Hacknet (PC) Hands-On Preview

Developer: Team Fractal Alligator | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games || Outlook: Good

Writing previews for games are a bit of a challenge.  Previews serve as a way to give the readers an introduction to a game they may anticipate, and hopeful readers look for positive impressions before they have access themselves.  I tend to typically give preview builds the benefit of the doubt and stay hopeful that the final product will potentially deliver.  In this case, Hacknet definitely holds an interesting and unique potential.

Hacknet simulates a hacking environment, not unlike something you may see in exaggerated form on a TV show.  Through a number of commands you’ll solve what is essentially multi-layered puzzles that will force you to master a routine while solving the unique mission at hand.  The preview build provided to me allowed for approximately 40 minutes of gameplay, which included a Tutorial, a “test mission,” and an actual mission.

The gameplay serves as a backdrop and a storytelling device to a mystery involving the death of a hacker named Bit.  The preview build didn’t delve too deeply into the actual meat of the story, but mostly just alludes to some of the characters you are potentially going to have more interaction with later.  The simulated hacking environment uses real UNIX commands, so if you have experience with command line actions you’ll be able to pick up on most of what is happening pretty quickly.  The forced memorization of commands has the potential to be daunting if you aren’t comfortable with that sort of interaction with a computer, however.  One of the highlights of the game is its lack of hand-holding, so it appears that you’ll need a notepad or a good memory to execute the time-based puzzles correctly.  Ideally, you’ll be learning most of the commands as you go along, so the puzzles will probably become more advanced and require greater care to execute perfectly.  Hacknet aligns itself with “Papers, Please,” challenging different parts of your brain than what you may normally be accustomed to for games.

What got me really digging the puzzles was the sleek/futuristic user interface coupled with the music.  The music was contextually designed and matched the mood of what was going on appropriately.  The music really played a key part in turning up the tension when the first hacking challenge took place.  They didn’t want to give too much away so the game abruptly turns off once you hit a certain point in the puzzle/mission.  As an aside, they included a functional clicker mini-game, which implies there are possibly other mini-games that might be added to create variety.

The preview build left me with a generally positive impression, and I’m looking forward to what the complete game will offer.  Hacknet will be $10 when it releases in August.

Information from the press release is as follows:

Hacknet is an immersive, terminal-based hacking simulator for PC. Dive down a rabbit hoIe as you follow the instructions of a recently deceased hacker, whose death may not have been the accident the media reports. Using old school command prompts and real hacking processes, you’ll solve the mystery with minimal hand-holding and a rich world full of secrets to explore.

Bit, a hacker responsible for creating the most invasive security system on the planet, is dead. When he fails to reconnect to his system for 14 days, his failsafe kicks in, sending instructions in automated emails to a lone user.  As that user, it’s up to you to unravel the mystery and ensure that Hacknet-OS doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Exploring the volatile nature of personal privacy, the prevalence of corporate greed, and the hidden powers of hackers on the internet, Hacknet delivers a true hacking simulation, while offering a support system that allows total beginners get a grasp of the real-world applications and commands found throughout the game.

Hacknet will launch on PC via Steam and the Humble Store on August 12, 2015.

 

Reveal Trailer:

 

A preview build of Hacknet was provided to Squackle.

 

Fort Meow (PC) Review

Developer: Upper Class Walrus | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games || Overall: 7.5

 

The question is as old as time itself: Which four-legged beast makes the better domesticated pet? A dog or a cat? The dog, known for its obedience and loyalty, is commonly known to be “man’s best friend.” On the other hand, cats are known for their independence and for being the little super-villains of the household, which makes them the favorite animal of the internet. Though, thanks to Fort Meow, I now know the answer to this conundrum is dog. It’s definitely dog.

Grumpy Cat
Don’t give me that face.

Fort Meow is a physics-based strategy game that involves building forts, cats and bad adult supervision. Playing as young Nia (I see what you did there…), you find yourself at your grandparents’ place only to find them missing. After not calling your parents, and instead rummaging around the attic (like any good horror movie character), the only clue to their whereabouts seems to be hidden somewhere in your grandfather’s journal. The game then tasks you with building fort after fort with household items to defend yourself against a constant onslaught of cats that want to distract you from reading the journal and discovering their nefarious schemes. Along the way, you encounter your grandfather’s flying robot to help you further explore the house and eventually stop the Catpocalypse… Which all seems like a pretty complicated setup for a tower defense puzzle game about evil cats.

 

Despite the silly and complicated set up, the game itself is actually quite fun. Fort Meow switches between a tower defense and exploration portions and both do well to make the game enjoyable. The tower defense portion of the game is much like Angry Birds, but in reverse. Instead of trying to destroy buildings and those inside of it, you take the role of the person inside of the fort who must build one strong enough to prevent any cat from forcing their way inside. Though, like any good game, the premise may be simple but it still manages to challenge the player. Constantly, I’d find my forts barely surviving and on the verge of collapse. Plus the time mechanic, which serves as a sort of cost for the items in your fort, is an effective way to limit your resources enough to make your forts strong but nowhere near impregnable. Lastly, while the gameplay in Fort Meow is mostly solid, the “physics” that the game mentions as a selling point don’t always play out as planned and would probably leave Einstein scratching his head in confusion.

Gravity
E=What the heck is that?!

The exploration portion of the game may be a smaller part but it still manages to do a good job at integrating your expanding amount of fort pieces into the overall plot as you unlock every room in your grandparents’ house. While a few of the items you pick up are simply roadblocks that attempt to withstand the flying cats, others are roadblocks that have rather interesting gimmicks to them. From lamps that halve damage, to boxes that capture kitties and fortify themselves in the process, and even objects that attempt to shoot the felines out of the air, the game offers you a wide assortment of items to build your fort around. Unfortunately, the same amount of imagination wasn’t put into the puzzles used to unlock more rooms in the house. Simply being notes that you unlock with gameplay, they tell you exactly how to solve the uninspired “puzzles” in the game. This makes unlocking more rooms into a meaningless “Where’s Waldo” exercise instead of a fun brain teaser.

Vampire 2
Like other evil creatures, light weakens cats.

On a more positive note, the art style in the game is a treat. Fort Meow uses simple and cartoon-like animation during its cut scenes, a comic style for the dialogue and storybook like drawings during the actual game to great effect. These styles mix well with the story and the atmosphere of the game. To a similar degree, the melody and sound effects are used to a comparable effect.

 

Regrettably, the game does have its downfalls. First, the game is short, coming in at around 2 or 3 hours of content and offering no replayable features such as challenge stages or a “new game plus.” This lack of replayability is a shame even with the small price tag attached to it. I would definitely pay a few more dollars for several extra hours of gameplay.

WTF

I’d gladly pay a few more dollars to dick around and make more fort
monstrosities like this one.

Another of the game’s undoings is the fact that luck plays a moderate part on whether or not your fort will withstand the cat’s flinging themselves against it. Enough times for me to notice, I would use the same fort in the same stage and each time things would play out differently. Whether it would topple over to one side, stand firm but eventually fall under the cat’s assault, or even withstand the full brunt of the cat’s attack seemed to be random and completely arbitrary according to the game’s whims, which took me a bit out of the whole process.

 

Charting this last bit of negative input on a mostly fun game as personal preference, I feel that the PC port would be inferior to the iPad version. This game seems like a fun portable companion to help offset any boredom while outside or while looking to kill some time before whatever activities the day has in store. Plus, playing it in short spurts while outside, as opposed to a sit down session at the computer, would probably make the game seem a bit longer in comparison.

my_drunk_cat_by_lowchord07
On the IPad, you could also play it while making
bad decisions like this cat here.

Don’t get me wrong, though. While Fort Meow has its hiccups I did still find my time with the game enjoyable. The only real decision to make is if these hiccups are enough to dissuade you from buying the game at the low 8 dollar price tag. If the game has anything else going for it, Fort Meow gives me another good reason why I prefer dogs over those evil cats.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

A reviewable copy of Fort Meow was provided to Squackle.

 

Chariot Wars (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: OM Entertainment || Overall: 1/10

Hardware Used: Windows 8.1, i7, Nvidia GTX 780

When it comes to reviewing bad games, it’s always a hard decision to make. Do I make a tongue-in-cheek positive review, or perhaps a sharply sarcastic review full of jokes, or just a traditional opinion about the hopes and dreams that “Chariot Wars” completely and utterly destroyed? For this review I’m not quite sure what direction to go, because Chariot Wars just leaves me confused and maybe even a little sad when reflecting upon my time playing.

Considering the game is originally developed for mobile phones, the basic features are limited. You have only three modes of play to choose from: Multiplayer, Single Player Time Trial, and Single Player Story Mode, called Championship. Multiplayer requires you to register an account with the developer’s web site rather than using Steam. Single Player Time Trial is racing around one of the four possible unique tracks, alone, with no A.I. to race against.  Each track has two variations: Night and Day – all of which are unlocked only through the Championship Mode.   Time Trial is consistently pointed to by the “Game Tips” and even prompted as a gate before you enter the real “meat” of the game, which is the Championship Mode.

Here’s where things get… “interesting.” Chariot Wars’ Championship mode is a graphic novel murder mystery story with boring gameplay in between chapters. The story is by far the only redeeming factor this game has to offer and is actually quite hilarious and dark, in a campy way. The backdrop of Ancient Rome is used as the Captain of the Guard is called to investigate a double murder – one man crucified and a woman with her throat slit, holding a tattered symbol of the Cabal, which is a group of conspirators who assassinated Julius Caesar. The murdered man is related to Ben-Hur (we finally have our sequel to Ben-Hur, ya’ll!) and before researching much of anything about the murder, the current idiot Caesar thinks it would be a good idea for the lead investigator of a murder to stop doing that and to instead replace the dead guy in the chariot race — and that’s when you take control of your chariot and race.

After winning the race, Quintus Octavian, the protagonist of the story makes out with a hot chick with a very large rack in some random room and then with her help figures out what the symbol is from, and so on. I don’t necessarily want to explain every facet of the story here, but you are rewarded for your effort of winning races with these story interludes. It may take a few tries depending on how well you know the track and if you can catch up to the computer players, but you’ll eventually win each race… hopefully.  Besides, you don’t have much else to do.

The gameplay itself is very standard in its rules – just get first place and win after two laps. For some odd reason there are huge floating coins that give you temporary speed boosts that don’t really make you feel like you’re going faster. When using a speed boost, everything becomes blurry and it feels like you’re all of a sudden in a Michael Bay movie, not knowing what the hell is going on. Considering the boosts are supposed to be good, they sure as hell don’t make you want to use them other than hopefully never having to play through that race again. Wonky physics, bad collision, weird animation, and the lack of any “warring” with other players (though you can bump into them) just isn’t fun. The scenery is also very strange, considering chariot races were always in a coliseum. There are snow-covered mountains surrounding you everywhere (and curving with the sky, which is fucking weird), waterfalls, random mixed species of trees, a blinding light source as bright as a sun coming out of a mountain (while it rains), and other oddities. This alternate dimension doesn’t seem like a very nice place to spectate or even race, not that the game is meant to be an accurate representation of anything.

And that’s kind of the game.   The music is generic and there is a strange chime that rings every time you click one of the menu buttons.  There are a lot of weird translation things going on, which adds a certain “charm” to the game, and the incessant badgering to go to the Time Trial mode to learn how to play is almost hilarious since you can’t play any new tracks unless you unlock them through Championship Mode, which you only do by beating the track! The races get harder as you go on, but you have to wonder how the difficulty is really ramping up when your chariot likes to all of a sudden go out of control a lot more often on turns as you progress.  At least the game didn’t crash while I was playing it.  You can also make funny things happen when you boost into one of the invisible walls on the race track.  If you ever get stuck in the scenery of the game, the only solution is to restart the track from scratch.

You can choose from several racers, chariot colors, and horses (all of which you have to unlock through play) which may or may not have an influence on your racer – it is sort of hard to tell. Another point of contention is that it’s $25 on Steam. Considering the amount of content the game has to offer, you have to wonder what the hell is going on.

And so there’s not a whole lot to keep you going. Other than the graphic novel portions and the strangely long CG video that displays a full length chariot race (presumably what you’d be “experiencing” while playing) full of random characters you probably don’t even play, you aren’t going to want to touch this game.

A reviewable copy of Chariot Wars was provided to Squackle.

 

Letter to Scott the Naturalist

I wrote this as a “thank you” note to Scott, who was a Naturalist at a school camp I was forced to go to in 6th grade.

March 16, 1998

Dear Scott,

My name is davepoobond, and I was in your group (duh, I wouldn’t be writing to you then). My favorite activities were eating and sleeping.

One special thing I learned was to never ever climb up a mountain more than 3 inches tall. I learned this from OUCHY-OUCHY Mountain and going up the “Check This Out” trail. It should’ve had a big sign that said, “ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE!!!!!” and it should’ve been called, “ The Freaky Trail from HECK!!!!!”

Sincerely,
davepoobond

 

Windward (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Tasharen Entertainment || Overall: 7.5/10

Hardware Used: Windows 8.1, i7, Nvidia GTX 780

Sandbox games are varied and plentiful nowadays.  Needing to strike the right balance between theme and progression is important, otherwise interest can be lost quite quickly.  Windward, a naval-themed sandbox game, is one such game with an interesting theme and progression system.  While the game can feel rewarding, you may find that you are stuck in an endless grind cycle on the high seas that will test your resolve in more ways than scurvy can.

With no formal tutorial, single player might seem the obvious first choice for a new player of Windward. When starting a game, you’ll be asked to create a character, choose a faction, and start a new procedurally-generated world.  Once you establish a new game and character you’ll enter the map that you’ve generated and with your little starter boat you’ll find your way through figuring out the mechanics and progression the game offers.  Little help tips at the top will pop up in lieu of being initiated through a tutorial.  This may feel a bit cryptic at times depending on your ability to understand and find things with little direction as the help tips seem contextual and will change or pop up as you stumble across a new feature or thing it wants to tell you about.

While the maps are probably never the same, not much is unpredictable in the way the regions are laid out.  To actually play the game you’ll visit a town, take up quests, complete the quest, then get more quests, and repeat the cycle.  Quests usually fall in a couple of categories, such as killing pirates or traveling from Point A to Point B (which is what I named a couple of my towns).  Quests can be framed differently (such as hunting down a pirate/defending a town) but the end result typically is a variation of those two main quest types.  You’ll build up your resources and get equipment as you complete quests.  You also build up XP which allows for the assigning of talent points that increases your ships stats at certain thresholds (essentially levels, but they’re not really framed that way).  Selling the gear/random items you find is probably the fastest way to earn gold, but you can also dabble in trading cargo between towns — although that isn’t as straightforward as you would think as not every town is willing to accept all cargo.  Quests and Cargo both take up cargo space, so it usually ends up being more worthwhile to take a Quest instead of spending money to buy Cargo.  Depending on the faction you are in, you may fight against other factions (players and/or AI) who are vying for control of your region.

The first couple of hours I was in single-player mode, the grind became very prevalent.  Once you “get” the point of the game, there’s not much left to really “do.”  There is general game progression: leveling up towns by completing quests, and capturing/establishing new cities, and capturing zones until you ultimately capture everything in the map you’ve generated.  The progression in single-player is very slow and that is purposeful because the game actually seems to be balanced for a multiplayer environment where there are a large group of players completing quests and upgrading towns instead of just one person doing all of the work.  With that said, the game gets a lot more pleasant and less daunting if you play on an Internet server where you can find upwards of fifty people playing depending on which server you look at.  Albeit they are typically spread out on the world map, you do interact with people using the chat system and can potentially coordinate zone takeovers/defense by following orders.

The character you make at the beginning of the game will carry through to any new Worlds you generate and can be used online as well.  Your progression is saved locally, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were server settings that force a cloud save for your character, which may mean starting from scratch.  You can also enter an Instance, which is separate from the main world you are currently playing in.  In Instances you fight against pirates and capture towns in a completely fresh region, offering gear and rewards from doing so.  Once you leave the instance, it disappears and will put you back into the persistent map you’ve been previously playing on.  Moving through the World’s map requires you to gain talents as regions have a minimum requirement to enter.  Being exposed to the multiplayer chat on a larger server, talent levels seem to extend past at least 100 and may extend as the game is updated.

The equipment in the game increases your stats, and generally improve your ship and abilities.  Combat can be a strategy-laden ordeal depending on what you get yourself into and equipping the right gear will allow you to hit harder challenges and capture towns/towers faster.  Most of the strategy comes from the way your ship is facing and making sure you keep within the firing arc to maximize your damage.  The equipment is ship-themed, such as hull, sails, crew, and captain among other things.  There are nice in-game customization items that change the look of your boat, as well.  You can also upgrade by buying larger ships, which take a significant amount of gold.  Apparently you can also get airships/blimps but it seems to take a very long time to get to that point.  It also seems that more ships are currently being added from chatter in-game on the server I played on.

Visuals of the game are nice to look at, although you’ll mostly see the same stuff over and over.  The game’s visuals all have an island/beach theme and you don’t see the art taking much of a varied approach to try different things.  It would have been nice to see different tile sets for regions so everything in the game doesn’t look and feel exactly the same.  The music in the game is very nice, but most of the tracks seem to be very short and loop quite often.  Water also looks really nice and I can appreciate the quality of the visuals existing in the game considering its scope.  Altering terrain is also an interesting aspect and you can make areas passable where they weren’t before.  Combat is also visually pleasing, although it can be a bit funny to watch cannonballs bounce around like basketballs and then disappear.

Perhaps the worst part of the game comes from its user interface design and potential quality of life enhancements that aren’t included.  My biggest problem is that the on-screen mini-map doesn’t display town-names, forcing you to open the larger map to see which town is which and how to plan out your quests better.  The larger map is also not resizable, so you wouldn’t be able to have it open as you were moving around.  I was also pining for an auto-travel or a way to constantly change direction of your ship without having to click down the whole time.  Positively, your ship’s abilities are able to be re-bound on the fly by right-clicking them and then assigning a key which reduces any sort of option-hunting.  The old-paper style of the UI is also very pleasant as it keeps with the naval theme and it’s more-or-less easy to tell if an item is an upgrade or not due to color-coding.

The most admirable aspect about Windward is that it is completely designed and programmed by a one-man developer.  It also seems that regular updates are coming through, as my game has updated at least two or three times since I started playing.  As far as a future update plan goes, nothing was currently readily available on the Steam Community that I could find.  I personally experienced no game crashes or frame rate drops and had a very positive technical experience.  The server I connected to a few times never dropped me and I was able to connect without much difficulty.

Windward is a nice, slow-paced experience that can definitely just be used as a time waster or a multitask while watching Netflix.  If the theme resonates with you, you may enjoy it more than others, but the grindy progression system could be a potential turn-off.  There’s no story and not even really an ultimate goal other than getting the best gear and ships, so the motivation to play is driven solely by progression in power level, which can easily get stale unless you get into the persistent PvP aspect of the game.

Windward is currently available on Steam for $14.99.

A reviewable copy of Windward was provided to Squackle.

 

Essay on the Iceman

I wrote this in 6th grade for class.

The Iceman is the best preserved human ever found. He was found in Italy. Nobody knew where he came from or who he was.

The Iceman’s clothing was a cape, shoes with grass on the inside (found only in the Alps), a leather sole in each of his shoes, and ibex shoelaces. He also had a coat made of animal skins and a leather pouch. The Iceman is about 5,300 years old. He was said to have lived in the New Stone Age or “Neolithic Epoch.”

The Iceman had some tools. His tools were: a flint knife and a metal blade ax made of copper with a wooden handle. He also had a quiver of arrows, and a wooden bow.

His copper blade ax had a wooden handle but strangely enough the Neolithic Epoch was before the Copper Age when Copper was first found, so what was a Neolithic man doing with a copper blade for an ax? That’s something that we might never know.

 

Ireland: Status Quo for Ireland

Note: This is a debate about whether or not reforming Ireland in the 1800s would be good or not.

By davepoobond:

Ireland will stay the same when it comes to the British. Irish hate British. Irish don’t like the British because they tried to rule over them, but they don’t like that. Crumpets and tea – no way! The Irish don’t like anything about the British, no sir.  Fish and chips – yeah, right.

The Irish like to fight, so therefore they fight the British. British don’t like the color green so they fight the Irish. Irish don’t like Scottish because they’re on different islands.

The Irish like to drink magnificent amounts of alcohol, having boxing matches with farm animals, the first Irish war started when an Irishman blew up on a hot air balloon, and boxed it for 3 hours straight.

By Soup Nazi:

Dave and I are for the reform of Ireland. Anglican churches were using Irish money to support themselves. This wan an unorthodox and a poor way to flourish, even for a church in our minds.

This is also towards the landlords. They charged their tenants unfairly with outrageous rents. The reform protected them, and the land they worked on.

Overall the reform ensured no one abused their power, we feel that many abuse their power enough.

 

Hawthorne Heights – If Only You Were Lonely (2006) Review

I like this album, though it’s a lot mellower than their previous album, “The Silence in Black and White.” Most of the songs were slow to medium tempo with only a couple songs being fast. I hope the next album has a faster overall feel to it though. There are a lot of songs on it that would qualify as some of my favorite songs of all time.

Song Ratings – Overall – 4/5:

This Is Who We Are – 5/5
We Are So Last Year – 4/5
Language Lessons – 4/5
Pens and Needles – 5/5
Saying Sorry – 5/5
Dead in the Water – 5/5
I Am On Your Side – 5/5
Breathing In Sequence – 5/5 – This was probably the song I listened to the most.  Very catchy song.
Light Sleeper – 5/5
Cross Me Off Your List – 4/5
Where Can I Stab Myself in the Ears – 5/5
Decembers – 4/5

 

AFI – Decemberunderground (2006) Review

As a big AFI fan over the years, Decemberunderground is definitely a huge difference from their previous albums. I view the album as more of an extension of Sing The Sorrow, which took me a while to get used to, but when I did I couldn’t stop listening to it. Same goes for Decemberunderground, but the “getting used to” period was definitely longer this time around due to the screaming and integration of more electronic sounds.

Song Ratings – Overall – 5/5:

Prelude 12/21 – 3/5
Kill Caustic – 5/5
Miss Murder – 5/5
Summer Shudder – 5/5
The Interview – 4/5
Love Like Winter – 5/5 – Very catchy song, the best off the album.  I couldn’t stop listening to it for a loooonnnnnggg time.
Affliction – 5/5
The Missing Frame – 5/5
Kiss and Control – 4/5
The Killing Lights – 5/5
37mm – 4/5
Endlessly, She Said – 5/5
Rabbits Are Roadkill on Rt. 37 0 – 5/5

 

GameLoading: Rise of the Indies (2015) Review

Game-Loading-Logo2

GameLoading: Rise of the Indies (2015), directed by Anna Brady/Lester Francois

Production Company: Studio Bento | Length: 85 min | IMDb || Rating: 8/10

GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is a documentary on the modern indie game movement. Not unlike something you may see on an informational cable channel, the documentary takes a specific aspect of the gaming industry and peels back the different layers to see what is beneath. This documentary is primarily focused on a smattering of the social, philosophical, and human elements of the indie game movement, and less so about the games themselves.

Throughout GameLoading: Rise of the Indies, we are primarily presented with a few recurring indie developers; Davey Wreden (Stanley Parable), Zoe Quinn (Depression Quest), Rami Ismail (Vlambeer) and Robin Arnott (Soundself) primarily drive the overall tone and base of the documentary.   A wide-range of diverse indie game developers and people who are famous historically for their indie roots (John Romero and other founders of id Software) also make an appearance and drive along some of the overall points in the documentary. A lot of people from different aspects of coding, from education and into the very niche corners of indie game development also offer insight into what motivates them or what their goals are and what challenges they face, including sexism, social media trolls, and of course, money.

The tone of the first roughly 30 to 40 minutes of the documentary is setting up the basis of what indie games are, who these people are, what their philosophy is, and what the motivation for doing what they’re doing is. You instantly feel a romanticized and articulated quality to nearly everything that is going on, and at times it can feel like the documentary is sort of dragging its feet in moving on from this introductory phase due to how this first piece is structured. They intersplice the stories of Davey Wreden and Robin Arnott with all sorts of other random game developers giving their small tidbits of information to expand upon a particular point. It can be a bit hard to follow the narrative of the documentary at this point because you are not sure who you are actually really supposed to be invested in paying attention to and who you are going to see repeatedly.

A big thing missing in the first chunk of this documentary is a conflict to keep the viewer invested in what is going on. You don’t realize that the primary focus of the documentary is Davey Wreden until much later.  Considering the game had released in 2011, it was a bit disorienting to finally figure out about halfway through that the Stanley Parable had been on the cusp of release while the documentary was in production rather than taking place after its release.  If the documentary were structured a little bit differently, it could have framed the Stanley Parable as something that was impending release during this segment to create a slowly progressing storyline as the narrative base since there is no narrator to provide that structure.

We learn a lot of interesting tidbits about the thought process behind the Stanley Parable, and as we are introduced to and follow that game’s progression, we also follow Soundself. Other games such as Depression Quest, Cart Life, and Analogue: A Hate Story among others, are profiled in the same fashion, though not as in depth as the Stanley Parable or Soundself.

Overall what the documentary helps us learn is about the philosophical and human elements of these games as an outward expression of the developers themselves. Giving these games a human element gives people a reason to connect these products with emotions and events in real life. In the context of this documentary, most of the indie developers view their games as interactive art projects and storytelling devices. The whole of the documentary focuses on these indie “art” games, and less so any of the indie “pure game” games, which primarily focus on level design, controls, and the concept of “fun.” While mentioned where necessary, the “pure game” games are definitely not the focus here which elevates the purpose of the documentary to something that seems to be selling “indie games” to someone who doesn’t normally play them and also may not find one of those “pure games” as fun or interesting. Which is FINE – it is an interesting look at this segment of games regardless, but the flaw is that the documentary unfortunately doesn’t take a tempered approach to both of the main draws to the indie scene when it calls itself “Rise of the Indies.”

Another large part of the documentary is the different events/conventions that are introduced. There is a small piece on an event called the Fantastic Arcade, but the main event of the documentary is GDC. Leading up to the GDC, there is an interesting coding event called the Train Jam where people form teams and create a game within a 50 hour train ride from Chicago to San Francisco where GDC takes place. We have a quick overview of some of the games being quickly developed on the train and Zoe Quinn takes part in some of the festivities. I thought this segment of the documentary was very interesting and it was cool to see how things like that happen. While it wasn’t supposed to be a huge focus of the documentary, it would have been nice to see a little bit of a more in depth look at what was going on.

Overall the documentary looked very good. It seemed professionally shot and I didn’t notice any terrible lighting or editing issues (for reference, I am a video editor so I notice these things). There were some questionable backdrops where a couple interviewees were against a completely white backdrop and Ben Kuchera from Polygon was in a seemingly empty office in a tall building of some sort. The frequency of the cuts between different people during the interview portions prevented the documentary from having time to breathe at certain sections. I also thought they could have completely cut out a couple of people and/or interview cuts because they added nothing to the overall information in the documentary. It would have been nice to be a bit more focused on fewer secondary interviewees instead of including a lot of extra random people who are of questionable value to the overall product. An interesting aspect of the documentary seems to be that there are a lot of people with different colored hair, with the primary color being pink. There is sort of an “alternative” lifestyle being sold in this documentary and the interesting looks and clothing people wear in the documentary fits into that quite well. While not everyone they interview is going for that look, there are enough in the documentary where you begin to notice it as a theme.

At a running time of 1 hour 25 minutes, I thought GameLoading: Rise of the Indies was interesting overall and a nice introduction to deciding whether or not you may want to get into the indie gaming industry itself as a hobby or otherwise. It was less informative about the technical and day-to-day aspects of indie gaming, with an idealized look at the culture and events of the indie gaming scene instead.

GameLoading: Rise of the Indies can be purchased on Steam, iTunes, and other gaming storefronts.

A reviewable copy of GameLoading: Rise of the Indies was provided to Squackle.

A trailer for the documentary can be seen below:

 

 

Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas (PSVita) Review

Developer/Publisher: Disco Pixel || Overall: 6.0

When Dave first contacted me to play a rhythm-based game featuring orangutans searching for their stolen stash of bananas, I was more than excited to brush off my old Jungle Beat Drums to play Donkey Konga 3: The Search for More Hard-to-Find Wii U Accessories. I was prepared to camp out for the official attachment that would end up being scalped left and right, due to limited supply from Nintendo, all to play a game that some have been waiting nine years to play. Then Dave told me that the game was actually called Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas, that it was on the PlayStation Vita, and it had nothing to do with the loveable banana eating kidnapper …

Happy DongSad Dong

My before and after pictures, respectively.

Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas is an iOS port, featuring some extra content, of a rhythm-based action game that challenges you with reclaiming the stolen bananas of the Mofungo tribe from an aggressively red-colored rival tribe. The game uses a four-beat rhythm to have you perform tasks from moving, to attacking, and to ultimately defeating the rival tribe and reclaiming your tribe’s bananas. Overall, playing to the rhythm will ultimately decide whether your teams of simply-drawn monkeys succeeds or if the opposing team of simply-drawn monkeys does so instead.

Graphically, Jungle Rumbles isn’t really much to look at in action. While the attempt to give the game a particular style is there, it falls flat before achieving any notable flare. What’s left is a rather simple art style that tries it’s best to be simple and cute, but does not possess the small intricacies to achieve that goal. Don’t get me wrong, the game is nice enough to look at, but it appears rather stiff and lifeless when in action. The monkeys seem to perform the same repetitive actions ad nauseam for whatever four-beat command you manage to perform to the point of monotony. It’s a shame too, with a few more variations and perhaps a creative idle animation the art could have been much more pleasant to look at.

Red Light
Like in any good game of Red Light, Green Light, it only
screws up while in motion

The music in Jungle Rumble is serviceable, which would be alright if it weren’t for the fact that music is sorta the most important part of rhythm games. While games like Lumines are remembered for their sweet techno beat, games like Dance Dance Revolution have catchy J-Pop, and even Donkey Konga tickles at the nostalgia bones by playing through classic Nintendo beats, Jungle Rumble seems content with providing a four-beat-rhythm that simply repeats infinitely and calls it music. To add (or subtract), the rhythm itself hardly changes between levels to any noticeable degree. On a better note, the meeps of the monkeys, the sound of a coconut hitting its mark and other sound effects add charm where the art and music does not.

Gameplay-wise, Jungle Rumble has the honor of using the Vita’s least used gameplay set-ups, which involves turning the Vita vertical, to good effect. While this set-up took a bit to get used too, I found it particularly useful in the game’s many scrolling levels to have the screen longer as opposed to wider. The game itself is controlled completely with touchscreen commands and its manipulations through the game’s four-beat rhythm. For example, to move from tree to tree requires the simple alteration between your starting tree and the tree you wish to move to. To throw a coconut requires you touch yourself three times (hehe) and the enemy once. Moving two spaces is much like moving one but requires an added touch on the third beat and a final touch to the far tree you wish to land on. Unfortunately, this is about as complicated as the game gets and I found myself expecting more when there was nothing left. Furthermore, the fact that each maneuver requires you to adhere to the previously mentioned 4 beat rhythm made me constantly get further out of tempo as I had to wait for the rhythm to repeat itself before starting another command. This was only further hindered by the fact that someone thought it would be a good idea for the game’s visual helper, colored circles and a tiny ball that bounced to the levels beat, to disappear after a few successful repetitions, making it the harder to get back into rhythm as I waited for it to reappear. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with that for long.

Fear
If playing games in new and interesting ways scares you, then
stare at the face of FEAR!!!

Jungle Rumble, while simple, is also very short; the five dollar prince tag will get you about two hours of gameplay. The content consists of three worlds filled with various stages that are easy to complete. While the game’s grading mechanic of a bronze, silver, and gold medal offer some replay value, overall it doesn’t add much more time to the already short game. Though, if two-hours-plus of content justifies five dollars is up to you.

OneThird
You’re looking at about 1/3rd of the game
right here.

Overall, Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas feels like a game that had a lot of good ideas that never truly came to fruition. The game never really seems to hit its stride, whether it is the art style that only looks charming when still, the rather forgettable “music,” the sometimes frustrating 4-beat commands or just the game’s short length. While not a horrible game, it perhaps could prove useful as a way to break into rhythm games for the uninitiated.  Personally, however, Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas is not something I would look forward to.

Barrel of Meh
More like a Barrel of “Meh..” for me.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Hand of Fate (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Defiant Development || Overall: 9.5/10

Hardware Used: Windows 8.1, i7, Nvidia GTX 780, Xbox360 Controller

New trends such as Kickstarter and Steam Early Access have made feasible genres and products that theoretically may not have been available otherwise. With investment on the front-end rather than the back-end, some game developers take this opportunity to fill in very specific niches which may (or may not) further garnish interest and investment. Hand of Fate is a product of this investment trend in the form of a deck-building card game featuring action-based combat.

The set up for the story is you are challenging a talkative mystic to a card game, sitting across from him at a table. You get thrown right into the game, moving your piece across a set path of cards on the table with a boss at the last level. As you make your way through the first couple of bosses, you slowly learn the flow and mechanics of the game and learn more about the Dealer himself and the origin of the card game. With further progression you assemble the pieces of the story that each card tells and how they relate either to your nameless character or the Dealer himself. Hand of Fate begins to feel more like a throwback to an old adventure game with a narrator as you start to settle into the gameplay.

As you progress through the board, you primarily get items, equipment, or encounter scenarios. How well you do dictates what gear you get and how easy the action-oriented encounters can be. While you will primarily be spending your time at the table, you will port into encounters to beat up enemies and, eventually, bosses via action gameplay. The best comparison I can make for these interludes is something like a grounded God of War. That doesn’t mean you can’t feel quite powerful depending on the gear you get, though.

These action encounters are really only one part of the greater picture, but they are very important to successfully complete as competently as possible — namely not losing health. The action gameplay takes a little bit to get used to, but is mostly satisfying. Normal swings with your weapon feel like they “snap” to one enemy and you don’t cleave other enemies who seem like they should get hit as well – this is counteracted by being able to quickly “switch” targets around and stun them with a shield (if equipped) or counter an enemy ability. The combat seems to be mostly based on your ability to counter and dodge attacks and when to use special abilities (if you have any) as there are no combos to perform. The combat doesn’t feel flat, but can feel a bit like spamming one button over and over — this can take the fun out of it if you prefer at least some sort of alternate attacks despite there being special abilities that are on long cooldowns. You can also stun with your shield and it is required to interrupt an enemy’s impending attack in certain cases. Sometimes you sort of fly at enemies that are a couple of steps away due to the way the “snapping” is designed, which can be a bit jarring but ends up helping you more than not.

Encounters include combat, mazes, and shops. The locales in the combat are a bit varied, but you’ll begin to notice you see the same ones pop up over and over which allows you to familiarize yourself with the maps, which inevitably helps you. Traps are also set on the maps which can hurt both you and your enemies, so you may have to strategize exactly where you can run and which direction to dodge to. Mazes use these traps (and other unique ones) to hurt you, the motivation being to get through with minimal injury and to the treasure at the end of the maze. Shops allow you to buy health, buffs (called blessings), food, equipment, and remove debuffs (called curses). Depending on your progression and when you stumble upon a shop, it can be a game changer.

Since the overall goal is to essentially prepare your character for the boss, doing terribly in one of the encounters could swing a good game into a bad one. As with other rogue-likes, death is permanent and you will lose the current progression of your run and have to start over if you end up failing. Any tokens you earn from cards will be yours to keep regardless of the outcome, which unlock more cards to play with.

The Dealer reveals (and you are shown) early on that there are twelve bosses to progress through. For me, it was pretty smooth sailing for the first five bosses, but the sixth boss I felt a very large difficulty jump. Where you notice this difficulty jump could potentially be different for you depending on how many cards (and which cards) you unlock, but you’ll begin to notice that chance takes a very big toll on your progression. Some cards have a 25% chance to succeed, while others require you to have two lucky 25% draws. Most of the chance games require you to choose between four cards, but other chance-oriented games involve actions you take in a given story scenario. Depending on if you memorize what card does what you can mitigate chances towards the desired outcome in a story scenario.

Rogue-like progression takes charge in unlocking more and more cards as you naturally play. As long as you accomplish a particular card’s challenge you’ll attain a token which rewards you more cards. These cards may or may not be able to unlock further cards, which adds to the amount of encounters and equipment you can acquire in the game. There will be cards that you’ll have to encounter multiple times before you get lucky or remember what didn’t work last time before you’re able to acquire the card’s token. This can get subtly frustrating if they are based on chance on top of choosing the correct prompts.

Graphics and sound are also boons to the overall experience. Character designs and animations work well with each other with a cartoony “flavor” to it. The more unique character designs come from the Lizardmen and Mages, while other characters in the game such as Thieves and Skeletons leave a bit to be desired in the style department, but serve their purpose fine in the end. The soundtrack is enjoyable and properly matches what is happening on the screen. The table has ambient music and little sound effects for every time you activate a card. I also experienced no noticeable frame rate drops or graphics issues during gameplay.

Hand of Fate is fun to play, but in the end what is it that actually tries to excite you to come back for more? The challenge is certainly there and despite being a bit frustrating at times, you do get a sense of accomplishment when you finally take a boss down. But what is really fun, unique, and even mysterious about the game itself is one thing: the Dealer.

The gameplay of Hand of Fate seems to become only a tool in learning about the character of the Dealer. It is almost as if it is a character study when he says little tidbits about himself or what the purpose of certain things are, such as the card game itself and who he has played against before. He also voices a very strong opinion about in-universe-specific problems such as fake fortune tellers and other strange outbursts. As you replay the game over and over you’ll notice that you are hearing him say a couple of things repeatedly but for the first four or five hours, almost everything is unique, and he will usually have a little blurb for each new card.

The Dealer’s fluid animation is interesting as he will occasionally play with his bracelet or make amusing gesticulations. What primarily sells the character is the voice acting, which is perfectly executed in the context of this game with the voice actor chosen. You also learn a little more about the Dealer himself from the set design. The slowly panning camera reveals what is on the table, and the halls where the game is taking place are able to be inspected a bit. The progression in the game itself seems to head toward a particular goal, but without taking wild guesses (or cheating and reading spoilers) it isn’t outright predictable.

Game options may feel a bit sparse. You can only choose between Story Mode and Endless Mode. Endless Mode allows you to play with all of the cards you’ve acquired so far, which allows you to grind out locked cards. Endless Mode diverts from Story Mode’s rules in that every level you progress you draw a bad card which can be a Curse or something less impactful like loss of gold or health. The point of this mode would technically be Leaderboards, but I was using it to grind out some cards to unlock since I was having a lot of trouble with the sixth boss (and finally beat it before writing this review).

Also related to game options is a curious lack of character customization for the avatar you use in the encounters. It would be one thing if the avatar you play as were characterized, but since he is seemingly vacuous, it feels like something is missing in that regard. It doesn’t take anything away from the gameplay, really, but if they were at least somewhat randomized each time as far as the face/skin tone went it wouldn’t feel as large of an oversight – I’m just left wondering why the avatar you play as looks like that and what his purpose is. Part of the mystery, to me, is whether or not the Dealer actually sees “you” or the “avatar guy” sitting across the table from him.

Being that Hand of Fate has been available via Early Access, it has seen many changes: balance, UI, and otherwise.  There are also plans for DLC, such as extra cards which would expand the gameplay down the line.  It will be interesting to see just how much gets added by way of DLC and what impact it has on the game as more additions are made.

Hand of Fate is a very enjoyable game and a unique experience. Pushing on and completing the game, as well as unlocking all of the cards, can prove to be a time-intensive and challenging endeavor, but with hardly any harsh criticisms to be had about the game it isn’t a particularly daunting proposition. Hand of Fate is available for PC, PS4-PSN, and XBone-Live — console versions are available for download at 4 PM.

A reviewable copy of Hand of Fate was provided to Squackle.

 

Swordsman Online (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Perfect World || Overall: 8.0

World of Warcraft never wowed me. I didn’t ground myself in Tera. I didn’t enlist myself for Guild Wars. Neither did I ever play EverQuest. Much like the old Zelda CD-i games, what your humble reviewer is trying to say is that he avoided Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games like the plague. Perhaps it was due to a lack of interest in taking the RPG experience online, or maybe it was the fear that the time sink would melt the proverbial face off of my free time à la Raider of the Lost Arc. At least, that was until I gave Perfect World’s MMO Swordsman a try.

giphy
Always make the Indian Jones reference.
Always. 

Disclaimer: This review is based on my experiences playing the Infinity swordsman class up to level 37, during the open Beta. There may be some changes when the game goes live on July the 29th and after as the game is updated.

 

Swordsman Online is Perfect World’s latest foray in the Free-to-Play (F2P) Action MMO market. Inspired by the popular writing of wuxia (martial hero) novelist Louis Cha, Swordsman trades in the typical fantasy-styled combat and races found in most MMOs for martial arts action and oriental locales. The game touts wonderful graphics, an abundance of visceral martial arts inspired combat, exclusive guild-only quests, a variety of classes based on schools of martial arts, a rich story, and an overall fun experience for any MMO junkie.

 

Though, does the Action MMO hold true to those boast? Well, without further ado, here is my review.

Lets get this started
LET’S GET THIS STARTED!!!
YEAH!!!

Right off the bat, Swordsman introduces you to a rather aesthetically intricate and detailed character creation process. From height to build to facial scars, the standard character options already provide an ample playground to create a character to your liking. Furthermore, the advance options offer you sliders to adjust the size, shape and location of those features allowing anything from an eye-catchingly attractive character model to a grossly hideous one.

Character Creation 2Character Creation 3
Character Creation 4Character Creation 5
It ranges somewhere between Cloud Strife to Quasimodo.

Along with the varied character models, the graphics in the game are much better than I expected from a F2P offering. The fields are decorated in a lush mixture of greens, grays, blues and browns that capture the various dirt roads, mountains and areas of water you’ll come across. Inside the cities, the graphics do well to bring the various decorations of the city to life, and also include some neat tile designs that can be seen along the main roads. The shadows in the game also deserve a special note with every item in the city casting its own distinct shadow and, at times, overlapping with others to create an almost realistic effect. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the greenery outside of the cities’ wall. The only other graphically lacking part is that a few of the enemies and other NPCs don’t seem on par with the rest, but it still turns out to be a very minor flaw when compared to the depth of the other visuals in this Action MMORPG.

 

Being an “Action” MMORPG, the combat in this game appears to take on a far more involved attitude than with other MMOs. Instead of targeting an enemy to constantly unleash a swarm of basic attacks, every swing of the character’s chosen weapon takes either a button press or mouse click to execute and actual aim to hit the enemy’s hitbox. The typical flow of combat takes on a mixture of those attacks along with special moves and a dodge mechanic to round off a standard fight. There is also a combo mechanic that grants more damage depending on the number of continuous hits you have scored… as long as another player doesn’t move your target out of the way mid-combo or the clunky controls don’t screw it up.

Not Giving a Shit 2
Currently Pictured: My character not giving a shit as he spins around like a
doofus for a high combo.

Regrettably, while the game offers three control options, the controls aren’t the most intuitive with the combat. No matter which of the three control styles your choose, you will find yourself having to get used to the clunky controls rather than naturally having it blend with your own personal style of playing, which can delay you from enjoying it at the onset. The controls themselves have an effect on early combat that causes it to appear stiff until you acquire a more diverse move set later in the game. Though, with that said, each successful hit does carry a distinct weight to it as it makes contact with the enemy. Watching a finishing blow send the lifeless body of an enemy flying did solicit a grin from time to time.

 

The questing itself is rather generic, however. Most taking the form of fetch quests, defeating a certain number of the same enemies, talking to NPCs or the occasional boss fight. Considering that the game has a rather robust acrobatics system that offers triple jumps, air dashing, and gliding, I was hoping there would be more quests involving these abilities that are ripe for platforming elements. Unfortunately, only one quest asked me to use such skills to climb to the top of a building to meet with a man’s wife. Also, word to the wise, there are guild specific quest that serve to spice up the gameplay a little bit, so I’d recommend joining a guild at some point.

Secret
“Golly, Mrs. Lin! I’m okay with that, but I sure hope you told Mr. Lin
about it.”

In addition, early on, the quests give a considerable amount of experience points for whatever you have chosen to do, from important to inane. Constantly I would find myself talking twice to the same character only to have him vomit out about ten percent of the experience points I needed to gain a level. I would prefer to see all that experience be bundled up at the end of the quest line in a neat box, rather than be given out in parts like that for every unimportant task I do… but that’s just, like, my opinion… man…

well-thats-just-like-your-opinion-man-gif-the-dude-lebowski
Abide.

Out of the figurative box and onto other parts of the game, Swordsman offers a whopping ten classes under the guise of martial arts schools your character can study. While each of the schools or “classes” are different, they all follow the standard roles of tank, DPS (Damage Per Second), healing, support and control seen in most MMORPGs. Delving deeper, each of the schools offer three distinct styles that can be changed on the fly even during mid-combat that are usually either a variation on the school’s role in combat, or a dip into another of the usual combat roles.

 

Being comfortable with my masculinity, I chose to study under the Infinity Style that is usually practiced by nuns and offered quite the unique counter mechanic to their tank-ish style of combat. Most of the skills are charged attacks that release high damage the longer the charge is held.  However, if hit during the charge the class will unleash a completely different move that usually substitutes damage for a negative status effect or a “debuff” on the opponent. I found that to be a rather interesting mechanic, and would love to see what other mechanics the other schools introduced in the story could pull off.

SWORDSman
The Infinity School also attempts to make a two sword style viable, which is about
as unrealistically awesome as I wish to be. 

Taken by itself, the story is a little bland and hardly noteworthy. When seen through the eyes of a martial arts film aficionado (i.e. me), it’s quite the enjoyable love letter to genre and the books the game is based upon. All of the tropes are there: the main character’s village being destroyed, ancient relics, feuding martial arts schools, revenge, secret scrolls and the glorious Fu Manchu facial hair. To add to that, Perfect World made the decision not to dub the dialogue and to keep in its original Mandarin Chinese. This proved to be fairly wise decision as the authentic Chinese voices give the story an authentic vibe, in turn. The only way it could be more authentic is if it replaced the voices with bad English voice acting that doesn’t exactly match the lips flaps of the character. All in all, the story is a mixed bag; those that enjoy the genre will enjoy the homage to the books and films the story is based on, and those that do not will hardly care for it.

Fu Manchu
Though early cinema has given the Fu Manchu facial hair a bad rap,
few things are as majestic when properly maintained.

Beyond the story, the game offers a variety of instances, dungeons and events for a group of people to run. Starting at around level 15, the player is already offered their first instance to play at one of three difficulty levels. While most instances can be tackled by themselves at the normal level, swordsman and hero levels ramp up the difficulty to be better tackled by a team of players. Along with those, the game also offers a variety of dungeons at higher levels that offer their own form of exp rewards and items gains. Adding to that, there are many daily events and activities that are sure to better your character in one way or the other.

Generic
The instances are as important to do as their names are generic.

The Player versus Player (PvP) options come in a few flavors. While typical one on one and group combat can be enjoyed in the game’s arena, which includes customizable settings and a reward system for the victor, the game also offers guild based PvP that allows guild to take over land in-game. However, the most intriguing option lies in how Swordsman handles PvP in the open world. PvP players outside of the arena and the guild wars come in three types. First are the Harmony players that aren’t allowed to attack others. Then there are the Outlaws that can attack any player above a certain level for a monetary reward but at the cost of their name turning red and branding them as a player killer. Lastly, there are the Avengers that are only allowed to gank (kill) characters whose name has turned red, netting the player an item from the character’s inventory once defeated. In a way, this game of mouse and cat (and dog) is a fascinating way for the player characters to police themselves.

 

As for the audio, I found it rather lackluster to say the least. Not that it ever detracted from my experience of the game, but nothing struck me as noteworthy in the music or sound effects department in the open beta.

 

Being in open beta, Swordsman is riddled with enough bugs to make a roach motel jealous. A few I encountered included: graphical glitches, closed doors that I could pass through, opened doors that looked closed on screen, the sound randomly cutting out during cutscenes, my character freezing in place for several minutes and an invisible enemy hunting me down until I could escape to a safe zone. As a special mention, the most amusing glitch in the game allowed me to make the enemies windmill uncontrollably after being killed by certain moves. While none of these glitches are game breaking, they sure do bring you out of the game’s immersion.

Dance
I like to think that sometimes I don’t kill my enemies, but instead their defeat
inspires them to take up their true passion in dance.

Lastly, for the duration of the game, I was offered the Hero’s Pack by Perfect World. Included in the package comes a combination of a mount, a unique companion, equipment, an exclusive fashion and consumables all meant to make your Swordsman’s experience all the more enjoyable for $59.99. While most of the items only serve to streamline the experience and literally make things faster for you, like the Blazing Stallion that goes about 3 miles per hour faster than a typical horse, there is some worth in the rather powerful Ring of Valor, which is an upgradable piece of gear that can boost its stats as you level. Also, the package offers you a unique fashion  which doesn’t serve anything outside of an aesthetic sense that this is the closest you’ll be to looking like Mortal Kombat’s thunder god in Swordsman, which admittingly, is still pretty cool. Overall, while it can be convenient for those starting out or seeking to raise an alternate character, I found the Hero’s Pack unnecessary for a patient player.

Raiden CosplayThunder God

Maybe if you squint your eyes and turn your head to the left…

Though the game definitely has it share of glitches and faults, I believe the game is worth a try for anyone looking for a new MMO to enjoy. From the unique setting, variety of classes, abundant PvP and eye-catching graphics, the game more than makes up for getting use to its clunky controls and other lesser traits. Plus, it made my first true MMO experience not all that bad…

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

“Katy Perry – Dark Horse” Breakdown

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Dave's Breakdown

To continue on the earlier thought that practically every song Katy Perry sings is about Katy Perry taking it from a very large penis in some shape or form, her recent single “Dark Horse” is also about a big penis slapping the shit out of her ovaries.   In this edition of Dave’s Breakdown, we’ll go over the lyrics of this song with a fine toothed-comb.

[Juicy J:]
“Yeah / Ya’ll know what it is / Katy Perry / Juicy J, aha. / Let’s rage”

Okay this part is your normal introduction of the “guest” singer in a song.  So we have it established that this guy “Juicy J” is the object of Katy Perry’s lower abdominal discomfort.  As his name implies, he probably has a very large, juicy penis.  Or at least, that’s what we’re supposed to believe.

[Katy Perry:]
“I knew you were / You were gonna come to me”

Well, you can’t get more blunt than this.  This guy is “cumming” to her!

“And here you are / But you better choose carefully”

Choosing what, you might ask?  I’m guessing anal or vagina.  You have to choose carefully because if you go anal you can’t go vagina unless you trade out the condom because then there will be shit on the condom and putting shit into a vagina isn’t nice for anyone.

“‘Cause I, I’m capable of anything / Of anything and everything”

She’s open to every position you can think of, and she is very flexible.

“Make me your Aphrodite / Make me your one and only / But don’t make me your enemy, your enemy, your enemy”

Something about not being open to threesomes.

“So you wanna play with magic / Boy, you should know what you’re falling for”

Play with “magic” being semen swirling inside of her vagina.  Falling, because when she squirts, she squirts with such force she’ll make you fall backwards.

“Baby do you dare to do this?”

It is pretty dangerous because her vagina/ass is very tight.

“Cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse”

Now, here it is.  She is riding the “you” in the song like a horse, but a dark one.  Because you didn’t expect her to be so easily fuckable.

“Are you ready for, ready for / A perfect storm, perfect storm”

She’s so perfect in bed, the sheets will wrap up like a tornado or something, and you can’t get out until you rip a tendon.

“Cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine / There’s no going back”

Once you decide to go steady with her, anal is off the table.

“Mark my words / This love will make you levitate”

Your semen is going to “levitate” cause you’re going to be laying down while she’s riding you like a (dark) horse.

“Like a bird / Like a bird without a cage / But down to earth / If you choose to walk away, don’t walk away”

You can’t leave until you make her squawk like a bird.

“It’s in the palm of your hand now baby / It’s a yes or no, no maybe / So just be sure before you give it all to me / All to me, give it all to me”

Katy Perry’s ovaries are in your hands and you have to put them back inside her vagina, fertilized.

[Juicy J – Rap Verse:]
“Uh / She’s a beast / I call her Karma (come back) / She eats your heart out / Like Jeffrey Dahmer (woo) / Be careful / Try not to lead her on / Shorty’s heart is on steroids / Cause her love is so strong / You may fall in love / When you meet her / If you get the chance you better keep her / She’s sweet as pie but if you break her heart / She’ll turn cold as a freezer / That fairy tale ending with a knight in shining armor / She can be my Sleeping Beauty / I’m gon’ put her in a coma / Woo!”

Translation:  Wear a condom or you’re fucked in more ways than one.  Knight in shining “armor” indeed…

“Damn I think I love her / Shorty so bad, I’m sprung and I don’t care”

Not even trying to hide that this part is about a penis.

“She ride me like a roller coaster / Turned the bedroom into a fair (a fair!)”

Usually roller coasters come with lots of safety precautions, but once you’re set up, its going to be up and down, up and down, up and down, and possibly barfing at the end because of all the nausea/gagging.  There will also be lots of gross food and cotton candy pubic hair.

“Her love is like a drug / I was tryna hit it and quit it / But lil’ mama so dope / I messed around and got addicted”

Funny how they use a word that has the word “dick” in it at the end of this verse.

In conclusion, Katy Perry has big boobs, but now her songs are more about being exclusive to one person and getting only one person to fuck her brains out in a consistent relationship rather than as a fleeting one night stand like in her song “Firework.”

 

Long Live the Queen (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Hanako Games || Overall: 8.0

Welcome Lords and Ladies, gentlemen and women of esteem to the tale of Princess Elodie. A young girl caught betwixt her royal appointment as upcoming queen and the many dangers that the title holds. Watch her take classes on the many facets of a proper ruler and matriarch. Watch her weave her way through the tribulations of both political intrigue and royal scandal. Watch her conquer both the battlefield and the ballroom with her might and refinement. And watch her die… and die… and die again…

Cheerful

Don’t get too attached, her many deaths will be the result
of your bad decisions.

 Okay, I had my fun.

 

Long Live the Queen is a visual novel of political intrigue, war and death all dressed up in a pretty, pretty pink ribbon for your playing pleasure. The game casts you in the role of young princess Elodie, fresh from the sudden and unexplained death of her mother; this understandably depressed young lady is now tasked with running the country until her proper coronation on her fifteenth birthday. You, on the other hand, are in charge of keeping her alive by means of a point and click adventure where you will raise up skills to complete tasks through menu commands. You will fail.

 

At its core, Long Live the Queen is a literal numbers game. You have a number of weeks until Elodie’s coronation, attempts on her life occur on certain numbered weeks, and you then avoid them by having leveled the necessary skills to survive to a certain number. Long Live the Queen’s success in this formula is in how fluidly this all comes together. The game does the number crunching for you while clearly explaining all in-game mechanics.

 

If described in one word, the “game play” in Long Live the Queen is “light.” A typical in-game week consist of first sending Elodie out to learn two skills in the form of classes, and ends with having her participate in some sort of event during the weekend. Both skills she has focused on are raised by a base of two points per day and, with no bonuses, results in 10 points for the week. This is further diversified by her mood; every weekend you are asked to have Elodie participate in some sort of activity that affects her mood and, in turn, her mood affects how well she does in her studies. If done correctly, you could gain a bonus that is about three times the usual rate. If done incorrectly, you could succumb to a penalty that results in an effective score of zero points for the whole week.

Skills

The skills range somewhere between “a lot” to a “crap load.”

Now while simple enough in execution, to make the most out of your skills and moods requires a careful point and click balancing act. First off, the skills are quite numerous and the game doesn’t really allow for your princess to train evenly in all fields. More often than not, you will find that making Elodie a jack-of-all-trades will lead to an earlier demise than min-maxing (minimizing the effect of undesired skills and maximizing the effect of desired ones). This can get particularly difficult when you find out that each skill has two associated skills that must be raised over 25 points before the skill you want can be raised over 50 points. Overall, you’ll find that a well-rounded princess usually equals a hated, useless and dead one.

 

Moods, to the same extent, also require their own special balancing act to make the most out of them. Each mood is set at one end of an eleven point scale and at the opposite end of that scale is a mood that is contradictory to it. For example, in this game, you can’t be angry if you are afraid, you can’t be cheerful if you are depressed, and you can’t be lonely if you are pressured. How much each of those makes sense is up to you. So whenever a certain activity gives you points in one mood, it also detracts points from its opposite mood. This will often have you subject your princess to a constant state of manic depression as you go from one end of each mood scale to the other in search of the right mood bonus to complement the skills you desire. Though, even with perfect mastery of both skills and moods, it doesn’t mean your princess will make it out alive.

 PassiveAggressive

 It’s not like I think that the combination of angry and afraid is being
passive-aggressive, but it could make sense, man…
Source

Elodie is going to die… she’s going to die a lot… but that is also part of the fun of Long Live the Queen. Even when you believe you have a perfect set of skills and moods to take your little monarch from princess to queen, the game has no problem throwing a surprise curveball at you and killing Elodie off. The process, while frustrating, often times fills you with a renewed sense of determination as you start fresh and tweak her skills to overcome that particular obstacle and then find another one to have you repeat the whole process. Even when you do eventually manage to make Elodie a queen, you can find yourself eagerly replaying the game to find out what other sets of skills can make her a queen and not a cadaver. Altogether, Elodie’s constant deaths give a sort of morbid charm to the game.

SwordBlood
ArrowBlown_up

Never before has brutal death been more adorable.

Visually, the game takes many cues from the art styles found in most shoujo (girl) comics in Japan, which makes sense since this game is targeted towards girls but with a wider audience in mind (justifying my manhood: done). The girls are cute and the boys are just as pretty. My only problem is that despite the game fitting the visual novel category, it seems far more inclined to just describe the story rather than illustrate it. The game could do well to provide more illustrations during the more important points of the story than just a portrait of a face and some text next to it. Though, when illustrated, the pictures are a treat to see.

 

In the audio department, the piano arrangements that accompany the story give it a fairy tale ambiance, as well as, just being pleasant on the ears to hear. It does well to highlight the sad, cheerful, and action scenes throughout the novel. In contrast, the sound effects are virtually non-existent. Which is a shame, since a well placed clang of steel or cheering crowd could have picked up the slack where the visuals did not.

 

There isn’t really much to say about the interface. To its benefit, everything is easy to get to, clearly explained and hardly confusing. You point. You click. You get on with Elodie’s life (or death).

 

The narrative does a good job at juxtaposing the pretty princess theme with the darker tones of rulership. One minute Elodie could be enjoying a grand ball, and the next she could be at the end of an assassin’s blade. Though, in that regard, it does exactly what the game promises; it takes you through the “typical” year of someone destined to be queen. Where the narrative thrives is in the fact that, despite one scene near the end, it is exactly what you make of it. Often times, you will even find that events from much earlier have great impact on events found later on in the story. Though, whether princess Elodie makes the castle her gilded cage to protect her from the world’s troubles, becomes a war mongering tyrant, or goes on an adventure to vanquish fantastical beast is completely based on the skills she takes and choices you make.

 Military Elodie

…or you could play her like I did. As a warlord skilled in both decoration and public speaking that I imagine
screams, “I AM THE PRETTIEST!” after every victory to the cheers of a loving crowd

 

and so ends our tale of princess Elodie. A tale, while lacking both in effects of visual and of sound, can be an intriguing piece that is delightfully frustrating and wonderfully addicting to come back to. To all the Lord and Ladies in the audience, I bid you “Adieu.”

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.