Tangledeep (PC) Early Access Preview

Developer/Publisher: Impact Gameworks || Outlook: Positive

Tangledeep is the 16-bit roguelike that should be on your radar.  A beautifully artistic, colorful, and lore-based game that will seemingly have much to offer and iterate on when it finally releases later this year, currently planned for December 2017.  Tangledeep pulls deep from the SNES Final Fantasy games in terms of overall aesthetic with music, sound effects, and art but makes it its own with unique gameplay features and iteration.

I can’t praise the games presentation and production value enough.  This is a swell game to immerse yourself in and right down to the text boxes you’ll be hitting that nostalgia bong over and over (nostalgia bong legal for only 30+).  The music is beautifully composed and really sells you into the exploration dynamic of the game’s story.  The lore of Tangledeep is also mysterious and fanciful — it really piques the interest in discovering more about the forest of Tangledeep and figuring out what secrets it holds.  Since Tangledeep is but a snapshot of the rest of the world, you don’t know what visitors you may come upon in the base camp as it seems “guest” vendors are randomized and will sell things that aren’t usually available if you have the money for it.

Obviously, since Tangledeep is a roguelike, there are many roguelike features, and multiple ways to experience the game itself.  The overall progression comes from your town development, although it is a bit sparse in terms of actual benefits to be gained.  You have six plots where you can plant magical seeds that provide food to you at certain increments.  You can also tame beasts using a special item and drag them back to town for later use as a companion.  Many of your first attempts at getting deep into the forest will probably be fruitless as you discover the mechanics and how things work, as well as fiddling around with the different classes (called jobs) available for play and figuring out what works for you.

Gameplay-wise, you’ve got an expansive list of jobs to play with — currently nine.  Each job is unique and actually has a bit of an interesting spin on some of the usual class types, from a lore angle.  “Personal” stories of each of the individual jobs don’t seem to really get in the way of the greater narrative, but the customization and skill-based special actions go a long way in changing up the experience from one run to the next.

Though the game is turn-based, it’s played in real time.  It’s more like a turn-counter with particular actions taking a certain amount of turns to cast or recharge.  There is also an opportunity to pause during hectic moments of combat to plan out what you strategically want to do in case you get in a bind.  You can also progress time without moving, so you don’t need to get out of position.  Levels are procedurally generated, with some side rooms changing up the tileset dramatically, so the game doesn’t get stale at all.  Trying out the different jobs is also part of the fun and each class can be built to focus on different sets of skills depending on you preference, so the iteration just goes that much deeper.

The meta game is always important for a roguelike.  There is an “intended” way to play Tangledeep where you will encounter permadeath at the end of your run, only allowing for any progress in town to stand.  Being called “Heroic Mode,” this gives you the opportunity to switch your job and try out a new spec for the penalty of starting from scratch.  Adventure Mode is another option where instead of encountering permadeath, you will be sent back to town with penalties, losing your unspent Job Points/Money and half of your XP progress.  The penalties are hefty, but much less impactful than a full reset.  “Hardcore Mode” is the same as Heroic Mode, except all progress made with the character is wiped.  Each individual Save Slot is party to as many characters as you think necessary to play with, and you can only “Continue” progress with an Adventure Mode character.

Unfortunately, Tangledeep isn’t exactly the mode user-intuitive when it comes to its menu system.  Menu-hunting is a bit of a pain, and can be confusing at times as to what commands you are telling the menu to do.  Arrow keys don’t work at all, only being able to use the WASD to control a menu (this just feels weird) and using a controller instead also feels clumsy.  When opening the menu, you are not going to the menu you were last in, so if you need to make any tweaks to what you had previously done, its more than one click away when it shouldn’t be any clicks away.  Equipment is also hard to figure out sometimes, since it is hard to compare equipment efficiently and whether or not you are actually equipping an upgrade can be questionable at times.  You have four different weapon slots for changing up your strategy on the fly (ranged vs. melee, for example) — but the inactive ones don’t give you additional stats.  It feels like that there should be more information about equipment in general and how things affect your gameplay but as is it feels too underdeveloped to be satisfying.  You also don’t encounter enough variance or quantity of loot to really have to make interesting decisions as you get by with just equipping whatever has a better rarity quality.  There are also other lesser issues with the logic and layout of the menu that just don’t feel right and needs to be smoothed out before release to make it a more useful tool than it currently is.

Tangledeep has got a lot going for it, and I’m excited to see if more story lives up to my expectations.  I’d really like to see more progression mechanics that allow for strengthening your new characters further as you keep playing.  Refinements to the menu system to be a less frustrating experience is the number one goal in my mind, so hopefully that is on the radar of the developers.  A little more focus on the loot/reward system would also be in order.  Tangledeep is being updated constantly by its developers while in Early Access, so it’ll be an interesting title to watch.

 

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.

 

Max the Lovelorn Bear

There once was a bear named Max.  He was a hopeless romantic who spent his days smelling flowers and eating bark off of trees for the cleanliness of his teeth.  He would always try to find the perfect flower to give to one of his many potential mates.

Natasha the Big Brown Bear was the skankiest bear in all of The NeighborWood, also known as “The Wood.”  She would climb trees and then eat the acorns out of their shells and then spit them at other bears.  She was so annoying.  This one time she spat an acorn shell on the mayor of The Wood, Mayor Hunstingson.  She was kicked out of the city for three days and had to direct traffic from the neighboring city ForesTown to and fro.  Traffic duty is pretty much the worst duty you could do in The Wood since everyone is an idiot and doesn’t know how to drive their cars.

Max found a Red Mistberry Flower growing in a ravine north of the NeighborWood Nuclear Factory.  He thought it smelled so good that he picked it and decided to give it to Natasha as a gesture of affection.  He thought since Natasha would be all alone on the Bearway Pass between NeighborWood and ForesTown, he could make his move.

It was an unfortunate misplacing of romantic intentions for Max.  Natasha had the IQ of a baboon, and the brain of one, too.  That’s why she’s so stupid.  Because she isn’t a bear, she is a baboon in the body of a bear.  Too bad for Max because she had a booty like DANGGGG!!!!!  Natasha ate his Red Mistberry Flower and spat the seeds at him when he presented it to her.

All spat on, heartbroken, and no one to love, Max went back to his den made out of bricks.  It was a nice den, but watch out if he wanted to fart because IT’S MADE OF BRICKS!!!!!  You may not get it, but sure.

The next week, Max found a flower called the Junior Talap Wishmaker.  It was the perfect type of flower to give to Allison the Green Bear.  Why was she green?  Because she is soooooo cool.  That’s why!  She’s like one of those chicks you see on BizarroBook who is friends with someone you know but sticks out like a sore thumb in their friends list.  So, Allison the Green Bear was at the local record store Bear-cords, smelling the guitar tablature books.  She liked the very minor temporary high the glue gave her.  Max came in, holding the large flower between his teeth, trotting down the aisle in a triumphant fashion.  Allison looked over to see Max presenting her with the flower.  She smelled it, but it did not give her even the slightest amusement.  Her swollen red eyes watered as the flowers pungent smell filled her sinuses.  She stood up on two legs and sneezed right onto Max’s face.  Max dropped the flower in astonishment and suddenly he was teleported back to his brick den.  The Junior Talap Wishmaker would grant one wish to anyone who sneezed on the face of the person that had picked (aka murdered) the flower.  In this case, Allison wished for Max to go away.

For two weeks, Max was again depressed and lacking in the macking.  He searched high and low for the next flower that would really impress his new love, Calista the Model Bear.  Calista spent most of her days at the NeighborWood Hidden Lake Resort, poolside, tanning in the moonlight.  The moonlight tanning fad had become a mandated regiment by the bear modeling agency known as Bear-It-All, and was forcing all of their famous bear models to take part in the tanning procedure which consisted of placing a huge amplification telescope above the tanner and focus the beam onto them until they became glowing with moon radiation.

Max was able to catch a spaceship to the Moon and picked a Moonflower for Calista since she seemed to like the Moon and he thought if he got this rare and special Moonflower which you could be arrested for if you picked it because there’s only like three of them left, so it makes it even MORE romantic because he committed a crime to show his love and chicks fall over for that stuff like a domino in a hurricane.

Max was seen by the Moonflower Security Response Team and for the next three days he was in the middle of a Western-Sci-Fi-style laser gunfight and spaceship dogfight campaign to get the flower back to the Earth.  Needless to say, and really the point I’m trying to make, is that Max did a lot to get this flower and it was a lot of effort.

After killing 67 members of the security team, they finally let him go.  Max gained the nickname the Moonflower Assassin for his cunning flower picking skills and being able to elude all of the security around the illustrious Moonflower.

Max , dressed in his space fighter leather jacket, with 67 tally marks on his right shoulder and “Moonflower Assassin” written in capital letters across his back, journeyed up the mountain to the Hidden Lake Resort.  Standing on two legs, he presented the Moonflower to Calista.

“Ugh, what is that?  I don’t even LIKE flowers… harrumph!”  Calista put the cucumbers back on her eyes and began to ignore Max again.

Max fell backward and the Moonflower, encased in its little forcefield blasted off towards the moon, to return to its nest.

Later next week, Max was escorted to the Emergency Sex Change Room.  He had absolutely no luck with women so he decided he wanted to try being one so that he could learn how to make one like him.

He hated flowers forever.

The end.

Moral of the story:  If you only have two minutes to think up a moral to explain your story, you’re doing it wrong.

 

Joke #18608

After many years of faithful duty with the US Forest Service, their beloved fire prevention mascot was unceremoniously “retired.”

Still in the prime of his life and bearing one of the world’s most recognizable faces, he quickly found work as a spokesman for the world’s leading exporter of diamonds.

He’s now working as “Smokey DeBeers.”

 

Great Places to Haunt

Massacre-chusetts – Don’t miss Booston!

Gory-gone – Right on the West Ghost!  And don’t skip the Petrified Forest!

New Hexico – Plan to stay a spell!

Moantana – Truly terrifying scenery!

Wy-ooohhh-ming – Lots of moantains to climb!

New Hauntshire – Be sure to visit Discord, the capital city.

 

The Jackal and the Fox

One day there was a Jackal.  Was.  He got hit by a car.  But he wasn’t always road kill.   He was a successful banker, a branch manager for a multinational bank that was established in hundreds of forests throughout the land.

That was until the Fox came by to store his pecan nuts.  That asshole Fox wasn’t even a customer and he was trying to make them store pecans without even a proper account.

So, the fox went over the Jackal’s head, and got the Jackal fired.  How did he know the Fox was a famous movie star, he doesn’t even own a TV.  Then the Jackal was pushed in front of a car by his ex-boss’ bodyguards.

Moral of the story:  Get a TV.

 

Dave’s Notes: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Dave's Notes

Peter Rabbit is this asshole rabbit who had a stupid dad that got caught by this upstanding, taxpaying, well-groomed farmer named Mrs. McGregor.  She wore a bra that was D cup even though she was plainly a C.

Peter Rabbit had a negligent mother named Mrs. Rabbit who thinks its a good idea to leave her 4 sons Peter, Mopsy, Flopsy and Cotton-Tail alone while she fucked the baker in RabbitTown.

Since Peter is an asshole, he disobeys his mother and abandons his brothers to the horrors of the forest while they lug blackberries back and forth.  Mrs. Rabbit believed in child labor after all.

So, Peter goes onto Mrs. McGregor’s farm and shits in her prize-winning flowers.  Then he eats her lovingly planted cabbage, radishes, cucumbers, and doesn’t even give her a reach around.

Mrs. McGregor, already dealing with the saggy boobie problem that plagues her family hereditarily, tried to kill that no-good Peter Rabbit and do us all a favor by doing so.

Peter Rabbit unfortunately gets away and hides in Mrs. McGregor’s toolshed where she keeps her can of holy water laying around unprotected.  Not only does Peter Rabbit desecrate Mrs. McGregor’s farm, but he tarnishes the sanctity of Mrs. McGregor’s religion by pissing in it while he’s in her holy water.

Not only that, but the pervert Peter Rabbit lost all his clothing while he was being chased by Mrs. McGregor (very convenient, don’t you think?), so his sweaty ball sweat was integrating with the holy water.

Peter Rabbit sneezed, giving away his tactical position in the dark shed and busted through the toolshed window.  Great, that’s going to cost money to replace.

Peter Rabbit tried to find a way out from the farm after the vandalism and indecency he subjected to Mrs. McGregor.  He couldn’t, so he started crying like a bitch.  He saw a bunch of other dumb shit that didn’t help him get away.

Eventually he found the gate he came in from and ran back home, leaving Mrs. and Mr. McGregor to clean up the mess he left.  When Peter got home he took a big shit and went to bed.  His family ate blackberries, bread, and milk, cause they were poor.

Peter got away with murder and was rewarded for it.

 

Joke #11517

A group of hikers were being led through the wilderness by a guide.

On the third day, the hikers noticed they had been traveling in circles.

“We’re lost!” one hiker complained.  “And you said you were the best guide in the United States.”

“I am,” the guide answered, “but I think we may have wandered into Canada.”