Welcome to the Squacklecast Quarterly, a pish posh upper scale podcast. You have your daily podcasts, your weekly podcasts, etc. Well, we are apparently some sort of “quarterly” podcast.
We talk about the government shutdown, Metal Gear Solid, and what we talked about the last podcast. A general discussion about Aquaman, Justice League, Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, etc.
New movies vs. old movies discussion talking about how movies are structured nowadays.
We had some sort of technical issue and Skype closed, losing about 10 minutes of conversation, but it wasn’t important anyway. We then started to talk about cereal. Orange juice with pulp as a hipster beverage. This part of the conversation lasts way longer than it should have.
What were you doing seven years ago? If I remember correctly, I was probably in the middle of watching every Star Trek series on Netflix. There’s some stuff I was doing on Squackle back then, like posting Jokes and posting some chats I was having on Chatroulette, apparently. In the mean time, developer Freekstorm had an idea for a space-themed puzzle game that had a game show feel to it and spent the next seven years making it, and eventually releasing in late July 2017. In the meantime, Squackle still exists and I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek — quite an accomplishment for both of us, I suppose.
Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game took seven years to make. Seven years is a long time to spend on one game, one concept, and a special kind of motivation was required to get it to release day. This title seethes “passion project” through and through, and with a little research into the title I was able to find some history on its development, including presentations given by its developers, which gives you a nice insight into how the game came into existence.
Filled with puns, and occasionally written in verse, Doctor Kvorak’s game show he runs, making you choose what to do with the universe.
The theme is what kept my interest throughout — a game show taking place in space, hosted by an all-powerful being known as Doctor Kvorak. “Liberate or Obliterate” is the tagline of the “game show” as you decide the fate of a planet Doctor Kvorak chooses; often times populated by worthless-sounding beings. You participate as the character Greeboo from the Planet Noo, and later on, eventually find his “friends” whom you will also control. While Greeboo is just a vessel for you, the player, the real characters of the game are Doctor Kvorak himself and a hen in an astronaut suit named Eggloot. The titular character Doctor Kvorak is the antagonist, and sounds like some sort of weird German stereotype added with a Japanese stereotype; subtitles are really required to understand every word he’s saying. Eggloot is not necessarily a protagonist but antagonizes the antagonist, as they go back and forth with strange writing that all rhymes. Much of the “story” hits on the same points over and over: Doctor Kvorak is an evil omnipotent being, and Eggloot is the thorn in his side. There’s not much in the way of story progression, because you’re going through about fifteen levels of the same formula, but it is all funny/entertaining in the context of the game.
The script is oddly clever at times, and a lot of effort went into the rhyming. There wasn’t a whole lot of lazy rhymes as far as I could tell, so it really kept up the “charm” in a fairy tale sort of way despite all of the space shit going on. They slip in and out of the verse dialogue, so it isn’t kept up the entire time, which prevents the rhyming from getting old. Another interesting thing that happens is Doctor Kvorak talks right into the camera most of the time, towards the player, rather than at Greeboo, who is acknowledged separately. It gives it a strange “breaking the fourth wall” aspect here as if you are an observer rather than a participant, even though you are controlling a character.
Despite the interesting theme, the gameplay itself is basic. The puzzles are pretty easy, most are solved with little trouble. Slow-moving characters draw out the length of game despite the easy puzzles, so the easy-to-figure-out steps take like five minutes to execute rather than one or two. The puzzle variety is a mix of switches, moving boxes, swapping things around, platforming, and avoiding death. A large part of the challenge is also in collecting items; there are 50 collectible items (for what purpose I’m not sure) and also 10 pieces of the planet you are trying to save — which seems to be the only actually important thing to collect. Once you find your friends, you will switch off between the characters to work your way through more elaborate puzzles. They also each have their own unique set of power-ups that are used in that pursuit.
Most of the puzzles are compartmentalized, meaning you don’t want to go too far ahead before you collect or solve the puzzle for the thing you just saw. Though, there are times where you’ll loop back around, depending on the level design. It also seems like you can complete puzzles in ways that aren’t necessarily intended, and I’m not entirely sure that was meant to be. For example, you can “climb” up a box by pushing it and jumping it at the right angle and velocity, allowing you to access higher platforms. There’s usually some sort of other puzzle piece that allows you to do this a lot easier after doing some other task. Another example is how you can use a bunch of boxes to block a laser gun and get an item, when what they really wanted you to do was simply find the switch and turn the laser gun off. It seems too accidental to be intentional, otherwise more puzzles could be completed “in an unintended way.” There is also optional VR support, and that seems to add something to the formula, but I don’t have that equipment so I can’t try it.
Character animation is not great, but oddly charming since they are “aliens.” There are some physics-based animations that are triggered when you fall from a high ledge, or somehow trip. Cosmetics are a curious addition, and you collect a lot of them. Most of the outfits are made for Greeboo, it seems, but they serve no real game purpose other than mixing up what you are looking at on the screen. Otherwise, the puzzle elements look okay and achieve a certain style, almost reminding me of American Gladiators or one of those other ridiculous-looking physical challenge game shows, except… taking place in space.
The game runs smooth at the default settings. I had increased the sliders to the maximum at one point but couldn’t tell much difference except for in the shadows. I encountered only one crash after I had increased everything to max; when I launched again the settings were back to default, so I left it there. Otherwise, there haven’t been many other technical issues.
The soundtrack is a notably positive part of the game. The music mostly goes with the theme and they’re pretty catchy tunes, which is important since you’ll hear them over and over. It is hard to pick out how many songs there actually are, but there appear to be 17 according to Steam. They may slowly get put into the rotation as you get further in levels, so it is hard to tell just how many songs I was hearing at any given time. Since each level was taking me on average thirty minutes to complete, I felt like I was hearing the same songs.
Unfortunately, the theme of “Liberate or Obliterate” is predetermined. You have to save every planet to eventually progress to the next set of levels. It would have been more fun to have some sort of long-term consequence depending on how diligent you were in collecting all of the planet pieces. Instead you’ll have to replay an entire level and do it right when you miss even just one piece of a world. The “overworld” is split into three segments, with about six levels on each platform. They also included a level creator which was sort of hard to futz around with, and wasn’t as intuitive as it needed to be to make it worth using. Seemed like it may have been some sort of default level-maker included within Unity, but I couldn’t be sure since I’m not experienced with the inner workings of the engine. There weren’t any other Community maps available, or maybe the feature wasn’t working at all since I couldn’t see anything available.
Overall, the game is not awful, and if I was 12 or 13 this might have been a lot of fun if I was playing it as an entry-level puzzle game. The puzzle elements are light (perhaps the VR support had something to do with that, I’m not sure), the theme is fun, the characters are “unique” and there is some replayability if you so desired to do speed runs. The novelty of the title doesn’t really wear off, but the puzzles might be too easy for older players to keep their interest.
Developer: Codex Worlds | Publisher: 1C Company || Overall: 6.0
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Freedom Strike. Its continuing mission: to not really explore anything, to seek out the Wrog, and to boldly blow the buh-Jesus out of them.
What do you get when you combine Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and a tower defense game? Infinium Strike ::echo::. Infinium Strike sounds like one of those random cool names you’d expect a sci-fi game to be. One part “Infinity” and the other part “-ium.” Don’t ask me what an Infinium is, but its the resource you gather in the game. Thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure why the game isn’t just called Freedom Strike, since that’s the name of the ship you actually commandeer. Freedom Strike’s goal is to hunt down a bio-mechanical race of aliens that have all but pushed back human civilization and space exploration back to its last line of defense. Freedom Strike dives right into the thick of it and seems to be a magnet for humongous portals that the Wrog come through in endless droves. That’s your cue to start lasering everything you can see.
Infinium Strike’s hook is its 360 degree tower defense layout. Albeit, very unique from a tower defense standpoint where enemies typically follow a predetermined path and get laid into by tactfully-placed towers, enemies in Infinium Strike just barrel towards your ship and try to blow it up. You have four platforms to build towers on, each with a limited amount of spots. Depending on the enemies that spawn you’ll have to be aware of what sort of towers should be placed in each quadrant. Each tower has the capability of shooting things within a certain range, known as Sectors. There are three sectors total, and each tower can shoot one, two, or all three sectors in different combinations. Some enemies will start way back in Sector 3 and make their way to Sector 1, while others always stay in Sector 3. There are about as many different combos of enemies as there are towers to build, and if they begin to overwhelm your defenses, you’ll begin to lose Shield and Armor. When Armor gets down to zero, you’ve lost.
Infinium Strike’s unique feature is also its greatest flaw. Once you have to maintain all four quadrants there can be way too many things happening at the same time. Monitoring one or two quadrants is not that challenging but when all four begin to have enemies spawning like crazy you’re going to be going a little bit out of your mind. You will suddenly realize your Shield is taking a pounding because Quandrant 2 didn’t have enough towers that shot into Sectors 2 and 3, while Quadrant 1 has enough for all Sectors, but not for shooting projectiles… etc etc. Its very hard to keep track of your capabilities due to the fact there are four different tower defense games going on and none of the platforms help each other while they are idle.
A large part of the challenge in a tower defense game usually comes in placement of towers, which can inspire you to replay or retry learning what you failed at. Infinium Strike unfortunately rips out a large part of what makes tower defense fun by only having about eight spots in a horizontal line. Most of the towers you’re going to want to rely on are laser-based, since they are the cheapest to place and upgrade, which lessens variety. Towers upgrade their damage only by paying an increasingly exorbitant cost, but while you may opt to do that, you have to upgrade your base several times to get some vital buffs that allow you to live longer when the going gets tough. Upgrading your base is kind of a no-brainer but at the same time you’re going to have to spend millions of Infinium to get it to its max level.
A fun mechanic that helps you reinforce one of your quadrants temporarily is the use of your drone Fleet. There are three types of drones to use, all doing different things, and have a life span of about 30 seconds unless you upgrade. You can summon a few here and there, but they cost a portion of a bar that maxes out at 250; the bar recharges at one unit per second. Using your Fleet effectively is a must as you’ll always have at least one quadrant being overrun and you want to make sure they are all in a manageable state as much as possible.
Unfortunately despite turning the genre around on its head a bit, Infinium Strike is dull. The actual action of things blowing up isn’t very satisfying and kind of gets downgraded to a fireworks show. The graphics are fine, but the alien designs aren’t that great. The ship you are in charge of is an okay design but the tower defense platforms are kind of an eye-sore on the design of the thing. It could remind you of the ship Battlestar Galactica, but only if they glued some rectangular boards on top of it. Through the 10 missions, you’ll be treated to a little Captain’s log voice over that gives more info about the Wrog (the aliens) and the conflict that is going on between them and humanity. There are also different difficulty levels and extra objectives to meet if you are particularly inclined to complete them. Another itchy point is that despite going through the motions of upgrading your base over and over and building towers, you always start the next mission with nothing. There is no explanation about why you lost all of the progress you made in developing your ship in the last fight. Considering there is no meta game where you are upgrading your ship through the campaign, it of course makes sense gameplay-wise why you start with a clean slate each mission.
Infinium Strike doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Other than its interesting tower defense scenario and a light sci-fi story to go along with it, there won’t be much enjoyment to find in the dredges of space. I guess we know now why the Wrog want to destroy all of humanity, and its because one of them played Infinium Strike.
Developer: ACE Team | Publisher: Atlus USA || Overall: 8.5
B-Movie science fiction is always characterized by its low-budget charm. You could see right through the awful costumes, terrible props, and strings the monsters would hang off from — all of which added to the fun. The Deadly Tower of Monsters seeks to recapture this aesthetic of effects supplanted by computer graphics… by replicating them with computer graphics.
ACE Team, the developer of The Deadly Tower of Monsters, did an amazing job in recreating the B-Movie feel as you play, keeping it interesting throughout. The set up for the story begins as if you are watching the “movie” on DVD with commentary by the belligerent director, Dan Smith. As you defeat stop-motion monsters, while completing missions across the sprawling tower, Dan Smith will acknowledge and give background on certain aspects of the production — breaking the fourth/”fifth” wall, reminding you that you are “watching a movie” while playing the game, or rather listening in on the recording session for said commentary. There are a lot of layers here.
Though the game is not usually laugh-out-loud funny (there are a few great jokes), it is entirely tongue-in-cheek. Throughout, they introduce new elements that kept me consistently amused. The attention to detail adds to the goal of being a successful B-Movie homage and the commentary track spreads a layer of cynicism about the film industry on top. It is important to listen to the commentary while you play, as it is an integral part of the story, and the uniqueness of the game. Your typical gaming tropes are also explained away using movie tropes, such as blaming watching deleted scenes for when you die and the director “intentionally” wanting the actor to stand still for five minutes “because it is artistic” if you decide to idle for a while. Some of these tropes are less clever than others, but the narrative essentially includes all of your deaths and “mistakes” as part of the experience.
The visuals and art style are very important to the successful execution of the B-movie homage. A stop-motion frame-rate effect is used on many of the monsters and is one of the best effects used. Since most of the game runs at a higher-frame rate than an actual movie would, the most “filmic” part of the game comes with the stop-motion effect and serves to distinguish it from the rest of the “movie” quite well. Homage is paid to practically every genre of classical sci-fi, with obvious references to Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and others including dinosaurs, bugs, an evil scientist, giant robots, clones, and a galactic emperor among a wide range of other characters and monsters.
The level design of the tower is essentially a humongous and vertically sprawling 3D platforming level. You will go for what seems like miles in mostly one direction: up. While the prevailing theme is space technology, on the ground-level you will encounter things like mutant insects and dinosaurs. As you climb, the tower is very elaborate and changes themes more meticulously within science fiction. You will encounter aliens, disembodied brains, space slugs, and other fun monsters. All parts of the tower are fluidly accessible, and there are no loading screens unless you warp around to checkpoints.
The tower is used to the game’s advantage occasionally. You are usually tasked with shooting enemies from below in reverse-Space-Invaders style. At any time you can be knocked off the tower, sending you into a free-fall towards the bottom; mistiming your platforming will also have the same result. To counteract the annoyance of having to re-scale the tower you can easily warp to any checkpoint, or use an “Air Teleport” button that is available if you haven’t landed on another platform yet. You also take fall-damage and have a very low amount of jetpack fuel to adjust and break your fall. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to control the camera very much, which can be annoying at times, but it wouldn’t make sense in the context of watching a movie to be able to switch an angle at any time. On the plus side, the platforming is designed well enough where this isn’t usually an issue. For similar reasons, the game is very linear and there isn’t as much exploring to do as you might expect in a 3D platformer.
Combat gameplay is fun and light, and the weapon variety is also great. Enemies and weapons alike keep the “B-Movie” aesthetic, where you can plainly see re-purposed household items or other everyday items, such as a vacuum cleaner or a puppy, being used as space-age weaponry and monsters. As you have access to three different characters, their real difference comes in their special abilities. Dick Starspeed is able to use landmines, Scarlet Nova has a running speed ability, and The Robot is able to use a time vortex ability. All of the characters will gain more unique abilities you can use during combat and only cost a time-based cooldown, whereas your energy weapons deplete from an energy bar.
Upgrading weaponry, skills, switching characters, and other gameplay systems are accessed via in-game computer consoles. While they show up often enough, it can detract from the “joy” of playing around with the progression systems and possibly even the “movie” aesthetic. The systems aren’t very complicated, but it is sort of questionable why they give you 16 different weapons, but only allow you to have access to four at any given time before switching around at a console. It would have felt better to be able to switch out weaponry through a pause menu (a prop closet?) since in-game consoles aren’t necessarily used in an intriguing gameplay fashion other than to be more props to put in the levels. The in-game consoles bring up a game-based UI regardless, so the argument for being immersive doesn’t hold very much weight. It might have also been more convenient to halve the variety of weapons and allow you to use them at all times; instead I just keep four random weapons and rarely trade them out. Despite that, the variety of weaponry is still a nice part of the game.
Difficulty and challenges in the game are not too bad. If you die, checkpoints are usually pretty close to where you could possibly die. That isn’t to say you don’t need to play smart (as health is hard to come by), but the only real punishment for dying is wasting time. Puzzles aren’t too trying on the intelligence and there’s only a few situations where you need to use one of your special abilities to get items or into certain areas. There are also miscellaneous missions that aren’t easily earned on your first trek up and will require you to backtrack certain parts of the tower to complete. One fun side-quest is jumping off the tower and skydiving into floating hoops, using the tower’s height to the game’s advantage. The game can be pretty short as well, but its nice to be able to get through a whole game in a couple of days.
If you are a fan of classic film and games, you will get a blast out of The Deadly Tower of Monsters. Even if you aren’t knowledgeable about older sci-fi film, it is a light, fun, and short game that is visually pleasing and humorous. It is available now on Steam at a sale price of $9.89, and regularly priced at $14.99.
Hey everyone! Sorry for the long break, but we’re finally back with a new Squacklecast.
This time we talk a little bit about the reason behind using aliases on the web site as well as the inspiration/explanation behind the current theme song for the 3rd set of Squacklecasts. I’ll be debuting a new song for the 4th set (Episodes 30 through 39) with Episode 30.
With David Bowie‘s passing this month, we go into David Bowie‘s career and what movies/music we personally have interest in when it comes to him.
The Prestige is the most notable acting performance to me, other than knowing he was in Labyrinth. Music was obviously a big part of our exposure.
We go into a longer discussion of Terminator: Gensisys and talk about how laser weapons, time travel, and killer robots are much more believable than one billion pre-orders of an operating system. Also, the movie seemed to be trolling people after the third time travel jump. They also turned Terminators into metal zombies. It was basically one big cartoon of a movie.
It’s a lot easier to remember what you didn’t talk about when you do more than one podcast every 3 months.
davepoobond: Uh oh, I don’t know how easy that is! I like them both, but I’m more into the hard sci-fi rather than the fantasy sci-fi. What’s your favorite Star Wars character?
11 days later…
clairebyoot: Hmmmmm the Emperor and Darth Vader actually Darth Vader is my guy I’m sticking with that. Any you?
davepoobond: Original Trilogy would probably be Han Solo, prequel trilogy would be a tie between Jar Jar and Qui Gon. Jar Jar is hilarious to me because of his voice and everyone getting mad at him being a character. Do you have a favorite movie from the series?
clairebyoot: I hate jar jar deeply this will never work. Good luck on POF
Month long Zombie Awareness Month is this coming May 2015! Also, Month-Long-Holiday Awareness Year starts this year and every year before and after.
We start talking about Star Trek and Star Wars all of a sudden, not sure why, which leads into Interstellar. This is the video Billy talks about where the author of the book The Prestige says Chris Nolan only has a couple of good movies:
Then we go into the different movies Nolan has made and how he is as a general filmmaker nowadays.
Welcome to the “try-weekly” episode of the Squacklecast. This week we talk about this super sappy and emotional dog food commercial that will make anyone have a tear come to their eye because they’ve been puking their guts out at how much it makes you sick:
Another thing, is that they’re preparing Mac and Cheese for this asshole hours before he even gets home.
Imagine getting out of your car one day, closing the door, and seeing a huge dog all of a sudden appear in front of you.
Next Squacklecast, we’ll talk about more movies on our Netflix queues…
What I learned from World of Warcraft is: “You don’t have something until you have it.” It’s a life lesson. Or something.
Ras Al Ghul from Batman Begins became an eco-terrorist with his eternity of time to live.
Total Recall (the real one) foretells a time of three-titted babes on Mars. I can’t wait to live there during my fifth lifetime.
Curiosity is just using Instagram filters to take its pictures of Mars. Behold.
Before Instagram (aka before being cool):
After Instagram (aka now its cool):
Facebook City? Also known as Las Vegas…
Jonathan Frakes kind of overacts during his “Riker-focused” episodes in Star Trek. Here’s a select few where he’s always trying to bang a chick, a job once reserved for a Captain, now given to the Second-in-Command.:
“My dad gave me this old microwave. I took it apart and made a phaser, like on Star Trek, only bigger. I tested it on my brother, now he’s lying on the floor, not moving, and his heads getting bigger. HELP!!!”