Updates every Thursday!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Cave

A note from Ash: I swear that one of these days I'll get back to writing these things myself, but in the mean time, enjoy a review by Sarah

Genre: Adventure, Indie
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: SEGA
System: Windows, Mac & Linux
Written by Sarah Davis
Welcome to The Cave; a quest fulfilling, soul searching, puzzle solving, sultry amusement park attraction. 

You are introduced to the game in the most pleasant way possible; with a beautiful shot of the night sky, treetops, a lovely crescent moon and a wonderful, luscious voice to listen to as you pan to the ground and get your bearings. Once on the ground and fully introduced to this mysterious, and very single, Cave, you notice seven very different characters standing in a line. You have The Knight, The Hillbilly, The Time-Traveler, The Scientist, The Adventurer, The Twins and The Monk. On my first time through, I decided to choose The Knight, The Hillbilly and The Twins to be my corrupted adventuring party. 

Soon, with one member of your party leading the way, you venture into a platformer’s heaven; complete with movable boxes, ropes to climb and descend, as well as plenty of ledges to fall off of. Thankfully, as I found out early due to my lack of platforming skill, you can never fully die. You simply turn into a puff of smoke and ascend to the point where you clumsily threw yourself from the ledge you were previously standing on. Second chances are exactly what a group of darkness filled, ragtag adventurers really thrive on. (If you didn’t catch on to the darkness thing, you might want to take a second look at those Twins again and rethink your definition of good first impressions).

Once you fall down a massive hole in the cave, complete with a breaking bridge and puddle at the bottom, you venture to your right to find a strange little gift shop; you know, the kind with postcards, outrageously priced souvenirs, and the entrance to where you thought you were this whole time. Turns out The Cave isn’t just a bunch of abandoned, bat filled mining tunnels to explore, but instead an attraction for tourists who seek to send a kitschy postcard to their relatives afterwards.

Well, that’s what I certainly thought anyway.
Turns out, the sleazy cashier wants you to go find him some shinies in, not The Cave, but instead the employees only cage? Why you would need bars and a giant skeleton key to protect your employees beats me. Either way, the cashier gives you this over-sized key in order for you to venture into the employees only cage and off you go in search of something that might be valuable enough to allow you to pass into The Cave and actually get on with your intended adventure. God forbid you just pay him like a normal person.
I found this game very enjoyable though very frustrating at parts. There were many times where I found myself staring blankly at my screen, frantically running around, attempting to use every object I could to get myself to the next part of the level.
Happy Thoughts: So many story-lines to pick from! The graphics are cute in a way where you know the game isn’t supposed to be a serious downer, despite it’s dark undertones.
Sad Thoughts: There were a few glitches where I would get stuck on things and be unable to move a certain character resulting in me being unable to complete the level. Other times, my brain would go into serious overdrive mode in an attempt to figure out a puzzle.
End Results: This game is definitely worth it if you love platformer’s or adorable characters that seem nice on the outside, but are all a little sociopathic on the inside. You even have seven little sociopaths to choose from! Resulting in seemingly endless combinations of murderous endeavors.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Papers, Please

Genre: Adventure, Indie

Developer: 3909

Publisher: 3909

System: Windows, Mac

Written by Matt Sears

Glory to Arstotzka. Welcome to the checkpoint, comrade. Glory to Arstotzka.

Your duties will include reviewing all the materials required for legal entry into Arstotzka, glory to her, and approving or denying each applicant who wishes to cross the border. Criteria will change daily as the political climate shifts, as foreign threats make themselves known, or as our esteemed leader thinks would be entertaining. Glory to Arstotzka.

Nice try, Miss Gratsuna, but don’t you ‘hey, buddy’ me. We’re comrades around here. Glory to Arstotzka.

That’s our country on the map, there, the clearly glorious one in the corner. And the snake-faced bastards from elsewhere are ready to lie to you about anything and everything to get into our sweet land. Some even forge documents, like fake Arstotzkan IDs. These are easy to weed out though, as we have an ultraviolet light on hand to check IDs for fake glory.

You wonder why you are here.

Information is on a need-to-glory basis around here.

Winning the lottery never felt so good. Glory to Arstotzka.

I’ll warn you right now that this job isn’t all sunshine, lollipops, and lying snake-faced bastards, though. On my second day here, this very checkpoint was the target of a terrorist attack. Vladimil, a good guard and comrade, shot the bomber. But that wasn’t before the capitalist dog hurled his bomb and seconds later Vladimil was dead too. We used to talk about darts. Glory to Arstotzka.

They’re saying it! They’re saying the name of the game! Glory, glory, Arstotzkallujah!
Don’t worry. Since then, we’ve been given much stricter guidelines and several new tests to vet the glory of possible snake-faces. A single interview can take up to three hours, now! Glory to Arstotzka! Oh, and you’re paid per applicant.

Treat your wife’s mother like she was your own. Unless things get tough, then you gotta do what you gotta do. I get it.

The government housing is just as glorious as you hoped. On a lean day, yeah, you might not be able to afford food. But at least you have your health, right?

I’m sorry, I didn’t know your son was sick. Well, medicine is worth going hungry for a day, isn’t it? And with that hour usually spent on family dinner cleared up, I bet you can play charades. Three words. First wo— Yes. Glory to Arstotzka. You’re right.

Happy Thoughts: Glory to Arstotzka.

Sad Thoughts: Sad thoughts are the capitalists’ tricks to make us work slower and bring less glory to our sweet mother country.

What I Bet Comes Next: The collapse of all inferior cultures and governments, i.e. all of the other ones.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Genre: Indie, Platformer

Developer: Mossmouth

Publisher: Mossmouth

System: Windows, XBLA

Written by Matt Sears
EJ Marceaux contributed to this review.
Spelunky is a long-running indie arcade platformer. The first release was all the way back in 2009 and that version can still be acquired for the attractive price of absolutely free by heading to Derek Yu’s Mossmouth (he’s the creator). But what I’M reviewing is the beautifully-regraphicked and gameplay-expanded version that was released on the XBLA last year and on Steam for PC exactly a week ago.

The most important thing to me when I’m reviewing a game in 10 minutes is that I give it nothing short of the fairest and most accurate shake. In pursuit of that goal, I don’t start my timer until I enter the actual game (menus don’t count against the clock). But I need to mention here at the top that Spelunky scored a couple points with me while I was still setting up. Among the options, I got to choose what sorts of damsels I would like the caves populated with for me to save; traditional blond woman, ripped Chippendales dancer, googly-eyed pug dog, or random. Solid gold, Mossmouth.

But it’s time for the brass tacks to meet the road. I picked the awesome Indiana Jones character, though I was sorely tempted to take the awesome Sikh, and readied myself to go to TOWN on the caves. Ten seconds later, I had been given control of a martial artist named Yang.

Okay, so things are not as they seem. I mean, I thought I was gonna be Harrison Ford, but I am, instead, Bruce Lee. They’re both absolutely great. I am happy to be either one. But it’s just not what I was lead to believe at the start of things.

I guided Yang through a cave of convenient instructional signs and learned to jump, whip, climb, and the many other skills that would be essential to surviving this spelunking. One of the important things I learned was to not jump onto spikes.

I just wanted that ruby so badly, and eventually got it! But you might be surprised how. My partner actually figured this trick out. You have to walk right through them from the side. Oh, and she explained that to me like I’m some kind of idiot! I mean yeah, friendo! Direction-specific traps are SOOOOO common in arcade platforming! How could I not have known?!

Point is, more of the being fooled by appearances stuff in this here cave.

With a minute to go (I spent a lot of lives on trying to squeeze over the spikes and to the ruby, alright?), my good friend provided one more important lesson. When the game teaches you to bomb things, they give you serious bombs. She stood right on top of hers and found that out the restart-the-level-now way. Yes, she looked at spikes and went “well, maybe if I sort of shimmy by” but looked at a bomb, a flashing bomb, and went “oh, yeah, safe. Stand here.”

The most important thing to know about Spelunky is that it is a beautiful, beautiful game and it is lying to you. You will be Yang, not mustachioed British explorer or Indiana Jones or whoever you choose. Spikes will fuck you one way and befriend you the other. Bombs will explode and will explode you too. Point two-thirds proven. And that’s proven enough.

Happy Thoughts: Awesome experience all around, with good art, sound design, and music. Gender equality opportunities to rescue and googly-eyed pugs are very awesome too.

Sad Thoughts: Martial arts is so cool but this is a CAVE! I wanted to be Doctor Jones!

What I Bet Comes Next: You wake up! Everything in the cave was a dream, because the theme of this game is that nothing is as it appears. You’re actually stuck on an island where your plane crashed. You and the other passengers are stalked by an invisible, smoke-spewing machine. A polar bear— hm, hold up.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Genre: Strategy

Developer: Firaxis Games

Publisher: 2K Games

System: Mac, Windows

It’s no easy task commanding the elite alien defense force known as XCOM. You must provide for your troops, organize your base, give tactical commands in the field, and protect the entire planet with four troops and two aircraft. Not to mention that this is a globally funded project so you have to appease the “board of trustees” or their respective countries will pull their funding. Ungrateful pricks. On my first mission I should have just taken the lead, but instead I listened to that moron with the headset mic. 

He got all but one of my troops killed. I took some pictures in case someone tried to court martial me over the incident. I’m not saying these guys were the best of the best. I mean look at that one lady rocking out to her iPod.

And you might not be able to tell, but the guy behind her is a total hipster. He’s got a mohawk and an ironic ‘stache. And under his armor he’s still wearing that non-regulation pashmina scarf that he somehow found at a thrift store. And he’s the one guy that made it back alive! Go figure.

Normally, unlike my first mission, I lead my men into battle like a true soldier. Or, rather, I fly with them in the Skyranger to the scene of the battle and command them from the relative safety of the vehicle. Actually, that could all be handled by video feed so I may easily be sitting back in the comfort of the HQ sipping my coffee, which has just enough whiskey in it to take the edge off of my incredibly difficult duties. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter where I command from, because the Skyranger always comes back unscathed. And thank God for that! Could you imagine having to hire new recruits and buy a new vertical takeoff plane every time you failed a mission? Money doesn’t grow on trees. It grows in the carcasses of alien warships.

All in all, I run a pretty tight ship. With a few weapon upgrades, a handful of experienced soldiers, and a couple dissected alien corpses we will learn how to most efficiently kill these bastards and – Aww fuck! Russia just pulled their funding! Goddamn commies. I’ll have to go take Vlad off the strike team. He was our best sniper, but he was also kind of a homophobic jerk so I guess the boost in morale will kind of even things out.

Happy Thoughts: XCOM is really addicting if you’re into the tactical command style of game, but it is not easy. Even on normal you will eventually lose troops and sometimes they are your best troops.

Sad Thoughts: Losing your troops hurts. There’s even a memorial wall in your base so you can remember the achievements of all your fallen comrades.

The Bottom Line: This game gets my approval. It’s just like playing the original game, but with newer graphics. I enjoy it. It is a little pricy though.

(All pictures taken from the internet. Additional drawings provided by me.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Genre: Strategy, Indie, Simulation

Developer: Abbey Games

Publisher: Abbey Games

System: Windows

First there was nothing, then there was me; a lonely planet flying through the cosmos. This was a time of peace and serenity. It was a time when I could stay up ‘til two in the morning blaring Simon and Garfunkel’s I am a Rock without pissing off the neighbors. An interesting side note: when you are a planet it’s always two in the morning somewhere.

On the second step of the tutorial a massive blue crab arose from my shell to skitter upon my surface with the slow, lumbering grace of a tired elephant. With his mighty claws he pounded a sea into my rocky carapace. I should probably see a doctor about that. With him came a man made of trees who looked way too happy to be doing his job. And he pressed his hands into my armor and brought forth all manner of trees and grass and shrubs and it tickled.

And in the forest settled a small tribe of people and they hungered. So tree man provided them with berries and other fruits so that their hunger would be sated. But it wasn’t enough. The people asked for more and so the lumbering crab blessed the land with animals to be hunted for sport and food and fashion. And the people were content for a time.

On the third step of the tutorial a giant of stone ripped himself from my skin and built up mighty mountains, striking a pose that looked as though it had been stolen from Megaman. The mountains changed the climate of the land around them creating vast deserts where another tribe of people made their home. Meanwhile, the forest people grew powerful and corrupt and in their greed set out to destroy the people of the sands.

The man of stone could not bear to see his desert friends killed by the forestidians and with a mighty smash caused the earth to shake beneath the forest. Many lay dead in the aftermath. The war parties disbanded and returned to the village to help repair. The giants became weary and on the fourth step of the tutorial the lumbering crab, the tree man, and the stone giant fell asleep and I rested and the people disappeared.

Happy Thoughts: I like the style of this game both in terms of art and in the idea of these titans that sort of act as gods. It’s an interesting take on creationism.

Sad Thoughts: The world spinning aspect of the game can occasionally make me feel ill. That is not fun.

The Bottom Line: If you like the idea of creating a world and trying to find a balance where the various people don’t war against each other, but still manage to be prosperous then this may be a good game for you. For how cheap this game is, I would consider picking it up. Of course, I have no idea where this game goes after the little bit I played so…good luck!