Guns, Gore & Cannoli

One of my friends told me about the excellent Guns, Gore & Cannoli back when it released in 2015. I never got around to playing it until recently — it was on sale for a couple of bucks that I just so happened to have on my account so I picked it up. Apparently there is a sequel that released at the beginning of the year as well, perhaps after I complete the original I might pick that one up too.

If you’ve played a side-scrolling platformer, you’ve played them all. There isn’t a lot here to set GG&C apart from the competition outside of its unique storyline and excellent hand-drawn art style. I suppose that goes for most platformers too, as each tries to carve its own niche in the genre in a similar fashion. Our story revolves around Mr. Cannoli, a mob man that was called to “Thugtown” to help with a job. Unfortunately for him, stories have been coming out of the town about angry mobs attacking any and everyone. These mobs of course, are Zombies. I love Zombie related media, so this one fits in nicely as a different take on the Zombie genre. There’s no real explanation of how the Zombies came to be, you just arrive at the town via ship after a short animated introduction, and Zombies have already boarded and eliminated the crew. Good thing you’re a badass mobster who’s packing heat!

As far as the action goes, it’s pretty straight forward. You will pick up a variety of guns that come in varying power levels. You’ll shoot, reload and blow up zombies with grenades and molotovs. You’ll eat cannoli to regain health. You can jump, you can kick, and that’s really all there is to it. You don’t get the full range of direction to aim with, it’s simply shoot left or right, jump if you need to aim higher, and crouch if you need to aim lower. Most zombies are upright, but there are those who crawl, some have shields, some throw barrels/axes, and some run while others walk. Pretty much the entire gamut of zombie themes are present here. I really enjoy the art direction and the gameplay is smooth and easy to jump into. The most recent game I’ve played that I’d compare it to is Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken (which was also a rather excellent game — loved the soundtrack!). Really, there isn’t much to expect in the way of differences, but platformers have always been a fun distraction from more complicated games and are usually a good way to boost your trophy count. I can’t say that I would pay a ton for games like these, but when you can get them on sale for under $5, it’s worth the admission price.

Thoughts on Chasm

I don’t remember where I first saw Chasm. I just know that when I saw it, I wanted to play it and its been on my wishlist ever since. I’d kind of forgotten about it, to be honest, because when I saw that it released the other day, I was surprised to find that it had been on my wishlist since 2016! Apparently this was a crowdfunded title and there were some development hiccups along the way, but it has officially released on PC and Console, and being a Metroidvania my preferred version was on the PS4. I downloaded it on release day and got to playing it shortly thereafter.

For the uninitiated, a “Metroidvania” is a particular style of game. It’s one part side-scrolling platformer and one part gated exploration. For instance, on a given level, you’ll come across places that should be accessible but are not due to lack of a particular skill. You’ll find a small crack in the ground and later get a ground pound ability to get through it, or will find a way to shrink to fit under low hanging boundaries. This type of game’s namesakes are Metroid and Castlevania, two pioneering titles of the genre. Chasm has these same sorts of mechanics, but have added some RPG elements along with a touch of procedural generation. As such, when you start a new game it will be a particular seed, and you could give this seed name out to share the same world with someone else.

Our story opens with an introduction to the protaganist (named by you), who is a recruit for some army or another. Your first task is to head to the town of Karthas and find out what is going on with the mines there. After a long journey (on foot) you arrive and it appears to be a ghost town. After inspecting the buildings, you’ll run into the mine’s foreman who is holed up in his office. He tells you that the miners dug a bit too deep and that something terrible happened and now they are all trapped down there.

You’ll head into the mines with little more than a sword and some quilted armor. From there it’s hack and slash time, with platforming jumpy bits in between. The map will open up as you progress, and soon you’ll find some of the townsfolk trapped in cages. Release them and they will return to town, and new options will open up for you.

One of the townsfolk is a merchant that you can buy from and sell to. Another opens up new areas in the mine, while the last one I found took up residence in the tavern, and has a gambling game you can play. I have no idea what sorts of prizes you might win, I lost the only coin I had to the machine.

The menu system is pretty straight forward. You’ll find your typical RPG character sheet with stats, an equipment menu to gear up on, and your item inventory screen with descriptions of things you’re picking up. Food items will restore health in a pinch, and some valuables appear to be used in crafting though I guess I haven’t rescued the appropriate NPC just yet. There is also a bestiary tab with stats and info on monsters you fight, with each individual monster requiring a set amount of kills before you open their page.

I’ve faced off against a couple of different bosses so far, and they weren’t too difficult once you figured out their play pattern. As I mentioned earlier, these style of games tend to have a gating system that requires you to find particular equipment or skills to progress past certain points, and so far the only item I’ve found are the Spiked Gloves. These allow you to grab onto ledges and traverse areas you couldn’t reach before. Still haven’t found a way to shrink or slide/roll to get through small spaces, but I have found those areas on the map.

The only way to save your game is to come across these altars (one is also present up in Karthas) which means you’ll have to be careful in between saves. I’ve had a few deaths and though you don’t really lose anything XP or gear wise, you do lose any progress since your last save. Hoarding HP items is probably the best advice I can give, but once you learn the play patterns of enemies it becomes fairly easy to avoid death. I’ve delved fairly deep to this point, down to the third level of the mine which has stopped looking like a mine and more like some ancient temple. I imagine there will be different biomes as I persist, but to this point it has been slowly ramping up in difficulty and I can’t complain. Chasm was listed for $20 but was on sale for $17.99 during the first week. I’d recommend it if you enjoy this style of game and are looking for something new. The random element might make it worth several playthroughs, I’ll let you know if that’s the case once I’ve completed it for the first time.

Mini-Impressions: Crash Bandicoot and Shadow of the Colossus Remasters

Recently I wrote about moving on from gaming experiences that I just wasn’t feeling. Monster Hunter World was one of those games that was surrounded by hype and many people were enjoying so I took a risk and bought it for full price. Apparently the game isn’t for everyone though, as I ended up not really caring for it. As such, I traded it in at Gamestop and picked up copies of two older games that have been remastered on the PS4: Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy and Shadow of the Colossus. In both cases I have already played through a bit and can report that I’m thoroughly enjoying these titles much more than the game I traded in. The former title is nothing like MHW, though the latter could draw some comparisons, only because you are hunting down Colossi, which are still much larger than the “monsters” I saw in MHW. Either way, I’m a happy camper with this decision, and wanted to share my thoughts on these games.

I already mentioned that I had prior history with both of these games, but I hadn’t completed any of them. I only played the original Crash Bandicoot sparsely, and never touched the sequels and I only personally played the PS3 remastered version of Shadow of the Colossus. Crash is instantly recognizable, and I love the intro loading screen that shows the original Crash use a machine to turn from his low-poly form to his newly updated version. I distinctly remember levels off of the original and they look much better with the updated visuals. The core gameplay remains the same, it’s a unique platformer (for the time) that uses varying points of view that would later become trivial in game design but was something new during the era. Details that I maybe didn’t take in on my first try during the PSOne days are clearly visible, and there is room for replay given the differing collections and unlockable areas. It clearly was the Playstation’s answer to Mario and Sonic, and to a degree I think it was a great series and definitely provided new challenges for the genre. The only think I think would make this collection even better is if they were to remaster Crash Team Racing. I would literally play the shit out of some CTR particularly if you could have online functionality for the racing and the battle mode! Was my favorite game of the series (and one of my favorite PSOne games of all time!).

Shadow of the Colossus is similar to the above title in that it is a remaster, but it’s also a game that has been remastered twice. Originally released for the Playstation 2, it became a cult classic. This is the same game, only much better looking. I have seen the original in action as I used to watch my old roommate play it when we lived together. I recognize and understand how to beat some of the early colossi because I’ve seen it done. I also purchased the first remaster of the game for PS3, and though I think it did look better than the PS2 version (at the time my memory of the two would have been more recent) this new remaster takes the cake. Having already paid for the last remaster (that should only count as upping the resolution because it’s still night and day different), playing through this game should count as clearing something else from the backlog. For those of you who already purchased this the last time and didn’t ever complete it I’d say you should pick it up as well, and if you’ve never played one of the other versions definitely give this a whirl.

The story is simple enough: You are trying to bring a loved one back to life, so you travel to this temple and place her on an altar. You are met by a celestial voice that says that you can bring her back to life if you are to defeat the 15 colossi in this land, but that it will come at great cost to you. After that it’s not much dialogue, you’ll use your special sword to use the reflection of the sun to direct you to your prey. From there you’ll open up new areas and find more to take down. Fighting the colossi is interesting and varied. Typically there will be some sort of weak point that you can damage to bring the beast down and then you’ll climb onto it and stab at another weak point (or more) to kill the beast. You have a stamina gauge when climbing however, so you have to do things quickly and wisely to finish the task at hand. There’s a pretty awesome photo mode included where you can get some awesome screen shots and I appreciate that as a blogger. Each time you kill a colossi, you’re filled with this black smoke/goo that is shooting out of their weak points and then teleported back to the original temple. Your body will lie there until you gain consciousness, you’ll be surrounded by dark figures that I assume represent those that you killed, and the idol of the slain colossus will crumble. I have a feeling those dark souls are part of the “great cost” I’ll be paying to bring my loved one back to life. At this point I’ve taken down the first three colossi and discovered the fourth.

I’ll report back once I’ve struck these games from the list.

Monster Hunter World: Calling it Quits

I was told today that I have matured in my decision making when it comes to video games. In the past, if I spent $60 on a game chances are I’d attempt to play through it, even if it ended up being one of those games that “takes a while to click.” Generally speaking I will refuse to admit that perhaps I purchased the game too hastily, that I left myself get caught up in the hype. I admitted when I first wrote about the game that I did read about it on various blogs and that I was given a glowing recommendation from someone who’s opinion I trust, but therein lies the trouble with long-running series you’re just getting involved in. Monster Hunter is an established franchise, but I haven’t played a single entry. Going into things blind is sometimes a boon because there aren’t spoilers, but at the same time this is the type of game that defies definition. Though I was told it could be compared to a From Software title (and I understand why it was referenced as such) I just didn’t see it. I didn’t have the desire to explore this world. I didn’t feel immersed. Running around chasing a monster around a rather large map and stabbing it until it dies wasn’t appealing either. I assume that this game would be better with a dedicated group of friends that could co-op their way through it, but as the layers of complication added on I simply couldn’t be bothered. At this point in my life my time is too valuable to be wasting on something I’m not enjoying. As such, I deleted the game from my system and brought it into Gamestop to trade it in while it’s still considered a “new” game and get me the best return on investment.

That’s a laugh.

Gamestop offered me $25 store credit for a $60 game that came out just over a month ago. Not to be deterred, I scoured their shelves to find something that I knew I would enjoy. I saw titles that I wanted to play but would prefer to get on my PC, and then there were a couple of console exclusives that were tried and true games that I felt were worth the money. The trade-in value covered most of the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy, and then I picked up a copy of the newly remade Shadow of the Colossus. The former is a collection of PSOne classics made by Naughty Dog (of Uncharted fame) of which I’ve played but I don’t think I ever completed one.

I have a longer history with Shadow of the Colossus. It’s unclear if it was before or after we lived together, but at some point or another my best friend showed me this game back in the Playstation 2 days. It looked interesting enough, but I didn’t play it at the time. Later on the Playstation 3, an HD upres remaster released and I purchased it. Perhaps it was too soon to play again for him, but I had some fun with it despite not really being all that much better looking than the original game. Like the Crash Bandicoot title, both of these games were remade from the ground up for Playstation 4, so they are supposed to be the same as the original games with up to date graphics. I’m excited to see them in action, and you know I’ll report about them here.

In other news, I had been trying to find the next game to strike off of the backlog list after completing The Order 1886, and tried picking up Alien: Isolation. I’ve had it for a while and being on a FPS kick lately it was a good choice, but I ended up getting stuck and calling the whole thing off. I deleted that one from my hard drive as well, and I’m sticking to my guns about this. It’s not to say that this is the first time I deleted a game without completing it (I couldn’t get into The Witcher 3 either despite rave reviews from literally everyone) and it’s not to say that I haven’t traded in a game at Gamestop a short time after buying it either, though usually it’s because I’ve completed it and have no use for it anymore. Nowadays I plan to play them through if I enjoy them, and delete them if I don’t. It should help speed up the process, at least.

I’m unsure if I will power through one of these two titles immediately or if I will pick up something else to run through. I know that I have an itch to play an RPG and I mean aside from EQ2 which I still am subbed to and need to spend some time on to at least clear the new expansion before breaking away until later in the year when there’s new content again. I am a good ways into Shadow Warrior 2 which has been on hold for sometime, but I’m tempted to start up the Dark Souls trilogy or Pillars of Eternity/some other isometric RPG that’s in the back log. Or perhaps it’s time to finish of Final Fantasy XV or Mass Effect Andormeda?

Clearly I’m still torn on which way to go but I will figure it out soon and continue on my journey to clear out the backlog.