Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Prideful Sloth || Overall: 8.5/10

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is the unique exploration/crafting game from indie developer Prideful Sloth.  Usually a game doesn’t make itself unique by omitting, but in this case, the fact that there is absolutely NO combat really provides for an interesting experience.  Exploring, unlocking, and collecting are the main activities that you’ll be participating in, and while it is a slow burn at first, once you get into the rhythm of the game its charm will reveal itself to you.

The entire game takes place on a secluded island named Gemea.  As a nameless human vacuum, you’ve come by boat to clean Gemea of its crafting materials.  I call you a nameless human vacuum because you are provided no name, and also because for the first two hours you’ll be doing nothing but picking up rocks, sticks, flowers, and random shit on the ground with no idea what to do with any of it.  You’ll stumble upon a couple of quests that will send you every which way across Gemea, picking up even more rocks and sticks until you realize you have about 200 of each, and then you question the meaning of life and existence.  Is there a reason why Gemea doesn’t have some bureaucratic government agency to do this for them already?  They obviously have some sort of problem with rocks and sticks.  I guess the main threat of the game has libertarian motives.

The quests you happen to stumble upon are very simple, and the quest-givers look the same/animate the same way.  You go around and complete quests for the sake of completing them, sometimes getting useful rewards, but often you’ll get nothing for your efforts.  Each zone has a number of things to do, and as you complete them you’ll be notified.  The main story sees you collecting Sprites, which allow you to unlock blocked off areas, covered by a magical dark mist called “Murk.” While the story set up could have been a bit more impactful and set up the island/scenario in a more elaborate way, it seems like most of this was intentionally left extremely simple and you are forced to “fill in the blanks.”  There aren’t really any charming characters, and most of what you do is by happenstance and not necessarily because you wanted to.  There are at least some important quests that take more effort to complete than others, but most of the unique areas associated with the main quest will only need to be visited once, it seems.

The best way to describe this game is a mix of Dark Cloud or Zelda and Stardew Valley, but removing all combat.  The story sensibilities of a generic hero-type character who has come to save the island by collecting magical Sprites that only s/he can see, reminds me of an old 3D fantasy-adventure game.  Exploration is a big part of this game, and you’ll constantly be finding new nooks and crannies as you accomplish goals across the island.  You’ll also begin to run an assortment of farms, one in each zone, but there is very little maintenance or work that is required to be done on these farms.  You aren’t planting and watering crops, but rather leaving animals in pens and picking up the materials they produce.  Each animal creates different materials, so you’d want to have a variety across the farms.  There is even less maintenance required once you hire a farm hand that will essentially do what you need to do on each of these farms, freeing you up for more of the regular tasks and exploration across the island.

While Yonder is a relaxing game, it is mostly about exploring, and I found myself constantly making detours to suck up all of the random shit I could.  I had no idea why I needed to pick any of them up before I could actually craft with them, but I did it anyway.  Until you learn how to actually craft, you will get by by taking advantage of the barter economy.  It is a bit odd since all of the things you will initially be trading are just strewn about the island so freely, but that fact is reflected in the “Value” of the items you are trading.  Since there is no traditional currency, you’ll just have to fill your bags with everything you don’t want and then trade for something you do want.  The only purpose to trade is to craft or complete quests, at the end of the day.  There are a number of traders in each of the villages and once you meet or exceed the value of what you are trading for, the deal can be completed.  You’ll want to have the value of both sides be as equal as possible so you don’t lose out on materials in a bad trade.

Crafting is a large part of the game, and each profession has its own town where you’ll embark on a quest to learn a few recipes and then become a Master.  Once you actually begin these Master crafter quests, you’ll be wishing you didn’t skip any resources up until this point because you’ll realize you need like another thousand more of everything.  You’ll eventually start taking quests that require you to use your crafting talents to complete, but sometimes its easier to just trade for what you want than going through the motions of crafting.  There are also trading posts which provide a unique material that can only be created there, so you’ll have to bring the prerequisite with you if you need them.

The island of Gemea is a sizeable area to explore.  It is larger than it may seem when looking at a map but it doesn’t take very long to get across it, either.  The transition between each zone is very natural and you almost can’t tell you’re in the next zone sometimes.  The different biomes give enough variety while still being “realistic” in that you could expect grasslands to be next to a forest, and that a desert would be on its own secluded area away from the main island.  Not that they are necessarily needed, but there are no survival mechanics such as getting tired or hungry, despite there being a day/year counter.  You can run around on the island for two years straight and you don’t get tired or hungry.

As with all games nowadays, new additions are inevitable.  If combat were ever introduced, it would be nice to break up the monotony of running around unfettered forever, but I understand why they didn’t include it in the game initially.  It would ruin the main “threat,” which is the Murk and the underlying reason why it has spread across Gemea.  While it doesn’t matter to me that generic puffy people who ask me to do inane tasks are under threat from the Murk, my real connection comes with how beautiful the island itself is, and wanting to see it preserved.

At first I was not a big fan of the art-style, but as I grew accustom to it, it is probably one of the prettiest games I’ve played recently.  Every single part of the island is a joy to be in and I love being in all of the different biomes, seeing what new things I can find despite having already been there.  One of the great things about Yonder is that new things can constantly be found or unlocked due to progression or simply because you didn’t stumble across the thing before.  Fast-travel points are also in only-barely-convenient places and require a quest to be completed before being able to connect to the travel network at that location.  So, sometimes fast travel might be more annoying than regular travel.

No loading screens past the first loading screen is also great for not breaking the immersion.  Cutscenes are used sparingly, as well, but what semblance of a main story there is, often has you listening to a very large Sprite telling you where the Murk comes from and how to fix Gemea’s problem.  The superb sound design really delivers in creating the right mood and feeling for each biome, with the music supplementing the ambient noise.

The only real fault of Yonder is that if you are not intent on giving it a chance, you may not find enough to motivate you to keep going; it is a very slow burn.  It wasn’t until around the six hour mark where the game “clicked” for me.  By the time I had begun writing this review I had put in nearly eight hours of game time; typically I’m able to formulate my opinion about a game way before that.  Because there is so much to explore on the island of Gemea, there is a lot of potential game time, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.  If the game grabbed me earlier in the process with some sort of interesting character to latch onto or being forced into the main story for just a couple of quests, I would have personally had a favorable opinion a lot quicker.  As is, after the introduction they instead dump you in the middle of the first zone where you can have at all of the rocks and sticks you can suck up into the singularity you call your backpack.

As previously mentioned, there’s a lot to explore and do in Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles.  Give it a good few hours before making your mind up on it and you may just find one of the indie hits of the year beneath the “real-life Murk.”  Being a human vacuum doesn’t really go away, but at least you’ll be using the crafting materials for something… eventually.

 

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.

 

Apes, Humans, Monkeys

Apes, humans, monkeys eyes in front of their face easier to grab things, can’t not hitchhike large, forward facing eyes.

New world have strong tails old world don’t new world has flat noses old world has long noses the continents separation made conditions different for each type of world animals homo erectus small, more ape like than modern humans, coudl walk upright, larger brains than reg. apes.

What kind of informatino left by written by them, what kinds of food they were eating.  A wallet or something w/their picture on it.

Heyy Buddy,

Found a homo-erectus fossil and you didn’t.  Aren’t I special?  Neener neener neener!

Sincerely, Dave

 

Crazy Rings (iOS) Review

Developer/Publisher: Cervo Media GmbH || Overall: 8.0/10

Hardware Used: iPhone 5 with iOS 6

Want to go on a Match-Three Safari full of deformed animals that are caged in some weird contraption called a “crazy ring?” Well, if that specific craving has arisen, Crazy Rings is for you. 101 stages full of fun and oddly not-very-funny humor. For some reason the game is listed in the store as “the funniest game ever” or something, but I have yet to even see a real joke or something funny. Maybe that’s the joke.

I guess it doesn’t matter. What there IS to like is probably what should be paid attention to, anyway. Through the “Campaign” mode, in which you presumably play through all 101 of the stages, you are trying to get as many points as possible and clear the Crazy Rings with as much efficiency and/or combo-making as possible. Once you complete a level, you gain up to three stars (you can earn zero, too) depending on how well you do in the level and progress to the next one.

The concept is not hard to grasp, nor is it really that difficult, at least until the point I’m at, which is Stage 25. The game can get a bit hectic, depending on the little things they throw in to make it harder/easier to play. There isn’t a whole lot of variety up until this point, but I’m not complaining since the art is nice to look at, and the game isn’t really that frustrating to play – it is also a stable application that doesn’t crash or have frequent bugs that I have encountered.

The essential control mechanic is to tap where you want to send one of your spherical animals, and in doing so, try to match them up with the others and try to make combos, like many other Match-Three games. What makes this game a little bit unique is that the crazy rings will rotate, expand, or travel around in a circle, so you will have to pay attention to those elements in order to not misplace any of your spherical lions, frogs, snakes, pigs, or other animals. You can also have multiple crazy rings which will also rely on the speed of each ring’s rotation if you want to match any animals with the outer rings, as they can all be rotating and expanding at the same time.

At a certain point, the game will begin to give you helpful one-time-use power-ups. One of them is a pork-chop-shaped meat thing that you can launch at the ring of animals, and they will all go chasing after it off-screen. This can be useful if you have two rings at the same time or if you just have a lot of random animals. Another power-up is a tranquilizer needle, which can slow down the ring that you shoot at, limiting its rotational speed or elastic rate. Later on, there is a Rhino that you can use to break through any obstacles, including rocks. I’m sure that they throw in different power-ups and obstacles every now-and-then to break up the monotony.  Obstacles, like the rocks, which act as a wall within a crazy ring can change your strategy in completing a level.

You aren’t able to save these particular power-ups, and you have to use them within about 10 seconds of their appearance, or lose the opportunity to use them. The only power-ups that you actually keep are Rocket Rings. Rocket Rings are basically things you can use to “cheat” and clear a level if you somehow get frustrated enough to use it. I am not entirely sure if Rocket Rings are acquirable in-game, but you are able to buy them. Doing so will also unlock all of the levels in the game without having to progress one-by-one — it is a package deal and I’m not sure if you are able to just keep buying Rocket Rings after your first purchase.

Considering the Rocket Rings aren’t very enticing to use, and you can unlock all of the levels by yourself anyway, I don’t know why you would WANT to buy this “package,” even if it is a very low price to do so (at the moment, $0.99). The game isn’t particularly annoying in trying to get you to buy anything or share anything with your friends, so that is a welcomed aspect. There are also no naggy notifications or stupid social/faux-multiplayer bloat features. What I enjoy about the game is that you are actually playing a game and not trying to show your friends how cool it is to not play a game.

The game itself is quite meaty, considering there are 101 levels, and once you get through all of those, you can re-play them and try to get three-stars or play what seems like an endless-play mode called “Zen Mode.” The rings probably get crazier and crazier (and difficult) as it goes along. The sound effects/ambient noises aren’t annoying, so they’re nice to play with if you require something to listen to, but you’re not missing much if your phone is on silent.

The game is not a bad bargain for “free.” If you like puzzle games, you will enjoy Crazy Rings, and while it may not be the most unique concept you’ve ever seen, it is still worth playing. It can get pretty hectic at times, but I have yet to encounter a level that I couldn’t pass on the first go. I’m sure that in the later levels it may become difficult enough where it may require a couple of tries, but in general, there isn’t much retrying.

 

Owl Pellet Frenzy

Owl Pellet Frenzy is the newest craze that is sweeping the nation!  Here’s how to play:

1. Get owl pellets.

2. Get bones out of them.

3. Try to reconstruct animals.  Trade for “needed parts.”  The more full animals you have, the better your rank!

4.  Trade whole skeletons too, and complete your collection!