Time to, like, take it easy, dude

In less than a week, this site will be 4 years and 7 months old. That means a few things. First, it means that my “about” section is incredibly outdated. More relevantly to the topic at hand, it means that I’ve put out 280 reviews (of wildly varying quality!) in that time. That’s 4-5 reviews a month for close to a half-decade. Basically, I need a break. This is more of a hobby than anything, but trying to adhere to a self-imposed goal of that many reviews a month has made it feel more like work than play over time. Besides, I’ve started working on a game of my own. That’s right, terrible developers of the world! Once it’s done, you’ll be able to judge my terrible mechanics and writing! Except you, Lifeline developers. After unleashing that abortion upon the world, you never get to judge anything or anyone ever again. Oh, and same with Ragnar Tornquist. Dreamfall Chapters was like getting punched in the face with a book of bad fan fiction and having to actually pay money for it.

Anyway, the point is that I’m reducing the number of reviews I put out while I’m working on my game because I don’t have enough time to do both. Hard to say how many reviews I’ll end up sticking to, but 1-2 a month sounds reasonable. Maybe more once all the programming stuff is over (I can barely understand how this site works, much less the demonic matryoshka doll that is nested parentheses with math stuff in them) and all that’s left is working on the art and music.

Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Review

First and foremost: screw the people behind this game for making tagging this game so hard. I always tag by half-decade (mostly because it’s entertaining to look back and see how games advance—or don’t—over those 5 years) and wanted to reflect the original releases of Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara, but Tower released in 1993 and Shadow came out in 1996. Adding the modern incarnation’s 2013 release date on top of that, I’d have had 3 different tags for when this thing came out. Messy, messy. As for the game itself, it’s one of the most enjoyable, infuriating games I’ve played in a long time. As per the title, it’s based on Dungeons & Dragons, but it does nothing to ease you into all the little details you need to know. For example, there’s no obvious way of knowing that the final boss in Tower is completely immune to most spells because it’s a lich, making the final boss fight a huge pain when playing as the magic-using elf or cleric. That’s just one of dozens of things about D&D and the game in general that I had to figure out using a combination of trial and error and the internet, but despite how soul-crushingly unfriendly the game manages to be, you eventually start to piece things together. Once you’ve begun to pick up on its oddities, Chronicles of Mystara becomes an incredibly fun and deep beat-em-up. Read more →

Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Screenshots

Side-scrolling beat-em-ups aren’t exactly my forte, nor do I have a wealth of knowledge about D&D (in fact, outside of what I picked up through the Baldur’s Gate games, I don’t know a single thing about it). That proved to be a bit of a handicap when playing through a game that stays loyal to its little eccentricities. “Why doesn’t magic work against this guy?” Because they’re apparently immune, and you’re just supposed to know that. That’s hardly the only thing this game leaves you to figure out on your own, either. Character-exclusive paths? Only know about them because I stumbled on a few myself and then looked them up. Sliding to quickly pick up dropped loot (basically necessary since you rarely have enough time after finishing off a boss to pick everything up normally)? Only know about it because I watched someone good at this game play through it. The so-called “ultimate spell” only existing in multiplayer despite hinting at it when playing solo and never making it sound like others are necessary to use it? Had to look it up, and I’m still irritated by that. For all of its annoying little problems, however, Chronicles of Mystara is a surprising amount of fun, even for a newcomer. Read more →

Call of Juarez Gunslinger Review

Something like a week and a half ago, I picked up GameMaker Studio in a bundle. I only bring this up because I also started playing Call of Juarez Gunslinger around the same time. Take a guess which one had most of my attention this past week? There’s a very real reason this 5-ish hour game has taken me over a week to finish, and it has a lot to do with how thoroughly unengaging it is. Let’s run through just a few of the seemingly endless reasons behind that, shall we? Its writing is amateurish and the big twist is blindingly obvious less than halfway through the game, for one. Its gameplay is also awkward and full of invisible walls, with enemies running around unpredictably, seemingly free from the tyranny of physics much like enemies in the original Red Faction (but this game came out 12 years later and has no excuses). Then there are the insta-deaths. Fell into ankle-high water? Death! Bumped a wall while walking along the outside of a train? Death as the physics bounce you off the train! That’s not even mentioning the constant QTEs, or the fact that the game is so coated in high-contrast textures and a sharpening filter that can’t be turned off that actually seeing enemies—the most basic element of a shooter and one I’d never seen someone screw up before this point—is such a hassle that it becomes half the battle. Or how about the end-game section where you’re surrounded by enemies who randomly spawn in around you and shoot you in the back? Yeah. I’ve played a lot of games, and this is among the worst of them. Read more →

Fatal Labyrinth Review

Right off the bat, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have little to no experience with roguelikes. Fatal Labyrinth is basically an RPG crammed into a roguelike, so it’s entirely possible that someone who lives and breathes such games could find something to love here. As for me, I found it impressive just how quickly the game’s annoying luck-based gimmicks made playing feel like a chore. It’s a simple game, and I can definitely appreciate that, but there’s no payoff here. You struggle up 30 floors of annoying trap doors and identical items to finally reach the boss on the 31st, and then random stuff happens and the game ends. The story is practically nonexistent despite the very beginning and end of the game trying to capture some kind of epic fantasy vibe that ends up being little more than random gibberish. The gameplay is arguably even worse. I don’t know what I was expecting from a 1991 game in a genre I’m unfamiliar with, but this was definitely not an enjoyable game to play. But hey, it has floor sharks, so I guess that’s one thing in its favor. Read more →

Fatal Labyrinth Screenshots

It’s been a rough month where I’ve had a lot of trouble finding games that actually appeal to me. Ordinarily, I’d use the occasion to replay something I enjoyed in the past and haven’t yet reviewed, but something about Fatal Labyrinth pulled me in. It’s a weird little RPG/roguelike for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive with randomly-created levels, and the goal is basically to get to level 31 of the tower and kill the dragon there. It’s also a fan of using cheap tricks to artificially extend your play time. Trap doors? Check. Sleeping spells that allow enemies to mob you? Check. An enemy spell that randomizes your directional buttons each movement, sending you helplessly in circles until the spell effect wears off? Check. It’s dumb. Games that screw the player over randomly like this are dumb and should be hated. Read more →

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