Valiant Resurrection Review

I grew up in the 90s and thus my early gaming was dominated by 8-bit and 16-bit games. Between my Nintendo, Genesis, Super Nintendo and Gameboy, I found some of my favorite games, games that now inhabit the “retro” category. Now I’m going to try to avoid whining about how people see old games, but there is something I’ve noticed lately that is borne of a fascination with this apparent bygone age of gaming. Nowadays you can’t browse a single game catalog without tripping over countless stylized games using 8 and 16-bit graphics. Now for some this is due to nostalgia, others ease of access, and others still likely have different reasons for pursuing this retro design, but it really does feel like a gimmick anymore to slap some pixel graphics onto any hastily-made game and expect instant appeal.

I’m really trying to not dismiss all “retro” graphic games. I’ve already discussed the Earthbound-inspired Undertale, which derives a great deal of its heart from its retro graphics and soundtrack, and the puzzle game Camera Obscura which definitely packages fun platforming in charming simplicity.  However, there exists a swath of half-hearted platformers and derivative RPGs that pollute the gaming market and seem to garner praise more for the look and the idea than the actual gameplay or story. Effectively, aspiring developers seem to be telling us that it’s “easy” to make a 2D game so they’re going to grab a copy of RPG Maker and grind out whatever it takes to get noticed. Unfortunately for them, it isn’t easy, and accessibility does not automatically promise success. Games like Undertale are good because they not only knew how to use their medium, but because they wanted to utilize it to realize a very clear vision.

Creating a good game requires a wide variety of skills, especially if you are doing most of the work by yourself. One of the most important skills though is to be able to be self-critical—to be able to look at one’s own work and decide maybe it isn’t exactly turning out as hoped. Now I’m not necessarily saying that everyone should accept only perfection when making a game. If we were always crippled with doubt about our work very little would ever make it out into the world. However, I don’t think this is a problem when it comes to the indie gaming community. Steam is flooded with underwhelming RPGs with stock assets and stilted dialogue. One such game is today’s focus, an RPG that promised to be filled with surprising twists on a classic hero’s tale.  Unfortunately, it’s difficult to assess the merits of these claims, as the gameplay and bugs stand in the way of any wish to explore the world. Valiant Resurrection, produced by Aldorlea Games and developed by Warfare Studios, does little to shake up RPG conventions, and winds up weighing itself down with some of the more tedious standbys. Also, I’ve been told that my reviews would benefit from the inclusion of more dragons, and this game has a dragon right on the title card. So the dragon’s alright, I guess.

Title Card

Title Card for Valiant (aka Valiant Resurrection)

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Holiday Break

Not that I necessarily need to say this, since I maybe have one consistent reader, but all the same I thought it would be nice to leave a little “be back soon” note on the blog.

I’m taking this week off for Christmas, since my focus seems to pulled every which way due to the holiday season. However, it’s not just family and holidays distracting me.

I haven’t necessarily been able to pick up a new game to review because I’ve actually been playing something else. Xenoblade Chronicles X came out recently and I ordered it special. It’s a great game, both faithful to and a departure from its spiritual predecessor Xenoblade Chornicles on the Wii. However it’s a very time-consuming game, and since I also like to play the MMO Final Fantasy XIV and have a job that takes up a great deal of my time and energy, I’ve just had less and less time.

So I’m taking the week off! I should be back next week with a new post. Also, this is kinda making me want to write about the other things I’m doing, so maybe I’ll start doing more personal/opinion posts too (media related of course. I don’t want to bore people with too much of my personal life :P)

Thanks for reading,
Shell Games

Choice of Robots Review and Analysis

Sometimes, it’s very easy to overlook the power of words. Lost amidst the bright flashing special effects and bold images, the written word’s communication seems to take a backseat, furnishing only integral information regarding the rules or plot. How they’re chosen, though still deliberate and important, is often an under-appreciated art in the video game world. Though often the analysis and respect for the written word is resigned to books, there is often much to be learned about our experiences in games through the text offered, from the meanings behind dialogue all the way down to the choice of the font. Of course, plenty of games do well with minimal visual stimulation—visual novels, adventure games and the like can easily shed their modern graphical veneer and still be unforgettable experiences. The most obvious style, and the one that today’s game uses, is that which forgoes all images and takes back some of the near-mystical wonder of words from books and stories: the text-based game; and Choice of Robots, from Choice Of Games, is a rather sprawling, thought-provoking one at that.

Choice Start

That’s right. I’m doing screenshots of a text-based game. Text-in-text is the new big thing!

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The Howler Review

So, here’s a little something about me: I don’t like steampunk. More specifically, I really don’t like the hobbyist subculture that came en vogue a few years ago filled with people wearing pretentious clothing and taking on a fake old-timey accents, dropping “rather”s and “good sir”s every which way they turn. Now sure, I can objectively look at a lot of steampunk costumes and props and see a great deal of time, effort and intricacy that went into making them. However, subjectively, I just don’t see the point in strapping a bunch of sepia-toned materials to yourself and walking around ready to pose at a 45-degree-angle at any given time. I admit I’ve actually enjoyed things with a steampunk setting, such as Final Fantasy VI, but beyond the few exceptions, the concept is just tedious and unnecessary in my honest opinion. It’s just a way for people with way too much time and money on their hands to lord their superior craft-making ability over the slobs who pollute their surroundings, while harkening to a bygone era that never really happened, complete with phonographs, telescopes coming out of everything and steam-powered balloons from which elegant daguerreotypes can be taken of men with handlebar moustaches.

Steampunk-falksen

Steampunk really grinds my gears! (image from Wikipedia)

Okay, I promise I’m not going to spend the whole time complaining about a hobby and fashion statement that, quite frankly, I can easily ignore. I just wanted to throw my disdain out there both to fully disclose my perspective and also to set up the game I plan on discussing today. Once again I found myself on Steam and happened along a game that, in spite of my normal avoidance, did manage to pique my curiosity with its steampunk aesthetic. The game promised a art “meticulously crafted by classically-trained experienced painters.” Though the words “crafted” and “classically-trained” also tend to be red flags to me, I was genuinely interested in possibly enjoying some really good art while playing a fun little game. In spite of all my complaints, I do enjoy art and wanted to support something that got dedicated artists some exposure. This was the reason I bought and played “The Howler”, the game of touch and scream.

1 Title

“Do Begin” to absorb a bunch of fake old-timey phraseology.

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Theme Hospital Review

Theme Hospital Title

Theme Hospital is a hospital simulation/strategy game released in 1997 by Bullfrog Productions. Though realistic in the sense that you are charged with becoming a successful hospital by way of profits and reputation first, curing patients second, the hospital you construct treats made-up illnesses, employs caricatures and features all kinds of comical tidbits (“Patients are reminded not to die in the corridors.”) Bullfrog, responsible for a long string of “Theme” games, liked to load their games with zany humor and Britishisms, so Theme Hospital is more of a light-hearted romp through the world of health care. The gameplay is actually fairly challenging at its default pace, but can be scaled up or down to suit the player. Overall, this game is a fun diversion that withstands the test of time.

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