Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Put J.J. Abram’s Bad Robot in a world off the cover of Korn’s Follow the Leader and you can begin to imagine what it’s like to be in the world of Machinarium.

Machinarium starts out with no instructions or storyline to speak of. You are a robot who has been thrown into the junkyard by what appears to be a flying dump truck. You don’t have all your pieces, and it’s unclear just what you’re capable of accomplishing.

Step in old school game play!

It’s a point and click adventure like we’ve all probably come across at one point in time or another. One thing that’s nice about it is the cursor, which is a typical mouse cursor. Your robot can stretch up and down by scrolling over him and using the vertical resizing cursor. If you can interact with an object, it becomes the ‘flash finger’ and lets you know you can push that button, or pick that item up. There is a hint system, with basic hint per level, and then a walkthrough book if you are genuinely stuck. However, the walkthrough book is a small flight simulator game of its own, so you don’t have immediate access to it.

The game gives you a brief overlay of this and then moves right into it. You’re expected to reassemble yourself and head back to town for who knows what reason. It’s up to you to figure that out!

With minimal communication to what needs to be done, the game alerts you by animations in thought bubbles above your robot’s head or another robot’s head. In fact there is no dialogue in this game. At all. All the communication is done in this way. It may seem strange, but one can hardly miss the dialogue with humorous cartoons telling the story or the next goal.

Machinarium came with the second Humble Indie Bundle that I got last year. I got decently far the first time I played it, but hadn’t touched a steam game for some time. I made a deal with myself to beat the games before the next steam holiday sale. Well, no time like the present to begin. (Especially because if I don’t, then I won’t be getting myself any games off the Steam store this year. Bastion looks way too sweet to pass up, so I better get cracking).

I especially enjoyed the inventory of this game, because once an object has worn out its use (and most of them are one time uses) the game will discard it in some humorous way. The game doesn’t try to force awkward usages from items that are completely unintuitive (a la Discworld) and each screen / area has its own item set that you’ll use up before advancing.

FUN: 4/5 - The game is very cute and unique. I can't remember the last time I played a game that used no words to tell the story and had such a rich storyline and unique play. This game was really fun, and I imagine playing it on the iPad2 would be very cool.

DIFFICULTY: 3.5/5 - Some of the mini-puzzles took a little while and added to the difficulty of the game. I think the Tower of Hanoi was the only game not covered in this. Most of the basic game play, such as what items are to be used where, are pretty simple, especially if you pay attention to where you got the item.

PLAYABILITY: 5/5 - With the brief instructions they give you in the beginning, I'm pretty sure that anyone that can click a mouse can play this game. It doesn't even require command of the English language. If you can't understand the initial instructions, it's pretty easy to see what's going on by just clicking things and getting a feel for it.

FRUSTRATION FACTOR: 4/5 - Some of the mini-games lasted way too long and were super annoying. It wasn't a matter of if you were going to solve the puzzle or not, some of them were just trail and error, over and over again until you got it right.

BEST TAKEAWAY MOMENT - Doing away with the bad guys. I don't want to spoil anything more than that.

OVERALL ASSESSMENT 4.5/5 - This game was a lot of fun. There were definitely some annoying parts to it, but I was pleased with most of it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nintendo: Pokemon Red (Pokemon Red fainted!)

Mike used FREE TIME!
It's super effective!

I came, I saw, and I conquered. For a game boy game originally released in 1996, this game requires a hell of a lot of play time. In order to catch/trade for all 150 portable atrocities (legitimately--no cheats), it took me just under 50 hours. (Sadly, this does not include the time I spent in the safari zone, saved in the grass looking for Tauros, Chansey, Kangaskhan and Scyther, turning the game off/on with an unsuccessful hunt. I'd be closer to 65 hours then.)

I got me a Pokemon edumacation!

I chose Red, because I'd never really played it before, and Alan chose Blue. I'm glad I did, because I got a bonus for it. I was able to get my favorites from Blue (Sandshrew/Vulpix) by trading Alan and use the boosted experience points to have a much nicer time battling my way through Kanto.

Overall, this game really stands the test of time. The translation doesn't (perhaps the first recorded instance of 'kekeke' was used by a Channeler in the Lavender Tower), and later versions of the games have corrected some crappy features (Dragonite, you sonuvabitch), but nothing beats playing through Pokemon on an old game boy.

I had a great time playing it, and I'm kind of sad it's over. I'm really glad I had a ton of AAA batteries just sitting in a drawer, otherwise that could have been expensive. (See below - used game boy batteries ready to go to work and be recycled.)

Batteries on their way to a new home

Oh yeah, and my final team ended up being:

FUN: 5/5 - Gotta catch 'em all! (Gotcha catch 'em all!) Pokemon (mon mon mon mon). Best handheld RPG for the Game Boy. Amazingly fun.

DIFFICULTY: 2/5 - The actual difficulty of the game is surprisingly low. It's not a super hard concept, and if you were to just grind your way through with a Bulbasaur or Squirtle, the game doesn't even seem remotely difficult until the 3rd or 4th badge, when your bread & butter starter isn't effective. I actually used a Butterfree/Pikachu tandem as soon as I got to the Viridian Forest and grinded them out. Took a little bit of grinding, but just dominated my way through the first few badges.

PLAYABILITY: 4.5/5 - The one ding I'm giving this game here is the overall slowness in the system. I know it's an engine made in '95, but still, trading takes forever. So does changing the Pokemon around in Bill's PC. Pretty much everything at the Pokemon Center takes forever. I think that was part of the motivation behind making a free inn.

FRUSTRATION FACTOR: 4.5/5 - Two words. Tauros. Porygon. Dammit, those guys took a long time to catch.

Tauros. UGH, what the hell man? With the walking and walking and walking and OMG IT'S TAUROS! Should I throw a rock? He might run! But you can't catch him without throwing a rock. Ugh, *throw rock* Wild Tauros is angry! Wild Tauros ran! NOOOOO!!! Repeat about a million times. Especially when his encounter rate is officially labeled 4%.

And Porygon! Com'mon man! 9999 coins at the game corner? Winning takes a long time and even buying the damned coins takes FOREVER. Increments of 50 for $1000 are crap! Crap! Lucky I still have my groove for getting 15 coin spins. 4/4 time. Quarter hit, quarter hit, quarter rest, quarter hit. Gets you the goods about 75% of the time. But still! Argh!

BEST TAKEAWAY MOMENT - Beating a bunch of adults from Team Rocket in a Pokemon battle and scaring them off. And, of course, having Professor Oak call Gary out for losing before he could make it up to the Indigo Plateau. Seriously. That guy. What a loser.

OVERALL ASSESSMENT: 5/5 - It's Pokemon! What else is there to say? You love it or you hate it. And those that say they hate it are liars! =D

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nintendo: Pokemon Red (update 2)

I rage quit Pokemon Red last night. I have 35 more to go (after Tauros took literally forever to catch). I was super excited, because I leveled up my Dragonair to a Dragonite in the Victory Road cave on the way to the elite four. I got out and went to the Indigo Plateau Pokemon Center excited to teach him HM02. Ahh, finally, one of my party Pokemon will know fly! (And I don't have to go to Bill's PC and get out my Farfetch'd anymore!)

But wait! DRAGONITE CAN'T LEARN FLY! Apparently, in generation 1 (Red, Blue & Yellow), his wings are just a facade. None of the creators had thought it out at that time that Dragonite ought to be able to learn fly.

So I angrily went to the bulbapedia list of Pokemon in generation 1 that can learn fly. And guess what Pokemon is on there. If you said Doduo, the two-headed ostrich Pokemon, you are correct. Ostrich. As in can't fly. Right? Doduo, the terrestrial bird. Doduo, the Pokemon whose body evolved so the bird "makes up for its poor flying with its fast foot speed. Leaves giant footprints." I guess the creators of Pokemon thought it would be fun if an ostrich could fly, but a dragon couldn't.

So, Doduo can learn fly. And Dragonite cannot. Never mind that Dragonite's picture is of him just chilling, mid-flight. Can't learn fly. Not 'til Gold or Silver did they realize their mistake. Grahhhhhh.

For those wondering here is my final party.
Alakazam (Since Exeggutor is Grass/Psychic, he's probably going to be dropped for a stupid Doduo or maybe Aerodactyl ugh...)

The rule Alan and I are abiding is no legends/starters in your party.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nintendo: Pokemon Red

I know this is the STEAM challenge. And I know I am in the middle of Loom. But I have to be honest, I haven't played Loom in a bit, and it's the fault of Pokemon Red.

My brother Alan and I got out the old game boy pockets and we've been trying to catch them all. I've been playing Red (a first for me) and he's been playing Blue. I've got 108/150 and am very close to being finished. Soon, I will be back to this challenge. I just need to get this Mankey off my back first.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Steam: Loom

I've decided to continue my jaunt into adventure games by playing through Loom, another adventure game by Lucasarts. I figured I should play through them chronologically, because all the Lucasarts games have a lot of running jokes, and if I've played the previous games, it will probably make for much more interesting game play.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Steam: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (You chose... wisely)

or Indiana Jones and the Unnecessary Facelift

One - I remembered much too much about this game. Let me rephrase that, I remembered everything about this game and destroyed its face. Boosh.

Two - This game has the worst dialog ever. I don't say that lightly, either. It uses some parts of the movie (not even key parts), forgets other parts existed, and then fills in the gaps with the hackiest writing ever.
Example, see image below.

Three - The version given by steam has had an unnecessary and crappy facelift. They made the graphics really smoothed out and almost cartoony and, *gasp*, changed the font! Some things you just can't do in a touch-up, especially changing the font of a game I love. Especially when you use that font for every other adventure game ever, Lucasarts! Come on!

I still enjoyed this game, but the dialog and writing/story direction really killed some parts of the game for me. Others were made into gems by just how bad they were (see above and below).

FUN: 2.5/5 - This game has never been all that fun, actually. It was more or less cool because of how starved I was in the 90s for anything Indiana Jones.

DIFFICULTY: 4/5 - The puzzles, especially those at the end, do not lend themselves to easy solving. In fact, they do not lend themselves to intuitive solving. I think many of them are the result of poor design, and others are just so bad so that Lucasarts would have people buy their hint book. Which they indeed offer at the save menu. Just dial 1-800-STAR-WARS.

PLAYABILITY: 2/5 - Not just the graphics feel awkward, but the controls are really awkward. I'm not sure if it's just that I'm running it through steam under Windows 7 or what, but the controls feel really wonky. You have to click everything two or three time and hope that it works. If I didn't already know what to do, it would have been way more annoying.

FRUSTRATION FACTOR: 5/5 - The puzzles are annoying, but the fighting game takes the cake in the "Pisses You Off the Most" category. The controls to fighting are simple enough, but the problem is the speed. It's difficult to get a block in, but against some opponents you can just jab until the cows come home and they'll never swing back, making blocking irrelevant. Against others, they'll hit you at the same time you hit them. Oh yeah, and swinging a punch actually hurts you. And Nazis hit harder than Indiana Jones. It's a really crappy system.
(I know I mentioned the end of the game puzzles earlier, but they are really, really frustrating first time around. I remember raging about them when I beat it years ago, and even knowing what to do this time they were still annoying.)

BEST TAKEAWAY MOMENT - If you've seen the movie, you can figure out what is happening in this picture. This is my favorite example of storyline changing/bad writing all in one.

OVERALL ASSESSMENT: 2.5/5 - This game holds a special place in my heart, but the years and the touchups were not kind to it. I wouldn't recommend anybody play it if they want to play a game they can figure out without consulting some kind of walkthrough. If you decide to play this game without heeding my warning, then I would have to say you chose... poorly (see below).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Steam: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Would you like to spar with me Dr. Jones?

I remember opening this game up for Christmas on 1993. It wasn't until 3rd grade that I had a break in beating it. My friend Stuart told me how to get past this one part in the catacombs in Venice, and from there it was home free. Some parts of this game were super annoying. Some of the puzzles didn't make sense, and you had to purposefully deviate from parts in the movie to advance.

Overall, though, I remember loving this game. Not as much as the old NES action game, but a lot. Let's see how it stands the test of time.