Hate Plus

Something of a reunion, this one- back when I first conceptualised BBLC as a forum game instead of a blog, the first game I was told to play was Analogue: A Hate Story, the prequel to Hate Plus. It’s a game I never would have just naturally picked up to play, but one I enjoyed immensely, and my go-to reference whenever I need to talk about how successful this ruleset is in making me actually play the games I’ve bought. That said, Hate Plus is a direct sequel riddled with spoilers, and is 100% reading, so I didn’t record a stream for it.

Making your way back home to Earth with your computer girlfriend/platonic co-investigator/completely illegal harem, Hate Plus is very much more of the same. Analogue had you reading the log files of centuries-old colony ship Mugunghwa, who now drifts through space entirely devoid of life. The log files slowly revealed the events that led to the extinction of its populace, meanwhile creating an incredibly rich and lived-in world; I compared it to stumbling upon a cluster of LiveJournal entries from a group of friends who knew each other, and piecing together the microcosm that they occupied until one day vanishing from the internet. Of course, that mystery is resolved in Analogue, and so I’m not sure yet what exactly I’m solving in Plus, whose logfiles are dated earlier than those found in Analogue… making it a prequel, of sorts? It’s confusing.

It’s sure to be harrowing though, as already we’ve got discussion of a presidential election rife with corruption, voter suppression, the denial of the true winner, claims of fake ballots, violent subjugation of protesters, and the ultimate collapse of democracy directed by those in leadership positions to establish an Emperor who rules over all.

yeah playing this game in mid-november 2020 hits a little different

Fin or Bin:

It’s a tough recommendation. You absolutely shouldn’t start here, for sure; Analogue is a game that I adore and would recommend to anyone who can stomach reading a lot of apparently-unrelated log entries. It’s dense and there’s a lot of worldbuilding to get accustomed to in a short space of time, but it’s worth it if that’s your sort of thing. Hate Plus is lining up to be just as dense, though with the advantage of being set in an already-established world. The writing is top class, and I’d already be playing more if the game hadn’t instructed me I need to wait 12 hours in real time before I can Finish it.

(It’s important to mention- both games handle some heavy topics, including rape, sexual assault, forced marriage, abuse, and PTSD. These subjects are handled unflinchingly, but without glamourisation or glorification; they are discussed in stark tones and perpetrators are roundly condemned. They may be a difficult read for some folks.)


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No one ever really talks about the game of StarTropics. Usually the first thing on most people’s minds when thinking about it is “that gosh danged letter!”. For the uninitiated-

At some point during the game, the player is instructed to “submerge my letter in water” by the protagonist’s uncle in order to solve a puzzle. There is no letter in the game nor any mechanism by which to submerge it- the game is actually referring to a real, physical letter that came bundled in with the cartridge. Placing this letter in water would reveal a hidden message with the answer to the puzzle.

Now, we in the UK were a little less awestruck by such a break in the fourth wall- so-called ‘feelies’ were a fairly common pack-in with games for the home computers popular in Europe during America’s videogames crash. They were a subtle and fun way to combat the piracy rampant on machines using easy-to-copy cassettes and floppy disks. In the US, though, this cool trick has given StarTropics a somewhat legendary status, infamous especially among those who rented or bought second hand, and in modern times becoming the bane of collectors.

Well, now I’m guilty of being one of those people who only talks about StarTropics the product instead of StarTropics the game, so!

Probably the best (or easiest) comparison is The Legend Of Zelda. Mike Jones explores dungeons and uses a yo-yo to battle enemies in melee range. There’s a much more pervasive sense of humour to StarTropics though; the dialogue and quests give me something of an Earthbound vibe, a gentle surreality that never quite surrenders itself to full-on wackiness.

Fin or Bin:

As part of the Wii U re-release, Nintendo included a digital copy of the letter, complete with hidden code, as part of the game’s online manual. For the Switch version however, the have forgotten to include it in any manner. If you intend to Finish it, as I do, then you’ll need to find the code some other way. Watch my first hour here!

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I’d wager pretty much everyone has played some version of Breakout before- whether the original, or Arkanoid, or Brick Breaker, or Korbat’s Lab on Neopets; it’s one of those ubiquitous arcadey classics that is also very easy to replicate in a throwaway manner for practice or for ad revenue.

Given its prevalence, it’s easy to dismiss a breakout clone as being just like the others, and that’s more or less what I expected going in to Shatter. It had some fancy tricks and I’d probably get an hour’s worth of fun from it, but I didn’t expect to be wanting to come back. It’s absolutely one of those games that would have sat on my backlog forever, always being passed over with a “mehhh”.

Well, I’m glad to report that I was wrong and this game is awesome. I certainly didn’t expect an Arkanoid-like was going to be one of the top-tier games of 2020, but that seems to be the way this year is going.

There’s only so much you can do to set yourself apart from the infinite other competitors in the genre, but Shatter does all of them. You can alter the ball’s trajectory mid-flight by Sucking or Blowing it, with a handy indicator showing you exactly where your ball will hit so there’s no guesswork. You can at any time spend an extra life to throw another ball into the arena, allowing the player to skill-gate themselves with as many balls as they feel comfortable managing at one time. Horizontal, vertical, and even circular levels break up the repetition, and a boss fight punctuates each ‘world’, each requiring a unique strategy and careful ball handling.

All of this wrapped up in a tight, breakneck-paced package with exciting transitions and fantastic music make for Breakout perfected. It’s really, genuinely, thrilling to play. When was arkanoid ever exciting before?

Fin or Bin:

I fully expected this to be a technical Fin, inasmuch as I’d play as much as I wanted and then be done with it but not consider it a Bin. I was half right. Shatter is a full-fledged Fin, and I’ll absolutely be playing more of it. I’m only halfway through the Story Mode! (Story mode???) You can watch me play through the first half here!


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