Deja vu is a sentiment I often find cropping up around games like Flat Heroes. Much as I love minimalistic art styles, there are only so many times I can play as a monochromatic quadrilateral before starting to wonder if maybe I should be asking for more. After all, appealing as I find flat-shaded shapes, others may see the aesthetic as little more than laziness on the part of the game’s art team. And with all the titles out there that do similar things with better art, it can be tough to justify the existence of another game like Flat Heroes.
As some of you may know, I’ve never really been one for streaming. I find it difficult to make the show entertaining in a way that keeps people (even my friends) engaged. It’s why my forays into the world of live-streaming have been so short-lived; there’s only so much you can stare at a viewer count of 0 before you start to get discouraged. However, if there’s one game that’s made me think about getting back into it, it’s Russian Subway Dogs. It’s been a long time since a game elicited such visceral reactions; from joy to anger, and even soul-crushing disappointment in my skills and abilities. And though it took me in excess of a year to finally sit down and write about it (thanks, spontaneous hiatus), I can safely say that I’ve enjoyed it just as much (if not more so) than I did all those months ago.
Bullet-hells. Shmups. Bloody impossible. Whatever you want to call them, there’s no doubt that the genre formed around throwing buckets of bullets at people like some overzealous member of the NRA has garnered quite the cult following. And while it’s not a genre that I frequently dive into, it has nonetheless provided me with some fantastically intense experiences. Sine Mora EX is an utterly exquisite story-driven shmup, while Astebreed (a title I played years ago but never reviewed) dives down the anime mech rabbit hole in fine laser-slinging form. So, when I found a copy of Solid Aether sitting in my inbox, looking like the much-beloved (by me at least) OVIVO had a baby soaked in shmup hormones…aaand this analogy is getting out of control. THE GAME LOOKED COOL, OKAY?!?
A while back, I did a write-up entitled “The Consequences of a Full-Time Job”, in which I discussed the new job I had started and the perceived ramifications it would have on this humble blog of mine. At the time, I assumed that the only thing that would ultimately be impacted was my writing schedule. However, as time has gone on, I’ve been made painfully aware of my drastic underestimation. My writing schedule is all over the place, to the point where I no longer even feel like I can promise release dates for upcoming reviews. I keep cancelling streams at the last minute due to physical and/or emotional burnout. Hell, I’ve barely even tweeted.
While that all sounds incredibly negative, this cloud of disorganization has had a pleasant silver lining: it’s forced me to revaluate what I do, why I do it, and what it all means to me. The results may not be pleasing to all of you, but that’s the downside to doing something like this that’s ultimately for myself: sometimes I have to be selfish and do what’s right for me.
Several games have attempted the Groundhog Day format, to varying degrees of success. What tends to be the biggest stumbling block is also what makes the premise so interesting: you’re repeating the same day over and over. From a narrative perspective, this allows the story to focus on the same events from different points of view, or see how minor changes can impact the final outcome. However, it’s a lot harder to incorporate those subtle variations into gameplay, meaning that it’s easy to find yourself going through the same actions ad nauseum, simply to get from one story beat to another.
The first time I played through Journey, I cried. It was – without a doubt – one of the most emotionally moving gaming experiences I had had up to that point, and it’s held a special place in my heart ever since. However, when I mentioned to my friend Matt that it might find its way onto my “favourite games of all time” list, he made an interesting remark: “Have you replayed it?”
Challenging games are a pain to review, and not just for the obvious reasons. Sure, it can be difficult (and often frustrating) to throw yourself against the same obstacle repeatedly, solely because you want to see as much of a game as possible before reviewing it. What I find to be far more stressful, however, is when that challenge becomes insurmountable. With the recent controversies surrounding games like Cuphead, the notion of saying that a game is “unfairly difficult” is frequently regarded as taboo. It’s not that the game is hard; it’s just that you need to “git gud”.
I’ve been hinting and casually mentioning it for a while, so it’s time to come clean: I got a full-time job. For those of you who are curious, it’s a software engineering position at Getty Images! Like, the stock photo company?
Yeah, I’m, like, kind of a big deal now.
“Walking simulators” have become a notoriously divisive genre over the years, garnering both love for their way of telling an interactive story, and criticism for the general lack of purpose said interaction tends to involve. Branching off this, I like to consider Debris a “swimming simulator”; sure, you have the added ability to move vertically, but the gameplay still very much consists of, “Keep moving forward while being fed assorted storytelling bits”. This is by no means a bad thing, as ABZÛ – one of my favourite games in recent memory – arguably also falls into this category. Unfortunately, whereas ABZÛ was a consistently wondrous experience that left me practically begging for more, Debris is…well, we’ll get into that.
“I’m sorry, what?”
That was my first reaction upon receiving a press email about de Blob 2’s release on current-gen consoles. The inaugural title was a Wii exclusive which – while attention-grabbing to my 13-year-old mind at the time – ended up becoming little more than another bargain basement platformer in the Wii’s sea of them. Hell, I was pleasantly surprised when it got a multiplatform sequel in 2011. Yet when not a peep was heard about the franchise afterwards (following publisher THQ’s closure in 2013), I had pretty much accepted that it was all over for Blob and friends.