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December 31, 2018

Planned All Along: My Twelve Inspirations (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1.

Time to continue this list with the next and last six items on the list. I need to repeat that they’re not in any particular order, as these are people who shaped up my reviewing style over the years, and to whom I’m especially grateful for their content. Or for merely being people I know and whom I interact with, in real life or on social media (usually the latter, obviously). Let’s get into it!

7. The Mysterious Mr. Enter


Oh boy, here I go again with the controversial choices! The Mysterious Mr. Enter is an animation reviewer on YouTube, who has since turned this into his job thanks to Patreon. He has reviewed a lot of episodes from shows, many of them from SpongeBob, Family Guy or Teen Titans Go over the past five years, but don't go say those are his only targets. Anything will be fair game as long as it’s bad enough, even movies. Oh, he’s not only a negative critic; he has split his work in two shows, Animated Atrocities (for terrible media) and Admirable Animations (to praise animated TV show episodes, shorts, or movies that he feels deserve it), with attempts at branching out to other media. I say he’s a controversial figure because his style of review and his opinions haven’t always been well-received. Also, he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of trolling and mockery, some of which came from other members of the “animation review community” of YouTube (though many have apologized after realizing that these mockeries went too far and trolls from their own fan bases were harassing Enter). There are people out there who see him only as an average critic, which is a perfectly valid opinion, and I’ll leave out the criticisms levied at him… Except for one.

See, one thing said about him is that he takes cartoons too seriously. Yeah, just relax, it’s not like cartoons are an important part of children’s media or anything, right? He outlines that point, and the problem with that line of thought, at the start of his review of the Arthur episode “April 9th”.


His reasoning is sound: Cartoons are a major element in a kid’s life and growth, which means that parents shouldn’t just let them watch any crap that’s on TV (or on YouTube) that will appeal to the lowest common denominator. And just like how parents have a duty to look over their children’s entertainment, animation producers should feel that they have a duty to present stories and morals that will help the child’s growth, not merely do gross-out jokes because it’s popular, or present morals that are detrimental to the children watching. Even if it doesn’t seem so, these cartoons will have a great impact on these kids, greater than anyone can imagine. Sometimes, it may cross past mere children's entertainment, and become true art.


When you think about it, the same goes for video games; if something is problematic, it’s best to point it out.

What’s the lesson here? Whatever you are reviewing, take it seriously. Never treat your analysis and review like it’s a joke. Praise the good, condemn the bad. Always remember that there are actual people on the production end of things. Which also means that whichever bad decisions have made it into a terrible piece of media, entire teams are responsible for them. They don’t deserve harassment over this, but their mistakes can and should be pointed out in the hopes that they’re not repeated.

8. Todd in the Shadows


Adding to the list of Channel Awesome producers who’ve had an influence on me, there’s Todd in the Shadows, the pop music reviewer with a unique gimmick. He stays anonymous by wearing a mask and staying in the dark, and he does his reviews sitting at his keyboard. He’s very thorough in his research, and offers an in-depth look at the artists he covers. He has added sub-series to his show, such as One Hit Wonderland (in which he analyzes a one-hit wonder band and their greatest hit, and looks back on their short fame and why it didn’t last) or Trainwreckords (in which he analyzes the music albums that basically ended an artist or band’s career).

Among the CA crew, he’s one of the reviewers that people still watch to this day. He has managed to keep his content fresh and interesting. Unlike a lot of reviewers that went more for comedy then deeper discussion in their early days as online video reviewers, he always had a more analytical side to his videos. Unlike most content producers on here, whom I’ve learned lessons from, I am not entirely certain what I learned from watching Todd regularly. Is it possible that his analytical side rubbed off on me? Perhaps, but then again, the fad on YouTube has moved slowly from comedic content to in-depth analyses (à la Lindsay Ellis) or documentaries (think of series like Down the Rabbit Hole or Defunctland). He still remains, in my opinion, one of the better examples of the analytical YouTube series that still manages to keep some room for comedy here and there, which is the best way I could describe my blog nowadays. So, in a way, I guess he did have an influence on me.

He’s great. You should totally watch his series. They’re super-interesting.

9. Kyle Kallgren


I’m not the most knowledgeable on film theory. I followed few film classes during my two years of college and three years of university. I know a lot of terms. I can tell you what a Dutch angle is, I can talk about metanarratives and other concepts related to stories and filmmaking, but I don't know nearly as much as this guy. Kyle Kallgren, who became known through his series Brows Held High on YouTube, was a very interesting member of Channel Awesome, and though he left that site in 2015, he has kept on producing content of the same caliber. Content that I love.

Kyle reviews artistic films that would hardly be known to the common American moviegoer. Oh, that doesn’t mean that he’s too high-brow for them, on the contrary – I found many of his videos to be great takes in making those artistic films more approachable. In offering his own opinion of these films, he presents his point using many terms of film study, vulgarizing for the viewers, explaining their meaning. Some of the films reviewed are bizarre, unexpected, or look straight-up boring on the surface (think Gerry or Blue). Yet, his opinion and analysis added to the review make for an entertaining and educative series. He may have taught me more than my film classes ever did.


His content may not please everyone, but it’s definitely great if you have interest in film discussion beyond the simple review. And I can definitely say that his videos have encouraged me to not only expand on analysis of the works I review, but also to improve constantly and offer new perspectives on those works. And I shouldn’t be afraid of going in-depth; if it’s entertaining enough, the readers will enjoy it.

While I’m at it, shout-out to all the ex-Channel Awesome producers that I still watch to this day, but haven’t mentioned on this list due to it being already pretty long:
With a list that long, it’s a miracle that I find any time to actually write all of this.

10. Nick Nocturne


Wait... I can find something... see, he never appeared on camera... He only does voiceovers... wait, let me find an artist's rendition.


Ah, there you go. I started watching Nick’s video series Night Mind sometime in 2017, so he’s still fairly recent as one of my inspirations, and that's also why he's lower on the list. Nick specializes in discussing horror, whether it’s movies or YouTube webseries, and in ARGs. That term stands for Augmented Reality Game, and usually involves a creator building an intrigue through social media (frequently YouTube, but on other social networks as well), with puzzles to solve and plot threads for the viewers to figure out. He goes in-depth and discusses these ARGs, even pointing out what’s been done right and what hasn’t. He will be quick to point out the type of puzzle that comes back frequently, such as secret codes or hidden messages in a webpage’s source code. And, like any good reviewer, he will give praise where due, especially if a webseries does something unique.

I joined the Night Mind Patreon Discord last year, where Nick interacts once in a while (on top of hosting a weekly event), so I’ve had a chance to discuss with the guy. Over the last year, he has been questioning his own content, wondering if he was doing things correctly (because of drama I won’t talk about here), and he’s been eager to try out new things. In fact, it’s one of his recent videos, in which he discusses his influences and favorite YouTube channels, and recommends them to his viewers, that made me decide to write this list.

I learned a few things on the art of producing online content, thanks to Nick. On a more personal side of things: Don’t be afraid of admitting your mistakes. Don’t ignore them; acknowledge them, apologize for them. Fans love and respect a creator that admits their mistakes. The next lesson, he stated multiple times, but discussed it during panels on the first convention he was invited to as a guest: On the Internet, find your niche. Offer content that nobody else is offering. You’re guaranteed to find an audience. The last lesson is discussed in a few of his videos. The quote is actually longer and is about creating fan works based on existing material, but the overall message casn apply rto all creation. Open quote: “Be as original, unique, creative, intelligent, and entertaining as possible. Do something that means something, that has a message, that qualifies as art […]”. Solid advice for anyone who decides to create, whether it's something online or any other sort of media.

11. Testeur Alpha


Just because the “age of angry critics” on YouTube is over doesn’t mean it can't be fun to watch once in a while. And as I said, Doug Walker inspired a lot of people to start making their own web show. The Quebec YouTube gaming scene isn’t as huge as the American one, but it’s still pretty interesting, from convention reporters to collectors giving advice on repairingold games. The one that stuck out the most with me is Testeur Alpha (Tester Alpha), who goes by the online nickname Alpha, who makes videos featuring his accomplice Beta. (They got a theme going on.)

As far as angry reviewer go, I personally feel that his video series has a lot of creativity behind it. There’s the occasional storyline (involving some opponent called Omega and his lackey Psi – like I said, there’s a theme). There are running gag characters such as Fisher, the nasty dev who has apparently made every horrible game in existence, or Konrad the eternally-annoyed delivery man. I could do without some of the other jokes, but otherwise it’s solid content. (Though fair warning, it's probably the most low-brow series on this list.)


Eventually, Alpha and Beta started streaming on YouTube and Twitch, and gained enough subscribers to become Twitch partners. They share the account and try to stream at least three out of seven days each week, with sometimes extra streams depending on the mood. They might be the first streamers that I’m really following. It’s great to see the difference between the characters on the show, and the guys in everyday conversations (even if they still claim to be their characters on-stream). On top of that, Alpha doesn’t have that big of a fan base yet, so he can hop onto the Discord and chat around whenever he feels like it. There are advantages to having a smaller fan base, it seems. Odd lesson to take from that, but hey, it’s cool.

Oh, and he likes metal music, so that's another good thing there.

12. My own family

Of course. I wouldn’t be who I am now without them. I’ve known them for more than twenty-six years, and I can say they’ve raised me well. My sense of morality, part of my comedy style, most of my personality, a lot of that has been shaped up by my life with them. My parents, whom I love dearly, and who have always looked out for me. It’s not cheap to add them to this list as I can safely say they have always been my greatest influence.

On each of my projects, they backed me. They shared my pride, my joy, whenever a project went well. They may have helped me through my frustrations when something didn’t go right. They gave me everything I needed, and often gave me what I wanted, whenever they could (and whenever it was beneficial for me). At times I may have been spoiled, but I can't say they spoiled me rotten. They were smart enough to prevent that.

They were supportive of me throughout these 5+ years, even enquiring on the state of the blog, and now that I have discussed the possibility of writing a book, they’re supporting me even further. They ask how the night went when I come back from work in the morning. Even as I write these lines about how lucky I am, I don’t think I still quite realize how lucky I am to have such a fantastic family. 

Mom, dad, I don’t think I tell you this enough, but thank you. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me.

And to all my readers: May you have a happy 2019. May you receive good news, may you accomplish great things, and may your projects come to fruition. See you tomorrow, next year.

Don't forget to join the Planned All Along Discord server!

December 28, 2018

Planned All Along: My Twelve Inspirations (Part 1)


As we come to the end of another year, we can take stock and look back at the previous twelve months. The end of another year is a perfect time for introspection. I felt like doing something different this time around, as a way to close the year and acknowledge these 5+ years during which I’ve been writing this blog. This is a list of 12 inspirations, 12 people I watch (or used to watch) on YouTube and/or who have inspired me in a way or another.

A part of this list may feel bittersweet due to things that happened this year, but I feel that it’s important to acknowledge the impact these people have had on my style, on my life, on my way to do things on here. This list is going to be pretty long, and it may include some odd decisions here and there. My reasoning is that even if they may be odd choices, they were impactful enough to make the list, even if for any reason I no longer watch some of them. There are reasons associated to each one of them, basically. There isn’t a clear order for those, by the way.

Might as well rip that band-aid off right now and start with the one that hurts the most.

1. Doug Walker


I feel so terrible saying it now, but it’s true. Without Doug Walker, this blog would not exist. From when I discovered him in 2011 to when I stopped watching him in 2015, he was an inspiration. And not just for me, either; much like James Rolfe, the Angry Video Game Nerd, he was an inspiration for a lot of people and the reason they, too, started airing their opinions on certain pieces of media in video form online. He was certainly a figure to look up to for most people who joined his site, anywhere from 2008 to 2014.

Doug Walker began as a generic “angry critic”, that style that was immensely popular in the field of reviews of the early YouTube. And many of his fans who jumped into the adventure of online reviewing also took on that style. Mind you, the fun of sites like That Guy with the Glasses was to see all of those different personalities, reviewing different media in their own way, as not all of them parroted Doug’s style. TGWTG was a good starting ground for these creators, garnering fanbases through crossovers and anniversary specials, and most of them have kept on producing content. In fact, most of this list is made up of people who used to be on TGWTG.

Then 2015’s drama happened, and then this year’s Not So Awesome happened. Which, sadly, seems to have done jack squat to Doug’s reputation. I won’t go over the details because I discussed them aplenty before, but I am sad that this movement amounted to so little in the end. I still feel like I have to acknowledge Doug Walker as an inspiration, because he was one of my go-to watches on YouTube for at least three years’ worth of time, and his style certainly had an effect on my own review style. Admittedly, I’ve changed quite a bit since, but then again, so have most online critics. I’ll say more about that later. But I feel like acknowledging the past is important, even if it means looking back on things and people we are now ashamed we once liked. All I will say is: Do not go watch him. Do not give Doug Walker views. He doesn’t deserve them. He has shown no good faith and, thus, has no right to be still as popular as he is now. But his influence still must be acknowledged, no matter how sad it is to do so.

2. Chris Bores


If it’s time to bring out the dirty laundry, might as well get this one out of the way. This is a bit of an infamous name in the world of online reviewing, and there’s quite a bit of history around this guy. First off, most of you might know him better as the Irate Gamer. Yes. That guy who was basically ripping off the AVGN. He rose quickly to fame on YouTube when the platform was looking for people to promote, and while this guy was less popular than the main gaming review channel at the time, he was a little bit more family-friendly with his language and comedy. Which isn’t saying much. And thus, when he became a YouTube partner, his videos always made it to the front page, leading far more traffic towards his videos, and explaining his boost in popularity, even if it was a fairly short one.

I never really watched the AVGN, so I was not made aware of the apparent plagiarism of Rolfe’s content by Bores in the Irate Gamer's videos until much later. In fact, it’s this guy’s rise to fame on early YouTube that made me eventually discover him, when a friend of mine (the Pokémon fan I mention every once in a while) made me watch one of his videos at the time. Yeah, sure, it was nothing special, but keep in mind that this was about 10 years ago, I was 16, and I thought this stuff was awesome. I’ve become so jaded since. What happened to me.

There’s very little to be thankful to Chris Bores about. He was, after all, a poor man’s version of something that was much more appreciated. And yet, it’s weird to think that he was the first online critic I actually watched, showing me the genre, showing me what some people decide to do online. I guess I can thank my friend for that. And not in an ironic way, either, since this may have been the reason why I latched onto Doug Walker’s videos later on. Nowadays, little really remains of the Irate Gamer, and nobody’s clamoring for more. However, he may not have been the first contact with online video reviews for me; Bores may have been the first online video reviewer that many people have come to know about, in part due to his short YouTube fame. I guess… I guess we can thank him for that? And hey, plagiarism’s not cool, but at least there isn’t a 70-page document listing all the times he was a jackass…

3. François Pérusse


I am not entirely sure how you English readers could pronounce that name (it would go “Frah-swa Pay-ruse”, I guess?). All you need to know is that this man is one of the most influential Quebec comedians of all time. And this, in spite of hardly ever stepping on a scene.

François Pérusse rose to fame in 1990, when he began doing audio sketches for a Quebec radio station. He would write the script, then record all of his lines, even play music if necessary, and then edit all this into a two-minute sketch. That doesn’t seem like much? Now, imagine that he did this five times a week, most weeks, and has done this for over twenty-five years. Even when he thought he was done, he decided to keep going sometime later. He has released 14 albums in total (12 in Quebec, 2 in France) of his best material, including complete songs. He may be best known for his use of wordplay and pun, which are all over his sketches. He is such an icon of my generation that practically everyone I know in Quebec can quote at least one or two of his most famous jokes.

Back in 2000, ten years into his career, he had already accumulated quite a bit of material, which was then adapted into a TV show: An hour-long special and 13 episodes. I don’t actually need to remember the sketches; I can go watch them over and over and over on the man’s YouTube channel. He posted them all, in all their hand-drawn animated glory. It doesn’t look like much until you realize he really did all of the voices and all of the music. Mind you, in 2000, I was eight years old. I was barely old enough to understand that the world is more complex than good and bad, and I was watching that cartoon that had many jokes I just couldn’t get. In part because so many of these jokes were actually pretty adult. On the other hand, some of his best material can be shared pretty much everywhere. Good luck singing along to it, though…


This man has had more of an influence on my type of comedy than probably anyone else ever had, or ever will have. I actually got to meet him in person in 2018, too. He’s a great guy! And if you’re learning French, you might love his content. (He has some stuff in European French too, if you prefer that to Quebec French).



4. Nash Bozard


This guy hosts the weekly Radio Dead Air stream on Monday nights. He used to be on TGWTG / Channel Awesome until 2018 (prepare to read that line a lot on this list). I even remember discovering him around 2013/2014, thanks to some crossover events on that site. Again, a trait shared by many on this list.

Nash is one of the first content creators that I truly started following on social media, after I began watching his show. Radio Dead Air plays on Mondays, 9 PM EST, and ends at 2 AM (you can watch it on this website). During the show, Nash discusses various geek topics, from pop culture to electronics, and sometimes current events. He pays a lot of money each year so that his show can actually play music and videos from YouTube, many of which are sent to his request e-mail address by fans who want to see their favorite song/video make it onto the show.


Nash is a very outspoken person, and that is probably what I like the most about him. He takes a stance on important topics on his Twitter account, and isn’t afraid of sharing his opinion. I listen to him frequently through the reposted videos of a segment of his weekly show. That segment, titled What The Fuck Is Wrong With You, is hosted by him and a guest (mostly his friend Tara Deenihan,  sometimes someone else), and he spends the following 30 to 45-ish minutes sharing six crazy news stories that actually happened during the previous week. Stories of nudity, drugs, insanity, anything that makes one go “What the fuck?”, hence the name.

It’s not a show for those who wish to keep their idealism intact. A lot of these stories involve complete and utter jerks, whom then get called out by Nash and Tara. That’s something we should all do: Call out the assholes. Maybe if we called out the jerks and other awful people instead of merely accepting that there are assholes out there, the world could become a better place. Also, Nash actually displays journalistic integrity, as he makes sure the stories he features on his show really did happen, in comparison to some news outlets that would share any sufficiently crazy news story if it looked real enough. Nash may be saying the four-letter words a lot, but he’s an example to follow.

5. Lewis Lovhaug


Yet another producer who rose to recognition through Channel Awesome, Lewis Lovhaug (better known under his character name Linkara) reviews comic books on his show, Atop the Fourth Wall. I don’t read a lot of comic books, but his videos are very interesting. He often has unique takes on the stories he reviews. Rob Liefeld and Frank Miller are frequent targets of his, but don’t worry – if you ever had a bad comic published, it’ll be your turn!

Lewis’ show is not quite unique in featuring story arcs in which his character faces various threats, in a spoof of common comic book stories, but he's certainly one of the most dedicated to building this interesting storyline for his viewers. He sure ends up fighting a lot of alternate versions of himself, geez. He listens to fan output and makes sure to correct in the next episode whichever plot holes were found, based on points raised by viewers. I don’t think I saw anyone else pull off this type of story arc with such devotion and attention to detail. Not to mention some of the more impressive moments he creates through special effects.



It’s weird how I keep coming back to his videos even if I don’t actually have much of an interest in comic books. It goes to show that a sufficiently entertaining person will make you interested in the topic they’re covering, no matter what it is. That’s the most important element of video production for YouTube: Be entertaining.

That alone would be enough of a lesson, but there’s more I could say about Lewis. Comic books have a long and complex history. A great amount of work goes into a single issue, but the constant retcons make it often difficult to keep track of what’s going on. To top it off, like a lot of online reviewers, Linkara dives into mediocre-to-bad comics, and is not afraid of questioning plot holes or any awkward elements in the story. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s okay to ask questions about it. We can assume things based on the context, but it doesn’t change the fact that we, the readers, needed to come up with those assumptions. And in a well-written story, that shouldn’t be necessary. It’s an odd thing to learn from a show about reviewing comic books, but it’s one thing I take from Atop the Fourth Wall.

A final thing: This year's storylines acknowledged that Lewis left Channel Awesome, yet keeps souvenirs and memories of those days. It's important to remember what we did, even if the memories have gotten bittersweet with time. These events shaped up who we have become, and thus it's better to face them, accept them, rather than avoid or ignore them.

6. Jim Sterling


He’s Jim Fucking Sterling, Son, and he knows it. One of the more controversial people on this list, also one that I may have started watching later than the others. I remember discovering his show, The Jimquisition, around the time of the release of No Man’s Sky. Jim is not afraid to speak his mind, served with a hefty dose of brutal honesty and vulgarity, topped with the larger-than-life personality of the character he portrays. I mean, he goes far – but he’s right.

To recap, Jim does The Jimquisition, which is a show where he comments on the gaming industry at large;  he reviews many games, on Steam and on every other console, in other videos; he often goes to try some odder titles that exist out there; and he is now a wrestler, to top it all off. You can see every extra pound on this Brit’s body through his latex Sterdust costume.


I learned a lot about the gaming industry through his videos, but there are other lessons I’ve learned from the guy. First off, he may be playing an exaggerated version of himself, he remains honest and sincere in his beliefs regarding the industry.

Second, he has stated multiple times that he may not always know everything about every genre of games that he covers, but in his own words, “he knows what he likes”. Or, in other words, he might not always be aware of every gameplay mechanic and special element of every game, but he’ll review it based on his own tastes. If something’s good, it gets praise. If it’s bad, it’s pointed out. If it’s especially bad (as in, morally insulting or horrible), it gets called out strongly. Even the best games have flaws, and even many bad games have a few decent elements to them.

Then there’s the topic of fandoms, something that Jim has had troubles with more than once – his site was once DDoS’d because he gave a lower (yet still positive) score to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in comparison to most other reviewers. And he never hesitates to call out those people as well. One of the first videos of his that I watched was when he covered the hype around No Man's Sky and how extreme some fans became while waiting for the game's release (by sending death threats to Sean Murray, among other joyous things). That kind of behavior should not be considered acceptable! In short: Don’t be only critical of games and the industry; it’s fine to be critical of fans, too, when they go too far.

Oh, and a last thing to learn from Jim: It’s okay to repeat points over and over when it’s a subject that especially matters to you. When discussing a topic as large as the gaming industry, some problems are going to pop up repeatedly, often in new flavors, and with new reasons as to why these elements are problematic. Therefore, even if it may tire some viewers, it’s better to repeat points over multiple videos or reviews if it’s something that you feel needs to be acknowledged or changed. Anytime there’s a new element to add to the discussion, it’s worth bringing up.

December 21, 2018

Steam Pack 16


Might as well do a couple more! Why not?

Note that due to the ongoing Steam winter sales, some prices here may be inaccurate.

gravilon


Released to Steam on March 30th, 2015 (there is, oddly enough, no information on the Store page about the developers and publishers), gravilon is yet another puzzle platformer in a wide family of indie games in that genre. This one appears to have a plot, as the store page says, but it’s only going to be of any interest if you can go far into it. I personally gave up rather quickly.

A lot of greys. Also, you can see the levsl in the background,
and some stuff in the foreground too.
gravilon (yes, without a capital letter) is minimalist in style, as you follow the travels and tribulations of a little square spinning its way around various floating platforms, looking for its way through. The square has the ability to reverse gravity whenever it touches one of the pixel-wide white power-ups scattered around a level. You can’t jump; only hop by the effect of accumulating speed from moving on platforms, and of course fall off the platforms themselves, whether it’s towards the bottom, or towards the top (when gravity is reversed). The game is said to encourage exploration and trial-and-error, which is a game dev shorthand for “You’re gonna die a lot”. But don’t worry, you have infinite lives.

It’s interesting, as you must take into account the various platforms in order to make your way to the exit of every level. Platforms are merely lines, though there are vertical and diagonal ones too. Those can be great in order to control your flights upwards and downwards – as I said, you can’t jump, so you better plan for your safe landing after you hit the pixel that reverses gravity.

Hop.

Why is all this stuff in the foreground?
And so we run into the three main problems of the game, all of which made me lose patience fairly quickly. First, the levels are superimposed, as getting to the exit of a level takes you to the next, located behind the one you just completed. It’s a nice effect, but sometimes the background lines (those of the upcoming level) are distracting, and so are the ones from the previous level, still visible at times. Second, the pixels that shift gravity are very small and easy to miss, and if you pass by one that is required to beat the level, there’s no way to come back (unless you land on a platform and re-reverse gravity), so you lose a life and must start the whole level over. Third, the levels get pretty big, even early on, so it’s difficult to come up with a strategy and a pre-planned path in order to reach the exit. There are no zoom-out options to view the entire level and plan a strategy either, as far as I know. So yeah, trial-and-error it is! Sure, you can press Space to go in a slow-motion mode, but it doesn't help as much as it could.

How am I gonna get to that big blue entrance??

I wasn’t a fan of this one. The idea is commendable and interesting, and I would have loved to see what’s in future worlds and levels, but there isn’t much to do or see. I don’t even think there’s any music in gravilon! So, yes, I was underwhelmed by this one. I don’t even know who to blame, either, there’s not even some Alan Smithee Studios that I could point to! Anyway, the game is available for about 3$.

Intelligent Design: An Evolutionary Sandbox


Let's add some life to this barren wasteland!
I got this game on Humble Bundle, and hadn’t had a chance to play it until now. Well, here goes. Developed and published by Pill Box Interactive to Steam on May 12th, 2017, this is a “God Game”, meaning you’re given lots of control over an environment and can modify it as you wish. Or, rather, in this case, you are a corporation landing on this featureless land and proceed to create plants, herbivores and carnivores in order to fabricate an ecosystem.

These plants sure are growing faster than the ones
in Viridi.
So this is a strategy game, in which you manage your environment, making sure the balance remains. You can then create collectors that will gather biomass, which can then be used to purchase more buildings or upgrade existing ones, and laboratories that increase knowledge of this new environment and how to improve its creatures and assets. As your research progresses, your three main types of creations will become better-known, and you can then modify the genetics of these monsters and create your own custom plants, herbivores and carnivores. Careful, though; once you’ve toyed with nature this way, it may be difficult to undo the changes you’ve created…

How long are the days in this world? Has anyone ever played
throguh an in-game year of time?
This game claims to be created in such a way that you must figure out various elements by yourself. Among others, the traits that you can modify on custom lifeforms aren’t always clear, many aren’t explained to you. Thankfully, even as you become able to summon plants and animals with more customizable features, you can still create lifeforms with randomized traits.

I’d also add that there are issues here and there. Genetics and evolution being what they are, you can end up with unexpected plants and animals. Not that you would notice a difference unless you dig deep into the game’s mechanics, since the game uses simple forms to depict plants and animals, so it can be difficult to tell them apart (they all look like tiny slugs on the ground!). Of course, if you’re interested in such things, the game actually keeps track of all the data and will create documents for you to read, if you feel like digging deeper.

All those warm color creatures on the ground? Carnivores.
We're running out of herbivores around here.
It’s not terrible, even pretty fun and decent for a few hours, but it’s not the type of game I see myself playing for long periods of time. I’ve played it a few hours and it is enjoyable to see your world evolve and change, but in the end there’s not much else to do. No goal to speak of, outside of keeping balance. Well… Okay, there is apparently more plot than we might imagine, as the store page implies that there’s a hidden story focused on discovering who has been hiring you to breed life into this empty world. And hey, we need to find out who these people are. After all, nobody in their right mind would let an irresponsible like me play God! I can’t even write articles without going on hiatus!

So yeah, I feel you can skip this one, but if you’re intrigued, it’s available on Steam for about 7$.

Mad Combat Marines


I’m pretty sure I would be singing a completely different tune if I was better acquainted with the Shooter game genre, but this one… well, obviously it’s not amazing, it looks like some asset flip game. But it could have turned out a lot worse.

Mad Combat Marines, a creation of FreezeNova Games published to Steam on July 13th, 2016, is about, well… mad combat marines shooting at each other. You have the option to play online against other players (however few there may be), or offline against AI characters. After which you pick a terrain to play into (a green neighborhood, a greyer city area, or a park) and then you can start shooting at each other all you want.

Ah yes, I get blood over my screen when I get shot.
Totally never seen that before.
It’s definitely a low-quality, low-price game, but it could be worse. It works, after all. It’s functional, even if it might not keep your attention for very long considering it’s got nothing special to differentiate it from better shooters. I haven’t encountered any glitches, so that’s already a big plus.

Every player has access to five weapons: Pistol, Machine Gun, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle and RPG. Mind you, as I played I didn’t find any ammunition, so I guess you need to use the better weapons parsimoniously since your number of bullets with those is limited. As you play around the map, you kill enemies that appear, shooting at them from a distance… y’know, usual shooter stuff. Find places to hide, find ways to kill enemies more efficiently.

Stupid car, I can't even run over people with it.
Every once in a while, an event pops up on the screen, requiring you to kill as many players as possible within a time limit, or drive a car for a period of time, or gather coins around the map… Okay, about those last two: Every car in this game is a Pinto or something, as they all explode way too easily from gunfire. On top of that, while they drive just fine, they cannot run over players, instead treating them as solid objects. The car reacts like it has hit a wall. Also, I have never seen a single coin on the maps I played. That’s weird.

An event in which I must kill as many opponents as possible?
Wasn't I supposed to do that already?
The characters and maps feel pretty nondescript, but at least there’s some level of detail put into them.  I quite enjoyed climbing the buildings in construction in order to snipe enemies from a height. I would argue that the enemies take too many bullets to go down, but that’s the guy who doesn’t know much about shooters speaking, maybe it’s normal. Or maybe it was a conscious design choice.

So yeah, it’s really not that great, but I guess it’s higher-tier among the passable asset-flip games on Steam. There’s been many more, there will be many more, but at least if they were all as okay as this one is (instead of being buggy messes of assets that don’t fit together), maybe asset flip games wouldn’t get such a bad rep… Pfft~ Okay, I can’t say this with a straight face, sorry. But yeah, this game is okay at best.

Tiltagon


Can't be going too fast! Unless you want a high score...
You know that “Just one more” feeling, when you’ve got a fun game and the levels are really short but crazy difficult, and you keep telling yourself you’ll do just one more, and then you end up playing for yet another hour? That’s the kind of game Tiltagon is.

This addiction in game form was developed and published by Kiemura Ltd, and released to Steam on March 29th, 2016. The concept is simple: Roll your ball across the level’s hexagonal platforms, avoid the pits and the obstacles, and reach the end of the level as quickly as possible. I do mean quickly; each level can be completed in, at most, 30 seconds. Then again, considering the game keeps track of your time on every one of the ten levels, you might try to get to the end in record time.

Must avoid these obstacles...
It’s not like you can afford to waste your time, either, as the platforms disappear one after the other while you make your way around. Don’t get stuck on a hexagon! Learning the levels and speeding through them is encouraged, too, since you get up to three stars per level depending on how well you did. You get one star for completing a level, regardless of time, because these levels are friggin’ tough and you deserve that star!

There are three options for controls: The arrow keys, the mouse or a controller’s joystick. I personally found the mouse to work best with my set-up, though it didn’t make the levels any easier, oh no!

Must collect those little cubes...
But hey, at least there’s some good techno music playing in the levels. I think it’s pretty cool that you unlock new balls for each star you get on every level. And if the ten levels aren’t enough, there are endless modes available too, where the goal is to go as far as possible without falling off… Yeah, good luck with that. The first one is Hard, with all kinds of traps, but in the second one, Hard +, you're not even allowed to come into contact with any obstacles, it's instant death!

...Must not fall off!
Among the games reviewed today, it’s probably my favorite! The sleek design of the levels, the recurring motif of the hexagons, the short length and high difficulty of the levels… it all gets so addicting! This is really the kind of game that makes me go “One more… I gotta try again… it’s just 20 seconds… I can do it!” There’s something innately addictive in games like this one, or Super Hexagon… I’m sensing a theme there! The extra mode and the wide selection of playable balls adds to the fun. Some of those unlockable balls look great, too; some have awesome designs, while others are nods to pop culture. One of them is even colored like a Pokéball!

...Oops.
But as I said, the difficulty is really kicked up to eleven. Merely completing a level for the first time is very tough… so imagine getting three stars on each level! It’s almost a good thing that there are only ten levels, eh? On the other hand, if you’re good at the game, ten may actually feel pretty short, making the endless modes much welcome. There’s definitely a learning curve to be had, as you meet new hexagons with special elements (such as ones with moving hexagonal blocks that get in your way, or others that have mountainous surfaces, or ones with holes in them).  However addictive it may be, the difficulty level may eventually turn you off. But other than that, it’s overall a pretty great little title on Steam.

Alright then, I hope to see you next week for… um… maybe a movie review? No wait, it’s going to be the end of the year, and midway into the sixth year of this blog’s existence, I feel like I should do something special.

P.S. This blog now has a Discord server. So when the untimely death of Google+ comes, there's another place to talk about video games!