Quick Look – Flipping Death

I so don’t have time to game right now, but I really want to, so I keep trying to squeeze in a little bit here and there. Not from my library, mind you, but from Utomik, since there was still so much I wanted to try that after cancelling my sub, I had remorse and reactivated it.

Now, I’m bad at platforming games in general (although I do find that games billed as puzzle-platformers tend to be more forgiving), so I expected to nope out of this one in a heartbeat.

No such luck. I am hooked.

Shortly after dying in an unfortunate accident, Penny Doewood, still deep in denial, runs into Death. Death assumes she’s the temp he requested, and tasks her with taking over his job while he heads off on vacation. Flipping Death is silly and irreverent, and tricky – although the latter, perhaps for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t even play platformers, and I know that this one just doesn’t feel right. The controls aren’t great for Penny, and they get even more clunky when Penny is possessing someone. The upside is, the platforming parts aren’t hard at all, and there doesn’t seem to be any fail state.

I like games without fail states.

And in case you’re super extra clueless, the game gives you easy access to hints to progress all the way through the chapter.

I don’t know if I’ll finish this one (I’ve only finished the first chapter & I think there’s seven in total), but I’m going to poke at it some more. I’ll also likely keep abusing the hint system because right now, I just want to ogle some cool looking graphics and have a giggle or two.

Game Over: Ode

Click here if you want to check out my first impressions!

I realize how long it’s been since I first loaded this game up, and I can assure you that for most folks, this is probably a single-evening kind of game. I am not most folks.

If you don’t tend to wander around, the levels can be completed in a fairly linear manner in about 30 minutes. Each level adds a few new mechanics, pretty seamlessly, which is wonderful and I suppose would keep it from getting stale for some. I really just wanted to touch everything to see what it did – does it light up? does it make a sound? does it blow me halfway across the map?

Each level is gorgeous in its own way, but I think the last one – with its many colored spotlights – was probably my favorite. And although I’d really like to chalk it up to getting quicker to figure things out, the last one might have also been the easiest.

And then, just when I thought it was over:

There’s a super short collect-em-up bonus level – no puzzles, just grab all the orbs you can. And it’s Christmas-themed, right down to the music!

I think the most telling thing I can say about Ode is that, despite having completed it, I absolutely intend to buy it when my Uplay+ runs out. It’s something I can see myself replaying from time to time when I just want to kick back and relax, and for $5, the game is a steal.

Crying Suns – The Demo that Convinced Me

There are so many games released every day, there’s no way that any one person can keep up with all of them. I’m not surprised I hadn’t heard about Crying Suns before its release, but for the past two days, it’s been all over my Twitter feed (granted, mostly promotions from storefronts and not from players BUT STILL), so upon discovering it had a demo, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

While I understand that early levels of any (reasonable) game are going to take it easy on you so you can learn about the game, I found the combat mechanics simple enough, and the introductory battles seemed nearly un-loseable.

What I didn’t realize at first was how important it was to make note of your officer’s individual abilities. I grabbed two different classes, and didn’t even glance at their skills. Skills matter, and it looks like there’s lots of DNA blueprint unlockables along the way.

I had my doubts about a story-driven rogue-lite, and I’m not always into sci-fi stories, but man, I was into this. I loved the written dialogue with the unintelligible speaking noises. I loved the music. And I was sucked right into the story – I didn’t just have to save the world, but the WHOLE GALAXY.

One clever quirk – the game expects you to die (and therefore, need to restart) a lot. Crying Suns is a single autosave, permadeath game, so I was prepared to have to sit through tedious exposition time and time again. Other than the introductory sequence (which is absolutely skippable), the game lets you have as much – or as little – story as you like, even on your very first play through.

The expeditions section might be the least compelling part of the game, as the only decisions you can make are which crew to send out, as well as if you want to use a tactical retreat when the opportunity arises. Everything that happens during the expedition seems to be resolved by whether or not the crew present has the appropriate skill, but later expeditions might flesh out this aspect more.

There is some light resource management, but it seems that if you can make it to a shipyard, you can repair or restock anything, assuming you have the scrap to do so. This makes scavenging at least as important as maintaining your crew when going on expeditions.

I played for about 45 minutes, through the first itty bitty boss battle (which comes at the end of exploring a sector). I might go back and give it another whirl, applying what I learned the first trip through. I’m not sure I’m ready to drop $25 on it right now, but it was an instant add to my wishlist.

Important Note: I played the demo on easy, which suited my tastes just fine. If you’re the type that likes a challenge, I expect it’s available to you since there are two other difficulty methods you can pick from, but YMMV. Isn’t it great that there’s a demo?

A Clean Slate

After a bunch of frustration with my not-entirely-kosher Windows 7 install – culminating today in being unable to open a PDF file to pay my electric bill – I finally bit the bullet and found a repair utility that would allow me to update to an entirely kosher version of Windows 10.

Unlike the last couple of times I’ve had to deal with PC problems, for once, I didn’t lose all my files, but any programs that were installed? All gone.

Getting the functional stuff back online was easy – I keep installers for most of the things I use all the time in my downloads folder. Reinstalling my web browser (because, no Edge, no), Discord, Steam, and the other launchers I use took minutes.

Now, the game re-installation marathon has begun. I grabbed Ode and Aven Colony right off the bat – I have one more level to go in each, and I plan to finish those up over the next couple of days. But everything else is a clean slate – thousands of games at my fingertips, and with nothing installed, every one of them is just as likely to get played next as any other.

And since I was updating my OS anyway, I decide to opt in to the new Steam beta. Now, maybe it’s just me being resistant to change, but I don’t love it.

It’s not just that it feels slow and clunky (which it does), but it feels like it’s just not up to the job of dealing with as many games, and as many categories, as I have. It has also, somehow, resurrected from the dead any of those old free to play titles I have long since uninstalled and they had previously disappeared themselves from my libraries. Which would be fine, I suppose, but it has also resurrected categories that no longer worked for me, so I now need to recategorize to get rid of those categories, and …

Look, I like organization. I don’t like the process of getting organized.

Sure, I could opt back out for the time being, but that’s just stalling. I’ll need to figure out how to make it work for me – at least until GoG Galaxy 2.0 hooks a girl up with a beta key.

What I’m Playing Wednesday – Aven Colony

Ok, I know I said I was frustrated. I was. I took a day off, played some Ode, and went back to it fresh.

And then:

Sure, half the colony was unemployed, and crime was rampant, and we were running out of food, but I did it. I saved all 1000 colonists in time.

There’s just three scenarios left – I probably won’t play the sandbox mode (if I need to build more colonies on alien planets, I have other games for that). I find I rarely enjoy this type of game without very specific goals and win conditions (although an open ended colony builder like Rimworld really works for me).

Maybe when I finish this up, I’ll be ready to get back into something story driven. Yesterday, I cancelled all my active subscriptions (ESO+ and Utomik) until I see how much time & energy I’m going to have for gaming during Day Job’s busy season.

It’s not like there aren’t plenty of things in my Steam library I can play without paying for services I’m not using.

Quick Look – Ode

This is going to be brief – even for a Quick Look – because although I’m sure there are the right words for the experience of playing Ode, I’m not sure that I know what they are.

If you want a beautiful, relaxing experience, and you took advantage of the Uplay+ free month, take a few minutes and give this one a download. Make sure you have the right language selected (mine defaulted to German, and I was very confused for a few minutes), and put on your headphones.

There’s a little bit of light puzzling, low-key platforming, but mostly, you float around and touch things. There are orange orbs you can collect – and they are useful – but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of fail state. There are only four levels (and you can’t save mid-level), so make sure you have the time to relax and not need to rush it.

When Fun Turns to Frustration

I’ve kept poking at Aven Colony, and I’ve put in 13.5 hours now. I’ve managed to progress through the first five missions with minimal difficulty. However, mission six.

Mission six is making me crazy.

Now, I know I should just knock down the difficulty and progress through (and I might still do that), but on my most recent attempt, I was painfully close to completing the mission.

Two ships landing at my immigration centers (of which I had many), or one trip down on the space elevator would have kept me from failure. I missed by mere moments. And that’s somehow so much worse than the go where I didn’t get my food supply happening fast enough and everyone starved, or the ones where I ran out of building materials with no reasonable way to get more. Knowing I made a critical error feels so much easier to swallow than that I just wasn’t QUITE fast enough.

Bundle Key Clean Out – Part One

I decided to start my key clean out project on Fanatical – I have bought a LOT of bundles there over the last couple of years because the prices are fantastic, but I also knew there was quite a few duplicates.

Basically, my attitude towards bundles in general is that if the game or games I’m interested in are worth the price of the bundle to me, I don’t much care about the rest of it. Occasionally, there’s something that I think one of my friends would love, but mostly, if I don’t want it, or if I already have it, the key will just sit, unredeemed in perpetuity.

Yesterday, I learned that I don’t always even activate everything that interests me right away.

I ended up activating 31 keys to my own Steam account, and making up a four page GoogleDoc with a list of games I’d like to pass on to someone else who might play them. In a week or so, when I’ve showed the list around to the people I know, I’ll probably just toss the rest in a Reddit giveaway.

I still have three more sites I buy bundles from at least semi-regularly to clean out – IndieGala, Groupees, and of course, Humble Bundle. I expect Humble will give me the most decision-making trouble, as there have been a lot of really well-reviewed games in their monthlies that I’ve hesitated to activate because of how difficult they’re purported to be.

I don’t expect I’ll stop buying bundles anytime soon, but I’m leaning more and more towards purchasing individual games very rarely. I usually go to town on the major Steam sales, because holy endorphin-rush from getting a great deal, but between bundles, and giveaways, and the fantastic opportunities to play games via subscription services, even the quest for a bargain is starting to pale.

I would like to keep putting my game-buying dollars towards really great indie games, however. Now I just have to un-train myself to wait for a sale.

Dreamscaper – An Intriguing Demo

Bear with me while I meander a little, ok? When I wrote up my Dev Appreciation post about Soldak Entertainment, one of the games I booted up to play around with (and take screenshots of) was Din’s Curse.

Now, Steam wants to show me every single game that it thinks I might like based on playing Din’s Curse, and, well, I like browsing. One of the games I found from their recommendation was Dreamscaper, which hey, has a demo to play.

And thus was Dreamscaper added to my demo queue.

First the good: It’s a gorgeous game. Well, it’s a gorgeous game after the (very brief) tutorial section. I was seriously disappointed actually, because the screenshots were lovely, and the tutorial was … kind of awful in comparison.

This look doesn’t last long, I promise.
This is the style I’m so here for.

I was also relieved that playing didn’t feel anything like playing The Binding of Isaac (which I and like 2 other people in the known universe really didn’t care for), despite that being a sentence-one comparison in the game’s description. Although I only got to spend a little time with it (and it’s an early build at that), the combat felt satisfying, if a little bit button-mashy. Disappointingly the demo was very short, and it didn’t give any peek at all into the daytime game play, just the vanquishing of nightmare monsters.

Still, the art, the concept, and the little bit of game play I got to experience have catapulted Dreamscaper into my “Buy Early” category. But sadly, it’s not due out until March of next year (although you can still pre-purchase via Kickstarter), and it might be worth keeping an eye out if you’re looking for some really neat indies to play on your Switch.

Quick Look – Aven Colony

I’ve been itching for the next awesome city builder for awhile now, while at the same time, being stubborn about not wanting to learn a new city builder, which might explain why Aven Colony has been sitting in my library, untouched, since last October.

Sadly, at least for me, I don’t think Aven Colony is going to be the next great city builder.

To be fair, I’ve only given it about 90 minutes, which was enough to get through two SUPER basic tutorials and – I think – the first mission. I say that I think I got through it because there’s no big “You Did It” screen, but somewhere along the many many goals it threw at me, I managed to unlock the next scenario. Which implies to me that I beat it, but it was still tossing MORE objectives at me, so I’m really not sure.

And I think that – in a nutshell – is my issue with it. Give me a final goal, and let me figure out how to get there. There were a few curveballs, like, when out of seemingly nowhere, everyone started complaining about air quality, but I understand how these games work well enough that I frequently completed missions before they were even given to me. I know I need more food, more housing, more power. I now 100% understand what people mean when they complain about too much hand-holding, geez.

I’ll probably play another couple of scenarios, because it wasn’t completely un-fun, it just didn’t blow me away, and I assume the further I get into the game, the more challenge there will be in trying to manage all the systems. Aven Colony has some really neat ideas, but sadly, most of them are recycled from other games.

For the $10 I spent, I don’t feel like my gaming dollars were wasted, but I don’t expect I’ll put oodles of hours into it either. Maybe I just haven’t reached the point yet where everything clicks, and it feels amazing to get everything balanced just right. Maybe it’d be more enjoyable if I hadn’t been playing city builders since Caesar 3.