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January 19, 2018

Surgeon Simulator



See this guy? That’s you now. Actually, no, you’re worse.

We're having some bloody good fun around here!
There are some gimmick games on Steam that are a lot of fun. They’re usually all about putting you in silly situations or impairing your abilities, after which you can go wild and do whatever you want, once you've byspassed those limitations. I reviewed one such game last year: Goat Simulator. Hm, come to think of it, a lot of those games are simulators… Which brings me to today’s game: Surgeon Simulator. A game that begs to be played with an overpriced virtual reality headset and, very importantly, no medical studies whatsoever. I don't have a VR headset, but I do lack medical studies - so I should be fine.

Bossa Studios UK brings to us the perfect game if you love bloodied, gory black comedy – and as weird as it may sound, I am in that category. Hey, there’s a reason I have the Final Destination films among my favorite guilty pleasures. I just look at the Steam achievements for this game, and I’m already laughing my ass off.

No anesthetics; Nigel does things
the old way. He whistles a lullaby
to put his patient to sleep.

Will I even be able to remove the cloth from the patient?
You are now Nigel Burke, disembodied hand and arm moving around and pretending to be a person. Or rather, you’re the person attached to that hand and arm, but nobody cares about him. All that matters is that you’ve got a single hand to do everything, and you have to rely on your extremely poor skills, sheer clumsiness, and no other hand whatsoever in order to complete procedures that are way too complex and risky. Nigel is such a butterfingers, he can barely grab stuff without making a mess… and now he’s playing into people’s entrails! What’s next, he’s gonna carve his initials on the organs he’s transplanting? He’s a blunder, but he’s not crazy, come on. (And before you laugh at this, I’ll let you know that this actually happened – here’s the link to the article. Yes, someone actually did that. Reality is worse than fiction, yadda yadda.)


Just a D score? I'm never going to get out of medical school
with this!
...What do you mean, I'm already out of medical school?


January 12, 2018

Game Dev Tycoon


Have you ever wanted to create your own game studio? If you’re a gamer, the thought had to go through your head at least once. Have you ever wanted to make your games, based on the genres you love, for the consoles you love? Or maybe you wished you were a developer back in the olden days of the video game industry, making games for the retro consoles you still love? Hey, it’s alright, we’ve all had those dreams. Especially for those of us who saw the start of home gaming and wished today’s industry was more like it was back then. Less cutthroat, less dependent on insane budgets and less greedy with new ways to make more cash, like with microtransactions and lootboxes. That’s alright, the industry is a bit crap at the moment, especially on the AAA side of things (which might be why I mostly play indie games lately).


However! Would you like to play yourself as a young developer, growing a studio throughout the history of the gaming industry, with all the attention to detail when it comes to the consoles, their rivalries, their market shares, the genres that work well and not-so-well on them, the target audience options, the dozens of possible topics, and see your games being either hailed as masterpieces, seen as average, or torn to shreds by reviews, all while you manage your budget, create new engines, research the newest developments of the industry, and try to survive in a market that grows more and more competitive by the year?

Phew! If your answer is “…Huh?”, I’m sorry, that question was really way too long. If the answer is yes, welcome to Game Dev Tycoon. If it’s no… well, give it a try anyway. Released in 2013, Game Dev Tycoon is the creation of Greenheart Games, who really “get it” when it comes to understanding gamers. They even give you an achievement if you name your in-game company Greenheart Games! Or if you name one of your projects Game Dev Tycoon. Well, okay, it’s not all perfect, but they’re improving!


The game starts in the simplest of studios: An average Joe or Jane, making games in his or her garage, on an oldie computer, with… Okay, either they had the budget for a car that favored cool looks over performance, or this new game developer’s family name is Brown and they’ve got an uncle named Emmett.

January 6, 2018

Retrospective 2017

(I know it's a little late to post this, but I didn't have time to work on it after the year had started. Still, January 6th is rather early into the year.)

As usual, it’s time to say goodbye to the past year, and welcome the new one with open arms. I wish, to every single one of you, a 2018 filled with happiness and peace. May your businesses grow, may you spend quality time with your relatives, and may you make great gaming discoveries. More than anything else, I wish you a 2018 with plenty of good news. We all need that.

Lately, if a year seems to be going well for me, it’s on a personal level. I watch the yearly retrospectives on the political and cultural level and it’s sometimes pretty grim. Americans have spent a year already with their new President. The #MeToo hashtag has made a difference as accusations of sexual misconduct rolled by, targeting dozens of famous actors, directors, editors, musicians… We’re seeing society changing. And my wish is that it keeps on changing for the better in 2018. Victims standing up against their aggressors. People fighting injustice en masse. People helping others, any way they can. Letting cats and dogs live together… and actually get them to get along! Even the impossible is possible!

But that’s my idealist side speaking. I know change doesn’t happen overnight, the same way one can’t lose weight by getting a gym membership and going there once, to never go back. It takes time for society to improve. As for me? I prefer not to make promises that I can’t keep, but I do my best to accomplish them whenever possible.

On the personal side, 2017 was one of the best years of my life. Thirty minutes into the year, I caught a shiny Pokémon in Pokémon Sun, which was almost symbolic of a year of good luck. Then at the end of March I got a job, working night shifts at a gas station. It led to a few time management issues, as I was still adamant on writing my reviews for the blog in spite of my work/sleep schedule. You try writing 2000, sometimes 4000, words a week when you spend your nights at work and your days in bed. Sleeping. Wished I was luckier than that, but hey, I still have time to live and play games.

I went to the United States, took a plane alone – quite an achievement when I literally never took a plane to go anywhere before – and went to a convention where I met a bunch of friends I made over the Internet. Which convention was it? Does it matter? It was friggin’ awesome, as conventions are supposed to be.

But enough of that! I mean, I can’t be spending this whole article talking about myself! So now, let’s jump into the lists where I’ll be talking about… my blog! Boy, what a difference that makes! When it comes to reviews, Planned All Along has been very busy. Tons of reviews, some short, some long – seriously though, I had a lot of long reviews this year, which is kinda surprising considering my schedule. This year, I also reviewed my last Nintendo DS game, making it another milestone accomplished – and I still have plenty of Wii and 3DS titles in my library, not counting the 300+ games on Steam. To start this look at the last 365 days on this blog, first here’s some fun data.

January 5, 2018

Q.U.B.E. (+Director's Cut)


Tetris is simple, it just keeps on
going faster.
Puzzle games aren’t usually the kind where much is to be said: There’s a concept, then there’s a couple dozen levels based around this concept, usually with progression and an increasing difficulty level… This is achieved usually by changing the number of variables, or by combining multiple puzzle mechanics together, to force the player to juggle their brain cells and make connections between the elements, in order to figure out the solution.

Q.U.B.E., like most puzzle games, is simple enough that I could just talk about it in a Steam Pack – and after playing it for a while, it IS simple enough to be discussed there. However, the original has been removed from Steam, replaced by the Director’s Cut, which adds a lot of new elements. So I figured it would be good to talk about both games in the same article.

It's voxellic!
...That didn't make sense.
These two games – if we can even call them two different games – follow the idea of a puzzle game to a T. I felt it was fairer to discuss the first Q.U.B.E., and then talk about its Director’s Cut. Speaking of, I like Director’s Cuts. In movies, they sometimes add scenes that were missing from the theatrical release for time. Those scenes would sometimes explain things that were poorly explained in the original – but it can also lead to scenes being made longer for no good reason. A Director’s Cut of a video game takes that concept and rolls with it. They take the original game and improve on it, adding plot details (whenever necessary), new modes and gameplay aspects. Sometimes, even new levels or secrets!

Whoa... what did I do last night... All I remember is a 40-ounce,
a feather boa, a ticket to dog races and a crowbar...
And goddamn Despacito in my head for some reason.

Q.U.B.E. stands for Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion. You are a character in first-person view, with only your arms showing, covered in a weird suit with white dots on your hand and fingers that often change color. You fall down into this weird place made almost entirely out of white cubes. Featureless walls, aside from the cubes. There’s a few black cubes here and there to mark your progression… and then you find colored cubes.

January 1, 2018

The Disney Afternoon Collection (Part 4)

Chip’n’Dale 2 / Conclusion

(Before we start... I want to wish everyone a happy new year. May your 2018 be better than your 2017! And if your 2017 was great... then, may your 2018 be even better!)

Chip’n Dale Rescue Rangers 2


This game starts as Chip and Dale learn through a news report of a bomb threat in a restaurant located downtown. They decide to go investigate. As soon as they leave, the news report continues, announcing Fat Cat’s escape from prison…


First thing you notice: The game has animated cutscenes, not only text with still images. Some effort went in this!

Boxes! Boxes boxes boxes... BOXES!
Second thing: As with any sequel, the controls are a little different. Now, Chip or Dale can even throw items diagonally. This is bound to be useful at some point, right? One downside is that, now, if you want to throw a crate near the floor, to hit an enemy’s bottom, you can’t shoot until the chipmunk is hidden inside the box. I suppose that made the previous game too easy! Once again, you only means of defence is to pick up boxes and throw them around. I suppose the steel boxes were OP, because they’re mysteriously absent outside of rare instances where you must cross a bed of spikes to reach the next platform.

DIAGONAL TOSS, MOFO!

Oh, I just love going into sewers... always makes for
pleasant levels... bleh, it stinks down here!
In the original Chip’n Dale, there were two levels you could skip. Here, none. But that’s okay, it’s about the same length anyway. The levels are once again split in sections, so you restart at the beginning of the section you died in instead of restarting the whole level (unless you get a Game Over and use a continue, which takes you back to the start of the level). The flowers from the original have been replaced by RR symbols, for Rescue Rangers, and the stars are almost absent – since this time around, stars are clear 1-Ups. You can collect up to 99 RR symbols in a level, because that’s where the counter ends. In the first, each time you collected 100, the counter went back to 0 and you gained an extra life after a level. Here, once you get 50, you gain a larger RR emblem, which stacks wth the previous ones earned. The use for those is never explained in the game, but I noticed that once you had collected enough of those, you gained extra hearts for your life bar, going from 3 to 4, and then 5. So, you know, the game at least stays fair by giving you more HP for the upcoming levels… It’s also very easy to reach 50 RR symbols in a level (note that they all respawn if you die). You can only get one larger RR emblem per level, too – since the counter ends at 99, you can’t get to 100, which would give you two emblems.

Ready to go again!
The next thing you notice is the difficulty level. Much like in Darkwing Duck, many enemies here take more than one hit to go down – and many others have effective means of defending themselves against the crates you throw at them. We even get enemies disguised as crates in the first level! You don’t expect this kind of trick so early into the game! Indeed, I personally believe this game is harder than the previous one. However, it’s merciful: Three lives each time, three continues. That should give you a chance to learn the game. And thank God for that!

You gotta wait till this guy spawns a rock before you can
properly hurt it. Even there, you gotta strike before it
vanishes.
The levels are tricky, but so are the bosses! You know how, in the first Chip’n Dale game, you always had a red ball to throw at the boss, from the start, and you could always pick it up again instantly? Yeah, they got rid of that. Instead, all bosses must be killed by the crates and blocks that either fall onto the field or are summoned by said bosses. The first, Water Rabbit, must be killed with crates that fall from the top of the screen. Did I mention that this takes place in a giant dishwasher, and the water currents drag you and the boxes downwards? It keeps going, too: The second boss, a flying cat (BatCat?), throws rocks that must be picked up and thrown back at it. A ghost summons rocks, a wrecking ball on a machine hits the ground to produce blocks… You get the idea. Also, unlike the original, most bosses here actually freaking move around the screen. NOW that’s some difficulty! I mean, I don’t like when things are too hard, but when they’re too easy it’s no fun either. The bosses here are harder, and that’s good! Many of them are pretty long to beat, though, since you must rely on blocks summoned by the boss or the field.

I have to make this bomb blow in this robot's face!
...Or else, it's gonna blow up in MY face!
The final boss, in particular, is very difficult. It’s a robot version of Fat Cat, and it has many different attacks. Its main move is to rise and disappear at the top of the screen, drop a bomb, and fall down shortly afterwards. You have to pick up the bomb and throw it at the boss… but only when it reaches the 0 of its 3-second countdown! For, you see, getting hit by the bomb won’t harm it, only the explosion will. And it has about 10 Hit Points, with some attacks that are easy to avoid, some that are predictable due to their telegraphing… and, for some reason, one that causes the game to lag a bit when it happens, but it’s not too bad. Once the Fat Cat robot is broken, we get a final cutscene in which we learn that Fat Cat escaped, but since we’ve laid waste to his primary base of operations, the Rescue Rangers should be able to deal with him soon. The end!

Yeah… that’s it. I’m a bit disappointed as a Steam achievement about beating this game said “Return Fat Cat to the slammer”, and that doesn’t even happen. Oh well!

Chip'n Dale 2 has a lot of tricky platforming section, as well
as devilish sections like this one.
I’m a bit torn on this one. While the graphics and music are still very good, a staple of all Capcom Disney titles in this collection, I have a few criticisms about the controls and system this time around. The difficulty level has increased, but the game as a whole is still fair – I’d even say it’s more creative than the first in that it tries to think up good reasons for crates and other blocks to appear during boss battles, sometimes with unique twists. They did away with the apples and the bombs from the original, kept in the steel blocks (which appear only twice), and the red balls appear only during the bonus game at the end of a level (in which it’s a lot trickier to get an extra life than it was in the first CnD game). The increase in Hit Points is also welcome, considering the rising difficulty of the later levels.

Big cogs everywhere? What is this, Great Mouse Detective?
The controls still work fine, and I’m glad that we can now throw diagonally upwards (that would have been useful before!). However, some changes to the system annoy me, like the clear delay needed before Chip or Dale can throw a crate at ground level. They absolutely have to be hiding in the crate before throwing it that way, which is annoying when you’re trying to kill enemies smaller than the chipmunks. The game also makes frequent use of moving platforms, like treadmills in the final level, or spinning cogs in a clock tower level (in my opinion, the most annoying of them all). The NES graphics can do wonder, but sometimes you can’t tell the direction in which a cog is spinning until you jump on it. And, well, sometimes you get tossed off the platform and to your doom (since the game scrolls only forward and there are many sections where Chip or Dale is going upwards, with the bottom of the screen turning into a deadly pit). Also, the RR enblems should have been explained better.

All in all, a very good game, some good improvements, although I’m not sure I like it more than the original. It’s pretty good, definitely not a bad game, but I don’t see it as quite as good as some others in this collection.

Conclusion


Can you make it into the Top 10?
Because I sure as Hell can't.
Well, that was quite a ride! To properly do this review, I had to beat each game in each available mode.

I started with the Boss Rush Mode, since it was the shorter one and it would give me a chance to try out the controls before getting into the various games. Playing on a keyboard isn’t the same as using a USB NES controller. To its credit, this mode pits you against all the bosses in each game, although it’s always in the same order (either the order of progression or the order of difficulty).

Got 4 Hit Points here because it's the normal Play mode.
In Boss Battles, you gotta survive with 3.
Might as well give up. Or maybe not.
There’s also a little problem with this mode, when it comes to games where you can get extra hit points: It’s not consistent with these. In Chip’n Dale 2, you almost instantly get extra hit points, up to 5, as you progress. And you start the Boss Rush mode with these 5 Hit Points. In both DuckTales games, the additional HP are either found or bought. And as a result, you go through the Boss Rush mode with only 3 HP the whole time. Yes, even against the freaking golem in DuckTales 2. Good luck! It’s a bit of a problem, though if you know the bosses you can defeat them with relative ease (after all, the point of Boss Rush is to speedrun through them and get a low end time).

The Play option is just that: Play the game as it was meant to be played back when it was on the NES… with a slight difference. You can Rewind your playthrough (usually with the Q button) for any major mistake you made, allowing you as many tries as you want – which, okay, I suppose that’s a nifty feature for young players who are discovering these games, or for people who just want a less-effort playthrough. Just go through the levels, rewind if necessary, beat the game. There’s one achievement for each, and you don’t lose the achievement if you rewind.

The Time Attack mode is where it gets tough: Once again, you play through the whole game (including menus and cutscenes, but it ends as soon as the final boss is defeated). This time, however, rewinding is not allowed, and the timer never stops unless you leave the game and restart (or pause the Disney Afternoon Collection, not the single NES game). The timer doesn’t start over if you get a complete, no-Continues-left Game Over, either. But don’t worry, the achievements are actually very easy to get, as long as you can beat these games in less than 2 hours each. Many of them can be beaten in a third of that time, with enough skill and luck.

If you devote about twenty hours to this game, you should go through the whole collection relatively easily and collect every achievement (including the one in which you must beat any game without rewinding). The collection of achievements is pretty basic, really - a little too basic and simplistic, in fact. It’s a weird point of criticism to have, but I have it. (I’ll say more later).

"I am the bat with fake wings that hookshots at
fixtures in the night! I am... Darkwing Duck!"
There isn’t much to say about the Collection itself. It’s great that it features all of the musical tracks from the six titles you can play here, and I also like the Gallery – it also offers loads of information you might not know about the production and content of these games. However, it seems to be quite unequal in the presentation of bonus content, as though there was more to show about the more famous titles. I would have liked to read more trivia about DuckTales 2, as an example. Then again, if there’s little to say about one of these games, I guess it makes sense that they wouldn’t be discussed as much.

A final thing about the achievements: There could have been a few, more special ones outside f the obvious stuff. Here’s a few I can think of:
-Beat a game that has Continues without using any;
-Get the best ending on either DuckTales game;
-Get the worst ending;
-Beat Chip’n Dale 1 without skipping any levels;
-Find every secret million-dollar treasure in DuckTales 1 and 2;
-Buy all of the upgrades in TaleSpin;
-Beat any final boss without getting hit once.

But really, that’s just a minor point of criticism. All in all, this collection is awesome, and if you’ve ever owned any of these classic titles, or wanted to own any of these classic titles, or played DuckTales Remastered and want to try the original one… Seriously, whichever the reason you give yourself to get this game, you really should. The Disney Afternoon Collection is amazing. Worth the price you pay for it!

Next week… something different!