My name's Ben. I'm pretty quiet but really easy to get along with. I've been playing video games since I was a little kid, watching my brother play the NES and sometimes playing with him. The first game I ever beat was Super Mario RPG, and that's when I developed a love for video games.
Games that I thoroughly enjoy:
Shadow of the Colossus
EarthBound and Mother 3
Demon's Souls and Dark Souls
Persona 3 and 4
Mega Man Legends
Super Meat Boy
Super Mario RPG
Team Fortress 2
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Beyond Good & Evil
Dragon Quest VIII
Final Fantasy IV, VI, VII and IX
Mega Man 2
Other things that I thoroughly enjoy:
Studio Ghibli films
Eels (the band... and the animal I guess)
Michael Crichton books
Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns
Krazy Kat comics
With the PlayStation 4 on the horizon, Sony's consoles are on everyone's minds lately. The recent Twitter hashtag, #playstationmemories, got me thinking about my own time spent with the consoles. I've owned PlayStations 1 through 3, so a fair amount of my gaming time has been spent on Sony consoles. Each console has affected my taste in games in various ways, but the original PlayStation has probably been the most influential to me, since it was one of the main consoles I used growing up. The following games are the ones that I have the fondest memories of, the games which may have helped shape what kinds of games I like to play today. For reference, I was about 7 when the PlayStation was released, so these games were probably played between the ages of 7 and 12.
Spyro the Dragon
The original Spyro was by far my favorite video game growing up. The 10-year-old me thought it was just so cool to play as a dragon. I remember I rented the game first and thought it was the best thing ever, but the rental version was scratched and it would freeze whenever you got into the hot air balloon to travel to the second world. Then I got it for Christmas later that year, and was so freaking excited that I would finally be able to see the rest of the game! It really was a beautiful game for its time. Everything in the game was rendered in 3D, and the worlds were so colorful and magical. Even the music was unique. I liked Spyro so much at the time, that it even influenced my very first screen name when my family finally got AOL. I chose the name Spyro06 (not sure where the 06 came from... it was probably just a random number that I had to choose because Spyro was taken). I played the sequel, Ripto's Rage, when it came out later, but wasn't as enthralled by it. My interest in Spyro has since diminished, and the first game remains the only one that I really enjoyed.
Tomb Raider might have been the very first PlayStation game I ever played. I remember my brother's friend had a PlayStation before us, and that was the first time I'd even heard of the console before. He brought it over to our house one day to show us Tomb Raider. It's possible that this was the first 3D video game I'd ever seen. Obviously, I was blown away by the experience. Being able to fully navigate 3D environments in a video game was crazy to me at the time. Even the game's visuals, which have aged quite horribly, were absolutely beautiful to me back then. I became completely immersed in the intricate caverns and ruins. I remember literally falling out of my chair the first time I encountered the T-rex, and shrieking and mashing the swim button the first time I encountered a crocodile underwater. I also remember my mom watching me play one day, and making some remark about how I was playing as a sexy girl, and how she thought she knew now why I had been playing Tomb Raider so much lately. I think she might have missed the mark a bit there...
When my parents finally bought me my own PlayStation, the first game they got for it was Rayman, instead of Tomb Raider like I had asked for. I was fairly disappointed at first. The character on the cover looked so bizarre. Why doesn't he have limbs? And what's with his hair? When I started playing the game, I realized that it wasn't 3D like Tomb Raider had been, and I was even more disappointed. It wasn't what I wanted at all! But since it was the only PlayStation game I had for the time being, I kept playing it anyway. Eventually I came to the realization that, my god, this game was incredibly fun! The characters and the worlds were so imaginative and colorful. Even though it was 2D, it was by far the most beautiful 2D game I'd ever seen. It was also extremely challenging! I wasn't even able to get past Band Land, the second world, without my brother's help. Also, I had way too much fun pressing the one button which made Rayman make a weird face and stick his tongue out. It didn't really do anything, except occasionally surprise an enemy into running away, but it always made me laugh. In retrospect, I'm really glad my parents decided to go with Rayman as my first PlayStation game!
Metal Gear Solid
My brother decided to rent Metal Gear Solid one day, a game which didn't look too interesting to me, but I tried playing it anyway. I was absolutely terrible at it. I don't think I could even figure out how to get through the first room and make it onto the elevator. My brother was good at it though, so instead of playing it myself, I opted to just watch him play it. It was a good thing, then, that Metal Gear Solid was just as entertaining to watch as it was to play. I became captivated by the serious story and the characters, even though I didn't really understand what all was going on. I remember the Cyborg Ninja scared the shit out of me, and I freaked out when Sniper Wolf shot Meryl. And the fight against Psycho Mantis blew my mind! For some reason I couldn't comprehend the moving controller and the Hideo blackout screen, it seemed like the game had a mind of its own. I guess I was kind of a dumb kid. I watched my brother play the game all the way to the end, and it was amazing. I didn't actually play the game myself until several years later, and the experience was just as amazing then!
Bushido Blade was another game that my brother decided to rent, which I probably would have never played otherwise. I'm actually not even sure why I liked it so much as a kid, since it's really nothing like the types of games I liked to play. In case you haven't played it, Bushido Blade is a samurai-style fighting game with no health bars. You fight until someone is mortally injured, which could happen after a single well-aimed strike. If your limbs sustain serious injuries, your character will be crippled, forcing them to limp or crawl around the arena. Even today, I still think the mechanics of this game are brilliant, and lead into some very tense, almost realistic duels. I'm kind of surprised my younger self appreciated it so much, but I played it a ton with my brother and friends, where we'd fight and run around the map trying to discover all of the various areas you could fight in. I even bought it as a birthday present for one of my friends, but I don't think he appreciated it quite as much as I did...
Mega Man Legends
I had been a pretty big fan of the Mega Man games on the NES and SNES, so when I saw there was a 3D Mega Man game for the PlayStation, of course I had to try it out. What I found in Mega Man Legends was unlike any other Mega Man game I'd ever played, but it was very special in its own way. The game was humorous, and at times pretty dark, and there were so many little details that brought life to the island of Kattelox. If you got in the way of a vehicle, it would knock you off the road. If you kicked a vending machine, you might get a free drink. If you helped the Servbots with their money problems in some sidequests, they'd eventually open up a hamburger shop in town. I felt like I was constantly discovering new things to do or find in this game. Not to mention, the Bonne family and their Servbots are some of my favorite video game characters ever! Tron, Teisel and Bon are the kind of villains you feel sorry for, and wish you could help out. The romantic tension between Tron and Mega Man always made me smile. And of course, the Servbots are just about the most adorable little minions you'll ever encounter! Mega Man Legends is still one of my favorite games to this day, and it still makes me sad that it's not considered profitable enough to release any more sequels for it. At least I'll always have the first two games and Tron's spin-off to cherish.
I rented Tomba on a whim one day, most likely because of the colorfully exciting cover art that couldn't be ignored on the shelf. I was not disappointed! Tomba encapsulates the kind of super happy, whimsical attitude of video games that I still enjoy to this day. There was just something about jumping around as a wild pink-haired boy, tackling pigs and birds and other enemies into submission that made me laugh with childlike joy. It reminds me of the same kind of feeling I get playing games like Katamari Damacy or Rhythm Heaven Fever, some of my favorite games of all time. Tomba also had a unique quest system built into the platformer genre, and an interesting, though admittedly confusing, mechanic where you could jump between foreground and background. That mechanic caused me to get stuck in the game as a kid, because I never realized that you could enter doorways that looked like they were part of the background. I had to return the game without ever having beaten it, which I was upset about. I eventually picked it up again a few years ago after a bout of nostalgia, and was finally able to beat it. I'm glad I got around to doing that, because it was a lovely game the entire way through.
I'm pretty sure I never rented or owned Ape Escape (until recently). I must have played it at a friend's house or something, but I certainly remember being very intrigued by the game. A game centered around capturing rogue monkeys was such a bizarre idea, but it worked. Those damn monkeys were so quick and crafty, you had to be very skilled and persistent to capture some of them! It helped that the world of the game was so charming and fun to explore. I had way too much fun running around with the dinosaurs and swimming around with the huge fish in the jungle levels. The game also appealed to the collector side of me, as I wanted to catch every last monkey and read about them in the info menu! Unfortunately, I don't think I ever managed to do so...
Crash Team Racing
I did play the Crash Bandicoot games when I was a kid (well, at least the first one), but for some reason I enjoyed the racing game way more than the main games. Maybe it was because I was really bad at Mario Kart 64, but relatively good at Crash Team Racing. So while my friends would destroy me in Mario Kart, I could turn around and wreck them in Crash Team Racing! I always played as either Pura, the cute little tiger cub, or Polar, the cute polar bear (I like cute things... shut up). I still remember almost all of the tracks, with the Hot Air Skyway standing out the most in my mind. It was like the equivalent of Rainbow Road. When we'd get tired of racing, the battle arenas were just as much fun. I think it definitely stood its own as one of the better mascot-themed racing games.
Twisted Metal 2
Twisted Metal was another one of my brother's rental choices. I think he rented the first game and then ended up buying the second game. It took me a while to warm up to Twisted Metal, but eventually it became one of my favorite multiplayer games to play with my friends. It was pretty violent, but since it was mainly violence against vehicles, it didn't seem so bad in my mind. I remember my brother and I took turns attempting to beat the game with every character to try to see their endings, which were all pretty horrific yet humorous at the same time. When we encountered Dark Tooth for the first time, we both freaked out and panicked trying to defeat him. My favorite vehicle to play as was always Thumper, because it looked really sleek and its special fire attack seemed to be very effective. I also had way too much fun destroying all of the various landmarks found throughout the game. You could destroy the Eiffel Tower and use it as a bridge, blast your way into a museum and shoot up the Mona Lisa, or blast the dress off of the Statue of Liberty, revealing an unflattering bikini! I'm not too crazy about the Twisted Metal series these days, but I sure played the hell out of it when I was younger!
Final Fantasy IX and VII
Final Fantasy IX was one of the last PlayStation games I played before moving on to the PS2. I'm not sure why I didn't check out VII or VIII before it, because we already owned IV for the SNES and I loved that game. For some reason, though, none of the other Final Fantasy games really caught my attention until I was looking at the cover for IX while trying to decide what game to rent next. I distinctly remember seeing Vivi on the cover and thinking I really liked his design, and since I'd already played a Final Fantasy game before, I decided to see what had become of the series. I never expected to become so goddamn obsessed with that game! I couldn't put it down until I'd beaten it, and after I beat it I kept playing to try and discover all of the endgame stuff, searching for every item and secret that I could possibly find, locating and defeating Ozma, etc. I put a ridiculous number of hours into that game, and after I'd finished it, I started up a new file and played it all again! I was hooked. After finally losing steam with IX, I discovered that my cousin was in possession of VII, only his mom wouldn't let him play it because the huge sword on the cover looked too violent. So they let me borrow it, and I soon became just as obsessed with VII as I had been with IX! I'm not sure which game I spent more time with, but I'm sure I spent a disgusting number of hours between the two of them. Surprisingly though, I never felt inclined to play VIII or anything released after IX. I'm not exactly sure why, maybe the character designs just weren't doing it for me. Regardless, VII and IX remain two of my favorite video games ever.
I played a lot more PlayStation games than just the ones listed here, but these were the games that meant the most to me. What were some of your favorite PS1 games growing up?
2012 was a pretty great year for gaming, if I may so so. I didn't get around to playing everything I wanted, but the games I did play this year were all fantastic! I hope 2013 can keep up this trend of being awesome! I considered waiting and including this in my recaps later tonight, but I really want to start using my actual blog more often, so why the hell not? Also, like Corduroy Turtle, my choices are listed in alphabetical order, because it's just easier that way. Here we go!
I don't play shooters very often, but when I do, they had better have a sense of humor about them or I'll lose interest fast. This is why Borderlands appeals to me so much. With its hilarious dialog, crazy characters and cartoon-y graphics, it never takes itself too seriously. Borderlands 2 also introduced some of my favorite video game characters of the year, like Ellie, Hammerlock and Tiny Tina. Great writing, crazy guns, beautiful environments, lots to do... there's really nothing bad I can say about it. Also, I think Claptrap is, and always has been, hilarious... screw the haters!
Dragon's Dogma was my risk purchase this year, since it was a new IP and I wasn't initially too sure about it, but I'm really glad I picked it up! Though it has its flaws, there are still many things that the game does wonderfully well. The character creator is very specific, you can make your characters look like pretty much anyone you could want. The pawn system was also really interesting, using other players' pawns and creating a team, and I thought it turned out quite well. The main draw of Dragon's Dogma, though, is the combat! Climbing atop giant chimeras to stab them in the back, shooting volleys of flaming arrows at angry griffins, shouting orders for your pawns to help you out... if there's one reason you should check out this game, it's definitely for the combat!
I'm not gonna lie... Journey definitely got me all emotional. The beautiful architecture and desert landscapes, the wonderful soundtrack, and the unique multiplayer component all came together to make this game one-of-a-kind. I grew attached to some of my fellow adventurers, and I had a lot of fun figuring out ways to communicate with them. The multiplayer was very powerful, and perfect for getting players to become emotionally invested in the game. I'm trying really hard not to use the word "experience" here, so let's just move on...
I honestly would never have expected to see a Knytt game on consoles, since the earlier games in the series are all freeware PC games. The announcement of Knytt Underground on PS3 was very intriguing to me, and since I loved the Knytt games I'd played before, I decided to pick it up. I'm definitely glad I did! This game is serene, beautiful, and freaking huge! I've been playing it a lot over the past two weeks, and only uncovered about half of the map. There are also plenty of secret areas to search for, quests to do and items to find, so there is more than enough content to justify the price!
KRUNCH was just recently released in December. I first heard about this game sometime in 2011, I believe, and had heard literally nothing else about it until last month when it was about to release. The wait was worth it! This is one of those games for masochistic players, such as those that enjoyed Super Meat Boy or VVVVVV, because you will be dying, A LOT, but you get to restart levels immediately. It's a super intense game because you're constantly losing health, and walls are constantly closing in on you, and traps and monsters are constantly surrounding you. It's like the definition of claustrophobia in video game form, and it's wonderful!
Papo & Yo
This one is included in my list more for the story than the gameplay. If more video games focused on such excellent storytelling techniques as demonstrated in Papo & Yo, I feel like the medium might begin to gain more recognition as a legitimate form of entertainment and/or art. Of course, it would definitely be preferable if they also focused just as much attention on engaging gameplay, but for now I'll take what I can get. This game tugged at my heartstrings, and the ending was particularly powerful. I won't be forgetting it anytime soon!
Persona 4 Arena
I finally found a fighting game that I can really get into! Of course, it helps that the game centers around some of my absolute favorite video game characters of the past decade. I'd have been excited about any genre of game featuring the cast of Persona 4! I'm still not particularly great at said fighting game, but I've won a decent amount of online matches, so that's a start (even though I've lost a great deal more). If you ever end up in a fight against me, prepare to face my (adequate) Teddie skills! Bear-y poisonous!
Rhythm Heaven Fever
Although this list is in alphabetical order to avoid spending too much time worrying about which games I liked more than the others, I will say this: Rhythm Heaven Fever was definitely my Game of the Year! I just recently got into rhythm-based games (I believe it all started with Bit.Trip Runner), so I was immediately interested in this game mainly because I wanted to explore the genre further. Upon playing it, I found so many different things to love about it. It mixed together a bunch of my favorite things; the adorable quirkiness of games like Katamari Damacy, the mini-game format of games like WarioWare, and the challenging rhythm-based gameplay of something like Bit.Trip. I enjoyed my time with this game immensely, created some wonderful memories playing with my friends, and will definitely be returning to play it again often in the future!
I played the original freeware PC version of this game years ago and was very addicted to it. Now my addiction seems to have increased tenfold with this new HD release with tons of new content! I'm constantly yearning to play more of it, and I still haven't even made it past the Ice Caves yet. The addition of multiplayer was another pleasant surprise, and it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun! It's chaotic and hilarious, and you'll die way too many times, but I never seem to get tired of it.
I'm usually happy with any game where you get to play as an animal. In Tokyo Jungle, you can play as about 50 different kinds of animals! No more needed to be said, I had to have this game. And I was not disappointed! This survival game has its flaws, but it more than makes up for them with charm and personality. There is no other game out there where you can play as an adorable Pomeranian and hunt other animals to your heart's content. I can also play as porcupines, ostriches, cheetahs and freaking raptors?! I've been waiting for a game like this for so long!
This year was the first time PK493 and I got to go to PAX! Unfortunately, only PK's avatar could make it this year, but he had a lot of fun at the convention nonetheless! My own PAX adventure will come in a later post, but for now let's take a look at some of the things PK493 saw at PAX!
We arrived in Seattle together on Thursday, and were picked up by knutaf and taken to a post-flight lunch at a Pho restaurant with some other Dtoiders, including Mr. Andy Dixon, SuperMonk4Ever, Jon Bloodspray and Colton Phillips (an honorary Dtoider). Here's PK enjoying some tasty Pho!
On Day 1 of the convention, we headed straight for the Destructoid panel in the Unicorn Theatre. PK got to chat with Mr. Destructoid while we waited in line!
After the panel, we headed onto the exhibition floor and made a beeline for the Indie Megabooth (obviously!). We played a bunch of neat indie games together. Upon finishing the demo of Antichamber, we turned around to find that Jordan Devore and Conrad Zimmerman had been right behind us watching the screen!
As we headed home from Day 1 of the convention, we ran into Mr. Andy Dixon again, who was excited to see us!
During the next two days of the convention, PK tried to see as much stuff as he could before it was all over. He got to see the totally awesome Borderlands 2 statue!
He got to ride a sweet-looking LocoCycle bike, an upcoming game from Twisted Pixel!
He got to hang out with the Castle Crashers!
He found a really creepy and really awesome Creeper statue at the Mojang Museum!
And last, but not least, he ran into Papa Burch from Hey Ash Whatcha Playin' on the show floor! Papa Burch was very nice and agreed to pose for a picture!
Afterwards, we headed home from the convention and caught our flight back home to Columbus. We had a ton of fun together during our first PAX, hanging out with our awesome Dtoid friends and seeing all the cool games and things at the convention! Can't wait to come back next year and do it all over again!
Today, while updating the archives for the Cblog Recaps, I came across this post from a few years ago. I wasn't really around Destructoid when these "10 things you didn't know about me" blogs were a thing, but I thought it might be fun to try and bring it back and give the newer members a chance to share some things about themselves (actually, Rammstein made one last year, but it seems like the idea didn't really take off after that). I hope this post might inspire other people to do the same, because it's always fun to learn more about the lives of other Dtoiders. So here goes. Here are ten things you probably didn't know about me!
10. When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a marine biologist. Or a "marin bilolojist" even (I found that written in one of my journals from elementary school). I would ask for a bunch of books about fish and the ocean, and spent a lot of time learning the names of tons of sea creatures and reading about their behavior and stuff. I still think it would be a cool profession, but for some reason I decided to pursue English in college instead, and now I can't find any jobs at all. I did take an Oceanography class in college, which counted for a GE requirement, and it was pretty interesting. My interest in the ocean still remains with me today. I find whales and cephalopods to be invariably fascinating. It even inspired me to write a blog post about underwater levels (which I love)!
9. Now that I'm an adult, I really want to work in the video game industry. I would like to be a writer for a game developer, or perhaps a gaming journalist (how would that sound, Destructoid? Eh? Ehhh?). I'm finding it very difficult to break into the industry, though. I've been applying for jobs as a QA tester, thinking that would probably be a good entry level option, but I haven't heard back from anyone yet. Unfortunately, I don't have any testing experience, so I'm thinking that might be holding me back. I'm determined to keep trying though, because this is what I would really like to do with my life.
8. I'm still pretty much a kid at heart. I partake in a lot of activities which some people would consider childish. Playing video games, of course, is a good example, although it's pretty clear that adults make up a large portion of the gamer population as well. I also still enjoy watching cartoons, either going back to shows that I watched as a kid to see if they're still entertaining (I actually bought Courage the Cowardly Dog on DVD recently, because I still really love that show), or checking out newer cartoons to see what's popular these days (Adventure Time is a good one). I tend to be pretty apathetic towards many of the more adult-appropriate activities and interests, such as drinking, smoking, politics, gambling, or whatever else it is that adults like to do.
7. Although it wasn't the first game I played, I'm pretty sure Super Mario RPG is the reason I became a gamer. My brother and I rented it one day and played through the entire game together in a few days. I'd played other RPGs before that; we had Dragon Warrior for the NES (aka Dragon Quest) and Final Fantasy II for the SNES (aka Final Fantasy IV), but for some reason, Super Mario RPG really just blew my mind. We returned it, and a few weeks later I asked my brother if he wanted to rent it again. "But we already beat it," he said. "I know, but it was so good!" said I. I rented it again anyway by myself, and played through the entire game again. I tried to find as many of the game's hidden gems as I could (that game had a TON of hidden content!), which was a new habit for me then, but now it's something that I do for almost any game that I love. It remains to this day one of my favorite games of all time, and I still go back and replay it occasionally.
6. I used to play RuneScape, and I actually enjoyed it. I was introduced to the game by a friend from middle school who had moved away, and we used the game to stay in contact with each other. So it was nice to be able to play with a friend, especially one that I couldn't see anymore at school. Eventually he moved on from the game, but I kept playing it every day, and got several of my cousins to play it with me as well. I think that my time with RuneScape may have been the only moment of my gaming career where I was slightly addicted. I played it for hours on end every day for about a year or so. I don't do that with games anymore. Even other MMOs like World of Warcraft, I'll only spend a reasonable amount of time with them. Anyway, I stopped playing RuneScape several years ago and have no desire to ever play it again, and now it's sort of an embarrassing admission these days to tell other gamers that I played it. Oh well. I enjoyed it at the time anyway. As long as I was having fun, right?
5. I'm an extremely quiet person in real life. I wouldn't say that I'm shy though. I don't mind getting up and singing karaoke at a bar or giving a speech in front of a bunch of people (both of these things involve saying words that are written in front of me, interestingly). I also joined the drama club in high school to try to prove to people that I wasn't shy (that was my reasoning as a high schooler), and performed in several plays. But for some reason, I have never been able to converse easily with people or start many conversations. I'm not exactly sure why. Usually I just feel like I don't have anything really important or interesting to contribute to a conversation, but I will chime in when I do have something to say which I think is interesting or relevant. My quietness has led to innumerable awkward silences, even with family members or close friends, and I'm sure I'm not very impressive during first dates or interviews (my lack of a relationship and a job would probably confirm this). Anyway, I've grown to accept that it's just how I am, and my friends and family seem to be accepting of it as well. None of them ever point out that I'm being quiet anymore, which is something that I HATE when people say to me.
4. I'm gay. I hesitated including this one. I dunno, I kinda feel like maybe it's neither here nor there. I don't really talk about it very much though, so I figured it was probably something that a lot of you didn't know about me. Though I try to come off as a typically very happy person, this fact has actually contributed to a lot of depression in my life (and still does, even though I've accepted it and told my family and everything). I won't go into all of that here though. It is what it is.
3. I'm usually several years behind when it comes to playing new games or getting new consoles. I've never bought a console the year it came out. I've owned an NES, SNES, N64, Gamecube, Wii, PS1, PS2 and PS3, and I acquired all of them probably at least two years after they were released. This also means that I always tend to be late when it comes to playing the next best game, so while everyone is talking about Mass Effect 3, I'm busy playing Red Dead Redemption and Bayonetta. I'm always playing catch-up with other gamers. However, on the positive side, I always get everything at a discounted price!
2. I listen to video game soundtracks in my car. This one might not be very surprising to some of you. I've expressed my love of video game music many times in the past. About a third of the music in my Winamp is from video game soundtracks. I've also copied a lot of that music to CDs so that I can listen to it on the road. The soundtracks for Okami, Katamari Damacy and Bastion are a few of my favorite CDs to listen to while driving. I've also got the soundtracks to Catherine, Persona 4 and Bit.Trip Complete in my car, all of which came with the games, as well a physical copy of the Super Meat Boy soundtrack, which I purchased. Sometimes I drive with the windows down and video game music blasting, and try to gauge the reactions of passersby.
1. I chose Balrog for my avatar because Destructoid introduced me to Cave Story and the world of indie games in general. The first time I'd heard of Destructoid was when I stumbled across the Top 50 Videogames of the Decade article somehow, and was surprised to find that I'd played very few of the games on the list. This led me to check out a variety of awesome games which pretty much changed my current taste in gaming, and Cave Story was the first one (because it was free for the PC, easiest to obtain). I was blown away by how great the game was, and even more blown away that it had been created by a single person! This led me to seek out a bunch of other free indie games, and I found a ton of excellent games, which in turn led me to create my 5 Freeware Indie Games You Should Play series which got me started in the community here. So I figured Balrog would be a perfect avatar for me here, since Cave Story was the first thing I played upon discovering Destructoid, and it had a great influence on my current gaming habits and opened up a whole new world of gaming for me. Also, Balrog is just a really cool character.
Matt Thorson is a relatively well-known name in the indie game world, having created the Jumper series and worked with Tom Sennett to make RunMan: Race Around the World (both of which star characters that made special guest appearances in Super Meat Boy). He has, of course, worked on plenty of other games as well, two of which I particularly enjoy.
Give Up, Robot and its sequel, Give Up, Robot 2, are brutally difficult platformers (in the same vein as games such as Super Meat Boy or VVVVVV) which you can play right in your browser, for free! In both games, you control a robot with a grappling hook, and must make your way through rooms filled with various obstacles and traps, all the while enduring taunts and sarcasm from an unseen, GLaDOS-like robot overlord.
The first game is fairly straightforward, and even though it's not really necessary, I'd recommend starting with this one first if you plan on playing both. Give Up, Robot features a traditional-looking robot grappling its way through some kind of crazy, multicolored disco-laboratory. The game features 50 stages which become progressively more difficult at a steady-ish pace, and can become so frustrating towards the end of the game that you might just want to give up. In fact, that's what you're being told to do throughout the entirety of the game. As you progress through the game, a mysterious robotic voice advises you to "give up, robot!" whenever you complete a level, and then laughs at you or gives you a sarcastic compliment whenever you fail. The robot overlord is clearly trying to be discouraging, but its biting remarks are enough to make you never want to quit playing. Can't make it past a particularly excruciating level? You could just call it quits and give up, but that's exactly what the asshole robot wants you to do! I died hundreds of times during my first playthrough, but I never wanted to quit playing because I couldn't give the game the satisfaction of defeating me. I ain't giving up, you metallic bastard!
The original Give Up, Robot was an excellent game by itself, but then, only four months later, Matt Thorson gave us Give Up, Robot 2, improving upon the original in many ways and creating one of the finest platformer browser games out there. The second game features a strange-looking, unicycle-like robot grappling its way out of the laboratory and through an outdoor landscape on its quest to get revenge on the antagonizing robot overlord. In addition to more varied obstacles and traps, there are now coins to collect, jetpacks to grab and, best of all, boss battles! There's also a lot more humor in the sequel. In addition to the dickish comments from the robot overlord (which always tend to make me smile, even if they are infuriating at times), there are other new characters which say things to you whenever you grapple them, such as clouds which seem to be having an orgasm ("That's the spot! Harder!") and rockets which don't enjoy being touched ("Get it off! F&@*!"). Once again, the levels can become unbearably difficult. But this time you have even more incentive to not give up, because for every 20 levels you beat, you get to finally confront the son-of-a-bitch robot overlord in a boss battle and take him down a peg. These moments are extremely satisfying!
While I always enjoy playing a good indie game, I usually tend to overlook a lot of browser games because they're often hosted on sites with advertisements which won't allow you play the game fullscreen. But for some games, I'm willing to look past these annoyances because they're too good to pass up. The Give Up, Robot games are definitely worth your time if you enjoy intense platformers, so don't let the Adult Swim Games website and advertisements deter you. Give these games a shot, but make sure you ignore the advice in the game's title and don't give up!
I was first introduced to Rayman during the late '90s. I'd asked for a PlayStation for Christmas one year, and in addition to getting the two games that I asked for (Spyro the Dragon and Tomb Raider), my parents decided to get me an extra game as well, one that I'd never heard of before. I wasn't sure how I felt about Rayman by looking at the case; the guy on the cover looked very strange and goofy. I put Rayman to the side for a while, and instead busied myself with the adventures of Spyro and Lara Croft. Once I'd finally exhausted those games, I decided to give Rayman a try.
I went into the game with very low expectations. On top of having never heard of Rayman before, the graphics were not 3D like the rest of the PlayStation games I'd played, and the super cheery, bright colors seemed to be a little over-the-top to me.
Once I finally got to actually playing the game, however, I quickly found that I was enjoying it a lot more than I expected. Sure, the graphics weren't 3D, but never before had I seen such beautiful 2D environments in a game. Before Rayman, I'd only played pixelated games on the NES, SNES and Genesis, and then jumped to the not-as-stunning-today-as-they-were-back-then 3D games on the original PlayStation. I was super impressed, then, with the smooth, beautifully-crafted 2D artwork found throughout the world of Rayman. The backdrops seemed to give each level incredible depth; in particular, the later levels in the Cave of Skops really blew me away. The backdrop made the cave seem like it was utterly huge and endless, and I'd start to think I'd never get out of it.
I got used to the silliness of Rayman pretty quickly. Soon I was playing the game with an endless smile on my face. The crazy face that Rayman made to scare enemies and the silly dance he did at the end of each level never failed to make me laugh. I also really loved that Rayman did a little dance with each of the bosses after he beat them, as if to show they were good guys now. The different themed worlds were delightfully crazy, and were always throwing the most unexpected things at me. I'd be jumping on pencil erasers, riding mosquitoes, trying not to get impaled by razor sharp musical notes, fighting giant saxophones and so many other things I never thought I'd be doing in a video game, and it was always so much fun because I never would have thought of such things myself.
What's even more amazing to me was that, despite the happy, colorful, youthful nature of the game, it was actually surprisingly challenging. Each new world seemed so much more difficult than the last. The second half of the game can be a true test of your skills as a gamer. In fact, I have a confession: I've never beaten Rayman without using a cheat to gain more lives. I die so many times in the Blue Mountains and onward that I don't think I'd ever be able to beat the game otherwise.
Despite the difficulty (or maybe in part because of the difficulty), Rayman quickly became one of my favorite games growing up. A few years later, they made a sequel to Rayman. It was a 3D sequel, so I was intrigued to find out how they would translate the ridiculous world of Rayman into the third dimension. I played the sequel for a little while, but found that a lot of the charm and silliness that I remembered from the original game seemed to be lost in the sequel. The game was fun enough, but for some reason it didn't really feel like Rayman to me. It felt like they took the character of Rayman and placed him in an entirely different world. After that, I decided not to play the third game in the series. Then they began making a series of Rayman games featuring rather obnoxious little things called Rabbids, and I decided that the Rayman franchise was officially over for me. I still had the original game to return to if I ever wanted more Rayman in my life.
And then suddenly they announced something that I never expected to see. They were going to be making a new Rayman game, and it was going to be a 2D platformer like the original, and the story would focus on the origins of Rayman. I was officially excited about Rayman again!
Rayman Origins definitely did not let me down. In fact, I might say that I like it even more than the original. There are so many things about this game that I was excited about. I was very happy to see characters from the original game make a return, such as Moskito and Betilla the Fairy. There were other returning characters that I didn't really know so well, such as Globox and the Teensies from Rayman 2, but they fit in really well with the world of the game, and I began to really like them. I'm just glad they decided not to include a single Rabbid.
The artwork is even more impressive and breathtakingly beautiful than the environments from the first 2D Rayman; you can tell that a lot of love and effort went into creating each level. I never grew tired of admiring the scenery, and I'd often get distracted by a particularly beautiful set piece. I have to say that the ice levels with various sliced fruits frozen into the glaciers are my favorite areas of the game, as far as visual appeal goes. The glaciers just look so beautifully serene and delicious! The soundtrack is also super awesome and humorous. I loved all of the ukelele tracks and the silly vocals. The gurgly song that's played during the underwater levels always makes me smile.
The silliness from the first game is back in full force, with the eccentric level design and quirky soundtrack. You'll find yourself jumping on babbling forks, swinging from long beards, running from spiky citrus fruits and other crazy stuff. I'm also glad to see that Rayman's excellent dance moves are back, and that the bosses all have happy endings, which reminded me of the dancing bosses from the first game. It's one of the happiest, silliest games you can find.
And just like the original, the charming nature of the game is in no way an indication of the game's difficulty. Taking away the lives from the first game was a good idea, as I ended up dying just as many times in this game as I did in the original. The difficulty steadily increases as you traverse the different worlds, leading to some especially challenging final levels. Then there is the final world, the Land of the Livid Dead, which you must unlock by mastering all of the other levels you've already played. I'll just say this about the Land of the Livid Dead: it gives some of the more difficult levels in Super Meat Boy a run for their money.
In short, I can't recommend Rayman Origins enough. In my opinion, it embodies the Rayman franchise perfectly. If you never played the original game and want to know what Rayman is all about, this is the game to get. I like to think that the game is so appealing because of its return to the 2D platformer model. We see so few games like this nowadays, and Rayman Origins happens to be quite possibly the best looking game in the genre. They didn't go the Nintendo route and try to make a 3D game in a 2D plane, they went all out with two dimensions. A return to beautiful, quirky artwork, charming humor and satisfying difficulty is just what the Rayman franchise needed. It's a triumphant return of everything that made the original Rayman game great, and it somehow improves on those things to make for an even better Rayman game!