Morphite (PC) Review

Developer: We’re Five Games/Blowfish Studios/Crescent Moon Games | Publisher: Crescent Moon Games || Overall: 8/10

Morphite is more than a game.  It’s about finding your purpose in life.  What is the meaning of your existence?  What is the point of anything?  Moreover, what is the point of Morphite‘s procedurally generated universe full of random planets?  I don’t know.

In a nutshell, Morphite is like a less ambitious version of No Man’s Sky.  You have plenty to “do” but there’s not really any motivation or purpose in doing “it.”  Outside of a single player story that has you finding out about the main character’s past and how it relates to the mysterious element morphite, there isn’t much impetus to “explore.”  You’ll want to find resources to upgrade your armor and ship, but the resources aren’t plentiful enough on planets to want to go grind for them.

Morphite has a full universe to explore with procedural planets, which is appealing to hear on its surface.  However, it would be hard to qualify these as actual “planets” considering their size and access, and its best to refer to them as “levels” instead.  In addition, the procedural planets aren’t anywhere near interesting or rewarding enough to warrant the effort of repeatedly visiting new ones.  I only ever wanted to run in one direction, hit a dead end, then leave.  The fauna is quite interesting and I hadn’t run over too many duplicates of creature models as I progressed through the storyline and visited a few of the random planets.

The story itself has hand-designed planets and boss battles, and they are usually way more fun to play on than the procedural levels.  The story takes about ten hours to complete, and there isn’t a point where the game says “ok, now explore” until you finish the story; outside of the random side missions you might come across until then, there honestly isn’t any point to exploration.  On the bright side, if you did want to explore every planet in the game, it will take you 5.9 x 103932349029302909530490394 hours, give or take a few exponents.  When you complete the game you’ll gain a significant buff to your ship’s capabilities, so if you are interested in experiencing more of the random levels, its probably better to wait until then.  Though, I haven’t seen much of a difference in levels the further you fly away from your origin point where all the story takes place.  So, your mileage will definitely vary, as once the story is over there’s nothing left to do but to visit these randomized levels.  On a more meta level, the long-term goal is to increase your character’s power by upgrading.  You are able to unlock new abilities by scanning plants and animals that pop up as rare, and have a special ability; using this scan in tandem with your other resources unlocks your potential.  With more upgrades, more planets become available for exploration, where you’ll continue scanning more and more.

Gameplay is your run of the mill first person shooter with different guns and explosives.  As you find more of the “elusive” morphite, you’ll get more weapons, as they morph into your new equipment.  Platforming and light puzzles will be the main activity other than shooting, but nothing usually on the scale of frustrating; some of the later story missions have interesting puzzle design.  You’ll occasionally run across items that will buff your character in small ways, such as a bracelet that gives you more health.  Ammo randomly spawns in boxes and you’ll probably be hurting for ammo at the beginning of the game when you only have a couple of weapons to use.  Later on there will be a lot more boxes to shoot open and more weapons to use, so this problem goes away eventually.  You can restock a moderate amount of ammo at the pod you used to land on the planet, but you’re usually going to be far away from the pod by the time you need it.  When you run out of ammo completely, your weapons will recharge up to a certain point, but anything over that number will require extra ammo drops.  Considering your ammo doesn’t recharge very quickly, this hinders your gameplay experience in the shooter department as you’ll have to run away a lot as there are no permanent melee weapons.  Relying on Puggles, who is a dog with a laser cannon on his back, to do most of your dirty work is the best way to conserve ammo.

Collecting resources to upgrade your stuff can be a grind, but the resources are so scarce its forced to become an afterthought usually.  Its also hard to monitor how much you have if you have the opportunity to buy more resources or the time to upgrade comes around.  No numbers fly up telling you what you’re currently at — you’ll have to menu hunt to see your current stock.  There’s also some story encounters while traveling from system to system where you’ll either get lucky or unlucky.  You may fly into an asteroid field where you actually get to control your ship for a bit, or lose resources due to pirates, or run across a trader from whom you can spend “Chunks” at to buy resources.  Chunks are the currency in this universe, and the primary way of earning Chunks is through selling “Common Scans” of plants and animals, whereas “Rare Scans” are used to upgrade yourself (or you can sell for a much higher price).  Unfortunately, scanning is pretty fucking awful until you upgrade it a bunch of times, and even then its sad that this is the only way to really make money in this game.  Resources are not found nearly as often to want to ever sell them, and the amount of Chunks you get from ammo boxes and the like is usually very low.

When traveling from system to system, you’ll also have to wait for your fuel to recharge.  This forces you to go space stations (which are available in every system) to refuel, or you can waste time and wait for it to refill automatically. You can use this time to explore a random planet, or do your laundry.  It’s your choice what you think is more productive.  The side missions I came across were also not appealing to try and complete as the rewards they offered were usually not that exciting.  I only ran across one side mission that I could complete then and there; most seem to want to send you out into another part of the universe to complete and I’m not about that life.

The standouts here are the art style and the music.  The art is actually quite fun and reminds me of old 3D DOS games, but obviously this title is much more detailed in certain aspects than that.  Low Poly definitely has its benefit when it comes to space as detail can often be left to the imagination.  The ambient music also fits the space theme accordingly and I was really digging everything I was listening to, which seemed to be at least ten different tracks.  The variety of music is done well and each song sounded was good in its own right, I would probably listen to this soundtrack on its own.  There was also weird sound mixing with the voice overs, sometimes the music would overtake the voice over and you could only understand what they were saying by reading the subtitles.

User interface is another story, however.  The space navigation screens, typography, and the menus all seemed like afterthoughts.  The spaceship cockpit distracted me in a way that felt as if it looked unfinished and they forgot to put some more polish into making it look good.  It’s quite odd, because you arguably spend the most time seeing your spaceship and the menus, but everything else about the game looks great.  Besides that, the usability of the user interface is much more clunky than I’d like and its a pain to use a controller to navigate it.  Considering this title is meant to be released on a phone, you can see some of the design decisions were not built for a controller, and too spread out for mouse/keyboard.  Its also a huge pain to switch weapons — how you can screw this up in a first person shooter is beyond me, but there’s no easy and quick way to switch to your weapons with a controller, and you are relegated to another menu hunt to switch logically.  This becomes increasingly exacerbated as there will be puzzles that require you to switch between three different weapons over and over.  Keyboard/Mouse isn’t much better and you’ll have to remember which weapon is assigned to the numbers on the keyboard.  You can also use the scroll wheel to go one by one, or menu hunt then click “equip” once you find what you want — there are N64 games that are easier to switch weapons in.

Admittedly, its hard to get too excited about Morphite, but it is fun while your interest holds.  The story isn’t too long and I don’t think it overstays its welcome.  The ending is anticlimactic and the boss battles tend to be a bit on the easy side.  The mystery of the story is good while it lasts, and it never takes itself too seriously, not to mention it takes a dark turn towards the end that I wouldn’t have guessed would be part of the story.  Coming into Morphite thinking you’re going to be playing an indie sci-fi shooter is a better way to go about it than thinking its anything related to No Man’s Sky.

 

Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Rice Cooker Republic || Overall: 7.5/10

“Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion” is like one of those game titles that screams at you.  You don’t know what the fuck it is, but it is loud, and your first inclination is to run.  Peel back the layers of potential pretentiousness and in essence, the game is about space, in more ways than one.  Space in the literal sense, the metaphorical sense, and I guess even the hard drive sense.

Cutting to the chase here, Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion is a puzzle game with “exploration” elements.  I suppose most of what you do could be described as exploring, but the world(s) you visit are barren with puzzles sprinkled throughout.  Your real goal in exploration is to learn about the story(?) and solve the puzzles you do eventually find.  Solving puzzles unlocks some more puzzles and eventually you would presumably get to the end of the game.  When you reach the “Epilogue” it seems you are mostly left with a traditional collect-a-thon with orbs strewn about the huge world.

The actual gameplay elements are essentially Minecraft.  You can build, cut, push, and erase blocks on the field in the pursuit of solving 3D puzzles.  The 3D puzzles I was able to encounter were “fill in the monolith,” “fill in the other monolith,” “bounce the line to the rock,” “construct blocks in this manner,” and some other things.  Most of the time the puzzles are done once or twice and you don’t need to do a lot of heavy thinking.  I’m not usually a fan of the whole “make your own fun” genre, but when similar tools are thrust into a constructed experience like Bokida, you get something a lot more freeform within its boundaries.  There isn’t a whole lot of explanation initially about why you are able to do the things you do, at least from what I’ve seen.  Despite what the screenshots convey, you never have to make buildings, though I have no idea if the world is a blank canvas on purpose so that you can fill it in with your creations or what.

The art design, sound, and use of colors are all part of the very intrinsically artistic experience.  This game is equal parts presentation and gameplay, with not much left in the middle.  This would be fine if you actually enjoy this sort of genre of puzzle game that attempts to achieve high art by being purposefully abstract.  Personally, the game just didn’t appeal to me after a couple of hours and I got really bored.  I made it to the “Epilogue” and there wasn’t much more to motivate me to continue exploring further.

Here’s the thing — it’s not awful, buggy, or annoying.  It is very competent and well-designed; I just didn’t like playing it very much.  I liked the way the game made you question how you move through space in a way that only a video game can present it to you: going through a door, turning around and seeing the door no longer there.  Or falling off the edge of a room and landing into the room you just fell from.  I’ve also figured out that falling upwards is annoying as hell and gliding through the air like a jet-propelled feather is an exercise in decision-making rather than physics.  Whatever details you can glean of a story are basically just all proverbs and metaphors and I unfortunately wasn’t really inclined to try and figure out what any of it meant.  The intro cinematic I guess is about a lonely planet trying to find its binary pair that got lost in another dimension, and there’s some Yin & Yang metaphor shit going on.  I suppose the story could just be a puzzle within itself, or it’s possibly just heavy on the religion thing and that all went over my head.

So, I could recommend the game to someone who likes 3D puzzles, high art indie games, or even just to play something out of the ordinary.  It’s just not something that ever clicked with me.  I just didn’t get why I was playing something that frustrated the hell out of me, spending 30+ minutes trying to get the line to the rock.

 

The Magnificent Mr. Jharraque

There once was a lad, named Mr. Jharraque.  He wasn’t always always named this, but he was named it for the greater percentage of his life, to the point where if you were rounding up or down, you would be rounding up and it would be 100%.

Mr. Jharraque was born a man of 300 pounds.  When he was born, he was so large, his mother had been assimilated into this man and no longer existed.  Mother Jharraque may still live on in Mr. Jharraque, but since he is a freak of nature, its unknown.  Once Mr. Jharraque was released from the hospital’s baby ward, he was given a suit and a briefcase by the hospital staff who pooled their own money together to buy the items for him.  They wanted him to seem like a professional and find a job in the Commerce District of the Rubunthium Sector of the Januthliyu Bar and Grill Space Station and so that he may stark out on a life on his own.

It wasn’t easy for a three day old who had just naturally taken over his mother’s body like a parasite and eaten her from the inside, but after a tough learning process, he finally got a job at a drug store whose primary funds were to sell fad diet solutions.  Mr. Jharraque was not a normal employee of the establishment, but more of a “live model” of how any number of their fad diets may work.  They pumped so many different diet supplements into the poor man’s body that he lost 150 pounds in 2 days.  He ate nothing but dry chemical powder straight out of the bag with a large wooden spoon, chewing on diet pills non-stop, and ate “energy” gum to burn off whatever extra calories he might have had flying around in his blood after the other chemicals did their worst.

At 150 pounds, and almost no speech skills developed, Mr. Jharraque was depressed.  Mostly because of all the different chemicals floating around in his unnatural existence, he began to pine for something better.  Something better would not come for Mr. Jharraque, but something worse did.  Even though the labels on each of the diet products specifically said to not combine their diet products with other diet solutions, such as exercise, eating right, and the other products on the market, the non-discriminatory treatment of life by the Finhoogle and Nagle Drug Store destroyed Mr. Jharraque’s body and life with no remorse from the higher levels of the corporation, Mr. Jharraque was fired for crying.

“If Mr. Jharraque wants to cry, he can cry on his own time!”  Monty Finhoogle slammed his fist on the desk as Ken Nagle laughed at a picture of Mr. Jharraque in one of the promotional pictures they had forced him to be in with many of the different diet products they sold.

“If this fat 150 pound, 7 foot tall slob wants to have his emotions he can have no job!” Monty Finhoogle continued in his tirade.  Ken Nagle just kept laughing.

Later, in the backstreet alleyway behind the drug store, a jobless Mr. Jharraque pointed at things and grunted as he drank a lot of beer.  He pointed at a box and grunted again… and then a laser shot out of his finger and the cardboard box disappeared!  But not only did it disappear, Mr. Jharraque could FEEL the cardboard box be a part of him.

Mr. Jharraque was amazed at what had happened, he stared at his finger as he sat down.  He pointed his finger at another cardboard box and that box disappeared to!  He now felt what the life of an 8 x 12 inch cardboard box had.  Just then, the voice of his mother entered his brain.

“Jerry, you have finally discovered your hidden powers.  You have realized what it is like to be two different cardboard boxes with all of their unique experiences of having things being put in and taken out of them.  You are my son and I have awakened inside of you.  You now have the knowledge of a thousand eons of information and have the power to assimilate all that is around you.”

The Magnificent Mr. Jharraque had finally realized his true potential.

The back office of the Finhoogle and Nagle Drug Store lay quiet as Monty and Ken took a nap from their excessive amount of bellowing and fist-to-table pounding.  Mr. Jharraque stepped through the wall like a ghost and watched the two corporate fiends slumber.

Mother Jharraque’s voice emanated again.  “These men are responsible for kicking you out on the street, my dear.  It is time you taught them a lesson about what it is like to be human.  Break their fragile necks and show them that they are weak, worthless scum!”

Mr. Jharraque pointed his hands at Monty Finhoogle as he stepped closer and closer, aiming for his neck.  Monty woke up just before his neck became compressed between the large hands.

Monty grabbed his sharp stiletto letter opener and tried to fend off the attacker, but Monty’s soul was soon drained from his body and became a part of Mr. Jharraque.  Mr. Jharraque’s eyes began to glow and he picked up the shell of what was once Monty and threw it to the floor.

Ken Nagle had woken up during the assault and began to drink copious amounts of whiskey, knowing his end would soon come as well.  Ken threw five shot glasses as the monstrous Mr. Jharraque lumbered his way over to Ken.

“STAY AWAY, YOU MONSTER!”  Ken screamed as he backed up against the wall and tried to open the random cabinetry to find more things to throw at Mr. Jharraque.  Each of the shot glasses filled with whiskey sunk into Mr. Jharraque and each of the stories of the shot glasses became one with Mr. Jharraque.  Like, this one time Harry the Shot Glass was in the dishwasher and had an affair with July the Plastic Bowl.  Alfred the Spoon witnessed the foul acts occurring just above and while that was supposed to be a vacation, it was not fun getting all the dirty soap dropped on him from above.

Harry the Shot Glass was sued by his ex-wife, Mildred the Shot Glass and was forced to pay alimony of five molecules of dishwasher detergent every Sunday before seeing the kids.  He didn’t see why he had to pay to see his own kids, it’s not like they weren’t crafted in the glass factory from his own superheated sand.

Ken Nagle took a punch in the gut as he was flung across the room and into the door.  He busted through the door and as the splintered door pieces flew everywhere around him he began to crawl away, in pain.

Ken yelled to his secretary, Somya Fridaray, “CALL THE POLICE!  THIS MANIACAL DIET SUPPLEMENT ADDICT KILLED MONTY AND HE’S GOING TO KILL ME!”

Somya Fridaray stood up and opened her drawer and took out a smoke grenade.  She knew it would come in handy one of these days after she found it dropped by one of those ex-military men canoodling through the aisles of the drug store thinking they can just walk around wherever they want.

Somya threw the smoke grenade into the air and it began to fill up the small room with ease.  Mr. Jharraque couldn’t see anything anymore!  Oh, if he ever found that confounding secretary he was going to assimilate her like those cardboard boxes!  She has the wits of a rabid squirrel looking for a large acorn to satiate his thirst for blood, but realizing that acorns were no replacement for blood.

Ken Nagle and Somya Fridaray stumbled into the greeting card aisle outside of the office.

“Oh, it is so horrible, Somya!  He stole all of our shot glasses and made me drink all of my whiskey!  He would have pounded my face into a fine silicate dust if you hadn’t saved me!”  Ken Nagle confided to Somya.

Somya replied, “Do not worry sir, that is what I am here for—-“ and in the next instant a large red aura surrounded Somya and she disappeared!  Enveloped into the Magnificent Mr. Jharraque, she was.

Ken Nagle scrambled to his feet as he grabbed greeting cards as a defense weapon against  Mr. Jharraque.  Each progressively thrown greeting card sunk into his body and all of the corny stupid jokes became part of his vocabulary.

Mr. Jharraque shouted at Ken Nagle, “HAPPY 41ST BIRTHDAY!” and stomped on the ground with such force that made Ken lose his balance and fall to the floor.

“GET WELL SOON!”  Mr. Jharraque stomped again and Ken bounced up and down on the floor as he kept crawling away and into the Diaper/Beer aisle.

“Will someone please call the police!!”  Ken yelled at the diapers falling on top of him.  In a frantic panic, he opened as many beers as he could and tried to drink them all.  Sucking down fifteen bottles of beer empowered Ken Nagle to become Super Diet Man, who had the power of making non-lethal things into lethal things, such as diapers!

The diapers in all of the packages flew out and began to encircle Mr. Jharraque.  The flying diapers confused him, as he was only 5 days old at this point, and he had never worn a diaper in his life.

“Time to take out the used diapers, Mr. Jharraque!” Super Diet Man announced in a drunken delivery.

“HAPPY GRADUATION!!!” Mr. Jharraque jumped so high he jumped over the wall of flying diapers and grabbed onto the air conditioning duct hanging off of the ceiling.  Mr. Jharraque all of a sudden became sick and he fell to the floor and started puking.

Super Diet man stood laughing at Mr. Jharraque, and they became friends.

Moral:  Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear – beer before liquor, never been sicker.

 

A Bear in S p a c e

Once upon a time in space, there was a bear named David.  David was a sad bear who didn’t have any bear friends.  Since David was a hairless bear, except for his head, no one wanted to be his friend because he was different.

No one at David’s house cared for him either.  His momma and poppa bear were always at the river catching fish.  Whenever his parents came home, they only gave David the head of the fish since they hated the head part.  David was always hungry as a result.

So, one day, David decided to take off his helmet and leave this sad universe.  David said his last goodbyes and took off his helmet.  Then his face blew up like a balloon and that was the end of David the lonely bear.

Moral: Shave your head if your whole body is hairless.  Then maybe you will conform to the standards of the society and not be seen as an outcast, and have a crummy life to show for it.