Monthly Archives: December 2015

N8 R8S 8: Ludum Dare 34 Part 2

Last week I bounced from page to page on the Ludum Dare site, just selecting 8 jam games at random to play, rate, and present to you. This week, I was a little more selective in my choices in that I picked games out arbitrarily and played ones that seemed interesting from a first glance. For this reason, the games I played this week were undoubtedly of a slightly higher quality than the ones from last week.  Just something to keep in mind.

1/8. Burger Run – This game is so simple it’s kind of hard for me to say much about it. You run and jump, and you’re on a treadmill. You get hit with burgers as you go and those slow you down. But if you just hold the run key down and constantly jump, you can run forever. So there is no real challenge. You just listen to the catchy song, hold the right arrow down, and tap on the up arrow as you watch your crazy looking giraffe dude run infinitely. It’s silly. It’s not the worst jam game I’ve ever played. But it’s… it’s… Well. Watching this gif is just as good as playing the actual game… So there…


2/8. Source Tree – A music game, with similarities to Stepmania or DDR, but with only 2 buttons. Which is as easy as it sounds. The music is quite lovely and it got me in a game groove, but for the most part I was just tapping the keys to no real rhythm because the game didn’t keep pace the the music that well and it didn’t punish me for not paying attention. The growing plant is totally irrelevant. The game just went on forever after I finished one song, so I didn’t really play much after that.


3/8. Urbo – I don’t know what a ‘win-state’ is in this little click game, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun or good or anything like that. It’s simple int that you choose one of two possible societal directions (like education or health) and then your city grows. I’m not sure how your choices affect the gameplay, but I assume there was some sort of link… At one point as I was playing, I clicked off the screen for a minute and 15 new city tiles popped up all at once when I clicked back in. I had no idea what I was doing pretty much the whole time I was playing. I just kept choosing health, education, and sometimes wealth but I couldn’t notice it having any effect. Still, it was very pretty, smooth, and a solid entry. No quit button tho. :/


4/8. American Excess – Excellent sound and visual detail. A fairly cute game but truly hilarious. The controls are a bit gimmicky, in my mind – but they worked for sure and were challenging to work with at times. The theme was right up my alley but the actual mechanics and aim of the game didn’t really have much to do with the anti-consumerist message that seemed to be at the center. Altogether a fun game with fun visuals and audio. Favorite line from the game spoken over the intercom: “Mr. Costello, can you please come to the front desk. Your vibrator has been repaired successfully”


5/8. noa noa – First thing you’ll notice are the amazing 3D animations and the super-fun music and sound effects. This game feels so polished and smooth, even if it is only a 2-button jam game. It takes the form of a classic Tamagotchi-style virtual pet in which you have to play simple mini games, shop for accessories, and show love to your little creature. It has stats that are all affected by how you interact with it and how well you play the mini-games. Though I never actually owned one of those little plastic eggs back in their hey-day, I had a lot of fun with this one. Unfortunately, I grew impatient with the repetitive ‘exercising’ minigame and left my little pet at the virtual SPCA along with the millions of forgotten ’90s Tamagotchi. Still a great jame entry.


6/8. Seeds of Sky – Upon beginning, I dug myself into a hole and was left trapped. Restarting, I found myself in a pretty well-made homage to Starseed Pilgrim. The platforming is smooth for the most part and I only encountered one or two little bugs in which I would either phase through a wall or glitch out one of the goats that ram you off edges. I actually played through the whole thing and enjoyed it completely. The growth mechanics weren’t nearly as in depth as Starseed Pilgrim, but with 48 hours to complete the game, that’s to be expected. Not without its flaws, but a good entry.


7/8. GROWEES – Visually impressive hexagonal tile-based Othello game in which you play through 10 levels where you’re objective is to swap all tiles of one type out for tiles of another type. The gameplay is extremely simple and plays the same way as many games that have come before – such as Reversi or the good ol’ flash game Hexxagon. I could see this working really well in its current state on a mobile device, or as a more fleshed out puzzle game in general. Relaxing atmosphere, calming music. Easy. Very solid entry despite its simplicity.


8/8. Conga Master – Two-button controls masterfully utilized in what is probably the most fun Ludum game I’ve played so far. Worm your way in and out of all the people on the dance floor as your grow your chain of conga liners. It’s just the right level of challenging as you work to keep your momentum up and your chain growing. The music is catchy and the pixelated graphics offer the perfect level of goofy flashiness. I was happy to play this game a time or two again after I lost the first time. More music, dance floors, and maybe an extra mechanic or two would make this game stand up to a huge portion of the small titles out in the ‘real’ world already.


Check back next week!  I’ll be playing one more round of jam games before the end of LD 34 and the finalists are announced.

follow n8 @UncleEggma

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N8 R8S 8: Ludum Dare 34 Part 1

Ludum Dare #34 is in full swing with it’s TWO concurrent themes: Growing and Two-button controls. Over the next few weeks I’ll be diving into a random selection of this jam’s games and giving my brief thoughts on each, all the while ranking them from 1-8 according to my personal whim and unseasoned taste. When the Jam comes to a conclusion, I’ll also be taking a closer look at the winners to find out just what makes a great jam game. Without further prelude…

1/8 Neon Junk Collector – While visually stimulating, this game barely worked for me. The two-button control scheme was interesting and collecting smaller blobs to keep your larger blob growing is a well-tested gameplay mechanic, but the two combined into a clunky mess of vaporwave space trash. When I finally got the controls down, I was terrible at the game. Not sure if that’s because it was a hard game or because I just suck.


2/8 Escape of the Alien Invader – The only procedurally generated game on the list – which is saying quite a lot for a jam game. Lots of placeholder art for what I imagine could be a neat addition to the realm of ‘roguelike-ish’ games out there. Weapon upgrades were fun and the gameplay – while simple – was still challenging. A few glitches in the level-generation process, but a decent jam game, to be sure.


3/8 Dead Silence: A Walk in the Park – If it weren’t for the fact that this game had me laughing the entire time I played, it would have been ranked lower than the other two so far. You play a killer snowman who chases victims around and eats them… or something. It really had nothing to do with either of the possible Ludum Dare themes, but the ridiculous screams of the innocent villagers was enough for me to ignore the many flaws.


4/8 Gravity – Essentially an Asteroids-style game but without the ability to actually move your character independently. Instead, you place ‘black holes’ (attract objects) and ‘white holes’ (repel objects) around the field of play. You need to move your crazy-looking celestial being icon around space, avoiding asteroids and collecting spaceship parts all using this mechanic. I had fun playing the web version and it controlled quite well. I was killed when I accidentally touched the edge of  the map, and felt no compulsion to play again. The two-button controls scheme was solid and I like the idea (repel and attract), but I think it could be implemented in a different type of game to give a unique and generally better experience.


5/8 Fight or Flight – A highly-simplistic top-down shooter with smooth controls (space to aim, click to move and shoot) and some really nice lighting effects and sound/music. I could easily imagine these mechanics transferring over to a more complex game in which I’m not simply navigating my way through a linear maze. Nothing negative to say, but since it was so basic, there’s not much in particular positive to say, either.


6/8 Delta Swing – Left-click to shoot, right-click to use your grappling hook. A really smooth 3D game in which you’re constantly moving forward. After playing this prototype, I really like the idea of a 2 button first person game. It’s pretty exciting using the grapple to navigate the world while keeping the spiders, ants, and bees at bay. I didn’t notice the mushrooms growing all over the map until I read the description, but this is a neat jam game that met both of Ludum Dare’s themes. Hopefully this will turn into something more polished!


7/8 Immune – Intuitive 2-button controls with some solid graphics and a killer background song. And all of it available in your browser! The game was fun and the difficulty ramps up as your little infectious blob gets larger and larger. I can easily imagine this game getting some more work and detail and becoming a significant web or mobile game. Met both of the jam’s two criteria.


8/8 Growing Sakura – An impressively difficult puzzle game with two-button controls and a theme around growth in a hexagonal grid. This game comes with 40 levels and I struggled for several minutes with just the first 4! I usually imagine myself as a pretty decent puzzle-solver, but Growing Sakura had me stumped in more than one spot. And it was the kind of stumped that didn’t feel unfair or annoying. These levels can be solved – and it’s a good feeling solving them.


So that’s all for this week. I’ll be playing another 8 this coming week and will update N8R8 accordingly. Cheers!

follow n8 @UncleEggma

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N8B8: Fallout 4 is bad.

I haven’t made a post on this blog in a little over a month – back right before Fallout 4 came out. The idea I had in my head was to make some sort of silly series on the game, detailing my experience in short blog-snippets. I would do a goofy run through with a melee-only character and update N8R8 every time something particularly funny or otherwise noteworthy would happen, or maybe I’d just give the game my time, consideration, and care and write a thorough review. But now that I’m sitting at thirty hours of gameplay and zero blog entries, I’ve decided to give up on both.  I will not make a happy-go-lucky series in which a nudist with iron fists scours the wasteland in search of his adult son and I will not write a review for this game. Instead, I’m just going to ramble and sputter vague complaints and give Fallout 4 a N8R8 of N/A because I don’t think it’s wise to try to rank a monstrous AAA game like this in the same way I rank the games I actually care about.

I hopped into Fallout 4 riding on everyone else’s enthusiasm even though I had none of my own. I stupidly thought I needed to be in the same boat as everyone else. I wanted to have some content ready on a bi-weekly basis so I could get people to read N8R8, right in the midst of the F4 explosion. I ignored my gut reaction after watching the trailer, reading the details, and watching the gameplay. I told myself, “hey it’s a huge Bethesda game. It’s going to be a good time no matter what.”


But I was wrong. I spent thirty hours playing this game, and while i can’t say I wasn’t entertained, the quality of entertainment was pitiable. I felt stupid as I played this game, somehow detached and shut-off from the world of video games I care so much about. I trudged through the trope-infused story, played a few dozen repetitive side quests, crafted, modded, and built up a clunky settlement or two… all with this easy, vapid smirk across my face.

Fallout 4 offered nothing challenging in terms of gameplay or narration. It confronted none of my expectations about what a ‘typical’ Bethesda game consists of. If anything, it reinforced how I’ve felt about their games since my time spent with Skyrim. This is not a good RPG. This is not a good adventure game. This is not a good FPS. This is not a good exploration game. Fallout 4 is a purely mediocre mish-mash of game mechanics that belong to all of those ‘genres.’ It aims to please the everygamer, and so fails to accurately please the fans of any one camp, or even those who would say they’re a fan of every camp. The game’s scope is too wide. A fundamental layer of depth that existed in previous Bethesda titles has been getting slowly sliced away since the last generation of consoles.

Or maybe that’s the wrong analogy. Maybe a more accurate picture of what’s going on here is that of Frankenstein’s monster.  Bethesda thinks that by conjoining all the best parts of all the most popular types of games, a good game is guaranteed. The fact is that we’re presented with a chunky, clunky, buggy mess of nothing in particular. It’s not an adventure game. Or an RPG. Or a crafting game, exploring game, or a shooter (OK well maybe it’s that, at least). It’s a Bethesda game. And it’s got all the birthmarks, blemishes, scars, and handicaps that Bethesda games are so known for. In their movement toward creating games for the ‘modern gamer’ (AKA the everygamer and everyone in his immediate family) we wind up missing something genuine and serious. In place of a a feeling of uniqueness, the games have grown more accessible, more homogeneous, and more entertaining.

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And that’s a weird thing to say. How could a ‘more entertaining’ game possibly be anything but positive? And I guess the answer lies in the true question, which is, ‘entertaining to which audience?’

Compare what I’m talking about to TV. It’s all entertainment. But the quality of entertainment is intrinsically dependent on who is doing the watching and critiquing. To many, Family Guy is quality entertainment. To others, The Big Bang Theory is quality entertainment. I don’t mean to say anything about the people who like Family Guy, or The Big Bang Theory, or Fallout 4. But I can’t help but consume those sources of entertainment and feel worse because of them.

So that’s why I haven’t posted, I think.  The whole time I played Fallout 4, I was trying to figure out how I could turn that mediocre experience into something that people would want to read. Rather than looking critically at the shitty time I was having, I just kept on playing, clearing dungeon after dungeon and skipping every shitty dialogue scene I could. I was being entertained, but in that mind-numbing, life-sucking way. That same way your uncle is entertained by Fox’s 24-hour news cycle and reruns of 7th heaven.

So the next time I encounter a piece of entertainment that gives me that rotten feeling in my stomach, that feeling of wasted life, I’m going to make sure I don’t sink thirty hours of my real-life time mucking around with my stupid companions in my trash-hole of a settlement. There are better games, made by more genuine groups of people. Those are the games that deserved to be played and praised.


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