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March 22, 2019

Steam Pack 17


Sometime before the Holidays, I took a week off work. I know I said it more than anything else on this blog, but night work takes a lot out of you. So a week of vacation was most welcome. Throughout that week, I tried to play as many short Steam games as possible. And so, now, I’ve got some fuel for a few Steam Packs. I did want to start the year with a movie review, a Wii game review, and a 3DS game review, and some others here and there as well.

(P.S. With Google+ shutting down in less than two weeks, be sure to join my Discord server, I wish to make it into a fun gaming community!)

So, let’s begin this right away with today’s selection of four games! I think today’s accidental theme is fun and peace; the games feel peaceful in some way. And to start…

Drawful 2


A while ago, I reviewed Quiplash in one such Steam Pack. Well, I had a second Jackbox game in my collection, and I figured I could talk about it now. Also, I have a lot of artistic friends, so this game is pretty popular in my circle.

Let's get two more folks to join, there's room!
Like all Jackbox games, Drawful 2, released on June 21st, 2016, involves players using their mobile devices to participate. There may be up to eight players, but others can join as audience members voting during the game. At the start of the game, players draw an avatar for themselves.

When everyone’s ready, each player gets a prompt… and must then draw that prompt the best they can, using the two colors available for them and little more than their own fingers as drawing tool. In other words: It’s not going to look good, but it’s certainly going to be funny.

Woo! Got it.
After which, drawings are seen one at a time, with each player writing down what they think the picture represents. Obviously, the artist who drew that picture can’t weigh in with their own suggestion. Of note, if someone actually comes up with the exact answer (which can happen), they’re told to write something else, which is a bit annoying. After which, all the player-made answers show up along with the actual title, and players pick their favorite. A person is awarded points for every person picking their title, while every player that got the right title get points, and the artist also gets points for each player who guessed it right.

There’s a second round if there are fewer players. At the end, whoever has the most points wins.

Looks like nobody got that one right.
It’s, without a doubt, my favorite take on Pictionary out there. I will probably never cease to praise Jackbox for their base concept, since it allows friends to play even if they live countries apart. And the simple concept of Drawful 2 makes it fun, not only for artists, but also for those who aren’t the most image artistic types. ...You can imagine I’m pointing to myself.

Don’t expect the prompts to be easy, either; some of them are items or actions, some are vague, others are idioms that require you to know the English language really well. One game I played with Quebec French-speakers had the phrase “cropdusting a party”. For the record, you don’t have time to Google it and then draw it. Not that idioms translate all too well, mind you… Also, I genuinely have no idea how I'd draw that.

Similar issue when it comes to thinking up answers. I am well aware that it’s the point of view of a French speaker looking at games that would be difficult to translate, so it may apply to very few people. Anyway, in games like Quiplash, you could reply in other languages as long as you understood the original question, if everybody spoke that other language. In Drawful, the real answer appears alongside the players’, so everyone has to respond in English. Also, spelling mistakes happen, so it can be easy to spot the real answer if it’s the only one spelled correctly. Or the one that isn't something stupid like "no idea lol".

But even with these two points, it’s a really fun game. I love it, and always do my best to gather a group to play it. …But it’s better to play on a more famous streamer’s game.

The Howler


I’m one for more peaceful games once in a while, I’ve never made a secret of that.

The Howler is a creation of Antanas Marcelionis, and it was released in… 2013? 2014? The store page says 2016, but I could have sworn I’ve read somewhere that this game’s publishers changed the release date so it would appear among the New Releases tab on Steam… which is, without a doubt, a blatant use of false advertising.

That's all the tutorial you're getting.

Good luck going through.
But anyhow. This is a puzzle game about a hot air balloon trying to reach places, and pick up and deliver parcels, and getting suddenly involved into a darker plot happening around it. The concept is as simple as it gets; your balloon can only go up or down, with the wind currents changing its trajectory – therefore, you must rise to particular altitudes in order to go left or right, and decide when or where to descend. Some winds can be stronger than others, as well, so plan your path carefully. You need nothing but the left mouse button to feed hot air into the balloon in order to rise. Your goal from a level to the next may change, but the controls will never get more complex than that. Oh wait, right, I was about to forget: For the true Howler experience, you can activate microphone functions, and raise the balloon by yelling like a maniac at your computer. Sounds so much better!

Admittedly, it looks impressive. What's not shown
is the dozen tries that blew up the balloon.
And this is a puzzle game, so the environments and goals are the true ways in which the game will change your experience. Why was everything around this balloon designed with friggin’ spikes? I got parcels to deliver!

This game is probably most famous for its level featuring a giant wolf statue. It’s even in the title image. For playing that level, I can attest – it's kind of epic. You first go above it to pick up parcels, then must maneuver carefully into the opening maw.

The last levels do get pretty tricky, as they involve picking up and laying bombs in precise places, in order to foil a large conspiracy. The very last level changes controls some more, featuring a plane’s test flight… around a sky filled with mines.

And of course, there's these goddamned floating bombs
all over in the skies.

This is a unique experience; the painted backgrounds, the pencil-drawn animated sprites and world features. The unique control scheme (if you do decide to try the microphone input instead of using the left-click button). The peaceful atmosphere, which remains even as the story progresses. Sometimes, plot-important items may be a bit difficult to see in the environment. The biggest issue I have is that it’s very short, only 16 levels in total. Then again, for a dollar, I wasn’t expecting a huge game. Something simple and quick works sometimes too.

Princess Remedy 2: In a Heap of Trouble


Welcome back, Princess! I reviewed the first game, Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt, as part of one of the earliest Steam Packs. I liked it enough to get the sequel, also made by Ludosity, and released on September 8th, 2016.

The band-aids tossed by Remedy seem to have little
smiley faces on them, and it makes me laugh.
In this sequel, Princess Remedy is called back from vacation after a Boss Tower sprouts in the world, causing hurt to many residents. It’s her task to cure each of them once more and fend off the evil contained within that tower! After being given her mission by Wash-Olof, Remedy leaves.

If you were expecting something very different from the original game, you might be disappointed; it’s the same base concept. You heal people by fighting their ills. Clear all of the monsters in every battlefield. That’s about it, really. Thankfully, this game does add a few new elements. First off, your basic special attack is still a bomb that can clear multiple enemies at once. However, that can be changed; Talk again to a person you’ve healed and you can elect them to follow you around, providing a new special move. It ranges from a dash/teleportation to healing your HP and new types of powered moves to deal extra damage.

I'll say, the sprites and nice and colorful.

That toothy monster, plus the razor monsters... Aaaah!
Second, there are actual bosses this time. A boss guards each door leading to a new area. And, once more, you have to collect a certain number of hearts before you can be allowed to walk through and fight that boss. They range from large enemies to smaller ones, but most of them can rely on items that spawn small monsters as the fight progresses.

The boss at the end is very similar to the one at the end of the first game, found in a castle at the end of the game, afflicting the Prince of the land, and split in multiple phases. It culminates in a final form that reduces the area in which Remedy can move, though it’s not that difficult.

Let's Dance!
Afterwards, the cured Prince invites Remedy to a ball in her honor. She can invite whoever she wants. That means whoever she has chosen to follow her around. At the ball, Remedy will dance along to her guest’s favorite song, in a Dance Dance Revolution mini-game played with the keyboard arrows. That’s a nice post-game reward, as many guests will have a song of their own, meaning you’ll get a different song for probably every guest. It’s a great addition to the game. But if that’s not enough, there’s a very difficult bonus boss in the final area…

This game is just as good as the first! Well, okay, it’s got additional features that make it an improvement over the original. However, the first one was free and I’m wondering whether the additional content here makes it worth paying 5$ for this one. But still, I’m not calling this game bad, on the contrary it’s quite fun. It gets pretty challenging later on, and there are harder difficulty modes for those who seek something tougher. All in all, I like it.

TIMEframe


What if the end of the world is coming, and there’s almost nothing you can do to prevent it?

I can feel myself dehydrating just looking at this.
TIMEFrame is a walking simulator developed and published by Random Seed Games. Indeed, there isn’t much to do here except walk the gigantic landscape, on the search for artifacts. You start at the spire in the center of this land, and seek the remnants of a civilization. These contain the excerpts of the story of this world, and what is about to happen to it. You don’t have time to find all of the excerpts. The cataclysm will strike either way. And indeed, that menacing red glow in the skies keeps coming closer, closer… until it hits the land.

INCOMING!

Hope you like reading.
…And then you respawn at the spire, and can resume visiting this land, gathering information by visiting the ruins scattered around. And keep going until you’ve found all of the ruins. This may take a few runs, though, considering the cataclysm happens roughly every 10 minutes. However, if you can find all of the ancient artifacts and read up on them, it will open a final set of ruins, in which your protagonist activates a system that stops the cataclysm. And that’s the end of the game.

I will admit though, there's a lot of pretty stuff here.
Walking simulators try to do things that involve minimal gameplay as well as minimal storytelling. It’s about taking it all in, rather than participating directly. While you do get to stop the threat, it’s only after doing little else than walking around, interacting with a few items, and reading. The map available on the pause menu also helps when it comes to looking for the ancient ruins scattered around.

I understand that walking simulators aren’t everyone’s thing; the minimal gameplay turns some people off. Similarly, walking simulators give the impression that they’re easy to make, just scatter the story and make people walk around a lot to get the plot going. Well, yeah; but the game has to make up for the lack of complex gameplay by featuring an interesting story that makes the player want to walk around and get the various tidbits.

This feels like walking through a desert.
But the heat's nothing compared to when the meteor hits.
On that front, TIMEframe is… okay. I’d call it average, though I do like the idea of collecting information on this dying society, then look to the ground and see how dark it’s getting, then look up and see that giant rock falling from the sky! Catches you by surprise at first, then the next cycles make you determined to prevent it… as soon as you find out it may be possible.

Well, I did enjoy it. I feel it’s a bit on the expensive side, at 6$, but it’s decent.

And thus closes another Steam Pack. See you next week! For another Pack, or maybe something different.

March 3, 2019

New Super Mario Bros. 2


(P.S. If you want to keep following this blog after Google+ shuts down, be sure to join either the Discord server, follow me on social media, or join other communities where I post links to my reviews.)

It was about time I reviewed a Nintendo 3DS game, huh? 2018 was seriously lacking in that department.

The Mario games are bursting with personality. Each platform and RPG title in the series can be accurately described with a short sentence and most gamers will know which is which. The first platformer; the one in Subcon; the one with the first Raccoon Leaf; the one with the first Yoshis; the one with the weapon-based monsters; the one with the Star Spirits; and so on. Today’s game can be accurately be described as such: The one where Mario got greedy.

Oh, and Koopalings. Always the Koopalings.

Perhaps this one’s full title should have been New Super Mario Bros. 2: Wario Called, He Wants In On This.

A Mario game that focuses on collecting coins feels more than a bit bizarre as a concept. Coins have always been a staple of the franchise. A hundred coins mean an extra life, it’s been ingrained into Mario fans over the last 35 years. The coins have always been around, sometimes sparse, sometimes frequent, but always there to give Mario a chance to get another pick-me-up, another chance after his next death. On the opposite side of things, it’s a popular self-imposed challenge to try and beat a Mario game by collecting the least coins possible, perhaps even none (one YouTuber is trying this with many mainline Mario games, by the way).


I don’t think I even need to talk about the story for this one. Like all 2D Mario platform games of recent years, Princess Peach gets kidnapped and the brothers run into action to save her from Bowser and his forces. That’s about it, really. I’m not expecting Shakespeare. The red-clad Italian plumber isn’t one for soliloquies. Some variety would be nice, though.

February 20, 2019

Movie Review: Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion

The second movie I went to see last Sunday. The Asterix franchise and me, we go way back. I was introduced to it fairly young, as my father is also a huge fan. In fact, he's a fan not only of this series, but also of Lucky Luke, another Franco-Belgian comic book series. A TV channel in my province likes to air the films from these two franchises (as well as Tintin) throughout December. I've seen every Asterix movie (not an achievement, there's only ten) and own four on DVD; as for the comic books, I lost track of how many I own. I don't have them all, but I do buy every new entry in the series when it comes out. It's usually a present for my dad. The Asterix franchise may be among the ones that give me the biggest feeling of nostalgia.

This movie was releaed in Europe in December 2018, we only got it in February on the other side of the ocean. I, of couse, went to see it in theaters with my father. No way we were going to miss that.

The Secret of the Magic Potion is less of an Asterix or Obelix movie. It actually seems to focus more on Getafix, the Gaul village's druid, the creator of the magic potion that gives the villagers that incredible strength that allows them to fend off the Roman invaders. It's nice to have a day in the limelight for other characters in the series sometimes. Getafix tends to be put aside, as he's usually shown with only two main traits: He's the wise old man of the village, and he makes the potion. This movie gives him a lot more personality than we usually see.

This film wastes no time, either, in showing the main conflict. While gathering ingredients in the forest, after rescuing a baby bird, Getafix falls off a tree. Now healing from a broken foot, he realizes his own mortality. After a few days, he realizes that he won't be there forever to make the magic potion for the village, and so he decides to go on a quest to find a worthy successor to whom he'll teach the recipe for the potion. Asterix and Obelix go with him, and Pectine, a young gadgeteer girl from the village, comes along after hiding in a small cauldron they were bringing with them.

February 18, 2019

Movie Review: The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

First off, quick update on the upcoming game reviews. I have two finished, one more than halfway done, and two that still have to be started. I will try to get them done by March, but I can't make much in the way of promises; the past week had the worst winter weather I've ever seen and following an unpleasant bumper-to-snowpile meetup, my car needs repairs and I can feel my wallet dying. So, as you can guess, reviews aren't exactly the biggest thing on my mind at the moment. However, I am still doing my best, and I'll try to have some stuff ready soon-ish. And hey, not all's grim, I could spare a couple bucks on the side to go see a movie in theaters.

The first of those two is The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. I'll try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, yet again, since the film is still in theaters. However! The plot of this one hinges heavily on the plot of the original LEGO Movie, including the twist. It's referenced (more like replayed) in the very first minutes, so I HEAVILY recommend you watchg the first film if you haven't seen it before seeing this one.

(By the way, Warner Brothers did an awesome thing with promotion for this film, making the first movie available on YouTube for a full day last year, albeit intercut with ads for the sequel. I kinda wished that became a common thing in promotions, especially for sequels to films that were released a few years prior.)

The plot begins after the alien invasion of the DUPLO at the end of the first movie (don't worry, that wasn't the plot twist of that one). Five years have passed since, and Bricksburg has turned into an apocalyptic, Blatant-Mad-Max-Ripoff wasteland. The aliens kept stealing away every cute thing they could get their hands on, so the LEGO minifigs adapted their world to have nothing cute about it anymore. It's a gloomy desert of violence and edge that you could cut yourself on. In spite of all that, Emmet is still his jolly self, keeping his seemingly-unbreakable positivity even as everybody around him brood and tatto themselves with badass imagery. Even Lucy, the girl Emmet hooked up with by the end of the first film, thinks an awful lot about war and pain lately.

February 8, 2019

Delay for a buffer

Hello there. I have decided to delay the upcoming reviews for a while, until I have built a satisfying buffer of reviews that are completed.

I played a lot of games during one week of December, and I haven't recorded those playthroughs, so for a lot of future Steam Packs I'll need to replay these games and record myself.

As a reminder, Google+ is shutting down soon, so if you want to keep up with the blog, feel free to join the official Discord server.

EDIT: The delay is going to be longer than planned after all. Sorry about that.