Category: Feature

First Impressions: Flinthook

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Oh, crap. This game is difficult.

The first thing you need to know about Flinthook is that it is merciless in its mechanics. It’s a roguelike, so that means I’m back at the beginning of the level every two minutes or so. I’m having such a hard time just trying to shoot enemies, fire my hook in the right direction and not step in the bad stuff all at the same time. I loved Spelunky, where I felt like I was actually making progress in the caverns before dying a hero’s death (not really). Flinthook is not like that. Flinthook doesn’t care about your feelings.

On the upside, the game is beautiful and has really fun music. I mean, check this out. This is cool. I fell in love the second this started playing, not knowing that I would be crying within five minutes.

So, onto the combat itself.

You have a gun. It shoots plasma orbs. You can slow down time. I always forget this feature exists, because I’m too distracted. It would probably help a lot if I remembered to use it. I could not fathom playing this game with a keyboard and mouse, however, if you’re using a controller I hope you can get used to everything being mapped onto one side because you can’t change it. Hahahahaha!

Ha.

…Damn.

Honestly? This doesn’t bother me. While playing I never stopped to think, “man, I really wish I could reconfigure the controls.” Some people might, but for me, it wasn’t a deal breaker. I’m just bad at the game, and a different control scheme is not going to save me.

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Fortunately, even though I’m dying a lot I’m still making progress. I’m still leveling up and collecting items that will open up new worlds to explore. The downside is that the worlds are all a bit samey. I haven’t played far enough to see if this ever changes, but it seems like all the worlds are pretty much the same theme which might get a little bland after a while. It also seems like there’s a fair amount of grinding involved. This will either be hit or miss for some folks. I personally don’t mind shutting off my brain for thirty minutes on the couch while I grapple hook around and break things. It’s cathartic.

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So far, I like Flinthook a fair bit but I really wish it was on the Switch. I’d like to curl up in bed and play it.

Developer: Tribute Games (Shawn says he enjoys the look of their stuff but doesn’t actually like playing any of it. Shawn, you’re not going to like this one either. Go back to Spelunky.)

Release date: April 18th, 2017

Platforms: PS4 (played), Steam PC, Xbox One

Regular price: $14.99

Official website

 

In Memoriam: The Fur Babies of Gameluv

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My fiance and I were sitting in the veterinarian’s waiting room filling out paperwork for our cat. He was a stray, and I had no idea what kind of cat he was, let alone his actual date of birth. Still, we had to jot something down on the line.

“When did Super Mario Galaxy 2 come out?” I asked him. He shrugged.

“Uh, 2008? 2009, I think?” He replied.

“No, that doesn’t sound right.” I said as I quickly googled the answer. He looked at me like I was crazy for even thinking about a  video game at a time like this, but it was relevant to me.

“Ah, May 2010. I thought so!” I said and jotted down the date onto the paper.

I adopted my cat, Mocha, around the same time Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out and it’s the only way I was able to remember his date of birth. This may seem like a small, insignificant thing to everyone else but to me it meant something. I was so busy taking care of my new kitten that the release of a game I had been anticipating didn’t seem important. I never did get around to playing it. Mocha proved to be too much of a fun distraction.

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Years later, when it was time to make a logo for the Gameluv sail in the MMORPG Archeage, it seemed like an obvious choice to display our cats. Why wouldn’t we? Our precious pets were an integral part of our lives. They watched us game, they purred on our laps while we held our controllers. They meowed loudly for attention when we didn’t want to be interrupted, because that’s how cats roll. I’m glad that we paid homage to them on that sail, especially now when a few of them have taken the trip over the rainbow bridge.

I didn’t get enough time with my Mocha, he was only seven. That vet trip was his last, and what I thought was a “better safe than sorry” check up turned out to be our worst nightmare. He took the same trip Molly did recently, and I remember how painful it was to watch Shawn and Katy grieve her. She was a good kitty, too. If there is a special place where cats go after death, I really hope that Mocha and Molly can hang out with one another to compare notes on their gaming parents and how they are now immortalized forever in our hearts and on the Gameluv sail.

Rest in peace, fur babies. We’ll miss you.

Also pictured and deceased: The adorable orange kitty in the sail, who belongs to Gameluv’s Shane! Katy recalls its name being Maus. For some reason, I thought it was Tank. Perhaps Shane could let us know which beloved kitty is on the sail, but they also have a spot in our heart.

Help, I’m drowning in the pool of my own back log

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This screenshot has nothing to do with the post, except that while I was typing up all the games I’m playing I remembered how Shawn told me Zoombinis was on Steam. Crap, I wanna play this too!

Hi guys. Long time, no write. You may recall me as being the woman who was strangely obsessive about a certain marine arcade game at the boardwalk. Still in love with it, by the way. So, you may be thinking that I probably haven’t been up to much, gaming wise. Actually, this post is a legit SOS because I have so many games that I need to either pick up or finish it’s unreal.

So, let’s see what I’ve got on my docket right now…

Thimbleweed Park – A game in the spirit of the 90s point-and-click adventure titles that Lucas Arts used to put out. I have an impressions piece I’ll be posting about this.

Yooka-Laylee – I’ve been waiting on this for forever. Reviews are…not good. Mostly they’re complaining that it’s very 90s to early 2000s adventure platformers. Way to miss the point, guys. That’s exactly what people wanted and why they kickstarted it to begin with. Anyway, the frame rate issues that people are reporting kinda scare me, but I’m going to remain optimistic.

Persona 5 – Yeah, so this game alone will end up being more than a hundred hours. Which would be perfectly fine…if this was the only game I purchased this year. Anyway, I’m about seven hours in so far and I’m really pleased with it so far. It’s so stylish it hurts and the soundtrack is of course, brilliant. But I have no idea when I’m going to find time to finish it. Maybe in twelve years. Just in time for them to re-release with bonus content or something.

Story of Seasons: A Trio of Towns – I feel so bad for neglecting my farm. Totally going to woo Ford, by the way.

Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness – I have the collectors edition of this dang thing, too! It’s really good. It’s just that whenever I lay down to play it in bed on my vita (yes, people still own those…or at least, just me), I end up falling asleep.

Runner2 – I just got this off Limited Run Games and I played it for a solid hour. Strangely soothing for my anxiety.

Flinthook – Hopefully will be nabbing this off Limited Run Games in a couple days. Found out this game exists from Fangamer, when I saw their awesome t-shirts. Ironically that is how I found out about Thimbleweed Park. I think their marketing teams need to step up their game a bit…

Ray Gigant – Another vita title I’ll be nabbing off Limited Run Games if I can manage to remember.

SERIOUSLY WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME FINISH SOMETHING BECAUSE THEN…

Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Haven’t even TOUCHED IT yet. When will I be able to?! I still have WORK I need to do, guys. And then worst of all…

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood – Let’s be honest. I’ll be playing this, mainly. Because it’s an MMO, which means it’s a horrible time sink.

I think I might just cancel my pre-order for Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia because let’s be REAL. I’m never going to play it. Not at this rate. Nope. Maybe I’ll get around to it in 2024. I don’t need to buy anymore games for another five or six years.

…But I know that once Supergiant’s Pyre comes out I’ll be throwing money at it. Geez, it’s feast or famine with the gaming industry. Last year I didn’t even really play anything other than Final Fantasy XIV because there was nothing interesting to me coming out. Now it’s a torrential downpour of games. What are you all playing? Are you collapsing under the weight of your back log or are you somehow managing?

Marvel Games Retrospective 3: X-Men by Konami

This is the third in my series of reminiscing on Marvel games of the past and present (although almost three years late!), and we’re going to revisit the mighty mutants of Marvel, the Uncanny X-Men, in their first arcade game! [Read Part 1 and Part 2 here]

X-Men was a unique title in that it had three cabinets available for play: there was a two player cabinet, a four player cabinet, and a massive six player, two screen behemoth. While multiple screen arcade games weren’t new, as Darius and The Ninja Warriors had multiple screens, X-Men’s six player count was definitely something that hadn’t quite been tried before and wasn’t quite duplicated afterwards. The game was released in 1992 and was an instant hit in the arcades, a time in which arcades in the US had been revitalized thanks to the success of Street Fighter II.

Wolverine is pretty sure this place is gonna get real crowded real soon.

Panorama!!!

The source of the arcade game was inspired by the 1989 animated pilot titled “Pryde of the X-Men,” wherein Kitty Pryde is introduced to the team in quite a hit-the-ground-running kind of fashion. It featured Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, and of course, Wolverine, against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by Magneto, taking the fight all the way to Asteroid M. Now, retrospectively, “Pryde of the X-Men” isn’t very good. There’s a lot wrong with it. And for some bizarre reason, Wolverine is given an Australian accent, which may or may not have foretold the future where Hugh Jackman was to faithfully take the claws for about 17 years. But if you’re a Marvel loving kid waking up in the wee hours of the morning in 1989 to watch the Marvel Action Universe, a syndicated block of cartoons featuring reruns of old Spider-Man (And sometimes His Amazing Friends) episodes and, for some reason, Robocop, seeing that was a very pleasant and very welcome surprise.

A couple years before that whole Adamantium snafu....

Wolverine against Magneto??? That’s crazy talk!!!

The art style in the game is very much influenced by that pilot, although with a slight anime touch, and it looked great as a result. Time has worn that away a little, but it still looks pretty good even if a bit sparse. The screen fills with enemies, explosions, and fire and it still keeps up with all the action. It was a step up from the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game in every way.

The gameplay is simple. Like TMNT, you fight in a wide plane in all eight directions. You get three buttons: attack, jump, and mutant power. You can combine attack and jump, but the mutant power is a little tricky. You get a limited number of them, which only refill by one at the end of a stage, and on top of that, using one will drain your health by four points. And that’s the kicker: this game is hard, designed to do nothing but suck down your quarters like nobody’s business, and unless you’re bringing a full posse, you are inevitably going to spend a few dollars on this game. Forget about going it alone, too. Shawn and I did beat it in the arcade once, with a random third player, and I’m pretty sure by the end of it we were all tapped out of money. The Japanese version is a little more forgiving, with the insertion of health packs and bonus items, but not by much.

Kitty's going to be fine. It's the Master Mold who should be worried!

The game even features some characters not featured in “Pryde of the X-Men,” like Mystique, the Wendigo, the Master Mold, and Bonebreaker of the Reavers.

Of all the characters, Wolverine was of course the best melee character and Colossus had the best mutant power, so people went to play those two first. Cyclops and Nightcrawler were average, and Storm was fine in a pinch, but why does she have to fight with a staff? Nobody wanted to be Dazzler though. Dazzler was lame, they said. Why play as Dazzler? Well, I’m going to shock everyone here and say that Dazzler is an OK character. Sure, she started out as a rollerskating disco queen, and sure, she was basically thrown away after the 1991 X-Men comic reboot, but there is nothing wrong with Dazzler. In fact, in the game, she even has a neat flip throw that gets her out of some situations and her mutant power is not bad when used efficiently. Would the world have preferred Jean Grey, Rogue, or Psylocke? Sure, but they weren’t in “Pryde of the X-Men.” Dazzler is fine.

Alison Blaire is blowing up the charts, her new single is fire

Dazzler’s power is to turn sound into hard light. She can handle herself.

Another thing that I should mention is the sound. Not just the music, which was really good arcade style music, but the voice samples throughout the game are pretty much legendary. The game starts off with a short narration and then after Charles Xavier asks you to “Go and SAVE the CITY!” we are off! Now, it is highly doubtful that any of the voice talent from the “Pryde of the X-Men” were available for the game in the same way that some of the X-Men animated series cast was used for Capcom’s later X-Men: Children of the Atom arcade game, but the voices are pretty great. One of the more fun things to do in the game is to interrupt the level boss as they make their introductory speech. Memories of “Pyro will—ugh!” and “Nothing moves the—” are pretty fresh in my mind and always fun to replicate. Of course, everyone remembers Magneto’s “Welcome to die!” and it always gives us reason to laugh while we punch him in his face. Or, better yet, use Colossus’ mutant power and get him to yell a very satisfying roar. This game was very loud, and since arcade operators were not shy to turn the volume up on the cabinet, all the explosions and yells drove home how epic this game felt.

"Welcome to die?" How about I welcome my fist to your nose, buddy?!

“Welcome to die?” How about I welcome my fist to your nose, buddy?!

X-Men was released at the height of the battle between the Genesis and the SNES and everyone at the time wondered why it never came to consoles. Turtles In Time made a very nice SNES game, so you could imagine that a little work on Konami’s part might make for a decent translation, right? While that could have been possible, the problem came down to the same situation that has mucked up a lot of Marvel’s properties throughout the years: licensing. The X-Men were already licensed for home consoles by Acclaim through its LJN—yes, the same LJN that produced the execrable Marvel’s X-Men on the NES—and Flying Edge labels, and they had just released a terrible game called Spider-Man and the X-Men In Arcade’s Revenge; the next year would see the really good Genesis X-Men game by Sega, and in 1994, Capcom’s X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse would appear on the SNES, leaving no room for Konami to port their title.

As time went on, people took it as a given that the only way to play Konami’s X-Men was to emulate it through MAME, but in the unlikely year of 2010, it finally reached home consoles via the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It even saw a release on the iOS and Android! Ported by Backbone Entertainment, the game featured internet multiplayer (only four players though!), the usual graphical options for emulation, and the inclusion of the Japanese version just in case you wanted to experience some of those power-ups they took out of the American version. It was pretty good, but by 2010, gamers who had decided action fighters were long past their sell-by date wrote it off (and many of these same people wax nostalgic about the Simpsons arcade game, also made by Konami, which is something I don’t understand at all). At some point, between Konami’s retreat from the gaming sphere and Marvel’s insane licensing situations, it was delisted from all services, and as of 2017 it leaves MAME, once again, as the only place to play it.

You left Jean Grey for who???

Ten years after this game, these two would hook up.

Is Konami’s X-Men dated? Yes, of course. But is it still fun? Yes, there’s lots of fun you can have with it. Bring some friends together; it’s not actually a terribly long game and you’ll be immensely satisfied once you beat the stuffing out of Magneto. Or better yet, find a young kid who’s just getting into superheroes and have them experience it. They’ll love it.

And stop hating on Dazzler.

Shawn’s Note: Sure enough, it still pleased the nephews back at Christmas. It’s colorful and kinetic enough that even without knowing who the X-Men are they were having fun. At one point they unexpectedly got into a fight over who could put in the most credits though. Explaining arcade games might be the hardest part about playing it with them.

Achieving: 200 Miles followed quickly by a Satisfying Death

I’d been working my way towards Mile 200 in The Flame in the Flood since January but after a hospital visit, weeks of feeling terrible and then a Disney vacation I didn’t get to finish it off until just this past weekend. There are 6 parts in total if you want to watch a longer leg of the journey but it really wraps up nicely in the final episode above.

After hitting the 200th Mile *DING* I decided to end my run as spectacularly as possible by dying from 10 simultaneous afflictions… amid a bear attack *DING*. Then I remembered that there’s a Director’s Commentary mode so I started a new game, listened to some early dev talk and managed one last Trophy for staying on the river for 10 miles without stopping *DING*.

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.