I’d Like To See Less Symmetry

My wife and I have a perpetually watchful eye trained on the Steam new releases section for something which could be good co-op fun. We’ve worked our way through most of the classics that jump to mind whenever co-op PC gaming pops up its head during conversation and, thanks to the magic wizardry (albeit slightly glitchy wizardry) of the Steam Link, have also partaken in some couch co-op classics which might have previously been reserved for console gamers. A few weeks ago, whilst idly browsing a list of ‘possibly-interesting-co-op-games-for-PC’* I stumbled across an intriguing small title called “We Were Here” from “TotalMayhenGames”. It comes with the luggage tag proclaiming that it is a two-player asymmetric co-op game and a price tag reading ‘Freely available on Steam!’, so a few evenings later when we decided to fire it up for a run through.

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… ok, so it’s not a “traditional” library…

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Weird Retro Mumblings: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty… a Retrospective

Spoiler Warning: This post discusses the plot & themes of Metal Gear Solid 2 … also you probably should have already played it… 

Only a few gaming powerhouse franchises sit in the dubiously privileged position of making gamers everywhere say “Sooo… how many of these games are there now?” upon each new offering; spanning generations, decades, and poor numbering conventions will do that to a series. The ‘Metal Gear Solid’ franchise fits comfortably into that mitten with five numbered sequels, a few canon but non-numbered games, at least one sub-series (the gloriously bizarre ‘Metal Gear Acid’ which, and I’m looking at you my secret Konami readers, is due for a PC re-release), a few remasterings, and that’s without opening the pantry door to find the “old” Metal Gear titles from way back into the 8-bit era. It shouldn’t surprise me (but it does) that we’ve recently passed the 15 year marker since Hideo Kojima’s misunderstood sequel was first rattled into PS2 disc trays across Europe and, given that this title probably represents the peak of my interest in the series, I began to turn it over in my mind.

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Owlboy: PixelArt Elegance

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone comment on ‘Owlboy‘ without using the word ‘Beautiful’; D-Pad Studio’s troubled little owl has captured the hearts, of what seems like, everyone who has had the pleasure of soaring with Otus. The reported 10 year development time is striking, not only for the commitment and dedication from the small dev team, but because I’ve seen the evidence of that dedication in every screen of the game thus far in the hours I have spent with Otus. It would be easy at this point to reach for Hundstrasse’s “Big Book of Cliches” and use one of the many appropriate phrases such as “Owlboy is a love letter to the 16-bit era“, or “The creation of ‘Owlboy’ serves as an homage to the retro platformers that crossed swords in the fabled console wars of the 90’s“, but this would be doing a disservice to what ‘Owlboy’ ‘is’.

‘Owlboy’ is a beautiful and engrossing sprite based platform game.

The developers may have intended ‘Owlboy’ to be a 16-bit inspired metroidvania style action-adventure-puzzle-platformer*, but my experience with Otus tells me that it doesn’t need to carry a disclaimer that it is trying to be something; it stands very easily as its own thing.

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It is .. erm.. detailed!

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Not Just a Hat Rack: Deconstructing My 8-Bit ‘Masterpiece’

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Any of my regular followers who are so committed to the cause that they’ve also ventured to follow me on Twitter may have noticed sporadic postings in shaky phonecam footage of a curious little device known as an Arduboy. This credit-card sized GameBoy inspired curio is powered by that staple of the maker community, the Arduino, neatly packaged together with a sharp 1-bit 128×64 OLED display, 4 directional buttons, and 2 action buttons. It was a guilty impulse purchase sometime around October last year, and I wandered into it without holding out much hope that I’d get around to making anything worth releasing. I was initially drawn in by the promise of constraints, which is a strange pull, but I’ve often been amazed at how programmers for early systems were able to squeeze so much out of some very limited hardware (This article about the original Zelda is a great example). The Arduboy is a neat re-imagining of these early restrictions: A screen where each pixel can only be either on or off; The bare essentials of controls; and strict limitations on processing power, memory, and storage. The game making community has risen to this challenge with a wide range of neat offerings showing off just what can be done within about fixed envelope; the excellent Team-ARG and Jonathan Holmes (check out ‘Circuit Dude’) are just a couple of examples from the dedicated programmers who have adopted this little system. Continue reading “Not Just a Hat Rack: Deconstructing My 8-Bit ‘Masterpiece’”

‘Sunshine Blogger’ & ‘Liebster’ Awards

I’m going to level with you all… I’ve started this post several times now and each time it has descended into a spiral of misery regarding the current insular politics that seem to be taking hold on the world stage. I’m struggling, because the very thing I’m trying to write about is small and insignificant by comparison, but it some ways is the kind of thing that we need to hold on to in such times… so stick with me and we’ll get through this…

I am delighted to have been nominated for two community awards in the last week and have once again been reminded how much I enjoy being a part of the blogging community. Those who know me in real life likely understand how much this blog is a place for me to mash together the thoughts, opinions, & musings I have on gaming … and no doubt how it serves as a way for my to unleash my gaming thoughts without fear of boring my audience.

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Weird Retro Mumblings: Second Games…

Soooo… Who’s getting a Switch? I’m not getting a Switch… are you getting a Switch?… 

All this Switch talk is getting me nostalgic for console ownership; my various feeds have filled up with first impressions, trailer breakdowns, comparisons, loving sonnets, and angry monologues all in honour of Nintendo’s latest upcoming home console (are we calling it a home console?). Being in the PC party, all I can do is fidget with an overly complicated low-latency mouse and jealously watch as the Nintendo faithful flip-out about the good and the bad and how Mario has now decided to rent a trendy Manhattan apartment and… erm… drink coffee. I assume that’s what people in New York.. sorry.. New Donk City … do. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to own a number of consoles and those special first few weeks of exploring that new tech are something that it’s difficult to recreate in the PC realm. One aspect about getting a new console that sticks out was the limited game library; sure there was always ‘That One Game‘ that I really wanted, but my parents (And I’m grateful to my parents for buying me consoles growing up to feed my interest) always seemed to know that I probably wanted a little variety so would pick out a second title to go with it… ‘The Second Game‘ … These second games were a curiosity, I hadn’t specifically picked them out, but they nevertheless made up 50℅ of my playing options on this new and wondrous entertainment box. I spent many happy hours on these, often B-team, offerings so the least they deserve is a ramble now that I’ve brought them to mind:

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Resident Evil Revelations 1 & 2: Distant Cousins at Best…

After my experiences with ‘Resident Evil 4‘ last year, I had been perched precariously on a fence panel trying to work out if that was ‘it’ and I should just abandon the series entirely, allowing those early games the peace of being able to settle in the warm recesses of my memory. It was a comment from Halsdoll that finally nudged me off my perch back into that world of survival horror by suggesting I give ‘Revelations’ a shot at pretty much the same time that Steam were having something like their “6:57pm sale because it happens to be a Tuesday” event, so I decided to jump right in and pick up both Revelations 1 & 2 to savour over the holiday period. This is the part of the post where I try to place the ‘Resident Evil Revelations’ sub-series in the setting of the other Resident Evil titles, but pulling together any kind of coherency in the Resident Evil world is tricky given all the spin-offs, re-releases, changes in focus, and generation. From what I can tell (and feel free to correct me), ‘Resident Evil Revelations’ is set after ‘Resident Evil 4’ (but not one of the main numbered series) and ‘Revelations 2’ is set after 5, not that either of these games take directly from the main overarching plot of the series. It’s much easier to just accept them as having occurred after Raccoon City when all the main characters have been posting their CV’s around liberally and have been hired by different counter Bio Organic Weapon organisations.

As games they’re different enough that I was tempted to split them up into two distinct posts. Certainly there are commonalities, however they veer hugely from each other in both plot & atmosphere and, whilst I don’t have any inside knowledge to back this up, I was left with the impression that maybe they were originally meant to be more closely tied, but somewhere in development decisions were made that drove them apart.

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