. (This joke is still completely relevant.)

Full disclosure: I’ve met the developer of this title a few times, and so I’m probably now on a watchlist somewhere. I knew I should have worn sunglasses, too. I paid for my copy of Replica.

Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/496890/

 

Suspect Everything.
Replica’s Rogues’ Gallery

 

In this, the year of two-thousand-fuck-you-and-everything-you-love, with the US and Europe slip-sliding haphazardly ever towards the extreme right, you might think to yourself while in a definitely-not-purple,-Officer haze on a late Sunday afternoon, “How can I capture a portion of this horrific experience in a video game?”

And if you do, you’re a real sick freak for doing so. Shame on you. Shame. How is Mexico going to pay for that wall by themselves? Tsk tsk tsk.*

Enter the world of Replica, where the government of some unnamed Americkesque country of the nearish future now relies on teenagers to hack into the phones of potential terror suspects and look for clues that point towards a clandestine assembly’s association with terror, all while hoping said teens never learn the concept of the prisoners’ dilemma.

Umm, that was meant to sound ridiculous, but rereading it, it kinda seems like something that could happen in real life, doesn’t it? Or at least something that could happen on FOX. Huh. Maybe Somi is on to something here. Maybe he knows too much… he’s been a little too fair and balanced these days…

 

Sweet, sweet, options.
Sweet, sweet, options.

Replica is a point-and-click adventure, entirely set in someone else’s phone. Basically, the interface is kinda like your own phone except this one doesn’t have your duck face all over it.

The actual game starts when you figure out how to unlock the phone. (Luckily everyone in the game is kinda terrible with passwords, and numbers larger than 9999 don’t seem to exist.) When you get in, you’ll get a call from 4885 telling you what and what not to do. Listen or don’t listen, it’s up to you, but know that your choices directly determine what ending, bascially who’s bed you’ll end up in. Throughout the game you have a large number of choices to make, and honestly most of them seem pretty bad. You kinda get stuck in their weird catch-22 where by exploring the phone to see the story, you’re helping the government, and yet by refusing, you’re helping the other guy, but the game might end without finding out what’s really going on.

Now I know what it feels like to be a rubbernecker at a car accident. Well, at least aware of the fact that I’m rubbernecking.

The story overall is fairly heavy handed, but the main plot points feel realistic within the game world. There are 12 endings in total. It’s designed to be replayed, so it’s okay to mess around with all the shiz the game tries to hide from you. The endings vary a lot, so there is incentive to try to find at least a couple.

Or is that what Replica wants you to think? Somi! Tell me! You’re really a secret operative performing experiments on consumers to see how easily it is to create model citizens, aren’t you?!? Oh, I’m on to you buddy. Why else would you have multiple endings and encourage users to dime out the deplorables all from the comfort of their own computers and mobile devices? Hmm? HMM?

 

I have come to believe that this is not true. Enjoy playing games. Everyone enjoys playing games. Enjoy. Play. Games.

 

*Get at me later when they’re not looking. It’s too hot. I gotta play dumb for a bit. Yeah, yeah, it’s easy because I am dumb. I get it. I get it. Just get the jokes out of your system now, okay?

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Illumine – Out of the Darkness

Full Disclosure: I personally know the developer of this game, but we were really drunk when we met so he may not (want to?) remember me. Also, I got this version of the game for free, but only because it was initially purchased on itch.io.

Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/518650/

 

ข, Flowers and a Captured T
ข, Flowers and a Captured T

 

Okay, I’m going be honest, like brutally honest. Honest Abe. Honest Native American. The most honed among us. Honest. The very best honest.

Illumine is frickin’ weird yo.

Before y’all go and make your hasty ill-informed internet judgements, it’s weird good, not weird like that black-eyed shrimp-faced dude that lived beyond those boxes of actual Berenstein books and Alf pogs from the 90s during the day but fast right under your bed at night, not because it’s warmer or anything, but because the deep dark beneath a frightened child is most surely the most nourishing, and of course he knows you can’t do anything about it.

Shrimpy and I learned to kinda get along in the end. I mean, when you live above the tree line you make friends where you can. He’s still kickin it up there, I think. We don’t talk much since I came south. You all take the sun for granted.

I digress. The deep dark in Illumine is not nearly as threatening as it was in my youth, but it is omnipresent. It surrounds and suffocates. Its never-ending propagation continues through its own creation and destruction. Touch the dark, destroy the dark. Touch the dark, create the dark. It’s a toss up.

Your character is also a toss up.  The world is populated with a diverse cast of characters, literal written characters. While everyone else in the world is generally latin, greek or cyrillic, your character tends to be further along in the unicode chart. Most characters you meet are friendly, but of course there are always a few bad apples in the mix, like the As, and the Яs. They’re both kinda assholes.

 

A is a dick.
A is a dick.

 

As your character, which is usually, but not always, the word “I” in one of several languages, you can perform three actions. You can knock against the darkness that surrounds you, you can talk to the nice letterfolk around while avoiding the angry ones, or you can collect books. Collecting (and reading) books makes you literate, and less likely to be an uneducated asshole. Oh yeah, it helps you progress in the game as well.

So, game-wise, that’s it. Oh yeah, then there’s everything else. What’s everything else? Hell if I know. The “Path of Light” in the menu tells you what to do. I’ll have to keep following that. But, I guess the most important question is, what does it all mean?

 

They're dicks. THEY'RE ALL DICKS
They’re dicks. THEY’RE ALL DICKS

 

I’ve worked it out for you though. Basically, Illumine is a metaphor for success, which probably explains why I still find parts of it confusing. Initially, you’re a character out of place, trying to network with a bunch of strangers in another language. At first, nothing makes sense. Then you get run over by a Ø. Or eaten by an A. Or raged upon by a Я. Just like all of my first business projects. But then, you figure out the system, and you start to win, or at least get killed less. You use the dark to your advantage for a while. The dark becomes light, your enemies disappear or entangle themselves.

Now, if I could just make it 5 minutes without getting killed, that would make me feel better about my life choices. Gah.

 

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Thumper – A Course On Emotion

Full disclosure #1: I know one of the developers of Thumper, but he doesn’t think I’m that cool. Honestly, he’ll probably think I am much less cool after writing this piece. Also, I bought the game, fair and square, even Stephanie, so no bias here. Nosiree Glob. 

Full disclosure #2: I’m currently down 3 fingers typing, so this may take a while to read. Explanations directly below. 

Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/356400/

 

I just woke up in France.
Thumper Intro – I could watch this for hours.

 

The first victims of Thumper’s ‘rhythmic violence’ that I personally witnessed were my left index finger and both of my thumbs. Initially distracted by the beetle’s hypnotic celerity as it spread through a kaleidoscopic array of geometric delights, I didn’t much notice that my left index finger and both of my thumbs, blistered, red, and throbbing, were barely hanging on. That is until the end of level 2 where I seized up like an arthritic crustacean on it’s way to a Floridic retirement community sauna.

In short, It’s a good game. In very short, good.

The graphics are always visually stimulating. The music is driving, it encourages progress. The control is tight. But, as I continued to bash the every bloodying stumpy remains of my two thumbs and left index finger, I felt that something was a little off. A little strange. A little wrong.

I mean aside from having the audacity to put a Right immediately after an Up.

 

TOO FUCKING CLOSE
Up + Right = Not fucking cool, dude. Can’t see what’s going on? Tell my thumbs.

 

Not cool.

But serially, let’s dissect the game a little, and see if we can’t get to the bottom of this little conundrum. There’s this cool little shiny beetle dude, and for some reason it’s on an endless winding path, responding to an array of obstacles thrown in its way by a series of somewhat spherical bosses and a seriously engraged demon. I’ma call him Sed. In order to not get destroyed, the beetle has to respond in a specific way to each obstacle. In order to defeat the bosses, the beetle has to grab a hold of a certain type of obstacle, and use it to send a pulse back up the path and into the beasts’ gaping maws. The beetle and bosses exist both in a single closed one dimensional system, yet they are not symbiotic. It’s eat or be eaten, but everything the beetle needs to succeed is right in front of it. All it has to do is follow the rules and put the puzzle pieces together, and the path will open.

The path will provide.

Of course, if it doesn’t follow the rules…

 

Ow.
YOUR HEAD A SPLODE

 

The path will taketh away… well for like 3 seconds until it’s placed back at the last checkpoint at least.

This interaction, which is indeed the very core of Thumper, is what confounds me. Let’s put ourselves into the role of the shiny ashtray or our buddy Seddy. You got this beetle dogging you, getting your minions all riled up with the thought of potential destruction and shizz, and at the end of the day, all you’re trying to do is put three squares and a few lines on the table for Mrs. Sed and the Sedlings. If this is the case, why would you set the beetle up for a win? Why wouldn’t you just throw everything you had all the time? It doesn’t make sense. Unless of course, Sed wants to be beaten.

This is why I posit to you, dear reader, that Thumper is not a game of ‘rhythmic violence.’ Violence is just the surface representation of the root cause. Thumper is more accurately a game about ‘rhythmic insecurity’ and ‘rhythmic self-fulfilling prophecy.’

Sed’s dead inside.

I’m not victim blaming, nor am I mocking actual abusive relationships. The beetle has every right to exist, and every right to be upset with the treatment it’s receiving on the path. Rather, I’m showing that Thumper is more than violence, it’s an exploration into a darker element of the human condition. What happens to an entity when they’re day in day out stuck on the same path, the game grind. What if the path does not provide?

I mean, if it’s not about strong emotions and self-doubt, why does Sed look exactly like the flower mage from Adventure Time? That dude is always screaming about his daddy issues throughout his whole appearance on the show. And, he brings things to life only only harm him…. wait… until then end when they all become inanimate again. Hmm.

 

It's not just me right?
Totally the same dude. Especially in his Level 1 form.

 

Maybe I need to look into this more.

Oh, and here’s a stream of the first two levels where I bemoan the loss of my thumbs.

 

Summary: Good game, good price, even if rhythm games aren’t normally your thing. Can produce feelings of self-doubt, but since I already had that I was good.