Hyper Light Drifter

It’s been about 2
weeks since I played Hyper Light Drifter, and I’m still struggling
to put my thoughts down in a write-up. Time to just bite the bullet
and do what I can, but the problem is there’s just so little to
actually talk about.

Well, lets get the
obvious out of the way; it’s very pretty. Hyper Light Drifter is a
pixel-art Zelda-like, but before you start booing and jeering and
pissing, you need to consider the context; HLD was one of the first of
its kind, releasing far before the boom of such games. It’s not
fair to judge it for being one among an endless deluge of the same
thing when it was the first drop to drip.

It is, however, fair
to judge it for being absolutely devoid of substance. Alright,
minimalism is cool when used well, I am fully on board with that
concept. But HLD goes beyond minimalism- a whole bunch of stuff
happens in a tremendously long opening cutscene which tells us
nothing at all but features a lot of cool stuff that probably would
have been fun to actually play through, and then we are thrust into
the action.

The HUD implies we need to collect triangles to
make a square, which will then do something, or maybe it won’t? You
see, HLD’s ‘thing’ is that it tells its story without words.
That is awesome when done well in a story which can be told this way.
Here, it falls completely flat and I just have no idea what I’m
doing or why.

Which means we get
to make it up ourselves! Our protagonist, Tom Cruise, is the Hyper
Light Drifter- which either means he drifts on hyper-light, or he is
a light drifter who had too many Red Bulls, or he is a drifter who
weighs very very little. The triangles are fragments of the megaverse,
and collecting them all will make him Supreme Overlord Of All
. It’s a game where you play as the bad guy. Whatever.

Fin or Bin:

I just can’t help
but feel I’m missing something. It’s very pretty and seems well
executed, tremendously slippery camera notwithstanding, but after the
hour I tried to think of how I felt about my time in the Tom
Cruinverse and I realised I felt absolutely nothing about this game
at all
. Now, part of that’ll be the depression, but really- HLD
didn’t give me a single thing to acutally care about the entire
time. A whole bunch of stuff happens and then off you trot. The real
kicker, the cheeky icing on the cake, is it has the temerity to give basic
combat tutorials in fully written english, thus defeating its own
presentation from the first moment.

But still, that
feeling of missing something persists, and so into the Recycle Bin it
goes, ready to be given another chance when I have the time to
really, really get worked up into a lather about Tom Cruise. Watch
the first hour here!


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Gemini Rue

I don’t want you to lick the gate!!!!!

Double-clicking a thing repeats your last action, whether that was Observe, Take, Kick, or Use Mouth On (which usually means talking), and I don’t understand how that control decision lasted beyond concept. If anything, default it to Observe on double click, and Interact on right click? Or just have a default Most Likely option for each thing and let me choose if I want to do something different? I obviously do not want to Take the shopkeeper, or Use Mouth On the terminal. C’mon.

Oh, and, and! One puzzle required looking at a business card to find a telephone number, right? But Observing the business card didn’t do it, I had to Take the business card- except he doesn’t take it, he looks at it then puts it back! C’mon!

Fin or Bin:

It’s winter and I’m prickly! I’ll give you another chance when I take you out of the Recycle Bin and hopefully I’ll have the patience for this nonsense!!!

Dungeons 3

I think I’ve realised why I don’t like RTS games. …Oh, whoops, jumped the gun a bit-

The first thing you’ll notice about DungeonKeepers 3 is that it’s narrated by Kevan Brighting, who you’ll know from The Stanley Parable. Immediately we’re off to a good start, and the narration and humour present throughout D3 is most certainly one of its selling points.

Now back to that thing about RTS games-

I like base building, I like army building, and I like directing combat. The part I don’t like is having to do all of these things at the same time. Age Of Empires games would often wind up with a group of villagers all standing uselessly around an empty gold mine waiting for me to direct them to the gold mine half a screen to the right of them, because I was too busy commanding my troops.

This is, of course, a weakness in me, not in the genre, but it is a weakness Dungeons 3 capitalises on by adding a management sim on top of the pile. Gotta keep the troops fed and beered or they go on strike during combat, and the only way to do that is to go back underground and manage my theme park dungeon, leaving the soldiers on the topside to figure themselves out.

It’s just too much. Too many things to keep control of at once. I can’t deal with it.

Fin or Bin:

My own failings aside, however, I can tell this is a well-designed RTS with a great sense of humour about things. Maybe when it’s not winter and I have my spirit back, I’ll have the capacity to deal with things that might otherwise exhaust me, and I’d like to try it again then, but for now it’s going in the Recycle Bin.


XCOM: Enemy Unknown

For the entire duration of the BBLC’s existence, XCOM has loomed on the horizon, a monolith timesink just waiting for its chance to halt all progress. Even as I hacked away at the number of games in the queue, its presence was felt- a long shadow bringing an uneasy chill to the otherwise warm feelings of cutting down my list. And now, my dice have decided, it’s time to combat this most mighty of foes- this 500-hour final boss, destroyer of productivity, bringer of sleepless nights and forgotten meals, and eraser of free time.

It’s not the first game of its kind I’ve covered (what even is this genre called? I’ve been using XCOM-like, but can I use that to describe actual XCOM?), with Invisible Inc and Chroma Squad having a fair amount in common with it mechanically (if not thematically).

And… well, the whole time I was playing it, all I could think was how much I’d rather be playing one of those instead.

Several reasons, but most pressingly for me- my soldiers feel both utterly disposable but also wholly indispensable. Random names and random skills, with no personality, they are Soldier A B C and D from the movies, who exist only for the named characters to kill or send to their deaths. They’re also flimsy enough that they feel like cannon fodder, able to withstand maybe 3 hits before going down.

But at the same time, the longer they survive, the more skills they gain, which means losing a soldier is a big loss in terms of investment. I can’t get attached to any of them because there’s nothing to get attached to, but I have to get attached to them because if I mess up and get one killed, it’s a detriment to my ability to continue. It’s the same reason I adore Fire Emblem, but didn’t care for Advance Wars at all.

Besides this, there’s an overwhelming amount of other stuff to keep track of, and I don’t use that positively in this instance. I have to reasearch new stuff, but I have to build new facilities, but I have to manage my floor plan, but I have to launch satellites, but I have to manage my fleet, but I have to recruit new soldiers, but I have to build new weapons, but I have to manage the panic level of various nations, but I have to manage purchasing decisions, but but but but but- too much!!!

Finally- and this is petty, I acknowledge- but I just don’t like military settings for games. I don’t wanna be The Big Gruff Marines And God Bless Not-America. Being an underground gang of noir-cyberpunk rebels or an indie TV studio super sentai team is cool; being the military is not. It’s the same problem I had with Strike&Suit+Zero.

Fin or Bin:

Alright, so here’s the rub. To get personal for a moment, I’ve been feeling pretty blue of late, because there’s no daylight and everything’s cold and rubbish. The day I played XCOM was a particularly dark day, both literally and metaphorically, so I was very conscious that it might impact my decision. In response, I bent the rules a bit and gave XCOM a second hour to prove itself. You can probably tell by now that it didn’t.

Even so, having had such a presence on my backlog, it feels anticlimactic to just Bin it now- like summoning Yojimbo to instantly kill Penance, or using the Cure glitch on the Dark King. But playing a game because I feel like I have to isn’t what this challenge is about- I’ll be moving on, saving it a spot in the Recycle Bin, but most likely passing it up to give Invisible Inc another run through.


Strike Suit Zero

It really feels like there should be a colon in the title somewhere, but apparently there is not.

I got Strike: Suit: Zero from the Humble Monthly Trove, and the first part of the game is figuring out how to open it, with no installer or anything beyond just a dump of the game files. (The game .exe is in the Binary folder. Spoilers.) It’s a space dogfighting sim involving the mighty Earth Republic battling against all those pesky Colonial Rebels. I kinda feel like I’m playing the bad guy? Anyway, some space guff goes down, and player pilot Adams is gifted the eponymous Strike Suit, a spaceship which can turn into a mech with advanced capabilities and is also impossible to control.

The controls, actually, are bad across the board. Not terrible, but definitely some eyebrow-raising decisions were made during Strike-Suit: Zero’s development. Left trigger speeds up, left bumper slows down? Left trigger and left analogue stick pressed together engages boosters?? X and B both target enemies but in different ways? The EMP, whch is used a lot, is on Y, but Transform which is rarely used is on A??? (These are X360 controls, btw. SNES arrangement might actually work better.)

Fin or Bin:

I’m not completely down on it, ‘cos it’s still fun despite the flaws. The Steam reviews for Strike! Suit*Zero? all seem to agree on a 7/10 score, I‘d more lean towards 6/10. I don’t engage with the story though- being a galaxy-spanning empire is only fun in 4X games where I’ve earned it through brutal peace-making and terrible trade deals. Let the colonials have their independence, and put Earth in the (Recycle) Bin.


Song Of The Deep


Ecco The Dolphin and Metroid had a baby, and named it Bastion.

That rather laboured metaphor is to say that SotD is a mish-mash of all of the above. Merryn’s dad is lost at sea so she builds a submarine and goes to look for him in deep, winding underwater caverns, along the way finding upgrades to her sub that let her explore previously inaccesible areas.

It’s presented in a children’s storybook style, right down to the a-bit-too-twee narrator who describes all of Merryn’s thoughts and actions (that’s the Bastion part) as she explores.

In a rather-odd choice for a game like this, the map always shows your next destination, and enough of your surroundings are revealed that you can usually figure out how to get there too. It somewhat diminishes the exploration aspect when you can so easily tell which direction is the right way and it makes the world feel a little less natural as a result. Compare to exploring Super Metroid’s Brinstar, with its directonless caverns to get thoroughly lost in- finding a cool secret is less fun when you know you’re going the wrong way and are bound to find something nice.

Fin or Bin:

The presentation is nice and all, but the gameplay so far has mostly been solving underwater physics puzzles and there’s very little ‘troid to speak of. I’m kind of on the fence- meaning, I’ve decided, it goes to the Bin for now. I’ve got too many games to get through to get hung up on a “maybe”- it gets another chance later on.