Cuphead

Cuphead

  There are a lot of my friends who, regardless of how large their Steam/Xbox/Playstation libraries are, always return to their classic gaming systems because they like a challenge. Old games like Contra which are known for their brutal difficulty, rewarded memorizing enemy patterns and level layouts and that had a really pleasing sensation when you finally beat the next level or boss. While there are games that are difficult these days (to the point where Souls-like is starting to describe games that are “hard like dark souls”), nothing felt like those old retro games in terms of difficulty. Enter Cuphead.   Before getting into what Cuphead is and what you’ll be doing, I need to talk about the design. The visuals and audio are some of the most polished and well researched that I’ve ever come across. As someone who grew up wanting to be a Disney animator, their use of Fleischer era ‘rubber hose’ animation is incredible and the sounds and soundtrack are equally amazing. If only for the audio visual experience, watch someone play Cuphead.   Cuphead is a punishingly difficult game. Even beating the very first stage will likely take you multiple attempts. In fact the design of the game is that you shouldn’t go into a level or boss battle expecting to beat it, but instead expecting to learn. How to learn patterns, layouts and timing. It will take a good amount of learning until you feel comfortable enough taking a proper run at beating the stage and when you do, it feels amazing.   As far as the story goes, Cuphead and his...
Suicide Guy

Suicide Guy

Suicide Guy? So…   Ok let’s set this aside. The game could have been called a number of other, less uncomfortable names. Yes, you’re spending time killing yourself but the reason is you’re trying to wake up from a dream. This game is not enforcing, endorsing or encouraging suicide.     Oh… so I’m dreaming?   Yeah. Your character is a slob who fell asleep drinking a beer. As you began dreaming, your brain noticed the bottle dropping but you can’t get out of the ‘hub’ until you complete a number of other dreams. Each one has you figuring out how you’ll kill yourself to escape the dream, with 25 total dreams in all.     Ok that doesn’t sound so bad. Is it good?   It’s… imaginative. I’d argue it’s good, but as a game it’s not very replayable. The platforming has a weird jiggle when you climb (which you’ll do often), so I doubt people will target it for speed runs. But will you have fun over the 5-6 hours you’ll play? Absolutely.     So what does the game do well?   The game has lots of really great references. Jurassic Park, Mario, Portal, Moby Dick and plenty others. The graphics are well designed (although at first I though the game was an asset flip, due to wide variances in quality), and the sound/music is passable, never being annoying and never being something I could listen to outside this game.     And the bad?   The game has roughly 50% puzzles that have you figuring stuff out, and 50% platforming to a very obvious goal....
Stories Untold

Stories Untold

What is Stories Untold? Stories Untold is a game that, at first, feels like a few un-related stories all wrapped in a 1980’s visual styling. Tape decks, cathode ray screens and a healthy dose of VHS warping. The chapters each offer a different story: playing a text adventure game, helping an experiemental science scenario, an outpost in greenland and so on. So what do I do? To put it at the most basic, you’re playing a game with a series of slow time events. Much like a quick time event, except you need to seek out the information on how you progress. Unlike a puzzle, which presents you with many possibilities the scenarios presented here each progress linearly. That is you only have one way to progress forward. In many ways, that makes this a walking simulator where you don’t walk. Sounds boring, why would I want to play? The journey is the destination, as they say. The game is mostly comprised of a compelling story that draws you forward wrapped up in the atmosphere they build up. It’s that narrative that keeps you locked to your screen, instead of being a game where you’re honing your twitch abilities or puzzle solving skills. And yet, the game is rated quite positively. Should I play it? That depends on you. If you’re interested in a solid story, then yes. If the idea of a game that’s more about being interactive art appeals to you, then it’ll do well. If you’re looking for a game where you can mute the story and still enjoy it? Skip Stories...
Subsurface Circular

Subsurface Circular

A noir story on a train Subsurface Circular puts you into the mind of a detective robot in a world you can only glean about by investigating robot passengers on a train. What sounds like an excellent concept for a game could turn out being very hard. For example, the game could be too linear, being more of a book because the developers didn’t have the skill/time to implement a world but are so proud of it then over inform you or force you to do the old “rub every noun against every source of information until the game is beat” type gameplay. SC ignores both options and forges ahead, writing a tale worthy of Asimov but giving you characters you care about and a narrative filled with choices. That’s a mouthful. If it’s a game, how’s it look and sound? While sound is minimal, it’s well implemented. From the train calling out your stations to the ambient noise, there’s plenty of sound going on. Graphically the game isn’t anything you’ll call home about. The simple meshes work well for the visuals provided, but the texture resolution and lighting won’t have you pulling the game out as a benchmark. Nor should it, given the relatively low price point for entertainment value. The game runs about 2 hours per playthrough and as far as I can tell has three endings to get you to that amount of playtime. So it’s good then? This game is excellent in terms of narrative and one that I highly recommend for anyone even slightly interested. The mood and tone are set early on and...
This Strange Realm Of Mine

This Strange Realm Of Mine

Best described as a first person afterlife game, [i]This Strange Realm Of Mine[/i] feels discomforting. The sound and art, blending video game and poetry. It’s all wonderfully invasive upon the senses, and I suppose that was the artistic intent of the game. Wait, afterlife simulator? What the heck? That’s right. The game begins with you making a character, and then being told you died. How did you die? Not important. What is important is that you find yourself in Limbo. Not the biblical one, or at least not as far as I could tell, but one where your spirit comes as a crossroads. Inside Limbo, you’ll find a guide who leads you through several adventures. Completing each one leads you back to Limbo. Ok, that’s weird. But let’s say I’m interested, now what? Well good question. This is a linear game, that has you performing acts in first person. And while you’ll utilize a gun in a lot of the game there is quite a bit of variety apart from shooting things. And all of it is wrapped in poetry and metaphors. It’s quirky but it lacks any of the ‘high art’ that sometime plagues these games. Often, philosophical indie games tend to focus on the art and less on the game. TSROM feels like a good balance point between the two. Well if it’s a game, tell me about the gamey parts.  The game is made on Unity3d and that’s neither to it’s benefit or detriment. I felt the physics were very “default” but there were enough restrictions on movement I couldn’t initiate common Unity glitches. The graphics...