The darkness to every light, the shadow to every shine, the dusk to every dawn, the Luna to every Sol.
And vice versa.
I'm a Dutch law student who loves to game. I'm a Nintendo-fanboy at heart, but I don't feel that I'm blinded by that, at least not very often. I am also currently on the Cblog Recaps team for Thursdays, so if for some voyeuristic reason you want to know more about me, check out my weekly Shadeisms.
I'm obsessed with the Monolith Soft RPGs Xenoblade Chronicles and the Baten Kaitos series. I will not pass up the opportunity to mention them, ever, and I consider myself Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean's biggest fan. Finally, as is to be expected I'm super excited for the new WiiU "Xeno-" game!
The Wii is one of my favorite systems of all time, and my favorite games on this system include, but are most certainly not limited to;
Xenoblade Chronicles (see also: Baten Kaitos - Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean for GC)
Zelda: Twilight Princess / Skyward Sword
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Muramasa - The Demon Blade
Wario Land: Shake it!
and Metroid Prime Trilogy.
I love my WiiU as well, and even though there aren't that many games out for it right now, I'm having tons of fun with:
New Super Mario Bros. U
Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Apart from Nintendo, I'm a huge indie game enthousiast. Give me a game like Trine, VVVVVV, Sequence or Recettear, and you've made me a happy camper for sure. You can keep your shooters to yourself.
Favorite indie game round-up:
Trine (+ Trine 2)
Super Meat Boy
The Binding of Isaac
Dungeons of Dredmor
Mark of the Ninja
Cthulhu Saves the World
Recettear - An Item Shop's Tale
To The Moon
Orcs Must Die! 2
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
and many, many more!
Besides gaming itself, I like reading up on gaming-related news on my favorite website in the whole wide world: Destructoid. I love all the people here, and I'm glad that I get to be a part of this. Wouldn't know what to do without you!
Have you ever had a game that you thought was really, really bad? It frustrated you to no end: maybe the controls were bad, maybe the story sucked, or something else was wrong. Yet, you continued to play it and actually enjoyed it. You haven't? Well, I hadn't either, and that's exactly why Mr. Robot, the indie adventure/puzzle/RPG by Moonpod, confuses me so much. I...did not find it very good. I just didn't. I had several major problems with the game, that served to frustrate me incredibly, and yet...I went back to it every time and I completely finished it after a while. My final thoughts were something like: "Pretty interesting game, I liked it!", and it baffled me that I thought that.
So let me now gather my thoughts and try to figure out for everyone who cares just what the deal is with this game.
Meet our main character, Asimov
First of all, lets start by explaining how I actually got this game, as most people probably have never heard of it before. As you may know, a couple of weeks ago, Steam held a holiday sale. Several packs of indie games were available. I bought the so-called 'Adventure Pack' because it included Gish and And Yet it Moves (seriously, get AYIM, it's great). The other three games, including Mr. Robot, I considered 'bonus'. And that's how I started playing Mr. Robot, and it didn't take me long to find some serious flaws...
Most importantly, this game is hell to play using a keyboard. You are looking down on the game from above from an isometric perspective, so the 'camera' is located at an diagonal angle. This means that the character will never actually move the way you want him to. Push the Up-key, and your character will move up-and-left diagonally, push Left and he will move down-and-left. You are able to move your character in a straight horizontal or vertical line by pressing two keys, but this looks and feels very awkward and sometimes doesn't even work properly. Normally, this would just be an annoyance, but not a deal-breaker. However, Mr. Robot includes jumping puzzles and other platforming elements. Safe to say, the weird camera angle does not help in overcoming these obstacles and I died a great many times simply because of the controls. Maybe it is better with a gamepad, but I don't have one available, so I was stuck with this.
It is difficult to explain the situation in words, so maybe this in-game pic will clear it up a bit
Secondly, the characters and objects in this game have a really weird 'hitbox'. It's kind of like the old NES titles, were you could float in the air as long as one pixel of your character was still on a platform. The same works here. If the very edge of your character is still located on the very edge of a platform, you will not fall off and just float there. The game even requires this from the player at some points. Some gaps are just barely wide enough to jump across, but only if you wait until the very last moment, when your character is already 'floating'. This hitbox is also present when pushing blocks. If the very edge of your character touches the very edge of a block, you will (almost telekinetically) push it. This can get really annoying because the game contains so many block pushing puzzles. You can easily screw up the puzzles because the game interprets you as pushing a block when you actually meant to just walk past it. Combine that with the controls as described above and well...good times it's not.
My final complaint (that I will mention) is that the RPG battles can be pretty boring. You can hack computers and other robots in this game, which will shift the game into an RPG with turn-based battles. These battles take way longer than they need to because the enemies guard nearly every attack you send at them. It happened often that I wasted two turns and did no damage at all, because every attack was blocked. Luckily, your characters also block nearly everything, so there is not even any need to worry about death during these sections. If everyone would block less, these battles would go much faster and be far less boring.
Okay, so let us talk happy now
Looking at the above paragraphs, I really should hate this game. It has several fundamental shortcomings that really frustrated me more than once. And yet, I can't hate it, I just can't. In fact, I can safely say that I liked it.
The story, setting and atmosphere is what saved it above everything else.
First of all, this game is simply a love letter to everything Science Fiction. In the first five minutes of the game, I saw at least five references to other important works and series, and I'm not even the biggest sci-fi geek around. As I mentioned, the main character himself is called Asimov. The main computer aboard the spaceship where the story takes place is called the HEL-9000, and the avatar HEL uses when communicating with the other characters looks really similar to the Autobot logo. (see HEL below)
But most interesting of all: There is a character called Zelda. At first glance that seems like a strange reference in a sci-fi game, until you realize, and this blew my mind when I remembered, that a robot called 'Adam Link' was the main character in the short story I, Robot by Eando Binder, and indeed Mr. Robot borrows some themes from that.
HEL's avatar, mocking you, on the left
Besides all of these references, which alone already make sure I can't in good conscience hate this game, the setting and story just work. The story takes place on a spaceship, where the humans are all in a state of hibernation, leaving the robots to run the ship until they arrive at the planet Prime (hello, reference #5). One robot takes over the ship and threatens to kill all the humans, so it is up to Asimov to stop him. You then puzzle and hack your way trough to game to stop the evil robot. It's a simple story, but it works. It even has some interesting plottwist at several points, which is not something I expected out of it, but greatly appreciated. The credits are another thing I will mention. I won't spoil it, but Mr. Robot contains one of the most clever credits scenes I have ever seen in a game.
However, throughout the story the robots become increasingly 'human' and this, right here, is exactly what changed my mind about this game once and for all. The game completely nails that theme.
The more human the robots become throughout their hardships, the more you start caring about them as characters. Asimov and Zelda in particular are really interesting to watch and follow, as they figure out who or what they are and what they want to be. The term 'permanent deletion' started to sound much more sinister, even moreso than 'death' does in other games. Not only do the personalities of the characters develop over time, during the game they actually completely gain a personality they never had. This is what made me come back to this game time and time again, even though I realized I would again get frustrated by the controls at some point. My anger and frustration just wasn't as strong as my interest in these characters, the story, and the other clever stuff the game has going for it. It's really a bad game from the gameplay side of things, I can't deny that, but I still can't help liking it. It's simply too interesting not to.
I hope I have been able to explain my own confusion and feelings on this game. One thing I do know is that I understand it better myself after writing this. So if you want to remember what it's like to actually care about the characters in an RPG, find yourself on a ship populated by robots and try your hand at some interesting block-puzzles in the meantime, try Mr. Robot, but prepare to be frustrated often as well.
In the end, I just found myself caring about all of these robots, even the unnamed ones in the background, much more than I usually care about the humans in other recent games.
And I think that, above all, is what the game was going for. If so, to Moonpod itself, but also to Asimov, Zelda and the others: DIRECTIVE COMPLETE: INITIATING PRAISE.
Remember back when the first trailer for Resident Evil 5 was released? All of a sudden the 'unwashed masses' started to cry about the racism in that game, because it was about a white man shooting black men. That was stupid wasn't it? After all, the game took place in Africa, and there are in fact black people over there (or so I've been told). It made sense within the premise of the game, so those cries of racism were obviously completely unfounded.
(this blog will contain spoilers for Metroid: Other M from here, although probably none you haven't read about already anyway)
And then came Metroid: Other M. If you haven't played this game, you probably only know one thing about it: this game set Samus and feminism back a couple of decades, and it completely destroyed all independence and strength Samus ever had. Mostly because Samus (who, spoilers, is a woman) takes orders from Adam, a man.
That reasoning was completely lost on me, as I will explain in detail in this blog. Let me first say that I liked Other M, although not nearly as much as the Primes. This game certainly had its flaws, some of them storywise, and I will quickly discuss those as well. I can understand that some might not like this game, for personal and completely legitimate reasons, and they are very much allowed to dislike it. What I will fight however, are those who blindly cry sexism, because I think that is unfounded and frankly...somewhat sexist. They are the ones who made 2010 suck to me. So grab a lighter and some gasoline, lit all those flames and have at me back in the comments!
See? Even Samus disliked those people
Why is it that Samus taking orders from a man is such a big issue to some? Aren't women allowed to do that?
One thing I can say for sure: I did not find it unreasonable within the premise of the game. My main argument for that is that Samus has no authority to be a part of the particular mission at the Bottleship at all. Based on one part SOS and one part intuition, she decided to go and check out what was wrong. Once there, she found that not only was the Bottleship a Galactic Federation (the interplanetary government) ship, there was already a Galactic Federation mission present. As such, as an independent party she has no basis to be there, despite her skills. Would you let Jackie Chan join a police raid just like that? No, you wouldn't.
Adam (the commander of the GF mission) had every right to send her away, lest she get into major trouble with the government. He goes on to request her help, but requires her to follow his orders, as he is still the commander of the mission.
And there we have it, Samus is now following the orders of a man...and I fail to see the issue. What troubles me is that some people immediately cried sexism at the thought of a man ordering a woman around. It's not degrading her in any way, she's not required to do a sexy dance for the amusement of the men, she just has to follow orders. Isn't this common in the military, or even the workplace on a smaller scale? Some people outrank other people and are therefore allowed to give orders. Sex and gender has no influence on any of that. If the roles were reversed, the situation would still be exactly the same. The fact that Samus has personal respect for this particular superior (as expanded upon in the backstory) only makes it more logical that she would follow his orders for this particular mission.
Yeah, I wouldn't like them saying such things behind my back either
The second major degrading thing of Samus is her fear of Ridley.
Apparently, Samus is not allowed to fear a giant space dragon who killed her parents right in front of her when she was little. To me though, this fear also made perfect sense within the premise of the game.
Yes, it's true that she fought and beat him before several times, but still. The first couple of times, she killed Ridley, and that was it. He was then rebuild with machine parts, and she killed him again. In Super Metroid however, the previous mission in the timeline, not only did she kill him and saw him explode...she literally blew up the planet that his remains were on. If there was ever a time when Ridley simply could not still be alive, it was then. Yet, on the Bottleship, where Ridley has to Samus' knowledge no reason to be even if he was still alive, there he is out of nowhere. Is it really so strange for her to be in shock at that moment? Really?
And finally, what many seem to forget is that after the initial shock...she proceeds to kick his ass so much that the giant space dragon flees in terror.
This is more or less what she had in store for him
There are things against this game and its story. The authorization of suit upgrades made sense for the weapons that could be dangerous to other members of the team, but there was no good reason to hold out on the defensive ones. This is a bit of gameplay and story mixing...not too well, I can fully admit that. The first person pixel hunts made the game come to a screeching halt and the game had some other issues as well.
However, calling the game sexist and degrading of Samus seems unfair to me. Apparently there are some people who like to think that a woman taking orders in any setting whatsoever to be degrading of her and decreases her independence. Samus showing any sort of fear is somehow beneath her. As a strong, independent woman, she is not allowed to fear anything, since that will make her more vulnerable and therefore more 'stereotypically female'. In my opinion however, confronting such fears head-on seems exactly what a strong woman (or man, for that matter) would do. Taking part in an important mission solely to protect others, even while taking orders from a respected superior, is exactly what a strong woman would do. A woman having some emotional baggage and trying to deal with it is not disrespectful, and neither is her looking up to someone.
No, Samus running away at the first sight of danger, crying on the shoulder of the first man in sight, and then taking her gunship as far as it would go, that would've been sexist.
I am not attacking everyone who considers Other M bad, or even everyone who considers the game sexist in some way. You might have perfectly good reasons for that, and that's okay, although I will strongly disagree with you.
But to everyone who cried sexism in Metroid: Other M for such simple reasons as Samus following orders or having fears: you sucked in 2010.
What do Okami, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Limbo have in common?
I just mentioned all three of them. But more importantly, all of them feature incredible, creative and unique art styles. Okami has its wash painting, Kirby has its cloth and Limbo does noir like nothing else. These are just a few examples of games that stand out because of their distinctive styles and I could think of (and will mention) many more.
Why do I mention this during the Happy Holidays? Because it makes me happy every time and I absolutely love it.
For many people nowadays, it seems that a good-looking game means a game with the best and most realistic graphics. As such, games like Crysis are considered the best looking games ever.
And yes, they can and do look good, but really? After bracing for the ensuing flamewar, I will gladly state that I’ll take the visuals of Muramasa: The Demon Blade (pictured above) over Crysis any day.
This love of unique or interesting art styles is strong enough to make me play games in genres I don’t usually like. For example, I’m not a fan of First Person Shooters. Don’t ask me why, I just don’t enjoy them very much. However, there are exceptions to this rule, because there are shooters I like: two of those would be XIII and Borderlands. XIII did everything it could to look like a playable comic book and Borderlands tried to become interesting by completely changing its art style to a cel-shaded look during development…with both of these, it worked like a charm.
“So then”, I know you’re asking, because I can read your mind, “what happens when it’s a game in a genre you do like?” Then I’m pretty much ready to declare ‘best.game.EVAR.’
I like platformers, point-and-click adventures and action-adventures, just to name a few. I will mention some of my favorites, which stand out simply because they constantly bombarded me with “Wow” and never fail to put a smile on my face. Some of my favorites in these genres, and by extension favorite games overall, include respectively; Wario Land: Shake it!, which had a great hand-drawn cartoon style, Machinarium with its futuristic sketchwork (see above), and Okami, which you should know by now, but here’s a picture anyway:
Does that mean realistic games can’t be good? Of course not, gameplay makes all the difference. In the same way, not every game with a unique style is automatically good. But could a cool style make a particular game seem much more interesting to me? Absolutely. (So if you know such a game that I don’t, be sure to mention it in the comments!)
Now comes the hard part, I have to explain why this stuff makes me so happy and why I love it so much. Unfortunately, I can’t just post dozens of screenshots and say “That’s why, this stuff is bloody gorgeous”. Not only because Destructoid won’t appreciate that, but also because screenshots just don’t do these games justice. In fact, I would argue that not even videos can do these games justice.
After all, in my experience the absolute best part of such art styles is being able to explore the worlds they bring to life for yourself.
Okami is the best example in this case: there is nothing like standing on a hilltop, turning the camera around, taking in the entire area at once and then running trough it to the other side. It makes the beauty come to life much better and therefore much more impressively than any screen or video ever could.
But what really grabs me with these games is that they’re able to show me stuff I’ve never experienced before and will never experience except in the game.
To elaborate: you know what it is with realistic graphics? 1) They are not and will not be perfect
and 2) I’ve seen it before.
Yes, it is very impressive that you can render a tree which looks so much like the real thing, but I’ve seen realistic trees before…outside. And yes, human faces are hard to recreate and it’s highly impressive that you managed to render a realistic face…but I’ve seen those before as well.
What I haven’t seen before is Chinatown in a style a la Sin City. What I’ve never done before is run through a forest which looks like it could’ve come straight from a painting.
So you see, not just the fantastical, but even the ‘mundane’ can become a great, “wow”-inducing and even adventurous experience in a way that realistic styles just can’t match.
If that’s not a joyful gaming experience, I don’t know what is.