TL;DP Reviews: Community Edition (formerly "1 hour in" game reviews)

One Hour In: The Void
Sponsored By: ... I'm a bad GWJer, I don't remember. I think I got it from the Key Trading thread.

TL:DR Review: ?
WTF is going on?

Long Review: Want a game that's gorgeous to look at, has a convoluted inventory management system, a story that's "unique" (read: strange), full frontal nudity (of both male and female characters), and voice acting that makes it sound like everyone's about 3 minutes away from committing suicide? Then The Void might be for you!

I'm not 100% sure what the developers of The Void were going for... There's a really interesting story about limbo/purgatory/death, some interesting gameplay mechanics, and gorgeous level/character design. However there's so little explanation of the gameplay and the story is so strange that it took me two playthroughs of the first 30 minutes just to get the basic concept.

The concept is this. You're dead. Mostly. You died, but then you were saved by a mysterious voice which gave you a heart. Now you're the silent protagonist who has to wander around limbo/purgatory/the void in order to restore color (and therefore balance) to a dying world.

The story, so far as I can make out, is that color is the lifeblood of limbo, and it appears in the form of scraggly plants poking up from the barren soil, which you quickly harvest and store in your body (apparently you have developed a few extra pockets inside your body to hold each of the 8-9 colors separately... maybe you didn't need your lungs once you died). You can then use your heart to convert the plant matter into color that you can use. You use it by painting it onto people and things, causing you to lose some of your precious lifeblood, but allowing you to bring whatever you paint back to life. Or kill it. You can do either as the situation requires.

The former is important because you need to give color to the Sisters. Here's where the story actually begins. Limbo is made up of a bunch of nodes connected along pathways in The Void. The only non-monster inhabitants of limbo are the Brothers and the Sisters. Once upon a time, it's implied, they lived together in peace and harmony in, what I'm imagining is a world like Pyroland. Brothers are capable of taking the raw color plants and converting them to usable color, which they would give to the Sisters. The Sisters were responsible for keeping limbo happy (I think. I'm a bit hazy on the role of the Sisters in limbo, but it appears to be a circle of life kinda thing).
Somewhere along the way, the color plants started dying off, and the Brothers blamed the Sisters. After both sides started dying (from the limbo equivalent of starvation), the Brothers enslaved the Sisters, one Sister to each Brother, and started feeding the Sisters color in the limbo equivalent of rationing.
But now you're here. Maybe you're a new Brother, maybe you're an imposter, but you do manage to land in the island of the one Sister that doesn't have a Brother. That Sister is now guiding you along on how to act like a Brother so they don't kill you, so you can eventually free all the Sisters and return balance to limbo. It's also implied that bringing balance to limbo will also restore the real world back to it's non-entropic state.

Like I said, strange...

Gameplay is also strange. You've got the inventory management aspect because you can only hold so much raw and refined color in your body at one time, and the only way to convert the raw color to refined is to move around in the Void. In the beginning, you only have one heart, so you only have one space with which to refine one color at a time. But if you're ever caught in the Void without any color in that heart, you die. So you can't stay in the void too long for that reason, and also because time only moves forward while you're in the void, and the events of the game will continue whether you're ready or not. So it's a game of trying to refine enough color to be useable in whatever level you're trying to do something in. And that's where the game gets hard, because if you run out of color while in a level, that's it. You're stuck. You have to reload a savegame or start all over. And they don't give you any hints, you have to either do really well, or accept that you'll probably need to do a level then reload a game to do it right. In the beginning, it's not as bad because you can use any color in any situation, but I'm imagining that later you'll need to have specific colors on hand to solve problems, but I'm not there yet.

Oh yeah, nearly forgot. Each color also stands for a different concept. Gold, for example, is truth. And suddenly the developers added an RPG stat element to the game because the more color you have in you, the higher the associated stat is. So if you have a lot of Gold in you, your gifts of color to other characters will be received better. But since you're constantly giving color away... see where I'm going?

Then, to add on to the inventory management and RPG stat system, you also have a gardening sim... No really. It's a simplified version, but basically you have a level where you have a bunch of dead trees. You can give color to the trees, and then they'll bloom at a later date and you can harvest color from them. It's not rocket science, but stopping periodically to tend to the garden is both strange and fits right in with the rest of this strange game.

Graphics: Graphics are gorgeous. They remind me of a depressed Mist game (one of the later ones), or, more appropriately, of the old game Of Light and Darkness: the Prophecy (except with high res). Actually, this game reminds me of a lot of other games. Not in the ripoff/clone sense, but in the homage sense. Of Light and Darkness: The Prophecy, Mist, Drawn: The Painted Tower, Okami, the list goes on.

This also leads us to a topic that was apparently contentious in the game. Nudity. Go looking and you'll find lots of complaints that there's gratuitous female nudity in the game. Without wishing to dismiss or invalidate anyone's opinion, I think that's missing the forest for the trees. You play as a male character, and when you go to your inventory screen, you see yourself as well, nude. With modeled bits. And since the game seems to be about the theme of male/female relationships and stereotypes in a primal setting, I'm ok with the nudity since it's universal. Could they have addressed the same themes with clothed characters? Yeah, probably. But everything in limbo feels like a primal world so having characters in their primal setting feels right, somehow. There's no sex in the game (though the act of giving color could be construed as/be representative of), and the game never tries to draw attention to the nudity. It just is. But everyone will have different takes on the nudity, so be forewarned.

So far, my only real complaint about the game is that you also have to paint glyphs on the screen to do different things. The first glyph you learn is the glyph of "give", which you need to use to give color to basically everything. The complaint comes because there's no room for error when drawing the glyph on the screen. You don't get it pixel perfect, you messed up and some of your color goes to waste. I wouldn't mind except the game punishes you for wasting color. First because it's a limited resource, and you waste some of it, and second because wasting color draws monsters to the area and the ire of the Brothers. Punishing the player for not getting a pixel perfect drawing while using a mouse, when there's no place to practice, is always a bad idea.

Otherwise though, the game intrigues me and I'll keep playing. Or more accurately, I'll keep bashing my head against the ongoing color puzzle. I think everyone should give this game a whirl too, because if you can get past the mechanics, there's are some very interesting themes going on here: death, male/female relationships, overuse of resources, etc. It's also interesting because this is a Russian developer, so all the concepts are presented with a Russian mindset. It's different, and I'm liking the new viewpoint.

Dark Souls Scale: 5 out of 7 colors. Seriously, the color management aspect of the game is quite hard and you either need to be precognitive or really careful.

Link for Doubting: The Void by Taharka

Edit: If you want, you can back the Kickstarter for remaking Pathologic, a game by the same developer (being kickstarted by that developer).

I was right up to putting the game on my wishlist for future consideration until the part about the glyphs, and the lack of guidance.

I still haven't worked past my hangup about games that force you to achieve mastery through auto saves. I'd rather the difficulty ramped up to let me hone my abilities as I progress than have a door slammed in my face with a note on it that says "play better."

Maybe I'll put it on my list anyway, just not very high up.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I was right up to putting the game on my wishlist for future consideration until the part about the glyphs, and the lack of guidance.

I still haven't worked past my hangup about games that force you to achieve mastery through auto saves. I'd rather the difficulty ramped up to let me hone my abilities as I progress than have a door slammed in my face with a note on it that says "play better."

Maybe I'll put it on my list anyway, just not very high up.

I'd still say you should give it a try, if for nothing else that it's a great feeling game (actually... the game world feels terrible, it's all decay and hunger... gee, reminds me of EVERY GAME TO COME OUT OF RUSSIA EVER). It's got enough existential ennui to make Edward Gory blush. Their sound design is fantastic (every character whispers, and it's deafening in the silence of the world). The barrenness of the world will suffocate you.
You just have to figure out your own way in the world... which kinda fits.

But yeah, the glyph thing is annoying.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I was right up to putting the game on my wishlist for future consideration until the part about the glyphs, and the lack of guidance.

I still haven't worked past my hangup about games that force you to achieve mastery through auto saves. I'd rather the difficulty ramped up to let me hone my abilities as I progress than have a door slammed in my face with a note on it that says "play better."

Maybe I'll put it on my list anyway, just not very high up.

Why buy, when you can just check your PMs.

Antichulius wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I was right up to putting the game on my wishlist for future consideration until the part about the glyphs, and the lack of guidance.

I still haven't worked past my hangup about games that force you to achieve mastery through auto saves. I'd rather the difficulty ramped up to let me hone my abilities as I progress than have a door slammed in my face with a note on it that says "play better."

Maybe I'll put it on my list anyway, just not very high up.

Why buy, when you can just check your PMs. :)


You really are Santa Claus aren't you?

Taharka, any objections if I do my own 1 hour review for the front page? I'm not sure I can too yours, but what I lack in analysis I can probably make up in Weird Al references.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
Antichulius wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I was right up to putting the game on my wishlist for future consideration until the part about the glyphs, and the lack of guidance.

I still haven't worked past my hangup about games that force you to achieve mastery through auto saves. I'd rather the difficulty ramped up to let me hone my abilities as I progress than have a door slammed in my face with a note on it that says "play better."

Maybe I'll put it on my list anyway, just not very high up.

Why buy, when you can just check your PMs. :)


You really are Santa Claus aren't you?

Taharka, any objections if I do my own 1 hour review for the front page? I'm not sure I can too yours, but what I lack in analysis I can probably make up in Weird Al references.

My dreams of being on the front page! {weep}

Nah, knock yourself out! I'm going to be very interested in your take after an hour. Especially since my first hour was effectively the first 30 minutes, twice.

Taharka wrote:

My dreams of being on the front page! {weep}

Nah, knock yourself out! I'm going to be very interested in your take after an hour. Especially since my first hour was effectively the first 30 minutes, twice.


It will be a couple of weeks, because I've already got one and a half written on top of the one going up tomorrow (I like to plan ahead). Stay tuned.

I'd do one for Wasteland 2, but I spent the first hour on character creation.

Gremlin wrote:

I'd do one for Wasteland 2, but I spent the first hour on character creation.

Sounds like a basis for an awesome review. "It's like Sims, but with Toaster Repair!"

One Eight Hours In: Fairy Fencer F

Sponsored by: The letter F

Short Review: I was excited for this game. Built on the already solid Hyperdimention Neptunia Victory engine, FFF mixes things up and gives you greater control over character growth and the bonuses and penalties you receive in dungeons. The characters are the usual collection of exaggerated personalities. Unfortunately the game suffers from the only challenge (so far) being grinding for quest items.

The First Hour: We start off with a bit of the world's mythology, about a Goddess and a Vile God fighting one another in ancient times. Neither could defeat the other and both ended up sealed away.

We then jump to the present, where we find our main character, Fang, being woken up, in jail, by his fairy. We immediately jump back three days to when the two first meat each other. Fang, always looking for food, but never willing to work so he could afford it, hears about a Fury, a sword containing a Fairy which, according to the rumors, will grant the wish of whomever can pull it from the ground. Fang immediately sees visions of free food and pulls the sword out, becoming a Fencer. After finding out that the Fairy can only grant his wish once all 100 Furies are collected and the Goddess is unsealed, Fang ditches the Fairy and ends up getting thrown in jail for stealing bread.

After being convinced that he wouldn't be able to eat his free prison food because of the punishments he would have to endure, Fang and his fairy escape from prison. We are treated to a couple tutorial fights against guards and head out into the city.

After some convincing, Fang finally sets out to find a second fury, which takes us to our first dungeon. After a couple tutorial screens (these still occasionally show up even eight hours into the game) on dungeon exploring mechanics, you are set loose to explore and fight your way through. The dungeons themselves aren't very complex, generally a obvious path with maybe one or two side "rooms". Upon reaching the end of the dungeon, you meet the second female lead of the game (and our second party member) and move on to breaking the first seal on the goddess. Along the way we are introduced to the various leveling systems in the game.

Exploring dungeons is about the same as recent Compile Heart games. You explore the dungeon with the encounters represented by a single enemy that will chase you if you get too close. If the enemy touches your back, you are ambushed, giving the enemies the first moves. You can attack the enemy on the map which, if timed right, will give your characters the first moves, but, if timed incorrectly, will also result in an ambush. You have the ability to jump on the map, which is needed to move over some obstacles, but also allow you to jump off ledges to backtrack quicker. There are item crystals scattered throughout the dungeons for you to collect, including one hidden crystal you will need a certain character ability to find. Nothing all that special.

Combat is turned based and position based. Unlike the Neptunia series, where your basic attacks have a set area they can strike in, FFF's basic attacks will allow you to attack any one enemy within your attack range, making it easier to hit enemies at range, but also limiting you to only attacking one at a time. Special attacks still can have attack areas of lines or arcs, however. Enemies have several weakness traits. In addition to the usual physical and magical resistance and the resistance and weaknesses to specific elements, the enemies also have weaknesses to specific weapon types. Hitting them with the weapon type they are weak against (the Fencer's Furies can all transform into different weapon types on the fly) will occasionally trigger an "Avalanche Attack" where all of your characters who are set to take their turns before the enemy's next movement will jump in and give you additional attacks. All of the characters also possess a transformation ability, where they fuse with their furies to get large stat boosts, and an unique special ability that can be anything from more stat boosts, to analyzing enemies or convincing enemies to flee. I enjoyed the combat system in Neptunia, and it is little changed in FFF.

The World Map is pretty standard. You have a map with dungeons marked on it you can choose from. There only seems to be one city from which you buy, sale, and receive your quests from. The unique thing about the map, however, is "World Shaping", FFF's version of Victory's scouting system. World Shaping give you the ability to alter your stats, bonuses, and even the enemies you encounter in dungeons by stabbing your furies into the ground. Each fury has a sphere when you use them on the world map and any dungeons falling within the sphere receive the bonuses that's fury gives, usually a bonus and a penalty, like +10% physical attack and -10% magical attack or +50% experience and -50% gold. The area that a fury affects grows as the fury levels up (see below), making it easier to affect a dungeon with more than one fury. You can pull the furies out and reposition them anytime you are on the map, so I've ended up with a set of furies I use on most dungeons. It's a great improvement on Victory's scout system, which only allowed for on effect on a dungeon at a time, chosen randomly.

Character leveling customization mostly comes from the furies in two forms: Weapon Boost and Resonance. Weapon boost powers up the fury that is wielded by a fencer (all of your characters are fencers and each one have a set weapon, aka fury, they fight with). This is the method that your characters learn skills, magic, abilities, and combos (including new weapon types for your fury) in addition to gaining additional stat boosts beyond what leveling up already provides. Your options are laid out cleaning, letting you see what you can choose and what requirements are needed with more options opening up as your gain experience. All of these boosts are bought with WP points that are earned independently from XP. In my option it is a nicely designed system that provides plenty of choices without feeling intimidating.

Resonance makes use the the same furies you use for World Shaping. Every fury, when equipped provides stat boosts and a set of special abilities, such as extra elemental defense, xp boosts, or more unique abilities like being able to find hidden item crystals or the ability to gain xp when not the party. When equipped, the fairies' in the furies also game experience, increasing the stats boosts they provide and unlocking additional special abilities. Each of these furies also gain an additional special ability (and their ability for World Shaping) by being used to break one of the seals on the Goddess or God. Each seal gives a different special ability and World Shaping effect, shown before breaking the seal, so you can plan what fairy gets which seal bonus. All of these fairies have fully voiced dialog which gives you a feel for their personalities and they will give you gifts if spoken to after certain milestones (having used them in x number of battles). It's a nice addition to your character growth and offers some trade offs, since there's no "perfect" choice for a given character and you have to chose which to use for resonance and which for world shaping.

The characters, story, and setting aren't particularity exceptional. Since all of the playable characters and most of the notable enemies are fencers, they all come with a fairy as well, doubling the number of characters, so the cast is a bit bloated. This ultimately means that there isn't a lot of depth to most of the characters, which unfortunately seems to include the male lead, Fang. The only two characters who seem to be more complex are two female leads, who each seem to have some secret to uncover. Still, all of the characters seem to fall back to the basic archetypes: the lazy guy, the haughty girl, the emotionless doll, the gentleman heartthrob, etc.

The setting and story likewise falls back on old tropes. However I love the visuals of the sealed goddess and god, the furies jutting out everywhere, and the generally world feel with it's strange ruins jutting out everywhere. I hope the story holds some surprising twist down the line (possibly with the female leads or the nature of the goddess and god), but, so far, it seems rather straight forward.

Where it all goes wrong is in difficulty. Unlike other Compile Heart games I've played, it just doesn't feel like there's a challenge from combat. I haven't gone anywhere that I feel overpowered. In Victory, rare monsters would easily kill a party that could easily handle anything else in the dungeon, and some dungeons were too dangerous for the party for many, many levels. In FFF I've seen several bosses and optional bosses fall in the first or second turn, and there has only been one time that I felt I was close to being defeated in the first eight hours. The only challenge I've seen is in completing some of the optional quests, which is a challenge in patience and persistence rather than any decision on my part. Collecting random items from a dungeon, at a rate of one chance per visit, to collecting a certain number of items to craft something I need to craft the item I need to complete a quest is, without a doubt, a huge time waste and annoying to pursue.

Will I keep playing? Yes, at least to one ending (there are three). I'm not sure I'll platinum this one like I did Neptunia mk2 and Victory, but I'm sure I'll waste my time to the end. FFF would have been a terrific game if it had offered some challenge beyond wasting time finding and farming items for quests.

Dark Souls Scale: One fairy wing (not even a pair of them!). Really, you want to compare brutal, dark undead to silly anime-style fairies? :p

Link: Fairy Fencer F

I was halfway through setting up a Steam Curation list for these reviews, but I realized I didn't get anyone's permission to link to their reviews from the Steam Curation list.

Anyone have an objection if I curate these reviews in a TL;DP steam group? If nobody objects, I'll set it up and send invites out to everyone who's reviewed something.

I'm ok with it.
If you want any of mine, that is.

Two Hours In: Steamworld Dig

Gifted from: JillSammich (thank you!)

Impression: this is really cute! You play a little robot with really tight controls, and you're digging your way ever deeper into a series of mines. They're persistent between lives; water pools refill between visits, but any other changes you make, like digging out blocks or killing enemies, seem to be permanent.

It seems to be Metroid-ish, in that you're constantly getting upgrades to your capabilities. Your 'uncle' (how a robot has an uncle, I dunno) left you the mine upon his death, and he's scattered tools and parts all throughout.

The first two mechanics are life (what you'd expect) and "light" -- how much light your torch emits. When it's freshly charged, it reveals quite a distance around you, into the unmined rock, much like Terraria. It gradually dims as your fuel runs low, lighting up less and less. When it goes out, you can't see what unmined rocks are anymore; all you can see is areas that have been dug out. Your torch recharges for free on the surface, and enemies can drop orbs that will partially or fully refill it.

The next mechanic is that of 'steam'; you eventually obtain a water tank, and you expend your water making steam to do various different things. So far, I've found a super jump that burns a ton of water, and a drill upgrade from the starting pick that steadily drains steam to use, but digs much faster, and can cut through harder rock than the pickaxe.

The game also has sort of an 'instance' mechanic; there are doors you can enter into, well, I guess you'd call them sub-caves. When you die in the regular dungeon, you drop all the ore you're carrying (your method of making money) in a sack on that spot, and half your bank cash is deducted for the rebuild fee. When you die in a cave, you're just reset to the start; you don't lose anything, but it also doesn't save your progress, so you have to complete a cave without dying.

So, in the main cavern, you can sort of wear your way through the bad guys, if you're like me, and suck at fighting. If your bank account starts low enough, you can throw a ton of lives at something without it hurting very much. (if you've got 0 dollars, it costs you nothing at all to respawn.) In the caverns, which is usually where you get the Metroid-style upgrades, you can't throw lives at the problem, you can only proceed with skill. So it's a good mix of both mechanics.

There's also a store on the surface, where you can use the ore you've mined, along with 'power orbs' (a special treasure) to purchase various upgrades, like improving your pick to mine faster or fight better, buying more armor to improve your life total, or bigger tanks to let you hold more water. There's lots of upgrades, so there's a constant use for the money you're digging up. That part rather reminds me of Rogue Legacy, although it's easier to bank and accumulate cash -- just don't die!

Will I Keep Playing? Definitely. This is fun. It's a really nice break from the punishing difficulty of Los Angeles in Wasteland 2.

Oh, I forgot:

Dark Souls Scale: I haven't really played Dark Souls, so I can't say. It's pretty challenging for my slowing reflexes. I think if you're in your mid-30s or younger, and reasonably skilled with a controller, you won't have too much trouble.

I'm totally cool with it


especially since the game I reviewed isn't on steam

I think I'll just send group invites to everyone who's reviewed something, and only link the reviews if they accept.

Stay tuned.

I'm not as prolific as I'd like, but I'm in.

Whee, I'm part of the TL;DP group! To celebrate, here's a review!

Game: Electronic Super Joy: Groove City (69 minutes... laugh like Beavis and Butthead here)
Sponsored by: Long story, see below

TL;DR Review
Frickin' nipples! With frickin' lasers! So I pinched her nipples!

Slightly more serious review
I first saw the original Electronic Super Joy featured around this time last year on an episode of the Achievement Hunter series Rage Quit, where Michael, one of the more volatile members of the group, plays horrible and/or cruelly difficult games so we can all laugh at his slow descent into pure, unadulterated rage as he fails repeatedly in the face of unforgiving, faceless, emotionless video games. There are some absolute classics: Super Meat Boy, QWOP, IWBTG:TG:TM:TG, VVVVVV (in three parts, and I doubt he's done any time soon, he hasn't even done the Gravitron), Ninja Gaiden 2, the list goes on. ESJ wasn't exactly high on my list, but his foreshadowing on the title screen was priceless: "this is gonna be one of those games that f*cks my mouth but sounds great doing it". The game sounded awesome and looked quite fun, despite his rage quit during a fight with the Pope, and when I saw it come up as a daily sale on Steam, I snapped it up. My pile problem was quite out of control at this point, I just didn't realize it. I did play ESJ quickly, though, and despite its insane difficulty, I had a total blast. I have never been so conscious of the fact that I was sweating while playing a PC game. I died, and raged, and raged, and died, but I kept playing because of that sweet, sweet soundtrack. It gets its hooks into you and never, ever lets go. I bought the soundtrack along with the game, every single song is pure magic to me. So I struggled through to the end, made an effort to get all the secret stars to unlock the hidden ultra-cruel World 4 and came up one star short, then settled for listening to my favorite tracks from the soundtrack non-stop for a week or two.

Then not long after this past summer sale ended, I saw that a sequel had been released: Electronic Super Joy: Groove City. It immediately went to the top of my wishlist. Well, yesterday I got a cosmic sign: Steam dumped a 90% off coupon for ESJ: GC in my inventory. I could buy it for less than $0.50. I started selling excess trading cards to raise the funds, but thanks to a "special promotion", I ended up only paying $0.27 for the game, it double-counted my coupon with an existing 45% off. Yes, I'm going to hell in a hand basket, I'll buy the Groove City soundtrack or send out gift copies of ESJ or Groove City in the future as penance.

So the actual game: it's a platformer, a cruel, cruel platformer in the same ilk as the aforementioned Super Meat Boy and the original ESJ. The major difference this time around from ESJ is that you get no extra abilities, you literally only run and jump, no smash, no double jump, no wings. There's also a timer and a score counter, which makes it feel more like Super Mario Bros. except in a funky pixelated silhouette world of death. You collect little white stars along the way to add to your score, big hidden rainbow stars to unlock achievements and add to your score, and little black stars if you have a death wish: they add to your score but launch a slow-moving homing missile your way from the score counter at the top middle of the screen. Some you can avoid, others you can't, which adds to the difficulty. Most of the Things Trying to Kill You (TM) are the same as from ESJ: auto-scrolling screens, tricky platforming, ankle-biting robots, shuriken-shooting frog-like things, slow-moving homing missiles, etc. It's intense, it's hard, you'll die a lot, but there's a slew of new music from EnV, the artist who did the original ESJ music, and it's just as catchy as before and equally as addictive. That is, except if it's 2 AM, you've been playing TF2, L4D2 and GW2 all night and are getting sick of requiring superhuman reflexes to clear a simple set of platforms.

With all due respect, though, the content for this game isn't as meaty per-dollar as the original ESJ. I think it was meant to be DLC or something and ended up being spun off into a sequel. There's literally only 13 levels at $5, compared to the original ESJ which had 3 worlds, each with something like 15 levels and only costs $8 at full price (the ESJ bundle + digital content bonus goodies is on sale for $3 until October 9th, I strongly encourage jumping on it if you love aneurysm-inducing balls-hard platformers with orgasmic electronica soundtracks, can you tell I love ESJ?). The story is just as absurd and silly as the "plot" of the original game: a giant stripper robot named JoJo has trashed Groove City in a fit of rage, so you have to summon the Pope to help you. You go to the strip club where JoJo works and find out she's pissed that her laser nipples were stolen by some Dr. dude whose name I didn't catch (wasn't me, I swear). You chase down the baddie on a moving train, he hides in the Pope's WWI-era biplane, leading to a final confrontation in the sky much like the final boss fight of the original ESJ: dodge a sh*tton of projectiles for a solid 2+ minutes with no checkpoints, and if you die AT ALL before the baddie is completely killed, you start over (which happened to me at least twice here, and several times on the pre-boss level of World 2 in the original ESJ). I think one of the major draws is also a level editor, but I lack the creativity, coherency, attention span and free time necessary to produce good levels, much less to play through the good levels people have already created.

Will I keep playing?
Probably not, but only because I've beaten the main story line and don't see myself going back to play it again to aim for 100%. I wish I could never play again, leave my playtime at 69 minutes, since the game has such a hoot with sexual jokes (not intending that to be derisive, just stating that it's a big component of the absurdist humor). Also, it made me realize that platformers are a sweet spot for me. I might focus on the platformers in my pile for now, anything I can do to better triage and trim the fat. I do highly recommend ESJ and Groove City all the same, it's an indie developer with an indie artist soundtrack, show the dudes some love.

Dark Souls?
This is tough one, because games like ESJ are meant to be balls-hard, to require twitch reflexes, to break the spirits of lesser gamers. Look at all the games I mentioned in my intro: Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV, IWBTG, etc. There were two levels which just owned my soul, not counting the boss fight. The game actually tells you your best "death count" on a level, I died on the Strip Club level 140 times. I'm sure hardcore VVVVVV players are playing sad songs on the world's smallest violin for me, but like I said, I really didn't care because the music was so... damn... GOOD.

So... I'll give it 8.5/10 The Guys. At least it's upfront and honest about the abuse it's going to inflict upon you, unlike other cruel platformers which take delight in punishing your lack of clairvoyance, and there's no new tricks from the original ESJ that I noticed aside from the black stars, and even those just turn into homing missiles. Also, I'm sure some folks must enjoy listening to the checkpoint orgasm noises 100+ times, right?

One last note
I've talked about the original ESJ about as much as Groove City in this post, so humor me one last time: I have no idea if ESJ can function without Steam, but I think it would be a fantastic candidate for a Tool-Assisted Speedrun. I'm kinda addicted to, and they have a rickety-but-functional Windows game emulator with frame advance and save states. It's such a hard game in real-time, I think a TAS would be positively magical.

Linky for OP
Electronic Super Joy: Groove City by Bubs14

Eleima wrote:

I'm not as prolific as I'd like

Work has mostly kept me from having the time I need to play new games... which also leaves no time to write thought out analyses.

I hope to get one out soon. I've been itching for something new but D3 is always more convenient when I have a spare 20 minutes.

JillSammich wrote:

I'm totally cool with it


especially since the game I reviewed isn't on steam

I'm there with you!

I ditched work early today, and in the pre-TF2 hours, I decided to finally play a game which I decided would be next after ESJ: GC

Game: Bleed (56 minutes)
Sponsored by: The Canada Day sale which immediately followed the Steam Summer sale

Papercut Review
Should be sponsored by every blood pressure medication on the planet. Balls-hard action platforming run-and-gun. Will take you from feeling like a ninja to OH MY GOD I DASHED RIGHT INTO THAT F*CKING BULLET FOR THE NINTH F*CKING TIME F*CK F*CK F*CK F*CCCCCCCCCCCCK *keels over from five simultaneous aneurysms*

Wood-Shop-Accident Review
Okay, now that I'm back from the hospital, let's talk Bleed. A Greenlight indie game done in 16-bit(?) pixel art and chiptune soundtrack, reminiscent of a DOS game, about a purple-haired girl named Wryn who is on a quest to become the greatest hero of all time, convinced that the heroes of yore are mere shadows of their former selves and out to show her generation what a real hero is like. So you go one-by-one fighting your way towards and defeating each hero, reminiscent of Mega Man except you don't choose the order of the heroes you challenge (you go from 6th greatest up), and you don't absorb their powers upon defeating them.

Gameplay uses the strangest controller configuration I've ever seen: move with left stick, jump with RT, including the ability to do three fully-controllable mid-air dashes by pressing RT again, fire with the right stick (so it's a twin-stick run-and-gun platformer), switch weapons with the shoulder buttons, and use LT to enter "bullet time", which slows things down so you can make dangerous ninja-like maneuvers around hazards and baddies, or so you can line up a shot. No ABXY. It's weird, and I found myself confused a lot, which may have contributed to my high death count. Your starting weapons are dual pistols, high rate of fire and low damage, and a rocket launcher, low rate of fire, high damage and the added bonus of explosions which can kill baddies through thin-enough walls. Bullet time is rationed out with an "energy" meter, and if you exhaust it, you can't use it again until the meter is fully charged. This is very easy to forget in the heat of combat, or if you're tapping in and out of bullet time like a crazy person.

It's a hard game. Even on Normal, second out of four difficulties, I died a LOT. The boss fights are particularly brutal, it comes down to being able to predict the attacks and respond accordingly. As I alluded to previously, you need bullet time in a few instances just because the reaction time is so limited in instances, which is why running out of energy will often ding your health meter considerably, if not kill you outright just because you can't evade efficiently. Environment is just as dangerous as enemies in most places: rock falls, eruptions, sweeping security lasers, things that are so hard to dodge that bullet time is one tick below "absolute must". There are NO health pickups, on Normal at least, and your health will disappear in a hurry if you're careless. If you die, you restart the current segment of the level with full health, and sometimes the level segments can seem a bit long (the last level I beat before quitting to write this review takes place on a moving train, complete with low-clearance tunnels, and if you're on a tall car, you're dead, no point in trying to escape, but there's enemies EVERYWHERE who make progress extraordinarily hard). Completing a level earns you points as a currency. You can earn more points if you play on a harder difficulty, die less, or earn "style points", which I assume has to do with inflicting massive damage quickly without taking much damage yourself. There's a bar in the top right corner that fills and shows a letter grade (D, C, B...) as you rack up damage, and it resets whenever you get hit. You can imagine mine never really got that far. You use the points to buy new weapons or upgrades to your health and energy bars; you only get two active weapons to swap between with LB/RB, but you can switch your active weapons at any time during the level. I don't know if you can play a level over and over and bank points, or if you're supposed to have a few upgrades before you try to take on the harder difficulties, it's a bit open like that.

This is the kind of game where the gameplay is king. Story is secondary, and it's nice here, but also makes sure to stay out of your way while you're fighting, save for the mechanized mini-bosses you have to fight in most levels, complete with an unknown pilot (who is probably the #1 hero, or some foil, but I can't say after only an hour). They're pretty beefy for mini-bosses. Still, at times the gameplay is awkward, like I said the control scheme is unlike anything I've played before: as I sort of alluded in my joke quickie review, I found myself frantically air dashing into enemies and/or enemy fire with my final health point, not good for your morale. I also found myself using the rocket launcher on just about everything except the fourth boss, who is a speedster that zips around you (using bullet time lets you see them during said zips instead of just when they stop); in that instance, using my shotgun unlock at point-blank range was very, very, VERY satisfying, especially at the end of the fight. Seeing the last bit of the boss health bar cleaved in half gave me the strength I needed to finish the job.

Will I keep playing?
I honestly don't know. It's so hard that it's demoralizing in places, even if I fall back to "Easy" what would be the point? The story's cute and simple, and I feel like I'm probably most of the way there as it stands. Maybe this weekend I'll find myself stricken with boredom again and just bull rush my way to the end. As I also alluded, when you hit that sweet spot and you're in the zone, you feel like a f*cking ninja. Then you run out of bullet time or air dash into the boss' face, you die and you're brought crashing back to reality. The soundtrack is nice, but it's hard to hear over all the action on the screen, and the dying/restarting process takes a while, which adds to the demoralization.

Dark Souls?
Jeez, I must have some sort of inner masochist that convinces me to take on all these balls-hard games. This one's up there, it brings to mind Mega Man and IWBTG, yet again. It's not IWBTG, because it will blindside you, but not by abusing your assumptions about the game/genre, and it doesn't rub it in your face too much (the Game Over death messages are kinda silly and funny sometimes), and I think you're supposed to be failing and learning from your failures, especially the boss fights (you get infinite lives, after all, they just knock you with an x0.75 on your points if you die too much). I give it 9/10 The Guys on Normal, god help you if you go any higher.

That being said, I also wonder if this game could be TASed. I know the bullet time feature may defeat that purpose, but if you really know what you're doing, you could just STEAMROLL. Some of the mechanisms like bullet time may become broken beyond belief when you have frame-level control.

Linky for OP
Bleed (Bubs14)

Bleed was ten times more fun with a mouse and keyboard. Mastering the mechanics is actually some of the most satisfying gameplay I've had in years.

Maybe I'll try it again with mouse and keyboard, I'll admit I assumed indie platformer = gamepad preferred (Super Meat Boy nigh-demands it). And now for something completely different!

Game: Noir Syndrome (65 Minutes)
Sponsored by: A community vote during the Steam Summer sale

Open-and-Shut Review
Mystery adventure/strategy game with "procedural generation". Easy to lose yourself in the humdrum, but it ramps up the tension in a hurry when you least expect it.

Raymond Chandler-style Review (One of the few mystery writers I really like, strongly recommend him)
This... is the city. Some unnamed typical Roaring 20s joint where a deranged killer by the name of "Anubis" is on a spree. You're a no-name detective, the only one with the smarts and cunning to track down the killer and bring them to justice. Problem is, the suspects are all around you, the city is massive, there are a finite number of people in the town, it's only a matter of time before they start to come after you, and you do have to remember to eat on occasion.

Strangely enough, the pixel art style, the whodunnit theme and the number of venues remind me of the goofy Flash game Where's an Egg? by the H*R crew. While that game was a variation of the "Knights and Knaves" puzzle, this game is simple in principle, but challenging in execution.

You have 14 days to apprehend the killer. You spend each "day" at one of the many locations in town, ranging from Police HQ, a mob-controlled abandoned warehouse, the local diner and even the killer's own apartment building. Each location has people to question and scenery objects to investigate. Questioning people will give you suspects and "fishy locations" to go explore. The objects in the venue may hold clues, lockpicks or cash. Cash is good, because questioning people and investigating objects expends "hunger", and you're so strapped your apartment doesn't even appear to have a pantry, so you'll be eating whatever food people are selling along the way. I imagine running out of hunger is bad, I wouldn't know, never reached that point. Some locales have locked doors, which require you to have lockpicks to access. Lockpicks may be purchased from unscrupulous types, if lady luck isn't on your side. If the location is of interest, this is almost always a productive action, you'll get money or a clue. There are also safes you can rob, but it's unwise to do this while people are looking, lest you become a wanted man and/or have a gun drawn on you. You can also gamble at the speakeasy: bet $20, roll two dice, if your roll is 8 or higher you win.

There are ten suspects and ten clues to find. Suspects are either male or female, either civilians, police or mobsters, and all of them have an associated hobby. Clues will give you details about the killer: the gender can be unambiguously established if you find fingerprints, other clues will rule out which "camp" the killer associates with (i.e. - "Civilian or Police", "Police or Mobster", "Civilian or Mobster") or narrow down their hobby (e.g. - "Tailor or Artist", "Tailor or Dancer", etc.). Two special clues, the postal receipt and the Hunt Club card, give you opportunities to earn some extra cash. The postal receipt can be turned in at the Post Office, which will give you a package to take to a specific individual. This supposedly should earn you some money, but I think it's bugged, my recipient's name was always "None" and he just said generic dialogue. The Hunt Club card allows you to channel your inner Eli Roth (or just be an amoral/desperate detective) and go kill a particular person for a bounty. You do have a gun, with only one bullet to start with, Barney Fife-style, but you can purchase more if you think you'll be needing them. Just be covert about offing people, you don't want police or mobsters hunting you down, especially if the killer is amongst their ranks. Your hand may be forced if you take too long, though. Eventually, a hit man will catch up with you, at which point you either run like a coward, kill in self-defense and finish the job against all odds, or die unceremoniously.

Finding all the clues and suspects is a tall order. Sometimes, random events will help you along: the killer may strike again, leaving the scene of the crime devoid of its usual inhabitants, perfect if you need clues without interference from others (and clues will almost always be present, especially behind locked doors). This may also eliminate a suspect if they were the victim. You can also find gatherings of police, civilians, and mobsters, which are great places to gossip and get dirt about other potential suspects, most likely suspects from the camps not represented at the particular gathering. You won't need all of the clues if you passed second grade and can carry out some basic logic: you can establish the camp of the individual with a minimum of two clues, you can establish the killer's hobby with a minimum of two clues, and if there's still doubt, you can establish the gender with one more clue. There's more hobbies than camps, so sometimes even a single hobby clue can be enough to distinguish two otherwise identical suspects. Of course, whether these are the clues you find first is another story entirely. I've had cases where I found four "camp" clues out of maybe six or seven, and one of the clues was the Hunt Club card. Once you think you know the killer's identity, you can select them on your "j'accuse!" list (it's not really called that, but I think it's cute). Their location will show up on your screen, they will appear with a black "!" over their head, and talking to them will place them under arrest. I don't know what happens if you apprehend the wrong person, I'm lucky like that. It might be a clever way to hone in on someone, in case you're having trouble finding people to speak with. If you're truly desperate and flush with cash, you can go to the mob's abandoned warehouse and pay $50 for information about the killer. Not sure if that's "free clue" or "important detail like unambiguous camp/hobby" or "THE KILLER IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU!", or if the information is even reliable if the suspect can be traced to the mob from your current clues.

I did have one amusing case which I feel like sharing: I think my clues after about 8 days said it was a female civilian, and there was only one in my list of maybe six or seven suspects. So I targeted her and went to her location. I decided to search the location and question everyone, just in case I didn't have all the information, and then I would make the arrest if she was still the prime suspect. Someone else gave me another female civilian suspect, so I had to stand down and try to find more clues. Sure enough, when I found a hobby clue, it pointed to my original suspect, and my accusation proved correct. Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut.

There's actually an advancement system as well. If you complete certain tasks (coughachievementscough), you earn "badges", and no, you don't need no steeeenkin' badges, but they earn you levels, which gives you more starting items. For a measly three badges, you start with a lockpick in addition to your Barney Fife bullet (you have a gun and a bullet but no food or cash? Makes me think of Wallace Shawn as the asshole blackjack dealer in Vegas Vacation, "Buy a bullet and rent a gun?"). These may come in handy on higher difficulties: I tried one case on Hard mode, you have fewer starting hunger, the little note in my apartment told me the mob was out to get me (as opposed to saying "no one is after you yet"), and a hitman caught up to me with maybe six days to go; on Normal, it was usually on the last day, I got lucky with one case that on the last day, I took out a hitman, found the last clue that I needed to establish the killer, and she happened to be in the same location as me. I think that was the first case I successfully solved. There's a fun side mode called "Dinner Party", following that classic whodunnit trope of "everyone is a suspect". You start with all the suspects known, but the danger is that the guests/suspects randomly "go mad", which probably means they're likely to try to kill you if you're near them, I didn't feel lucky enough to approach a mad guest. They do calm down after a while, but the most tense moment for me was trying to reach a floor I hadn't explored yet while I passed someone about to go mad (you see a red ellipsis rising as they prepare to go mad).

Will I keep playing?
Maybe. It's fun and very low-key compared to the blood boiling games I usually play, but it's not without its tense moments: deciding to go on the bounty hunt because you need to eat, shooting a hitman, steering clear of the mob/police because they're after you... kudos if you can keep it together while something like that is hanging over your head. I think calling a game like this "procedurally generated" is a bit misleading: if it weren't procedurally generated, there'd be no game. I was expecting different city layouts, different types of clues, different crimes to investigate, etc. Not that there's anything wrong with the game as it is, it does have a high replayability factor, but I have a decent-sized pile and a game like this isn't very pile-friendly (I'm a sucker for that phrase "procedural generation").

Also, there's obvious bugs. I can't remember if this game was Early Access when I bought it, but that Post Office bug is frustrating. The devs are aware of it and in the process of patching it. We'll see.

Dark Souls?
How the hell do you assign difficulty to a game like this? I haven't played the nastier difficulties much, but calling the highest setting "Impossible" is quite the gauntlet to throw down. The difficulty slider is simply "starting Hunger" and "how soon does the Hitman come after you?". Even so, it's a real brain-buster. You have to know a lot about the various venues of town: which ones are heavily trafficked, which ones aren't, which camps frequent/"own" them, etc. Details like this matter when you need clues, suspects, or to hide, and the various random gatherings/murders force you to be on your toes and mix it up (public gathering in the Sewers, anyone?). Randomly going places or just going to any place of interest (crime scene/gathering) is not exactly the most efficient way to do it.

The number in my head is 4.5/10 bullets. You knew what you were getting into when you took this job. You wanted to do something that mattered, dammit! Well, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Just don't track any blood back to your apartment, probably a dead giveaway. Also, I think your cat's likely to snitch.

Link for OP
Noir Syndrome (Bubs14)

Game: 9.03M
Platform: PC (Steam)
Sponsored by: Wordsmythe
Gifted on: August 1st, 2014

TL;DR Review:
If you hated Dear Esther, this isn't for you.

Slightly longer, spoilery review:
Many people would hesitate to call 9.03M a game, even though it does use the Unreal engine. Indeed, I would say 9.03M is something to be experienced.
The game seeks to pay tribute to the nearly 16,000 casualties of the Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami which struck Japan in full force on March 11th, 2011. The magnitude of that first undersea megathrust earthquake? 9.03 on the moment magnitude scale.
The player is dropped at the top of a sand dune with a single objective, "find the butterflies." This probably isn't an accident, as the butterfly is a symbol of rebirth in many cultures and was seen as the personification of a person's soul in ancient Japan. You wander towards the shore to the sound of muted piano chords in a world of soft blues. Dark silhouettes await you, but you can never seem to reach them. Each time you get near, they evaporate, leaving a cherished memento behind. And every time, the waves pull back a little further.
It's very hard to convey the terrible sense of loss and tragedy which this horrible disaster caused. So many people died, so many homes destroyed, so many families torn asunder... Mere words cannot do justice. Unfortunately, same goes for 9.03M. Although I felt this short journey was poignant and poetic, I do not feel it is a fitting tribute to the victims and those who mourn them.

Will I keep playing?
Irrelevant. Even if you don't rush, you're done in 20min.

Link for main post: 9.03M (Eleima)

Game: Just Cause 2
Platform: PC (Steam)
Sponsored by: infyrnos
Gifted on: July 21st, 2013

TL;DR Review:
Bionic Commando, as an FPS, meets Saints Row and Far Cry 3

Slightly longer, grappling hook fueled review:
I blame one of the latest GWJ podcasts, where Just Cause 2 came up a few times when talking about "games borrowing from other games". And after 2 hours of game play, I can 100% agree. This is basically the middle part of older 3D GTA games, Saints Row, or Far Cry - you know, when you've done some story parts, and now it's time to just look at the map and remove all the little dots from it. But that's where you start in Just Cause 2.

I'll admit, I never played the first one. But from what I can gather, there's this organization called "The Agency", which I work for. And I have to go to this Asian island and kill some dude. But I have to befriend the three rival gangs to help me find this guy.

Oh, and I'm basically invincible, have a grappling hook strapped to my arm, and an infinitely reusable parachute that never needs to be packed.

What can I say, this is really up my alley. I personally love open-world games when I'm given free reign to do what I want. But there are some downsides - most notably, everything related to the controls. Everything just feels "backwards", and I'm not really interested in spending a few minutes to map my controller.

Will I keep playing?
Maybe. I like the formula, but something is causing me to get crash-to-desktop errors during heavy action scenes. I can't really stand two or three more of these.

ETA: Permalink Just Cause 2

I love the juxtaposition there. If you read the last two reviews in rapid succession, you'll strip your gears.

By the way, I haven't forgotten about the curated list. I just haven't had time to update it in the past week.

From earlier reviews

Is it the Dark Souls of its genre?
Rating on a scale of zero to Dark Souls

Not that noting the difficulty isn't useful, but I really like what some of you came up with for the rating on that scale.

Yeah, about that scale... I never used it because I've never played a Dark Souls game not do I care to and it really doesn't have much meaning to me.

Are these reviews posted on Steam? And why not?

Eleima wrote:

Yeah, about that scale... I never used it because I've never played a Dark Souls game not do I care to and it really doesn't have much meaning to me. :)

None of that stopped me!

One day I will review Dark Souls for the TL;DP and the recursive scale will break the internet.


That is, of course, contingent upon me someday owning a copy of Dark Souls.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
Eleima wrote:

Yeah, about that scale... I never used it because I've never played a Dark Souls game not do I care to and it really doesn't have much meaning to me. :)

None of that stopped me!

One day I will review Dark Souls for the TL;DP and the recursive scale will break the internet

I'm going to be disappointed if Dark Souls can't rate at least one Dark Souls on the scale.