Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tired of Coming Up With Stupid Titles

Listen to this immediately.

There was a part of me that didn't believe the Queen version of this song could have been improved upon, but this very nearly does it.

-Signing off.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Look At That Sass

(My cat's doing much better, if you're curious-she's now at the stage of recovery where she's had enough of us trying to take care of her and is making giving her medicine painful, which is easy for her when she's got so many pointy bits and so much of her strength has come back. Life's still pretty much turned on its head, but things are getting better a little bit at a time.)

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an image of a card from Magic: The Gathering that got a response out of me that probably wasn't intended, that being "gee, that towering Eldrazi abomination sure has a pretty sassy walk going on*."

Then, later, I saw an "animated" trailer of the sort that Wizards at the Coast has done in the past, and was pleased to see that, despite the quality of the animations varying from "eh" to "ech," from about 0:38-0:41 has the exact visual experience I'd have expected of this creature if it was in motion.

"Sassy walk" probably wasn't what they were going for.

*Despite lacking actual legs.

-Signing off.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bad Weekend

No proper post tonight. Had two cats very sick over the weekend (while the local vet is closed), and one passed away and the other is staying at the vet's for a few days, and so I'm pretty emotionally and physically exhausted right now.

(The one who's at the vet's is Captain, who's gotten a couple of mentions on here. Captain is my precious baby cat, and I watched over her for twelve hours and used my own body heat to make sure she stayed warm while we waited for the clinic to open, even though this made me overheat and sweat a lot, and I'm usually most comfortable when I'm a little bit cold. Her prognosis is good, thankfully.

The one who died was my sister's precious baby cat. There was a lot of crying and sleeping when that was done; my sister is actually passed out right now.

It's actually been a rough few months for our family; my mother's roughly twenty-year-old cat passed away a few weeks ago, and there's been an out-of-state uncle passing away and another with a bad cancer diagnosis.)

EDIT: I'm not blogging Wednesday because Captain came home and she needs close care, and I may not blog on Friday. ...I kinda would have needed a break from blogging anyway.

-Signing off.

Friday, September 18, 2015

That Battle Should Have Been A Bit Slower*

Not many places you can see a giant turtle duke it out with an evil tree...

Final Fantasy V is one of those places.

And yes, Exdeath, that armored guy, is actually a tree.

Not a tree person (well, he is at that point, but not originally), just a tree.

*Because the combatants are a turtle and a tree, you see.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Game Used Frustrating Gameplay! It Was Super-Effective!

I think I've intimated I'm not really a fan of Pokemon, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate aspects of it.

I laughed so hard at the "punchline" of this video.

-Signing off.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Why Do They Keep Making Them?

Does anybody actually like escort missions in video games?

I don't think I've ever encountered anybody who does.

-Signing off.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lazy Post

Something that fairly blew my mind: Apparently, at least some video games' demo modes are actually, instead of being recorded moves, records of gameplay that can potentially be altered. (This specific topic comes about eight minutes in.)

That's seriously weird.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Game Reviews: Book of Mages

Book of Mages: The Dark Times* (hacked version here for those who are interested, for reasons I'll clarify) is a fun if flawed game with open-ended roleplaying (sorta) and a pretty good turn-based combat system.

I think it's important to state up front: This game's combat system is, for a turn-based RPG-type combat system, much more interesting and nuanced than what most computer RPGs produce. Granted, most of those are designed for larger-scale battles than this game, so it rather needs something better than that, but it's important to establish it right off the bat.

Anyway, the combat system is built around each combatant firing off magic bolts of energy or whatever, in fairly large numbers. Complexity is added by high and low attacks and defensive countermoves plus a few other tricks (my favorite is the rather dramatic "combined" attack, which combines all one's bolts into a single massive projectile); then there are six different schools of magic, each with their own special forms of magic. Of particular note are Poison Water, with a lot of majorly annoying poison-themed abilities (more on that later), and Chaos Desert, with the ability to unleash huge storms of damage, though nearly all the schools have at least one ability that's nifty, overpowered, or just brutal. It's a little involved to explain in detail, and it'd be easier to figure out by just playing it-it has a decent in-game tutorial function.

While I enjoy the combat system, it does have one sizable flaw, and that's the whole reason I linked the hacked version: The process by which one enhances one's abilities is slow and tedious, and it takes some experimentation to figure out just what one should do while building a character's abilities, so it's way too easy to create an awful character and waste one's time. The first time I played the game, I got to the final battle with a character with third-tier combat skills who had sufficient charisma to have been elected leader of the story's "good guys" and thus ended up with a bad ending because he insisted on fighting the enemy in a series of one-on-one fights.

Incidentally, the game expects you to keep leveling up as the game progresses (even when the story is dragging you around and keeping you out of the magic caves that let you build up skill points-admittedly, you do get skill points through story events and such), and helpfully gives you a warning that you need to spend any remaining skill points right before the final battle comes up.

You have to love fourth wall-breaking NPC dialogue.

There's other types the game gives you hints, such as this bit of moral guidance the game gives you:

"Let him live if you're good. Kill him if you're evil."

You might notice that the player character is named "Great Mage" in the above; that's because I was goofing around with stupid player character names that I thought would be funny, and "Great Mage" is a title in the game that the player character is relatively likely to obtain. Hence the following exchange between a pair of drunkards (who are always, whenever you encounter them, talking about you):

"Great Mage is the Great Mage." You don't say.

Anyway, if you couldn't tell, the game's storytelling is pretty silly, partly because of iffy grammar and partly because, well, it's just plain silly, such as this conversation with a graverobber that you can potentially befriend:

Yes, you can make friends with a graverobber.

What's peculiar to me is that there's an alignment/reputation-tracking system in the game, and some things are treated as bad, some are treated as good, and some are treated as entirely neutral. One of the latter is the below:

Yes, cutting off a man's hands is treated as neutral. (The alternatives to cutting his hands off? Killing him or learning torture advice from him. There's another option, avoiding him forever, but it's impractical, and sooner or later you'll forget about it, meet him by accident and kill/dismember him. Incidentally, this is revenge for him trying to assassinate you.)

Anyway, there's a storyline involving the conflict between the "Black Robes," mages who are working for the evil current Great Mage, "White Robes," the rebels against him, and the third party who are neutral in the conflict. You can join any of the three groups, and if you're a good fighter, you can muscle your way to the top. (You don't actually need that much brute force for the White Robe route until the final battle, at which point you'll be in serious trouble if you've been neglecting your training.)

Making certain kinds of achievements, incidentally, gives you new titles, such as...


Oh yes, that final battle thing I keep bringing up? You need to do a lot of fighting during it if you're a member of the White Robes; if you're of a normal strength level, you're in for a bit of a slog at best, but if you're ranked sufficiently high... get to kill people in cutscenes. As this is oddly more fun than it should be, I ended up slaughtering every named Black Robe but the leaders, which earned me a new title:

"Bloodthurst." This didn't affect my reputation in the least either, by the way.

Speaking of reputation:

While it was a bit lower at the precise time of the election, I raised an eyebrow at the "equally good reputation" remark, because my reputation at the time was "Legend/Savior," and it was upgraded to "Legend/Holy Man" by this event. (Also, "Legend" is higher than "Myth," which seems backwards to me.)

Note that here my character was named Ghostdoom** instead of Great Mage; obviously this was a different playthrough. And yes, I won that election pretty handily; I'm not actually sure what you'd have to do to lose it. Be a major jerk, perhaps.

It doesn't stop at "Holy Man," incidentally;

...Yeah. This despite my spending time helping several random thieves and slaughtering quite a few mages in single combat. (It wasn't particularly fair, especially since I was cheating for all these screenshots.)

On the subject of single combat and ability ranking, the title of the game refers to the book in which the top hundred mages are tracked. For some reason, you ask a character called "Mysterious Hermit(s)" about the rankings, and when you're looking for the top ten mages in the book, the Hermit tells you where to go, and eventually tells you that you're the "Number One Mage."

The player character is such a childish jackass.

Anyway, if you keep asking the Hermit about your ranking even after you're Number One, he starts to get peeved at you...

...and eventually announces that he created the Book of Mages and is stronger than anyone ranked in it, and that he's going to kick your rank back down to 99.

He's basically a bonus boss, and pretty much the toughest enemy in the game; through some means, he was actually nasty enough that he posed a serious threat even to my distinctly overpowered cheat character.

As it happens, though, even his unique overpowered abilities and his extremely strong magic school (Chaos Desert) can't save him from smart playing and the cheapest strategy in the game: Poison Water's wavelock combo.

See, there's several kinds of status effects in the game which are represented by "markers" and these markers have variable numbers. Poison Water's, poison (SURPRISE), does damage equal to the number of markers, but that's pretty minor overall. Their better use is setting up for Poison Water's various spells. And Poison Water mages can also use a spell called Poison Wave, which puts ten poison markers on the opponent without any chance to counter (they're the only group to have this capability; everybody else's status effects are exclusively in the form of riders on the projectile attacks, which makes it harder to apply them). The big useful spell among the spells so-enabled is Paralyze, which allows one to remove nine poison counters to cancel an attack. In other words, put ten poison counters on, opponent takes ten poison damage, opponent tries to attack, opponent's attack is cancelled, and one poison counter is left over. There are several ways to remove poison counters (for some reason, if both combatants have poison counters, they cancel each other out until one mage or the other, or both, don't have any, so one of the ways is actually Poison Wave), but that takes up an attack, so the strategy still works. (In fact, it works a little better, because that means the opponent is spending more mana than you are.)

Once you beat the Hermit, he runs off to inform the other hermits who co-created the Book of Mages, and you get another new title.

So this game's pretty entertaining, sometimes in ways that come across as unintentional.

As noted, the game has its flaws-the story can get a little annoying, particularly if you pick a side, the skill-building is tedious if you're playing it the way it's intended to be played, and you hardly see any fights anymore if your ranking gets high enough-but there's also quite a bit of entertainment to wring out of it.

*This is technically the second game in a series, hence the subtitle, but pretend it's the only game. There's no reason to look into the first one. Basically everything about this game is better than the original, and since this game is notably flawed, well...

**This game has some of the best names since Seven Kingdoms II's Fryhtans. I suspect the mages choose their own ridiculous names. The most ridiculous examples are probably Bloodster and Wavepuke. ...The latter is the biggest piece of evidence they don't choose their own names, incidentally.

-Signing off.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Most Ridiculous Cast of Generals

Some while ago, I reviewed a series of Flash games, Battalion: Nemesis, Battalion: Ghosts, and Battalion: Vengeance. (Incidentally, if you want to visit all of the games' pages directly, the quickest way would be through the creator's Kongregate page. Also, I must regretfully mention that the multiplayer and level editor have been taken down. I didn't care much about multiplayer, having no particular interest in playing with strangers and no interest in the site membership I seem to recall was necessary, but I'll miss that level editor.)

I brought up that the games were loosely based on the Advance Wars games*, AKA the Nintendo Wars games, which I was not really familiar with at the time.

I wouldn't say I'm an expert on them or anything now, but I do have a general awareness of them beyond "they inspired the Battalion Flash games," and the most relevant thing I've learned, I think, is that while Battalion is a bit silly, Advance Wars is really silly. Like, there's plenty of silly characters in the tiny cast of Battalion, but most of the silliness seems to be in the form of bantering natures. In Advance Wars, every character is an absurd, over-the-top anime character, such as the vaguely teenaged/preteen commander who apparently waves around a pair of wrenches on a regular basis. (In addition to incidentally featuring a number of the ridiculous characters, the videos below are the laments of a particular player who felt that a couple of missions from one of the Advance Wars games were... a teeny bit unfair.)

Also, apparently Advance Wars commanders have magic powers, because one of them can summon meteor strikes and another can create blizzards (and there are others who have similarly bizarre abilities).

Frankly, while I like the Battalion games the way they are, I'd be all for a version with ridiculous commander powers like that added in.

*Interestingly, while gameplay was never identical (there were fewer types of units at a minimum), Battalion's gameplay moved away from Advance Wars' style as the games went on. Most specifically, the introduction of the War Machine mobile factories, and as far as I can tell Advance Wars never had a direct counterpart to the stealth tanks or jammer trucks, which are rather signature units in Battalion. (Examining the wiki, there was a similar stealth plane, but the gameplay differences between a tank and plane are quite significant; there's some similarities between the Advance Wars aircraft carriers-which can build aircraft-and a War Machine, but on the other hand a War Machine can build battleships.)

-Signing off.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Game Reviews: Yeah Jam Fury

I mentioned in Monday's post that there was a game that Transmorpher 3 reminded me of that I'd never reviewed; realizing that I'd never mentioned Yeah Jam Fury was rather surprising to me*.

While this banner displays the three characters apparently hanging out together, in-game they seemingly shapeshift into each other; it's one of those videogame character switch things one probably shouldn't think too hard about.

Anyway, the game is a purely puzzle platformer, with only falling and one's own ineptitude as hazards.

The first of the three characters, the yellow guy, an apparently easygoing fellow who seems pretty cheerful except when falling to his doom, has the power to materialize yellow blocks from a limited reserve. This lets him build platforms and even stairs to simplify jumping and go places he couldn't otherwise, and if you learn the trick you can even brake him in midair to save him from a fall. He's also good at jumping, able to clear a jump comparable to his own height.

The second of the three characters, the blue guy, can run fast, walljump, and use his hammer to fling himself long horizontal distances. He's a neat concept, but unfortunately his walljumps are finicky and he doesn't get as much elevation with his normal jumps as the yellow guy (his hammer flings can get similar lift, but only over long distances), so he's a clumsy, awkward character that I have a hard time using properly. Which is a shame, because he actually enables the silliest and most fun maneuver in the entire game (more on that in a moment).

The third of the three characters, the HUGE, LOUD, and very boisterous red guy, breaks yellow blocks (which adds them to the yellow guy's reserve), can't jump, and takes huge stomping steps that cover a minimum distance and shake the screen, causing the yellow blocks (which have animated faces) to cringe. He also just generally makes the yellow blocks nervous.

There's a couple of different ways he can break blocks; the simplest is by punching them, and he can clear a pretty wide area around himself. He also clears blocks automatically if one of the other characters is in an area crowded by the blocks and changes into him**, and most entertainingly, he can even clear them through high-speed collisions.

Said high-speed collisions are enabled by either running off a ledge or having another character jump/fling and change into him in midair***. Having the blue guy hammerfling himself at a wall of yellow blocks and changing into the red guy on the way there is incredibly fun; the feeling it gives me specifically is essentially the "popping bubble wrap" feeling.

This is helped along by the sound effect they chose for block clearing is a popping sound, and by the sound design of the game in general. It has really cheery music that can turn a frustrating death into a funny moment, and what's more, the characters have voice acting that they use to emote-including multiple very funny voice clips they tend to use when they fall to their dooms. (The voicework is also a reasonably substantial part of why the fling-into-red-guy maneuver is so incredibly fun.)

This game mostly feels really polished and is a lot of fun both when you're doing well and when you've just screwed up. It can still be frustrating, but it manages to take a lot of the stress out of things that are incredibly annoying in other games. The few issues are that the blue guy's abilities feel a bit tacked on and he's a lot harder to control than the other two characters and some of the level designs are a pain in the butt if you bite at walljumping as much as I do, but even with that, I can recommend playing around with this game, because it's just a blast.

*I chose to link the game's homepage partly because it's actually a really neat homepage whose background is actually affected by which level you're on. If you've ever seen those ads on Hulu that change the whole webpage when they come up, it's like that but less intrusive.

**Entertainingly, it's possible for a character to respawn partly overlapping a block or for the yellow guy to materialize a block over his own head. When this happens, the red guy takes over automatically as if he were the Avengers movie version of the Hulk.

***These are too fun and easy to qualify for the "tricky common maneuver" status mentioned in the Transmorpher 3 post. Walljumps, on the other hand...

-Signing off.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Game Reviews: Nan Creatures

(Decided I'm just going to go ahead and do a couple game reviews in a row this week. It happens occasionally.)

Nan Creatures is a flash game that I'll admit right off the bat that I'm not really recommending. (You might notice that I've linked the hacked version from Arcade Prehacks; there's a good reason for that.)

Gameplay-wise, Nan Creatures is a mon game where your mons are basically the wizards from Ether of Magic Cards. (Except for variations in the card/move pools, they're essentially exactly the same, to the point where I'm wondering even more about what inspired what than I was in the EoMC post.)

(The above screenshot was chosen to depict as many of the mons from the game as possible in one screenshot, because I quite like the creature designs. Click for full view, obviously.)

The key difference is that since you can have a team, the gameplay is quite a bit more balanced. (If you haven't recently read the EoMC article, I basically stated that battles tend towards either super-slow and grindy or quick and swingy.)

It's very polished, though with a few oddities, such as the "immunity" status effect being both impervious to being dispelled and protecting from several status effects as well as its stated purpose of granting temporary invulnerability. (I'm not saying I mind the total invulnerability so much, but I'd rather the tooltips tell me it's there... and for balance purposes dispelling it would probably be preferable, no matter how awesome it is to put the whole team under immunity for two turns and just chuckle as the surprisingly clever AI scrambles into a defensive footing.) I particularly like the "combo" abilities, which allow one to use multiple cards/moves (and is an interesting demonstration of how much design space such an ability actually has*), though they'd clearly be far too powerful for a 1v1 game like EoMC**.

Quite a bit of fun once you've picked up the rhythm and felt out the game design, really.

So it's a shame that 1) the game is one that you'd normally need to burn hours on to get anywhere, and 2) technically it's an advertisement for a game you'd need to register and sign in to play properly.

See, there's no save feature normally, and you'd normally need to spend hours grinding to buy what you need to advance past the first few levels. And the game also has pesky annoying popup dialogues reminding you of this every time you do something that a normal game might remember.

So that's why I linked the hacked version, which gives you an easy way to win battles, and while it doesn't automatically give you tons of in-game money, hitting the "win battle" button repeatedly when you're in the post-battle screen actually gives you more to spend-upon discovering this, I easily made about 1.3 million in-game gold.

And even then, there's still the danged popups.

Such a shame, really.

I don't really know for certain if membership on the website requires any kind of money, but it seems rather likely. (And, of course, sometimes sites like that go down, orphaning games like this.) But if (and that can be a kinda severe if) you can get around the various problems surrounding the game, it's not a bad way to spend a few hours.

*To wit, there's the obvious combo move types (which I'll abbreviate "C"), C2 (make two moves in addition to this one) and C3 (make three moves, i.e. the maximum possible). (Note that using the two moves together effectively freezes the game because you run out of moves to use and then you can't backtrack. Not very good programming/interface/game design.) There's also "C1 plus damage," "C1 plus status buff," and "C1 plus negative status effect." In effect, a weaker than average normal move that also lets you use one more move. And yes, you can use these moves together with C2 to use your entire set of moves at once like you would with C3 and three normal moves.

**I know they would be because the closest thing Ether of Magic Cards has to the combo moves is the Wrath of God card, which forces the opponent to skip a turn and inflicts the most damage of any attack card. Two Wraths and a half-decent attack in one's opening hand is literally an instant win, and another card that forces a skipped turn can buy one the time one needs to draw that last bit of damage.

-Signing off.