Posts filed under ‘Design’

Ludums: Irem on Nes, Alien: Isolation, make your own adventure aka Minecraft

My new job involves long sit downs in a glass cubicle filled with constant fiddling with variables and often 16 minute returns from a Swedish server built in a summer by a former golf pro. Let that context inform these reviews.

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Metal Storm is probably the best NES game I never played. The music is awesome. I mean really I hear the tunes in my head at work sometimes. It is at heart an R-Type game, but where r-type felt like a draft in memorization as difficultly Metal Storm is more of a full fledged novel. It requires consistent play with its central mechanic: the ability to reverse gravity at will. Its the way the game manages to introduce puzzles with out every signaling you are in a puzzle that makes it unique. I am not sure where, maybe level 3? In which you have to trick some magnets to fire, nearly crushing you, jump onto their platform, and then reverse gravity to get around a block. This section isn’t overtly difficult, but it does require skills. Later level require you to think about power ups switching from shields to blasters to take out different objectives. Its not as Mechanically complex as I would like it to be, but when you attenuate to its antiquated nature it becomes a gem you hum as you reconsider and plot out your next move.

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The hardest part of Alien: Isolation is the beginning. That first stealth puzzle is really the most difficult thing in the game so far. After you’ve managed to take down 3-4 humans the Alien is easy peasy. Why? Because the Alien means death. It is that simple. What to reset a puzzle? Run away from the Alien. Alien: Isolation makes a good case for presence and graphics in video games. It is essentially a love letter to H.R. Geiger and in that it’s a game whose skin is more compelling than often the storyline is. In fact Isolation’s story is sadly rather weak. Its gameplay however is compulsive. I knew I needed it the second I saw the hack tool that said tool exists fully realized inside a set of stealth rules that create serious tension is even better. Alien: Isolation is a film that was chewed and cured into gameplay. However its designer had the lateral thinking skills available to iterate on the known gameplay elements enough to make it work. The result is engrossing exploration situations that are tense, but rarely frightening. The world design brims with detail, but it’s really the story Geiger is telling that makes it important, from the communal shower stalls to the lightbox hallways, the lived in way the station resembles an oil rig or the abundance of hiding spots the belie another meta-game: which spot is truly strategy and which is merely aesthetics? Film is a great medium to play in.

Minecraft is not a game I have ever binged in before, but last week with the server down I redownloaded this hot MS property

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/e2a/7654/files/2014/12/img_3248.png and got to work on my first house which in turn became a 3 hour construction binge including torches, numerous pick axes, cobblestone fences, creepers, and a garden on top of a house. I wanted to change nature to make my house more realizable. It was strangely satisfying to finally have a minecraft property something like what I had seen in youtube videos and then a day later I was bored, so I crafted numerous swords and set out on a journey at midnight fighting Zombies and eating pork chops, minecraft is a game that understands play. It understands that you shouldn’t take it seriously rather that frivolity becomes seriousness the more you play. It is a game that is entertaining as long as you are entertaining. Its the perfect sandbox for tots. Good work Notch 🙂

December 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm Leave a comment

Luxuria Superbia

Luxuria Superbia – ios
The other day I watched a 5 minute clip on youporn of a Japanese porn actress being pleased by a somewhat well cut man. I found myself walking around most of the day with a new perversion: a desire to please someone with my hands. Luxuria Superbia is described as sensual, but in reality it is quite sexual. I found myself clawing with 4 fingers to please a flower’s needs. It brings up so much of what makes simulation in video games unique. I have never myself actually jerked a vagina off in any meaningful way, yet this idea of pleasure which honestly I had never thought of is present in this game or is the simple pairing of the two the cause of my interpretation? Regardless, the game dares to dip into places of sensation most games do not. It doesn’t mind being sexual, sensual, or even a little grotesque. What’s great is that it turns this pseudo-sexual desire into a game. If you get to avaricious you will not score that high, if you hold back or aren’t feeling it the flower will close. Are we ate the beginnings of a cyber-sexuality? I haven’t seen this much action in years. It was also made by a husband wife team. The later part of that duo I think might have been instrumental in this game.

August 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Muramasa Rebirth – Story of Monohime

What Muramasa primarily does is prove wandering through art works is heavenly. Like that Kurosawa film Dreams where the characters walk into Van Gogh paintings

Muramasa is all about Detail and situations. It is full of visual logics culled from antiquity that captivate. George Katimana’s illustrations have always shown a love of Japanese classical painting, but Muramasa, which was inspired by the famicom game legend of Kage

Allows a realization of locomotion through a medium we usually experience in stillness.

But I would argue that part of what makes Japanese painting remarkable is the sense of movement it in stills. Every leaf jumped over, every tree climbed,and every Legend of Kage style floaty jump is a sensory experience in how sight can overwhelm sensation. Muramasa, like most of Vanillaware’s games, is an exercise in the peculiar interaction between avatar, world, and desire. It is a great lesson in how and why graphics are important. Even the color of the Ninjas uniforms (which really do make them nigh invisible at night) fits into the context of the game.

The combat in Muramasa is based around a triple dash, a double jump, and a charged moved. All three abilities along with a special attack your sword can utilize and the fact that your weapon takes damage before you do makes for absorbing game play. The bosses & enemies require some thought and strategy to over come. Samurai for instance require a charged hit to break their swords, Ninja need to be dealt with swiftly, and spirits require reflecting your fireballs back at them. The result is a combat system that feels like flow, but actually requires some of the strategy and skills usually utilized in jrpgs. The sword upgrading techniques provide little to the game beyond increased stars and a seldom used special attack I don’t really use, but then again they are swords. Gotta collect ‘m all.

Muramasa has been criticized for it’s story, but I found it actually to be rather good. It didn’t impress me the way Odin Sphere did and a few minor continuity gaps result in a trip to hell, but over all it builds a peculiar romance between a Japanese femme fatale with a lot of wit and a demonically possessed spirit with immortality as his aim. I am only now playing the second character’s story, but the game’s set up and plot twists I actually felt were rather good even if the protagonist and heroine fail to develop overt romantic intentions in their dialogues. One of the things I also loved about my ending was the way the game rationalizes it’s brutality: demonic spirit possession and then deals with it in the end. The result was a game in which the player slaughters hundreds and then see their deeds punished from a different angle. Making both Jinkuro and Monohime playable in different segments was brilliant as it builds a relation between player and character.

I have committed myself to a platinum of the game I am enjoying it that much. It’s on ps vita and Wii. Strangely I never got into the Wii version. The game hides somewhat imprecise controls and a little bit of hectic platforming in layers of luscious art. It’s storyline compels and the combat system (beat it on chaos) is open ended even if the second time you run into Samurai you know exactly what to do.

May 9, 2014 at 4:54 am Leave a comment

Journals: Etrian Odyssey IV, Atelier Totori, Muramasa Rebirth, Rayman Legends

This week marked a new experience in my life: a psn sale! When I originally bought a ps3 for the last guardian and Ni no Kuni I remember being somewhat not impressed with the offerings on psn. In the age of the vita though (and perhaps due to my insatiable curiosity) the psn store seems a bit more well stocked. The Golden Week sale sold me on 3 things: Atelier Totori (never played an Atelier game before), Muramasa Rebirth (actually the second time I have bought this Vanillaware game), and vagrant story. There is an additional flash sale going on right now which could net me Guacamole!, but I am trying to restrain myself. Psn is starting to understand the nature of steam sales, and news of psn sales also get reported in surprisingly frequency. Making the deals even harder to resist especially when if you don’t buy it now, well it will still be there in the future and the number of titles on the system is limited. Anyways., let’s begin.

Atelier Totori Plus – ps vita
Once upon a time I taught two young girls, and I think this might be the game for them. The Atelier series has been in existence for over a decade now, starting off as a series of sprite based psx games (there might even be a famicom release in there I am not sure). However the ps3 Atelier games (and there will be in total 6 of them) went 3D and the series might be the better for it. Atelier games are essentially bare bones jrpgs with a fluffy girly side to the storytelling and character design. We get introduced to the boyfriend fast. The game however are quite clever in their use of time, Totori had to manage numerous quests which require actions that take up time. Want to “craft” 4 healing salves? That will be one day please. Need to harvest some rock salt? 3 days to the nearest location. A goal is then posted on this clock and the game becomes managing your time so as to effectively meet your deadline. In other words it’s nothing like other jrpgs. The combat system is standard, but here is the catch: you are the weakest party member. You are the support after all. This means when an enemy attacks you you can choose which party member will jump in front of the attack and keep you from taking damage. The result is more time has to be accorded to supporting your party members well. The Atelier games really are perfecting a curious blend of crafting, time management, and buffs and debuffs. Over all I am enjoying the game especially because it doesn’t waste my time.

Rayman Legends – ps vita
The sequel to origins is a great game, but it’s also part of that increasingly evil scene of mobile games with infinite replay ability. People still play Yoshi’s Island on snes because the game is so good and speed runners love to perfect their runs. Legends is quite smart to pick up on this offering leaderboards for each world. However the game is also bogged down in almost excessive little things to do. There is the 1 million lum challenge, the daily challenges (which aren’t that bad), but my point is this: I have finished the game. I have beaten every level in rayman legends. Yet the game has such an excess of things to do outside of the game that I am nowhere near finished. Do I have all the creatures in my daily room? No. All the lums? No. Am I anywhere near finishing every level with a golden cup? No. And this excess reveals how much perfecting and “platinuming” a game had become. As if major studios want their game to be a major time sink so you can’t work on others. Rayman legends platinum requirements are heroic because they require playing the game for reasons beyond simply playing. As does playing it daily to raid your creature room for lums. In that it creates an interesting moral dilemma, and in the grand scheme of things I think I would rather speed run SMB2 than keep collecting Lums over and over again. The game is still great as a platformer, but I am not so sure I want to make this game an everyday occurrence.

Muramasa Rebirth – ps vita
I owned this on Wii and remember playing it once or twice and never again. Then I played Odin Sphere on recommendation from kotaku and loved it. Muramasa is in some way’s Vanillaware’s most engaging title. The combat sequences are based around variety: some enemies need their weapons broken with powerful charge shots, others need fireballs reflected, and other just need to be dodges. The mechanics in the game make 2d brawler combat all the more engaging and the decision to take a page from jrpgs and make each combat section unique means the fights are fun and interesting. What impressed me most was the storyline so far. Much like Odin Sphere I am entranced. I have played this game the least of everything I am posting today, but as an occasional combat treat it is so enjoyable and I really love it. It’s better than Dragon’s Crown IMHO.

Etrian Odyessy IV – 3DS
Playing Atelier Totori reminded me I had never finished Etrian Odyessy IV. So I looked up an FAQ and set out to find the next section of the game. Much to my surprise it turned out the mistake I was making was a simple one. But unfortunately I discovered a slight flaw in the game’s design. Etrian Odyessy requires excessive grinding for minor trinkets required to move on. I have upgraded my tanks armor, but not my magic casters armor. The game is still really cool. Each area is full of mechanics worth thinking about and puzzles that aren’t boggling, but involving. However I have become more sensitive to time wasting over the years and Etrian’s necessary grinding to purchase better loot makes me wary of playing.

May 3, 2014 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

Design journals for this week

uncharted: golden abyss Miyamoto once mentioned that their competitors wanted to make film: Naughty Dog does. Uncharted is a film. It’s full of love able characters, small set pieces, a shooty cover game, and a rock climbing game. However cover based shooters: done them before. Climbing games: loved the focus of Prince of Persia. That becomes Uncharted’s main problem. Where a series like Gears of Wars can do cinematics, but excel at gameplay Uncharted cranks up the character button, doubles down on suspense, and forgets about gameplay. I might not finish it before my ps plus membership ends, and I man not so sure it really matters. The primary reason I keep playing is to experience a story. A well characterized one.
rayman: legends Have now unlocked almost every level. And now the game becomes a check in everyday for lums and daily challenge fest. The remixed music levels essentially ask you to play blind which is not a bad idea because you are playing to the beat. I enjoyed the game a lot, but I am not so sure why the game needs to be endless. Part of what makes these games fun is the mastery of a finite challenge. It’s the infinity in details, the possibility in level design that makes platformers come back for me. Leaderboards should globally clock complete times for levels. That said the challenge levels aren’t bad and do a good job of introducing you to a global score system.
strikers: 1945 An old Psiyko release which has been sitting around my vita for a bit. At first it was to fast for me,mthe psp visuals are reduced to a small black bordered box on the vita, but it keeps growing for some reason. I still can’t adjust to the danmaku sufficiently to not be credit feeding the machine, which means Psiyko’s strategy (which I am told is agreession) eludes me. What I like about the game is that the bomb system works as a piece of cover, you call in your squad and they take flack for you for a bit. The result is some serious strategic moments of gameplay. The difference in the ships’ abilities is also refreshing.

April 26, 2014 at 11:05 pm Leave a comment

Some stuff I posted to reddit

Just savings these here so I have a more concrete design diary.

**luftrausers** vita
I am around 30 something hours trying to finish the blimp with missiles mission (making good progress) blimps seem to spawn after 2 battleships for about 13k score. I tried puttering around in the sky avoiding enemies and it just delays the spawning if battleships, hence yes score seems to speed up the difficulty. Few games have I investigated this throughly, but the challenge in these accomplishments is so severe I fear they are there more as a means of keeping players there which means Vlambeer vastly misjudged their audience. I am really annoyed by this mission nonsense. I just want to work on my leaderboard score.

**rayman legends** vita
This just amazes me. The game’s levels have really grown from the somewhat basic concepts of the origins games to fully fleshed out trails of wit snd cunning. Also it just looks great on the vita. When I grow tired of luftrausers brutalist approach to difficulty I often find myself clocking in a few levels here and there. The challenge is nice, but not overly difficult.

**Crimzon Clover** PC
I can totally like with Cave’s blockage of new shmups as long as doujin games are like this. Crimzon Clover has all of the traps and vestiges of a cave shmup with an indie spirit that is hard to deny. I didn’t get to play it much, but this really impressed me. It has the right amount of enemies you have to focus in on while also containing the right bullet hell. In other words like a cave game it understands how to turn the some what free for. Aimless aspects of shmups into tight visceral situations worth your attention. It’s also free.

**monument valley** iOS
Somewhere up in the British sky there is a great wonka and he loves games. He also likes ico and M.C. Escher. Monument Valley does a lot of what Fez claimed to just with out all the clutter of those controllers & puzzles with highly subjective solutions. Instead if focuses in on the optical illusion Escher made and turns them into puzzles that are never overly challenging, but man is finished this game in a day. I believe after you finish there is a little more to the game, but right now the initial experience has left me pleased. One of the better ios games and one of the few that excels from being a touched based game.

**metal slug anthology** psp/ vita
Back in the day I had a neo geo and it was my bread and butter. I best Blue’s Journey at least 8 times. By the time Metal Slug hit I was in high school and working on things like Fatal Fury Real bout. The original metal slug is one of the best examples of enemy design ever made. Each unit has a specific purpose yet it never feels unfair… Well except that last boss. The levels a re joy to make it through contains enough super heroic Rambo shit to keep you entertained. I am not sure why no one has done a run and gun game as good as this one over the years. Unfortunately tacked onto the original metal slug are it’s numerous sequels. 3 was designed by the original designer of street fighter / moon patrol / KoF and shows a creativity of spirit with unique challenges and ideas in each level, but the later games feel like a milking of the franchise and then let’s not even mention those loading screens. Yes the official psp port of metal slug anthology contains loading screens the illegally emulated versions do not. While it’s not a huge deal it breaks up the flow and feels annoying. For such a great series Snk playmore should have spent more time. It’s a shame Nazca no logger exists because they made some of the better arcade games out there (in the hunt, metal slug, and gun force 2). Still this package contains more ideas in a segment than many games do in a full campaign.

April 13, 2014 at 12:18 am Leave a comment


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