So I was getting worried about this list, as for whatever reason July seemed to be the overload month where I just played a ton at the front of the month. I did streams. I did my first video review. It was crazy for a while, but with a couple of movements around into the smaller Other Updates section, and a couple of cuts due to not having played enough of a game (or having made a video review of it) (or it having gotten so large that I felt it deserved its own full review) we have ourselves a reasonable Emerald Gaming Update.
Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt for PC (Steam)
What a charming little game. It’s free. Free.
Released in November of 2014, from what I’ve read, developers Ludosity crafted this one in a game jam based on ebola awareness, something I didn’t know until literally just now as I type this.
So here’s the deal. Does anyone remember the ZX-Spectrum? It was like the Commodore 64’s unpopular cousin, and this game looks a lot like that sort of game.
Does anyone remember the Commodore 64? No? No one my age? Okay, um…
Try to think graphics that aren’t quite NES levels, but better than Atari 2600 levels.
That’s the aesthetic this game is going for, and in my opinion, it absolutely nails it without sacrificing responsiveness and fun factor. The game’s a top-down RPG which splits into a shoot ’em up during encounters. Over time you get better health, more healing projectiles, better healing projectiles from bandaids to pills to syringes to other stuff. Pretty simple enough. Since the encounters auto-fire your projectiles, this game’s controls are so simple you could literally play it with an old school Atari controller.
So the story of the game is that you’re a healer that just graduated from Saturn’s healing school and you’re tasked to heal all of Hurtland. Sounds a bit large of a task, no? Well, ‘healing’ is a bit of a loose term in this universe, it reminds me a bit of Undertale as far as wit-quirk dialogue goes. Some will have a simple problem like a scratch or maybe a bit of glass caught in their foot, others will suffer from depression, some yet will suffer from a severe case of death, some just need advice or to be shown their way forward, some just need a little faith in humanity, some need to be healed from their lack of Wi-Fi, and some just need a little confidence in themselves.
Whenever you attempt to heal someone, the game goes into a separate encounter screen called Healing Mode, and you have to literally shoot the problems with bandaids and potions until they go away, and once they go away, the problem is solved! You also have a second goal to save the Prince from his ailments. Oooh, nice reversal, princess saving the prince, I’m down with this. I won’t spoil that particular encounter, but I’ll just say that it’s pretty great.
This game is surprisingly short, taking really only at maximum three hours to beat. Most people I had play this managed around 2, or even one and a half hours. The music is rather repetitive, not changing until you go into an entirely new section of the map, which means it tends to get stuck in my head easily. That said, I’d say the music itself sounds pretty authentic for its retro-style and pretty good as far as music goes. Nothing stellar, but I have a fondness for the Saturine theme in the beginning before you drop into Hurtland, and the final boss music is pretty hype.
Overall, it’s a really nice little retro game that doesn’t outstay its welcome, is quite cute, and honestly I just love more and more over time. It’s REALLY easy to get any friend to try and play it, and beat it within the day.
You have no excuse to not play this game since it’s friggin free. Yes, you heard that right, free. You don’t get this good of a game for free, you just don’t!
Nights into Dreams… for PC (Steam) (revisited from March)
Well, here you go. I was a naughty boy and played with Sega Saturn emulators back in March, and discovered a really cool game called Nights Into Dreams. Then, through that I found out that it was released on Steam with updated graphics, so I went to snatch that up with actual money and adored it even more. See!? Proof that emulators can support actual releases!
Okay, well, various holes in that joke of an argument aside, the PC port for Nights into Dreams is actually really good, or at least compared to the Saturn emulators where I had to deal with frames per second I hadn’t seen since the Nintendo 64 in an active, fast and open environment. Not the best combination. The PC port is an improvement in every way – better graphics, higher and smoother framerate, updated visuals and all.
For those that are too lazy to go back to my March review, here’s a really quick lowdown. Nights Into Dreams was a Sega Saturn game made by Sonic Team (yeah, the folks that make mainline Sonic the Hedgehog) about a couple of kids that have wacky and crazy dreams, and with the help of a pinkish dream being called NiGHTS, float about and do loops all dream long like swimming in air. It mostly controls as you floating in a 2.5D environment, moving left, right, up and down while the track itself decides when you go forward or backwards, with a few exceptions later on that tend to throw me for a loop.
So there’s actually a bit more to it, now that I’ve finished it. From what I can tell, at the beginning of each area, four dream monster things assault you and take away four of your orbs, called ‘Ideyas’ and trap them into large orb containers. With the help of the dream being NiGHTS, you can reclaim your stolen ideyas by throwing twenty blue balls into the containers, thereby blowing them up and allowing you to advance to the next track of the stage. Doing loops around a set of items allows you to collect all of them at once, so there’s incentive to backtrack if you miss something and want to get it. Or, you can simply keep looping about the whole track like a speed demon, it’s up to you really!
I really can’t praise the flow of this game enough. In the normal stages, it genuinely feels like you’re speed-swimming in air and to me, the controls all make perfect loopy and flow-y sense. It feels like this game’s momentum was built specifically for me, once I got it all down, it became so relaxing despite how fast it can be.
Until the boss battles, that is.
So, from what I can tell, the boss battles seem to be random after clearing all four tracks of a given level. Some of them aren’t that offensive, like the giant technicolor fish demon that you just have to bash in the head upwards of around ten times, or the balloon lady you have to shoot in a specific direction until the level ends, but they still break up the flow quite badly in my opinion. And then there are the really offensive once, like the giant…thing outside a circle of mouse homing fireworks that you have to defuse one by one or else get hit by them and take time deductions. There doesn’t seem to be any clear goal on this one other than ‘quick defuse the bombs and maybe if you’ve built enough speed you can hit the boss and kill it but only if it friggin feels like it.‘
There’s also the card-throwing boss that you have to knock the cape off of before being able to do damage to it, but the thing is, getting anywhere near it is an ordeal in and of itself, because those projectiles are unforgiving as hell and the only way to avoid them is to do sick vertical u-ies constantly while trying to make your way to that cape, only for the boss to dash away at the last minute, along with dashing your hopes to beat this thing into a pulp. And it all wouldn’t be so awful if you didn’t have to start the whole stage over and do all four previous tracks over if you run out of time at the boss. That’s just total bollocks, man.
That said, I genuinely did enjoy the final boss battle, looking to be a sort of judge-like character with extradimensional dream powers. And, at the end of the game, you get to find out that both of the kids in question overcome their real life fears and worries too! Yes, it seemed to all be an inner battle of insecurities, and while usually I wouldn’t care would think it’s a little tacky or cheesy, there’s something endearing about it in this game. Maybe it’s because of the by-gone simpler times of Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1 that it resembles, but I felt it was rather nice.
INSIDE for PC (Steam)
Alert. Alert. Unpopular opinion incoming.
I didn’t really like Limbo.
A lot of people liked Limbo, it seems to be an indie darling. Limbo was a 2D puzzle-platformer that was very dark and could be rather brutal to your main character because of the static distance you saw your own death from. It was one of the first of a variety of ‘innocent looking kid in a scary, cruel world’ games. Limbo was, in my opinion, a good game, but I didn’t end up liking or finishing it because some of the puzzles got too hard for me and because of that, the pacing grinded to a halt every time I got stuck. Once the pacing was demolished, admittedly due to my own incompetence, I ended up not having any real desire to find out what was going to happen next, and because it happened so often, I just tired of the game as a whole. Consider this paragraph my mini-review for Limbo.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, this new game INSIDE is from the makers of Limbo, known ominously as studio Playdead, and the first thing I’ll say is that I didn’t have nearly as many issues with it as I did Limbo. I could heartily recommend this to people who didn’t like Limbo for the reasons above. Either I got smarter since I played Limbo, or INSIDE’s puzzles were simpler and weren’t pacing-demolishing like Limbo’s.
Oh wait, I forgot to talk about what sort of game INSIDE is. Hold on, lemme copypaste a few things. Ahem.
INSIDE is a 2D puzzle-platformer that is very dark and could be rather brutal to your main character because of the static distance you saw your own death from. Yeah, this is basically refined and distilled Limbo. Controls are very simple, you could literally play this game with an NES controller no problem.
Sidenote, I realized just now that I tend to enjoy games with simple controls that do a lot with them. It’s a depth I can really appreciate when you can get so much out of only two or three buttons.
Jokes aside, the deaths in INSIDE made me visibly recoil far more than they did Limbo as well. I don’t have issues spoiling the fact that if you get killed by the dog, expect it to not really be graphic content-wise, but somehow that subtlety and the snapping sound in accordance with your own limp body basically snapping in half with surprisingly little blood or gore (or possibly because there’s no blood and gore) was extremely disconcerting in a way I haven’t felt playing a video game in a long time.
These are positive aspects.
There’s something about the puzzles that also seem less contrived than Limbo, at least until later. But without wishing to spoil, I feel like later levels kind of earn their convoluted nature with their subtle “wtf” factor, so it’s kind of okay by me. That and they don’t necessarily become hard, there was only one time I had to refer to a walkthrough in the whole game.
So what’s the game actually about? Well, in the beginning you come out of a crag of rocks and it seems you’re trying to run away (or possibly run towards) something. People are trying to stop you, guards are either trying to capture you or shoot you down, attack dogs are trying to murder you, some sort of controllable body husks are involved, and…anything more would be too spoilery.
Everyone who talks about this game always says ‘the ending is crazy’ ‘you gotta play it to the end’ ‘what did you think about the ending’ and so on. A part of me doesn’t want to hype up the ending because it may lead to disappointment, but then again, the ending was hyped up for me as well and it didn’t detract at all. Do play the ending, all I’ll say is that it was a curveball and I still don’t really know what to make of it, and I kind of like it because I don’t know what to make of it. Does that make any sense?
I think I’ll stop it here, for fear of spoiling.
Other Quick Updates
Catherine for Xbox 360
So a friend and I have been playing Catherine. It’s half puzzle game, half depressing-30-year-old simulator. Here’s the thing, I can’t puzzle like this. My brain explodes at puzzles like this, especially timed puzzles like this. It reminds me a lot of a Rubik’s Cube, in that I can’t solve them either. That said, it’s great to play with other people and watch them judge you for your choices.
Soul Calibur III for Playstation 2
Aaaah, the first Soul Calibur game I ever played. Honestly, I just love Chronicle of the Sword mode, where you make your own small squad and basically play a hybrid of real-time strategy and fighting game. I go back to it every few years or so because I love it so much. I’m also a bit of a character creation slut, I loooooove creating characters in video games.
Steel Battalion for Original Xbox
Let it be known that on July 28th of 2016, I laid my hands on a Steel Battalion controller for the first time. For those who don’t know, Steel Battalion had an infamously complex controller designed specifically for that game and only that game. It’s crazy, but my friend actually had recently acquired the full setup, and I tried to play it. It was great to hold, but actually controlling the thing was a task I wasn’t up to try for more than one go. That said, I’m happy such a thing exists.