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April 20, 2018

Antagonist


So I recently compiled a list of games I owned in my Steam collection that were created using RPG Maker.


That’s 25. That’s a LOT of games. I want to be clear: I’m not dissing on RPG Maker. I believe it’s a wonderful tool to learn to build games, offering resources, assets, and a system to easily construct maps and events. It’s also 70$, so not too expensive, not to mention it’s always on sale during Steam’s big summer and winter events. The story? That’s for you to decide. Your talent is your greatest asset. You have the building blocks. Build something. Will you take inspiration from other stuff? Will you follow the cliché beats of a fantasy RPG?

The last RPG game I reviewed, The Chosen, was...
rather meh. 
The games made on RPG Maker can be cookie-cutter titles using only the free resources, just like they can be daring, new, innovative products made with the software and custom-made assets. I’ve reviewed one example of the former last year and – spoiler alert – in the list I showed, there are titles for both categories. Like a lot of indie products, many of these are somebody’s first attempt at producing a video game for a platform like Steam, and their work should be seen and reviewed as such. There’s always room for improvement. I gathered some of them through bundles on Steam, others were pointed to me as great examples of what the game-making software could achieve.

Today’s game was developed by NIVLACART, published by Degica (the creators of RPG Maker), and released to Steam on March 17th, 2017. It is NIVLACART’s first game, too, so I can't wait to see how well they've done. Let’s jump into Antagonist!



April 13, 2018

Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius

I was, at first, planning to do this one as part of a Steam Pack, but then I discovered I had too much to say about it, so here goes: Full article!

And that's approximately 0.02% of the entire selection of free games.
Steam houses all kinds of free games: There’s the basic free games, mostly short experiences that one made available for all to play without spending a dime, but there are bigger games in that category sometimes. There’s all the free-to-play stuff, which can be easily avoided. Then there's Early Access, with some games that are free, others that you'd pay for, but the result is the same: The developers want a base of players to test the game and report anything that has to be changed. They’re like betas open to the public.

From this page. And if you calculate...
Yep, more than 14 times the demanded amount.
Today’s game is… technically none of these. It’s free for a reason: It was funded on Kickstarter and its developers aren’t interested in making money off the first two chapters of this story they wanted to tell. (There IS a third chapter, titled Liberation Day, and it’s not free, but I will keep my focus today on the first two). Indie developer Love In Space set up a crowdfunding campaign for the story they desired to tell, and managed to not only gather the funds, they actually collected 14 times their original goal and then some. This is a story people wanted to see made, and they delivered. And so, this game was released by Sekai Project on July 2nd, 2014.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I won’t be critical towards it. One of the great things about Steam is how developers can simply release an update of their game as soon as said update is ready. This is one of the cases where I actually hope my criticism is constructive to the development team at Love In Space, and that they take it into account if they are to update the game in the future. Mind you, I have technical criticism as well as story-based criticism, but only the former really matters - I acknowledge that any of my gripes about the story are my problem only, as it is the story Love In Space wanted to tell. Also, to be clear, the free game on Steam includes the first and second games in the trilogy, titled “Sunrider: First Arrival” and “Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius” respectively. The free game on Steam has the name of the latter, but includes the former.



April 12, 2018

Short update

Hey guys. Something came up, and it's entirely possible that I'm gonna need to delay the review tomorrow, until maybe Saturday. Hopefully not, but it might happen. My apologies.

Before you ask, yes, it's about #ChangeTheChannel.

No, I don't plan to post a new article here about it.

Just to let you know, it's extremely bad.

I will add images to tomorrow's review during the day, hopefully it will be ready for publication tomorrow in the afternoon.

But I can't promise it will be ready by then.

April 6, 2018

Steam Pack 9


It’s time for more… FREE GAMES! Who says you have to pay to have fun with Steam games? Okay, they aren’t the longest games or the ones with the most content, but if they’re enjoyable and keep you occupied for an hour or longer, what’s the harm? Let’s get this started!

Pink Hour


This game and the next are playable advertisements for “Kero Blaster”, a retro-style game on Steam. “Pink Hour” follows a ghost-like (Kirby-like? Let's go with that) female pink character as she is tasked with retrieving an important file. This takes her through a level in which she has to jump across platforms and shoot her way through enemies.

Since when did retrieving a file required Indiana Jones'
level of heroism?
Since this is meant to be a short ad, there isn't a full game's worth of content. The regular game has only one level, and it’s actually pretty easy. There’s a boss at the end of the level. Also, after you pick up the file, some types of damage will destroy the file in your hands, so you have to be careful. Avoid those spikes!

When you get to the end, the pink character comes back to work, bringing the file, and receives a list of office supplies to order, along with a Thank You message from… the President?? Oh, and post-credits, she goes out to buy a game for someone else, and hears about Kero Blaster. Which opens a window for the game’s page on Steam.

Take thatg, you blocker of the path between me and my
office that needs this paper!

Five seconds into the level and we can already see
just how much harder this one is.
The best part is that, after beating this, you unlock a Hard Mode. It’s a new level in the same setting. Hard? That’s an understatement. It has it all: Enemies at bad places, precise platforming (with very, very small platforms hanging above endless pits in many areas)…

The game’s window is quite small, but you can resize it in the options. I played through this one and its sequel without ever doing that – not that it makes the game any easier…

If you want a quick game, try this one. If you want a challenge, try the HARD level afterwards. It lives up to its name. This title is short and sweet, and if you do beat it (something that did, in fact, take me an hour), you get a teaser for the sequel, which takes place… in Heaven!

Pink Heaven


She doesn't have a weapon on her, yet she blasts the enemies!
Epic!
Yup! Jumping into this one right away! The pink protagonist woke up in Heaven (with gloomy, grey skies), and sees the shopkeeper of a store she likes. However, he gets abducted by a spaceship. Rescue mission! This one has actually two levels. At the end of the first one, the pink protagonist meets the character who sent her up here, and he asks her to choose between gentleness (an umbrella) or strength (an upgrade to her weapon). The second level is a bit trickier, but she carries through and fights the spaceship at the end. It can protect itself from her blasts, but since you’re on a complete floor, it’s not very difficult.

Yay, I'm going to turn into Umbrella Kirby!
Wait no, I am not Kirby.

The protagonist finds the shopkeeper and rescues him. Then they flee from the ship, falling down from Heaven. If you picked Gentleness, the two glide down with the umbrella. If you picked Strength, they both fall. Either way, she wakes up in bed, thinking this was a dream… until she goes to the shop. If you picked Gentleness, he will be there, working, just fine, and will say it wasn’t a dream. Picked Strength? He got hurt falling off Heaven, and has to heal so someone replaces him. Oops.

And that's not the toughest part by far.
Once again, there’s a HARD level available afterwards, and OH BOY. The hard level ditches the story, and is even harder than the one in Pink Hour. The reason is simple: Same tough platforming sections, same number of lives, but two levels – and no matter where you get a Game Over, you have to start back at the beginning of the first level. Let me also remind you that in both Pink Hour and Pink Heaven, you have only two HP. Not that it matters since you’ll probably spend more time in the HARD levels and the emptiness beneath is your greatest foe.

Why must those clouds be so slippery??
The HARD mode has two bosses, a spiky monster and the spaceship – and the spaceship fight is tough, as you must jump on clouds while shooting upwards – and only when its shields go down, which only happens over a pit – so to hurt it, you must jump between clouds.

There are no achievements for either game, but you will be happy if you can beat the HARD levels. They’re short, fun little retro ventures. And incredibly cute, too! You should enjoy them. And if so, you might want to check out Kero Blaster!

Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt


Princess Remedy is a graduate of the Saturnian Healing School, beamed down to the world in order to bring some goodness and rest to the world – oh, and rescue the land’s Prince, too. Created by Ludosity for the Games Against Ebola game jam and released on December 1st, 2014, this is a nice little game with RPG-like features. It’s not an RPG though, more of a… horizontal shoot’em-up maybe?

Everything's so dark 'round here... let's make it bright!
Princess Remedy begins her journey in the minimalist, pixelated Hurtland. Along her journey, she encounters many people in need of help, for any reason: Their legs hurt, they’re choking on bread crumbs, or they’re feeling dead, or someone made fun of them. Either case, Remedy accepts to help them, which takes her into the fight screen. There, her job is to shoot at the various enemies and defeat them, for they represent the source of the person’s ill. The enemies are gone? The person feels better! Every creature represents a sort of ailment, whether it’s physical, emotional or mental. They all have different movement and attack patterns, and it’s sometimes the combination of enemies that can make a fight truly difficult. Not to mention the obstacles!

Wait, how do I reach that chest?
Oh right, there's a secret passageway up there!

If you think that's a lot of enemies, you have seen nothing
yet.
The writing in this game is quite funny, too, as each person “healed” will have a little comment afterwards. Healing someone gives Princess Remedy one more Hit Point to complete her quest. There are many Treasure Chests scattered around as well, containing additional Hit Points but also upgrades to her weapons (which are actually healing items like syringes), her attack power, her own regeneration (she has very limited HP but recovers some every second), or her number of flasks (Remedy shoots her normal weapon automatically. Flasks, bomb-like weapons, can however be vital in clearing up some rooms filled with enemies).

Oh, by the way... this is only Part 1 of this boss.
It's FOUR SCREENS of mini-bosses.
Good thing they remain stationary.
A long quest later, we find the Prince, who has been afflicted with EVERYTHING. You fight a multi-part boss there. After the source of his hurting has been killed, the Prince thanks Remedy and declares her the Queen of this land ('cause somehow he can do that), giving her the option of marrying anyone she healed or interacted with on her trip – male, female, darklord, skeleton, frog, treasure chest, duck, doesn’t matter. There’s a screen for each of those. There’s also a few secrets to discover, some of which are pretty hard to get. There’s that jealous chest, which won’t give you its contents if you opened any other chest before it. There’s also that box of chocolates, used to reach someone who has a romantic history with Remedy, and who can have her broken heart healed. Can you reach 100% completion?

I... accidentally married an empty treasure chest.
At least it looks happy about it.
Available in Normal, Hard and Master difficulties, Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt is a very effective, funny and endearing retro-looking game. A unique concept, lots of secrets, and a great replay value. Can you believe this game was made in four days? Seriously, it’s awesome. If I could have one point of criticism, it’s that the Hard and Master difficulties get very heavy on the enemy bullets, maybe too hard on there. But then again, that may just be me who sucks. There’s also no repercussions for failing a healing task, though that may be for the best considering how tough things can get on the later difficulties. Its length is okay – one hour to get through the base game, more if you play through the three difficulty settings and seek out all the secrets. Also, you cannot pause during battles, you lose instantly instead to come back to the overworld map – not that it matters since the fights are fairly short.

Try the free game, and if you liked it, perhaps you would be interested in the sequel, which you have to pay for, though it’s pretty inexpensive. It came out in September 2016!

Serena


Our Cabin in tne Woods: Now in sepia!
In this point-and-click game developed and published by Senscape, you are a protagonist (unnamed, and unseen, aside from a photograph) waiting for his love, Serena (also unseen, aside from that photograph), in a log cabin deep the woods. The photo starts out with her face blurred. He seems to have forgotten even what she looks like! However, he decides to look around the cabin for anything that reminds him of her, and soon the picture gets clearer. He remembers her now. In fact, every item in the cabin reminds him of her.

How much time has passed that I had to jog my memory in
order to remember what she looked like?
Uncertain whether she’ll ever come back to the cabin, he reminisces on the time spent with Serena. He has three important lines of monologue for each item, followed by three less important lines that appear once you’ve read everything an item had to reveal. Sometimes, you can hear Serena, clear as day in the protagonist’s memory (and she’s voiced by PushingUpRoses, an avid fan of point-and-click games, as her YouTube channel proves). The main character is voiced by Josh Mandel, a former staffer from Sierra, a company famous for its devilishly tough point-and-click games.

As he walks around the cabin and reminisces, his joyful remembrance of his lover turns to sorrow and worry, at the thought that maybe she won’t return. And from there, he gets considerably bitterer… But that’s really where I should stop.

Yep, that sure is a lamp. A dusty old lamp.
This title is technically closer to a walking simulator, as the protagonist rarely interacts with the items around – aside from opening drawers and armoires. Most of the interest is in the text and the shift in mood as you progress. There are some pretty interesting visual elements that change due to the tonal change, though. All the items offer three new lines of dialogue when we get into a new dominant mood of the protagonist, and it’s only by reading through all this that you get to the final punch, a slow burn that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to reach.

Even the windows are dark. What's with this guy and his
apparent fear of cleaning? Unless...
This is a good example of a point-and-click environmental narrative game – what smaller titles like Fingerbones should have been. Lots of items to interact with. If I may critique, I would say that there are quite a few drawers you can open that contain nothing that could be interacted with – so what’s the point of allowing us to open those if they contain nothing of mportance? One of them even contains a wristwatch, but it has no text to it. The game is also, as far as I know, impossible to set in windowed mode, and it will glitch out your mouse if you try to Alt-Shift away from it to view other windows – especially when you start playing the game. There’s no pause menu, no way to adjust settings such as screen resolution or sound.

These books may be the funniest part of the game.
All the references, heck yeah.


But all in all, this is an interesting experience. You should give it a try, mostly because it’s a labor of love, constructed by multiple people who worked on old-school adventure games in the past. Have I mentioned this was officially classified as a horror game?

Voices From the Sea


Warning: Cuteness Overload. If your head tends to explode from “too much cute”, carefully avoid this game (and most others discussed in this article so far) and… go see a doctor, because that ain’t normal.

Ack! A girl! So close! Personal bubble, learn what that is!
“Voices From The Sea” was developed and published by Zelva Inc. Cantus is 13yo boy who feels disconnected from the rest of the world; he struggles to talk with anyone around him, lashes out at his mom, keeps headphones on to look like he wants to be left alone, never smiles… but he does like one thing: The beach, and collecting seashells. On his daily excursion to the beach, someday he finds an unexpected visitor there: A girl who presents herself as Maris. There’s something odd about her, but it’s hard to say what. Maybe it’s because she behaves like a hyperactive pixie girl with a constant smile on her face. After she and Cantus meet, she becomes determined in making Cantus smile before the end of the week. And so begins a short tale of friendship in which, every day, he comes to the beach, she tries to cheer him up, they collect a seashell (with more than 18 different shells, each with their own bit of dialogue) and say goodbye until the next day.

Huh. Some can actually do the .3. face. Or so I think.

Perhaps this strange girl, with hair blue like the sea, eyes orange like the sun, and a dress white like the clouds, will instill in him a bit of the humanity he seems to have lost...

How? How did Maris manage to make such a beautiful
castle? It's nearly impossible! It's like... some
impossible level of talent! She's... too perfect!
Extremely sweet and cute (and fairly short – 30 minutes at best, if you’re a fast reader), this tale may prove more touching than you thought at first glance. The concept is very basic, and there isn’t much in the way of gameplay. Just lean back, read the text, enjoy the story. The story has some depth as you progress through it. Collecting all seashells requires beating the story about three times. Your choices don’t really matter in the long run, though, as each day goes back to collecting seashells. The character development from Cantus is interesting, at least.

The game’s free version was funded by Kickstarter, but there’s a Plus version that can be bought as DLC. It contains a fully-voiced storyline, a gallery of images, and a greater story. I personally feel fine playing the game just once, but if you play it and enjoy it, perhaps the Plus version is something you’d like to look into purchasing.

I wouldn't bank on that, Maris. Cantus is of the very
non-smiling disposition.

There we go! 5 games, yet again. Meet me next week for… um… another Steam game, I guess!

April 2, 2018

#ChangeTheChannel : The update

So I'm posting this late Monday, just before going to work.

I mentioned, in my previous article, that the producers who had left Channel Awesome were building a document detailing all of their grievances with the website. Everything that had been revealed by the 20+ producers on the Twitter thread, to which even more has been added.

This is where you can read the document. It's 69 pages of grievances, some of which are confirmed bamong various producers, along with a lot of new stuff. I am warning you all right away: This is a difficult read. It contains horror stories that wouldn't have flown in any other company. The last few pages, in particular, contain a LOT of new elements that weren't described in the Twitter thread. Including actual sexual assault. I am not kidding.




As for how I feel on the issue: Well, I already said it on my previous post about #ChangeTheChannel. I was angry that so many stories had been hidden from the public eye for so long, but I was far angrier at the upper management from Channel Awesome, which responded to the controversy by attempting to ignore it entirely, even though that was going to blow up in their faces eventually.

Then, to prove that miracles do happen, Channel Awesome actually responded!


I suggest you click on the image for a full-screen version, as there is a lot of text. You want the short version? Here's the short version.

"We're actually responding, look! Basic 'we have a good enterprise' damage-control PR that wouldn't fly from a respectable enterprise. We fired Mike Ellis years ago, wasn't that enough? We're gonna improve; sorry you all got so offended. But you guys have critiques that aren't 'constructive', we're probably gonna ignore you. We're gonna keep going no matter what you guys do, so stick it."

I... am not really exaggerating here. What they do is a classic non-apology. They're basically blaming the victims. Which, considering the sort of abusive personality that's been revealed coming from Mike Michaud in the Twitter thread and Google document, isn't actually a surprise.

And you have to realize, I stupied in social communications in university. I've had PR classes. I know how this stuff works. Not only did they do it badly, they did ity spectacularly badly. Hint hint, when you fuck up, you acknowledge you fucked up, especially in a wide-released "apology".

You know, when I said I was inspired by Doug Walker to start my own blog? That came with some of the comedic traits. Getting super-angry at stuff as trivial as films, that was everyone's schtick in the early days of the medium of online video reviews. Even then, I realize I was more mellow, more agreeable even when I began.

I realized long ago that, no matter how angry I get and how overblown people's reactions to stuff may be, there is nary a film, game, or piece of media out there that can actually harm me. There may be something out there. But overall, an exaggerated response is good for some jokes, little more. As my interests shifted, I began to change from someone angry at the stuff he reviews to someone angry at the stuff that often surrounds the works reviewed - i.e., horrible business practices, actors suffering, companies being assholes. The real life stories are worse, because they affect real people, are the burden of many to carry, are the things that often require a massive event to come out into the open.

Works of fiction can make me angry at times, but it's ultimately a way to make jokes. It's part of the act, it's the man behind the curtain making the reaction worse than it is for kicks and giggles. Shitty real life events, however, make me genuinely angry. I am mad at this. Everything the document reveals pisses me off. The non-apology offered in return pisses me off even more, on a level that I would have never thought possible. Not in an overblown way, mind you; I'm not raging behind my keyboard, foaming at the mouth, typing this with enough force to break my keys. The rage comes from a more calculated, reasonable place.

A silent place that nonetheless wants to scream all the obscenities I know at one guy I used to admire, that guy's brother, and their puppetmaster. I have already made my opinion clear on Twitter, and will probably keep on posting there if I have anything else to add on the matter. This is, most likely, the second and final post I'll make for my blog  about this hashtag.

I will, however, keep an eye on the hashtag and anything that may come from it.