Have been thinking of retiring this log but eh, I’ll at least go to the end of the year. Why not. Still would prefer to be doing multi-paragraph entries about books and movies. If only I could consistently get my brain to stay the course! Working on it. In the meantime here are some mostly bad games I played mostly very briefly.
Last one from the “Monochromatic” Bundle.
• Oquonie (2014): David Lu Linvega (= David Mondou-Labbe) (Tokyo, Japan) [2.5 hrs]
March 10, 2015: I buy the three DROD games I’ve never played, on sale for $7.82 at GOG. One of them, the last and longest one, remains unplayed today, but I’m still feeling my DROD marathon of last year and think some more delay is in order, so for now I’m skipping over it; this is just to wave at it out the train window. (And I still don’t feel ready to return to that Star Wars bundle, either.)
March 17, 2015: “Humble PC & Android Bundle 12” for $3.88 gets me nine games, seven of which are new. I had played none of them until now.
• Tetrobot and Co. (2013): Swing Swing Submarine (Montpellier, France) [14 hrs]
I bought the bundle just for this. A worthy sequel to Blocks That Matter, which at the time of the sale I had posted about just the previous week. Better-than-average puzzles on a smooth difficulty curve. Still quirkily tactile, albeit a bit less so. Charming, flavorful music by the same guy. Low-key and genial; suitable for all.
• Titan Attacks! (2006): Puppy Games (London?, UK) [2 hrs]
It’s good old Space Invaders, with glowing faux-pixel graphics and some added structure and variety to satisfy modern expectations. Not to say it wasn’t briefly diverting, but I get the impression that this developer likes fiddling with lighting effects more than he likes designing games.
• The Inner World (2013): Studio Fizbin (Ludwigsburg, Germany) [5 hrs]
Oddball cartoon graphic adventure; well-intentioned and cute to look at, but irritating to play. The wacky whimsy is all too German, and the translation is dubious (LOOK AT MOSS > “That has moss written all over it.”) Everything moves too slowly, and the nonsensical puzzles are mostly under-indicated. Kind of dumb, frankly.
Next in this bundle is Ironclad Tactics, a game so overwhelmingly not my style that I am skipping it. For now? For good? I don’t know what to tell you. See below for more on this subject.
• Eufloria HD (2009/2012): Omni Systems (Folkestone, UK) [played for 1 hr]
An exceedingly boring game about conquering featureless circles by waiting for grass to grow; pitched as “relaxing,” but bland pastels and ambient synth beats aren’t my relaxation style.
• Solar Flux (2013): Firebrand Games (Glasgow, UK / Merritt Island, FL) [played for .5 hr]
Irritating momentum-nudging game of collecting space dots; I think it wants to be a somber cousin to Angry Birds.
• Toast Time (2013): Force of Habit (Bristol, UK) [played for 1 hr]
Cutesy “retro” arcade shooter (with a particularly deadly case of FAKE PIXELS) where you’re a toaster that bounces wildly around the screen. Has some appeal but it’s clearly a phone game not really meant for computers.
June 10, 2015: Almost three months pass with no games added to my list! Good for me! Then GOG gives away Battle Realms for free so, yes, I click on it. Free is free.
It’s a real-time strategy game about warring clans in ancient Japan. I don’t have any interest in playing that, and never did.
When I started methodically going down my list like this, it was because I really thought that by dutifully playing each and every game, I could retroactively justify my senseless acts of compulsive acquisition, and maybe broaden my palate in the process. But I’m older and wiser/dumber now, so here are some facts: 1) Acts of compulsive acquisition aren’t actually senseless, and need no justification. They’re compulsions — what’s not to understand? And dwelling on past compulsive behavior, hoping to retroactively redeem it, only makes it loom larger in my life. If you regret something, just move on, dude! 2) My palate isn’t set in stone, but come on, it’s not a magic moonbeam either. I have certain tastes! No need to deny them indiscriminately.
So okay, that’s Battle Realms.
June 15, 2015: I pay $1.00 for “Humble Indie Bundle: All-Stars” because I’ve been meaning to play World of Goo for years and I’m happy to pay $1 for it. It happens to get me two other games, one of which is new to my collection.
• World of Goo (2008): 2D Boy (= Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel) (San Francisco, CA) [7 hrs]
The best “physics game” from a moment in time when physics games were suddenly the hot thing. Build towers and bridges out of ever-sagging rubbery triangles: this is a task well worthy of having a game built around it, and you’ll know it as soon as you try your hand; it’s immediately satisfying to play with. Most physics games fail to strike the right balance between freedom and constraint, but World of Goo pulls it off. The tasks are well-defined, but because the system is so blobby and imprecise, executing any given solution always requires flexibility. And the Dr. Seuss trappings are an inspired match.
• Dustforce DX (2012/14): Hitbox Team (Portland, OR) [played for 1 hr]
Looks like a platformer, which I would usually play through, but is actually just an elaborate speedrun course, which doesn’t interest me. Also the anime-like emotional tone implicit in the character designs and the music really turns me off.
Oops, off the list for a second: a game was given away for free by Indiegala on August 1 (of 2019) that looked like it might be my kind of thing, so I played it. Forgive me.
• Adventures of Shuggy (2011): Smudged Cat Games (= David Johnston & collaborators) (Littleport, UK) [6 hrs?]
A game out of time: a deep stack of very mildly puzzling one-screen things to do, which is a cheerful format from 30 years ago. “Puzzle-platformers” these days usually aspire to being actually hard. This does not, though the enemy-avoidance does test one’s patience. But in a friendly way. Charming, well-executed, and inconsequential (though I suppose the “avoid your past self” rooms have some slight interest). Downright old-fashioned! Great for kids, I’d think.
And then another dinky giveaway from Indiegala distracts me on August 17.
• Puzzle Chambers (2017): Entertainment Forge (= Darko Peninger) (Pančevo, Serbia) [about 3.5 hours]
Unremarkable number-placing logic puzzles but with a charmingly gratuitous narrative presentation: the puzzles are on the floor of a Saw parody scenario and little characters walk and talk their way through. I stayed with it for the freewheeling homegrown dialogue, which is sprightly and dorky and unselfconscious, as though an eager preteen wrote it.
Back to the list.
6/21/15: “Humble Jumbo Bundle 4.” $4.19 to beat the average gets me six games. A week later they add three more for a total of nine. I only bought it because I was curious about The Stanley Parable.
• Outland (2011): Housemarque (Helsinki, Finland) [played for 9 hrs]
Platformer with a parity-switching mechanic, as lifted from Ikaruga. Color-swapping obstacle courses are a good idea and there are some satisfying individual rooms, but the game as a whole is bland and repetitive. It’s a fake Metroid-like; actually just a linear guided tour. Art direction is superficially competent but the atmosphere doesn’t really cohere. Also it’s all too dark to see, and the character gets too small. Yet another one where I played up to the final boss and felt no need to finish it off. Frankly I should have stopped much earlier.
Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is an “empire-building” game in generic D&D fantasyland. I pass, without hesitation.
• Mercenary Kings (2014): Tribute Games (Montreal, QC) [played for 1.5 hrs]
Lively cartoon action, excellent pixel animation in the style of Metal Slug, but ultimately this is a systems game rather than a progression game — collect collect collect! upgrade upgrade upgrade! — so it feels essentially static. The trailer tries to wow you with the overwhelming combinatoric possibilities for weapon configuration, which for me is a red flag.
Endless Space is another “empire-building” game, sci-fi this time. Keep in mind I can’t even get into Civilization. Pass.
• The Stanley Parable (2013): Galactic Cafe (= Davey Wreden & William Pugh) (Austin, TX & Sowerby Bridge, UK) [3 hrs]
A clever comic performance, well worth the whole $4.19. Essentially the inversion of the Life of Brian “think for yourselves” joke: here the classic Authoritative British Narrator Voice wants to tell you a stirring interactive tale about thinking for yourself, but gets petulant when you don’t do exactly what he says. Wasn’t I just saying that choice in games wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Gratifying to see it punctured with such panache. Well staged and well delivered. I laughed aloud twice! Imagine that!
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a Diablo-style “Action RPG” that’s not particularly well liked. Considering that Torchlight is a beloved one of these and I didn’t even like that, I don’t think this is for me. Pass.
Screencheat has no single-player mode so that’s that. Pass.
• Freedom Planet (2014): GalaxyTrail (= mostly Stephen DiDuro) (Waterloo, NY) [played for 2 hrs]
Overt Sonic the Hedgehog throwback. Well-built, but insufficiently tasty for me to want to go the distance — I never having been that much of a Sonic fan to begin with. Also the interstitial storytelling is truly unbearable, spastic furry-minded infantilism, and there is an incredible amount of it. Consider me off-put.
• Coin Crypt (2013–14): Greg Lobanov (Philadelphia, PA) [played for 1 hr]
Battle using tokens in order to win more tokens, being careful never to run out of tokens. A worthy idea, but the presentation isn’t rewarding enough for me to want to put in the time learning the deck, the stats, etc. The more tabletop-like the game mechanics, the more look and feel matter to me.
September 3, 2015. A free giveaway from Indiegala:
• The 39 Steps (2013): The Story Mechanics (Glasgow, Scotland, UK) [3.5 hrs]
Not a game but a so-called “visual novel,” i.e. a straight-ahead narrative presentation with nominal interactivity (e.g. “click the door to enter”) but no functional choices. The John Buchan book is a good choice of source material for such a thing, and all the illustration and audio has been done with a modicum of taste and care. The adaptation is certainly faithful and respectful. The effect is very similar to filmstrip presentations of olde: very mildly effective, and pleasantly soporific. Plenty of flaws too. I would love to see more and better work in this direction.
September 24, 2015. Free on Steam for a day, as a promotion for the remake thereof:
• Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee (1997): Oddworld Inhabitants (San Luis Obispo, CA) [played for 6 hrs]
A big hit from years ago; glad to have finally played it. Attractive, tactile, atmospheric graphics with a stop-motion feel; wiggly-woggly story and character design have real spirit; gameplay distinctly superior to the rather similar Heart of Darkness. But: it is demanding, and one of its demands is a SEVEN SECOND WAIT every time you die, which happens constantly. After 6 hours of play I did not feel myself to be 6 hours into a game; more like 4 hours into a game and 2 hours of SEVEN SECOND WAIT. I really wanted to see it through but, alas, that degree of time-wastage is unendurable even for me. I wish someone had patched it to change just that one thing. Instead they remade it entirely, in ways that mostly seem to detract. A shame.
November 2, 2015. A free giveaway from Indiegala:
• Litil Divil (1993): Gremlin Graphics (Sheffield, UK) [played for .25 hr]
You know the type: “half-baked, underdesigned game, but containing cartoon graphics that can be made to look good in screenshots on the box,” from the golden age of same. (A British Amiga game, in fact: the belly of the beast.) This one seems to have its charms, but still, why subject myself?
November 3, 2015 — the next day! Yet another free giveaway from Indiegala:
• Lucius (2012): Shiver Games (Helsinki, Finland) [played for .25 hr]
Play as approximately ‘The Omen’ and kill your family one by one. Not sure that’s a good or tasteful concept, but I was willing to give it a chance because I’m a pushover for Mansion Horror. But this immediately reveals itself as ill-built. Feels like it has stray nails sticking out of it and I don’t want to cut myself.
Present day again! My sister tells me she saw a game she thinks I might like, and then a couple weeks later some nerds I know are all abuzz about the same game… so I say fine, it’s a sign and spend a full $14.99 to play it. Was that really advisable? Is that really something I should be doing? What can I say.
• Untitled Goose Game (2019): House House (Melbourne, Australia) [3+ hrs]
Art! Not big art, but little art — which is simply to say that it makes you feel and think about things that aren’t other videogames. In a better world, that would be the baseline, but it’s not, it’s special, so let’s celebrate it. I adore the idea of responsive piano accompaniment and I’m very impressed with the execution… I just wish it hadn’t been famous classical pieces, whose vivisection I couldn’t help but find distracting. Oh well. The goose is a beaut. The situational dynamics, the emotions in play and the overall social vision, are so very much healthier and clear-headed than in most other games. The fresh air here feels like happiness offered on the level, not a sentimental escape offered to the needy. I think that’s why the game has become a sensation; it’s so immediate and obvious to anyone who touches it. I’m all for it.