Games in Rotation

13 Nov / by: M&R / 16 comments /

We’re still struggling with trying to write something here more than once a damn month.. there are dozens and dozens of semi-fleshed-out topics waiting patiently in a text file, but converting these from point form into our typical nice classy posts takes way more time and energy than we can usually muster.

Today, as a break from all the “hating on games” — there’s always Zero Punctuation if you’re desperately in need of some cheeky reviews — we figured we’d mention some of the games that we’ve been playing lately rather than doing work. By that we mean both that we play these games rather than doing work, and also that we’re writing this very post rather than doing work. But since we also play these games rather than post on this blog rather than doing work, this way you’ll know who to blame for this blog never being updated! Assuming you’ve managed to even read this far, which is doubtful given the previous two sentences.

Zelda DS

We’ve been waiting for Zelda for the DS for a long time. In the meantime, Raigan started replaying Zelda II on the Virtual Console, so the office is currently a-buzz with Zelda goodness. In fact, just yesterday Mare smashed all of the potted plants in the hopes of uncovering a few rupees. The graphics are enjoyable, the music is decent, and some of the minigames are even worth playing more than once.

Overall, Phantom Hourglass is as fun as we were hoping. In terms of the changes to the gameplay mechanics, drawing a path for the boomerang (etc) is a fantastic concept, and a the use of the stylus feels perfect in this game — it doesn’t feel tacked on, as is so common among DS games. Though the game is a little repetitive (each time it’s necessary to return to the Temple, a collective groan erupts) and sometimes having to tap a tool currently in use to put it away so you can move (I’m looking at you, bow & arrow) is a little frustrating, but overall it’s a delight. The dialogue is often hilarious, and there are several jokes and digs at players and the history of the series.

We’d really like to boot up the Gamecube version again, but the thought of navigating the seas without being able to label the islands onscreen is a daunting one. Plus, it would be easier to continue rather than restart; if only someone hadn’t ruined the Gamecube’s memory card, crushing our save progress and our hearts, all in one mighty step.


There’s no point in really writing anything here, as everyone is already raving about this game. Hooray!!

Although, we really want to know how it took like 3 years to make this, considering they sort of started with a finished game.. we’re envisioning the Narbacular Drop team all trying hard to work and stay focused while being pelted with a never-ending torrent of Nerf projectiles.

We’re not sure why the rest of Valve would spend all day, every day having Nerf fights, but it’s the most likely explanation.


Raigan’s addiction to this perverse-yet-perfect game mash-up has tapered off a bit since the summer. The biggest problem with this game is that it can take a long time to play, and it’s a bit too random — not a good combination. Often you spend an hour making it to the later levels, only to run into ammo and/or health and armour problems simply due to the extreme randomness of the levels.

Still, every release of this game just gets better and better; now if only Derek Yu would use his famousness to somehow get John Carmack drunk enough to allow a DS version featuring Derek’s awesome tileset (which used to be posted here).

Pacman CE

The review says it all. Especially the part about Toru Iwatani’s balls. Sadly, the last time we played this, we ran into this horrible problem. The short version (for any link-averse readers) is: because our 360 has died and been replaced twice, the games we have purchased will only work when ye olde Xbox360 is connected to the network.. ??!?! What’s impossible to comprehend is why Microsoft don’t just migrate all of one’s data/licenses to the replacement console.. can it really be that hard? If you’re so paranoid about digital piracy to the point that you’re using the console’s serial number as a key, why can’t you simply update the key when it changes?! Since they own the database where this info is kept, and administer the replacement process, it’s really incomprehensible.

On second thought, perhaps it makes perfect sense — from their point of view, there is absolutely no downside to waiting as long as possible to fix this sort of thing. If you just ignore the problem long enough, there’s always the chance that no one will notice and you won’t have to do anything. If after a couple years the public finally become aware of the problem, to the point where you can no longer deny or gloss over it any longer, then you fix it. That way you can look like you’re doing the right thing! It’s win-win!

Being totally F’d in the A by a gigantic corporation has never felt better.

Crypts of Despair

So simple, and yet so addictive and fun. The graphics are terrific. The sounds are perfect. This is exactly how all DS roguelikes (Pokeman MD, Izuna, Shiren “if-it-ever-comes-out-over-here” The Wanderer) should be, but sadly aren’t.

This also makes us wonder why there hasn’t been a single startup based around the idea of making commercial games out of freeware/shareware. The games are slowly leaking into the commercial marketplace anyway: Every Extend, Everyday Shooter, Gish Loco Roco, Tumiki Fighters, *cough* N+ *cough*.

The authors will most likely be more than happy to at least license it, or preferably take an active role in porting. The whole reason sequels and movie licenses are popular is that they’re known quantities, right? Same with freeware — you don’t need to worry about the game being crap, because you’ve played it already before production has even begun! There are currently dozens of really, really fun and smart games being missed by almost everyone. And for the cost of just licensing the name “Spiderman” you could probably bankroll Cave Story and Lyle in Cube Sector! Damn it business people, pull your heads out of your asses!

Trilby’s Art of Theft

As with many games made by a single person, this has a few problems. The controls are a bit awkward, there are occasional logic/behaviour glitches, etc. Thankfully, this game shares another trait common in games made by a single person: the problems are completely overwhelmed by the sheer and obvious passion of the author.

There is style dripping from every aspect of this game.. this title is literally vomiting character all over the place. The charm spews forth abundantly. It’s like a magical gem which somehow gushes unrelenting torrents of pure class and personality straight into your mind-grapes. The graphics are amazing (“corking”), the way that the side-view stairs/depth issue is handled is genius (“brilliant”), the game itself is really fun to play (“spot-on”), the presentation is just perfect (“stonking”), and the author is totally British (“cheery pip”). The way that the plot/story is incorporated without getting in the way of the actual game is great. There are cutscenes, and yet we don’t hate them. Possibly because they’re artfully done rather than “bog-standard”?

The only complaint we have with this game, and it’s a big one, is that we were planning on making a stealth-platformer at some point. Curse you, Yahtzee!

Liberal Crime Squad

After giving up on ever having the patience to get anywhere in Dwarf Fortress, Raigan tried this earlier game by the same people. Like the rest of their games, it has terrific amounts of personality, an intelligent sense of humour, and a palpable aura of creative energy — three traits sadly lacking in most games. Unfortunately, as with their other titles, the Adams brothers seem committed to burying terrific, genuinely fun games beneath the most god-awful, nigh-unuseable interfaces possible.

For instance, their action game WW1 Medic, while brilliant in so many ways, has one absolutely unbearable problem.. it uses the same “press arrow key to start moving, press again to stop moving” interface found in mid-80s Sierra games. This control scheme wasn’t always a huge problem in the early Quest games, because moving around was only a peripheral part of the game. But remember Kings Quest 3? That mountain path? There was also a part near the start of Space Quest 2 if we recall correctly.. point being: as soon as moving around with the arrow keys becomes important, toggling movement with them starts to suck in a big way.

Maybe we’ve totally missed the point — maybe, by digging up a horrible abomination that’s been dormant for 20 years, and proceeding to ruin their game with it, the authors were making some sort of artistic statement about the suffering and grief caused by armed conflict in the 20th century. Regardless, it is one manifestation of the tragic pattern present in the other Bay12 games: terrific game, crotch-kneeingly bad interface.

Which brings us back to the game we’re supposed to be writing about: Liberal Crime Squad (LCS). Or at least to Dwarf Fortress, which is a step towards the game we’re supposed to be writing about, which is LCS. Before we become deluged in flaming comments, please note that we adore ASCII-based games, and roguelikes in particular. It has nothing to do with the ASCII or the cryptic key commands “per se”. It’s just that certain user interface idioms are inherently more or less well-suited to certain tasks.

For instance, imagine if word processors were mouse- or gamepad-only. That would suck, right? Writing an essay with only a mouse would be like trying to program Portal while being repeatedly blasted in the face with foam darts: it would take forever, and what’s worse, throughout it all nothing would be more frustrating or glaringly obvious than the agonizing truth — that you know it doesn’t have to be this way, that there are better solutions! This is what it feels like to play Dwarf Fortress, and to a lesser extent LCS. Sometimes the game is fun enough to somewhat overcome the perpetual screaming-baby-on-a-plane of the interface, and when it does so it’s like the sun has peeked between stormy clouds to blast wonderful, irreverent and quirky sunlight on your face. But then it slides back behind the clouds and other, less savoury things start hitting your face.

Again, maybe we’re clueless and totally off the mark here — maybe whatever strange country the Adams’ are from has outlawed mice, and thus the two are staging a noble and valient protest — in game form — against such a draconian policy, by making us all feel what it must be like to live there. If you can even call that living. Sadly this doesn’t change the fact that both games would be much more enjoyable if the interface was transparent, rather than a substantial impediment to actually experiencing enjoyment.

Whew, and that is all for now! We’ve actually played many more games in the past couple months, but most of them would be filed under the “complain about how they sucked” type of review rather than the more positive tone we were going for here. Rereading the above, this tone may not have come through fully. To clarify, we definitely recommend checking out all of these games! Maybe next time we’ll get back to that good old-fashioned hating. For now, it’s back to work on the grant application we’re supposed to be doing. And then, we have to arrange 100 DS/PSP levels. Then we need to tweak 50 new ones, and arrange them. And then do lots of DS/PSP testing. And then, Robotology.

But maybe we’ll just play a quick game of something instead 😉

comments ( 16 )

  • nice list, 1 complaint, i don’t have a system that runs any of them (no 360 or DS, and my comp is a mac)

  • even if you don’t have time to develop robotology, you can still talk about it right? I check my RSS like every day for new robotology news..

    Also, the new screenshots on thewayoftheninja look very nice. I like the art style.

  • Seriously, come on! More METANET game news! I check my rss feed every day too and when I finally see something from Metanet, it has no development news 🙁

  • Hmm, did you guys know you can hold L or R in Phantom Hourglass to activate the item you’re holding? It’s only activated as long as you hold the trigger.

  • “Writing an essay with only a mouse would be like trying to program Portal while being repeatedly blasted in the face with foam darts: it would take forever”

    Whoever wrote that wins at blogging.

  • We’ll do some Robotology stuff soon!

  • Good… or else.

    Please tell me you guys have read Real Ultimate Power by Robert Hamburger, right?

    If not, I’ll send you guys a copy.

  • that book looks pretty funny..

  • It’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Next time you’re at a book store check it out, or if you have faith in a random person posting a comment on your blog just get it.

  • LOL! guys.. you are SO awesome at writing. i wish you would blog more, because as fun as all those reviews were to read…

    …i kept… in the back of my mind.. REALLY wishing that you would talk about the games YOU are working on.

    how are the multiplayer levels coming? are they easily implemented on the psp version? will we be able to design multiplayer N+ levels for the psp version?

    i have so many ideas for multiplayer n levels in my head.. its so perfect for multiplayer!! COOP multiplayer is the best thing everrrr.

    anyways.. so write about THAT some time.. and don’t make us wait SO long for new posts.

    /impatient fan

  • What Joel said. I love your blog for it’s off topic points about the games industry (although Iam still eagerly awaiting your games, honest!), you should do more of it, dare I suggest a podcast as well?

    I noticed Mario Galaxy was missing on your list though, but I guess it was mostly an indie games list.

    Keep up the good work, and get some stuff out on WiiWare when it launches!!!

  • it takes us enough time as it is to write stuff, recording podcast entries would NEVER happen!

    we just got MG a couple days ago, and Assassin’s Creed which so far is very underwhelming and awkward.. it’s Sands of Time all over again!

    we definitely won’t have a WiiWare title when it launches.. maybe later though.

  • All of you should try CRYSIS if your PC can handle it.

    Graphic is really nice and almost put my new computer to it’s knee = =. (QX6600 @ 3.0 4GB 8800GT 512 SLI)

    Ps. I only have PSP, Xbox360 , and Gaming PC Rig. I wish I can buy Wii someday.

  • baching Portal, and may I ask how long it took you to release N 1.5? let’s see, more than 3 years?

  • we didn’t “bash” portal, you have to admit that almost 1 year per hour of game isn’t rapid.

    we haven’t been working on N 1.5 during these three years, but point taken 😉

  • we’re friends with the portal people so at most it was a light ribbing ;p

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