Justice Playthrough #161: Learn Japanese To Survive: Kanji Combat OST

OOOOOOHHHH it’s a soundtrack.

Page 51, Game 1: Learn Japanese To Survive: Kanji Combat OST by Slaleky

I mean, it says so, right fucking there: “OST.” Original Sound Track. Reading comprehension is totally a thing you guys.

So, no learning for me. Just some anime inspired music.

Rather a lot of it, actually. Three whole disks’ worth. Dayam. That’s a hell of a lot of music that sounds like the Final Fantasy games I never quite got around to playing.

Right, this one’s gonna be an IOU. I wanna play a thing tonight and not just listen to music. Though what the hell, depending on what gets rolled-up next, maybe I can do them concurrently.

All right, is this next one gonna be suitable for a soundtrack that makes me think of androgynous teenagers swinging overcompensation swords the size of a phone booth?

Page 40, Game 10: falling is not the same thing as dying by Sisi

“cute high school game about jv girls tennis”

I don’t KNOW that this is an anime game, but the answer might just be a big damn “Yes.”

Justice Playthrough #160: Chimpology

Quite possibly the purist piss-take I’ve yet encountered in the trawl. I can’t quite decide if I admire it or despise it.

I think I’m settling on … like, 20% admire, 80% despise. This game is ass, but there’s something about the shamelessness of its ass-ness that kinda forces me to respect it a bit. It’s like a no-budget video game version of Adam Sandler when he’s in 100% “I’m just suckering the studio into paying for a vacation for me and some buddies” mode. It’s so brazenly apathetic to both my time and to the very concept of “effort” that it makes me want to slow-clap while telling it to lick my taint.

Page 43, Game 6: Chimpology by themorfeus

You are one of the many, many chimpanzees powering the Internet in the 90’s. You will manually send out the zeros and ones that create the pictures people were sending willy-nilly to each other back in the day. Type pixels, get bananas!

Press either “0” (the “z” key) or “1” (better known as “m”) when the game tells you to. As you do, the picture you’re transmitting will reveal itself. Fuck up once, and your multiplier meter crashes. Fuck up again before your multiplier meter has turned over, and it’s a parity error, game over.

That’s it. That’s the game.

There’s a lot of stuff you COULD do with this game. For instance, instead of randomly cycling through a small set of pictures, you could instead use them to tell a story of some sort. You could start introducing more mechanics to screw with the player and keep them on their toes. You could use the silly, tedious gameplay as a starting point for a slow descent into madness a la Frog Fractions.

But, naw. Type ones and zeros, get bananas.

There’s two-player mode. There’s multiplayer. There’s a trailer on YouTube. THIS GAME IS AVAILABLE ON STEAM, where it’s getting good reviews and may be purchased for $1.99.

I’m honestly in awe at the truly extravagant lack of fucks on display here.

To finish off the absurdity, the download for this game — which, I remind you, is satirizing the Internet’s low-speed early days — is ONE HUNDRED AND TEN MEGABYTES. For the zip file, I mean. It expands into a svelte 209 MB. Most of this is taken up by what appears to be a complete copy of version 1.8 of the Java Runtime Environment.

Almost a third of a gig of my hard drive is now devoted to this fucking game.

Wow.

Chimpology?

*clap*

*clap*

*clap*

Lick my taint.

Will this next game make me break this streak of reviewing stuff like a colossal douchebag?

Page 51, Game 1: Learn Japanese To Survive: Kanji Combat OST by Slaleky

“The Kanji Combat Official OST!”

Oh thank fucking god. There’s only so assholish I can be to a game that’s actually trying to teach me a thing.

Justice Playthrough #159: CARBAGE

Fuck. Multi-player with no AI.

Page 19, Game 20: CARBAGE by HelloThereGames

This game looks great. It’s a goofy and cartoony game of driving cars — competitively! I looks like it could be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the dev punted completely on the AI, so I can’t even piddle around with an easily defeated opponent just so I can get some sense of what the gameplay is like.

Early in the trawl I was forgiving of stuff like that, but I’ve grown steadily less sympathetic as time goes on. Bottom line, I’ve seen too many “multi-player only” games that actually had perfectly serviceable AIs. If you’re adamant that the best version of the game you’re creating involves multiple human players and that no AI could possibly capture the intricacies of having another living person playing your game … first off, you’re wrong, you’re just being lazy. But, fuck it, time is finite, and I have to assume it’s not easy to create an AI that provides a challenge without kicking the living shit out of your players. Lazy is defensible.

What I’m less willing to defend is having absolutely NOTHING for a single-player. Not even an arena where I can tool around and get some sort of feel for the game and see if this is something I’d even WANT to rope my friends into? That’s just shitty.

Instead, I’m left with controlling one car sincerely with my X-Box controller and using the keyboard to move the other one just enough to get some notion of what this game is like.

Doing this with Carbage does not leave me filled with optimism.

The first sign of trouble comes from the character selection.

That bear with the hay in his mouth and the derpy expression might be a bit problematic, actually

The four doofy goofballs you can get to play are on a turntable in the center. Drive you generic monster truck up on it into one of them, and that’s who you are.

Did you drive into the wrong one? Did you want to be Mohawk Guy and not Fuckwit Bear With A Pick-Up Truck? Suck it up and play your classist stereotype, pal.

Did you need to drive your truck around a bit while figuring out the controls, and are thus hitting the turntable from a sub-optimal angle? Ooh. That was stupid. Are you sure you can drive well enough to play this game?

Then, the game begins.

Where are the graphics?

That’s what it looks like. For real, the character selection screen is WAY more visually interesting than the gameplay, which looks like placeholder graphics. Wait is that what’s happening? Am I shitting on an alpha release?

Looking, and … nope. Not seeing anything on the game’s page stating that this is just an early release version. This is apparently just what it is.

Anyway. When you drive, those blocks will vanish. You want to be the last car to fall through a hole in the arena and perish in the uncaring void. Which means that if you don’t get your ass driving rightdafuckNOW, you will lose. I couldn’t fiddle around with this much, because the other stationary car would just promptly die on me.

That sounds like an infuriating experience, particularly if the other players involved are already comfortable with this game’s mechanics. Maybe you should just dink around in single player a bit until you get used to OH WAIT.

I acknowledge that it’s inherently unfair for me to slag a multi-player game without having actually played it. But I can ask the question: Is there anything about this game that makes me WISH I had another controller so my wife and I could give it a try together?

The answer here is a simple and clear “Nope.”

Will this next game likewise send me on a high horse about how classist stereotypes are gross and that punching down at poor people is still punching down?

Page 43, Game 6: Chimpology by themorfeus

“Internet was slow, because monkeys.”

I’m just gonna assume these are gonna be wacky silly trouble-causing monkeys and refrain from deploying my liberal outrage unless I’m quite certain I need it.

Justice Playthrough #158: Space Mining Clicker

It’s Repetitive Stress Injury: The Game!

These are apparently A Thing, according to my wife. They are definitely not My Thing. And even if they are Your Thing, I’d honestly be surprised if you’d dig this game.

Page 57, Game 14: Space Mining Clicker by Cold Coffee Studio

So. You have a mine. In proper video game tradition, your mine is a total piece of shit, but that’s okay, it’s going to get better.

It is a hole, and a place to put the things you take out of the hole

How will it get better? By your hard work, of course!

Normally, in a video game, the “hard work” is hypothetical, and will be done by your non-existent minions scampering around the screen with their little pixel tools. You tell them to dig a mine, and the little fuckers will dig a mine while you tend to other stuff.

Not here. Here, you will be doing the hard work. You and your clicker finger. Your poor, overworked clicker finger. Your success is limited only by your willingness to click. So, click. Click. Click.

Click!

Click!

CLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICK!!!!!!!!

Seriously. This is the game. Clicking. Clicking is the game.

Click the mine, get ore out of the mine. A ship will drop by periodically to convert your ore into money. You can spend your money on the mine. By far the smartest thing you can do is–

Not play the game. Sorry. That zinger showed up in the middle of that sentence, and it was simply too true to ignore.

But if you drop into a headspace that’s a combination of unwarranted optimism that something interesting might happen soon and spite-fueled hate-fucking, your best move is to upgrade your mine such that you get MORE ore when you click.

Naturally, the price of shit increases exponentially, so that no matter how much more material you extract, it’s still just as hard to make actual progress. Also as you’d expect, there’s an entire infrastructure of shit you’ll also need to upgrade in order to keep your treadmill churning.

One of them is “supplies,” which is apparently a euphemism for “potatoes.” The more buildings you have, the more supplies you’ll consume every second. You get those supplies by — you guessed it — clicking your potato field. However, unlike your ore, while your potato production increases exponentially, your potato usage increases linearly. Thus, when the best version of your potato farm is churning, you just have to keep an eye on your stockpile of supplies and, when it starts dipping low, spend a few seconds frantically clicking to correct it.

In this game, you may win at potatoes.

Why are you mining ore? To fund your side! Yes, that’s right, there’s a war brewing, and you have to decide which side you’re on!

What the hell, it’s an attempt at context

This mostly takes the form of defining your frenetic-click-related goals. Also, there are some in-game difference. I think the united colonies have better robot workers? Robots will harvest resources independent of your clicking. Their efficiency increases linearly as you develop your mine, so they quickly become completely pointless. Lazy fucks. They don’t work nearly as hard as me.

Also, the game will cycle through a small set of background events. Some are good, like a gold vein giving you more ore per click, or an ore shortage, preventing you from clicking at all! (Go tend to your potatoes. Take a break. Appreciate the gift the game has given you by not letting you play it.)

I feel like a game like this needs to give you a sense of progression; something interesting needs to happen to reward you for your time and willingness to risk carpal tunnel for a shitty indie game. Stuff happens, sort of, but calling it “interesting” is a step too far. Mostly, you just get to build your facility — which is just a matter of upgrading the next thing in line. There’s no decisions to be made, there are no subtleties of placing the Thing next to the Other Thing that will make me more productive, I just need to get the cash for the next level, then … do the next level. Maybe I have to upgrade my command center and/or power grid, but that’s really it.

Achievement never felt so hollow

What finally gave me an incurable case of FuckThisItis was when I managed to “complete” the “good” event giving me the “opportunity” to get something cool by clicking my mine 720 times. Not get 720 ore; no, that shit was trivial now. Click the fucking mine 720 fucking times in the 180 seconds the game allotted to me.

I did it. I needed help from the radar stations that expand the duration of the “good” events and speed-up the “bad” ones, but I did it.

What did it get me?

 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Didn’t catch it. Did it give me something? I’m sure it gave me something.

One day later, my arm is still sore. Though I’m pretty sure that was from stupidly playing Hades deep into the night. That game is fucking awesome, even if that one boss fight is PLENTY FUCKING TOUGH ALREADY without a SECOND STAGE TO THAT FIGHT WHAT THE FUCK GAME WHY ARE YOU DENYING ME THIS VICTORY.

Hades, however, is awesome, and I’ll totally play it some more.

Space Mining Clicker, despite looking and feeling like a perfectly credible professional game, is an aggressive waste of time and is by orders of magnitude the most pointless and repetitive thing I’ve yet encountered in this trawl. Even if time-wasting clickers are in fact your jam (no judgment), I am, despite having basically no familiarity or other experience with the genre, absolutely confident you can find a better game than this.

Will the next game inspire me to ask “Jesus, what the fuck are you doing with your life?” while I play it?

Page 19, Game 20: CARBAGE by HelloThereGames

“Couch Party Game, Multiple Modes”

Ah, it’s going to remind me that I cannot have parties on my couch or anywhere else because the fucking world is ending. So that’s a big ol’ “Yes.” Probably not the game’s fault, though.

Justice Playthrough #157: Saviors of Hogtown

Right. I’m playing this.

Page 14, Game 1: Saviors of Hogtown by Dissonance

It’s trite to sit here and muse “Gosh, tabletop RPGs sure have evolved a lot in my lifetime.” I mean, it’s not wrong, but it doesn’t even come close to the whole truth.

Dungeons and Dragons was published in 1974, two years after I was born. This pastime literally did not exist when I was born. By the time I was old enough to play it, to find people to play it with me, the evolution was well underway. There was already a sense of a guaranteed minimum competence developing, a floor beneath which even the shittiest of dice rolls could not sink a character. A safety net was clearly starting to take shape. To define your character’s all-important attributes, don’t just roll 3d6 in order; roll 4d6, and take the best three dice. Yeah, you can swap ’em around, why not. Naw, don’t bother rolling for hit points at first level, just go ahead and take the maximum on the die for that. And did you drop down to zero HP? Yeah, treating that as a death sentence IS pretty harsh, isn’t it. Know what? You’re just unconscious. You’re outta this fight, but as long as one of your buddies survives, you’ll most likely fight another day.

Thirty-some years later, D&D is very much a game of wish fulfillment, of the fantasy of power. Unless you deliberately work to sabotage yourself to Make A Point (and quite likely annoy the shit out of the rest of the table), you are guaranteed to be a bad-ass, it’s just a matter of determining the details of your bad-assery.

That’s not a bad thing. The real world is random, cruel, all to often deeply disempowering. So long as it’s in moderation, it’s nice to be able to retreat to a world that, while dangerous and potentially deadly, is on some fundamental level fair. A world where the Call To Adventure is guaranteed, where you’ll hopefully succeed but even if you don’t you cannot claim you didn’t have a fair chance.

But progress usually has a price tag. Something was lost — and it was already well on its way out long before I was even capable of appreciating it.

There’s an arbitrary harshness to True Old School D&D that makes victory, even small victories, something special. Good characters, strong characters, were a cause for celebration, because excellence was rare and never guaranteed. You were probably just gonna be, you know, average. Quite possible worse. At most, you went in with a loose idea of character concepts you’d like to try out; the dice would tell you what doors were actually there for you to open. When the dice broke your way, it was something special, because you knew the could have just as easily fucked you and saddled you with a character who honestly wasn’t that good at much of anything. Again.

The modern way is better.

But the Old Way has its charms.

Best game I ever ran in high school was a module called Treasure Hunt. It was a throwback, before I was even old enough to understand just what the hell a “throwback” was, let alone conceive of D&D having changed enough for such a thing to be possible. All the characters were Level 0. Even by the standards of the era, they were incompetent. They’d been captured as slaves, but their galley wrecked aground during a storm. Now, they had to escape an island where orcs and goblins warred with each other, equipped with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

It was frightening. It was epic. I still remember a cataclysmic fight in a ruined temple where a single undead monster nearly killed the entire party (ghouls suck). The last man standing, played by my friend Forrest, finally clubbed the thing down what a chunk of splintered wood he’d salvaged off the ship. And as his buddies slowly came out from under the paralysis that had almost killed the lot of them, he sank to his knees and pledged himself to the service of the goddess whose temple they were now within. For surely, it was by Her divine grace that they had survived. His life was now Hers.

It was the most resounding journey to Level 1 Cleric I’ve ever seen at a table. What was that character’s Wisdom score? Dude, who the fuck cares?! No backstory I’ve ever contrived could possibly compete with an escaped slave on his knees in the wreckage of a one-time place of worship swearing devotion to the goddess he thought had saved him and his new friends from certain death.

And no, I was not a proxy for that goddess. It was a one-shot, so I was absolutely going to kill any or all of those fuckers if the dice said to. It was earned. Top to bottom, that moment was earned.

When they commandeered a sea-worthy boat and made their escape together, it was as glorious a victory as the slaying of a rampaging dragon, as mighty as thwarting any terrible lich-king seeking to unleash his army of the dead upon the world.

We have lost the glory of small victories. We have lost the games where there’s absolutely positively nothing special or remarkable about us, and we rise to the occasion and become big damn heroes anyway. We have lost the sense that we have emerged triumphant not because we were fated to, not because the gods had granted us power, but because we fucking well stepped up and earned it.

Welcome to Hogtown.

Also, you might be pigs.

Saviors of Hogtown is a Level 0 adventure for Dungeon World. (If you’re not familiar with the ruleset, it’s a blend of old-school Dungeons & Dragons with modern indie golden child Apocalypse World. AW is an excellent ruleset; it’s a darling for a reason.) In it, the PCs will take the role of hapless fantasyland shmucks who are way over their heads. You’ll roll 3d6 in order for your stats and percentile dice for an occupation. Whoever among you, by consensus, got fucked hardest by the dice gets the coveted “Least Likely to Survive” token, and away you go.

The game mentions that you can, if you want, roll-up two or three characters apiece to play concurrently and see which among them survive. That’s … fine, I suppose.

You’re probably gonna die. Embrace it. Run towards the danger.

Aside from causing me to wax nostalgic about the Lethal Old Days, the module is extremely well-written and charmingly illustrated. (That’s no small thing; the artwork I’ve seen in most of these small-press TTRPGs has been … not good.)

I want to play this game. If it weren’t for the ongoing plague apocalypse, I would right now be organizing a session of this game. Once it’s safe to get a bunch of people in my house — at least 4-6, because for real, motherfuckers are gonna die here — this is absolutely hitting my table.

Enthusiastically recommended. I know I just spent way more words talking about what this game reminded me of than what it actually is itself, but it’s reminding me of some great lost shit here.

Is this next game going to make me see if I can find an old 80’s game module somewhere cheap online?

Page 57, Game 14: Space Mining Clicker by Cold Coffee Studio

“Welcome Director, manage your mining facility and survive to the geopolitical storm opposing the galactic factions.”

Hmm. Don’t think I ever played a game where I was trying to run a business in the midst of an impending war. I’m intrigued.

Justice Playthrough #156: Daily Chthonicle

Less of a “game,” more of an “elaborate idea for a game.” This is not good, but this one feels like somebody’s baby.

Page 13, Game 12: Daily Chthonicle by charon@ss

You’re running a newspaper, the eponymous Daily Chthonicle, investigating all the goings on in City! The terrible, horrible City. Apparently, horrid Lovecraftian shit is just another Tuesday around here. Monsters, occult murders, mysterious walls of fire, locked doors….

OH NO GIRL THAT DOOR FUCKED YOU UP!!!!

The Big Map will present all the stories you may investigate. Click the story, then click the reporter you want to assign to it! Which reporter? I … don’t think it matters? Some of them have some personal gear, I guess. And some of them apparently know some magic or something. I don’t know. Just pick somebody.

Reporters hard at work! Who are those people in the middle? Or on the bottom right? I’m … honestly not sure.

Your reporters hit the field, and they’ll eventually hit decision points. Obstacles! Leads! What do they do?

For obstacles, I found that it was best to just hit auto-equip and hope for the best. In addition to dangers like walls and locked doors, you can encounter gangsters! Or giant tentacle monsters! Or — the most dangerous and impenetrable — a mentally ill informant!

Also, there are like ghosts and shit, which seems like they’d be a big deal to a pack of reporters, but nah. This place is basically hell on earth.

The dog is ALWAYS useful. ALWAYS bring the dog, yo.

Your reporters can get injured, or get unsettled by what they see, or … sometimes, much worse.

I’m pretty sure workman’s comp in this town actually covers zombification, so you’re fine, bro

As your reporters progress, they put together the stories, which I’m pretty sure are procedurally generated. If they make enough progress, the stories come together, and you’ll publish them.

Dude came back from the BALKANS?! PRINT THAT SHIT!!!

The problem with Daily Chthonicle is that there’s a lot of COMPLEXITY here — imposing amounts of it actually — but very goddamned little GAME, at least not that I saw. I was just getting spammed with information left and right, and it wasn’t engaging me at all. Was I expected to take notes on the (what I suspect were) procedurally generated names and situations and try to find some common threads? My people were investigating, like, five different stories at a time, and they very quickly blurred together.

Except for the one with the zombie mastodon. I don’t recall what context that enormous decomposing fucker appeared in or why, I just know that at one point, there was a zombie fucking mastodon. I just know it was an obstacle preventing my reporters from making progress in the story, even though I feel like “HOLY FUCKING SHIT THERE’S A GIANT ZOMBIE MASTODON YOU GUYS!!!” is a pretty solid headliner all by itself.

Not that I seemed to have much choice. Was I supposed to be picking WHICH stories I ran? I just kinda clicked where the game seemed to want me to click, which caused stories to run and money to appear. Yay?

Eventually, all the stories were investigated to completion and the tutorial was over.

Feel like those spiders warranted more than two lines

Yeah, this feeling of being overwhelmed and spammed with information came from the tutorial.

There was a laboratory (like any good newspaper has) and my people could learn magic. What did any of that stuff do? How was I supposed to apply it to the game? I have no idea, and the tutorial never clued me in.

I feel like this is all very interesting and compelling to somebody, I’m just absolutely certain that person isn’t me. I admire the ambition behind this game, at least, but the presentation is a mess. There’s just SO MUCH going on here, yet none of it ever engaged me. This is a Lovecraft-inspired game, yet not once did I feel any kind of dread, or even a sense of tension.

The stories my people investigated always felt like wire frameworks to me, like the vague outlines with nothing to fill them in. The guy did a thing in a place, that’s probably bad, and hey there’s a ghost or a wall or something and your reporter will have to find their way around it. What will they use to do it? Eh, just do auto-equip, that’ll be for the best.

Make sure you bring the dog, though. Seriously, that dog helps with everything.

If you find the idea behind the game irresistible, I suppose there’s no harm in giving it a look; it didn’t actively offend me. But I just can’t recommend it.

With this next game provide me with a Swiss Army Dog who is helpful in all situations?

Page 14, Game 1: Saviors of Hogtown by Dissonance

“A Dungeon World adventure supplement for 3-6 players.”

Hogtown, Dogtown, whatever farm animal of war Lana, shut up!

Justice Playthrough #155: Guidebook to the Viridian Maw (Forking Paths #1)

This is cool as hell. If you’re running a tabletop fantasy RPG and would like to toss your players into a dangerous alien wilderness that’s still playing fair with them, this is a hell of a good resource.

Page 49, Game 20: Guidebook to the Viridian Maw (Forking Paths #1) by Orbis Tertius Press

Welcome to the impact crater, motherfuckers.

The Veridian Maw is a biome-within-a-biome. It’s not a rain forest, but it’s damp. Real damp. Damp enough to support rather a lot of fungus — some really scary fungus that can kill you. Or help you out! Or help you but within some really dangerous constraints. It all depends on whether you know what the fuck you’re doing.

That’s the true value of this setting: there’s a hell of stuff to know about this environment. If your players either crush or fail a “Know What The Fuck That Plant Is” roll, you have legit rewards to give or withhold. If your players take the time to research what they’re getting into, it can save their lives. If they do the locals such a huge solid that an NPC volunteers to keep them out of trouble, good god DAMN is that a big deal.

For instance, there’s Knitmoss, a kind of moss that has natural healing properties. Get injured in the Maw, and it’s the sort of thing that can save your life. Of course, use it too aggressively, and the knitmoss can lightly colonize your system and occasionally cause you to sprout moss as your injuries heal. Which isn’t necessarily the WORST thing, even if it does sound kinda itchy.

Of course, you want to be careful you don’t mistake it for KNOTmoss, which will wreck your shit in a hurry. Where knitmoss is symbiotic, knotmoss is a full-bore parasite and will kill you, painfully, tying your body in an excruciating knot as it spreads through your system. They’re a bitch to tell apart. Luckily, locals know to drop a fresh earthworm into a patch of potentially life-saving moss. Earthworms don’t mind knitmoss, but will frantically try to get the fuck away from knotmoss. Usually.

There are moss creatures and dream snakes and various plants that will get you high as balls if they don’t kill you. There’s a ton going on.

And beneath it all is, of course, a history. There are ruins, if you want to explore them. But be warned, if the locals avoid it, that’s for a reason.

Something MADE that impact crater, after all. Something is responsible for this region being as weird and dangerous as it is.

This zine creates an interesting, dangerous wilderness where you don’t have to abstract the dangers. Instead of telling your players “All right, thanks to your research, you can take Advantage on this nature check,” you can, like, give them ACTIONABLE KNOWLEDGE shit. The ruins here aren’t just generic vaguely Mesoamerican fallen civilizations, there are actual mysteries to explore an uncover.

The material is system agnostic, so converting it all into stats is very much your problem. (The author, Nathan Harrison, makes enough references to Dungeon World that I seriously wonder if that wasn’t how he first ran this material. If so, I kinda wish he’d included those game details; Apocalypse World stats tend to be pretty unobtrusive and narratively friendly.)

Towards the end, the author talks a bit about the philosophy behind the setting. “If you spot an open door to make the life of a character stranger, instead of making it end, go for stranger every time.” What a lovely way to run a game. I bet this guy’s players have some really weird anecdotes to share.

Pretty much my only beef with this product is the art. It is … not good. Also, the map of the region depicts a river passing over a waterfall into the crater, where it flows to what appears to be a cave in the center and just kinda … fucks off. The mystery of “Why is this place not a lake?” is unexplored, and honestly merits a sentence or two.

This is the second of three issues of Forking Paths I’ve encountered in this trawl, and the previous labyrinth-centric issue Lost in Dark Halls was similarly excellent. Looks like the three issues in the bundle are the only ones that have been published so far. This is quality work, and worth keeping an eye out for.

It sure beats the shit out of “You get ambushed by goblins, but they all like worship moss or something” for giving your game a sense of place.

What terrifying ways to die await me in this next game?

Page 13, Game 12: Daily Chthonicle by charon@ss

“Supernatural Detective Game”

All of them. I’m guessing this is gonna give me all the ways to die.

Very nice.

Justice Playthrough #154: WaveCrash!!

“Ugh, this game is pretty frustrating. There’s too much going on, I feel like the only real strategy is to just whip out attacks as fast as I can see ’em, it’s to chaotic for the asymmetrical elements to really land … but I’mma play just one more game here.”

Page 27, Game 15: WaveCrash!! by Flyover Games

It’s a puzzle fighter! Choose your puzzle warrior!

Dude With Fire For A Face, I choose YOU!

Then, do puzzle battle!

Just get your ass whupped while I harvest this screenshot, bro

Jump around the board! Swap tiles, if you’re feeling it! If you’re standing on a cluster of three or more tiles, you may press the “attack” button to launch them in a wave at your foe! Skinny waves move faster! Broad waves move slower, but are probably better strategically! If your wave hits their wave, blocks in the waves cancel! Launch your counter-wave at exactly the right moment, and you DESTROY their wave! If your wave hits THEM, you’re one step closer to victory! And if the wave makes it all the way to the back without hitting anybody, you create roadblock-tiles that will impede movement and need to take a little time to go away! Also, you have a “hype” meter that steadily fills; when it gets all the way to the top, activate your Hype Mode so you and your waves can go really really fast! Also, you have a special attack where if you launch X tiles of Y color, something different happens! Everyone has their own special attack! Everyone has their own special ability!

Or, you could just say fuck it, head for/create attack blocks as fast as you can, launch ’em, and just hope for the best.

“Just launch ’em and hope for the best” seemed to be the most successful strategy by far against the computer.

The devs here are clearly trying to create a game with some strategic depth to it, but I feel like they’ve added so many moving parts that they’ve achieved exactly the opposite. There’s just SO MUCH going on here, and it all moves so quickly, that trying to keep track of it is kinda pointless. Just launch attacks. Launch, launch, launch. Where is your opponent? Who cares, just launch something dammit. Is that an attack coming at you? GTFO of the way. (You can try to launch a counter-attack, but the delay between pushing the attack button and the attack actually going off is severe enough for that tactic to be more frustrating than useful.) What’s your special ability? Well, hope you remembered it from the character selection screen because there’s no indication how to set up your unique attack in the actual battle mode, but again, who cares, just launch shit. I had several fights end because, in the process of clearing out enough room for me to set up my personal killer move, I launched SO many cruddy little attacks that they actually took out my foe.

And yet, it honestly is kinda fun. I really DID play the game way more than I thought I would. The art is bright and cheerful, and aside from the weird timing issues that make counter-attacks much too tricky, I DID get swept-up in the kinetic excitement of finding/creating attacks and launching the fuckers. It feels good when you realize you’re one quick transposition away from launching a huge attack, it feels good when a big attack falls into your lap. This feels like the kind of obscure puzzle-fighter my buddy Dan would have dug up on his MAME emulator, causing the lot of us to take turns unleashing technicolor mayhem on one another on his big-ass TV.

The game is meant for multi-player, but the AI is decent enough to be worth playing. Kinda wish there was a little more game here to connect the fights, maybe some sort of Mortal Kombat tournament structure, but what the hell, the individual fights are clearly the core element. Can’t blame the devs for focusing so heavily on that.

I come away from WaveCrash!! feeling like the game doesn’t quite achieve everything it’s trying to do; I feel like all the moving parts add more chaos than they do depth. But credit where it’s due, I had fun. It’s an exciting little game.

I don’t know that it’s compelling enough solo for me to give it a full recommendation — though it certainly wasn’t bad. But if you like playing oddball puzzle-fight games on your PC with your friends, this one might be a damned fine addition to your game night. If you dig the genre, it’s probably worth a closer look.

What spritely combatants will this next game allow me to choose?

Page 49, Game 20: Guidebook to the Viridian Maw (Forking Paths #1) by Orbis Tertius Press

“a system-neutral wilderness setting for any exploration-based tabletop RPG”

Ah, I may choose forest monsters with which to torment my PCs. Splendid.

Justice Playthrough #153: Code 7 – Episodes 2 & 3 Available Now

Needs something more. And by “more,” I mean “less.”

Page 5, Game 8: Code 7 – Episodes 2 & 3 Available Now by Goodwolf Studio

You wake up in a darkened room. You restart the system. You are able to contact someone — Sam, a stranger who claims to know you. She says that the two of you are here on this planet to investigate why the colony suddenly went dark. Sam is up, and mobile. Meanwhile, you will help her as best you can, for you are … The Guy In The Chair!

With standard-issue amnesia!

(My eternal gratitude to Spider Man: Homecoming for introducing “The Guy In The Chair” into the vernacular. It was so overdue.)

With your help, Sam will investigate. Turns out, there was an AI! So, you know THAT project turned into a combination of dogshit and hellfire. You interact with the world with a combination of typing commands and pre-selected text messages you can send to Sam. But is something not as it seems…?

I mean, fucking duh.

Go to the Room and look at the Thing already!

If you’ve been reading these reviews — which must mean you’re my wife, hi Jasmine! — this may sound familiar to ANOTHER Guy In The Chair game I came across in this trawl, NOISE1, which I loved. How does this game compare?

In a lot of ways, it’s NOISE1 with a budget. All dialog from other people is fully voice-acted. There are animations and shit, with the game doing interesting flickering stuff that may or may not be giving you hints. The graphics are consistently professional quality; from top to bottom, the game looks and sounds great.

NOISE1 kicks the shit out of it. That doofy little silent ASCII-art game is more fun in every way.

I WANT to like Code 7. It’s very ambitious, and is trying so very, very hard. Unfortunately, the pacing is just atrocious. This game moves VERY slowly. The game’s equivalent of cutscenes have a tendency to drag on and on, too often interspersed with “gameplay” where you’re not really making decisions, you’re just completing a rote set of tasks. Every once in a while there’s a problem to solve, and that’s when the game starts to come alive — but then the moment will pass, and you’re back to cutscenes.

The game lives and dies by the story it’s telling — and for me, it very much died by it. That rascally AI is indeed up to no good, and it felt very sci-fi-noir-by-numbers. It’s just tossing some fairly standard tropes at you. It’s not awful, I don’t demand the plot to every game be Hugo-worthy innovative fiction, but if so much of the game is just an inconsequential wrapper for the story, I’m afraid I have to insist the story be better than this.

Contrary to the way the game presents itself, it appears to have Parts 0, 1, 2, and 3 all in this one package. After I got done with Part 0, I came back in and discovered I was able to move on to Part 1. Okay, Sam and I are headed back to Earth, and that silly singularity has launched a virus — the titular Code 7 — towards it. We gotta stop it! But due to Reasons, I find myself on Mars, in the middle of someone ELSE’S story. A completely unrelated story.

Look, nice reporter lady, I have a fucking killer virus to stop! I don’t have time for your corporate dystopian shenanigans!

Except I better fucking well MAKE some time for it. This side quest is mandatory.

Sigh.

So, whatever narrative momentum the prologue generated gets completely shafted by a brand new collection of cobbled-together tropes for you to stumble through. Slowly.

I wanted to play through the next chapter, at least. I was morbidly curious to find out just how predictable the game was. As I traversed one computer node after another, I was studiously deploying my anti-virus software as I went, fully expecting that by the time I got to the end of the chapter, the game would reveal that my anti-virus software … WAS the virus! I’d been spreading it all along! WHAT A TWIST!

WAS that the twist? I truly have no idea. After several hours of gameplay, I was about (I think?) halfway through the chapter, and I just got too bored with the whole thing to keep going. Maybe the game wasn’t lying to me, in which case the LACK of twist would have come as a pleasant surprise. Maybe I called it exactly. Maybe it was some other whattatwist. I just stopped caring after a while.

As you traverse the nodes, some computers you have to log into. For some, you have to gather enough personal information about the user to use your brute-force password cracker. Others, for no reason I was able to suss-out, force you to play a hacking mini-game:

hackhackhackhackhack

The minigame is clumsy and awkward, and I still don’t fully understand what the tools at my disposal were allowing me to do. I have to trace a route without being caught by the things, then set up a packet interceptor, but watch out if they get it they’ll destroy the interceptor, except I can set up a kind of hacking module that will trap them, but that ALSO seems to trap the packet I’m intercepting and force me to restart for reasons I wasn’t really clear on….

Compare this to NOISE1, which did a marvelous job of laying out both what I could do and why I might want to do it. It had a story to tell — and it told it, giving me interesting puzzles to solve every step of the way. I never felt like I was doing anything rote, I never felt like I was wasting my time. I felt ENGAGED in a way that Code 7 never got anywhere near.

If The Guy In The Chair sounds like a fun game but you tried NOISE1 and found that the lo-fi ASCII feel made you break out in hives, I suppose I could recommend giving this game a look. I glanced at some other reviews, and it looks like people who aren’t me actually found it quite enjoyable. But I’m not gonna lie, I don’t see it. There’s not nearly enough game to this game, which winds up putting weight on a storyline that can’t come anywhere near supporting it. I say skip it.

So, where is this next game gonna put my brain?

Page 27, Game 15: WaveCrash!! by Flyover Games

“Head-to-head puzzle brawling action where you match blocks to smash faces!”

Damn, multiplayer. Hope the AI doesn’t suck. Still, I DO like puzzles and face-smashing, so it may hold some promise.

Justice Playthrough #152: you used to be someone

FAIL.

Page 30, Game 11: you used to be someone by Squinky

Norton just flat-up NOPED this motherfucker into a smoldering crater.

This is the first time I’ve seen Norton do this:

Run, Luke, run!

I’ve seen it tell me it’s not so sure about a file and that I’m running it at my own risk, but this is the first time I’ve seen it flat-out REFUSE to let me even try.

So, this fucker’s digital herpes. Let’s try something else.

Page 5, Game 8: Code 7 – Episodes 2 & 3 Available Now by Goodwolf Studio

“What would you do if you found yourself trapped on an eerie space station with nothing but a computer?”

Probably play a bunch of video games while waiting for death, if I’m being honest. So this one might hit a little close to home.