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  • Sexism, both quite subtle and unusually overt, and a variety of rulebreaking. Stories that say they’re about Ash but aren’t. Stories that say they’re about pokemon but aren’t! And pacing issues upon pacing […]

  • A lot of stuff centered around Ash and the early season, with even the one that’s about Ash starting in Kalos and the inevitable betrayal-Ash fic both involved emphasis on how many seasons of adventures he’s […]

  • We continue to not have any standard OT fic! However, there is someone being roughly as incompetent, overpowered and poorly plotted but as a baker for some […]

  • Quite a strange collection this time, including platonic? tickling where Ash considers Kukui his father, a story that was 90% worldbuilding setup by someone who didn’t actually seem to have any interest in the […]

  • Victor became a registered member 2 weeks ago

  • More “why are you saying this is the same character” issues, as usual, and a genre-aware isekai that’s probably is just a usual one but could possibly be a very stealth meta deconstruction of typical isekai […]

  • Lot of pacing issues with a dash of why are you saying this is a canon character when you’ve removed the thing about the character that’d make them interesting in the […]

  • The starting batch has a surprising bunch of unusually detailed, narration-heavy non-new trainer stories with unusually terrible grammar.  Also, bonus other […]

  • La-Mulana is a Metroidvania both famous and infamous for its difficulty. After seeing a review that praised its puzzles and claimed it uniquely required you to think on how to proceed, I picked it up the Steam […]

    • Nerem replied 1 month ago

      It’s one of my favorite games ever. But the thing is, it’s not really a Metroidvania in the sense that it descends from Metroid or Castlevania, but instead from Maze of Gallious. The original La Mulana even has a secret Maze of Gallious parody zone.

      Yeah, it’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.

      I’m not sure which wall you mean though. The ‘These walls are holy’ thing is pretty consistent. The thing about La Mulana is that all of the puzzles are spelled out on the tablets. Probably the biggest issue with La Mulana 1 is you needed to keep your own notes on them, and you wanted to have the exact wording and also the drawings they had. La Mulana 2 does fix this by having a built-in App that lets you save a lot of tablets. It really helped me.

      Honestly, maybe you should give La Mulana 2 a try. It’s their second try at the formula and it shows a marked increase in clever ideas (and traps). Of course, you don’t need to.

      The one save point per area is actually really misleading because at any time you can just teleport to it and save once you have the Holy Grail. Once you have it, you go back AND SAVE when you do something, anything. Did you not get the Holy Grail? The fact that you can do that takes a lot of punch out of a lot of traps since the moment you accomplish something you can zip away and lock it in forever.

      Also, I beat both LA Mulana 1 and 2 without guides. It is absolutely possible. It has a lot more in common with old school adventure games than modern-day Metroidvanias, and it was really refreshing. I’m not the type who LIKES those adventure games, but paired with the gameplay of La Mulana was perfect for me.

      • Re: Wall, I’m talking about the one containing the keyblade. Yes, the hint is supposed to be that there’s no eye of retribution in the room, but “do the exact opposite of what we’ve taught you to do the whole game” is still a stupid “gotcha!” non-puzzle.

        all of the puzzles are spelled out on the tablets

        Please show me the tablet that explains that of the two giants with chest wounds, Ledo is the headless one. Please also show me the tablet that explains you need to fight Anubis to get the item that makes him killable. Please also show me the tablet that explains the route you’re supposed to take in the invisible maze in the Chamber of Extinction. I could go on. No, some of the puzzles are explained by the tablets, but most are not. I was indeed writing down everything I saw because I was informed going in that was something you should do. It didn’t help.

        Re: Holy Grail, yes you can warp back at any time, that doesn’t change the fact you have to trek through the entire area on foot every time. I warped back after every floor of the Endless Corridor (except the final one where I stupidly thought I should press ahead to the Shrine’s grail tablet, how dare I), and it was still agonizingly tedious to have to go through all the previous floors every time, even with the main puzzle done.

        I would only touch this game again if it had a save state feature. I believe you when you say you beat it without a guide, but the only way you could have possibly done that is if you wasted far more of your life than necessary to trial-and-error every stupid non-puzzle and surprise deathtrap, and I’m not doing that. Like I said, I understand there are people who for some reason enjoy having their time wasted, but I’m not one of them.

        • Nerem replied 1 month ago

          “Please show me the tablet that explains that of the two giants with chest wounds, Ledo is the headless one.”

          “The sun shone brightly the day Ledo fell in battle. A gaping hole in his chest, he entered his eternal slumber.”

          When you activate the sun part of the dais puzzle, Ledo activates visibly, and he’s the only one with a wound you can access.

          This paired with “The youngest, Sakit, tread his own path. He put a key on Ledo’s body, falling into slumber with his powers in hand.” makes it clear which one is Ledo.

          As for Anubis, you can get the book the moment you see him and unlock Mulbruk, and there’s a tablet that says she has it straight up. So once you go to him and find out he’s invincible (and you will just stumble upon him accidentally) you just have to wake her up (and requires beating bosses), and you are told to go back to her repeatedly, so it’s not really a hard puzzle.

          If here’s no eye symbol warning you of Divine Retribution, then you can simply assume it is safe. IT sounds more like you convinced yourself you’d get hit even though they explicitly put in the eyeballs to make that clear.

          The Chamber of Extinction light one is probably the worst, but Mulbruk tells you how to solve it and you can use flares to see the route. That was a welcome change from the original which had neither. That was a nightmare.

          Anyways deciding to go stumble into the next zone without saying is definitely a ‘you’ error. Always save when you make progress is a key method of adventuring. Saves you having to do it twice AND the boss.

          • “The sun shone brightly the day Ledo fell in battle. A gaping hole in his chest, he entered his eternal slumber.”

            This statue has “a gaping hole in his chest”, but he’s not Ledo. Ledo is on the other side of the map. Ledo also has a much more noticeable injury, yet this is not mentioned anywhere. I kept going to this statue and being baffled why nothing was happening. I only found Ledo after systematically going through every single statue to find which one reacted. It’s not a fair puzzle.

            As for Anubis, you can get the book the moment you see him

            Where is the tablet that tells you that? I’m not complaining that you have to talk to Mulbruk — you’re directed towards her on multiple occasions, so that’s by far the most reasonable part. I’m complaining that you can only get the book from her after intentionally disregarding the tablet right before Anubis. That is ridiculous.

            If here’s no eye symbol warning you of Divine Retribution, then you can simply assume it is safe.

            The place where the game tells you this is…? It would be a fair puzzle if it were tutorialized in the introductory area that there are some situations where striking those blocks doesn’t trigger retribution. That’s not the case. To my knowledge that is the only time in the entire game you’re supposed to strike one of those blocks. “You should have noticed a missing background detail means you’re supposed to do the exact opposite of what you’ve been taught” is a reasonable trick for an optional secret, not an item that’s necessary to beat the game.

            Anyways deciding to go stumble into the next zone without saving is definitely a ‘you’ error.

            No, not wanting to go through the entire Endless Corridor yet again is not a me problem, it is a problem of the developers being sadistic trolls who think it’s funny to waste peoples’ time. Warping back to the save point is still resetting my progress through the area. Forcing the player to warp all the way back to the start of the area every time they make a single step of new progress shows utter contempt and disrespect for the player’s time. It’s bad game design and I stand by that.

            • Nerem replied 1 month ago

              From my memory, there’s a tablet in the Gate of Guidance that outright says that it is the eyes that fire divine punishment. No eye, no divine punishment. They even reinforce this when you solve a puzzle related to an object under the protection of an eye, it closes and will no longer fire its bolt at you.

              I think the Shuriken puzzle in the Gate of Guidance shows that explicitly, as it zaps you until you solve the puzzle. When you solve it, the Shuriken ‘cover’ opens up and the eye closes and recedes into the background.

              This is a lot nicer than the original version which didn’t have the eyes and that tablet only said “Sometimes you are divinely punished for whipping objects. Don’t whip wildly!”

              As for Ledo, there’s only two statues with holes in their chest, and it is the only one that reacts when ‘the sun shone brightly’. It’s not a huge leap in deduction.

              As for the Endless Corridor, the only place that you can’t just drop back down since the puzzles stay solved is the gauntlet, but there’s a shortcut block you can destroy to help you quickly return.

              • You are not paying attention to my actual objections. “If you solve the puzzle it shows that you solved the puzzle” does not address the problem that it’s impossible to solve the puzzle. It is not possible to know which statue to go to after you set the sky disc to the sun because it is impossible to know which of the two statues with chest wounds is Ledo. Similarly, telling me Mulbruk has the Book of the Dead does not tell me that I have to fight an unkillable boss before she’ll give it to me. The necessary information is not there.

                They even reinforce this when you solve a puzzle related to an object under the protection of an eye, it closes and will no longer fire its bolt at you.

                That still does not adequately prime the player for the fact they are supposed to whip things when there’s no eye present exactly once five hours later. What I would have accepted would have been an adventurer skeleton that said “Hey, I broke open one sarcophagus safely, but when I hit another one I got zapped! I wonder what was different…” That would let the player know it was possible to break sarcophagi while still not giving away the entire answer. (Also just… “one sarcophagus in the entire ruins is unguarded for no reason” is an incredibly stupid and illogical video-game setup in the first place, not something that makes reasonable sense.)

                This is my problem with the puzzles in La-Mulana: Almost every time, my reaction was “I didn’t know I could do that.” Puzzles should not make the player confused as to what their end goal is, only how they are supposed to get there. If the solution to a puzzle is something a player has never done before and was never told is even possible, why would they think to try it?

                Let me ask you straight up: How long did it take you to figure out you were supposed to break the sarcophagus to get the keyblade? Did you try anything else beforehand?

              • Nerem replied 3 weeks ago

                Err, the puzzle with the sky disk is the one that makes it clear which one is Ledo (also, the fact that he has the more prominent chest injury). Like, if you put together the clues the game provides, it is super clear. Chest Injury + Sun related = if you hit the sky dial to Sun and only one of the giants with a chest injury falls down, then that must be Ledo.

                As for the keyblade… I uhh… figured it out pretty easily. The game being very specific about how you are only in danger of divine punishment if the eye is in the room and open. If there is no eye, or the eye has been rendered closed…. then whip away. That’s literally been a constant the entire game, so there not being an eye of divine punishment is a very very VERY clear indicator that you’re safe to whip anything you want, even that fancy sarcophagus that opens when you whip it.

              • also, the fact that he has the more prominent chest injury

                A) No, the statue riddled with wounds, including a decapitation, does not have a more prominent chest injury than the one that is immaculate except for a chest injury. I couldn’t even tell he had a chest injury until after I solved the puzzle because the entire statue is such a ruin. (That is another thing that annoyed me; the statues have tons of blemishes to make them look old and weathered, and we have no way of telling which are significant and which are aesthetic.)

                B) Even if that were the case, the player should not have to guess. If the only information you give the player is “look for a statue with a chest wound”, providing multiple statues with chest wounds makes the puzzle unsolvable.

                I really do not understand what about this isn’t sinking in. The puzzle is unsolvable. It does not provide enough information to isolate all variables. You cannot logic it out, you have to guess — if you even notice there are two statues with chest wounds, which as I said is not a given, because they appeared to deliberately design Ledo to mask the chest wound. That is bad design.

              • I figured it out instantly because there’s a tablet that spells it out extremely blatantly.

                The game straight up, with no complications, tells you how to figure out who Ledo is. He fell in sunlight, a gaping hole in his chest. When you activate the ‘sunlight’, Ledo is the giant who falls. It was extremely obvious. The fact that he has a hole in his chest is really secondary, because “Ledo fell in sunlight” solves it already. There’s not even a real puzzle there. You hit sun, Ledo falls. “Ledo fell in the sunlight, a hole in his chest”.

                If it’s unsolvable, then I could not have figured it out from that incredibly simple solution. Like I’m a massive fucking idiot who takes forever to figure out puzzles, and that one was the most intuitive one in the entire game.

              • Like, if you just forgot that the tablet said that and didn’t see it again, that’s one thing and is understandable. It’s why I liked that La Mulana 2 gave you an app to save murals on.

                But it was, in no way, an impossible puzzle. Hell, when they made that section easier puzzle-wise for the remake, they did not change that at all because it’s really the simple part of the whole thing. They changed the Nebiru Disk puzzle so you only had to hop on one of the labelled levers to change it to Sun, or Moon, or whichever. In the original the actual puzzle was figuring out what series of levers you had to hit to put it on the one you wanted. Ledo’s identity wasn’t changed because it was extremely clear if you remembered that tablet (That even has a picture of Ledo!)

              • https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/497627755161190410/926810478397771836/unknown.png

                This is the monument that tells you about Ledo.

                https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/497627755161190410/926810675416817724/unknown.png

                https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/497627755161190410/926811071484940328/unknown.png

                Ledo normally. Check out that huge chest would where his arm is that you can stand on.

                https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/497627755161190410/926811553389486100/unknown.png

                When you set it to sun, this appears. Over his heart. Like, as long as you explore the zone under all the conditions, you’d find this and hit it and you don’t even strictly need to know who LEdo is.

                By the way, what also helps is that the only other one with damage on their chest is Zebu, who is described as “Zebu , the first born, was holding up the land, and thus unable to move.”, and Zebu is this guy:

                https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/497627755161190410/926812385128378438/unknown.png

                If you have it set to Stars, then this guy falls over dead on you, instakilling you. His name is Badu: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/497627755161190410/926812692923183104/unknown.png
                “A blanket of countless stars spread over Bado, falling into a deep slumber.”

                Three of them are associated with the emblems on the Nebiru Disk.

                https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/497627755161190410/926813147527012362/unknown.png

                This thing. The sun causes the pedestal to appear on Ledo’s chest. Stars cause Bado to fall. Moon causes Ji to pray. The rest are given context clues to figure out who is who. Just read the monuments, make notes if you need to, and it’s a nowhere near impossible to solve.

              • You keep repeating what you’ve previously said without listening to my actual objection. I know what the hint is. I know Ledo has a chest wound. I know the dais appears if you set the disc to the sun, that’s how I figured it out. None of those things are my objection. My objection is, as I said several comments ago, this:

                It sounds like you didn’t notice this statue also has a chest wound. If you didn’t, then yeah, it’s a pretty simple puzzle when you only have one option to choose from! But if a puzzle is easier if you notice less of it, it’s a bad puzzle. I was punished for noticing all the statues.

              • I did, in fact, notice you say that. Like, the objection is still, and I will say this, dumb. Why? Because you have two options. One that actually fits all the clues given to you… and one that doesn’t. You’re suppose to figure out what statue is who by the clues. Sure, if the only clue given was “Ledo had a wound in his chest” and you just had to guess which was which from that alone, then yes, you would be absolutely correct that it’d be a bad puzzle.

                But your clue for Ledo is TWO things. He fell in the sunlight (Reacts to the sun disk) and has a wound in his chest. Ledo has a HUGE hole in his chest, over his heart, while the other has a small damage to the front of its chest, and doesn’t react in sunlight. The other statue wasn’t even intended to be a red herring, because it doesn’t follow all of the clues. Like, I don’t know why you’re so mad at La Mulana when you deliberately disregarded the clues it gave to you. Ledo = Reacts To Sun + Wound In Chest. Ledo != Wound In Chest, Does Not React To Sun. You’re shouting that there’s this other statue has a wound in its chest, therefore it is really confusing, but the SAME monument tells you the easy way to tell them apart. You just didn’t read it closely.

                That’s what I’m arguing. You failed to read the monument with care and missed the sun-in-your-face obvious clue it was giving you, and then you got mad at the game. This was one of the very obvious and clear puzzles in the game, and you complicated it yourself to the point of calling it an ‘impossible puzzle’. And even if you still couldn’t tell the difference, there’s only two of them, and only one who you can mess with at all during sunlight. It’s not impossible. It’s not difficult. It’s not even hard.

                This is, by the way, why I appreciate that La Mulana 2 lets you save monuments to an app so you can look through them and not have to go off of memory.

            • Nerem replied 1 month ago

              As for the Book of the Dead, IIRC there’s tablets in the Twin LAbyrinth that explicitly say that she has the Book of the Dead.

            • Nerem replied 1 month ago

              Oh, and the tablet telling you about the Eyes Of Divine Punishment have a picture of the eyes emitting divine wrath IIRC.

    • Nerem replied 1 month ago

      Also La Mulana 2 is just nicer overall… mostly.

    • Nerem replied 1 month ago

      Also you talk about inconsistency, but that Spring in the Sky puzzle actually is pretty intuitive, because they actually look like what they should, and the winched platform is very blatant, and if you hit it, it plays a sound to indicate that it is something that can be hit, so you just switch to figure out what weapon it wants. Once you do, it takes you straight to the Temple of the Sun to a new place you need to go, so you won’t be baffled as to what that did.

      The game already taught you all of this in the other zones, too. Especially that ‘background objects’ aren’t just decoration (and you can also handscan a bunch for clues).

      • Being intuitive relative to the other puzzles is not saying much. Just because you know at that point that some background objects can be interactive doesn’t mean you know which ones those are — and even if you do the most intuitive thing, which is hitting the winch, it won’t do anything until you break the platform, which is much less intuitive.

        I think it would only be fair if there was some kind of consistent graphical effect that marked objects as breakable or interactive. Plenty of games do this and no, it’s not patronizing or handholdy to do so. If you want puzzles to be difficult, you should make them actual puzzles, not “puzzles” that are solved as soon as you track down the right pixel.

        • Nerem replied 1 month ago

          I mean you get the ‘this does something if you hit it’ effect from hitting it. Nothing wrong with that.

          Like, I’m not trying to say that games can’t be QoL or easy and still be good. Farrrrr from it. La Mulana’s a much older game though so there’s some aspects that are still less nice… but they are fairly nice in the “it gives you a clue when you hit it”.

          • Yes, it reacts if you think to hit it in flagrant violation of what the tutorial area teaches you. If you explicitly tell players in your tutorial area “don’t just hit things at random or we’ll punish you,” it is not fair play to later say actually you are supposed to hit things. Hitting the machines in the Tower of Ruin smites you, but hitting the winch in the Spring in the Sky doesn’t, because…?

    • Yo you should check out Dandara — it’s on the Switch and maybe PC? It’s a really nice Metroidvania, I think the level design has been really excellent so far.

      A couple of things:

      — I tend to like games to be more punishing than you do and this one has some bullet-hell-lite sequences which I think have been great but take my feeling that the difficultly is perfect with a grain of salt
      — The control system is really unique, but push through the initial weirdness of it — after about 20 minutes I got used to it and found it to be really fun and fast-paced once the logic clicked (on a controller, anyway).
      — It’s apparently an allegory for the freeing of Brazilian slaves, which is not something I know a ton about but seems pretty cool
      — Really neat sound design, IMO.

      • Oh right, I own that, but haven’t gotten a chance to play it. I should give it a try.

        Also, I think it’s probably a mistake to consider La Mulana a normal Metroidvania where all the puzzles are just figuring out how to use your powers to progress. It’s much more heavy on the puzzle aspects and less on the combat aspects. Both types of Metroidvania are good though.

        • I don’t know much about the genre, but as a game that’s a combination of puzzles and reflexes I really like it. The boss fights have been a blast.

          But yeah, can’t emphasize how weird the controls are for a little bit. I was on the edge of quitting and then all of a sudden it clicked and I’ve loved it ever since, so deffo be patient with it.

      • Dandara is on my wishlist, so I’ll get around to it one of these years.

    • Like, the thing that makes me the most baffled about you declaring it impossible to distinguish them, is that you really don’t have to. If you set it to Sun Disk, then the correct one has a pedestal on its chest. The only way I can think that you couldn’t figure this out is that you went to the one at the start of the zone, saw nothing, and didn’t bother checking the other one at all. Because when you hit the sun dial, Ledo has a very obvious change that the other one does not have.

      https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/367092795082670101/930205839594229780/unknown.png

      A pedestal! And that’s all you need to know with Ledo.

      • Yes, it has an obvious change if you enter that room, at which point you have already solved the puzzle, because the puzzle is figuring out which room to go to! You keep saying “But if you change the disc to the sun you can tell which one is Ledo,” but that information is useless for distinguishing them until you’ve already solved it. Obviously I set the sky disc to the sun, I would never have solved the puzzle otherwise, but I kept going to the other statue and thinking I must have messed something else up, because La-Mulana also loves to say “tee-hee, there was actually another thing you were supposed to do first!” so that’s not outside the realm of possibility. I only advanced after I brute-forced it by going through all the statues one by one. If you have to brute-force a puzzle to solve it, it’s a bad puzzle.

        I didn’t notice the Ledo statue had a chest wound at all, because its myriad other wounds distracted me. When you make a sprite that’s riddled with black holes, it is hard to notice one particular hole. But screw me for assuming decapitation was the thing I was supposed to notice! No, the one and only statue with multiple wounds is the one where I was supposed to ignore all wounds but one, unlike the statue that only has a chest wound, which has nothing to do with the puzzle telling you to look for a chest wound, because that’s so logical! Their decision to draw the statues that way was either an egregious oversight or deliberate trolling.

        If the wounds on the statues were supposed to be deliberate and relevant, they should not have made the statues look weathered with lots of other irrelevant wounds. All that does is create red herrings.

        • I just don’t get why this puzzle has you so infuriated out of all of them. It’s a very simple puzzle where you binarily have solved it or not and there’s no punishment for not going to the right room beyond maybe having wasted a minute, which is a pretty minor punishment considering puzzle games. Neither of them are very far away from the monument or grail point. You misunderstood things and that’s fine, but labeling it impossible and acting like there was no way to solve it is my issue. I just figure the decapitation was meant to make it more striking and make you notice that it very pointedly has its hand up to the massive hole in its chest.

  • Inscryption is a game by the makers of Pony Island, a game our esteemed illhousen previously reviewed. While I haven’t played Pony Island myself, Inscryption makes the exact blunders illhousen details in his […]

    • Oh, hey, I’ve played this game back when it was a proof of concept jam entry called Sacrifices Must Be Made*. It was a lot more simple back then, of course, just a series of duels between you and the GM, and you couldn’t walk around. Still, it was very atmospheric and overall well-executed. I meant to follow the game’s development, but then I didn’t. Judging by the review, it was a good thing. I think if I were to play this game as you describe it, I’d just die.

      Gameplay-wise, my only complaint is the death spiral: if you didn’t get a good momentum going in the first few turns, it’s unlikely that you’d manage to recover since not only do you need to defeat your opponent, first you have to counter whatever progress he’s made towards defeating you.

      Still, it’s a pretty dope game. Shame the expansion didn’t live up to the potential.

      *Link: https://dmullinsgames.itch.io/sacrifices-must-be-made

    • Apparently there is in fact an Endless Act 1 mode you can enable. I haven’t tried it, though I’m a little disappointed it removes the escape room elements; I genuinely thought those were really cool and well-integrated into the card game.

      ETA: Have tried it, it’s interesting but way too hard since they removed all the cheaty bits (squirrel totem, deathcards, boons, etc.) and haven’t rebalanced the fights accordingly.

  • This is the fourth and final Mario & Luigi game. It might be my favorite in the entire series; the creators clearly listened to criticisms of the previous games and went all-out in their ambitions.

    Mario & co. […]

  • Supraland is a game I’ve been eyeing for a while, and only recently got the hardware for. (It’s one of those “all games must be computer-meltingly photorealistic” affairs.) It is billed as a “First-Person […]

  • Actually had an obligatory review, then did the Supernatural as well as Horror subsections because both were pretty quick.

    Part of the Chapter Review Exchange.

    [This story is not for those easily offended. It […]

  • Into the Breach and Star Renegades are two very different games from two completely different developers, but they have a number of things in common I thought worth analyzing.

    The premise of both games is […]

    • I liked both a lot gameplay-wise, but you aren’t wrong about the writing. I mean, these kind of games usually have a plot that boils down to a very thin excuse for the gameplay. I kind of feel like that is what happened with Into The Breach. They wrote a lot, but decided that it couldn’t be IN the game because a Roguelike with plot? No one would buy that! So they excised it entirely.

      • a Roguelike with plot? No one would buy that!

        Cut to Hades staring directly into the camera.

        The real question is why they hired such a prolific writer to write so much if they weren’t going to use any of it? They say they ended up cutting a lot of content, so I can’t help but wonder if they intended for there to be more plot but changed their minds later.

        I didn’t discuss the gameplay here, but I think they also provide an interesting contrast in that aspect. I actually found Star Renegades very boring and repetitive, probably because it does what Into the Breach does not: have truly perfect information. Because you know everything that’s going to happen in a turn, you always know the optimal solution. My strategy barely changed throughout my entire run. Despite having a lot more components than Into the Breach, it was a much easier game to solve.

    • Into the Breach was also a disappointment to me, but I did like the gameplay to an extent; it just wasn’t as replayable as the devs thought it would be. That said, more games need to have the ability to rewind decisions instead of restarting chapters.

      Speaking of somewhat disappointing turn-based roguelikes, there’s a fantasy roguelite out now called The Last Spell, which is literally Metaprogression: The Turn-Based Tactics Game. It also has the time-travel-to-prevent-disaster conceit, with the bulk of the exposition and characterization given to two opposing goddesses named… Schaden and freude. These are the two metaprogression vendors: one takes metaprogression currency, and the other unlocks/achievements.

      The Last Spell is notable to me for having *incredible* gameplay, I mean just awesome turn-based combat, gated behind hours of bullshit metaprogression. This is a game that doesn’t even give you the tools to succeed until you’re several failed runs in. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a game with such incredible design trip at the starting line like this. If I’d known about the metaprogression going in, I wouldn’t have bought the game. I felt it worth mentioning here for that.

      • Weirdly the older version of Into The Breach that had heavy story and stuff apparently had a lot more replayability and sounded way cooler. I’m still not sure why they decided to just axe everything for a solid but not very lasting puzzle game.

        To be fair, the metaprogression, at least with the bad aspects of needing so much in order to win at all, might not stay. The game’s still basically in beta-testing and is trying to figure out how to manage those aspects. To be fair to it, it’s not really that long to unlock the stuff required to win. It’s just that they should start off being unlocked or unlock after the tutorial run. The rest’s fine.

        The gameplay otherwise rules, too.

        Speaking of disappointment, Slipways is the king of this. Its advertising bills it as a super streamlined 4X where everything is stripped away but the Important Decisions and Everything Matters but it turned out to be a straight puzzle game where nothing matters. No 4X aspects at all. It was just a lie.

        • “To be fair to it, it’s not really that long to unlock the stuff required to win. It’s just that they should start off being unlocked or unlock after the tutorial run. The rest’s fine.”

          I’m hoping they reduce the metaprogression for future players, but given that they created the two goddess characters to gate and comment on said progression, I still wouldn’t bet on it. I will say, in fairness, that when I picked the game up, it had a bug that made the progress towards a critical unlock (The Seer) reset every time you closed the game. This had a serious effect on my opinion, since it was the difference between like, five runs before I could realistically win, and fifteen. It’s maybe not just to judge the game by that bug, but my underlying criticism of the metaprogression remains sound imo.

          It feels like designers are having a hard time balancing minimalism with fun. The best game I’ve played that seemed to achieve this balance is Bad North, which is like a mini-RTS game where you control up to four little squads of Vikings to defend a series of islands from encroaching invaders. That game is absolutely awesome and minimalist in everything from the gameplay to the art. I give that a big, unreserved rec, where I’d definitely caution someone getting into The Last Spell.

    • I mean you can get your first win the moment you unlock the Seer, which is about three runs in which honestly in a game like this is about the minimum it should take, even if metaprogression wasn’t enforcing it.

      Unrelated, but Super Robot Wars 30 is out and it rules hard.

      • It might have been three runs if I didn’t have a bug resetting the progress every time I closed the game. Then there were the other buffs you really need, like action point increases for the heroes, that only really start helping on your next run. I know you don’t need to unlock everything, but it was definitely enough to feel annoying.

        I still think it’s a great game and I’ve sunk dozens of hours into it, but it has the feeling of a game gated by a time investment that doesn’t need to be there.

  • St. Elmo's Fire wrote a new post, FEZ 4 months ago

    FEZ is a game I got years ago, but was unable to play until now because it used a really specific graphics renderer that wasn’t supported by my crappy hardware. Now that I finally have a proper graphics card, […]

    • Unfortunately, this is not the actual gameplay of FEZ.

      I remember this is what turned me off the game. I got really excited by the idea of the game from short videos and what not, the more I learned about the game the more it seemed the perspective gimmick wasn’t the main point, which just feels like a waste.

    • test

    • test

    • Since I can actually comment now: The reason why the game feels so disjointed like the premise is a lie is that Phil Fish happened. Phil Fish was the artist, who was such an asshole he drove the other people in the team away and claimed all the credit for himself. The sudden change to the completely different type of puzzles was because of him.

  • marco became a registered member 4 months, 1 week ago

  • Mark became a registered member 4 months, 1 week ago

  • The third game in the Mario & Luigi series. I played the original DS version a long time ago as a kid, so I picked up the 3DS remake for this one to see what was different.

    The big selling point of this entry […]

    • Oh, and the remake also added an additional game, Bowser Jr.’s Journey. I meant to add a section for it but forgot.

      It’s a strategy game rather than a straight RPG, and is surprisingly complex! It functions around a rock-paper-scissors system where melee units beat ranged units beat flying units beat melee units, but each unit has unique properties as well and may be super-effective against certain other units (plants are weak to fire, for instance). In addition, the formation you place your units in affects who they face off against, so you have to place them to match up effectively against the enemies.

      Unfortunately, it did drag out a bit longer than was welcome; it wrung a lot of content out of all its enemies, but it still could have lost a lot of stages. Additionally, I felt the RPG elements actually worked against it; there were a lot of times where I knew the tactically optimal units to play, but they weren’t viable because they were underleveled. You’re basically required to grind at several points, which is just a waste of everyone’s time.

      The story was surprisingly good, though! The plot as a whole was a pretty standard “Spoiled brat learns to become a marginally less awful person” arc, but I really loved how much personality the Koopalings all had. I’m disappointed they retconned Jr. to be Bowser’s only child, because they work so well as Jr.’s disgruntled older siblings. (Also, is Kamek Bowser’s dad, or…?) It was satisfying to see them push back against Jr.’s abuse and actually leave, and how well that integrated with the gameplay! For the tutorial you’re encouraged to rely on the powerful Koopalings, but after Jr. pushes them away you’re forced to fall back on the standard units and appreciate what you’ve lost. It makes regaining them feel really earned and satisfying.

      Oh, and I loved that Jr. still has his paintbrush from Sunshine, that was a cool callback. I always welcome more magic, and I loved how many of the Koopalings used magic too.

      It was odd that it was mostly written as if it were an RPG, though. Even though you supposedly have an army at your back, all the focus is on the named characters. I honestly had to laugh at Jr. crying over being alone when I still had like 100 units. But they didn’t have names, so they weren’t people, I guess.

      Anyway if we could get an RPG that was just Bowser and the Koopalings that would be awesome, Mario and Luigi aren’t even necessary.

  • Jas.Jackson21 became a registered member 4 months, 3 weeks ago

  • This is the sequel to Superstar Saga, and represented a jump from GBA to DS. The main gimmick is that the brothers go back in time to team up with their baby selves, who are controlled with the DS’ X and Y […]

    • Partners in Time is one of the more lacklustre entries in the series (and arguably the lowest point, though I can’t say for sure as I never played Dream Team or Paper Jam). It’s fine, it’s possible to enjoy playing it, but it doesn’t quite have the sparkle of the others and it can drag on.

      The complaint about the battles dragging on so long was so universal they actually tried to address it: the US version was released first, and they tweaked the enemies’ stats in the international (European and Japanese) releases, generally reducing enemies’ HP but increasing their damage output to compensate. I only ever played the US one, so I can’t give you any personal insight, but it sounds like it could only be an improvement. That said, that doesn’t address the issue of making resource management interesting.

      I also thought that they largely didn’t take advantage of the time travel gimmick writing-wise, or in area design. It felt like a missed opportunity that the “present era” is just the Peach’s Castle hub area, and you only ever explore areas in the past. It feels like it was just a gimmick so they could justify the babies being there (so you could use all four buttons!) and served no other purpose.

      Bowser was great though, yes. I also appreciated that Peach got to be a proactive character in this one to some degree, even if it’s all in the backstory (and Baby Peach was incredibly annoying).

      I think you’ll enjoy Bowser’s Inside Story.

      • It felt like a missed opportunity that the “present era” is just the Peach’s Castle hub area, and you only ever explore areas in the past

        Yeah, that was very weird. I kept expecting to explore the present-day areas, since there’s a world map for both, but nope.

        I wonder if it would have worked better if the brothers were trapped in the past the whole game. That would have also avoided the absolutely nonsensical timeline in this.

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