Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Vessel

Vessel is a 2D puzzle platformer set in a strange, steampunk world.

First off, this game looks gorgeous. Secondly, if this game played as well as it looks, it would be a masterpiece. Many parts of the game, such as the art and presentation, are definitely top-notch, but the gameplay itself is pretty far from it. The entire backstory of Vessel is told through a series of photographs, and the entire narrative is told through your character's journal entries. This is really cool.

Vessel would have made a great platformer, but the developers instead decided to go in the direction of being primarily a puzzle game. Because of this, they didn't focus nearly as much on making the gameplay as smooth as they should have, and the game feels awkward to play. I also, personally, strongly prefer primary platforming with secondary puzzles to primary puzzles with secondary platforming. That is just a preference, and not the game's fault.

Verdict: Stop playing.
The game had a lot of potential, but it fell short because the developers wanted to make a puzzle game, and the end result just didn't turn out as well as it could have. I struggled numerous times just to get as far as I did, and the story barely progressed at all during that time. In the end, this is a game that I would much rather watch than actually play.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Ever since I started this blog, there has only been one consistent reader. Somebody that I knew would read every single post, regardless of whether or not he was interested. That was my grandfather. About four weeks ago my grandfather had a stroke, and just a few days ago he passed away. Rest in peace, Gramps. You're awesome.

I said everything I needed to in one paragraph. My grandpa deserved a whole essay; but perhaps another day.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Little Inferno

Little Inferno is, at first glance, an entirely pointless game. Well, if you can even call it a game.

Basically, you're in an apocalyptic world in which the entire planet is slowly freezing to death. You're given a furnace for entertainment. You can burn things in the furnace, and you get money from doing so. You use the money, then, to buy more things to burn, and the cycle continues. You're given very few limitations, and there's no overall goal except to try to find combos so you can unlock more stuff.

So, as mentioned, this game seems entirely pointless at first glance. Some would argue that it is. However, occasionally you get letters that you can burn too, after you read them. These are from the company that makes the furnaces, from the weather company, or from your ecstatic neighbor who has a "Little Inferno" herself. Through these letters you're gradually given a picture of the world outside; one of those rare, very subtle ways of telling a story.

Overall, through these letters the game becomes intriguing, sad, and even a little depressing. It's brilliant, though, and no matter how absolutely pointless it is, it's incredibly addicting. I've spent more time playing Little Inferno then I've spent playing any other Thursday Impressions games before writing the blog post.

Verdict: Keep playing.
I want to see how the story ends.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Crescent by Homer Hickam

Crescent is the second installment of Homer Hickam's Helium-3 series. It is highly recommend that you read the first book first.

Crescent does not pick up where Crater left off, instead taking place three years later. It's still the exact same world—same futuristic moon colony—with the exact same characters, but you can tell how much it's changed. War has broken out on Earth, on the moon, and everywhere in-between. Crater Trueblood, our protagonist from before, is a part-time helium-3 miner and a part-time soldier, fighting under Colonel John High Eagle Medaris against the crowhoppers, genetically-engineered troops sent by the UCW—the Unified Counties of the World, an alliance formed by over thirty nations on Earth. The reason for the war was that the UCW wanted control over the moon, and the residents of the moon were not going to let that happen.

With that little bit of premise, I will not tell you the story. If you are eager to learn it, you can look up a synopsis on any book-selling website, or check out most other reviews. I, however, would just recommend reading the books. What I will tell you, however, is that Crescent is amazing and it was definitely worth the wait. The main characters are now a few years older, and you can tell how much they've changed. Crater is no longer the super-naive kid anymore, but instead has grown into a wiser, slightly pessimistic young man who has seen too much in his short time. While the characters have clearly grown up, you can tell that they're the exact same people, just older. I, more than anyone, know how much even a simple year can completely change a person.

Crescent is an adventurous tale, once again taking the reader back to this alternate future that I love so much. I feel like it's a little more mature than Crater was, possibly simply because the characters themselves are older. The book can be humorous at times, and the author gave multiple nods to the first book through inside jokes. My biggest complaint with the entire book is that it ended. I mean, come on! It was so very good the entire way through, and then ol' Homer had to go ahead and end it! When I finished the last chapter I jumped out of my chair and started shouting at the author for ending the book, and ending it where he did of all places.

Now, of course, the next Helium-3 novel is to be the final book in the series. I am going to be truly sad when it's over, because I love this trilogy. I assume that the next novel will once again jump ahead in time a few years, and I absolutely cannot wait. Unfortunately, I have to. It comes out in a year.

Congratulations, Mr. Hickam, your world has once again stolen my heart. I eagerly look forward to the final installment, though I'll probably cry at the end because the series will be over. You're a brilliant writer. Keep up the good work.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make some turnip paste.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Uplink

Uplink is a hacking simulator. You're an Uplink Agent, which is someone who hacks into the servers of various corporations to access files, alter information, and do whatever else you're told to do.

When first being introduced to this game, my initial thought was, "Okay, this is really cool, but it's not my kind of thing." However, after getting a decent ways through the tutorials, I instead started thinking, "This is starting to get really fun."

There's not really much to say about this game except that it's a hacking simulator. I could go into detail, but that's some complicated stuff. This is definitely a game in which you want to keep a notebook nearby. You're going to need a lot of information on hand, and it just ain't easy.

I tried to hack my first company without the tutorial's help, but I was tracked and disconnected by the company just as I was finishing my business. They sent me an email and charged me 1,000 credits to illegally snooping around their servers, which I willingly paid because, unbeknownst to them, I had already finished my mission and had been paid in full, so I had the money to spare. Ha!

Verdict: Keep playing.
This verdict surprised me. I'm not much in simulations, or many games that require a lot of focus, but Uplink is actually quite a captivating game.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Revisit: Crater by Homer Hickam

A year and a quarter ago I reviewed a book called Crater. It was written by Homer Hickam, the retired NASA engineer who penned the bestselling autobiography Rocket Boys, which was later made into the hit film October Sky.

My original review was a mistake. I focused too much on the book's faults, to the point that people who read my review thought I was saying it was cliché and cheesy and basically written for children. I made sure to state that I loved it, but because of the way I wrote it, people basically thought it had just been a guilty pleasure of mine. That's definitely not true, because my guilty pleasure is Colleen Coble novels.

What bothers me the most about my initial review is that the author himself misinterpreted it, and suggested that I might enjoy his novel The Dinosaur Hunter instead; to which my unspoken response was, "Dinosaurs? How boring! I want to go back to the moon!" (As a disclaimer, The Dinosaur Hunter is probably pretty good; I'm just not interested at the present time.)

While it's true that parts of Crater seemed a little bit cliché or cheesy, it's a brilliant novel and I think it deserves a revisit. I recently acquired the sequel, Crescent, and I decided that before reading it I would reread Crater, and then set the record straight on my blog.

To begin, I love this book. I only read it the first time about a year and three months ago, but it feels like it's been so much longer, to the point where a huge part of the book was downright nostalgic.

Crater takes place on a moon colony in the 22nd century, and the book spans over a decent portion of the moon, exposing the reader to what the future could be like. The author, being a former NASA engineer, put all of his scientific knowledge into making an intriguing and brilliant world that actually makes sense in the reader's mind. As the characters traveled the vast world, I often wished that I could be there as well, exploring the reaches of the moon.

The main character is Crater Trueblood, a naive teenager who was older than me the first time I read the novel, but whom is now pretty much the exact same age. Sometimes his character felt a little too naive, but he also had some great character development throughout the book.

At the beginning of the book Crater is sent on a mission with a convoy from his mining colony to the great Armstrong City, and from there even to outer space, and the closest to Earth he's ever been. It's a long journey with many hitches along the way. The story is beautifully written, even when you take into account the minor cliché elements.

Crater is a brilliant, suspenseful, and even somewhat tragic story. It takes place in an epic and well-crafted future universe, and the characters are great and memorable. Honestly, I haven't looked forward to any book in a long time as much as I've looked forward to the sequel.

I strongly apologize to anyone who read my initial review. Crater is awesome.

Thursday Impressions: Anodyne

Anodyne is a Legend of Zelda-style adventure game that places you as a man named Young who is appointed by very suspicious sages to save the world. Before long you pick up a broom, rather than a sword, and you're ready to take on evil at full force.

This game was very highly recommended by critics, and it did not disappoint. I only played up to and through the first dungeon, but in that short time it could both feel just like an old 2D Zelda game, and also like a completely new, original adventure.

The developers do have a bit of a sense of humor. This is another one of those games that are "by gamers, for gamers," meaning the creators wanted to create a game that they, themselves would love to play. Yet another reason why the independent gaming industry can be superior to the mainstream gaming industry.

Verdict: Keep playing.
I love it. My only concern is whether or not it will be long enough.