kjorteo: Photo of a computer screen with countless nested error prompts (Error!)
TIS-100 is a puzzle game by Zachtronics. Much like Qrostar, that name alone should more or less tell you what you need to know. In this case, (with the apparent exception that they also made Ironclad Tactics for some reason?) "It is a Zachtronics game" means puzzle games based around outputting the correct solution to the goal by manipulating abstracted variations of worker nodes with instructions that... it's programming. The word we're looking for is "Programming." Here's how this game's nodes and instructions work, now write a program that sorts all the gems by color and puts the red ones on the right.

Zachtronics games tend to start with exceedingly simple and direct "pick up the thing from this square, move to the right, and put it down on that one" tasks, and then escalate to convoluted nightmare code like this. They also tend to have somewhat Lovecraftian stories surrounding these puzzles, like the player character is working on some sort of Lament Configuration and either their sanity or the actual world or both descend to eldritch horror as... well, as your code does. But hey, at least you can look at your cycle count/instructions and space used statistics to compare how optimized your solution is versus those of your friends and the Steam community as a whole!

So there.

TIS-100 uses the abstraction of an old-styled computer with a sort of variant of assembly language, meaning either Zachtronics just gave up even trying to hide that they're making you do their CS 222 homework or you are now somehow playing a game about coding dressed up as a game about coding. The presentation was fairly minimalist by intention as a direct result--ASCII graphics, no music--but it worked well for the general mood.

I confess that I just gave up and used a walkthrough for one particular puzzle: Sequence Sorter, the penultimate one. Now, bear in mind that I've beaten every Qrostar game, beaten every North American Lolo game and even one of the Famicom ones, hundred-percented the first two Layton games... unless it's a genre that I just don't play at all in the first place (Myst-likes, 3D physics stuff, etc.) I tend not to want to admit that any puzzle game is ever just too much puzzle for me. But making an honest to God sorting algorithm in assembly is not a puzzle game. That's an actual programming task for highly-compensated professional software engineers. In fact, I have a friend who is a highly-compensated professional software engineer, with a technical degree and a Project Lead title and everything, and even he said that's not normally something people do in assembly and, you know, maybe just go ahead and walkthrough that one. I got all the others, though, including the actual last level and even the secret hidden puzzle (the ILLEGAL_EAGLE Achievement) to make up for it. So I think that counts.

I'm not doing the user-submitted bonus content, though. I had a peek at that tab and the very first puzzle involves taking two pre-sorted input streams, merging them, sorting that, and outputting the sorted megastream.

You know what? No.

Still, this was fun, and like any Zachtronics game, it gives you a strange sense of pride and an urge to show off your solution compared to everyone else's. If coding in the arrival of the Ancient Ones sounds like fun to you... well, honestly, play SpaceChem. But if you've already played SpaceChem and loved it and just want more, you could do a lot worse in the programming-puzzle genre than this one!
kjorteo: Screenshot from Jumpman, of the player character falling to his doom, with the caption "FAIL" on the bottom. (Fail)
Oops, I swear none of this Megazeux stuff was supposed to happen. I just got a couple of the top rated games on DigitalMZX along with Megazeux itself in case I ever wanted to learn/get into Megazeux someday and reverse-engineer anything at that point. Then I went through the ones I downloaded with the intention of peeking at them just long enough to establish what kind of games they even are, before filing them away somewhere for the far distant future. Somehow that led to me accidentally beating Caverns of Zeux and briefly being sucked into this one. It ultimately wasn't my thing and I'm not going to finish it, but technically I spent longer on it before reaching that decision than I did on MANOS, so I guess it deserves a write-up too.

So Thanatos Insignia is an overhead action game that plays kind of like someone made Operation Logic Bomb in Megazeux, paired with single-screen narrations between each level about someone in the hospital trying to use some fancy computing system to model human behavior and solve why violence exists, slowly becoming more obsessed with using the system and becoming more antisocial themselves in the process. Also the levels have random and really unfitting J-pop music, I guess in case you want to feel like you're shooting aliens while playing DDR.

I wasn't really feeling the gameplay, but the story segments interested me enough to keep going... right until I got stomped by the boss of level 12 (who fights to the tune of GIGA PUDDING for some reason.) I forgot to save and I really didn't want to go through the first twelve levels again, so I poked around the data files until I found where it was storing the story bits, read through those, and called it good.

I was wondering if this game was eventually heading toward some sort of point with juxtaposing the narrative of questioning the human nature toward violence in between levels of pure "gun down every bad guy that moves" but if it did, I didn't get that far and it wasn't in the story files.

Oh, well.

Still a technically and visually impressive, well-made game if this genre speaks to you.
kjorteo: Screenshot from Daedalian Opus, of a solved puzzle with the text "GOOD" displayed on underneath it. (GOOD)
Well, that wasn't supposed to happen. I mean, it wasn't on the list or anything, and I'm trying to be good about sticking to that now. But here we are, I suppose.

Basically, I have a few game ideas kicking around, from a Lolo clone to an RPG to that (probably) not serious Mega Man X fan game, but I've been stuck for ages on 1) ahahaha like I have time to make games on top of the novel and everything else in my life, and 2) what GCS/platform would I even use, anyway? 1 is still an issue so don't expect anything to be happening soon, if ever. For 2, I was curious about Megazeux, having spent my embarrassing teen phase in the ZZT community and never actually having gotten into what the "like ZZT only more powerful and can do sorcery" side of it was like. Admittedly Fusion is probably a better idea for flexibility and making something anyone would actually play, but I figured learning MZX could serve as an interim ZZT --> MZX --> ??? step between something I actually know and something modern devs actually use.

So obviously step one was to beat Caverns of Zeux, AKA The Game That Comes With MegaZeux. (Or it did until recently, anyway, and it's still a recommended first download even if it's technically decoupled now.) ZZT has Town, MZX has Caverns. I'm sure someone from the MZX community can explain why the first game ever made for MegaZeux was Zeux 2: Caverns of Zeux, and Zeux 1: Labyrinth of Zeux didn't come out until years later. I'm also sure they've probably addressed that so many times that I'm pointing out the equivalent of the "if it doesn't scan that must mean it's free" joke. Sorry, I'm new here.

Anyway, Caverns is fairly short and simple by actual game standards--any ZZT veteran would instantly recognize this as a standard "collect the 5 Things" quest game... except that it's not. Collecting all five rainbow gems is how you clear the first area. From there, there are six more bosses, seven pendants, six crystals... it feels like a hybrid of an N64-era Rare collectathon and Wonder Boy: Fail You Have Turned Into A Furry. (Really, any game where the clear moral of the story is "Be a dragon always" is okay with me.) It's long by ZZT standards, and by that I mean it took two days to beat rather than an hour, and it's... well, cavernous.

The biggest obstacle I experienced (other than that you can Sierra-softlock your game with no warning if you go into the wrong mouse hole first) is that there is a ton of backtracking and it is frequently unclear what area you just unlocked by accomplishing whatever goal you just accomplished. Once I was in a new area, I could find my way through and beat the boss easily enough, but if the boss didn't actually give me anything except a dead end and maybe turning me into a skeleton then the sense of "okay, now what?" necessitated a walkthrough on several occasions.

Still, as an MZX pack-in it's... well, to be honest, a little daunting. Coming from ZZT to MZX, Caverns already does some fairly complicated special effects and programming tricks that kind of make me afraid to try to break into it. I mean, this looks hard already, and this is coming from someone with ZZT experience looking at a language that reviews call easy to learn and is specifically designed to be a smooth ZZT-but-better transition. And that's for Caverns, which is, again, the Town of MegaZeux. If this is anything like ZZT, well, eventually the ZZT community hit a point where games that looked like Town weren't even allowed on Z2 anymore; the entire community had advanced so much that "your game must at least use STK I mean come on" was kind of a benchmark. If this is Baby's First MZX game, what do real MZX games look like nowadays?

(Answer: Like this or this, apparently. Holy fuck this was a bad idea.)
kjorteo: Glitched screenshot from Pokémon Yellow, of Pikachu's portrait with scrambled graphics. (Pikachu: Glitch)
Someone please explain to me why I've spent the better part of this week painstakingly designing (and sometimes kicking ideas around and co-designing) Mega Man X fangame bosses.

I mean, I know why; I was made aware of the existence of Mega Man X Corrupted, and the boss list (click "Villians") seemed like kind of a letdown to me. Subsequent conversation about it with [personal profile] xyzzysqrl led me down the road of "okay but what kind of bosses would I like to see in my theoretical game" and my imagination sort of took off from there.

But why.

Like, obviously I don't know the first thing about actual game creation and I'm not going to learn an entirely new medium and start a years-long creative endeavor just for a Mega Man X fan game. I knew that this wasn't going anywhere even as I started brainstorming. And yet I somehow wound up with a full roster of eight bosses, including how their weapons work, the full loop of which ones are weak to which weapons, and even some stage and boss battle ideas and their character backstories, the beginnings of an overall plot (needs work obviously) and a couple endings....

Apparently I don't have enough for my imagination to do while I'm at work, nor do I have enough to do with any of the actual stories I'm supposed to be working on.

The life of a... me, I guess. (In my defense, the ideas we came up with are pretty cool at least.)

Also, six of the eight bosses started off as a conversational IM wisecracks like "So what would a bird be weak against, anyway?" "... Windows?" "Ha, ha. Smartass. ... Wait. Shit. Make it mirrors and this could actually work...." And seven of them are still better furbait than most of MMXC.
kjorteo: Screenshot from Daedalian Opus, of a solved puzzle with the text "GOOD" displayed on underneath it. (GOOD)
Hoo boy do I have a lot to cover on this one. I love this game's story to pieces but it has so many issues in execution. It's the sort of game I absolutely could not put down on any given run (except one, which we will cover shorty,) but between runs I shelved it for months to almost years at a time because the thought of slogging through it all again was just... sigh. It lives right on the edge where if the story weren't as amazing as it was, I'd never have put up with all the glaring design issues and this would have been an ABANDONED entry instead. Of course, if the design issues weren't so horrible, maybe it wouldn't have taken me so long to get through this game which I did ultimately like.

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (or 999 for short) is a visual novel with miniature point-and-click room escape sequences in between stretches of pure reading. You play the role of Junpei, an ordinary college student and one of the titular Nine Persons who have all been kidnapped and forced to play their way through this twisted puzzle escape sequence on a very-slowly-sinking ship. Each Person has a number assigned to them from 1 to 9. Because of "it would take forever to explain" plot contrivances, the Persons must get through a series of numbered doors which will only open for sub-groups of no smaller than 3 but no larger than 5 Persons, and only if the digital root of the Persons in the sub-group equals the number on the door.

Digital Roots are when you add up a bunch of numbers, and if the sum is greater than 10, treat each digit as another number and add those up, until you're left with a single-digit number. For example, the group of Persons 1, 4, and 9 could get through door 5, because (1+4+9) = 14 and (1+4) = 5. The game is completely obsessed with digital roots and even gives you a automatic tool specifically to calculate them.

Junpei is Person 5. Person 6 (code name June) is an old childhood friend he hadn't seen since elementary school, and every other Person in the cast is a complete stranger. The cast must get to know each other and work together to solve puzzles and escape with their lives, all while working on the mystery of who kidnapped them, why them, and why this game. The overall plot is phenomenal, and no matter how much I hated the actual gameplay at times, I cared deeply about this mystery and I always wanted to know what happened and what it all meant, and that was what kept me coming back through... well....

Like I said, there are a lot of issues that drag the otherwise stellar experience down. I've been waiting to write this entry so I can rant about them pretty much since I started this project, so buckle up. Heavy spoilers, by the way.

Read more... )

Whew. Okay. So. That was easily the longest entry in this series I've ever done, if not one of the longest entries I've ever written period. I've been in a love-hate relationship with this game for years and I had so much I wanted to get off my chest now that I'm finally done. But... oh, God. It's over, both the game and this writeup. It's over. I... this is the most relieved I've felt to have finished a game since my Dagger of Amon Ra Let's Play.

It was a good game, though.

kjorteo: Uncomfortable Bulbasaur portrait from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. (Bulbasaur: Uncomfortable)
I'm going to start using this thing again more after LiveJournal went... uh. Well, you know.

While I was fussing with all that, I went back and found some of my very first LiveJournal entries. I still have all my entries, but I banished the really old ones to the private-only Shadow Realm ages ago.

"But Celine, why would you do that?"


Anyway, apologies for any post floods that may happen over the next few days; I'm not exactly sure how the importing feature works as I haven't done it since like 2013. Eager to make this place my home once more, though!
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (GOOD.)
After beating this game as Mega Man just yesterday I said I'd put this one on the back-burner for a while, maybe come back and go through it again as the freshly unlocked alternate character, and do another complete entry when I did.

Then I accidentally Civilization "just one more level"-ed my way through the entire game. Oops.

Compared to Mega Man, the other character is an absolute game breaker, and intentionally so. This isn't meant to be another challenge. It's meant as... if anyone ever watches RoahmMythril's Mega Man perfect run YouTube videos, sometimes he'll struggle a lot on a certain stage because of his self-imposed buster only/no damage rules, then get fed up and go back and just outright slaughter everything with the special weapons to blow off steam between takes, usually while cackling madly and shouting "REVENGE!! SWEET [special weapon]-Y REVENGE!!"

The unlockable MMU character plays kind of like that.

He kind of does the Final Fantasy Dark Knight thing where all his attacks including his default regular weapon cast from hit points. On the other hand, to make up for this, they all have a vampirism effect where he regains life by damaging enemies. The weapons also tend to ignore enemy mercy invincibility and hit multiple times per swipe, so losing 1 HP to swing your sword for about 5 hits (and get 5 HP back) is a very good trade. He also plays sort of like Zero from Mega Man X4 wherein he learns special abilities from fallen bosses instead of new actual weapons, and in this case the vast majority of them are defensive/utility (double jump, air dash, etc.) By the end, you have two actual weapons (plus special moves) which you mostly switch between depending on whether you need to hit one thing far away or a cloud of things (or just Crissaegrim a boss) up close. You don't need more than that because boss weaknesses aren't really a thing; every boss is weak against every attack you have.

Basically, what I'm saying is that this is Mega Man meets Guncaster. You almost never have to worry about losing a straight up fight with anyone. (Okay, some did take multiple tries, but most didn't.)

You do, however, still have to worry about spikes and bottomless pits and whatnot, which is where the vast majority of my deaths came from. His entire playstyle encourages rampant aggression, literally rewarding you for blindly rushing in like a whirlwind of death (no enemies stand a chance against you and that's how you refill your life.) You almost forget you're still mortal at times, and then you end up paying for your carelessness in Rainbow Man's stage.

Still, hiccups like that aside, mwahaha.

After working on my Mega Man file for months, I breezed through this character's run in a day because it felt good. It was mad-cackling fun to get my RoahmMythril-y revenge on this game, and I also feel accomplished because now I really am done with it can take it off the list entirely rather than having that feeling of "yeah but there's still that other run someday..." haunting even a tiniest corner of the back of my mind. The unlockable character took that feeling and slashed it into millions of ribbons in one attack like he was the guy from Metal Gear Revengeance. It was completely over the top and awesome.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (FAIL)
Because if I'm stealing [livejournal.com profile] xyzzysqrl's COMPLETE record-keeping concept, I may as well steal the NOT COMPLETE side too. I have a zillion games in the backlog, some have been languishing almost as long as I've been alive, but I do feel the need to make special record-keeping note of the ones where I tried them and now (just like the COMPLETE entries) I am done with this game.

So, what's the first official failure of this project? Well, I almost didn't bother counting this one because I NOPE'd out of it in under ten minutes, but... well, that's about how long Essence.exe would have been if I hadn't gotten stuck, and that one got a COMPLETE entry, so what the hell.

MANOS: The Hands of Fate is a tongue-in-cheek indie game based off the infamous Mystery Science Theater 3000-featured movie of the same name. Apparently they throw in some other MST3K miscellany to pad things out (there's a boss fight with Ro-Man from Robot Monster according to this trailer?? Geez, I didn't get that far.) It's just... well....

  • 1) I got the Android version as part of a Humble Mobile Bundle and the controls are hideous. See the left, right, B, and A buttons on the corners of the screen in that trailer? Using your touch screen, use those to... look, I know you can't exactly have an actual controller on a smartphone game, but this just does not work. At all. Not even in the best of times (I kind of gave up on Anodyne and the mobile version of Another World years ago before starting this write-up project, for much the same reason,) but especially not during a hectic boss battle when the A "button" is right next to my phone's actual built-in "pause and switch between apps" button.
  • 2) Even if the controls themselves weren't an issue, your character is clunky and hard to steer, and a lot of enemies and projectiles feel literally undodgeable as a result. I'm not against brutally difficult 8-bit games, but I am against fake difficulty.
  • 3) All this for what basically feels like "MST3K was great, right? LOL?"

In conclusion: Nah.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (Default)
I'm marking this as "complete" even though beating the game as Mega Man unlocks an entire alternate bonus "start a new game only play as this other character instead" mode which I'm kind of interested in doing, but... eh, I'll think about it, keep it as a background process for now, and write another complete entry for the alt-character run if I ever actually go through with (and finish) that.

Mega Man Unlimited is an unlicensed indie fan Mega Man game that miraculously has not been C&D'd yet despite having been up and fairly well-known since 2013. I am actually extremely late to the party, which means I had access to a few quality of life improvements that would make the 1.0 veterans go off on a back-in-my-day tangent (charged shots, the ability to exit the stage from the menu, slightly different block placement in a few rooms, way better music for Rainbow Man and a few other stages, seriously RoahmMythril's MMU run is almost hard to watch at parts because oh my God that's what Rainbow Man's stage used to sound like?)

Gameplay is sort of a hybrid of Mega Man 3 and 4 (slide, no charged shots by default but you can optionally add them in now, MM4 and beyond version of the Rush Jet) only, being a Mega Man classic series fan game, the difficulty starts out at "fuck you" and as you-the-player get better it slowly levels out to... I'll peg it somewhere around Mega Man 9, from what I remember of that one (it was a while ago.) There is a severe case of Checkpoint Starvation, which can make some of the more instantaneously deadly situations (spike drops, tricky jumps over bottomless pits, etc.) feel more unfair in this game than even the same obstacle would be in other Mega Man games. It's no fun mess up one "jump too low and you won't make it across the pit, but too high and you hit the spikes on the ceiling" jump just before the boss and then half to do like half the stage again.

Getting the Rush Jet early helped shortcut my way around a lot of the bullshit, but even then, the game did spring some rather cruel trial-and-error tricks on you from time to time. Example: Occupied Wily Fortress Stage 1, see middle horizontal stretch of the overall S-shaped level? You have to go from right to left on the Rush Jet. This is the MM4 version that always moves forward, so this part is basically a side-scrolling shoot-em-up. If you try to get that first energy capsule on the pink column near the bottom of the screen, which you'll see before the second pink column that comes up to near the top of the screen even scrolls onto the screen, then you'll be too low to react in time, probably hit the wall and die, and that's a trip all the way back to start.

Still, other than that it was fun!

Story is... well, I was told going in that it was meant to bridge the Mega Man classic and X series, and the title screen looks like this, so right away I figured someone must like the cataclysm theory. 8 9 10 Robot Masters (counting a secret one and an extra one added later) have gone berserk and started attacking everyone, claiming to work for Dr. Wily, yet strangely Dr. Wily himself swears up and down that he had nothing to do with it this time and even volunteers to work with Dr. Light to figure out what's going on. They got as far as discovering that there was some sort of virus that was altering their programming (uh oh) but then a mysterious shadowy robot broke in and kidnapped Dr. Wily, and now Mega Man has to go beat everyone and save the day. For a classic series Mega Man game, it draws a surprising amount of mystery to "wait, is this all Dr. Wily again?" such that I feel like answering that here would actually be kind of a spoiler, which... that's never a spoiler in Mega Man games. (If you didn't know from the start who Mr. X was in MM6, shame on you.) So that's kind of a remarkable feat right there.

All in all, it's very well made. Great graphics, excellent music (especially in later builds where some of the original songs were improved RAINBOW MAN I'M LOOKING AT YOU.) A+ would recommend if you're into being beaten down by hard classic Mega Man games.

Edit: Please continue on to the COMPLETE entry for the MMU alternate character run as I took that difficulty and snapped it in half with an overpowered REVENGE character. It was very cathartic.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (GOOD.)
These days I'm trying to pick which games I'm juggling via a more formal process and refrain from letting anything new just come in out of nowhere and cut in line, but... come on, it's Star Billions. What was I going to do, let it sit there on my list for months? Ahahaha no I'm tearing into this gift like a hyperactive child on Christmas morning, sorry.

As always, Star Billions is a mobile visual novel-type experience where the main cast (four furry AI programs on a mission to save humanity) gets into a jam, each one comes up with a mutually exclusive idea for how to get out of it, and you have to choose between them. Then, there's a real-world timer countdown between blocks of story, to sort of simulate the "our brave crew is flying toward their next destination now; they'll call you if something comes up" portion of the journey and pace out the story a little. There are retro-styled minigames that can shave time off the timer whenever you score points, and it's trivial to turn "15 minutes until the next event" into about one minute of Yes, Chef!, though if you're looking at eight hours or so then you may as well just wait.

All in all, this is not a game to be judged on its gameplay. It's a multiple choice personality test with some fluff and dressing around it, and even then, a lot of choices end up being glorified alternate-dialogue paths to get to the same end result anyway.

But oh my God, the fluff and the dressing.

This is a story, with characters. The core personalities have distinct and easily identifiable voices, which makes the contrasting decisions all the more clear. For example, one of the first obstacles in season 1 is an asteroid heading toward the ship, revealed after a quick scan to have signs of microbial-sized lifeforms on it. The gruff military-styled AI wants to blast it to protect the ship, while the pacifist friendly communications expert AI wants to fly around it just in case it might be home to more than just non-sentient space bacteria. Which one gets their way, and what ends up happening to the ship, the asteroid, and the entire overall mission as choices like these keep piling up? Well, that's where you come in....

At the same time, as strong as the characters' personalities are, they're also nuanced and fleshed out. These are not one-note gimmicks. These AIs live and learn and grow with their experiences. They are far, far more than the sum of their code (and without venturing too far into spoiler territory, this can actually be plot-relevant depending on how you handle a certain crisis in S2.) Similarly, everyone they meet on their adventures is has a strong and memorable personality as well. The writing is fantastic, and every word of it oozes charm.

The thing that struck me the hardest about this entire series, though, was just how much some of these choices stuck with me. Some of the hardest, most awful decisions you have to make also come during times of extreme crisis--"Hull integrity is at 2% and the next enemy shot will hit in about five seconds OH MY GOD WHAT DO WE DO, QUICKLY." The game does not actually hold you to this, of course. Like one of those burning house fires in a JRPG that patiently waits for you to finish the plot before actually consuming anything, the game will present you with the choice and then give you as much time as you need to make it. However, for personal role-playing reasons and because I was deeply into this story, I decided to go with it. I decided that if I'm only supposed to have a few seconds to make this choice, then that's exactly what I'll do. That means that some of the most heart-wrenching decisions I've ever had to make came in the form of "The first thought that pops into my head has me leaning this way, OKAY YES GOOD FINAL ANSWER GO." And that means that I spent a long time, and will continue to spend a long time even after this series has concluded, thinking about the fact that when it all came down to it, when the chips were down and everything was on the line, that was the first thought that popped into my head. In that sense, I feel like this game has taught me something about myself, that it's shown me something deep down that I normally don't get to see, and that, in at least that regard, this was my journey as much as it was that of the characters.

And really, how many games of any genre have you ever played that can say that?

I will try not to turn every single beaten-game book report in this journal into "please go buy and play this one right now" but I really feel like Star Billions deserves it. It's a lesser known hidden gem of a game that deserves several times the love it's currently getting. You can get season 1 for free on either the Google Play Store or... whatever the iPhone's app store is, with seasons 2 and 3 offered as paid (but very inexpensive) DLC. Please, I need more people to EEEEEEEE at about every major plot point and compare/contrast the choices we made. As [livejournal.com profile] xyzzysqrl opined, sometimes it feels like she and I are the Star Billions fandom, and that is an absolute travesty that I refuse to let stand without at least trying to signal boost it as much as I can.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (GOOD.)
I think it's complete, anyway. I reached the end of a long corridor with a scary face that jumpscared me and auto-exited the game, and launching it again started over. (Crashing and restarting a lot with the game different somehow, creating new system files after the crash to continue the narrative like some creepy ARG, etc. have all been deliberate parts of a few other creepypasta games before, but not this time apparently.) So I guess that's it? It's complete enough.

Essence.exe is a creepypasta Mario game, by the way.

Normally, when I finally clear a game off my list, I go through the rest of the backlog and make a top five list of the ones I most feel like I want to tackle as my next project, discuss the top five with [livejournal.com profile] xyzzysqrl, and then... go out on a random whim and play whatever I happen to feel like anyway. *Blush, mumble* But I felt like skipping all that and just doing this one real quick because, I mean, it's a creepypasta game. Can't be more than like fifteen minutes long, right?

All the preliminary creepypasta game trappings are done very well--there's some appropriately cryptic and creepy text files. The one misstep there was in this one:



COMPRESION..... 30.45798920%

Where the ANA ANACONDA bit reminded me of that weirdly animated Nickelodeon girl that got a half-hour special in front of the Digimon movie. Giggling to myself over that mental image didn't exactly make the atmosphere any creepier going in, but oh well. The actual game handles the creepiness very well so that was soon forgotten anyway.

The game's biggest failing, I think, was that there was just too much arcane nonsense in the gameplay. Yes, creepypasta games are supposed to be glitchy and weird and unintuitive to a certain extent, but they should also shepherd you along so that even if you're flailing around with no idea what you're doing, you sort of end up where the game wants you to be anyway. Hell, the "whoa, wait, why am I suddenly in this room?" sense makes it scarier, anyway! I shouldn't... if I have to stop playing and go do some researching to see if there's a walkthrough somewhere for how you get to the next area, I'm not scared anymore. The immersion is broken at that point.

Still, I came in expecting a quick less-than-a-day romp so I could check something off my list and get another "yay I completed a game" point all while indulging my interest in game creepypastas a little, and that's exactly what I got. No complaints in that regard.

Get it here if that's your thing, by the way.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (GOOD.)
This one was the first product of a few new systems I'm trying. It's the first game of any actual serious length I started and fininshed after adopting this whole book report thing (everything else I'd either started ages ago and am just finishing up now, or it was like half an hour long anyway.) It's also the first since the creation of a Google spreadsheet where I'm keeping track of my actual backlog (it's... immense) versus the two or three games I'm currently actively playing, and trying to remain focused on the latter without touching the former (as opposed to my former strategy of WHEEEE-ing about and getting like fifteen minutes into every single entry on the list.)

In other words, this was a trial run for whether I could really sit down and start an actual real game and see it through to completion, something for which my track record up to this point has been somewhat less than stellar. I chose Lolo 3 because it wasn't too long (the timestamp on my NES:CE save says I beat it in 22:46,) and being a puzzle game like Hanano, it was similarly bite-sized. I could put in maybe ten minutes a day trying to figure out one room, rather than having to clear out my schedule for a three-hour dungeon slog between save points. Also, I'm a huge fan of the Lolo series, and Lolo 3 is probably one of the best games in it, and yet I'd actually never beaten that one before! I came close several times, but other games always happened and I always got sidetracked.

Well, no more. After... what... four attempts? I finally beat this one. It's done. There. Whew. I feel like I can put to rest something that's been haunting me since childhood.

As I said, Lolo 3 is probably my favorite Lolo game, narrowly edging out the also-excellent Revival of the Labyrinth because the former doesn't have any of those fucking "?" rooms. It does still have some aggravating hidden information as per standard Lolo protocol (currents, alternate enemy respawn points, "which of these hearts give you shots," etc.) However, it also has several quality of life features that make it by far the best of the North American NES releases: there are world maps with rooms grouped into levels to sort of break up the flow and make getting through a total of 100 rooms feel less tedious, lives are no longer finite, and for extra variety, you can freely switch between and play as Lolo or Lala (until a hopeless boss fight at the end of level 13 leads to you being kidnapped, and levels 14-17 consist of whichever one you weren't using taking over on a quest to rescue your former main.) It even has a new enemy, the tractor-beam-like Moby that can add a wrinkle to the underwater-themed levels. Good stuff!

So yeah. I just wish Lolo games didn't have so much trial and error hidden info bullshit on certain levels, because other than that this is one of my all-time favorite series and this was probably the best game in that series.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (Teo: Pretty)
I've been thinking about this particular milestone for a while now, and the big announcement and everything that would come with it, but now here we are and I feel like half of it I've been leaking out for months already and I have no idea what to say about the other half.

But hey, the theme of today has been "HERE WE GO I GUESS" so what's one more thing for that pile?

I started using the name "Celine" experimentally sometime ago--just around one or two of my closest friends at first, to see how it felt and if I liked it and wanted to stick with it. Then a few more friends, then a chatroom or two, then I gave in and quietly changed my account display name on various sites. There was never an announcement; I just sort of did it. So, on one hand, I never really told anyone I'm Celine now. On the other, I told everyone that ages ago. Oh, well. May as well make it official while we're here anyway, I guess.

I'm thinking my full name will be Celine Kalante Love [RL last name]. It actually works on several personally meaningful levels for me at once:

  • Celine is just a pretty name and I like the sound of it. (It technically comes from Celine Jules because I am a complete dork, but not out of any particularly strong attachment to the actual character--again, I just thought she had a really pretty name.)
  • Now I can join the prestigious Authors With Four Names club alongside J. R. R. Tolkien and [livejournal.com profile] grrm.
  • I have zillions of options for how to arrange my name--I could be Celine Kalante, Celine Love, or even C.K. Love (which is almost one of those pun names) and that's before I even consider adding the RL last name to the mix. Heck, I could even alternate between them as author pseudonyms, like maybe Celine Kalante is my respectable published novel persona while C.K. Love writes all the weird porn or something.
  • Back in my embarrassing edgy teen phase, when I was hanging out on Usenet groups and whatnot, I used to be known as ChocoboKick, then ChocoboKick Lowe. Not that I ever would want to be that person again, but I'm nostalgic/sentimental enough that reclaiming the CKL initials as a callback reference would be kind of nice. And Love instead of Lowe because I'm a nicer person these days and it sounds nice. <3

I'm still keeping the Kjorteo username. It's too deeply ingrained. My website and email have been kjorteo.net for the better part of two decades, it's also my username/account name on everything, and it's unique enough that I never have to worry about it being taken. I see the username as different from my name, though, if that makes sense. Like, on Telegram I'm Celine Kalante (@kjorteo). Same setup on Twitter. That seems like a good way to handle it, and also like an appropriate symbol of how I see those names in my entire life at this point.

The other major development is that... well... today I just got back from filling my first prescription for estradiol. I'll take the first one tomorrow morning, and proceed regularly from there. That's why I actually wrote this entry; I always told myself that if I actually started on HRT, that would be my this is it, this is actually happening cue and I'd announce everything then. Now that we're here, it... actually doesn't feel all that different? I mean, I'm not a different person now than I was yesterday, nor will I be a different person tomorrow morning after I take my first dose. It feels like just another tiny step in the quintillion or so tiny steps that make up this process. Still, I did tell myself this would be the point I'd make the post, and if I don't do it now, then when will I? The alternative is to just show up at the next Furpocalypse completely unrecognizable and be like, "What, this? Oh, you know. *Shrug*"

That being said, there are some changes I've been warned about that are worth passing along as a warning to the rest of you as well: the unfortunate thing about starting HRT is you basically get to go through puberty all over again, with hormones developing in new and fascinating ways and your mind and body both changing to reflect that. In other words, there is a very strong possibility that sometime over the next 3-6 months I will turn into a moody teenage girl. I'm sorry in advance, I'll do my best, and for all I know I'll be fine and this could be a lot of worrying over nothing. However, I will be quite literally hormonal for a while, until the change levels off again and settles down on the other side, so, uh... we'll see how that part of it goes.

But hey, at least I'm more mature now! I'm better equipped to handle it, and that's the silver lining about getting as late a start as I did. If I'd done this ten years ago then maybe I'd have kept more of my hair and such, yeah, but what a fuckup I was back then + being hormonal all over again probably would have landed me somewhere on the news. Maybe it's better this way.

Tonight I took a bunch of "before" pictures and bought a new pill organizer with AM/PM boxes (that's how you know you're getting old,) and generally tried to make myself as ready as I could be for, uh, something for which you can never truly be ready. However, I've said this before and it's worth repeating: I am lucky to have the best and most wonderful friends in the world at my side, not just for this but for everything. I know I'll be fine, because I know I can survive anything with your help.

I love you all so much that that's one of my middle names now.
kjorteo: Screenshot from Laura Bow 2, of a horrified-looking stuffed porcupine beneath a dead body with blood around its mouth. (Nightmare fuel)
I keep forgetting to mention this. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] xyzzysqrl alerting me to it.

GOG now has both Laura Bow Games--The Colonel's Bequest and The Dagger of Amon Ra--for $5.99 each. There's even a bundle link so you can get them together for $11.98, which is a whopping $0.00 savings but it saves you from having to follow two different links to add them both to your cart I guess. *Fwee*

You may recall I semi-recently completed an LP of Amon Ra after having worked on it since what feels like about fifty years before the game was even actually made. The game was abandonware at that point, so I just took it from some abandonware site. The LP itself makes numerous jokes about this, mostly about how the copy protection was altered to accept literally any answer I picked as correct.

However, if there's one consistent theme I've always tried to emphasize in all of our Team Hatoful videos, I always advocate for supporting the official release. The only reason I didn't when doing my Amon Ra LP is because there wasn't one at the time, but now there is. In fact, I went and purchased both games from GOG--not because I'm particularly inclined to replay Amon Ra or start Colonel's Bequest anytime soon, but because I'd be a massive hypocrite for not giving them my money after having played and derived entertainment from their games.

I'm not going to guilt trip you beyond just this one LJ post, but I do have to say it at least once: Please consider doing the same. Even if you thought Amon Ra was a garbage fire and you enjoyed my LP because I was making fun of it or something (which would be... unfortunate; I mellowed out over the years and really tried to curb that later on,) the fact remains that they made a product, we derived entertainment from that product, and therefore we should support the official release.

We should always support the official release.

I also edited the index entry in the LP with a condensed version of this sentiment. I will not be changing the actual copy protection jokes, because 1) the preface explaining the context they were in is probably enough, 2) going back and editing all those entries feels like work and I thought I was finally done with Amon Ra, and 3) they were funny. So yeah, I'm just gonna leave those as-is. But I do have to mention this.

Edit: Oh, also, I forgot to mention, but like many GOG releases, these have feelies included as well! Like, decent-quality scans of the instruction manual and hint/companion book everything! The hintbook even contains an ARG about trying to identify the "Sierra Killer" who murdered the entire Amon Ra design team, though I don't need to dig for clues and solve crosswords and word jumbles to figure it was probably [livejournal.com profile] davidn.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (Teo: o.O)
[livejournal.com profile] xyzzysqrl and I cracked the code.

And yes I know everyone who played FF7 knows that but you don't know just how deep it goes.

Allow us to walk you through this. )
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (GOOD.)
If you're not familiar with Hanano Puzzle 2, it's the latest release from Japanese indie dev team Qrostar. If you're not familiar with them, their other work mostly includes Jelly Puzzle and (obviously) Hanano Puzzle 1. You can generally tell it's a Qrostar puzzle game from the following elements:

  • Simple yet effective graphics--never excessively fancy or polished, but they look fine for what they do.
  • Music and backgrounds that change up every few levels so you don't get sick of them. The music itself is more gentle and relaxing than, say, the Bubble Bobble theme, yet still just as likely to be stuck in your head for days.
  • Puzzle rules and mechanics much like the graphics: simple yet effective. 2D single rooms with very basic, easy to understand general rules, usually revolving around having to use "swapping" style controls (think Hatris, Yoshi, etc.) to bring pieces where they need to be to solve the level.
  • Actual room/level/puzzle design by Satan.

For those who've played the first Hanano Puzzle, the sequel is... well, it's 35 more levels of that. It has new music and Pac Man-like intermission animations every 10 levels and at the ending, but don't expect a different experience beyond that. If you're new to the series, Hanano Puzzle is about moving blocks to touch flowers of the same color, at which point the blocks bloom with same-colored flowers of their own in whichever direction the arrow on their face was pointing, thus turning into either 1x2 or 2x1 blocks from then on. (More advanced puzzle solutions involve taking advantage of how the blooming tends to displace things, like putting something on top of an upward-blooming block to lift the object when it blooms, pushing things with horizontal blooms, etc.) The goal in each level is to get all the blocks in the level to bloom. Like any Qrostar game, the objective is simple enough, except for the fact that the level/puzzle designer personally hates you.


I knew I was in for the classic Hanano Puzzle experience when the game's download page included a note that level 7 is solvable. Unless you're Team Ninja, that's generally not a thing most developers have to specify.

In fact, all 35 levels of this game are solvable, though I did get stuck enough to need a hint on the first few moves for two of them (26 and 33.) I almost caved again on 34, but I finally got it on my own right before I was going to. When I did, I actually cackled as if my creation were alive. The last level actually wasn't that bad, but only by comparison.

I typically tend to pass on 3D or physics-based puzzle games because I get lost very easily and just can't visualize anything properly. By contrast, I've always loved Qrostar's games for staying in realms my brain can understand yet still working it out like a mental triathlon. I can't even begin thinking with portals, but I can beat Hanano Puzzle 2. Oh my God, though, do I feel like I just climbed a mountain when I do. I earned this Complete entry.
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (GOOD.)
I was expecting the next finished game to take months or years, not... two days, and this one wasn't even on my to-do list at all. I'm as surprised as you are, believe me. It all happened by accident: I bought this game because it was part of some Humble Bundle or another alongside other games I wanted, I started it mostly just to see what it was (I had the shortcut right next to also-unplayed Sweet Lily Dreams and I couldn't remember which one was which,) and I finished it because it looked short and easy and hey, finishing things feels good)

Labyrinthine Dreams is an indie RPG Maker puzzle game/navel-gazing walking sim by Solest Games that I probably wouldn't have played on purpose had I know what I was getting myself into, but I was right about it being short and easy (and the achievement being nice) and I don't regret the experience, so yay.

The game focuses on our heroine, Beth, as she navigates through a surreal dreamscape of gimmick maze after gimmick maze (seriously, the first few rooms in the game are a forest where you have to get around narrow hedge mazes while only being able to move in clockwise circles because you can move to your character's right or forward but not left or backward) accompanied by gorgeous imagery and sad flashback narrations. Think if What Dreams May Come were an RPG Maker puzzle game, basically, up to and including the fact that Beth is navigating coma dreams while on the verge of death.

The biggest problem I had was that, for as well made as it was, it was just so gosh-darn gloomy. Beth has led a fairly miserable life up to this point and now that she's dying on top of it, and I can't exactly tell someone in financial ruin with a dead parent and etc. to just lighten up already--her grievances are absolutely legitimate. Still, playing an entire game about this is just kind of a drag after a while, you know? Like, the very first screen in the game after you gain control is a lush forest with blowing leaves and then random hospital IV bags just sitting in the meadow (again, What Dreams May Come.) If you interact with the one closest to you, Beth quips, "If I survive this, I'll have the bills to look forward to. Great."

It's that kind of game.

It's mopey. It's tropey. It's not that I mind sadness (hi, some of my favorite games include To the Moon, Mother 3, and Undertale, and have you seen the novel I wrote) but that's more sharp feels, whereas this is general bleakness. It's the most depression-fueled game I've seen since Depression Quest, and given the overall presentation, I suspect it may have been marketed toward a similar demographic.

That being said, I am a very firm believer in "Even if it's not my thing, it's still someone's thing." This is a critically acclaimed game in general, and I can see why. It is a very high quality product. The visuals are gorgeous, as is the soundtrack. It even has some very high-quality voice acting on almost every line. Some of the maze gimmicks are more fun than others but there are a lot of clever and fun-to-play puzzles in here. It's just that I found "fun" to be a bit of a hard thing to have with Beth raining on my parade every other screen. Which, again, I'm not saying she's wrong, and I even liked the ending and thought it was a fair enough reward for getting through the rest of the journey, but....

I don't know. Like I said, I think I was the wrong person to be playing this. Still, it was 72-minute-long "I appear to have this game here and I'm not sure what it is, let's just go through it real quick" jaunt and I don't regret going through it.

Also, the nightmare monster was kind of cute
kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (GOOD.)
My inaugural game for this "steal [livejournal.com profile] xyzzysqrl's game writeups" idea is a lovely little indie gem from No More For Today productions, a name I am convinced is part of the joke (since you have to see that big NO MORE FOR TODAY logo with that stupid owl every time you restart, as if to mock you further.) It's a fond nostalgic recollection of classic adventure gaming... and by that I mean they took [livejournal.com profile] davidn's favorite part of King's Quest III and made an over the top parody of it.

The trailer sums it up perfectly, really.

Anyway, I'd beaten this one before, but I was compelled to go back and try it again when I heard they'd made a SPECIAL EDITION with two new rooms and one new obstacle in one of the existing rooms. Actually playing through to completion goes through this cycle where it takes that "okay this is incredible" feeling you probably got from watching the trailer, then keeps going until the joke starts to wear a bit thin, then keeps going even further until it wraps around the other side and becomes amazing again. The stairs become all, and all become stairs. Stairs start to consume your every thought and then things really can get interesting. Also, it is 100% worth it for the ending.

Also, I beat this game twice (normal and SE) without realizing you could move diagonally. That would have been really good to know in the SE yeti room, which I instead just barely cleared by gratuitously abusing the skidding mechanic, drift-boosting around every corner like one of those infuriating online pro Mario Kart players who actually bothered to get unstoppably good at the game even though it's fucking Mario Kart.

Anyway. Stairs.
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