Updates every Thursday!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Zeno Clash

 Genre: Action, Indie

Developer: ACE Team

Publisher: The same guys.

System: PC, Xbox

Written by: Matt Sears

Zeno Clash was the debut title of Chilean developer ACE Team. Released in 2009, one of many years from the Source engine’s lo-o-ong heyday, it enjoyed enough success to warrant an Xbox port and, coming the 30th of this month, a sequel. With Zeno Clash II on the horizon, now is a good time for a look back.

Trouble is, I don’t remember the game that well now, so I gave it ten minutes.

Zeno Clash’s most defining feature is clear right from the outset, and that is its rich, colorful, almost excessively imaginative world.

In a show-rather-than-explain sort of way, it opens with a dialogue-free cutscene of baby things, both human and monstrous, being raised by some freaky bird-person-thing. They live in a home eccentric alien gypsies might say is “a bit too eclectic in decoration for my tastes—but I like that you’re experimenting! And beautiful colors. Beautiful.” One of the monster men’s strange facial features will probably cause you to wonder aloud, “does that guy have balls on his jaw?”

We’re off to a good start.

Feeling of Understanding: 0%

About fifteen seconds into that good start, you watch yourself kill the leader of the monster commune, Father-Mother. This is all a bit much to happen at once, so you pass out. Perfect time for some tutorials led by the spirit of a dead orc. Even better, he saw what you did and he thinks you screwed up by not dying yourself. Thankfully, pressing matters in the waking world will let you escape his reprimands before long.

Feeling of Understanding: 0%

At this point, it’s you and some girl that agrees with what you stand for (I am assuming here, she just came along), against the world. But if only she was faster at opening gates! Thanks to her weak arms, most of my final five minutes was spent combating Father-Mother’s kiddos in a bid for escape.

Feeling of Understanding: 0%

Combat is a blast, if not exactly a perfection. The controls are relatively simple—4 keys and a little attention to how you move your character in time with attacks—but they allow for very deep and enjoyable strategy. Similar to Mirror’s Edge, your first-person camera rattles and rolls with every antic. The effect is visceral, meaning that it puts the action right into your guts for you but also that some people might find it turns their guts right out of them. Dramamine.

Let’s call combat 15% of the game.

Feeling of Understanding: 15%

I had just enough time before the 10 minute finish to complete a second tutorial that followed the fight. It introduced me to a simple firearm, a thing that functioned like a backwards ramrod rifle and made from driftwood and bandages. So I guess there are some facsimiles of guns in the game too.

If you’ve been following the Feeling of Understanding Meter closely, you probably think you know my grasp on this game. I pledge to give you a complete review of games in ten minutes, and that means I need a complete picture of that game at the end of ten minutes. It’s been ten minutes. So...

Feeling of Understanding must be: 100%

Happy Thoughts: This game is a visual feast that rides an excellent line between pretty and grotesque. Also, I bet that sending a foe rolling head-over-heels with the back of your fist never gets old.

Sad Thoughts: A couple of these voice actors have got to get in the game and step up their game for the sake of this game. The graphics haven’t aged very well, though that’s no fault of the game. I mean, let’s all beat on SNES games for being two-dimensional (sarcastic).

What I Bet Comes Next: Um...

Hold on. I can do this...

So we have that, like, village of what looked like huge coral out in the desert... We killed that creepy Father-Mother thing that was raising a bunch of monsters... Our dead friend made fun of us...

Okay. You probably get the help of some magical hermit, learn a little about the monster condition from him as well as how to teleport, and return to your village to fight everyone rather than run forever. The final boss is a human-lobster thing like Larry the Lobster from Spongebob but rendered with more terrifying realism and it’s three stories tall.

Nailed it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3

Genre: RPG, Indie

Developer: Zeboyd Games

Publisher: Penny Arcade Inc.

System: I played it on PC, but you can also get it on Xbox, iOS, Android, and the Mac App Store

I would like to begin by saying that this review may not be entirely accurate. Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is an incredibly dialogue heavy game and I am not the fastest reader. Add to that the fact that I have an uncontrollable urge to look at and talk to everything and everyone presented in the game and you may begin to realize that my experience with this game may not match yours. So please try not to take my awesome, flawless, and utterly indisputable opinion at face value.

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is the third installment in the Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness series and I’m beginning to understand why you don’t see many people reviewing it. I have played the first two games and like its predecessors it follows the story of Tycho and Gabe of the Startling Developments Detective Agency and Penny Arcade fame. The series is set in the 1920’s and is steeped in H.P. Lovecraftian cthulu-style lore.

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3* is built as a traditional top-down RPG where you control a party of up to three characters, each with their own set of skills, in turn-based combat. Though the actual gameplay does not change much from the original two games, the style and artwork are quite different. The change in developers from Hothead Games (Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 1 and 2) to Zeboyd Games (Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3) makes a dramatic leap from a series that is highly animated and smooth to a game that is pixilated and action-less. I find it confusing to take a series backward in time in terms of animation, but forward in time in terms of plot and it hurts my head. The combat is mostly the same, but the lack of animation shows characters punching on one side of the screen while the enemies take damage on the other, presumably from air displaced by said punches. That being said, I only got to play through one fight so…maybe it gets better?

Of critical importance in this series is comedy. Once again comparing it to its predecessors, Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 continues to have a generally comedic dialogue. However, I didn’t find it to be as funny as the previous games. There were a few moments that made me smile, laugh internally, and even guffaw once (I really just wanted to use the word “guffaw” in a review), but nothing really made me – as the kids say – “rofl.” I was really disappointed at this. Maybe I’ve come to expect more from Penny Arcade, or maybe I just didn’t get far enough in for the comedy to penetrate the laugh center of the brain (it’s a real thing), but nothing stuck out that I would want to go around quoting like the “mime, mime, bo-bime” bit from the earlier games.

Happy Thoughts: I like Penny Arcade and the game still seems like it will be fun to play through. Plus, the game is like super cheap on Steam so it’s hard to argue with that.

Sad Thoughts: Sometimes at night I sit staring out the window at the stars and realize just how alone we all truly are. Also, I can’t usually see the stars because of how cloudy it is.

The Bottom Line: Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 has a really long title and it makes my hands cramp up when I write it. The game still feels like the older games of the series, but it feels older in style than the older games of the series. I will likely play through it as I have a “completionist” complex. Also, as a side note, I could not for the life of me figure out how to quit the game without alt+tabbing. If you figure it out (and I don’t mean from the title screen, asshole) please let me know.

*If I was getting paid per word to write this I could retire on this game review alone.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Genre: RPG

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

System: Pretty much everything.

Dedicated to Jeff Olin (no, he’s not dead).

I have never been a fan of the Elder Scrolls series and as such I have repeatedly told myself that I would not purchase this game no matter how epic the trailers made it look. Nor would I be persuaded by the wagging tongues of friends and reviewers that lauded the endless possibilities for characters in this world of magical fantasy.

So I borrowed it from a friend.

And oh my god was it boring! I was told that the beginning would be a wagon ride and an over-stimulating character creation screen and I was hoping this was a bit of a joke, that there would be something more to it. But no, it wasn’t, there wasn’t. I hated it. Review over.

Actually, review not over, because I know that there will be some fiercely loyal Skyrim fans out there who want to know why I hated it so much (or maybe there won't, but I like to hear myself talk so deal with it). I hated it for the exact reasons that I hated Morrowind oh so long ago.

First of all, the animation is awful. All of the characters move around like they have a rod up their ass. And I mean literally, not figuratively. They are stiff and move like robots. Animatronics sucked in real life, I expect better from video games these days. And I get that maybe they cut back on animation because it’s a huge open world and they need to save some computing power, but so is World of Warcraft and their animation is way more fluid AND I can play it with all of my friends. No sale.

I keep hearing all of this great stuff about the adventures you can have and the cool and exciting things you can do. I hear you can become a werewolf, which is pretty cool! Since the game prides itself on how much freedom you have maybe it will allow my newly transformed self to lick…well, myself. But did I see any of that? No! Of course I didn't! Weak, Skyrim, really fucking weak!

And the thing I’m probably most annoyed about is the intro scene. Take a look at this. Then take a look at this (you don’t have to watch all of that. I mean, the Skyrim intro is very long. Just skip to about 6 minutes and I’ll explain the rest). Now replace the Scots with the Stormcloaks and the English with the Imperial whatever-they’re-called and realize that this is pretty much a direct reskinning of the intro to Army of Darkness. Allow me to sum up both plots simultaneously for you. A group of prisoners is being lead to their deaths, at least one of whom has no association with them and is probably there for the wrong reason. One prisoner tries to make a run for it and is shot with an arrow/crossbow bolt. Heads are chopped off rather than turned into fountains of blood coming from a pit filled with horrifying monsters. The only thing that really makes these intro scenes different is the complete lack of Sam Raimi’s car (which you won’t even see in the clip I linked, but I can assure you it does appear in the movie multiple times).

And I didn’t even get to see a dragon! The game is practically built around dragons and there wasn't a single one to be fought!

Happy Thoughts: None. I have no happy thoughts for this game.

Sad Thoughts: Everything I already wrote. I mean, did you even read the Happy Thoughts? Also, no dragons. Also, also, I accidentally named my character "Player 1" because when I thought I was hitting the back button I was apparently hitting the submit your character's name button.

The Bottom Line: Look, if you’re into this sort of thing that’s your problem. Though, I hear there are people you can talk to that can help you with your addiction. But until these games find a way to make me care about what’s going on – be it through plot or actually making it seem like my axe swings are doing some kind of damage (yeah, I played a littler farther. That's how much I wanted this game to prove itself to me) – this game just isn’t for me. I give it a 10 out of who gives a shit.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I have been a little under the gun with work this week so Matt is going to step up for his first post. Enjoy!


Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie

Developer: Sean Hogan, and Jonathan Kittaka

Publisher: Analgesic Productions

System: PC, Mac, Linux

Written by: Matt Sears

Anodyne is a recently-greenlit (that’s Steam store lingo), single-player RPG developed by Analgesic Productions, though they say right on the Anodyne site “you can call us ‘Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka!’” It’s a 2D adventure game graphically akin to A Link to the Past.

As if it knew my tight schedule, the game got right down to fantasy brass tacks and directed me almost instantly to a cloaked man who explained that I am named Young, they are the village elder named Sage, and The Darkness is seeking the legendary Briar so I need to go beat it to the punch. Strong start. Excellent. This is what we like to see at 10 Minute Game Review. I don’t know what The Briar is but I am ON the effin’ JOB.

Quick hop through a nearby portal and I left the very ethereal, wizard-sanctum start area for a good cave where I armed myself with a broom (seriously) and started beating up slimes with it (slimes are the perfect first enemy in an RPG). This game was fast on track to fit a boss into the first 10 minutes!

Sadly, I wasn’t able to find a boss before buzzer time. The game continued along at a satisfying clip but complicated my screen-completion duties (that’s the normal compulsion to kill, open, or talk to everything on the screen) by adding some odd characters and signs as I went. Most of the interactions literally gave me pause for thought because of comments like “I had a new mirror installed and I swear it had a camera hidden in it! I used to squirt soap at it to try to short the circuits.” There was even a stone carved with a message about how I was probably reading stones because I have no friends. Everything seemed really out of place and sometimes ghostly or spirit-y, so I’m betting the people were all lost souls in this ghost realm. Now this game reminded me a little bit of Soul Blazer.

So it’s A Link to the Past mixed with Soul Blazer. Sorted. I went and got a can of Dew while I left the timer going because this game had just been pegged in seven minutes flat. The buzzer sounded as I was sitting back down.

Happy Thoughts: I love Super Nintendo-style pixel art, and this is some pretty good stuff as it’s well done without being overdone (most looks like it really could be from that era). Zipping along and beating monsters with a broom is very satisfying.

Sad Thoughts: Being surrounded by ghosts is sort of depressing.

What I Bet Comes Next: More people that don’t realize they’re dead talking about their fears from life, a journey to find The Briar that provides Young with the chance to learn why he’s in this limbo and how to return to life or move on (it will be moving on because this is an indie game). The final boss is probably Sage because you figure out that he’s The Darkness.

Monday, April 1, 2013


My sister teaches math at Brandeis University and pitched me this little game that she is using to teach students about math via coding or something like that. She can comment if she feels the need to correct or explain. I felt I’d give it the time of day as a little bonus for you.
They are using the program Scratch, which was developed at MIT and designed to teach coding to kindergarteners. You can download it for free here.

First of all, where the hell was this program when I was a lad?! I don’t know jack about coding and I am beginning to believe that I was cheated on my education. I mean, I never even read Lord of the Flies let alone learned how to do basic coding!

Second…there is no second. On we go.

So this is a little game called Poison. My sister did the coding for this particular version, though she got the concept from here and she is pretty sure it’s a very common teaching tool. Trying to give credit where it’s due.

The game basically works like this: there is an evil wizard who wants to play a mean game with his tasty crab friend before he kills him (presumably to cook and eat him ‘cause he’s so tasty). The wizard presents the crab with a random number of coins and tells the crab he (she?) can take either one or two coins after which the wizard will take one or two coins then the crab again and so on until all of the coins have been taken. But there is a catch! The last coin is poisoned (which doesn’t really make a lot of sense unless the crab is eating it. Though I suppose it could be absorbed through the shell, but that seems unlikely and I don’t really know what a crab would want with these coins anyway...). The end result is whoever winds up with the last coin loses the game.

Now, my sister swears that you can win the game and that the game is, in fact, generally more likely to be in your favor, but I could not win once. Every time I played, the wizard would get me down to the point where he had four coins left and it was my turn. I don’t know if you see the outcome there, but short of the wizard messing up I’m basically boned.

I’m not entirely sure this is something we want to be teaching children.

Happy Thoughts: The game doesn’t take long at all. I mean, you could play it several times in ten minutes (by “play” I mean “lose”). Also, the artwork in this particular version is so goofy that I didn’t care that I was losing. Apparently, it’s just stock artwork from the Scratch program. Awesome.

Sad Thoughts: Why is the wizard so mean? And why can’t I win this? I swear it is an exercise in futility. It is the Kobayashi Maru of children’s video games.

The Bottom Line: This barely counts as a game, but it is a fun exercise and it will cost you absolutely nothing to play it so why don’t you go check it out?