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April 28, 2019

Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame

On Saturday afternoon, I went in theaters to see the finale of the "Infinity Stones" story arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers: Endgame is the cinematic event of a generation, as the movie that 21 movies have built up to. I will do my best to explain my opinion of the movie, and I'll do my best to avoid spoilers. (For this one; expect many spoilers for Infinity War, because this is a direct continuation from that movie.)


The movie begins in 2018, very shortly after the Snap. If you've been living under a rock since April 2018, here's the short of it: Thanos has succeeded in gathering all six Infinity Stones, and has snapped his fingers to destroy exactly half of all life in the universe. That includes superheroes, and that's not counting all of the characters who died prior to the Snap, whether it's in Infinity War or in films that came before.

(For the record, everything I've written here is either shown in trailers, or a part of Avengers: Infinity War, so there aren't major spoilers for Endgame in these paragraphs. I've made sure of it.)

The remaining heroes are left to pick up the pieces. It is the first major battle that they lose. Tony Stark is trapped in space with Nebula (an ally to the Guardians of the Galaxy), aboard a spaceship that has run out of fuel, who knows how many lightyears away from Earth; Steve, Natasha, Thor, Bruce, Rocket and others are mourning the ones who have been lost. Getting together in support groups, trying to regain a sort of meaning to their lives... On his end, Hawkeye has changed radically, now acting as a vigilante.

After his plan was successful, Thanos has retired to a farm on a distant planet, content with his achievement. The Infinity gauntlet now broken, the six Infinity Stones still in his possession (or at least, so everyone assumes), enjoying life after his twisted modification to the universe.

With the addition of Rocket and Nebula to the roster, the Avengers may have a way to go to space and, who knows, fight Thanos and defeat him this time. There is a way to undo what's been done. However, this would require the Infinity Stones...

April 5, 2019

Steam Pack 19


How about some more quickie reviews?

Hidden Folks


What if Where’s Waldo met interactivity?

Always start with a small map.
Hidden Folks is a game created by Adriaan de Jongh and Sylvain Tegroeg, and it was published to Steam by the former on February 15th, 2017. It’s literally an object/character search game, with maps around which you must find as many of the targets as possible. The levels are of variable size, and each new “world” (or area, as you could call them) starts with a smaller map with a few items, followed by ENORMOUS MAPS with more content than you could ever notice. At least, "variable size" means some maps are smaller.

For those who like their Where's Waldo as a coloring book.
The best aspect of Hidden Folks may be that the maps are interactive. You can click on most objects on the map and get a funny little mouth-made sound (I don’t know why, but the various car horn noises give me a chuckle every single time). Sometimes, clicking something on the screen will have an effect; in-game screens will turn on, people will move around, snow will fall off trees… This would be neat, but then you stumble upon the ENORMOUS MAPS with hundreds of these instances, and it just gets more and more impressive.

The interactivity adds some nice elements to the game.
Like, say, the creation of puzzles.
The basic art in black and white is all we need, too. Even though the art style is very simplistic, the sheer number of elements on the screen at any giuven time is astonishing. Most ENORMOUS MAPS are actually so big that you can practically divide them by areas. Some levels are so large that you could split them into sections depending on the theme of each area. And of course, some items that you must find in the game are hidden behind interactive elements, so you must try everything. Absolutely everything.

On top of all that, a few levels are actually puzzles. Some involve bringing a character from one corner of the map to the other by removing hazards from the way. The best puzzle might be the creation of the game’s name, Hidden Folks, by activating switches in a factory, producing the letters and setting them in place.

Almost there! The N is approaching!
If I do have one point of criticism, it may be that in those ENORMOUS MAPS, you always have to find a certain number of items or characters in the area before you can move forward. Problem is, a lot of the items are also pretty small, and in these colorless worlds, it’s like looking for needles in a haystack. Any of them hidden behind a puzzle is even more difficult to find. Also, no matter how funny it is, all the mouth noises that are heard when clicking on items are usually pretty fun, but their number is a bit on the short side. So after a while, you hear the same noises over and over, it can get annoying.

Not to mention that you can literally get lost in some of those levels. I keep mentioning the ENORMOUS MAPS for a reason. Here’s one of them.

Click to zoom in.
...That is not even the full map.

Finding anything in such gigantic environments is almost a game of chance; thankfully, the game is aware of that, so you don’t get penalties for clicking on anything else than the items you’re looking for. Wouldn’t make much sense to have this kind of system in a game where the interactivity encourages the player to try all kinds of things. The hint given for each item could have been more helpful, however. Also, there's a DLC pack containing the last few levels taking place at the beach.

I recommend the Heck out of this one! You can usually purchase it on Steam for about 8$.

Nuked Knight


If you want a game that perfectly encapsulates why good controls and physics matter in game-making, this might be the one. Nuked Knight is the creation of Nuked Games, and was released to Steam on October 19th, 2016, by Siberian Digital. In all fairness, it does feel like it’s someone’s first game, or at least someone’s first full playable project.

"You came back, means you like the game"? Nah.
I had to replay it to write this damn review.
In this simple platform game, you are the eponymous Nuked Knight, a little pink creature in a knight’s helmet, running and jumping around on platforms. It’s possible to double jump. There is a bit of a puzzle aspect, as you must find your way around each level by avoiding the hazards, figuring out where the next platform is, and sometimes pushing crates around in order to reach higher platforms. The dark atmosphere is not helped by the many, many clouds in the area, some of which rain acid onto our protagonist, instantly killing him. Did I mention this guy has only one hit point?

Add to this that the screen is focusing too much on the character, meaning many platforms are off-screen, and some jumps become leaps of faith. Not to mention that, sometimes, this character won’t double jump when you need him to. That’s before additional puzzle elements appear, such as tilting platforms that fall off when too much weight is applied to one end, and multiple instances of portals carrying you all over the place.

It's kindof as if Mario fought Bowser while Firebars
floated around.
There are only four worlds (one of which is “in development”), and each one contains multiple levels. But, honestly, I couldn’t make it past World 1. The boss at the end of that world is an example of “too much going on at once”. Let’s see… that boss, the Woodman, uses an axe to attack. A laser spins around the arena, from left to right, and it’s an instant kill if it hits you. Oh, and after its health has been depleted by a third, the Woodman will summon thunderstorms (though it can be harmed by the lightning). Oh, and the boss has a LOT of HP, and can only be hurt by jumping on its head.

Goddammit, I couldn't see the other platforms!
For someone’s first game, it’s a game with a decent length, I can’t really complain about that. However, the many issues I have with the controls, the camera and the physics certainly turned this into an experience I didn’t enjoy much. The few sections of text also indicate that English isn’t this developer’s first language (though it seem they come from Russia; either way, I won’t complain much about that, as the dev gets their points across just fine). I don’t recommend this one, but points for the effort. Hang in there, Nuked Games; this is decent practice, you'll improve with each future game!

Tenrow


What’s that? A puzzle game involving numbers and squares? Just add it to the pile. Though, this one couldn’t be played on paper.

Here! Try to solve this one.

The numbers update with the squares you paint.
Tenrow, created and published by Cleverweek on Steam on April 8th, 2016, is a game about coloring squares. Unlike existing games such as Picross, this isn’t used to create images. The concept is easy to understand: Some squares contain numbers that indicate how many squares in both that number’s row and column have to be colored, with the numbered square as central point. Every time you paint a square, all numbers in that square’s row and column are affected by it, going down one unit. The goal is to have all numbers get to 0, and not have any numbers fall into the negatives. Much like Hidden Folks earlier, there is no penalty for coloring the wrong square, so you can keep trying over and over until you find the right combination of painted squares.

The 34-shaped Level 34.
Some puzzles may have a 0 in a square instantly, meaning you can’t darken a square in that number’s row or column from the start. It’s quite helpful. Further levels introduce greyed-out squares, which cannot be colored at all. And of course, don’t expect to be working with square grids.

Later puzzles can be tricky, and the 50th (and final) level in the game has a height and width of 10 squares (I guess the game is called Tenrow because it can only have a maximum of ten rows?). If you’re in it solely for the achievements, then you only need to reach and beat Level 34. Although, to be honest, even if there isn’t a carrot at the end of that stick, it’s worth playing all the way to Level 50. As you progress, you can unlock alternate color palettes for the squares as well, changing the base color as well as the color that appears when you click a square.

It's the last level for a reason. Holy crap this one's tough.

This one is a bit on the short side, but it’s alright. At 3$, it’s not very expensive. It has the type of difficulty curve you’d expect from a puzzle game, with a few levels at first introducing you to the mechanics, and then handing out increasingly difficult brain twisters. Some final levels get pretty challenging. Overall, it’s okay. Since I finished the game, I don’t know if I’d play it again, the replay value is pretty low, but it’s alright.

Last is the top square. See if you were right!

Yomi


I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I like card games, though my obvious preference is Yu-Gi-Oh. A friend of mine who’s into fighting games encouraged me to get Yomi on Steam. A product of Sirlin Games published on May 8th, 2015, Yomi features 10 fighters (plus 10 more if you buy a 15$ expansion), each with their own deck and special abilities.


Attack, Evade, Block, Throw... plenty of options.
Now, I just gotta get lucky...
...which I never am...
The base system relies on a kind of rock-paper-scissors meant to emulate a fighting game’s mechanics. Attack is strong against Throw, Block is strong against Attack, Throw is strong against Block. From there, it’s in your best interest to figure out what to play and when it’s in your best interest to do so. If you think the opponent will attack, Block. Oh wait, he used a throw? Oops! Each character has a deck of 52 cards, inspired by the regular playing cards and their suites (Ace-to-King, Spades to Diamonds), and each card has two actions (you can flip a card upside-down to use its other action). After each turn, if you have two cards of the same value in your hand, you can swap them for an Ace. The next best cards are, of course, the King, Queen and Jack. There’s also Jokers, the strongest cards.

If the opponent constantly plays cards to counter you, wish victory goodbye.

Each fighter has a starting Deck, as well as some special abilities that are applied to each fight. It’s in your best interest to learn what these abilities are. It’s also possible to win or buy packs to get new cards, and modify each fighter’s deck.

Oh yeah, I totally want to spend 50$ for 250 cards, on top of the
base 15$ and the extra 15$ for the other ten characters.

The rock monster is super-slow, but it punches hard.
Its stronger moves are better.
Attacks and blocks have a “speed” attached to them, from 0 to above 10. Imagine it as the time it takes for the attack to be accomplished, so a lower “speed” is actually better. In case both fighters have picked the same type of move (Attack or Block), the one with the lower “speed” number wins and deals that card’s damage. Both fighters have a bar of Hit Points that is depleted as the fight goes. Whoever depletes the opponent’s HP to 0 wins. I only covered the bases; there’s so much more to learn to be really good at this one.

I mean, with how poorly I seem to be faring against
the easiest CPU, I don't want to imagine my odds
against human opponents.
The single-player options include a Tutorial to learn the game, a mode to practice against an AI, and a Survival mode in which you must try to survive as long as possible against a series of opponents. On the multiplayer side of things, you can create a custom game, find a match or do a quick match against a human opponent. That is, if you can find any human opponents to fight against… In my personal experience, I never found anybody to play with.

I gave this one a fair chance, played for roughly two hours, but it’s not for me. Kind of like a fighting game, you won’t get results at this one unless you know your character inside and out, and have a little bit of luck as well. The rock-paper-scissors system tends to turn me off a bit. I find it sad that there are only 10 characters in the base game (though you can pick any of the 20 as an AI opponent when playing alone), and must pay the same price as the base game again to unlock the other 10 – and, to top it all off, you can buy card packs, not with in-game money, but with real-life cash. Needless to say, I have the impression that those who pay have better odds at victory.

Fuck it, I'm going back to Yu-Gi-Oh.

There’s a lot of interesting designs and ideas here, I won’t lie. But it really not for me. But hey, you can always give it a try if you wish so. The base game is 15$.