A Victory Lap Years Later – Super Nintendo – Super Mario Kart – 1992

Super Mario Kart (U) [!]000Super Mario Kart
Super Nintendo
Nintendo
Genre: Racing
1992

There are a few genres in gaming that I don’t talk about a lot. I haven’t played many sports games since I was a kid. I’m not really into the ‘4X’ strategy games that some of my friends gush over. One type of game that I’ve regularly played, though, and haven’t brought up is the ‘racing’ genre.

Nearly all of the major franchises from the 1990s ended up with some kind of racing title. Sonic Drift, Crash Team Racing, and even Final Fantasy had Chocobo Racing. One of the forerunners of this trend, of course, was the Mario franchise. When Super Mario Kart came out on the Super Nintendo, its colorful and chaotic cover art promised some new adventures involving a variety of characters from the universe we had all come to know and love. Given the number of spinoff games the franchise would receive, one could argue that Super Mario Kart opened the gates for the dearth of games we would see later on like Mario Party and Mario (insert name of sport here).

Even as a kid getting this game, though, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Playing as Mario without jumping on enemies and trying to navigate perilous worlds to save something? It was such a strange concept to me back then. Now, it seems as natural as any other idea given how many games bear the Mario Kart moniker. With the amount of time and refinement the games have gotten over multiple consoles and years, heading back to the beginning worried me. It could easily have been an undertaking of frustration that could decimate my nostalgia for the game.

Needless to say, I popped it in recently and gave it a whirl. What’s the worst that could happen? Continue reading

Mobile Mini-Reviews – With an Open Heart, Sharp Wits, and Neon Blood

One hill I am willing to die on is that mobile gaming gets much less credit than it deserves.

Don’t get me wrong. Much like other platforms like Steam where smaller developers can occasionally throw whatever they want into the marketplace with varying quality, it can take some sifting to find some of the gems hidden in the digital mineshaft. Even then, those gems are a matter of taste and might not appeal to everybody.

With much I use my phone in waiting rooms and while I’m trying to accomplish other things, I’ve come across a few games that met with some personal criteria I had set up- a defined ending, for instance- which I would love to share with folks who might be struggling to find some way to cut their teeth on the offerings at their fingertips.

HungryHeartsTitleHungry Hearts Diner: A Tale of Star-Crossed Souls
GAGEX Co., Ltd
Genre: Simluation
HungryHearts1In a small village just on the border of a large city in Japan in the Showa era, a diner sits steeped in antiquity and small-town conversation. The owner of the diner has fallen ill recently, however, so his wife has taken over the duties of cooking, meal planning, and keeping the diner in business for the locals. Every small town’s citizens have a story, though, and a small eatery is a perfect place for them to open up. After all, food can bring up memories and emotions just as well as any other stimulus can.

Taking the role of the elderly wife, your job is to keep people in your diner happy and fed while improving the diner and its menu. With particular customers, you will be able to suss out their favorite dishes and what food will help them open up, relating their stories and troubles to you in small cutscenes once their affection has risen enough. The more you create your available concoctions, you will also be able to create other dishes which will earn more money and cater to your clientele even more.

HungryHearts2At its core, Hungry Hearts is a ‘tapper’ game, which won’t appeal to everyone. The game does have the occasional option to watch an advertisement to gain more experience or money, but they can easily be skipped. It is free-to-play as a base, however, and the trappings only obscure the heart of the game underneath.

Where this game excels is in its stories, characters, and atmosphere. Hungry Hearts captures the village feel that it is going for with exquisite results. More than once, I felt a tug of emotion at the writing and interactions between the people of the town, many of whom have stories that interact with one another despite their not interacting directly. Each unique character has their own full story to be engaged with and the endings are almost entirely well worth the investment. In between stories, the game was also incredibly relaxing with an ambient soundtrack and charming visual style that I found myself addicted to.

If you don’t mind dealing with some of the usual free-to-play inconveniences and you need a game to wind down with, you would do well to seek out Hungry Hearts.

PartiaTitlePartia: The Broken Lineage
Imago Software
Genre: Strategy Role-Playing
Partia1
Taking place on the continent of Partia in the kingdom of Grana, you play as the younger of two princes slated to sit on the throne and rule over the people. The people of the land, however, clearly have their favored candidate of the two, whether it is the responsible and headstrong eldest or the slightly rebellious and more approachable second-born. Some of those people, however, will do whatever they must to ensure that their candidate of choice ascends to the throne.

With no qualms of being derived from the likes of Fire Emblem, Partia concerns itself more with political intrigue and strategic choices over knockdown brawls. Divided into chapters, the game takes you through the moves made by those who desire power as you gather a group of allies willing to fight by the prince’s side. Following the mechanics of Fire Emblem to a near-perfect T, characters level up, receive weapons with particular durability, and can be lost forever if they perish in battle.

Partia2The game isn’t without its obstacles. Without exploiting the arena in town between chapters, you will lose a lot of your allies so grinding is a bit of a must. The translation in the build I played was also a little choppy in areas, though easily navigable. The team has released patches since, however, so it may be a slightly different experience to play now.

What is to be commended is that the game captures the spirit of the early Fire Emblem games with a bit of an overhaul on the presentation side. The battle sprites are simple but effective, and the portraits and other art evoke the styles of games like Shining Force and the GBA entries of the Fire Emblem series. A lot of heart and passion for the genre appears in the short time you will spend with Partia which, as of this writing, rings in at $3.99 to purchase. There are also two sequels available, and while I’ve only just started the second game, improvements already appear to have been implemented.

MidnightShowTitleThe Midnight Show
Takster Games, LLC
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
MidnightShow1It’s 1985. You’ve arrived at the Orpheum Theatre where some of the hottest new films are playing and the staff is way cooler than you’ll ever be. If you don’t feel like taking in a show, you could always hit the arcade and try to win some prizes from the crane game there. For such a rad looking place, though, it seems awfully empty. Something feels just a bit off about that, doesn’t it? Maybe if you look around a bit, you’ll figure out what’s going on and why you can’t seem to leave the way you came in.

I may be biased given my love of horror, the 80s, and point-and-click adventure games. The Midnight Show, however, was probably one of my favorite mobile games to get through and play. It unfolds like any other point-and-click game does, but with the in-jokes and tongue-in-cheek tone, it feels right at home with games like Maniac Mansion (which is has a great poke at) and other LucasArts adventures.

MidnightShow2If I had one qualm, it is a bit short. This isn’t a major issue, though, as it doesn’t overstay its welcome longer than it has to, telling a tight story with a few atmospheric moments and just enough puzzles to make you think and explore a bit to proceed. My “qualm” probably lies in the fact that I wanted a bit more of the universe once the game closed up shop. Call me selfish, I guess.

As with the other two games here, the presentation is strong. While I loved the visuals, the soundtrack is where the game really hooked me with some strong 80s synth that found me sticking around a bit longer in places than I probably needed to. If you’re a fan of the music of the era, you’ll be hard-pressed not to relish in the soundscape a bit. Kudos to Wice and ALEX, who are credited as the featured artists.

Looking at the game, I don’t see a price tag on it anymore so it may just be free to download- which is a steal for the experience. The Midnight Show is well worth the price of admission, however, price tag or not, and it should be checked out if you have any interest after reading this.

I play quite a few persistent games that I could easily recommend, as well, and may write a bit about them in a future post. Having a game that has a defined beginning and end can be tough to find in a quality package and an affordable cost. Hopefully, this will point out some options to folks who might not be fans of mobile games to give a chance to!

Have any recommendations or thoughts on these games if you’ve checked them out? Any feelings on mobile gaming you’d like to share? As always, drop me a line here in the comments or on Twitter!

Testimony of an Apocolypse – Fondly Remembering Resident Evil 2

re2logo
(Note: this article will contain spoilers for the first five or so minutes of the original version of this game. Consider yourself warned! – 3P)

I remember exactly where I was and who was present when I first played Resident Evil 2.

In my best friend’s living room, the family had made way for us to play our new game on the big TV in the living room. He and I were ecstatic, having bonded over other games like Tomb RaiderWild Arms, and Syphon Filter among plenty of others. We had never played the original Resident Evil together, but both of us were so excited to get into the second installment after trying the demo that I had made a successful plea to my parents to buy the game for me; I was 14 at the time, so plea bargains were commonplace to get the hot new releases coming out.

Our mothers chatted idly in the kitchen while his brother, who was older than us by a few years, stood by and watched us with amusement and his own interest in the game. His then-girlfriend was also there, at least excited by osmosis, as I don’t think she was much of a gamer.

My friend judiciously decided that I should be the first person to break ground on this new trek through the undead. I popped the disc in, grabbed a controller, and stationed myself right in the middle of the room, the lights dim as the sun was setting outside, lowering us naturally into the looming shadows of the night.

Soon thereafter, I was greeted by my protagonist, a determined-looking young woman clad in red and black, gliding into Raccoon City on her motorcycle: Claire Redfield. As she stepped into Emmy’s Diner and found herself face to face with her first (of hundreds) reanimated adversary, my adrenaline started to pump. She wasn’t a hardened military type like her lost brother, Chris, or Jill Valentine. She wasn’t even a cop like Leon Scott Kennedy, the other option for the main character. She was a college student, unaware of the danger she was in. She was Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, and Sidney Prescott; the Final Girl of Resident Evil 2.

claireemmys
After being rescued by Leon, however, her composure is regained and the two of them, working to decipher their situation, wind up separated once again by an unexpected tractor trailer. Once again, I was alone, surrounded by the flames of the crash and already with zombies looming before me. It didn’t take long- maybe unloading bullets into a total of one of the many incoming stalkers- for me to realize that I was not going to have enough bullets to take care of all of these. This wasn’t the empty and unsettling front hall of the Spencer Mansion; Raccoon City was quite literally going to eat me alive if I didn’t do something besides mow down my problems.

With haste, I managed to maneuver Claire between her assailants, being caught once or twice but breathlessly finding my way from screen to life-threatening screen. As she held her side and ducked through an alleyway toward the gates that would lead to my hopeful salvation, I already had marveled at the memories I had from the last few minutes: losing poor Robert Kendo in his gun shop as zombies swarmed him from the window, being cornered in a too-tight alleyway and worrying that it may be the last of my already dismal moments, and even the fact that Claire was giving an indication of being wounded without my having to go into the inventory screen- all of it wrapped me in the immersion of this desperate slog to try to find salvation and a moment to breathe.

clairealleyway
As Claire slipped through another thick metal door, I started to wonder if the police station that Leon had shouted for her to meet him at even existed anymore. The city was in shambles and given that there had never been a view into Raccoon City proper before, it was possible the entire adventure was going to be Claire and Leon ducking from street to street to find an escape. This place seemed more open, though. Something seemed calm, though not safe by any means. My friend and I went quiet, as did the couple in the room with us. I made Claire descend a staircase, going under some bridge. It seemed safer than traveling in the open and to my relief, it was devoid of any un-life.

I stopped to look at the other people in the room.

“Maybe you’re almost there?”
“If you take another hit, you’re probably dead.”
“Wow, this is intense…”

No one really seemed sure what was going to happen next. I was resolved to find some safety- and a place to save because I could not take any more of the stress let alone have to relive it. Claire marched up an opposing set of stairs back to the surface, and I braced myself for another mad dash.

There it was.

The Raccoon City Police Department.

claire
I stood outside for a brief second to take in the victory that I had reached the massive double doors to what I knew was temporary safety. At the shouting of “GO GO GO” from the room, Claire lunged into the building, leaving the intense struggle through the streets of Raccoon City to dive deeper into the incidents that would bring her to be my favorite survival horror character in gaming to date.

I’m anticipating the remake of Resident Evil 2 this Friday so strongly because the opening sequence of the original was one of the best and most engaging I had experienced up to that point. I fell in love with the characters, the environment, and the mounds of atmosphere that the game set its foundation upon. Having played the one-shot demo of the new game, I sincerely believe it has a lot of potential to rouse those emotions in me again. As a longtime gamer, I’m looking forward to that. Those feelings were the reason I’ve been a gamer for so long, and Resident Evil 2 has been set into an unshakeable display case in my heart as one of my all-time favorite titles.

Any readers else looking forward to this remake as much as I am? Any memories or hopes for the series should this remake do as well as it’s shaping up to? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter, and I look forward to seeing you all again once I come up for air once Resident Evil 2 releases!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Blink and You’ll Miss It – PC – The Final Take – 2016

title
The Final Take
PC
Hush Interactive/Forever Entertainment S.A.
Genre: Survival Horror
2016

Sometimes, brevity is the kindest form of reference.

No, that’s not a saying. I just feel like it’s apt for some situations. In some cases, the less you say about something, the better. Sometimes, you have to refrain from saying something negative. Other times, there just isn’t enough to draw from to say much at all. In the case of The Final Take, it’s a bit more of the second reason than the first.

Given I just finished this game in a sitting, I wanted to at least pop some notes down so that if other folks run across this title, they may at least have some impressions before picking it up.  
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Fear the Reaper More Than the Shutdown – PC – DreadOut – 2014


title
DreadOut
PC
Digital Happiness
Genre: Survival Horror
2014

It’s that time again, folks. Time to dip back into the indie survival horror pool and see what we come out with. Thankfully, there have been a few successful hooks in the past, some of which I’ve discussed here and some I haven’t gotten the chance to yet. Of course, all of these efforts tend to lend their success to hit titles from the genre’s past- and that’s not a bad thing. Titles like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Clock Tower forged a well-beaten path for developers to take something and make it their own. In this case, Fatal Frame, a personal favorite, comes to mind.

DreadOut is a game that I followed a bit in its inception, watching the news of its funding and its subsequent development. Touting that it would be a spiritual successor to the Fatal Frame series, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. As a mythology buff, the promise that it took inspiration from Indonesian mythology and culture piqued my interest, too; it’s not a realm I’m familiar with but I’m always looking to learn more. When I came out, I took advantage of the first sale I could and slotted it into my Steam “to play” list.

Now, here we are. About five years later, I’ve finally booted it up to sit down and play thanks to some discussion on Twitter with some fellow horror fans. While I’ve been working on trying to get through the last mainline Final Fantasy title I haven’t beaten and I’m anticipating that the first quarter of the year will be busy with Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists and Resident Evil 2, I’ve been working to clear out my backlog- and DreadOut felt like the perfect place to start.
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