Shitty interfaces and first impressions: XenonValkyrie

I got a copy of XenonValkyrie from IndieGamerChick on for this #IndieSelect thing going on. I figure if I develop games as an independent developer, I might as well play done by others.

This isn't a full review because I didn't finish the game (and from a first look I don't know if you can but I couldn't beat the first area in my first few tries) but the game sure pissed me off real quick.

First, none of my controllers worked. Yes, I did the whole “close the game, plug in controller, restart game” thing. Maybe if I had a wired Xbox controller it would work since the menus are filled with buttons that look like they come from an Xbox controller. I don't (Actually, I should now that I think about it, but I don't know if it is wired and/or if I have the wired charging thing.) but not working with three different controllers is a bit frustrating. This could be Window’s fault for all I know. There is a reason I gave up on PC gaming for so long.

Anyway, what pissed me off is the game music is loud and it has two options. On or off. Seriously? I know one of my games only has an on/off button, but it is also mobile where players have a bit more flexibility with sound than on a PC, especially with streaming. I guess I could mess with the OBS settings for desktop volume, but then I have to create a unique scene for that game and yada-yada. It's kind of annoying.

Okay, but I found a bug with this setting just by using it. If you turn the music off, it goes off. If you hit escape, your settings are not supposed to be saved, but the music stays off. If you go back in and turn the music on, it doesn't start playing again unless you hit enter to save settings. If you hit escape it stays off.

Now, am I one to talk? My games probably have a handful of bugs I am unaware of. Still, frustrating, especially after the whole controller issue. I altered my keys in settings, but it didn't seem saved except it did until it didn't and I know it sounds confusing and I sure was confused. I thought I changed the keys and hit F1 to save (weird as F1 had not been used prior), but then I played the game and it wasn't working like I thought. Then I reset it, saw my keys had been defaulted back to the original and then set them and then they worked, so I am not entirely sure what happened there. I could have done something dumb. I’m not above blaming myself for mistakes. But it sure felt weird.

Goodness, I haven't even gotten to the game itself and I’m frustrated.

The font they chose is honestly terrible. The W looks like a blob of pixels and some of the other letters are understandable but just… weird. This gets even more confusing as you play because killing an enemy results in a display of +# XP (or EXP? I forget honestly, but it is understandable.) but picking up money does not result in a number appearing above the character’s head like XP and picking up another item just has +# in purple appear, but I have no idea what that is. I think it might be ammo, but since that is a limited resource unlike swinging the sword the character has, I tended to not use it much.

There are three characters to choose from. I tried two of them. Their differences seem to be what extra item they come with. Everyone seems to have a sword, a gun, a special item and grenades. The grenades are weird because you start with three, I’m not sure if you can get them refilled, and there is a timer between using them. I’m not sure why you'd have a timer between grenades unless they wanted to prevent multiples from being on screen at the same time for some reason, but it still feels weird.

One character has a radar, which like the grenades is bound by a timer but seemingly has unlimited uses. What it does I’m not entirely sure since the map seems to display stuff just fine. Maybe it displays more and I didn't notice? I’d play around with it more but one of the characters comes with a timer bomb as their special weapon and that's basically a grenade that gets placed where the character is. And it's unlimited, blows up terrain allowing easy access to other areas of the map so I'm not sure why you wouldn't use this character unless the third one has something interesting that I haven't seen yet. I'll have to try them out.

I may sound like I’m whining, but there are a lot of little “quirks” that just don't make the game that much fun. Or confuse me. There's an enemy that explodes after you kill it. Okay. That's fine. Except sometimes it is after a few seconds and sometimes it instantly explodes. I'm not sure what causes the difference. There are “fake” blocks which feel like certain blocks of the random dungeon just have a hit-box that is larger than it should be. But maybe that’s the programmer in me thinking too much.

Anyway, I’ll keep at it, but first impressions: Yech.

Games I beat in 2018 #5 - Haunt the House: Terrortown

I often see retweets from a Twitter user @IndieGamerChick offering up free games. I decided to take this one.

Maybe I shouldn't have.

Haunt the House isn't a bad game, but it feels like it's for kids. Despite the “Ghost inhabiting random objects to scare people into running away, leaping to their doom or outright killing them.” it's a cutesy game with simple mechanics.

Use the directional arrows to move the ghost around. Haunt things with the S button. Depending on the progress of the “scare-o-meter” on the bottom (if it has an actual name, I missed it) each object can perform different tasks. So, for example, a lamp might just be able to wiggle at first, but scare the people a bit more and you can make the bulb burst, which can scare people more.

I guess? That was the one thing that didn't seem clear to me. Did certain things scare certain people more? I know there were some actions I had to activate once the “scare-o-meter” was high enough to kill special characters, or make them jump to their doom, but otherwise I felt like I was randomly performing actions and hoping the people would run away.

Which I didn't get entirely because if I was doing something scary to the left of a person, they might run left past the haunted object. When in actuality I wanted them to run right so they’d leave the screen.

Each of the human characters has different stages of fright. They seem calm, slightly unnerved, scared and then absolutely terrified. It seems like the “absolutely terrified” state is what gets them to run away, but then again some seemed to run away at lower levels of scared-ness. Maybe it depends on the person, but none of it felt intuitive.

Perhaps there was something to read or something I missed that explains all of this. But it didn't feel intuitive, other than the obvious things like triggering actions to kill certain characters.

High production values, though. I can see a younger kid, well, not too-young what with the death and spooks and all, getting into this as a fun little game to screw around with, unlock all the achievements and replay the stages trying to clear them as fast as possible.

I thought this might be perfect for some people on iPads and other tablets and yup, there is an iOS Version as well as one for Android. So I can see this being a cute little time-waster, but it is not something I would ever have paid money for and cannot recommend unless you are into cute little games to mess around with for a bit.

Catchy tunes, too.

Games I beat in 2018 #4: Minit

Part of developing your own games makes games less fun. Not entirely, but you develop the ability to see behind the curtains. "Oh, they probably did this that way." Or whatever.

And sometimes you wish you had the idea for the game you're playing.

Minit will do that to you if you're a game developer. That doesn't mean you won't have fun. You'll just think "Dammit, why didn't I think of something so simple yet so clever!"

The game runs on a one minute clock. Then you die. You're supposed to die. But what can you do in that one minute? There are several "homes" so you can actually end up venturing quite a distance in the world map. You can also take advantage of this by completing part of an event, running out of time, spwaning at your home and then going to the next part without having to travel back as much.

So it's mechanic also serves as a way of removing backtracking. It's genious.

There are a variety of items to find and equip. Most of them feel standard for RPGs, but of course most of them have a neat little twist.

It only took me an hour and a half to beat, and I had someone in my stream point out something I had missed when I lamented that I was a bit stuck on what to do at the exact moment. I wasn't even actually "stuck" it was more that I didn't realize I could interact with a thing the way I needed to. I'm not sure if that is the game's fault or my obviousness, but I'll lean towards my not thinking hard enough about the part. I should have realized I needed to do something in that area.

If I am being vague it is because the game is short and does benefit from you figuring things out yourself. And there's a lot to figure out. One minute at a time.

Mmm, cliché.

Games I beat in 2018 #3: RosenkreuzStilette

The “word” RosenkreuzStilette has been in my pasteboard a lot over the past 24 hours. I “played” it for a lot more than that.

Games tracking time spent played is terrifying. But that’s another story for another time.

It’s obviously a Mega Man clone, with lots of love and by love I mean scantily clad girls who are magicians and robots but also not really?

I could have paid more attention to the story.

Regardless, it was fun and despite being an immense challenge, I was glad to go through it. The game did offer spots to “grind” life refilling tanks but it was also slow. And help you if you run out of a boss’s weakness. Coming into contact with bosses does massive damage on top of that.

But, it was fun. Borderline trolling the player, but I think it expects you to be a fan of the genre enough to know what to expect and what you’ll get.

Games I beat in 2017 #19: West of Loathing

My goal this year was to beat twenty games - and I did! Magic has eaten away at my video game time in a big way. But I am still playing some games.

I go to a monthly meetup in Osaka. It's filled with people in the gaming industry, translators and people interested in games. I talk to a guy, Ben, quite a bit about indie games. We have had some conversations, let me tell you. He said I should play West of Loathing. He actually gifted it to me. So I played it. And I beat it.

As someone who has made a few games that are, well, let's be honest, ugly, it kind of upsets me to see a game that is ugly in a good way. West of Loathing is just black and white stick art, but it full embraces its style and is not only consistant but good at being ""bad"". I am kind of jealous.

But it ""makes up"" for that with a solid soundtrack, lots of laughs and a decent battle system. It takes the "wild west" theme, adds some cow-based demons and rolls with the weirdness. Cultists, skeleton petting zoos, drunk horses. Mechanics-wise, there's nothing new in this game, but it takes open world RPGs embraces the mechanics while not being afraid to poke fun at them. You get XP for flushing toilets. Flush enough (all of the?) toilets and you get a perk that boosts your Muscle (Strength).

I am sure I missed a lot of content - such is the way of an open world RPG, but I did lots of side quests. They ranged from weird to hilarious. Dealing with hippies to get jelly beans back or climbing through a giant cactus finding ways to please goblins. (Whose language I managed to learn early which made encounters with them not always the combative type) so I could get to the top and... I think this was also part of the jelly bean sidequest? That was a long one. Helping the jelly bean man leads to him helping your main character in a useful way.

Anyway. As you can tell there's a lot to it. You get a "pardner" who will show up in the opening area of dungeons and towns and will remind you of the main quest and any side quests you're taking part in. I was either not paying attention in the beginning or they designed it well enough that I thought I was getting the only possible pardner whereas there are actually a few. And you get achievements for clearing the game with said pardner.

I doubt I'll go back and try it a different way, though.

Because while I had enough fun, it felt like there was too much to the game. There was a whole "day" system. You could consume only a certain amount of stat boosting food, alcohol and drugs each day and sleeping would clear the boosts as well as empty your body so you could put more in. I ignored this system almost except for a few parts where I needed enough of a certain stat to do something to complete a quest. Other than that my inventory was just overfilled with all these foods, booze and drugs that I was never going to look at.

Which I suppose is fine. I imagine they expect some players to play that way.

It managed to overwhelm me like most open world games do, but it was short enough that I actually finished it. I did abuse a fountain of snakes (i.e. unlimited combat) where I could finish the battles quick enough to get enough experience to get my stats where I needed to do side quests and then just get on with the game. Not the most fun method, but it was effective and that is something we as humans tend to do. We'll take the easiest path even if it's not the most fun.

In a game.

Human psychology is weird.

Anyway, it was fun enough, and I will at one point gift it to someone else so they can experince the weirdness on their own. I applaud the team for making such a big game with such a weird but enjoyable world.

Games I beat in 2017 #18: The Stanley Parable

Well, I think I beat it?

I don't get it. Was it making fun of me? Was it making fun of games in general? Life? Everything? Nothing? Was it just a waste of time? Does it mock me by making me think about it because it is designed to make me write a "thought piece" about it and therefore I lose because I cannot win?

I don't know.

I got three achievements, fucked around with it for about an hour and a half.

I could see it being used for both arguments as why video games are art and why video games are a waste of fucking time.

I didn't particularly enjoy it, but I experience it. So, um. Yay?

Games I beat in 2017: #7 Lifeline

When the Apple Watch released I heard about a game you could “play” on it, by responding to text messages. My good buddy Alex messaged me a while back and asked me if I played Lifeline. I hadn't and he wanted someone to talk about the game with. I said I was holding off on making frivolous purchases, but heh was kind enough to gift me a copy. So I played it.

The watch idea was cute enough, but it ended up being a little too much scrolling at times. Playing in the app was easier. I guess that was the destiny of the Apple Watch. Only to succeed where things are easier. And some things are easier. But not playing Lifeline.

The gimmick enough wouldn't have made it worth playing, but it has a neat story. You assist Taylor as they (their gender status is never mentioned, so use your) try to survive after their spacecraft crashes onto a planet.

It's a bunch of simple branches. You choose one of two options and the story plays out. Not everything is good advice, and you might end up killing Taylor by giving some poor advice. It can be a bit frustrating when you there are two choices, neither of which you deem appropriate. I didn't feel like being snarky to this poor lost person. But sometimes it was either snark or pushing them in a direction I didn't like either, so it could be hard to choose.

But choose I did, and Taylor only died once in my adventure. At this point I was able to “rewind” to any spot and disable the “real-time” waiting.

Oh yeah, so I suppose that’s another gimmick. It's “real-time” in that if Taylor says they are going to walk for an hour, it'll be an hour before you hear back. Which is interesting. It takes some pressure off of the game and you go and check the status like you'd keep off and on touch with a friend throughout the workday. Only this friend is stranded on a planet.

Of course it gets a little wonky when there is a split second decision to be made and you ignore Taylor for a day or two. But it's a game and the designers put gameplay above realism, so Taylor will wait, no matter how important the choice will be.

There’s a sequel, Silent Night which I picked up because I enjoyed the first one well enough. So that's my praise for the game. It’s a neat story told in a neat way.

Games I beat in 2017: #6 Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

Games I beat in 2017: #6 Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

There was a twelve hour challenge two months back. It's an interesting idea. Spend twelve hours learning how to speedrun a game. I decided to participate, but I couldn't do a solid 12-hour chunk, nor could I do it around the time. Who cares. I decided to spend twelve hours learning the Final Fantasy Mystic Quest speed run. And I got it. Not a ""respectable"" time, but I finished it and had some fun replaying a game I claim to like a lot.

And I still like it a lot.

There are a few bugs in the game, mostly doing with under and overflows because you can buy 0 of an item in a shop. A simple miss on the part of the programmers, but with this someone figured out that allows you to bypass a chunk of the game.

It’s these sort of things that remind me how human the “mythical beings" behind making games are. It reminds me to lower my own standards a little bit. Mistakes may be there, and they may just let people enjoy the game in a different way!

Games I beat in 2017: #4 & #5 Hidden my Game by Mom 1 & 2

They are free games. Here, I’ll even link you to the first one and its sequel.

The developer has a few other games out which are equally quirky, but these two are the best. They are absolutely worth completing because the endings are so worth the time spent.

Unfortunately, since the games are free you know there’s a catch. And that is the occasional fullscreen ad. Or animated ad that “has” to play out. I put that in quotes because a tap in the upper lefthand corner closes it out. Hidden close mark, I suppose. I can't blame the developer. It’s hard to make money off your games. I know that first hand.

These two games are “tap on the things to see what they do” mechanics-wise, but they rely on quirky humor to make its simplicity all the more fun. Your mother has hidden your gaming device. Where is it? It could be as easy as opening a drawer, or as complex as finding a string of items to solve a devious puzzle.

This leads to lots of game overs. But you want the game overs sometimes because they are humorous. Sometimes I walked right into a trap and as soon as I saw it I laughed. How could I not? It was so obvious and yet worth it.

A bit of “brute forcing” gets you through any puzzle that doesn't make sense. Only so much screen to tap on. But nearly all of them “make sense”.

I'm writing this up months after playing it, but I still smile thinking about it. They are worth your time. And you might even earn the dev half a cent.

Games I beat in 2017 #3: Hotline Miami 2

This one took a while. The macOS version would crash at the end of some levels. Why? It was looking for data in a folder. The Steam folder. I had the GOG version. As you can imagine, things did not work out well.

There is this level on a boat. And it is a long level. And I would beat it. And when I would go to finish it, the game would crash. And since almost every level in Hotline Miami has this “get out” part, the level isn't over until it is over. And the level would crash before saving my progress.

I liked the first one a lot. It took me a while to beat, but it was bizarre and twitchy. Hyperviolent, sure. Made me feel a bit awkward to be playing it? Sure. That seemed to be the point. And it stuck with me. That awkward feeling. I shouldn't be enjoying this. Yet in some way I am.

The sequel had some of that but there was an extra layer of frustration. Part of it was the bugs, but then you have some sequelitis going on. It wanted to be “bigger and better” but that went into the map design. Hotline Miami had tight maps that I did my best to learn as soon as possible. 2 had these wide maps that made it feel like I was getting shot from a distance without anything I could do about it. Was the game trying to make me feel helpless?

I checked in on the game once in a while. I found out someone fixed the bugs. It turned out I didn't have much left to complete. But I was already down on the game and the remaining levels didn't change much of that.

What's missing?

So I got myself a 3DS with capture device, and I decided to take a look at my RPG collection for the system.

Is there any good stuff in the 3/DS library that I am missing?

Bravely Default: For the Sequel
Bravely Second: End Layer
Chrono Trigger
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
Dragon Quest VII
Final Fantasy Gaiden: 4 Warriors of Light
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy IV
Legend of Legacy
Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Pokémon X
Radiant Historia
SaGa 3 Shadow or Light
Sands of Destruction
Shin Megami Tensei IV
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
Sigma Harmonics
Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest 3
Tales of the Tempest
The World Ends With You