achievements

The Need to Achieve: One Finger Death Punch

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Matt Matuszak and Brent Hopkins

In our new feature The Need to Achieve, two friends who don’t always see eye-to-eye evaluate a game they’ve both played just for the achievements. Beating 100% of a game can be both challenging and frustrating… How does One Finger Death Punch stack up?

First up on the list of games we have the dreams of attaining 100% in is One Finger Death Punch, an indie game that came out on Steam this year. The game was developed by Silver Dollar Games, which has a history of making low-budget games that tend to receive equally low-budget reviews. OFDP is the game that breaks the mold and has received rave reviews from media outlets because the concept is simple and pulled off intuitively.

Gameplay

Brent: C-
Matt: D (at best)

Brent: OFDP has you use the left and right mouse buttons to attack stick-men that converge on your character from the left or right side of the screen. One button press yields one punch, and through patterns you complete a variety of levels. This is akin to many rhythm games where memorization and rote muscle movement yield success.

The actual game itself is a bit of a mess. There are three difficulties, around six stage types, and over 100 stages to complete. You unlock special abilities (most of which are horribad) by beating stages. That means you will have to play this game a lot to get everything. This game gets old instantly and the stage variety is misleading, as half of them are filters added to obscure information and the other half are standard levels with either boss enemies or fast-moving weak enemies. This game is a grind and it loses its luster by the time you finish the tutorials.

Matt: OFDP starts off with five tutorial levels to explain that left click hits left and right click hits right. This should take 15 seconds to explain, but the developers must have thought they truly needed to teach everyone the difference between left and right. Once you get through the five tutorial levels, you get to just do the same thing 100+ more times because you’ve already done everything the game has to offer in those first five levels. You spend more time looking at where the enemy is coming from than watching the kung-fu moves your character is performing on the enemies.

Controls 

Brent: A
Matt: A

Brent: Since everything is one-to-one, the controls are as good as the user. You can’t really ask for tighter controls than this.

Matt: I’m going to agree with Brent because left is left and right is right; it doesn’t get any more complex.

Sound/Music

Brent: F
Matt: F

Brent: The commentator in this game is horrible. He uses a fake Asian sensei accent and constantly babbles during the game. Worse yet, even if you turn off the sounds they immediately turn back on when the game starts up. The music was equally grating to me and I found that I instantly turned both off. The in-game sound effects (which you can’t turn off) are OK and help you keep up with the fighting on screen. The whole game is a bit too loud though, and I think Silver Dollar Games tried a bit too hard to make the game feel and sound like a old kung-fu movie and instead just made it sound grating.

Matt: This is the worst part of the game for me; there is no actual sound volume control. You have mute or not mute in the startup, but this data doesn’t save to your local machine so it always turns on when you start the game. The in-game sound effects are OK but the basic breaking or punching sound effects just play over and over again.

Story

Brent: F-
Matt: F

Brent: If there is a story I completely missed it for the last few hours I played this game. You are a stick man and you traverse levels, beat bosses, and learn kung-fu techniques. There is no development beyond that, though I suppose the game doesn’t require it.

Matt: There is no story in this game. You are a stick man that just has to fight the same things over and over again for no apparent reason.

Graphics

Brent: B+
Matt: C-

Brent: The game is very similar in style to the stick man fighting Flash videos made popular by Xiao Xiao in the early 2000s.

We know you all remember this.

This simplicity in design makes the game run smoothly and makes you feel like you’re playing as a stick man bad-ass. There are a variety of animations used, so it isn’t just jab left and jab right. The animations are smooth, though the way the game play works you don’t truly get to take in the action.

Matt: This is a very simple 2D game. There won’t ever be knockout graphics in a 2D game. However, they did a good job with the background imaging — which you will only notice if you can look up for longer than a second before another enemy comes from the left or right. The models for your character and enemies are both differently shaded stick figures.

Achievements

Brent: F
Matt: F

Brent: This is where the money is at. I chose this game without looking at the achievement list and that was a bit of a (huge) mistake. This game has 152 achievements and around half of them are easy to get on the lowest difficulty level. The other achievements are the ridiculous, as they ask you to kill THOUSANDS of enemies in a row on an endless mode with ever-increasing speed. Doing the normal levels with 200 enemies is crap, but trying to do 7000 is tiring to say the least.

Matt: I love out-of-reach achievements, so a game that has one extremely hard-to-get achievement I can appreciate. This game has 25 extremely hard-to-obtain achievements out of 152. 17% of the game’s achievements are near unobtainable unless you play a few hundred hours, and the gameplay isn’t worth a few hundred hours.

Overall

Brent: D
Matt: F

Brent: Too many achievements, repetitive gameplay, and sound that will make you pause and step outside are too much for me to recommend this game for hardcore gamers or achievement hunters. It’s a great casual game for some time-wasting, though.

Matt: Don’t buy this game! There are better games that meet the casual indie genre that have more story in the first five minutes of game than this entire game does. I dreaded having to play this game to write about it and am upset it lowered my average game completion percentage on my Steam profile.

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Casual Commitments: 10,000,000, a Game for Casual and Hardcore Gamers Alike

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Brent Hopkins

The past few weeks I have been putting some time into a game called 10,000,000 (which will be shortened to 10M for the remainder of this article) developed by EightyEight Games. This game is available on the iOS, and Android app stores, as well as Mac, Linux, and Windows via Steam.

The game is a puzzle-roleplaying mish-mash that really comes together into a fun little package. The game stars your hero (who is nameless) who is locked in a decrepit keep where he must score the titular 10M points to escape. To score points he must make his way through a dungeon killing monsters and collecting gold, wood, stone, and experience points to get stronger. The stronger he gets the longer he can survive in the dungeon and the higher his score can climb.

The story is not something that will keep you engrossed in the game and as it is a casual game that can be expected. The gameplay is where the strength really lies and it will keep you coming back for one round after another. The game uses the infinite run formula made popular by games like Temple Run to display the dungeon battles. Your adventurer moves from the left side of the screen to the right and if you get pushed too far left you lose and return to your bed to spend your spoils.

To fight the monsters you play a match-three style puzzle game with different matches doing different things. The sword and the staff do damage, the chests give you items, the keys unlock chests and doors, the shields give defense to attacks, and the stone and wood give you resources to fix your prison keep.

The game also throws in up to three quests per run for the so you have something to try and accomplish instead of just blindly trying to get the highest score each time. They are all explained succinctly and rarely take any special play to achieve.

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Your typical 10M game board.

The difficulty in 10M comes from the general passing of time and enemies whose attacks slowly push your hero further and further left until he dies. Since there are so many different tiles and you are constantly on a time limit, you may find yourself needing to open a chest but instead you have a board full of stones to deal with. This pressure is what keeps the game flowing, but if that were all there was the game would be tragically boring. The RPG elements are the second side of this glorious puzzle game and really make it a complete package.

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This is what your adventurer’s base tends to look like when you start.

The hub for 10M is where most the RPG elements are found and they come in a few different flavors. They will either make your attacks stronger or make your defense higher so you can take more hits from monsters. These are permanent, and this is where all the gold, materials, and experience will get used. Wood and stone are used for repairing your keep, which unlocks higher upgrades. Experience is used to give you passive benefits every run, which make the game easier. Gold is used for all of the armor and weapon upgrades. These are all pretty standard fare and won’t take anything but time to unlock. The game throws the player for a loop with the last upgrade area’s potions. Each potion you unlock has a plus and a minus so the player must choose what they want each run.

The game is addictive and fun as you see your little adventurer getting stronger each time you lose and have to upgrade back at the hub. As you repair your place you get this sense of fighting from the absolute bottom –where even the rooms don’t want you– to fighting with Excalibur and slaying dragons. The potions are also a great addition to this type of game. Instead of feeling like you are wasting time matching objects if you have fully upgraded your hub area with wood and stone, you can activate a potion to turn those into gold or experience instead.

The game just flows along and because the rounds are really quick you never feel this burden of loading it up and suddenly having to invest 40 minutes like you would with a game like Triple Town or Candy Crush Saga, where you only get so many chances then you must pay or wait to play again. The achievements are also well made for the Steam platform, since they follow the natural progression of the game and test your skill and determination. One achievement requires the player to use every potion in the game and get 10M points. This is interesting because there are many overlapping potions and the player should have upgraded everything to tackle this as well.

I have dumped about nine hours into this game and I am sure to play quite a few more (still need that potion achievement). I highly recommend picking this up on a mobile device or Steam for $4.99 as it fits great for hardcore gamers and casuals alike.

I give 10000000 4/5 stars, because it is the perfect idle game to play.

Casual Commitments: To The Moon

TTM

Brent Hopkins

This week’s review is on a game more akin to the first gaming article written here on Gone Home than the others I have written. This is a review about a game that isn’t quite “a game” but more of an interactive story. This is To The Moon, developed and published by Freebird Games, a $9.99 indie game available on Steam.

To The Moon falls into the recent genre of pseudo-games that was kicked off by much touted and much maligned 2010 AAA title Heavy Rain by Quantic Dream, wherein the player isn’t so much as playing a game but interacting in a kind of “visual novel.” Heavy Rain was an absolutely stunning game that was thrown under the bus because of the linearity and seeming lack of choice in the outcome of events. Gamers felt like they had paid to read a book or watch a TV show and not to actually “play” a game. Thanks to Heavy Rain falling on the sword of being the first one in its class released, indie companies like Freebird Games are now able to produce like-minded games and find commercial success with their niche audiences.

To The Moon is the story of two scientists and an old dying man who has a final wish to go to the moon. The scientists live in a time that could be the future but really feels like a mixture of future tech and modern history. The player takes the role of one of the two scientists named Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts. Rosalene is the straight shooter of the group and she is all business when it comes to their very special job. Watts, on the other hand, is a bit of a goofball and makes a lot of jokes which are humorously incorporated pop references that should put a smile on the face of any gamer.

The graphics are very simple and clean — they almost look like they were made in RPG Maker. They will remind you of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and even with the simplicity you get drawn into the story and the characters completely.

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The graphics are helped along by the musical score, which is impressive, and the main theme still gets stuck in my head from weeks ago. The tunes are simple, yet endearing and I never found myself wanting to mute the background music at all.

The special job I referenced is the hinge point of the game. The doctors are employed by a company called Sigmund Corporation and they meet with dying patients and implant permanent memories into the patient so they can feel as if they have fulfilled this goal in their actual lives. They use a machine to go into the memories of the patient and figure out at what point in life they would be able to best influence this person to fulfill their dream and then they augment the events until it becomes a reality… in the dying patients’ mind, at least. The reasoning for it only being done to dying folks is because if the person were to  wake up and suddenly be back in their real life the conflicting memories would be extremely stressful and damaging, thus the last thing this patient will know is a dream come true.

This aspect of the game is really fascinating and I found myself thinking about what I would fulfill if I had the ability to change my life, even if only in my mind. This is something I think many people have pondered, but adding in the immediate mortality of the situation and a complete reset of everything that you have truly known in exchange for a lie that will be your last memory is weighty to think about.

The story is one of the best that I have ever played through and really going into too much detail would be like explaining Bioshock Infinite‘s story to someone who hasn’t played it but wants to. Therefore I won’t be spoiling the plot at all.

The patient in question, named Johnny, seems like a simple man but the doctors soon find that his memories are far more complex to traverse than the average patient. The player explores the memories by solving exceedingly simple puzzles and clicking on objects like in an adventure game.

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These puzzles are a bit too easy.

They ask his caretakers for more information about him, but they find that they will have to really dig through his memories to find out why they need to get this man to the Moon. You play through his life moment by moment. There are twists and turns throughout the game and it takes surprisingly in-depth looks at how disorders, tragedy, love, and loss can all compound into a bittersweet tale.

The game lasts a brief four hours and I actually sat and played them all in one sitting because I got really sucked into it. The small puzzles and adventure-like exploring are more used as page turners than actually inserted to challenge the player. There is only one achievement, which is to “beat” the game or, in essence, read the whole story.

There is no replay value and that makes it hard to swallow the $10 price point that is set on Steam. I snagged this game on sale and since it came out a few years ago I worry that it won’t get the play it deserves. There is a sequel planned for this year, so I highly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of quality stories.

I give to To The Moon 4.5 rockets out of 5 because while the story is amazing, I found the game sections more annoying than entertaining.

Image source: PC Games N, Entertainment Depot

Casual Commitments: Type:Rider

typerider

Brent A. Hopkins

In Casual Commitments, we explore the ups and downs of casual gaming.

You will not be confused by what you are playing.

I would like to start off by dedicating this article to a bunch of my friends from Bradley University as I thought about you all quite a bit when playing this game. I was a business major, yet most of my close friends were art or language art majors. I was brought into the art fold gently and one of the things I recall is the seriousness of choosing the correct font for a project. This game put me right back in that mindset, which is a good thing.

Type:Rider is, at its core, a very simple game that takes the player through the history of typeface through physics-based platforming. There is no character development, really as the player takes control of two dots — a colon — and ventures into different levels based on famous typefaces. The controls are simple, with the left and right arrows guiding your dots around and the space bar for jumping. That is it, and everything else is left to you to figure out.

The levels are split up into four sections: two general platforming sections and two gate sections. The gate sections are always brief and require you to solve a simple puzzle to get a third white dot into an unlocking mechanism to open a door. This repeats for all the stages but the last which is something I will talk about later.

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Ebony and ivory will lead you to success.

I played this game on Steam as I don’t really enjoy playing cell phone games and one thing that instantly caught my attention was just how atmospheric the game is. This game is easily the most graphically-pleasing game I have reviewed here. The backgrounds are clean and crisp and really fit with the typeface they are supposed to represent.

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This just oozes Gothic.

The thing with any game is that no matter how good it looks the soundtrack is what really ties it together, and when you get both going you can really suck in your audience. This is another area in which the game excels. This game sounds phenomenal and from the moment I hit play I was surprised at how excited I was to see how the next area would look and sound.

The gameplay itself is nothing to write home about. Each level has the entire alphabet, six asterisks, and an ampersand to collect. The alphabet and asterisks are extremely easy to find and take practically no skill to get. The asterisks are special in that they unlock book pages for that typeface, which share the history of that typeface for the player. Collect all six and get the entire history. You unlock knowledge (which is something I wish you would see more in games) and I found myself reading them out of genuine interest after playing through the unique stages. The ampersand on each stage is harder to find and while it doesn’t unlock anything in game, it gives you a reason to search around the level and really take in everything the designer had in mind. The game tracks the total for all of these and you get achievements for getting them all.

The game overall is solid and gets the point across of learning to love your typefaces, even the much chagrined Comic Sans, which is used in joke form not just on the Internet, but also in this game. The whole experience takes about three to four hours to complete so it never feels too long or boring.

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When your typeface history looks like it comes from Reddit, you’re probably learning about Comic Sans.

There is one major issue I have with the game though, and it is very important to any game… the controls. This game is extremely easy to play but the physics engine leaves a lot to be desired, and a part of you will wish for more direct control of your dots as you die again and again. This may not be an issue for most of you if you play it casually, as you will breeze through this but the allure of achievements sadly drives me. That being said, there is one that requires you to complete a stage without dying, which honestly added an extra 40 minutes to my play time.

Overall, I would highly recommend this to the designer/gaming subset of folks out there and honestly, to anyone who likes a good looking and aurally arousing gaming diversion. This game gets an easy 4/5 tildes from me. There is practically no replay value, but for the cheap price of $3.49 I was more than satisfied.

Type:Rider is published by BulkyPix and is available on the App Store, Steam, or Google Play for Android.

Image sources: Fast Company, Steam, Hyperallergic.com

Casual Commitments: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

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Brent A. Hopkins

In Casual Commitments, we explore the ups and downs of casual gaming.

Cooking is an art form and this game is the pepper grinder.

Today I will be reviewing Cook, Serve, Delicious!, another game that is available on mobile devices and then was recently ported to PC and released on Steam. It is a restaurant and time management simulation.

The premise of the game is the player taking the role of a chef who has taken over a former renowned restaurant that has gone from being a five-star pinnacle of culinary delight to a starless greasy spoon restaurant. As the chef in a newly revamped tower that houses your restaurant as well, you have to build your menu to mainly attract the tenants and reclaim the former five-star rating that was once held.

The game setup is split into two sections: one being the restaurant and the other being the management portion. The interfaces are both very clean and simple and there is a nice little tutorial to help the player become acclimated to the game. I will start off with the chef portion of the game as that is the games’ major selling point.

The restaurant that you run is owned and maintained solely by you. It opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. This means that over the course of a day you have to deal with all of the things that a real restaurant would have to handle, alone. The main job that you have is to handle customers’ orders. This works in a quick time event sort of way. The customer will come in and order something on your menu (I will explain the menu more later) this is assigned a number on the keyboard from 1 to however many order slots you have unlocked (I currently have 5). Once you acknowledge the customer you must finish their order. I will use one of the earliest and cheapest foods as an example, The Corn Dog.

The Corn Dog is simple but it can come in three ways: ketchup only, mustard only, or ketchup and mustard. The customer will come in and wait and when you acknowledge him or her they will say I want only mustard, for instance. The game has built in hot keys for each food on the menu so in this case ‘M’ is used for mustard on corndogs and then you press enter to serve the food. When the order has no mistakes you are given a rating from the customer. Rinse and repeat.

The rating system is how you are tracked throughout the day, with perfect orders giving you a chain which increases your restaurants’ “Buzz.” The higher the “buzz” the more people will come day-to-day. There are two other ratings you can get which are average and bad. Average doesn’t do anything but break your perfect streak, but bad orders hurt your “Buzz” and impact customers.

The other part of the restaurant section is the chores that you must do. These are all setup in the same interface as the food where they will show up as customers and you must choose and complete them quickly to keep customers happy. There are four chores to do: dishes, rat traps, toilet cleaning, and trash. These are all hot-keyed like the food menus, so once you memorize how to do them you can hit the keys without looking and complete them really quickly. The types of food you have on your menu affect what chores come up the most. When you have meals that require plates, you do dishes more. If you have fish, you deal with rats more. The chores become more of a slight inconvenience than a real problem.

The stress from the restaurant portion of the game is entirely rolled up in handling customers and chores quickly. When you have many things on your menu and they all take various amounts of preparation time it can become hard to juggle the steak orders with the ice cream orders. There is also rush hour to deal with, which hits at noon and 6 p.m., and this drastically increases the rate at which you have to deal with customers. Your fingers will have to fly to make sure you can keep your perfect scores up through them. The secret here is simply to memorize the keys for the foods on your menu so you can quickly read what the customer wants and bang it out without looking. Once you can do that the game is never really hard, with mistakes mainly stemming from fat fingers (in my case) hitting the wrong customer and effectively serving them too early.

The second part of the game is the management aspect. This takes place on a different menu and has a few parts to deal with. The parts you will use the most are the food menu and equipment menu. These are where you choose what food you serve day to day and also what equipment you will have available to you to enhance your cooking.

The food menu is really simple because all you have to do is save up enough money to buy an item and it is added to a pool of recipes that you know. Each food takes different types of preparation in the kitchen, and this would be hard to deal with without practice so the game allows you to practice before you have to suddenly make lasagna or nachos in an actual working day.

The menu itself is setup where you can only have a certain number of items to prepare each day. There is something called menu rot which forces you to take things off the menu after two days, or else people will refuse to order it because it is boring. To keep you from constantly having to rotate a wide variety of foods there are also staple items which you can keep on the menu every day to have some regularity in preparation.

The foods themselves are varied and tend to fall into culinary categories: American, Italian, Asian, Mexican, snacks, and drinks. These all can be upgraded which usually add more options for the customers to choose from, thus making the game harder. This is something that doesn’t really matter unless you’re going for achievements because there are never Mexican days or Italian days at the restaurant unless you choose to do that. The foods also have pluses and minuses attached to them that can increase the interest in them being ordered, cause them to require more cleaning, or even call for perfection when ordered. These are mildly important because the game still ticks along even if you are not min-maxing your food prices and buzz.

The other part of the post-work menu system is comprised of emails and events that you can partake in. The email system gives you updates about what customers will want on a rainy day, what new items are available to purchase, which foods you can upgrade, and so on. The most interesting thing I found here were the bets, dating, catering deals, and chef challenges. These all can increase your money and give you a reprieve from just going into ‘work’ every day. They aren’t that varied either, as they still take place in the kitchen but the best part about it is they give you mini-challenges to deal with for fun.

So those are the two portions of the game, now it is time for the problems. The game is fun… for a very short amount of time. It is obviously perfect for a casual phone or tablet game, but when it comes to a PC port it takes the will of Buddha and the wrists of Superman to play for lengthy amounts of time. I have been gaming for most of my life and I am no stranger to marathon sessions. This game, though, is the first to make me step away due to arm cramps from just rote typing and clicking.

Secondly, because the game is more about memory and speed than anything else, it doesn’t feel like it is skill-based once you have gotten a few of the high priced recipes down pat. Then you just find yourself grinding out days, rotating things off the menu occasionally, and never having hard recipes on your menu unless the game forces you to.

My final major gripe with this game is really simple: IT TAKES TOO LONG! The game starts you out with a zero-star restaurant and you have to fulfill certain requirements to get upgraded to a one-star restaurant. The requirements can be as easy as buy x amount of food for your menu to the slightly more difficult get x perfects on so many days. These are not a problem and help keep interest in the game, so I like them. My one problem is with the last requirement: serve 20 days in the restaurant at this rating. This is genuinely the one thing that makes me want to change all the keys on my keyboard to sandpaper and play by sliding my knuckles across the keys. There is nothing fun about finishing all of the requirements for your restaurant to be upgraded by day five and realizing that you have 15 more days to play with nothing to gain but money for equipment and upgrades. It is poorly paced and I find myself saying “Play ten days today then turn the game off so you keep your sanity.”

The game is sold as a restaurant simulation and that is not true in the least. You don’t have the full freedom of control that you would really want in a game like this, because you can’t make new recipes. You can’t customize the restaurant into serving a type of food and you can’t even manage your own restaurant look and feel, as the upgrades are all forced. I was really let down by this game because I was hoping to be a seller of fine deep-fried desserts and alcohols as a true Texan/Southern-bred foodie would and instead I found myself selling salads because I happened to memorize all of those ingredients quickly.

I give Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 salt shakers out of 5 because the game is a great quick fix but falls flat when you realize you have to grind more than teenagers at a house party to get what you want.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! is produced by Vertigo Gaming.

Image source: Vertigo Gaming

Casual Commitments: When I Move, You Don’t Move

moving

Brent A. Hopkins

In Casual Commitments, we explore the ups and downs of casual gaming. Well, we usually do. Today, the author turns inward. Get to know our games correspondent Brent Hopkins today. And yes, that’s a Ludacris reference in the title.

This is my first time writing something that is far more personal and completely separate from gaming, so bear with me.

Over the… entirety of my life, I have been a bit of a roamer. My dad has always had jobs in sales and marketing and as a really outgoing man he tended to get promotions or jump at opportunities for advancement, which meant we moved all the time. This meant that I never really settled down in an area, because like any other social training I grew to expect a ‘reset’ of sorts every three or four years. This is not something unique to me as I have met many people who have moved over the years, but heck, this isn’t about them, this is about me.

The benefits of moving all of the time are many: I have almost no real fear of moving into areas where I know no on,and I actually tend to thrive as the new kid on the block. Tied to being the new kid, I have always had the ability to meet people and build relationships really quickly. When time isn’t on your side you figure out how to cut out the social fluff. This has made me two things. First, I’m a bit overly honest with my friends and family because I like people to take what I say at face value. Second, I’m a bit of a social moderator. I tend to see both sides of all situations even if I don’t entirely agree with one or the other (which I have been told by another writer here is quite annoying).

These are all skills that have proven invaluable moving forward in my life as I have decided to live overseas as an English teacher for the foreseeable future, and I was surprised that it crosses cultural boundaries as well. A part of me feels like I would have maybe done better as a counselor or a psychiatrist but hindsight and I are not ones to sit down and chat. I take solace in knowing that I am good at noticing the small things that are important to people and teaching has given me a chance to affect people using these roaming skills.

The bad aspects of always moving around are things that I have been dealing with very intensely recently. 2013 was what I like to call “shitty.” It was probably the worst year of my life since I was around 13 or 14 when the uncle I was closest to passed away. I always assumed bad years had spikes in crap that happened but I found that starting in February 2013 it was a pretty sustained level of ‘bleh’ with refresher ‘ohgodwai’ on about a bi-monthly to monthly basis. I spent a whole bunch of time thinking back on myself.

The general mindset I have nowadays isn’t particularly conducive to longevity in anything. I am not used to lengthy routines so the idea of settling down is something I can’t really wrap my mind around. This is obviously detrimental to any romantic relationship I have because I always feel like I have a clock ticking down to when I will suddenly leave again. This is something I used as an excuse as a teenager for my inability to date but has not suddenly vanished as I have bounced between South Korea and the USA and my current job has me hopping contract to contract. This has caused me to have long breaks between relationships because the energy of starting coupled with the emotions of leaving are, shockingly enough, huge deterrents.

I am also a jack-of-all trades, which is something I have always liked about myself. The problem (as there always is a problem, right?) is that when I moved I always tended to change interests so I never got amazing at anything that wasn’t a social skill. I am not complaining about this, really, but I found that when I start to get a decent level of skill at something I just stop practicing feeling content with it. Now, I will be honest, I actually am super-competitive behind my perpetual smile so I tend to get above average at things I set my mind to. There has always been a part of me that does envy those that can say I am really good at ______________ (insert skill or ability here).

Lastly, I have these strange moments (in my mind, probably not to others) where I think about having a home — not a house. Now, I have a home that I can go back to with my parents there but I am closer to 30 than I am to 20 now and I of course think about having my own home. Nothing that I am currently doing is getting me closer to that, which is mildly worrisome. I am at heart a homebody and I actually love days where I get to relax at home, cook for those I love, and be domestic. This is in stark contrast to this underlying urge to move when I am comfortable in a place because of that damn timer that is always ticking. This leaves me feeling like the single man/woman versus the married one, longing for the pinnacle that only the other can reach.

I always tend to analyze others and while that is a useful skill if done accurately I think I know now that I also need to look at myself and my behavior as well. I am spending a lot more time trying to get back to ideas and ideals I care about, which is something I lost a bit over the last year. Writing is one of those and ya know I haven’t been this content in awhile even with an impending move around the corner. At least now I am aware of some of the good and bad habits I have accrued over the years but I feel like constant moving is an interesting thing to mold an individual.

Here’s to a better year than the last.

Casual Commitments: Evoland

Brent A. Hopkins

In Casual Commitments, we explore the ups and downs of casual gaming.

Back again with another quick game review of a Steam-available gem called Evoland developed by Shiro Games.

Evoland is relatively unique in its class because it really is a throwback to three of the biggest RPG franchises out there. The art style is mostly focused around Zelda, the story and map setup is taken from Final Fantasy, and there is even a dungeon that switches to a Diablo-style loot-em-up. The whole experience is relatively short and sweet spanning about six-ten hours depending on how long you take to find all its secrets.

The Evo in Evoland comes from the evolution of the graphics and gameplay elements that you pick up in treasure chests scattered throughout the game. These are all given in small pieces as opposed to massive jumps so you can see how gaming really has evolved over time. You start out in this 8-bit classic Game Boy environment and slowly build up to PS1-flavor environments. As a person who has played the gamut of gaming consoles I will goofily admit that there were times, particularly with Mode7 and smooth scrolling, where I found myself chuckling a bit thinking back on games I played before these technological leaps.

(The pixels, kid, the pixels!)

The game itself is actually not too far from a Game Boy game really, utilizing two buttons one for actions and attacking the other for canceling and accessing a pretty useless pause menu. The obvious point of the game is more like a museum where you look at the relics from past generations while casually solving the simplest puzzles these games had to offer.

This is probably where the game suffers the most. The game is fun but the battle system is so tragically archaic that I may have misled you all when I said it was like a Game Boy game. This game actually has less going on when dealing with battles than some Atari games. You get the concept of Zelda and Final Fantasy battles but because there is zero customization and the evolutions stop at the most basic levels you will find yourself DREADING and I mean sighing in distress when you get a random battle.

I played the game with achievements in mind, like I do with most every game, and they are simple to get and pretty intuitive as well. There are a slew of lil’ jokes here and there and there is nothing like playing as Clink: a green-tunic-wearing-spiky-haired-blond with a rather huge sword. Don’t expect a lot from the battle system but you get a taste of enough different games that it will keep you interested, especially if you don’t have achievements in mind.

I give Evoland 3.5 out of 5 pixels because it is worth the play for those that like Zelda and Final Fantasy VII but there is no reason to play it again once the credits roll.

Evoland is produced by Shiro Games.

Image source: Theology Games and Indie Haven

Casual Commitments: Tiny Thief

Brent A. Hopkins

In Casual Commitments, we explore the ups and downs of casual gaming.

The second time waster on my list is called Tiny Thief, a game that has had a bit of controversy surrounding it thanks to the publisher, Rovio. You all probably know Rovio for its hyper-popular Angry Birds franchise, which has spawned more merchandise than Star Wars over the last few years, and when a company is making that kind of money one of the first things to slide is its morals. The issue is with the insane markup for Tiny Thief on the Steam platform compared to the App Store. The normal retail price on Steam is about 4,000% more expensive than the App Store version which has caused consumers to be, picket the Rovio offices, mad. I bought the game for two dollars, so I don’t have that same grief with the company.

In my opinion, Tiny Thief is to the adventure genre what Final Fantasy VII is to RPGs. This game is probably the best introduction to the genre that you can possibly have and it makes you want to try your hand at more difficult adventures once you have completed its journey.

The whole atmosphere of the game is a bright fairy tale where you play the role of a Robin Hood like thief who must steal a particular item on each level to advance. This would be a bit simple even for a casual game, so there are also bonus items to steal and your pet ferret to find. Completing all of these nets you a star, with a perfect completion getting you three stars for the stage.

Most adventure games give you very few hints to progress the story, which can make them infuriatingly hard if you can’t wrap your mind around the puzzles. Oft times the developers make completely random connections like string-plus-alcohol-plus-birthday-candles makes a flamethrower. This flamethrower will be used with duct tape and a KFC bucket to make a hot air balloon. There is nothing clever about this and I personally hate that feeling of “ARE YOU F’ING SERIOUS!” that comes along with “solving” these riddles.

Tiny Thief gets big points from me because almost all of the interactions open to the player make sense. The interface is also very smooth as it is click to move and click to interact. The interactions come in two varieties: first is the thief that you move around and use to grab objects to solve puzzles and second are background interactions. The background interactions are things the player has to find on the level to solve separate puzzles and help the lil’ thief achieve his dreams of larceny.

That really sums up what you have to do. There is a story in the game but it is just the avenue through which the game is delivered. Tiny Thief falls for Tiny Princess and must steal his way to her. Sweet like aspartame.

New for Steam are Tiny Thief achievements. Most of these are just completion based where you finish a level or you don’t use the hint option for multiple rounds and at the end of the chapter (there are six, one being a tutorial) and you get the achievement. To add some more flair to the game there are hidden achievements which I won’t spoil here, but they tend to deal with humans being weirdoes and accosting the poor pixel people. It is an easy game to perfect if that’s your thing.

I will give Tiny Thief a 5 out of 5 Diamonds on PC (buy it on sale if possible). It is the perfect game to play for five to ten minutes and I look forward to some DLC levels if they ever happen.

Tiny Thief is produced by Rovio Entertainment.

Image source: Google Play