Steam Summer and Winter Sales 2018 QuickPans

On the other hand I start radiation next week so here are some pans. You may notice there are twice as many of these; I did not have a good run of Steam sales last year, apparently.

Inside: Pan-Pan, Copoka, Nimble Bun, Yomawari, Salt, Alicemare, htol#NiQ

Pan-Pan
Puzzle/Adventure

Pan-Pan was published but, I found out too late, not developed by Might and Delight. It’s another game that thinks that using words is blase and I have to say of all the indie subgenres trending right now the whole ‘refuse to tell you what’s going on because they for some reason think that’s inferior’ is quickly becoming my least favorite. Pan-Pan really suffers for it, too. It claims it’s an open-world, but it’s actually not — you have to complete each area in a very particular order, but it doesn’t goddamn tell you, so you’ll often end up wasting huge amounts of time trying to complete uncompletable puzzles. There’s also no map, so it gets super obnoxious trying to figure out where you have and haven’t been and how to get where you need to go. You basically have to accidentally stumble into doing things the right way which is not how you game design. It’s almost unplayable without a guide, and it’s not doing anything that makes it worth trudging through with a guide.

On top of all that, loose controls makes some of the puzzles that require walking out patterns a nightmare, and there’s a lot of story/gameplay dissonance (I can’t push down the crumbling door by ramming it, but I can… with a stick?).

Copoka
Walking Sim

Copoka is actually more of a flying sim, but whatever.

I really liked the idea of Copoka, which is that you experience life in a dystopian city from the perspective of a bird flying around gathering materials to make a nest. The problem was that I could not for the life of me figure out how to gather materials and eventually gave up after flying around for an hour desperately trying to locate interactable objects. I’m not really sure what went wrong here — was it me missing something? Was there some kind of glitch? Again, though, what was going on in the game wasn’t so great that I felt the need to spend the time using a guide. If the objects you were supposed to gather were just that hard to see, that’s bad design.

The game also had performance and control issues. It just didn’t feel worth overcoming the hurdles it put in the way of my experiencing it.

Nimble Bun
Precision Platformer

This an aggressively mediocre game, so I put it here. Nimble Bun is a just-okay platformer in which you control a rabbit. Its controls are fine, its levels design is fine (but very simple), and I finished it feeling fine enough, but there’s almost nothing actually interesting about it. I sat down to write this and found that I’d forgotten everything about it except how bland it was, which I think says all there is to say.

Yomawari: Night Alone
Adventure

I am super not here for a game that tries to convince me how TOTES EDGY it is by suddenly for no reason bloodily murdering a dog 20 minutes in. This review seems to cover everything else.

Salt
Survival

I am so divided on Salt. On one hand, it’s an endearing, relaxing survivalist game. It’s like… ARK minus dinosaurs times Nintendo. It wants you to survive and explore, and the experience is truly relaxing and easygoing and honestly that’s nice to see from a game in this genre — the whole IT HAS TO BE SUPER HARDCORE thing tends to mean you have to sacrifice your life grinding to experience the game. Not so with Salt. The game is really focused on sailing and boatbuilding, and the feeling of setting out over the water to find new islands is a very good one. It’s constantly autosaving, so if you do die, you don’t get set back much. All the islands are full of fruit so you don’t starve. If you jump in the ocean you don’t get attacked by sharks and you can’t drown. And the effect is a good one — it’s a game that feels like a deep breath.

The problem with it, and the main reason it’s in this post, is that unfortunately the dev abandoned it. It looks like they did juuust enough to justify taking it out of EA and then gave up. And for all it does well, it does feel very unfinished. It never progressed to other boats being on the water, or adding villages to islands, or basebuilding, or a lot of the staples of the genre. There are only a handful of boats to build, there’s no music, and the AI is not. There are also still lots of bugs. Which is all a shame because it’s so close to being a very good and pretty unique game. I get that eventually you want to move onto new projects as a developer, but it is hugely disappointing. There’s just not enough here, certainly not enough for a $14.99 sticker price — that it some audacious shit. (I paid $3.74 for it which is the upper end of fair.)

This is actually the first time I’ve gotten burned by an EA purchase, incidentally. I don’t know if I’m particularly judicious, but I do buy EA games from some frequency and I’ve had a pretty great experience with the system — past purchases include ARK, My Time at Portia, Slime Rancher and Staxel. I guess I was kind of due for a dud.

Alicemare
Adventure/Horror

Alicemare is a stupid game that hits just about every cliche possible for a video game that combines ‘horror’ and ‘fairytales.’ Every single thing that happens is just so overwrought and hackneyed at the same time that it’s impossible to be interested in any of it. ‘What if the boy who cried wolf MADE HIS MOM HANG HERSELF WITH HIS LIES 3edgy5me!!1!one’ And meanwhile the story itself is so stupidly vague and ~mysterious~ that apparently the dev felt the need to write a novelization of it to clarify things.

Ugly pixel graphics abound, and there’s basically no gameplay. You just walk around, and them someone is standing in your way and you have to solve a riddle to move them, and then you walk some more, etc. The riddles have nothing at all to do with the game — one is literally the sheep/wolves river-crossing puzzle. They’re so obviously just there to impede progress and not because they add anything at all to the experience.

This is a two-hour-long game I was ready to boredomquit at 15 minutes. This is why I never buy RPGmaker/WolfRPG games.

htol#NiQ/Hotaru no Nikki/Firefly Diary
Puzzle/Point-and-Click

Unlike most wordless games, this tells a coherent story. It instead makes the incomprehensible decision to hide the story behind hidden collectibles and impossible-without-a-guide hidden mechanics. I just don’t understand why you’d go through all the trouble to create this story and then make it so a huge swath of players will never see it. What is the bloody point??

I suspect this was to artificially inflate the playtime, because that’s the only explanation for about 80% of the design decisions here. The game is long swaths of timing puzzles without checkpoints, meaning you have the execute everything perfectly or do huge parts of the levels over again; rarely is dying a matter of not knowing what to do, but of not lining up hitboxes juuuuust right. The PC walks stupidly slowly; an absurd amount of this game is just her trundling along pathways. You have to replay levels multiple times to get the ‘true’ ending and let me tell you internet, I am so fucking sick of ~true endings~ why have games just stopped telling stories like normal goddamn people I have completely lost my patience for this YOUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER PLAYTHROUGH nonsense in modern games just commit to a fucking narrative!

Anyway, played straight through, including the credits, this game is about two and a half hours long but retails for $10. I got, according to Steam, 99 minutes in before getting so frustrated by the gameplay and its refusal to tell me its story that I quit in favor of a let’s play. I was immediately grateful because the puzzles just get more and more obtuse and needlessly punishing as time goes on. Then I couldn’t even take watching the LP anymore and just watched the story scenes chopped together.

All of this was to say that this game is incredibly unfun, and weirdly, seems to know but has no respect for anyone’s time and as such doesn’t give a shit. This is also my last attempt at an NIS game; I apparently played their only competently made game first and have given them more than enough tries to do something else to no avail. What a waste.

13 Comments

  1. Roarke says:

    Dang, htol#NiQ looked pretty cute. Salt reminds me of that level in the Super Mario 64 DS remake, where it was just a couple of islands, knee-deep water, and a Koopa shell to cruise on. I find that level absurdly comforting and memorable.

    I am so fucking sick of ~true endings~ why have games just stopped telling stories like normal goddamn people I have completely lost my patience for this YOUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER PLAYTHROUGH nonsense in modern games just commit to a fucking narrative!

    *coughs, looks awkwardly at Hollow Knight and Sekiro, two of my favorite games ever* Incidentally, Radiant Historia (WHICH I HAVE NOT FINISHED NO SPOILERS) is the best JRPG I have ever played, bar none.

    1. Act says:

      I loved Hollow Knight SO MUCH but my one issue was that I thought some of the major plot stuff was too hidden. 

      Also yes Radiant Historia is easily the best jrpg I’ve ever played, it’s just perfect from top to bottom

      1. Roarke says:

        I will say this to defend Hollow Knight: it at least doesn’t force you to NG+ for the alternate endings and extra plot. You can do it at your leisure. It also adds a boss rush mode, which is missing from 99% of games with good bosses (looking at you, Dark Souls/Bloodbourne/Sekiro).

        Radiant Historia is… I don’t even know how to put it in words. Even outside of JRPGs, it’s one of the most beautifully constructed games I’ve ever played. RH took a lot of things I hate about RPGs, like backtracking, and made me love them. It’s bizarre.

        1. Ninerga says:
          Do either of you know if the 3ds version of Radiant Historia (Perfect Chronology) is actually worth it? I played the original on an emulator, but would like to buy the game for support, but the only version to buy on the store is that one, and I am not sure it is an actual improvment (a 3rd timeline could seem good or bad), and would not want to buy if it is a cashgrab downgraded re-release.
          1. Roarke says:

            The remake is built upon the original, gameplay and story-wise. You can even choose to have the extra content put at the end and play the original story as intended. There are tons of bells and whistles like voice-acting and updated art (YMMV on the new art). User interface is also improved quite a bit, plus some other quality-of-life stuff. Everything I’ve seen so far looks like it was very carefully made to preserve as much of the original experience as possible, which I appreciate.

            I can’t speak to the quality of the 3rd timeline, since I only recently bought it, but I’m happy with the purchase.

        2. Nerem says:
          A boss rush REALLY REALLY REALLY wouldn’t work in Sekiro, considering how it works. You absolutely don’t have the resources to do so and it’d be the most tedious Git Gud thing ever.

           

          Anyways, the one thing I doesn’t agree with is Yomawari. Maybe my tastes are different, but I enjoyed it all the way to the end.

          Also I don’t think Poro’s death was meant to be edgy, since his death and the protagonist’s refusal to accept it is kind of the basis of the entire plot.

          I don’t disagree that there shoulda been more to its story since it’s a bit too short, though.

          1. Roarke says:

             

            A boss rush REALLY REALLY REALLY wouldn’t work in Sekiro, considering how it works. You absolutely don’t have the resources to do so and it’d be the most tedious Git Gud thing ever.

            Yeah, I guess my fault for misspeaking, but I don’t mean a traditional consecutive boss rush, I suppose. I mean more along the lines of what Hollow Knight had, which is a mode that has both a boss rush and an area where you can fight any of the bosses at your leisure. I hesitate to call it a practice mode since it has a “1-HP” difficulty. And, I mean, as far as tedious Git Gud things go… I did a lot of that in Hollow Knight and I suspect I’d be willing to do so in Sekiro, given I’m on like NG+5 (seriously, Sekiro is the apex of 3D action).

            Really, I’d have been satisfied if Sekiro had a traditional save system, instead of the constant autosaving it inherited from Dark Souls. There’s almost no practical reason for it to do so. Then I could manually save the game before every awesome boss.

            1. Nerem says:
              The term for this is ‘boss refights’. Which could probably be done just with the Idol system. Have a ‘Boss Zone’ ‘location’ in the Idol menu that sends you to closed off versions of the boss areas akin to the spoiler bonus boss one.
              Reply
  2. Nerem says:
    … Also I agree that Sekiro is super good. I’m terrible at Dark Souls/Bloodborne but I managed to beat Sekiro. The final boss took me like six hours though.
    1. Roarke says:

      Dark Souls and Sekiro actually demand totally different things from the player, so it’s understandable that some people find Sekiro easier. I think Dark Souls is probably the more widely appealing/accessible series in:re difficulty; you can make Dark Souls as easy or hard as you like just with like, stat and gear choices. Sekiro’s focus on fast-paced mechanical execution and downplaying of the RPG aspect means it’s catering to a much narrower audience.

      Man the last boss in Sekiro was just <3 <3 <3 maybe my all-time favorite boss fight.

  3. Nerem says:
    I think it’s more that Sekiro is very aggressively focused and rewards it, whereas Dark Souls isn’t. I went from playing Katana Zero to Sekiro as well and that basically influenced how I fought entirely.

    Katana Zero also rules by the way.

    And ughhh the final boss. Yeah it’s a great boss fight! But I lost more than once with literally one hit left because of his stupid special attack not being countered despite me doing the counter because of a thing that only comes up in that fight!

    1. Roarke says:

      Yeah, Sekiro rewards a specific playstyle, which hurts its replayability compared to Dark Souls (not enough to stop me from putting 100 hours into it) and also makes it harder for people who played Dark Souls in specific ways.

      I’ve been hearing good things about Katana Zero. I’ll check it out.

      I wish the boss’s final phase didn’t have that attack. It’s cool and all, but it makes him ludicrously easy (and yeah, the counter seems to not work every so often).

  4. Nerem says:
    The first several times I did it I wiped to him purely because of the lightning blasts even when I should have won, because unlike every other attack of that sort in the game, his stuns you briefly. Which means if you’re not blocking when it hits you, then it becomes a game of chance whether Sekiro recovers fast enough to do the counter.

     

     

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